American Animals, a fine heist movie, Sicario 2, evil on the Mexican border, and Hearts Beat Loud, amiable

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Moritz Bleibtreu (prominent ever since Run Lola Run) plays a man with a suspicious history. He may have been a collaborator and now heads a group of men using trickery to sell fine linen to housewives. They’re trying to finance a move to America or Palestine. But now and then he has to go and submit to questioning by an American military lawyer (Antje Traue) to explain why he got special treatment at the camp where he was a prisoner. He knew how to tell a joke, he tells her. The commandant laughed and got him assigned to teach Hitler how make jokes. True? Who knows. He’s a persuasive talker, a talent he uses in his sales efforts too. The story is from two novels by Michel Bergmann whose people were Teilachers  like that. He wrote the story as a tribute and the film captures their emotional drive. The tone, but for one exception, is relatively light. There’s also a misstep: sleeping with the interrogator doesn’t belong. But the acting is very good and the film is respectful. It‘s a co-production by Germany, Luxembourg and also Belgium, where the director, Sam Garbarski , is from. (VanCity) 3 ½  out of 5

MIND GAME: This is a trip. A toke or two of something might help too, because simple logic doesn’t bring out the best in this story. It’s a kaleidoscope, a roller coaster, a visual pastiche, with something of a story attached. It comes from a Japanese manga, was turned into this anime about 14 years ago by the director  Masaaki Yuasa, gained cult status and hasn’t been seen in North America since. It’s just been re-released here.

With a mix of animation styles, it tells the story of a young manga artist who runs afoul of yakuza gangsters one evening, fails to protect his girlfriend from them, and gets shot up ass for his trouble. Dead, but unwilling to give up just yet, he argues with God, doesn’t like his message that there is no afterlife, and walks his way back to life on earth. He arrives before his death, drives off with the girl, is pursued by gangsters and drives off a bridge right into a whale where he encounters an old man who’s been there for 30 years and warns of the water that is sure to come. It does when they try to sail off in a boat. Wild imaginative scenes keep coming at us, a water ballet, animated dancing, fast trains, planes, and an imposing city. It’s exhausting but all in aid of the artist finding himself and what seems to be the film’s theme: “Your life is the result of your own decision.” The film, with its sex content, is not for children. For anybody else, it’s imagination run amuck. (The Cinematheque) 3  out of 5

DARKEN: A clan of good young actors do their lines so well it almost seems like they believe the mumbo jumbo they have to say. Their characters are trapped in a mysterious building like a cult. It’s called Darken, there’s no way out and they’re controlled by a dictatorial priestess (Christine Horne) who goes on about the calamity that has hit them. Mother Darken, the spiritual leader of their group is gone, no one knows where, but most expect she will return and provide as before.


There are rebels though. They don’t believe the priestess who says she only wants them to love her. She has one tossed out a door into what looks like clouds of fire outside. That young woman lands on a set of stairs at street level where a nurse (Bea Santos) finds her and then goes inside to investigate. She goes through labyrinthine halls, through giant rooms like in a warehouse and arrives right into a colony in spiritual hysteria. It’s supposed to be a sanctuary for lost souls, but with mother missing and a despot in charge, the rebellion is growing. Burley men stalk to restrain it and a lot of people get stabbed. The nurse gets into the fight, at one point arms herself with a sledge hammer and at another wields a brick. She also discovers what’s really going on.  It gets pretty silly although the presentation, in this Canadian film directed by Audrey Cummings in Toronto, is stylish with atmosphere.  (It plays at The Park tonight and in New Westminster all week) 2 out of 5

UNCLE DREW: It started as a promotional video on U-Tube for Pepsi, was chopped up into five commercials that ran on TV and now is a full movie. I can only recommend it to you though on two conditions. You like cheap, low class humor and/or you want to see some low-class acting by basketball legends Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller and Nate Robinson or a montage of mock testimonials by others, including Steve Nash. Kyrie Irving, who was the NBA rookie of the year when the video started, is again, under heavy makeup, playing Uncle Drew.


He’s a legendary street basketball player who disappeared after a setback and is re-found by a Harlem coach (Lil Rel Howery, famous since his role in Get Out). He’s desperate to have Drew play again, on a team he’s organizing to win a famed annual tournament in New York called the Rucker Classic. He needs money and a triumph over a rival coach, played horribly snide, insulting and boastful by Nick Kroll. Women in the film, Tiffany Haddish is one, are of the shrieking type.  Old agers can still play hard is pushed to ludicrous extremes. One is blind, another is in a wheelchair. One is just cranky. The humor here is loud and broad. (International Village and suburban theatres) 2 out of 5

More in New Movies

Local kid gets potty mouth in Good Boys, British teen is musically Blinded by the Light and a stunning history is uncovered

And in other films: Octavia Spencer accuses, Cate Blanchett breaks down, Julianne Moore manipulates, Leslie Jones faces the Angry Birds and four teen girls attract sharks

Women mobsters in The Kitchen, country ways in Honeyland and TV journalism as Mike Wallace did it

Also: stardom as David Crosby endured it, a dystopian tale and a wise dog yarn, both filmed in Vancouver, and two more that I haven’t seen

Big and dumb Hobbs & Shaw; smart Amateurs and a director's story and dreams in animation

And more: a calming Little Forest, a Free Trip to Egypt to connect with Muslims and two Film Noirs by a woman director
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