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Another hit of Trainspotting for happy cynics, Power Rangers for the kids and Life for space horror fans

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PERSONAL SHOPPER: This is a metaphysical thriller, or if you will, a high-class ghost story. It’s not out to scare you, just chill you a few times and draw you into an intriguing meditation on what goes on in the dark and what comes after life. The film’s main character, Maureen, played by Kristen Stewart, is a medium. Her twin brother who recently died was one too. They had a pact: whoever dies first will send back messages about whatever is out there.  Bumps and clunks happen in their dimly-lit house. An actual ghostly figure floats up high. Messages from somebody “unknown” appear as text on a phone and carry on a conversation asking questions but never answering any.

 

All this takes place in Paris home territory of Olivier Assayas, who won the best director award at Cannes for this.  He also had Stewart star in his last one, Clouds of Sils Maria, and has said she’s "the best actress of her generation.” She’s certainly believably natural and spontaneous as the clothes buyer for a celebrity model but beset by anxiety about the spirits around her. Are they real? Are they just her? Is she afraid she’s insignificant and looking for somebody else to be? The film builds quite an involving mystery among the eerie events. (VanCity) 3 ½ out of 5  

AFTER THE STORM:  Here’s another charming, relaxed and subtle film from Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda. I had similar praise for his last one, Our Little Sister, which was here late last year. Once again, his subject is family and a dodgy father is at the centre. Hiroshi Abe plays a would be writer with one novel but not much fame to his credit. He works as a detective spying on cheating spouses and sometimes extorting money from them. That all goes to his gambling addiction and his ex-wife never gets the child support she needs. He tries to borrow from his sister and, visiting his mother after his father’s death, looks for valuables he can pawn.

 

The script deftly brings out his character, how he came to be that way (“You’re just like father was.” his sister says.) and casts its themes broadly. His mother can’t understand why men can’t live in the present. She theorizes they’re either reliving the past or dreaming of the future. His 11-year-old son is already obsessed with lottery tickets. They’re both aching to bring their family back together. It’s a very moving film, full of lightly-stated regret and characters you feel and root for. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5 

THE SECOND TIME AROUND: Suppose you were visiting friends who live in a retirement home. Everything would be friendly and polite, wouldn’t it? No acrimony. Well that’s exactly how this Canadian movie plays out. Good feelings, amiable characters and not much of a story. Except this. A widow (Linda Thorson) arrives at a home to recover from a hip fracture. She gets to talking to a grouchy old man (Stuart Margolin) and warms up to him as he explains how his trade as a tailor saved him from death during the Holocaust.

 

Gradually he warms up to her too. The opera music her granddaughter loads into her i-pod helps. Puccini, Verdi and the others lead him to recall the Yiddish songs he used to sing. After the end credits he croons the title song. The seniors’ love affair the two develop is sweet, quite affecting and not that common in the movies. The performances are very good and notice the other veteran Canadian actors playing residents in the home, including Paul Soles and Jayne Eastwood. The script is nicely written and though at times it feels quite deliberate as when a medical problem arrives right on cue, it celebrates life even in old age. (5th Avenue Theatre) 3 out of 5   

And two also now playing ….

SIERANEVADA: I just haven’t had time to catch this one but I want to.  Cristi Puiu, the writer and director, has been hailed as the “high priest” of the new wave of cinema in Romania. In this one a family gathered for a memorial dinner in a claustrophobic Bucharest apartment has to wait for the priest who is late. So the guests talk, about everything you can imagine: marital cheating, old gripes, Communism, terrorism, even the Charlie Hebdo attack that had just happened in Paris. It’s enthralling stuff, I’ve read, but at almost three hours, mighty long. (The Cinematheque)

CHIPS: I haven’t seen this one. Media weren’t invited to the one preview in town. But then I also never saw the 1970s TV series it’s based on about a couple of California Highway Patrol Officers. The trailer looks horrible and one of the original actors found its low-class humor offensive. Dax Shepard and Michael Pena are the new pair. Dax also wrote and directed. (several theatres in town and out)

More in New Movies

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Locally-filmed The Predator, a mommy blogger’s Simple Favor and bad blood Under the Tree

Also Nicolas Cage really flips out over Mandy and The Cakemaker romances his lover’s widow

A vengeful mom, a demonic nun and Michael Caine’s memories of the swinging 60s

Also: a tulips and Mafia fantasy in Italy and the troubling lives of three skateboarders
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