A B-team from Marvel, second-rate Woody Allen and a vibrant James Brown bio pic
As usual, there are big films this week with big promotion. Notice also some smaller titles getting limited screenings, two of them rescued from obscurity. And a series of classics.
Here’s the list:
Guardians of the Galaxy: 3 ½
Magic in the Moonlight: 2 ½
Get On Up: 3
Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan: 3
Walking the Camino: 3 ½
Snowpiercer: 3 ½
The Zero Theorem: 2 ½
Sharknado 2: The Second One: 2
Film Noir: various
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: There’s a problem when you’ve got a talking raccoon as one of your heroes. Your film might be dismissed as silly. Well, good news; the raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper, is a great character in this new one from the folks at Marvel. He exists because of an illegal experiment in inter-species genetics. He’s a sarcastic wise-acre and also very funny and that is emblematic of the cheeky comic tone throughout this film. A nice change from the usual in these efforts. It’s not a spoof; just a light-footed casual adventure. And it’s fun.
Racoon is part of a team led by a Han Solo type named Peter Quill who wants to be called Star Lord. He does an Indiana Jones, steals an orb from a shrine and is pursued for the rest of the movie by guys who just must have it, apparently to destroy a planet or something. Quill, played by Chris Pratt, is a laconic slacker. In the crew that assembles around him are Zoe Saldana, former wrestler Dave Bautista and Vin Diesel (he’s the tree and can only say “I am Groot.”) They argue and kibbitz and coalesce as friends. In a nice touch, Quill listens to a lot of 70s music on an ancient Walkman (“The Pina Colada Song” anyone?). It’s all playful and entertaining until the inevitable space battles these films must include. They go on too long and become bombastic. Put up with them for the other joys that come at you (in 3-D if you wish). (Dunbar, Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5
MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT: Compared to what Woody Allen has been making for us recently, this is a trifle. Light and entertaining but thin. It reminds me of small Hollywood comedies from the 1930s that I’ve seen on TV. Nothing wrong with them, but they’re minor efforts.
Colin Firth and Emma Stone are mismatched as a couple, in age for sure but also in temperament. He’s often cranky and she’s usually charming. He’s a magician who performs in Chinese disguise and also likes to debunk fake spiritualists. “I’m a rational man in a rational world,” he insists. He’s called to the south of France where Emma has a rich family in thrall performing séances. This is the 1920 when that was a popular fad. Woody creates a contest of wills between his pure logic, which we’re siding with initially, and her spiritualism, which gradually gains bits of credibility and bids to win him and us over. How that develops makes little sense, except in a fantasy comedy kind of way. There’s also a rich suitor pursuing her, another a staple of 30s comedies. All in all, well-acted but under-written, stylish but craving more of Allen’s clever lines and humor. (Park Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5
GET ON UP: This film is just as erratic as James Brown seems to have been. It bounces back and forth in time, shifts moods and catches inconsistencies and in all that appears to have found the mercurial nature of the godfather of soul. As a biography it’s incomplete. You frequently have the feeling that there’s more the film isn’t telling you. There were more women in his life, for instance. But the man’s drive to rise up and his volatility are brought out well, largely through the vibrant portrayal by Chadwick Boseman.