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Birdman, Whiplash and St. Vincent top a full slate of new films now playing

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Before long issues get solved. Dad gets promoted at work. His daughter’s boyfriend is jailed. The bullies bothering the son (Brendan Meyer, star of the locally-produced Mr. Young series) get what’s coming to them. Dan even carves a pumpkin with his army knife. When the daughter does some snooping, some secret government types get wind of it all and show up in the usual black vans carrying big guns. The script has to resort to some extreme contortions to explain what’s going on but the film leads to a terrific cat and mouse pursuit through a Halloween maze built for a highschool dance. Shades of The Lady From Shanghai. (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5

CITIZEN MARC: This documentary about Marc Emery is zippy and unusually candid. We know him as the local marijuana campaigner who gained the international moniker “Prince of Pot.” We know he spent five years in a US prison for selling marijuana seeds by mail-order from here in Vancouver. We know he came back to Canada in August. The film, by Roger Evan Larry and Sandra Tomc fills in a lot of gaps: his early business and political efforts in London, Ontario; his belief in the philosophy of Ayn Rand, his dislike of welfare, medicare and other government programs. He prattles on about “the terrible shackles of marijuana prohibition” as if it were a major civil rights issue. He compares himself to Gandhi, Mandela and Martin Luther King. One critic calls him “pushy and obnoxious.” It feels like a well-rounded portrait. The film will play in various cities around BC. It starts today (Oct. 24) at the Landmark Theatre in New Westminster. Larry and Tomc will be at the first evening show for a Q & A.   3 out of 5

JOHN WICK: It’s been a hit at events like Fantastic Fest but to me it’s just gun porn. That’s how I see this ultra-violent action flick that has a bigger body count than most war movies. Much of the killing is point-blank and cold-blooded. For a good reason, sure, but excessive.

 

Keanu Reeves plays the title character who, when a young thug steals his car and kills his dog, goes for revenge. That causes a mess of complications. The thug’s father is a local Russian gang boss (in New Jersey) and Keanu used to work for him as a killer. Reason won’t stop him so wave after wave of guys in black suits carrying major firepower come after him. He fights back himself with handguns up to chattering automatic weapons. The carnage is shown as almost balletic at times. In one scene, Keanu shoots his way into a church, again for a good reason. Video games seems to be the chief inspiration. (Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 2 out of 5     

THESE FINAL HOURS:  This Australian end-of-the-world film is part of the Rio Theatre’s Grind Films Festival this weekend (see their website or better yet, their ad in the Georgia Straight). It starts a regular engagement Monday.

 

In speculating how people will react when the end is nigh, the film doesn’t have much new to say but it does set up a tense, edgy mood. Some people will go on a rampage; some will hunker down scared. Our hero, played by Nathan Phillips, splits with his girlfriend and heads to a party at another girlfriend’s. On the way, he rescues a young girl from two grunting brutes dragging her into a house and lets her tag along for the rest of the film including to one wild party. Angourie Rice, age 12, plays the girl with loads of charm and that moves him to soften up and help her on a desperate search for her father. Director Zak Hilditch does quite a bit with the limited resources he had to convey chaos and anarchy and the end. (Rio) 2 ½ out of 5   

HORNS: Daniel Radcliffe, the erstwhile Harry Potter, is diversifying these days but he should have stayed out of this one. There are too many ludicrous scenes; they overpower the effective ones and the main theme is so muddled it hardly makes an impression. You have one chance to see it, at Cineplex Theatres on Monday, but the sole reason to go is that it was filmed around here. Various locations from Squamish to Mission stand in for a woodsy town in Washington State, just like in Twilight, except there’s a Cloverdale Paint store clearly visible in one scene. The mood is like an underachieving Twin Peaks.

 

When Daniel’s character is accused of killing his girlfriend (Juno Temple), he grows horns. He turns against religion, you see, and becomes a devil to find the real killer. People he meets are compelled to say and do exactly what they think.  It may have worked in the novel by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King) but here the idea is buried under a series of silly incidents. Jay Brazeau has a nice turn as a nasty priest, but a couple of gay cops, a doctor screwing his nurse and Heather Graham as a lying witness are trying for laughs that aren’t there. Much overacting and only brief splatter (from a director known for lots of it, France’s Alexandre Aja) make this a sub par movie.  (Scotiabank and Riverport) 2 ½  out of 5

Also now playing …

OUIJA: Another Hasbro toy hits the big screen. But unlike G.I. Joe and Transformers this one isn’t about action, but horror. A girl dies, her friends, led by Olivia Cooke (well-known from the locally-filmed TV series Bates Motel) consult the Ouija board to contact her spirit. They attract a sinister force that comes out of the board and, in a plot well-known in teenage horror movies, starts killing them one by one. Don’t expect anything new.  (Scotiabank and suburban theatres)       

More in New Movies

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Also: a bit of opera (real with Maria Callas and fictional in Bel Canto) and an ode to BC’s chief geographical feature in This Mountain Life

A touching drama about dementia, a daredevil rock climb and another 007 spoof

Also a teen’s life lessons from skateboarders and a cold war anachronism with submarines
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