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The Boss is crass and Everybody Wants Some pleases but Hank Williams gets a bland bio pic

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THE BRAINWASHING OF MY DAD: Go beyond the title—it’s hyperbolic after all—and you’ll find a thoughtful look at right wing news media in the US and the damage they’re doing to the public discourse. It’s not new. The impact of Fox News and blowhards like Rush Limbaugh has been debated and decried for years. But New York filmmaker Jen Senko jumps in with a personal connection after she sees the changes coming over her father. Also, since she’s exploring issues that are apparently brand new to her she covers it all, including the parts everybody knows. It doesn’t get to Donald Trump and his ability to stir up of angry white men, but you’ll think of him many times.

Jen’s dad was “really fun” until he took to listening to talk radio. Rush Limbaugh turned him angry. Fox News added bitterness. Jen set out to find why that happened. Thinkers like Noam Chomsky, media critics like George Lakoff and Jeff Cohen, an ex-Fox staffer and a bunch of ordinary people who had similar experiences filled her in. It amounts to a quick history of broadcast news which when freed of the Fairness Doctrine and trumpeting “balance” instead of “objectivity” becomes a tool for right-wing voices and big corporations. Roger Ailes shaped Fox news. Coors funded a network. The film goes in detail into their techniques. Viewers are fed opinions, fears and easy answers. They want their thinking done for them and, says a psychologist, they get addicted to anger. Some of this is simplistic. Most of it rings true. (VanCity Theatre, today, Sunday and twice next week)   3 out of 5

THE CLAN: Here’s a calm but unnerving thriller from Argentina. Politics, murder and family dynamics co-habit in a very strange story that is also notoriously true. We learn that after the right-wing dictatorship ended down there in the 1980s, some of its agents didn’t want to stop what they were doing. They continued to kidnap people but instead of disappearing them for political reasons, held them for ransom.

 

We watch one seemingly normal family at work. The patriarch is Arquímedes Puccio, a real figure played by actor Guillermo Francella who is mostly seen in popular comedies. At the dinner table he’s a kind father. “I hope God forbids me from disappointing you,” he says.  Really he’s a psychopath, who has turned kidnapping into a family business. Francella is totally convincing in both outlooks. He pressures his son (Peter Lanzani) into working with him and reminds him that it was his support and money that enabled him to be a rugby star. He calls another son who ran away, a traitor. Typical family stuff, except for the kidnappings, the murders and the screams that sometimes come from the basement, which by the way nobody seems to hear. That’s a flaw. So is the son’s slow realization of what dad is doing. But with twists coming right to the end, this is an engrossing movie.  (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5   

DEMOLITION: It sounds like a metaphor run amuck. The main character played by Jake Gyllenhaal even says it as his troubles deepen. “Everything has become a metaphor” he complains. His wife has died in a car accident and he’s demolishing elements of his life, including gadgets around the house and parts of the house itself. Don’t worry, though. This is not dull, arty stuff. He’s unraveling but the trip is fascinating, sometimes comic and always involving to come along on.

 

It starts when a vending machine jams and he doesn’t get his M and Ms. He writes to the company, gets a call back from the customer service department (Naomi Watts) and they strike up a conversation about among other things whether “Crazy on You” by Heart is a sad song. As you may have surmised, director Jean-Marc Vallée, the Quebecker who has gone Hollywood, keeps things light and even whimsical. The two meet on a commuter train (a rare lapse into co-incidence) and slowly develop a relationship. Things do get dark at times but surprises keep coming along to keep things interesting. It’s a film with an irregular beat but with its fine performances it becomes quite moving.  (5th Avenue, International Village and a few suburban theatres) 3 out of 5  

Also now playing …

HARDCORE HENRY: We’re always looking for something new at the movies but this innovation seems unnecessary. (I’m going by a friend’s report. I haven’t seen the film.) This is a video game – almost. You the viewer are a shooter. People are after you and you spend the whole 90 minutes shooting them. That’s it. Lots and lots of killing. It’s always from your vantage point. Your character is never shown on screen. What’s the point? With real video games you’re doing the action. Who wants to just sit there and watch? Pay your 12 bucks and you can at Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and many suburban theatres.

 

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