Films: Boyhood delights with the drama it finds in everyday life

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You might not care a lot. You’ve seen characters like this before, in As Good As It Gets, for instance. Mark Andrus wrote both it and this one. Keaton has done the amiable neurotic bit before. Rob Reiner directed this one with a lot of color, confident acting from the two veterans but not much edge. He also plays piano during her singing gigs and Frankie Valli plays the lounge owner.  Except for a misguided sequence in which Douglas tries to get the granddaughter’s mother to take her back (she can’t, she’s a junkie) the film is pleasant, easy to take but easily missable. (International Village and a few suburban theatres)  2 ½ out of 5  


HERCULES:  Imagine a blend of cheesy sword and sandal epics from the 1950s and Game of Throne-like staging of today. That’s what you get in this new version of the old strongman tale that manages to be both preposterous and entertaining. I’m not positive but I suspect people back in ancient Greece didn’t yell lines like “Kill the filthy bastard”. John Hurt as a cruel king gets that one off. His target is Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson as Hercules, who he initially hired as a mercenary to defend his kingdom but then saw as a troublemaker.

The story’s turns are modern, based on a comic book. Hercules may be living a life glorified by legend and image promotion. Is he even a demi-god, a son of Zeus? Maybe he’s just a man. Big, though and a great fighter as he amply demonstrates in three giant battle scenes. They’re the real core of this movie, kinetic, exciting and with fine use of 3-D. At the same time director Brett Ratner has wrangled a great cast of mostly British actors (besides Hurt there’s  Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes and  Peter Mullen) as well as a couple of respected Norwegians (Tobias Santelmann and Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) to back up The Rock with class. (International Village and many suburban theatres)  3 out of 5


I ORIGINS: Mike Cahill is back with another mysterious movie that wanders into metaphysics. He  wrote and directed Another Earth three years ago. This time he delves into evolution and ponders reincarnation. He has Michael Pitt and Brit Marling play biological researchers who attack one of the chief arguments that the intelligent design folks use, namely that the eye is far too complex to have been produced by evolution and therefore disproves the theory. In the lab, they try to coax some eye-less worms to develop sight capability.


He, meanwhile, has fallen for, and then loses, a young woman with a distinctive color pattern in her eyes. Seven years after her death he sets out to find an exact match which, of course, would prove that she has become reincarnated. The film thereby makes a complete about turn. Until then it was perfectly accurate about scientists and their methods. Then it wanders off into wishful fantasy. If you don’t mind that, you’ll be happy to know that after a slow dull start, the film becomes immensely engrossing as he pursues his quest. If you go, stay through the end credits for an add-on that supports the speculation. (International Village) 2 ½ out of 5

MONTY PYTHON LIVE (mostly):  You have one more chance to see the five remaining  Pythons  in what they say was their last reunion show ever. They performed 10 of them in London, sent the last one live by satellite into movie theatres around the world last Sunday and also scheduled two recorded repeats. That final plays Thursday.

Is it worth it? If you’re a big fan, yes. Medium fan? Be careful. They’re in their 70s now and often seem to be coasting as they do the old material one more time.  Michael Palin and John Cleese are as verbally bright as ever  but don’t really show it until the second half when they do  classic skits like The Argument and Dead Parrott and The Cheese Shop (which are run together).Terry Jones needs cue cards to recite the ingredients in Crunchy Frog. Eric Idle sings well. Terry Gilliam (and his animations) are on screen a lot. In the first half they’re all upstaged by dancers and a musical hall atmosphere. There’s a song about the penis and then the vagina. Carol Cleveland’s invitation “Do you want to come upstairs?” is much more specific, as in the Hollywood Bowl reunion 24 years ago. So, a little bit naughtier, a couple of unexpected guests but generally golden oldies performed with less energy but fine nostalgia. There’s also a special deal ($6.00 admission) on two of their movies: Life of Brian on Sunday and Monty Python and the Holy Grail  Wed. (Cineplex Theatres) 3 out of 5 

Also now playing …

LUCY:  After science fiction (Under the Skin) and comic-book thrills (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Scarlett Johansson goes the full action-movie route with one of the busiest men in that field. Luc Besson is French and turns out a steady succession of kinetic thrillers, usually, these days, as writer and producer. He’s back to directing with this story of a woman hired as a drug mule who gains superpowers, including in her brain, when a bag of something she’s carrying ruptures in her stomach. Non-stop action takes place in Paris, New York and Taipei. I haven’t seen it but a reliable source says the story is ridiculous but the film dazzles visually.  (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres)

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