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Brave, four new indies (including a must-see) and Hot Docs reviewed

Brave is like a newly-found Grimm Brothers fairy tale except for one very independent princess

 

A great children’s movie, four independent films and an insult to history lead this week. There’s far better history in one of the documentaries showing this weekend.

Here’s the list:

Brave:  4 stars

Your Sister’s Sister: 4

Safety Not Guaranteed: 3 ½

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: 3

Lola Versus:  2 ½

Patang:  3

HOT DOCS: Ethel: 4 ½,

         The Imposter 4,

         Charles Bradley  3 ½

         Beauty is Embarrassing: 3

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter --

BRAVE: It’s as if the Pixar people have found a previously unknown tale from the Grimm Brothers. Among the story elements there’s a mother-daughter clash, a runaway princess, a wood-carver witch in a cabin hidden in the woods. And a spell the princess regrets attracting, one she has to labor urgently to undo. (Don’t let anyone tell you what it is. It would spoil a great deal of the fun). Familiar stuff yes, drawing on many a fairy tale, but set in Scotland and given a modern twist. This princess, like the two Snow Whites we saw just recently, is a rebel, fighting for herself, against tradition. Urged to get married, she declares she’s not ready, and may never be. She’s into archery and wild galloping horse rides.

 

The story deftly mixes in a bit of magic (a will-o’-the-wisp that leads her into the woods; a Stonehenge-like rock circle) but is a bit clumsy with a recurring bear threat. That’s probably in there for the boys who may want more than a tale of a young woman’s destiny. Neither the story nor the scary bear sequences are for little kids. The movie as a whole though is fabulous, exquisitely designed, animated in 3D and well-played by a voice cast that includes Kelly Macdonald (the princess), Emma Thompson (her mother, the queen) and Billy Connolly (the king). (Scotiabank, The Dolphin and many suburban theatres) 4 out of 5         

YOUR SISTER’S SISTER: I sat amazed at how natural the acting and the dialogue play in this inspired film. And how the excellent writing fashions an intelligent piece of work. Then I learned what was really going on. Very little was written. Director Lynn Shelton gave the actors the general situation and what she wanted to happen and let them improvise. It was possible because the main section only has three actors, Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass and Rosemarie DeWitt, and they were all game to play that way. The result is stunning because nobody ever knew what would be coming at them. In one scene in particular Blunt is clearly astonished and nonplussed by what DeWitt says to her.  

 

Oh yes, there’s a story too. Duplass, as Jack, gets uncomfortably caustic at his late brother’s memorial and Blunt, as his friend Iris, tells him to go chill out at her family’s cabin on one of the San Juan Islands. But her sister Hannah (DeWitt) is already there. She’s getting over a breakup with her lesbian partner. A few drinks, some snappy conversation and attraction sets in which leads to a major dispute when Iris shows up and announces she’s been secretly in love with Jack for years. The siblings’ quarrel comes in waves. The dialogue is often peppered with irony and humor. The result is an engaging character study of three likeable people. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 4 out of 5  

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