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A Danish Royal Affair, old Stand Up Guys, zombie Warm Bodies and film classics at four mini festivals

An English princess and a German doctor strike up a forbidden romance in Denmark in the Academy Award contender, A Royal Affair.

On the Road’'s opening here has been postponed. Again. That’s the third time. Not good for a film that got major publicity at the Toronto Film Festival and its star Kristen Stewart onto  the front page of the Globe and Mail.

But we have lots of other choices: two zombie films, three creaky old criminals carousing, four festivals and lucky, for us, a stylish history and romance from Denmark.

Here’s this week’s list:

A Royal Affair:  3 ½ stars

Warm Bodies:  3

Stand Up Guys:  3

Last Days at the Ridge:

Spark FX ’13:

Canada’s Top 10:

Cockneys vs  Zombies  ( of the Digital Film Fest):  2 ½

Bullet to the Head: --

 

A ROYAL AFFAIR:  Just what we want in a historical drama. A lavish presentation, intrigue in the court of a crazy king, a forbidden affair and then a bonus: substantive ideas to go along with the entertainment. In this case, contrasting political philosophies battle it out in 18th century Denmark .

Two new arrivals spark it all. Caroline Mathilda (played by Alicia Vikander) is brought from England to marry the king, who she has never seen and who doesn’t seem much interested in her. Dr. Johann  Struensee (played by Mads Mikkelsen) is lured from a Danish colony in Germany to be the king’s personal physician. He’s a reader of the new democratic philosophies of Rousseau and others. So was the new queen until those books were taken away from her. It’s not long before she and the doctor compare their ideas and fight for progressive social reforms before a cabinet of conservative tightwads. They also go for horse rides in the rain and more intimate indoor pursuits. The film, which is Oscar-nominated in the foreign language category, builds inexorably to a highly emotional downfall. History buffs and romantics will like this one.

 

Mikkel Boe Folsgaard won the best actor prize in Berlin for his cackling turn as mad King Christian VII. (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5

WARM BODIES:  I hadn’t realized we’ve been waiting for a zombie version of Romeo and Juliet. But here it is, based on a popular teen novel and pitched to the Twilight crowd.  There’s even a classic balcony scene.  He, played by Nicholas Hoult, is simply named “R”; she, played by Teresa Palmer, is Julie. He can’t connect with people because, as he tells us in his narration, he’s dead.  She’s alive and the daughter of a zombie hunter (John Malkovich) who also commands a walled-in safety zone for humans. That’s about as far separate as two lovers can be.

 

Yet they meet. He, having eaten her boyfriend’s brain, has absorbed all his affection for her and she responds to a glimmer of life that seems to be reviving in him. They have to dodge the zombie gangs scavaging for food and the even more voracious “bonies” who look like animated skeletons. And they have to convince her dad that R is getting better and may offer a solution to the eight-year-old zombie plague. Starry-eyed stuff elevated into an appealing love story by the two likeable leads. There’s some blood and gore but it’s shown with restraint.  (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 3 out of 5

STAND UP GUYS:  The appeal of this movie is watching three veteran actors relax and enjoy themselves. Al Pacino (without his “hoo hah” affectation), Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin play former partners in crime re-united for a night of carousing. Pacino is just out of prison after 28 years. He wants to hit the bars and the brothels. Walken has slowed down and retired to a life of oil painting. Together they spring Arkin out of an old-age home (along with his oxygen tank) and soon he’s speeding his car just as wild as when he was their getaway driver. There’s a melancholy floating over all this though.

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