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Deep Throat vs Nixon, Jackie Chan vs the IRA and Olivia Cooke super in a serial killer tale from Victorian times

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THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM: The story is gimmicky, thanks to the Peter Ackroyd novel it comes from, but  the film is engrossing thanks to a fine British cast. Bill Nighy and Olivia Cooke are the leads. He’s a London police inspector trying to save her from the gallows. She’s a music hall star charged with murdering her husband (Sam Reid) a struggling playwright. That seemingly commonplace plot is intertwined with a Jack the Ripper-like story about a serial killer, also set in Victorian times in London’s Limehouse district. Nighy is assigned to it because he’s “not the marrying kind” and therefore an easy scapegoat if he fails. He finds links between the two cases.

 

His suspects include Karl Marx (yes, that one) and the English novelist George Gissing. He imagines vividly how they might have killed. A third real-life figure from the era, the music-hall star Dan Leno, is not a suspect. He’s part of the stage show and a mentor to Olivia Cooke’s newcomer starlet. She wants to become “world famous” and gets a rousing response from the audience for her debut song. A rival tries to sabotage her success. It takes a few twists to connect that familiar backstage plot with the bigger crime story outside. Some claim there’s a feminist angle. I don’t. It’s light entertainment. (Park Theatre) 3 out of 5  

HAPPY DEATH DAY: Don’t try to apply logic to this one. It can’t be done. The writers didn’t, so why should you try? And don’t expect a horror film. This one deals in suspense and chills and a silly story lifted from Groundhog Day. You know, every day is a repeat of the last for a character who has to learn to change.  Both the film and its star Bill Murray are specifically mentioned here but our central character says she’s never heard of either.

 

She has an odd name. Tree, possibly short for Theresa. She’s new at university, part of a sorority, dies on her birthday but wakes to live the day again. She does that repeatedly, apparently after being murdered, possibly by a person wearing a baby face mask who stalks her walking the campus at night.  She’s played very well, and increasingly angrily, by Jessica Rothe, who had a small part in La La Land. She carries this film. Israel Broussard plays her bland boyfriend and Ruby Modine (Matthew’s daughter) plays her dormmate. The director, Christopher Landon, Michael’s son, keeps things moving along brightly. Kinda fun. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5  

 

And these three I haven’t seen … yet

MARSHALL: This one came to town unannounced. With no chance to preview it, all I can do is give you some background. Chadwick Boseman plays Thurgood Marshall, the first black ever appointed to the US Supreme Court. The film concentrates on one case early in his career when he was a lawyer for the NAACP. He defended a black man in Connecticut accused of rape and attempted murder by the wealthy socialite he served as a chauffeur. It was racially-charged and tabloid fodder and a key antecedent of the civil rights movement to come. (International Village)

BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE): I missed it at VIFF, where it played twice, but I’ve heard nothing but glowing reports about it. This drama is about the ACT UP activists in Paris during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. It  recreates a lot of meetings and demonstrations but apparently plays with the energy of a thriller. Robin Campillo, the writer-director, drew on his own experiences in the movement and won four big awards at Cannes with the result. (International Village)   

PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN: This one I definitely want to see. It explains where the character Wonder Woman came from. It was from the imagination of an American psychotherapist named William Moulton Marston who drew on the characters of the two strong women in his life. He was a polyamorist, with a wife and a mistress. The three lived together, apparently happily, and are portrayed by Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote. He also helped invent the lie detector, but that’s another story. (5th Avenue and two suburban theatres)

 

 

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