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Furious 7, Woman in Gold and While We’re Young: reviews

Car stunts, court cases and unease about aging lead a long and varied movie menu for Easter

 

The choices are many this week, including a film for Easter and one possibly for Passover.  Also screeching cars, a treasure hunt, family grief and fears of aging hipsters.

Here’s the list:

Furious 7:  3 stars

Woman in Gold:  3 ½

While We’re Young: 3

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter: 4

Stations of the Cross: 4

Chorus:  3 ½

The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq: 3

Pretend We’re Kissing:  2 ½

 

FURIOUS 7: Excess never hurts films like this. They thrive on it. Logic? Who cares? Just sky-dive those cars out of an airplane so they can chase a bus convoy on a mountain road in Azerbaijan. Then hop over to Abu Dhabi. There’s a super-expensive car in a penthouse apartment just waiting to be crash-driven out the window, into the next building and then into a third. The gear-jamming action and the stunts have gotten ever wilder, and by the time of a drone attack on Los Angeles, too much, but they’re also infectious fun. This is poised to be another mega-hit in the series that has already earned $2.3 billion.

 

We’ve grown to care about the characters: Vin Diesel’s crew of former street racers, and Paul Walker’s infiltrator cop, the “family” they’ve become and the jobs they’re recruited to do, catch drug dealers, mercenaries and now a super-villain terrorist. Among the new characters: Kurt Russell is a government guy and Jason Statham is the brother of the bad guy from the last film. He wants revenge. The plot gets somewhat muddled with these two story strands but they do serve an important function. They set up mano-a-mano fights for Jason with Vin and later Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Just like in a comic book.

This is also Paul Walker’s last film. The actor died half-way through filming and his two brothers and some computer work finished his role. Except for one scene it’s not detectable and the goodbye to his character is done with surprising subtlety and taste. (Dunbar, Scotiabank and many suburban theatres)   3 out of 5

WOMAN IN GOLD: There’s a good story here. I just wish it had been better told. A Jewish woman in her 80s living in Los Angeles wages a seven-year legal fight to get back a valuable painting. It had been stolen from her family by the Nazis in Vienna decades before and was being displayed as a piece of “our national heritage” in the Belvedere art museum. She argues that’s her aunt in Gustav Klimt’s portrait Adele Bloch-Bauer I, the woman who used to tell her about life as she brushed her hair. The film relies a little too much on such sentimentality to present a basic court room drama.

 

Helen Mirren plays Maria Altmann with a nice deepening of determination as she confronts legal roadblocks. (Most Austrians come off as devious). Ryan Reynolds plays her young lawyer, but he overshoots in portraying him as inexperienced. While the case proceeds, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court for some reason, Maria has flashbacks to life in Vienna. Jews have to scrub sidewalks. Their stores are closed. Possessions are confiscated. Canada’s Tatiana Maslany plays her in those scenes. The two time periods cut well together but the effect feels manufactured. 

More problematic are the gaps. Maria wasn’t after money but sold the painting for $135 million. No reason given. Her aunt wanted it to stay in Austria but it’s now in New York. No reason either because the legal case is too compressed to explain. And there’s no mention of four other paintings or the Vancouver branch of the family some of whom had a role. The emotions are there but not all the facts that we need.  (5th Avenue and Silver City Coquitlam) 3 ½ out of 5

WHILE WE’RE YOUNG: I’m sure it happens to everybody. There comes a time when it suddenly strikes you that the people around you are younger than you. You don’t fit in anymore and you start feeling old. You used to know all the bands and the stars. Now you don’t, not the ones they know. That’s the sentiment Noah Baumbach explores to great comic effect in his new movie. (And a bit of uncomfortable gross-out action in one scene). As an added bonus there’s a debate about truth in documentary films.  This is a film for thinking grownups.

 

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a couple who fall under the spell of a younger, uninhibited duo, played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. Stiller teaches film and is struggling with a documentary he’s making about a ponderous old intellectual (played by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary).  Driver introduces himself as an eager student who is so retro he’s cool. No Netflix for him; just VHS. He’s got a wall of LP’s. We later learn there’s an ulterior motive in his attentions but until then he’s a cultural and social mentor for the older couple who are drawn up into his enthusiasm and cool life-style. The film is a funny satire about the insecurities that wipe away the self-worth of the hip. It’s uneven but like a Woody Allen movie engaging with its episodes of angst. (5th Avenue) 3 out of 5 

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