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The German hit Toni Erdmann, Gold, the Bre-X clone, and the animal rights target, A Dog’s Purpose

Also a celebration of an iconic Canadian artist, a gritty film from trailer park England and a couple of lurid ones from France

 Now that the Academy Award nominations are out you might be doing some catch up. Two prominent contenders, Toni Erdmann and Elle, have finally arrived and two are now showing with additions. Arrival, which has eight nominations, now has an 8-minute extra attached. It’s like a making-of feature as you’d find on a DVD. The animated Moana is now here in a second sing-along version. It seems the theatres have scheduled it for the first screening of the day.

Notice also that on Tuesday the Cinematheque has another free screening in its series of key Canadian films. This time it’s a double bill: Bitter Ash, the film Larry Kent made at UBC back in 1963 (with a controversial nude scene) and The Supreme Kid, a comic road movie made in 1976 by SFU grad Peter Bryant. Helen Shaver and Terry David Mulligan did some of their earliest work in this one. Check the Cinematheque website for details.

And these films are new …

Toni Erdmann:  3 stars

Gold:  3

A Dog’s Purpose:  2 ½

Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris: 3 ½

Trespass Against Us: 2 ½

Elle: 3

Staying Vertical: 2


TONI ERDMANN: This German comedy has been a huge hit in Europe and at festivals but I’m not with it. Not in total that is, all 2 hours and 42 minutes. There are inspired bits, some of them very funny, but for the most part it’s not the riotous laughfest I had been told it was but a collection of incidents with that low-key absurd humor that Germans like so much.  I found it slow-starting and meandering as a tale of a woman driven anxious by the demands of her high-tension job and by the antics of her prankster father.


I saw it a second time to give it another chance and managed to key on its real strength—that father daughter relationship. He’s trying to get her to lighten up and get back some of the playfulness of her youth. She’s trying to get him to act appropriately out in public. He likes putting on a wig and false teeth and popping in at awkward times pretending to be a life coach, or more surprisingly, the German ambassador to Romania. Why? We don’t really know and not all the incidents are funny. But Sandra Hüller as the daughter and Peter Simonischek as dad are so natural they almost sell the material. She’s  consulting on an oil company’s downsizing project. He’s retired, follows her to Bucharest and wanders freely into tony cocktail parties and such. That interplay of real world business stress and absurd  fantasy-- check out the naked staff party-- does entertain, sporadically. Not for almost three hours though. (5th Avenue) 3 out of 5

GOLD: Based on a true story, eh? Yes, but not enough to tells us which one or to set it in the right place. This is the Bre-X story, the Canadian gold mine stock scam in which people lost something like a billion dollars. The film doesn’t use that name and starts it in Nevada, not Alberta, but it does place the mine in Indonesia and there is a geologist who fell (?) to his death out of a helicopter when the venture turned bad. It also has Matthew McConaughey  trumpeting “We’re gonna be so frickin’ rich” because he and his geologist partner (Edgar Ramírez) have made the biggest gold strike of the decade.

McConaughey captures perfectly the fervor of a huckster promoter. He says he saw it in his dad; he’s managed to translate it with some authenticity into this film. The insistent pull of an idea, the passion to see it through, the risk taking are all here and immensely engaging. How it fell apart is not as well told. It’s just covered in broad strokes and doesn’t reveal much. And what the investors lost is hardly dealt with at all. But BC has a rich history of mining plays (and scams) and a lot of ordinary people who were burned by Bre-X. There’s a lot to resonate here. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres)    3 out of 5

A DOG’S PURPOSE: It’s really a shame that this one has got tangled in a scandal about animal cruelty because its message is strongly in the exactly opposite direction. Dogs are smart and loyal and should be seen as treasured companions, it says. It’s hokey in the way it makes its points but with lots of humour scattered about and cute puppies and older dogs with soulful eyes looking at us, it’s quite right for a family audience, provided the kids aren’t too young. Dogs don’t live forever and though we don’t see any die, we’re aware it happens. Three times.

More in New Movies

Disney wildlife times two, a blast at American politics and a traumatic teen drama

Also a couple of small but amiable comedies, one of them Canadian

More streaming ideas take you to Brazil, low-life China and two Jesse Eisenberg films

As well as a cleverly-plotted trip to Barcelona thanks to Netflix

Movie theatres are shut down, so what’s streaming?

Some modest recommendations and stay for the last one, an alarm about what has happened to the internet.
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