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Ghost in the Shell, weak, The Zookeeper’s Wife, muddled, and The Boss Baby, great fun

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THE BOSS BABY: This film is full of laughs, sight gags galore, mildly anarchic humor that’ll remind you of Tex Avery’s nuttier cartoons at Warner Brothers. And it plays to both children and adults. Quite separately. Kids won’t get the jokes about budget cutbacks and corporation execs and the put down “You obviously haven’t been to business school.” They will understand the sibling rivalry that kicks in when a new baby is brought into the family. Some may even be able to imagine its endless demands as coming from a boss.

 

The film, based on a popular book, takes that idea and runs with it. “I am the boss of you,” seven-year-old Tim is firmly told by his new brother who has arrived in a taxi, wearing a suit and tie, carrying a briefcase and soon to turn play dates into business meetings. Turns out there’s a reason he’s there, a corporate setback, a plot to foil, (namely a scheme to breed puppies that never age), a Las Vegas product launch to disrupt and a wild chase by Elvis impersonators. Crazy? Sure and very funny. There are allusions to Teletubbies, Indiana Jones, the wizard Gandalf, Apocalypse Now, pirates and much else. 

I hesistate to make the obvious comparison but Alex Baldwin is terrific as the voice of yet another puffed- up character. Also in the cast are Steve Buscemi, Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy Kimmel, Tobey Maguire and others. The director, Tom McGrath made the Madadasgar movies and was a key creator on TV’s Ren and Stimpy. The writer, Michael McCullers worked on two Austin Powers movies. Remarkably, they wrap this one up into a sincere endorsement of the importance of family.  (International Village and many suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5

MR. GAGA: I’ve watched this film all the way and still don’t know exactly what gaga means. It’s a word Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin uses to describe his creative philosophy, or maybe technique. With it he provokes his dancers to let the natural inclinations of their body propel their movements. Move naturally, like an animal, he tells them. He doesn’t define the word, although we see him teach it. How to fall convincingly for instance. How to get pleasure from rigorous physical movement. We see him demand more and more precision. And we see lots of excerpts from his works. He’s been artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv since 1990 and there are many highlights. 

 

The joy of this film is in those examples. They seem spontaneous, not choreographed, fluid and angular, neither male not feminine, but both. Sometimes they’re controversial. One piece was attacked by religious conservatives. He shot back about “racists, bullies, fanatics.” He’s as candid in telling us his personal story: raised on a kibbutz, army service in the Golan Heights (reflected in a grim dance number), taken to New York by Martha Graham, marrying away a top dancer from Alvin Ailey’s  company and starting his own. And so on to his status as a superstar in the world of dance. Natalie Portman appears briefly to praise him and since the director, Tomer Heymann, is an old friend this film is uncritical film but highly engrossing. (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5    

O, BRAZEN AGE: Canadian films sometimes have to work harder to get known. This one has played festivals since 2015, including here, and is now showing in a series of pop up engagements across the country. It played a week in Toronto where the first day sold out. Most engagements are one time; the VanCity Theatre has it Tuesday at 6:45 with a reception and a band for an hour before and the filmmakers doing a Q&A after. So, what is it?

 

The film shows a series of loosely-related incidents with a group of Toronto friends, all in the arts and in some kind of existential difficulty. A guy learns about some long-ago connections between his wife and his best friend but can’t get either to elaborate. A women fears disaster. A guy dreads going to the dentist which makes another fear for his own teeth which he never brushes. An actor is lobbying for a role in a play; a photographer is mounting a show about “the limits of specificity.” And so on. A typical Toronto crowd of people in the arts. Except how genuine is it that they’re all in an existential crisis, all searching? There’s great mood and atmosphere and the actors talk and feel real. But the characters regularly quote the bible, recite passages from King Lear, read from their own writings and this first feature by Alexander Carson working with the North Country Cinema collective comes off as too arty. (VanCity Tues) 2 ½ out of 5            

 

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