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Green Book, the film of the year so far, plus new visits by Robin Hood and Ralph

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The result is another speedy tour of pop-culture, but much, much bigger this time. We see familiar sites (Instagram, Google, etc.etc.), run into dozens of characters (all of the Disney princesses, the answer man KnowsMore, pop-up hucksters offering a chance to make money on the internet, even Vin Diesel as Baby Groot). Familiar internet events happen, often with flashes to people watching at their computers. It’s fun and then just too much. It becomes hard to get back to a main story. Our heroes over-bid on eBay and need to earn $20,000 to finish the deal while a little eBoy pops in to count down the time left. Vanellope gets involved with a punky bunch of street racers (Gal Gadot voices the leader) and Ralph’s insecurities attract a virus which does the breaking. The film doesn’t say much of anything, just echoes our on-line experiences. The funniest bit is a fragment cut into the end credits. There’s another at the very end that’s not worth waiting for. (International Village, Marine Gateway, suburban theatres) 2 ½  out of 5

CREED II: You don’t expect to feel tedium in a boxing movie but here it is. A novelty, of the wrong sort. That’s particularly disappointing because the film it follows revived the Rocky series with such a fresh, electric vibe and this one turns down the power. Yes, there are a couple of big fights, including a brutal climactic one, but most of these 130 minutes are dull with domestic affairs. Creed (played by the always-excellent Michael B. Jordan) is a world champion having been trained by Rocky himself (Sylvester Stallone). Rather than get on with it, he’s distracted by his home life, proposing to his girlfriend (Tessa Thompson), watching her music career start up and worrying about their baby born with a possible disability. In addition he ponders at length if he wants to continue boxing and what is a man, anyway. Relevant stuff, but way too long in this context.

 

Creed, under pressured to commit to another fight, is being taunted from Russia. The connection is complicated, so follow carefully. Years before, while the Cold War was still on, Rocky fought a Russian champ who in another bout caused the death of Rocky’s first major opponent, Apollo Creed. The Russian, once again played by Dolph Lundgren, hopes to restore his reputation through a son he has trained. He wants him to fight Creed’s son, who Rocky has trained. It’s like the old fight repeated but with proxies.  Rocky says don’t go which gives Creed more chance to mope and ponder and us more need to say get on with it. We know you’re going to. They do; you feel the pain but not much electricity. The backstory is more interesting. And that’s Brigitte Nielsen watching at ringside for a time. She’s re-appeared too from a long-ago Rocky film. (Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5

MADEMOISELLE PARADIS: The 21st annual European Union Film Festival opens tonight (Friday) with this Austrian production that has a slightly weird atmosphere but a lot to say about art, innovative medicine, patriarchal authority and the secondary role afforded women. It’ll also introduce you to a woman who should be better remembered. Maria Theresia von Paradis was a pianist, composer, friend of Mozart and a teacher. She was also blind from age three.

She received treatment from a couple of quack doctors and then in 1777 from Franz Mesmer (source of our word mesmerize). He claimed to energize an invisible fluid within the human body, “a magnetic field that permeates all living and inanimate objects”. Maria’s sight improved, according to this film based on a novel. She could perceive colors and shapes. Mesmer insisted she wasn’t pretending  (“she’s totally unspoiled, like a girl from the Canadian forests”) and craved royal recognition for his methods. The court doctors disputed his results and even as they seemed to be working, Maria found her musical talent declining. Her father got the final say and Barbara Albert, the director, lets the film focus on the controlling power exerted by men and the power games they play. They come across a little too much like fops for my taste, but Maria Dragus in the lead role is excellent. So is the production design. The film won many awards in Austria, mostly in craft categories. (3 ½ out of 5)

For more on the EURO film festival visit  http://thecinematheque.ca

 

EDGE OF THE KNIFE: This gem of a film from Haida Gwaii is back, first as part of Vancouver’s newest film festival and then for a regular run. Both are at the VanCity Theatre. The Indigenous International Film Festival (IIFF) is on tonight (Fri) and tomorrow showcasing native productions from Australia, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Canada.

One Aussie film is about a Miss First Nations contest. Hawaii’s is about two men sent away to be locked up in a private prison in Arizona and then trying to re-establish their life when they return home.

Edge of the Knife recreates a Haida legend about a man assailed by spirits after he inadvertently helps cause the death of a young boy. In his grief he runs away into the woods and turns into the wildman called Gaagiixiit. The film is most harrowing when he has to be captured for an exorcism.

 

It closes the fest about dinner time Sunday and the directors, Gwaii Edenshaw  and  Helen Haig-Brown, will be there to take questions. (4 out of 5)

For more information on all the films, including several shorts, visit https://www.indigenousinternationalfilmfestival.com/

 

 

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