Before Harry Potter, before the Supreme Court and a better teen comedy filmed in Surrey

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AQUARIUS: In our city of teardowns and renovictions this one from Brazil should resonate. Legendary actor Sônia Braga plays feisty as a woman who cherishes heritage. For instance, her large collection of vinyl LPs (she plays a former music critic) and the condominium in which she is now the only resident.

A developer has bought everybody else out and now wants her to move so he can put up a huge, new building. He hands the project to a grandson who starts out apologetic and pleasant, becomes passive-aggressive and resorts to a form of block busting. He allows a noisy orgy in the apartment right above hers. Threatens legal action. Eventually starts something quite outrageous. The joy of this film is watching Braga muster her strong personal presence and soulful attachment to her home and stand up to him. The film is slow developing but the climax hits fast. (VanCity) 4 out of 5

LANDFILL HARMONIC: You think you know what you’re going to get in this one and then find so much more. This is one of those inspiring documentaries about people making do with what they have. It’s set in a place called Cateura in Paraguay the site of a giant landfill. People pick over it to scavenge what they can. One makes musical instruments, violins and such out of olive oil tins and oil drums and anything else that works. A local teacher has his students play them in The Recycled Orchestra. They get invited to the Rio Environmental Summit and we all feel good about their spirited Ode to Joy.

That’s not all. They also get to play Beethoven’s 5th at an Oslo conference and here’s the killer: they perform on stage in Denver with the heavy metal band Megadeath. The piece is called Symphony of Destruction. All three shows are thrilling. They’re big and powerful and especially satisfying because we’ve watched the build-up to them: the years of practice and learning, and finding the confidence to not be afraid to play. These are teens who live beside a river that’s dark and dirty and chocked with garbage. A couple of summers ago they were flooded out. Remarkably,  it’s a feel good movie. (VanCity Theatre) 3 ½ out of 5

OPERATION AVALANCHE: The idea is good. The execution not as much. But the film is an interesting take on an old suspicion. Did the Americans really get to the moon in 1969? Some thought it was all staged and filmed in a studio. Matt Johnson, from Ontario, stars in and directs this fictional speculation in which a couple of CIA agents talk their way into NASA to find a mole. The Cold War was raging at the time. What they find is NASA isn’t ready for the moon and just lying to fool the Russians. The two agents film a fake moon landing.

The joke here is that Johnson and his pal Owen Williams really did fool NASA. They got in ostensibly to film a documentary, even got staffers to play themselves, but didn’t say what the film was really about. The result is a mash-up of authentic and grainy amateurish. The locations are real, many of the people in them are real, shaky camera work happens. A lot is funny but for no great purpose.  (Rio Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5   


And two films that weren’t made available for review:

BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK: Ang Lee directs. Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel and Steve Martin are in it. Soldiers returning from Iraq are confronted with the truth about what they went through. It’s based on a popular novel. So why has Sony brought it to town without previews for the critics? Not a good sign. Maybe the low scores its getting elsewhere has something to do with it. (5th Avenue)

BLEED FOR THIS: Sony has a second film this week that they’ve sneaked into town without fanfare or press previews. This is a boxing movie with Miles Teller as Vinny Pazienza  (“The Pazmanian Devil”). The boxer from Rhode Island made a legendary comeback after a car crash that severed his spine.  According to Vinny: “This is the real Rocky. This story ain’t made up. It’s no joke. It’s all real.” Not enough for Sony apparently. (International Village and suburban theatres)

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