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Her, August Osage County and Lone Survivor: reviews

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Julia Roberts keeps up with her as the daughter who dares to oppose her. “I am running things now,” she eventually proclaims. (Both have Golden Globe nominations for their work).  And there are many other good actors doing good work around the table, including Margo Martindale, as a sister with three daughters and an ill-at-ease son (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Ewan McGregor and Dermot Mulroney. Their acting feels improvised and flows naturally but the production shows its stage origins and in the end there’s just too much hostility to be credible. Tracy Letts, who wrote the play and won a Pulitzer for it, says it’s all inspired by his own family’s history. Lucky for us, for the film he has trimmed some 40 minutes out of his 3-hour epic. (The Park, International Village and suburban theatres) 3 out of 5         

LONE SURVIVOR: Don’t you get tired now and then of American war movies? They ask us to accept their heroes as if they were ours too but don’t tell the other stories, the bad ones. Like shooting up wedding parties in Afghanistan or attacking villages at night. They leave that to documentaries like Dirty Wars while giving us upstanding young men facing danger and following only moral rules of engagement.

 

This film is a fair version of that genre, with good tension, impressive wide-screen pictures and a band of comrades caught up in heavy action.  Based on a real-life memoir of a 2005 mission, it’s apparently true. Four Navy Seals are flown into a remote Afghan  mountain forest to find a notorious Taliban leader and kill him. As they’re reconnoitering, three goatherds come across them. What to do? A petty officer (Ben Foster) says “Schwak ‘em.” Another (Mark Wahlberg) says that’s against the rules of war. The lieutenant leader (B.C. product Taylor Kitsch) says let them go and abort the mission. Bad call. Not before long, there’s a line of Taliban on the ridge like Indians in an old western. Our boys shoot a lot of them but also take dozens of shots themselves, fall down a mountainside crashing their bodies on to rocks and suffering gaping wounds that would drain away the blood of most mortals. The film likes to linger on pain, suffering and self-surgery.  It asks no questions about war; just shows how it’s done and remains a straight adventure with a bit of ambiguity in its admittedly-exciting finale. (Scotiabank, Dunbar and many suburban theatres)   2 ½  out of 5

ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL:  A few more notes on this first-time-in-Vancouver event, happening at  the VanCity Theatre.  Last week, I praised two of its films: Terrafirma and Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

The festival kicks off tonight with a gala that includes music, a documentary on Federico Fellini and one of his greatest successes, the 1975 Academy Award winner, Amarcord.

It’s based on Fellini’s memories of growing up in a country turning fascist. There’s also an exhibition of his drawings and on Monday a film he wrote but didn’t direct. The Flowers of St. Francis is about the saintly priest so admired by the current Pope that he took his name.

Less saintly is the famous strip tease Sophia Loren does in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow another of the five classic films being shown.

 Of the five new titles, A Perfect Family sounds especially promising.

It’s about a lonely rich man who hires actors to simulate a family for him for Christmas.

The festival runs for a week (until Thurs. Jan 16) and you can see the whole schedule with notes on all the films at http://viff.org/

 

NOTE: These images are movie stills provided by the studios. They are the exclusive property of their copyright owners.

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