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How they followed the great Lego Movie; what they think Men Want and how Neeson is taken to revenge again

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He’s nicknamed Viking. There are guys in his gang with names like Speedo, Dante and Limbo. Like in the original, made by the same director, Hans Petter Moland, there’s a subtle veneer of black comedy over the grim proceedings here. The crime boss is an adamant vegan. Two local cops discuss community policing and the complexity of enforcing the drug laws when marijuana has been legalized. Every thug who is killed is then identified with an on-screen information slide. This is not your usual revenge thriller. Certainly not when a war breaks out between this gang and a crew of local indigenous drug dealers. Tom Jackson plays their leader and with great dignity spouts lines like “I will have blood for blood. A son for a son.”  It looks like a Taken knock-off until you get in and find a lot more there. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 3 out of 5

THE PRODIGY: As horror movies go, this one is safe, mild even. But it tingles with creepiness and a few changes in mood. Remember those bad-child films like The Omen? It plays like one early on. Then there’s a bit of the familiar Exorcist vibe here. And finally a supernatural mental health thriller forcing impossible decisions to be made and ultimately leaving us wondering what happened. It’s a good ride if you’re willing to accept ambiguity.

 

A killer is shot by police; a baby is born. Same time, different place, not explained until much later. The baby develops fast, aces I.Q. tests when he’s eight, squashes a spider, hits a kid at school with a monkey wrench and injures a babysitter by luring her to step on a glass shard.  Parents will cringe at this section because devious, possibly malevolent, children are disturbing. He offers only a minimum of information to his mom (Taylor Shilling) but a recording of some weird muttering while he’s asleep and analysis by a child psychologist (Colm Feore) reveals what’s going on. The boy is possessed through reincarnation. Why and how to stop it leads to a fairly gripping search. The film is well-paced and full of dread and atmosphere. Jackson Robert Scott does adult-level acting through the boy’s many moods. (International Village and suburban theatres) 3 out of 5

OSCAR SHORTS: Of all the Academy Award contenders they’re the hardest to catch up with. Short animations, documentaries and live action dramas aren’t played in theatres very often. But starting today and through the week at the VanCity Theatre you can see all 15 contenders. They’re grouped into three programs  and I cover them all here.

ANIMATED:

With a local candidate high in the running, I know which one I would favor. Luckily I don’t have to look like a homer. ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR by Alison Snowden and David Fine simply rates as the best of the five in my mind. It is fast and witty and gently acerbic about group therapy.  (The filmmakers will be at the Sunday afternoon screening for a Q&A).

BAO is a possible rival with its slick but sentimental story about a Chinese mom recalling her child’s early years. It’s a Pixar film by former Torontonian Domee Shi.

WEEKENDS is set in Toronto, where Trevor Jimenez used to live and shows a young boy shuttled back and forth between his divorced parents. That’s all. Nice drawing but thin content.

LATE AFTERNOON, from Ireland, has an old lady recalling her life and ONE SMALL STEP from the U.S. has a man recalling his daughter’s growing up by keying on the shoes he made for her.

Two also-rans are included and the whole package plays four afternoons, plus Wed evening and next Saturday morning.

LIVE ACTION: This is the category with the controversial re-creation of a horrible British murder case. Two boys, each only 10 years old, killed a two-year-old toddler in Liverpool in 1993. This Irish film, called DETAINMENT, tries to uncover why they did it. It doesn’t. The boys deny personal culpability in the police interview, while their parents watch with alarm. Strong acting but little insight or even reason for the film.

I favor MADRE, a powerful film from Spain in which a mother gets a distressing call from her son. Dad took him to be beach and is now nowhere in sight. High tension.

SKIN is a gripping portrait of a red-neck’s racism in the American south. He teaches it to his son too and suffers the consequences.

MARGUERITE and FAUVE, both from Quebec, are weaker in comparison.  The former has an old woman musing about lesbianism. In the latter, two boys get into trouble in a gravel pit.

This group is on until next Saturday, mostly in the afternoons.

DOCUMENTARY: Racism, fascism, women fighting for rights, refugees in peril, death. They’re all here. Luckily all five of these docs are very good. 

A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN shows a 1939 Nazi rally in New York that was attended by 20,000 people. BLACK SHEEP has the memories of one young man from Nigeria about the virulent racism he endured in England. LIFEBOAT lets us watch a German non-profit group rescue migrants from their rickety and overloaded boats in the Mediterranean. Some tell their stories and Captain Jon Castle, a veteran of Greenpeace campaigns, explains why we have to help them.

END GAME is all about death. Doctors, nurses and social workers at a palliative care facility in San Francisco work with terminally-ill patients to “live as well as possible, as long as possible.” It’s not easy to watch even with a doctor’s reassurance that “wherever we’re going, ain’t so bad.”

Finally, there’s PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE, a likely winner. Women in India, shunned during menstruation, even banned from temples, are fighting the stigma with education and sanitary pads that they manufacture. Empowerment follows.    

Screens afternoons today, Saturday, Monday and Thursday.

 

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