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Jennifer Lawrence in mother!, Dylan O’Brien in American Assassin and Catherine Deneuve with The Midwife

Also what rodents can tell us about society in Rat Film

It’s a thinner choice than usual but you’ll find some very good films among the new arrivals. One is the best in a long time in showing how women get along with each other. Another has the usual violence and one is impossible to summarize in brief.

Here’s the list ….

Mother!  4 stars

American Assassin:  2

The Midwife:  4

Rat Film:  3 ½

Long Time Running:  --

Crash: --

 

mother!: I don’t know why it’s in lower case with an exclamation mark. But it does herald something different and special. B e careful though. In part it’s an adult horror movie with some hard to watch scenes. That’s after it starts gently with Jennifer Lawrence as a young wife in a large country home with creaks and noises and the camera often zoomed in on her face to display her apprehensive nature.  There’s a delicious tension in these scenes. Her husband (Javier Bardem) is older, a poet currently suffering a writer’s block and spending a lot of time up in his writing room frustrated. It’s an allegory, but of what exactly? The status of one woman? All women? Something bigger? Mother Nature perhaps. Christianity?  Everybody will have their own interpretation. I’m not absolutely sure myself but I was glued to it.

 

There are religious allusions everywhere. Lawrence is restoring the house and trying to “create a paradise”. Her tidy, quiet life is invaded when Bardem, identified only as “Him,” lets a fan, who arrives unannounced, stay the night. He’s played by Ed Harris. His wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives next day. It seems like the story is about these guests imposing on Lawrence but it evolves several times. More people arrive, there’s a Cain-and-Abel-like death, a birth, a mob scene, blood, destruction. It’s expertly staged by writer-director Darren Aronofsky. Black Swan was eerie; Noah was Biblical. This film is both. And more, effectively a two parter with a quiet first half and utter chaos emerging in the second. And overall, cryptic indications of what it means. It’ll have you discussing. (5th Avenue, Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 4 out of 5

AMERICAN ASSASSIN: Michael Keaton said he had to make sure this film wasn’t just American gung ho propaganda before he agreed to be in it. I don’t know where he got that assurance. What I see in it is the CIA portrayed again as valiant and ever good against terrorists shooting people point blank in the head, Russia leaking out nuclear materials and Iran buying them to build a bomb to attack Israel. Foreigners are devious. Americans have to save the world. Keaton plays a tough-as-nails trainer of agents in whom he instills the mantra “Never ever let it get personal.” For Mitch Rapp, played by Dylan O’Brien, it is personal. Terrorists killed his girlfriend when they attacked a tourist beach in Spain. He learns Arabic, Muslim teachings and martial arts and tries to infiltrate their cell and kill the leader. Macho American fantasy, I’d say. It gets more than a bit ridiculous.

The CIA, which has been watching him, recruits and trains him and lets him go out on his mission. It’s a stale story; we’ve seen its like many times before. This version offers extreme brutality, action scenes that are hard to follow, torture and a big body count. But also a missed opportunity to spin something new. Rapp gets on the trail of an American mercenary who is after the “nuclear trigger” to sell to Iran. He’s a former CIA recruit himself. What happened? The film doesn’t explore. He’s played by Kelowna-raised Taylor Kitsch, still on a comeback after the two back-to-back bombs he starred in a few years ago. He’s got more presence than the star, Dylan O’Brien who comes across as too young, almost a teenager. Keaton is good and intense and two women (Sanaa Lathan and Shiva Negar) have key supporting roles. These characters are from a popular series of novels by the late Vince Flynn. Expect more if this film sells. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 out of 5

More in New Movies

Poverty tales in The Florida Project, musings on death in Lucky and a celebration of learning in Ex Libris

Also films about big-wave surfing, fighting forest fires, creating Winnie the Pooh, querying van Gogh’s death and hunting a killer in Norway

Deep Throat vs Nixon, Jackie Chan vs the IRA and Olivia Cooke super in a serial killer tale from Victorian times

Also a suspense-cum-horror movie entertains by copying Groundhog Day

Borg vs McEnroe, one of two real-life male contests in today’s VIFF picks

The other shows Engels prodding Marx to get more revolutionary. Plus, ratings of two other films.
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