Lady Bird charms, Justice League assembles and local boy makes good again in Wonder
The list is long this week, but there are some very good films on it. And remember also, that the excellent film about Jane Goodall, which played once last Saturday, starts a full week at the VanCity theatre today. Read on.
Lady Bird: 4 ½ stars
Justice League: 3
Wonder: 3 ½
The Divine Order: 3 ½
Blade of the Immortal: 2 ½
The Star: --
LADY BIRD: Greta Gerwig is finally getting known beyond the small indie films she’s acted in, and sometimes co-written. That’s because she’s taken memories from her own life, put them into a script, hired a great cast and directed one of the best movies of the year. This should appeal to anyone who remembers their growing-up years: parental arguments, competition for status and maybe even friends at school, pressure to decide what to make of yourself. The elements are familiar but it’s compassion and a warm heart, not adolescent humor, that drive the film. It feels authentic.
Irish actress Saoirse Ronan plays a young woman like Gerwig, in Sacramento, California. She gave herself the nickname Lady Bird and the dream “to go where culture is.” So no state university for her; she wants to aim much higher. Dad (Tracy Letts) is supportive, but he’s pretty ineffectual. Mom (Laurie Metcalf) is the strong-willed one and several very real-sounding arguments ensue. It’s a very good representation of a mother-daughter relationship. And there’s much more as the film looks around at the whole of Lady Bird’s life. Her best friend is frumpy, but that rich girl looks interesting. A boy from France appeals to her more than a local (Lucas Hedges, last seen in Manchester By the Sea). She’s not a snob; just a young woman with still-forming goals. The film is energetic and brisk and evocative. (5th Avenue, where there’s an age limit. Too bad for this one). 4 ½ out of 5
JUSTICE LEAGUE: I’m not going to trash this one, like some have been doing. I am going to say that in this year of very good comic book movies, or to put it another way, of Thor, Wonder Woman and Spider-man, this one falls short. It’s got far more action than story. That’s fun enough for some fans, but there’s more required here. Like a plotline that holds together. This one is all over the place as the people at DC chase their competitors at Marvel with their own Avengers-like group. You need to do careful story building to assemble a whole team like that. It’s all pretty rushed here, probably to make way for the many battles.
Superman is dead, you might remember from a recent movie. That brings an old foe from out of nowhere to destroy the world. Fans familiar with history and trivia may know of this Steppenwolf guy who was around decades ago in the comics. He’s new to most of us and he’s got an uncle, Darkseid, who is even worse and gets a brief mention. (A hint towards some future film, as is so common?)
Batman (by ever serious Ben Affleck) builds an “alliance” to fight back. He recruites Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and get this, brings Superman back to life. That’s not a spoiler. Henry Cavill’s name is first in the credits. Other notables are Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jeremy Irons as Alfred the Butler and Connie Nilesen as Queen Hippolyta. Yes, we’re back to the land of the Amazons for a time, and underwater, and in Gotham City. The story spreads itself thin. Of the characters only The Flash and Aquaman make much of an impression; they get the funny lines that have been added and anyway they have their own movies coming. And big problem: Steppenwolf (a special effect voiced by played by Ciarán Hinds is one of the most distant villains you’ll ever see. He just doesn’t seem like such a big threat. Other than all that, the film’s OK. (5th Avenue, Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres everywhere) 3 out of 5
WONDER: Local acting wonder-boy Jacob Tremblay is back as another child struggling with being an outsider. This time he’s got Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as parents, his own dad and sister nearby in small roles and a story from a popular kids’ best seller. Auggie, as he’s known, has a facial deformity that he was born with and not even 27 operations have corrected. It’s disheartening to hear him ask “Why do I have to be so ugly?” Tremblay makes you feel deeply for him, although the movie refuses to pull the heartstrings too much and instead explores what the boy and his family have to do.