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Lara Croft tries the movies again, Russia takes a cinematic slap, Donald and Helen go RVing

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The contractors fly the German flag at their compound, avoid or condescend to the locals, call some of their women “hot stuff” and feel free to wander into their orchards and help themselves. Not all, but some do. And some of the locals aren’t angels either. A few are quick to fight after a card game with a German. They thought they could “squeeze him dry.” Similarly, the gravel seller doesn’t deliver, though he’s been paid, and blithely demands more money. One German does make friends with the locals but his boss undoes that over water rights and a horse. This is power politics at a small-town level, and a modern form of colonialism. The actors are non-professionals but you’d never know it. They come across as real people.  (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5   

LOVELESS: Andrey  Zvyagintsev aims another critical blast at his native Russia and like his last one, Leviathan, which was about corruption, it was nominated for an Academy Award. All Russian society is his target this time, a sort of spiritual rot that has set in as ideology fades and consumerism swells. That theme plays out in the lives of a couple on the outs and their forgotten 12-year old son.

The parents are just too distracted to notice him too much. The father is feckless and the mother is  vindictive.They both have new lovers and noisily talk about divorce and that neither wants custody of the boy. When he goes missing, they don’t even notice until his school calls to ask why he hasn’t been there for two days. The movie makes a sudden switch from a cold domestic drama to a search and possibly rescue effort. The police don’t help but a group of volunteers joins the search. The images are grey and cold as they methodically walk the hillside and nearby woods. The comparison to the country as a whole is intended and potent. As a movie though it’s not grim; it’s motivated. (International Village) 4 out of 5                         

7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE: You just might be wondering “what were they thinking?” after watching this. The intentions are good; the execution stops them cold. And anyway, why did we need another telling of this story about an Israel-to-Paris plane that was hi-jacked in 1976 and flown to Uganda for a week of waiting and arguing. But not negotiation.  Israeli commandos settled the issue in a raid that’s become legendary. There have been documentaries, two TV movies and a Charles Bronson feature. This one has no single hero like him to focus on, does have endless discussions back in Israel about what to do and very little from the two Palestinians among the highjackers but a great deal of soul searching by the two Germans, played by Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike.

They spout the revolutionary ideology of the time (with references to the Bader-Meinhof gang) and support for the Palestinian cause but don’t recognize a perception problem with Germans holding Jewish hostages. They’re in over their heads and that becomes increasingly clear as they ponder what they’ve done. Meanwhile, back in Israel, there’s a recurring argument between hawkish Shimon Peres, the defence minister, and Yitzhak Rabin, the more wary Prime Minister. They’re played by Eddie Marsan (so-so) and Lior Ashkenazi  (stately). There’s valuable background information here but oddly not much suspense, even though the director, José Padilha, is known for it in his previous work. But the biggest problem with the film is an attempt to make it artistic. It starts with a dance sequence, a celebrated piece of choreography called “Echad Mi Yodea,” goes back to it several times, who knows why, and then intercuts it with the commando raid. Confusing. (International Village and Langley Colossus) 2 out of 5

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I CAN ONLY IMAGINE: That song by the Christian music group Mercy Me was a huge hit 10 years ago for several different audiences. Apparently there’s an inspiring story behind it that’s told in this movie. I don’t know what it might be; the studio didn’t preview the film. Maybe it’s how it took three years for the record to make it onto six different Billboard charts and reach double platinum status. Maybe it’s more personal:  J. Michael Finley plays the composer and lead singer Bart Millard. Dennis Quaid plays his father and Cloris Leachman his grandmother. (International Village and three suburban theatres)

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