Logan, better than a comic book movie, Before I Fall, teen self-help and The Shack, contentious religion
Sam Worthington plays a man with a crisis of faith. An earlier patch when he was a boy was cured by a neighbor (Octavia Spencer) who offered a piece of pie and the advice to speak to God. Years later, just after his daughter was taken by a child molester, he gets a written invite, from God naturally, to come to the shack where the child molester killed the girl. There he meets Octavia again. Also a Christ-like man and the holy spirit looking exactly like a South Asian woman. They all claim to be God (different aspects of him apparently) and later Graham Greene shows up as an indigenous-style God. I get it that people in crisis will have different perceptions of him, or her. Maybe it works better in print where you can do more imagining and aren’t tied to the pictures you’re given, although these, filmed at Cultus Lake and Squamish, are very pretty. The movie just breezes over the toughest theological questions. The book was written by a son of missionaries, William Paul Young of Alberta (now Oregon), who self-published it after 26 companies turned it down. It’s been a huge hit. That’s faith rewarded. (International Village and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5
BALLERINA: Little girls will like this animated film. It’s bright, colorful and supportive of any yearning they may have to follow their dreams and succeed, in this case at ballet which I imagine still inspires young girls. They’ll enjoy the spirit and won’t be as sidelined as I was by the extreme changes in tone. It was made in Montreal, as a co-production with France and somebody was trying too hard to play to American audiences. Enchanting scenes are regularly followed by loud, frantic scenes. The worst one has a stepmother-type chasing this film’s Cinderella-like heroine with a sledge hammer. No kidding.
Félicie (voiced by Elle Fanning) is an orphan who travels to Paris (with an inventor friend [Dane DeHaan] hoping to get into the national ballet. She does, by deceit, and draws scorn from the main teacher, self-important boasting from a Russian dancer and mentoring from a former ballerina whose career ended with an injury. She’s voiced by BC pop music star Carly Rae Jepsen. The story progresses as a contest to choose a dancer for The Nutcracker. “Your dancing sucks,” the teacher tells one hopeful as he sends her off. A stage mother pushes to get her daughter a win and the inventor friend pops in now and then on wings that let him fly. It’s quite a mish mash. It’s exultant sometimes, with occasional dancing on rooftops; trite at others. Worse, when we get to see the Nutcracker, we don’t hear Tchaikovsky’s music but a pop song from either Jepsen or Chantal Kreviazuk. I couldn’t tell which. (International Village, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5
TABLE 19: Here’s a comedy trifle made by people known for more substantial stuff. The Duplass brothers, Mark and Jay, wrote it and Jeffrey Blitz, who made Bottle Rocket years ago, directed it. And with this cast, Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, Stephen Merchant, June Squibb (impressive in Nebraska) and Tony Revolori (the lobby boy at the Grand Budapest) you can be assured it’s funny. They’re all guests at a wedding but shoved over to the farthest out-of-the-way table. Not surprisingly they bond.
Kendrick is a former best friend of the bride and Squibb was her nanny long ago. Kudrow and Robinson are shakily married. Merchant is out on leave from prison and Revolori is horny and seeking. “People do weird things at weddings,” somebody says and the film proves it. A cake is accidentally smashed. Stories are traded while high on weed. Kendrick finds out why she was dumped by her ex-boyfriend (played by Wyatt Russell, Kurt and Goldie’s son and former aspiring hockey player around Vancouver). Also in the cast is Langley’s Amanda Crew. There’s no big theme holding this film together but the pieces do entertain--lightly. (International Village and a few suburban theatres) 3 out of 5
BITTER HARVEST: The poster says “Soviet Union. 1933. Stalin's tyranny could destroy their country. But not their love.” And that’s pretty well all you need to know about this misfiring attempt to inform us about one of the greatest crimes in history. In his bid to tame and collectivize the peasants of the Ukraine, the Russian dictator set off a man-made famine that killed millions and still today drives anti-Russian animosity there. Teaching the world about it would seem a valuable goal. Toronto writer Richard Bachynsky-Hoover thought so. He allied with two other Canadians, moneyman Ian Ihnatowycz (when the Ukrainian government wasn’t interested) and director George Mendeluk, a veteran of TV movies, and together the three have crafted this wooden, uninvolving movie.
They put a love story up front. Sometimes that works; think Titanic or The Year of Living Dangerously. Here it cheapens the main story which survives on ham-handed proclamations about freedom and fighting tyranny, a few atrocities and regular cutaways to Moscow where Stalin flings orders about. He actually says “Damn those Ukrainians.” Most of the film is about the struggles of two of them. Max Irons (son of Jeremy) and Samantha Barks play childhood sweethearts, now grown-up, split up and re-united and intent on escaping to Canada. Terence Stamp and Barry Pepper are warrior types or relatives and none of them sound at all Ukrainian. The film is all in English and never feels authentic. You’ll have to go to Langley or Mission to catch this sidetracked history lesson 2 out of 5
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INCARNATE: The Park Theatre has seen a better booking policy. For the second week in a row it’s been given an in-limbo horror picture. This one was to open in September, then December and finally arrives now, unheralded and unknown. It’s an exorcism film, this time with a scientist, not a priest. The Vatican called him in because the regular exorcists haven’t been able to help a young boy possessed by a demon. He (Aaron Eckhart) has the power to enter the boy’s mind but, when he does, he finds the demon in there is the same one who killed his own wife and child. Sounds like a clever twist. Critical scores don’t reflect that. I haven’t seen it.