'Man from UNCLE', rappers' 'Outta Compton' and sexy stuff in a 'Teenage Girl’ diary
Before I get to the regular new films, here are some special events to note.
QUEER FILM FESTIVAL: In its 27th edition and enjoying a far more accepting society than when it started, this festival is showing 80 films this year, some angry and political, some demanding sympathy but many just storytelling from LGBTQ communities in 20 countries. Grandma with Lily Tomlin and Portrait of a Serial Monogamist from Queen Street in Toronto appear to be highlights. For more, check out the website.
THE YES MEN ARE REVOLTING: The corporate pranksters’ third film of their antics is getting a one-night showing at the Rio Theatre Wednesday, Aug 19. It’s been here before at a festival but this showing is special because the two activists who stage hoaxes to embarrass companies over their environmental and human rights record will be in attendance to explain themselves.
ENCHANTED KINGDOM: The International Village theatre is screening this wildlife documentary only twice, Sunday (1 p.m.) and Wed. (7 p.m.). People who’ve seen it say it’s one of the best ever. And with Cyril the Lion on our minds, it’s topical too. Keep an eye out for it.
Here are the others:
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 2 ½ stars
Straight Outta Compton: 4
The Diary of a Teenage Girl: 3 ½
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry: 4
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet: 3
She’s Funny That Way: 2
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: Guy Ritchie gave us energy and surprise in three British crime romps and two Sherlock Holmes action films. So how to explain the sheer ordinariness of this new one? The budget is big, the stars and the locations are beautiful but the film is not engrossing. It’s feels artificial because we’re always aware of the deliberate ways it was constructed to please us. As one producer said, it’s set in Italy because Italy is fun. Sure, sometimes. But you have to make it more fun than this.
This is just another old American TV show revived as a movie. Set in 1963, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. join their intelligence efforts to foil various bad guys. In effect, the film is an origin story; it tells of the first of these co-operative efforts. Henry Cavill, as CIA man Napoleon Solo, has to work with Armie Hammer, as KGB agent Illya Kuryakin, to track down a gang of arms dealers before they perfect an atom bomb. Both do fine with the action scenes but are stiff with the sarcastic barbs they have to toss each other. Two women do better: Alicia Vikander as a daughter of a former Nazi scientist whom the baddies seem to have kidnapped; and Elizabeth Debicki as the chief baddie. One is a bit shy, the other is regal, and both get to wear showy clothes. The art direction is wonderful. The film is intermittently fun but much of the time it pales as the Bond-inspired spy adventure it wants to be. (Fifth Avenue, Scotiabank and many suburban theatres). 2½ out of 5
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON: Reviewed by my son and local architect, Max Richter.
The N.W.A. album Straight Outta Compton, released in 1988, was a nothing-is-sacred, middle finger to authority for black youth in America all set over the funkiest of beats. The movie, like the album, is not for the easily offended. With the same “strength of street knowledge” it gives us the backstories of the three central characters in the group: Dr. Dre, a DJ with dreams of the big time; Eazy-E, a small-time drug dealer tired of the grind; and Ice Cube, a high school student with a gift for writing and spitting rhymes. (His own son plays him in the film.) From the opening in 1986, the movie moves quickly to capture the nine-year rise and fall of the group that popularized gangster rap, while offending everyone in authority by exposing the reality for young black Americans.
The film works well to establish the motivation for the song “F**k Tha Police” by showing numerous interactions between the group members and police. It supports the argument that gangster rappers are not glamorizing or popularizing the street lifestyle but that the lyrics are a reflection of the real life on their streets and in their neighbourhoods. The film does less well to answer criticism of the group’s misogynistic lyrics. Dr. Dre claimed that the film would answer a lot of questions about the group’s attitudes towards women, but, other than establishing that the three central characters were in committed long-term relationships, it does little to explain the motivation. But it’s well-paced in telling its central story: the coming together and eventual breaking up of the group.
It’s worth seeing in a theatre, not for the visual impact but to feel the power of the bass in your chest and the urgency of the lyrics in your soul. The line, “So police think that they have the authority to kill a minority” has as much meaning today and says precisely why the music of N.W.A. still has relevance. (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 4 out of 5