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'Man from UNCLE', rappers' 'Outta Compton' and sexy stuff in a 'Teenage Girl’ diary

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THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL: This deeply-felt and very candid tale of a young woman’s growing sexual urges and the mixed feelings they bring has the aura of a near-universal story — only “near” though, because I don’t imagine many teens are compelled to sleep with their mother’s boyfriend. But as she says with a certain relief, “Somebody wants me” and with a touch of adolescent desperation, “I might never get a chance again.”

 

She’s entirely ordinary 15-year-old Minnie, played with a great poignant streak by Bel Powley, and her quest for love resonates. “What’s the point of living, if nobody loves you?” she asks into her portable tape recorder, which, along with her drawings in a notebook, serve as the diary. Kristen Wiig plays her drink-friendly mother who can’t hold a job or keep her men and is “ incapable of taking responsibility for her life," according to her ex-husband. The new boyfriend, played by Alexander Skarsgård, is attractive to Minnie precisely because he has plans to control his destiny. Marielle Heller’s directing and script (based on a graphic novel) fill in a memorable picture of her world and the anxieties that clutter up our teenage years. Funny at times, uncomfortable too, the film is extremely well-acted. Powley only looks 15; she’s old enough for the sex scenes. (Fifth Avenue Cinemas) 3½  out of 5

SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY: This documentary is going to be nostalgic to some and a jolt of education for others. It’s said that young women these days enjoy the benefits that the women’s movement fought to gain for them but know nothing about how it happened or who did it. Many of the activists are seen and heard right here, often in old film clips from back then plus new interviews as they are now. You’ll hear from founders of NOW, members of W.I.T.C.H, the Jane Collective and Kate Millett who pushed a radical lesbian vision. Gloria Steinem is only heard in an old clip.

There is a rich collection of archival material from marches, protests and meetings through the movement’s biggest years, 1966 to 1971. That’s when women in the civil rights and Vietnam war protests came to realize that they weren’t equal. Groups formed spontaneously across the U.S. and initiated actions and organizing projects. The film only deals with the American experience. That’s a shortcoming. It also under-acknowledges the split in the movement brought by the lesbian issue. But it does thoroughly itemize the successes.(VanCity Theatre, Apr 16 & 19 only). 3 ½ out of 5

KAHLIL GIBRAN’S THE PROPHET: It’s one of the most read books on earth because of the homilies it carries about life and death and work and love/marriage and much more. “Work is love made visible.” “We are spirits. Free as the wind.” “In our longing for our greater selves lies our goodness.” I imagine there are tea towels or wall hangings available with messages like that. In this film eight of the book’s 26 subjects are brought to visual life through the work of international animators including Bill Plympton, Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues), Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells) and Oscar winner Joan Gratz. Their work is enchanting or sensual or kinetic and always attractive.

 

Less endearing is the story that connects them. It was animated here in Vancouver but is overly cutesy. Disney veteran Roger Allers oversaw the work which tries too hard to be uplifting. A young girl shoplifts in a village market. Fruit stands are knocked over. Vendors with big moustaches chase her. She befriends a prisoner under house arrest and is charmed by his calm, inspirational manner. When he’s let free and slated to be deported, townspeople ask for more stories, which we see in those special animations. Liam Neeson is Mustafa, the prisoner; Quvenzhané Wallis is the girl and Salma Hayek, who promoted this entire project as producer, is the mother. Bear with them to enjoy the segments. (VanCity Theatre) 3  out of 5

SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY: I don’t usually review films only available by VOD (video on demand). But this is by Peter Bogdanovich, who used to be big, making a comeback 15 years after his last film and over 40 years since his big hits like What’s Up, Doc? He wrote the script back in the 1990s. The sad part is he’s trying to reach back even further, to the screwball comedies of the 1930s and '40s. The cast is great; the movie isn’t.

Imogen Poots plays a Hollywood starlet who relates in an interview (and in lengthy flashbacks) how her career started. She was a New York call girl. A client (Owen Wilson as a theatrical director) convinces her to quit that line of work but regrets it when she auditions for his play and nails the role (as a call girl, natch).  The director doesn’t want her; his wife and the playwright  do and a suspicious actor (Rhys Ifans) is just watching. Convenient plotting but it has possibilities. Denials, misunderstandings, near-exposures follow. Jennifer Aniston is a therapist. One of her patients, a judge, is also a client of the call girl. There are more interconnections and the script contrives to bring all the characters together on three occasions. Twice Wilson has to hide a woman in the bathroom when a second woman arrives. It’s all too clumsy and not funny enough. A late cameo by Quentin Tarantino conflicts completely with the tone the film is trying for. (VOD) 2 out of 5     

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