The Master, Looper, Pitch Perfect, Hotel Transylvania, Vulgaria, Won’t Back Down

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This is a funny and spirited movie showing what I’ll call the Bridesmaids effect. That would be some  gross humor in a story women’s friendship,  some strangely weird scenes and also a wise-cracking fat woman  (she calls herself Fat Amy) stealing many scenes. She’s played by an Aussie named Rebel Wilson. The film is structured like all those streetdance films, building up to the big showdown.  And one more influence: a pair of broadcasters (Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins) offer wisecracks, like in Best in Show but far less funny. So. Not at all original but good fun. (International Village and a few suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA:  The best animated films have lots of heart. Think Up, Despicable Me, Brave and others.  This one has very little. It does have excellent animation though (half of it done here in Vancouver; the other half in California) and it has a huge cast of monsters on holiday. They don’t scare or threaten. They act like hyperactive tourists, trot out obvious jokes and even close things out with a rap number. Well, it is an Adam Sandler film partly written by Robert Smigel, the guy who performs Triumph, The Insult Comic Dog. They ease up and play to the family audience.

Sandler voices Dracula who runs a hotel for monsters only. That makes it a haven, safe from discrimination and mobs with torches. The guests include a werewolf (Steve Buscemi) looking more like a fox, Frankenstein (Kevin James) and the invisible man (David Spade). Also wives, relatives and children, making the place busy and often chaotic. The main story involves an overly-protective parent (Dracula of all people) who won’t let his 118-year-old daughter (Selena Gomez) go to the outside world he claims is unsafe. A human backpacker dude (Andy Samberg) arrives, catches her eye and stirs up the family dynamics. It’s goofy, often funny, always moving but full of routine emotions. (The Dunbar, Dolphin, International Village many suburban theatres)  3 out of 5

VULGARIA: Yes, the title is meant to offend. The whole film tries to and even offers you a 10-second pause to get out if you don’t want to experience “high amounts of course language, adult themes, political incorrectness, discrimination and sexual situations.” That’s a boast of course. This comedy from Hong Kong gleefully delivers all that (although notice: no nudity) as it skewers the current sorry state of the film industry there and takes a few shots at Chinese mainlanders too. It’s funny, with clever dialogue that often drifts over into some outrageously raunchy territory and it’s become a big hit.


One of Hong Kong’s steadiest actors, Chapman To, plays a film producer who’s struggling with both his alimony payments and financing his next project.  He agrees to re-make an old soft-porn classic for a mainland gangster who wants to see the girl called Yum Yum again. The actress who played her 36 years ago, Susan Shaw, returns in one of several nods to the real Hong Kong film scene. Most of the humor is broad but with enough sly satire to elevate it a bit. That comes in a series of vignettes sparked by the producer’s appearance before a film school class. He’s asked what does a producer do anyway? The answers are just as true as they are absurd. (International Village and Riverport)  2 ½ out of 5

Also now playing …

WON’T BACK DOWN: We know from all those movies that American inner schools are a mess. This said- to-be-true story shows how two women, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, fought beaucracy to make their school better. How much? Can’t tell. The film wasn’t previewed for The Vancouver Observer. (5th Avenue, International Village and some suburban theatres)

NOTE: All these images are movie stills provided by the studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.

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