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Meryl Streep sings again, a politician crashes and Disney brings another fine family film

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ANTHROPOID:  We hardly know this story although it’s been told in at least five movies before this and in another one coming. It’s the tale of a World War II mission to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich, who in the Nazi hierarchy was third to only Hitler and Himmler and helped design the Final Solution. In 1942 he ran the occupying government in Czechoslovakia where he was known as “The Butcher of Prague”.  A small team of exiles was flown in from London to assassinate him. This recounting is competent enough though bogged down for a long time with set-up and detail and culminating in a complete turnaround:  a flashy 20-minute gun battle in a church. 

 

The group’s two leaders are played by Irishmen, Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan (remember him from Fifty Shades of Grey?). A Brit (Toby Jones) plays a resistence figure and a Canadian (Charlotte Le Bon) a woman they get close to. Most everybody else is Czech or Slovakian. That helps overcome the ethnic jumble and create an authentic ambience, a plus in this film which struggles to keep us believing as it plods along. We get too much preparation, which is historically useful but wearing. There’s a recurring debate that should be the crux of the movie. The locals object to the mission fearing the Germans will retaliate. Murphy and Dornan cite their orders and their fervor to do the job. History sites or this film will tell you what happened. (International Village and three suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5 

SOUR GRAPES: It stands to reason. If you have rich people paying high prices for things they collect, counterfeiters will circle in. It’s true of wine too although you’d have to be pretty good to counterfeit a 1945 burgundy. You’d have to create the taste as well as the label. This documentary tells a remarkable story of one man who fooled many, including one of the Koch Brothers. Bill, not one of the political ones. That’s him on the right in the picture.

Rudy Kurniawan, on the left, showed up in Los Angeles  in the late 90s with a huge knowledge of fine wine, a huge budget to buy rare bottles at auction and a flair for entertaining and self promotion. Several Hollywood types talk about how they bought into his charisma and then his wine when he started selling off his own stock. He made millions. Koch spent $4 million on wine that turned out to be fake. An ex-FBI guy he hired, a federal prosecutor, a vitner from France and others got on Rudy’s trail and exposed not only him and his tangled backstory but also, incidentally,  the pretensions of a whole crowd of rich people with more money than taste. Rudy’s in prison for fraud these days. Someone estimated there may be thousands of his bottles still out there in collectors’ cellars and there’s the question: how could he have done all that alone? A world most of us don’t know at all comes open in this documentary. (VanCity) 3 ½ out of 5

SAUSAGE PARTY: While I like to support the work of local boys Seth Rogen and his chum and writing partner since their Point Grey high school days, Evan Goldberg, I can’t recommend this one. Sure it’s nicely silly, crisply animated at Nitrogen Studios here in Vancouver and comes across with a manic energy.  But it’s also lewd and crude and less funny than you might expect. It’s so busy trying to offend with gay, lesbian, bodily function, racial and whatnot other types of jokes, that it fails to see that many land with a thud. The audience I was in didn’t actually laugh that much, not like a festival audience in Texas that howled at the pot-smoking Native American, the penis simulation and the climactic sex orgy involving every food item in the cast.  

 

Rogen and Goldberg took a cue from the Toy Story movies and imagined what it would be like if foods could talk. Like all their other movie characters it turns out. They curse and swear, toss puns around and then go overboard on the sex jokes. This time they also pursue a spiritual quest: what exactly is the great beyond they’ve been told is their future as they await the shoppers in a supermarket. That leads to bursts of debate about religious faith vs hard evidence and a great shock when they find themselves in a woman’s kitchen. It could have been good with this great cast including Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco, Edward Norton, and Salma Hayek. It just works too hard to cross the line. Don’t take children whatever you do. They’ll see it on their own someday. It’s already a hit of sorts. The first show in Vancouver last night sold out.  (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 out of 5

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