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Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation, Vacation, and a historic debate

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BEST OF ENEMIES: I was watching TV the night of “The Whole World is Watching” police riot in Chicago. Walter Cronkite gave us taped glimpses of the action against protesters outside the 1968 Democratic Party convention but it seems I missed a better show over on ABC. That network was last in the ratings and trying for attention with something new. Starting with the earlier Republican Party convention, it aired 10 debates between two erudite, articulate and self-satisfied intellectuals: Gore Vidal, sly and needling on the left and William F. Buckley Jr., smug on the right.

 

They had a lot to chew over. It was the height of the Vietnam War; cities were in turmoil, MLK and RFK had been assassinated, Nixon was talking law and order, and Eugene McCarthy was inspiring protest. According to one observer and ultimately the entire film, the way Vidal and Buckley clashed over all this changed TV. We get many clips of their sniping, their insults and their talking over each other — even an emotional outburst — but few substantive arguments. Forerunners of today’s on-air shouting debates? Maybe. I wish there were a few longer clips to help refelect on that but what we do get is entertaining and, along with the analysts and news clips, a mini history of the time. (Fifth Avenue) 4 out of 5

TANGERINE: Transgender prostitutes in a seedy part of Los Angeles sounds like one of those dreary indie films, but a comedy? Yes, and one of the funniest in a long time. The story builds to a raucous climax that will have you laughing wildly. On the way there it’s a walk on the wild side and a sympathetic visit with some interesting characters on the fringe, filmed entirely on an iPhone.

 

The two leads are played by actual members of the subculture but new to movie acting. Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is just out of jail and catching up with her friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor). She learns her boyfriend/pimp may have been cheating on her and storms through the neighbourhood to find him. Meanwhile, a cab driver picks up fares, hits on some of them (watch for sex in a carwash) and begrudgingly spends some time with his family, including an inquisitive mother in law. You know they’ll all meet somewhere eventually. That would be on Christmas Eve. A screwball comedy of sorts (with a lot of grungy talk) by director Sean Baker. As for the iPhone, fitted with a special lens, it’s produced sharp and colourful pictures and, so small and unobtrusive, captured natural performances from the newcomer actors. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5

MADAME BOVARY: Flaubert’s classic novel is undone in this latest film version by an apparent dose of modern political correctness. This Emma is not as vain and selfish as I expected but driven to tragedy by situations forced upon her, and by men, who, she declares at one point, “are all evil.” She’s unsatisfied in bed; her husband is a dullard, she’s seduced by two others and she’s exploited by a merchant offering luxury on easy credit. It’s almost as if nothing is her fault; she’s just bored of the French countryside and dreams of life in Paris. Her daughter is nowhere in the film thereby warding off any hints that she may be a bad mother.

 

Mia Wasikowska is a good actor and looks beautiful out riding with the Marquis. But she gives a one-note performance of moping and more moping. Her a character is not one we can feel compassion for; she's a trainwreck sure to happen. She doesn’t seem comfortable saying her lines and for some reason she speaks with an American accent. Paul Giamatti puts on a continental one and most everybody else, including Ezra Miller, Rhys Ifans and Logan Marshall-Green use their best Masterpiece Theatre British voices. More care seems to have gone into the look of the film. The visuals, the art direction and the costumes are consistently splendid.  (VanCity Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5

EDEN: It’s an often-told story: young man aspires to a music career, has some success but falls back down with drug, money and woman problems. What makes this one different is the scene: Paris from the '90s on, where Paul tunes his skills as a DJ and forms a duo with a friend that gets the club dancers bouncing.

 

It’s not as hot as Berlin, but it’s growing and Daft Punk (the duo who won five Grammies last year) were emerging as a phenomenon. Paul wants to be part of it, offering soulful garage and house music (described as somewhere “between euphoria and melancholia”) as an alternative to techno. For a while it works and even gets him a short U.S. tour. But he’s undone by his own problems and his inability to see how the club scene was changing. The film charts all this in detail, and accurately it seems, in between many scenes of dance floors throbbing with flailing arms and bopping bodies. Mia Hansen-Løve directed. Brother Sven, whose life this film is based on, helped write the script but managed to convey more gloom and cool than passion. Felix de Givry plays him. Greta Gerwig is one of his women and Atom Egoyan’s wife, Arsinée Khanjian, is his mother. Enjoy the music. (VanCity Theatre) 3 out of 5

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