New angst from Woody Allen, boxing by Jake Gyllenhaal and killer stories in 'The Look of Silence'
PIXELS: It’s silly, ludicrous at times, an Adam Sandler movie that also has Kevin James, the erstwhile Paul Blart, as the president of the United States. So thumbs down, right? Not so fast. How does the film manage to be so funny? It’s dumb but a hoot and if you remember the 80s you’ll also have fun with the nostalgia that runs throughout it. Reagan, Hall and Oates, Mr. Roarke and Tattoo all appear in funny bits. So do Serena Williams, Martha Stewart and a batch of giant-sized characters from old arcade games.
In the story, Sandler was robbed of a Donkey Kong championship back in 1982 and now has to save the world. NASA sent a time capsule to outer space with video of the contest hoping to contact extra-terrestrials. They mistook the message as an act of war and now attack earth with “intelligent energy” that takes the shape of Pac Man and menaces like Galaga, Centipede and Asteroids. Sandler has to lead the fight back, along with an old pal (Josh Gad) who is now a conspiracy nut, an army colonel (Michelle Monaghan) who is also a potential love interest and Peter Dinklage, who steals the movie. He was the winner way back when and still swaggers with self-importance. They battle in England, on the streets of New York (played by Toronto) and in a dazzling climax on a giant Donkey Kong scaffolding. It’s clean enough to take the kids. (International Village and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5
SUNSHINE ON LEITH: Much like what Mamma Mia did with ABBA songs, this film does with 13 tunes from The Proclaimers. You know the Scottish twins who would “walk 500 miles” and then “500 more." The film waits until the end to give us that mammoth hit; before that we get the best of their other songs. I particularly like the rousing version of "Oh Jean" and an entire pub boisterously belting out "Let’s Get Married." Woven among them, there’s a story.
Two pals return from military duty in Afghanistan to Leith (the port neighborhood in Edinburgh) and resume their lives. One is in love with the other’s sister who hooks her brother up with a friend but also plans to take a job in America. Mom and dad celebrate a 45th wedding anniversary but a revelation from years before jolts them apart. Can they make it work?
The film, based on a stage production, does its part pretty well. Nothing surprising here and less buoyant than Mamma Mia but a good spirit prevails. Jane Horrocks, as the mom is the best of the singers. She played Little Voice in a movie years ago. And Peter Mullen as the dad rasps his songs but with great sincerity that wins us over. (VanCity Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5
ONLY YOU: I never saw Norman Jewison’s 1994 film in which Marisa Tomei romanced Robert Downey Jr. Now I don’t have to because here’s a perfectly good and quite endearing remake in Chinese. Tang Wei and Liao Fan now play the couple. They’re bright young stars who’ve won awards or been nominated for previous films, although Wei was officially blacklisted for a time for her work in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution. She’s radiant and this film is clean and innocent, just like the Chinese authorities like it.
She plays a Beijing woman, about to be married, but pulled by a fortune teller’s prediction to Italy to find the man she’s really destined to be with. A lot of false leads, misunderstandings and deceptions pop up before this one plays out with the message that it’s never too late. Typical dialogue: “Why did you lie to me?” “Because I love you.” Nice scenery too, in Milan and Florence. (Riverport) 3 out of 5
Two other films now playing …
DOPE: Pharrell Williams and Sean “Diddy” Combs helped produce this tale of an L.A. ghetto kid and his dream of making it to Harvard University. Apparently working for drug dealers is one step. Tony Revolori (the lobby boy at the Grand Budapest) plays one of his friends. The film was a hit at Sundance but the studio didn’t preview it here. (International Village)
PAPER TOWNS: Last summer we got The Fault In Our Stars and it was just as popular as the John Green young adult novel it was taken from. Here’s a second film based on his writing. Nat Wolff stars (he was 3rd-billed last year) as a teenager recruited by the most popular girl in school to play a prank and then abandoned. He sets out to find her. Critics like his acting; hers not so much. I haven’t seen it. (International Village and suburban theatres)