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New at the movies this week: cheap thrills, soul-searching and young romance

Also a smart, adult, but hard-to-find romantic comedy, The One I Love

Sometimes good movies get a bad deal. This week it’s The One I Love, among the best of the new ones, but not much-promoted. (See below).  Also there are two romantic stories for the younger crowd, some eco-terrorism and big competition at the office.  

Here’s the whole list:

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For:  2 ½ stars

Night Moves:  3 ½

The Double:  3

The One I Love:  3 ½ 

The F-Word:  3

If I Stay:  2 ½

When The Game Stands Tall:  --

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR: It’s hard constructing a sequel when at the end of the first film one major character is dead and another is in the electric chair. The solution Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez found is both a sequel and prequel. It’s hard to tell which at times.  The result is a bit of a story-telling mess but again, like the first film nine years ago, a visual marvel, this time in 3-D. The look captures the unreal tone and physical movement of comic books. The backgrounds are obviously computer-created; the actors play in teeth-gritting, sweaty intensity in front of them. It’s in black and white, punctured now and then by the color of a dress, a blonde’s hair or dark red lips and always film-noir dark to simulate the corruption it deals with.

 

Eva Green, both in and out of her clothes as she so often is, plays the dame in the title. She gets her hooks into an old flame who is struggling to keep the monster inside him under control. He’s played by Josh Brolin (taking over the role from Clive Owen). Jessica Alba, back again as a stripper, has flashback memories of her cop lover (Bruce Willis) and avenging-angel designs on the man she considers responsible for his death. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is new in the story as a self-assured gambler who gets into poker games with a senator (Powers Boothe) who, in a much larger role this time, serves as the chief symbol of the corruption these films profess to condemn. There’s style and menacing atmosphere galore, cartoonish blood-letting and surreal craziness. Plus Lady Gaga in a small role. The stories are loosely connected fragments and Mickey Rourke, the electric chair guy, seems to wander through them all spouting tough guy sentiments. Brolin gets the best one: “I was born at night but it wasn’t last night.”   2 ½ out of 5

NIGHT MOVES:  For a thriller this one is pretty low-key. Still it’s got a punch that’ll make you think; maybe debate. Jesse Eisenberg stars as a worker on an organic farm in Oregon who turns  environmental activist. He seethes about the ecological damage he sees outside, particularly hydro electric dams which he says kill salmon so that people can run their I-Pads all the time. He plots to blow one up. There’s also a cynical ex-Marine (Peter Sarsgaard) to provide momentum and a rich girl (Dakota Fanning) with a credit card and a lot of fervor. They buy a boat, the film is named after it, hundreds of pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and create a floating bomb.

 

The tension builds slowly as they prepare and then intensely when they set off to carry out the action. It ratchets up more with some unforeseen problems, all playing out in the dim evening light. Things don’t go quite as planned and the film enters into its real mission: discussing the morality of this kind of “monkeywrenching.”  Kelly Reichardt, who wrote and directed, gives it to us through the mood shifts the three go through. Oddly, she lets this section get overheated, quite a contrast to the subtle parts that came earlier. Still, this is an intelligent and well-observed film.  (VanCity Theatre)  3 ½ out of 5

Playing in tandem with …

THE DOUBLE: Jesse Eisenberg again, or to be more accurate, two more of him. He’s a nebbish office worker with Wallace Shawn as supervisor and Mia Wasikowska as a sweet and lovely co-worker who he’d love to impress if only he had the charm. “I know what it feels like to be lost and lonely and invisible,” he moans.

 

In comes a new hire, an exact lookalike and a mirror opposite in personality. This guy is brazen, glib, supremely confident and ultimately threatening. He offers to be a mentor for dealing with bosses and ladies, then takes credit for work he didn’t do and comes on to Mia too. It’s office competition that will resonate with many partly because it happens and mostly because it’s darkly funny. It’s from a short novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky but don’t imagine anything heavy and plodding. Richard Ayoade, the director, is a comedian in England. He’s kept it light, though potent, and Eisenberg captures the two personalities perfectly. There are too many scenes making the same points: that one of him is “a bit of a non-person” even to the elevator and that the other represents his aspirations. But there’s also an unreal, dreamy atmosphere and a classic steampunk design, both very effective. (VanCity Theatre) 3 out of 5

More in New Movies

Michael Moore's hope in the Trump era; The Wife’s marriage seems happy and Life Itself can bring tears

There’s also a muddled children’s film about a house haunted by a clock and a teen film about girls who fight back

Locally-filmed The Predator, a mommy blogger’s Simple Favor and bad blood Under the Tree

Also Nicolas Cage really flips out over Mandy and The Cakemaker romances his lover’s widow

A vengeful mom, a demonic nun and Michael Caine’s memories of the swinging 60s

Also: a tulips and Mafia fantasy in Italy and the troubling lives of three skateboarders
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