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A new tale of Winnie the Pooh, a spy comedy in need of laughs and Scotty’s sordid tales of old Hollywood

Also how Elvis reflects America and what a Surrey filmmaker reveals about China

The Cinematheque’s annual summer tradition is back: three weeks of Film Noir. They’re from the post World War II period when a lot of Hollywood’s output turned dark and cynical. And very creative. They even influenced Ingmar Bergman and three of his are included in a sidebar this year.

The main series start tonight with Out of the Past which one of my film guides describes as “perhaps the quintessential example of film noir.”  Robert Mitchum plays a private eye sent to Mexico to bring back a gangster’s girlfriend (Jane Greer) but succeeds only in falling in love with her and being duped by her. It hasn’t been available for a decade.  It also plays tomorrow but is preceded tonight by a reception, some nibblies and a jazz DJ. The opener has often sold out in the past.

There are two other Mitchum films, three Bogarts (including In a Lonely Place, one of his best, and a nifty collection of classics and lesser-known films. Do some research on the minor ones. They may be minor for a reason.

There’s info on the whole series at thecinematheque.ca/film-noir-2018

And these are the new ones now playing:

Christopher Robin: 3 ½ stars

The Spy Who Dumped Me: 2 ½

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood: 3

The King: 4

Letter from Masanjia: 4 ½

Darkest Minds: ---

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: It was only nine months ago that we got Goodbye Christopher Robin and in case you think this might be a sequel, let me assure you it is not. Sure the Winnie the Pooh characters figure in both and family issues are central, but the stories are far different. That one was about the pressures of fame that hit A. A. Milne’s family when his books became so popular. This one is imaginary. Those characters help Christopher, who was only a boy in the books and is now grown up (Ewan McGregor), re-affirm what’s important in life. That’s not finding budget cuts at the luggage company he works for, but having time for his wife (Hayley Atwell ) and daughter (Bronte Carmichael).  It’s a familiar theme—dad distracted by the demands of his work—and is rather dry at the start but becomes quite lovely as it plays out.

 

That’s largely because of the charming interaction he has with Winnie, Tigger, Eyore and the others. They’ve popped into a hole in a tree in the 100-Acre Wood and come to him in London. As a child he played with them as if they were real. Now he has to keep them out of sight, including the red balloon Winnie has him buy and especially at meetings at work. Is a briefcase more important than a balloon? Winnie asks. “Are you a swimmer or a sinker?” demands the slippery boss played by Mark Gatiss, known from Dr. Who, Sherlock and other British TV. “Life is happening to you right now,” insists Christopher’s wife upping the pressure on him. He has to find a way through this tangle and it is Winnie who calmly shows the way. The film is nicely directed by Marc Foster and watch for Robert Sherman, the legendary composer for Disney films, singing during the end credits. (International Village, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres)  3 ½ out of 5 

THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME: A female buddy comedy is welcome but this isn’t the good one we’re waiting for. It’s fun but mindless, flirting too much with raunchiness and strong violence. And not funny enough, despite two sharp comics playing lead, Kate McKinnon from Saturday Night Live and several movies already, and Mila Kunis, who’s shown her comedy talent in only a couple of movies so far. You can expect more but she and Kate are sabotaged by a weak script in this one. Most of the jokes are justdull. Case in point: Kate’s character is Morgan, later expanded with Freeman, but what that leads to is more of a groaner than wit.

 

The film works way too hard to push the female friendship angle. You can feel the intentions in motion and that undercuts the story. Mila has been abandoned by her boyfriend (Justin Theroux), who it turns out is a spy for the CIA. She now has to deliver a package to a contact in Vienna because many lives are at stake. She convinces Kate to come along by speaking a rare clever line. “Do you want to die never having been to Europe?” Off they go to Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris (makes you envious this time of year). They meet  a guy (Sam Heughan )who claims to be on their side; a CIA area boss (Gillian Anderson) and a bony gymnast/assassin who’s trying to kill them. (She’s played by Ukrainian native Ivanna Sakhno who spent her highschool years here in Vancouver before getting into the movies). The story takes some usual turns –wrong way motorcyle rides against traffic, sudden gun battles and knife fights—and a novel one: a confrontation on Cirque de Soilel trapezes. Little of it is surprising though. More often, it’s overdone. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5   

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