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New in theatres: weak sci fi, strong Oscar contenders and a vampire in Iran

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FEAST is surely the front runner, a Disney cartoon that many have seen. It played in front of Big Hero 6, which is nominated in the feature-length category.  A puppy with a big appetite feels threatened when his master takes on a vegetarian-leaning wife. Charming stuff.

THE BIGGER PICTURE from England is the most innovative, about two brothers dealing with their dying mother.

One’s attentive; the other pretends. The film is very well-observed.

ME AND MY MOULTON is Canada’s hopeful from the National Film Board. (There’s another NFB film  among the also-rans).

 

The drawing style is bright, colorful and simple. The story is set in Norway and has three sisters pining for a bicycle.

THE DAM KEEPER is by a couple of guys who left Pixar to start their own studio. They’ve shown this at many festivals and late last year at an animation conference here in Vancouver. It’s a bit long for its simple story of a pig and a fox who become friends and have a falling out. It deals with school issues like bullying, misunderstood insults and forgiveness. 

A SINGLE LIFE is just two minutes long as a woman recalls stages of her life as a record plays. Fun but not too substantial.  

VanCity Theatre, various dates now until Feb 21; overall rating: 3 ½ out of 5  

LIVE ACTION SHORTS

Overall I’d say this group is not as strong as last year. These are less like compressed movies and more like extracted sequences. Short stories, not novellas.

THE PHONE CALL from England is the attention-getter because it has two genuine movie stars. Sally Hawkins plays a staff member at a crisis centre.

 

Jim Broadbent is on the phone distraught and saying he’s scared. The conversation lasts 21 minutes and feels realistic.

AYA is an engrossing film from Israel where a woman at the airport is handed one of those signs to wait for an incoming passenger and then can’t tell him she’s not the person he’s supposed to see. She ends up driving him to a music competition in Jerusalem and we get 39 minutes of well-acted conversation.

BOOGALOO AND GRAHAM is a charmer from Ireland where a father gives his two sons chickens as pets and they meet issues of responsibility, respect and the ethics of meat eating. It’s the liveliest of the bunch.

PARVANEH and BUTTER LAMP are the least involving. Respectively they’re about an Afghan girl in Zurich and a photo session with Tibetan nomads.

Also VanCity Theatre; overall rating  3 out of 5  

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT: Looking for something different? How about a vampire story set in Iran (but filmed in California), acted in Farsi and absolutely spellbinding with moody, tense scenes and thick atmosphere. And little blood. You won’t be able to take your eyes away from Ana Lily Amirpour’s black and white creation.

 

Sheila Vand plays the vampire who prowls the dark streets of the almost deserted Bad City. She wears a hijab and (after stealing from a kid) glides around on a skateboard. She encounters various low-lifes in her search for blood but since she’s also lonely and looking for love she connects with a young man (Arash Marandi) she meets at a masquerade party. He’s dressed like Dracula and suffers a reaction to some bad Ecstasy. The film evolves into a love story as well as a feminist revenge tale. A drug-dealing pimp is one target. A mélange of styles is subtly mixed in, from spaghetti westerns to David Lynch and the novels of Anne Rice. And yet it feels original and very cool. Elijah Wood helped produce and Margaret Atwood helped support. Recommended for fans of more-exotic fare.

VanCity, twice this weekend and again in two weeks; 4 out of 5 

Also Now in theatres …

THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER:  You can imagine the headline right now. This spin-off from the popular TV show is widely predicted to top the box office this weekend. Yes, by bumping off American Sniper. It combines animation with some live action, has Antonio Banderas as a pirate and the regular TV cast doing most of the voices. Spongebob has to settle down the disorder that grips Bikini Bottom when a beloved recipe is stolen. The show is known for its irony-free optimism and its appeal to both kids and stoners. The first film 11 years made a pile of money.  

International Village and many suburban theatres

SEVENTH SON: Julianne Moore is up for an Oscar this year and (for a different film) won a best actor award at Cannes. So, by all accounts this one could be embarrassing coming out right now. It’s been delayed several times since 2012. She plays a shrieking witch in a film of dragons, ghosts and ogres, mystical mumbo jumbo and prophesies, as well as a mumbling Jeff Bridges as an aging knight chosen to fight evil. Ben Barnes is the seventh son of a seventh son he takes on as a helper. Reviews at The Wrap and elsewhere have been firing comic barbs at it.

International Village and suburban theatres

More in New Movies

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

Opening and closing VIFF films announced along with a high profile line-up

Both The Hummingbird Project and The Front Runner have Canadian connections
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