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Notes on the revised Dumbo; some worthy Canadian films and hot fun with McConaughey in Florida

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GHOST TOWN ANTHOLOGY:  There are ghosts in this film but they’re not mainly what it’s about. Dying communities, emptying out, that’s what Quebec filmmaker Denis Coté has on his mind. That and how people either live with or ignore what’s happening to them. The fictional village of Irénée-les-Neiges only has 215 people since the mine closed. One more, a young man, dies in a suicide car crash because, as one person theorizes, he just got fed up with the town’s slow death. The mayor is trying to argue it’s not dying. She talks about “resilience.”

The film shows a variety of responses among the people. Some despair, one wonders if “there’s something bigger than us”, one is resigned (“the law of nature”), some resolve to “live life as usual.” But people start seeing ghosts, both individually (the dead boy’s brother sees him) or in groups standing out in a bleak snowy field. They’re not threatening; just showing themselves. Allegorical for sure. That’s reinforced by a revelation about a long-abandoned house and towards the end the film does turn into more of a qhost story.

 

It’s not scary, just creepy and mysterious. An artful meditation on grief and losing a community. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5   

GIANT LITTLE ONES: Sure, adolescence is a baffling time as you’re trying to figure out your approach to sex. More than ever these days, because the choices are wide open. There’s no one path; fluidity is accepted and teens are likely to have to struggle to settle on their orientation. This film has an unusually understanding and perceptive view of all this, including the contradictions people show.

 

A couple of long-time pals end up drunk and in bed one night and exhibit completely different reactions when word gets out at their high school. One (Darren Mann) turns homophobic, even to the point of hitting his friend. The second (Josh Wiggins) starts wondering if he’s gay. It would explain why he’s been avoiding his girlfriend’s sexual offers. Also his dad (Kyle MacLachlan) recently left to live with a man. He gets advice from both dad and mom (Maria Bello), from a lesbian friend at school and his former pal’s sister (Taylor Hickson) whose reputation gets her the world “slut” marked on her locker. Taken together there’s a wide spectrum of attitudes revealed here and that amounts to a very relevant discussion about teens and sex.  A couple of jumps in the story are jarring but don’t damage the film. Keith Behrman, who wrote and directed it, used to live here and is well-remembered for his first film, Flower &Garnet, which made 17 years ago. (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5

FIRECRACKERS: Two points of triumph to cite about this movie. First, it’s up for four prizes at the CSA awards Sunday. (Directing, editing, costumes and best first film). Second it’ll satisfy anybody hoping for more participation by women in making movies. The director, Jasmin Mozaffari, and most her crew are women and the story is about two others. It is intense, angry and real, and without stating it so obviously, a picture of life for young women in a patriarchal society.

 

Michaela Kurimsky and Karena Evans play teens is a small Ontario town (the director is from one) who are anxious to get out. The film is superb at showing why and what’s in the way. They have a young man with a car who will drive them to New York. He stalls and dithers and then stands them up. There’s an ex-boyfriend who assaults, a mother who impedes, a church that beckons. Two  guys offer to take them out west “where there are jobs”.  It’s hard finding a way through all this and the script has the two women represent opposite ideas. One is a fighter, as seen in a vicious scrap early in the film. The other is more easy going. Both drink and swear and reflect real upsets that women sometimes feel they have to cause. Their plans aren’t well thought out and I guess that happens too. Overall this is an auspicious debut by the director who originally made it as a short in film school.  (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5

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Super hero fun, a not so good Stephen King adaptation and a daffy Ronaldo clone

And more: a guitar maker keeps the old ways, a banned Iranian filmmaker carries on, pre-World War I tremors in Europe, the underclass in Brazil and thoughts on fidelity in Toronto

New vs old in Birds of Passage; an easy look at a killer sickness in Five Feet Apart and a good one for the kids, Wonder Park

And lots more: hippies try farming, a divorcé seeks love, melodrama and politics in Argentina and a dystopian teen thriller with something of a Handmaid’s Tale vibe
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