Racist police in Detroit, Al Gore undeterred in his Inconvenient Sequel and Coogan and Brydon on the road again
BRIGSBY BEAR: You want something quirky and oddball but entirely endearing? Try this one, a rarity of sorts: an offshoot from Saturday Night Live that’s actually good. Kyle Mooney imagined it, stars in it and co-wrote it with DaveMcCary, who directed it. More names from the show are also in it as well as Greg Kinnear, Claine Danes and, get this, Mark Hamill. He plays Mooney’s dad, the creator of a strange history.
Even as a teenager, his son James is totally obsessed with a childhood TV character, the bear of the title. He’s got all the shows on tape and a discussion forum that he hosts on his computer. A new tape arrives every week. Except, James learns early in the film, nothing is true. He was kidnapped as a baby, raised as a shut-in and those bear shows were made for him only by his dad. Greg Kinnear as a sympathetic police detective sends him to his real parents but keeps an eye on how well he’s adapting. Awkwardly is one description. He never shakes his belief in Brigsby. It grows and spreads to other teens and James decides he wants to make a movie about him. This one is funny, doesn’t snicker or mock, doesn’t even have much to say about the effect of popular culture on young minds. It just wants to charm and entertain. (International Village) 3 out of 5
MOKA: Tension, intrigue and wonderful acting by two of France’s best drive this mystery. The title is French for the color of a classic Mercedes that killed a woman’s son in a hit and run on one side of Lake Geneva. The police are getting nowhere; a private detective says a blonde was driving and the boy’s distraught mother goes out to find her. She singles out a couple in the town of Evian, chats up the husband who is trying to sell such a car and patronizes the wife’s hair salon.
Emmanuelle Devos is excellent as the revenge-seeking woman; Nathalie Baye equals her as the cheerful salon owner. The script subtly and carefully brings them together, keying on their similarities as women and mothers. And bit by bit it eases the one’s avenging drives as a way to climb back up from grief.Then it whacks a surprise our way. The thrills are psychological in this engrossing film. (VanCity Theatre) 3 ½ out of 5.
RISK: Laura Poitras won an Academy Award with her documentary Citizenfour, about whistleblower Edward Snowden. This one, about Julian Assange, the founder and main face of WikiLeaks, is more of a problem. She admits to it herself in a voiceover. She doesn’t know what to make of him and feels he doesn’t like her. Later on he turns against her. She calls him “ruthlessly pragmatic”. He’s devious but to what ends? It’s hard to find an ethical principle in his leaking exploits. He put out those Russian hacks that damaged Hillary Clinton’s election campaign. Just last week he issued a misleading document about Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia/Trump probe.
Poitras acknowledges the good, like the video he leaked (and the film includes) of the US long-distance kill of two reporters. But also stands helpless as those Swedish sex charges (recently dropped) take over the narrative. She finds him close to paranoid jumping with every noise and birdcall in a woody glen. Lady Gaga visits him in one scene and asks bland questions. So, do we see the real Julian Assange? That’s not clear. His people are sincere, even it seems a problem one, a techie who Poitras admits she had a brief relationship with. But Assange? (VanCity Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5
THE DARK TOWER: Hey, the universe is in danger. Not just in part; all of it. The Man in Black wants to topple the tower that holds it together and that would let in all the evil, the monsters and the demons that exist outside. A calamity for sure, but why don’t we come to care a heck of a lot about it? That’s the core of the problems with this adaptation of Stephen King’s magnum opus. He wrote it as eight books, (over 1.3 million words) and Danish director Nikolaj Arcel and some top Hollywood scripters have reduced it to just 95 minutes. They haven’t bothered to tell us what motivates that foe of the universe, a sorcerer sometimes referred to as Walter and played by Matthew McConaughey. We don’t get a lot more about his nemesis either, the gunslinger played by Idris Elba, except that he’s righteous.
It’s a battle between good and evil that aspires to be grand but with all the cutting leaves us behind. People who’ve read the books may not have that problem. They might wonder though about the new structure. The mammoth saga now hinges on a New York kid (Tom Taylor) who dreams and draws images of this war and one day finds a portal that takes him right into it. There of course he’s in extreme danger. The Man in Black wants him for a peculiar pursuit of his: propelling gifted children through the sky to smash at the tower. The Gunfighter senses an ally and lets him tag along, to New York and that alien culture, and then back to the alternate dimension “Mid-Earth.” It’s mythology building with echoes of westerns, space operas, Tolkien and more. The blend isn’t strong though enough to make us believe. The film is speedy, never boring but merely average. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5