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The real story of the Canadian-Iran caper; Atom Egoyan’s take on the West Memphis 3 and I, Frankenstein

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Her biggest fear is that her older sister has plans to go travelling. She needs her support. At the same time she wants to be autonomous and there are scenes of her dealing with everyday trials: bus rides, a toaster, a folding hide-a-bed. No histrionics; just a gentle recounting of her difficulties. Director Louise Archambault finds a nice positive middle ground, neither grim nor too-sweet. In part it’s a musical. The story occurs in the lead-up to a concert by a choir the two lovers sing in. There are rehearsals and two visits by Quebec superstar Robert Charlebois, who the choir backs up in a rousing finale. It’s the first time I’ve entirely understood his hit song Lindberg. Like the rest of the film, it’s subtitled. (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5

DEVIL’S KNOT: Atom Egoyan’s recounting of the West Memphis 3 story is not as unnecessary a film as many have said. It’s just not as intense as the four documentaries that have already told it. Outrage is almost totally missing. So is the reckless finger pointing at a suspect that we saw in the Peter Jackson-financed West of Memphis but that’s OK. What we don’t get enough of is criticism of the police for rushing to judgement and not looking at all possible evidence. The documentaries are unanimously strong on that point. Egoyan’s version is for people who haven’t seen the previous films and want a quick summary with actors Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon and Kevin Durand in major roles.

 

The story stretched on for 20 years. Three young boys were murdered; three teenage boys, who were convicted because people believed they were Satanists, spent 18 years in jail while a support movement outside questioned the evidence against them. Firth plays a prominent detective who worked to help them; Reese a grieving mother and Durand a bible-spouting zealot. Given the material and Egoyan’s talent for forceful storytelling, I expected something stronger, not this cool. He also gives us two characters I hadn’t been aware of before, boys who claimed to know stuff but he doesn’t specify their influence. What he does get right is the mood of a small-town under stress, the grief of the parents and look and demeanor of the three accused teens.  (International Village)  3 out of 5 

I, FRANKENSTEIN: Mary Shelley wrote almost nothing of what happens in this film. A guy named Kevin Grevioux did, in a graphic novel and now this screenplay. As for Shelley’s philosophical ideas about God and what makes a human being, he either avoids them entirely or reduces them to a brief mention. His focus is on an ancient war between good and evil, going on right in our world without us even knowing it. Demons are battling gargoyles. Yes, they’re not just decorations on gothic buildings. They come alive and fly and fight. The producers are familiar with this sort of stuff. They made the equally absurd (but popular) Underworld films.

 

Steely Aaron Eckhart plays Victor Frankenstein’s creation this time. After a brief exile in the Arctic and a return to kill his creator, he’s recruited for the war by demons. He refuses, turns down the gargoyles too and stays independent for 200 years. Now, in modern times of cars and cell phones, one imposing ancient cathedral but hardly a highrise building anywhere, a shady industrialist, played with dry menace by Bill Nighy, wants him, or at least his “father’s” journal.  He too wants to revive the dead so he can assemble an army. Adam, as he’s now called, won’t co-operate. He has warmer feelings for a beautiful female scientist although lacking a soul, he doesn’t commit. He fights though, in long set pieces where every stab and chop creates sparks and small explosions. The special effects and action drive this film, certainly not the dialogue which switches between low volume threats and stentorian declarations. The 3D conversion was done in Vancouver but adds little to the film. (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 2 out of 5

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