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Remakes, love stories for Valentine’s Day and an exceptional Canadian film now in theatres

Robocop  and that flying horse are only fantasies; the “weed princess” brings a dose of reality

Love stories came as they do every year for Valentine’s Day. This time, though, the good ones are from Chile and China. And the best film of the week is Canadian and not much concerned with love at all.

Here’s the list:

Rhymes for Young Ghouls:  4 stars

Robocop:   3

Winter’s Tale:   2 ½

Gloria:  3 ½

Beijing Love Story:  3 ½

About Last Night ---

Endless Love ---     

RHYMES FOR YOUNG GHOULS:  Canadian, eh? This is a superior film that just happens to be from and about our country. No sense of duty required to make you see it, just a love of strong filmmaking. Did you like Winter’s Bone? Or 12 Years a Slave? It’s not far out to compare them to this because it also dredges up a shameful history and explores an appalling current reality. And best of all, it does all that without getting ponderous or preachy.


Kawennahere Devery Jacobs is smartly appealing as the “weed princess” on an Indian reserve, dealing pot with her uncle while her father is off in prison. She has to pay off the corrupt Indian agent (Mark Anthony Krupa) or get sent to the residential school up the hill. The time is the mid-1970s.

When dad returns and sinks back into his drunken hell-raising ways, she recognizes that it’s what she calls “the art of forgetfulness” that drives her people. Her dead mother and other ancestors appear to her in visions and advise vengeance. Her plan: rob the school. The motivations are entirely believable. Jeff Barnaby the writer-director is a Mi’kmaq who was raised on a reserve in Quebec, although I wonder if Indian agents do get as violent as this one.


The story and the robbery develop like a tense thriller; a B-movie maybe. You’re not put out at all that you’re also getting gritty observations about reserve life and memories of horrors inflicted there.  (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5 

ROBOCOP: Some characters get a re-interpritation for every generation. You know, Jesus, Hamlet and others and now Robocop, 27 years after he first appeared. That’s also after two sequels and four TV series, including a dreadful one made in Toronto. But who knew our age wanted him toned down and bland? If you’ve never seen the original, this re-make is merely OK, a standard action picture. It’s got name actors and shows commendable, though not always successful,  efforts to make it contemporary.  But it doesn’t have the warped satire, the paranoia about business and police and the wicked violence used by both the good and the bad guys that made the original a classic. It comes off as muddled in its attitudes.


Joel Kinnaman is not very expressive as the cop who all but dies when his car is blown up and is reconfigured  (well, his head, lungs and a hand are) into a part-man/part-machine robot. He’s OmniCorp’s ticket to get their technology authorized for use in the U.S.  It’s a hit in Tehran (really? the US in Iran? in 2028?) but illegal in the US. The CEO, played subtly unctuous by Michael Keaton, and the chief scientist, fitfully overacted by Gary Oldman, put him back to work in Detroit  (played by Toronto and Vancouver) while a hectoring TV show (hosted by Samuel L. Jackson) intrudes too many times to trumpet his cause and his wife (Abby Cornish) emotes a lot. The bigger issues – civil liberties, free will, what is a human being – get muddy in all the talk, not clarified. And the action scenes are marred by shaky camera work trying to inject excitement.  (Scotiabank, Dolphin and many suburban theatres)  3  out of 5    

WINTER’S TALE: There are two equally valid reactions to this one. You can get all warm and fuzzy, lovey dovey at this tale of romance, destiny, magic and miracles. Individual scenes support that. Or you can bellow, 'What is going on here?' How can Colin Farrell’s character live in New York both in 1915 and today and not have aged? Or even be alive? And how can Russell Crowe be chasing him in both centuries?


And what’s with Will Smith playing a Godfather-like Lucifer who Crowe has to visit for permission to keep up the chase? And did I mention the terminally-ill woman Farrell tries to help? She’s played by Jessica Brown Findlay (of Downton Abbey). They make a sweet couple. 


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