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Reviews of Baby Driver, great fun, The Big Sick, charming rom com and Despicable Me 3 noisy animation

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The central plot has Gru, the reformed villain voiced by Steve Carell, urged to go bad again. A twin-brother he didn’t know he had (also Carell) wants him to follow a family tradition of villainy. A real baddie, former child-star Balthazar Bratt, voiced by Trey Parker, is taunting and challenging him. Gru couldn’t prevent him stealing a diamond and with his brother as an inept comic foil tries to retrieve it. Kristen Wiig as his wife and the three adopted daughters are along too while the minions, more of them than ever before, are in and out. They sing 99 Bottles of Beer in one inspired scene and are led to rebel against Gru by a new leader named Mel. A lot of the gags work; the overall story doesn’t cohere. (Dunbar, International Village, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5

NOWHERE TO HIDE: “The war is following us everywhere … like an evil witch.” That’s as moving a statement I’ve ever heard about what’s been happening in Iraq ever since George W. Bush “prevailed” there 14 years ago. War never stops. The fighters just change. Sunni vs Shia, then Kurds vs Iraqis, then ISIS vs any of them, and various militias too. That’s the bleak picture we get first-hand and right from the ground in this documentary, which also serves as an up close picture of the chaos any war anywhere can bring.

 

Nori Sharif is a male nurse in central Iraq. He was given a camera and for five years documented the troubles at his hospital, in his region and right to the refugee camp he and his family eventually had to flee to. His videos and commentary form the backbone of this film by Iraqi émigré, now based in Norway, Zaradasht Ahmed, who also contributes his own scenes. The facts are startling. The factional fighting only increased when the Americans invaded and jumped some more when they left. The film doesn’t blame them but we can’t help wondering. Sharif merely asks why does it keep going on? And why isn’t the media interested in how ordinary people are affected? He shows the symptoms (bloody at times) and the breaks in civil society. You can’t trust anyone, he says. “Your neighbour could be the next one to blow you up.” (VanCity) 4 ½ out of 5

THE HERO: “Guts. Glory. Ram.” You’ve heard Sam Elliott say those words many times. You’ve seen him in the movies for almost 50 years. Here he is finally in a lead role and he aces it. He’s by far the best thing about this film which approaches the subject of mortality with little new to say but lots of novelties along the way.

 

Sam plays an aging movie star, about his same age actually. People remember the westerns he was in, including a TV series. A fan group gives him a lifetime achievement award but the only work he has is voicing commercials for barbeque sauce. Then a doctor tells him he has cancer. He has to re-evaluate his life. His ex-wife (played by Katherine Ross, his real wife) sympathizes but his daughter (Krysten Ritter) stays angry that he was always away, or about to go away.

He smokes a lot of pot with an old acting buddy (Nick Offerman) and rehearses with him for an audition. That scene and its repeat at the audition are widely different and show exactly how good an actor Elliott is. A sudden romantic link with a stand-up comic half his age (Laura Prepon) is less plausible. The film is light and bittersweet, not at all grim, and a good one to see.  (VanCity Theatre) 3 out of 5

THE BEGUILED: Sofia Coppola won Best Director at Cannes for this one and I can’t imagine why. It starts well, gently develops a mood and looks good but when it has to rise up in jealousy and rage, it doesn’t. Not convincingly anyway. It didn’t need to be a torrid potboiler like that earlier version made by Don Siegel in 1971 that starred Clint Eastwood but it shouldn’t be this polite and restrained. It can’t manage a huge switch to intensity when that’s required.

Colin Farrell is a union soldier during the American civil war. He’s found wounded in the woods, brought to an almost empty girls’ school and patched up. He’s among seven females and that’s bound to cause tensions. Four students are too young but a teen (Elle Fanning) gives sensual come-on looks; a teacher (Kirsten Dunst) enjoys his flattery (“delicate beauty”) and the head of the school (Nicole Kidman) suppresses her feelings, even when she gives him a sponge bath. The women suddenly pay more attention to their grooming. Jealousies and rivalries break out. You know trouble is coming. The original focused on the soldier’s lust; this one is much more about the women’s desires. Very modern but too low-key to really work. (5th Avenue) 2 ½ out of 5

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THE HOUSE: Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler’s new comedy wasn’t previewed for critics. They weren’t invited and word has it would been barred if they showed up. What kind of faith in the product is that? Will and Amy are parents who spend their daughter’s college tuition money and to replace it start up a casino in their house. I wanted to see that, partly because some illegal casinos have been busted around here recently. But maybe Warner Brothers knows better.

 

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