Reviews: The Jungle Book, Criminal, and two fine Canadian films
The Jungle Book is the major film this week. Seven others follow, but note two specials at the Vancity Theatre. First there’s a whole week of noteworthy Canadian films, including oldies and brand new ones. I review one below. You can read about 11 more at the website http://www.viff.org/
Also there you can read about a special screening late tonight of the English film High-Rise in which an apartment building descends into anarchy and class warfare. It’s from a novel by J. G. Ballard and opens its regular run in May. This preview is towards a master class to be given at the theatre tomorrow afternoon by the film’s director, Ben Wheatley. The cost for that session is $15.
These are the week's new films:
The Jungle Book: 4 ½ stars
Sleeping Giant: 4
No Men Beyond This Point: 3 ½
Miles Ahead: 3 ½
Barbershop: The Next Cut: 3
One Floor Below: 3
A Second Chance: 2 ½
THE JUNGLE BOOK: Do yourself a favor and go see this film. With or without children. They’ll be entranced by the adventure and the awesome visuals. You’ll recall how films like this excited you when you were a child. And you’ll marvel at the state-of-the-art magic that technology can create. As the end credits point out, this was filmed entirely in downtown Los Angeles. You’ll swear you’re in a real jungle, watching real animals, and not just one boy in front of computer imagery.
The story, from Rudyard Kipling’s classic tales about Mowgli, the boy who’s been raised by wolves, captures the exhilarating fantasy of living wild and free and then lets reality intrude. Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi ) starts feeling uneasy and out of place. He is menaced by the angry tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba) who wants him dead. When he sets out to visit a human village there’s a succession of perils (rampaging monkeys, a mudslide, a near drowning, a wildebeest stampede and a seductive snake, voiced by, Scarlett Johansson) who tries to crush him). He gets help from a very mellow bear (Bill Murray, wry and funny) and more menace from a giant ape (Christopher Walken).
Jon Favreau, the ringmaster, aka director, has been respectful of both the Kipling stories (keeping the spirit intact while making changes) and the beloved animated version that Disney made 50 years ago. This one is much darker and at times scary for young kids. Oddly though, three of the six songs survive. Walken sings one and that is not a great selling point. The theme of a soul not sure which world he belongs in feels a bit downplayed but the adventure is first-class. (Many theatres including The Park, Dunbar, Scotiabank and Marine Gateway) 4 ½ out of 5
SLEEPING GIANT: A superb drama about growing up, this film has won awards and great reviews on the festival circuit. Best of all, it’s Canadian. Three boys are spending the summer on a lake near Thunder Bay. They joke around, boast, try to one up each other and blare out their views on sex. It’s a typical situation and portrayed with great authenticity in this film by Andrew Cividino. It’s a portrait of youth that will resonate.
Two of the boys are cousins and often arguing. One of them, the angry and smart-aleck Nate is played by Nick Serino, who answered an ad, got the role and won as best supporting actor at the Canadian Screen Awards. The third boy is attracted to a local girl; the others goad him to do it with her. He’s pretty shy though and as his anxieties expand he sees the girl go off with one of those friends and also sees his own dad misbehaving. He has to assert himself. A manhood contest, a jump into the water off a cliff brings the tensions to a climax. You know where that’s going but not how it gets there or how it turns out. The film avoids the expected and gives us a superb drama. It’s one of the best Canadian films I’ve ever seen. (5th Avenue) 4 out of 5
NO MEN BEYOND THIS POINT: Here’s a very funny mock documentary about male female relations. With over 100 speaking roles it doesn’t feel like fiction at all, but plays like a thorough investigation of a phenomenon. In this alternate vision of society, dreamt up and filmed here in Vancouver, men are no longer needed for procreation. Women are doing it for themselves, as the song says. They have been for years and now give birth to girls only. Using all the hallmarks of the investigative form, the film delves into how this came about and what it all means.
It’s a cleverly constructed fantasy, written, directed and edited by Mark Sawers. Experts explain what happened and where it’s heading. Photos and archival clips document the history. Men are dying out. One 37-year-old, working as a housekeeper, is the youngest man alive. He’s a threat though, carrying on an illicit affair with a woman boss, while elsewhere, a rebellion of sorts is struggling to form. Not everything hits right on but enough does to make this one great fun to watch. (VanCity Theatre, ) 3 ½ out of 5.