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Robert Redford’s Vancouver movie, Michael Bay’s Miami comedy and Terrence Malick on the wonder of love

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A student in Tokyo (Rin Takanashi , who moonlights as a call girl, is pressed to snub her visiting grandma and spend the night with a client (Tadashi Okuno). He’s a retired professor, looking for companionship, not sex. She falls asleep and next morning he drives her to school. Then in a deliciously deep sequence of irony, a would-be boyfriend (played by superstar Ryo Kase) also ends up in the car. He’s insecure, tightly-wound and thinks the old man is his girl’s grandfather. They play along and the story progresses calmly but with an edge to a noisy, inevitable climax and an ending that declines to tie everything up.  It’s another tale of identity role playing from Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami, making only his second film outside his own country.  His first was the more complex Certified Copy, starring Juliet Binoche, which he made in France. This one is more poignant.  (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5

Playing in tandem with …

CLANDESTINE CHILDHOOD: War through a child’s eyes. We’ve seen it before but this is a particularly moving version from Argentina where it won 10 of that country’s Academy Awards. It’s 1979 and the so-called Dirty War is on.  A family returns from exile in Cuba to fight oppression in what they call “Operation Counterstrike.” They’re part of the Montoneros movement known for their gun battles and bombings but to 10-year-old Juan merely hosts to mysterious meetings and chocolate packagers. He agrees, though, to assume the name Ernesto for safety.

Life goes on, even in a constant air of potential danger. When his grandmother is brought to the house, she has to be blindfolded and then gets into a shrill argument with Juan’s mother about her activism. Juan is smitten with a girl in gym class at school and his uncle mentors him in how to talk to her.  He almost winces in class when the teacher says the most important thing the Spaniards brought to Argentina is “civilization.” The film gets across that mishmash of ideas in his head through a charming, very natural, performance by Teo Gutiérrez Romero and occasional comic-book-like drawings that illustrate his dreams. Natalia Oreiro as his mother and Ernesto Alterio as his uncle are strong adult forces in the film. (VanCity) 4 out of 5

LEVIATHAN: Although it’s been screened at several festivals including Vancouver’s last fall, I’ve been slow catching up to this one. Turns out I didn’t need to hurry. I was expecting another visual treat like a previous film by director Lucien Castaing-Taylor, 2009’s Sweetgrass which showed sheep being herded across Montana. There was almost no human talk but the endless swirls and patterns and movement proved mesmerizing, a sort of visual tone poem. This new film goes fishing off the coast of Massachusetts but proves no match. For one thing, it starts at night. It’s hard to know what’s going on for a long time in the dim light. Later, when we see the crew working, the camera is in so close we can’t tell what they’re doing. When we do get to see them sort the fish, gut them and sweep the entrails overboard, the scenes are too long. The film is a detailed look at work being done, but not, for me at least, as “immersive” as some say it is. Only near the end, after a dimly-heard radio warns of “heavy weather,” do we get the visual excitement. Seagulls fly white against a black sky while the water heaves and churns below. Good stuff but too long coming. (Cinematheque) 2 out of 5

THE COLONY: I have to think it’s the art director and his team who are the real stars of this one. They filmed in a former NORAD base in North Bay, Ontario and made good use of its dank concrete to establish a stark chilly feel. That supports the story which goes beyond global warming, to a cold age in which it won’t stop snowing. The few surviving people are huddled in those concrete bunkers terrified of the common cold. The sick have to be ousted to they don’t infect the others. As the noisiest character (Bill Paxton) asserts, they can walk out into the snow on their own or be shot right there. Life is brutal and the film explores how people deal with crisis situations. Then it goes overboard.

 

An SOS distress call prompts the leader (Laurence Fishburne) to organize a mission (which includes Kevin Zegers) to another colony where cannibals have laid siege. We only learn that after a long trek, a creepy exploratory descent and an encounter with a terrified survivor (Julian Richings). It’s now a horror film and soon turns into a chase: zombies swarming after our guys. Director Jeff Renroe keeps it moving well enough and creates tension and a convincing harsh ambience. But, oh that relentless chill. (International Village and a few suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5

Also now playing …

TAI CHI HERO: Number two in a trilogy, this martial arts wallop from China has a curse, some revenge, a steampunk background and a lot of action choreographed by a star of the genre, Sammo Hung. No preview for the Vancouver Observer though. (International Village)

 

NOTE: All images are movie stills provided by the producers. They are the exclusive property of their copyright owners.

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