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Rock of Ages, That's My Boy, The Artist is Present, Foreverland and more films reviewed

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Ethan Hawke plays an American writer prone to, as he puts it, destroying everything he touches. That includes his life with his wife and daughter. He arrives in Paris trying to re-unite with them. The wife won’t have it and after he loses his suitcase and wallet on a bus ends up in a sleazy cafe in the suburbs. The owner gives him a room and job as a security guard in a dodgy bunker-like location where he’s warned not to ask questions. Both that man’s girlfriend and a bookstore owner recognize him as a published novelist which leads, on the one side, to a killing and, on the other, to a hook-up with a writer’s widow (Kristin Scott Thomas) in the more upscale neighborhood, the 5th. Their verbal exchanges are heavy with philosophical import but light on actual communication, certainly to us. A major twist confuses everything. The film is stylishly presented, but gloomy, low-key and obscure. In both English and sub-titled French. (International Village) 2 ½ out of 5       

388 ARLETTA AVENUE: A small but involving thriller that will remind you of Michael Haneke’s Cache (a mysterious case of surveillance unnerves people in both films). You’ll also recall his fondness for surprise and unconventional endings. I’d have to give away the ending to say more so I’ll just hint that it’s clever but not all that satisfying. Until then, though, you’ll be following every unsettling step in this story.

Nick Stahl and Mia Kirshner play a Toronto couple whose lives are interfered with. He’s in advertising; she’s writing a thesis on Afghan embroidery. When gadgets act up and songs appear on his computer that he didn’t put there, they argue and she disappears. He (in an uncharacteristically clumsy plot twist) assumes an old schoolmate (Devon Sawa ) that he used to bully many years ago has taken her.

He confronts the man, a soldier who served in Afghanistan and is now working in an animal shelter. A severed cat head appears in his mailbox. Police think he’s going crazy and suspect he killed his wife. And so the story goes. We don’t know what’s real and what’s not. Until that ending. There are far too many spy cameras in play to be credible and the dialogue is unexciting but there’s good suspense that grows and nags. (Granville Theatre) 3 out of 5

A TOWN CALLED PANIC: For something completely different and utterly enjoyable you could catch this cult animated film from Belgium. It’s constructed entirely with plastic toys and filmed in stop-motion but achieves a grand spectacle with a loopy story.

Cowboy and Indian, who share a house with Horse, decide to build him a barbeque as a birthday present. Through an on-line ordering mistake they get 50 million bricks (not 50) and through a series of increasingly wilder turns in the plot they find themselves under the sea, at the earth’s core, in the Arctic with a snowball-tossing robot penguin, and more. It feels like the creators just wrote in whatever toys they got hold of. The result is very funny, with action and dialogue that’s speedy to frantic. There’s also a sweet love-story as Horse is smitten with a piano teacher. It’s all absurd, preposterous and a great deal of fun. The movie is safe for kids, but note that it’s in French and the subtitles come so fast they may prove hard to catch. (Pacific Cinematheque one o’clock Saturday afternoon) 3½ out of 5   

And one I haven't seen ...

GOD BLESS AMERICA:  is for fans of vicious satire, films like Network or the little seen Idiocracy. This is comedian Bobcat Goldthwait's latest about an office worker who goes postal. He can't take it anymore and starts shooting people he doesn't like including right-wingers, obnoxious TV personalities and people who talk in movie theatres. Gee, W.C. Fields only smashed people's cars in a film long ago.

Showing on five days starting Saturday at the VanCity Theatre. Goldthwait will be there Sunday to introduce it and take questions after.  The theatre is also showing three other films by him and one of his stand-up performancers.  Details at http://www.viff.org/theatre/

NOTE: The images are provided by the movie studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.

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