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The Rock to the rescue again, brothers separated at birth and Whitney Houston’s wild life

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WHITNEY: Now this is interesting. Whitney Houston’s estate authorized this documentary about her life. Now her mother, Cissy, and others are criticizing it and in pretty strong words: “Shock and horror.” She’s upset about an allegation in the film that Whitney had been sexually abused as a child by a relative she was often sent to stay with. The film names the perpetrator and has two people confirming they heard about it from Whitney herself. One is her former assistant; the other is Whitney’s sister-in-law and executor of her estate. “Authorized” in this case may not imply “held back”.

It’s an engrossing biography by Kevin Macdonald and until that late allegation basically repeats what we’ve seen in other films. There’s the Diane Sawyer interview, the first TV appearance (Merv Griffin’s Show), the Super Bowl national anthem. There’s scruffy film from her decline as her drug use got worse. Bobby Brown, her former husband talks in this one, insisting that drugs weren’t important in her life. In fact, she did start them before she met him and there’s much talk about her difficult early life: bullying at school, feeling remote from her dad, mom often away on tour and, when home, strictly molding her to be “sophisticated, not street wise.” A brother remembers her wishing to become “rough and tough.” That conflict rears up again when she’s a mega-star but criticized as “too white”.  A lot of demons mix with the acclaim when family members, associates, an assistant with a rumored lesbian connection and major figures like record mogul Clive Davis offer their memories. (International Village) 4 out of 5     

SORRY TO BOTHER YOU: The title does not reflect the attitude.  This is an in-your-face comedy about race relations, working conditions and exploitation as imagined by the rapper and now filmmaker Boots Riley. He sets it in Oakland, Calif., where a young black man played by Lakeith Stanfield, goes to work for a telemarketing company making cold calls to people who don’t want to buy. That is until a guy at the next cubicle, played by Danny Glover, advises him to speak with a “white voice” when calling.

 

That works. He becomes a top success and is allowed upstairs to become “a power seller.”  That’s an almost mythical status; gets him taken in by a privileged group and in contact with the CEO of the main client (Armie Hammer). His company is beset by protests and lurid rumors which turn out to be true. Back downstairs, a movement to unionize is taking shape. Our guy will have to reveal where his sympathies lie. The film is very funny in setting up the plot, authentic about unionization and management’s efforts to try and prevent it but then gets way too bizarre about Hammer’s company. That almost undoes what the film was talking about so well. Fans of extreme humor can enjoy it, though. (5th Avenue and two suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5

EN EL SEPTIMO DIA: You’ve got two major concerns of our day in this one. Soccer and the trials of undocumented Mexican laborers in the U.S. Together they make for an affecting human drama by Jim McKay, who has been working in TV since his last feature 14 years ago. Great that he’s back because he has managed to insert a political statement into a lively piece of entertainment, an argument against one of Trump’s main thrusts but without a hint of preaching. It’s actually a feel-good movie with a realistic tone.

 

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