Safe Haven, Beautiful Creatures, Die Hard and the made-in-Vancouver Escape from Planet Earth

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Bruce Willis, as John McClane, the New York cop who stumbles upon trouble where ever he goes, is off to Moscow this time because his son is being held in prison there. His daughter cautions, “Try not to make an even bigger mess of things.”  Hah. As if. The son (played by Jai Courtney) is working for the CIA. Dad, who didn’t know that, manages to mess up his latest operation designed to incriminate a nuclear materials thief. Gun fights and extended chases ensue, bad guys switch sides and blast things anyway as drums on the soundtrack pound relentlessly and the adrenaline gushes. Occasionally, during quiet periods, son and dad argue about his parenting skills. Then it’s back to the noise, and even to the ruins of Chernobyl where we get an over-the-top climax and an imaginative new explanation for that nuclear plant’s meltdown. The series is melting down too, fun but souless.  (The Dunbar, Dolphin, Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5   

ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH: You can expect to hear your 10-year-old son, nephew or grandson proclaiming this is “awesome” but have some doubts yourself about how good it is for him. This is one of those hyper, very noisy animated films with lots of action and a few facile family-is-important interludes written in because, well, a kid’s film has to have a positive message. It stars big-name voice actors including William Shatner, Jane Lynch, Rob Corddry, Brendan Fraser and Ricky Gervais and was made here in Vancouver, at Rainmaker Entertainment. Many of the creative people are Canadians with impressive credits they’ve compiled on big projects elsewhere. The director, Cal Brunker, for instance worked on the wonderful Despicable Me.


Fraser is the voice of a hotshot astronaut on the planet Baab. He’s sent on a mission to The Dark Planet, which is so primitive that it is still divided into countries which fight wars. It, of course, is Earth and he ends up captured and taken to Area 51 which is controlled by a bombastic general (William Shatner) who’s had anger issues ever since Roswell, 1947. There are many references like this that kids wouldn’t get. Simon Cowell? Communists? They will understand the slurpee “peace offering” at the 7-11 though, or the food fight in the cafeteria. The film has funny aliens, frantic chase scenes and good animation (later rendered into 3-D) but not a lot of heart. It’s been years in development and, according to a lawsuit fought over it, been through at least 17 re-writes. It feels overworked. (International Village and suburban theatres)  2 ½ out of 5

24-HOUR MOVIE MARATHON:  If you’re a super movie buff, here’s an event (or is test?) for you. The Cinematheque has programmed an all-day and all-nighter from 10 a.m. Saturday to 10 Sunday morning.  They’re keeping most of the line-up secret but what they have revealed does give an indication of what you can expect.

The marathon starts with Buster Keaton's 1924 classic Sherlock Jr about a love-struck film projectionist who wants to be a detective.  Keaton tried for a dream vibe and achieved surrealism. Also showing: François Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973), Robert Altman's The Player (1992), Christopher Guest's For Your Consideration (2006) and those other films that remain secret until they hit the screen.  The organizers also promise “trivia, prizes and surprises.” The cost is $40. Details at


A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWANN III: Sometime between his two TV series (the one he was famously fired from and his new one) Charlie Sheen found time to star in this movie about a character apparently not unlike himself.  That suspected correlation is a possible reason to see it. There aren’t many.  While it’s playful and effervescent, it’s also indulgent and unsubtle. It tries to be quirky like a Wes Anderson film. Writer-director Roman Coppola and actors Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray have all worked with him, most recently on Moonrise Kingdom). Without him though, the wit is weak.

Swann is a celebrity graphic artist in L.A. with a pop culture imagination and an over-active eye for women. When the woman he lives with (Katheryn Winnick) finds a drawer full of explicit pictures she splits, leaving him to whine to his analyst, his accountant (Murray), best friend (Schwartzman) and sister (Patricia Arquette). Everything he imagines we see, including a “secret society of ball busters,” a western sequence with Bill Murray as John Wayne and himself in a duet crooning an Antonio Carlos Jobim song in Portuguese. There are funny bits. The problem is, they stay that way: bits. (The Rio Theatre starting Monday Feb.18) 2 out of 5. 

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


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