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The Salesman, high drama from Iran, The Comedian, a De Niro dud, and The Space Between Us, sci-fi romance for teens

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THE SPACE BETWEEN US: Science fiction morphs into a teen romance and doesn’t even bother much with the futuristic ideas it could be pondering. Get this: a colony of some 14 or 15 people is sent to start a colony on Mars. Shades of Elon Musk, they’re to prove that “mankind can make a fresh start.” Why? Not part of the story. What is central is that one of the colonists arrives pregnant, gives birth but then dies. PR problem. Does the company headed by an Elon Musk type (Gary Oldfield) let it be known and suffer the public relations setback or keep it quiet? That debate is given very little space but keeping quiet it is.


Sixteen  years later the child (now played by Asa Butterfield) is anxious to go Earth and find his father. He doesn’t have a name or a location, only a picture and a long-distance skype relationship with a spunky earth girl (Britt Robertson). There’s some travel involved to get to her, he says. But he makes it pretty fast and they go off searching. As they do, he encounters a lot of Earthly things that are brand new to him, including a nascient love affair. Also a race against time. Earth’s gravity is too much for him and his heart will give out. It’s a pleasant and sunny film for younger, romantic teenagers.  (Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5 

QUEBEC MY COUNTRY, MON PAYS: The latest news out of Quebec must be a blow to this film. Its fairly modest concerns feel somewhat trivial in comparison. But they’re very real to John Walker and many English Quebecers and its worth hearing them out. Walker asks why have hundreds of thousands of English speakers moved out of that province and why do the Quebecois make them feel like second-class citizens? The answers can get quite emotional.


Walker says he felt no longer welcomed, even though his ancestors have lived there for over 200 years. His researcher says that though she speaks English she tries to identify as a Quebecker. Filmmaker Denys Arcand says that doesn’t matter. Both are just part of that huge mass of English that makes up North America. Quebeckers couldn’t care less if they leave, he says. The film explores that psychological terrain through a variety of voices. And it offers a brief history of the province, the politics (Bill 101, the FLQ crisis, Trudeau and Levesque), religion (“suddenly one day everyone stopped going to church”) and culture, including the origins of the unique film culture there. This film is a wistful love letter and Walker will say more via skype tonight at the Friday screening. (VanCity Theatre) 3 out of 5

RINGS: “Nonsensical,” I said when I came out of this one. But a fan disagreed. It follows the first film logically, he said, and explains more of what it opened up. (That’s the one from 2002. Few have any praise for the first sequel three years later.) OK, but the screenwriters resorted to a tired old movie plot to show how a central character became cursed. She now forbodes death to anyone lured into watching an old VHS tape. How she manages to do that remains obscure and feels far removed from the original, or from the Japanese film and novel it was adapted from. The last vestiges of those particular ghost-story fears are gone, as is the technology gone-awry theme. What’s left is a dumbed-down and standard horror film.


To its credit, and thanks to Spanish director F. Javier Gutiérrez, it does have lots of creepy thrills. A young woman (the unimpressive Matilda Lutz) inching down into a dark cellar for instance, or climbing into an empty crypt. But also logical absurdities, like the university professor (Johnny Galecki, from TV’s The Big Bang Theory) using the tape to study “the other side. Life after death.” This movie sat on the shelf for three years. It hasn’t improved with age. (Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 2 out of 5

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Also a couple of small but amiable comedies, one of them Canadian

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As well as a cleverly-plotted trip to Barcelona thanks to Netflix

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Some modest recommendations and stay for the last one, an alarm about what has happened to the internet.
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