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San Andreas simulates The Big One, while I’ll See You In My Dreams and Ghibli film explore love and friendship

In the week’s biggest film, an earthquake smashes down San Francisco. It’s a warning, of sorts. Your alternatives include three different takes on old age, two Canadian films and what might be the last from Japan’s animation masters at Studio Ghibli.

Here’s the list:

San Andreas:  3 stars

I’ll See You In My Dreams:  4

Iris:  3 ½

When Marnie Was There:  3 ½

Wet Bum:  2 ½

Focus:  2 ½

Aloha:  not available for review  

 

SAN ANDREAS: Children love to build elaborate structures and then trash them down all across the floor. That youthful enthusiasm is what this latest disaster movie replicates, and pretty well only that. Sure, there’s a warning to be prepared for the earthquake that’s surely coming.

The Big One, we call it around here. For Californians it’s a giant crack in the earth’s crust that runs through their state, up to San Francisco. And there’s a human drama about divorce, but it only intrudes on the scenes of destruction, which are spectacular; the most realistic that computers can produce.

Buildings disintegrate like sand castles or crumble and burn like on 9-11. (The studio didn’t provide those photos, though.) A tsunami surges in across San Francisco Bay and tosses a container ship to slice the Golden Gate Bridge. (That sequence was created by visual effects artists here in Vancouver).  Much of it is over the top, even I would think, though this is supposed to be the biggest earthquake in history.

 

The  shallow story scattered in among the carnage has Dwayne Johnson as an LA Fire Department search and rescue pilot leave his post to fly north to rescue his daughter (Alexandra Daddario) and his wife (Carla Gugino), although she’s started divorce proceedings to be with an high-rise architect. That man’s new building becomes a symbol for human arrogance that must be beaten down.  Standard stuff in these kinds of films.

 

Paul Giamatti is a seismologist who issues warnings and Canadian director Brad Peyton keeps things pretty exciting as the bricks, the rebar and the bodies fall.  (Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 3 out of 5 

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS: This one is about old people but not just for them. Like the Marigold Hotel, it has enough wisdom and heart that it should appeal to anybody. And though it starts and generally plays as a comedy it’s built on eternal themes: living for today versus planning ahead, starting up again after a loss and how to spend your later years. The film’s take on all this is wonderful.

 

Blythe Danner plays a former English teacher and sometime singer who’s been a widow for 20 years. She often plays cards with three friends (June Squibb, Rhea Perlman and Mary Kay Place) and says she wouldn’t want another husband because it would be too complicated.

A charming Texan with a big smile and ever-present cigar makes her think again. He’s played by Sam Elliott who these days is probably better-known for his “Guts. Glory. Ram” commercials than his many movies. They start up a sweet relationship. He doesn’t like to be alone or live the usual retirement life. She’s moved to try new things or old ones from years past. Karaoke with the pool cleaner? Sure. Life, of course, will throw a curve but even then this is a warm film that celebrates renewal at any age.  (5th Avenue) 4 out of 5

IRIS:  What the previous film espouses, the woman in this one lives. She’s Iris Apfel, a free-spirited New Yorker who became famous at age 83 for doing her own thing. She’s become a fashion icon since the Metropolitan Museum in New York put on a show in 2005 all about her clothes; not what she designs and sells, what she wears. Her style is eccentric. A French gown could be accessorized with Himalayan jewellery. She combines wild colors flamboyantly. She might have found them at thrift shops or flea markets and considers herself an artist in how she dresses herself.

 

This penultimate documentary by Albert Maysles, he died earlier this year, lets her expound her philosophy freely as she sips tea, rummages through her closets, goes shopping or cajoles her 100-year-old husband Carl. Fashion is attitude. “When you don’t dress like everybody else, you don’t have to think like everybody else,” she says.

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