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Scorcese’s faith-based Silence, NASA’s Hidden Figures and Alice Munro stories migrating to Spain as Julieta

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The older Julieta learns her long lost daughter is still alive and, in fact, is now a mother herself. That kicks in the flashbacks as she writes down her side of her troubled story. We’re given to expect a Hitchcock-like mystery about why the daughter left and what happened to the father. We don’t really get that, the resolution is off-handed, but we do get an emotional storm about relationships, friends abandoned and Julieta’s psychological fall. And fate, which intrudes a few times. It’s a low-key tale, especially for Almodóvar, and somewhat mild and meandering, but also evocative for mothers and daughters. (International Village)  2 ½  out of 5

A MONSTER CALLS: A terrific cast, a great story from an award-winning book and an atmospheric, at times scary, mood make this a very good film. I just don’t know who it’s for. Children for sure but how many will take to what they watch here about a young boy in England (Lewis MacDougall) and his problems. Some are the usual (bullies at school, an absent father, a scolding grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) but the main one is extreme. His mother (Felicity Jones) is dying of a terminal illness. That’s highly emotional stuff to put before children.

 

The boys escapes by dreaming about the yew tree outside his house which comes alive as a looming monster with Liam Neeson’s voice.  It tells three stories (which we see animated) and then demands the boy tell one of his own. “Speak the truth or die,” the monster rages. Is that any way to get a boy to come to terms with a grim future? It seems like a pretty frightening pitch. The movie, though, has a child-level viewpoint, magical segments and imaginative design.  (International Village and a few suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5

ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL: From classics like a Fellini in his prime to the new, the surprise big winner at Italy’s version of the Oscars, you can catch films from the whole spectrum at the festival. It’s on now for a week  at the VanCity Theatre. The whole schedule is available at https://www.viff.org/Online/italian-film-festival-2017

It starts tonight with FELLINI'S ROMA, the master’s tour and celebration of the eternal city.

Later tonight and on three other days it’s one of the three of the new ones that I’ve seen. THEY CALL ME JEEG brings the superhero genre into an everyday life situation. A thief on the run dives into the Tiber River and emerges with super strength probably thanks to toxic waste. He attracts the attention of a local crime boss with a self-confidence problem. He's played with menace and glee by Luca Marinell.

 

Jeeg gets his name from a woman addicted to a super heroes TV show. She thinks he’s part of it. Events get absurdly funny, they speed by and offer outrageous twists and behavior. It’s Italian but feels very American, or at least heavily influenced from there. Very entertaining too. It was a huge hit in Italy and won seven Davids (their Oscars). (3 ½  out of 5)

THEATRE OF LIFE was filmed in Italy but is actually a National Film Board of Canada production directed by TV veteran Peter Svatek. During the Milan World’s Fair back into 2015, chef Massimo Bottura wanted to do something about the huge amount of food thrown out every day. He opened a soup kitchen for the homeless and the growing masses of refugees in town. Sixty top chefs joined in, including Jeremy Charles and John Winter Russell from Canada and Rene Redzepi from Denmark. There’s been a whole documentary about his NOMA restaurant.

In the film we see them do amazing things with leftover bread, a few vegetables and spices. We get philosophy folded in too. “Hope is a waste of time,” one says. “Gesture is important” The clients appreciate it as they enjoy the food and tell their stories. There’s also the best use of a Bob Dylan song in a while. Like a Rolling Stone fits perfectly. (3 out of 5)       

INDIVISIBLE is a fictional charmer with some real Italian flavors. Family controls, cynicism about the church, decadence of the rich, those sorts of things. Talk about joined at the hip. Twin girls were born that way and now perform as a singing act at weddings and church functions in the Naples area. People make money exploiting their talent and exotica.        

 

Their father is their promoter but they find out something he never told them: they could have been surgically separated years ago, no problem. So, can they defy him, go to a doctor in Switzerland and become two people? Do they have the courage? Who will that uspset? What will they become? It’s like a classic tale happening today. Pleasant. 3 out of 5   

Also now playing …

UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS: Kate Beckinsale is back for a 5th time as Selene the vampire warrior in the still-on-going hostilities with werewolves. She’s now being pursued for her blood to strengthen up the lycans. The studio didn’t preview it for critics which usually means they know it’s not work talking about. But a fan’s posting on imdb calls is surprisingly entertaining, speedy and packed with twists and turns.  (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres)

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