Searching for a Lost City, eyeing the wildlife of China, honoring the guru of better cities

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Marty starts it with a tale of buying crack that ends with him running from a gun-wielding dealer and smoking up at his girlfriend’s place to settle down. Greg says he’s still a user although he also works to counsel addicts. “We users, we all stick together,” he says. Roxanne talks about the techniques of the sex trade and how she was once held captive for two weeks. She jumped naked out a window and was hit by a Corvette but was heartended that people came to help her. A couple have regrets over things they’ve done and one says there no happy endings in their crowd. “Good endings but not happy.” All three now work with a harm reduction clinic but we see two do drugs right on camera. It’s not clear whether that’s some time ago or now. What is clear, these people who we rarely hear, come off as very human in this film which also gives a sharp insight into the culture and neighborhood around them. There will be post-film discussions on Fri, Sun Mon and Tues. The director will lead the first one.  (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5 

FRANTZ: This beautiful film hasn’t gotten the respect it deserves here in Vancouver. It’s only booked for three days at the Rio when its natural audience is at the 5th Avenue and the VanCity Theatre. This is a moving and thoughtful film about the hate and resentments that linger long after a war, in this case between France and Germany after World War I. The director, François Ozon, is French but working mostly in German this time. He’s loosely remade a 1932 film, Broken Lullaby, by Ernst Lubitsch, a German who made it with a French focus. It works anyway because its themes about the effects and the  futility of war are universal.

There’s a mesmerizing atmosphere in this deliberately-paced, mostly black-and white film. In a small German town a young woman grieves the death of her fiancé Frantz. She’s astonished when a young Frenchman shows up to also lay flowers on his grave. While others shun him, even the local doctor who lost a son in the war and growls that all French are murderers, she talks to him, invites him to her parents for dinner and eases into a potential relationship. He reveals he knew Frantz when they were both students in Paris. After he goes home and stops writing, she follows. There she finds, and learns, some major surprises. The two are played by a couple of compelling actors, Germany’s Paula Beer and France’s Pierre Niney, who get across the personal damage war causes. They’re both lost and The Marseilles has never sounded as ironic. (Rio Theatre) 4 out of 5

COLOSSAL: The director says he’s making a comment about romantic comedies with this movie. I don’t know what it might be because I couldn’t find any logic in it. I kept watching because the stars (Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis) played it as if they were interested and understood the sense of it. Anyway, you never see them in small, weird, maybe metaphorical movies like this. It was written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo of Spain who has made a few cult films and most of it was filmed here in BC. Brightlight Pictures is one of the production companies.


The story is chiefly about friendship but check out this synopsis. Hathaway plays a New York party girl and heavy drinker. Her boyfriend throws her out; she returns to the small town where she grew up and where a grade school chum (Sudeikis) now runs a bar and gives her a job. Ok, so far. Then, a Godzilla-size monster attacks Seoul, South Korea. You see it on TV. Anne realizes that she’s responsible; the monster is doing whatever she does whenever she’s in a particular place in the park at a particular time. Sudeikis joins in; he activates a giant robot, also in Seoul. Hipsters have responded to the sheer oddity of it. Yeah, it plays with what you expect and I enjoyed the gradual discovery process. I just couldn’t see the connection and the plot never led to anything coherent. (International Village) 2 out of 5 


These three I haven’t seen …

UNFORGETTABLE: We didn’t warm to her romantic comedies so here’s Katherine Heigl as an enraged woman going after her ex-husband’s new wife. The director Denise Di Novi claims there’s a female empowerment theme in it especially on the subject of women feeling pressure to be perfect. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and many suburban theatres)

THE PROMISE: Love in a war zone can work but I wonder about this one. Against the backdrop of the Armenian genocide in Turkey? Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale are competing for the affections of Charlotte Le Bon (Canadian actor) in this film directed by Terry George who long ago wrote Hotel Rwanda, which as I remember it did not have a romantic triangle. (International Village and suburban theatres)

FREE FIRE: The title sounds accurate. One article I read says the film dispenses with story and just gives us action. It seems two gangs get into a shootout in a deserted warehouse. Ben Wheatley, the director in charge, is known for style, ultra-violence and weird plots. But why is Oscar winner Brie Larson in it? (Scotiabank and suburban theatres)  


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