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Seth Rogen, Scarlett Johansson and Tom Hardy get entangled in weird situations

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The film is most enlightening when it goes into the politics involved, detailing how lobbyists have had reports changed, how the US government subsidizes the growing of corn which becomes corn syrup, how soft drink and pizza companies stock school cafeterias. The low calorie fad took out the fat from prepared foods but put in the sugar. And incidentally, caused a huge swell in cheese production. 

Although Heather Reisman, of Indigo Books, produced it, much of the specific data is American. I’d like to see more comparisons with Canada. Also, why do some people who eat that same hidden sugar not get fat? And if all the blame lies with the food industry, are ordinary people getting off blameless? Lots of questions along with the solid information in this provocative film.  (5th Avenue Cinemas) 4 out of 5

 

DOXA: You still have time to see some of the best at this year’s documentary film fest, including the one that’s gotten the most publicity, and therefore  probably the most  interest. A BRONY TALE introduces you to grown men who are fans of the animated kids show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

 

I couldn’t believe it when I first heard about the phenomenon from a guy who works on the show. It’s produced here in Vancouver, although written in L.A. The film by Brent Hodge finds fans from all over North America and they’re not wimps. There’s an Iraq war vet, a motorcycle builder and other manly types. And there’s Ashleigh Ball who does voices for the show and is amazed at the celebrity reception she gets at a Brony convention in New York. The film is funny and only a little weird and two psychologists explain the why. Something about a reaction to turmoil. (Limited tickets for two shows Sunday night).

DERBY CRAZY LOVE is about another pop culture spectacle: the revival of roller derby.

 

We meet tough women like Iron Wench, Smack Daddy and Suzy Hotrod who talk about the sport and show us plenty of action. The film centers on the Montreal team New Skids on the Block, its rivalry with a British team and their attempt to match the world-topping Gotham Girls from New York. A lively celebration of what one player terms “a feminist sport.” (Screens Friday night)

FREEDOM SUMMER  recalls 1964 when almost 1,000 students were sent to Mississippi to battle racism through community organizing and voter registration.

 

Three of them, Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman went missing almost immediately and that cast a cloud for weeks over the project. Pete Seeger recalls making the announcement when their bodies were found. Others tell of the renewed energy that sparked in the movement and the subsequent attempt to oust the all-white Mississippi delegation at the Democractic convention that August. LBJ himself pulled the strings to foil that. It’s a fascinating, often moving, history and we get to know again people like Julian Bond, Bob Moses and the redoubtable Fannie Lou Hamer through dramatic archival clips or new interviews. Director Stanley Nelson has explored those times before. This film and a previous one, Freedom Riders, will be shown on PBS late next month. (At DOXA it screens Saturday morning)

Meanwhile, for more on DOXA, visit the website: www.doxafestival.ca

 

STAGE FRIGHT: Luckily horror musicals are rare. Bloody killings and wishful singing don’t go together that well. This film does what it can. It’s well-made and stirs up a fair amount of excitement with flashy editing but the songs aren’t memorable and the story isn’t convincing. It feels like it belongs in a high school show not as a big screen-movie. It was filmed in Ontario by a couple of LA guys, Jerome Sable and Eli Batalion, who have a following thanks to their short film “The Legend of Beaver Dam,” also a horror musical.

 

Minnie Driver (who appears only briefly) and Meat Loaf (who sings and acts large) are the biggest names in the cast. Allie MacDonald is the standout. She performs with a sweet charm and a fine singing voice as Minnie’s daughter, cast to star in the same role her mother played exactly 10 years earlier. Mom was killed backstage and now there’s another killer hovering in the rafters and the shadows. Why? Not sure. I think he hates musicals. Allie by the way is from Nova Scotia, now Toronto, and went to school in Powell River and Victoria. That’s Canadian. (Playing in Abbotsford and video on demand) 2 ½ out of 5        

Also now playing, two films I haven’t seen …

LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN:  Yes, in this animated continuation of the original story, Dorothy goes back to Oz (is there another tornado?) to help her friends the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion (didn’t they develop stronger personalities back then? And didn’t they come back to Kansas in different forms?)  With voices by Lea Michele, Dan Aykroyd and Kelsey Grammer and songs by Bryan Adams.

MOM’S NIGHT OUT is the second film in just weeks with a religious theme and not previewed locally. Just in Langley. (The first was the very successful Heaven is For Real). Apparently the religion is subtle in this story of mothers who want their husbands to watch the kids while they go out for a girls’ dinner. The leader is a pastor’s daughter.

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