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Snowden’s entire story, Bridget Jones’s latest chapter and The Beatles’ tales of touring

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THE BEATLES EIGHT DAYS WEEK: Obviously nostalgia is enough reason for some to watch this documentary by Ron Howard. It captures the manic energy of the years the Beatles were a touring band, the screaming girls and the intense media focus.  There are clips from several of the 250 concerts they played during those three years, including Vancouver’s where people rushed the stage and 240 ended up in hospital. I saw two shows in Toronto and got to go to a press conference. My memories were satisfied. Howard was still playing Opie on the Andy Griffith Show at the time. He’s created a not-too-deep but fan-pleasing film authorized by the Beatles’ own company. 

There’s new stuff too. I didn’t know the band took a stand against segregation in Florida. Or that they inadvertently invented the stadium concert that’s so common these days. Or how much they grew to hate performing that way. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr talk about that in new interviews. Also about how close they were when they still did enjoy it. Excerpts from those shows, sonically cleaned up by George Martin’s son Giles, reveal how tight a band they were. The film hardly mentions the acrimony that came later. Best of all there are film clips we’ve never seen before, thanks to a chance-discovery (in a National Geographic office, of all places) that inspired a world-wide search for more unknown material. The big highlight is a generous excerpt from the band’s San Francisco concert in 1966. Nobody knew it would be history – their last concert ever – but a young woman in the front row caught some of it with her brand new Super 8 camera. An earlier concert, at Shea Stadium in New York, was filmed professionally, has been cleaned up and will also be shown. (Park Theatre) 3 out of 5     

BLAIR WITCH: Unfortunately I had the same reaction to this sequel as I had to the original Blair Witch Project 17 years ago. Irritation. The eerie, creepy potential of this trek into a haunted forest is burst too often by the annoying wheezing, gasping, non-stop hysteria of the trekers. It came mostly from Heather in the 1999 film, and from almost everybody in this one, in which her brother leads an expedition to find her because he believes she’s still alive. He brings along a girlfriend, who will make a documentary, two friends and soon two witch-believers they meet along the way. They’ll be the first to flip out crazy.

 

This film is almost a remake because essentially the same story plays out again. The legend of the witch is recounted, there’s lots of creeping through the trees in the dark with only a flashlight for illumination and lots of yelling and startled reaction to sudden noises. (The sound design is great). But it’s all sprung on us with rarely any buildup to create suspense. It comes with shaky and choppy camerawork in the newest version of the found-footage style that the first film pioneered. This time they’re wearing “earpiece cameras” which give lots of point of view shots but don’t let us really see what’s going on. I still don’t know what happens at the end, although a tunnel down into the earth is a neat innovation. Not that it explains anything. Though set in Maryland, the film was made in secret in BC’s “sea to sky country” by Adam Wingard, who has a couple of horror movie successes in his resume. Of the actors, James Allen McCune, who plays the brother, is known from TV’s The Walking Dead and Valorie Curry was in one of the Twilight films. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5

Also now playing …

KAILI BLUES and PATHS OF THE SOUL: The VanCity theatre has two films from China that I haven’t seen but have been highly rated by many critics. Both feature Buddhist elements

Kaili Blues muses on the Buddhist notion “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” A country doctor travels to a small town searching for a nephew. He finds a place where time flows both forward and backward and he learns to understand his own past and his future. The film is described as “radiantly impressionistic” and “intensely poetic”. The Village voice called it “tranquil but enthralling.”

Paths of the Soul is even more tranquil. A group of 11 Tibetan villagers travel to on a Buddhist “bowing pilgrimage” to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

The trip is 1,200 kilometers long but they take only a few steps at a time then let themselves drop down flat on the ground. The film watches them for a whole year and gradually reveals their individual motivations. It’s an extraordinary act of devotion and may require exactly that to watch the film. To be fair many find it easy to watch because they become so involved with it. I’m surprised Chinese authorities allow it to be shown.  (VanCity)

 

More in New Movies

Widows of criminals doing it for themselves, the seed of modern politics and the perils of war reporting

Also an ingenious take on the migrant crisis, and a second appreciation this year of Ingmar Bergman that adds to what we already know from the first

Melissa’s forgeries, Rami’s dead-on Freddie Mercury and a cult classic re-imagined

Also: a bit of opera (real with Maria Callas and fictional in Bel Canto) and an ode to BC’s chief geographical feature in This Mountain Life
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