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A Star Wars offshoot, Jackie as traumatized widow and what exactly is Collateral Beauty?

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COLLATERAL BEAUTY: The only good in this misfire of a film, also about loss, is the cast. The stars who agreed to be in it include Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, and oh yes, Will Smith. They’re guided in this odd concoction by David Frankel, who had more success directing big stars in The Devil Wears Prada. It’s the story that defeats this one.

 

Will gives a rousing speech to his staff at a boutique ad agency in New York about the three things that connect all of us: Love, Time and Death. Three years later he’s catatonic with mourning because he’s lost a daughter to cancer. He doesn’t talk, he just sets up and topples domino constructions while the agency is failing and he refuses to save it by selling out. He rejects a woman’s advice to find “the collateral beauty” in his plight, the one wise thing he does.

His partners start an intervention, like none seen before. When he writes despairing letters to Love, Time and Death and a private detective purloins them from the post office box, Edward hires three actors (Mirren, Knightley and Jacob Lattimore) to play those concepts and jolt him back to normality. He doesn’t believe them, but they do have the letters he wrote. There’s much verbal sparring and eventually there’s a bizarre reveal but it doesn’t fix the movie. Maybe I’m just too hard-hearted but this one didn’t do much for me except to remind me that Hollywood used to do well with fantasies like this. I mean that was an angel that visited George Bailey and Mr. Jordan was in three movies. Not these days. (International Village, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 out of 5

SPIRIT UNFORGETTABLE: Not at all maudlin, but to the contrary, quite moving. That’s my short take on this lively documentary that lets us see John Mann, lead singer of Spirit of the West, cope with the early-onset Alzheimer’s that has afflicted him. We watch him still singing and bouncing around on stage at a Massey Hall Concert in Toronto though he needed the help of an I-pad as a teleprompter to remember the lyrics. The opening line from theband’s best known song, “You’ll have to excuse me, I’m not at my best,” drips with irony.

 

Director Pete McCormack also gives us plenty of clips from when he was at his best. It goes back to North Vancouver where he was recruited into the band from a drama class and brought a theatrical flair and a great voice to it. Band members, industry types like Bob Rock and Sam Feldman, Tom Harrison of The Province, Mann’s wife and Mann himself talk about the band’s entire career, its influence and how the Alzheimer’s affected it. The mood is emotional but always optimistic. The most affecting sequence is from a concert where Mann does lose the words and the entire audience sings them for him. The film was named the Most Popular Canadian Documentary at VIFF.   (VanCity Theatre, Monday and three more times until the end of the month) 4 out of 5

A MAN CALLED OVE: Fans of droll Scandinavian humor are bound to like this one from Sweden. You can even see a seasonal connection—the story arc is very much like A Christmas Carol. Ove doesn’t yell Bah Humbug, but does expound other thoughts just as strong. We watch the film to see what it takes to get this curmudgeon to lighten up and get sweet.

 

He’s smarting from several losses: his wife, his job of 43 years and his position as head of the residents’ association in his neighborhood. (His best friend won an election against him after they clashed about the relative merits of Saabs and Volvos). He continues his daily patrols though, cranky and nattering indignantly at people who litter or park badly. He’s especially annoyed with a noisy immigrant family that moves in and with bureaucrats. He tries suicide but several attempts fail comically. While all that’s going on we get occasional flashbacks that show what made him that way. Train accidents play a role. He does the rest. You laugh and you cry as it evolves into a heartwarming film. This is Sweden’s submission to the Academy Awards. (VanCity) 3 out of 5  

ENDLESS POETRY: Unless you know the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, the wild-man director from Chile, you may not be aware whether this film is for you. Better to know beforehand that you’re going to get full nudity, kinky sex and lots of lewd stuff, but also imagination galore and a vibrant, colorful film.

This is part two of Jodorowsky’s  autobiography in which his son Adan plays him as a young man, and another son plays his father. And he shows up himself now and then to explain something or other.The first film, Dance of Reality, two years ago, dealt with his life as a boy when his father took a job as horse groom to a dictator. Here, Adan plays him as a young man and would-be poet, defying his father who wants him to become a doctor and calls artists of all kinds that harsher word for gay. Jodo hobnobs with bohemians like the fiery redhead named Stella (Pamela Flores) and poets like Enrique Lihn and Nicanor Parra who would later become famous and influential. (They’re pretty snide when they talk about Pablo Neruda).

The film shows their partying, squabbling and mentoring with humor and frequently with bursts of surrealism. Sex with a dwarf? Sure. Crowds cheering the dictator with Swastika flags? Yep. And much more, with a lively momentum, frequent surprises and a stirring tale of a young man breaking away to be an artist.  (VanCity Theatre) 3 ½  out of 5  

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