Three hot films to see: Thor, Dallas Buyers Club and Blue is the Warmest Color
It’s been a great run. For several weeks now there’s been a must-see film opening every Friday. This week there are three, although aimed at quite separate audiences. Gay issues are big. Comic book action is huge and a kids’ film is a charmer. Also notice two festivals and a 50-year-old film's local debut.
Here’s the list:
Dallas Buyers Club: 4 stars
Blue of the Warmest Color: 4
Thor: The Dark World: 3
Wolf Children: 4 ½
Le Joli Mai: --
Jewish Film Festival –
John Apple Jack: at the Asian Film Fest: 2 ½
THOR: THE DARK WORLD: It’s all escalating. Two years after Thor had to save his dad’s kingdom of Asgard from one villain, he has a much bigger challenge. The villain this time doesn’t just want to destroy a kingdom, or even the earth, as so many others aspire to do in the world of comic book movies. He wants to destroy the universe. He apparently hasn’t thought that through all the way but with a band of evil elves (and a Lord of the Rings look for a while) he’s looking for a substance called the Aether with which he can bring back the darkness that preceded all life.
Cue Natalie Portman visiting London. Her character accidentally absorbs it and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) whisks her away to Asgard for protection. (Remember they met in the U.S. in the original movie). With dad Odin (Anthony Hopkins) nagging and brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) biding his time in a jail cell, Thor has to find the bad guys before a once-every-5000-years convergence of the planets happens. He also has to bring out Loki to help and you know that won’t go smoothly. Neither does the film. This is the kind of movie you watch, even enjoy, but you feel no emotional attachment for. Hemsworth is bland and there’s no chemistry between him and Portman. The special effects are strong, but you’re always aware they’re just effects. There’s intermittent humor and an exciting closing battle which gives the impression that we’re being wildly entertained. Reasonably-well entertained, I’d say. (Scotiabank, The Dolphin and many suburban theatres) 3 out of 5
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB: Quebecois film people are suddenly all over Hollywood. Check out the evidence: Prisoners (director); upcoming The Book Thief (child actress); upcoming Delivery Man (remake of Starbuck) and just arrived, this tale of a homophobic Texan who fights to get gays the medicine they need. Jean-Marc Vallée is the director of this long-gestating project that looks back to the early days of the AIDS epidemic. He delivers a lively, engrossing story.
And Matthew McConaughey takes another step to becoming a serious actor. His usual beach-boy look is gone because he made himself so gaunt he looks like somebody hanging out at Main and Hastings. His character is diagnosed with HIV and told he has 30 days to live. His friends now direct anti-gay slurs at him and he learns sympathy, even for a forlorn guy played poignantly by Jared Leto. With the days counting down, he starts a service to help the gay community. He brings in medicine illegally from Mexico and thereby kicks off a fight with the U.S. government, the doctors and the drug companies. The story really happened. He outlived the doctor’s forecast and the film succeeds at showing all his personal contradictions from opportunist to do-gooder rebel. (International Village) 4 out of 5
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR: This film has gone through a lot since it scored the top award at Cannes back in May, and its two leads jointly won the best actress award. The director slammed one of the two and said he had thought of replacing her. They meanwhile slammed him, apparently for being hard to work for. The author of the graphic novel the film is based on said the lesbian sex it simulates feels cold and clinical rather than real. Others have said there sure is a lot of it and the film at three hours is too long. So, should you see it? Sure.
Despite the reputation, it’s a fairly conventional love story. Young woman (Adèle Exarchopoulos) falls in love with another (Léa Seydoux), finds her own world expanded and her confidence strengthened until jealousy comes to threaten. What distinguishes this one is the natural pace at which the story plays out. It’s so engrossing that, except for a slow spell in the middle, you won’t even notice how long it is. The central strand is with schoolgirl Adèle whose passion is awakened by the confident, experienced Léa and has to fight off homophobic slurs among her friends. Emotions surge and fall with powerful emotions and every phase in the story gets support from a parallel discussion of art and philosophy. After Sartre, “we can choose our lives without any higher principle,” says Léa. A class discussion asks what exactly is a vice. It doesn’t feel didactic though. We get an intimate glimpse into the course of growing up. The sex is intense but not that graphic and I’ll agree with the author; it’s a shade too cool. (Park Theatre) 4 out of 5
WOLF CHILDREN: One of my favorites at this year’s film festival, this is another wonderful work of animation from Japan. This time it’s by Mamoru Hosoda, not Hayao Miyazaki or his studio, but he’s channeling more than a bit of the master’s ambience.