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Three movies tell real stories: Spotlight, The 33 and Mavis

Also a rare visit to remotest Nepal and a Robert De Niro film going straight to video on demand

The Cinematheque has an ambitious project. It started last night but has much left. Twelve prominent Vancouver artists (well,10 now) show a film they find special and talk about what connections it has to their work.

So Jeff Wall is showing Straight Time, Rodney Graham has Dillinger is Dead, Vikky Alexander is screening a Jacques Tati classic, Playtime. And so on. Visit http://thecinematheque.ca/ for more and for information on an associated art exhibit coming soon.

Meanwhile, here are the week’s new films:

Spotlight:  4 ½ stars

The 33:  3

Mavis:  3

Heist:  2 ½

VIMFF: Talking to the Air:  3 ½

Love the Coopers: --

SPOTLIGHT: The second movie in two weeks to take us right inside the work of journalism.WhileTruth was something of a lament for its decline, Spotlight celebrates what it can do when news outlets have the courage to take on big topics and tough opponents. Not often do the day-to-day details of research, asking questions and gathering information produce such a rousing story. Watch for many award nominations.

 

The yarn takes place at The Boston Globe which 14 years ago shook up the Catholic Church by revealing a sex abuse scandal of priests preying on children.

A new editor (Liev Schreiber) challenged the investigative unit (called Spotlight) to look into the rumours even though Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian D’Arcy James were wary of taking on the Church. More than half the paper’s readers were Catholic.

Also a victims’ advocate was considered a flake and a lawyer (Stanley Tucci) an opportunist. Seemed impossible. The film shows their work in detail, from combing annual reports to ambush interviews on the street, to the impediments they faced and the bigger issues of responsibility to the community they debated.

It’s a cathartic release when they finally crack the story. So it’s both a talky issue movie and an entertaining thriller. Keaton is solid as the unit leader; Ruffalo is volatile as his second and Schreiber is calm and insistent as the newcomer editor. Stanley Tucci is a no-nonsense standout.   (5th Avenue) 4 ½ out of 5 

THE 33: It starts so well. The picture zooms down from the sky, up to and right into a gaping mine entrance. Good, we’re going to see exactly what it is like down in those dark tunnels bored into the earth. We’ll really feel the peril those 33 miners endured five years ago when the Chilean mine caved in and the world watched a grueling rescue effort for 69 days. Unfortunately that start doesn’t epitomize the whole. 

We get a great story about the resilient human spirit with just too much Hollywood flavour.

The problems start with hiring known stars to play the leads. Some, like Juliette Binoche, and Gabriel Byrne, don’t sound right putting on Spanish accents. Lou Diamond Phillips is a bit better and Antonio Banderas sounds fine but he’s such a strong presence he takes over the movie.

Some fine supporting actors are overshadowed. The script lets us get close to only a few and they come off as stock characters we’ve seen before in movies like this: the drinker, the old guy about to retire, the expectant father. There’s one fresh guy; his wife and mistress get into a fight waiting for the rescue.

The mine collapse is genuinely scary. We see the crack, feel the creaking, then the rockfall, clouds of dust and the ceiling collapse. What we don’t get much of is how things came to be that way. The movie lets the mining company off with only a few small references to safety failures. And never asks why the Chilean government had to take over the rescue. (Landmark Theaters in New West and North Van) 3 out of 5

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