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Three very good films reviewed: The Death of Stalin, Foxtrot and Unsane

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The one-day turns into seven. They’re not voluntary because a doctor declares she’s “a danger to yourself and others.” It’s a scam. Another patient explains that when her insurance runs out, she’ll be cured. Until then, she can’t leave. What’s worse, the man she says is stalking her is working there. One of his duties is to feed her the pills she has to take. Nobody will believe what she says about him. So is she crazy? Soderbergh keeps us glued with evidence on both sides of the question, tense confrontations and sinister atmospheres. It’s impact wanes though because of some improbabilities in the story and its general down-market feel. Visually it’s a bit dim and fuzzy because Soderbergh filmed it on an I-phone. That worked better in another film, Tangerine, which was meant to have a street-look. This one should be more crisp, in look and in storytelling. (International Village and suburban theatres) 3 out of 5

PACIFIC RIM UPRISING: The original film of five years ago was loud, messy and ridiculous. Here’s a sequel that matches all that in both plot and intelligence. You might remember that alien monsters lurking inside our planet (for what reason we never knew) surfaced through undersea vents and had to be fought off by giant robots called Jaegers. Since the film made money overseas (not so much here) screenwriters were dispatched to write some more. They have the robots now rusting in scrap yards and being scavenged by thieves. One of them (John Boyega) is the son of the hero in the first film but nothing like him, he insists. Before you know it he, and a teen girl he meets in the scrapyard, are forced into a cadet training program because they know how the robots work and in case the monsters  come back.

 

Scott Eastwood (Clint’s son and acting equal) is the trainer. Charlie Day is back as a scientist but now a toady of sorts for a Chinese corporation woman (Jing Tian) who is pushing a system of drones to fight off any monsters that show up. A rival scientist has a better idea but is muffled. Before anything can be done though, monsters re-appear and trash Sydney, Australia. The Jaegers have to be re-activated not only to fight them but also to stop a rogue Jaeger that is suddenly smashing things. Who is operating it? Not important. You’re here to see robots battle monsters and Tokyo get trashed.

Fans of old Japanese films like Rodan and Godzilla will marvel at the great advances that have been made since then as they see these buildings crashed and demolished.  Much of that was created in computers right here in Vancouver. Young boys will love it. Guillermo del Toro, the big winner at the Oscars this year, directed the first film. Here he’s credited as producer and “visual consultant.” The film could better use an intellect consultant. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 out of 5

SHERLOCK GNOMES: I wasn’t too impressed with the precursor film, Gnomeo and Juliet, eight years ago. But it turned into a big hit and the producers (Elton John, his husband David Furnish and others) have added in more big names to do voices for this sequel, including Johnny Depp, Mary J. Blige and Chiwetel Ejiofor. They join these who’ve returned for another go: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Maggie Smith, Michael Caine and Ozzy Osbourne. So I had to check it out.

 

It’s a trifle but funny and delivered with great spirit, lots of color and many, many puns. Gnomeo and Juliet have moved into a new garden, argue over how it should be developed and find the distressing news that garden gnomes are being kidnapped. They call in Depp, as Holmes, and Ejiofor, as Watson, to find out why and by whom. Naturally, Moriarty is a suspect, even though we see him crushed under a collapsing dinosaur skeleton at the start of the film. The investigation goes on with lots of sight gags, strange encounters as with the cats in a Chinese emporium and a brassy Mary J. Blige in a doll museum. I can’t imagine children getting many of the adult references, most everything about Holmes, for instance, or the gay dancer in a fairy-tale interlude. But there’s lots else and those Sir Elton tunes to keep them entertained. For adults, it’s nicely silly and somewhat better than the first film. (International Village, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres.) 2 ½ out of 5   

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