Tina Fey goes to war; Judy Hopps goes to Zootopia and cultures clash in the Amazon

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Judy Hopps is the bunny (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) and Jason Batemen is a hustler fox she has to ally with to solve a case. That’s because the police captain (a water buffalo voiced by Idris Elba) thinks she’s too small for any police work except the parking detail. She pursues a case anyway. There are missing mammal reports the police are neglecting, one brought by Mrs. Otterton (Oscar winner Octavia Spencer). Judy finds a conspiracy that threatens to bust apart a delicate truce in the city between predators and their usual prey. There’s big action and spectacular animation. And there’s a quirky sense of humor. The directors, Byron Howard and Rich Moore have films like Bolt, Wreck-It Ralph and The Simpsons in their background. And yes, Peter Mansbridge voices a character. It’s hardly a stretch though. Just two lines as a TV newsreader.  (Gateway, International Village and suburban theatres) 4 ½ out of 5

EMBRACE THE SERPENT: It didn’t win the Academy Award for best foreign language film but it’s absolutely proper that it was nominated. This is a bracing essay on cultural clashes between developed and so-called primitive societies. And a potent attack on colonialism, which is an ever-present force in the background. Columbian filmmaker Ciro Guerra created it to let the people of the Amazon region tell their story. For us, visually, it’s like stepping back in time and into a wondrous, pristine place.


The story is fictional but inspired by two ethnographers who came there some 40 years apart. It shows us the corrosive effects of contact over that time. First there was a German in search of a medicinal cure but rebuffed by a shaman who says “I don’t help whites.” He’s bitter; his people were wiped out by the rubber industry. But when he’s told there are some left, he agrees to help. He leads him to an aboriginal settlement and on a dramatic visit to a Christian mission where children are forbidden to speak “pagan languages.”  (Much like Canada’s residential schools.) The second scientist is an American, on the same quest, led by the same shaman (now played by a much older actor) and encountering a surreal and damning change at that mission. Within the two visits we also get a host other issues separating the cultures:  attitudes to nature, science, violence, dreams, memories. It’s not preachy. It’s like a stimulating conversation that gets quite heated at times.(VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5    

THE WAVE: You want to get your nerves rattled? A disaster flick is what you want and this one from Norway, with a killer tsunami, is one of the most effective I’ve ever seen. It’s a non-Hollywood version; real-looking, dark and moody, not bright and slick like say, San Andreas from last year. It’s particularly resonant here in BC because the fiords, shores and mountains of Norway look exactly like our landscapes. We’re always told of “the big one” sure to come and rock slides are common. 


More in New Movies

Two comedies about women at work and a stunning documentary about an Aboriginal artist lead this week

And they’re joined by a musical look back, a fashion industry success story that didn’t last and the hipster zombie film that opened Cannes this year

Two giant sequels and several worthy smaller films reviewed

Including new appreciations of Emily Dickinson and Pavarotti, the real story of auto builder John DeLorean, a British filmmaker inspired to draw on her own life and two oddball seniors falling in love

Doing it like Elton John, looking for justice in Canada, defying convention in Bollywood

Also Denys Arcand’s rant about the evils of money, a compassionate court dealing with sex trade workers and a series coming soon to showcase a celebrated woman filmmaker from France
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