Good things do happen. Look at Hit ‘N Strum, the local film I’ve been praising. It’s staying a 3rd week at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, practically unheard of for a small Canadian production. Trust the people, I say. And let’s see what they do with the new ones this week. They are:
Admission: 3 ½ stars
Olympus Has Fallen: 2 ½
From Up on Poppy Hill: 4
Italy: Love It or Leave it: 3
Ernest & Celestine: 4 ½
Home Again: 3
The Croods: not reviewed
ADMISSION: It’s rare enough these days to find a comedy that doesn’t insult your intelligence so I’ll give this one some leeway even if it falls short of what it could have been. It’s a sly comedy about smart people but veers off into too many directions and does too little out on those tangents. At the centre is a romantic comedy between “a mildly compulsive woman” (Tina Fey) and a nice-guy do-gooder (Paul Rudd). Too nice, those two. Good warmth, but few sparks. She’s an admissions officer at Princeton University where she has to decide which of the many students who apply, get in. She downplays the pressure but gets off some clever digs at academic bureaucracy.
Rudd brings her a student he thinks is exceptional even though he fails the usual criteria. But what is the real purpose of higher education anyway? There’s a genuine but ultimately thin examination of that question that gets sidetracked by an unnecessary plot complication. She comes to believe the student is the son she gave up for adoption years before. How much can she legitimately do to help him? And if that’s not enough, her mother, played by scene-stealing Lily Tomlin, as an old-line feminist and author of “The Masculine Myth” brings in another subject: the very-real differences between the liberation fighters of years ago and women of today. Oh, and Michael Sheen is there too. He dumps Tina for “the world’s foremost Virginia Woolf scholar” or as another character calls her: “that Woolf woman.” Many ideas, mostly shallow but amusing anyway. (International Village and suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5
OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN: No, not the home of Zeus; the White House in Washington D.C. It gets trashed in this extremely well-made film with a ridiculous story and relentless action. Korean terrorists manage to get inside, capture the president and blackmail the world. Ultimately it’s not clear whether they’re from the North, the South or neither but many simulated news reports play on the very real tensions around North Korea these days. That makes this film not just an exercise in paranoia but maybe even a bit dangerous. If, that is, there’s anybody who believes it could happen.
The attack is precise and effective. Bodies fall everywhere in heavy gunfire, some of it coming from a convoy of garbage trucks. A plane slices off the top of the Washington Monument. A helicopter crashes into the White House. A special effects nightmare, or depending on your inclination, extravaganza. Gerard Butler, who also produced the film, does something even more unbelievable. He’s a secret service agent who manages to get into the building after it’s taken over. He fights off dozens of rabid attackers and sets out to rescue the president (Aaron Eckhart) and get messages to and from the acting president (Morgan Freeman) and his advisors. The building, the city and the meeting locales are recreated with great detail and fidelity. Too bad it’s in aid of all this silliness and patriotic flag waving. (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5
FROM UP ON POPPY HILL: The latest animation from Japan’s Studio Ghibli is also one of their best. Hayao Miyazaki, the master, wrote it; his son Goro directed it and all the elements of the studio’s style are there—bright colors, detailed hand-drawn animation, a humanistic story. This is not one of the fantasies about big-eyed children and mysterious creatures. It’s a more realistic coming of age story that also deals with that universal tug and pull between keeping or tossing your heritage.