Two thrillers and a charmer: 10 Cloverfield Lane, River, and The Little Prince
I’m going to be away next week. That means I’ll miss, Allegiant, the latest in the Divergent series about young adults in a dystopian future. Too bad too. This third installment offers a world “far more dangerous than ever before.”
Don’t, however, miss The Bronze, also coming next week. It’s very funny about the notion of celebrity. Melissa Rauch, well-known from TV’s Big Bang Theory, wrote it (with her husband Winston) and stars as a foul-mouthed, cranky young gymnast at pains to hold on to the fame she feels entitled to. She won a third-place metal at the Olympics but is now aimless in her small Ohio hometown. She’s tricked into coaching a successor, a bubbly young woman who adores her. There’s a nicely cynical attitude in the film as she prepares her for a big competition in Toronto.
These films are already here …
10 Cloverfield Lane: 4
The Little Prince: 3 ½
Only Yesterday: 3 ½
Kinderwald (at Women in Film): 3
The Brothers Grimsby: --
The Young Messiah: --
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE: It’s not a sequel to the terrific thriller of eight years ago. It merely stretches for an association through that name similarity, one plot point near the end and J.J. Abrams repeating as producer. But it’s even more terrific, a smart psychological thriller that’ll have you on the edge of the seat trying to decide what’s really going on. You’ll go back forth on that question several times thanks to an intelligent script, sharply focused direction by Dan Trachtenberg, newly-emerged from commercials, and a convincing performance by John Goodman as Howard, a possible nut-bar with conspiracy theories who may just be a good Samaritan.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead finds herself prisoner in his basement after rolling her car off a rural road. He says he rescued her and just in time too. There’s been an attack. Chemical, nuclear, extra-terrestrial? He’s not sure but he’s been prepared. They’re in a well-stocked bunker, along with a young guy (John Gallagher Jr.) who helped build it. Howard wants the three of them to be a family, which they are at dinner, playing board games and watching videos. But contradictions appear in his story. Tension ratchets up bit by bit and … it’s best not to say more. The pleasure is in following the twists and turns that keep you guessing. (Dunbar, Gateway, 5th Avenue, Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 4 out of 5
RIVER: Awards and loads of praise have already been given to this modest but entertaining Canadian film. It’s been popular at festivals (three wins at Whistler) and this weekend at the Canadian Screen Awards the director Jamie M. Dagg will be given the prize for best first feature and Rossif Sutherland is up for best actor. I agree with the accolades but caution that the film has a clumsy start, with some scenes that go on too long and others that are unclear. But when it hits its stride, it zings.
Sutherland is a doctor in Laos, tired out (no wonder there’s an operation that goes on and on) and off to a resort for a rest. He intercedes to stop a rape, accidentally kills an Australian tourist and loses his wallet. Next morning, he’s the suspect and runs. There’s no help at the U.S. Embassy except for the advice that he needs a lawyer. His best hope is to get across the river to Thailand and his only chance is to work with a smuggler. He makes more ill-advised moves than you would expect from a supposedly-sensible doctor. The tension builds as he travels by bus, boat and stolen car and has to elude police everywhere. Sutherland conveys his desperation and Dagg gets across the intensity of his flight, all within some magnificent Asian scenery. (International Village) 3 out of 5
THE LITTLE PRINCE: You might consider this an art house animated film. It’ll have trouble competing with the wildly entertaining Zootopia that Disney has in theatres right now because it’s relatively low key. Still, it has a lot to recommend it: the craftsmanship shown on screen, the message it delivers about the importance of the imagination and the respectful updating of the classic children’s tale that Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote back in the 1940s and hipsters made a cult item more recently. The film is from France and has already made over $100 million before it got here.