Two thrillers and a charmer: 10 Cloverfield Lane, River, and The Little Prince

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Directed by Mark Osborne (who made the first and best Kung Fu Panda), it takes liberties with the original by plunking a brand new story on top of it. A young girl (Mackenzie Foy),  pushed to study hard by her controlling mother (Rachel McAdams), becomes distracted by an eccentric neighbor (Jeff Bridges), a retired aviator. She delights in the story he tells her one page at a time, how he crash landed in a desert, met the prince and heard all about the Rose (Marion Cotillard), the Fox (James Franco), the Snake (Benicio Del Toro) and the Conceited Man (Ricky Gervais). Whenever that story is on screen, the rich computer animation gives way to simple stop-motion. A tacked-on ending is too obvious and the film is a tad too long but the point is made: "It is only with the heart that you can see what is essential." (Gateway, International Village and suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5     

ONLY YESTERDAY: The VanCity Theatre also has an artful animated film for spring break. This is a rare one from Japan’s Studio Ghibli, made in 1991 but not released in North America. Starting Monday, VanCity is showing a new English-dubbed version as well the original. Details at


A subtitled version was shown four years ago at The Cinematheque. Here’s part of what I wrote at the time: 

Directed by one of Miyazaki’s partners, Isao Takahata, it is different from most Ghibli films. It’s not a fantasy but a story of growing up, including puppy love, rejection, puberty, even a first period. A young woman from Tokyo visits the village where she lived as a child and works on a farm picking safflower. We get two strands: today’s, which includes this conversation with a farm boy she’s attracted to: “Are market reforms making agriculture difficult?” “Absolutely.” and memories of her awkward year in Grade 5. Those scenes are shown in thinner colors and less complex drawing. A strong environmental angle and an emotional ending make this animated realism worth watching. 3½ out of 5

KINDERWALD:  This small but highly engrossing movie is part of the Women in Film Festival which continues on though the weekend. It’s a fairy tale for adults, according to the director, Lisa Raven, who based it on a folk story she found about Lost Children of the Alleghenies. It is also an effective study of pioneer life, the hardship immigrants faced in the US a century and a half ago and intolerance. It’s rich with themes.


A German immigrant (Emily Behr), a widow, lives in a tent in rural Pennsylvania with two sons and her brother-in-law (Frank Brückner) who works in a nearby coal-mine. The boys go missing. Townspeople help search for them but soon give up and assume they’re dead. People with other motives show up: a dodgy mystic, two louts threatening rape and a flock of good townswomen bringing a donation but curious about the living arrangement between the woman and the man with her. There’s anti-Catholic and anti-immigration sentiment. All historically true. The ending isn’t too clear but there’s suspense, a low-key ambience and beautiful cinematography on the way there.  (WIFF at the VanCity Theatre. See 3 out of 6

Also now playing …

THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY: Sony didn’t bother to preview this one out here and you know what that means. Probably low expectations. American reviews support that suspicion. One from Miami calls it rude and low-brow fun exhibiting special attention to body orifices including, believe it or not, an elephant’s. This is Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest. He plays the dim-witted brother to Mark Strong as a British intelligence agent wrongly accused and on the run. It’s a spy spoof with undertones about class differences. (Gateway, Scotiabank and suburban theatres)

THE YOUNG MESSIAH: This tale of Jesus at age seven was also not previewed but not for the usual reason. The producers of these faith-based movies tend to concentrate on critics who specialize in religious films. The source is, mainstream enough, a novel by Anne Rice when she took a break from her vampire obsession. The film has the young Jesus asking questions about his destiny which I can’t imagine he would have been thinking about yet. I read though, in the Georgia Straight, that it’s quite violent. Understandable. The director, Cyrus Nowrasteh, last made The Stoning of Soraya M. which portrayed in painful detail one punishment for adultery. (International Village and suburban theatres)

More in New Movies

Films about race and poverty in Paris, low-life exuberance in London and Werner Herzog re-tracing a friend’s quest

Also: damning memories from and since the Viet Nam war, an innovative dance choreographer in 3-D, the latest unhinged act by Nicolas Cage and a new but unseen version of The Turn of the Screw

Bad Boys shoot again; Adam Sandler gets loud in Uncut Gems and Clemency ruminates on capital punishment

And for the kids: A superior Japanese anime in Weathering With You, Robert Downey Jr. talking to the animals in Dolittle and your chance to sing along with Frozen II.

1917: a must-see, Just Mercy, a should-see, and Underwater, a don’t-bother

But do check out three others making a welcome return from last fall’s film festival
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