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Vancouver's Elysium intriguing, The Canyons and Lovelace lurid and creepy

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PLANES: This is not actually a Pixar film, but it is closely related. It’s billed as “from the world of Cars” and indeed on the DVD of Cars 2 there’s a short (made here in Vancouver) in which Mater, the tow truck,  visits Propwash Junction and concludes there should be a whole movie about the planes that live there. The Disney people agreed, had it made at one of their third-level animation centres to go direct to video but sent it to theatres instead. It’s a mixed bag, good looking but missing the Pixar storytelling charm. 

 

A small crop duster plane (voiced by Dane Cook) dreams of flying in a round-the-world race and through a quirk gets in. He has to face the strutting champ called Ripslinger, consorts with a British plane (John Cleese) and a Mexican  who has amorous feelings for a Quebecer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) a liaison that prompts the line “French Canadian is the language of love.” There’s much else that’ll go way over the heads of the children the film is made for, including two actors from Top Gun flying again and a veteran plane (Stacy  Keach)telling a World War 2 story.  The film was made by aviation enthusiasts so the many flying sequences, especially one in a storm, are dramatic and well-animated. The race? Pretty standard, but a lot better than the other one out there right now, Turbo. (International Village, Dolphin and many suburban theatres) 2  out of 5

DRUG WAR:  Here’s a lean and sleek crime drama set in Mainland China but concocted by Hong Kong’s action master, Johnnie To. He whips up great momentum starting with an out-of-control car crashing into a restaurant and culminating in an over-the-top gun battle on a street in front of a primary school.

In between the film settles down into a tense police procedural. Hong Kong star and To regular Louis Koo plays a drug lab operator who loses everything in an explosion and agrees to become an informant for the police to avoid the death penalty.

 

His contact is the efficient Cpt. Zhang head of the drug squad, played by Honglei Sun, a big-name actor on the mainland, and apparently a very flexible one at that. After he’s introduced to one drug dealer, he impersonates him at another meeting, a comic touch in a film that has few of them. The main action is an undercover operation, closely monitored by police video cameras, to get the goods on a supplier named Uncle Bill. There are twists and turns and a few times you’ll wonder who is on whose side. But over all this is intense stuff and very entertaining.  (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5

Playing in tandem with …

BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO: Many critics gave this one high marks. I would too if it weren’t so boring. The elements are promising: a British sound engineer (Toby Jones) arrives in Italy to work on a cheap horror film. 

Fans know the genre as “giallo” which features gruesome murders and requires sharp and evocative sound effects.  The engineer creates them by abusing watermelons, celery stalks and other common items. That’s fascinating to watch (for a while) especially since he’s working in a perfectly re-created 70s-era studio (familiar to me from my years in radio). The mood turns creepy and the people are strange, but then we have to watch him at length and slowly become unhinged in reaction to the weirdness around him. That’s it. My mind wandered to: Why has this won awards at festivals? (VanCity Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5

GRACELAND:  This is a powerful thriller from the Philippines that keeps throwing the unexpected your way as it goes after several targets. Official corruption, class pretensions and under-age prostitution are just three. 

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