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The Wolverine is murky, The To Do List is all about sex and Crystal Fairy is too airy

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Brandy is thorough. She draws up a list of all the sexual experiences she wants to try, including ones she’s never heard of. “Teabagging? Must be British,” she says. One by one she checks them off. There’s a hand job in a movie theatre, a BJ for a singer, masturbation, dry humping, and on and on. Some of this is funny as Aubrey Plaza, of TV’s Parks and Recreation, plays the role with a mix of whiney and determined innocence.  Some of it gets gross like that turd in a swimming pool. Much of it is clumsily constructed as she sways with her lust for a hunk (Scott Porter), her indifference to a boy who likes her (Johnny Simmons) and the raunchy counsel of her best friends (Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele). She says she’s witty and smart but the film, written and directed by Maggie Carey based on her own experiences, doesn’t much support that. The mood is consistently upbeat though and  the cast, which also includes Rachel Bilson, Clark Gregg, Bill Hader and Andy Samberg, seems to be having a good time. (International Village and suburban theatres)  3 out of 5

CRYSTAL FAIRY:  Two years ago, Michael Cera went to Chile to star in a movie. This is not it. The financing had fallen through and the director suggested, while they’re waiting, they could make this one.  Sebastián Silva based it on an experience in his own life (about 95% accurately, he says) in which he and two friends went on a road trip to find a San Pedro cactus and trip out on its mescaline.  A spaced-out hippie who called herself Crystal Fairy came along and one evening told of a horrid incident that scarred her psychologically.  That essentially is the movie, with both characters transposed into visiting Americans and played by Cera and Gaby Hoffmann.

 

This is another case where real life just doesn’t conform with what we expect of a movie. The material is thin and inconclusive, although there are small delights. Cera, for instance, plays his tourist as a jerk imposing his will on the others and becoming increasingly annoying. Gaby’s new-age flower child is a pessimist given to standing around nude and warning against bad karma and sugar cereals. They grate on each other until that revelation around the campfire one night gives him a transformative experience. Maybe. The film leaves it unclear how much he changes. You had to be there, I guess.  It was made in only 12 days and feels largely improvised. It also looks that way with much shaky camerawork. That other film by the way, which they eventually also made, is going to DVD and video on demand, not movie theatres.  (5th Avenue)  2 ½ out of 5

INTERNATIONAL BUDDHIST FILM FESTIVAL:  It's the first time in Canada for this festival, now in its 10th year. The 15 films (both documentaries and dramas) come from eight countries and offer history, personal stories and philosophy and a few unexpected diversions. How about a murder mystery  in a monastery  or  the non-fiction tale of a prominent monk and teacher who eloped with a teenage aristocrat?

The biggest oddity for me is the marvellous Johnny Depp film from 1995, DEAD MAN, directed by Jim Jarmusch.

It’s rarely shown (although part of its story was hi-jacked for The  Lone Ranger movie) and must be seen on the big screen for its chilly, supernatural atmosphere. Depp plays an accountant who travels west and finds, to the bleak guitar stylings of Neil Young, both violence and native mysticism. What’s it got to do with Buddhism, though?  Check out the current Georgia Straight where Adrian Mack finds the connection.

The only other film in the fest that I’ve seen is also a masterwork you have to experience projected big.

SAMSARA is a visual tone poem of patterns and color, exotic and everyday scenes juxtoposed to both contrast and show the interconnections of life around the world.  A British documentary called KANZEON seems to be somewhat similar. It explores Japanese Buddhism through sound, song and story and is described as “stunning” and “mesmerizing”.

The festival runs  at the VanCity Theatre until Thurs. Aug. 1 and you can check out more about all the titles at http://www.viff.org/

NOTE: All images are supplied by the movie producers and are the exclusive property of their copyright owners.

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