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Women in films this week: spying, hosting, feeling guilty, living transgender and filling an entire festival

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Kristin Scott Thomas plays a newly-appointed cabinet minister who invites some friends over to a dinner party to celebrate. So much happens and is said and argued that they never get to eat a bite. Timothy Spall, as her husband, plays records and pessimism. Patricia Clarkson, is an American with a German husband (Bruno Ganz) with whom she spars over his annoying tendency to spout platitudes and new-age philosophy. Cillian Murphy, who’s wife is not with him (that’s not explained until later) secretly snorts an intoxicant as soon as he arrives. Emily Mortimer and Cherry Jones play a lesbian couple. One of them is an academic, “the preeminent authority on gender differentiation in American utopianism,” while the other is pregnant with triplets and soon to be shocked to learn her partner “has had a man inside her.” That and many other revelations, accusations and recriminations pop out as the evening progresses in this sly send up of bourgeois sensitivity and pretension. The final line may cap or damage it for you. Nothing can spoil it, though. (International Village) 4 ½ out of 5

BOOST: It happens all too often with Canadian films. This one is very good but hard to find. It’s got five nominations at next weekend’s Canadian Screen Awards but around here is playing only in Richmond. For just one week, which is not unusual. What is unusual is the vitality this film exhibits on the screen. It takes us into a bustling neighborhood in Montreal, the tough, working class Ex-Parc area, through the story of two best pals. They’re sons of immigrants from Africa but well on their way to being assimilated. They chase white girls, “snow bunnies” as they call them, work in a car wash after school and listen to an uncle get sarcastic about racism in Canada. He tells a great joke about it and reveals a depth of feeling.

The pals (Nabil Rajo and Jahmil French) help out when car thieves use the car wash to scout their next target. They also get ambitious and steal an expensive auto themselves. That brings on tension and tragedy, a run-in with the mob and a lot of spirited movie-making energy.  The film feels like one of John Singleton’s early films. It’s that lively. It’s also thoroughly based in reality. Darren Curtis, the writer and director, set out to make an authentic film about the immigrant experience. He succeeded.  (Silver City Riverport) 4 out of 5

NOSTALGIA: This film explores some valid issues about our possessions and the memories they embody. But it doesn’t go far enough with some and weakens most of them by being so unfocussed. It’s as if three stories have been taped together. That allows several aspects to be explored but ends up making the film feel constructed, rather than lived.

Scene one is in the cluttered house of a hoarder (Bruce Dern). His granddaughter wonders if there’s anything valuable in there. An insurance man urges she think instead of the emotional value of his things. (Unlikely). He also visits a widow (Ellen Burstyn) whose house has just burned down. She recalls how hard it was to decide what to rescue on the way out. She did manage to grab a baseball that her husband had treasured. It was autographed by Ted Williams and to a memorabilia dealer played by Jon Hamm that means real value in money. (Naturally).  But he then reveals a completely contradictory side.

When he and his sister (Catherine Keener) go to clean out the house of their parents who have moved to Florida, he talks about “a lot of good memories here.” Photos, slides, letters and dad’s LPs spark that rare flash of sensitivity in him and a brief mention of a big problem. In the digital age what will people leave behind to be remembered by? The film by Mark Pellington skips over all this too lightly. (Park Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5 

DEATH WISH: If there’s one film we just do not need right now, it’s this one. It feeds peoples’ fears about violent crime and advocates guns as a solution. If the cops can’t catch the bad guys, you and your Glock 17 can sure go after them.  Revenge is something of a manly duty. That’s all there in this remake of the 1974 film that made Charles Bronson a star. Bruce Willis, taking on his role, looks old, as if in a desperate try to hold on to his stardom.

 

He’s not playing a New York architect, as Bronson did, but a Chicago surgeon. That means he’s right there when his wife (Elizabeth Shue) is pronounced dead and his daughter lies in a coma after three intruders attacked them at home. He (and we) never see the police doing too much and so it seems perfectly proper that he go out into the streets himself and shoot up some criminals. “Somebody’s got to do it,” he says and talk radio takes calls; “Is he a hero or a zero?” A TV commercial for a gun shop offers this tantalizing philosophy: “I don’t shoot to kill. I shoot to stay alive.” If nothing else the film does reflect that one side in the big gun debate in the U.S. It was delayed after the mass shooting in Las Vegas but inexplicably has now come out so soon after the Florida highschool shooting. More distressing, the audience laughs and cheers at some of the more extreme violence. Eli Roth, the director, has graduated from his horror movies to this very slick gun porn. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 1 ½ out of 5

 

More in New Movies

Locally-filmed The Predator, a mommy blogger’s Simple Favor and bad blood Under the Tree

Also Nicolas Cage really flips out over Mandy and The Cakemaker romances his lover’s widow

A vengeful mom, a demonic nun and Michael Caine’s memories of the swinging 60s

Also: a tulips and Mafia fantasy in Italy and the troubling lives of three skateboarders

Opening and closing VIFF films announced along with a high profile line-up

Both The Hummingbird Project and The Front Runner have Canadian connections
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