Spy antics in 'American Ultra', 'Bikes vs Cars' around the world and a funny man’s beginnings

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I AM CHRIS FARLEY: I’m not quite sure why the heavy-weight comedian merited such a tribute documentary. Not when it seems much of the story isn’t here — the most dramatic parts, the tragedy. We get a warm appreciation by his friends, colleagues and family telling us how much they loved him and what a great comic talent he was. Okay, but then how did he happen to die in a Chicago condo OD-ing on crack and heroin and arguing with a prostitute? We don’t get much about his decline. That fame got the better of him may be true but isn’t enough.

 

Still, some of his funniest stuff is here. His manic motivational speaker, his chubby Chippendale dancer, the inept host interviewing Paul McCartney.   Classic characters he created at Chicago’s Second City or on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. His work isn’t subtle and usually excessive but a long roster of friends talk glowingly about it including pals Adam Sandler, Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers, David Spade, B.C.’s Will Sasso, Christina Applegate, Bo Derek and SNL boss Lorne Michaels. Home movies take us right back to his childhood where he, the classic middle child, was already craving attention and searching for an identity. These things are briefly mentioned but not explored to any great degree. Events from his last years are politely glossed over. The film, efficiently-produced here in Vancouver, is for his fans. The co-directors are Derik Murray, who has made several other biopics, and Brent Hodges, who made the very funny A Brony Tale. (The Rio Theatre starting Tuesday. Chris’s brother Kevin will be there next Friday and Saturday to answer questions.) 3 ½ out of 5

BANG BANG BABY: This gently strange hybrid of '60s nostalgia, rock and roll and beach party movies with some mild monster movie elements tossed in may be the most entertaining film this week. It’s a clever parody of those genres and a surreal take on the lure of dreaming big. It’s Canadian, written and directed by Toronto’s Jeffrey St. Jules, making his first feature after several well-received short films, and it’s also an award winner at festivals.  

 

Jane Levy plays the dreamer, a small-town girl who wants to enter a talent contest in New York but can’t get there. Her alcoholic father (Peter Stormare, best known for Fargo) won’t let her go but opportunity comes to her. A heartthrob TV star and singer (Justin Chatwin) has a car breakdown nearby, Jane just happens to know cars from daddy’s repair shop, fixes the ride and charms the guy. They sing together (because it’s also a musical) and there’s a bubbly mood all round. It’s all good. — well, except for that accident at the chemical plant that is spewing out a toxic cloud and causing mutations. Or is it only causing hallucinations in her head? It’s a pleasing cocktail of a movie with cheesy effects, a smartly-crafted look using old rear-projection techniques, good songs and musings about dreams and fantasy. (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5

FORT TILDEN: Young women of the millennial generation may recognize themselves in this film. Woe to them if they do because these two characters are irritating, self-absorbed know-it-alls and worse yet, helpless. It’s quite a vicious portrait that starts like a comedy but never really blossoms into one. An early scene when Harper and Allie make mean comments about two singers in a club and then gush insincerely when they meet them is nicely real. You don’t laugh though. At most, you chuckle a bit. As more scenes like that happen and you hear their wise-acre cynical observations on just about anything, you find yourself getting as much annoyed as amused.

 

Harper (Bridey Elliott) and Allie (Clare McNulty) live in Brooklyn and we have the privilege of following them for a day. They meet a couple of guys at a party the night before, arrange to meet them at the beach and set out to get there. “Sure you can take a day off from nothing?” somebody asks. They do. The trip is epic, in the sense that so much happens. They borrow a bike which is stolen. They are distracted by a clothing store sale. They get expelled from a taxi. Friends are condescending. They argue and bicker as they travel and generally reveal how vapid they are. It’s all intentional. Writer-directors Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers aim to skewer the generation. They just do it with too much mean spirit and too little humour. (International Village) 3 out of 5

Also now playing:

HITMAN AGENT 47: Not only is this another try at turning a video game into a movie, it’s the second stab with this particular game. The first one, back in 2007, drew terrible reviews. This one is doing the same. Gamespot.com reports it’s on track to be one of the worst reviewed ever. “Ridiculous mass-slaughter scenes” says one reviewer. Rupert Friend of Homeland plays the character and a director freshly-graduated from commercials called the shots.  (Scotiabank and suburban theatres)

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