Movies at a Glance & New DVDs

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                                                                     MOVIES AT A GLANCE.


BEIRUT (1hr 50min) *** In 1974, Lebanon was close to civil war when Beirut would be divided between Muslims and Christians with numerous factions also involved.  US diplomat Mason Skiles (Jin Hamm) and his wife Nadia (lila Bekhtai) were throwing a cocktail party when Mason learned that their ward, 13 year old Karim (Yoav Sadian Rosenberg), had an older estranged brother, notorious Abu Rajal (Hicham Ouraqa), wanted for numerous terrorist attacks. In a gun battle Karim was snatched by Palestinian terrorists, and Mason was left a widower. 10 years later in Boston, Mason received word that the Agency wanted him to return to Beirut to join cultural attaché Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike) broker a deal with now adult Karim (Idir Chender) for the exchange of his CIA agent friend Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino), a terrorists’ prisoner, and Abu Rajal, supposedly captured by Israelis.  The complex story is interesting and well acted. (Riverport) 
BLOCKERS (1hr 42 min) *** Lewd, crude, vulgar, obscene and raunchy but also witty, hilarious and uproariously funny, Blockers is about three overprotective parents who are determined to stop their daughters from losing their virginity on prom night. Three girls, Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon) plan to have sex with respectively with Austin (Graham Phillips), Connor (Miles Robbins) and Chad (Jimmy Bellinger) during the party. When mom Lisa (Leslie Mann) finds Julie’s message app running on her laptop about the girls’ plans for the night, she shows it to Kayla’s dad Mitchell (John Cena) and Sam’s dad Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), all trying to decipher the emoji-talk scrolling across the screen. When the hashtag #SEXPACT2018 bloops up onscreen, the penny drops and the parents, realizing from the porno hieroglyphs that sex is planned, they are determined to stop it. But the horny kids are always just one step ahead of their panicking sleuthing parents! (Scotiabank Theatre, Metropolis)
BORG vs McENROE (1hr 40min) *** ½  Tennis fans will remember the centre court rivalry between tennis giants, Swedish Bjorn Borg and American John McEnroe, at the 1980 Wimbledon Championship. The film, “inspired by true events,” shifts back and forth through both men’s childhoods. McEnroe’s reputation of being confrontational on-court led him to heated arguments and tantrums with umpires. Borg was equally as hot headed, erupting easily and suspended for bad behaviour from his tennis club. From an early age Borg (Leo Borg, Bjorn’s son) learned to suppress his anger from lifetime tough coach and mentor Lennart Bergelin (Stellan Skarsgård) and from his long-suffering fiancée (Tuva Novotny). McEnroe had to put up with demanding parents. We watch the two trade match after match along the way to the epic 5-set Wimbledon final, lasting almost four hours. Close-ups of the players are intercut with subliminal shots of the “real” match and it works well. (Park Theatre).
CHAPPAQUIDDICK (1hr 41min) *** On Friday July 18, 1969, Americans were watching that weekend the Apollo 11 moon landing. US senator Ted Kennedy hosted a party on Chappaquiddick Island which included six married men and six single women known as “the boiler room girls,” staff members from Robert Kennedy’s 1968 Presidential campaign, and among them was Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). Kennedy was driving a car with Mary Jo as passenger when it accidentally plunged off a bridge without a guard rail into the river and overturned. Mary Jo was trapped inside but Kennedy inexplicably swam to safety and walked back dazed to the party where he told his lawyer cousin Joseph Gargan (Ed Helms) and attorney general Paul Mark (Jim Gaffagan) he would phone the police, but he didn’t for 9 hours! He lied that he hadn’t been drinking and had concussion, and his ailing father Joe’s fixers made a deal with a friendly prosecutor. Intriguing and controversial! (Intl Village)
THE DEATH OF STALIN  (1hr 47min) *** In 2009 I rated the satirical British black comedy In the Loop among the year’s best, and the writer/director was Armando Iannucci, surprisingly born in Glasgow (dad was Italian, mom Scottish), and he thought of priesthood but decided to try comedy instead!  His 2nd feature film The Death of Stalin is another political satire, based on the Soviet power struggles following the dictator’s death, and naturally it has raised objections in Russia. When Joseph Stalin demanded a recording immediately of a live radio concert performance, panicked producers force orchestra and audience to sit through it again and the recording must be identical. Then Stalin suffered paralysis from a cerebral haemorrhage and collapsed unconscious. When discovered members of the bumbling, power hungry Central Committee members (with British accents) arrived, there was pandemonium leading to a frantic Marx Bros jostling for power and control. (Fifth Avenue)
FINDING YOUR FEET (1hr 51min) *** ½ Here’s a romantic comedy/drama which features no stars but top-notch reliable charismatic English actors in an irresistible crowd pleaser, especially with seniors. It won the Audience Award for Best Film at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.  At his retirement party in their opulent mansion, chief constable Mike Abbott (John Sessions) is set for knighthood when his snobby wife Sandra (Imelda Staunton) discovers Mike has been bonking best friend Pamela (Josie Lawrence) for 5 years! Embarrassed, she flees to her estranged free spirited older sister Bif (Celia Imrie), living by herself in a cluttered, impoverished multi-racial council house. She has no choice but to conform to Bif’s opposite way of life and to join her working class friends: canal barge dweller Charlie (Timothy Spall), much-married Jackie (Joanna Lumley) and widower Ted (David Hayman) when they meet weekly at a community dance class. The re-education of Sandra has begun! (Fifth Avenue)
NEW: I FEEL PRETTY (1hr 50min) * ½  For those readers who are not familiar with the film’s star, Amy Schumer, she is a stand-up comedienne and actress, and has been the creator, co-producer, co-writer, and star of Inside Amy Schumer, a Peabody award and Outstanding Comedy Variety Sketch winner in 2015. In film she made her debut in Trainwreck, receiving nominations from the Writers Guild for Best Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe best actress award. She published a New York Times non-fiction Best Selling Memoir in 2017 and that brings us to her latest trainwreck – I mean film - I Feel Pretty or in this case I Feel Unpretty, unfortunately not written by Schumer but by co-directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein.  New Yorker Renee Barrett (Schumer) works alongside Mexican tech troll Mason (Adrian Martinez) in a Chinatown basement doing tech work for the high end cosmetic company Lily LeClaire on Fifth Avenue. She and her supportive best friends Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Phillips) can’t attract men and self-loathing Renee is convinced that the problem is that she is overweight. Inadequate and insecure, she wants a better job and to be “undeniably pretty,” and decides to join a SoulCycle class surrounded by super-model types. When her workout machine collapses, she receives a serious bump on the head and on coming to she is surprised to see she has is now slim and drop-dead gorgeous (WE don’t see this as it’s strictly in her mind’s eye).  As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and she now has the confidence in applying for her dream job of receptionist although everyone is too polite or stunned to disagree. In a drycleaner’s lineup, she mistakes a comment from nice guy Ethan (Rory Scoval) as a pick-up line and insists on exchanging phone numbers. When interviewed for the receptionist job at the Lily LeClare headquarters populated by ultra skinny would-be runway models, she manages confidently to answer questions from babydoll-faced cooing heiress Avery LeClaire (an unrecognizable Michelle Williams) given the job of retro-fitting her grandmother’s (Lauren Hutton) department store’s cosmetic line. Ethan is vastly amused at her brazen self-confidence, even when she hijacks a demeaning dive-bar bikini contest, and actually falls in love with her. She even impresses Avery’s brother (Tom Hopper) who considers her refreshingly charming!  Irrepressible Schumer carries the predictable tediously long movie which ends with the realization that what really matters is on the inside. (Intl Village, Metropolis)
ISLE OF DOGS. (1hr 41min) **** Recommended. Animation. Director/producer/writer Wes Anderson won the Best Director award at Berlin’s Film Festival for this delightfully humouros, wildly imaginative, exquisitely animated story of man’s best friend quarantined on Trash Island. When canine flu and snout fever breaks out in dog-hating but cat-loving Mayor Kobayashi’s domain of Megasaki, the entire dog population is confined to the offshore radioactive and rat-infested island when the dogs are forced to fight over garbage to exist. The mayor’s young nephew Atari is determined to find his pet Spots and recruits the help of abandoned gossiping Alpha dogs consisting of Rex, Boss, Duke, King and Chief (names in their former lives).  Meanwhile a tenacious American exchange student joins the Science Party in developing a serum to cure all dog diseases. But the Mayor has extermination in mind and unleashes robotic attack dogs and drone warfare on the starving dogs. The sharp dogs’ dialogue (barks) is translated into English while the Japanese humans’ voices are translated into English. Spectacular! (Fifth Avenue, Intl Village)
NEW: LEAN ON PETE (2hrs 1min) ** ½ Did you know award winning Three Billboards Outside Epping Missouri won the BAFTA Awards Best Film and Best BRITISH picture, although filmed in America with an American cast?  Here’s another British film, this one shot in Oregon with an American cast. British writer/director Andrew Haigh chose as star 18 year old Charlie Plummer who was in All the Money in the World with Christopher Plummer, not a relative. In Venice, Charlie won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor.  Here his performance makes this over-lengthy film worth seeing. In Spokane, 15 year old Charley (Plummer) played football at school and showing promise until his caring, wayward, womanizing single father Ray (Travis Fimmel) dragged him to a dump in Portland, Oregon. Close by was the Portland Meadows Racetrack, the bottom of American horseracing. Without knowledge or experience, Charley was hired by shady racehorse trainer Del (Steve Buscemi) with minimal wages. Used to abandonment and a lack of affection (mother walked out years ago), when his father was severely beaten by a furious husband and died following a botched X-ray, traumatized Charley was left alone with minimal cash, and was forced to steal, lie, run, hide, dine and dash. Close to poverty, his pay barely bought him food and he refused alcohol. In the stable he became attached to an aging quarter horse, Lean on Pete. If a horse is unable to compete on the tracks, it is sent to the Mexican slaughterhouse and, when introduced to Del’s kindly jockey daughter Bonnie (Chloe Sevigny), she warned him “horses aren’t pets. They lose too much, they get fired.” With Lean on Pete on a losing streak and eventually coming in last, Charley knew the consequences. He stole the truck, trailer and horse and set out east to find estranged Aunt Margy (Alison Elliott) somewhere in Wyoming. With no money he ditched the truck because of a breakdown and trekked across vast plains and deserts, babbling endlessly about his life to his one and only friend, the horse (not entirely successful). Struggling to survive penniless and homeless, he’s taken in briefly by isolated Iraq war veterans and later by street-smart homeless Silver (Steve Zahn) attempting to mentor him. His memories of beloved Aunt Margy propel him forward but a major tragedy occurs and the police are involved. Without highs and lows, the road movie, adapted from the novel by Willy Vlautin, is generally underwhelming but Plummer, rarely off screen, will hold your attention. (Intl Village) 
MEDITATION PARK (1hr 34min) ** ½  Writer/director Mina Shum’s bittersweet family comedy/drama filmed in Vancouver captivated VIFF crowds and especially its cinema-loving Asian audiences which could relate to older Chinese immigrants living a lifetime without learning to speak English and living in dependence on domineering spouses.  Maria (Cheng Pei Pei) is the obedient, devoted wife of businessman Bing (Tzi Ma). In their 60s, they have an adult daughter Ava (Sandra Oh) and son Charlie (not seen) who is about to be married to a white girl (Liane Balaban), and Bing refuses to attend their wedding. When housebound Maria discovers that Bing has a mistress, she is determined to discover her identity and for the first time goes out into the community, breaks loose from her restricted dependency, makes friends and goes job hunting. Shum knows her audience and has wisely kept her message, the dialogue and comedy simple and straightforward. (Intl Village)
PACIFIC RIM UPRISING (1hr 51min) ** ½ This is the sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s ridiculously entertaining 2013 giant robots versus monsters original but in the hands of first time director/writer Stephen Knight it is not quite up to the same standard. The storyline recycles the contest between human-controlled Jaeger robots and massive monsters called Kaijus. Operating the former are Jake (John Boyega), the son of deceased General Pentecost, his former co-pilot Nate (Scott Eastwood), a feisty teen orphan Amara (Cailee Spaeny) along with young new recruits, while the Kaiju program is being monitored by the Shao Corporation under Liwen Shao (Tian Jing) with her right-hand mastermind Dr Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day) prepping a line of drones that can be controlled remotely. Geizler has merged the kaiju into one unstoppable gigantic beast which would bring the world to the brink of apocalypse.The CGI battle scenes are spectacular but the mayhem and destruction overdone. (Intl Village, Metropolis)
NEW: SUBMERGENCE (1hr 52min) ** ½   German-born director Wim Wenders’ latest offering is strictly for art house audiences.  Visually it is superb, courtesy the impeccable DP Benoît Debie, and deftly directed, but the problem is basically in the screenplay adaptation by Erin Dignam of the novel by J.M.Ledgard which will leave mainstream audiences disinterested in spite of solid performances by its two charismatic attractive lead actors, Sweden’s Alicia Vikander (with an impeccable English accent and now married to Michael Fassbender), and Scotland’s James McAvoy (X-Men) and the exquisite exotic locations. We first see James (McAvoy) held captive by jihadists in a filthy Somalia prison. He is in actuality a British spy and he is about to take time out for a few days at a luxurious beach hotel near Dieppe. It’s here he meets Danny (Vikander), a biomathematician professor, also enjoying a few days off from preparing for a dive in a yellow Nautile submersible taking her to the world’s largest uncharted hydrothermal vent field in the Greenland Sea, searching for microbial life. James claims to be a water engineer wanting to bring water to the Sudan and stationed in Nairobi for the British government. The couple gradually falls deeply in love, both knowing their time together is limited. The newspaper headlines “Bomb Attacks in Europe Do Not Stop” had him flying to Somalia where on arrival he was immediately taken hostage by members of Al Quada, thrown into prison, stripped of his belongings, beaten, interrogated, starved and then dragged sweltering by his captors from place to place in Somalia, struggling to survive yet fully expecting to be executed. When he received serious head wounds, he was taken to Dr. Shadid (Alexander Siddig), a staunch supporter of jihad but conflicted by the religious violence daily such as seeing a young girl, the victim of gang rape, stoned to death in the name of Allah. Danny was unaware of James’ plight. Wenders intercuts back and forth between the lovers from the time of their separation and unfortunately neither of their stories in the film’s second half is engrossing – in fact it’s repetitious! Will they survive their ordeals and reunite?  Ledgard wrote of the imprisoned James that “when there was no moon he was sunk in the blackness Danny saw when she explored the abyssal deep.” By now, we too are in that blackness. It’s not a bad film, it just could have been so much better. (Park Theatre)  
NEW: YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (1hr 29min) *** ½  Scottish writer/director Lynne Ramsey returns with yet another absorbing dark and disturbing psychological thriller involving children and the recurring themes of guilt, grief and death, and she has given Joaquin Phoenix his best role in years. At the Cannes Film Festival she won for Best Screenplay and Phoenix won as Best Actor. It’s the kind of film you need to see twice to understand what it’s about. Former marine and FBI agent Joe (Phoenix) lives with his senile mother (Judith Roberts) in the cluttered home of his childhood. When we first see him, he is meticulously getting rid of all evidence following a brutal killing before he nonchalantly heads home. He seems to specialize in locating missing children and young women for wealthy families not prepared to report the loss to the authorities. In all probability they have been snatched by sex traffickers. He doesn’t hesitate to kill often and swiftly with brutality and efficiency and has a reputation for being discreet. The latest job given to him by his handler John McCleary (John Dorman) is to discover the whereabouts of teenage daughter Nina ((Ekaterina Samsonov) of New York State senator Albert Votto (Alex Manette) and to hurt whoever and bring her safely home. Joe stakes out a Manhattan brothel for wealthy patrons and violently kills with a hammer as his only weapon security guards and patrons in order to retrieve Nina. Joe is concerned insomuch as the son of Angel (Frank Pando), the middleman between Joe and McCleary, now knows his address. Waiting at a motel to return Nina to Votto, Joe hears on television that Votto has committed suicide and then two corrupt cops show up. They take Nina but Joe manages to free himself and escapes but discovers that McCleary, Angel and his son have been murdered. The killers were searching for Joe’s address and, Joe, anxious for his mother and hurrying home, finds killers waiting for him. He kills one and mortally wounds the other who reveals the evil syndicate responsible for Nina’s abduction and the murders. Joe’s on a rampage. Adapted from Jonathan Ames’ novella, this will have your head spinning and will challenge your mind.  Kudos to Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood for his eerie dark music score. Hearing Joe and mom duet on the 1948 song A You’re Adorable brought back memories.  Mesmerizing with not a minute wasted, this is Ramsay’s and Phoenix’ stunning achievement! (Fifth Avenue)


NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday April 24
DEAR DICTATOR  Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Seth Green, Jason Biggs, Adrian Voo
DEN OF THIEVES  Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson
FILM STARS DON'T DIE IN LIVERPOOL Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Walters
FOREVER MY GIRL  Alex Roe, Jessica Rothe, John Benjamin Hickey, Abby Ryder Fortson, Travis Tritt
HOSTILES Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Adam Beach, Rory Cochrane, Ben Foster, Timothée Chalamet
MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE. Dylan O'Brien, Barry Pepper, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson
PADDINGTON 2. Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday May 1
12 STRONG  Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, Navid Negahban, Trevante Rhodes, Geoff Stults
IN THE FADE  Diane Kruger, Ulrich Tukur, Johannes Krisch, Numan Acar, Denis Moschitto, Samia Chancrin
THE INSULT  Adel Karam, Kamel El Basha, Camille Salameh, Diamand Bou Abboud, Rita Hayek, Christine Choueiri
NOSTALGIA  Ellen Burstyn, Bruce Dern, Jon Hamm, Catherine Keener, John Ortiz, Amber Tamblyn, Nick Offerman
PETER RABBIT. Animation. Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, Sam Neill, Margot Robbie, James Corden
TREMORS: A COLD DAY IN HELL  Michael Gross, Jamie Kennedy, Tanya van Graan, Jamie-Lee Money
WINCHESTER  Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Angus Sampson, Finn Scicluna-O'Prey, Laura Brent

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday May 8
FIFTY SHADES FREED Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden
HUMAN FLOW. Famous artist & filmmaker Ai Weiwei examines the staggering scale of the global refugee crisis.

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday May 15
BLACK PANTHER  Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Martin Freeman, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker
THE MONKEY KING 3  Aaron Kwok, William Feng, Zanilia Zhao, Xiao Shenyang, Him Law, Lin Chi-ling, Gigi Leung

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday May 22
THE 15:17 TO PARIS Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone, Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer, Tony Hale
EARLY MAN  Animation. Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall,  Rob Brydon
A FANTASTIC WOMAN  Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Keppenheim, Antonia Zegers
GAME NIGHT Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Danny Huston, Kyle Chandler
THE PARTY Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy, Bruno Ganz
RED SPARROW Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons
WONDERSTRUCK Oakes Fegley, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Millicent Simmonds, Jaden Michael

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday June 5
GRINGO David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton,Thandie Newton, Sharlto Copley,  Amanda Seyfried
THOROUGHBREDS Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Francie Swift, Chaunty Spillane

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday June 12
THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT.  Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman