Movie Reviews and Listings: Waiting for SugarMan and Argo

Victoria, BC movie listings including Cinecenta, Imax, Screenings and more.

Ben Afflec stars in Argo, playing at Victoria area theatres now.

Search For A Musical Icon

The musical documentary Searching For Sugar Man won both a Special Jury Prize and the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. But even with those impressive credits, the film easily exceeds expectations. And that’s not easy when, going in, you already know that the story involves a Mexican-American troubadour named Rodriguez who was discovered by two of America’s most legendary music producers in the late ’60s and touted by them as the next Dylan. But even though Rodriguez’s two albums only sold about 10 copies each in the States, the music of this soulful singer-songwriter became a sensation in Apartheid-era South Africa, where (often bootleg) copies of his records were more popular than those of Elvis and the Rolling Stones.

Regarded by South African progressives as a revolutionary figure rather than a mere pop star, Rodriguez inspired many whites to resist the tyranny of their violently racist government. His example also kick-started the first generation of South African anti-Apartheid rockers who went on to have a huge impact on the struggle for racial equality in their deeply troubled country.

With that as a backdrop, much of Sugar Man shifts to the mid-’90s, when two white South Africans  — a music journalist and a record retailer — joined forces to discover whatever happened to Rodriguez. There were rumours that he had killed himself onstage at the end of a bad concert, but even the most basic facts were nonexistent. Their detective work pays off in unexpected ways, and the documentary just keeps getting more intriguing as it rolls along. And with a soundtrack comprising many evocative Rodriguez tunes, a cast of funny and appealing characters, and a real mystery to deal with, Sugar Man is both gripping and delightful. Highly recommended!

 

Searching for Sugar Man ★★★★

Directed by Malik Bendjelloul

85 minutes

Opens Friday at the Uni 4

 

 

 

Stranger Than Fiction

Ben Affleck won an Oscar early in his career, then gradually deteriorated into the international joke known as Bennifer. Affleck took his licks and then bounced back very convincingly, as both director (Gone, Baby, Gone) and actor-director (The Town). And he’s still on a roll with Argo the crazy-but-true story of how six workers at the American Embassy in Tehran got caught up in Iran’s terrifying hostage crisis of 1979 and eventually were smuggled out of the country disguised as Canadians working on a sci-fi movie shoot.

Argo functions as both a taut thriller and a compelling slice of recent history. And rather than this being just an exercise in American jingoism, Affleck does a good job of outlining the nasty1950s American and British-led coup to regain control of Iran’s oil fields. By the time the brutal and profligate Shah was overthrown in the late ’70s, it’s not surprising that most Iranians thought that it was the Yankees who were the real terrorists.

That said, the audience is obviously rooting for the six Americans who have been hidden at the residence of the Canadian ambassador. A CIA “exfiltration expert” named Tony Mendez (Affleck) is asked to get them out, and he overcomes numerous obstacles along the way. The movie also takes considerable delight in mocking the pretensions of Hollywood in an elaborate subplot where the CIA covertly funds what they call “a real, fake movie” in order to give high-profile credence to Mendez as he heads to a country roiling with revolutionary fever (and where state enemies are routinely gunned down in the street or left hanged from cranes as a warning to others). This is a highly entertaining and well-executed piece of moviemaking.  M

 

Argo ★★★½

Directed by Ben Affleck

Starring Ben Affleck, John Goodman

R – 120 minutes  ◊ Continues at the Capitol, SilverCity, Uni 4 and Westshore

Film Listings:

 

Opening

 

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore) The once-interesting trick of using faux found footage to give a spritz of realism to horror flicks is becomeing duller with every sequel to this series about spooky doings in the suburbs. Starts Thurs.

★★★★ THE SEARCH FOR SUGAR MAN -(Uni 4) This musical documentary, a big Sundance winner, features the incredible quest of two South African men to discover whatever happened to a Bob Dylan-style troubadour from the early ’70s who never amounted to anything in his native America but became a huge superstar — and revolutionary influence — in South Africa at the height of the Apartheid era. Starts Fri. See review.

ALEX CROSS -(Capitol/SilverCity) It’s “diabolical serial killer time” as a detective goes up against a brutally clever maniac who has already slaughtered a member of his family. Starts Fri.

SAMSARA -(Capitol) This exotic documentary spans five continents as it visits sacred spots, diaster zones, natural wonders, and industrial complexes — all the geographic marvels and contradictions of our planet. Starts Fri.

★★★ MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED -(Caprice) Those mouthy NYC zoo escapees are up to their usual colourful antics in a wittily entertaining animation romp. Returns Fri.

THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN -(Caprice) Disney Studios produced this rather fantastical family-friendly tale about a childless couple who end up with a young boy under distinctly magical circumstances. Starring Jennifer Garner. Returns Fri.

Continuing

★★★½ ARGO -(Capitol/Uni 4/SilverCity/Westshore/Caprice) Despite some liberties taken with the facts, this account of a CIA agent who managed to smuggle six Americans to safety from Iran during the famed 1979-’80 hostage crisis is surprisingly even-handed, very suspenseful and truly entertaining. Directed by and starring Ben Affleck. See review.

★★ THE BOURNE LEGACY -(Caprice) The hyper-kinetic spy series gets a flaccid and disappointing reboot with a new director and new actor (Jeremy Renner). Co-starring Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS -(Caprice) Greg is totally ready for summer when suddenly his plans all fall apart. What’s the poor guy gonna do now?

★★½ THE EXPENDABLES 2 -(Caprice) Expect lots of manly mayhem as a group of aging mercenaries (played by aging Hollywood mercenaries like Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris and Bruce Willis) go up against a very nasty adversary. This is good, cheesy fun.

HERE COMES THE BOOM -(Odeon/Westshore) Kevin James stars in a badly-reviewed comedy about a high school teacher who recklessly decides to become a mixed-martial-arts performer to raise money for his in-need school.

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore) A hotel where vampires and sundry other monsters hide out from humans gets a big scare when a backpacking dude shows up looking for a room. This animated comedy features the voices of Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Andy Samberg.

★★★½ LOOPER -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) This trippy, noir-tinged sci-fi thriller is a stylish mash-up of hitmen and time travel. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Premium Rush), Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt.

★★ THE MASTER -(Odeon) The latest from Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia) stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as the charismatic leader of a cult religion who has an intense relationship with an emotionally damaged man (Joaquin Phoenix). Despite powerful performances and a lush filming style, this drama is a dull and very disappointing misstep from a great director.

★★½ PARANORMAN -(Caprice) In an amusingly morbid slice of family animation, a misunderstood boy who can talk to the dead is the only hope to save his town from an army of zombies and ghosts activated by a centuries-old curse.

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER -(Odeon) This coming-of-age romantic drama focuses on a freshman introvert who is befriended by a small group of slightly crazy friends. Note: moves here from SilverCity on Friday.

★★½ PITCH PERFECT -(Odeon/Uni 4/SilverCity/Westshore) It’s a gals-versus-the-guys vocal throwdown, as competing campus choirs seem to have gone to college only to major in Glee. Although not exactly Oscar bait, this is lots of fluffy fun.

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS -(Capitol/SilverCity) A struggling screenwriter accidentally gets mixed up with some really nasty criminals. With Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, and Christopher Walken.

SINISTER -(Odeon/SilverCity) Some gruesome “found footage” is at the centre of this horror flick that seems to owe a large debt to The Ring. Starring Ethan Hawke.

★★½ TAKEN 2 -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) Liam Neeson reprises his role as a retired CIA tough guy who has to use his nastiest skills when his wife gets kidnapped by the vengeful father of the goon that Neeson killed in the last movie. Well-directed if rather soulless action porn that benefits from its Istanbul setting.

★★½ TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE -(Caprice) Clint Eastwood plays an ailing and aging baseball scout who takes his estranged daughter (Amy Adams) along on one last recruiting trip. This predictable but engaging comedy-drama also stars John Goodman and Justin Timberlake. Note: moves here from the Capitol on Friday.

 

Leaving Thurs.

ANTIVIRAL -(SilverCity)

★★★½ FRANKENWEENIE -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore)

★★★½ END OF WATCH -(Capitol)

★★★½ LAWLESS -(Caprice)

 

IMAX

AIR RACERS -(noon, 2 pm, 5 pm & 7 pm, Thurs.-Sat.) Paul Walker narrates this pulse-pounding documentary about the world’s fastest race, as amazingly nimble planes negotiate a tricky course at 500 MPH.

★★★ THE DARK KNIGHT RISES -(8 pm, Thurs.-Sat. & 7 pm, Sun.-Wed)

★★★½ ROCKY MOUNTAIN EXPRESS -(11 am, 4 pm) Here’s a patriotic account of the many daunting challenges behind building the CPR railway: part history lesson, part glorious travelogue.

TO THE ARCTIC -(10 am, 1 pm, 3 pm, 6 pm)

 

SCREENINGS

 

MOVIE MONDAY – Is screening Being Flynn. Robert De Niro stars in a drama about the troubled relationship between a con man and the son he abandoned years ago who needs his help. By donation. 6:30pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. 595FLIC. moviemonday.ca

SOCIAL JUSTICE FILM NIGHT – Goes into the theatre business with a special presentation of Hemingway’s Hot Havana, a one-man play starring Brian Gordon Sinclair telling a rousing tale of sharks, pirates, submarines, and romance. THURSDAY, 7 pm, at 2994 Douglas (BCGEU Hall).

 

 

Cinecenta

 

Cinecenta at UVic screens its films in the Student Union Building. Info: 721-8365. cinecenta.com.

 

NEIL YOUNG JOURNEYS -(Wed.-Thurs., Oct. 17-18: 7:00, 9:00) Jonathan Demme’s follow-up to Heart of Gold is another concert film, this one finding the revered Canadian rocker alone onstage at Toronto’s Massey Hall.

★★★ THE DARK KNIGHT RISES -(Fri.-Sat., Oct. 19-20: 3:00, 7:00, 10:00) A diabolical terrorist named Bane poses a terrible threat to Gotham, as Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy comes to an exciting but rather bloated conclusion. With Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Anne Hathaway.

★★★ ICE AGE 4: CONTINENTAL DRIFT -(Sat.-Sun., Oct. 20-21: 1:00 matinee) After their continent is set adrift, Manny, Diego, and Sid have some crazy, rollicking, humour-filled adventures. This is very fine family entertainment.

★★★½ THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL -(Sun., Oct. 21: 3:00, 7:00, 9:20 & Mon., Oct. 22: 7:00, 9:20) A diverse group of British seniors seek out an affordable retirement hotel in India, only to find it in shabby disarray. But despite the initial disappointment, India’s exotic charms win them over. This comedy-drama has a great cast that includes Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Judi Dench.

★★★★ BLACK ORPHEUS -(Tues., Oct. 23: 7:00, 9:10) This Brazilian prizewinner (Oscar and Palme d’Or) from 1959 tells the classic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice set against the pagan splendour of Carnival in Rio. The visuals and soundtrack are both marvels and the film itself created an international sensation.

KUMARE: THE TRUE STORY OF A FALSE PROPHET -(Wed.-Thurs., Oct. 24-25: 7:10, 9:00) Is this a documentary or sly performance art? You’ll have to make up your mind as you watch this autobiographical account of a college-educated American of East Indian parentage who moves to Arizona and deliberately sets out to become a guru.

 

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