A Crowd-pleasing Gem
The Sapphires is the latest feel-good musical touring the cineplex, and to describe it as a combination of Dreamgirls and The Commitments might inspire an unfair feeling of cynicism in those who dislike formula moviemaking. In fact, this true-life story about four young Australian Aboriginal girls in the 1960s who formed a Motown-style soul group and toured Vietnam to entertain the American troops sparkles with humour and charm. It’s to be expected that they deliver crowd-pleasing performances of classic tunes like “I Heard It On the Grapevine” and “Soul Man”; but credit the fine acting, strong comedic touches, and the grounding of the story in the stomach-turning racism of the Australia of a half-century ago that makes the movie something special.
The girls hail from a reservation-style “mission” in rural Australia, and catch the eye of a goofy music promoter named Dave (Chris O’Dowd, Bridesmaids) at a cheesy talent contest. After persuading them to chuck over country music in favour of soul, he gives them a crash course in the hot rhythms and snappy choreography of the Four Tops and The Supremes. Soon they fly into Saigon, en route to various military bases where their spirited music and sexy performances have the soldiers howling.
There are some basic conflicts built into the story, ranging from petty rivalries between the sisters to a darker subplot about the problematic reunion with the mixed-race cousin who used to sing with them – until this light-skinned mulatto was taken by authorities years ago and given to a white family to raise. And with all those peppy love songs being belted out, it’s maybe no surprise that daft but big-hearted Dave starts to fall for the eldest sister. It’s all predictable, sure. But just like any perfect pop song, Sapphires rises above formula to generate toe-tapping heat and authentic emotion.
Planet In Peril
Although many sci-fi films have presented terrifying scenarios of the Earth in deadly peril – from massive meteors to upheavals in our planet’s plasma core – the real-life threat from global warming as detailed in the documentary Revolution is scarier than anything directors like Roland Emmerich have been able to throw at us.
This sophomore film from Canadian writer-director Rob Stewart (Sharkwater) has moved far beyond a concern with one misunderstood fish species to a big-picture portrait of how our addiction to fossil fuels is killing the oceans through acidification. And given that the oceans generate most of the oxygen that we mammals like to breath, the possibility of another so-called mass-extinction event like the one that killed most of the life on Earth 60 million years ago seems ever more likely – and it could happen this century. It’s a dire message, and Stewart both delivers it with gloomy gusto and then counterpoints it with a small measure of hope, particularly the increasing volume of eco-protests and an enhanced awareness of what needs to be done. UVic’s Andrew Weaver is one of many talking heads that drive the film’s argument forward, and he is eloquent in pointing out that the scientists have done their job and that it is now up to politicians to do theirs (itself a scary thought).
Revolution is a socially important film but not a particularly well made one: despite all that gorgeous underwater footage the film is choppy, digressive, and occasionally self-aggrandizing. Still, Stewart is an appealing guy with something important to say, and it’s not surprising that <I>Revolution<P> has won “audience favourite” awards at numerous film festivals.
(The Sapphires opens Friday April 19 and Revolution opens Friday April 12)
Australia’s Hardys wines go back 160 years and have long been a huge, globe-spanning enterprise. Their “stamp of Australia” series offers tasty budget wines, and with spring upon us it’s time to start pouring their Chardonnay-Semillon blend. Fresh and fruity, with hints of lime, tropical fruits, and peach, this crisp and medium-bodied wine is a classic patio sipper. Very affordable at $10.50!
★★★ REVOLUTION -(Odeon) The latest from documentary filmmaker Rob Stewart (Sharkwater) is more ambitious but less successful as it presents a wide-ranging argument about how fossil fuels are killing the oceans — and will soon be literally killing us. Starts Fri. See review.
42 -(Odeon/Empire Uni 4) The amazing story of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, the supremely talented black player who broke the segregated sport’s colour barrier in the ’40s when he was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers, gets a glossy, respectful treatment from Hollywood. Starts Fri.
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES -(Odeon/SilverCity) This promising new drama from the director of Blue Valentine stars Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, and Bradley Cooper in a stark tale of love and violence on the wrong side of the tracks. Starts Fri.
TRANCE -(Odeon) Classy English director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) helms this trippy tale of art theft, amnesia, and many different takes on alternate reality. With James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson. Starts Fri.
SCARY MOVIE 5 -(SilverCity/Westshore) The recent spate of horror flicks get spoofed in the latest in a seemingly endless series of lowbrow movie parodies. Starts Fri.
★★½ LAST STAND -(Roxy, 7:00) Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger has been terminated as governor he’s back in front of the cameras, this time playing a past-his-prime small-town sheriff who is the only thing standing between a vicious gang of well-armed drug dealers on the lam and the Mexican border. Starts Fri.
★★½ MAMA -(Roxy, 9:00) In this tastily gothic horror offering two little girls are abandoned in the woods the day their mother is murdered by their father. Five years later they are found by an uncle, who takes them in. Unbeknownst to him, a supernatural entity who’s been looking after the girls comes along for the ride. Starts Fri.
THE CROODS -(Empire 6/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) A prehistoric family taking an unexpected “road trip” into a magical land is the plot of this whimsical animated charmer (which has been getting great reviews). With the vocal talents of Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, and Ryan Reynolds.
ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH -(Caprice) This animated adventure tale features a brave astronaut in peril because of inter-galactic bad guys. With the vocal talents of Brendan Fraser, Jessica Sarah Parker, and Jessica Alba.
★★½ EVIL DEAD -(Empire 6/SilverCity/Westshore) This 1981 “splatter” classic by horror maven Sam Raimi gets a clever but humourless remake for a new millennium, as five hapless 20somethings head to a remote cabin where they inadvertently summon a bunch of demons that proceed to torment and slaughter them with shocking enthusiasm.
★★ G.I. JOE: RETALIATION -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) This cartoonish action series gets really amped up in a sequel where the good guys are not only battling arch enemy Cobra but also struggling against dark forces lurking within their own goverment. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Pryce and Channing Tatum. See review.
★ A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD -(Caprice) In this tedious turd of a would-be thriller, Bruce Willis once again reprises his role as supercop John McClane, this time mixing it up with Russian mobsters who have nasty nuclear ambitions.
THE HOST -(Empire 6/SilverCity) The latest from Twilight author Stephanie Meyers is a sci-fi tale where aliens inhabit human bodies and erase their memories. But will true love be strong enough to help a hero and heroine fight back? I’m guessing the answer is yes.
★½ IDENTITY THIEF -(Caprice) The considerable talents of Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) are wasted in this witless and often mean-spirited would-be comedy about a mild-mannered businessman who makes the grave mistake of tracking down the seemingly gentle woman who has stolen his identity.
★½ THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE -(Odeon/Caprice) Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi don’t bring much joy to this uninspired comedy about a pair of Vegas magicians whose act has gone stale. Jim Carrey steals what little show there is as a Criss Angel-style “mind rapist” who specializes in extravagant displays of self-mutilation.
★★ JACK THE GIANT SLAYER-(SilverCity/Caprice) This is a disappointing, rather joyless variation on the Jack and the Beanstalk tale. Directed by Bryan Singer (Usual Suspects, X-Men) and starring Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, and Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies).
★★★★ JURASSIC PARK 3D -(Odeon/Empire Uni 4/SilverCity/Westshore) Steven Spielberg’s classic 1993 tale of a dinosaur theme park where the toothy critters unexpectedly run amok gets a re-release in 3D.
★★★★ LINCOLN -(Caprice) Steven Spielberg directs award-winning playwright Tony (Angels in America) Kushner’s account of Abraham Lincoln’s dark days as he fights the Civil War and also fights political battles in his cabinet over plans to free America’s slaves. The superb cast includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field.
★★★½ NO -(Odeon) Oscar nominated and a big hit at the recent Victoria Film Fest, this is a fact-based account of a young, hipster ad man in Chile who came up with a cheeky, seemingly apolitical campaign for the plebescite that cost dictator Augusto Pinochet his presidency in 1990. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal.
★★★ OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN -(Odeon/SilverCity/Empire 6/Westshore/Empire Uni 4) The White House has been invaded by terrorists and it is up to a disgraced former Presidential guard to use his skills and insider knowledge to try and free the President from his captors. As brainless popcorn movies go, this one is sleekly directed, well acted, and offers mayhem on an epic scale. Starring Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, and Aaron Eckhart.
★★½ OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL -(SilverCity) Sam Raimi directs an extravgant rendering of L. Frank Baum’s Oz novel, a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, about a small-time magician (James Franco) who ends up in a fantastical land where he can achieve true greatness if he becomes a hero by battling a terrible witch. Basically, there are too many special effects and not enough heart. With Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz.
★★★ RISE OF THE GUARDIANS -(Caprice) Jack Frost, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and other mythical characters come together to save childhood innocence after a very evil spirit named Pitch starts making trouble. This animated lark is voiced by Hugh Jackman and Alec Baldwin.
★★★ SPRING BREAKERS -(Empire 6/SilverCity) It’s girls gone really wild, as four criminally inclined co-eds in need of spring break money start working for a drug and arms dealer. This is getting mostly great reviews, but it’s not clear if the movie is really satirizing teen-culture excess or merely wallowing in its most grotesque qualities.
★★★ DJANGO UNCHAINED -(Roxy, 9:00)
★★½ ADMISSION -(Odeon)
★★★ QUARTET -(Empire 6)
SAFE HAVEN -(Roxy, 7:00)
★★★ SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK -(Odeon)
★★★½ LIFE OF PI -(Odeon)
FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES -(10 am, noon, 2 pm, 4 pm, 8 pm–except Fri. & Sat.)
★★★ THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY -(7 pm, Fri.-Sat. & 5 pm Sun.)
THE LAST REEF -(1 pm, 5 pm — except Sun., April 14)
★★★½ MYSTERIES OF THE GREAT LAKES -(11 am, 3 pm, 6 pm — but no 6 pm on Sun., April 14)
TO THE ARCTIC -(7 pm, except Fri.-Sun.)
AWARENESS FILM NIGHT -screens Salmon Confidential, a disturbing account of how our government seems to be ignoring the eco-threat of our declining wild salmon stocks. Renowned biologist Alexandra Morton will also be speaking. WEDNESDAY, April 10, 7 pm, at Edward Milne Community School Theatre, 6218 Sooke Rd. Other screenings include: THURSDAY, 6:30 pm, Camosun College’s Fisher Building, Room 100; and SATURDAY, 6:30 pm, at Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre in the Charlie White Theatre.
MOVIE MONDAY – Presenting Reluctant Genius: The Passionate Life and Inventive Mind of Alexander Graham Bell. In an interesting shift, the MM folk are presenting a book reading by Charlotte Gray, who penned a remarkable account of this “reluctant genius” who struggled — rather successfully! — with bipolar disorder. 6:30 pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. By donation. 595-FLIC. moviemonday.ca.
FRUITFUL PASSION -Fernwood NRG is presenting The Fruit Hunters, the latest documentary from talented Canadian director Yung Chang (Up The Yangtze), this one a wide-ranging look at how humanity has been extensively shaped by its passionate love for the fruit we eat. All proceeds go towards the creation of a public orchard in Fernwood. THURSDAY, 7:30 pm at the Belfry Theatre’s Studio A. Tickets available from the Belfry: online, at the box office, or by phoning 250-385-6815.
Cinecenta at UVic screens its films in the Student Union Building. Info: 721-8365. cinecenta.com.
★★★★ AMOUR -(Wed.-Thurs., April 10-11: 7:00 only) Nominated for five Academy Awards, the latest drama from Michael Haneke (Caché) features a French couple in their 80s. After the wife has a stroke and begins a sharp decline, the husband takes on the immense burden of caring for her at home. This is an emotionally powerful and devasting film.
★★★ WARM BODIES -(Wed.-Thurs., April 10-11: 9:30 only) Zombie love is the subject of this charming, clever and very unusual romcom, as a zombie with a heart saves a human girl . . . and sets unusual events in motion.
★★★½ LES MISERABLES -(Fri.-Sat., April 12-13: 3:25, 7:00) Victor Hugo’s sweeping tale of love, poverty and an obsessed policeman stalking a reformed criminal in 19th century France inspired the best of the mega-musicals, and now makes a stylish migration to the silver screen. This elegant, emotionally powerful film manages to be both epic and intimate. Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway.
★★★★ HUGO -(Sat.-Sun., April 13-14: 1:00 matinees) Although Martin Scorsese isn’t exactly known as a child-friendly filmmaker he deservedly won lots of Oscar gold for this beguiling tale of a 1930s Paris orphan who lives in the walls of a train station and gets involved with a legendary filmmaker from the earliest days of cinema. The great cast includes Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen and Christopher Lee.
★★★★ LINCOLN -(Sun., April 14: 3:25, 7:00 & Mon., April 15: 7:00 only) Steven Spielberg directs award-winning playwright Tony (Angels in America) Kushner’s account of Abraham Lincoln’s dark days as he fights the Civil War and also fights political battles in his cabinet over plans to free America’s slaves. The superb cast includes Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field.
A LATE QUARTET -(Tues.-Wed., April 16-17: 7:00, 9:10) An all-star cast that includes Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Catherine Keener play members of a celebrated string quartet where the illness of one member unleashes a cascade of emotions and events that could be their ruin.