Master Of Disaster
I have been a huge fan of PT Anderson from the outset and consider his films to be highly artistic, thoughtful, and gutsy. Whether portraying the history of the California porn industry (Boogie Nights) or presenting an epic allegory of American greed and chicanery (There Will Be Blood), this five-time Oscar nominee combines stylistic innovation with bold themes. His new opus, The Master, won all the best hardware at the Venice Film Festival and has had most North American critics swooning from all the excitement. Sorry to spoil the party, but this portrait of a cult figure clearly inspired by sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard, creator of long-infamous Scientology, is a dud. Even A-list actors and great production values can’t make it anything other than an opaque meander through strange psychological terrain.
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Freddie Quell, a seaman during the Second World War who has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — although it’s equally likely that his propensity for binge drinking and violence is the result of an alienated childhood. He comes under the sway of Lancaster Dodd, a.k.a. The Master (the masterly Philip Seymour Hoffman), a charismatic con artist who rips off wealthy dupes who’ve fallen for the promise of emotional healing via a bizarre “therapeutic” regimen meant to awaken its practitioners to the meaning of their past lives. At the film’s core is the intense and ambivalent relationship between the suavely plump Dodd and his erratic quasi-son, who seems incapable of rising above his baser instincts.
Master is wonderfully acted and gorgeously filmed, but also talky and obscure, falling far short of illuminating the nasty world of Scientology. And Master is so involved with the peculiarities and perversities of its fictional characters that it has nothing to say about a truly compelling sister subject: that great, peculiarly American enthusiasm for self-improvement that has spawned everything from Dale Carnegie to EST. Although Anderson’s latest film looks big and important, it will leave most viewers wondering what all the excitement is about. Call it There Will Be Bloodlessness.
The Master ★★
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Price Carson
R – 137 minutes
Continues at the Odeon
Loopy for ‘Looper’
We shift from past lives to a unique look at time travel as a great way for the Mob to get rid of unwanted people in Looper, a sci-fi-tinged gangster flick. The way it works is that time travel exists 30 years in the future, although it is highly illegal. Mobsters have sent one of their own back to our present day to hire a gang of so-called “loopers” who stand by at a pre-arranged time, shotgun in hand, ready to execute anyone sent back from the future — thus ensuring a truly undetectable murder victim. Things get, well, loopy when ruthless killer Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) fails to kill his own future self (amusingly played by Bruce Willis). This is against the rules — don’t ask — and not only are Joe and Old Joe being pursued by a crew of fellow loopers, but they are mostly out to kill each other, too.
If this sounds like a muddle, rest assured: although the movie has many more complications than there is room to go into here, the plot is nonetheless easy to follow. It is also a great deal of fun, thanks to a sly mix of genre flashiness and some interesting moral and philosophical questions. Throw in good supporting performances by Emily Blunt as a girl worth falling in love with and Jeff Daniels as a crime boss worth killing and you’ve got yourself a movie worth watching. M
Directed by Rian Johnson
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis
R – 118 minutes — Continues at the Odeon, Westshore, and SilverCity
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 kidnapper that Neeson killed in the last movie. Starts Fri.
FRANKENWEENIE -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore) Tim Burton, master of the amusingly morbid, looks to be in fine form in this darkly droll animated tale of a boy who uses electricity to bring his beloved pooch back from the dead. Starts Fri.
★★ THE BOURNE LEGACY -(Odeon) 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?
★★★ DREDD 3D -(Odeon/Caprice) Despite being often one-dimensional, this sci-fi thriller set in a fascist future where supercops act as judge, jury, and executioner has loads of style and a neatly dank visual look. Note: moves from SilverCity to the Caprice on Fri.
★★★½ END OF WATCH -(Capitol/SilverCity/Uni 4) Jake Gyllenhaal stars in a gripping and very realistic crime drama about a pair of L.A. cops who are marked for death after they confiscate some drugs and guns from a violent cartel.
★★★★ FINDING NEMO 3D -(SilverCity/Westshore) The classic Pixar tale of a clown fish from the Great Barrier Reef who goes looking for her missing son gets a ninth anniversary relaunch in 3D. With the great character voices of Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres.
★★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. Note: moves here Friday from the Westshore.
★★★ HOPE SPRINGS -(Odeon/Caprice) Meryl Streep can’t endure her marriage any more and drags her reluctant husband (Tommy Lee Jones) off to intensive couple’s counselling to try to revive intimacy and romance. Although the trailers make this look like a comedy it’s really a dramedy that does a good, although sometimes heavy-handed, analysis of a dying marriage.
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.
HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET -(SilverCity/Westshore) It’s horror time again as a mother and daughter move to a new town and buy a house right next door to where a young girl slaughtered her parents. And wouldn’t you know it, the nightmare isn’t over yet.
★★★½ LAWLESS -(Caprice) This extremely violent, western-flavoured drama set during the Depression features a clan of Virginia moonshiners who don’t appreciate it when a new special deputy rolls into town demanding a big cut of their profits. Starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, and Guy Pearce. Based on a true story. Note: moves here Friday from the Westshore.
★★★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. See review.
★★ 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. See review.
★★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.
★★★½ QUEEN OF VERSAILLES -(Odeon) Anyone curious about the lifestyles of the filthy rich should enjoy this documentary chronicling the rise and fall of a billionaire couple who spend zillions on an über-mansion inspired by Versailles, only to see their tacky dreams get hammered by the recent financial collapse.
★★ RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION -(Capitol/SilverCity) The ever-gorgeous zombie stomper Milla Jovovich is back for more gory, ass-kicking action in the fifth iteration of this popular sci-horror series.
★★½ TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE -(Capitol/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore) 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.
★★½ WON’T BACK DOWN -(Capitol/SilverCityy) Two mothers determined to fight for the best-possible education for their kids take on an intransigent teachers’ union, in a based-on-real-events movie with a heavy-handed message (that has infuriated unions). If you don’t like the politics, focus on the strong performances from Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Holly Hunter.
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.
★★★½ FAREWELL, MY QUEEN -(Odeon)
★★½ ROBOT & FRANK -(Odeon)
★★½ THE CAMPAIGN -(Caprice)
★★★ THE DARK KNIGHT RISES -(Caprice)
★★★½ MOONRISE KINGDOM -(Caprice)
MOVIE MONDAY – Is screening *** The Descendants. The newest film from Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, Sideways) stars George Clooney as a wealthy man who has to rebuild relationships with his daughters after his wife has a terrible accident. Although episodic and digressive, this is an affecting drama. By donation. 6:30pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. 595FLIC. moviemonday.ca
AWARENESS FILM NIGHT -The 18th season for AFN begins with Transition 2.0, an inspirational doc featuring stories from around the globe where groups have created sustainable communities and become less dependent on oil and imported goods. WEDNESDAY, Oct. 10, 7 pm, at Edward Milne Community School theatre, 6218 Sooke Road.
THE RETURN OF DEDFEST! -Yes, zombie lovers, your fave event has come creepily back to life for another day and night of delicious terror. There are four films to snack on: Creepshow, V/H/S, Famine, and the original Night of the Living Dead. People start dying at 3:30 on SATURDAY at the Vic Theatre, 808 Douglas Street.
VICTORIA FILM FEST JUDGING -The VFF is inviting the public to a series of screenings of short documentaries to help select the entries for next year’s Fest. The “View & Vote” screenings take place every MONDAY over lunch hour at the downtown public library. For info, call 250-389-0444.
Cinecenta at UVic screens its films in the Student Union Building. Info: 721-8365. cinecenta.com.
★★★★ BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD -(Wed.-Thurs., Oct. 3-4: 7:00, 9:00) Nothing but raves have greeted this unusual and touching drama, which uses moments of magic realism to portray the inner life of a young girl who is part of a small community of poor Louisiana folk who live entirely “off the grid.”
2 DAYS IN NEW YORK -(Fri.-Sat., Oct. 5-6: 3:00, 7:00, 9:00) Esteemed French actress Julie Delpy directs this cerebral comedy about a familial and cultural clash set in NYC.
★★★ MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED -(Sat.-Sun., Oct. 6-7: 1:00 matinee) Those mouthy NYC zoo escapees are up to their usual colourful antics in a wittily entertaining animation romp.
★★★ THE INTOUCHABLES -(Sun., Oct. 7: 3:00, 7:00, 9:15 & Mon.-Tues., Oct. 8-9: 7:00, 9:15) This funny and heart-warming French film features a wealthy aristocrat, a quadriplegic after a hang-gliding accident, who gets more than he bargained for when he hires a rough-edged black man from the projects to be his care aid. Based on a true story.
COAST MODERN -(Wed., Oct. 10: 7:00 only & Thurs., Oct. 11: 7:00, 9:00) West Coast modernist architecture is the subject of this Canadian documentary, which combines informed commentary with great visuals of many iconic private and public buildings. NOTE: Filmmaker Q&A after the Wed. show.
NOTE: imax closes at 6 pm on october 4
★★★ 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)
AIR RACERS -(noon, 2 pm, 5 pm & 7 pm, Sun.-Wed.) Paul Walker narrates this pulse-pounding documentary about the world’s fastest race, as amazingly nimble planes negotiate a tricky course at 500 MPH.
★★½ PARANORMAN – (3:40pm Sat and Sun) 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.
★★★ MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED – (2pm Sunday) Those mouthy NYC zoo escapees are up to their usual colourful antics in a wittily entertaining animation romp.
★★★ ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT -(2pm Saturday) After their continent is set adrift, Manny, Diego, and Sid have some crazy, rollicking, humour-filled adventures. This is very fine family entertainment.
Premium Rush — (14A) 7pm Friday to Thrusday
The expendables — (14A) 8:40pm Friday to Thursday