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More dapper action in Kingsman The Golden Circle, an inspiring Stronger and a third-rate Lego movie

Also Ben Stiller feels inferior Brad’s Status and Joan Collins is back in diva form in The Time of Their Lives

With VIFF almost here –starts Thursday – these events could be a good prelude. They’re both at the VanCity Theatre. 

Saturday an early “masterpiece” by one of the festivals’ stars will be shown. Memories of Murder is about a police hunt for a serial killer that The Guardian called "A tour-de-force." South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho made is in 2003. This year he’ll be bringing his new one, Okja which has also been highly praised. 

Sunday is Art House Theatre Day which includes a free screening of a Buster Keaton classic (Sherlock Jr.), a film about small town movie theatres and a repeat of an excellent documentary about a trove of silent films, including newsreels, recovered in the Yukon some years ago.

Visit viff.org for more information and the list below for what’s new in town.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle:  2 ½ stars

Stronger:  3 ½

The LEGO Ninjago Movie:  2

Brad’s Status:  3

The Time of Their Lives:  2 ½

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KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE: Here’s proof again that movies aren’t comic books. There are some things you can’t do, like throwing out logic for instance. This film does that in spades and achieves the unique effect of being inane, moronic, silly and fun, all in one over-long package. Luckily nothing lasts in your mind when it’s over, except perhaps the prospect of another sequel if it makes any money. The first film did, it’s made lots of it, and so we have this second and its expensive excesses. Look at the cast. Joining the spy mentor-and-student duo of Colin Firth and Taron Egerton, are Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Elton John and others. That’s Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) in the photo with them.

 

But wait a minute. Didn’t Colin Firth’s character die in the first film? Yes but he’s back and so is another character. Colin was rescued by some American private spies, who, like the dapper Brits in their Saville Row storefront, work under cover of a particularly emblematic business, a bourbon distillery in Kentucky. Colin is in their care suffering serious amnesia and a boyhood interest in butterflies. He’ll have to be shocked out of that eventually, because the two spy outfits have a super villain to fight. That would be Julianne Moore as Poppy, the world’s biggest drug dealer who is trying to coerce the American president (Bruce Greenwood) into legalizing drugs. She operates out of a compound designed like a 1950s main street and soda shop where she stuffs opponents into a meat grinder and serves them as hamburgers and robot dogs do her bidding and Sir Elton entertains (until he gets angry). An impossibly wild car chase opens the film for no particular reason and that’s followed by a lot of other action that we hardly care about. Except for the overexcited thrills, that is. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and many suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5  

STRONGER: A spectacularly good cast make us face up to another side of a common story. It’s a recurring one in the news when terrorists attack. We get all we need about the hunt for the perpetrators but rarely much about the aftermath for the victims. This film bares the physical and emotional ordeal of a man who was right there at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon when the bombs went off and he lost his legs. Publicly he was a hero of sorts. He helped the FBI with what he saw, reclaimed his life on a pair of prosthetic legs and was honored at both major league baseball and hockey games. Boston Strong. The slogan fit him as much as the city.

Privately Jeff Bauman was a mess and Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting bares it fully and truthfully, though maybe a bit too subtly. We’ve seen stories like his before. This one avoids a big climax, won’t make you cry and just tells it without exaggerating. That’s probably closer to reality but does hold back the film’s impact and makes it feel longer than it is. Gyllenhaal gets across the guilt and depression hiding behind the determination. Tatiana Maslany, as his girlfriend, has several highly emotional scenes with him in which she has to show support but not too much and not let out how his pain affects her. It’s a tricky balance well-directed by David Gordon Green. There’s also a strong family around Jeff, some angry at anything (including reporters) and his mother (Miranda Richardson, excellent) who is both loving and controlling. There’s no trafficking in pity in this film and the medical and adjusting-to-disability scenes are uncomfortable but not gross.  (5th Avenue and a few suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5 

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