Monday Movies: Closed Circuit and In a World

Closed Circuit is a thoughtful if tepid look at how the modern state can secretly abuse its power

Eric Bana stars in Closed Circuit

Eric Bana stars in Closed Circuit

Short Circuit

 

Getting full marks for timeliness (if not a lot else), the political thriller Short Circuit is a thoughtful if tepid look at how the modern state can secretly abuse its power. The film opens with a dozen different images of anonymous shoppers in an open-air market in London: it’s real-time footage from surveillance cameras, and is meant to remind us that this is one of the most security-conscious cities in the world. Suddenly the separate images combine into one massive explosion as a terrorist truck bomb kills 120 innocents.

The next day a Turkish national is arrested, and two lawyers – Martin Rose (Eric Bana) and Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) – are appointed by the Attorney General (the great Jim Broadbent) as the man’s council. The matter is highly political, and parts of the case against the alleged bomber involve state secrets that can only be revealed in closed court. Dark currents are flowing beneath the surface, and when Martin digs a little he wonders if his client isn’t actually a mole working for MI5, Britain’s domestic security service. Aware they are being spied on, and now convinced that the “suicide” of a lawyer previously involved with the case may have been a state-sanctioned murder, the two lawyers find themselves desperately pondering how much they are prepared to risk to see the truth come out.

All the elements of a fine film are here. The two lawyers have a sour romantic history that adds a layer of tension as they try to piece together the truth of their case. There are suspenseful episodes of skullduggery and violence as agents do whatever it takes to spare the government catastrophic embarrassment. And the cast is excellent – especially Broadbent, who is deliciously poisonous as the consummately soulless politician who believes that “justice” must be stage managed on occasion. But nothing quite gels, and this feels like an over-refined version of the hit TV show MI5.

Rating: ★★½

Short Circuit continues at the Odeon, SilverCity and Westshore

 

 

Finding her voice: In a World

Written and directed by as well as starring Lake Bell (It’s Complicated, No Strings Attached), In A World is one of those rare contemporary comedies that actually has something on its mind. Bell stars as Carol, an under-achieving vocal coach who lives in the shadow of her overbearing father, Sam (Fred Melamed), who is a legend in the world of “voice artists” who do the narration for movie trailers and national ads.

As the movie starts Sam is evicting 30-year-old Carol from his house because he wants to install his newest girlfriend in her place. Carol, a hapless slacker finally confronted with the need to earn rent, has no choice but to try harder on the work front. Unexpectedly she gets hired as the voice of a big ad campaign – stealing the contract out from under one of the country’s biggest voice stars in the process. And in a business that is almost entirely a boy’s club, this has repercussions that echo throughout the film.

As we watch Carol literally and metaphorically finding her voice in an industry that – like Hollywood itself – is often hostile to female interests, it’s not hard to figure out the theme of World. But Bell tackles the subject with sly aplomb, and also has the good sense to cast Geena Davis in an acerbic cameo as a film executive producing a ‘tweener movie akin to the Twilight series. (Her acidic comments about the romance-fantasy genre are a brutally amusing complement to the movie’s feminist perspective.) Well acted, funny, and insightful, World is worth a visit.

Rating: ★★★

In A World continues at the Odeon

 

 

PERFECTLY POTABLE:

Let’s visit California via Apothic, a high-powered red blend that combines Zinfandel, Syrah, and Merlot. The aromas and flavours are a heady mix of chocolate, dark fruit, black cherry, vanilla, and pepper. There is more than a hint of sweetness here, and Apothic may not thrill every palate. But it is a well-made crowd pleaser that is like a mature version of Yellow Tail. Solid value at $17.

 

Weekly film listings:

 

Film OPENING

RIDDICK -(Odeon/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) Vin Diesel blasts back into outer space for the latest iteration of this gory and terrifying sci-fi series about a fugitive who once again finds himself battling alien predators and bounty hunters who want his head — literally.

THE ATTACK -(Odeon) This well-reviewed drama features an Arab surgeon living in Tel Aviv who uncovers a dark secret about his wife in the wake of a suicide bombing.

★★★  THIS IS THE END -(Empire 6) In this truly wacked comedy, stars such as Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and Jonah Hill play themselves as they party at James Franco’s house — only to find themselves confronting a terrifying, demon-filled apocalypse. Although a bit oversold and rather slapdash, this is very funny (and very rude).

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY- (Caprice) In this prequel to the 2001 animated smash about fuzzy plush-toy monsters, we go back to the early days when Sully (John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal) met at university.

 

CONTINUING

★★★★ BLUE JASMINE -(Odeon) Cate Blanchett is headed for an Oscar nomination for her role as an emotionally fragile woman struggling to recover after her life as a glamorous socialite implodes. Complete with a great cast, this is one of Woody Allen’s best films. Ever.

CHENNAI EXPRESS -(Empire 6) South India is the setting for this exuberant, Bollywood-style action-comedy starring Shah Rukh Khan.

★★½ CLOSED CIRCUIT – (Empire 6/Empire Uni 4) Eric Bana stars in a timely albeit disappointingly tepid British political thriller about a lawyer asked to represent a man accused of a terrorist bombing. When he looks a little too deeply into the case, Britain’s security apparatus starts to take a threatening interest in his activities. See review.

THE CROODS – (Caprice) 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.

★★½ DESPICABLE ME 2 – (Westshore) The 2010 original, about a loathsome criminal mastermind who was reformed by the love of three young orphan girls, was a goofy delight. The sequel, although still clever, is much more scattershot, with an unimaginative plot and unwelcome dashes of mean  spiritedness. Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, and Russell Brand supply the voices.

★★½ ELYSIUM -(Odeon/SilverCity) Matt Damon and Jodie Foster star in a futuristic sci-fi thriller where the Earth has become a polluted ghetto and the lucky few get to live in luxury on a floating space station orbiting languidly above. Well, that’s about to change. It’s hard to argue with the politics, but this new film by the writer-director of District 9 is too heavy-handed and cliched to take seriously.

FRUITVALE STATION -(Odeon) There is lots of buzz around this truth-based reenactment of the turbulent last day of a young black man in 2008.

★★ THE GETAWAY -(SilverCity/Empire 6) Ethan Hawke stars in a kinetic but stunningly simple-minded thriller about a gifted race car driver who gets blackmailed into doing the bidding of a dangerous man with a mysterious agenda.

GROWN UPS 2 -(Caprice) Despite the name, expect the humour to be decidedly juvenile in this amiable raunchfest about the reunion of five school buddies, who have aged but not matured. Starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider and David Spade.

★★★ THE GRANDMASTER -(Odeon) Art film auteur Kar Wai Wong (In The Mood For Love) directs his first martial arts epic with this absorbing, gorgeously filmed account of the legendary martial-arts teacher Ip Man (who coached Bruce Lee). Starring the great Tony Leung (Hero) and Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

★★★ IN A WORLD -(Odeon) There’s a well-deserved  buzz around this sly feminist comedy about an underachieving vocal coach who finally becomes motivated to break into the male-dominated world of movie voice-overs. See review.

JOBS -(Empire 6) Ashton Kutcher stars in a promising portrait of Steve Jobs, the college dropout who started a computer revolution that helped define and beautify the wireless world.

KICK-ASS 2 -(Caprice) Expect more hard-edged laughs and jokey violence in this sequel to the big hit about a teenage girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) who was trained as a vigilante by her father. The costars include Jim Carrey, Morris Chestnut, and John Leguizamo.

LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER -(Odeon/Empire Uni 4) Forest Whitaker heads up an amazing cast in a drama about a black butler at the White House whose long tenure there overlapped with many powerful domestic and international political events. Costarring Vanessa Redgrave, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Terrence Howard, James Marsden, Jane Fonda and Alan Rickman.

★★½ THE HEAT -(Caprice) In this raucous and sometimes hit-and-miss comedy from Paul Feig (Knocked Up), Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) play odd-couple cops who will have to learn to work together if they are to stand a chance of taking down the drug lord who’s their assigned target.

★★ THE LONE RANGER -(Caprice) More proves to be less, as the classic western TV show from the 1950s that featured a masked lawman and his Native American sidekick gets a predictably bombastic treatment from director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean). Starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer.

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES -(Empire 6/SilverCity/Westshore) Only the bones were left after the critics universally savaged this derivative, overwrought tale of a young woman who discovers that she has unusual powers as she gets drawn into a battle involving a band of angel-like creatures struggling to squash a demonic threat to the entire world.

ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US – (SilverCity/Westshore) This musical documentary chronicles the meteoric rise of Niall, Zayn, Louis and Harry from their small-town beginnings to world fame as boy-band superstars.

★★★½ PACIFIC RIM – (Caprice) Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) helms this Transformers-ish epic about monsters that attack Earth and are opposed by giant robots controlled by human “pilots.” This is a skillfully directed and highly imaginative tribute to all those schlocky Godzilla movies of old.

★★ PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS -(Empire 6/SilverCity) In this newest addition to the blandly derivative fantasy series that riffs on Greek mythology, the half-human son of Poseidon and his buddies embark on a magical quest to find the Golden Fleece in order to stop an ancient evil from destroying the world.

PLANES -(Empire 6/SilverCity/Westshore) The same people who made Cars have taken to the skies with a similar family-friendly animated tale about a crop-dusting plane with dreams of winning a famous aerial race.

★★½ RED 2 -(Roxy, 9 pm) Newcomer Anthony Hopkins joins Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Bruce Willis, and Mary-Louise Parker as they reprise their roles as retired CIA “black ops” agents marked for death by their own agency. Although not as good as the 2010 original, this is entertaining enough, mostly due to the sly dialogue and killer performances.

SMURFS 2 -(SilverCity/Westshore) The blue munchkins are back for more pint-sized adventures, this one involving a sorcerer and a diabolical kidnapping.

★ R.I.P.D. -(Caprice) Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds star in a dismal action comedy that is nothing more than a crass ripoff of Men In Black. Bridges, who plays an “undead cop” who patrols the Earth looking for weird monsters to exterminate, should probably return the Oscar he received for Crazy Heart.

TURBO -(Caprice) The latest from Dreamworks Animation is a family comedy about an ordinary garden snail who acquires magic powers – and the chance to achieve his dream of winning the Indy 500. With the voices of Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph, and Samuel L. Jackson.

★★½ THE WORLD’S END -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) In a disappointing but occasionally funny follow-up from the makers of Shaun of the Dead, five old friends reunite for a pub crawl only to find themselves in a droll sci-fi action-adventure of epic proportions. Starring Simon Pegg.

★★½ WE’RE THE MILLERS -(Westshore/SilverCity) Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston star in a crass comedy about a long-time pot dealer who hires a stripper and two feral teens to pretend to be his middle class family as cover for when he smuggles a massive load of weed across the border from Mexico to the States. Intermittently quite funny, this is a case of talented performers struggling with a second-rate script.

★★★ WOLVERINE -(SilverCity/Westshore) Hairy-faced and Adamantium-clawed Hugh Jackman travels to Japan to confront the diabolical Silver Samurai, in an entertaining Marvel Comics smackdown that combines X-Men flair with martial arts and Yakuza elements. Directed by James Mangold (Walk The Line, 3:10 to Yuma).

★★★ WORLD WAR Z -(Roxy,7pm) Countries topple and armies shatter in the face of a zombie pandemic, as a shaggy-haired Brad Pitt tries to save the world. This is an intense and intelligent movie that uses zombies to embody the more plausible horror of a SARS-like threat to the planet.

 

IMAX

FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES- (2pm)

KENYA: ANIMAL KINGDOM – (11am, 3 pm)

★★½ MAN OF STEEL -(Fri.-Sat & Thurs., 8 pm; Sun.-Wed., 7 pm)

★★★½ ROCKY MOUNTAIN EXPRESS -(Fri.-Sat., & Thurs., 7 pm)

★★★½ SHACKLETON’S ANTARCTIC ADVENTURE -(noon, 5 pm)

 

SCREENINGS

MOVIE MONDAY – is screening Looking For Richard, for which Al Pacino put on his director’s cap to chronicle this behind-the-scenes look at the complicated efforts to take the Bard’s Richard III and transform it into film. Starring Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Winona Ryder, and Alec Baldwin. 6:30 pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. By donation. 595-FLIC. moviemonday.ca..

 

CINECENTA

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

★★★ THE BLING RING -(Fri.-Sat., Sept. 6-7: 7:10, 9:00) Sofia Coppola does an excellent job directing this fact-based account of fashion-obsessed — and morally vacant — L.A. teens who use the Internet to track their favourite celebrities … and then rob their homes of clothes and jewelry.

CRYSTAL FAIRY & THE MAGICAL CACTUS -(Sun.-Mon., Sept. 8-9: 7:00, 9:00) Although Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad) usually plays a cute nerd, in this quirky drama he’s a toad-like boor who finds himself in a strange battle of wills with a radical free spirit named Crystal Fairy. Things get wild when they start tripping on hallucinogenic mushrooms…

★★★★ HANNAH ARENDT – (Tues.-Wed., Sept. 10-11: 7, 9:10pm) Celebrated German director Margarethe von Trotta directs this gripping account of philosopher Hannah Arendt, focusing on the moral complexity at the heart of her coverage of the war-crimes trial of Adolph Eichmann.

GMO OMG -(Thurs., Sept. 12: 7:15 only) Anyone concerned with the world’s food supply should check out this documentary about the genetic alteration of food, and how the global food industry has become unjust and destructive. To be followed by a panel discussion.

 

 

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