Your weekend preview: What to see (and what to skip) in theatres this week

Your Weekend Preview: What To See (And What To Skip) In Theatres This Week

Stand please -- we have royalty in the house. Two time Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett talks to our Bonne Laufer Krebs about her new role as a neurotic architect and mother in Richard Linklater’s 19th film, Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Rating: B-plus), which also stars Billy Crudup and newcomer Emma Nelson as their teen daughter.  Reviewer Karen Gordon says this screwball comedy that takes a while to finds its heart: “It’s a bit wonky, but so is life.”

Viveik Kalra as Javed discovers The Boss in Blinded By The Light.

Viveik Kalra as Javed discovers The Boss in Blinded By The Light.

More lauded actresses  -- Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams – star in After The Wedding, an American remake of the Danish director Susanne Bier’s 2006 Oscar nominated drama, starring Williams as an Indian orphanage director who is offered a large bequest by multi-millionaire Julianne Moore (Billy Crudup’s in this one, too, as Moore’s husband.). Despite the pedigree of the cast, writes Karen Gordon, this remake fails to deliver emotionally.

Given the swarm of new movies with kids and teens, you’d think school was out or something.  First up there’s the provocative comedyGood Boys (B minus) follows three foul-mouthed pre-teen friends who get invited to a kissing party -- and decide to do some research on the boy-girl stuff. Reviewer Thom Ernst says he doubts anyone, least of all kids, will be genuinely shocked.  Blinded By The Light, based on the memoir of Pakistani-English journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, and directed by Bend It Like Beckham’s Gurinder Chadha, follows an aspiring teen-aged writer from a conservative Muslim family in suburban Britain who becomes obsessed with the liberating message of Bruce Springsteen. This Boss-meets-Bollywood confection, says critic Liam Lacey has some gritty elements but is mostly “smothered in a warm jelly of sentimentality.” 

Finally, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (D), offers a messy combination of teen girls in little bikinis and sharks with big appetites.

A more effective tale of the deep is Mine 9 (B), a taut indie film about Appalachian miners trapped in a cave-in a couple of miles underground, which our Jim Slotek says is handled with such verisimilitude, it seems as a true story even though it isn’t.

Sundance prize-winning documentary Cold Case Hammarskjöld has the opposite problem – it’s a true story (putatively) so outlandish it sounds like a work of spy fiction. Gonzo Danish director Mads Brügger sets out to learn about the 1961 death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld’s 1961 death and (possibly)  discovers a vast  conspiracy involving the South African government, foreign intelligence agencies, and a white supremacist militia group posing as health care workers

Have a great weekend.

Blinded by the Light: 80s-Era Coming of Age Tale Buoyed by Bollywood-ized Boss

By Liam Lacey

Rating: B-

I really enjoyed the trailer to Blinded by the Light, a movie about a Pakistani-English teenager, growing up in late-eighties England, who is inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen and takes a trip to New Jersey to visit the land of the Boss.

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As for the entire movie, it’s basically the same thing, only about 40 times as long with diminishing returns. The premise here — an appealing idea at the core of the cult of Bruce-ology —is that music can provide lonely people with an emotional roadmap. While I’m not sure why Desi kids would be obsessed with white Boomer rock idols (also see the movie Yesterday) the improbability of the crossover is part of the fun, like the country-rap hit “Old Town Road.”

Based on the 2008 memoir Greetings From Bury Park by Guardian journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, the film follows aspiring writer Javed (Viveik Kalra, with a doe-eyed, vulnerable pop-idol appeal) and his struggle to free himself from the constraining expectations of his conservative Muslim family. And while it’s mostly familiar Brit-com feel-good hugs and lessons, there are a few giddily mad moments.

The first time that Javed — a miserable young Pakistani-English teen living in the London factory suburb of Luton — puts on his Walkman earphones and cues “Dancing in the Dark” from Springsteen’s Born in the USA, the revelation is roughly on par with St. Paul on the road to Damascus or Moses watching the Red Sea part. Outside his parents’ townhouse, the thunder roars and the lightening cracks and Springsteen’s lyrics appear on the screen: “Man I ain't getting nowhere. I'm just living in a dump like this.”

Well, dump is a little harsh to describe Luton, which in 1987 was a functional suburb of London, centred around a Vauxhall auto factory. The upwardly mobile Khan family, consisting of Javed, mom, dad and teen sister Shazia, are the only non-whites in a lower-middle-class townhouse development. But things begin to look dire when the family patriarch, Malek (Kulvinder Ghir) gets laid off from his Vauxhall job, a demoralizing blow which only hardens his resolve that his son study economics and never forget that he’s a Pakistani. That seems unlikely, given the daily presence of racist skinheads, who chase Javed home from school or inscribe alley walls with swastikas and racist slurs.

Though Javed initially feels like a misfit at his new multicultural pre-university college, it proves a breakthrough. His nice white teacher (Hayley Atwell) singles him out for his writing talent. But the big break comes when his cocky Sikh schoolmate Roops (Aaron Phagura) exposes him to the music of Springsteen. Through the music, Javed finds the confidence to pursue his dreams. That includes getting up the nerve to ask out Eliza (Nell Williams), a rich kid socialist with a Bananarama hair bow, and showing his heartfelt poetry to his writing teacher, which sets him toward his future writing career.

Blinded by the Light is directed and adapted by Gurinder Chadha, best known for her girl soccer film, Bend It Like Beckham (2002) which is a template for this film. While Chadha includes a few gritty nuggets about the psychological cost of immigration, the problems are mostly smothered in a warm jelly of sentimentality, a surfeit of stock characters and an exhausting succession of feel-good breakthroughs.

Springsteen provided 17 songs, which makes the entire movie feel like a sort of a greatest hits rock video. These numbers are deployed like heavy artillery whenever Javed has something big and emotional on his mind. The music booms and he recites or lip-syncs the lyrics, even if they don’t exactly fit the narrative. I mean, what girl wouldn’t swoon to “You ain’t a beauty but, hey, you’re alright?”

At these moments, Blinded by the Light teeters on the edge of Boss meets Bollywood jukebox musical, though Chadha doesn’t fully commit, which is understandable. Despite Springsteen’s West Side Story resonances, his mumble-and-bellow arrangements are a poor fit with the ensemble choreography. The sequences here resemble those accidentally surreal karaoke-bar videos, where the songs and the randomly matched visuals appear to have been assembled by people communicating their deepest thoughts via Google translate.

Blinded by the Light. Directed by Gurinder Chadra. Written by Safraz Manzoor, Gurinder Chadra, and Paul Mayeda Berges. Starring Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams and Aaron Phagura. Opens wide August 16.


Your Weekend Preview: What To See (And What To Skip) In The Theatres

By Original-Cin Staff

Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (Rating: B-) is a spin-off — or is that a spin-out? — of the spies and cars franchise, with the expected globe-hopping chases, comic-book fights, and macho banter. Dwayne Johnson, whose likeability is the main redeeming feature here, plays agent Luke Hobbs, with Jason Statham as former rival Decker Shaw, who team up to fight bad guy, Brixton Lore (Idris Elba). The movie aside, we can definitely vouch for the entertainment value of Jim Slotek’s review.

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Palestinian-set, Israeli-backed comedy, Tel Aviv on Fire (Rating: B) follows an aspiring writer on a schlocky, popular Palestinian soap opera, who gets his story ideas from an overbearing Israeli checkpoint guard. Precariously glib as that sounds, reviewer Liam Lacey says it mostly works: The focus on Israeli-Palestinian shared culture is novel, and the send-up of the soap opera style is fun even in translation. For another dose of intercultural understanding, there’s the well-meaning if unsurprising doc, Free Trip to Egypt (Rating: B-) in which an Egyptian-Canadian entrepreneur takes seven conservative Americans on a tour of Egypt to meet real-life Muslims.

David Crosby: Remember My Name (Rating: B+) is a documentary about the mellow-voiced singer/songwriter of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame. Our reviewer Karen Gordon says this doc, in which Crosby is interviewed by Cameron Crowe, is an unflinching look at Crosby’s personal and professional failures which still finding “grace notes in the world.”

For dessert, we have Honeyland (Rating: A), an award-winning documentary which follows the daily life of a middle-aged Macedonian wild honey gatherer, the last of her kind, and what happens when a raucous Turkish family moves in next door. Reviewer Liam Lacey describes this exceptionally beautiful is a “real life fable” about humans and their relationship to the environment.

Have a great weekend.