Battle of the Year opens this week at the Whistler Village 8, but don't feel bad if you haven't heard of it. The world doesn't really need another one of those cookie cutter, underdog, dance movies but we got one — with a breakdancing team this time!
A band of individualistic misfits aims to defeat those nimble Koreans and bring the B-Boy Championship back to America. (Where it belongs, yo!) To do that, the entire crew must hole up in an old juvenile detention centre with an ex-basketball coach and a sassy choreographer. Anyone wanna guess how it ends?
There's nothing wrong with stupid dance movies, (they're great for hangovers) but this one stars pop star Chris Brown, who pled guilty to beating his girlfriend in 2009. I believe people can change, but my opinion of dudes who hit chicks isn't gonna, so I'm not supporting a movie that puts non-actor Chris Brown in a minor role just to sell tickets.
Also opening is Prisoners, the first English language film from Quebecois filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Polytechnique). This one is an unsettling, suspense-torture flick about the distraught families of two young girls who disappear one Thanksgiving after playing near a creepy looking motorhome earlier in the day. When a suspect is apprehended then released for lack of evidence, one of the fathers (Hugh Jackman) takes matters into his own hands and has to go toe-to-toe with the odd-but-effective detective on the case (Jake Gyllenhaal).
Prisoners is incredibly shot by master cinematographer Roger Deakins (Fargo, Shawshank Redemption) and Villeneuve elevates tension to levels rarely seen. Combined with a solid cast that includes Terrence Howard and always hot (even when medicated) Maria Bello, Prisoners is worth checking out. At 146 minutes it's a bit long and loses a lot of intellectual steam at the end, but for the most part this is a watchable micro-drama of guilt, vengeance, suffering and redemption. It's also pretty intense and borderline abduction-torture porn — for anyone with children, this is a real nightmare.
Sticking with that theme, Blackfish is a grim documentary about Orcas (killer whales) living in captivity in places like Sea World. Through interviews with ex-whale trainers and experts, the film follows the story of Tilicum, a young male orca herded, captured and kidnapped from his family back in the '70s then thrust into a life of tiny holding tanks, whale-on-whale aggression and daily "performances" before crowds of thousands. And along the way he eats a couple people, starting with a trainer in Sealand, a long-closed ghetto-attraction in Victoria BC, and most recently in Sea World Orlando in 2010, where Tilicum tore his top trainer to shreds before an audience of thousands.
BlackFish is a heartbreaking film that builds a pretty straightforward case about the inherent barbarism of capturing and imprisoning animals that are probably more emotionally complex than we are. Orcas can live up to 100 years in the wild and the families stay together until death. In captivity their fins sag, they die after 30 - 40 years and quite frequently attack and kill their trainers. (There are more than 70 "incidents" acknowledged in the film, all of them spun with cover-ups and lies to protect the big business of selling Shamu dolls and filling stadiums.)
In the wild there has never been a reported case of an orca attacking a human, but as one trainer puts it, "Wouldn't you be a little pissed off if you were confined to a bathtub for thirty years?" It's hard not to cheer for the whales and Blackfish truly illustrates just how barbaric humankind's actual relationship with nature is.
Hit their website blackfishthemovie.com to find a screening near you.
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