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Den of warlocks

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Den of Thieves comes out this week. There were no pre-screenings but don't let the title fool you, this one is not about politicians.

Instead, it appears to be a cross between a wannabe Heat and a Fast & Furious script that ended up in the garbage. The good news is, that doesn't sound that bad actually. Den of Thieves is a heist flick staring 50 Cent and Ice Cube's kid as part of a bad guy bank-robber crew that's so addicted to robbing banks that even when the heat is on them, they go after the L.A. Federal Reserve in hopes of hauling $80 to $120 billion out. (Their secret: crawling through the air ducts. Foolproof!)

On the good guys side, Gerard Butler (300) and Brian Van Holt (Wild) are two no-nonsense cops operating so far beyond the regular renegade cop playbook they actually call themselves the bad guys. Again, no pre-screeners for this (never a good sign in January), but I can tell you it's 140 minutes long (way too long) — though that might make it even more of a good/bad way to kill time (but really, it had you at 50 Cent and O'Shea Jackson Jr., didn't it?).

Also opening, without pre-screeners but with a butchered Tom Petty song in the trailer, 12 Strong seems to be some kind of Jerry Bruckheimer-produced super-elite war flick based on a book about 12 Americans who volunteered, post 9-11, to be the first wave into Afghanistan to exact justice and revenge. Apparently, and this is based on a true story, they had to ride horses into battle, make up "the playbook" as they went, and battle impossible odds to make the world safer... or more profitable for the industrial-military complex, depending on your viewpoint. In any case, those were simpler times, eh? (They weren't simple at all, but compared to a possible nuclear war/dick-measuring contest between a couple of world leaders best suited to a Looney Toons episode, 2001 does seem a bit rose-coloured these days.)

Anyhow, 12 Strong has a decent cast led by Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Michael Shannon (Midnight Special) as the leaders of the 12. Director Nicolai Fuglsig is new to Hollywood, which is another good sign (also his last name kinda rolls out nicely), but my instincts say that while the actual events (and book) about "the declassified true story of the Horse Soldiers" is probably very heroic, inspiring and nuanced, I suspect we will only get straight-up, Team America-style heroism in this one. I'm skipping it. (Also don't worry about that nuclear war I mentioned earlier. Well, worry about it, but not 'til after the Olympics. Because the crooks running the Olympics are gonna make sure they get paid. The International Olympic Committee is into some old-school, Euro witchcraft shit... Nukes are cute but those guys can shoot lightning bolts from their fingers and make you choke in your space helmet. That cash cow is so sacred, even the Russians won't step to it.)

The best movie out this week is not opening locally, perhaps because it was just here as part of the always-getting-awesomer Whistler Film Fest. I, Tonya will be playing in the city though, and it's worth a drive down. Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall Street, Suicide Squad) stars as '90s American figure-skating-star-turned-villain Tonya Harding who may or may not have been behind one of the biggest sports scandals ever. In 1994, Harding's U.S. national teammate Nancy Kerrigan was attacked and struck in the knee with a collapsible baton at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. The thug that did it, turns out, was hired by Tonya Harding's ex-husband (who was apparently a real dick), and pretty much everyone on Earth assumed Harding was involved so that she, not Kerrigan, could win nationals and represent America at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

There's always three sides to every story, however (watch Rashomon to prove that), and at least 1.5 sides of this one have never really come out. Robbie, who also produced, astounds as Harding, and director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, The Finest Hours) triple-Salchows up a very nuanced and engaging film based on "totally contradictory, totally true interviews." Objectivity and truth are on trial in this film, but have you ever watched Olympic figure skating? The whole game is subjective favouritism and bullshit. Plus, the wrinkly white dudes in charge can shoot laser beams out of their fingertips!! Beware.

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