It's that time of the month. The Whistler Arts Council Monthly Doc Night Series continues this Wednesday, March 27 with a screening of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry at Millennium Place.
Ai Weiwei is a renowned Chinese artist who's political and social activism is almost inseparable from his art. Current events fans will recall that Ai Weiwei was actually nabbed by the Chinese secret police a couple years ago and held prisoner for no particular reason other than that he must have been doing something right.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry director Alison Klayman captures the playful dissidence of an artist waging a continuous campaign against a nation and society entrenched in censorship and secrecy. 54-year-old Weiwei has been called "China's Andy Warhol" and his fight for societal transparency creative/political freedom is set perfectly against a backdrop of a Chinese society both historically tyrannical but also seeming on the cusp of real change. This is a great flick.
On the opposite end of the artistic spectrum (but strangely thematically similar), G.I. Joe Retaliation is also opening Wednesday night at the Whistler Village 8. This time around the "Joes" have to fight both COBRA and their own government, which has been infiltrated at the highest level. Directed by John Chu (Step Up 3-D, Justin Bieber Never Say Never) and starring big action names like The Rock, Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum, this one is PG-13 and 94 minutes long. It won't change your life but it has Ninjas, and that counts for a lot.
Opening this Friday, The Croods is an animated caveman family road-trip movie from the guy who made How to Train Your Dragon. When a Land Before Time- style cataclysm hits a Neanderthal family (plus one tagalong homo sapiens) they take to the road in search of a new home and a way to evolve, literally.
Rather than a history lesson, the filmmakers set this tale in an entirely fantastical version of earth, with poppy CGI landscapes and imaginative animals leaping up all over the place. The humour is mostly slapstick and the voice casting is top notch (Nic Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener) but the characters are still a bit one-note and with such a fantastical world careening around almost randomly, it's hard to discern what's really at stake. Visually impressive and well worth the 3D, this one should be popular among little kids and simpletons who just want to see people fly across the screen, crash into things, and then have something heavy fall onto their head.
Also opening Friday is Olympus Has Fallen, the latest from Training Day director Antoine Fuqua. When the President of the U.S. of A gets taken hostage inside the White House the hopes of the world rest on one man, a disgraced ex-presidential guard/badass played by Gerard Butler. It's Die Hard in the White House, borrowing heavily from that 1988 classic to form a by-the-numbers action flick with a bit more violence than usual (lots of great stabbings in this one).
But Fuqua throws down a pretty kick-ass genre flick. Olympus has Fallen features some nice choreographed violence and destruction that tiptoes into John Woo territory and is tense, violent, full of foul language and very "America! F*ck Yeah!" I like it.
Not opening in Whistler this week but worth seeking out is Harmony Korine's (Kids, Gummo) latest flick Spring Breakers, a sex and violence flick that puts former squeaky clean Disney actresses in bikinis then gives them drugs, guns and James Franco. Is Spring Breakers subversive social critique? Grindhouse fetishism? Cinematic chaos for chaos' sake? Who knows, but it looks awesome.