More theatres are now open again. Here in Vancouver, two of the key venues, International Village and 5th Avenue are back. They’re both showing the new Spongebob Movie, probably because Canada gets a head start on the U.S. with that one. (IV has it in five rooms). Paramount wouldn’t give me a preview, though. But I had lots to cover anyway.

And notice that while we’re still waiting for Tenet, the film that was to be the big one this summer, Warner Brothers has released Inception, which is also by Christopher Nolan and quite possibly a similar mind trip. We’re supposed to get Tenet in a couple of weeks, later than Australia, but again, earlier than the U.S.

Already here or newly streaming are these flicks ...

Unhinged: 3½ stars

Crash: 2½

Project Power: 2½

The Great Green Wall: 4

Things I Do For Money: 3

Valley of the Gods: 3

UNHINGED: Russell Crowe makes a great villain and you’ll have a scary good time if you’re up for it. It’s quite likely that your heart will be racing and that you’ll be gasping through some of these 90 minutes. I haven’t felt as much suspense in a movie in some time and here it is relentless, single-purposed and not weighed down by subtext and other matters to interpret. Just an intense confrontation that will support any trepidation you have about driving in a city these days. You have no idea what other motorists may do.

Courtesy VVS Films

Like Crowe in his over-sized pickup, honked at for being slow at a green light, upset when he asks for some civility and only gets an insincere apology. The woman who honked at him (Caren Pistorius) is having a bad day. She’s late driving her son to school, frustrated by a traffic tie-up and now unwittingly triggers an extreme case of road rage. Crowe says he’ll show her what a bad day is really like. His truck bumps and chases her little car, veering around buses and cabs and wrong-way traffic.

Things get worse when he gets ahold of her phone and learns from it where she’s going, where she lives and who she lives with. It takes only a few bits of dialogue to explain his problem, and whenever he’s off-screen, you’re tense for a Jaws-like return. There’s a nasty opening scene, but the rest is well-paced dread, menace and action by director Derrick Borte.(Scotiabank, 5th Avenue, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres.) 3½ out of 5

CRASH: David Cronenberg’s most notorious film is back in a sparkling 4K restoration and with a video introduction by the director himself. He recalls that it caused a “huge stir” at Cannes in 1996 (an understatement in that it was called “obscene” and “subversive”), doesn’t mention that it won an award there (for “Originality, Daring and Audacity”) and expects it may be more widely accepted these days. Maybe by people who’ve seen so much else and worse since then. It’s still an unpleasant, very twisted tale of a TV director (James Spader) who has a car accident and becomes aware of a cult-like group that enjoys such events for sexual thrills.

Courtesy MK2

He tries to revive relations with his wife (Deborah Kara Unger), gets it on with the woman whose car he ran into (Holly Hunter) and caresses the wounds of another victim (Rosanna Arquette). Satire? Not that I detected. Apparently the novel it comes from by British sci-fi writer J.G. Ballard was critical of people who love to see car crashes, in the movies for instance, but I don’t detect any of that here. Cronenberg’s script dwells on the lurid with lots of sex in cars, very close to graphic, and with plenty of groping. Elias Koteas plays a guy who photographs car crashes and restages James Dean’s fatal one for a rapt audience. Sexual obsession, alienation, high movie craft. They’re all there, but they left me cold. It won six Genie Awards, though. (Rio Theatre, late Friday and Sunday evening.) 2½ out of 5

PROJECT POWER: Miss the super-hero films this summer? Here's a willing stand-in from Netflix with the usual attributes, lots of action, but some straining in the storytelling. Not that that matters a lot in this genre. This one is set in New Orleans, where a powerful new drug is on the street, offering five minutes of super powers to anyone who takes it, but also unpredictability. Some batches can kill you. One guy becomes transparent (yes). One gets only a dent from a bullet that hits him. Another bursts into flames. It's pure comic book fantasy.

Courtesy Netflix

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as a rule-breaking police detective, and Jamie Foxx, as an ex-soldier, collide and sometimes unite trying to take down the criminals spreading the drug. Gordon-Levitt teams with a young dealer (Dominique Fishback) and Foxx has a personal motivation: He's trying to rescue his daughter from the gang. And here's where the story gets unstable. She’s been captured to extract some of her DNA for, as Amy Landecker playing a developer puts it, “the next evolution of the human species.” That would be to give people the powers that some animals have. The catch? You don’t know what it will be before you take the drug. It’s nonsense, sure, but well assembled by a couple of directors, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who can make you believe it. They've done many commercials and a few films. I enjoyed their first one, the pseudo-documentary, Catfish, 10 years ago. This one ends in a climactic showdown one rainy night among the containers on a cargo ship. (Netflix) 2½ out of 5

THE GREAT GREEN WALL: This would be a perfect companion piece to Beyonce’s Black is King. It, too, is a singer’s essay on Africa, but is much wider in scope, with heavy emphasis on current problems. The popular singer from Mali, Inna Modja, tells us about a project to fight climate change, but gives us a great deal more: civil unrest, rebel groups that kidnap girls, forced marriages, child soldiers, migrants falling prey to people smugglers, drought, struggling farmers. They’re all connected, she says. And sings, either alone or with a variety of bands and artists, on a trip across the continent.

Courtesy Blue Ice Docs

Her route from Senegal on the Atlantic to Djibouti on the Red Sea is the site of an ambitious, but to us little-known, project by several African countries. They want to hold back the desert south of the Sahara and restore the land by planting millions of trees along the 8,000-kilometere stretch. Modja is trying to support the plan, which is going ahead slowly. In every country she travels to, she shows why it’s necessary: farmers working soil that’s really just dust, Lake Chad shrunken by 90 per cent, young people drawn to migrate to Europe, high birth rates that will only increase that problem. Meanwhile, militant groups like Boko Haram raid villages (there’s actual cellphone video) and there are tales from girls who escaped from them and boys who regret the killing they were forced to do. With lots of music along the way and local history from activists, this is a lively, moving and very informative film. (Streaming from 4 out of 5

THINGS I DO FOR MONEY: I’ve been cool on the couple of films I’ve seen by Warren P. Sonoda, but this latest one from the busy Canadian director comes close. It’s got an imaginative, though wavering, storyline, moves at a good pace and comes with stirring music. That’s from a pair of brother cello players (Theodor and Maximilian Aoki, making their film debut) who actually perform what we hear. They’re trying to get into a music conservatory, but are pressured to pass up an audition and play a fundraiser where a valuable painting will be stolen. They also inadvertently steal a bag of money causing some Romanian criminals to come after them to get it back.

Courtesy Raven Banner Releasing

The film is set in the gritty milieu of Hamilton, Ont., and getting out is a great preoccupation. The boys want to get to Banff. They want to help an ice-skating girlfriend (Yodit Tewoderos) get to Winnipeg, and a hit man brought in from Vancouver to get them and the money turns out to be a distant uncle (played by their actual father, Edward Aoki). Their father in the story is captured and held hostage for a time as the tale gets more and more tangled. There’s a Black woman crime boss, a granny handy with a gun, a shootout in the woods, a climactic concert scene and a twist ending. That’s too much for one short film to bear, but it survives as a pleasing, sometimes exciting, diversion. (Available on iTunes, Bell, Cineplex, Cogeco, Rogers, Shaw, Telus, and Vimeo.) 3 out of 5

VALLEY OF THE GODS: It’s a real place, in Utah near the similarly grand Monument Valley. Here, it’s a springboard for a Polish director’s views on the United States. Lech Majewski mixes Navaho mythology and a murky tale of a reporter (Josh Hartnett) trying to write a biography of an industrialist (John Malkovich) to expound on inequality. That’s my guess. The script doesn’t say as much or explain.

Courtesy Well Go USA

The connection is the mogul’s current project to push uranium mining on Navaho land, which many oppose. One elder says it causes cancer and kills people. “Those are just fairy tales,” says his grandson who is thinking of the jobs to come. We’re familiar with debates like that and this film broadens them. Malkovich lives in a giant mansion. He has an obsequious butler, a yard of statues of all the people he ever respected, and a huge party where a Rolls-Royce is tossed by a giant catapult and a diva sings opera. Excess to make a point, it seems. Elsewhere, elders dance and chant, Hartnett has visions of an ex-wife and wakes up in a rock formation as water pours down out of a hole in an overhang. It’s not clear how it all fits together, but is fascinating to ponder. It’s the only film I know of that was made in both Utah and Poland. (Now available on BluRay, DVD, digital and VOD.) 3 out of 5