Your weekend round-up: What to see (and what to skip) in the theatres

A bit of something for everyone in this week’s line-up of ten films, five fiction features and five documentaries. Leading off our blockbuster list, we have Keanu Reeves returning in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Rating: B-plus), “parabellum” being Latin for “prepare for war.”  Jim Slotek finds parallels to ballet and Looney-Tunes cartoons in this dynamic action flick, as super-assassin John Wick, with a big bounty on his head, dodges legions of enemies including a lethal sushi chef.

John Wick: 3 - Parabellum. Just killing time, looking for a few good books.

John Wick: 3 - Parabellum. Just killing time, looking for a few good books.

English director Mike Leigh (Topsy-Turvy, Mr. Turner)  has a new historical drama, Peterloo (B-minus) recalling a workers’ protest and massacre in Manchester, England, two-hundred years ago. Reviewer Thom Ernst was impressed by the visual detail and the rousing pay-off, but warns there’s some heavy lifting keeping up with the characters and their agendas.

Jim Slotek also looks at Aniara (B-minus) a Swedish space movie, based on the epic Cold War poem by Nobel Prize-winner Harry Martinson, features thousands of people stranded on a mall-sized space ship, with limitless alcohol, orgies and an AI system that gets so depressed it shuts down.

There’s a space connection in the teen drama, The Sun Is Also A Star (B-minus), a creamy-dreamy Manhattan love story with a speck of topical grit, featuring Blackish star, Yara Shahidi as a teen astronomy geek facing imminent deportation after meeting the boy (Riverdale’s Charles Melton) of her dreams.  Thom Ernest reviews the sentimental A Dog’s Journey (C) about a good dog, who through several re-incarnations, keeps biting the wheel of life.

There’s a rich collection of documentaries this week, starting with Bonnie Laufer Kreb’s interview with the 90-year-old sex therapist, hoarder and Holocaust survivor, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, star of director Ryan White’s poignant and insightful, Ask Dr. Ruth. The Biggest Little Farm  (B-plus), is an appealling personal documentary shot over several years, follows a Los Angeles couple who explore the complex reality of managing an ecologically-friendly farm. Kim Hughes’ reviews City Dreamers (B-plus) about a quartet of veteran women architects in their eighties and nineties, who broke the gender barrier to change the urban landscape. 

Meeting Gorbachev (B) sees the usually gloomy Werner Herzog in full fan mode in a series of interviews with former Soviet leader. Finally, the Nova Scotia-set This Is North Preston (C-plus) looks at community stigma and solidarity in Canada’s oldest black community.

In this week’s podcast, we talk about the Zen of Keanu, Cannes memories and the difference between lost-in-space movies and booze cruises.  

Have a great weekend.


Your weekend roundup: What to see (and what to skip) in the theatres this weekend

Not every  screen this week features the Avengers zipping about on a treasure hunt through space and time. Some are showing movies about real things, like Seth Rogen and Satanists, UglyDolls and literary frauds, Dennis Quaid as an angry white middle-aged guy and Dame Judi Dench in spy mode.

Seth Rogen’s new rom-com Long Shot  (Rating: A) sees Rogen as a rumpled reporter-turned-speechwriter for a presidential candidate (Charlize Theron) who’s his boyhood crush. Reviewer Kim Hughes calls it a whirlwind, globe-trotting, comedy that skewers celebrities and politicians, including Justin “Sunny Ways” Trudeau.

Will Dame Judi Dench pay for the espionage she committed in her youth? Is Red Joan a disappointment?

Will Dame Judi Dench pay for the espionage she committed in her youth? Is Red Joan a disappointment?

Also topical is Penny Lane’s disturbingly entertaining documentary Hail Satan?  (B-plus) in which a team of outrageous culture jammers called The Satanic Temple, encourage after-school Satanic clubs and statues of Baphomet on public squares to counter-balance the conservative right’s exploitation of Christianity.

What’s an UglyDoll? A toy brand, it turns out, and now an animated movie, UglyDolls  (C-plus) with Kelly Clarkson as Moxy, who leaves the accepting bliss of Uglyville for the totalitarian world of Perfection. Our reviewer Karen Gordon describes the characters as looking like “soft goofy lumps” and, along with the predictable messages about self-acceptance, finds unexpected parallels to Game of Thrones.

There’s a lesson about profiting from not accepting yourself, in JT LeRoy  (C-plus), a dramatization of the literary fraud of the early 2000s, in which writer Laura Abbot (Laura Dern) passed off her sister-in-law (Kristen Stewart) as an androgynous teen-aged boy author with a sordid past named JT Leroy. The actors are predictably good, says Liam Lacey, but the story is only hair-and-sunglasses deep.

You may recall that Dame Judi Dench, in the role of James Bond’s boss, M, died for England in Skyfall. But she’s on the other side in Red Joan  (C) a reality-based tale of an elderly woman who was arrested for the misdeeds of her youth as a Soviet mole in the English nuclear program Sophie Cookson plays the young Joan). Jim Slotek reviews this “improbably dull” tale of a woman torn between her Stalinist seducer and sensible Englishman, where atom bombs are somehow secondary to the yearnings of the heart.

If you think just staying at home is a safe option, think again. In The Intruder (C) Dennis Quaid plays a guy who sells his house to a bland young couple and then, in a case of psychotic seller’s remorse., won’t leave them alone. It’s always a challenge, says reviewer Jim Slotek, to sustain suspense when the audience is way ahead of every character onscreen.

Finally, in our 22nd podcast, the OC team talks about Avengers after the End Game, fear of a Disney cinematic planet and the rise of “spoiler alert” mania. 

Have a great weekend.