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This week's releases include Cruella, Dead Pigs, French Exit and This Is Not A Burial, It's A Resurrection
Cruella can proudly stick her superior nose in the air at all the Disney live-action remakes, reimaginings and spinoffs that have been too timid to stray far from their source material, except for where it’s politically correct. The movie – concocted with a heavy but welcome reliance on period-appropriate needle drops by I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie and Moonlight composer Nicholas Britell – is about Emma Stone’s 101 Dalmations villain Cruella making a splash in the fashion world of the 60s and 70s and engaging in a cutthroat competition against a tyrannical women’s wear magnate played by Emma Thompson. While the whole thing is full of Disneyisms and concessions to a younger audience, it feels less indebted to the original property and more to British steampunk, The Devil Wears Prada and maybe even Gangs Of New York. The delicious Emma-versus-Emma competition here, with both actors in wonderful, animated form, finds itself somewhere in between Hathaway versus Streep and DiCaprio versus Day-Lewis. Read a full review here. 134 min. Available Friday (May 28) on Disney+ with
Premier Access. NNNN (Radheyan Simonpillai)
(Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese)
Most of us never knew Mary Twala. The veteran South African actor made a small appearance in Beyoncé’s Black Is King before she passed. But given the late actor’s flinty, soulful and powerful presence in her final film This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection, a retrospective is in order. Twala anchors a resistance narrative about fighting against “progress” to protect nature, home and the memory of the dead. Her Mantoa is a village elder in the Southern African country Lesotho who is ready to hand herself over to death after the last of her family has passed. But she springs back to life when she finds out her village – and its burial grounds – will be flooded to make way for a dam. The story pours out like a series of hypnotic paintings and video installations. Lesotho filmmaker Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese taps into oral traditions, with a griot passing along scenes from Mantoa’s life, her community and observations about religion and colonialism. Meanwhile, Mosese’s breathtaking and painstakingly detailed compositions keep us hooked. Between the textures of Twala’s aged but defiant face and the deep, contemplative landscapes behind her, I doubt you’ll see more beautiful and awe-inspiring images this year. 120 min. Available on digital TIFF Bell Lightbox Friday (May 28). NNNN (RS)
The best way to enjoy French Exit, Azazel Jacobs’s tragic comedy of privileged people wandering obliviously through the chaos of daily life, is to decide that its main characters are playing aliens in human suits, gliding through the world trying to understand its impenetrable customs and rites. It’d explain a lot about the mannered performances, arch dialogue and occasional magic-realist flourishes that Jacobs and screenwriter Patrick DeWitt (adapting his own novel) employ throughout. It’d also be more entertaining, honestly. Michelle Pfeiffer plays Frances Price, a once-infamous New York society widow now facing financial ruin. So she sells everything and moves herself, her adult son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) and their cat to Paris, where she plans to live until the cash finally runs out. Pfeiffer makes a meal out of her fearsome dowager character – she just won a Canadian Screen Award for her performance – while Hedges, who played an uncomfortably similar character in Steven Soderbergh’s Let Them All Talk, can’t help but seem somewhat inert in her shadow. It’s watchable enough, I suppose, if you can get on its wavelength. (Seriously, they’re aliens.) 113 min. Some subtitles. Now available on digital and on demand. NNN (Norman Wilner)
Birds Of Prey filmmaker Cathy Yan’s feature debut is getting a virtual cinema release four years after debuting at Sundance. Inspired by a real incident involving pig carcasses dumped in a river near Shanghai, Dead Pigs is a lightly absurdist comic drama in which characters are heightened to match the ostentatious trappings of Chinese capitalism. The movie exists squarely in the traditional-vs-modern tension that forms the thematic underpinning for many recent Chinese films, with Vivian Wu playing a salon owner who refuses to sell her family home to make way for a Gaudí-inspired development. She’s also being pressured by her pig farmer brother (Haoyu Yang), who needs to pay off gangsters. Yan’s script gradually connects the dots between a handful of seemingly disparate story threads, but the uneven tone between the earnest younger characters and kooky old folks never quite gels. Dead Pigs is like a mood board of atmospheres, tones and ideas but struggles to find the emotional core behind its blunt-force metaphors. 130 min. Available Friday (May 28) at virtual Revue Cinema. NN (Kevin Ritchie)
“Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham get back together for a revenge picture wrapped in a heist thriller” is a pitch that should produce a far better movie than Wrath Of Man. But as with last year’s utterly disposable gangster comedy The Gentlemen, Ritchie’s latest is all flash and no soul. Wrath Of Man transposes the action of the 2004 French thriller Cash Truck to present-day Los Angeles (though roughly half the film was shot on soundstages in London), where Statham’s seething Englishman takes a security job with an armoured-car company and turns out to be almost sociopathically good at his job. Who is he? What does he want? An elaborate, looping narrative fills us in eventually, much to the consternation of co-stars Holt McCallany, Eddie Marsan, Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan and a stunningly dull Scott Eastwood. And the situation gives Ritchie the green light to indulge all his worst instincts – silly names, swaggering alpha males insulting each other, explosions of spectacular violence – without ever really making us care about why it’s all happening. The same critics who loved the humourless Heat knockoff Den Of Thieves are embracing it – so if that’s what you’re looking for, have at it. It just left me cold. 119 min. Now available on digital and on demand. NN (NW)
Documentary directed by Jen Rainin and RIvkah Beth Medow
Frank Grillo, Michael Kenneth Williams; Melissa Leo; directed by John Swab
Johnny Depp, Forest Whitaker, Toby Huss; directed by Brad Furman
Ali Skovbye, Elyse Levesque, Tantoo Cardinal; directed by Jeremy Torrie
Vivian Wu, Haoyu Yang, Zazie Beetz; directed by Cathy Yan
Karine Vanasse, Gabriel Lessard, Guy Nadon; directed by Nicola Lemay
Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Valerie Mahaffey; directed by Azazel Jacobs
Documentary directed by Rob Gordon Bralver
Mary Twala, Jerry Mofokeng, Makhaola Ndebele; directed by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Katie Aselton, William Sadler; directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos
Lonnie Chavis, Amiah Miller, Rosario Dawson; directed by David Oyelowo
Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett; directed by Guy Ritchie
Everything coming to streaming platforms this month:
Fanny: The Right To Rock screens during the 2021 Inside Out film festival.
Back in its traditional spring slot after last year’s diversion to October – and exclusively online since the province shuttered drive-ins – the 31st edition of Canada’s largest 2SLGBTQ+ festival rolls out dozens of features, docs and shorts spanning every genre imaginable, mixing world premieres with festival hits like the recent Hot Docs Rogers audience award-winner Fanny: The Right To Rock. We’ve made a few additional recommendations here.
Through June 6 at InsideOut.com .
The fifth festival of cinema about Deaf and disability cultures (and, in some cases, by filmmakers and actors with disabilities and/or who are Deaf) is heavy on documentaries, including Hot Docs 2020 entries The Reason I Jump (screening tonight at 7 pm), Jerry Rothwell’s look at the lives of neurodiverse young people around the world, and Ying Wang’s The World Is Bright (Sunday, 2 pm), which follows a Chinese couple’s efforts to understand the events that led to their son’s death in Vancouver. This year’s edition closes with Not Going Quietly (Sunday, 6 pm), a documentary about lawyer and disability activist Ady Barkan’s efforts to improve America’s healthcare structure after being diagnosed with ALS.
Through Sunday (May 30) at reelabilities.org .