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Film Reviews Films opening this week: The unstoppable Avengers: Endgame, plus Toronto’s Hot Docs festival begins

Diane

Mary Kay Place stars as Diane.

IFC Films

  • Written and directed by Kent Jones
  • Starring Mary Kay Place, Jake Lacy and Andrea Martin
  • Classification N/A; 95 minutes

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For much of Diane’s brisk running time, the sixtysomething title character (played by Mary Kay Place) runs from one act of self-sacrifice to another in a perpetually grey rural Massachusetts. Diane is living a life dedicated to others, and naturally there’s a reason why she’s reluctant to pause, as doing so would force her to examine her reasons why. It would be so easy for Kent Jones’s film to slide into melodrama here, but he avoids narrative shortcuts at almost every turn. (Opens April 26 in Toronto)

Avengers: Endgame

Robert Downey Jr. once again stars as Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame.

Marvel Studios / Disney

  • Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
  • Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
  • Starring EVERYBODY
  • Classification PG; 181 minutes

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Just as in the best of comic books, there is genius, and then there is evil genius. Avengers: Endgame, the 22nd product to roll out from the Marvel Studios factory floor, is most certainly the latter. The 181-minute epic is furiously smart and frequently witty. There are instances of indelible delight and glimpses of technical excellence. But the giant cosmic brain powering everything and everyone involved in making Endgame – that would be Walt Disney Pictures – is not using its brilliance for the betterment of art or society. (Opens April 25)

Dragged Across Concrete

Mel Gibson stars as a crooked-but-righteous cop.

David Bukac/Courtesy of VVS

  • Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler
  • Starring Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn and Tory Kittles
  • Classification R; 159 minutes

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Nasty. That is the first and last word on the films of S. Craig Zahler. Across three features produced in relatively short succession – 2015′s Bone Tomahawk, 2017′s Brawl in Cell Block 99 and this month’s Dragged Across Concrete – the 46-year-old writer and director’s work focuses on tough guys making bad choices, with the final stretch of each film delighting in a specific, extremely squishy sort of violence. Dragged Across Concrete acts as one giant, gleeful trigger warning, right from the casting of Mel Gibson as a crooked-but-righteous cop. (Available April 30 on VOD, Digital HD, DVD and Blu-ray)

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The Public

Emilio Estevez is a heroic librarian who joins forces with Cincinnati's homeless population.

Brian Douglas/Courtesy of Mongrel Media

  • Written and directed by Emilio Estevez
  • Starring Emilio Estevez, Taylor Schilling and Alec Baldwin
  • Classification PG; 119 minutes

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The Public is writer-director Emilio Estevez’s grand, well-meaning and extremely dumb vanity project/tribute to the public-library system. Taking place almost entirely inside Cincinnati, Ohio’s main downtown library, the drama focuses on one tremendously heroic librarian (Estevez, casting himself) who joins forces with the city’s homeless population to help stage an after-hours occupation of the building during a cold snap. (Opens April 26 in Toronto)

Hot Docs 2019

Director Tasha Hubbard makes history with her searing look at the Colten Boushie case

On Thursday night, the 2019 edition of the Toronto Hot Docs festival opens with nipawistamasowin: We Will Stand Up, documentarian Tasha Hubbard’s searing look at the 2016 killing of Colten Boushie in Saskatchewan, and the outcry that resulted after Gerald Stanley was acquitted of second-degree murder in the 22-year-old Cree man’s death. The screening marks the first time that a film by an Indigenous director has opened Hot Docs in its 26-year history. (Screens April 25, 27, and May 4 at Hot Docs, and May 8 and 9 at Vancouver’s DOXA film festival)

Ai Weiwei takes a step back to observe the rest of humanity’s flow

The Chinese visual artist, filmmaker and activist Ai Weiwei, a political exile now living in Berlin, visited Toronto this week to present his new film The Rest at Hot Docs. The film is a sequel to Human Flow, his 2017 documentary about the global refugee crisis. Ahead of its premiere, The Globe spoke with Ai about migration, politics and the nature of international celebrity. (Screens at Hot Docs April 26, 27 and May 5 at Hot Docs. The filmmaker will speak about his work April 27 at 10:30 a.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre.)

Get your tissues out for the service-dog doc Buddy

To direct a film about six service dogs and their odds-defying humans and not fall into emotional traps is the true sign of an expert documentarian. Heddy Honigmann’s film Buddy, a new Dutch documentary about service dogs and their human companions, has no sweeping score, no dramatic voice-over, no overt attempt to pull your heartstrings. The viewer is simply in the room, with a blind woman and her dog, listening to music. Or in bed with an autistic boy singing to his dog, as he copes with his anxiety. (Screens April 26, 27 and 30 at Hot Docs)

If we could read Gordon Lightfoot’s mind, it might go something like this...

In advance of the world premiere of Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind at this year’s Hot Docs festival, the film’s co-director Joan Tosoni spoke to The Globe and Mail about the beloved balladeer and which of his stories she and co-director Martha Kehoe chose to tell – and which they did not. (Screens April 27 and 30 at Hot Docs as well as May 4 and 12 at Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival)

Norval Morrisseau, the Barenaked Ladies and the fine art of forgery

When Barenaked Ladies keyboardist Kevin Hearn discovered that a prized painting he bought was probably a forgery, he refused to be silent. The painting was supposedly the work of renowned Ojibwe artist Norval Morrisseau, who died in 2007, but experts disagreed. First, Hearn took an art dealer to court; now, he has participated in a documentary, There Are No Fakes, with filmmaker Jamie Kastner, that exposes a Thunder Bay, Ont., ring that produced fake Morrisseaus. (Screens April 29 at Hot Docs)

The riveting, painful Because We Are Girls shines a #MeToo spotlight on Canada’s South Asian community

Baljit Sangra’s new film Because We Are Girls shares the story of the Pooni sisters, three second-generation women from a close-knit Punjabi Sikh immigrant family. As adolescents, the siblings were repeatedly sexually assaulted over years by an older male family member. Nearly three decades since that time, the sisters are still seeking justice against their abuser and to repair the parts of their lives that remain fractured. (Screens May 1 at Hot Docs and May 3 and 7 at Vancouver’s DOXA Film Festival)

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