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film review

Also opened this week: Knives Out, a backward meta spin on the whodunit, and Queen & Slim, a captivating and stirring lovers-on-the-run drama

The Two Popes

Peter Mountain/Netflix

  • Directed by Fernando Meirelles
  • Written by Anthony McCarten
  • Starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce
  • Classification PG; 125 minutes


4 out of 4 stars

With a smart script by Anthony McCarten and nimble direction from Fernando Meirelles, The Two Popes is mainly an intense two-hander, a chamber piece in which two conflicting personalities ultimately resolve their differences. Its almost theatrical intensity succeeds thanks to a pair of superbly crafted performances from two aging veterans still working at the height of their artistic powers: Anthony Hopkins plays Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, soon-to-be Pope Benedict, and Jonathan Pryce is Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, eventually Pope Francis. (Opens Nov. 29 in Toronto; Dec. 6 in Ottawa and Montreal; Dec. 13 in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Victoria; and Dec. 20 on Netflix)

Honey Boy

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

  • Directed by Alma Har’el
  • Written by Shia LaBeouf
  • Starring Shia LaBeouf, Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges
  • Classification 14A; 95 minutes


3.5 out of 4 stars

A seedy Los Angeles motel room is the setting for a lot of Honey Boy, an intense, thoughtful drama about a turbulent showbiz childhood that probably served as a therapeutic experience for the film’s screenwriter and co-star Shia LaBeouf, a kid actor turned bad boy himself. Inspired by LaBeouf’s life, Honey Boy is called that because it is a portrait of a child star who supports his father – so, a variation of sugar daddy. LaBeouf’s script crackles with penetrating dialogue. His acting – he portrays a version of his own father – might be the finest of his career. (Opens Nov. 29 in Toronto and Vancouver)

Knives Out

Claire Folger/Courtesy of TIFF

  • Written and directed by Rian Johnson
  • Starring Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas and Chris Evans
  • Classification PG; 130 minutes


3.5 out of 4 stars

In Knives Out, director Rian Johnson’s backward meta spin on the whodunit, erstwhile 007 Daniel Craig gets to have great fun away from MI6 as a Kentucky-fried Poirot facsimile named Benoit Blanc. Hired by an anonymous client to investigate the suicide (or was it?) of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), Blanc finds his case complicated by the fact that the dead man (or is he?) was a fabulously wealthy author who specialized in writing murder mysteries. What follows is loads of morbid pleasure, as Johnson gets to unleash an extraordinarily bouncy exercise in upended expectations. (Opened Nov. 27)

Queen & Slim

Universal Pictures/Universal Pictures / E1

  • Directed by Melina Matsoukas
  • Written by Lena Waithe
  • Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith and Bokeem Woodbine
  • Classification R; 132 minutes


3.5 out of 4 stars

After an extraordinarily disturbing incident of policy brutality, a lawyer named Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and a man named Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) have decided to go on the run. To where, and to what end, it isn’t clear. But their destination – as is often the case in films more concerned with character and the evocation of feeling, rather than a plot that makes A-to-B sense – is of no real concern. It is the journey that matters, and it is the journey that makes Queen & Slim such a captivating and stirring work. Key to this are Turner-Smith and Kaluuya, who together own almost all of the film’s screen time. (Opened Nov. 27)


Boomtalk Musical Production & Frantic Films

  • Directed by Robert Adetuyi
  • Written by Rick Chafe and Danny Schur
  • Starring Marshall Williams, Laura Slade Wiggins and Gregg Henry
  • Classification N/A; 110 minutes


3.5 out of 4 stars

In 1919, the First World War had just ended, and Canadian soldiers returning to Winnipeg found that others had taken their jobs, but for half the wages. According to director Robert Adetuyi’s spirited new Canadian movie musical Stand!, this foments distrust and ethnic strife, not only from the soldiers toward newcomers but between newcomer groups themselves, of which there are many in the city’s scrappy North End. Stand! pays subtle (and sometime not-so-subtle) homage to previous movie musicals, and composer Danny Schur gives us a well-crafted score plus Broadway-worthy tunes that stick in your head. (Opens Nov. 29)

Varda by Agnès

Courtesy of TIFF

  • Directed by Agnès Varda
  • Classification N/A; 115 minutes


3.5 out of 4 stars

In Varda by Agnès, the late, great French auteur Agnès Varda narrates from a director’s chair to a packed opera house her recollections about a lifetime of work, from her influential black-and-white fiction film Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962) to her most recent documentary, co-directed by photographer JR, Faces Places (2017). This is a fascinating, informative, and reflective swan song that gives Varda the final word, and some of the due she’s been owed her entire career, as one of the most influential feminist filmmakers. (Opens Nov. 29 at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto, and Dec. 6 in Montreal and Vancouver)

Dark Waters

Mary Cybulsk/Focus Features

  • Directed by Todd Haynes
  • Written by Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan
  • Starring Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway and Bill Camp
  • Classification PG; 126 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

There are two real-life mysteries at the heart of Dark Waters. The first is how the new film uncovers the misdeeds of chemical giant DuPont, which got away with poisoning a West Virginia town for decades. By following the 15-year battle of Cincinnati lawyer Robert Bilott and tracing his careful and measured approach to uncovering the truth, the film tells a deeply upsetting horror story about corporate malfeasance. But it is the second mystery that makes Dark Waters such an enticing, and eventually satisfying, prospect: What is art-house favourite Todd Haynes doing directing a seemingly straight-ahead legal thriller? (Opens Nov. 29 in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and across Canada Dec. 6)

Also: What’s new and noteworthy to stream

Courtesy of Netflix

Three streaming films to keep on your radar this weekend: The Souvenir on Amazon Prime Video, Atlantics on Netflix and The Last Boy Scout on Crave. Read Barry Hertz’s reviews of the films here.

This weekly guide was compiled by Lori Fazari, with reviews from Tina Hassannia, Barry Hertz, Kate Taylor, Neil Weisensel and Brad Wheeler.

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