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Ad Astra

Francois Duhamel/Twentieth Century Fox

  • Directed by James Gray
  • Written by James Gray and Ethan Goss
  • Starring Brad Pitt, Liv Tyler and Tommy Lee Jones
  • Classification PG; 122 minutes

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Ad Astra is easily James Gray’s most ambitious, bare-your-soul work, and one of the finest films of the year, too. Gray and his co-writer (and long-time friend) Ethan Goss are tremendously skilled in their balance of character and narrative, emotional shading and world-building. (Opens Sept. 20)

Riot Girls

Courtesy of LevelFilm

  • Directed by Jovanka Vuckovic
  • Written by Katherine Collins
  • Starring Paloma Kwiatkowski and Madison Iseman
  • Classification 14A; 81 minutes

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Back in 1995, a mysterious disease wiped out all the adults in fictional Potter’s Bluff, leaving only children and teens to rule the land. Or at least that’s what happened in the Riot Girls universe conceptualized by director Jovanka Vuckovic and writer Katherine Collins. In a world divided into East and West, we’re in good company with the film’s leads, Nat (Madison Iseman) and her girlfriend Scratch (Paloma Kwiatkowski), who are forced to venture to the East side to save Nat’s brother Jack (Alexandre Bourgeois). (Opens Sept. 20 in Toronto)

Before You Know It

Courtesy of Films We Like

  • Directed by Hannah Pearl Utt
  • Written by Hannah Pearl Utt and Jen Tullock
  • Starring Hannah Pearl Utt, Jen Tullock, Judith Light, Mandy Patinkin, Oona Yaffe and Alec Baldwin
  • Classification PG; 98 minutes

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Three words: lighthearted menstruation humour. There’s much to like about the feature debut Before You Know It from writer-director Hannah Pearl Utt and co-writer Jen Tullock, who also star as polar-opposite sisters in an easy-breezy story about adults in various stages of maturity and children who act like adults. (Opens Sept. 20 at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto)

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Downton Abbey

Jaap Buitendijk/Focus Features

  • Written by Julian Fellowes
  • Directed by Michael Engler
  • Starring Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith
  • Classification PG; 122 mins

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The Downton Abbey movie is a celebration of heritage, tradition, and the status quo. The story revolves around the impending visit of King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James), with concentric ripples of related subplot for each of the original characters. The breezy throwback exercise in fan service reverts – some might say regresses – to a fundamental pleasure of the series: the layers of beautifully executed period trappings. (Opens Sept. 20)

Honey Bee

Sixth Avenue Enterprises

  • Directed by Rama Rau
  • Written by Bonnie Fairweather and Kathleen Hepburn
  • Starring Julia Sarah Stone, Martha Plimpton, Steven Love and Michelle McLeod
  • Classification 18A; 93 minutes

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Skeletal and big-eyed, Julia Sarah Stone appears near alien as an underage truck-stop prostitute in the thin drama Honey Bee. The talented Vancouverite, so good in Bruce McDonald’s lovely coming-of-age drama Weirdos from 2016, is the best part of Honey Bee, a handsome-looking but mild character study set in Northern Ontario. (Opens Sept. 20)

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band

Courtesy of TIFF

  • Directed by Daniel Roher
  • Classification 14A; 100 minutes

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More or less based on Robbie Robertson’s 2016 memoir Testimony and corresponding with the release of the musician’s new solo album Sinematic, the Robertson-authorized Once Were Brothers is an account of the Band’s rise and fall, as remembered by the titular guitarist, chief songwriter and excellent raconteur. (Opens Sept. 20 in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver)

Zeroville

Patriot Pictures

  • Directed by James Franco
  • Written by Steve Erickson (novel) and Paul Felten (movie adaptation)
  • Starring James Franco, Seth Rogen and Megan Fox
  • Classification R; 96 minutes

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In James Franco’s Zeroville, Franco’s character defiantly declares that continuity in film is overrated. After watching this film, you may disagree with every atom in your body. Franco stars in and directs Zeroville, based on the Steve Erickson novel. It was made in 2014, long before 2017′s The Disaster Artist, but has sat on the shelf for five years because of production company angst and the fact it is sort of a tasty pile of goulash made with ketchup. (Opens Sept. 20)

This weekly guide was compiled by Lori Fazari, with reviews by Nathalie Atkinson, Anne T. Donahue, Barry Hertz, Stephen Rodrick and Brad Wheeler.

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