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The Lion King

  • Directed by Jon Favreau
  • Written by Jeff Nathanson
  • Featuring the voices of Donald Glover, Beyoncé and Seth Rogen
  • Classification PG; 118 minutes

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“This feels familiar. Where have I seen this before?” This question is heard late in director Jon Favreau’s version of The Lion King, delivered by the villainous Scar (voiced with delicious contempt by Chiwetel Ejiofor) as he prepares to slay another member of the Mufasa monarchy. But I was muttering those very same words throughout the entire film, so bewildered was I by Favreau and Disney’s decision to produce a beat-by-beat facsimile of the animated classic. This 2019 Lion King not only feels extraordinarily familiar – it is mostly pointless, too. (Opens July 19)

Courtesy of VVS

The Farewell

  • Directed and written by Lulu Wang
  • Starring Awkwafina, Tzi Ma and Shuzhen Zhao
  • Classification PG; 98 minutes

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Like Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell is one of a handful of films with a predominantly Asian cast and creative team to ever open wide (wide-ish) in North America. But unlike Crazy Rich Asians, which had eyes for narrative substance but shamelessly flirted with the superficial, The Farewell is a more substantive, engrossing and ultimately deeper work about the bonds that hold and strengthen us. (Opens July 19 in Toronto and Vancouver before expanding to other Canadian cities July 26)

Bleecker Street

The Art of Self-Defense

  • Directed and written by Riley Stearns
  • Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola and Imogen Poots
  • Classification 14A; 105 minutes

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Is there a rule that says we can’t talk about Fight Club when talking about The Art of Self-Defense? Because the latter contains elements of the former, along with some of the social commentary and revenge fantasy of Office Space and Falling Down. Riley Stearns’s The Art of Self-Defense is an excellent black comedy and testosterone takedown starring Jesse Eisenberg as a meek, dachshund-owning accountant poisoned by toxic masculinity. (Opens July 19 in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver)

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Courtesy of D Films

Propaganda: The Art of Selling Lies

  • Directed by Larry Weinstein
  • Starring David Walmsley, Ai Weiwei, Kent Monkman and Astra Taylor
  • Classification N/A; 92 minutes

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Propaganda: The Art of Selling Lies traces the origin and power of propaganda through a wide assemblage of art, politics, history and religion – 65,000-year-old hand stencils in Spain’s Cave of El Castillo, Nazi films, North Korea, Facebook, Christianity, Hitler, Stalin, the French satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo, Kathy Griffin holding a severed Trump head. In an effort to chart the course of history’s past and present wrongs, Weinstein pulls from an immense range of malicious government and institutional influences. The result is not so much clarity or delineation as it is an overwhelming 90-minute barrage. (Opens July 19 in Toronto, July 26 in Vancouver)

Courtesy of TIFF

Roads in February

  • Directed and written by Katherine Jerkovic
  • Starring Arlen Aguayo Stewart
  • Classification N/A; 84 minutes

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There is stillness in loss, but it takes time. First comes the final turn of the shovel, old clothes dropped off at the Salvation Army, and the returning of the casserole dishes. The nothingness of bereavement doesn’t settle in until the last friend has been dropped at the airport. That ache makes Katherine Jerkovic’s Roads in February (Les routes en Fevrier) a universal one, even if the spare language is Spanish. (Opens July 19 at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto)

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