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Clemency

ACE Pictures Entertainment

  • Directed by Chinonye Chukwu
  • Written by Chinonye Chukwu
  • Starring Alfre Woodard, Aldis Hodge, Michael O’Neill
  • Classification R; 113 minutes

rating

4 out of 4 stars

While admittedly spartan in its stylistic approach, Clemency is wrenching in its performances and direction. Upon its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019, Chinonye Chukwu became the first black woman to win the Grand Jury Prize, taking home the award for this humanist drama about the heavy toll capital punishment takes on both an innocent male prisoner and the black female warden facilitating his death. This is a film with an unforgettable story and performances that will edge into your DNA. (Opens Jan. 17)

Chhapaak

SUJIT JAISWAL/AFP/Getty Images

  • Directed by Meghna Gulzar
  • Written by Meghna Gulzar, Atika Chohan
  • Starring Deepika Padukone, Vikrant Massey, Vishal Dahiya, Madhurjeet Sarghi, Payal Nair
  • Classification PG; 2 hours 18 mins

rating

3.5 out of 4 stars

By making acid-attack survivor Malti Lal its central character, and by training the camera’s unflinching gaze on her – and several other survivors – Chhapaak tells us the human story behind flashy news headlines that tend to focus on the acid attacks themselves. Graceful direction and a mature performance by a Bollywood A-lister, surrounded by a strong supporting cast, come together to make an uplifting movie that tells the story of Malti’s fight for justice. (Opened Jan. 10)

Les Misérables

Courtesy of TIFF

  • Directed by Ladj Ly
  • Written by Ladj Ly and Giordano Gederlini
  • Starring Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djibril Zonga and Issa Perica
  • 103 minutes

rating

3 out of 4 stars

Les Misérables, the French drama that just earned an Oscar nomination for Best International Feature, is one of those scratchy, hottest-day-of-summer, something-is-gonna-blow films. It may remind you of Boyz n the Hood, Training Day, Do the Right Thing or especially La Haine, and that seems just fine with director/co-writer Ladj Ly. He give us a barricades-eye view of a culture clash that first simmers, then explodes, then excoriates. (Opens Jan. 17 at Toronto’s TIFF Lightbox and next week in Vancouver)

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What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael

Films We Like

  • Directed by Rob Garver
  • Classification PG; 98 minutes

rating

2.5 out of 4 stars

Watching What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael makes one wonder how The New Yorker’s legendary film critic might have reviewed the new tepid and largely impersonal documentary about her life. This is a woman whose pan of The Sound of Music was so provocative she was swiftly fired from McCall’s magazine early in her career as a critic. Garver’s documentary cuts between archival footage and random movie clips to construct a false cinephilic delirium that is mostly just incoherent, plus interviews with cultural figureheads. (Opens Jan. 17 at Toronto’s Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema)

Bad Boys for Life

The Canadian Press

  • Directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
  • Written by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan
  • Starring Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens and Joe Pantoliano
  • Classification R; 123 minutes

rating

2 out of 4 stars

In 1995 Bad Boys came out, followed eight years later by a sequel, Bad Boys II. And now, 17 years later, we have a third instalment, Bad Boys for Life. But what exactly are we reviving here? The casual homophobia? The flagrant misogyny? The wholesale disregard for citizenry and property? The racial stereotyping? Since 1995, film audiences have become more self-aware, and Hollywood has been somewhat humbled. So have the Bad Boys finally grown up? Yes and no. (Opens Jan. 17)

Dolittle

Universal Pictures

  • Directed by Stephen Gaghan
  • Written by Stephen Gaghan, Dan Gregor and Doug Mand
  • Starring Robert Downey Jr., Emma Thompson and Michael Sheen
  • Classification PG; 106 minutes

rating

2 out of 4 stars

Dolittle, a new film based on English author Hugh Lofting’s most enduring creation, returns the character to something approaching the books’ original setting of Victorian England. In a ramshackle cottage in the woods, Dr. Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) lives in cheerful squalor with a gaggle of wild creatures, including a nervous gorilla voiced by Rami Malek, a perpetually chilly polar bear (John Cena) and a sage parrot named Poly (Emma Thompson) who narrates the action – a necessity given the time-and-space-defying logic of the film’s plot. The adventure unfolds in a near-literal blur of computer-generated action. (Opens Jan. 17)

Also: What’s new and noteworthy to stream

Barry Hertz has a few suggestions on films to stream this weekend on Amazon Prime Video, CBC Gem, and Kanopy.


This weekly guide was compiled by Lori Fazari, with reviews from Aparita Bhandari, Chandler Levack, Johanna Schneller and Lara Zarum.

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