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The Souvenir

NICOLA DOVE/Courtesy of Mongrel

  • Written and directed by Joanna Hogg
  • Starring Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke and Tilda Swinton
  • Classification N/A; 120 minutes

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Director Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical, 1980s-set story The Souvenir may be small – it mostly focuses on the turbulent relationship between film student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) and Cambridge-educated Anthony (Tom Burke), as the former struggles to find her artistic voice and the latter battles various addictions – but her impulses and vision are grand. So, too, are her casting instincts, with Swinton Byrne excelling in her first-ever role – the young actress’s mother is Tilda Swinton, who pops up here as Julie’s own mother. (Opens June 7 in Montreal, Vancouver and at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto)

Always Be My Maybe

The Canadian Press

  • Directed by Nahnatchka Khan
  • Written by Michael Golamco, Randall Park, Ali Wong
  • Starring Ali Wong, Randall Park
  • Classification N/A; 101 minutes

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Would we be talking about a low-key Netflix rom-com with two Asian leads if not for Crazy Rich Asians? Not likely. Whereas CRA dazzled with its lavish sets and exotic locations, Always Be My Maybe lives comfortably, but uproariously, in a post-CRA world without the weight of expectation, and is the movie that should cement stars Randall Park and Ali Wong as comedic forces deserving of many, many more leading roles. (Now streaming on Netflix)

Framing John DeLorean

IFC Films

  • Directed by Don Argott and Sheena Joyce
  • Written by Dan Greeney and Alexandra Orton
  • Starring Alec Baldwin, Morena Baccarin and Josh Charles
  • Classification 14A; 101 minutes

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Blending archival footage of the real car designer with re-enactments starring Alec Baldwin (who also takes time to psychoanalyze his character directly to the screen), Framing John DeLorean is an ambitious and inventive spin on a familiar documentary formula. Even though the straight facts of DeLorean’s life could fuel a thoroughly entertaining biopic on their own, Don Argott and Sheena Joyce’s decision to torque reality adds a delightfully unpredictable boost to the proceedings. (Opens June 7)

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Mouthpiece

1996-98 AccuSoft Inc., All right/Courtesy of TIFF

  • Directed by Patricia Rozema
  • Written by Amy Nostbakken, Norah Sadava and Patricia Rozema
  • Starring Amy Nostbakken, Norah Sadava and Maev Beaty
  • Classification 14A; 91 minutes

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When critics complain that Canadian cinema is too focused on small-scale, interior stories with little plot, they’re likely thinking of films such as Mouthpiece, which could hardly be more interior: an adaptation of an acclaimed experimental theatre piece in which two actors (Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava) play different halves of a woman’s mind as she tries to write a eulogy for her mother. So, sure, very little happens, but in revealing Cassandra’s interior life, Rozema lays bare the modern female condition in an epic battle that is by turns lacerating, soothing and heartbreaking. (Opens June 7 at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto)

The Secret Life of Pets 2

Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures/Universal Pictures

  • Directed by Chris Renaud
  • Written by Brian Lynch
  • Featuring the voices of Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Tiffany Haddish, Lake Bell and Harrison Ford
  • Classification G; 86 minutes

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In a lively sequel to 2016’s The Secret Life of Pets, an old dog learns a new trick and Patton Oswalt takes over for disgraced comedian Louis C.K. as the voice of Max, the lead-role terrier. In The Secret Life of Pets 2, the little guy’s owner gets married and produces a rambunctious baby boy, leading an initially wary Max to take the role of the tyke’s protector. The message of the film is that life throws surprises. While that is true, this predictable film itself is not one of them. (Opens June 7)

Wild Nights with Emily

Courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment / Films We Like

  • Written and directed by Madeleine Olnek
  • Starring Molly Shannon and Susan Ziegler
  • Classification PG; 84 minutes

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Don’t be alarmed by the first 10 minutes of Wild Nights with Emily. Stick with it, because the wobbly tone and some amateurish acting warm up into something lovely and memorable: the too-little-known true story of Emily Dickinson’s (Molly Shannon) lifelong love affair with Susan (Susan Ziegler), her brother’s wife, and how it was sanitized by editors after her death. (Susan’s name was literally erased from many of Dickinson’s nearly 2,000 poems.) Writer-director Madeleine Olnek has a merry time making fun of our stubborn belief in Dickinson as a virginal recluse, when contrasted with the obvious Sapphic lustiness of her work. (Opens June 7 in Toronto and Vancouver)

Echo in the Canyon

Mirror Films

  • Directed by Andrew Slater
  • Starring Jakob Dylan, Roger McGuinn, Michelle Phillips, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne and Regina Spektor
  • Classification PG; 90 minutes

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“We were putting good poetry on the radio – pop radio.” That’s David Crosby’s take on the seminal California folk-rock scene of 1965 to ’67, an era explained lovingly and with due reverence in the hashish-scented documentary Echo in the Canyon. We get the story from the people who were there – members of the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield predominantly – and those who came later. Interviews are conducted by Bob Dylan’s son Jakob Dylan, who is also featured in the recording studio, rehearsals and a 2015 tribute concert. That’s way too much Jakob Dylan.

The Tomorrow Man

Noble Jones/Bleeker Street Media

  • Directed and written by Noble Jones
  • Starring John Lithgow and Blythe Danner
  • Classification PG; 94 minutes

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She’s a mousy hoarder with a taste for Captain & Tennille and war documentaries. He’s a paranoid survivalist and retiree with father-son issues who stocks his fall-out shelter with cans of tuna. And yet, they bond over … well, that’s a problem, because the quirky romantic comedy The Tomorrow Man relies on the believability of their late-in-life love in order for the film to work. Which it does, to some degree – that degree being small-story preciousness and the simple pleasure of eating popcorn while watching Blythe Danner and John Lithgow watching television as they eat popcorn. (Opens June 7)

Pavarotti

Mongrel

  • Directed by Ron Howard
  • Classification PG; 90 minutes

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Pavarotti, the new documentary by Ron Howard that recounts the life and career of one of opera’s few household names, is a broad-strokes biography that follows a simple, respectful chronological arc from childhood until his death in 2007. It’s a sweeping story, but for those already enamoured with “the people’s tenor," Pavarotti is unlikely to offer any new insights into his life. We certainly get tastes of interesting chapters in his career, points of focus that scream for more attention. (Opens June 7 in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal)

Reese The Movie: A Movie about Reese

CNW Group/Hershey Canada Inc.

  • Directed by Jamie Webster
  • Classification N/A; 82 minutes

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ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) is a feeling that’s best described as frisson-like “tingles” that typically wash over one’s head and neck like a particularly strong hit of serotonin. It’s also a fast-growing movement on the internet, where creators (or, as they’re lovingly referred to, “ASMRtists”) perform a range of ASMR-inducing triggers: tapping, whispering, crinkling … pretty much anything, so long as it sounds, for lack of a better word, good. Canadian streaming service Crave is premiering Reese The Movie: A Movie About Reese, a piece of branded content that unites a group of ASMRtists to quietly talk about, and fastidiously interact with, Reese Peanut Butter Cups over 82 minutes. (Streaming on Crave starting June 7)

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Domino

Backup Media

  • Directed by Brian De Palma
  • Written by Petter Skavlan
  • Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Carice van Houten and Guy Pearce
  • Classification R; 89 minutes

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More or less disowned by its director (“The film is finished and ready to go out, but I have no idea what its future will hold, it is currently in the hands of the producers,” he told French press last year), Domino could either be a bad Brian De Palma film or not really a Brian De Palma film at all. It certainly has the Femme Fatale and Body Double director’s appreciated tics, but the film also trades on De Palma’s more regrettable impulses, including nonsensical plotting and a penchant for violence that feels both visceral and cartoonish. (Available digitally)

Dark Phoenix

COURTESY TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

  • Written and directed by Simon Kinberg
  • Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Sophie Turner
  • Classification PG; 113 minutes

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Like Disney’s recent Avengers: Endgame, Dark Phoenix is being billed as an epic conclusion to the onscreen X-Men mythos. Yet unlike the proper “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” the X-Men films are muddied by reboots, time-travelling continuity revisions, and multiple casts playing the same characters. Likewise, little in the way of table setting had occurred in the run-up to Dark Phoenix, which makes it feel less like a grand finale, and more like a rushed ending hammered out under a tight deadline. (Opens June 7)

The weekly film guide is compiled by Lori Fazari.

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