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    New releases
  • Addiction drama Luba explores the depths of everyday pain
  • 3-D dance documentary Cunningham offers jaw-dropping visual wonder
  • Legal drama Just Mercy is people-pleasing feel-goodery that lacks depth
  • Kristen Stewart thriller Underwater is about as deep as a kiddie pool
  • Tiffany Haddish comedy Like a Boss deserves to be fired
  • Also: Your best streaming bets for this weekend

Luba

Courtesy of Highball.TV

  • Directed by Caley Wilson
  • Written by Vladimir Jon Cubrt
  • Starring Nicole Maroon and Vladimir Jon Cubrt
  • Classification 14A; 87 minutes

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Luba succeeds at following the challenges of Luba (Nicole Maroon) as she raises her son after his father’s (Donnie, played by the film’s writer Vladimir Jon Cubrt) arrest and struggle with crack addiction. Director Caley Wilson submerges viewers in the exhausting reality of recovery, relapse and watching somebody you love begin to lose themselves. But just as valuable, the movie also calls out the social systems that fail those without money, without support systems and without the choices afforded to the middle class and above. (Opens Jan. 10 in Toronto and Calgary)

Cunningham

Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

  • Written and directed by Alla Kovgan
  • Classification PG; 93 minutes

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Alla Kovgan’s documentary Cunningham doesn’t always work as a portrait of its enigmatic subject, the late choreographer Merce Cunningham, but when it does, your jaw drops. The film is mainly a straightforward biography of the self-made dancer and choreographer, based on archival material and a few on-camera interviews with his past collaborators. But interspersed throughout are 14 wonderful cinematic re-enactments of Cunningham’s most iconic pieces in deep three-dimensional space. These performances are the main reason to watch Cunningham in a theatre and are utterly thrilling. (Opens Jan. 10 in Toronto and Vancouver, and Jan. 17 in Montreal)

Just Mercy

Jake Netter/Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

  • Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
  • Written by Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham
  • Starring Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Rob Morgan
  • Classification PG; 136 minutes

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Chief among Just Mercy’s problems is its intense people-pleaser sensibility. Director Destin Daniel Cretton’s legal thriller has a noble mission – it’s based on the real life of lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who’s dedicated his career to examining death-row cases – but its style is strictly procedural. Michael B. Jordan stars as Stevenson, who moves to Alabama to take on the case of Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx), convicted of killing a white teenage girl decades ago. Cretton (Short Term 12) is skilled at pulling apart the pieces of a horribly unjust legal system, but struggles to give Stevenson or McMillan much depth beyond “lawyer” and “inmate.” (Opens Jan. 10)

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Underwater

Alan Markfield/Twentieth Century Fox

  • Directed by William Eubank
  • Written by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad
  • Starring Kristen Stewart, T.J. Miller and Vincent Cassel
  • Classification PG; 95 minutes

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Underwater has all the signs of what should be an awful movie. Shot in 2017, the film took years to release and was dumped at the beginning of January, when the worst movies usually come out. Not to mention, between the time the film was shot and its release, star T.J. Miller saw his reputation reduced to shambles with charges related to a fake bomb threat, alleged workplace misconduct and sexual assault allegations. The whole production reeks of messiness. Starring Kristen Stewart as Norah Price, a mechanical engineer, the film takes place in a drilling site in the deepest part of the ocean. Which ocean? Doesn’t matter. Why are they drilling? It’s not clear. (Opens Jan. 10)

Like a Boss

Eli Joshua Ade/Paramount Pictures

  • Directed by Miguel Arteta
  • Written by Adam Cole-Kelly and Sam Pitman
  • Starring Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek
  • Classification R; 83 min

rating

Despite the critical response to Tiffany Haddish’s voice work in a trio of animated sequels (The Lego Movie 2, The Secret Life of Pets 2, The Angry Birds Movie 2), we’ve yet to see her in a recent live-action role that doesn’t devolve into caricature or derivative versions of her character in Girls Trip. Director Miguel Arteta’s latest film, Like a Boss, both does and doesn’t continue this trend. Like a Boss sees Arteta team up once again with Beatriz star Salma Hayek for an uber-palatable late-night comedy that trades his previous character studies for vagina-birth cakes and cheesy karaoke performances. (Opens Jan. 10)

Also: What’s new and noteworthy to stream

Barry Hertz has a few suggestions on films to stream this weekend on Netflix, Crave, Amazon Prime Video, Kanopy and AppleTV+.


This weekly guide was compiled by Lori Fazari, with reviews from Sarah-Tai Black, Anne T. Donahue, Sarah Hagi, Barry Hertz and Chandler Levack.

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