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film review

This week’s new releases

  • Matthew McConaughey takes a puzzling turn in Harmony Korine’s The Beach Bum
  • Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes examines the jazz label’s legacy
  • Director Tim Burton does his outsiders thing with Disney’s Dumbo
  • Canadian actress Tantoo Cardinal finally gets a headlining turn in Falls Around Her
  • Jasmin Mozaffari makes an incendiary feature debut with Firecrackers
  • Josh Wiggins and Kyle MacLachlan star in the coming-of-age drama Giant Little Ones
  • The chilling thriller Hotel Mumbai depicts the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai
  • Don McKellar’s adaptation of the Joseph Boyden novel Through Black Spruce arrives.


Michaela Kurimsky plays Lou, a desperate young woman looking to scrape her way out of her small, unnamed Ontario town with partner-in-crime Chantal, played by Karena Evans.Courtesy of LevelFilm

  • Written and directed by: Jasmin Mozaffari
  • Starring: Michaela Kurimsky and Karena Evans
  • Classification: N/A
  • 93 minutes


4 out of 4 stars

It is up to all of us to go out this weekend and buy a ticket for Firecrackers. Jasmin Mozaffari’s feature debut is not a passive work of slow-burn pondering, or whatever clichés of meek Canadian cinema have been constructed over the past few decades. It is confident, loud, urgent, writes Barry Hertz.

Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes

Pioneering label Blue Note Records gave voice to some of the finest jazz artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Herbie Hancock.Mira Film

  • Directed by: Sophie Huber
  • Starring: Don Was, Lou Donaldson, Robert Glasper, Rudy Van Gelder, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock
  • Classification: PG
  • 86 minutes


3.5 out of 4 stars

It’s about music, yes, but the Blue Note jazz label and the new documentary Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes concern more: Life-lessons, collaboration, open-minded attitudes and the value of submitting to the now, writes Brad Wheeler.

Giant Little Ones

Giant Little Ones stars up-and-comer Josh Wiggins as Franky.Courtesy of Mongrel Media

  • Written and directed by: Keith Behrman
  • Starring: Josh Wiggins, Kyle MacLachlan and Maria Bello
  • Classification: 14A
  • 93 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

Written and directed by Keith Behrman, the tender but untimid drama Giant Little Ones stars up-and-comer Josh Wiggins as Franky, whose experimentation sets off a chain reaction of sexual confusion and adolescent judgments, writes Brad Wheeler.

Hotel Mumbai

The film rounds up an ensemble of hotel guests (like a wealthy architect, played by Armie Hammer, staying with his wife, baby and nanny) and workers (such as a heroic waiter, played by Dev Patel).MARK ROGERS Photographer/Courtesy of VVS

  • Directed by: Anthony Maras
  • Written by: Anthony Maras and John Collee
  • Starring: Dev Patel, Armie Hammer
  • Classification: 14A
  • 123 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

Hotel Mumbai is a visceral depiction of the small acts of bravery that can occur when people are victims of large-scale violence. The film depicts the real-life terrorist assault on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and the hotel guests and workers who endure horrific violence as they try to escape, writes Chandler Levack.

Falls Around Her

Tantoo Cardinal stars as Mary, a touring musician who’s had enough of fame, and returns home to her land and her sister (played by Tina Keeper) to recharge.The Film Farm

  • Written and directed by Darlene Naponse
  • Starring: Tantoo Cardinal and Tina Keeper
  • Classification: 14A
  • 100 minutes


2.5 out of 4 stars

The strength of Falls Around Her is twofold: First, it creates and captures the mood of life on the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation in Northern Ontario. Second, it stars Tantoo Cardinal, the acclaimed Métis actress, in her first above-the-title role and it’s about time, writes Johanna Schneller.

The Beach Bum

The Beach Bum stars Matthew McConaughey as the constantly-under-the-influence poet Moondog wandering between gentle misadventures in the Florida Keys.Atsushi Nishijima/Courtesy of VVS

  • Written and directed by Harmony Korine
  • Starring Matthew McConaughey and Snoop Dog
  • Classification: R
  • 95 minutes


2 out of 4 stars

Matthew McConaughey and Harmony Korine’s new collaboration, The Beach Bum, requires less of a straightforward film review and more a letter-to-the-ostensible-editors. Barry Hertz writes that he’s still trying to puzzle the film out, which is infuriating, given that it’s a cinematic middle finger to the concept of problem-solving.


The big-eared baby elephant can fly about the big top when given the proper encouragement by two plucky kids and their reluctant, war-vet father, played by Colin Farrell.Disney/Disney Enterprises

  • Directed by: Tim Burton
  • Written by: Ehren Kruger
  • Starring: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito
  • Classification: PG
  • 112 minutes


2 out of 4 stars

Dumbo feels totally consistent with Tim Burton’s late-period slump. Abysmally scripted and hammily acted – and not, for the most part, in an interesting or ironic way – Dumbo recasts Disney’s animated classic in the trappings and suits of Burton’s pinstripe-and-pinwheel upholstery.

Through Black Spruce

Brandon Oakes plays Will, an alcoholic Moosonee bush pilot who’s run afoul of drug-runners, and Tanaya Beatty plays Will’s niece Annie, who’s searching for her missing sister in Toronto.Serendipity Point Films

  • Directed by: Don McKellar
  • Written by: Barbara Samuels
  • Starring: Tanaya Beatty, Brandon Oakes and Tina Keeper
  • Classification: 14A
  • 111 minutes


2 out of 4 stars

Joseph Boyden’s Through Black Spruce was never going to be an easy novel to adapt – even before debates surrounding Boyden’s Indigenous identity cropped up in 2016. Canadian director Don McKellar lends highly experienced hands to the effort, but the novel’s two intertwined stories unfold in awkward chunks, and the Indigenous characters’ identities are eternally out of the filmmaker’s psychological grasp, writes Barry Hertz.