Before reading about new movies, write down these TV events. They are valuable information documents.
winter on fire is a Netflix documentary (called a hidden gem) about Ukraine’s fight for freedom. Not now, eight or nine years ago, when a student-led revolution overthrew a government. The issue then? Closer links with Europe. The film captures popular resistance so much you’ll wonder why Putin dared to inflame it again. But it has.
Carbon is an unauthorized biography of the element that we fear now overwhelms us but started as a basic element of life. This Canadian-Australian co-production allows him to tell his own story. This is an innovative approach to the climate change file. Carbon speaks with the voice of Sarah Snook (she is the daughter of the HBO series Succession). Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of many scientists to appear, and BC filmmaker Niobe Thompson produced the film. Radio Canada The nature of things and CBC Gem present a 44-minute version starting Friday night. Another, twice as long, is scheduled to play in theaters.
As for regular movies, they’re serious this week too, even Batman. Here is the list.
Batman: 4 stars
Scarborough: 3 ½
Short Oscar: various notes
THE BATMAN: He’s been in movies since 1943 so what can you do with him again? Matt Reeves, who wrote and directed, seems to have taken inspiration from an animated series that aired on television and made him and his Gotham City dark and cynical. I don’t remember so much corruption in the previous movies, but I haven’t seen them all. Hardly anyone here is good. Revival, embraced by politicians, is a scam. When Reeves wrote this, Donald Trump was in power, so there’s a holdover attitude here. This unfortunately adds to the lack of respect for public figures these days.
That said, I will add that it is a very good film, if not the best of the line, surely close. Robert Pattinson, who shot in art house films after his dusk Vampire Nights, is dark and harsh as he reflects on what’s happened around him and even uncovers a scandal in his own family’s history. The film is squarely focused on him, not the villains who usually steal the show. He’s only been in this crime-fighting role for two years, quite unsure of himself and thinking he’s really just an Avenger. “Two years of nights have made me a nocturnal animal,” he complains. Crime got worse. Corruption has grown and now the Riddler (Paul Dano) is going after it, killing personalities and leaving cryptic puzzles. Batman is joined by Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz) who leads him to a secret club and the estate of the man who really runs the town, a gang leader played by John Turturro. Colin Farrell is unrecognizable as Penguin and Andy Serkis plays Alfred, the butler. It’s a film noir, a serial killer chase and a civic cleansing movie and so much more than a comic book movie. It’s also so engrossing that you hardly notice it’s nearly three hours long. (In theaters everywhere) 4 out of 5
SCARBOROUGH: I used to live in this east part of Toronto and was looking forward to this one. This part of town is not often in the movies. It’s too ordinary, suburban I guess. Maybe too low income. More than I remember, at least compared to what the movie depicts. I was close to being rewarded. It’s heartfelt, has deeply moving scenes, and a keen understanding of the issues people face.
The film focuses on three children and the adults around them. Bing (Liam Diaz) is Filipino, Sylvie (Mekiya Fox) is indigenous, and Laura (Anna Claire Beitel) is white but with neglectful parents. She and Mom butt heads before being kicked out of their apartment. The problems common to all are poverty and various forms of indifference. There is a drop-in center run by a welcoming teacher who wears a hijab (Aliya Kanani) but seems to be constantly insecure. A supervisor’s emails give orders that don’t serve customers.
We feel the struggles of these people. A child has a brother with an intellectual disability. Another has a drug-addicted mother and a father who oscillates between detachment and anger under the guise of protection. The cumulative effect is very moving. It’s from a novel by Catherine Hernandez, who also wrote the screenplay for new directors Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson. The acting is excellent but I have two minor complaints. It doesn’t say much new and there is an agenda. Almost all white people are bad; others are angelic or victims. Some blanks are poorly molded. The poor, starving father looks too healthy and a devious matron looks out of place, though the white bureaucrat who finally shows up is perfectly cast. The film is a top contender for the upcoming Canadian Screen Awards. (Now playing in Toronto, Hamilton and Saskatoon and expanding next week). 3½ out of 5
OSCAR NOMINATED SHORTS: The big films attract the press but there is always fun with these short ones. As usual, they are grouped into three programs, animated, live action (sometimes with a 10 minute intermission) and documentary (long enough for a 20 minute intermission).
Canada has an entrance, art businessin which an elderly woman reflects on the art she did not pursue and the strange obsessions of her children.
My favorite though is robin robin, a new one from Ardman in England with its usual sense of humour. These are the people of Wallace and Grommit. Here they have a bird, bred by mice and joining them on raids to steal food. And try to outdo them. Pleasant. Gillian Anderson and Richard E. Grant are among the voice actors.
DOCUMENTARY (these last up to 39 minutes)
There are great films about a family in Afghanistan and homelessness in the United States, but I have two favorites.
The queen of basketball is a real feel-good film about a basketball star (three national championships, first basket for a woman at the Montreal Olympics, drafted by the NBA but declined) retracing her career.
She is eternally joyful, even about a few slight regrets.
When we Were bullies is also a flashback, by a man who was involved in a bullying incident almost 50 years ago and goes to meet other people who were there, as well as the victim and a teacher . Very involving.
LIVE ACTION (short dramas)
Please wait is my preferred. It’s only 19 minutes long but packed with ideas about the future and artificial intelligence. A young man is arrested by a drone, put in a prison where there seems to be no one running it and everything is done by computers. He’s never said what he’s been charged with, but animated lawyers on computer screens are suggesting a plea deal. Like other visions of the future, it could be.
In theaters in Toronto and Vancouver now and available on demand starting March 22.
JOCKEY: This film won accolades when it premiered at Sundance because it gives us a different angle on the world of horse racing. It is not the owners or even the horses that we are asked to feel, it is the jockeys. They suffer from injuries, fractures, even backs, more than I had imagined. The film tells it all, twice in speeches by runners listing the injuries they suffered. There’s a particularly poignant scene when the main character we’re following (played by Clifton Collins Jr.) visits a colleague in the hospital and sees him almost completely wrapped in bandages. “You can’t be afraid of death,” he told her.
It’s going away on its own, he realizes. His hand is shaking and an arm sometimes goes numb. But he’s working to win one more race for a trainer played by Molly Parker when an aspiring jockey (Moses Arias) arrives who says he’s her son. It’s debated (and clarified later) but it sets in motion a larger theme, getting old, when is it time to let things go, how important is a man’s work to him and what will- does it after? There is an elegiac tone and a bittersweet reflection that keeps you strongly interested. (In theaters in Toronto and Vancouver) 3 out of 5