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Avengers: Endgame--A Satisfying Epic - Guest Review by Randy Cyrenne

Avengers: Endgame ( Sitting through the lengthy Avengers: Endgame, I reflected on what other critics had been saying of the film. Terms like “epic masterpiece” were being bandied about. Part-way into the film, I caught myself musing, “Is this really an epic masterpiece?” The movie starts as a slow burn, and for a while the story feels anything but epic. It is personal, introspective, and even a bit slow. There’s not much real action for a while, as the catastrophic events of the previous film are dwelt on, and we see the effects that the trauma has had on the various cast members. (The presented effects are strangely realistic, showing that one can never know how one will deal with trauma until it happens. The results can be surprising.) Eventually, a plan emerges to reverse the tragedy that has befallen the universe. The somewhat melancholic (through still frequently funny) story shifts into being an amusing heist film for a while, and then o…
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Knocking the House, Grace, Grizzlies, and High Life

The juggernaut of Avengers: Endgame may be sucking up most of the space at the multiplex.But it’s heartening to see an impressive Canadian film The Grizzlies getting a decently wide release. And read on for the best new documentary addition on Netflix.As well, an update to my previous post—the superb South Korean drama Burning is also now streaming on Netflix.
Knock Down the House ( Look no further to see why Netflix has become a game changer for documentary film.Since May 1 this inspiring feature is available on the streaming giant, thereby accessible to millions. Writer-director-producer-cinematographer Rachel Lears goes behind the scenes of insurgent grassroots campaigns challenging party bosses and establishment U.S. Congressional Democratic incumbents (‘rich white dudes in suits”, none of whom agreed to be interviewed) with ties to corporate interests. The focus is on strong women from diverse backgrounds, including several in states won by Trump in 2…

Penguins, Fireflies, Sunset, and Burning

Thank you Air Canada!Two recent Ottawa-Calgary and return flights allowed me to watch several highly anticipated movies yet to screen in Ottawa—from South Korea Burning, and from Quebec The Fireflies are Gone.A small seatback screen to be sure, but welcome given the months of waiting since I missed both at last September’s Toronto film festival. First, however, a look at the latest nature story from Disneynature that I took my brother Roger to see a week ago Earth Day while in Saskatoon for a successful April 24 launch of my film book at the McNally Robinson store. Penguins( For over a decade Disney Nature has been releasing animal stories around Earth Day. This one, helmed by Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson, is the 13th and focuses on the adventures of a pint-sized Adélie penguin it names “Steve”.We can be amused by the typical two-footed penguin waddle on land and ice compared to their speedy ocean diving and porpoising across the waves. Steve fi…



April 24, 2019 was the official launch of The Best of Screenings and Meanings: A Journey Through Film at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Saskatoon, SK

Early April Movies, Including Three Canadian

Early April Movies, Including Three Canadian 
April 17 is “Canadian film day”, but in a previous post I lamented the few opportunities to see films nominated for the Canadian Screen Awards. So I’m happy to report that Stockholm is now getting a multiplex release (a year after premiering at the Tribeca festival), and I was able to see the first Canadian title reviewed below, Chien de garde (English title “Family First”) thanks to Crave TV (formerly The Movie Network). This Quebec film was a somewhat surprising choice as Canada’s 2018 submission for the foreign-language Oscar category, ahead of, for example, Quebec master Denys Arcand’s latest The Fall of the American Empire (which has yet to screen in Ottawa), and Sebastien Pilote’s The Fireflies are Gone, awarded best Canadian feature at the Toronto film festival (also ignored by the Canadian Screen Awards).Meanwhile, the first English-language feature from Quebec prodigy Xavier Dolan, The Life and Death of John P. Donovan, fared poorl…

Horror to Hummingbirds, Greta, Gloria, Canadian Screen Awards

Horror to Hummingbirds, Greta, Gloria and Canadian Screen Awards 
I haven’t much to say about the Canadian Screen Awards to be announced this Sunday night on CBC (see the list of nominations:, not having seen any of the five “best picture” nominees (none of which has yet played theatrically in Canada’s capital), and precious few of the films nominated for anything.There is a best actor nomination for Brandon Oakes in Don McKellar’s Through Black Spruce now arriving in select theatres.An adaptation of the acclaimed Joseph Boyden novel, it’s about the search by a young Cree woman from Northern Ontario for her twin sister who has disappeared in Toronto. I was able to see it at last year’s Toronto film festival. Definitely worth a look. At New York’s Tribeca film festival a year ago I caught Robert Budreau’s Stockholm, nominated for “best adapted screenplay”. It stars the reliably excellent Ethan Hawke. Several of the documentary features—Anote’s Ark, Anth…

Women and Girls on Screen

Women and Girls on Screen
Captain Marvel (U.S./Australia Written and directed by the duo of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, this female-led superhero blockbuster is approaching a billion-dollar worldwide box-office, on track to surpass last year’s Wonder Woman, so it must be doing something right.Credit Brie Larson in the title role as “Vers”, being trained as an extra-terrestrial “Kree” warrior, up against shape-shifting “Skrulls”, and in thrall to a Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening).After crashing back to a retro 1990s planet C-53 (aka Earth), and discovering her origins as fighter pilot Carol “Avenger” Danvers, our superheroine learns the truth about the Kree and its “supreme intelligence”.The Skrulls sure are ugly but maybe not the bad-guy invaders.If not totally marvelous, there’s more than enough diverting action-hero effects and story twists to keep one engaged.B Woman at War(Iceland/Ukraine/France This delig…

Some March Movie Picks

Best of March Movies
I missed going to summery Austin, Texas this March for the South By Southwest Festival. But I did get a preview screener for an outstanding documentary feature The River and the Wall which played to standing ovations and was awarded the fest’s Louis Black “Lone Star” award. An intrepid crew navigates the full 1,200-mile length of the Texas-Mexico border along the Rio Grande from El Paso to the Gulf coast using bicycles, on horseback, and by canoe.The rugged environmentally sensitive locations are awe-inspiring and the film includes bipartisan commentary (from both Democratic presidential aspirant Beto O’Rourke and Republican Congressman Will Hurd) showing how senseless is Donald Trump’s blowhard “build the wall” approach to border security. See and read more at: Below I briefly review the Netflix South American action-thriller Triple Frontier.Also now streaming on Netflix is the British production The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind about …

Oscar Hangover and Current Releases: Kids Stuff, Liam, Madsx2

Oscar Hangover?
I was less dismayed than some at Green Book taking best picture. Notwithstanding the controversies, the movie is quite good, and Mahershala Ali deserved his second Oscar for his role as the African-American pianist Don Shirley. Still Roma was in a class above, a masterwork by every measure. In 91 years the big Oscar has never gone to a non-English language film and here was a golden chance to end that. (Compare Roma’s 96% rating on to the reverse numbers of 69% for Green Book; the critical consensus is clear.) Was it the fact that Netflix produced Roma? A black-and-white movie with no big-name stars? (Netflix also produced and is streaming the winning documentary short Period. End of Sentence.  Then again theatrical distribution is not an issue for shorts.) Bohemian Rhapsody was another Oscar-favoured film dogged by controversy and hated by some critics with a passion.   But there were also the Spike Lee and Olivia Colman moments.  And Roma’s Mexican write…