Nanny McPhee, Mesrine, Joan Rivers and seven other new films open

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Rivers comes across as self-obsessed, insecure, needy (for attention), needy (for luxury) and committed to her craft. She calls it acting, which may be a bit of self-serving deflection. It’s not really her, it’s a role she’s playing. She has a wall of card files with itemized jokes, a lot of plastic surgery apparent on her face and even at age 75 a drive. She has to keep working even if the job is low-class like Celebrity Apprentice. We get lots of clips, including the Carson appearances, her own talk show that killed her friendship with Carson, her attempt to stage a one-woman play and today’s small-time shows in whatever club that will book her. “Joan will turn nothing down,” somebody says. Lucky for us, she’s still funny and quick-witted. That’s what makes this film an interesting portrait of a not particularly likeable entertainer.
(5th Avenue Cinemas)  3 ½ out of 5

CEMETERY JUNCTION: Ricky Gervais has done better than this. On TV for instance or in his last film, The Invention of Lying. He only plays a supporting role in this one, but co-wrote and co-directed it with his usual cohort, Stephen Merchant. It’s a tale of three young men in a working class neighborhood with wildly different attitudes. One works in a machine shop and fights in the pub. One is too plain and fat for the women he pursues. The third tries to better himself with a job selling insurance and romancing the daughter of the boss, played by Ralph Fiennes.


Class conflicts and conflicting ambitions should produce more insight and fresh drama than this film achieves. And more humor. An insurance spiel invoking the war is one of the few really inspired scenes. As it is, even with good acting and strong atmosphere evoking the early 1970s, the story turns hackneyed, bringing each man a completely expected choice between escape or staying put. This is the only Canadian big-screen booking for this film.
(VanCity Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5

It plays along with another film that didn’t get much theatre action, Mike Judge's IDIOCRACY, which got only a nominal release four years ago. I caught it at the time in Toronto, in the only Canadian theatre it played. I thought it was a tortured and not particularly clever and definitely not subtle attack on government stupidity. Its reputation grew on video, though and now, finally, it arrives here. 
2 out of 5

Also on the bill,  STONES IN EXILE the documentary that watches the Rolling Stones record their classic Exile on Mainstreet album. Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman were still in the band at the time and Anita Pallenberg was hanging around.
Details, times and prices at

CANNIBAL GIRLS: This one may be historically significant in the evolution of Canadian movies but it’s really little more than a curio. It was Ivan Reitman’s third film, the one he made before he hit it big with Meatballs and 11 years before Ghostbusters. It’s been re-released in a crisp, colorful remastered edition. It looks better than it plays, though.

Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin star as a bickering couple driving to a small Ontario town for no reason that I heard explained. She’s ditzy; he’s horny, both play their parts comically, not unlike the personas we got to know on SCTV. Other characters aren’t comic at all. The local cop and the guys at the gas station are almost Deliverance-like. A motel woman tells an eerie story of a cannibal cult and Ronald Ulrich as a restaurant owner is ingratiatingly creepy like a Christopher Walken type in a tuxedo. So, the tone shifts depending on who’s on screen. That undercuts the attempts at horror, which are pretty tame anyway by today’s standards. There’s a lot of meat eating on screen, not much gore but quite a bit of nudity. This is a low budget film with an amateurish feel in some scenes and a cool professional look in others. Obviously a learning experience for Reitman.  
(Pacific Cinematheque)  2 out of 5

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1917: a must-see, Just Mercy, a should-see, and Underwater, a don’t-bother

But do check out three others making a welcome return from last fall’s film festival

So many contenders for 2019's 10-best list, plus a festival of new and classic Italian films

There are no new reviews this week. That’s because except for one small horror movie (see below) no new films opened. There’s a sizable bunch coming next week but right now, especially as the awards...
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