Aladdin drops in again, the Booksmart girls wonder what they missed and Shakespeare retires sad

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ALL IS TRUE: Kenneth Branagh, as both director and star, doesn’t convince me of that though. He plays Shakespeare who, after his Globe Theatre burned down, gave up writing and returned home to his wife and two daughters and spent his time gardening. And sulking. He was grieving for his son Hamnet, who died of the plague almost 20 years earlier. His wife (played by Judi Dench) berates him for being away from his family for many years and his daughter Judith (Kathryn Wilder) criticizes him not only for that but severely for his attitude to women. It’s hard to imagine his final years playing out like so much of a soap opera.


There are nuggets here for Shakespeare buffs to discover. He talks to his son’s ghost. Did the death lead to Hamlet the play, where the son talked to his father’s ghost? Scholars have pondered that connection. The film’s title was the original name of his last play. Ian McKellen drops in as the Earl of Southampton who may have inspired some of the sonnets. In a fine scene they recite competing versions of one of them. How much is true? A few known facts maybe, the rest comes from the imagination of the screenwriter, Ben Elton. He wrote about it before and is best known for the Black Adder TV series. It’s  only speculation and listless at that. (5th Avenue) 2  out of 5

SIR:  It’s from Bollywood but does not bring us fantasy and the usual love story. This one is realistic, subtle and well-observed. A young woman in an arranged marriage, played by a Bollywood regular, Tillotama Shome, suddenly finds herself a widow. Normally she’s be shunned by society but shows considerable strength and determination to make a life for herself. Step one, she moves from her small town to Mumbai, takes a job as a housekeeper and tries to get a job with a fashion designer. The man she serves and only dares to address as “Sir” (Vivek Gomber) is depressed because his fiancé called of their marriage. Perfect. Two available people. Love is surely coming.


Not so fast, though. They’re different in several ways: economic class, experience, modernity. He’s been to the US; she’s a country girl. She wears a sari, not like the chic sexy one-night stand he brings home. His dad runs a construction company. She hears disparaging comments about women’s ambitions. Meanwhile, she’s helping her sister with school costs. These conflicting elements will all clash but not in a loud way. There are no feminist proclamations about empowerment but quiet scenes that say something quite similar. The director, Rohena Gera, previously examined love and arranged marriage in a documentary.  (VanCity Theatre) 3 ½ out of

WALKING ON WATER: In this documentary you’ll see Christo at work, observe his creative process and his prickly interaction with people and still be left wondering what he’s all about. He creates giant art installations, like that 25-mile fence in California, or the wrapping of The Reichstag in Berlin, but ascribes no meaning to them. They’re there for aesthetic reasons only and don’t stay up very long. But they grab attention while they’re up.


In 2016, he convinced a small town in northern Italy to let him build a long promenade out onto a lake. Made up of polystyrene blocks and covered in a bright yellow fabric, it gave people the sensation of walking on water. The film shows all the details of the long planning and construction process, meetings with local officials, debates within his group and some loud arguments with the nephew who served as his project manager. Through it all Christo, looking like a brother of Bernie Sanders, insisted on his way, turning petulant and demanding at times and graciously greeting fans and supporters at others. When it opened, too many people showed up. That’s success. The film is a fascinating look into it even without any deeper explanation. (VanCity Theatre) 3 out of 5    


Also now playing …

BRIGHTBURN: This week’s horror movie has an interesting premise but not much appeal to the critics. I haven’t seen it since the studio didn’t preview it here. Suppose a kid landed on earth like Superman but turned out to be evil not good. Elizabeth Banks and David Denman play the parents who adopt him and then have to ask how do you discipline a bad kid with super powers?  Slant, the on-line magazine which can be pretty tough, calls it “a spectacle of violence that exists for its own soulless sake.” That’s not a recommendation.


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