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Roma, one of the year’s best, animated Spider-Man, also a best, Mary Queen of Scots, not an equal

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Both, the film suggests, were victims of men, advisors without feeling. Mary, who had a child by the gentlemen mentioned above, wanted to be named successor to Elizabeth who had no children or husband. Guy Peace, as QE’s advisor, warned repeatedly that the people would never accept a Catholic queen. Up north, David Tennant, as fiery John Knox, annoys with too many brimstone speeches about insults to Scottish honor. Mary’s half brother betrays her. There’s an audience for this kind of castle-bound intrigue thanks to Game of Thrones, which the film often resembles. But this is no match. It’s ponderous, not even weird and strange. It’s directed by Josie Rourke, a theatre veteran and written by Beau Willimon, known for House of Cards, U.S. version.  (5th Avenue) 2 ½ out of 5

ONCE UPON A DEADPOOL: Some people grumbled and a few walked out of the promo screening for this film. They’d seen this film before, they said. Didn’t they know it’s a mildly-altered re-release of Deadpool 2 that played here in May? It was also filmed here, and stars local guy Ryan Reynolds as the Merc with a Mouth. It’s that mouth that’s been curbed in this version. The profanity is cut out (there used to be a lot) and the violence has been tamed. That’s to get a rating that allows younger viewers to see it. So if you’ve got a young teen, it’s OK now, though a few story elements, an invitation to make a baby, for instance, are still a bit marginal.

 

There’s a new framing device—Deadpool reading the story to Fred Savage, who is lying in a bed in a room just like in The Princess Bride, one of his earliest movies. That allows even more of the cheeky, meta comments the film is loaded with. Savage blasts “lazy storytelling” at one point; compares something to “like the Beatles produced by Nickleback” at another. The Jared Kushner and George W. Bush jokes are still in there. So is the general loosey-goosey tone but I miss the wise-cracking opening credits. They’re gone. There doesn’t seem a real need for this re-release except to squeeze a bit more money out of it. (International Village and suburban theatres) 3 out of 5

MORTAL ENGINES: Yes, Peter Jackson can produce a dud, and here’s the proof. But since he is who he is, he’s been able to get good people to be in it, get it made and get people to finance it. I can’t see this doing much for him, though. I can’t even figure out who it’s for. Young teens maybe, but I would think even they won’t find it very engrossing and though big money was spent on creating the look, the story isn’t a grabber and the battle scenes are hard to follow. Jackson didn’t direct the film; Christian Rivers, a long-time associate did.

In this tale, set 1,000 years in the future, the world is a wasteland (thanks to the “ancients,” apparently us). Cities are mounted on treads like on army tanks and roam the countryside attacking each other for resources. It’s from a young adult novel but the first mistake the producers made is to give the film the steam punk look the book describes. It looks fake and prevents you from being engaged. Hugo Weaving plays the leader in this “traction-city” of London and he’s working on something dire in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Hera Hilmar and Robert Sheehan play two young people trying to stop him, she because of an old grudge, and he because of a brand new one. They team up with an Asian adventurer played by Jihae. There’s much talk of “municipal Darwinism” and I tried to think of it as a metaphor but couldn’t. The title is from Shakespeare’s Othello but that doesn’t help either. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 out of 5

BLAZE: Ethan Hawke also directs films now and then and has got a very good but little known one here. It’s about a country singer named Blaze Foley, who is obscure to most of us, but praised by Willie Nelson and others who recorded his songs. Both Lucinda Williams and Kings of Leon wrote songs in tribute to him and there’s already been a documentary about him. In this drama, a real country singer, Benjamin Dickey, portrays him and that adds immensely to the air of reality a film like this needs. This has got it in spades. He’s big and burly, a drinker with a temper and a series of introspective songs that sometimes sound like moping and reflect real regrets and pains. Even simple ones like “I Should Have Been Home With You.”

 

The film shows a series of gigs, in small bars mostly, and including a lot of mumbly storytelling, which didn’t please the hecklers.  He gets a business deal with three guys starting a record company but he messes that up. Helping a pensioner against a pair of robbers got him shot. Much of the film shows his life with Sybil Rosen, played by Alia Shawkat.  She wrote a book about him and co-wrote the script with Hawke. He says late in the film, “I had enough love to put in some songs. Not enough for a full-grown woman.” What happened is sketchy. The film isn’t there for everything. But in its low-key, impressionistic way it does get you close to a guy who didn’t want to be a star. A legend is better, he said. It lasts forever. (Park Theatre) 3 out of 5

Also now playing …

THE MULE: Beats me why Warner Brothers didn’t pre-screen this out here. Clint Eastwood has been a reliable star and director for them for decades. This is his second film this year, pretty good since he’s 88 years old. It’s a true story. He plays a 90-year old who is given a second chance in life and uses it to make up for his failures with his family. He’s recruited to run drugs in Michigan for a Mexican cartel. Bradley Cooper and Laurence Fishburne play DEA agents who come after him. Eastwood’s still got it, says one review I read. His best in 25 years, says another.  

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