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Multiple Cate Blanchetts in Manifesto, Salma Hayek’s dissent in Beatriz at Dinner and facing obsolescence in Cars 3

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His manager has his own reasons to push him on. He’s a former boxer who never made it big. But there are two big impediments. Olli isn’t in any hurry to lose a few pounds and get down to the required weight. Also he’s losing his drive because he’s distracted. He’s fallen in love with a girl (Oona Airola) from his hometown and hates “this circus” that’s developing around him in Helsinki, including the film crew always following him. He wants peace, he says. The film by first-time director Juho Kuosmanen is a gentle portrait of a contender and not your usual boxing movie. It’s got characters and little spectacle, periods of dry humor, a great deal of empathy and not a moment of mean spirit, all in crisp black and white. It’s a solid, evocative film and hardly a masterpiece but it did win a significant award at Cannes. (VanCity Theatre) 3 out of 5  

ALL EYEZ ON ME: With so many books and documentaries already out there about him, it’s hard to take this dramatized biography of Tupac Shakur as “the true and untold story.” A thin but lengthy once over about his life and death is more like it. It doesn’t have the passion of another rap pioneer film, last year’s Straight Outta Compton. It does skip lightly through a complex story.

 

Tupac’s parents were Black Panthers. His dad was gone most of his life, either on the run or sitting in prison. His mom became a drug addict. He became a revolutionary, in music, insisting on telling it like it really is on the streets, in the projects and among the gangbangers. He sold millions of records with his portraits of that world, was publicly criticized for it in Washington and was shot dead in a car on a Las Vegas street when he was only 25 years old. The film offers no theory about why, except that a loud war was brewing between rappers on the east and west coasts. Not surprising. Nobody else has found an answer.

What’s missing with this film is a coherent history of his rise. Tupac joins a group, suddenly has a big solo album, is suddenly in a hit movie and in bed with four women.  Very quickly he’s a big star with a huge fan base. His run ins with the law are downplayed and attributed to a racist society while he helps his mom get straight and occasionally agonizes over his ideals versus his new lifestyle. It doesn’t feel true or complete. Newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr.  is believable playing him partly because he looks exactly like him. The director, Benny Boom, is a veteran of music videos which may explain both the shaky narrative and some exciting music performances. Tupac’s own recordings are heard but the filmmakers had to fight his mother in court to use them. It doesn’t seem to have been respect that drove this project.  (Scotiabank and two suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5   

Also now playing …

THE BOOK OF HENRY: Local kid Jacob Tremblay plays Henry and I couldn’t see it. The time that the studio held the preview prevented it. Maybe that’s not so bad. Henry’s plans to punish an abusive man living next door are found by his mother (Naomi Watts) and what is she to do? Rolling Stone says it starts strong, gets absurd in the middle and ends in disaster. Ok, but here’s what Mark Hamill tweeted after Jacob, the super Star Wars fan, met him at the premiere in Los Angeles. "You (& the entire cast) were wonderful.” (International Village and three suburban theatres)

ROUGH NIGHT: Didn’t see this one either, also because of a scheduling conflict. It’s had an enormous publicity push for its edgy (maybe raunchy?) comedy.  Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer and Zoë Kravitz play old college pals who go on a wild bachelorette weekend in Miami and end up accidentally killing a male stripper. Their attempts to cover up aspire to Hangover-level greatness but a friend who saw it could only praise it mildly as “moderately amusing.” (International Village, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres)

More in New Movies

Poverty tales in The Florida Project, musings on death in Lucky and a celebration of learning in Ex Libris

Also films about big-wave surfing, fighting forest fires, creating Winnie the Pooh, querying van Gogh’s death and hunting a killer in Norway

Deep Throat vs Nixon, Jackie Chan vs the IRA and Olivia Cooke super in a serial killer tale from Victorian times

Also a suspense-cum-horror movie entertains by copying Groundhog Day

Borg vs McEnroe, one of two real-life male contests in today’s VIFF picks

The other shows Engels prodding Marx to get more revolutionary. Plus, ratings of two other films.
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