New movie reviews in brief: Legend, Life and Al Purdy Was Here

Three portraits of real subjects, from sibling gangsters to one of Canada's best-known poets, debut at the cinema this weekend. From crime thriller Legend to homegrown doc Al Purdy Was Here, Eli Glasner cuts through the clutter to advise what's worth your time.

CBC's Eli Glasner cuts through the cinematic clutter and shares new releases that are worth your time

Tom Hardy is doubly impressive as twin mobsters in Legend, but the Swinging Sixties crime thriller falls into a predictable pattern, says Eli Glasner. 2:32


Tom Hardy turns in a double performance in the 1960s-set crime thriller Legend, the story of the rise and fall of twins Reggie and Ron Kray, London's most notorious gangsters. (TIFF)

Legend features Tom Hardy x2 in this story about the real-life Kray twins, the dapper East End mobsters who ruled London in the 1960s. Hardy portrays both Reggie, the handsome and somewhat civilised brother, as well as Ronnie, the openly gay psychopath who gets randy if he hasn't had a good punch-up. From the director of L.A. Confidential, Legend captures the cockney charm of criminal life in that era, but it suffers from third-act problems when the love story between Reggie and Frances (Emily Browning) suffers as the Kray empire grows. A movie that starts with a snappy comic energy ends in a predictable tailspin. Through it all, Hardy remains as magnetic as ever, showing us brothers who aren't as different as they seem.

 — 3 out of 5 stars


Based on the bond between James Dean and the photographer who helped vault him to fame, Life is a bittersweet rumination on image and the star-making machine, says CBC's Eli Glasner 2:41

A bittersweet rumination on the star-making machine, Life is about the partnership of James Dean and Dennis Stock. Dean, of course, is the Hollywood rebel who died too young, while Stock is the Life magazine photographer who was instrumental in turning this quiet beatnik from Indiana into a worldwide symbol of non-conformity.

Robert Pattinson plays Stock as an artist drowning in the superficial world of Hollywood. Estranged from his family, his last gasp is a photo profile of a rising star. Showing no hesitation, Dane DeHaan makes the role of the iconic actor his own, playing Dean with a frail, mumbling voice and hiding inquisitive eyes behind tortoise-shell glasses. Similar to the recent film The End of the Tour, the best parts of Life are when director Anton Corbijn (who began his career as a photographer) explores the vampiric relationship between shooter and subject. You can see it in the way Dean bristles when he hears the shutter click or whenever Stock discovers something extraordinary in his viewfinder. 

— 3.5 out of 5 stars

Al Purdy Was Here

The Canadian poet known for his booming voice, plaid pants and boisterous spirit, makes for a fascinating subject in this jam-packed documentary, says CBC's Eli Glasner. 1:57

Veteran movie critic Brian D. Johnson has chosen the most Canadian of poets for his debut as feature film director. From his booming voice to those plaid pants, Al Purdy makes for a fascinating subject. Perhaps inspired by the man's boisterous spirit, Johnson packs this doc with a variety of treatments: there's animation, archival footage, new music by Bruce Cockburn, Sarah Harmer and others, a Tweeting statue and even a secondary story about the poet's famous A-frame cottage. But Purdy — with his honest, workmanlike approach to poetry and unquestionable sense of self — is much more than enough.

— 3.5 out of 5 stars