Entertainment

7 new movie reviews in brief: Pan, Hyena Road, 99 Homes and more

A wide variety of new movies featuring a few truly memorable performances debut this weekend. From Michael Shannon's reptilian real estate broker in 99 Homes to Hugh Jackman's surprisingly eloquent Captain Blackbeard in Pan, Eli Glasner cuts through the clutter to advise what's worth your time.

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

Pan

In Hanna and Anna Karenina, director Joe Wright has shown a knack for mixing the cinematic with the theatrical. That larger-than-life playfulness is in full effect with Pan, a prequel about how Peter Pan learned to fly. Made for Wright's own children, it's a glorious hodgepodge: from the Dickensian orphanage where Peter grows up to the warriors' treehouse that seems to be on loan from the Ewoks. Adults might stumble over Hugh Jackman's eloquent and tyrannical Captain Blackbeard and Garrett Hedlund channelling Han Solo. But with Rooney Mara as the fierce Tiger Lily and an engaging performance from Levi Miller as Peter, Pan works as a candy-coloured reboot of Neverland.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Hyena Road 

As the phrase "A film by Paul Gross" appears onscreen, the actor-director's rumbling voice fills our ears as he describes the fiery furnace of Afghanistan. The narration is Philip Marlowe meets Pierre Berton, overbearing and unnecessary since Hyena Road develops a momentum of its own as it explores a relationship between an intelligence specialist (Gross) and a Canadian sniper (Rossif Sutherland), who is trying to recruit former mujahedeen. Filled with heavy armour and call signs galore, Hyena Road has a bit of an authenticity fetish. In the end, it's the willingness to pull no punches that speaks volumes.

3.5 out of 5 stars

99 Homes

With Wall Street and the upcoming Big Short, Hollywood is growing somewhat obsessed with economic hindsight. But in 99 Homes, set in Orlando during the mortgage crisis of 2010, the zoom goes from macro to micro. Michael Shannon is Carver, the white blazer-wearing, e-cigarette puffing real estate broker who makes his living flipping foreclosed homes in Florida's reclaimed swampland. Andrew Garfield enters the equation as an evicted homeowner who begins working for Carver on the sly. When Carver spits out the line "Gators don't sleep," it's Shannon in all his reptilian, cold-blooded glory. Garfield turns in an angst-ridden performance as the provider who's made a deal with the devil. Writer-director Ramin Bahrani may torque the drama on occasion, but that doesn't detract from the dilemma facing Garfield's character.

3.5 out of 5 stars

My Internship In Canada

A gentle farce that takes a bite out of Canadian politics, My Internship centres around Steve Guibord (Bon Cop, Bad Cop's Patrick Huard), a Quebec Independent MP who ends up with the deciding vote on whether Canada should go to war. Guibord takes the decision to the people of his rural Quebec riding, a collection of townships embroiled in skirmishes over labour, logging and native land rights. While all political parties are fair game in the film, the weakest link is the character of Sovereign, Guibord's intern from Haiti. As director Philippe Falardeau did with his 2014 film The Good Lie, My Internship uses the idealistic newbie from abroad as a source of laughs. Sovereign's useful insights clash with the wide-eyed way actor Irdens Exantus plays the character. Still, at a time when political parties are promising the moon, My Internship In Canada is a refreshing look at what happens on the ground.

3 out of 5 stars

Patrick Huard, centre, stars in Philippe Falardeau's political comedy My Internship in Canada as an independent MP from Northern Quebec who unwillingly finds himself in the awkward position of determining whether Canada will go to war. (TIFF)

The Creeping Garden

Is slime mould animal, vegetable or something else? That's just one of the questions posed by Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp's singularly strange documentary. You've heard of the slow food movement? This is slow film movement: a movie that moves to the rhythms of creeping fungus. We watch mould undulating through time-lapse photography, perfectly complemented by a pulsating soundtrack courtesy of experimental musician Jim O'Rourke. As Grabham and Sharp continue their explorations, we meet hobbyists, computer scientists (who make music from the mould) and librarians all caught in the grip of these blobs that could outlive us all.

3.5 out of 5 stars

This Changes Everything

Stop me if you've seen this before: melting polar ice caps, flooded city streets, wildfires raging out of control. Even author Naomi Klein admits a certain exasperation with what are now the familiar totems of climate change. In this film, based on her book of the same name, Klein frames her call to action around the thesis that we've been fooled by the belief in our dominion over nature. Whether in Alberta's oilsands, at a Canadian gold mine in Greece or a coal plant in India, Klein and husband-director Avi Lewis focus on battles that pit protesters against industry. Lewis has grown as a filmmaker and the footage is stunning — occasionally shocking. But with such a broad canvas, Klein's soft-spoken narration feels detached at times. At one point,an activist states: "The path is difficult, but we will get there." This Changes Everything clearly outlines the stakes, but the way forward remains — like Beijing's smog-covered skies — unclear.

3 out of 5 stars

He Named Me Malala

From director Davis Guggenheim, He Named Me Malala suffers from a painfully earnest streak. No one can argue about Malala Yousafzai's courage in the face of what she suffered and the cause for which she continues to fight. You couldn't pick a better, more eloquent advocate for the right of girls to an education, which Guggenheim keeps reminding us again and again. What elevates the doc is Malala herself: a girl still adjusting to life and school in Britain, who enjoys magic tricks and Googling pictures of movie stars. It's not that Malala is every woman; it's her infectious spirit that makes the film worth watching.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Education activist Malala Yousafzai, seen in Birmingham, is the subject of the doc He Named Me Malala. (Caroline Furneaux/Fox Searchlight Pictures/Associated Press)

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