GIRL IN THE PICTURE – Review by Liz Braun

The extraordinary layers in this true crime story are carefully peeled back in a fashion that hooks the viewer almost immediately and never lets go. This is a particularly bizarre and unsavoury set of events — and it’s complicated — but with in-person interviews and recreations, filmmaker Skye Borgman moves seamlessly back and forth in time to drop shock revelation after shock revelation. This is a dip into the heart of darkness as to the fate of women and children — violence, vanishing, kiddie porn and other horrors — and for all that some mysteries are cleared up, the movie ends with many questions unanswered.

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THE MYSTERY OF MARILYN MONROE: THE UNHEARD TAPES – Review by Liz Braun

The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes is like the film version of a Daily Mail tabloid story. There’s no focus, no new theories advanced, no attempt to dig beneath the surface. Looking at images of the iconic actress is really the only reason to watch The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes, an essentially bland undertaking based on dated material. Monroe’s own presence – snippets of old interviews, lovely photos, glorious bits of film footage -ensure The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes is not a total loss.

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GIRLS CAN’T SURF – Review by Liz Braun

Equal wages, equal opportunities, equal treatment — the history of women in sport is a history of underdogs having to prove themselves over and over and over again. How the battle for equal treatment unfolded on the waves is the subject matter of Girls Can’t Surf, an energetic examination of women’s struggle to find equality in a male-dominated sport. The charismatic women pioneers of the surfing world are the reason to see this dynamic documentary. Featured are those who broke the surf ceiling and made sure contemporary female surfers were seen as athletes and not sideshow entertainment.

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ALINE – Review by Liz Braun

There’s some wild-eyed hagiography going in Aline, a hugely entertaining love letter to Quebec superstar Celine Dion. Co-written and directed by French actress (and comic) Valérie Lemercier — who also stars here — Aline is a kind of camp masterpiece, an over-the-top celebration of both the personal and the professional. This, as the movie makes clear, is the story of Aline Dieu, not Celine Dion, even if all the facts line up.

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Charlotte Wincott on THE ISSUE WITH ELVIS – Liz Braun Interviews

Dr. Charlotte Wincott is on a bit of a roll with her first narrative feature, The Issue With Elvis, a pleasing drama about an eccentric botanist and an abandoned boy, two lost souls saved by friendship.

Wincott made the film during the pandemic lockdown, tackling all the writing, filming and editing duties herself. Making a film by herself was hard work, said Wincott, but she is grateful for the technical changes that allowed her to do that.

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PHOENIX RISING – Review by Liz Braun

You might feel the need to shower after watching Amy Berg’s new two-part documentary, Phoenix Rising. The film focuses on Evan Rachel Wood, 34, and chronicles her past abusive relationship with Brian Warner, 53, better known to the world as shock rocker Marilyn Manson. Over the course of two 70-odd minute features, Wood claims that Warner groomed her when she was just a teenager and lured her into an abusive relationship that involved threats, sexual mistreatment and physical and emotional violence. The films offer a relentless pile-on of grisly detail.

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THE ISSUE WITH ELVIS – Review by Liz Braun

The Issue With Elvis is a little gem of a film about a wise child and a reclusive scientist who become friends. It’s a simple and surprisingly powerful story, graced by smart writing and lovely performances. A retired botanist who collects mushrooms and fungi on nature walks crosses paths with a runaway boy with a difficult family background. Filmmaker Dr. Charlotte Wincott, who cast her husband and son in leading roles, says the script is based on her own childhood experiences.

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DISSOLUTION – Review by Liz Braun

The hopelessness that pervades most of Nina Menkes’ Dissolution leaves a viewer in emotional freefall. The film is in black and white and is mesmerizing to look at, albeit disturbing to experience. Menkes has said the film is loosely based on Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, hence the conversations about sickness, dreams and a capacity to speak to ghosts, and what looks like a dream sequence about a horse beating. This is a 21st century horror film and possibly the perfect movie for right now, given that all four horsemen of the Apocalypse — pestilence, war, famine and death — are currently at full gallop amongst us.

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SCARBOROUGH – Review by Liz Braun

Scarborough is a splendid film based on Catherine Hernandez’s award-winning novel about the community where she grew up. Like the book, the film is a love letter to a place and a community that’s home to 650,000 people in Toronto’s east end. Directed by Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson. the film centers on three children of 8 or 9 years old who rely on each other growing up in a tough neighborhood. Despite a tiny budget, the profoundly moving Scarborough won the Shawn Mendes Changemaker Award at TIFF last fall and now has 11 nominations at the upcoming Canadian Screen Awards.

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DOWNFALL: THE CASE AGAINST BOEING – Review by Liz Braun

The first Boeing 737 Max crash in Jakarta killed 189 people. The second crash in Ethiopia, early in 2019, killed 157. Despite attempts to “other” the crashes — blaming foreign pilots in far-away places — the truth eventually came out: the aircraft was badly flawed. It’s all revealed in Downfall: The Case Against Boeing, a disturbing documentary directed by Rory Kennedy in a just-the-facts-ma’am fashion. This is bare-bones storytelling at its most effective.

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