Christmas biopics. Movies reviewed: Unbroken, Mr Turner

Mr Turner (Timothy Spall) is a successful businessman in Victorian London, who lives with his dad, a retired barber. He lives a good life, doesn’t worry about money. What does he do? He’s a painter. He visits the seashore to observe and take notes. He finds the right pigments in the market to match them. Later, he paints what he sees. On canvases, big ones, and lots of 'em. Breathtaking landscapes and seascapes, cloud and light. He daubs on oil paint, smooches it around, and spits on it! The results are spectacular and impressionistic, like nothing anyone had ever seen. At the same time, he’s a selfish, loathesome boor, who chews on pigs’ heads and belches...

Old and New. Movie reviewed: The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, PLUS Best movies of 2014

It’s London, during the Blitz. German bombs keep falling, reducing streets to rubble, but Miss Parkins, the indefatigable school teacher, vows to carry on and keep the aspidistra flying. Her strict headmistress keeps things orderly and on time. But the dozen or so boys and girls face new losses each day. Especially little Edward who stops speaking at all when both his parents are killed in an air raid. So they all breathe a sigh of relief when the school is relocated to the countryside, out of harms way. (Or so they think...) Everything seems fine until they arrive at their new home, a crumbling, decrepit mansion. It is filled with strange shadows, creaky noises, and fleeting images of a woman in a black veil. The children – especially little Edward — are terrified because...

Sleeping and Dreaming. Movies Reviewed: Selma, Winter Sleep

In Selma, Alabama Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey) attempts the unthinkable. She applies to register to vote. But the Jim Crow laws are still in full force, making it virtually impossible to do so… unless you’re white. So the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his confreres set off for Selma to bring the protest home. As a preacher, King is dedicated to non-violent resistance, modeled on Gandhi’s principals. But the local police have no such restriction,, clubbing, whipping, and even killing the unarmed protesters. But because the sheriff, mayor and governor are elected by a basically all-white electorate, the police can kill blacks with impunity. This makes the voters rights movement all the more important...

Daniel Garber talks to Canadian director Clement Virgo about his miniseries The Book of Negroes

It’s the late 18th century. Aminata Diallo, a young girl in West Africa, is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the American colonies. Later, during the Revolutionary war, the British crown promise freedom to all blacks who fight on their side. The British lose the war, but afterwards the loyalists are allowed to emigrate to Nova Scotia. But they face being re-enslaved unless they can prove their identity. So the multilingual Mina Diallo is enlisted to record the loyalists names in a crucial ledger so the men and woman can hold on to their hard-won freedom. The book where she writes the names is titled The Book Of Negroes. The Book of Negroes is also the name of a new, epic drama airing on CBC television. Based on the novel by Laurence Hill, it traces the story of Mina, tossed and turned by the vagaries of slavery and war across three continents, as she struggles to establish herself as a free woman and a woman in love. The miniseries is directed by award-winning Toronto filmmaker Clement Virgo, known for his films on boxing, sex, and identity...

Hard Choices. Movies Reviewed: Two Days, One Night, Escobar: Paradise Lost

Nick (Josh Hutcherson) is a young Canadian who follows his brother down south to Colombia. He wants to camp with him on a beautiful beach near Medeillin. It’s a secret paradise with palm trees, sandy beaches and crystal blue waters. Well, one day he meets a pretty woman with raven hair and beautiful smile. And smart too. Her name is Maria (Claudia Traisac) and they hit it off. Then he meets her uncle Pablo on his vast estate. Nick wonders how he earned his fortune? Oh, says Maria, it’s cocaine. The locals have been cultivating coco leaves for centuries. Uncle Pablo just helps export an important national product. And his last name? He is Pablo Escobar, the world-famous drug lord...

Caught up. Movies Reviewed: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, Leviathan

In Leviathan, Kolya (Alexey Serebryakov) is sure the Mayor is up to no good. He's seizing his land and home so he can build himself a mansion. So he calls up his army buddy in Moscow to give him a hand. Dima (Vladimir Vdovitchenkov) is a lawyer. He comes to town fully loaded with files on the very corrupt mayor Vadim. This man has “blood on his hands” he says, and he has the documents to prove it...