With Top Gun so big and Jurassic World on the way, the big films have sidestepped this week. But look at some of the high marks the smaller ones have received. They're worth your attention.

Also notice these others.

Mass, the chilling film about parents of a school shooter, is now on CRAVE.

The National Film Board has added seven new shorts about Canadian arts figures to its Governor General's collection. The subjects include Cree Author Tomson Highway, choreographer Crystal Pite, Fernand Dansereau, one of Quebec’s most prolific filmmakers and producer and songwriter David Foster. That film is by Teresa Alfeld who just recently brought us Doug And the Slugs. You can see them free at nfb.ca.

Notice also that some theaters are commemorating Ray Liotta's death by screening his main works, notably Goodfellas, and some are bringing out David Cronenberg's early films on the occasion of his new one, which starts the list this week

Crimes of the Future: 3

The Rose Maker: 4

Coda: Life With Music: 3 ½

The Righteous: 4

A Chiara: 3 ½

Foxhole: 3

CRIMES OF THE FUTURE: David Cronenberg is back with his first film in eight years and it's a creepy mix of his old body-horror obsession and musings on the future. He imagines a time when medicine has evolved so far that we feel no pain and, possibly in reaction, our bodies mutate, growing new organs inside for some purpose that people haven't figured out. It creates a new art form though, live, graphic surgery as performance art. I'm not sure what that's supposed to say about humanity but those scenes are icky and gross. They probably caused the walkouts when the film played Cannes last week, where incidentally it won no prizes.

Courtesy of Serendipity Films

It's got Cronenberg's sharp, clinical visual style though and a strong cast. Viggo Mortensen as the “artist” who has himself cut open (more than once), Léa Seydoux, as his partner who does the cutting, and Kristen Stewart and Don McKellar as investigators with a National Organ Registry that is watching them closely. Scott Speedman shows up as part of a group of rebels , against what, I don't know, but they eat plastic waste, which as close as I can find of a real vision of the future here. Goofy but maybe real.

Do we accept what's coming? Resist? Question what people are doing to us? Valid concerns but they're too loosely raised here. (In theaters everywhere) 3 out of 5

THE ROSE MAKER: Here's a delightful treat from France, partly comical, mildly sentimental and bearing potent ideas about modern life. It's set on a rose farm in France (where that's a big industry). Eve Vernet, played by a veteran of French film and TV, Catherine Frot, has inherited her father's farm and his passion to make it work. But it's failing and she isn't winning awards anymore (the smug mega-grower Lamarzelle, played by Vincent Dedienne is and wants to buy her out to get bigger). Solution, proposed by her manager: bring in free labor through a work-release program for prison inmates. Three arrive and they know nothing about gardening.

Courtesy of Sphere Films

But there's an upside. One (Manel Foulgoc) is an experienced burglar and has the skills to break into the mega-grower's high-security greenhouse and steal a rose the man won't share. Eve needs it to breed a new variety, win awards and get back on top. That all comes to us with humor, warmth, suspense (during the heist) and, oops, a setback. Can Eve turn it around, can the burglar overcome the hurt he still has about his mother who abandoned him as a child, can the other two ex-cons bring anything positive? Director, co-screenwriter and original idea generator Pierre Pinaud keeps things unfolding with an easy charm, and according to my gardener wife and my own two summers years ago working on a rose farm, absolute horticultural authenticity. (In theaters like the VIFF center) 4 out of 5

CODA: LIFE WITH MUSIC: Patrick Stewart took time away from his Star Trek gig to play some piano as a world-famous musician who has a surprising case of stage fright. He almost gags going out to the alley for a smoke and moans that the audience is only there to see a “looming disaster,” if he messes up. His agent (Giancarlo Esposito) reads from a newspaper that he's “Britain's grand master of the piano” but he says he's scared. Paddling at the top of a waterfall, is how he describes it. The film, written by Louis Godbout and directed by Claude Lalonde effectively portrays the terror he feels.

Courtesy of Filmoption

And then the relief he may get when a young writer for The New Yorker (Katie Holmes) approaches him to do a profile. Initially, he's not interested, but over several encounters they get to know each other. He's charmed by her spirit. She joins in and plays a piano duet with him. His grief over the loss of his wife starts lifting although in one outburst it shows again. “It not going away. What's wrong with me?” Later a character says “music is a dangerous business.” Those conflicting emotions come through strong in this film about the power of the arts. Its sweet, bitter sometimes and elegant, with lots of piano music from the masters, especially Schubert and Schumann. (In 36 Canadian theaters, most in Quebec but also Toronto [Scotiabank] and Vancouver [International Village] and others) 3 ½ out of 5

THE RIGHTEOUS: Who are they and what are they like? That's one of themes of this pensive drama. Can sins be atoned for? Who will be the judge? They're all in here in this deceptively simple tale of an encounter in a remote house. Henry Czerny, as a former priest, lives there with his wife (Mimi Kuzyk) and loads of guilt it seems. We don't know what about, yet, but he's considering taking up the priesthood again and is given this advice: “Stay on God's path”. What that is will be tested when a stranger appears one evening, with an injured leg and a vague story of who he is, where he was going and how he got hurt. He's played by Mark O'Brien, familiar from TV and movies and here making his directing debut in his home province of Newfoundland.

Courtesy of Vortex Media

He's invited to stay the night and gets into a series of conversations with the priest. Sin, redemption, everything comes up. The priest admits it's not God he fears, it's the Devil, because the devil doesn't make rules and then punishes you for breaking them. What then, is behind his feeling of guilt? Eventually we learn, and it's not pedophilia, as a character Czerny played years ago in The Boys of St. Vincent committed. It's more surprising. And leads the young man to ask him for something really harsh. This is an intense psychological drama, talky but intelligent. (In theaters now in Toronto, St. John’s, Halifax, Saskatoon, Regina and Edmonton and opening next Friday in Ottawa and Vancouver) 4 out of 5

A CHIARA: We've seen the Italian Mafia in movies many times but this one may just be a little more realistic than most. That's what director Jonas Carpignano is trying to get across and since he's from the town it's set in, I'll accept it. This film takes place in Calabria, where the Mafia is not like the Sicilian version we know, but a key part of the local economy. "We call it survival," says one character. It's totally and only connected with family. You have to be a blood relative to get in, the director has said, and nobody ever snitches on family. Because of that, child welfare officials have a policy of taking away the children to get them away from that influence. It happens to 15-year-old Chiara through whose eyes we see this story.

Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

She's at home; a bomb destroys a car outside her family's house, a birthday party is disrupted and dad disappears. We watch her as she gradually realizes what is going on. Dad is part of the local mafia, subject to their strict Ndrangheta rules. He told her he does not ever deal in drugs but when she goes looking for him, see what she finds as she wanders into various hideouts. It's almost heartbreaking what happens to her faith in him and with a completely natural performance by a new actor, Swamy Rotolo, it comes out and moves you. (Arthouse theaters, including the VIFF Center) 3 ½ out of 5

FOXHOLE: This film takes an unusual route to say something about war. It's brutal, futile, a waste of human life and many in it don't even know why they're fighting. That's been said before but Jack Fessenden, who wrote, directed, edited, produced and even played in the orchestra here has set this one in three different wars. Similar characters have similar experiences, feelings and regrets to make the point that wars are all the same. What lingers is not glory, but horror, it says.

Courtesy of Vortex Media

“Honour has gotten just about everybody I know killed,” says a soldier in the U.S. Civil War, where a Black on the union side is badly injured and becomes a problem for his friends. They argue what to do: let him die or get him to a field hospital. Switch to a World War I trench where a group of soldiers find an injured German, tie him up and again debate what to do. They decide to hold a vote, but the Black among them can't. “He's not gonna know what's right,” someone says. The third war is Iraq where some things are different. The film is in colour, there's a woman driving the humvee the soldiers are in and the Black is their leader. We don't see the enemy. When a firefight breaks out, they're trapped and “can't see what we're shooting at.” Help isn't coming, but again, the talk is the same, about honour, being human and war itself. It's bleak, well-directed and acted, and truthful. (Available VOD/digital) 3 out of 5