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Not often do we get three very good Canadian films all at once. But here they are: Brother, with multiple Canadian Screen Award nominations, Riceboy Sleeps, whic h won over it at a recent competition and Tenzin, set in Toronto's Tibetan community.

What I don't have today is Shazaam which is expected to be big this weekend. A media preview I was invited to and went to didn't happen. The theatre couldn't find the film, or something like that.

I do have these ...

Chess Story: 4 stars

Boston Strangler: 3 ½

Brother: 4

Riceboy Sleeps: 4

Tenzin: 3

CHESS STORY: Be prepared. This is one of the most intense movies you'll see this year. It's unsettling but also rivetting and with tremendous performances by the cast a definite must see. If you can take it. It's an adaption of a famous novel by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig but with so many changes that it seems more based on a previous adaptation from 1961 called Brainwashed. That title would be apt for this version too because of what's done to the main character.

Both films were made in Germany and set in Vienna in 1938, the time of the Nazi takeover. A notary (played brilliantly by Oliver Masucci) wants to flee but is detained by the Gestapo because he has information about secret bank accounts. An officer (Albrecht Schuch) with an ingratiating surface-act wants to pry it out of him and assigns him to “special treatment” in a hotel. That amounts to solitary confinement escalating to psychological pressure that feels like torture. But he has a life-line; a book that he grabs from a pile destined to be burned. It's all about chess and he keeps his mind straight by studying it, even memorizing various games.

Courtesy of Film Movement

The film shifts repeatedly between timelines and it's hard to know what happens when. That's deliberate, not a failure. We see him and his wife board a ship for America; he win a chess game against a world master, and guards throwing him back into his hotel room which they've freshly emptied and secured. Is it all, or part of it, a delusion? You'll have a time figuring that out. Director Philipp Stölzl adds a few pro-Nazi rallies, crowds and anti-Jewish scenes outside to support Zweig's message. (Art house theaters like the VIFF Centre) 4 out of 5

BOSTON STRANGLER: True crime stories are big on TV and on the streamers these days and you can add this one. It's a fine example, re-creates a time (the early 1960s) and tells you more than you've probably heard so far about the notorious case. And it does that through the work of a couple of gutsy newspaper reporters who were ahead of the police figuring it out.

Courtesy of Disney+

Loretta McLaughlin (ably played by Keira Knightley) was the first to see a connection in a string of murders that eventually reached 13 or so. But she had to fight to write about them because she was assigned to the lifestyle desk. She was allowed though, when paired with a more experienced reporter (played by Carrie Coon) and through them we see the hard work of investigative journalism. Like following up a tip by calling up all the Sullivans in the phone book. We see wider issues too. Women reporters undervalued. The newspaper reluctant to criticize the police. A top lawyer, F. Lee Bailey, arranging a confession that was actually designed to protect the suspect. And was there only one killer? Many suspect there were copycats and the film, written and directed by Matt Ruskin, who grew up in Boston, seems to support that theory. You'll be more than engrossed. (Disney+) 3 ½ out of 5

BROTHER: This film has 14 nominations at next month's Canadian Screen Awards, including best motion picture. It deserves the nods. It's that involving a drama about race, identity, youth and growing up. We see two brothers at various times in their lives. They're climbing a hydro pylon at the start. Francis, the older leads; Michael, follows and clearly reveres him. We go back to that climb several times as their relationship is fleshed out through scenes when they were younger, later times with a fearful but testy mother and life in a neighborhood controlled by a gang that keeps outsiders away.

Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

They're immigrants from Jamaica now living in Scarborough, in the eastern part of Toronto. The crime rate is high and the cops aren't friendly. That's what David Chariandy wrote in the novel this is based on. He's from there and now lives in Vancouver. His characters have to deal with racism, news on TV about blacks robbing a store and teachers they suspect are underating them and channelling them into shop classes. Clement Virgo the director gets very good performances out of the brothers and establishes their world view perfectly. Aaron Pierre as Francis shows both leadership and frustration; Lamar Johnson as Michael shows innocence and admiration. That bond will get broken. The film is dramatic and moving and an authentic view of that culture. (In theaters) 4 out of 5

RICEBOY SLEEPS: This is one of the most authentic depictions of the immigrant experience I've ever seen. And it's finally going beyond its festival dates and playing in regular theaters. It's not about a culture per se but the film's depictions are universal. You get the big significant events, learning a language, finding a job, doing well at work, but also the little day to day difficulties. The Korean boy in this story is stuck for an answer in class, has a name the other kids find strange and has to pick an easier one to go by. In an archtypical scene he's mocked by the other kids for the strange food his mother has sent for his lunch. Gimbap, it's called. Writer-director Anthony Shim has drawn on his own life in Korea and Vancouver for the reality he depicts. It got him an award at the Toronto film festival that recognizes “bold directorial visions” and other nods from critics' circles.

Courtesy of Sphere Films

In the film, Choi Seung-yoon plays a single-mother from Korea now living near Vancouver with her son. He's played by Dohyun Noel Hwang as a young boy and later by Ethan Hwang as a teenager. Adorable when young, he's rebellious, determined to fit in with the other kids when he's a teenager. He dies his hair blonde, smokes dope with his best friend (played by the director) and asks embarassing questions like why he doesn't have a father. That's a delicate story from back home in Korea. It's joined by a medical story here in Canada and mom decides her upstart son needs to connect with his past. She takes him to Korea to meet his grandparents. Emotional flareups before they go; connections with heredity over there, and you've got a very satisfying film. (Theaters in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Windsor, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Sudbury, Calgary, Edmonton) 4 out of 5

TENZIN: This film also illuminates a specific culture in Canada, that of immigrants from Tibet. It's not a large group but their political background and continuing struggle are focused down into a strong story anybody can relate to. Again it's about brothers. One set himself on fire as part of a protest against China's occupation of Tibet. The other is at pains to understand why and what friends now expect of him.

Courtesy of Game Theory

There's Tibetan culture filmed in Toronto. There's a relic called a phurba which is sacred and can block curses. There's also everyday life to live. The remaining brother (Tenzin Kelsang) works for a tow-truck driver who is often cheated and underpaid. “Everybody takes advantage of you and you do nothing about it,” he tells him. That call to do something is there throughout this film.

Courtesy of Game Theory

His brother did something. Should he? Maybe about that other tow-truck driver claiming territory for just himself. The film connects those two strains: the old politics and the need to fight back on other issues. It's the first Tibetan-language film made in Canada; was written collaboratively by its main actors, all members of the community, and was directed by Michael LeBlanc and Joshua Reichmann. It's an interesting and spirited glimpse inside. (In theaters in Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa and soon in Vancouver) 3 out of 5