You can read about Spider-Man today but not Bogeyman which is also opening. It's from a Stephen King story and I haven't seen it because the Disney people inexplicably held their media preview at exactly the same time as Spidey. They own Marvel Studios but Sony still has rights to the character and is taking full advantage. Today's film is big and ends with "To be Continued." That'll be next year.

Meanwhile, check out The National Film Board has a new collection of films about Canadian artists who were honored recently with Governor General's awards. They include singer Molly Johnson, soprano Rosemarie Landry, John Kim Bell, the first Indigenous person in North America to lead a classical orchestra, and k.d. lang. You know her. There are seven films in all, they're short, about five minutes, and they're free.

And these are new in theaters:

Spider-Man: Across the Spider Verse: 3 ½ stars

Bones of Crows: 4

Cascade: 3

The Eight Mountains: 4

The First Step: 3 ½

SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER VERSE: The fans and the critics are raving. The best animated film ever. Advances the art of animation. The best Spider-Man film of them all. 85%. Even quite a few 100%'s. I'm not as amped up as that. The visual art work, much of it done at Sony Imageworks in Vancouver, is spectacular. The story is cluttered. To understand it you'd better know what came before in years of comic books, if you're really into it, or at the least, in the forerunner movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, from 2018. It won the Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Producers' Guild Award and other nods as best animated feature in 2019.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

The story here picks up soon after. Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a sort-of alternate Spider-Man after being bitten by a radio active spider, learns that it wasn't meant to be. He shouldn't be moving about in alternate universes and a villain named Spot (Jason Schwartzman), who can move about them easily, wants to kill him. Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), who he met in the first film as "Ghost-Spider" recruits him into a strike force called the Spider-Society that wants to keep the peace and shut down Spot. The group is led by another Spider-man alternate, voiced by Oscar Isaac. Other variations show up, including one from India (Karan Soni), a London punk (Daniel Kaluuya), a Spider-Woman (Issa Rae), even a LEGO version.

Maybe you're open to story leaps and obscurities after the multi-verse of Everything Everywhere All at Once led the way. But this story takes a long time to get started and at 2 hours and 20 minutes is too long over all. The middle drags. But enjoy the art work, done in various styles from watercolors, line drawings, impressionism, and others. That's a treat. (In Theaters) 3 ½ out of 5

BONES OF CROWS: The lingering effects of the residential school system is the theme here and it gets a searing statement from writer-director Marie Clements. She doesn't hold back; she shows the impact through the generations with a story of one woman who we follow from childhood (played by Summer Testawich), as an adult (Grace Dove) and finally as an elder (Carla Rae). She and her sister are ripped from their family home and put into a school.

Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

There's abuse but also an indignity in being tabbed a poster child for the education there because she can play the piano. The film makes it clear that the real intent is to strip her of her indigenous culture and language. There's even talk overheard about under-feeding the children as a way to control them.

As an adult she works as a code talker in Canada's World War II effort, ironically using her Cree language to do the job. After the war, she marries and has children and later, as an elder, demands some accounting for what was done to her and many other Indigenous children. She confronts the church establishment. The whole weight of the history she endured comes out in this powerful film by Marie Clements, who is a Metis. The film opened the Vancouver Film Festival last fall, was given a small-town tour and now opens wide in theaters. 4 out of 5

CASCADE: Too many Canadian films get too little attention. That may befall this one and shouldn't. It's small but well-made, grabs your interest and keeps it. Four young adults, on a hike through a scenic national park, become targets for drug dealers. There's a logical set up for that. One young man shows off his bravery by diving off a cliff into the water below and discovers a plane that crashed there. Also a body and bags of cocaine inside, some of which they take and drug dealers with guns want back. The hikers only have a flare gun.

Courtesy of Level Film

The hoods don't know where the plane is. The hikers pretend they don't know either but under intimidation are willing to bargain the information. Meanwhile, they contact a park warden but she turns out to be with the gang. The father of one of the girls, a biker she dreads going home to, also arrives looking for the drugs. The danger grows but is so well-modulated that you'll forgive the unlikely events. The film was made in and around Sault Ste Marie, Ontario by a company based there. The director, Egidio Coccimiglio, and the actors are new to me but have TV credits and do solid work here. I specially note Josh Cruddas memorable as a smiling, creepy, threatening hood. (VOD/Digital starting June 6) 3 out of 5

THE EIGHT MOUNTAINS: I missed this when it first came to town. I caught up to it because it's still playing in a few places and I'm glad I did. Look out for it. It's a truthful and very moving contemplation of friendship by two Italian men who meet as children, again as young men and then again 15 years later. That's a large part of their lifetime. We see them bond, mature and discover the men they really are.

Courtesy of Films We Like

And diverge. Pietro is a city boy, raised in Turin and during a stay in a tiny village in the Alps meets Bruno, a mountain boy, who would hate the stink of a big city. Later, offered a chance to get an education there, he refuses. As he puts it, the mountains never hurt anybody. Both boys have problems with their fathers and that leads to tensions in their friendship. But when they find each other again as adults (Luca Marinelli is Pietro and Alessandro Borghi is Bruno) there's joy in their reunion. It'll be tested again though in this Italian-language film by the Belgian husband and wife team Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch. They develop the friendship in a fable-like tone and set it in a beautiful landscape but bring along a healthy dose of reality. It's a film about life, both the strong and the fragile aspects, as the director put it after she accepted a big award for it at Cannes last year. (In theaters from Trois-Rivieres and Toronto to Tofino and Victoria on various dates until July 6) 4 out of 5

THE FIRST STEP: You've seen Van Jones, one of the regular commentators on CNN, but not like this, before now. He formed a group to push for prison reform and we see him hug and kiss Kim Kardashian (who also advocates reform), kibbitz with Jared Kushner (reform-minded because his father was in prison) and even co-operate with Donald Trump, president at the time and also talking reform. That alliance becomes a big talking point in this film. Some associates hate him for it but he says he'll work with anybody to get it done.

Courtesy of EG-PR

The US has more people in prison than any other country, he says. The war on drugs is responsible and it's really a war on people who are addicted to drugs. “This is the way they take Black people out.” He brings urban blacks and West Virginia rural whites together to recognize they share the same drug crisis. He talks with politicians like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, attends meetings and even speaks praise when he attends a Trump signing in the oval office. And he fights off the gripes of friends who feel betrayed. It's a positive political story and it takes us way back in Van's life. There's film of him and his twin sister as toddlers. And lots as a crusading adult. (VOD starting June 6) 4 out of 5

Updates and corrections

| Corrections policy
June 12, 2023, 02:02 am

This story has been corrected to name the right actor in Cascade.