What’s on the big screen,
Al Purdy Was Here
(out of 4) Brian D. Johnson makes a strong transformation from Maclean’s film critic to documentary director with this engaging account of the late Al Purdy, the colourful rebel poet who became a CanLit star. A major part of the saga includes the building of his house, the A Frame, while this wartsand-all bio goes back to when writing poetry was a major factor in building identity and Canadian cultural awareness. And there’s a stunning surprise near the end. Includes performances by Bruce Cockburn, Tanya Tagaq and Sarah Harmer, as well as insights from Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Leonard Cohen and Purdy’s widow, Euritha Purdy (4:45 p.m., Isabel Bader Theatre). Martin Knelman
Give Ridley Scott a great story and even the sky is no limit. This return to outer space for the Alien and Prometheus director, adapting Andy Weir’s bestselling novel, makes for a crackerjack adventure that celebrates ingenuity over contrivance. Matt Damon is Mark Watney, an astronaut alone but not forlorn on the red planet, after a Mars mission evacuation leaves him lost and presumed dead. As NASA and his crewmates attempt a high-risk rescue mission, Watney must use his wit and science prowess to buy time. Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig and Michael Pena join a stellar cast in one of the year’s best movies and 3D experiences (3 p.m., Princess of Wales). Peter Howell
Elderly Icelandic brothers Gummi and Kiddi run neighbouring sheep farms in a remote valley, but haven’t spoken in 40 years, in this lovely, unpredictable film, winner in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard slate. Di- rector Grimur Hakonarson tempers heartbreak with flashes of dry humour, carried on excellent performances. The brothers’ fatherly devotion to their flocks (complete with kisses planted on woolly foreheads) seems all they have in common, even if it adds rivalry to their feud. What will it mean then when their livestock — and their way of life — are suddenly in peril? (4:15, Scotiabank). Linda Barnard
Australian filmmaker Jennifer Peedom’s thrilling Everest documentary is both visual spectacle and political statement. Filmed in 2014, it focuses on the fight for rights among Sherpa guides, who risk their lives to make it easier for climbers to ascend to the top of the world’s tallest peak. In particular, there is Phurba Tashi Sherpa, readying for a world-record 22nd climb. His family worries for his safety — and not without reason. When 16 Sherpas perish in one day in an April avalanche in the hazardous Khumbu Icefall, there is a power shift on the mountain. The guides assert themselves, a change that has been a long time coming as their holy site evolved into the “Everest circus,” a multimillion-dollar tourism payday and a place of mountain traffic jams, egos and entitlement (10 a.m., the Bloor). L.B
Matt Damon stars in Ridley Scott’s film adaptation of The Martian.