Shrouded in Mystery

No paper this week, but we do have movies opening even if Sony declined to screen two of them. Here’s what’s what!

Atomic Blonde: Charlize Theron and John Wick co-director David Leitch join forces for an ultraviolent ’60s spy movie. And James McAvoy is in it! Sounds like a recipe for fun. Rad found some parts of it (specifically,  Theron) more enjoyable than others (everything else).

Broken Mile: Toronto filmmaker Justin McConnell goes the gimmick route with a real-time chase picture constructed as a single take. At least it’s an hour shorter than Victoria.

The Emoji Movie: Gee, I wonder why Sony didn’t screen this one.

Lady Macbeth: I liked William Oldroyd’s austere drama about a 19th century sociopath (Florence Pugh) — a lot more than Susan did. Like, a lot more.

Mubarakan: Arjun Kapoor plays identical twins — one raised in London, one in Punjab — in Anees Bazmee’s Bollywood import, which Sony dropped into regional release at the last minute.

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World: Catherine Bainbridge’s documentary celebrates the influence of Native American musicians on blues, soul and rock ‘n roll. It’s a knockout.

Or you could just see Dunkirk, I guess. Have you seen Dunkirk?

Life Lessons

It’s Wednesday, so I’m gearing up for another Free Flicks screening at Harbourfront Centre. It’s getting a little monotonous, isn’t it?

Well, tonight we do something really different, presenting Ann Marie Fleming’s Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming — an animated drama about a young woman who travels from Vancouver to Iran for a poetry festival, and discovers far more about herself than she ever imagined she could.

With voices provided by Sandra Oh, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Don McKellar and Ellen Page, and Fleming employing a nifty visual strategy, it’s as odd and beautiful a film as I’ve ever been able to book for this venue . (Here’s my NOW review from earlier this year.) I really hope people come out to see it. That means you, too.

Oh, and also TIFF held its launch conference yesterday and I wrote some stuff about it. Whatevs.

Dark and Dangerous

This week’s episode of Someone Else’s Movie is a little shorter than usual. My guest chose a short film; I should have seen that coming.

The guest is Dave McKean, an illustrator, artist and filmmaker I’ve admired for decades; the film is Street of Crocodiles, a 1987 short work from the Brothers Quay that remains one of their oddest and most disturbing works three decades later.  And we had a really good chat about it.

Wanna join us? Subscribe to the show on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play oStitcher, or download the episode straight from the web. And enjoy! Try not to have nightmares, though. Just try.

On the Beach

While the world is arguing over whether to see movies in 70mm or wait for them to turn up on Netflix, at NOW we pay attention to the movies themselves. Well, shut up, world! Here’s what’s opening!

The Black Prince: Kavi Raz’ historical drama tells an epic tale of a kingdom shaken and a throne deferred. Rad is not in the least on board with it.

Dawson City: Frozen Time: Bill Morrison’s latest archival mix tape — created almost entirely from hundreds of reels of nitrate film discovered in the Yukon — is a sizzling, sputtering dream. Give in to it. 

Dunkirk: Christopher Nolan’s WWII picture is a stunning technical accomplishment — like all of Nolan’s films,  I suppose — and also the leanest, sharpest thing he’s made since Memento, an experience that puts you on the beach, in the air and under the water and pulls you out breathless and rattled. And yes, see it in 70mm.

A Ghost Story: This might be the quietest, saddest film we see all year. At least, I hope it is. David Lowery, Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara — who last collaborated on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints — reunite for a metaphysical drama that only wants break your heart. 

Girls Trip: “Not into Dunkirk? Come see Queen Latifah and Regina Hall go wild in New Orleans!” I mean, as counterprogramming goes it’s not the worst idea. Susan liked it.

Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan: Kathleen finds much to admire in this documentary about the eponymous dancer. I hope to get to it eventually.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: Luc Besson is back in Fifth Element mode for a dazzling, 3D tale of space nonsense that Rad found reeeeeeally annoying, and which I did not realize was two and a quarter hours long.

The War Show: Susan is entirely on board with Obaidah Zytoon’s ground-level look at Syria’s civil war, following Zytoon’s activist friends from 2011 and 2013 as the country tears itself apart around them. I really want to see this, too.

Phew. Okay, now I have to go talk to Al Gore and Jenny Slate. Hope you all have interesting days planned too!

Here’s To You, Morty

Tonight’s Harbourfront Free Flicks screening arrives under a bit of a cloud: Yeah, Meatballs is still a beloved ’70s summer-camp comedy with a breakout Bill Murray performance, but it’ll play differently for a Toronto audience after the passing of Harvey Atkin.

Atkin — who played camp owner and genial punching bag Morty — had a long and varied career as an exasperated authority figure, turning up in everything from Cagney & Lacey to Barney’s Version over the decades. And his honking voiceover defined Toronto furniture clearing house Leon’s in hundreds of TV spots, which likely made him more money over the years than any of his acting gigs. It was always nice to see him pop up in a thing, and he’ll be missed.

Anyway, the movie’s still funny and Morty isn’t so prominent in the narrative that Atkins’ screen presence will grow melancholy. Come on down and raise a glass of bug juice to his memory with me. We’re starting around 8:45 pm.

“It’s Weird And Pissed Off, Whatever It Is”

This week’s episode of Someone Else’s Movie is an awfully fun one, as Buzzfeed senior staff writer and podcast pal Kat Angus joins me to talk about our mutual love for The Thing.

And there’s a lot of love: John Carpenter’s 1982 masterwork remains the high-water mark for horror remakes that honor the original while blazing their own magnificent trail.  (The only other film that comes close is Cronenberg’s The Fly, which so totally reinvents its source as to be almost unrecognizable.)

Kurt Russell is awesome. Keith David is also awesome. Everybody else is pretty good too. And as minimalistic studies in alienation and paranoia, it offers plenty of avenues for conversation. Strap in and enjoy the ride!

All the usual options are in place. You can subscribe to the show on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play oStitcher, or download it straight from the web. Just make sure there are no dogs wandering the halls before you put on your headphones.

Last Stands

There’s no print edition of NOW this week, thanks to our new summer strategy, and thanks to the way the review calendar shakes out it’s also one of those weeks where I don’t seem to be doing very much. But I am! I’m really quite busy! 

Blind: I would have reviewed this, but the distributor was actively preventing people from seeing it ahead of time. So we’re not bothering. C’est la guerre.

The Little Hours: Jeff Baena’s medieval delight — which lets a host of crack comic performers go to town on a tale from The Decameron — is one of the best surprises of the year. Try to see it knowing nothing more than that.

Mermaids: Ali Weinstein’s documentary about people who like swimming with prosthetic tails is pleasant but not especially deep. Susan felt much the same way when she caught it at Hot Docs earlier this spring.

Past Life: Nelly Tagar and Joy Rieger are Israeli sisters who dig into their father’s cloudy history in Avi Nesher’s latest, which Susan appreciated — to a point — when it played TIFF last year. 

War for the Planet of the Apes: Matt Reeves concludes the trilogy he rescued with Dawn in appropriately grandiose fashion, with an epic sensibility and a ferocious new adversary for Andy Serkis’ CG hero in Woody Harrelson’s bloodthirsty commander.  And Steve Zahn is amazing, but of course he’s always amazing.

The Women’s Balcony: Susan — who’s all over the Israeli-films-from-TIFF beat this week — is considerably more enthusiastic about Emil Ben Shimon’s drama about a Jewish congregation fractured by an accident. I liked this one too.

There, that’s everything. Have you seen Baby Driver yet? C’mon, it’s really good.

Be Worthy

It’s party time down at Harbourfront tonight as we present a free screening of Wayne’s World,  the latest in this summer’s secretly Canadian Free Flicks series.

If it isn’t pouring, assemble your best hockey jersey and mullet combination and bring it all down to the concert stage around 8:45pm to witness the pinnacle of Aurora, Illinois’ cable-access entertainment.

And speaking of cable-access, you might want to check out Terrific Women, a new digital series that just launched on the CBC website yesterday. It’s the brainchild of Sara Hennessey and Stephanie Kaliner, two very sharp writer-performers I had the pleasure of talking to the other day for NOW.  That piece is up now, and you should read it. They’re cool.

My other other gig.