Monkey Magic Time

frank-grillo-seeks-revenge-in-the-purge-anarchyWell, I guess that’s what happens when studios release three movies aimed at different segments of the audience — last week’s blockbuster rolls right over everything in its path.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes held onto first place at the box office this weekend, grossing $36 million and handily beating back all comers. The Purge: Anarchy opened in second place with $28.4 million; Planes: Fire & Rescue took third with $18 million and Sex Tape landed in fourth with $15 million. And Trans4merz fleeced another $10 million from various illiterates to claim fifth place.

Is there a lesson here? Maybe “Studios, make better sequels” or “Studios, give Matt Reeves whatever he asks for.” Those are pretty good lessons, I guess, unless Reeves wants to do Trans5merz.

Actually, what the hell. Give him a chance. No matter what happens, there’s no way he makes the worst one in that series.

Busy in July

Snowpiercer-Chris-EvansThree studio pictures and plenty of indie fare — including two of the year’s best films – jostle their way onto Toronto’s screens today, so you should start planning your weekend sooner rather than later.

Oh, and I’m judging a barbecue contest on the Danforth Saturday afternoon, if things weren’t weird enough in this city.

Bird Co. Media: Jason Bourque’s new movie — about idiot marketing bros in Mumbai — is being sold as a documentary. I don’t believe for a second that it is.

Boyhood: Now, here’s a dramatic feature that feels absolutely real. As I said at NXNE, Richard Linklater’s fantastic character study — of a boy, and a nation — is a miracle two times over. The first time because it exists, and the second because it is absolutely wonderful. You need to see this in a theatre.

Cinemanovels: Terry Miles, the strangely TIFF-beloved director of A Night for Dying Tigers, returns with another murky family drama — this one about a young woman (Laurel Lee Smith) trying to organize and understand her late father’s legacy. Rad likes certain bits of it, but doesn’t think it works as a whole.

The Dance of Reality: Given what may be his last kick at the can — and his first in a quarter-century — Alejandro Jodorowsky shoots the works with a semi-autobiographical and utterly surreal look at his own history. Crazy bananapants, in the best possible way.

Planes: Fire & Rescue: Yeah, they made another one. Poor Rad.

The Purge: Anarchy: Yeah, they made another one. Poor Rad.

Sex TapeBad Teacher buddies Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel and Jake Kasdan reunite for an unrelated farce, the best part of which – according to Andrew — is Rob Lowe. Well, that makes sense.

Snowpiercer: Bong Joon-ho’s long-awaited gonzo post-apocalyptic thriller is here, and it is also crazy bananapants in the best possible way. Also: dear god, are Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton great in it.

Video Games: The Movie: Jeremy Snead’s look at gaming and gamers is, sadly, as substantial as its title.

Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago: Susan is profoundly unimpressed with this documentary about the epic journey narrator Martin Sheen (fictionally) took in The Way.

Wish I Was Here:  A decade after Garden State, Rad finds, Zach Braff is still Zach Braff. I guess I’m not surprised, though since I really liked Garden State I hope I like this one too.

Boom! Roasted! Well, barbecued, I guess. You get what I’m going for.

The Fullness Of Time

Ethan-hawkeIn this week’s NOW I talk to Ethan Hawke about his really remarkable work in Richard Linklater’s even more remarkable Boyhood, which opens tomorrow and is the best film I’ve seen this year.

Honestly, there’s nothing more to say. It’s great, he’s great, go see it or I won’t like you no more.


Conquest Of The Apes

dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes1Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opened to $73 million domestically this weekend — outdoing the $54.8 million start of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and guaranteeing that monkey movies will continue rebooting and evolving for the foreseeable future, and that Andy Serkis will once again enjoy the support of many critics and filmmakers in a doomed Best Actor campaign.

I don’t say this in cruelty; Serkis is a lovely guy and a terrific actor, and it could be argued that motion-capture performance simply wouldn’t be a going concern had his Gollum and Kong not demonstrated the true potential of the tech. Caesar is also a spectacular accomplishment, and Serkis’ facial expressions and body language read through far more clearly in Dawn than they did in Rise. But Academy voters will see it as a stunt, because they won’t bother to watch the damn movie.

Fortunately, Serkis can console himself with his Apes profit participation and an entrenched position as the go-to guy for mo-cap acting; honestly, guys, if he’s not available for your next project, just wait until he is. It’ll be worth it.

Also, Trans4merz came in second with $16.5 million, presumably because some people couldn’t get into a Dawn screening at their local megaplex. Whatever. It’s stupid, don’t see it.


Creation Myths

lifeitselfThat weird July effect is in full swing, with just one major-studio opening and everything else sort of just eyeing it warily. Shall we dive in?

Begin Again: Largely dismissed at TIFF last year when it was called  Can a Song Save Your Life?, John Carney’s follow-up to Once pairs Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley as makers of music, singers of songs. Rad does not applaud.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: You know how  Rise of the Planet of the Apes was kind of, how you say, terrible? Matt Reeves’s follow-up ignores it almost completely, which turns out to be a pretty smart move.

Doc of the Dead: The guys who made The People Vs. George Lucas return with another disappointingly superficial look at a rich cultural phenomeon. Darn the luck.

Life Itself: Steve James’ terrific documentary about the life and death of Roger Ebert goes into wide release — and tonight’s 7pm screening at the Lightbox will be introduced by his widow, Chaz. It’s going to be a rough night.

Men of the Cloth: There’s a great documentary to be made about Italian suiting. This is not that documentary. More’s the pity.

Radio Free Albemuth: Shot in 2007, first screened in 2011 and finally arriving in theatres, John Alan Simon’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s posthumously published novel feels like more of a riff on the author’s ideas than a self-contained narrative – though that isn’t necessarily the worst idea. My review will be up later this afternoon.

Roger & Steve

HUMPposter_610_407shar_s_c1This week’s NOW continues my celebration of Life Itself with an interview with Steve James, the documentary’s director and someone who directly benefited from Roger’s presence in the world, since Siskel & Ebert basically saved Hoop Dreams from  virtual obscurity. They did good work, those guys. So does James.

I also take a look at TIFF Cinematheque’s Mamoru Oshii retrospective, which brings the man to the Lightbox this weekend, and Dan Savage’s Hump! festival of sexy shorts, which brings that man to the Bloor on Saturday. Enjoy!

Thumbs Up, Forever

Roger-Ebert-book-extract-007Life Itself opens in Toronto on Friday, and you’ll be seeing me write a lot of words in the direction of Roger Ebert.  How could I not?

To start with, here’s a NOW Top 5 list of movies Roger championed to the public — and though I won’t go so far as to say these films wouldn’t have found their audiences eventually, Roger certainly made it a lot easier.

As I said on Twitter last night, you’ll probably be able to think of five other movies that are at least as deserving of a spot on this list, and you’d be right; Roger Ebert helped out hundreds of movies in this fashion, simply by doing his job with enthusiasm, intelligence and style. The world is poorer without him writing  about it.

Anyway, enjoy the piece. And if you need something to do tonight, I’ll be down at Harbourfront to introduce Bend It Like Beckham at 9 pm. May or may not have a special guest. It’s still in flux.

Manhattan Transfer

transformers-4-pics-autobots-1I’ve made a quick getaway to New York — don’t worry, I’ll be back tomorrow — but I just wanted to point out that Trans4mers continued its infernal reign over cinema this weekend, earning another $36.4 million to stomp all over Tammy and Deliver Us from Evil, and you should all be ashamed of yourselves.

On the other hand, Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer made a million bucks in limited release, so that’s nice. It opens in Toronto next week. You will enjoy it.

Artistic License

words-pictures-clip-videoSixteenByNine600The studios having unloaded their big guns on Wednesday, today’s release slate is all about the little movies. Most of which are actually worth watching, so that’s nice.

Borgman: Audiences at TIFF 2013 were buzzing about Alex van Warmerdam’s creeper about a bourgeois family that unwittingly invites a maniac into their home, and Paul liked it too. I am intrigued.

Gerontophilia: Nearly a year after its TIFF premiere, Bruce LaBruce’s transgressive comedy about a young dude (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie) with a fetish for elderly men lands at the Lightbox. Rad finds it surprisingly … conventional.

It’s Only Make Believe: Silje Salmonsen plays a young mother whose release from prison leads only to further troubles in this thriller (?) from Norwegian director Arild Østin Ommundsen. Jose approves, with reservations.

Manakamana: Hypnotic and compelling, rhythmic and soothing, Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez’ series of ethnographic snapshots is exactly what the world needs. Don’t believe me? Go see.

Whitey: United States of America Vs. James J. Bulger: Joe Berlinger’s documentary explores the legal and ethical contradictions created by the FBI’s tangled connections to the Boston mob boss. Weirdly more upsetting on philosophical grounds than it is on when it comes to the true-crime stuff.

Words and Pictures: Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche are absolutely dreadful in Fred Schepisi’s abominable Romantic Comedy With Something To Say. Seriously, there’s a universe where Lasse Hallstrom made this movie and it turned out better.

Need something else to watch? A glorious Criterion edition of A Hard Day’s Night just came out on Blu-ray. You might want to get on that.

My other other gig.