Feats Of Strength

l2xdz4yuiu719nema0snThe arrival of Mission: Impossible – Tom Cruise Clings To Some More High Things seems set to dominate the box office this weekend, and that’s just as well: It’s a lot of fun, and most of the week’s other offerings don’t compare. Here, let me explain.

Best of Enemies: In an era when weird, fussy intellectuals could be revered American culture warriors, William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal were the weirdest, fussiest and most revered. Susan delights in Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville’s celebration of their televised debates.

Bikes vs. Cars: Fredrik Gertten’s agit-prop documentary does everything it can to reduce the metropolitan transportation question to the titular debate; the result is an hour and a half of pandering, disingenuous bullshit. And people will fall for it; keep an eye on the comments.

A LEGO Brickumentary: Kief Davidson and David Junge’s feature-length commercial for the beloved interlocking brick system was very clearly produced to cash in on the pop smash that was The LEGO Movie. The beloved interlocking brick system deserves better.

Man from Reno: Opening tomorrow at the Royal, Dave Boyle’s slippery California noir is one of those playful, metatextual pictures that would prove very divisive if it was opening wide enough to draw an audience. I’ll be covering it in my NOW web column later today.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation: Like the indefatigable Ethan Hunt, Christopher McQuarrie’s contribution to Tom Cruise’s twenty-year vanity project/suicide attempt is a machine with no other purpose than victory, aided immeasurably by a terrific Rebecca Ferguson. And, like Ethan Hunt, it gets the job done.

Vacation: People are being strangely vicious to Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley’s road-trip reboot, starring Ed Helms as a grown-up Rusty Griswold forcing his own family to relive what he mistakenly believes was the greatest holiday of his youth. I liked it just fine, myself.

That’s everything! Have a good weekend, folks!

Road Warrior

1401x788-Screen-Shot-2015-05-07-at-2.36.26-PMIn this week’s NOW, I chat with Ed Helms about his role in Vacation, which allowed him to become part of a world — and, indeed, a universe, he grew up loving.

I also made some movie recommendations for the August edition of our Hot Summer Guide, including NOW’s very own free screening of Jaws at The Royal on August 10th. You might wanna make a note of that one.

Family History

Stories_we_tell_Trailer_HD_A_film_by_Sarah_Polley.mp4_snapshot_01.26_2012.11.07_20.51.03You’ve seen Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, right? It’s terrific — I named it my number-one film of 2012, and Sarah and I unpacked its development and personal import in our NOW interview at the time. But if you have seen it, the odds are you’ve only seen it at home, and it’s a very different experience with an audience.

I’m introducing it tonight at Harbourfront, at 8:45 pm. It’s the cornerstone of this year’s Free Flicks series, directly confronting the modern conceptions of family and legacy, and I’m delighted to be able to screen it. Come on down, if you survive today’s crushing heat. It’ll be nice to sink into a contemplative state by the lake, and maybe think about your own identity, and how it’s so profoundly shaped by the actions of others.

Party Time

imgres2310263j8lRRzimVq0aW57pvmyVDqVmzOSWbpC9rjF0BAr1M6c3yT0CcOGfb6Gf8IFod5N+WaaOen8ziJMaAFgjMT0NlAThis week on Someone Else’s Movie, actual millennial Chandler Levack — screenwriter, filmmaker, organizer of the Feminist Live Read of Entourage — brings Can’t Hardly Wait into the basement for a conversation about role models, teen comedies and the death of generational expectations, among other things.

It’s a deeper episode than I thought this film would yield, and I’m delighted by that. Get it on  iTunes, Stitcher, or direct download — really, whatever works for you.

And then think about coming down to the Lightbox tonight for the first event in TIFF’s summer Versus series, which pits me against Jason Gorber for the hearts and minds of Toronto’s Batman fan base. Cheer me on at 8:45 pm,  as I make the case for Tim Burton’s Batman Returns! It’s gonna be good!

And even if it isn’t good, it’s gonna be weird. Seriously, check it out.

Monsters from the Grid

53I haven’t seen Pixels, nor do I ever expect to. Just lucky, I guess. But it’s poised to be the week’s biggest hit of the week … or the picture that finally kicks Adam Sandler’s movie career to the curb, once and for all. Fortunately, it’s not your only option this weekend; unfortunately, most of the other ones seem pretty grim.

American Heist: A godawful script and some diabolical scene-chewing undermine a surprisingly decent central turn from Hayden Christensen in Sarik Andreasyan’s dopey Heat ripoff.

A Hard DayRad really liked Kim Seong-hun’s thriller about a cop (Lee Sun-kyun) whose attempt to cover up a hit-and-run turns into the worst mistake he’s ever made. (Which it already was, really, but … trust me.)

Irrational Man: In which Woody Allen’s perpetual auto-cannibalism and hermetic worldview finally start to wear Susan down. It’s not pretty.

The Look of Silence: Joshua Oppenheimer follows The Act of Killing with a film that’s perhaps even more powerful, because it comes at the Indonesian genocide from the perspective of the survivors rather than the perpetrators. Not an easy watch, obviously, but one of the year’s best.

Only You: Did you know there was a Chinese remake of Norman Jewison’s vaguely remembered 1994 rom-com? Well, there is — and it starts Tang Wei in Marisa Tomei’s role, and Liao Fan in Robert Downey Jr’s. What it isn’t, according to Rad, is worth two hours of your life.

Paper Towns: In which 20th Century Fox hopes to replicate the smash-hittery of The Fault in Our Stars with another John Green adaptation about a dreamy small-town teen who meets that special someone. Glenn gives it a pass.

Pixels: Yup. Adam Sandler vs. ’80s video games, from the director of two Harry Potter movies. America, this is your legacy. Rad grapples with the lessons therein.

La Sapienza: Eugene Green’s idiosyncratic, stage-influenced approach to cinema results in this overly mannered dud about a French couple who befriend a pair of young Italian siblings and proceed to philosophize at them, and us, for a very long time.

Southpaw: Jake Gyllenhaal is terrific as a fallen prizefighter trying to reassemble his life after a tragedy, but he’s fighting virtually solo against an overstuffed, unapologetically melodramatic screenplay and Antoine Fuqua’s characteristically overboiled direction. I didn’t like the movie, but I’m okay with Gyllenhaal winning an Oscar for his work in it.

Unexpected: Cobie Smulders and Gail Bean similarly struggle against their principal creative collaborator, as director Kris Swanberg undercuts their intelligent, heartfelt performances with a simplistic approach to her story about a Chicago teacher who gets pregnant right around the same time as one of her best students.

What can I say? It’s that kind of week.

Fighters

76f911168ef206903e27a3a85da77c8c18af1b8fI’ve got a couple of pretty good interviews in this week’s NOW, I think.

There’s my TIFF conversation with Joshua Oppenheimer about The Look of Silence, his devastating follow-up to 2012’s astonishing The Act of Killing, and a more recent sit-down with Jake Gyllenhaal about his work in Antoine Fuqua’s Southpaw.

I also did a Top 5 thing about Gyllenhaal’s performances, and took a look at the Bernard Shakey Film Retrospective, which is playing The Royal tonight through Sunday. Dig in.

Puttin’ on the Ritz

timthumbIt’s Wednesday! Maybe you want to forgo the sedagive and come down to Harbourfront tonight for a free screening of Young Frankenstein?

Mel Brooks’ delightfully kinked homage-cum-spoof of the Universal monster classic has just grown funnier with age, really — and it’s my pleasure to include it in this year’s Free Flicks series.

We get things rolling at 9pm. Hope to see you there!

A Kid And His Picture

ThompsonGentlemenWell, this was a great one.

Scott Thompson — actor, comedian, podcaster, Guy Who’s Finally Back On Hannibal As Of Thursday — is my guest this week on Someone Else’s Movie, and he picked Howard Hawks’ 1953 musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell and that magnificent “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” production number. The movie was delightful, and the conversation even more so; Thompson is a natural performer, as you’d expect, but he’s also a very savvy interpreter of cinema, even if he doesn’t think he is.

Also, I taught him what “rapey” means. Hashtag proud.

As usual, you can find it on  iTunes and Stitcher, or via direct download. Caution, language.

More on Marvel

In light of Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man opening to a $58 million weekend — which was considered a disappointment after the gargantuan numbers posted by every other Marvel movie since 2008’s The Incredible Hulk — the guys at the MAMO podcast invited me to join them their latest round table and offer some thoughts on the movie and the character, and ambitions and limitations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general, especially after this week’s State-Of-The-MCU piece.

I had fun! You should listen! Even if the background noise is a little on the loud side.

The Full Spectrum

trainwreck-movie-2015In a perfect world, Amy Schumer and Paul Rudd would be starring in the same movie. But it’s not a perfect world, is it?

All the Time in the World: “It’s like The Wilderness Family, but absolutely nothing happens and the image quality ranges from adequate to terrible!” I mean, there’s probably a better pitch for Suzanne Crocker’s twee vacation documentary, but you get the idea.

Ant-Man: Paul Rudd is a perfect casting choice as Scott Lang, and his delightful performance weirdly serves as a constant reminder of how great this superhero movie might have been if Marvel hadn’t been so determined to stitch it into its overarching continuity. Ah, well. It’s still fun, just not as much fun as it could have been.

Jimmy’s Hall: Ken Loach’s latest is a bit of a bust, taking a footnote in Irish history and turning it into the slowest, dullest riff on Footloose that you’ll ever see. And that includes the actual remake of Footloose.

Mr. Holmes: Ian McKellen’s marvelous, understated turn as an elderly Sherlock is pretty much the only reason to see Bill Condon’s nondescript period piece. But that’s still a very good reason.

1001 Grams: Rad loved Bent Hamer’s latest character study at TIFF, so I’m looking forward to catching up to it now that it’s unexpectedly materialized in commercial release.

Trainwreck: I had to miss the press screening of Amy Schumer’s big-screen debut, but by all reports — including Glenn’s — it sounds like she’s made the transition to movies with her acerbic sensibility intact.

The Tribe: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s Cannes-hailed debut — set in a world of deaf-mute characters who communicate entirely through (unsubtitled) sign language — is as manipulative as it is formally impressive. So that’s something.

Two 4 One: Gavin Crawford and Naomi Snieckus, two very talented actors, struggle mightily to make emotional sense of the total bullshit that is Maureen Bradley’s trans-themed romantic comedy. Susan didn’t fall for it either.

That’s actually a pretty wide range of cinema for a superhero weekend. Go enjoy something.

My other other gig.