Almost Like Christmas

1418837928_quvenzhane-wallis-lgQuirk of the schedule: I have seen and reviewed only one of the movies opening this week. I will have many more opinions on Christmas Day, I promise.

Advanced Style: Susan approves of Lina Pliopyte’s look at aging and elderly New York ladies who are dedicated to staying fashion-forward.

Annie: Having really enjoyed what Will Gluck did with Easy A and Friends with Benefits, I am sorry to hear he couldn’t turn the latest adaptation of the Broadway smash into a workable movie. Glenn explains.

Cathedrals of Culture 3D: Six filmmakers (including Wim Wenders and Robert Redford) were tasked with making 3D shorts about the souls of six architectural marvels. Jose deems it worth spending three hours with the glasses.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb: The third go-round for the family franchise finds Ben Stiller taking his waxy friends to London for another adventure. Rad wasn’t having it, though he did enjoy Dan Stevens as Sir Lancelot. And really, who wouldn’t?

Song of the Sea: The animators who gave us the lovely, delicate feature The Secret of Kells return with another toon steeped in Irish folklore. Rad had hoped for something a little stronger.

Son of a Gun: Hey, I saw this one! And it’s largely okay, thanks to strong performances from Brenton Thwaites and Ewan McGregor. So that’s nice.

Also, I was supposed to see The Interview last night, but then everything went to hell. I wrote some words about that situation. Quick, read them before North Korea hacks the NOW site.

Yup, Still Here

getimageNOW’s annual Holiday Movie Special is on the stands, and my cover interview with Inherent Vice‘s Joaquin Phoenix is a particular point of pride; we spent months getting everything lined up, and after all the negotiating it was just a pleasure to  talk to the guy.

I also get to nudge our readers to a few movies they might not otherwise see in a Top Five list of his finest performances — yeah, they probably know about Walk the Line, but We Own the Night and Two Lovers can always use a boost. 

Oh, and the issue also features an interview with director Rupert Wyatt, who moves from Rise of the Planet of the Apes to The Gambler. I wish I’d had time to ask whether he and Mark Wahlberg ever discussed Tim Burton’s Apes movie on the set, just to break the tension.

TFCA Time!

boyhood_still06The Toronto Film Critics Association, of which I am still somehow vice-president, announced the bulk of its 2014 awards this morning … and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood came out on top, taking Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette.

Lots of other movies won things, but that’s the result with which I am happiest. No, the TFCA isn’t the only organization to name Boyhood the best movie of the year, but consensus isn’t always the enemy. Sometimes it really is that easy to spot a singular phenomenon. And Boyhood – and Linklater, and Arquette, and Ellar Coltrane, and Ethan Hawke — can never get enough recognition, as far as I’m concerned.

And God Said, “Meh”

bale_featured_photo_galleryExodus: Gods and Kings opened at number one this weekend, but it was a pretty weak opening for a would-be epic — just $24.5 million, even at IMAX 3D ticket prices. As Box Office Mojo points out on the linked piece, that’s very disappointing for a Biblical picture, particularly given that Darren Aronofsky’s Noah opened to $43 million back in March.

Still, that was enough to beat The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One, which earned $13.2 million to secure second place. And we can expect the megaplex to get a lot busier — and Ridley Scott’s wheezy misfire to drop precipitously — this coming weekend, when the third Night at the Museum 3 and Hobbit movies open. Stand by.

Brave, Beautiful Fools

exodus-gods-kings-castI’m not sure whether Fox sees Ridley Scott’s latest as awards bait (Gladiator did win Best Picture, after all) or a great big Christmas epic, but here it is. Also, it is not very good. But until the Hobbit finale arrives on Wednesday, it’s the only mega-3D blockbuster in town … along with some other stuff.

Antarctica: A Year on Ice: Andrew Powell’s personal look at day-to-day life on a polar base is a charming answer picture to the recent slate of rather more self-important Antarctic docs. Also very pretty.

The Decent One: Henrich Himmler, one of the architects of the Nazis’ Final Solution, is the subject of Vanessa Lapa’s feature documentary. Jose describes it as “suitably nauseating”, so if that’s the endorsement you’ve been waiting for, be my guest.

Exodus: Gods and Kings: In which Ridley Scott goes very, very big. And I go home … after two and a half really long hours. I did admire Joel Edgerton’s commitment to the no-win role of Rameses, though. Dude found layers.

The Imitation Game: Benedict Cumberbatch puts a little more pain into his prickly Sherlock persona, and there’s Alan Turing. It’s a frustratingly mainstream treatment of Turing’s life story — downplaying the gay aspect into near-invisibility is not really the best way to pay tribute to the man’s life — but it’s still a damn sight better than The Theory Of Everything, this year’s other Weinstein-produced look at a tragic genius. Glenn liked it a little more than I did, in any case.

Top Five: Chris Rock finally directs a movie that’s as electric, funny and irreverent as his stand-up — though his understanding of entertainment media is kind of ridiculous. (Studios don’t junket a movie on its opening day, for a start.) Rad is more than willing to overlook the logistical stuff and fall for the chemistry between Rock and Rosario Dawson — and for the most part, so am I.

Zero Motivation: Talya Lavie’s Israeli service comedy plays like Broad City with subtitles and automatic weapons. This is  mostly a positive — and Nelly Tagar and Dana Ivgy certainly have a frenemy chemistry that matches Abbi and Ilana’s mutually assured frustration. Enjoy, but watch out for the dark side.

And there we have it. I’m about to disappear into TFCA balloting hell, but I get my life back when I come out the other side on Monday. So that’ll be nice. Awards are announced on Tuesday; watch this space!

The Return Of The Thing

la_ca_0908_the_hobbit_battle_five_armies_197Peter Jackson wraps up the Hobbit trilogy on Wednesday, and he’s in this week’s NOW for a Q&A along with co-writer Philippa Boyens and actor Lee Pace, all three of them having blown into town last week for the Canadian premiere of The Battle of the Five Armies and the requisite round table.

Play the audio clips, they’re delightful; I might not think much of this particular trilogy, but Peter Jackson is always fun to sit down with, and he brings out some real playfulness in Pace, too.

You’ll also find my exclusive Q&A with Martin Freeman, whose Bilbo Baggins remains the one thing I genuinely care about over eight long, CG-filled hours. So there.

Fight On, Katniss

10407696386_e0f3d4cb74_bb-200x200The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One stayed atop the charts for a third weekend, earning $21.6 million to stay well ahead of its closest competitor The Penguins of Madagascar, which finished second with $11.1 million.

(This weekend was made extremely uncompetitive by Fox’ decision to give its new horror movie The Pyramid a smallish release with minimal marketing, resulting in a $1.35 million gross and a ninth-place opening. Ouch.)

Two films that did really well with their own limited openings, however, were the Oscar contenders Wild and The Imitation Game; the former made $630,000 on 21 screens, while the latter pulled in $402,000 on just eight. So that’s nice for everybody.

Middle of Nowhere

imgresWith everyone expecting Mockingjay to keep its place at the top of the charts this weekend, a few smaller pictures are arriving as counter-programming. Shall we see what’s what?

 Awake: The Life of Yogananda: Glenn didn’t have much patience for this documentary about Paramahansa Yogananda, who may or may not have been an inspiration to Steve Jobs. Well, then.

Copenhagen: Toronto-born director Mike Raso makes his feature debut with a nicely observed tale of two people making a connecting on a deeper level than either of them is prepared for. I am very keen to see what he does for an encore.

Fall: Michael Murphy plays a priest struggling with his past in the most oblique and pointless way possible in Terrance Odette’s suffocating character study, which probably plays a lot more effectively if you haven’t seen Doubt or Calvary.

Gemma Bovery: Gemma Arterton is the whole show in Anne Fontaine’s weirdly listless adaptation of Posy Simmonds’ riff on Flaubert. And she’s good enough to make the thing worth sitting through.

Serena: Susanne Bier’s 1920s mining-town drama, which reunites the David O. Russell-certified team of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, arrives under a cloud of negative publicity. Susan finds most of the bad press is, sadly, deserved.

The Wandering Muse: Tamás Wormser’s diasporia doc surveys the state of Jewish musicians (but not necessarily Jewish music) around the world. Rad finds it formulaic and unremarkable.

Wild: Reese Witherspoon walks in Cheryl Strayed’s footsteps — more or less literally — in Jean-Marc Vallée’s moody, absorbing drama, which is not nearly as awards-baity as you might have been led to believe.

Also, Bad Turn Worse — which played TIFF 2013 under its original title, We’ve Got to Get Out of This Place — is opening for a weekend run at the Royal. I’ve got that covered in today’s web column, which will be online later this afternoon.

My other other gig.