Category Archives: Movies

The Shallow End

With Transformers: Cough Up Twenty Bucks opening earlier in the week, today’s just about counterprogramming. And I’ve seen ’em all.

The Bad Batch: Ana Lily Amirpour follows A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night with this fever-dream wasteland picture about a young woman (Suki Waterhouse) who gets kicked out of Texas and falls in with cannibals. It’s wobbly and overlong, but it has its moments.

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography: Errol Morris’ latest feels like a minor work compared to the historical value of The Thin Red Line or Standard Operating Procedure or the gripping immediacy of The Fog of War or The Unknown Known. But it’s a deeply enjoyable minor work, with Morris and his dear friend Dorfman mourning the death of analog photography in the most entertaining manner imaginable.

The Colossal Failure of the Modern Relationship: Two years after what felt like a vanity screening at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival, Sergio Navarretta’s romantic farce — featuring a fun turn from Enrico Colantoni, at least — shambles into commercial release.

47 Meters Down: Mandy Moore and Claire Holt try very hard not to be eaten by sharks in this simple, effective survival thriller, which would be a lot better if it didn’t do one really stupid thing at the very end.

The Hero: Sam Elliott makes the most of an increasingly rare leading role as an aging Western star sent spinning out by a cancer diagnosis, but Brett Haley — who cast Elliott as Blythe Danner’s love interest in I’ll See You in My Dreams — doesn’t give us anything new.

That’s everything! Enjoy your weekend! And I know I say this every time, but please don’t bother with the Transformers movie.

Small Surprises

Well, it finally happened: A Cars movie isn’t the most illogical and narratively incongruous thing opening in theatres in a given week. Brace yourselves.

All Eyez on Me: The life of Tupac Shakur is condensed and repackaged for a mainstream audience in Benny Boom’s biopic, which introduces Demetrius Shipp Jr. as the doomed hip-hop idol. Rad isn’t impressed.

Beatriz at Dinner: Salma Hayek and John Lithgow try very, very hard to put some soul into Mike White and Miguel Arteta’s drama, but it’s less a movie than a Buzzfeed headline: This Mexican Woman Found Herself At A Table With Donald Trump, You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next. (Only You Probably Will.)

The Book of Henry: Colin Trevorrow’s bid for indie respectability is as bad as you’ve heard, and maybe even worse. If nothing else, it’s proof that after this and Shut In no one should ever put Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay in the same movie again, as their presence in the same frame clearly creates a kind of awfulness vortex.

Cars 3: At last, a Cars movie I kind of enjoyed. Although it took more than an hour to get there and the larger world of the series still makes no goddamned sense. But hey, the kids will buy the toys.

In Search of Israeli Cuisine: Roger Sherman’s documentary tracks its subject’s evolution through the history of the Jewish diaspora. Rad finds it enlightening, and I am now suddenly hungry.

Rough Night: Broad City writers Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs bring us a female-fronted spin on The Hangover and Very Bad Things that features Kate McKinnon as someone called Pippa, so I am all the way in. Rad says it has its moments.

There, that’s everything. Oh, and tomorrow afternoon I’m judging whiskey sours at  the Thrill of the Grill on the Danforth, so come on over if you want to see me dangerously intoxicated!

(Also, there will be barbecue.)

Who Can You Trust?

Happy Friday! The Mummy is terrible! But a few screens over, a former Mummy co-star delivers some of the best work of her career, so that’s nice.

Awakening the Zodiac: The contents of an abandoned storage locker put three friends on the trail of the infamous serial murderer — and sure, that can’t go badly for anybody — in Jonathan Wright’s thriller, which Glenn found pretty watchable.

A Better Man: Attiya Khan got her abusive ex to agree to revisit their relationship for this documentary about the lasting impact of domestic violence, and she deserves  considerable credit for bringing that issue into the light from a new perspective. But the movie itself is very frustrating, with Khan and co-director Lawrence Jackman laboring to stitch together the emotional arc they clearly wanted but failed to capture. Susan isn’t too keen on it either.

Churchill: Jonathan Teplitzky’s stuffy biopic about the run-up to D-Day is almost shamelessly derivative of other, better movies, but Brian Cox does a sterling job of revealing the volatile, vulnerale human behind the inflexible public persona of Winston Churchill. You can still wait for VOD, though.

It Comes at Night: Trey Edward Shults’ paranoid plague thriller establishes an eerie atmosphere and features strong performances from pretty much everyone in the cast, especially Joel Edgerton and relative newcomer Kelvin Harrison, Jr. But it’s also so intent on being oblique rather than concrete that it winds up just sort of evaporating in the end.

Megan Leavey: Kate Mara gives a very good performance in this otherwise undistinguished biopic about a Marine dog handler who served in Iraq, came home injured and went on to lobby Congress to adopt her canine partner.

The Mummy: The biggest surprise of Universal’s latest horror reboot — designed to launch what seems like a pretty dopey line of interconnected classic-monster movies — is that it plays more like a cockeyed remake of Lifeforce than anything else. Only not as good, if you can conceive of such a thing.

My Cousin Rachel: Roger Michell’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s dark period romance is an ingenious unpacking of the standard structure these stories employ, revealing the chauvinism, xenophobia and classism seething beneath the British nobility. Sam Claflin is good; Rachel Weisz is great. Don’t miss it.

And there are all those film festivals, of course. There’s bound to be something you’ll enjoy.

Best Laid Plans

In this week’s NOW, I was supposed to interview an Oscar-winning actor who delivers a masterfully unreadable performance in My Cousin Rachel. But that didn’t happen because of stupid, stupid reasons.

Instead, I will just tell you to see My Cousin Rachel when it opens tomorrow, because it’s very good. And I’ll direct you to this collage thing I did about the crush of microfestivals that swarm into Toronto this week. Due diligence, and all that.

Game Faces

Oh, helloIt’s time for another NOW Free Flick Monday, so get glammed up and join me down at The Royal tonight for a splashy Pride Month screening of Beeban Kidron’s To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar!

Full details are on our Facebook page, but it’s pretty simple: Doors open at 6:30 pm, tickets can be reserved here, and I’ll be on stage to introduce the film around 7:30 pm.

You can also just turn up and walk in, but if you arrive at the last minute you’re gambling on seats still being available — which isn’t always the case — and you’ll miss the beer samples and the chance to win a prize pack. So don’t do that!

And Now, The Wonder

Only ten films opening this week, huh? That’s nothing! Nothing, I say! Although two of them are among the year’s best movies (well, technically last year’s best) and another one is the flawed but very welcome Wonder Woman. So let’s dig in.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail: Steve James looks at the only financial institution to face criminal charges after the economic collapse of 2008 — and how the family behind that institution refused to take the fall.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie: Rad mostly approves of this animated kiddie comedy, which adapts the first four Captain Underpants books. His seven-year-old approves wholeheartedly, though.

City of Tiny Lights: I was less enthusiastic about this London noir than Rad, though we both agree that Riz Ahmed makes the most of a rare leading role as a private investigator drawn into an entirely predictable web of murder and betrayal. Also, too many flashbacks.

Drone: “The title is ironic, see? The operator is the real drone!” Yeah, whatever, your movie’s still terrible and Sean Bean is really struggling with that accent.

The Founders: Just weeks after Tommy’s Honour opened, here’s another movie about the history of golf — but this one’s a documentary rather than a drama, examining the women who formed the LPGA in the late 1940s.

Graduation: The latest from Cristian Mungiu plays like the Romanian version of A Serious Man, which is to say that it’s despairingly complicated and not a comedy. It’s also great cinema.

Score: A Film Music Documentary: Glenn goes straight up the middle on Matt Schrader’s movie-music doc, appreciating the ground it covers while fully aware that it could have covered so much more.

Tanna: Jose raises some very good points about the ethnographic validity of Martin Butler and Bentley Dean’s Oscar-nominated drama.

Werewolf: Ashley McKenzie’s study of two addicts whose differing rates of recovery threaten their relationship tells a familiar story, but with a focus and intensity that reminds us why this story keeps getting told. It’s fantastic. Don’t miss it.

Wonder Woman: Yeah, the bar was set awfully low after the last three DC movies, but Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot still clear it with ease, delivering a proper adventure with a hero who’s a complex character rather than a clenched murderbot. The ending’s kinda samey, though.

There, that’s everything. What are you guys doing this weekend?

Lost At Sea

Hey, look! There are only five movies opening this week! And just one film festival! However did we get so lucky?

… well, here’s the catch.

Baywatch: I have recently become aware of the term “nothingburger”, which describes a manufactured object or a situation that’s entirely devoid of substance. Dax Shepard’s CHIPS was a nothingburger. Baywatch is a nothingburger with cheese.

Paris Can Wait: Tina stands up for Eleanor Coppola’s first dramatic feature, which stars Diane Lane as a woman towrn between her distracted husband (Alec Baldwin) and his far more engaged business partner (Arnaud Viard). Sounds like eminently reasonable counterprogramming for this weekend.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: It’s better than On Stranger Tides, but it’s still pretty lame, thanks to a generic quest narrative and a truly exhausting performance from Johnny Depp. But Geoffrey Rush has his moments, and I did like Kaya Scodelario as the new Keira Knightley.

Population Zero: Documentary filmmaker Julian T. Pinder pivots to fiction with this fake true-crime investigation that pivots on a real Constitutional loophole. I have never been an especially big fan of Pinder’s work … but even for him, this is some bullshit.

The Transfiguration: Michael O’Shea’s feature debut is a really smart reworking of the ambiguous vampire narrative first set out in George A. Romero’s Martin, situated in the projects of Queens and played out between a weird kid and a slightly older girl. Virtually every vampire picture is name-checked, and the one that isn’t is ably represented by a Larry Fessenden cameo. Well done.

Have a good weekend, everybody. Is it still raining? I’m afraid to look.