Film Friday: The Lego Movie, The Monuments Men, Sex After Kids and more

A quick scan of new releases in theatres this week


Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia (Nicholas Wrathall) is structured as a tribute to the cantankerous vision of its late subject, weaving extensive footage of Vidal discussing American political and cultural policy (and his own illustrious personal life) with admiring testimonials from celebrated writers and thinkers who knew him over the decades, up to and including Tim Robbins and Sting. It’s a bracing history of a life vividly lived, and few documentaries manage the simple visual eloquence of cutting between clips of the young, furious Vidal and the physically faltering but still mentally acute man he became in his later years. Director Wrathall doesn’t shy away from the reality of old age, although it’s heartening to see Vidal’s eyes still blaze with righteous fury while old rivals like William F. Buckley Jr. slide into louche parodies of themselves. 83 min. NNNN (NW)

Opens Feb 7 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.


The LEGO Movie (Phil Lord, Christopher Miller) feels like a quantum step up for both CG animation and movies based on marketing pitches. Lord and Miller, whose 2009 adaptation of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs was similarly ambitious in its use of CG storytelling, have created a sprawling 3D fantasy universe designed to mimic stop-motion animation. They’ve also folded every heroic quest narrative into the story of an ordinary construction worker (voiced by Moneyball’s Chris Pratt) who might be the one person who can save the universe from the evil plans of the sinister Lord Business (Will Ferrell). Kids will be thrilled by the non-stop activity and insane creative leaps, while grown-ups will also appreciate those leaps – especially one toward the end – and delight in how the voice actors are enjoying themselves as much as the audience. Sweet, funny, preposterously complex and uniquely ridiculous. 100 min. NNNN (NW)

Opens Feb 7 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Carlton Cinema, Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande – Steeles, Humber Cinemas, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Promenade, Rainbow Woodbine, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.


The Monuments Men (George Clooney) is the kind of movie nobody makes any more: a Second World War caper picture with charming character actors zipping around in Europe using their wits far more than their weapons. Based on clues in Alexandre Desplat’s score, I’m thinking director-star Clooney loves The Great Escape at least as much as I do. He applies that model to the true story of a small band of art experts dispatched to locate thousands of sculptures and paintings seized by the Nazis from Jewish collectors. The earnest and clever script makes some very good points about the importance of art while telling an involving story about characters we come to adore. In the film’s best scene, an unexpected amateur performance of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas touches someone very, very deeply, and Clooney is smart enough to let us see it happen in something close to real time and let us feel what that person feels. There’s more than one kind of art, after all. Some subtitles. 118 min. NNNN (NW)

Opens Feb 7 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande – Steeles, Humber Cinemas, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Promenade, Rainbow Woodbine, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale, Varsity. See here for times.


The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Live Action (Various) is a screening of this year’s nominees for the best live-action short film Oscar. 107 min. NNNN (NW)

Opens Feb 7 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. See here for times.


The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Animated (Various) is a screening of this year’s nominees for the best animated short film Oscar. 79 min. NNN (NW)

Opens Feb 7 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. See here for times.


The Unbelievers (Gus Holwerda) follows Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss on a speaking tour of Australia, where the rock stars of the atheism appear at the Sydney Opera House and colleges despite minor agitation by Christian and Muslim protesters. It’s weird to feel unfulfilled by a documentary about people with whom I absolutely agree, but director Holwerda’s desire to package Dawkins and Krauss’s ideas in a slick, fast-moving presentation works against their conversational rhythms – to say nothing of what it does to their more complex arguments. Everything’s chopped down to a rallying cry, reducing the conflict between secular and theological positions to a simplistic us-versus-them argument that only one side deserves to win. If you’re already on that side, you can come away feeling empowered. But painting the opposition as blinkered, howling idiots doesn’t really help. 77 min. NNN (NW)

Opens Feb 7 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.


Sex After Kids (Jeremy Lalonde) is a limp Canadian comedy connecting six stories of people’s shrivelled-up sex lives after children have entered the equation. Unlike writer/director Lalonde’s previous film, the amusing The Untitled Work Of Paul Shepard, there’s no central figure here, so the film sprawls and gets flabby. The device of a mommy group connecting many of the stories feels contrived, and lots of plot points go undeveloped. And I wish the thing were funnier. Thomas Kratz’s cutesy, overblown score seems to be having a lot more fun than the audience. The acting, though, is decent, particularly by Ennis Esmer, Katie Boland, Mimi Kuzyk and Jay Brazeau. 107 min. NN (GS)

Opens Feb 7 at Carlton Cinema. See here for times.


Anohana the Movie: The Flower We Saw That Day (Tatsuyuki Nagai) is an animé film about estranged friends who reunite when they hear a message from someone who died in a childhood accident. 99 min.

Opens Feb 9 at Coliseum Scarborough, Courtney Park 16, Queensway, SilverCity Fairview, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.


The Metropolitan Opera: Rusalka is a live high-def broadcast from the Met of Dvorak’s lyric opera, starring Renée Fleming in one of her signature roles and Montreal’s Yannick Nézet-Séguin at the podium. Subtitled. 252 min.

Opens Feb 8 at Beach Cinemas, Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Eglinton Town Centre, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge. See here for times.


RoboCop (José Padilha) is a remake of the classic actioner about a part-man, part-robot police officer. See review in next week’s issue. 110 min.

Opens Feb 12 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Carlton Cinema, Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande – Steeles, Humber Cinemas, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Promenade, Rainbow Woodbine, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale. See here for times.


Vampire Academy (Mark Waters) is an adaptation of the first book in the series of young adult paranormal romance novels. No press screening – see review January 10 at nowtoronto.com/movies. 110 min.

Opens Feb 7 at 401 & Morningside, Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande – Steeles, Queensway, Rainbow Woodbine, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.

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