Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (Alison Klayman) follows the efforts of the infamous Chinese artist and dissident to make art and trouble (sometimes simultaneously). While preparing for a show at the Tate Modern, he also conducts an investigation into the construction of Chinese schools collapsed by the Sichuan earthquake - which gets him assaulted by a police officer and sent for emergency surgery to relieve the resulting swelling in his brain. Director Klayman's sympathetic lens lets us see Ai as a man rather than a symbol, whose puckish wit allows him to make light of the darkest situations. But we're never allowed to forget the risks he's taking by poking fun at a system that doesn't have a sense of humour. Some subtitles. 91 min.
Rating: NNNN (NW)
Opens Jul 27 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. See here for times.
Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance (Bob Hercules) is a well-researched but unremarkable doc about one of America's premier dance companies. Founded in 1956 by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, artistic as well as personal partners for much of their lives, the troupe became a distinctly American ballet company, hiring many American choreographers and reflecting the times in works that, based on generous rehearsal and performance clips, were way ahead of their time. The Joffrey was also revolutionary for its diversity, hiring performers of different shapes and colours, all trained in ballet but stretching themselves to work in different styles. Narrated with understatement by Mandy Patinkin, the film tracks the company's artistic and financial ups and downs, but there's little tension or artfulness, making it of interest mostly to dance aficionados. 82 min.
Rating: NNN (GS)
Opens Jul 27 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.
Step Up Revolution (Scott Speer) promises gyrating hips, and that's exactly what it delivers. As dramatically inert as the plot and characters may be, it showcases bodies that are fluid, kinetic and very often aerodynamic. Stars Kathryn McCormick and Ryan Guzman are both bland actors but fine dancers, eye-pleasing in everyway. She plays an aspiring professional dancer, while he's the co-founder of a flash mob dying for Justin Bieber-like YouTube hits. They team up to organize exquisitely choreographed (and logically impossible) protest routines meant to revolutionize the art into something political. The revolution in the title is actually ironic, since the movie is all about conformity to commoditization. We're watching a franchise incorporate street dances, after all. The movie doesn't just sell out, it does so with an admirably bold face that says revolution is good, especially when it's corporate-sponsored. 106 min.
Rating: NNN (RS)
Opens Jul 27 at 401 & Morningside, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Empire Theatres at Empress Walk, Grande - Steeles, Queensway, Rainbow Woodbine, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
United States of Africa: Beyond Hip Hop (Yanick Létourneau) is part tour documentary, part examination of the tangled lines of cultural resistance and nationalistic pride that run through contemporary African music. Montreal-bred filmmaker Létourneau follows Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi around the globe as he records his 2010 album, Présidents D'Afrique, which offers modern rappers the chance to build tracks around the sampled voices of such inspirational leaders as Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah and Malcolm X. Awadi's project takes him from Burkina Faso to France to South Africa and even America, where he collaborates with Dead Prez rapper M-1 in New York City and then rushes to DC for Barack Obama's inauguration, a hugely symbolic moment for Africans everywhere. And at every stop, Létourneau grabs a snapshot of the politics on the ground. In particular, Burkina Faso, where the rapper Smockey risks his safety by speaking angry truths to a government he accuses of oppressive tactics, feels like a powder keg. I'd have liked to hear more of the finished project, though. Other than one number performed live in concert, we're limited to mere snippets of the individual songs as they're being recorded or rehearsed. But I'm not sure that's really Létourneau's point. 86 min.
Rating: NNN (NW)
Opens Jul 27 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.
The Watch (Akiva Schaffer) boasts a talented cast but comedy is as rare a sighting here as UFOs are on Earth. The suburban dwellers played by Ben Stiller and company respond to a local murder by forming a neighbourhood watch patrol. Instead of chasing minorities around the block, they're battling intergalactic invaders. The laughs are few and far between but often tinged with witty criticisms on race relations and suburbia. Unfortunately, the best this movie has to offer is eclipsed by Joe Cornish's vastly superior Attack the Block, which explored similar sociopolitical and extraterrestrial terrain. The choppy, tangential feel here makes you wonder whether some last minute cuts were applied after the Trayvon Martin tragedy, which instigated the title change from Neighborhood Watch to simply The Watch. After all, the last thing you would want is for a studio comedy about white men on a power trip to be too relevant. 98 min.
Rating: NN (RS)
Opens Jul 27 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Carlton Cinema, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Docks Lakeview Drive-In, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Kennedy Commons 20, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Promenade, Rainbow Woodbine, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale. See here for times.
André Rieu's 25th Anniversary Hometown Concert is a live concert from Maastricht marking the 25th anniversary of Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra.
Opens Jul 28 at Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Grande - Yonge, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre. See here for times.
The Who - Quadrophenia: The Complete Story (Franc Roddam) is a screening of a film about the making of the legendary 1973 album. It begins with an introduction by Pete Townsend and ends with performances of songs from the disc. 115 min.
Opens Aug 1 at Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge. See here for times.