Anna Karenina (Joe Wright) is a high-concept, Baz Luhrmannesque literary adaptation that sets most of the action of Leo Tolstoy's sprawling novel in an elegant theatre. This motif allows for swift scene changes (and must have kept costs down) and, up to a point, makes sense thematically. After all, it stresses the artifice of 19th-century Russian high society and the culture of watching and gossiping that ultimately dooms the affair between married mom Anna (Keira Knightley) and her lover, Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). But the strategy isn't used consistently, mixing theatre interiors with actual exterior locations, some in Russia. Despite Tom Stoppard's clear screenplay, the gimmick ultimately distances us from the characters and their intersecting lives. Still, it's a gutsy approach, and the leads smoulder and set off angry sparks together while wearing one eye-popping outfit after another. Jude Law nearly steals the picture with his pinched yet dignified and very human portrayal of Anna's cuckolded husband. 130 min.
Rating: NNN (GS)
Opens Nov 30 at Canada Square, Grande - Yonge, Queensway, SilverCity Mississauga, Varsity, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
Bones Brigade: An Autobiography (Stacy Peralta) is a sort-of sequel to Dogtown And Z-Boys, chronicling the rise of the eponymous team of amateur teens put together and coached by director Peralta. Among them are Steve Caballero, Rodney Mullen and Tony Hawk, who became rock stars on wheels. Along with Peralta, they reminisce about the competitions, how they developed their moves, their personal dilemmas at home and the pressure of being in the public eye. The film may be shameless self-promotion and navel-gazing (it's sponsored by Vans), but the interviews are candid and introspective. Anchored to the legacy of the Bones Brigade is the evolution of skateboarding culture. The doc is the next logical step for Peralta, whose savvy marketing transformed an outcast hobby into a lucrative industry. 111 min.
Rating: NNN (RS)
Opens Nov 30 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.
A Late Quartet (Yaron Zilberman) exploits a fine ensemble of actors to probe the dynamics of a string ensemble. When Peter (Christopher Walken), leader of a famous string quartet, begins to experience signs of a degenerative disease and contemplates retirement, ambition and life crises start rocking his collaborators (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Mark Ivanir and Catherine Keener). There's some great writing in director Zilberman and Seth Grossman's script on the topic of music - a speech about Peter's encounter with Pablo Casals is amazing - and good performances by the cast, especially Walken, who shows more gravitas than he has in decades. Until the last scene, though, the film is emotionally slack, and no one except Walken is credible as a string player, a major problem with the editing and coaching. 105 min.
Rating: NNN (SGC)
Opens Nov 30 at Varsity. See here for times.
Lloyd The Conqueror (Michael Peterson) is a testament to the ability of committed performers to elevate bland material. Director Peterson and co-writer Andrew Herman's thin script about a Calgary slacker (Evan Williams) who boosts his flagging grades and finds his true calling as a live action role- player works because the supporting cast creates a rich tapestry of weird, spiky personalities. Brian Posehn, Tegan Moss and Trailer Park Boys' Mike Smith do sterling work as Lloyd's mentor, love interest and antagonist respectively. But Williams's undistinguished presence in the underdeveloped lead means the whole enterprise slumps whenever it's placed on Lloyd's shoulders. 93 min.
Rating: NNN (NW)
Opens Nov 30 at Carlton Cinema. See here for times.
The Suicide Shop (Patrice Leconte) is an animated French comedy that squeezes as much life out of its morbidly amusing premise as it can. When suicide seems like the only way to go, the Tuvache family business offers all the options: poisons packaged like perfumes, a handcrafted sword for hara-kiri or even a plastic bag and duct tape for the hobos. Things get awkward when youngest son Alan is born with a permanent smile that makes customers reconsider taking the plunge. This isn't exactly kids' stuff (what subtitled movie is?), despite writer/director Leconte's attempts to make the dour proceedings as childishly upbeat as possible. There's a musical number at the end of every dark alley, but most are tedious and redundant. Leconte compensates with old-school animation that's to die for, its visual wit and dry humour giving this funereal movie some life. Subtitled. 79 min.
Rating: NNN (RS)
Opens Nov 30 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. See here for times.
Back to 1942 (Feng Xiaogang) tracks the devastating famine that took the lives of 3 million people in China's Henan province during the Second World War. Xu Fan plays a landlord forced to flee with the common people, who are soon so dehumanized by starvation that they're eating pets and selling their female children for a few quarts of millet. Meanwhile, the Japanese are set to invade, and the Chinese army is hoarding all the food so the soldiers can fight the good fight. Somewhere in there, Feng wants to comment on government corruption, but that takes second place to extended sequences of unremitting misery and carnage once the Japanese start bombing roads streaming with refugees. Also along for the ride are Adrien Brody as Time reporter Theodore White and Tim Robbins, ludicrous as an Irish priest. Unbelievably leaden for a pic meant to tug at the hearstrings. Subtitled. 146 min.
Rating: NN (SGC)
Opens Nov 30 at Eglinton Town Centre, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik) finds the director reuniting with Brad Pitt, the star of The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, for a far less satisfying attempt at deconstructing the mythology of the noble outlaw. A bunch of small-time mobsters argue over crime and punishment in a decaying American city while the 2008 U.S. election campaign plays out in the background. Dominik buries every scene under thick layers of irony and unnecessary stylization, but he's not doing anything Elmore Leonard, Quentin Tarantino and dozens of imitators haven't done before. He's just doing it more insistently, and not nearly as well as he believes. 97 min.
Rating: NN (NW)
Opens Nov 30 at 401 & Morningside, Carlton Cinema, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Empire Theatres at Empress Walk, Grande - Steeles, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Woodbine, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale. See here for times.
The Last Movie (Bruce Pittman) is a disastrous vanity project starring director Pittman as a crusty old director hired by a producer (August Schellenberg) to write and direct an English-language remake of a Russian film noir. Problem is, the actor (Beth Gondek) he's chosen to play his femme fatale begins to lose it, becoming obsessed with the original Russian character and blurring the lines between fiction and reality. Pittman seems to think he's making a bold statement about the film industry, but his complaints feel self-indulgent and the work's structure - a film within a film within a film - never pays off. 103 min.
Rating: N (GS)
Opens Nov 30 at The Royal. See here for times.
The Metropolitan Opera: La Clemenza Di Tito Live is a live high def broadcast from the Met of Mozart's opera seria, starring El na Garan a, Giuseppe Filianoti and Barbara Frittoli. 195 min.
Opens Dec 1 at Beach Cinemas, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Yonge, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Yonge. See here for times.
The Metropolitan Opera: Otello Encore is a high-def broadcast of the Met's production of the dark Verdi opera, starring Johan Botha and Renée Fleming. 201 min.
Opens Dec 3 at Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Yonge, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre. See here for times.