Indie Game: The Movie (Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky) is an intelligent, thoroughly absorbing doc that's a delight for both the avid gamer and those not so up to speed with Nintendo-speak. A handful of independent video game designers and programmers bring us into the hermit caves where games are conceived and walk us through the mounting anxieties and gruelling anticipation that come with delivering product. All the while, the filmmakers and their subjects mount a legitimate case for video games as a new art form, with certain developers taking on the airs of the next generation's Jean-Luc Godard. If video games are our New Wave, this doc is its Cahiers du Cinéma. Subtitled. 96 min.
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Opens May 25 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. See here for times.
Last Call at the Oasis (Jessica Yu) uses Alex Prud'homme's book The Ripple Effect to look at the developed world's coming freshwater crisis, which is expected to hit us harder than the end of oil. (Not everyone drives, but everyone gets thirsty.) Documentarian Yu (In The Realms Of The Unreal) starts with a macro look at America's heedless water consumption, then puts a human face on the issue through the work of citizen activists like Erin Brockovich, who's still fighting David-and-Goliath battles against toxic dumping and water contamination. Yu isn't out to depress us with a message of doom, and includes a fun sequence in which Jack Black is enlisted as a celebrity spokesman for recycled water to help people over the "yuck factor." He's laughing on the edge of the abyss - but of course, we all are. 99 min.
Rating: NNNN (NW)
Opens May 25 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.
Chernobyl Diaries (Brad Parker) is basically a Eurotrip version of The Hills Have Eyes, with unassuming vacationers (including Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski and Devin Kelley) served up as fodder for whatever lurks in the woods around Pripyat, the Ukraine town evacuated at the start of the Chernobyl disaster in 1987. If you've seen a horror movie in the last three or four decades, you know what's going to happen to these poor kids, but producer/co-writer Oren Peli and director Parker appropriate the pinwheeling handheld aesthetic we've come to associate with found-footage movies to amp up the suspense by forcing us to share the characters' panicked perspective. You can't help but be sucked into the story, even when you pretty much know where it's going beat for beat. Some subtitles. 85 min.
Rating: NNN (NW)
Opens May 25 at 401 & Morningside, Carlton Cinema, Coliseum Scarborough, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Interchange 30, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Promenade, Rainbow Woodbine, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
Hysteria (Tanya Wexler) is not as risqué as its premise, the invention of the vibrator, though it's certainly pleasurable enough. Hugh Dancy stars as Mortimer Granville, a Victorian doctor who cures women's mental ailments by using his fingers to... umm... provide a deep tissue massage. He's the rom-com answer to Michael Fassbender's Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method; both men treat women's hysteria with orgasms. When Granville's clinical hand jobs give him severe cramps, he stumbles upon a mechanical contraption that would eventually become a woman's best friend. Though historical accuracy isn't what director Wexler is shooting for, she finds an aloof, playful way to criticize male hypocrisy in an era when the female orgasm wasn't medically recognized. Dancy is an ideal romantic lead, and he has a fine foil in Maggie Gyllenhaal's Charlotte, who embodies the women's emancipation movement. The charming pair rise above the pandering, lightweight material. 99 min.
Rating: NNN (RS)
Opens May 25 at Varsity. See here for times.
Where Do We Go Now? (Nadine Labaki) is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser that makes Mideast politics go down easy - a Molotov Cocktail that tastes like a Bellini. The Christian and Muslim inhabitants of a Lebanese village have learned to coexist peacefully, but random acts of vandalism threaten to break their ceasefire. The mischievous women find ways to distract their men from fighting, whether by faking communication with the Virgin Mary or importing Ukrainian strippers to give the guys something else to get hard over. The film's resolutions to animosity certainly seem as far-fetched as an accord between two religions, but that may be the point. Labaki doesn't always have an easy time mixing laughs with tears, but it's difficult not to be charmed by her characters and purpose. Although the politics are half-cooked, this absurd comedy is a delightful tribute to the women who have to find ways around men and their follies. Subtitled. 100 min.
Rating: NNN (RS)
Opens May 25 at Grande - Yonge, Varsity. See here for times.
Men In Black 3 (Barry Sonnenfeld) arrives 10 years after the last one, and the jokes have hardly changed: Will Smith's Agent J is still getting himself knocked around by giant CG aliens and goggling at the wonders of the universe, and Tommy Lee Jones's Agent K is still a taciturn buzz-kill. Except that one day, Agent J wakes up to learn that Agent K isn't anything at all, having been killed by an alien in 1969 - which requires J to leap back into the past to save him. Josh Brolin as the younger K turns out to be the movie's best effect; he perfectly channels the cranky pragmatism that makes Jones's performance so much fun. The problem is that the script never gives him or Smith anything substantial to do, bouncing the pair from one effects scene to the next. The movie whizzes by in a blur of speedy activity and elaborate visual effects - and 3-D, don't forget the 3-D - but evaporates almost as soon as it reaches your retinas. 105 min.
Rating: NN (NW)
Opens May 25 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Carlton Cinema, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Docks Lakeview Drive-In, Eglinton Town Centre, Empire Theatres at Empress Walk, Grande - Steeles, Humber Cinema, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Promenade, Rainbow Woodbine, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
Jesus Henry Christ (Dennis Lee) is supposedly a coming-of-age comedy about a boy genius. However, the movie has the attention span of a child with ADHD, getting so caught up with whatever quirky oddities it can conjure up that it can't focus on telling a simple story. Henry (Jason Spevack) is the titular boy Einstein, who enters college at age 10. Seeking his biological dad, Henry finds Dr. Slavkin O'Hara (Michael Sheen) and his miserable daughter Audrey (Samantha Weinstein), both of whom have enough issues to make their own movie, preferably directed by Wes Anderson. Lee constantly interrupts the plot with visual gimmicks and asides that take away from the relationship between Henry and Audrey, which despite the fine child actors, remains undercooked. All the while, the movie crassly deals with issues of race and sexual orientation. 95 min.
Rating: N (RS)
Opens May 25 at Carlton Cinema. See here for times.
The Metropolitan Opera: La Traviata Encore is a high def broadcast from the Met of Willy Decker's minimalist production of the Verdi opera, starring soprano Natalie Dessay in the title role. 187 min.
Opens May 26 at Beach Cinemas, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Grande - Yonge, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Yonge. See here for times.