August: Osage County (John Wells) is a perfectly constructed slice of Oklahoma Gothic about a family that convenes when the alcoholic patriarch disappears. It's close to parody. You can buy the many variations on family rot and the heightened reality onstage (Tracy Letts wrote the screenplay based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play), but all the revelations are almost too much when they're in your face on the screen. Still, Wells's cast is so good, they make the thing believable. Meryl Streep is a knockout as drug-addled matriarch Violet, and though you couldn't say she matches her, Julia Roberts definitely holds her own as her rage-fuelled daughter Barbara. The rest of the cast - Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson as Barbara's sisters, Benedict Cumberbatch as the family loser, Abigail Breslin, Chris Cooper and Margo Martindale - are also impressive, especially Martindale as Violet's sister. For all its deep flaws (terrible music, some clunky staginess), August: Osage County is extremely entertaining. Sit back and enjoy the ride. 121 min.
Rating: NNNN (SGC)
Opens Jan 10 at Beach Cinemas, Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Promenade, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Yonge, Varsity, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
I Am Divine (Jeffrey Schwarz) chronicles the life and work of oversized drag star Divine, who rose to fame making renegade cult films with John Waters and then became a recording artist, nightclub mainstay and cultural icon before dying, in 1988, of a heart attack. Schwarz flashes back to Divine's frustrating childhood in Baltimore, where he was constantly bullied. Then came the life-changing meeting with Waters, who gave him the famous name, got him to channel his inner rage into his performances and introduced him to an underground of creative misfits and drug-takers. Then fame beckoned. Interviews with Waters, various co-stars and friends help create a picture of a complex man and artist, while fascinating archival footage documents Divine's huge talent on a theatre or nightclub stage. Some context from a less biased cultural critic or a young filmmaker might have helped. But this is great fun. Bring on the Divine retrospective and/or biopic pronto. 90 min.
Rating: NNNN (GS)
Opens Jan 10 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.
Gabrielle (Louise Archambault) isn't aiming to push buttons. This gentle, charming romance about a mentally challenged 22-year-old exploring love and sex handles slightly provocative subject matter with a touch so sensitive that at times the film borders on timid. Gabrielle Marion-Rivard (who actually has Williams syndrome) delivers a winning performance as the title character, a choir singer whose romance with a similarly handicapped young man (Alexandre Landry) is stifled by the practical concerns of everyone around them. While offering an emotionally sincere (if slight) portrait of life with disability, Archambault gets caught up in rousing, overtly metaphorical choir numbers. They culminate in a grand appearance by Quebecois legend Robert Charlebois, who ushers in a resolution to satisfy an audience's sweet tooth. Subtitled. 104 min.
Rating: NNN (RS)
Opens Jan 10 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. See here for times.
Persistence of Vision (Kevin Schreck) serves as an oral history of Canadian animator Richard Williams's doomed passion project, The Thief And The Cobbler, interviewing a number of his surviving collaborators and using archival footage of the master animator (who refused to participate in the doc) to detail the project's slow, excruciating death. Animation buffs can feast on the fascinating behind-the-scenes footage and the stories about an inspired artist trying to push the boundaries of his chosen art form. But as Schreck's documentary goes on, it also becomes clear that Williams was so focused on creating bravura sequences that he never considered how they might fit together. And thanks to Persistence Of Vision's structure, we get to figure that out well before Williams does, making an 82-minute movie feel a bit longer than it might have otherwise. 83 min.
Rating: NNN (NW)
Opens Jan 10 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.
Lone Survivor (Peter Berg) turns an actual 2005 incident in which four Navy SEALs were stuck in the mountains of Afghanistan when a mission went sour into an endless action sequence meant to celebrate brotherhood, honour and shooting people in the head. Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch all commit fully to the project, barking their increasingly incoherent dialogue with conviction, but there's nothing else to Lone Survivor at all; writer-director Berg lacks the patience for the political details of a Black Hawk Down or the psychological insights of a Jarhead. He just wants to celebrate the nobility of the U.S. military in the bloodiest way possible, and that's what he does. The most uncomfortable element of the movie, though? Watching the closing montage of the real soldiers who lost their lives in the action and realizing how many of them were black or Latino, when the military of Lone Survivor is depicted as almost entirely white. Some subtitles. 122 min.
Rating: N (NW)
Opens Jan 10 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Carlton Cinema, Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Woodbine, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale. See here for times.
Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (Hideaki Anno, Mahiro Maeda, Masayuki , Kazuya Tsurumaki) is an anime sequel, set 14 years after the previous installment, about saving humanity. 95 min.
Opens Jan 11 at Coliseum Scarborough, Courtney Park 16, Queensway, SilverCity Fairview, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.