Life Itself (Steve James) explores Roger Ebert's life and legacy with tremendous affection, but it doesn't shy away from the ugliness of the critic's death. Narrated with passages from Ebert's memoir of the same name (read by sound-alike actor Stephen Stanton), Life Itself efficiently covers the biographical basics - young Roger being given the critic's spot at the Chicago Sun-Times, writing Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls for Russ Meyer, winning the Pulitzer, getting sober, becoming a pop celebrity alongside Gene Siskel - in order to get to the good stuff: Ebert's marriage to Chaz Hammelsmith at age 50, which reconfigured his life and made him an even more honest and emotional writer. And the third act of his life, when illness robbed him of his ability to speak, is examined in painful, unflinching detail. James started shooting four months before Ebert's death, and obviously the images of an exhausted, deteriorating Roger stubbornly, wordlessly arguing with his wife over what he is and isn't willing to do form the documentary's most piercing moments. Like the man himself, it's unfailingly honest and profoundly insightful. 120 min.
Rating: NNNNN (NW)
Opens Jul 11 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. See here for times.
Doc of the Dead (Alexandre Philippe) examines why zombies are so hot in pop culture, chatting with the likes of George A Romero, Simon Pegg, World War Z author Max Brooks and Walking Dead makeup artist Greg Nicotero about the mass appeal of the living dead. But as they did with The People Vs. George Lucas, director Philippe and co-writer Chad Herschberger settled for a superficial examination of the themes they raise, preferring quips to insight and abandoning their thesis to pander to genre fans with clips of zombie walks and zombie weddings. Needs more brains. 81 min.
Rating: NNN (NW)
Opens Jul 11 at Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
Begin Again (John Carney) is writer/director John Carney's return to feature-length music video, turning the surprising charm of his debut, Once, into a shameless gimmick. Just call it Twice. This time around the tunes drown out a lacklustre drama. Mark Ruffalo stars as Dan, a washed-up music exec getting his act together producing an indie record with Greta (Keira Knightley, displaying an exceptional pair of lungs). The two actors are remarkable, and their chemistry makes their shared scenes sing. Carney manages a few rousing musical numbers, but the rest of the film hits too many false notes. The underwritten characters gargle through clunky expository dialogue, and the supporting performances range from affecting to piss poor. The worst offender is Maroon 5's Adam Levine, whose acting debut is the price you pay for a smashing musical finale. 104 min.
Rating: NN (RS)
Opens Jul 11 at Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Coliseum Mississauga, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Queensway, SilverCity Yonge, Varsity, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
Men of the Cloth (Vicki Vasilopoulos) turns a potentially interesting subject - the dying art of Italian tailoring, as represented by Nino Corvato, Joe Centofanti and Checchino Fonticoli, master tailors in Manhattan, Pennsylvania and Penne, Italy, respectively - into a plodding, indifferently shot, obnoxiously scored documentary. Using the design and production of a custom suit to give her film structure, director Vasilopoulos - a fashion journalist specializing in the menswear industry - resolutely avoids anything that might seem overly dramatic or illuminating, even when her subjects offer up potentially fascinating stories. There's also the nagging problem that Vasilopoulos shot much of her footage several years ago with low-resolution cameras, so it looks terrible. Really, it's a sin to make a movie this sloppy about so stylish an art. Some subtitles. 96 min.
Rating: NN (NW)
Opens Jul 11 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves) is a sequel to the 2011 hit about apes (led by a CGI Andy Serkis) taking over the world. Screened after press time - see review July 11 at nowtoronto.com/movies. 130 min.
Opens Jul 11 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Docks Lakeview Drive-In, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Humber Cinemas, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Promenade, Rainbow Woodbine, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale, Varsity, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
The Metropolitan Opera: La Cenerentola - Encore is a high-def broadcast of Rossini's comic opera, starring Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Flórez. 220 min.
Opens Jul 16 at Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Yonge. See here for times.
National Theatre Live: A Small Family Business - Encore is a high-def broadcast of a revival of Alan Ayckbourn's comedy about entrepreneurial greed. 175 min.
Opens Jul 12 at Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Coliseum Scarborough, Courtney Park 16, Queensway, SilverCity Yonge, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.