ParaNorman (Chris Butler, Sam Fell) is the best animated film I've seen this year, a funny and resonant adventure that's not afraid to get really, really dark. It's the tale of an 11-year-old (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee of The Road and Let Me In) whose ability to converse with the dead makes him an outcast in his New England town. But Norman's abilities become an asset when a local legend turns out to be at least partly true, and a curse brings a quintet of Puritan zombies out of their graves. As Norman and his unlikely allies - including his spiteful older sister (Anna Kendrick) and a couple of awkward classmates (Tucker Albrizzi, Christopher Mintz-Plasse) - race to restore order, ParaNorman launches into a series of thrilling, inventive set pieces, engaging serious emotional themes while never shying away from the truly horrible implications of its mythology. This is a fantastic picture in every sense of the word. 93 min.
Rating: NNNNN (NW)
Opens Aug 17 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Carlton Cinema, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Humber Cinema, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Promenade, Rainbow Woodbine, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
And If We All Lived Together? (Stéphane Robelin) looks at five long-time friends who decide that living communally will help them cope with old age. Jeanne (Jane Fonda) is hiding an illness from husband Albert (Pierre Richard), who has early Alzheimer's. Lefty Claude (Claude Rich) is too old to get arrested at a demo. And ladies' man Jean (Guy Bedos) is still trying to get laid despite his heart condition. The story doesn't work without Claude and wife Annie's (Geraldine Chaplin) fabulous house in suburban Paris, but that's presumably writer/director Robelin's point. Got money? You're still gonna die. Famous farceur Richard is superb, as is Fonda as the lusty woman who connects with a young anthropologist who's doing research on the group. The film veers off course when it comes to the fivesome's sexual conflicts - ah, the French! - but at its core it's an effective ensemble piece that takes a clear-eyed look at aging. Subtitled.
Rating: NNN (SGC)
Opens Aug 17 at Grande - Yonge, Varsity. See here for times.
The Awakening (Nick Murphy) casts Rebecca Hall (The Town, Please Give) as a paranormal debunker summoned to a remote Cumbrian boarding school in 1920, where a student has apparently been frightened to death by a ghost. Of course, the truth turns out to be far more complicated. As the Old Dark House template demands, Hall has to creep around the halls of a forbidding old manse setting up little traps involving bells and powder. And because this is the 21st century, those old-school pleasures are enhanced with CG scares and musical stings so the contemporary audience doesn't fall asleep or start texting their friends. Things get dodgy in the last reel, when director Murphy and co-writer Stephen Volk deploy a double-twist ending so convoluted it has to be explained twice. Hall very nearly sells it anyway - she's that good - but it's a bum note in an otherwise entertaining exercise. 107 min.
Rating: NNN (NW)
Opens Aug 17 at Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
The Expendables 2 (Simon West) becomes, in the hands of director West (Con Air), the all-star action cartoon that the Sylvester Stallone-helmed first film promised but failed to deliver. When the titular mercenaries go up against Jean-Claude Van Damme's baddie, as in any good action sequel, this time it's personal. Stallone, Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolf Lundgren, Jason Statham, Chuck Norris and co. slaughter extras like it's 1985 while winking at the audience with knowing humour. It's cheesy, overwrought, ridiculously violent, unintentionally and intentionally hilarious, just as it should be. But let's hope the Planet Hollywood veterans hang up their machine guns before they are way too old for this shit. 102 min.
Rating: NNN (Phil Brown)
Opens Aug 17 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, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale. See here for times.
Fortunate Son (Tony Asimakopoulos) chronicles the bumpy relationships of the Montreal-based filmmaker with his fiancée and his Greek parents in the months leading up to his wedding, as escalating tensions and health issues bring up old demons and challenge Tony's identity as a recovering addict. There are moments of genuine drama, and director Asimakopoulos is certainly an intriguing subject, but Fortunate Son never seems to figure out what kind of movie it wants to be; the footage just lumbers toward the wedding, with clips of the director's Scorsese-wannabe student films inserted every time he needs to cover a transition. The aspirations to profundity are admirable, but this is really just a video diary in search of a hook. Some subtitles. 80 min.
Rating: NN (NW)
Opens Aug 17 at Carlton Cinema. See here for times.
Painted Skin: The Resurrection (Wuershan) is China's homespun response to an American popcorn picture. Zhou Xun plays an ancient fox spirit who's sprung from a glacial prison by a plucky bird demon (Yang Mi) and begins stealing hearts (literally) in order to maintain her youthful beauty. She soon strikes a deal with a battle-scarred princess (Zhao Wei) who yearns to reconcile with her true love (Chen Kun). The demon and the princess engage in a deceitful battle of wits, allowing Wuershan to hit some resonant emotional notes, but bloated blockbuster trappings bog the film down. The fusion of sensuality, swordplay and demonology wowed Chinese audiences, but the cultural specificity of the material leaves much of the film's appeal lost in translation. Subtitled. 131 min.
Rating: NN (John Semley)
Opens Aug 17 at Kennedy Commons 20. See here for times.
Sparkle (Salim Akil) is a dull remake and a swan song for Whitney Houston that falls flat.The late, great songstress delivers a stiff performance as a strict mother to musically-inclined girls. Yet Houston's mere presence still manages to be the film's primary appeal, for the lack of better material. The soulless motown-era musical stars American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who fails to ignite the screen. As the titular Sparkle, a songwriter and singer constantly overshadowed by her two sisters, Sparks is similary outdone by a supporting cast that leaves a far better impression. Everyone chokes on a screenplay that strings together cliches, atrocious dialogue and downright illogical plotting. Even the musical numbers fail to take off, with the exception of Houston's last gasp, which given the tragic circumstances leaves you waiting to exhale. 116 min.
Rating: NN (RS)
Opens Aug 17 at 401 & Morningside, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Empire Theatres at Empress Walk, Queensway, SilverCity Yorkdale, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
WWE SummerSlam - 2012 is a live WWE match in high-def, featuring Brock Lesnar, Triple H, John Cena, CM Punk and others.
Opens Aug 19 at Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Eglinton Town Centre, Empire Theatres at Empress Walk, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre. See here for times.