Italy: Love It, or Leave It (Gustav Hofer, Luca Ragazzi) follows Hofer and Ragazzi, who have been evicted from their apartment in Rome. Hofer wants to move to Berlin; Ragazzi can't imagine leaving Italy. They set out on a road trip to prove their points of view. In Turin, workers at the legendary Fiat plant are losing their rights. Profit-seeking manufacturers of the famous Bialetti espresso-maker have moved their operation to Romania. Gorgeous Lago Como is polluted. Immigrant workers picking oranges and tomatoes in the south are brutally exploited. Gay rights don't exist (a subject also covered in Suddenly Last Winter, the directors' last doc). And the country is overseen by the bunga bunga guy, then-PM Silvio Berlusconi. Though Berlusconi's supporters are fascinating, not all of this makes for riveting viewing. The major entertainment value comes from watching the relationship between the two filmmakers, even though some of the dialogue seems scripted. Call it an anti-travelogue. Subtitled. 75 min.
Rating: NNN (SGC)
Opens Jan 25 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.
Stag (Brett Heard) starts out like an obvious Hangover rip-off but soon becomes a likeable pre-mid-life buddy picture bolstered by some terrific performances by local actors. Thirty-something Ken (Scrubs' Donald Faison) is a certified asshole who's cruelly pranked his friends at their stags. Now that he's about to get hitched, his buddies are seeking payback. Their puerile plan involves a stripper, Viagra and indelible ink, but naturally things keep going wrong. Writer/director Heard is used to working in TV, so the rhythms and pace in his feature debut seem a bit off. Some characters need shading, and the film could use another act. But Heard has a great eye and ear for comedy, and the talented actors - among them Jon Dore, Pat Thornton, Brendan Gall, Tony Nappo and Jefferson Brown - make the jokes fly without resorting to mugging. 83 min.
Rating: NNN (GS)
Opens Jan 25 at Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
Tatsumi (Eric Khoo) shifts between episodes drawn from the titular graphic novelist's memoir, A Drifting Life, and dramatizations of his macabre gekiga, adult-oriented manga stories. Director Khoo has made a beautifully animated hybrid film, melding biography (narrated by Tatsumi himself) and fiction to diverting effect. Diverting, but not terribly deep: the links between Tatsumi's life experience and his twisty, pessimistic tales of alienation, paranoia and masculine insecurity in postwar Japan aren't given anywhere near their deserved level of exploration. Likewise, there's a peculiar dissonance between the psychological darkness of Tatsumi's work and Khoo's sentimental approach to the man's reminiscences, replete with a very corny piano and synth-string-laden score. Subtitled. 96 min.
Rating: NNN (Jose Teodoro)
Opens Jan 25 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. See here for times.
Knife Fight (Bill Guttentag) stars Rob Lowe as campaign strategist Paul Turner - who, you may be surprised to learn, is an unapologetically cynical BlackBerry addict who'll do anything to win, even smear his candidates' opponents. (This may not be quite as shocking as documentary-trained director Guttentag believes it to be.) Our not entirely heroic spin doctor juggles the campaigns of a California state senator (David Harbour) and a Kentucky governor (Eric McCormack), both of whom face sexual scandals that could end their careers, and considers helping an idealistic San Francisco doctor (Carrie-Anne Moss) mount a California gubernatorial run against overwhelming odds. Lowe's become a charming, engaging actor in middle age, and the supporting cast does its best to liven up the utterly generic script, but Knife Fight doesn't have one interesting thing to say about its subject or its characters. "Boy, politics, huh?" is not a pitch. 99 min.
Rating: NN (NW)
Opens Jan 25 at Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
Krivina (Igor Drljaca) follows a refugee based in Toronto who learns that a former war-profiteering friend is missing in Bosnia and returns to his homeland to learn what happened. Each person he meets offers more questions than answers, and eventually reality itself comes into question. So the film becomes a subjective study of a lost immigrant in search of some elusive form of home or identity. First-time director Drljaca has talent. Krivina is filled with intriguing images backed by a chillingly ominous soundtrack. The movie drips disquieting atmosphere and is certainly an immersive experience. Unfortunately, it's very hard to tell what he's getting at. It's time for his content to catch up to his style. Subtitled. 67 min.
Rating: NN (Phil Brown)
Opens Jan 25 at Royal. See here for times.
Parker (Taylor Hackford) follows the lead of most of Donald Westlake's stories about the titular criminal. Parker (Jason Statham) is double-crossed by his comrades and sets out for revenge. Statham's ample charms are squandered on a goofy script. Where the Parker of the novels, and many previous films, bucked personal attachment, here he pals around with a mentor (Nick Nolte), a girlfriend (Emma Booth) and a high-strung realtor (Jennifer Lopez) while still spouting his lone wolf philosophy. The action scenes are pretty thrilling, but Hackford desperately tries to court a broader audience. The weird swings in tone derail Parker's rougher virtues, further condemning Statham to the role of action cinema second fiddle. 118 min.
Rating: NN (JS)
Opens Jan 25 at 401 & Morningside, Canada Square, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Empire Theatres at Empress Walk, Grande - Steeles, Queensway, Rainbow Woodbine, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Mississauga. See here for times.
A Haunted House (Michael Tiddes) stars Marlon Wayans (the shriekier and more insecure Wayans of White Chicks, Littleman and the first two Scary Movie movies) and Essence Atkins as a couple who experience - and videotape - an oddly familiar series of paranormal disturbances in their home. This being the parody version, it's about 10 minutes before the first fart gag, and another five before the gay jokes start coming fast and furious. Much as with Wayans's Scary Movie scripts, A Haunted House doesn't actually engage with the films it spoofs; it just has the cast re-enact entire scenes from them with high-pitched voices. Wayans mugs, Nick Swardson and David Koechner pop up to be creepy and inconsiderate respectively, and Atkins... well, she's a very good sport, recreating bits from The Devil Inside, The Last Exorcism, The Haunting In Connecticut and even The Exorcist in rapid succession. It doesn't make the movie any good, but it certainly shows her range. 88 min.
Rating: N (NW)
Opens Jan 25 at 401 & Morningside, Coliseum Mississauga, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Tommy Wirkola) stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as grown-up versions of the Grimm's fairy tale characters who now battle witches. Screened after press time - see review January 28 at nowtoronto.com/movies. 88 min.
Opens Jan 25 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Carlton Cinema, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Empire Theatres at Empress Walk, Grande - Steeles, Humber Cinemas, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Promenade, Rainbow Woodbine, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
The Metropolitan Opera: La Clemenza Di Tito Encore is a high def broadcast from the Met of Mozart's opera seria, starring El na Garan a, Giuseppe Filianoti and Barbara Frittoli. 195 min.
Opens Jan 26 at Beach Cinemas, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Grande - Yonge, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Yonge. See here for times.
Movie 43 (Peter Farrelly, various) is a comic anthology directed by various hands and featuring a who's who of Hollywood stars. No press screening - see review January 28 at nowtoronto.com/movies. 97 min.
Opens Jan 25 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Carlton Cinema, Coliseum Mississauga, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Empire Theatres at Empress Walk, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Woodbine, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale. See here for times.
U2 3D (Catherine Owens, Mark Pellington) brings U2 to the big screen in three dimensions, a stunt justified by the band's IMAX-size ego and massive fan following. The 3-D photography nearly perfectly captures U2's epic theatricality while adding depth and intimacy to concert footage from the Vertigo tour. Sure, the newer songs mostly suck, and the group's sloppy delivery of some of the older hits suggests they're a little bored with their back catalogue, but that's easy to overlook when Bono's jumping out of the screen and into the row in front of you, dripping his messianic sweat into your popcorn. 85 min.
Opens Jan 24 at Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Queensway, SilverCity Fairview, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.