Tchoupitoulas (Bill and Turner Ross) follows two young African-American brothers, their best friend, and their dog, Buttercup, on an all-night trip through the New Orleans French Quarter during Mardi Gras. It's a stunning meditation on childhood and poverty that does the city proud through a nice mix of local colour and thoughtful asides. More than a trite travelogue, it captures just what it's like to be scared, excited and alone in the big city. It's an endearing and powerful love letter to a city that hasn't seen much love in recent years. 82 min.
Rating: NNNNN (Andrew Parker)
Opens Feb 9 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.
Portrait of Wally (Andrew Shea) traces the provenance of Egon Schiele's painting of his mistress, Valerie Neuzil, which once hung in the home of Lea Bondi, a Jewish gallery owner in Vienna. The Nazis confiscated it in 1939, and though Bondi recovered much of her collection after the war, this painting went to the Austrian National Gallery. And then things got complicated. The Bondi family's efforts to reclaim the painting are the meat of Shea's engrossing documentary - because the painting isn't just a painting, of course, but a symbol of both the injustices visited on Europe's Jews during the Holocaust and of the ethical blindness that allowed other art collectors to trade in works that were clearly not theirs to buy or sell. Some subtitles. 90 min.
Rating: NNNN (NW)
Opens Feb 12 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.
Lunarcy! (Simon Ennis) feels like it could have been filmed by a young Errol Morris. Making a deadpan inquiry into human eccentricity centred on the relationship a few very insistent people have with the moon, Ennis - director of the comedy You Might As Well Live - interviews a selection of lunar enthusiasts who relate to our orbital companion in very different ways. There's Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, who now paints moon art (pressing the imprint of his space boots into his work) and a Canadian who still treasures his memory of visiting the Houston control room during the Apollo 17 mission as a youth ambassador. But the most memorable character is Christopher Carson, who dreams of establishing a moon colony called Luna City and never returning to Earth. Focused, articulate and resolutely unfashionable, he's documentary gold, though Ennis miscalculates when he tries to milk Carson's story for additional pathos with a late revelation that will surprise absolutely no one. 80 min.
Rating: NNN (NW)
Opens Feb 8 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.
Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh) presents itself as a moody medical drama about Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara), a profoundly depressed young woman whose psychiatrist (Jude Law) puts her on a new drug called Ablixa. A few weeks later, something very bad happens. And then, well, Side Effects pivots and becomes a different movie entirely. If you go with that turnaround, you'll probably find Side Effects more fun than I did. Soderbergh and Burns shift gears so sharply that it took me a while to start caring about the new iteration of the story, which is rooted in a certain type of thriller that was in vogue in the late 80s and early 90s. I'm not so sure the shift works. Or rather, I'm not sure the first half of Side Effects lines up with the second. (And neither half is the movie the trailer and TV spots are selling, which is sort of fascinating.) But that may be the point; certainly, it would go a long way toward explaining Catherine Zeta-Jones's awful, winky performance as Emily's previous therapist. 105 min.
Rating: NNN (NW)
Opens Feb 8 at 401 & Morningside, Carlton Cinema, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Queensway, Rainbow Woodbine, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale. See here for times.
All in Good Time (Nigel Cole) is a featherweight story about newlyweds Atul and Vina (Reece Ritchie and Amara Karan), children of Indian immigrants in the UK and both virgins, who can't consume their marriage - they live in close quarters with Atul's parents. Credit Meera Syal, who mixes steeliness and tenderness as Atul's mother, and the great Harish Patel as the outsized traditional dad quarrelling with his modern-thinking son, for adding some depth. But the theme is so 50 years ago - and no wonder. The source material for the film is Khan Din's 2007 Rafta Rafta, itself based on Bill Naughton's 1963 drama The Family Way. Nowadays, the idea of having put off sex until marriage, even for those with an immigrant background, seems positively antediluvian. So the set-up itself, and the pivotal conflict between the supposedly new-school Atul and his father, is quaint, if not outright unbelievable. 94 min.
Rating: NN (SGC)
Opens Feb 8 at Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
Middle of Nowhere (Ava DuVernay) follows a young woman named Ruby (newcomer Emayatzy Corinealdi), who's put her life on hold while her husband (Omari Hardwick) serves a prison sentence for an initially unspecified crime. Soon she finds herself responding to the attentions of a charming bus driver (David Oyelowo). DuVernay, named best director at the 2012 Sundance Festival, gets solid performances out of all three of her leads - particularly Oyelowo, who puts his own spin on a role that seems tailored for Taye Diggs - but she confuses stasis with depth, smothering the drama by dragging her paper-thin script out at a snail's pace, and then filling the empty spaces with an intrusive, manipulative soundtrack. 99 min.
Rating: NN (NW)
Opens Feb 8 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. See here for times.
Great Expectations - Live is a broadcast in high def of the gala opening night of Graham Maclaren's adaptation of the Dickens novel, performed at the Vaudeville Theatre in London's West End. Includes red carpet and exclusive behind the scenes footage. 130 min.
Feb 7 at Coliseum Scarborough, Grande - Yonge, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Yonge. See here for times.
Identity Thief (Seth Gordon) is a comedy starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy about a businessman who discovers a woman's stolen his I.D. Screened after press time - see review February 8 at nowtoronto.com/movies. 108 min.
Opens Feb 8 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Carlton Cinema, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, 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: Un Ballo In Maschera Encore is a high def broadcast from the Met of Verdi's middle period opera, starring Marcelo Álvarez, Sondra Radvanovsky and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. 211 min.
Feb 9 at Beach Cinemas, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Yonge, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Yonge. See here for times.