The Sessions (Ben Lewin) stars John Hawkes (Winter's Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene), as real-life poet and journalist Mark O'Brien, who because of childhood polio spends most of his life in an iron lung or on a gurney. The film recounts his attempts in his late 30s to lose his virginity with a no-nonsense sex surrogate (Helen Hunt). The fact that he's Catholic and relates his experiences to his priest (William H. Macy) adds another fascinating element. Director Lewin sometimes struggles to find the right tone, but the story unfolds elegantly, and he's helped by a magnificent cast. Acting entirely with his head, Hawkes, his voice breathy and pitched high, finds a huge range of subtle emotion, and Hunt invests her character with depth and compassion even as she's struggling with her own conflicted feelings. 95 min.
Rating: NNNN (GS)
Opens Oct 26 at Varsity. See here for times.
Hellbound? (Kevin Miller) presents thought-provoking arguments on indoctrination about eternal damnation before petering out into the kind of repetition and self-important indulgence that people go to church for. The first half of Miller's documentary is something worth talking about: an array of well-spoken talking heads walk us through the varying definitions and interpretations of hell, and the film discusses why certain religions need to exercise the idea of fire and brimstone like a judge wields a gavel. Miller plays his boldest card after adequately unravelling the notion of hell, bringing people like Hitler and Bin Laden into the equation to remind us why hell was needed when earthly retribution just didn't seem enough. It's fascinating stuff, but the doc overstays its welcome, reiterating the same arguments and shooting for a climactic emotional payoff that feels as insincere as memorizing the Hail Mary. 85 min.
Rating: NNN (RS)
Opens Oct 26 at Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
In Their Skin (Jeremy Regimbal) puts a compelling post-economic-crisis twist on the home invasion genre. Grieving the recent accidental death of their daughter, a professional couple (Joshua Close and Selma Blair) and their son (Quinn Lord) travel to their isolated cottage. Their downtime is soon interrupted, however, by a neighbouring family (headed by a gleefully psychotic James D'Arcy and Rachel Miner), whose prodding into their lives soon turns violent. First-time director Regimbal amps the thrills by capturing many scenes in wide shots, so it's hard to read reactions. Once the verbal sparring turns physical, however, the film plays out expectedly, and the end isn't particularly inventive. But by then the screws have already tightened so much that we need release - of any kind. 97 min.
Rating: NNN (GS)
Opens Oct 26 at Royal. See here for times.
Smashed (James Ponsoldt) finds the marriage of two young drunks (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul) tested when she decides to get sober and he doesn't. Still working the functioning-alcoholic angle he played in Off The Black, director and co-writer Ponsoldt has made a movie that feels as unstable as its protagonists, wobbling between uncomfortable comedy and shattering drama, sometimes in the same scene. Winstead's virtually unrecognizable from her more composed turns in Scott Pilgrim and that Thing prequel, and Paul does a more solicitous version of Breaking Bad's ruined Jesse Pinkman. But the pieces don't quite snap together the way they should; Ponsoldt can't help underlining every Big Emotional Turning Point, and while Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally and Octavia Spencer do their best to give their supporting roles some humanity, the movie never sees them as anything more than plot devices. 85 min.
Rating: NNN (NW)
Opens Oct 26 at Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
v/h/s (David Bruckner, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Adam Wingard, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence) is a horror anthology of five found-footage stories held together with a very slender framing device. The format dictates the narratives: unsuspecting camera-toting yahoos blunder into a series of awful situations - except for Swanberg's, which uses video chat to explore a very different kind of awfulness, but there's enough variety in the different "tapes" to keep us interested. The first and last offerings - directed by Bruckner and Radio Silence respectively - are the strongest, engaging with the voyeuristic nature of video in ways the others don't. But the other three deliver decent creepouts on their own terms. 116 min.
Rating: NNN (NW)
Opens Oct 26 at Carlton Cinema. See here for times.
You've Been Trumped (Anthony Baxter) chronicles the struggle of a handful of locals to prevent Donald Trump from constructing a billion-dollar golf resort on Scotland's pristine northeastern coast. British broadcaster Baxter's debut feature doc falls far short of being a satisfying exposé of corporate bullying or even a coherent polemic. The asinine, self-congratulating Trump is all too ready to assume the role of Goliath to Aberdeen's stoic, working-class country-folk's David, and the film brims with blustery sentiment - often shamelessly accompanied by Sigur Rós' sweeping ethereal anthems. It lacks anything like a diligent, fact-based exploration of the economic, legal or environmental arguments. It's impossible not side with the underdogs - and that's precisely the problem. Nothing here challenges the viewer's biases or presumptions. 96 min.
Rating: NNN (José Teodoro)
Opens Oct 26 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.
Cloud Atlas (Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski) gets lost in the ether. It's a high-concept adaptation of David Mitchell's high-concept novel, which told six separate stories ranging from an epistolary 19th-century sea adventure to a futuristic tale about cloning and consumerism. Directors Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings have taken apart Mitchell's elegant structure and spliced stories together into a chaotic three-hour epic that, early on, is simply exhausting to watch. Think The Hours . They've also cast actors in several narratives, probably to point up the book's theme of reincarnation. But rather than sweeping you up into each tale, the strategy makes you wonder if that's Halle Berry or Hugh Grant buried beneath layers of latex, or (in the worst cases) James D'Arcy and Jim Sturgess with eyes altered to make them look Asian. Some sections - particularly the one set in a dystopia - work better than others, and the thing does come together near the end, but what a slog to get there. 172 min.
Rating: NN (GS)
Opens Oct 26 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Coliseum Scarborough, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Interchange 30, Queensway, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Promenade, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale, Varsity, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
Fun Size (Josh Schwartz) is just a way for Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice to lure her tween fans to fork over their allowance. Wren, the planet's most attractive nerd, is stuck taking her kid brother (Jackson Nicoll) trick-or-treating when she could be making an impression at a big Halloween house party. Filled with strained versions of gags we've seen before and clueless characters completely out of touch with today's teens, Max Werner's screenplay is a slapdash effort whose ineptitude mocks everything John Hughes accomplished. There are a few standouts among the supporting cast, like the young, adorable Nicoll and Jane Levy as Wren's best friend. Unfortunately, their talents barely register in a movie where the attempts to be fun are as desperate as a dork trying to act cool. 90 min.
Rating: N (RS)
Opens Oct 26 at 401 & Morningside, Carlton Cinema, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Empire Theatres at Empress Walk, Grande - Steeles, Queensway, Rainbow Promenade, Rainbow Woodbine, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Yonge, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
Chasing Mavericks (Michael Apted, Curtis Hanson) is biopic about American surfer Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston), who enlists the help of veteran surfer Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) to take on America's most dangerous wave. Screened after press time - see review October 26 at nowtoronto.com/movies. 116 min.
Opens Oct 26 at 401 & Morningside, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Yonge, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Yonge. See here for times.
Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day is a broadcast of the 2007 concert by the legendary band (their first headlining gig in 27 years) from London's O2 arena to honour their friend and Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. 124 min.
Opens Oct 25 at Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Queensway, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
The Metropolitan Opera: Otello is a live high-def broadcast from the Met of the late Verdi opera, starring Johan Botha in the title role and Renée Fleming as his unfortunate wife Desdemona. 207 min.
Opens Oct 27 at Beach Cinemas, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Yonge, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Yonge. See here for times.
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (Michael J. Bassett) is a 3D sequel to the film based on a video game about an abandoned, monster-infested mining town. Embargoed. See review October 26 at nowtoronto.com/movies. 94 min.
Opens Oct 26 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Empire Theatres at Empress Walk, Grande - Steeles, Queensway, Rainbow Woodbine, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale. See here for times.
WWE Hell in a Cell is a live broadcast of a demonic WWE match featuring CM Punk, John Cena, Sheamus and others. 180 min.
Opens Oct 28 at Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Eglinton Town Centre, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre. See here for times.