Warm Bodies (Jonathan Levine) easily beats Twilight at the whole dead-boy/live-girl dynamic; it's an unexpectedly charming teen romance. R (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie who spends his days hanging around a ruined airport and occasionally forming a horde to mount a raid on the walled city where the last humans live. But then he meets Julie (Teresa Palmer) and decides she's worth protecting - even though he's just eaten her ex-boyfriend. Director Levine (The Wackness, 50/50) doesn't shy away from the darker aspects of Isaac Marion's novel, even as he reshapes it into another of his oddball tales of people who discover there's more to one another than they first believed. The post-apocalyptic world is convincingly lived-in and hopeless, making the redemptive love story all the more meaningful. And you'll have a ball watching Robb Corddry and Analeigh Tipton steal their scenes as R and Julie's best friends. 98 min.
Rating: NNNN (NW)
Opens Feb 1 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 Mississauga, SilverCity Yonge, SilverCity Yorkdale, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
West of Memphis (Amy Berg) organizes two decades of investigation and activism in the case of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley Jr., wrongfully convicted of the 1993 murders of three eight-year-old children in West Memphis, Arkansas, into a comprehensive two-and-half-hour narrative, re-interviewing key figures from new angles and bolstering filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's thesis - presented in their three Paradise Lost documentaries - that the case epitomizes the horribly flawed nature of the Arkansas justice system, which would much rather abandon an innocent man on death row than reopen a closed case. Director Berg's narrative doc is much more emotionally accessible than the meditative Paradise Lost films, with appearances from celebrity supporters like Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (who produced this film), Eddie Vedder, Johnny Depp and Natalie Maines. 150 min.
Rating: NNNN (NW)
Opens Feb 1 at Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
A Royal Affair (Nikolaj Arcel) is far from memorable, but the period piece about a trusted physician who has the king's ear and the queen's heart certainly has its pleasures. Mads Mikkelsen stars as Dr. Johann Struensee, a freethinker influenced by the Enlightenment who attends to and then manipulates Denmark's young King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard). In his spare time, the good doctor beds the neglected young queen (Alicia Vikander), who has a mind for more than what the king can offer. Unfortunately, the forbidden romance is unconvincing: Mikkelsen and Vikander making a mismatched pair, damp wood for their supposed passion. There's more fire in the King's council, where the cutthroat political intrigue and the clownish antics of Følsgaard's king make for a comical and captivating chess match. While Mikkelsen turns in a solid performance as the puppet master, it's the magnificent Følsgaard who turns heads while also making them roll. Subtitled. 132 min.
Rating: NNN (RS)
Opens Feb 1 at Varsity. See here for times.
Stand Up Guys (Fisher Stevens) offers nothing we haven't seen in any other Tarantinoesque pulp-flavoured drama, but Christopher Walken and Al Pacino have a weird, cracked integrity as aging Los Angeles hoods spending a day knocking around their old haunts. We know who these guys are and what to expect from the actors playing them, and the movie delivers on those terms. I'm surprised they didn't just call it Old Pros. The actors infuse their performances with an exhausted gravity that balances all the rote gangster crap in Noah Haidle's script, and Alan Arkin contributes a lovely cameo as a wheezy wheelman sprung from the retirement home for one last joyride. Like everything else in Stand Up Guys, his arc ends up exactly as you think it will... but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it while it's happening. 95 min.
Rating: NNN (NW)
Opens Feb 1 at Canada Square, Carlton Cinema, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Yonge, Queensway, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.
The Last White Knight (Paul Saltzman) is a noble experiment that fails. Saltzman returns to Greenwood, Mississippi, where in the 60s he worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to help blacks register to vote and connects with Ku Klux Klan member Delay De La Beckwith, who roughed him up 40 years ago. De La Beckwith agrees to a sit-down and talks openly about his racism, guns and violent behaviour. The hook is that, though he still detests Saltzman's views, he's starting to like him. Too bad Saltzman can't keep his focus, adding commentary from Morgan Freeman, Harry Belafonte and other activists about Klan-controlled Greenwood's vibe. Civil rights struggle has been handled far more expertly in other docs - see Soundtrack For A Revolution, for example. Saltzman's just scratching the surface, substituting cheesy graphic-novel-type illustrations for archival footage. And he's way too self-serving during the sequences with De La Beckwith. This doc would have been much better had he revealed a bit more of himself. 78 min.
Rating: NN (SGC)
Opens Feb 1 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See here for times.
A Silk Letter (Kang Sangwoo) is a moody art film about Sungwoon (Seong Hojun), a young Korean man who burns his draft notice for mandatory army service. Living in a nondescript Seoul apartment with his unnamed and unhappy boyfriend (Choi Jinhwan), Sungwoon drifts through life, taking the occasional frenzied walk to burn off existential angst. Kang's extended shots of sleeping faces or snails symbolically inching their way across a road (I'm not kidding) test your patience, while the clanging soundtrack unsubtly hints that there's tension beneath the placid surface. The title apparently refers to a letter penned by a 19th-century Korean-Catholic martyr, but Kang provides no context for it, so the detail is lost on most Western viewers. The film screens with Cuong Ngo's The Golden Pin, a dreadfully earnest and predictable culture clash pic about a gay Vietnamese-Canadian who agrees to marry a woman to please his traditional immigrant parents. Subtitled. 54 min.
Rating: NN (GS)
Opens Feb 1 at Carlton Cinema. See here for times.
Sound City (Dave Grohl) is rocker Grohl's tribute to the legendary San Fernando Valley recording studio, which produced such monsters as Fleetwood Mac's first album, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Damn The Torpedoes, Johnny Cash's first American Recordings and Nirvana's Nevermind. There are some terrific stories here, but the doc is rambling and unfocused, basically ending after 70 minutes but dragging on for another 40 as Grohl buys the shuttered venue's revered Neve mixing board and moves it to his own recording studio to make music with the likes of Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, Frank Black, Fear's Lee Ving and Paul McCartney. Sure, Grohl's having a ball, but it felt awfully self-indulgent from where I was sitting. 108 min.
Rating: NN (NW)
Opens Jan 31 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. See here for times.
Bullet to the Head (Walter Hill) is a comeback vehicle for Sylvester Stallone. He plays a hit man who joins a Washington, DC, detective (Sung Kang) to seek justice about something or other. See review Feb 2 at nowtoronto.com/movies. 92 min.
Opens Feb 1 at 401 & Morningside, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Empire Theatres at Empress Walk, Queensway, Rainbow Woodbine, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge. See here for times.
One Night Stand stars Rachel Dratch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Richard Kind, Cheyenne Jackson, and other top Broadway and Hollywood writers, actors, and directors producing four original short musicals, all within 24 hours. 104 min.
Opens Feb 1 at Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.