FORCES OF NATURE (George Casey) is the Quirks & Quarks-style companion to The Day After Tomorrow, serving up stories of natural cataclysms in the Ontario Science Centre's Omnimax format. The images of Montserrat's volcano, Turkey's earthquakes and America's Tornado Alley occupy your entire field of vision, but they're so soft and curved at the edges that they give this National Geographic production the trippy feel of a rave projection. Trippy would have been the way to go, especially with the Kevin Bacon narration and lurid computer animation, but Casey keeps things tepid and rational. What this movie needs is some hysterical junk science and a ragtag band out to save the world. 45 min. NN (CB)
Opens Jun 4 at the Science Centre Omnimax. For times, see Indie & Rep Film listings.
span class="bold">HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (Alfonso Cuarón) puts the franchise in the hands of the Mexican director of Y Tu Mamá Tambian, with more grown-up but less gratifying results. The story sets Harry against escaped prisoner Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), but what's most dramatic here is the onset of puberty. Harry and Ronald have lost their baby fat, Hermione has breasts, and they're all just not as cute as they used to be. On its own, Azkaban stands as a superior children's movie. It's technically dazzling, morally nuanced and surprisingly lyrical. But it's not as scary as the second Harry Potter movie or as thrilling as the first. Attention will wander. 134 min. NNN (CB) Opens Jun 4 at 401 & Morningside, 5 Drive-In Oakville, Bayview, Beach Cinemas, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Docks Drive-in, Eglinton Town Centre, Elgin Mills, First Markham Place, Grande - Steeles, Paramount, Queensway, Rainbow Fairview, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Promenade, Rainbow Woodbine, SilverCity Newmarket, SilverCity North York, SilverCity Richmond Hill, SilverCity Yorkdale, Silvercity Yonge, Varsity, Varsity V.I.P., Winston Churchill.
TWIST (Jacob Tierney) is an unremittingly bleak update of Oliver Twist in which all the orphans are hustlers. Instead of London, it's set in a grim, grainy Toronto of warehouses and donut shops, and instead of musical numbers there's violence and incest. It does have a nice tension between the story's fantasy elements and its gritty realism, although it doesn't always work as well as you'd like it to. The pacing's a little sluggish, and the peaks and valleys feel muffled. But it looks gorgeously dank and moulderingly stylish, Nick Stahl does a charismatic turn as the Artful Dodger, Toronto really looks like Toronto, and the soundtrack's all full of Royal City, which is in itself a reason to check it out. See interview, page 153. 97 min. NNN (WB) Opens Jun 4 at Cumberland.
VALENTIN (Alejandro Agresti) drapes its abundant charm over a flimsy structure in the hope that we won't notice that there's nothing much going on underneath. If we're in the right mood, we won't. This is one of those cute-little-boy-bearing-the-whole-world-on-his-tin y-shoulders movies, and Rodrigo Noya, as beleaguered eight-year-old Valentín, is so nerdily endearing, you kind of want to ignore the film's lack of emotional logic just to make him happy. It's not his fault that the relationships in the film seem contrived and the pacing's iffy. Look how cute he dances to that wicked Argentine pop music in his homemade astronaut suit. Kinda like a tiny Jason Schwartzman from Rushmore, minus the great writing. You go, little guy! 79 min. NNN (WB) Opens Jun 4 at Canada Square.