NNN: 121 films of 2015 that are worth a watch

Didn't you know these picks are totally solid bets?


NNN: A lot of NOW readers don’t realize that NNN-rated films are totally decent options, but guess what? They are.

Don’t ignore this long list of solid picks when hunting for entertainment this holiday season: click on each title to find out where you can catch each movie online.

Want kid-friendly movies? Click here. Click genres for all titles, find all Netflix films here and access all films of 2015 here.

Available online and/or in theatres:

Adult Beginners (Comedy) (Drama) When his IPO falls apart, a New York City hotshot (Nick Kroll) goes home to New Rochelle to crash with his pregnant sister (Rose Byrne) and her husband (Bobby Cannavale) and winds up playing nanny to their three-year-old.

After The Ball (Comedy) In this fractured take on Cinderella, talented aspiring fashion designer Kate (Portia Doubleday) starts work at the company owned by her father (Chris Noth) only to discover that her stepmother (Lauren Holly) and stepsisters are bent on sabotaging her career and the entire fashion house.

Ant-Man (Action/Adventure) (Sci-fi) Rudd’s gentleman cat burglar, Scott Lang, is tapped by Michael Douglas’s Dr. Hank Pym to stop an unethical colleague (Corey Stoll) from replicating Pym’s shrinking process to make tiny super-soldiers in high-tech battle  suits,  while Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) scowls in the background.

Apartment Troubles (Comedy) (Drama) Weixler (whom you may know from The Good Wife and The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby) and Prediger (of A Teacher and Life Of Crime) play Nicole and Olivia, two flailing artists who, upon being evicted from their East Village apartment, react by jetting off to Los Angeles for a weekend with ­Nicole’s wealthy aunt (Megan Mullally), only to see things go even further off the rails.

Appropriate Behavior (Comedy) (Drama) (Romance) Writer/director Akhavan stars as Shirin, who in the opening scene is breaking up with her girlfriend, Maxine (Rebecca Henderson), and spends the rest of the pic trying to recover. She semi-stalks her ex, hooks up with strangers, tries a three-way, takes up with a passive-aggressive guy – you get the picture.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Action/Adventure) (Sci-fi) Earth’s mightiest heroes – Tony “Iron Man” Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) – face off against Stark’s runaway creation, the sneering  murderbot  Ultron (James Spader).

Backcountry (Drama) (Horror) (Thriller) To escape the big city, a couple (Missy Peregrym, Jeff Roop) head off to an isolated weekend in Algonquin Park and encounter a little trouble when they venture too far into the wilderness. 

Ballet 422 (Documentary) Jody Lee Lipes‘s vérité doc looks at a short piece he’s created – the company’s 422nd new work, hence the title – from conception to rehearsal to performance. The film covers the two months leading up to its premiere in 2013.

Bang Bang Baby (Drama) (Musical) (Sci-fi) It’s 1963 in the small Canadian town of Lonely Arms, and  Stepphy  (Jane Levy) is a high school student/aspiring singer whose dreams of entering a New York talent competition are thwarted because she has to look after her drunken dad (a miscast Peter Stormare), himself a failed musician.

Banksy Does New York (Documentary) Banksy did New York in October 2013, producing one new work of graffiti, sculpture, performance or installation somewhere in the five boroughs every day for the entire month. Chris Moukarbel’s doc chronicles the British street artist’s residency, emphasizing the works’ provocative political content and interactive qualities.

Being Evel (Documentary) Here are some of the things iconic daredevil Evel Knievel, who died in 2007, did in his lifetime: jumped over 19 cars on his Harley-Davidson claimed the Guinness world record for most broken bones in a lifetime made millions on a toy line inspired other extreme sports athletes like Tony Hawk and got charged with battery in 1995 for assaulting his girlfriend, Krystal Kennedy. That last bit goes unmentioned in the documentary Being Knievel.

Ben’s At Home (Comedy) (Drama) (Romance) At the age of 30, heartbroken sad sack Ben (Dan Abramovici) has decided to abandon the larger world and become a shut-in. People can visit – and maybe even sleep over – but Ben won’t be going anywhere. 

Berkshire County (Horror) (Thriller) After an impulsive sex act is posted online, ostracized high-schooler Kylie (Alysa King) would rather just dig a hole and crawl into it, but instead, she’s watching a little boy at a big house in rural Ontario. She’s jumpy – and so are we – even before the child with the pig mask shows up at the door.

Beyond The Reach (Thriller) Beyond The Reach is The Most Dangerous Game set in the Mojave Desert, featuring a truly demented bad guy turn by Michael Douglas and an ending whose implausibility only adds to the popcorn-flick fun.

Cake (Drama) Aniston plays Claire Bennett, a deeply damaged woman who becomes fixated on understanding the suicide of a member of her chronic-pain group (Anna Kendrick), leading her to befriend the dead woman’s husband (Sam Worthington).

Cast No Shadow (Drama) (Fantasy) (Thriller) Christian Sparkes’s debut feature is a bleak drama about a troubled kid named Jude (Percy Hynes-White) who’s struggling with an overactive imagination and an abusive, criminal father (Hynes-White’s real-life father, Joel Thomas Hynes, who also wrote the script) while coming of age in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Cinderella (Drama) (Fantasy) Billed as being “based on Disney’s Cinderella properties and the fairy tale written by Charles Perrault,” Kenneth Branagh‘s lush new film is simply a live-action remake of the studio’s 1950 animated classic, following those story beats faithfully, though without the musical numbers.

Cooties (Action/Adventure) (Comedy) (Horror) It’s your basic rage-zombie movie, but there’s a twist: the virus only turns children into frenzied killing machines. Not that this is of much help to the teachers trapped in a public school with hundreds of students.

Danny Collins (Comedy) (Drama) When Collins wizened manager (Christopher Plummer) shows him an inspiring letter John Lennon wrote him in 1971 that went missing, he goes on a “road not travelled” journey involving an estranged son (Bobby Cannavale) and music that comes from his heart, not his Greatest Hits: Volume 3 album

Dark Places (Drama) (Mystery) (Thriller) Dark Places stars Charlize Theron as prickly, traumatized Libby Day, who’s forced to confront the childhood slaughter of her family when she’s approached by a young man (Nicholas Hoult) who believes her brother (Corey Stoll) – imprisoned for decades for the murders – is innocent. 

Dark Star: H. R. Giger’s World (Documentary) Swiss painter H.R. Giger’s airbrushed, sexually charged images birthed the terrifying xenomorph of Alien and hundreds of similar biomechanical nightmares – an intriguing contrast between the all-too-human artist and his sleek, surreal art – one of many ideas floated over the course of Belinda Sallin’s Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World.

Dead Lands, The (Action) James Rolleston stars as Hongi, a sensitive young teenager turned vengeful head-splitter after an opposing clan wipes out his tribe. He enlists help from a monstrous cannibal (Lawrence Makoare) who seems to exist between the living and the dead but shows a surprising kindly side when it comes to aiding Hongi.

Deep Web (Documentary) Actor-turned-documentarian Alex Winter follows Downloaded, his film about Napster, with a considerably grimmer project, marrying a history of the darker side of the internet with the prosecution of Ross Ulbricht, charged in 2013 with running the illicit online marketplace the Silk Road under the alias Dread Pirate Roberts. (The U.S. sentenced Ulbricht to  life  in prison in May. He is appealing the conviction.)

Deli Man (Documentary) Deli Man explores Jewish delicatessen culture across North America, and how the smoked-meat imperative has influenced and transformed generations. Our guide to this world is Ziggy Gruber, a cheerful Houston deli owner whom the director follows to delis across America, including such iconic establishments as Manhattan’s Carnegie, Stage and 2nd Avenue delis and Canter’s in L.A. There’s also a side trip up to Toronto for a stop at Caplansky’s.

Difret (Biography) (Crime) (Drama) In 1996, a man abducted and assaulted 14-year-old Aberash Bekele in her Ethiopian village. He was engaging in telefa, a local practice that allows a man to rape a child in order to claim her for marriage. Difret, a modest and compelling film brought to North American screens with Angelina Jolie’s help, adapts the story of the landmark court case in which Bekele was tried for murdering her captor.

(Dis)honesty: The Truth About Lies (Documentary) Ever wonder why everybody lies? Yael Melamede’s (Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies investigates the hows and whys of falsehoods. She builds her movie around a fairly dry speech on the “fudge factor” and flexible morality by Duke University professor Dan Ariely (who co-produced this doc through his Dishonesty Project), breaking up the lecture with testimony from a number of people who’ve been caught pulling frauds both large and small.

Dogs On The Inside (Documentary) Dogs On The Inside looks at the Don’t Throw Us Away program, which pairs rescued dogs with inmates at the minimum-security North Central Correctional Institution in Gardiner, Massachusetts, for mutually beneficial rehabilitation.

Dragon Blade (Action/Adventure) (Drama) This  handsomely mounted  historical epic tells the story of Chinese Silk Road peacekeepers who clashed and cooperated with a fugitive Roman legion in 50 BCE.

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DUFF, The (Comedy) When  a thoughtless comment makes high-school senior Bianca (Mae Whitman) realize she’s her group’s Designated Ugly Fat Friend – the one others keep around to make themselves look more attractive – she decides to challenge the accepted social structure. 

Eden (Drama) (Thriller) During the years 1992 to 2013, Parisian Paul (Félix de Givry) embraces electronic dance music as a teenager, becomes a DJ and does everything he can to remain one – which is to say, he does nothing else.

Everest (Biography) (Adventure) (Drama) Everest is a star-studded telling of the story of the many people who ascended the Himalayan mountain and those who didn’t return.  Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal and Sam Worthington play tour leaders. Josh Brolin and John Hawkes are among their customers. An actor’s celebrity is no indication of whether a character lives or dies.

Ex Machina (Drama) (Mystery) (Sci-fi) Ex Machina is a sleek, minor-key sci-fi film about a programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) tasked by a visionary (Oscar Isaac) to evaluate his latest project: an artificial intelligence in the form of a female android (Alicia Vikander).

Focus (Comedy) (Drama)  Focus stars Will Smith as a master con artist who lets a small-time scammer (The Wolf Of Wall Street’s Margot Robbie) into his crew, and into his heart. Or… wait, does he? The new film from writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris Crazy, Stupid, Love.) is built on a base of constantly shifting loyalties and agendas played out against vividly realized locations in New York, New Orleans and Buenos Aires.

Forger, The (Crime) (Drama) (Thriller) When art forger Ray (John Travolta) cuts a deal with his old boss to get out of jail early so he can spend time with his terminally ill son (Tye Sheridan), he’s forced into doing another job to pay for the favour. He must reproduce a priceless Monet that’s in a Boston museum exhibit, then steal the original and replace it with the fake.

Glass Chin (Drama) (Thriller)  Corey Stoll is Bud, a struggling ex-boxer whose best days are long behind him. The restaurant he opened at the height of his fame has gone under, and he and his girl (Marin Ireland) have moved into a crappy apartment in Brooklyn. He’s training a young fighter and looking to open a new place, which is where mobster J.J. Cook (Billy Crudup) comes in. Connected and confident, Cook offers Bud both financial and moral support, as long as Bud does a couple of things for him first.

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me (Documentary) After country music legend Glen Campbell reveals that he’s living with Alzheimer’s, filmmaker James Keach decides to chronicle the singer on and offstage during a farewell U.S. concert tour in 2011-2012. The result is an oddly effective hybrid of music and medical doc, complete with Campbell disoriented in hotel rooms, visiting hospitals and nervously doing a decent Donald Duck impression.

Goodnight Mommy (Horror) Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s psychological chiller is told from the perspective of a young boy named Elias who becomes convinced (with some prodding from his twin brother, Lukas) that their mother is not their mother.

Goosebumps (Adventure)(Comedy) Dylan Minnette plays Zach, a stock teenager who’s exactly the right kind of adorable and bland to guide us through the storybook small town about to be ravaged by monsters. Zach recently moved in and soon enough hears disturbing sounds coming from the house next door. Instead of discovering an R.L. Stine creation lurking in the shadows, he finds the author himself, or rather, Jack Black playing R.L. Stine with an entertaining mix of uptight menace and high-pitched glee.

Guidance (Comedy) A darkly comic look at David (Mills), an underemployed, alcoholic and deeply closeted former child star who scams his way into working as a high school guidance counsellor and becomes popular with the students by plying them with booze, pot and bad advice.

Gunman, The (Action) (Crime) (Drama) Sean Penn horns in on Liam Neeson’s territory in The Gunman, an efficient if undistinguished revenge thriller about a former mercenary turned humanitarian worker forced to race through Africa and Europe when his past acts come back to haunt him.

Heist (Action) (Thriller) De Niro’s an aging casino owner with a murderous temper and an estranged  daughter,  while Jeffrey Dean  Morgan’s a card sharp strong-armed by a thug (Dave Bautista) into robbing the place. 

He Named Me Malala (Documentary) Malala Yousafzai became a global icon after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban in Pakistan. Now living with her family in England, she advocates for the education of girls and young women around the world. Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) observes her in that role as she makes speeches and accepts awards, but also in her home life, squabbling with her brothers and feeling awkward at her Birmingham school. 

Home (Family) (Adventure)(Comedy) An animated adventure about squid-like aliens called  Boovs  who abduct people only to safely deposit them in an amusement park called Happy Humans Town. That’s about as nefarious as things get in this harmless, familiar, pastel distraction for kids.

Hotel Transylvania 2 (Family) (Adventure)(Comedy) In this sequel, Drac is  grandfather  to five-year-old Dennis (voiced by Asher Blinkoff), and the child’s identity is giving him anxiety. Will Dennis sprout fangs and be a bloodsucker like Grandpa, or will he settle for Slurpees as humans do? 

Housebound (Comedy) (Horror) (Thriller) The feature debut of New Zealand writer/director Gerard Johnstone is a highly eccentric horror comedy about an angry young woman named Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) who finds herself under house arrest in her family home, which her mother (Rima Te Wiata) insists is haunted.

I Am Big Bird: The Carroll Spinney Story (Documentary) Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina’s look at the complicated man who inhabits the beloved Sesame Street character (and also plays Oscar the Grouch) was clearly inspired by the success of Being Elmo a couple of years back. But unlike that film, the subject of I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story is far less likely to find himself at the centre of a media controversy, so it’s got that going for it.

I Am Chris Farley (Documentary) The film is strangely delicate about his substance problems, avoiding them for as long as possible to zoom in on certain characters and projects. The evolution of bellowing motivational speaker Matt Foley  is charted  in fascinating detail thanks to interviews with Bob Odenkirk, who wrote the sketch for Farley when they were both at Second City in Chicago. And  of  course  David Spade is happy to talk about making Tommy Boy – if less happy to talk about its follow-up, Black Sheep.

Infinitely Polar Bear (Comedy) (Drama) A bipolar Boston man (Mark Ruffalo) struggles to raise his two daughters (Imogene Wolodarsky, Ashley Aufderheide) when his wife (Zoe Saldana) leaves town for grad school in New York. Writer/director Maya Forbes draws heavily on her own life story, even dressing Ruffalo to match family photos of her father and casting her own daughter, Wolodarsky, as her younger self.

Insidious: Chapter 3 (Drama) (Horror) (Thriller) Set “a few years before the Lambert haunting”, Chapter 3 invents a new ghost story. Once again, a California family – recently widowed Sean Brenner, teenaged daughter Quinn and younger son Alex – is stalked by an otherworldly threat. Once again, help comes from kindly Elise, who tells them about the angry ghosts who inhabit the strange netherworld she calls The Further. Also involved are amateur ghostbusters Tucker and Specs, who contribute some comic relief.

Intern, The (Comedy) Robert De Niro plays Ben, a retired widower with little to do. He signs up for a senior internship, an outreach program that makes very little sense for a crazy-successful online clothing website called About The Fit. (Why not reach out to disenfranchised youth,  ya’ll ?) 

Iris (Documentary) From Joan Didion to Joni Mitchell women of a certain age are having a fashion moment. New York City-based Iris Apfel, the flamboyant 93-year-old subject of Iris, leads the pack with her exuberance and attention to the art of getting dressed. The self-described “geriatric starlet” would likely balk at being part of a trend, so determined is she to remain a free spirit and an individual. There is little she detests more than sameness. 

Jupiter Ascending (Action) (Adventure) (Sci-fi) The tale of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a young woman who discovers she’s kinda-sorta the reincarnation of a space queen and someone in the galactic royal family wants her dead. Channing Tatum is her devoted protector, the wolfish warrior Caine Wise.

Jurassic World (Action) (Adventure) (Sci-fi) Set in a present where John Hammond’s dream of a dinosaur theme park is not only reality but an operation that’s been open long enough to start gene-splicing new attractions, Jurassic World mixes all the key ingredients – rampaging thunder lizards, kids in danger, adults pooling their skills to set things right – and amps up the classic Michael Crichton collision between blinkered good intentions and unexpected, bloody reality with several different conflicts.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (Action) (Adventure) (Comedy) The plot follows Eggsy’s ascendance up the action-hero ladder at Spy Hogwarts while a twitchy tech billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson) prepares to trigger a fairly maverick solution to climate change. 

Lambert & Stamp (Documentary) Lambert and Stamp were an unlikely pair, the former a posh, gay Oxford grad – the dancer Margot Fonteyn was his godmother, composer William Walton his godfather – and the latter a working-class stiff. But they both aspired to be filmmakers, and Stamp’s work in the movie industry funded the Who (known originally as the High Numbers) project in the early days. 

Loitering With Intent (Comedy) (Drama) Co-writers Ivan Martin and Michael Godere star as Raphael and Dominic, wannabe actors aging past their prime. (These characters may or may not be autobiographical.) When an old friend (Natasha Lyonne) tells them her boss is looking for a low-budget detective movie, the guys race off to Dominic’s family cabin to bang out a script.

Magician: The Astonishing Life And Work Of Orson Welles (Documentary) Workman draws on archival interviews with Welles and his collaborators (as well as several of the auteur’s delightful talk show appearances in the 70s and early 80s) and a few contemporary conversations with friends like Peter Bogdanovich and Henry Jaglom. 

Man From U.N.C.L.E, The (Action) (Adventure) (Comedy) It’s the early 1960s, and American superspy Napoleon Solo and his mortal enemy, Soviet counterpart Illya Kuryakin, are ordered to set aside their differences (and ideologies) and team up to tackle a nuclear threat that imperils both the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.

Matt Shepard Is A Friend Of Mine (Documentary) Michele Josue not only revisits the tragedy of Matt Shepard – 17 years ago Shepard was gay-bashed and left to die tied up to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming – but draws a full portrait of the very human young man – friends knew him as Matt – who became a national symbol.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (Action) (Thriller) (Sci-fi) Mere moments after their escape from the maze, our little band of teens is on the run again, this time with baddies in hot pursuit. They’ve discovered that their would-be protectors have something nasty planned for them, so they fight their way through a zombie-riddled post-apocalyptic city and desert in hopes of finding the rumoured resistance movement.

McFarland (Family) (Sport) McFarland is based on a true story: in the late 80s, transplanted football coach Jim White convinced the Latino students at his struggling California high school to form a cross-country running team and compete at the state level.

Me And Earl And The Dying Girl (Comedy) (Drama) Here, we experience a very serious drama through the perspective of flippant teenage filmmaker Greg (Thomas Mann), who’s telling us the story of his classmate Rachel (Olivia Cooke), whose diagnosis of leukemia leads to their unlikely friendship. That story is lovely, and beautifully acted by Mann and Cooke. (Molly Shannon is also quietly terrific as Rachel’s reeling mother.) 

Merchants of Doubt (Documentary) Merchants Of Doubt looks at companies’ strategies for fooling the public into believing whatever helps maximize their profits. Director Robert Kenner starts by reminding us of the lies Big Tobacco told us about the health impact of cigarettes. To U.S. senate committees and inquiries of all kinds, company stooges lied about or actually withheld studies that showed their deleterious effects. 

Meru (Documentary) Named for the Himalayan peak distinguished by the contours of its summit and the unique brand of crazy it takes to conquer it, husband and wife directorial team tackle mount Meru, while carrying some emotional and physical baggage.

Miss Julie (Drama) (Romance) At a quiet Irish manor circa 1890, the baron’s daughter (Jessica Chastain) torments her father’s valet (Colin Farrell) and cook (Samantha Morton) until they find a way to turn the tables.

Monkey Kingdom (Documentary) Tina Fey narrates the (restructured, clearly artificial) tale of conflict and survival among a troop of toque macaques. Audiences who’ve seen Bears, Chimpanzee or African Cats will recognize the master storyline as single parent Maya strives to provide for her infant Kip as her clan prepares for a turf battle with a rival troop. 

Monk With A Camera (Documentary) Nicky, as he’s affectionately called, is the grandson of Diana Vreeland, the former Vogue editor-in-chief and fashion adviser to Jacqueline Kennedy. His transformation from exceptionally coiffed enfant terrible to bald monk is naturally this authorized doc’s main focus. Vreeland also moonlights as a photographer, hoisting a camera like a third eye to snap portraits of impoverished locals who don’t really have the choice to forsake worldly possessions. 

Mountain Men (Comedy) (Drama) (Family) Toph (Tyler Labine) is the brother who stayed home. He’s supposedly a  DJ,  though his only significant earnings seem to come from selling weed to the same eight people every week. Coop (Chace Crawford), the brother who got away, is pursuing upward mobility in New York City. Generically handsome but distant, Coop returns home for his mother’s wedding, though he’s still guilt-ridden over not being around when his father started cracking up some years back.

Mr. Holmes (Drama) (Mystery) An intimate adaptation of Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick Of The Mind, which imagines the elderly, infirm Sherlock Holmes retiring to the seaside in 1947, where his housekeeper’s precocious son Roger (Milo Parker) nudges him to revisit the details of the case that drove him to give up the sleuthing business decades earlier.

No Escape (Action) (Thriller) Violent insurrection breaks out on an ordinary American family’s first morning in a luxury hotel somewhere in Southeast Asia (likely Thailand, Laos or Cambodia). The well-armed and organized rebels are systematically killing foreigners. From there on, it’s flight, fight and hiding all the way.

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Off The Menu: Asian America (Documentary) Visiting several U.S. cities, Korean-American director Lee (The Grace Lee Project, Janeane From Des Moines) shows how Chinese food mixes with Tex-Mex flavours in Houston, for instance, and how emerging chef Jonathan Wu, trained in the European school, uses techniques taught him by his Chinese grandparents at his trendy NYC restaurant Fung Tu.

Paper Towns (Drama) (Romance) The nerdy Quentin (Nat Wolff) has always had a crush on his cooler-than-cool neighbour and high school alpha female Margo (Cara Delevingne). When Margo elicits his help one exciting night to wreak vengeance on her enemies, Quentin thinks things between them have changed. Then Margo vanishes, leaving only a few obscure clues about her whereabouts.

Peanuts Movie, The (Family) (Adventure)(Comedy) The gang is up to the same old breezy, grade-school antics in The Peanuts Movie, a computer-animated facelift of Charles M. Schulz’s comic strips. Director Steve Martino and a writing team that includes the late cartoonist’s son and grandson stick dutifully, perhaps lazily, to the serial-style source material.

People Hold On (Comedy) (Drama) (Romance) People Hold On is one of those movies where a bunch of friends get together at a cottage for a weekend and wind up rehashing old beefs and reheating old attractions. Here, the reunion is to celebrate an impending wedding, but really it’s a showcase for its talented young cast, which consists of Paula Brancati, Mazin Elsadig, Jonathan Malen, Chloe Rose, Ashley Leggat, Noah Reid, Al Mukadam and Katie Boland.

Pitch Perfect 2 (Comedy) (Musical) This time around, the singing Barden freshmen are now seniors and pariahs after a disastrous wardrobe malfunction at the Kennedy Center. The only way to restore  their  a cappella rep is to perform in the world championships, where they’ll have to confront an intimidating German group and their own feelings of inadequacy. 

Price We Pay, The (Documentary) This exposé of corporate malfeasance in the form of tax avoidance is an eye-opener. Using interviews with economists and academics, The Price We Pay uncovers the way companies maximize profits by taking advantage of tax havens like the Cayman and Jersey islands. (And now Canada: I’m talking about you, Burger King.)

Project Almanac (Thriller) (Sci-fi) The MTV-produced thriller stars handsome Jonny Weston as genius geek David, who, along with his dorky friends and the hot girl they manage to hoodwink into their clique, discovers how to rewind the clock by days, then weeks and so on. The secret is in the Xbox.

Results (Comedy) Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders and Kevin Corrigan play Trevor, Kat and Danny, three single Austinites who sort of drift into and out of a romantic triangle: Trevor and Kat are fitness professionals, and Danny is a wealthy mope who hires them to whip him into shape. Attractions and conflicts inevitably ensue, but Bujalski is much more interested in observing these people than in forcing them into conventional rom-com beats.

Ride (Comedy) This story about overbearing mother Jackie (writer/director Helen Hunt), who follows her son ( Malificent’s  Brenton Thwaites) to L.A. when he drops out of Columbia, loses its way after about the first third of the picture. Jackie just seems annoying and out of control.

Riot Club, The (Drama) (Thriller) Adapted by Laura Wade from her play Posh, the film looks at Oxford freshmen Miles (Max Irons) and Alistair (Sam Claflin), who are asked to join a centuries-old secret society that indulges not only in  debauchery,  but also harbours disturbing ideas about entitlement and the poor.

Road Hard (Comedy) Bruce Madsen (Adam Carolla) was once famous for a testosterone-laden TV program called The Bro Show. But while his co-host, Jack (Jay Mohr), graduated to a successful late-night show – just like Carolla’s The Man Show co-host Jimmy Kimmel – Bruce is foundering in B movies and has-been celebrity reality shows. Now he’s playing comedy clubs in Omaha and Winnipeg.

Run All Night (Action) (Crime) (Drama) Liam Neeson  plays Jimmy Conlon, an aging Brooklyn enforcer forced back into action when his adult son (Joel Kinnaman) gets mixed up in a double murder. But it’s really about the pleasures of watching committed actors – not just Neeson and Kinnaman but Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, Common and Holt McCallany – elevate a generic cat-and-mouse picture into something a little more interesting.

San Andreas (Action) (Drama) (Thriller) When the Big One finally hits California, a Los Angeles rescue ranger (Dwayne Johnson) and his ex (Carla Gugino) must get to San Francisco to find their daughter (Alexandra Daddario), who’s struggling to stay alive as that city shakes itself apart around her.

Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The (Comedy) (Drama) This sequel’s title refers to a new hotel that Dev Patel‘s fussy Sonny wants to open, which necessitates the involvement of an American corporation and the anticipated arrival of an undercover inspector at the original Best Exotic – right around the time that Richard Gere turns up as a dashing Yank with an eye for Sonny’s mother (Lillete Dubey). There’s also the matter of Sonny’s wedding to lovely Sunaina (Tina Desai), which adds another level of stress to the poor guy’s life.

Self/less (Drama) (Mystery) Ben Kingsley is a dying Manhattan tycoon who avoids oblivion by having his consciousness transferred into a new, younger body (Ryan Reynolds) – and winds up at the centre of a deadly biotech conspiracy. 

She’s Funny That Way (Comedy) She’s Funny That Way feels like you’re sitting around enjoying a latte and easy laughs with old friends. There’s legendary director Peter Bogdanovich dusting off an old screenplay he co-wrote with his ex-wife, Louise Stratten. Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston and even Michael Shannon show up to stretch their legs in inconsequential roles and bask in Bogdanovich’s former glory with alumni like Cybill Shepherd (The Last Picture Show) and Tatum O’Neal (Paper Moon).

Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water, The (Comedy) (Animated) (Adventure) In his second big-screen outing, Sponge Out of Water, Nickelodeon’s daft deep-sea burger flipper in square pants can be seen (as the title promises) on the shore in CG and 3D, playing  superhero  in a live-action environment opposite a mugging Antonio Banderas as a villainous pirate.

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Still Alice (Drama) A woman slowly loses her mind to Alzheimer’s. It’s not easy to give that premise much texture, but Still Alice succeeds because the script focuses less on Alice’s (Julianne Moore) relationships with family, including her husband (Alec Baldwin), and more on the ingenious strategies she uses to keep the ravages of her disease at bay.

Steak (R)evolution (Documentary) Steak (R)evolution is ostensibly about French filmmaker Franck Ribière’s quest to find the perfect steak. Really, it’s more of a state-of-the-artisan travelogue in which Ribière wanders the world interviewing cattle farmers and chefs about their passion. Local stops include Montreal for a meal at Joe Beef and Toronto for an interview with author Mark Schatzker, whose book Steak has clearly been an inspiration. 

Straight Outta Compton (Biography) Drama) (Music) Almost 30 years after N.W.A. made gangsta rap a hip-hop staple, we finally get a biopic. The timing is right. Tragically, the black-denim-clad group’s incendiary anthem, Fuck The Police, and the LAPD behaviour that inspired it resonate today. Straight Outta Compton emphasizes that song’s anger and underlines its relevance, from Rodney King to Ferguson, with repeated scenes of police overstepping their boundaries.

Suite Francaise (Drama) (Romance) Stuck living with her icy landowner mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas) just as the Nazis occupy their French village, Lucile (Michelle Williams) finds herself drawn to an uninvited house guest. Bruno (Matthias Schoenaerts) may be a Nazi, but he’s handsome, soft-spoken and, like  her,  loves music. As violence, deprivation and humiliation are inflicted on local labourers and aristocracy alike, Lucile and Bruno risk everything to craft a private refuge and perhaps a romance.

Sunshine Superman (Documentary) Sunshine Superman celebrates the passion of Carl Boenish, a pioneer of BASE jumping. That’s the thing where someone jumps off a skyscraper or cliff and deploys his or her parachute at lower altitudes than are generally considered safe for skydiving.

Terminator Genysis (Action) (Adventure)(Sci-fi) Skynet’s final act when the human resistance defeats it in 2029 is to send a terminator – the original model, the one that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger – back to 1984 to kill a woman named Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) before she can give birth to her son, John, who’ll grow up to orchestrate Skynet’s defeat. Aware of this unique assassination attempt, the John of 2029 (Jason Clarke) sends his trusted lieutenant Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) into the past to thwart it. But when Kyle arrives in 1984, Sarah is not the “helpless waitress” he was told to expect. Neither the past nor the future is quite what it was the first time around.

This Changes Everything (Documentary) Director Avi Lewis tries to avoid the trap, beginning the film with narrator Naomi Klein – writer and author of the source material – claiming polar bears don’t do a thing for her. But really, this is a glorious anti-capitalist analysis of why climate change is happening and what we can do about it. 

Tribe, The (Crime) (Drama) Unfolding in long, fluid master shots, the film is set in a world populated almost entirely by deaf characters who communicate with one another in Ukrainian sign language – untranslated and un-subtitled. We’re thus doubly distanced from the narrative about a young man (Grigoriy Fisenko) who arrives at a boarding school and is very soon thrown into an exploitative underworld of predatory gangsters and prostituted students.

Turbo Kid (Action) (Adventure) (Sci-fi) In  an imaginary  1997, a plucky young hero (Munro Chambers) and his perky android sidekick (Laurence Le-boeuf) journey toward a battle with the one-eyed overlord (Michael Ironside) who rules their post-apocalyptic wasteland. 

Uncertain Terms (Comedy) (Drama) In the middle of nowhere – maybe upstate New York? – Robbie (David Dahlbom), an angry 30-year-old, is spending a few days fixing up his aunt’s home for pregnant teens. There’s not much to do after work, and before long he finds himself drawn to Nina (India Menuez), a resident who’s having problems with her unsupportive boyfriend (Casey Drogin).

Vacation (Adventure) (Comedy) In the 2015 edition of Vacation, the adult Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) takes his wife (Christina Applegate) and two sons (Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins) on a road trip to Walley World, just as his father Clark did back in 1983 – faring about as well, all things considered. 

Valley Below, The (Drama)  Kyle Thomas‘s multi-narrative drama tracks the lives of several Drumheller, Alberta, residents over three seasons. A 19-year-old (Mikaela Cochrane) discovers she’s pregnant a singer/songwriter (Kris Demeanor) finds his ambitions undone by alcoholism a taxidermist (Stephen Bogaert) quietly struggles to reanimate his failing marriage a constable (Alejandro Rae) looks after local families while wondering if he’ll ever start a family of his own.

Why Don’t You Play In Hell? (Action) (Comedy) (Drama) In Sion Sono‘s 2013 feature – which won the Midnight Madness People’s Choice Award at TIFF that year – a yakuza revenge thriller plays out against a rambunctious tale of young rebel filmmakers determined to create a guerrilla action masterpiece. Both stories pay off in a climactic sword battle between rival gangsters, choreographed with massive helpings of gore, twisted humour and meta-narrative.

Wild Card (Action) (Crime) (Drama) Statham plays Nick Wild, a Las Vegas chaperone who’s pretty much Jason Statham’s cinematic resumé: sharp, competent, grumpy, slow to warm up to people, intensely loyal and driven by a code of honour.This being a thriller, Nick’s principles will wind up pitting him against a mobbed-up rapist (Milo Ventimiglia) who’s assaulted a friend (Magic City’s Dominik García-Lorido). It will not be pretty.

We Are Your Friends (Drama) (Romance) (Music) Zac Efron is Cole, a young DJ whose path to success is complicated when he meets his idol (Wes Bentley) and starts to suspect that there might be more to life than sex, drugs and electronic dance music. 

Welcome To Me (Comedy) (Drama) An unstable California woman (Kristen Wiig) wins $86 million in a state lottery and decides to spend it on producing a talk show – starring her, with no other guests.

White God (Drama) Our hero is Hagen, a mutt who’s the best friend of young Lili (Zsófia Psotta). But mongrels aren’t welcome in Budapest, so Lili’s father (Sándor Zsótér) dumps him in the street. While Lili searches frantically for him, Hagen is inducted into a dogfighting ring. And things will get a lot worse before they have a hope of finding one another. (The credits include an assurance that no animals were harmed in the making of the film, which I really appreciated.)

Woman In Gold (Drama) Helen Mirren  plays L.A.based Maria Altmann, who in 1998 hires lawyer Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) to sue the Belvedere Museum, where the Klimt masterpiece Woman In Gold hangs. The action compels her to return to Vienna, where she relives painful memories of Hitler’s rise and the torment her family suffered. (Tatiana Maslany plays the young Maria.) 

Wonders, The (Drama) Wolfgang, his wife, Angelica, and their four daughters are beekeepers in rural Italy. The eldest, Gelsomina, is a born leader and obvious heir to Wolfgang’s strange, almost hermetically sealed kingdom. The family’s forced to face the outside world when inspectors threaten to close them down because of outdated equipment. To muster some cash, they agree to take in troubled teen Martin from child services, and then Gelsomina enters the family in a reality TV competition for farmers holding on to the old ways.

Wolfpack, The (Documentary) The Wolfpack is the story of the six Angulo brothers, who – aided occasionally by their sister – spent a great deal of their adolescence in their New York City apartment making charmingly threadbare camcorder versions of their favourite features, including Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. 

Wrecking Crew, The (Documentary) A film about the backup musicians who were key to the hit records cranked out of Los Angeles. Director Denny Tedesco reunites five of them and finds a ton of archival footage to tell the story.


Titles we’re hoping to catch online soon:


99 Homes (drama): To save his family home, an Orlando construction worker (Andrew Garfield) takes a job working for a realtor (Michael Shannon), helping him evict other families – and do a few other things of questionable legal standing.

A Brand New You (Comedy) A Brand New You, produced on a shoestring right here in Bloordale by directors Kathryn Palmateer and Shawn Whitney and their friends, is none of those things. Instead, it’s a low-key comedy about a widower (Manuel Rodriguez-Saenz) who enlists his roommates (Clinton Lee Pontes, Freya Ravensbergen) in a half-baked scheme to clone his dead wife.  

Ally Was Screaming (Comedy) (Thriller) Calgary friends Seth (Giacomo Baessato) and Nole (Charlie Carrick) have just buried their lifelong bestie Ally. The loss is doubly heartbreaking because she was just starting to turn her life around after leaving an abusive marriage. 

Around The World In 50 Concerts (Documentary) This doc shines brightest when it tracks the logistical challenges of packing up a full orchestra for an overseas flight or when it focuses on players like double bassist Dominic Seldis and percussionist Herman Rieken. In one telling – and quite funny – section, Rieken waits anxiously for his one essential moment.

Coming Home (Drama) Chen Daoming stars as Lu, a “rightist” political prisoner released after more than a decade to find his family torn apart and his wife, Feng (Gong Li), suffering from amnesia and unable to recognize him. Her condition makes an apt metaphor for  a past  that is wilfully forgotten while the trauma still lingers. Unfortunately, the movie lingers a bit as well.

Great Museum, The (Documentary) Johannes Holzhausen’s sumptuous documentary pays tribute to Vienna’s Kunsthistorische Museum, its staff – from director to cleaners – and its legacy. Holzhausen’s crew heads underground to the archives, into the boardrooms where the executive committee makes major decisions and the workshops where restorers lovingly attend to hundreds of historical artifacts. 

Mina Walking (Drama) Canadian writer/director  Baraki’s  first feature is a vérité drama about a 12-year-old girl (Farzana Nawabi) caring for her disintegrating family in present-day Kabul. Except for her occasional visits to  school , life is a constant hustle as she attempts to earn money and avoid those who would do her harm.

Runt (Documentary) For any long-time Torontonian, street artist RUNT’s work is so ubiquitous – adorning the outside of Lee’s Palace, in one form or another, for instance, for nearly three decades – that you probably don’t even notice it  any more . It’s simply part of the urban landscape. Augusto Monk’s hour-long documentary, screening as part of the Toronto Independent Film Festival, gives the man his due.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (Documentary) Feminist activists look back in this survey of the American women’s movement’s rebirth in the late 60s. “Survey” is the operative word here director Mary Dore glosses over the issues. But who can blame her when you have to cover equal pay, reproductive choice, childcare, sexuality, women’s health and everything else? What issue is not a women’s issue? 

Sleepless In New York (Documentary) People recovering from recent breakups reveal all to the camera, and in one case submit to medical experiments to show the effect of the experience on their brain chemistry.The results are intriguing, especially the scientific findings, which show the pain of heartbreak isn’t just emotional: it’s comparable to tooth pain.

Songs She Wrote About People She Knows (Comedy) (Musical)This über-quirky Canadian pic about a woman who takes the advice of a music therapist too far is sometimes infuriating but often gobsmackingly good. In order to “express herself,” Carol (Arabella Bushnell) starts sending her songs in phone messages to people who are pissing her off. A composition for her boss (Brad Dryborough) inspires him to fire her, but for her own good – he thinks she has talent – which sends both of them on a surprising journey together.

Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine (Documentary) Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine, in which Gibney unpacks the life and mythology of the Apple visionary and finds him to be a technical innovator who left a lot to be desired as a human being. Espousing Eastern spirituality while utterly lacking empathy, obsessed with controlling his public image while treating people terribly in his professional and personal relationships, Jobs is a fascinating subject – and our growing understanding of his talents for manipulation and martyrdom makes the wealth of archival interviews increasingly fascinating.

Sugar Coated (Documentary) Michèle   Hozer’s   documentary about the devastating effects of excess of sugar on our health has all the right talking heads, including authors Gary Taubes (Why We Get Fat) and Robert Lustig (Fat Chance) and researcher Cristin Kearns, who got her mitts on files proving Big Sugar was waging an all-out campaign to dupe the public. The information is essential, and the story of how the sugar industry managed to get the Heart & Stroke Foundation into its back pocket instructive.

Talvar (Drama) (Mystery) (Thriller) Director Meghna Gulzar and screenwriter Vishal Bhardwaj stick mostly to the facts surrounding 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar’s murder. Police arrive, immediately assume the servant did it and go hunting without locking down the crime scene. Had they done so, they would have discovered that their prime suspect was also murdered, his body decaying just a few floors above. With the servant dead and evidence trampled, fingers immediately start pointing at the next-closest possibility: the parents.

Truth (Biography) Drama)  Cate Blanchett plays 60 Minutes II producer Mary Mapes, who, along with Robert Redford’s Dan Rather and a crack team of sleuths, uncovers how George W. Bush abused his influence during Vietnam to duck out of the war.

See all movies here. 

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