Weekend Movies: Clouds Of Sils Maria, The Salt Of The Earth, Danny Collins and more

A quick scan of new releases in theatres this week

Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas) makes it clear that Kristen Stewart’s talent has been eclipsed by Twilight for far too long. She’s fabulous and revelatory, holding her own opposite the exquisite Juliette Binoche. Stewart plays the frumpy and loyal personal assistant to Binoche’s veteran actor, who’s frightened by the prospect of aging. As their characters debate art, gossip, career choices and Google, Stewart and Binoche’s palpable intimacy is intensified by how much the dialogue reflects their own work. In an upcoming play, Binoche’s character is cast as an older woman, reminding the icon that her career can only go downhill. She’s starring opposite a young Hollywood starlet (Chloë Grace Moretz) whose troublesome appearances on TMZ remind us of Stewart’s struggles with fame and scandal. Assayas occasionally gets carried away with the layered, self-reflexive insights, but his leading actors keep every scene anchored, tackling the material with genuine warmth, melancholy and frailty. 123 min.

Rating: NNNN (RS)

Opens Apr 10 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. See here for times.

The Salt of the Earth (Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado) is a documentary about Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. Wenders and Sebastião’s son Juliano co-direct, tracking their subject’s career through more than 30 years of photographs, framing his obsession with exploited labourers and displaced peoples in the context of his student days in Paris and his own family’s history. Given its Oscar nomination for best documentary feature, people might be surprised to find that The Salt Of The Earth is a fairly conventional biography made somewhat more intimate by a wealth of stills and home-movie footage. But the formal simplicity is merely a way of ensuring its points land clearly and without interference. Some subtitles. 110 min.

Rating: NNNN (NW)

Opens Apr 10 at Canada Square, TIFF Bell Lightbox. See here for times.

Danny Collins (Dan Fogelman) is a “road not travelled” pic starring a grizzled and perma-tanned Al Pacino as the eponymous character, a Neil Diamond-like singer who struck gold in the 60s and 70s and now pleases stadiums of aging boomers with his cheesy golden oldies. First-time director Fogelman checks off all the boxes of the redemption film: drugs, illness and spunky little kids. But Pacino, Bobby Cannavale (as his estranged son) and Annette Bening as the buttoned-down manager of a modest New Jersey hotel where Collins is holed up rise above the clichés. 107 min.

Rating: NNN (GS)

Opens Apr 10 at 401 & Morningside, Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Cineplex VIP Cinemas Don Mills, Colossus, Eglinton Town Centre, Queensway, Varsity, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.

Road Hard (Adam Carolla, Kevin Hench) is a showbiz story that rings painfully true. Bruce Madsen (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 back to being a road comic. Since this cuts close to Carolla’s own life and career, there are lots of authentically awkward moments in the first half (the cast includes comics David Koechner and David Alan Griers). Carolla also gets to deliver some decent routines on the road, both in front of the mic and while talking to hotel clerks, coach airline seatmates and bar buddies. But the film fizzles out in the second half when an unconvincing romantic comedy plot kicks in. Carolla doesn’t have the biggest emotional range, so he can’t sell these developments or the ones with Bruce’s idealized daughter. 98 min.

Rating: NNN (GS)

Opens Apr 10 at Carlton Cinema. See here for times.

Stratford Festival HD: King John (Barry Avrich) is a high-def screening of Shakespeare’s 2014 production of the rarely performed political play. The title character isn’t very well defined and the shady manoeuvring at the work’s heart is no House Of Cards. But Tom McCamus brings a capricious, almost feline quality to John, while Graham Abbey is excellent as Philip, Richard I’s bastard son, who amiably interacts with the audience and even tosses one lucky patron a decapitated head. Ensemble singing and dancing add a sense of ceremony and occasion to an otherwise unremarkable play. 175 min.

Rating: NNN (GS)

Opens Apr 9 at Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Cineplex VIP Cinemas Don Mills, Coliseum Scarborough, Queensway, SilverCity Yonge, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.

Cut Bank (Matt Shakman) is the first feature by a veteran TV director who helmed two episodes of the Fargo series. Shakman pushes further into Coen brothers territory with this thriller about a botched fraud plot that triggers an escalating series of confrontations in a small Montana town. Sadly he’s just not up to the challenge. Cut Bank is ersatz in almost every way, a parade of dumb people doing foolish things while other, dumber people plod along behind them. As the nominal hero, the inexpressive Liam Hemsworth does his best to stay one step ahead of a host of Coen-approved actors including A Serious Man’s Michael Stuhlbarg, Burn After Reading’s John Malkovich and The Man Who Wasn’t There’s Billy Bob Thornton (who brings along his Fargo TV co-star Oliver Platt) while the plot lumbers from one arch confrontation to the next. 93 min.

Rating: NN (NW)

Opens Apr 10 at Carlton Cinema. See here for times.

Relative Happiness (Deanne Foley) features some lovely Nova Scotia scenery and a fine performance by Australian actor Melissa Bergland as Lexie Ivy, a B&B proprietor trying to find a date (and a lose a few pounds) before her sister’s wedding. And then a whole bunch of stuff happens, only some of it interesting and none of it especially funny – which is problematic since Relative Happiness imagines itself a bright, perky comedy. Four writers are credited with the script (including director Foley), which might explain the over-complicated plotting, though for all its running around and forced conflict, the movie feels strangely hollow. Bergland’s a strong lead, though, and in Lexie’s cranky-caring scenes with best friend Susie (Susan Kent) we can glimpse the much more engaging, and considerably funnier, movie that might have been. 97 min.

Rating: NN (NW)

Opens Apr 10 at Carlton Cinema. See here for times.

The Young And Prodigious T.S. Spivet (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) sets itself up as a whimsical fable about a precocious lad (Kyle Catlett) who journeys from his family’s ranch in Montana to the Smithsonian to accept an award for inventing a perpetual motion machine, and has fanciful adventures along the way. As with Jeunet’s delightful Amélie, our hero’s reality is slightly exaggerated and stylized – which explains the performances of Callum Keith Rennie and Helena Bonham Carter as T.S.’s parents, a cowboy and a biologist – but this one overreaches by folding in a subplot about the recent death of T.S.’s twin brother (Jakob Davies) in a rifle accident. T.S. is throwing himself into this trip in order to escape his grief, but Jeunet never finds a matching aesthetic, shooting in an over-saturated 3D palette and doubling down on forced Americana (although most of the film was shot in BC and Alberta). It just doesn’t work. 105 min.

Rating: NN (NW)

Opens Apr 10 at Varsity. See here for times.

In The Gallery – Vincent Van Gogh is a high-def broadcast giving you access to the treasures of Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. 90 min.

Opens Apr 15 at Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Cineplex VIP Cinemas Don Mills, Coliseum Scarborough, Eglinton Town Centre, Queensway, SilverCity Fairview, SilverCity Yonge, Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.

The Longest Ride (George Tillman Jr.) is a weeper based on a Nicholas Sparks novel about two star-crossed lovers whose lives are affected by an older man. Screened after press time – see review April 10 at nowtoronto.com/movies. 128 min.

Opens Apr 10 at 401 & Morningside, Carlton Cinema, Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande – Steeles, 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: Iolanta and Bluebeard’s Castle Encore is a high-def broadcast of a double bill of operas by Tchaikovsky and Bartók. 230 min.

Opens Apr 11 at Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, Eglinton Town Centre, Queensway, Scotiabank Theatre, SilverCity Yonge. See here for times.

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