As a means of rounding up Toronto’s various cinematic goings-on each week, Movie Mondays compiles the best rep cinema and art house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements.
Christopher Plummer as Count Leo Tolstoy in Michael Hoffman’s The Last Station. Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Classics.
So yes, Hot Docs has taken over the city this week, with documentaries from around the globe booking up several of the city’s rep and first-run cinemas. But if non-fiction is too real for you, there are a handful of worthwhile new releases and second-run features playing this week, from the escapist high fantasy of Avatar and Iron Man 2 to the more subtle charms of The Last Station. And speaking of Hot Docs, Torontoist is running daily planners rounding up the good and not-so-good of this year’s fest, so make sure to check back for our daily scoop.
The Revue (400 Roncesvalles Avenue)
There was little doubt in anyone’s mind that Inglourious Basterds’ Christoph Waltz was the rightful recipient of the Best Supporting Actor trophy at this year’s Oscars. But nonetheless, it was nice to see Canada’s own grand old man, Christopher Plummer, receive a nomination. Celebrated in Canada for his contributions to the stage (he makes his much-publicized return to Stratford this summer as Prospero in The Tempest), Plummer’s contributions to cinema have often flown under the radar. Despite solid performances in everything from the 1978 Can-Con caper The Silent Partner to Star Trek VI and Michael Mann’s The Insider, it was Plummer’s playful turn as Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station that would finally earn the eighty-year-old screen veteran an Academy Award nomination. A fairly light domestic drama following the squabbles between the spiritualist Russian novelist and his more down-to-earth wife (Helen Mirren), The Last Station sees Plummer at his grandest, bringing his stature as Canada’s Olivier from stage to screen. Check it out at The Revue starting on Friday.
The Varsity (55 Bloor Street West)
Generally speaking, the M.O. of this column is to run through the better film-related happenings in the city, in an effort to help you narrow down the sundry choices on offer in a given week. But sometimes, a film comes along that is so unrepentantly bad that we would be remiss not to warn you about it. Gunless is such a film. At a time when Ottawa is constantly giving Canadian filmmakers guff about their craft, Telefilm dumps four million dollars into this broad, moronic Western spoof by William “Foolproof” Phillips. (Remember Foolproof? Didn’t think so.) Starring Paul Gross as an American gunslinger adrift in the oppressively hospitable Dominion of Canada, Gunless is the kind of hopelessly crummy homegrown film that makes the average filmgoer uneasy about our national cinema. Don’t see it. Don’t even make eye contact with the embarrassing poster hung up in the lobby. If you’re desperate to see a Canadian feature, hold your horses until the new Reg Harkema movie opens in a few weeks. Hell, go see Chloe (also playing at The Varsity) if you have to. At least you can laugh at all its silly little erotic embroilments and Allan Gardens handjob scenes.
The Fox (2236 Queen Street East)
Everyone loves Avatar, right? Well if there was one thing that ruined Cameron’s blue-alien epic, it was having to fork out fourteen dollars to sit in a crowded multiplex to see it. The whole idea of funding gargantuan corporations like Famous Players or Cineplex Odeon kind of goes against the film’s message of back-to-earth naturalism trumping industrialized greed, no? The Fox answers this dilemma by screening Avatar in its humble, indie cinema environs until Wednesday. No enormous screen. No fancy 3-D technology. Just you and Cameron’s futurist environmental fable. What could be more pure?
Though it’s not likely to pull in the billions in gross revenues that Avatar did, the release of Iron Man 2 this Friday does mark the unofficial kick-off of summer blockbuster season. While not so long ago Iron Man was a third-tier Marvel Comics hero, the film’s eye-popping effects, solid storyline, and stellar performance by Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire-industrialist-cum-one-man-army Tony Stark have sent the character rocketing to the top of the superhero pantheon. The much-anticipated sequel sees Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, and Garry Shandling joining Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and Sam Jackson, while also subbing in the undeniably more likable Don Cheadle for Terrence Howard’s Lt. Colonel James Rhodes. While living up to the exhilaration and wit offered by the original is no small order, Iron Man 2 is poised to be this summer’s Dark Knight. And come on, Garry Shandling is in it. There’s no way it can be bad.