Globe, Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital. 18A. 90 minutes.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote and directed this gutsy comedy-drama debut as well as starring as the titular porn addict forced to re-evaluate his life choices when challenged by a demanding girlfriend (Scarlett Johansson) and an older, wiser college classmate (Julianne Moore). If the film feels a little raw, the performances are uniformly solid, especially Johansson as a dream girl with a touch of nightmare. *** 1/2
BEST OF HOT DOCS
The National Screen Institute presents five prominent films from this year's Hot Docs Film Festival, including: Good Ol' Freda, a look into the life of a humble Liverpool teen who took on the job of becoming the Beatles' secretary, Friday at 7 p.m. (Randall King will host a Q&A with producer Jessica Lawson via Skype after the screening); on Saturday Oct. 5 at 4 p.m., Blood Brother, the story of a friend of the filmmaker who chucked it all to care for HIV-positive orphans in India; at 7 p.m. Cutie and the Boxer, a portrait of a durable couple of Japanese artists living in New York; on Sunday, Oct. 6, at 4 p.m., Last Woman Standing, a look at two women boxers on Canada's Olympic team finally obliged to fight each other; and Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation, a backward glance at NYC's musical hotbed in the '60s and '70s, at 7 p.m.
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, Polo Park Imax, St. Vital, Towne. PG. 91 minutes.
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play a couple of astronauts facing a crisis in outer space when their space shuttle is destroyed by exploded satellite debris and they find themselves marooned and alone 600 kilometres above the Earth.
Globe. PG. 94 minutes.
Set in Dallas during the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath, this multi-character drama attempts to translate that historic event through the experiences of the people in the midst of the tragedy, including an emergency-room doc (Zac Efron) tasked with saving the life of the president; Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), the amateur moviemaker who inadvertently filmed the shooting; and Robert Edward Oswald (James Badge Dale), the brother of the accused assassin.
Globe, Grant Park, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital. 14A. 92 minutes.
A clever college student (Justin Timberlake) finds himself working for the crooked entrepreneur (Ben Affleck) behind an online gambling empire.
The following movies have been previously reviewed by Free Press movie critic Randall King, unless otherwise noted.
BATTLE OF THE YEAR
Polo Park. PG. 110 minutes
To return American glory to the realm of competitive dance crews (?!), a team of misfits (including Josh Peck and noted loose cannon Chris Brown) is assembled under the guidance of a basketball coach (Josh Holloway) in a movie that resembles an unholy cross between You Got Served and Coach Carter. **1/2 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
Grant Park. PG. 98 minutes.
Woody Allen splices the Bernie Madoff affair with A Streetcar Named Desire and creates a potent drama utilizing the formidable Cate Blanchett as the frail, increasingly unhinged Blanche DuBois-like wife of a high-rolling Wall Street fraudster (Alec Baldwin). After his misdeeds are exposed, she journeys to San Francisco to live with her unpretentious sister (Sally Hawkins) to make a fresh start -- but a life based on lies dies hard. ***1/2
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. G. 95 minutes.
After creating a massive food storm with his machine in the original 2009 film, inventor Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) discovers his technology is now creating animal-food hybrids such as a taco-diles and shrimpanzees. The novelty of the first film is gone, and while the colour palette and design is as glorious as ever, the laughs are few and the innovations are fewer. ** 1/2 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
DESPICABLE ME 2
Polo Park, St. Vital. G. 98 minutes
This sequel to the 2010 hit sees Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) enlisted to save the world. It's a gag-filled delight from start-to-finish with more laughs in its first five minutes than Monsters University managed over its entire length. **** 1/2 (Reviewed by Roger Moore)
Polo Park. 14A. 110 minutes.
This science-fiction epic takes place in the year 2154 where a dying man (Matt Damon) realizes his only hope is to live is to escape the wretched, toxic confines of a polluted Earth and invade the paradise-like space station occupied exclusively by the very rich. It's wonderfully pertinent, simultaneously evoking the immigration debate currently raging in the U.S., as well as the widening divide between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us. Pity writer-director Neill Blomkamp can't resist the lure of techs and violence with all those robotic smackdowns. *** 1/2
Polo Park. PG. 93 minutes.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as a divorcee who learns the new man in her life (James Gandolfini) also happens to be the ex-husband of her new best friend (Catherine Keener). Director Nicole Holofcener has a gift of sensitivity to the nuances of insecurity and awkwardness that beset us as we struggle to avoid disappointing the people who mean the most to us. **** (Reviewed by Kenneth Turan)
Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 112 minutes.
This very odd comedy stars Robert De Niro as a Mafioso hiding out in France with his family, for whom sociopathic criminality is a hard habit to break. Director Luc Besson's weird tonal shifts between comedy and violence go well beyond the tropes of the usual dark comedy and create a crashing dissonance. It's like listening to gangsta rap and La Vie en Rose simultaneously for two hours straight. * 1/2
Towne. PG. 90 minutes.
Ethan Hawke is a race-car driver forced to commit mayhem in Bulgaria at the behest of a sinister online puppetmaster, with a teen punk (Selena Gomez) along for the ride. The car action may be fast, but when it comes to smarts, this thing is definitely driving in the slow lane, and Gomez's character is so awful, she may make us wistful for Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, now unseated as the most obnoxious movie heroine of all time. *
INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2
Kildonan Place, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 106 minutes.
This sequel to the low-budget 2010 chiller carries on with the story of a family (including Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) besieged by malevolent forces from an unseen spirit world. While not as shriek-inducing as the commercials would have you believe, it does sustain director James Wan's admirable lo-fi approach to the material. When it does scare, it does so as a result of solid acting, writing directing and editing, not digital trickery. ** 1/2
LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER
Grant Park, McGillivray, Towne. 14A. 133 minutes.
Lee Daniels (Precious) directs this drama starring Forest Whitaker as a sharecropper's son who grows up to become a White House butler in service to every U.S. president from Eisenhower (Robin Williams) to Reagan (Alan Rickman). The stunt casting is off-putting and Daniels prefers seamy melodrama to insights into the varying characters of presidents, but the central idea still manages to provoke. ***
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS
Kildonan Place, Polo Park. PG. 106 minutes.
This sequel to Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief sees our demi-god hero (Logan Lerman) and his friends attempting to save their refuge by going on a mission to the Bermuda Traingle to discover the Golden Fleece. The saga gets points for attempting to illuminate the world of Greek mythology for young audiences, but it's too bad the result is largely lacklustre. **1/2 (Reviewed by Claudia Puig)
St. Vital. G. 92 minutes.
A humble crop-dusting plane named Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) aspires to be a racer and enters an around-the-world contest in this Disney spin-off of Pixar's Cars franchise. The movie earns a few bonus air miles with some exotic locales and a few genuinely funny moments but a wartime flashback is a tad too grim for the presumably juvenile crowd. **
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 153 minutes.
Hugh Jackman is a desperate father who resorts to vigilantism when his young daughter goes missing, and the creepy guy under suspicion (Paul Dano) has been released by the police. Jackman delivers the dramatic goods reasonably well and Jake Gyllenhaal offers more subtle shadings as the twitchy investigating cop. Quebec director Denis Villeneuve's Hollywood studio indulgence is a running time that's just a tad too much for the grim material. ***1/2
Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 18A. 119 minutes.
Vin Diesel returns as the titular psychopathic fugitive going up against predators and bounty hunters on a hostile planet. After the bloated PG-13 middle installment The Chronicles of Riddick, the big guy returns to his Pitch Black roots for some gratifyingly gory B-movie hijinks. ***
Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 123 minutes.
A dramatization of legendary rivalry in the '70s between Formula One racers as directed by Ron Howard, with Chris Hemsworth as Brit party boy James Hunt and Daniel Brºhl as persnickety Austrian Niki Lauda. If it's a sophisticated portrait of opposing personalities, it delivers the vroom-vroom goods too, befitting the director whose first effort was Grand Theft Auto. ***1/2
WE'RE THE MILLERS
Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne. 14A. 110 minutes.
Jason Sudeikis is a lowly pot dealer forced to assemble a bogus wholesome family to get a huge shipment of marijuana across the border from Mexico. A twist on the snobs-vs.-slobs comedy formula -- call it straights-vs.-reprobates -- this is a pleasingly raunchy farce with Sudeikis ideally cast as a lowlife with a wholesome facade and Jennifer Aniston gleefully tearing apart her Friends image as the sensible good girl, in the role of a desperate stripper at the end of her G-string. ***