Man Versus Bear

pad1It may be the middle of January — and how about those Oscar nominations, huh? — but the movies opening in Toronto today are rich and varied. Sure, the Eastwood movie is a disappointment, but be honest: You’re used to that by now.

American Sniper: Clint Eastwood brings his distinctive that’s-lunch-people approach to this drama about self-styled alpha male Chris Kyle, who shot a bunch of people in Iraq and went on to craft a legend around himself on FOX News when he got home. Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller try their best, but the Rubber Baby scene is an object lesson in what happens when your director just doesn’t care.

Appropriate Behavior: Desiree Akhavan’s first feature is a mightily encouraging debut, with the writer-director also starring as a contemporary young woman juggling various identity conflicts. I probably shouldn’t say anything else about it, but Susan does.

Blackhat: Michael Mann’s first film since the misbegotten Public Enemies is a modest  improvement, but still hugely problematic, starting with the casting of The Mighty Thor as a genius superhacker.

Escobar: Paradise Lost: Rad really didn’t care for this arm’s-length portrait of Pablo Escobar (Benicio del Toro), seen through the eyes of a surfer kid (Josh Hutcherson) who falls for the notorious drug kingpin’s niece.

Housebound: Bumped from last week, Gerard Johnstone’s horror-comedy features a really great performance from Morgana O’Reilly as a remarkably pragmatic young woman living under haunted-house arrest.

Last Days in Vietnam: A Doc Soup highlight last fall, Rory Kennedy’s documentary examines the remarkable efforts of a few American officials to evacuate as many people from Saigon as the city collapsed.

Paddington: Paul King’s long-dreaded feature is not just a charming adaptation of the beloved children’s character but a goddamned terrific family film with so much heart it cannot contain it. So, yeah. See this.

Two Days, One Night: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne continue to mine their very specific vein of human drama, exploring the basic conflicts endemic to modern Western society. Here, Marion Cotillard plays a woman who must spend the eponymous window of time trying to convince her co-workers to give up their bonuses so she can keep her job. Rad loved it. So did I.

The Wedding Ringer: Josh Gad is an engaged doofus who seeks coolness assistance from best-man-for-hire Kevin Hart. I enjoy Josh Gad in many things; I have never really understood the appeal of Kevin Hart. I will not be rushing to see this.

Phew! There, that’s everything. What are you guys up to this weekend? I’m planning on being less cold, myself. Doing well so far.

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