Against all odds, I have emerged from the insane crush of yesterday. I’ve met my deadlines, filed my files, and my head’s still on my torso. Of course, I still have all the other stuff I have to do this week, and I’ll be getting to it now, but first, here’s this week’s movie reviews, because I’m conscientious like that. Enjoy!
“The First Grader“: Justin Chadwick has made some excellent television — he directed the recent BBC/PBS adaptation of “Bleak House” — but give him a feature and he’s completely at sea. After the stiff cheese (cheesy stiffness?) of “The Other Boleyn Girl“, he turns inspirational drama into patronizing pablum with this true story of an ancient Kenyan (Oliver Litondo) who demands an education and the young teacher (Naomie Harris) who helps him achieve his goal. It’s too professionally produced to dismiss outright, but I could barely stand to sit through it.
“Forks Over Knives“: Hey, did you know that processed foods and high-fructose corn syrup are really bad for you, especially if they’re all you eat? It’s true! Also true, apparently, is that drinking the right amount of milk can “turn off” cancer, and that shopping at Whole Foods means you’ll never get sick, you won’t get any older and you won’t ever die. Really, that’s the level at which Lee Fulkerson’s credulous advocacy doc operates, and that’s not good for anyone.
“Last Night“: Sam Worthington and Keira Knightley are a young couple contemplating stepping out on one another after a fight — with Eva Mendes and Guillaume Canet, respectively. I had huge problems with Massy Tadjedin’s elliptical style, but the actors have their moments — particularly Canet, who gives his incidental character a dignity and grace that threatens to destabilize the whole picture.
“The National Parks Project“: Or, “Thirteen Short Films About Going Outside”. Offering thirteen very different directors the chance to wander Canada’s national parks with a trio of randomly assembled musicians is a terrific idea, and it makes for a largely pleasant experience, but the results are probably best viewed separately — or over two or three sittings — rather than in one two-hour chunk. That said, if you just want to bliss out on the visuals, the theatrical presentation can’t be beat.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides“: Not strange enough, frankly — just a bloated, unnecessary sequel that brings back Johnny Depp’s Cap’n Jack Sparrow (and a couple of other key characters) for another round of ersatz swashbuckling adventure, with Rob Marshall replacing Gore Verbinski as director and demonstrating, once and for all, his complete lack of vision. The worst thing about it? It tries to set up another trilogy.
There, that’s everything. Oh, except that it isn’t — the Toronto Underground Cinema has tapped me to host the latest Defending the Indefensible session, for which Will Sloan and Andrew Parker will square off against the judgmental specter of Adam Nayman over “Observe and Report”. (For the record, I really like it.) That gets going tonight at 7 pm; if you’re intrigued by our frequent invocations of “Taxi Driver”, you might want to come back to the theatre on Sunday for a double-bill of both films, with “Taxi Driver” screening at 7 pm and “Observe and Report” at 9:30. I’ll be hosting that, too, the better to help people understand the connections — and just enjoying the chance to see “Taxi Driver” on the big screen, frankly.
Full details are available at the Underground’s website, but you’ve already got the gist of it, yeah?