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This Week in Film: Cloud Atlas, V/H/S, The Sessions, Le Voyage Extraordinaire, The City Below, Ekran Film Festival, and what's new in DVD & BluRay

This Week in Film rounds up noteworthy new releases in theatres, as well as key DVD / Blu-Ray releases, festivals, and other cinema-related events happening in Toronto.


Cloud Atlas (Varsity, Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)

This is one of those fascinating messes of a movie that we only get to use for target practice on the rarest of occasions; the sort that has clear ambition and talent behind it all (Tom Tykwer and "the Wachowski Starship"); the sort that is actually better than it'll ever get credit for, while still being a hopeless wreck. Based on the book of the same name, Cloud Atlas traces the ripples of a single action as it routes through history to create a hero and a revolution. Torontonians gifted the film with a big standing O at TIFF last September, ensuring that - at the very least - this one won't go quietly into oblivion. Back in reality, though, there is evidence to suggest that so far, for better and worse, this is this decade's The Fountain.

V/H/S (Carlton)

A horror omnibus with a few entries from some key American 'It' indie filmmakers (Ti West, Joe Swanberg, Adam Wingard), plus some other guys you may or may not have heard of before. The conceit for this is that some hooligans find a VHS tape in a house they break into, and on it are a bunch of clips - i.e. "found footage" - that's scary as hell (provided it were actually real). Found footage is proving to be the fruit fly of horror tropes, and it's a wonder that these still have an audience, the entire idea being inherently flawed and all. Like every other omnibus comprised of more than four shorts, these are hit and miss, with the good news being that some are actually pretty damn scary.

The Sessions (Varsity)

When great actors go long enough without winning an Oscar, eventually they're going to start reaching out for one; this is exactly what's happened here with Mr. John Hawkes (see also from this year: Bill Murray in Hyde Park on Hudson). The idea that The Sessions - a film about a 36 year-old man (Hawkes) with an iron lung who wants to lose his virginity to Helen Hunt - is getting Oscar buzz and The 40 Year Old Virgin didn't, says more than I could about what's wrong with this picture. It might also be worth noting that the previous 'effort' by this film's director is a 2003 episode of Touched By an Angel. Some good performances, though.

Also in theatres this week:

  • Chasing Mavericks (Scotiabank)
  • Fun Size (Carlton, Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)
  • Hellbound? (Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)
  • In Their Skin (The Royal)
  • The Last Gladiators (Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)
  • Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (Scotiabank)
  • Smashed (Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)
  • Unlucky (The Royal)
  • You've Been Trumped (Bloor Hot Docs Cinema)


Le Voyage extraordinaire (Friday, October 26 at 7:30PM; Ryerson Library Theatre, Lower Ground Floor - 350 Victoria St)

From one half of the duo that brought us the fascinating and heartbreaking shoulda-woulda-coulda doc Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno comes this hour-long recount of the making of Georges Méliès' A Trip to the Moon, a 13-minute film with about 130 films made about it. Director Bromberg doesn't limit his scope to Méliès, though, tracing out a compelling and accessible history of the earliest years of cinema history. This, the last of the French Consulate of Toronto's 'French Films on Campus' series, will also be free of charge and the director will be in attendance for the screening.

The City Below (Tuesday, October 30 at 6:30PM; TIFF Bell Lightbox)

An under-seen, under-screened, and under-appreciated gem from a national cinema (Germany) that is a victim of same, The City Below is one of the best films from 2010 and is just now - finally - making its Toronto premiere at this quasi-hidden screening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (for some reason, none of the Goethe Institut films get advertised on TIFF's website). This corporate erotic thriller transcends any reductive genre one can lob at it, and elliptically portrays the European bank crisis as a sort of apocalyptic fever dream. It's very much a 'movie movie' - verging on the Hitchcockian - where the 'movie' part is always threatening to up and disappear. When it finally does, the result is as subtle and chilling as anything you're likely to be watching the next day (that being Halloween, if you know what I'm saying).


Ekran - Toronto Polish Film Festival (October 25 - 28)
This fourth edition of Ekran will feature four days of Polish features, shorts, and animations brought to us by Toronto's Ekran Polish Film Association. The festival proper will take place at the Revue Cinema where tickets will be $15 at the door ($12 if you buy in advance here), while a slate of free screenings will also unspool on the 26th and 27th at Runnymede Library. Please find our festival preview and list of recommendations for Ekran here.


Lead still from The City Below

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