Opening this week
See expanded reviews at nowtoronto.com/movies.
Spider-Man: Homecoming; 13 Minutes; Tickling Giants; Blood Hunter; Integral Man; From The Land Of The Moon; The Journey; Playing this week
SPider-maN: homeComiNg (Jon ñ
Watts) continues the smooth integration of everyone’s favourite wall-crawler into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, giving Peter Parker (Tom Holland, perfect) a semi-mentor in Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and an enemy in Michael Keaton’s high-flying thief, who uses tech harvested from the aliens who invaded New York in The Avengers. But mostly, it’s about a kid trying really hard to be a hero, and that’s where the Marvel machinery really serves the story. After almost a decade of these movies, there’s a sense of real danger and menace to this world. Where the previous Spider-Man movies always seemed obsessed with balancing the hero and the villain, this universe is filled with outsized threats, and maybe Tony isn’t wrong when he says Peter is out of his depth. Director Watts (Cop Car) places us firmly in Peter’s rabbity headspace, excitably zooming between high school awkwardness and complex set pieces. The script is consistent and charming, with even the most incidental characters getting a moment to define themselves – though the high-altitude finale feels weirdly choppy. Still, this is the strongest Spider-Man movie in a long time, and easily the most joyful, thanks to a deft Michael Giacchino score and Watts’s refusal to burden us with another origin story. I had fun. You will too. 133 min. NNNN (Norman Wilner)
The JourNey (Nick Hamm) ñ
dramatizes the car ride between Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) and Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney) that led the rival leaders to the 2006 St. Andrews Agreement, which ended decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. Their driver is a British agent (Freddie Highmore) charged with monitoring their conversation for Tony Blair (Toby Stephens) and an MI-5 expert (John Hurt, in one of his final screen performances). The bulk of the film plays out as conversation, with McGuinness and Paisley taking one another’s measure and prodding at old wounds inflicted decades earlier. By framing it as a road movie, Hamm and screenwriter Colin Bateman undercut the potential stuffiness of the material and just let their actors play. Both leads are terrific, but the supporting players are great as well: Stephens is quietly wonderful in the corners as the equivocating, self-serving Blair and Hurt matches him scene for scene as a professional cynic slowly rediscovering his sense of optimism. 95 min. NNNN (NW) from The laNd of The mooN (Nicole Garcia) follows the misadventures of a woman whose peculiar circumstances and troubled psyche set her on course for disappointment and frustration—sentiments you’ll likely share once you arrive at this otherwise complex character study’s overly tidy finale. Raised in a Provençal village in the 1950s, Gabrielle (Marion Cotillard) is unhappily married off to a Catalan labourer and eventually sent to a Swiss sanatorium, where she falls perilously in love with a gravely ill veteran of the war in Indochina. Cotillard is fearless and captivating. Director Nicole Garcia hews close to her actors while maintaining a scrupulous reserve. Unfortunately the film’s last act becomes bogged down in a plot twist at once harrowing, overworked and a little silly, imposing a resolution that works against the film’s nuance. 121 min. Subtitled. NNN (José Teodoro) iNTegral maN (Joseph Clement) purports to be about the late mathematician, musician and philanthropist Jim Stewart. But it’s more about the Rosedale house Stewart had built – called Integral House – than the man himself. A trained violinist, Stewart decided to pursue a career in math, eventually writing a series of textbooks that made him massively wealthy. He later used his home, complete with concert area, to hold fundraisers for organizations. Director Joseph Clement captures the modernist house, designed by Howard Sutcliffe and Brigitte Shim, beautifully. It really does feel, as one per- son says, like you’re inside an instrument. But perhaps because of Stewart’s sudden illness and death, there are many gaps about the man himself, particularly around his queer activism. Concert footage of musicians like Measha Bruggergosman and Blake Pouliot is fine, but this short doc resembles a sedate offering on HGTV. 63 min. NNN (Glenn Sumi) 13 miNuTeS (Oliver Hirschbiegel) dramatizes the life of Georg Elser (Christian Friedel), a German artist who tried to kill Adolf Hitler with a homemade time bomb at a Munich rally in November 1939. (Eight people died, but the Führer was not among them, having left before the explosion.) The narrative cuts between Elser’s brutal interrogation by German officers and the years leading up to the assassination attempt, over which the apolitical Elser witnessed the slow boil of Nazism and became radicalized. Screenwriters Léonie-Claire and Fred Breinersdorfer draw the characters in broad strokes – this isn’t a movie with much time for moral ambiguity, so characters are either placid victims or sneering monsters – and Hirschbigel executes the drama with minimal visual bombast, except for one ill-considered drug sequence. It’s fine, I guess, but if you’ve seen Hirschbiegel’s previous examinations of German character, Das Experiment and Downfall, you know he’s capable of so much more. 114 min. Subtitled. NNN (NW) TiCkliNg giaNTS (Sara Taksler) looks at the unlikely media stardom of Bassem Youssef, a Cairo heart surgeon and massive Jon Stewart fan who reinvented himself during the Arab Spring as a political satirist on YouTube. That led to his own comedy program on Egyptian television: The Show, a Daily Show knockoff so shameless that it even replicated the design and colour scheme of Stewart’s set. Youssef’s material wasn’t exactly sophisticated, but the mere fact that he and his writers dared to make light of authoritarian leaders like Mohamed Morsi and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was revolutionary. Filmmaker Sara Taksler – a producer on the real Daily Show – tags along with The Show on its rollercoaster ride, and if Tickling Giants never digs as deep as it could, it’s still a fascinating look at a culture just beginning to understand the power of sarcasm. 111 min. Some subtitles. NNN (NW) Blood huNTerS (Tricia Lee) takes a solid horror premise – after an overdose, a suburban mom (Lara Gilchrist) wakes up in an operating room, inexplicably pregnant and surrounded by corpses – and winds up stretching it a little too thin. Director Lee and screenwriter Corey Brown aren’t without imagination or skill – their previous collaboration, Silent Retreat, was an effective thriller brought down by a clunky ending – but they’re trying to tell their ambitious story on a limited budget and the result is clearly a cheaper, more compromised version of the movie they wanted to make. The more we learn about the mystery at the heart of Blood Hunters, the sillier it seems, and the small cast – which also includes Benjamin Arthur, Torri Higginson, Mark Taylor and Julian Richings – struggles to keep the energy up while walking down the same hallways over and over again, and Lee does her best to keep us from noticing that the light-averse monsters lurking in the shadows look an awful lot like dancers in leotards. And as supernaturally charged hospital thrillers go, Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski’s The Void did this sort of thing so much better earlier this year. 91 min. NN (NW)