Opening Weekend: ‘This Movie is Broken,’ ‘Knight and Day’

No film has ever captured Toronto’s street-level summer-in-the-city vibe as well as this one

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As the G20, the anti-matter festival, sucks the soul out of Toronto this weekend, if you want to be reminded that this city has a pulse, check out Bruce McDonald’s exhilarating hometown escapade, This Movie is Broken. McDonald, the rock’n’roll rebel who made Highway 61 and Hard Core Logo, has become the de facto godfather of Canadian indie cinema.  He’s evolved into one of the country’s most prolific and adventurous filmmakers. In addition to directing  for television, he’s made three movies just in the past year—This Movie is Broken, Trigger (created for Tracy Wright, who died June 22) plus a sequel to Hard Core Logo. And McDonald is no self-absorbed auteur; lately he’s been serving as the let’s-make-it-happen guy for a broad community of Toronto filmmakers, playwrights, actors and musicians. Here’s a video of an interview I did McDonald recently in Toronto:

This Movie is Broken is a modest picture, an impressionist watercolour, but it has terrific spirit. It’s a fleeting romance wrapped around a robust concert film of Broken Social Scene as the band performed a free gig at Toronto’s Harbourfront last summer, during the garbage strike. The project was thrown together in a matter of days, and it has the kinetic energy and verité flair of a film made on the fly. At its core is a dynamic performance by the band, playing by the lake as dusk falls. Scripted by Don McKellar, it’s the story of a guy who can’t believe his luck, then tries to chase it.  Bruno (Greg Calderone), our narrator, wakes up on a rooftop next to Caroline (Georgina Reilly), the girl of his dreams, then takes her to the Broken Social Scene concert and their date becomes unraveled in the crowd. Reversing the usual perspective, in this case the romance is really just the backdrop for the music and the scene. For Canadians who just don’t get the appeal of Toronto, no film has ever captured the street-level summer-in-the-city vibe here as well as this one.

For another class of escapism altogether, the action-comedy Knight and Day, which opened Wednesday, offers a reality-free zone of Hollywood nonsense. This hectic vehicle for Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz—whose only mission is to look like movie stars—is a spy flick for those who find James Bond too deep. Directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line), this has a vastly overqualified cast, including Peter Sarsgaard and Viola Davis, who play it utterly straight as a federal agents, as if they’re in another movie. Paul Dano merrily mugs his way through the movie as an eccentric scientist whose MacGuffin-like invention (a battery that never runs out of juice) is the object of an nutty global intrigue that never even tries to makes sense.

What is there to say about Knight and Day? How about some plot summary:

See Tom.
See Cameron.
See Tom run.
Run, run, run!
See Cameron run.
Run, run, run
Hear Cameron scream.
Scream, scream scream.
See Tom smile
Smile, smile smile . . .

Sorry, but I just can’t get bring myself to write a grown-up review of this cynical caper flick. There are some nifty stunts, chases in all kinds vehicles, and postcard views of luxury destinations around the globe. In his tongue-in-cheek role as an international man of mystery who never stops moving, Cruise is as charming as he gets. And as the terrified damsel who’s dragged along for the  ride, then inevitably learns to kick ass, Cameron Diaz is watchable enough that you wonder where she’s been in the last few years. As a time-waster, Knight and Day is entertaining enough. It sets the bar low then clears it effortlessly. But as I creep into the damning- with-faint-praise department, reviewing this film feels as pointless as watching it.

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