The Dark Knight and the Olympics would appear to have little in common - until you visit a theatre near you, that is.
Nothing spells the kiss of death at the box office for independent, foreign and even certain mainstream films like competition from the year's most anticipated blockbuster and the 2012 Summer Games that, like it or not, are in our faces 24/7.
If you've already seen Dark Knight Rises or couldn't be less interested in the Olympics, finding big-screen alternatives can be a challenge during what has effectively become the equivalent of the January doldrums.
The good news? With less star-studded Hollywood eye candy opening before Aug. 10, there's no better time to discover some hidden gems that, despite praise from those who've seen them, haven't been getting the crowds they deserve.
Two such blinkandyou'll-miss-them goodies tucked amid this summer's superheroes and animated romps have struck such a chord with filmgoers that many who have seen them have personally thanked staff for playing them.
Cineplex Odeon manager Pierre Gauthier says he can't remember when he's had as much positive feedback as he's had for the French crowd-pleaser The Intouchables. The engagingly irreverent fact-based comedy charts the unlikely friendship between a wealthy quadriplegic Parisian widower (Francois Cluzet) and a streetwise, cocky Senegalese ex-convict (Omar Sy) who reluctantly becomes his live-in caregiver. Despite its superficiality and lapses into strained melodrama, it's a humane, hilarious and heart-rending odd couple comedy laced with sly observations on racial tension and class divisions.
"People are absolutely nuts about this movie, even with the subtitles," Gauthier said. "I've been getting more comments and thank-yous than we did for The King's Speech and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel combined."
Another sign of its impact is that many filmgoers have sat motionless through the closing credits, he said.
Gauthier has been redirecting patrons dissatisfied with other films to Intouchables, and offering refunds to anyone genuinely disappointed by the film at risk of prematurely leaving town by the time the Olympics are over.
The other surprise is In the Family, Patrick Wang's remarkably assured yet admittedly challenging - for those who can't sit through three-hour movies without stunts and action heroes, that is - feature debut at the Caprice.
It's not for nothing this out-of-left-field wonder from Wang, who just made Filmmaker Magazine's list of the Top 25 new filmmakers to watch, scored 100 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes.
It's an impressively original, superbly acted exercise in social realism that recalls the films of John Cassavetes. It focuses, at an effectively unhurried pace, on the simmering conflict between Joey, Wang's amiable, goodhearted Asian contractor, and the traditional Southern family of his late lover, a tragically killed widower, who are denying him legal custody of Chip, the loving son both men have raised for years.
Although it outperformed The Avengers' opening night, audiences have been small. And while it's not for everyone, those who have taken the time to appreciate its virtues have inspired manager Brian Jupp to screen it again Wednesday at 7 p.m.
"I believed word of mouth would get around and the demand for another opportunity to see the film would be there," he said.
"Plus, our flexible schedule easily allows us to have a single screening like this, so why not try to capitalize?"
Meanwhile, Dark Knight Rises is going strong despite the tragic massacre at a Colorado multiplex.
Whether Bane, Batman's grotesque masked nemesis in Dark Knight Rises, follows in the footsteps of Loki, the villain in The Avengers, to become a hotselling collectible remains to be seen, however, says Curious Comics co-owner James Watson.
"We have a lot of girls ages 16 to 20 who come in and specifically look for Loki because they like him so much," Watson said.
"He's become like a sex symbol in a way, which is odd for a film with so many guys who could be considered handsome."
While Loki's popularity was a shocker, the jury's still out on the Dark Knight Rises villain's merchandising fate.
"Bane's not going to be a sex symbol, I can tell you that," deadpanned Watson.
NORTH: Cinecenta's commendable devotion to film history continues Wednesday with Treasures from the Far Fur Country, a collaborative event highlighted by archival raw footage including excerpts from Romance of the Far Fur Country, a long-lost silent film commissioned by Hudson's Bay Company to commemorate its 250th anniversary in 1920.
A "cinematic time capsule," the documentary footage was rediscovered in the 1990s by historian Peter Geller after sitting for decades in the British Film Institute's archives. The 30-minute film meant to depict the company's history features footage of Arctic fur trappers in 1919 captured by filmmakers who travelled by foot, canoe, dogsled and icebreaker from Montreal to the Arctic. It includes glimpses of life in Alert Bay and other aboriginal communities that recut footage is being returned to.
The Victoria stop on the journey that includes townhall screenings on the route taken by the filmmakers is co-sponsored by the Friends of the B.C. Archives and Victoria Historical Society.
It begins at 7 p.m., followed by a presentation and Q&A session.
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