Festival reviews: Hayfever; Lloyd the Conqueror; Nuit #1; The Whale

Febbre da Fieno (Hayfever)

Empire Capitol 6, Odeon

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Today, 2 p.m.; Monday, 7 p.m.

Rating: Three stars

If you weren't already aware that Laura Luchetti's light-hearted Italian confection set in a kitschy vintage shop in Rome was produced in association with Disney Italy, it wouldn't take long to figure it out. The wholesomeness is in every frame of her contrived, somewhat silly yet endearing trifle about love, Italian-style. As light and flavourful as gelato, Luchetti's picturesque paean to the Eternal City is nothing if not eye-filling as it intertwines the yearnings of Camilla, the shop's pleasantly efficient newcomer who falls for handsome Matteo, so obsessed with ex-girlfriend Giovanna he barely notices; and Franki, the funky young skateboarder who writes passionate fan letters to Jude Law. Meanwhile, the idealistic owner with little business sense risks his marriage as he tries to keep the shop afloat. There's little objectionable here apart from a cheater of a plot development, but not much to get excited about, either. Still, the cast is as attractive as the Roman settings; Mauro Ursella is a standout as Camilla's younger brother with Down syndrome, and Luchetti augments the slightness with some nice romantic flourishes, even if the end product would be better suited to television.

Lloyd the Conquerer

Empire Capitol 6

Today, 9:45 pm.

Rating: 3 stars

"I do not appreciate your troll-like behaviour," a character solemnly declares. It's typical of the dialogue — as phoney as the foam swords, tinfoil balls and other "weapons" wielded by LARPS (live-action role players) — that makes Michael Peterson's affectionate homage to this mind-boggling subculture such a dorky delight despite some imperfections. A whimsical slacker comedy for geeks and gamers with star power supplied with gusto by a near-unrecognizable Mike Smith (Bubbles in Trailer Park Boys) as Derek the Unholy, the villainous warrior alter-ego of a small-minded college professor. Peterson's rough-edged lark recalls Monty Python at times. Nerdy humour and pop culture references are as abundant as medieval cloaks, helmets and dice once the title character (Evan Williams, a hybrid of a young Peter Fonda and Paul Gross) and his two man-child college roommates (Scott Patey and Jesse Reid) join a Calgary LARP league in a desperate bid to boost their grades. Although a romantic subplot and some of the training sequences grow tiresome, there's some terrific character development here — notably by Brian Posehn as a retired Yoda-like White Wizard who tutors the slackers, and Harland Williams, amusing as an obnoxious Trekkie. Overall, it's good, ridiculous fun that just might unleash your inner geek.

Nuit #1

Parkside, Empire Capitol 6

Sunday, 7:15 p.m.; Feb. 11, 11:30 a.m.

Rating: 1 star

The cinematic equivalent of premature ejaculation, Quebec filmmaker Anne Emond's sexual psychodrama begins with a bang — literally — and goes quickly downhill from there. While the raw realism of the simulated sex a young man (Dimitri Storoge) has in his shabby apartment with an attractive woman (Catherine de Lean) he picked up at a nightclub is intriguing, the post-coital monologues that ensue as they take turns baring their souls through the night is as trite and bogus as it is mind-numbingly tedious. As the Peggy Lee song says: Is that all there is? Warning: explicit full-frontal nudity and sex.

The Whale

ViFPA Showcase screening

Sunday, 7 p.m., Odeon

Rating: 4 stars

Despite its generic title and commercial concessions — including mainstream audience-friendly narration by Ryan Reynolds, who co-executive produced with then-wife Scarlett Johansson — this lean, glossier revamp of Saving Luna retains what made the 2008 documentary from Gulf Islands husband-and-wife team Suzanne Chisholm and Michael Parfit an international film festival hit. It's the near cosmic magnetism of Luna, the endearing, playful young stray orca whose natural connection with humans, after becoming stranded in Nootka Sound, sparked a clash between conservationists and scientists over its fate, that makes the update as moving and almost as captivating. Although less politicized and more family-friendly, this visually stunning meditation on the ethical challenges and responsibilities that accompany our fascination with such social marine mammals is ultimately as irresistible as its namesake.

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