Black Book

A holocaust film from the maker of Showgirls, Total Recall and Robocop, huh? One shouldn’t be surprised that Verhoeven’s return to European filmmaking is actually quite a triumph. It lacks the gloss and polish of his American output, yet there’s still a tremendous amount of cinematic dexterity on display. This is no staid drama, instead […]

Breaking and Entering

A convoluted plot of break-ins, architectural redevelopment and mid-30s life crises mask a fairly standard tale of a love triangle. The film is elevated by fine performances, including some very real, very effective fights between Jude Law and his on-screen wife Robin Wright Penn. Juliete Binoche plays a dowdy immigrant seamstress, and she just about […]

Remembering Arthur

Unfortunately, the doc about Lipsett doesn’t nearly have the power (or succinctness) of the films that are referenced. A series of talking head interviews trace the story of this maverick filmmaker (starting with an extremely brief soundbyte from George Lucas that seems to have been tacked on), the film has nothing of the experimental flourishes […]

Very Nice, Very Nice

This 1961 editing mashup brought avant garde Canadian cinema to a generation of filmmakers. The film takes audio stems and places fast cuts of still photography, unique in the 60s, old hat by now. It reminded me of Kubrick’s trailer for Strangelove, as well as the quick-cut elements in Requeim for a Dream and others […]

Pan’s Labyrinth

Del Toro continues his run of clock obsessed, beautifully crafted films that share brutal realism with fairy tale elements. This time the children’s fantasy is grafted onto 1940s Spain, as Franco’s fascists fight guerillas while a girl must pass three magical tasks in order to remain immortal. It shouldn’t work, but in Del Toro’s capable […]

Trapped Ashes

A horrible mess of horror movie cliches, set in one of those “old skool” anthology flicks of yore. Saving grace – Ken Russell’s introduction of cannibalistic breasts.

Rescue Dawn

There’s not much that Christian Bale won’t do to himself for a movie role (see The Machinist if you need further evidence), yet it continues to be quite astonishing the depths he’s willing to go for a role. This is a film based on one of Herzog’s own documentaries, and the more rediculous and over-the-top […]

…So Goes the Nation

More Bush, yay! This straight-ahead doc focuses on the “battleground” state of Ohio during the 2004 election. The usual suspects are trotted out, but the film gains tremendously by being supremely crafted and extremely well researched. The star of the show is Paul Bagala, who in no uncertain terms points out the foibles of his […]

Copying Beethoven

A horrid mess of a film, only the music elevates it from being a total dud. Lousy performances, boring direction, this one is best left forgotten.

Shortbus

Sitting in the Paramount theatre as a 70 foot penis fades up on the screen. A man urinates in a bathtub, and a few scenes later he bends over to suck his own cock. That said, this is one of the sweetest, most genuine films of this (or any year’s) fest. The performances are rock […]

D.O.A.P.

A History Channel documentary from the future, where one George Herbert Walker Bush is assasinated in Chicago. Mixing interview footage with recreations and CGI manipulation, this “what if?” scenario plays out effectively and compellingly. If there’s one gripe it’s that the recreation of the news clips lack a certain slickness and panic that besets the […]

The Abandoned

A weird and wicked tale further emphasizing that you can never go home again, especially if you never lived at home in the first place. Convoluted, yes, but this monster house/ghost story/family redemption film has it all, including some creepy makeup and loud, scary music. It’s not the best MM this year, but it did […]

Renaissance

Oooh! Black and white CGI about a near-future Paris! While we’ve seen this schtick before (not that Blade Runner can’t be referenced, but cummon!), this rotoscoped flick does present the comic book world with a delightful starkness. I would rather have had Rodriguez shoot Sin City like this – abandoning greys, this is literally a […]

The Half Life of Timofey Berezin

My film fest mantra continues – if a film does something that I’ve never seen before, it automatically gets bonus marks. In this film, someone snorts Plutonium like it was cocaine. Now, that’s a major spoiler, but it’s also the part of the film that will be remembered long after this competent if middle-of-the-road flick […]

The Fountain

A beautiful mess of a movie, mixing time travel, conquistadors and metaphysics to look at the nature of life, love and death. Heady stuff, it’s a tale told in three time periods – 1500, 2000, and 2500 A.D. Aronofsy’s ambition is to tie the past and future together with a tale of medical ambition that […]

Black Sheep

According to official government statistics, the ratio of sheep to humans in New Zealand is a whopping 15:1. With almost 59 MILLION sheep, you can imagine that the nightmare of any Kiwi would be the horrific situation of the sheep going, um, baaaad. Black Sheep takes the zombie sheep schtick and runs with it. The […]

For Your Consideration

God bless Mr. Guest and team, even in films that don’t live up to their potential (such as this one) they remain a load of good, clean fun. This time the troupe gather to tell the tale of “Coming Home for Purim”, a flick that inadvertently becomes the subject of Oscar buzz. If the film […]

Lake of Fire

Back to back black and white films, this one miles away from Bunny Chow reviewed earlier. Quite simply, this is the most impressive, most honest and most brutal account of the abortion issue I have ever seen. With breathtaking scope and access (shot over a 14 year period) Kaye has crafted a film that could […]

Bunny Chow

Heavily indebted to such slacker flicks as, well, Slacker and Dazed and Confused, the one line Hollywood pitch for this flick would certainly be “A South African Clerks with comedians instead of cashiers.” The title refers to a local delicacy that involves the mash-up of a bunch of produce with some bread, a metaphor for […]

Penelope

Penelope is a sweet lollipop of a film, a fable told with charm and whimsy. It does get overly saccharine as it goes on, losing its shape and novelty as it clambers towards its (supremely unsurprising, and in many ways disappointing) conclusion. Christina Ricci plays a girl cursed with an affliction brought about by the […]

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane

A silly, generic teen slasher/stalker move with a twist! It should be noted that the film doesn’t necessarily require the commitment to stay to the end to get any joy out of it that you’re going to get, but there is a cute, if nonsensical and completely unmotivated hiccup to the proceedings that at least […]

All The King’s Men

A “shouty” film about political corruption in Louisiana, as so called “hick” Willie Stark rises to the roll of Governor despite serious political opposition. This is a potluck of political intrigue, family secrets and a noir-style whodunnit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t all fit together, and the translation from its literary roots seems to have left the […]

Catch a Fire

A fairly mediocre, if well acted tale of the political conversion of an ANC guerilla fighter in South Africa. After being arrested wrongfully for an explosion at the refinery he works at, the protagonists embraces the ANC cause, and gets caught up in a cat-and-mouse game with the security officials. Tim Robbins isn’t exactly spectacular, […]

Time

A disappointing effort from my fest-fav Ki-Duk. The film centers around issues of self and self confidence, fueled by an interest in body modification through plastic surgery. The topic is certainly ripe for Ki-Duk’s masterful examination of the dark parts of the human psyche, but, despite its promise, the film feels quite tame, no more […]

The Host

What more could you want? Giant Alien-like mutant tadpole running through the streets of Seoul causing havoc, mowing down pedestrians, vomiting bones and escaping Tarzan-style under the nearest bridge? It should add up to MM gold! Unfortunately, the film is bogged down with SARS metaphors, pointless exposition, and an annoying main character. Sure, the quirky […]

The U.S. vs. John Lennon

A slightly misleading title – rather than simply focusing on Lennon’s fight with the Immigration service over the early part of the 70s, this film presents a polished, authorized look at the peace movement in general, Yoko and John’s involvement with the radical elements of the era, situated during the death of “flower power”. Authorization […]

Brand Upon the Brain!

A unique, surreal TIFF experience – Guy Maddin, iconoclastic Canadian filmmaker, has created a live cinematic performance. His 1920s style silent film was presented with a live orchestra, three-piece Foley artist group, live narration, and faux Castrato singer to interject some vocalizations to the proceedings. The film is a bizarre mess of monster movie, teen […]

Stranger Than Fiction

A literate, literary film with a Hollywood high-concept hitch: a man starts hearing voices, then realizes it’s actually the narration of his own life, whereupon he learns about his impending death. Often cute premises like these (think Click from this year) end up become trite extremely quickly. To this film’s credit, the conceit never wears […]

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

There is little that is subtle about the Borat film – it’s a “make sex on your face” kind of experience, an onslaught of Jew, Gay, “foreign”, Baptist and Texan jokes. It’s also very, very funny. The film, part road movie, part SNL-style skit fest, holds together as a narrative quite well. Borat travels across […]

Ten Canoes

Ten Canoes is a deep, flowing tale, elegiac in its pacing, beautifully shot. The narrator begins with “A long time ago, in a place far, far away…”, then cracks into laughter, saying it’s not “your story, but my story…”, a different, but just as good tale handed down from his ancestors. The story flows with […]