TIFF Reviews: Chloe, Harry Brown, Hugh Hefner, My Queen Karo, Accident, Life During Wartime, Bad Lieutenant, Leslie My Name is Evil, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

We're just past the halfway mark at this year's TIFF. Here are the films we've seen since our last batch of reviews.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Harry Brown
A pitch-perfect genre picture, Harry Brown sees Michael Caine hitting a career high performance as a kindly pensioner - and former IRA-fighting Marine, naturally - who becomes a vigilante when his neighbourhood is overrun by street gangs. Immaculately crafted in every detail, this is a masterpiece of script and execution. (Matt)

Life During Wartime
Todd Solondz is not a director of warm and fuzzy movies (see Storytelling or Palindromes). However, expecting the cringe-worthiest of drama, I came out of Life During Wartime unscathed... and even a little bit moved. Set in sunny Florida, the film revisits some of the characters from Solondz' acclaimed Happiness, a decade later and with entirely different ensemble cast (including Ally Sheedy and Paul "Pee-wee" Reubens). The unsettling suicide, pedophilia, and dysfunctional family plots continue here, but this time with an emphasis on understanding and forgiveness. Oh, and did I mention that the film is funny? (Chandra)

Chloe
Atom Egoyan's latest is set in Toronto making this the biggest budget film in recent memory where Toronto actually gets to play itself. The Rivoli, Cafe Diplomatico, the Hazelton Hotel and LeVack Block all make appearances, but none of that would matter if the local auteur wasn't on top of his game (he is) and supported by stellar performances from Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore. (Tim)

RECOMMENDED

My Queen Karo
This lovely tale of a young girl growing up in a hippie commune in Amsterdam in the 1970s asks intelligent questions about the ethics of raising a child. Karo (Anna Francisca Jager, in a stunning child performance) must navigate the free love ideals of her father and all the challenges that come of a life without boundaries. (Matt)

Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel
There's more to porn master Hugh Hefner than his silk housecoats and blonde bimbo entourage. Director Brigitte Berman goes back through ol' Hef's Playboy years and his active participation in the civil rights movement (where he brought blacks and whites together on television at a time when this was inconceivable). Gasp! Though the doc is a bit long and, yet, still omits some decades, it successfully documents an ambitious man who knows what he wants and does what he wants, proving he's more than the one-dimensional publishing icon you think he is. And no matter where you stand on the smut/feminism debate, you just may come out thinking Hef's a pretty cool guy. (Connie)

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, this bad lieutenant is prone to having hilarious coke-induced outbursts. Detective Terence McDonagh (Nicholas Cage) develops a drug habit after being diagnosed with painful back issues. When his gambling and miscellaneous debts start to mount, Terence's ethics get a little shifty. Port of Call New Orleans is part cop flick, part love story, and most of all, Werner Herzog's exploration of the crumbled city. (Chandra)

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
Werner, Werner, what have ye done? My Son, My Son opens with Brad (Michael Shannon) in his house surrounded by cops. He has just killed his mother and claims to be holding two more people hostage. After his girlfriend (ChloÍ Sevigny) and stage director (Udo Kier) show up on the scene, it becomes obvious that Brad is COMPLETELY INSANE. We get a bizarre series of flashbacks to illustrate this point, including a visit to an ostrich farm to pick up a giant sword. Some people walked out, but I had a good laugh. (Chandra)

Leslie, My Name Is Evil
Local editor-turned-filmmaker Reginald Harkema (Monkey Warfare) offers up this campy take on the sensationalistic Manson trial. A young chemist from an all-American family accepts a seat on the trial's jury - where deliberations hit a snag when he develops a crush on one of the Manson girls, Leslie. (Chandra)

NOT RECOMMENDED

Accident
A clever idea, about a team of hit men who stage elaborate accidents so that the murders will appear accidental, Accident goes off the rails in its second half when the principal character becomes obsessed with surveilling a potential foe. Attention filmmakers: watching someone listen to electronic listening devices on a pair of headphones is BORING. (Matt)


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