TIFF Reviews: Up in the Air, Broken Embraces, Jennifer's Body, Fish Tank, The Time That Remains, An Education, Creation, Enter the Void, Dogtooth

Now that we're two days into TIFF we've actually been able to get into regular screenings and watch films with our fellow festival-going public. Here's what we've seen since our last set of reviews.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Fish Tank
Andrea Arnold is proving to be a powerhouse of a filmmaker. Fish Tank follows her acclaimed first feature Red Road - and packs just as much punch. The film's juicy bit is a budding relationship between a 15 year old and her mother's boyfriend, but it's the startlingly real characters that drive the story. This is the set up: Mia is a tough delinquent type and her young mom is a hot party chick. In a volatile and alcoholic household, the arrival of a seemingly solid paternal figure, Connor (played by Michael Fassbender from Hunger), intensifies the rift between the two women. This is not your not your run-of-the-mill teen angst movie. (Chandra)

The Time That Remains
In a blast of previews for future blockbusters over the past couple of weeks, The Time That Remains is a welcome reminder of why I line up for TIFF every year - to, by luck or word of mouth, stumble into an original and moving film that may not get a wide release later. Elia Suleiman writes, directs, and stars in this comedic retelling of key events in his family's history. It's a sharp personal account of a Palestinian family, their friends and neighbours, and the unpredictable land they live in. (Chandra)

Broken Embraces
Pedro Almodovar fans won't be disappointed with his latest effort. There are lots of familiar faces in this one including muse #1 Penelope Cruz. They have a brilliant screenplay to work with that includes some scenes with the best dialogue I've heard in recent film-going memory. It's best not to know what this flick is about so just go. (Tim)

RECOMMENDED

An Education
A finely-pitched British melodrama, nicely accomplished and quite sweet. Carey Mulligan gives a star-making turn as Jenny, a teenage girl with Oxford ambitions who is waylaid by a charming older man (Peter Sarsgaard). Nick Hornby's script stays a step ahead of the
"cusp of womanhood" cliches, and has something to say about having to arm young women with the ability to find their value in a world that so quickly wants to assign it to them. (Matt)

Creation
A safe pick for the festival opener, Creation is your standard - and who knows, maybe even Oscar-friendly - period piece. It covers the stretch in Charles Darwin's life when he begins to write up his life's research, On the Origin of Species. Overcome with grief for his lost daughter, we find him ill, weepy, and a tad crazy. With that in mind, plus his groundbreaking scientific worldview, Darwin loses faith and begins to distance himself from his wife, other children, and the prevailing religious views of his community. The film also has good-looking leads with mega-star potential, the real-life couple Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly. Meh. (Chandra)

Enter the Void
Wow... really?! I asked myself as I scratched my head, walking out of Gaspar Noé's Enter the Void. The film is like a theme park ride... a very, very long ride. Siblings with an (almost) incestuous relationship share a one-room flat in Tokyo. Their lives have been shaped by the loss of their parents in a violent car accident many years ago, a gory scene that is repeated several times through the movie. Oscar is a drug dealer and Linda is a stripper. Oscar gets shot and dies. For what seems to be an eternity, the camera hovers above the action, from Oscar's perspective as his "spirit" watches over Linda. Noé (I Stand Alone, Irréversible) continues to push the envelope by imagining death as a bad psychedelic trip, filling the screen with an experimental mix of sex, memories, and eye popping colour. (Chandra)

Up in the Air
Fans of Thank You for Smoking and Juno might be a little disappointed with Jason Reitman's latest. George Clooney delivers his usual charm as Ryan Bingham, a man who fires people for a living and spends most his time flying around the U.S. to do it. Ryan is happy with his transient existence until he finds Mrs. Right and is confronted with the idea that teleconferencing will eliminate his need to travel. A light, heartfelt portait of a middle-aged professional surviving in a crumbling economy. (Chandra)

Jennifer's Body
Hell is a teenage girl, all right, but this movie seems a draft shy of figuring out exactly what it's trying to say about that. There's some good stuff here as Jennifer (Megan Fox, cuz who else can play the most beautiful teenager/demon on the planet?) turns bad while her needy best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) tries to sort out their muddled relationship, but muddled subtext and a dearth of real scares keep Jennifer's Body out of the "classic" frame. (Matt)

NOT RECOMMENDED

Dogtooth
The kind of obtuse, slow-moving, foreign film that puts newbies off TIFF for life. I can't deny that this tale of a hyper-controlling father isolating his family from the rest of the world accomplishes what it sets out to do, but everything this movie has to say can be
found in the first ten minutes; the rest is just variations on the theme. Startling use of unexpected graphic violence, plus the obligatory incest angle, wake the audience up when things become too languid. (Matt)


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