TIFF Reviews

TIFF reviews, 2010

Reviews of TIFF movies screening at the 2010 festival will be flying fast and furious starting tomorrow. But thanks to invites to special media-only screenings at the Varsity, we've put together an initial batch of mini-reviews in advance of opening night. Here are nine TIFF reviews - grouped into those we highly recommend, recommend or suggest to avoid - with more reviews coming as the festival progresses.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Buried
Anyone want to see a Ryan Reynolds movie? Anyone? Please identify yourself because I have yet to meet a fan. This is what makes Buried such an interesting piece, I think. Whether you like the guy or not is kinda irrelevant when, if you've seen the trailer, he flicks on his lighter and realizes he has been BURIED ALIVE. Horrifying. Unnerving. Claustrophobia-inducing. Heck, this concept might have even worked with Lindsay Lohan in the lead.

Fubar 2
I have a strong affection for headbangers, yet I had my doubts there needed to be a sequel to the 2002 cult hoser mockumentary. That is, until the opening scene started to roll: an epic eviction party. In this second installment of Fubar, longtime buddies Terry and Deaner move up to the oil fields of Alberta where they find babes, bread, and more beer than ever. The usual hijinks and dramas ensue, this time in boomtown Fort McMurray (with a shopping excursion to the West Edmonton Mall the boys will not forget!). Alls I'm sayin is the Midnight Madness opening is gonna be pretty sweet.

Heartbeats
In his sophomore film, Heartbeats (Les Amours Imaginaires), Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan weaves together a story that is equal parts aching, unrequited desire and subtle, understated humour. The film follows two long-time friends, Francis (Xavier Dolan) and Marie (Monia Chokri) as they compete for the attention - and affections - of Nico (Niels Schneider), a curly haired, carefree, "Adonis". However, the two are much more concerned with fashion and appearance than unabashed declarations of love--there are no Lloyd Dobler moments here. Their pining amounts to little more than a passive aggressive tickle fight. Even so, you can feel the pain each hilarious little jab makes on the other. Dolan has an impeccable sense of drama and timing that make even the most subtle of circumstances seem to move mountains. (LC)

RECOMMENDED

Biutiful
Iñárritu and Bardem are in top form for Biutiful... though it wasn't until about an hour in that an overall storyline seemed to emerge from a mishmash of heavy dramatic plot elements: the crazy ex, illness, kids, illegal business, immigration, slave labour, sibling conflict, poverty, and even a bit of mysticism, filmed in unseen corners of Barcelona.

It's Kind of a Funny Story
It's Kind of a Funny Story is not really a funny story. It's an adaptation of Ned Vizzini's acclaimed semi-autobiography by the people who made Half Nelson. And it's about Craig, a 16 year old who unwittingly commits himself when he turns up at a hospital seeking help for suicidal thoughts. The funny bit is how Craig adapts to living in the psychiatric ward. In that it-can-only-happen-in-movies kind of way, during his 5-day stint, Craig becomes a star at arts and crafts, gets an unconventional perspective from his new buddy Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), meets a girl, and learns a whole bunch of valuable life lessons.

Modra
Seventeen and newly dumped, Lina invites Leco, a guy she barely knows from school, on a summer trip to visit her relatives in Europe. And on a whim, he agrees to come. Modra is a small town in Slovakia and the setting for this small coming-of-age story. Much like in her last film (Only), Toronto-based Ingrid Veninger's focus is on self-discovery and young strangers connecting. Sincere, simple and sweet.

Trigger
Trigger is the story of two estranged friends - best friends - who come together after a decade apart. The story is set around a rock n' roll reunion for the two band mates - played by Molly Parker and the late, great, Tracy Wright - but how they know each other and why they stopped talking is incidental. At its most pure, this is one of the great stories of platonic love; these are two people who will be forever entwined no matter how far apart they drift. It's the story of fucking up and asking forgiveness and figuring out what you're supposed to do with yourself after you've finished doing the thing you thought you were supposed to do. With a script from Daniel MacIvor, a score from Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning, direction from Bruce McDonald and a cast led by the two actors mentioned above, the story unwinds beautifully as a testament to the enduring - if difficult - bonds of friendship. (LC)

NOT RECOMMENDED

Amazon Falls
If, for some reason, anyone out there feels compelled to see Amazon Falls at TIFF, they would not be disappointed by April Telek's performance as a 40-year-old still chasing that big break in Hollywood. Telek is damn good as a former sexploitation star unable to face the grim reality that her chances of landing a significant role are diminishing every year. As for the film, another audience member summed it up pretty well coming out of the preview screening: "I wish I could have that hour and a half of my life back."

Bang Bang Club
Ryan Phillipe stars as Greg Marinovich in this would be drama about a gang of rugged photographers set in South Africa during the final days of apartheid. It's a high drama situation that never really lives up the promise of its premise. Every aspect of the film is rife with cliché, from the story to the characters to the dialogue. To his credit, Phillipe pulls off a pretty convincing South African accent, but the praise stops there. The Bang Bang Club is, apparently, based on a true story, but it seems clear that "based" is the operative word here. It feels as though a traditional Hollywood story was airlifted into the streets of Johannesburg. Why? Well that's anyone's guess, since I'm sure the gritty truth about the Bang Bangers would have packed a much bigger punch. (LC)

With contributions from Luke Champion


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