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102 Reviews From the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire September 8, 2012 at 3:25AM

The Toronto International Film Festival continues through next weekend, but Indiewire has already reviewed a significant portion of the program at various other festivals over the past year.
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'The Bay'
'The Bay'

The Toronto International Film Festival concluded on Sunday. Going into the festival, Indiewire had already reviewed a significant portion of the program, but we also covered dozens of films over the course of TIFF's 10 days. Links to each of our 102 reviews can be found here in alphebetical order.

"7 Boxes"

“The Fast and the Furious” with wheelbarrows, Paraguayan action-thriller-romance hybrid “7 Boxes” is a rollicking good time at the movies that offers breathtaking action and suspense, humor and appealing characters all in one visually flashy package. “City of God”-like, agile camerawork by commercials cinematographer Richard Careaga is smudgy yet breathtaking, and combined with a pumping score that mixes electronic music and local, traditional instruments it delivers, well, the goods. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"90 Minutes"

Just as with Austrian Markus Schleinzer’s "Michael," Norwegian Eva Sørhaug’s is obsessed with the banality of evil. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"The Act of Killing"

In Joshua Oppenheimer's "The Act of Killing," a pair of gangsters -- responsible for murdering an untold number of suspected communists in the years following the 1965 overthrow of the Indonesian government -- get the chance to recount their experiences. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Aftershock"

Eli Roth basically wrote the modern book on the horror subgenre of hedonistic tourists receiving their comeuppance, so it comes as no surprise that his stamp is all over "Aftershock," a routine shock-fest about a couple of travelers led through a series of misfortunes when their vacation in Chile is interrupted by an earthquake. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C

"After the Battle"

Now that a number of documentaries have dealt with the 2011 Egyptian uprising at Cairo's Tahrir Square -- most prominently, the scrappy "1/2 Revolution" and broadly focused "Tahrir" -- it comes as no surprise that the events have been applied to a fictional scenario, and by no less than a prominent Egyptian filmmaker, Yousry Nasrallah ("Gate of Sun"). Ably using the turmoil at Tahrir as his backdrop, Nasrallah's "After the Battle" follows a burgeoning, ill-fated romance between two characters uniquely impacted by social upheaval. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B-

"Amour"

Few directors focus on dark, existentially dreadful scenarios with the consistency of the great Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke. Less consistent in terms of style than theme, in movies like "Funny Games," "Caché" and the Palme d'Or-winning "The White Ribbon," Haneke lingers in situations that find people trapped by circumstance and mystery. His latest, "Amour," is an incredibly focused and emotionally charged look at an elderly woman's gradual demise and her husband's attempts to cope with it. Although not exactly heartwarming, "Amour" has a more contained vision of human relationships than Haneke's previous films without sacrificing its bleak foundation. It's his most conventional movie about death, and the most poignant. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Antiviral"

From his earliest days, David Cronenberg pioneered a new form of body horror that never lost its potency. If there's such a thing as auteur DNA, the filmmaker must have passed some fundamental piece of it to his son, Brandon. The newcomer's debut, "Antiviral," literally oozes the influences of the senior Cronenberg from its pores. It would demand that reading even the two directors had no relationship, but the comparison isn't exactly flattering: The younger Cronenberg has made a derivative exercise in body horror that plays as little more than low rent Cronenberg pastiche. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"Argo"

Equally a slick political thriller, intelligent period piece and sly Hollywood satire, Ben Affleck's "Argo" maintains a careful balance between commentary and entertainment value. Stepping beyond the raw thriller qualities that distinguished his first two directing efforts, "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town," the actor-director successfully broadens those skills with a historical scope. This tense and frequently amusing reenactment of a covert 1979 CIA operation to smuggle assailed American political operatives out of Iran amid revolutionary chaos by disguising them as a film crew takes the material seriously while still having fun with it. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Arthur Newman"

It takes some doing to make the only interesting thing about a character the fact that he has faked his own disappearance and assumed a new identity. Nevertheless, the title character in “Arthur Newman” – played by Colin Firth at his dourest – proves to be such a bore that it’s downright miraculous he finds the gumption to pull off this piece of “Passenger”-like subterfuge in the early scenes of this relentlessly drab and thoroughly enervating debut feature by Dante Ariola. Read more hereCriticwire grade: D

"As If We Were Catching a Cobra"

The relationship between the Islamic world and newspaper cartoons has been a hot international topic ever since the Danish newspaper Jyllandss-Posten published cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in 2009. It’s almost unfortunate for Paris-based Syrian director Hala Alabdalla that the Arab Spring took place while she was in production, as it causes the director to lose focus on the subject at hand. Read more hereCriticwire grade: D

"At Any Price"

"Expand or die" is the mantra spouted by farmers in Ramin Bahrani's "At Any Price," a menacing slogan that reflects the explosion of the cornfield market into a $2 trillion industry. It also provides a reminder of the movie's production conditions when compared to everything Bahrani has done before. With Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron in lead roles, "At Any Price" is a vastly different type of project than the astute, naturalistic character dramas that the neorealism-inspired Bahrani delivered with his first two features. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B-

"The Attack"

The Attack by the Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri (West Beirut), a former assistant cameraman on films by Quentin Tarantino, tells an unsettling story about Israel and Palestine. As it opens, an Arab surgeon Amin Jafaari (Ali Suliman) receives an Israeli prize for his life’s work. The same surgeon treats victims of a bombing that kills Jewish children, and the prime suspect turns out to be the surgeon’s wife. Amins is ostracized from most of his Jewish colleagues. After initial denial, Amin accepts that that hard evidence that his wife was the bomber, and travels to the Occupied Territories to find the sheik who taught and counseled her. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"The Bay"

Barry Levinson isn't a natural fit for the horror genre, but with "The Bay," he dips his toes in the eco-thriller genre to curiously provocative effect. Although technically a found footage assemblage of incidents replete with shaky cam effects, "The Bay" contains a more advanced collage of media than one usually finds in this overdone style, coupled with a cogent basis in reality that often makes it closer to a documentary than an appropriation of the form. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Berberian Sound Studio"

Peter Strickland's "Berberian Sound Studio" is a largely satisfying enigma in terms of both its story and its structure. While the closest point of comparison for Strickland's eerie audiovisual thriller is Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation," its later scenes shift to Hitchcockian mode. In a fascinatingly contained performance that ranks among his best, Toby Jones plays peculiar sound engineer Gilderoy, a shy man tasked with working on the troubled production of an Italian giallo. While initially a face of innocence, Gilderoy suffers a gradual descent into madness that calls into question the reality of each passing moment no matter how hard one tries to work it out. At times frustratingly muddled, "Berberian Sound Studio" is nevertheless thoroughly enlightening for its complex formalism. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Beyond the Hills"

Romanian director Cristian Mungiu seemingly came out of nowhere in 2007 to snatch the Palme d'Or for his last feature, the tightly constructed abortion drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days," a distinctly powerful work. With so much pressure on the filmmaker from this early stage, Mungiu faced an impossible task, as his less appealing follow-up clearly demonstrates. While technically impressive and occasionally quite provocative, Mungiu's latest feature-length effort, "Beyond the Hills," is at once more ambitious and flawed -- in other words, only 50 percent post-Palme slump. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Blancanieves"

Forget “Mirror, Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” — this year’s most daringly original adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale is “Blancanieves,” from Spanish director Pablo Berger (the porn comedy “Torremolinos 73”). Though perhaps a tad long, this gorgeously shot black-and-white extravaganza has the cojones to think outside the box and comes out on top. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B+

"Byzantium"

Contemporary cinema has featured a fair share of young, attractive vampires  in recent years, but Neil Jordan's "Byzantium" stands out for exploring that subject with a mixture of intelligence and gravitas. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"The Capsule"

Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari's terrific coming of age drama "Attenberg" was largely about a young woman coming to terms with her body. While playfully irreverent and sometimes borderline surreal, "Attenberg" nevertheless rooted its exploration in a conventional storyline made fresh. Tsangari's 35-minute avant garde follow-up "The Capsule," one piece of a installation work commissioned by the DesteFashionCollection, advances similar ideas in lively, shocking abstractions. It is truly a capsule of the filmmaker's vision boiled down to radical expressivity. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Cloud Atlas"

David Mitchell's metaphysical 2004 novel "Cloud Atlas" encompasses six different time periods joined together by themes and incidents that mirror each other in wildly different contexts. The layering device draws out the notion of individuals connecting across many lives without fully realizing it. Intentionally enigmatic in its fragmented structure, "Cloud Atlas" contains such a discursive exposition that the prospects of a big screen adaptation seem insurmountable on paper. The three-director credit for the movie, a surprisingly faithful adaptation brought to life by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, underscores the magnitude of the challenge. Unfortunately, many of the factors that provoke contemplation in literary form struggle to hold together within the considerably different constraints of cinema. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B-

"Disconnect"

Henry-Alex Rubin’s the-Internet-can-be-a-dangerous-place-drama “Disconnect” is not only already dated but also about as subtle as a sledgehammer, despite some strong performances. Read more here. Criticwire grade: D+

"End of Watch"

The prospects of a gritty cop movie in the context of the found footage genre makes sense when one considers that the reality series "COPS" helped solidify the vernacular associated with the format. But "End of Watch" only uses the first person approach to frame the familiar dramas of two hackneyed characters, cocksure young officers Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Michael Peña), as they uncover the dark underbelly of the drug trade in south central L.A. Taylor's obsession with filming their exploits provides a handy excuse for the constant shaky cam, but director David Ayer often abandons the device for more conventional storytelling, an arbitrary decision made worse by a trite screenplay that mainly revolves around the two smarmy men trading barbs as they chase down bad guys and complain about their problems with the opposite sex. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"English Vinglish"

Bollywood fans will be delighted with the news that the very watchable Indian actress Sridevi has come out of retirement to play a mother-of-two growing increasingly frustrated with life as a housewife in Pune, India. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"Far From Afghanistan"

Noble in theory, erratic in execution, the omnibus documentary "Far From Afghanistan" is a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen. The sprawling concept, overseen by John Gianvito ("Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind"), draws together the considerable talents of five established non-fiction filmmakers and several Afghan journalists for an essayistic exploration of the war's debilitating impact on both the local population and U.S. citizenry. It's also a far-reaching treatise against all acts of war, with detailed observations that are alternately provocative and obtuse. As with many anthologies, there's just too much stuffed into a single package. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B-

"Fidai"

The formally assembled and beautiful non-fiction feature, shot on crisp digital video, chronicles the story of Med El Hadi Benadouda, the filmmaker’s great-uncle, who was a Fidaï, or mujahideen soldier without a uniform, during the Algerian Revolution that sought to liberate the country from French oppression. As much about the specifics of the revolutionary FLN movement as it is about the effects of memory on both Benadouda and his extensive family, this film strikes an impressive balance between larger historical meaning and more personal issues. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B-

"Fill the Void"

Unlike the exposures of abuse and oppression that can be found in recent documentaries about women forced by orthodox men to follow the strictest of rules, "Fill the Void" operates more like a story by Edith Wharton about a woman pressured to grow up quickly in the only world she knows. The storytelling is deliberate, nuanced and memorable, but don’t expect anything reassuring. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"The Fitzgerald Family Christmas"

Ed Burns is back, with a comedy about an Irish-American family, this time set around the threat by a dead-beat dad (Ed Lauter) to return to spend the holiday with the wife and the seven children whom he abandoned. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang"

The latest film from French auteur Laurent Cantet (the Palme d’Or-winning “The Class”) is set in an impeccably evoked small town in the U.S. of the 1950s, but the story set there involving the titular girl gang, which clocks in at a hefty 143 minutes, is dramatically repetitive and somewhat inert. For his adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel, Cantet decided to work again with young, non-professional actors as in “The Class,” but to diminishing returns here. Read more hereCriticwire grade: C+

"Frances Ha"

A slight and largely charming portrait of post-college woes, Noah Baumbach's deceptively simple "Frances Ha" is breezier than any of his previous ventures and indeed features considerably less ambition than his earlier work. However, that's hardly an indictment for a movie so eager to please and thoroughly in tune with the themes percolating throughout Baumbach's career. Shot in black-and-white video that lends this New York odyssey a scrappy feel, "Frances Ha" foregrounds a characteristically endearing Greta Gerwig performance defined by her usual onscreen combination of high energy wit and awkward self-effacement. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"The Gatekeepers"

"The Gatekeepers," a startling exposé of Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet, delivers an unequivocal indictment. The handful of former Shin Bet heads who deliver candid accounts of their reasoning for various destructive assaults in the constant horn-locking with their Palestinian neighbors initially come across as unsympathetic war-mongerers. However, director Dror Moreh allows the movie to exclusively unfold through their voices, humanizing them to the point where their logic and humanity fall into distinct categories. For every shocking justification of murder, there's another moment where they confess frustration and regret, resulting in a refreshingly even-handed portrait. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Ginger and Rosa"

The fundamental coming-of-age conflict facing the troubled teen played by Elle Fanning in Sally Potter's "Ginger and Rosa" may look familiar, but the director brings a raw energy to the material that deepens its possibilities. Set at the height of nuclear paranoia in early-Sixties London, Potter's script has a lot to say about the progressive attitudes of its chosen era by cleverly analogizing them to the expanding horizons of a restless adolescent mind. A viscerally charged work that foregrounds surface tensions and gripping performances, "Ginger and Rosa" is the filmmaker's most accessible and technically surefooted work to date. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"God Loves Caviar"

A breezy account of how a Greek sailor, Varvakis (Sebastian Koch) survives the Greek Civil War, before ending up working out of a Russian brothel from where he discovers a method of preserving caviar. Read more here. Criticwire grade: D

"Great Expectations"

It’s hard to understand how things could’ve gone so wrong with this latest adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic cautionary tale of class mobility. Though too handsomely mounted and well-played to rate as a total disappointment, it inevitably seems superfluous when stacked next to David Lean’s still-stately 1946 adaptation or Alfonso Cuaron’s rather more playful 1998 update. Read more hereCriticwire grade: C+

"Hannah Arendt"

"Hannah Arendt" looks through a narrow window at the early 1960’s, when the German-born Jewish philosophy professor drew controversial conclusions in her 1963 New Yorker coverage of the Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Here Comes the Devil"

Forget about the penumbral lesbian sex scene at the beginning of “Here Comes the Devil” and instead focus on the intriguing if somewhat hokily developed story of a young Mexican couple (also into sex, a lot of sex), whose two children go missing near a cave in Tijuana. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"Home Again"

Jamaica is anything but an island paradise to the characters who’ve just been deported there in this well-intentioned but unconvincing drama by Toronto-based director Sudz Sutherland. All three have run afoul of recent legislation in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. that allows foreign-born persons who are convicted of criminal offences to be sent back to countries that many have not seen since they were children. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C

"The Hunt"

Danish director Thomas Vinterberg may never top the complex family dynamics that made his "The Celebration" into such a remarkable chamber piece, but he hasn't lost an ability to construct an engrossing narrative with dark, provocative shades of ambiguity. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Hyde Park on Hudson"

Bill Murray is a man of many talents who has lately struggled to find the right outlet for them. The latest example, "Hyde Park on Hudson," finds Murray in a tame, mannered costume drama delivering his best FDR impression. The actor's pathos and deadpan skills are buried in the material, which also suffers from a continuous lack of inspiration. It's high-minded entertainment with low ambition. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"The Impossible"

Bringing a blockbuster vision to a large scale disaster that demands it, Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Impossible" delivers a visceral treatment of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami only hampered by the overwrought sentimentalism of the survival tale at its center. Adapting the real life experiences of a European family pulled apart while on vacation when the tsunami hit, Bayona reconstructs their survival through extraordinary technical prowess at odds with the warm, by-the-numbers inspiration that Sergio G. Sanchez's screenplay falls back on once the terror dies down. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B-

"Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp"

Iceberg Slim made his name by writing the autobiographical book "Pimp: The Story of My Life." Released in 1969, it was an eye-opening account of how pimps persuade, cajole and beat women into agreeing to sell themselves. Director Jorge Hinojosa (long time manager of Ice-T) doesn’t just concern itself with his seminal book, but looks at how the author turned himself from a seller of women to a seller of words. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"The Iceman"

The historical background for "The Iceman" is the killing spree of hitman Richard Kuklinksi, a hired gun for the Gambino crime family from the fifties through the eighties, and the droll suburban existence he lived during that time with his clueless family. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C

"In the Fog"

Urkainian director Sergei Loznitza's narrative feature debut "My Joy" found the veteran documentarian was equally capable of distorting the truth through a Lynchian allegorical lens that sifted through the demons of Russian society. His follow-up is an equally grim but more narratively precise look at the country's history through the lens of WWII. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Jayne Mansfield's Car"

The best thing one can say about "Jayne Mansfield's Car," Billy Bob Thornton's loopy family drama about a group of eccentric American southerners in 1969, is that it's not quite as bad as it looks. A far cry from "Sling Blade," the crowning achievement of Thornton's otherwise non-career as a filmmaker, this tame exercise never quite jives and sometimes just bombs with one-note melodrama, but always maintains Thornton's conviction about the material. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"Just the Wind"

After making the creepy sci-fi love story “Womb” with Eva Green in English, Hungarian director Benedek “Bence” Fliegauf returns to his home country and a much more realistic register with “Just the Wind.” Inspired by true events that occurred a couple of years ago, the film looks at the last day of a Romany family — composed of a mother (Katalin Toldi), her adolescent daughter (Gyongyi Lendvai) and her younger brother (Lajos Sarkany) — in a country where casual racism and verbal hatred of the Gypsy community have become such an accepted part of life that no one, not even the police and, to an extent, the Romany themselves, think it particularly strange or alarming. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B [Boyd van Hoeij]

"The Last Time I Saw Macao"

A provocative cinematic poem in the tradition of the late Chris Marker, "The Last Time I Saw Macao" valiantly attempts to dissect an entire metropolitan history. Perhaps because it aims so big, not every fragment connects, but Portuguese co-directors Joao Pedro Rodrigues and Joao Rui Guerra da Mata unload an intriguing collection of attitudes, themes and memories based around a largely effective combination of nostalgia and colonialist regret. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Laurence Anyways"

Montreal-based actor-turned-filmmaker prodigy Xavier Dolan's third feature is a terrific character study for its first two hours -- and then there's the third one. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Leviathan"

There are moments in "Leviathan" so breathtaking that it's easy to forget they're also familiar. Documentarians Vérena Paravel and Lucien Castain-Taylor follow a pair of fishing vessels off the coast of Massachusetts from nearly every imaginable angle as well as a few impossible ones: Captured on small digital cameras fixed to fishermen helmets, tossed beneath the waves and strewn across the deck among the dead-eyed haul, the barrage of visuals populating "Leviathan" contain a routinely dissociative effect. The dialogue is sparse and distant, drowned out by hulking machinery, wind and water. The movie could take place on another planet; instead, it peers at this one from a jarring and entirely fresh point of view. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"A Liar's Autobiography -- The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman"

Even dedicated Monty Python fans might be surprised to learn some of the details revealed about the private exploits of the late Graham Chapman in this innovative take on the non-fiction biopic form. Largely consisting of animation created by 14 different studios and 17 varying styles, "A Liar's Autobiography" uses audio recordings Chapman made for his memoir prior to his death in 1989 for an ongoing voiceover track. As Chapman tracks his progress from an uninspiring adolescence to his burgeoning homosexuality and alcoholism, the wildly schizophrenic narrative gives the impression that it stems directly from the dead Python's consciousness. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B-

"Like Someone in Love"

There's a lot of driving and talking in "Like Someone in Love," Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's latest production made outside of his native country, but beyond that is anyone's guess. Following last year's Tuscany-set "Certified Copy," the new movie finds the director in the vastly different turf of Tokyo with an all-Japanese cast. For Kiarostami buffs, that imbues the material with a disorienting quality, but it still manages to settle into a familiar Kiarostami enigma. Even far away from home, Kiarostami is still Kiarostami. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Looper"

This rollicking dystopian action-adventure yarn about time travel is a reasonable broadening of the director Rian Johnson's scope with enough potential to make its flaws stand out. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"The Lords of Salem"

Metal rocker Rob Zombie's second career as a filmmaker proved he was just as capable of unsettling showmanship behind the camera as he was onstage. His frightening "House of a 1,000 Corpses" merely hinted at the spectacular portrait of depravity that came next in 2005's "The Devil's Rejects," which got so intimate with serial killers even some dedicated genre fans felt it crossed a line. Zombie's two "Halloween" remakes, however, found less favor among most audiences, which means it's time for a comeback: With the effectively creepy "The Lords of Salem," Zombie reaffirms his capacity to tap into the genre's strongest qualities, although this time around he has toned down the scares. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Lore"

Remove the prologue from Australian director Cate Shortland's German-language drama "Lore," which follows the teen daughter (newbie Saskia Rosendahl) of an S.S. officer on the lam in the immediate aftermath of World War II, and it would have much in common with any number of mopey Holocaust survivor dramas. But it's that extraordinary framing device that sets this movie apart from any precedent. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Love Is All You Need"

Danish director Susanne Bier's follow-up to her Oscar-winning "In a Better World" is a welcome change from the overdone weightiness of her last few films in favor of a conventionally heartwarming romance about aging loners finding a catharsis in companionship. Anders Thomas Jensen's screenplay unfolds with a light comic touch that's generally unremarkable but nevertheless energized by persistent wit. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Love, Marilyn"

In its opening minutes, the documentary "Love, Marilyn" establishes a gimmick that seems destined to fail: Chronicling the rise and fall of Marilyn Monroe, director Liz Garbus unleashes a collection of movie stars who mainly read excerpts from her personal diaries throughout the film. Watching these contemporary faces dramatize Monroe's attitude initially creates a grating disconnect from the subject matter. Over time, however, the approach blends into an immersive account of the actress' career that both deconstructs her celebrity while interrogating its impact on her troubled existence. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Lunarcy!"

Each interviewee has a unique relationship with the Moon (one even claims ownership), but it’s quickly established that the film’s real star is the quixotic Christopher Carson, a young man who is determined to be the Moon’s first permanent resident. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"Midnight's Children"

Director Deepa Metha teams with Salman Rushdie for an adaptation of his 1981 novel, a lavish period drama about India's shift from British colonialism to independence through the eyes of a well-heeled young man. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C

"Mekong Hotel"

Thai director and installation artist Apichatpong Weerasethakul has steadily made his way from exclusively receiving a highly specialized form of cinephilic admiration for his plethora of experimental shorts and structurally ambitious features to global status as one of the most enthrallingly cryptic filmmakers working today. His recent popularity mainly stems from his 2009 Palme d'Or win for "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives." Although an established auteur years before "Uncle Boonmee," that last movie most clearly defined his far-reaching aesthetic of loopy existential storytelling filtered through Thai folklore and other mystical conceits. Weerasethakul's new hourlong experimental feature "Mekong Hotel," cobbled together from ideas for another unrealized project, reaffirms the filmmaker's appeal by simply arranging the same core elements into a distinctly odd collage. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Me and You"

"Me and You" is the most inessential movie ever directed by the legendary Bernardo Bertolucci. It's also an entirely serviceable coming of age story, capably performed by its two leads and emotionally affecting within the constraints of its small scale aims. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"More Than Honey"

Markus Imhoof's "More Than Honey" makes a convincing argument for the role of bees sustaining both organic and industrial concerns, not to mention their own complex set of behaviors. Facing crises that threaten to impact their existence as well as various marketplaces that rely on their survival, bees are the key in an equation that, through poetic images and convincing testimonials, Imhoof proves to be broken. While the movie struggles account for far too many issues involving the species' survival, it does manage to show the creatures in profound and at times even moving terms. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Mr. Pip"

Readers of Lloyd Jones’ much-acclaimed 2006 novel may be the only viewers who have the patience to sit through this badly botched and largely incoherent adaptation by director Andrew Adamson, a veteran of the “Shrek” and “Narnia” franchises. Working from his own screenplay, Adamson even fails to provide much of an entry point for this based-on-true-events story, which takes place on a remote South Pacific island whose inhabitants’ resistance to mining exploitation led to civil war in Papua New Guinea in the early 1990s. Read more hereCriticwire grade: C

"Much Ado About Nothing"

There's a certain irony to Joss Whedon's adaptation of "Much Ado About Nothing": While the script culls a beloved literary achievement more than 400 years old, it has relatively uncomplicated aims. Made in the immediate aftermath of Whedon's massive production of "The Avengers" and shot over the course of a two-week period at the cult director's Santa Monica home, "Much Ado About Nothing" has the scrappy feel of a high school play populated by professionals looking to take the pressure off. Call it a Shakespearean catharsis or just call it a lark -- either way, the movie represents Whedon's least essential work, regardless of the material's inherent comedic inspiration. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"Mumbai's King"

Manjeet Singh is part of the new breed of Indian filmmaker that eschews the song-and-dance traditions of mainstream Bollywood to create observational slice-of-life social commentaries about contemporary India. This is cinema that’s more Satyajit Ray than Shah Rukh Khan. As with Ray’s “Pather Panchali,” Singh’s film is born from the traditions of Italian neorealism. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B

"Museum Hours"

To date, Jem Cohen has made intimate non-fiction diary films rooted in an attentiveness to atmosphere and riddled with small observations rendered in profound terms. While his new feature "Museum Hours" is technically his first narrative effort, with a pair of amateur performances and the backbone of a fictional story, its constant introspection and remarkable sense of place provide a fluid connection to the earlier work. With a keen eye for the capacity of fine art to address a complex range of attitudes and experiences, "Museum Hours" effectively applies Cohen's existing strengths to a familiar scenario and rejuvenates it by delivering a powerfully contemplative look at the transformative ability of all art. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"No"

With his last two features, "Tony Manero" and "Post Mortem," Chilean director Pablo Larraín quickly established himself as the preeminent chronicler of his country's lingering demons from its years of oppression under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. For his third and most accomplished work, "No," Larraín has traded the allegorical track for the real thing, delivering a lively, mesmerizing drama about a national call to action during the 1988 referendum on Pinochet's presidency. With a full-bodied turn by Gael Garcia Bernal as its anchor, "No" broadens Larraín's range by replicating historical events in engrossing detail. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"On the Road"

Red flags go up when a filmmaker embarks on adapting a beloved classic. Walter Salles' long-gestating big screen treatment of "On the Road" spent years in development and the nearly-two-and-a-half hour treatment of Jack Kerouac's seminal novel of the Beat Generation invited immediate skepticism. Kerouac's autobiographical look at his friends and their journeys around the country in the late 1940s has become so closely identified with his prose that any attempt to replicate it would automatically create a certain distance from the material -- or it seemed. As it turns out, Salles' "On the Road" does the trick well enough. Overlong and unfocused in parts, Salles' adaptation nonetheless holds together about as well a movie can when the odds are so heavily stacked against it. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Once Upon a Time Was I, Veronica"

As a portrait of emotional stasis, “Veronica” is at once specific and universal, with Gomes sticking close to his protagonist in order to get under her skin and Guedes delivering a beautifully shaded performance as a doctor who treats others but is herself adrift in a confusing sea of loneliness. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B+

"The Paperboy"

Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy" is a rare case of serious commitment to outright silliness. The director's follow-up to "Precious" takes the mold of an investigative period piece set amid racial tensions in late-'60s Florida, but Daniels fries the dramatic content with a blazingly absurd grindhouse style as extreme as the humidity bearing down on his characters. It's possible to enjoy aspects of "The Paperboy" if you assume a certain self-awareness behind the campier bits, but even then, the movie drowns in an overwhelming barrage of excess. Read more here. Criticwire grade: D+

"Paradise: Love"

The first of a trilogy about a traveling Austrian family, Ulrich Seidl's "Paradise: Love" follows a middle-aged woman named Teresa (Margarethe Tiesel) who travels to Kenya as a sex tourist. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"The Patience Stone"

Too much like watching a filmed stage play for its own good, "The Patience Stone" is a flawed attempt to discuss the position of women in the Islamic world. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C

"Passion"

Since earliest stages of Brian De Palma's career, his thrillers have constantly walked a line between self-parody and earnest pastiche. "Passion," a reworking of the late Alain Corneau's final film "Love Crimes," reassuringly falls into this camp, signaling a return to form for the director despite its many flaws. Much more than a simple revamp of existing material, "Passion" is a veritable De Palma remix, at once a classy suspense movie and an unquestionably silly affair. Regardless of its glaring flaws, "Passion" is reassuringly old school. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Peaches Does Herself"

Toronto-born, Berlin-based electronic musician and singer Peaches plays herself in the concert film “Peaches Does Herself,” a no-holds-barred explosion of post-punk and neo-queer performance art that mixes song, music, dance, theater, costumes and nudity. Think of it as a “Pina” for the queer and sexually liberated crowd; it’s not in 3D, but there are more than enough curves onscreen to make up for it. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B+ [Boyd van Hoeij]

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

In Stephen Chbosky’s largely endearing adaptation of his own young-adult novel, nothing says “I love you” like a painstakingly crafted mix tape. The early-‘90s setting for "The Perks of Being a Wildflower" means that the potentially precious references to Smiths songs are appropriate to the period even if the film – which touches on issues of sexual identity and mental illness – exhibits a more contemporary sort of frankness in regards to portrayals of teens on screen. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B

"The Pervert's Guide to Ideology"

The philosopher Slavoj Zizek is not allergic to the sound of his own heavily-accented voice. Fortunately, he’s a bravura lecturer with a keen sense of what draws audiences to movies.  And his extended follow-up with Sophie Fiennes to "The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema" (2006) is that rare thing, a two-hour one-man punchline that teaches you something. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"Pieta"

South Korean director Kim Ki-duk has made 18 movies, but his prolific output has not mandated an increase in scale. "Pieta," a curiously engaging and wickedly twisted tale of crime and punishment on multiple levels, displays its theatrical minimalism like a dour badge of honor. The entire narrative focuses on a pair of tortured characters unraveling the demons of their past. Kim's intense portrait is enhanced by the closeness he maintains to his subjects' fluctuating emotions. The movie looks blatantly frugal but, as it sounds a deeply sorrowful note, never cheap. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"The Place Beyond the Pines"

Derek Cianfrance's sophomore feature "Blue Valentine" was a tender actors' showcase that played loose with its timeline to explore the ups and down of a relationship. The director's latest effort, "The Place Beyond the Pines," contains a far more ambitious structure that covers four overlapping character arcs over the course of 15 years. That the movie succeeds both as a high-stakes crime thriller as well as a far quieter and empathetic study of angry, solitary men proves that Cianfrance has a penchant for bold storytelling and an eye for performances to carry it through. With "Pines," the gamble pays off. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Post Tenebras Lux"

At turns wildly beautiful and pointlessly nonsensical, "Post Tenebras Lux" is Carlos Reygadas' weakest movie, but frequently awe-inspiring nonetheless. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Pusher"

Moving the action from Copenhagen to London, this remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 thriller ditches some of the eccentricities of the original and delivers a well made, albeit run-of-the-mill gangster yarn. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"Quartet"

Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut is mainly of note because the iconic actor takes his first stab at working behind the camera. The lightweight story, an adaptation of Ronald Harwood's play about a retirement home for aging classical musicians, plays by the rules and lets the performances lead the way. Satisfactory as an actors' showcase, "Quartet" mainly works because of its implied double-narrative: While the characters strive to show they still have talent, the actors do as well, and they nimbly transcend the limitations of the material. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B

"Road North"

The latest film of Mika Kaurismäki, the Brazil-based older brother of "Le Havre" director Aki, takes the filmmaker back to his home country of Finland. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"Reality"

"Reality" makes the case that society renders everyone impossibly small. The first and last shots of Matteo Garrone's drama take place from extreme heights that make their focal point blend with their surroundings. Everything in frame takes on the dimensions of a dollhouse, as if the Italian filmmaker has assumed a godlike awareness. The compositions suggest that people are inherently trapped by their surroundings and never fully capable of realizing it. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Reincarnated"

Snoop Dogg likes weed. That was common knowledge long before the alternative youth culture magazine Vice asked its global editor Brit Andy Capper to take his camera to Jamaica and show Snoop foraging down hills in search of a perfect high. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B-

"The Reluctant Fundamentalist"

Moshin Hamid’s novel follows a conversation between a Pakistani university professor who post-9/11 has turned his back on a successful Manhattan-based finance career and an ambiguous American stranger. “Monsoon Wedding” director Mira Nair uses the book’s hint that this mystery American is a C.I.A. agent as her main plot device, turning the observational novel into a full-blown thriller. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B

"Room 237"

Stanley Kubrick's 1980 Stephen King adaptation "The Shining" endures for many reasons -- from its supremely horrific mood to the technical feats used to create it. However, the lively voices in "Room 237" take that admiration to an entirely new plane of awareness. A search for deeper meanings in Kubrick's movie, Rodney Ascher's film is a brilliant collage of interviews with academics and other experts in the art of textual analysis. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"Rust and Bone"

Satisfying for what it is, the movie merely confirms director Jacques Audiard's skill with engaging actors in the potent theme of retribution. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"The Sapphires"

The selling point for "The Sapphires" isn't the lively soundtrack so much as the people singing it: Four Aboriginal woman hired to sing soul music to troops in Vietnam in 1968, a year after being denied Australian citizenship. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"The Secret Disco Revolution"

“The Secret Disco Revolution” exhumes the music and style from dance records of the 1970’s and follows the genre’s short life up to the “Disco Sucks” gathering at Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1979 that blew up disco records. The archival vault is huge, full of music and footage. Now there’s also plenty of academic research on the phenomenon. It’s all there in Jamie Kastner’s documentary. Read more hereCriticwire grade: A

"The Sessions"

"I'm always in somebody's way," says Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes), the Berkeley writer stuck in an iron lung and desperate to find love in "The Sessions." His desire to improve his experience by seeking a sexual encounter forms the bulk of this undeniably sweet, affecting movie as it explores the impact of physical bonds on personal contentment through O'Brien's heartbreaking commitment to a difficult task. Less dreary than uplifting, "The Sessions" succeeds as a light romance with heavy material. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Seven Psychopaths"

Despite its silliness, "Seven Psychopaths" bears the mark of a personal work for Martin McDonagh if for no other reason than the lead character played by Colin Farrell is named Marty and suffers from a major case of writer's block. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Silver Linings Playbook"

David O. Russell's movies have always been lively affairs, but none maintain the same fluid comedic inspiration of "Silver Linings Playbook." Adapting Matthew Quick's novel both as solo screenwriter and director, Russell assembles a small, bubbly cast for an unexpectedly charming romcom that frequently dances -- at one point, quite literally -- between cynicism and bittersweetness with largely winning results. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Sightseers"

British filmmaker Ben Wheatley has earned a following on the genre film festival circuit for a pair of distinctive movies with two very different moods. His 2009 debut "Down Terrace" followed a family of criminals through a series of amusing misadventures, suggesting Wheatley's proclivity for enlivening dreary circumstances with an odd sense of play. However, 2010's grave "Kill List," in which a jaded hit man struggles with marriage problems, went great lengths to expand his range. With the arrival of "Sightseers," Wheatley's aesthetic strengths finally start to fall into place. This hugely entertaining tale of serial killers in love neatly merges the neurotic black comedy of "Down Terrace" with the morbid twists of "Kill List," inching close to defining the director's overall style. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Spring Breakers"

"Spring Breakers" wouldn’t be a Harmony Korine movie if it wasn’t polarizing in some way. Sure enough, the latest by the director of "Gummo" and "Trash Humpers" seems calculated to outrage, titillate and/or exhaust viewers with its gleefully nihilistic portrayal of spring break in St. Petersburg, Florida, seen here as a slickly stylized, slo-mo bacchanal of keg stands, bong hits and topless coeds. Criticwire grade: B+ Read more here.

"Stories We Tell"

Sarah Polley's efforts behind the camera have showcased tender performances attuned to nuanced fluctuations in shared screen chemistry. Both her Oscar-nominated 2006 directorial debut "Away from Her" and the recent "Take This Waltz" explore the deterioration of relationships in minute detail. While her third feature, "Stories We Tell," marks a shift to nonfiction for the filmmaker, it similarly foregrounds the subtleties of human expression and the secrets embedded within it. A blatantly personal account of her Toronto-based family's rocky developments, "Stories We Tell" marks the finest of Polley's filmmaking skills by blending intimacy and intrigue to remarkable effect. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"Tabu"

A head-scratchingly lyrical immersion into colonialist metaphor and historical memory, Portuguese director Miguel Gomes' third feature "Tabu" reaches for the dreamlike experiences of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's oeuvre with a bold structure that defies genre specifics. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Thanks for Sharing"

The directorial debut by "The Kids Are All Right" co-writer Stuart Blumberg, this ambitious comedy-drama about three men coping with sex addiction hits notes all the way up and down the scale. Often effective if inevitably erratic, the result finds room for everything from broad comedy to moments that strive for the darkness of "Shame," Steve McQueen’s far more severe take on the same subject. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"To the Wonder"

Terrence Malick's approach to cinematic philosophizing is so consistent it frequently threatens to devolve into self-parody. However, he never lacks a commitment the strain of lyricism visible throughout his career. While few will deny that the director sometimes leans too heavily on introspective voiceovers and majestic shots of nature as signposts for his spiritual obsessions, even his transparent stabs at big ideas contain an earnest search for meaning. "The Tree of Life" was the epitome of Malick's cosmic fixations, but the comparatively muted "To the Wonder" delivers a similar collage of memories and desires in more easily digestible fragments. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Tower"

More than once in "Tower," the discomfiting first feature from Canadian writer-director Kazik Radwanski, 34-year-old loner Derek -- memorably played by newcomer Derek Bogart -- issues a dubious refrain: "I don't want you to think I'm some sort of weirdo," he says. Of course, that's all anyone thinks of this squinty-eyed, cartoonishly bald and finicky bachelor as he juggles odd jobs while living with his parents. Getting uncomfortably intimate with Derek from the first scene of "Tower" until its last, Radwanski dares the audience to feel differently about him. It's no easy task. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"War Witch"

Canadian director Kim Nguyen's intense portrait of a young African woman Komona (Rachel Mwanza, who won an acting prize for her performance at the Berlin International Film Festival) kidnapped from her village and forced to become a child soldier is both light on details and rich with them. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Watchtower"

The two central characters in this modest but effective drama by Turkish director Pelin Esmer want nothing more to be left alone. And until circumstances force them into each other’s lives in "Watchtower"’s later stages, they are largely able to achieve this goal. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B

"What Maisie Knew"

The latest by the directorial team of Scott McGehee and David Siegel is a modernized take on Henry James’ novel about a sweet little girl who’s saddled with two of the world’s worst parents. Mostly sticking with Maisie’s limited point of view, McGehee and Siegel are able to create some finely nuanced moments while avoiding any excesses of sentimentality. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B-

"What Richard Did"

“What Richard Did” follows a role-model athlete into a party, and after a violent drunken spasm of jealousy, a rugby teammate is dead. Director Lenny Abrahamson’s second feature shifts from a light airy palette on the beaches near Wicklow to darkening tones as his story devolves from jostling bonhomie into death and guilt. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B+

"When I Saw You"

Annemarie Jacir has done something remarkable in her sophomore feature film. She’s managed to couch the tricky subject of the 1967 Palestinian-Israeli war into the romanticised tale of a mother’s love for her son. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"Yellow"

Nick Cassavetes has yet to hit on a filmmaking style to rival his father's legacy, but with "Yellow," the director of "The Notebook" presents a relentlessly unhinged portrait of emotional turmoil with bold stabs at expressionistic representation at every turn. It's not only Cassavetes best movie but a fascinating alternative to conventional melodrama that burrows inside its troubled protagonist's head and unleashes her emotions in vivid terms. No matter how messy it gets, "Yellow" renders a troubled subjectivity with striking creativity. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Zaytoun"

The suggestion is that all enemies can get along once they get to know each other, even in the most desperate of circumstances. Dream away. In this expression of Israeli-Arab wish fulfillment, written by Nader Rizq, a Palestinian living in the U.S., there’s too much warm-hearted optimism for either Israelis or Arabs to take it too seriously. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"The Act of Killing"
 
"After the Battle"
 
"Amour"
 
"Antiviral"
 
"Argo"
 
"At Any Price"
 
"Berberian Sound Studio"
 
"Beyond the Hills"
 
"The Capsule"
 
"Far From Afghanistan"
 
"Frances Ha"
 
"The Gatekeepers"
 
"Ginger and Rosa"
 
"In the Fog"
 
"The Hunt"
 
"Hyde Park on Hudson"
 
"Jayne Mansfield's Car"
 
"The Last Time I Saw Macao"
 
"Leviathan"
 
"Like Someone in Love"
 
"Looper"
 
"Lore"
 
"Love, Marilyn"
 
"Midnight's Children"
 
"Mekong Hotel"
 
"Me and You"
 
"More Than Honey"
 
"Museum Hours"
 
"No"
 
"On the Road"
 
"The Paperboy"
 
"Paradise: Love"
 
"The Pervert's Guide to Ideology"
 
"Post Tenebras Lux"
 
"Reality"
 
"Room 237"
 
"Rust and Bone"
 
"The Sapphires"
 
"The Sessions"
 
"Sightseers"
 
"Spring Breakers"
 
"Stories We Tell"
 
"Tabu"
 
"Tower"
 
"War Witch"
 
"The Act of Killing"
 
"After the Battle"
 
"Amour"
 
"Antiviral"
 
"Argo"
 
"At Any Price"
 
"Berberian Sound Studio"
 
"Beyond the Hills"
 
"The Capsule"
 
"Far From Afghanistan"
 
"Frances Ha"
 
"The Gatekeepers"
 
"Ginger and Rosa"
 
"In the Fog"
 
"The Hunt"
 
"Hyde Park on Hudson"
 
"Jayne Mansfield's Car"
 
"The Last Time I Saw Macao"
 
"Leviathan"
 
"Like Someone in Love"
 
"Looper"
 
"Lore"
 
"Love, Marilyn"
 
"Midnight's Children"
 
"Mekong Hotel"
 
"Me and You"
 
"More Than Honey"
 
"Museum Hours"
 
"No"
 
"On the Road"
 
"The Paperboy"
 
"Paradise: Love"
 
"The Pervert's Guide to Ideology"
 
"Post Tenebras Lux"
 
"Reality"
 
"Room 237"
 
"Rust and Bone"
 
"The Sapphires"
 
"The Sessions"
 
"Sightseers"
 
"Spring Breakers"
 
"Stories We Tell"
 
"Tabu"
 
"Tower"
 
"War Witch"

This article is related to: Reviews, Toronto International Film Festival, The Act of Killing, At Any Price, Amour, Antiviral, Argo, Berberian Sound Studio, Beyond The Hills, The Capsule, Far from Afghanistan, Frances Ha, The Gatekeepers, Ginger and Rosa, In the Fog, The Hunt, Hyde Park on Hudson, Jayne Mansfield's Car, The Last Time I Saw Macao, Leviathan, Like Someone In Love, Lore, Love, Marilyn, Midnight's Children, Mekong Hotel, Me and You, More Than Honey, Museum Hours, On The Road, The Paperboy, Paradies: Liebe, Post Tenebras Lux, Reality, Room 237, Rust and Bone, The Sapphires, The Sessions, Sightseers, Spring Breakers, Stories We Tell, Tabu, Tower, War Witch (Rebelle), Watchtower, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Home Again, The Impossible, Thanks for Sharing, Fill the Void, Zaytoun, Fidaï, 7 Boxes, Love is All You Need, Quartet, Mr. Pip, Great Expectations, Arthur Newman, The Lords of Salem, The Secret Disco Revolution, What Maisie Knew, What Richard Did, Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, The Iceman, Once Upon a Time Was I, Verônica, Blancanieves, Mumbai's King, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Yellow, Passion, As if We Were Catching a Cobra, Just the Wind (Csak a szél), Peaches Does Herself, Lunarcy!, Pieta, The Patience Stone, Reincarnated , English Vinglish , Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp, Disconnect, Road North, The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, Pusher