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Movie Reviews

  • Indiewire
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    TIFF Capsule Review: '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. For one thing, director Mike Newell is wise to have eschewed the genteel trappings of the many TV incarnations in favor of a grubby, even brutal naturalism more akin to Roman Polanski’s 2005 version of “Oliver Twist” or Andrea Arnold’s more radical take on Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights.” What’s more, Newell scores at least two casting coups by enlisting Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham and Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch, two...

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    TIFF Capsule Review: '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. The action centers on the bond between Matilda (Xzannjah), a 12-year-old islander, an...

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  • The Playlist
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    TIFF Review: 'Arthur Newman' An Intentionally Listless Story About A Boring Everyman

    What if we are all Arthur Newman? This is the question that director Dante Ariola and screenwriter Becky Johnston beg in "Arthur Newman," their tepid, imaginatively uninvolved drama about two strangers that fall in love while trying to escape their banal past lives. Ariola and Johnston’s film follow...

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    TIFF Capsule Review: '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. Trine Dyrholm plays Ida, a hairdresser and cancer survivor whose solemn life is complicated when she comes home for a doctor's visit to find her husband fooling around with a woman half her age. The timing couldn't be worse, since Ida's young daughter plans to get married soon at an orange grove in Italy. At the height of her frustration, Ida literally slams...

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    TIFF Capsule Review: '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. Former opera stars Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Reggie (Tom Courtney) enjoy old age without much pressure. While Reggie enjoys teaching as a means of bridging the gap between classic music and popular forms, the boisterous Wilf gleefully hits on fellow retiree Cissy (Pauline Collins) while the trio gleefully reminisce about their halcy...

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  • The Playlist
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    TIFF Review: Overwrought 'The Impossible' Drowns In A Sea Of Melodrama

    If "The Impossible" moves viewers to do anything, it may be to upgrade their life insurance policy to cover injuries due to tsunami. Because as we watch the Bennett family get whisked away by helipcopter at the end of the film to the facilities of a hospital in Singapore, leaving the tragedy of the ...

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  • The Playlist
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    Review: 'Branded' Is An Incomprehensible Sci-Fi Mash-Up That Thinks It's Much More Clever Than It Actually Is

    The trailers for “Branded” promise a kind of the-world-is-not-what-it-seems science fiction head-turner in the vein of “The Matrix,” with an emphasis on the cultural fixation around name brands. They tantalizingly teased: What if, instead of giving you pleasure, those same brands were feeding off of...

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  • The Playlist
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    TIFF Review: Bloodless 'Byzantium' A Vampire Tale Without Fangs

    Between "Twilight" on the big screen, and "True Blood" and "Vampire Diaries" on the cable dial, among countless other books, graphic novels and more, if you're a fan of bloodsuckers, there's likely a flavor out there for you. And with countless other projects in the pipeline from Will Smith's direct...

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    TIFF Capsule Review: '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. Made by first-time feature directors Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori, “Boxes” is set in Municipal Market 4 in Asunción, an enormous maze of stalls and stores that covers almost eight blocks. Víctor (newcomer Celso Franco, going places) is a 17-year-old wheelbarrow transporter who tries to scrape by delivering goods bought at the market....

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    TIFF Capsule Review: 'Fidai'

    The ways of international film financing can be obscure, as demonstrated by the French-Algerian-Chinese documentary “Fidaï” from director Damien Ounouri, who managed to get Chinese auteur-par-excellence Jia Zhang-Ke (“Still Life”) on board as an executive producer (there’s a little of Jia’s approach to documentary here). 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 liber...

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