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Review

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    TIFF '11 Review: 'Machine Gun Preacher' Is Essentially A Botched 'Rambo'

    In 2008’s blitzkrieg actioner “Rambo,” writer-director Sylvester Stallone recognized the real-life struggles of the people of Myanmar, dramatizing the struggle in a blood-drenched exploitation film that, despite its inelegance, emboldened the people of that region while lionizing a fictional hero of...

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    TIFF '11 Review: Sarah Polley's 'Take This Waltz' Has Insights And Edges Sharp Enough To Stab

    In Sarah Polley's Toronto-set drama "Take this Waltz," Margo (Michelle Williams) stumbles across Daniel (Luke Kirby) on a business trip, only to find he lives across the street; despite being married to Lou (Seth Rogen), Margo can't stop thinking of Daniel. Or maybe it's because she's married to Lou that she can't stop thinking of Daniel … Following up "Away from Her," Polley's second film is sharply dividing critics and audience in Toronto: Many find it simultaneously exhilarating and depressing; others find it ugly and hateful; a third faction seems to be kicking against the film not for how it says what it says, but, instead, for what it ...

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    TIFF '11 Review: A (Mostly) Delightful 'Damsels In Distress' A Welcome Return By Whit Stillman

    From the moment the Sony Pictures Classics logo pops up not in the usual blue -- but in cupcake frosting pink -- you know that Whit Stillman's first film in 13 years (!) is going to be something special. While word from Venice -- where the film closed the festival before heading to TIFF -- was good, the question to be answered was whether or not Stillman's style and cinematic persona would stand up in a filmmaking landscape that has changed immensely since "Last Days of Disco." Well, let there be no doubt: Stillman is just as enjoyable as when we last met him those many years ago and "Damsels In Distress" finds the director with lots (and lo...

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    TIFF '11 Review: 'The Oranges' Delivers A Grove Of Big Laughs

    The indie ensemble comedy genre is fraught with pitfalls, from high concepts that just don't deliver, to outrageous storylines that can't sustain their own frenzied energy. For every "Little Miss Sunshine" there are countless more that attempt to create that film's almost intangible alchemy but falter somewhere along the way. "The Oranges" could have gone either way - with Julian Farino a mostly TV director ("Entourage," "How To Make It In America") making his sophomore film with a grab bag cast including Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Allison Janney, Alia Shawkat, Adam Brody and Leighton Meeste,r we really had no idea what to e...

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    TIFF '11 Review: Admirable, Low-Key ’50/50’ Splits Difference Between Genuinely Funny And Sad

    Let's get this out of the way early; the cancer dramedy, "50/50," formerly known as "I'm With Cancer," is an admirable effort by all the parties involved. There's maturity and restraint shown throughout in this story, about a healthy young twentysomething man staring his mortality in the face when he is suddenly diagnosed with a rare spinal cancer, and it's a well-intentioned humanistic drama that tries to demonstrate that life is complicated and never quite cut and dry. The measured film takes pains to illustrate there is laughter to be derived in difficult and near-tragic situations and melancholy can also be found in some of the most humor...

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    TIFF '11 Review: Oh The Horror -- Francis Ford Coppola's 'Twixt' Is A Low-Rent Nightmare

    Francis Ford Coppola has played quite a few roles in his five-decade-long career. He started as a low-budget filmmaker in skin flicks and Roger Corman films before becoming an icon with a hugely impressive run of films that started with "The Godfather" and, arguably, ended with "Apocalypse Now." The...

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    TIFF '11 Review: Woody Harrelson Stands Tall Amidst Crumbling LAPD In Riveting 'Rampart'

    "Everything you learned at the Academy is bullshit." That's the sage bit of wisdom Date Rape Dave (Woody Harrelson, and we'll get to his cop moniker in a moment) gives a new trainee in the opening frames of Oren Moverman's "Rampart," a searing and riveting look at a crooked cop's decay amidst the cr...

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    TIFF '11 Review: Guy Maddin's 'Keyhole' Beautiful And Brassy...But Frustratingly Sealed

    Let us pause, then, to contemplate the fate and fortunes of the director who does not have his or her eye set on the five-picture deal, the glossy franchise, the production wing in the bungalow offices of some major studio; what becomes of the director who only wants to make art and make it well? Canada's Guy Maddin clearly has no eye on commercial success -- rumor has it that his next feature might actually be in color -- and instead prefers to stand at the edge and peer into the abyss to look for what's next. This is a unique vantage point, to be sure, but it's also perilous if one should fall; "Keyhole" is both too much and too little, a c...

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    TIFF '11 Review: Cross-Dressing 'Albert Nobbs' A Stodgily Straight Drama

    For Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs" has been a long time coming for its big screen incarnation. Based on a short story by Irish author George Moore, it was first adapted into an off-Broadway production by Simone Benmussa with Close in the lead role that won her an Obie award. The actress has been a driving force behind the film adaptation, shepherding the project for 15 years, taking on the responsibilities of a producer and even co-writing the script with Man Booker prize-winning author John Banville and Gabriella Prekop. So yes, it's passion project for Close and it's unfortunate that none of that enthusiasm manages to find its way to the big s...

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    TIFF '11 Review: Manipulative & Melodramatic 'A Separation' Is A Soap Opera Morality Tale

    The fall festival circuit is all about buzz, and while the frontrunners for the awards season can usually be spotted a mile away, it's the sleeper sensations everyone keeps an eye out for now. As Telluride wrapped up this weekend, the Iranian film "A Separation" directed by Asghar Farhadi, began building some serious heat. Thought it has been playing international festivals all summer long and won multiple awards in Berlin earlier this year including the Golden Bear, the very strong word out of Colorado, led by a rave by Jeff Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere -- who admitted to missing the first third of the picture -- put the movie on the sc...

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