Lasse Hallstrom and Lena Olin - Lasse Hallstrom and Lena Olin Toronto, Canada - 36th Annual Toronto International Film Festival - After-Party for 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' at the BlackBerry Lounge at Brassaii. Saturday 10th September 2011
Like a long road trip to nowhere, Spanish director Jaume Balagueró's Darkness is miserable, frustrating, and hard on the buttocks. Though the film's run time is a mere 102 minutes, the psychological impact of wasting precious money and energy staring at the screen and waiting for something -- anything -- to happen could take years off your life.
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As part of its tired buddy-cop routine, Homicide suggests that everyone in La La Land works one career but dreams of another. Cops want to be real estate brokers, musicians want to be actors. So it's only appropriate that the film plays along with this concept, laboring as a police investigation by day and moonlighting as an entertainment industry spoof after hours.
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Mystery Men is one of the funniest films I've seen all year. It combines the hilarious randomness of films like Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, with a satirical twist that today's audiences are sure to appreciate. Now don't get me wrong, Mystery Men is no masterpiece, but it made me laugh (a lot) and that's what the film is about. Mystery Men scores high in all areas. It has an entirely kooky and original plot fueled by crack up dialogue, mesmerizing scenery, (which is reminiscent of the Batman movies) and an awesome cast.
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Fortunately, The Ninth Gate is neither of these. In actuality, it's a mystery with Johnny Depp as the unlikely hero, Frank Langella as the perfectly-cast antagonist, and Lena Olin and Emmanuelle Seigner as the femmes fatale. Under the direction of Roman Polanski, you can rest assured that these characters get mixed up quite a bit en route through a serpentine plot that is far more interesting than its subject matter would imply: The search for a couple of rare books.
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Lumet has taken a very bare-bones approach with the plot of Night Falls on Manhattan. One minute Andy Garcia's Sean Casey is an assistant DA trainee, the next minute he is the District Attorney of New York. Likewise, the first twenty minutes of the film set up a courtroom drama which Lumet flies through in a series of quick scenes. Unconventional editing techniques, including periodic jump cuts and abrupt truncations of scenes that barely seem to have begun, help push the narrative forward, all of which serves to confuse the audience as to the film's true focus.
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A fanciful fairy tale for grown-ups, "Chocolat" takes place in a sleepy French village, circa 1959, and stars Juliette Binoche as a nomadic confectioner of sublime candy delicacies whose arrival -- just as Lent has begun -- stirs curiosity, gossip and scornful disdain among the locals.
Happy-go-lucky in the face of adversity and apparently a boat-rocker by nature, she sets up shop practically across the street from the church, providing almost cruel temptation to a population observing 40 days of fasting and penitence.
But the influence of the chocolaterie and its proprietor soon extends beyond simple taste bud enticement. Her enchanted chocolates and therapeutic personality have soon rekindled the marriage of a local couple, returned a smile to the face of her cantankerous landlady (Judi Dench), and inspired an abused wife (Lena Olin) to leave her husband (and come work for Binoche). This disruption in the status quo ruffles the feathers of the zealous and austere local nobleman (Alfred Molina), who considers the chocolate shop to be the work of the devil and sets his mind to seeing Binoche run out of town for interrupting the village's static tranquility.
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If nothing else, "Mystery Men," a chaff on the "Batman"-style event movie, has impeccable timing. The unbridled superhero genre has never been more ripe for spoofing, and this picture has an superior satirical pedigree, what with its cast that includes those hippest heir apparents of comedy royalty, Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo.
Adapted from the Dark Horse comic book of the same name, the movie's protagonists are a sad sack band of part-time, wannabes heroes with monikers like The Shoveler (mild-mannered William H. Macy, donning a golden spade); the silverware-wielding Blue Raja (Hank Azaria, in a bad fortune-teller get-up); the Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), whose powers only work when no one is looking; The Spleen (Paul Rubens of "Pee-Wee" fame), who boasts near-lethal flatulence; The Bowler (Garofalo), whose translucent, supernatural ball contains her dead daddy's skull; and Mr. Furious (Stiller), whose alleged power is his violent and very short temper.
These not-so-super friends are called into action when Champion City's real savior -- a corporate sellout called Captain Amazing (a superbly conceited Greg Kinnear), whose rubbery costume is plastered with more ads than NASCAR jumpsuit -- is captured by the wildly nefarious, feral-eyed and disco-lovin' baddie Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush, on an all-you-can-eat scenery diet).
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When the promising, recently deceased young R&B singer and actress Aaliyah is on screen in the title role of "Queen of the Damned," it's impossible to look away from her. She absolutely transcends the screen and fills the whole theater with her potent presence. Bewitching, viperous, powerful, beautiful, sensual and captivating in every sense of the word, she dominates this incongruous vampire flick with her chilling allure.
Seeing her talent burst forth like this makes the plane crash that took her life last year all the more tragic. But in watching "Queen of the Damned" the more immediate misfortune is that her last performance comes in such a bad, bad movie. With its disengaging shallowness and cardboard cutout atmosphere, you'd never know "Queen of the Damned" was based on an Anne Rice novel if the film's real central character weren't such a well-known ghoul as the Vampire Lestat.
As played by slinky Stuart Townsend ("About Adam," "Shooting Fish"), this Lestat is a vacantly bloodthirsty porcelain Goth-rocker who bears no resemblance to the lithesome, charismatically nuanced, unexpectedly mesmerizing version of the character that Tom Cruise inhabited in 1994's "Interview with the Vampire."
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"Hollywood Homicide" is a sly satire of buddy-cop action-comedies that replicates the genre's trappings so precisely many moviegoers will mistake it for a genuinely bad buddy-cop action-comedy.
The vaguely ridiculous title and overtly assembly-line plot all by themselves had me dreading the press screening. A handsome, aging, grumpy detective (Harrison Ford) in a wise-cracking reluctant partnership with a handsome rookie detective (Josh Hartnett), both of whom are way out of their depths investigating the gunning down of a rap group in a hip-hop club? Talk about knee-deep in Hollywood pig slop.
But writer-director Ron Shelton ("Tin Cup," "Bull Durham") -- who wrote this film just after completing his for-hire helming of the genuinely cliché-riddled L.A. cop drama "Dark Blue" -- embraces this ostensible triteness and reshapes it into comedy of the absurd without being conspicuously ironic or self-aware. "Hollywood Homicide" is often authentically slapdash, shallow and hackneyed because its mockery of Hollywood's pre-fabricated blockbuster mentality is meant to sneak up on you.
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