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The Claim Review


Good
In the vein of Unforgiven comes this moody western about another small town in the middle of nowhere, struggling with its place in a world quickly passing it by.

Central to the story is Daniel Dillon (Peter Mullan), mayor of the town of Kingdom Come, Nevada, located on the spot of the gold claim he struck during the 1849 gold rush, some 20 years earlier. Or so we are led to believe. As it turns out, Dillon's claim was given to him in trade -- in trade for his wife and daughter, sold as if they were slaves.

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Last Night Review


Very Good
It's six hours until the end of the world, and Bruce Willis, Robert Duvall, and Will Smith are nowhere in sight. The world is really gonna end -- so what do you do with those six hours?

I rarely read film production notes, but writer/director/star Don McKellar's introduction to Last Night caught my eye this time. I quote, "The world is ending, once again. But this time, in my movie, there is no overburdened loner duking it out with the asteroid, no presidents or generals turning the tables on extra-terrestrials. Those heroes are out there, somewhere, one hopes, but I was interested in the rest of us suckers--hapless individuals who, with limited access to nuclear resources, would have to come to terms with the fast-approaching finale."

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The Sweet Hereafter Review


Excellent
It's been over two years since Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan first came to my attention with his breakthrough film Exotica. Since then, I've become something of an aficionado of his works through home video, and it was with breathless anticipation that I awaited what was sure to be the movie that pushed him into the mainstream: The Sweet Hereafter.

Maybe I over-hyped it in my mind, becoming too hopeful in the face of overwhelming praise for the film. Or maybe I know Egoyan's tricks too well by now. Either way, I left the film extremely pleased but depressed: partly because the movie is such a downer, and partly because I know Egoyan can do even better.

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Go Review


Essential
Believe it or not, this is a Christmas movie! And here it is, the middle of April, and there's nothing else I'd rather see.

Let me put it this way: Go is the best movie I've seen since Fargo. Doug Liman, the man behind the brilliant Swingers, (which, I realized, came out much too long ago, in 1996), has concocted such a film that I'm almost compelled to pay the whopping $8.50 to see it again.

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The Life Before This Review


Very Good
Scene 1: Robbers on the run bust into a coffee shop and kill everyone, including themselves. Scenes 2-120: Time rolls back to reveal what happened earlier that day to everyone in the shop, including the robbers. Only the outcome may not be quite the same... Overwrought yet still engaging, this Sliding Doors-esque picture has been done time and time again (no pun intended), but it still manages to keep a certain level of charm. Thanks to a lot of really good actors like Polley, Rea, and O'Hara, The Life Before This is a bit more than just a gimmick.

Siblings Review


Good
Killing your parents and covering it up? Sounds like black comedy hour, and this Canadian production generally pays off its promise of Grand Guignol humor despite a rickety production that doesn't quite know when to quit.

The four titular siblings are the progeny of two proverbially awful parents, both of whom have been remarried so much that none of the siblings are actually related by blood. When one of the siblings decides to tinker with the brakes on mom and dad's car, the wicked stepparents end up dead in a ravine. They coolly try to cover up the crime (er, incident), only to end up deeper and deeper in their manufactured morass.

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The Event Review


Bad
Who wouldn't want to have a party before they died? In The Event, Matt Shapiro (Don McKellar), a talented young cello player dying of AIDS, decides to do just that before having his friends and family help him to kill himself. Everyone gets together, blasts music, has champagne, and twirls under the disco ball, wishing Matt a fond farewell into the afterlife. This is all well and good until district attorney Nick (Parker Posey) starts nosing into Matt's death, noting that several of the recently dead people who were under the care of AIDS clinic worker, and Matt's friend, Brian (Brent Carver), died with unusually high amounts of drugs in their system.

Although director and co-writer Thom Fitzgerald sets us up for a mystery at the beginning of the film - Who is Matt? Did he commit suicide? What will Nick find? - the story quickly derails into an extremely sappy and self-indulgent amble through Matt's life, which didn't seem to be terribly interesting. We are given hardly anything of Matt prior to his disease, he is only presented as an AIDS victim, and one particularly prone to flights of self-pity. While The Event is refreshingly candid about many of the particulars of the disease, resisting the melodramatic impulse to keep the more physically unpleasant aspects of it hidden away, it is much less honest and forthcoming about Matt's relationships.

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Guinevere Review


Very Good
A curious May-December romance involving a bohemian San Francisco photographer (Rea) who builds a kind of teacher-lover-father-figure relationship with the far-younger Harper (Polley), whom he dubs Guinevere. Think of it as The Professional without all the killing. Turns out our shutterbug has a history of Guineveres, and soon his teeth are falling out and he's dying, and suffice it to say this is where the movie turns bizarre. Poetic, if not altogether meaningful. Jean Smart is particularly apt as Harper's prissy and snobbish mother.

The Weight Of Water Review


Weak
Like Possession, The Weight of Water tries to tie together a period romance and a modern-day one, held together by ancient letters calling out from the past. Like Possession, this fails to work well, as the link between now and then is relatively meaningless.

In the present day, our heroine (the dour Catherine McCormack) asks her brother (Josh Lucas) to sail her to an island off the coast of New Hampshire in order to take pictures of the site of an ancient murder for some photography assignment. Already dubious (I've seen few magazine spreads that feature only grass and rocks), the story gets iffier when her "famous poet" husband (Sean Penn) and bro's girlfriend (Elizabeth Hurley) tag along on the trip.

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Exotica Review


Essential
Exotica is a new dramatic thriller from Canadian director Atom Egoyan, who brings us this fascinating glimpse into the life of Francis Brown (Bruce Greenwood), a Canadian tax auditor whose life intertwines with a his brother and niece, an exotic animal smuggler, and, most importantly, the denizens of a strip joint called Exotica.

The action in Exotica jumps from one character to another, from location to location, and back into Brown's past occasionally, teasing the viewer with bits of information about how these people's lives are eventually going to gel into a cohesive story. As the story progresses, there are plenty of blanks left for the viewer to fill in as the action springs around. The seamless editing makes this seem natural, albeit a bit overdone at times, but eventually it all comes together to make perfect sense in the end.

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The Hanging Garden Review


Weak
Canadian potboiler and freak-out session, this bizarre look at family relations won't resonate with any audience. Unless, of course, you're a prodigal gay son who has lost about 200 pounds and see delusions of a younger, fatter, you. Then it'd be right up your alley.

My Life Without Me Review


Weak
Focusing an entire dramatic film on death can be tricky. Death drives an enormous range of emotions, from fear to sadness, to curiosity; yet, most movies treat death with overwrought nobility, excessive weepiness, or yikes, both (see: Pay It Forward). Spanish director Isabel Coixet's first English-language feature suffers from the first sin, treating a young women's impending death with a stagy aloofness that cheats the film of more complex emotions.

The unfortunate woman is 24-year-old Ann (the always appealing Sarah Polley), a struggling wife and mother who learns that a raging cancer will kill her in just a few months. Ann's initial response is to hide the news from her mother (Deborah Harry); very matter-of-factly, she continues to follow that M.O. by telling no one, including her husband Don (Scott Speedman, grinning way too much).

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The I Inside Review


Weak
A hipster-wannabe ripoff of Jacob's Ladder with a terrible title, this senseless thriller has little going for it beyond the beautiful people that inhabit its hospital corridors. Not even Sarah Polley and Piper Perabo (reinventing herself as a femme fatale) can make this story of an amnesiac car-crash victim (Ryan Phillippe) worth sitting through. Of special note: The movie is based on a play with a much different title, one that actually gives away the surprise ending.

Dawn Of The Dead (2004) Review


Very Good
When there's no room in Hell, the dead walk to the mall. That was the message of horror master George Romero's 1978 anti-consumerism flick Dawn of the Dead. This 2004 remake by first-time director Zack Snyder takes away a lot of the social message, and fills it instead with plenty of head-blasting zombie-killing mayhem and a surprisingly unpredictable storyline that--while far from perfect--is a lot of fun to watch.

The plot loosely follows the Romero original. This time around, the star of the survivors' crew is Ana (Sarah Polley), a nurse who wakes up from a romantic night with her boyfriend to a nightmarish world gone undead. Her neighbor's cute kid has turned into a flesh-eater, and has taken a big bite out of her sweetheart, turning him into one of her vicious kind. And, all over her idyllic suburban Wisconsin town, the dead are walking again; they're hungry, and they can run like the dickens.

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Jerry & Tom Review


Good
Two hitmen look back on their lives while holding down day jobs as used car salesmen. Hooked yet? Indeed, this is one of the stranger films to come along lately, and it's obvious it didn't click with audiences. Cue Showtime to pick it up without a theatrical release. Bizarre structure and a we-mighta-killed-celebrity-[fill in the blank] makes for an interesting couple of hours, but that's about it.

Dawn Of The Dead Review


Good

Cult horror fans, you can relax -- Universal Pictures has done right by George Romero.

The new bad-ass, big-budget "Dawn of the Dead" may be a liberty-taking re-envisioning of the zombie classic with speedier corpses and without the deeper human undertones of Romero's 1978 original, but the movie quickly builds to a sustained, spine-tingling crescendo from the very first sequence.

Art-house indie staple Sarah Polley ("Go," "Guinevere," "My Life Without Me") embraces her B-movie side with dignity as Ana, an overworked nurse at a busy hospital who keeps missing snippets of information that something ominous is happening. She hears that a patient who came in the night before with a small bite is now in Intensive Care and wonders why. On her way home from work she flips past the words "...not an isolated incident..." on her car radio while searching for music. She misses a news flash on the TV while taking a romantic shower with her husband before bed.

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Existenz Review


Good

Abandon the deep-seeded sexual-social metaphors and waterdown the ick factor, and DavidCronenberg's "eXistenZ" could be aSci-Fi Channel movie.

Something of a cautionary tale about the future of virtualreality, featuring seamless multiple-layer story-within-story scenarios,Cronenberg's foundation here is the kind of what-is-reality? plot linethat has also been the basis of dozens of "Outer Limits" episodesand several recent feature films ("Dark City," "TheMatrix").

But because "eXistenZ" has been born of the mindof North America's most intelligent, off-the-wall auteur, there's so muchmore going on here, including themes of terrorism, experimental sexualityand humanity merging with technology (and vice versa).

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The Weight Of Water Review


Good

Director Kathryn Bigelow may produce broad, middling big-budget fare when she has a studio breathing down her neck and a big-name star to appease, as she did in this summer's Harrison Ford submarine thriller "K-19: The Widowmaker." But left to her own devices, she's capable of creating fine layers of intimacy and intensity, as she does in "The Weight of Water."

The film, released two years ago in Europe, is a character-driven dual narrative -- the story of a troubled couple spending a tense working vacation on a sailboat with the husband's brother and his enticing girlfriend, and the story of a century-old murder on the New England island where they're anchored.

The wife Jean (played by the wonderfully nuanced and inconspicuously beautiful Catherine McCormack) is an intellectual photographer whose assignment to take pictures of the island and the murder site for a magazine story is the reason for their trip, and the movie's passport into the past. The husband Thomas (a complicated, imaginative and sullen Sean Penn), is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who some years ago stopped picking up his pen and started tipping back the bottle. Their normally steadfast but strained relationship is put particularly on edge by the company they're keeping on this trip.

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Last Night Review


Good

I wasn't sure if I liked "Last Night" until about an hour after I left the theater and realized I was having a hard time escaping the psychological wake of this allegory about the end of the world.

The main reason for my initial hesitation was because there really isn't anyone you can get behind as a protagonist in the picture. At first the entire, interwoven cast of characters seems annoyingly dysfunctional or at least self-absorbed. But who wouldn't be with certain death looming less that six hours away?

How the world is coming to an end is not important and deliberately vague. All the film makes clear -- and the realization of this comes gradually -- is that there is no more night. For the few months that mankind has had to adjust to the idea of its cataclysmic end, it has been daylight 24 hours a day.

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The Claim Review


Weak

It's clear from the almost corporeal sense of time and place achieved in "The Claim," a tightly-wound melodrama set during the twilight of the Gold Rush, that director Michael Winterbottom made a very great effort to bring a broad vision to the screen.

The beautifully photographed High Sierra township of Kingdom Come, where the film is set, stirs with a sense of hardship and rugged lives. It feels entrenched against the harsh wintry elements that besiege it. It feels civilized but dangerous. It's a place for people who sold their souls to thrive, or maybe just to survive.

Daniel Dillon (Peter Mullan) runs this town -- scratch that, he owns it. But it came at a greedy price that has haunted him for 18 years. Trekking west as a young '49er, Dillon swapped his wife and baby daughter to a miner in exchange for his claim -- a claim that made him the rich and powerful baron.

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Guinevere Review


Good

"Guinevere" is a perceptive story of self-discovery, starring the supremely natural Sarah Polley ("Go," "The Sweet Hereafter") as an unmolded, insecure, 20-year-old beauty whose complex, turbulent, sexual and artistic apprentice with a much older man (Stephen Rea) uncages her creative side and her confidence, long suppressed by her dysfunctional, passionless family.

Taking the initiative for the first time in her life, Harper (Polley) abandons her familial tradition of studying law at Harvard after being tenderly seduced by a photographer at a wedding, who recognizes potential in her that no one else has ever seen.

Connie (Rea) takes Harper under his wing, offering her a home in his studio loft in exchange for nothing more -- or so he says -- than her commitment to exploring the artist within under his tutelage.

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Go Review


Good

As "Son of Pulp Fiction" movies go, "Go"one is a pretty good ride.

Doug Liman's follow-up to the now infamous pop-classic"Swingers," this caustic comedy follows sarcastic grocery clerk Sarah Polley ("TheSweet Hereafter") through her botched first attempt at dealing drugs, before rewinding and covering some of the sameevents from two other perspectives.

The petulant Ronna (Polley) is all attitude and bad judgmentas a bitter and behind on her rent SoCal grocery clerk who takes a shiftfor Simon (Desmond Askew), a Ecstasy-dealing co-worker, so he can go toLas Vegas for the weekend. Desperate for cash, she decides to fill in forhim on a drug run as well after being approached by a pair of TV actors(Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr) looking to score some X.

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Sarah Polley

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Sarah Polley Movies

Stories We Tell Movie Review

Stories We Tell Movie Review

With Away From Her and Take This Waltz, actress-turned-filmmaker Polley has proved herself as an...

Stories We Tell Trailer

Stories We Tell Trailer

Sarah Polley is an actress and film director from a family full of secrets. With...

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Take This Waltz Movie Review

Take This Waltz Movie Review

After the remarkable Away From Her, actress-turned-filmmaker Polley is back with another bracingly observant drama,...

Take This Waltz Trailer

Take This Waltz Trailer

When Margot and Daniel meet on a plane, they have an immediate connection; their chemistry...

Splice Movie Review

Splice Movie Review

Sleek and scary, this bio-thriller has plenty of yuckiness to keep genre fans happy, but...

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Splice Trailer

Splice Trailer

Clive and Elsa are young and motivated scientists, they work in the field of genetic...

Away From Her Movie Review

Away From Her Movie Review

The act of being forgotten becomes pop-Bergman fair in Sarah Polley's Away from Her. If...

The Claim Movie Review

The Claim Movie Review

In the vein of Unforgiven comes this moody western about another small town in the...

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