TIFF 2010. Special Presentations (2)

We'll be moving along a lot more swiftly in this second round than in the first. Ready, set, go.

"In A Better World is another strong entry in the cannon of intense human dramas from director Susanne Bier and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen," writes Screen's Mike Goodridge. "A gripping meditation on the choices between pacificism and violence that are faced in so-called civilised society as well as extreme Third World situations, the film weaves the same tapestry of excruciating quandaries and crises for which the two collaborators have become celebrated in Open Hearts, Brothers and After the Wedding." For IFC.com's Stephen Saito, the film's "compelling because Bier once again proves her precision as a keen observer of human relationships, but for many filmmakers, greater scope doesn't always portend a greater impact — Bier may not believe in hitting back, but she's a big believer in hitting hard."

"In What's Wrong With Virginia, directed by Oscar-winning Milk scribe Dustin Lance Black, Jennifer Connelly plays a chain-smoking, reality-challenged, schizophrenic single mom sporting a fake baby bump who has regular kinky sex with a married Mormon sheriff (Ed Harris)." Michael Rechtshaffen in the Hollywood Reporter: "But what's wrong with Virginia is small potatoes compared to what's wrong with this film. Presumably a glib attack on sanctimonious small-town religious hypocrisy informed by Black's own strict Mormon upbringing, the film is tonally all over the place, eventually settling in a rut that comes a lot closer to resembling bad camp than edgy satire." More from Peter Debruge (Variety), Howard Feinstein (Screen) and Lev (Film Experience). Stephen Saito (IFC) and ST VanAirsdale (Movieline) interview Black.

"Alain Corneau's thriller Love Crime explores the dangers of mixing business with pleasure," writes Bernard Besserglik in the Hollywood Reporter. "This tale of power-plays and seduction leading to murder in the world of executive skullduggery stars the polished Kristin Scott Thomas and up-and-coming Ludivine Sagnier." Meredith Brody, writing at Thompson on Hollywood, finds the screenplay "both underwritten and ultimately a little pat and unbelievable."

 



"West Is West is an amusing if rather broadly played follow-up to the successful Om Puri starrer East Is East (1999), about a Pakistani fish-and-chip shop owner in 1970s England battling with his own family over cultural mores," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt. "Only in the sequel, it is he who must adjust culturally when he and his youngest son return to the native land he abandoned 30 years before.... [T]he original writer, Ayub Khan-Din, and a new director, Andy De Emmony, have made a highly entertaining film." More from Allan Hunter (Screen) and Alissa Simon (Variety).

"Whereas Elizabeth Gilbert managed to eat-pray-love her way to enlightenment, Martin Sheen got there by walking," writes Variety's Peter Debruge. "After Sheen lobbied son Emilio Estevez to make a film along Spain's Camino de Santiago, the Bobby director hatched The Way, about a play-it-safe doctor who fulfills his world-traveling son's last wish by spreading his ashes along the scenic 400-kilometer hike. Although a documentary of the Estevez's father-son trek would have proven no less moving than this emotionally contrived dramatic alternative, spiritually minded auds will enthusiastically embrace the soul-cleansing experience, sparking talkshows, tourism and the sort of sleeper phenom Hollywood's always looking to bottle." Salon's Andrew O'Hehir interviews Martin Sheen.

"An inspiring true story is told with too many false notes and unexamined questions in Conviction, a dramatic account of Massachusetts woman Betty Anne Waters's extraordinary 18-year crusade to overturn the guilty verdict that sent her brother to prison." Justin Chang in Variety: "Although fiercely committed performances by Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell provide director Tony Goldwyn's film with a core of emotional integrity, a less heavy-handed, more informative approach would have served them and the audience better." A C+ from Noel Murray at the AV Club: "[T]here's nothing here that you haven't seen before, and likely done better."

Fernando F Croce at the House Next Door on Biutiful: "Having split from wingman Guillermo Arriaga just as they were seemingly about to give us an intergalactic version of their leaden, we-are-all-connected-and-wretched routine, Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu tones down the temporal shuffling (if not, regrettably, the humorless grandiosity) in this unrelenting, uncredited retelling of Ikiru." More from Josef Braun and Scott Tobias (AV Club).

Screen's Dan Fainaru: "Anurag Kashyap's new film [That Girl in Yellow Boots], introduced as a thriller about a British girl looking for her father in India, is so frequently sidetracked from its main goal, that by the time all the red herrings have been brought in and discarded, the hopelessly distracted audience will not care much one way or another about the identity of the real father or the reason for his disappearance." Variety's Jay Weissberg: "Kashyap's uneven talent for making hip indie pics outside Bollywood gloss (Dev D, Gulaal) is held up as a cutting-edge current in Indian cinema, but here he's merely recycling low-end arthouse stylizations grafted onto a groaningly sensationalist script."

"Human trafficking in postwar Bosnia, enabled by the United Nations workers sent there to maintain peace and order, is the sad subject of Canadian director Larysa Kondracki's harrowingly effective thriller, The Whistleblower," writes Justin Chang in Variety. "While the scenario of a Western do-gooder fighting injustice abroad often makes for sanctimonious, hand-wringing issue cinema, this accomplished debut feature avoids most of the usual pitfalls, channeling its outrage into a tense, focused piece of storytelling with a powerful sense of empathy." For Screen's Mark Adams, "Rachel Weisz shines with grim-faced determination."

 



"Parisian sophistication is hard work in Jeanne Labrune's ineffectual Special Treatment, which attempts to explore the similarities between prostitution and psychoanalysis." Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter: "Isabelle Huppert plays a 40-ish uptown hooker who has become bored with her chosen career path and decides that seeing a psychiatrist will help her break free." Boyd van Hoeij in Variety: "Again co-written by and co-starring writer-thesp Richard Debuisne, pic has some of the duo's trademark sharp dialogue but again fails to fully come together on a narrative level."

"Eric Lartigau's The Big Picture, a French adaptation of Douglas Kennedy's American novel, accomplishes the trick of capturing the book's essence but changes every superficial and geographical detail," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt. "In both, a born photographer becomes an attorney instead, living a life of denial, until a moment of rage changes everything in his life so that he must change his identity and become the man he was meant to be. It's a fascinating twist on the Tom Ripley identity switch in Patricia Highsmith's novel and Anthony Minghella's 1999 film version of The Talented Mr Ripley. In both, a crime forces a man to assume a dead man's identity, but here, a man, living an identity false to his true nature, is forced to discover his real talent." More from Boyd van Hoeij (Variety).

"Two parts fiction, one part documentary, there's a stew of ideas simmering in Macedonian helmer Milcho Manchevski's lopsided triptych Mothers," writes Variety's Alissa Simon, "but unfortunately none of them emerge fully cooked. Big themes such as the nature of the truth, corruption and the banality of evil are all apparent, yet not presented in a particularly compelling way." More from Chris Bilton (Eye Weekly).

At the AV Club, Noel Murray gives Julia's Eyes a B+: "It takes about half an hour for this Guillermo del Toro-produced thriller to really get rolling, but once it does, director Guillem Morales serves up an hour-plus of pretty freakin’ terrifying cat-and-mouse antics, spiked (literally) with multiple eye-threatened-by-pointy-object scenes." More from Jonathan Holland (Variety) and Stephen Saito (IFC).

 



"Bosnia's most international director, Danis Tanovic, never has repeated the success of the paradoxical war story No Man's Land, winner of the foreign-language Oscar in 2002, instead striking out in new international directions with Hell and Triage." Deborah Young in the Hollywood Reporter: "With his fourth film, Cirkus Columbia, Tanovic wisely returns to his Bosnia and Herzegovina roots, where the small but highly nuanced story, set in prewar 1991, rings with authenticity and weight."

"I wasn't quite sure what to expect of John Turturro's Passione," writes Kim Voynar at Movie City News, "but I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised by this engaging, colorful, music-drenched journey into the musical culture of Naples. The documentary is about as non-traditional structurally as one could imagine (and I mean that in a good way). Turturro uses stunning musical numbers — think of them as very artsy, smart music videos of Napoli musical history — to explore the complex city's rich musical culture. If you are completely ignorant of Naples, as I pretty much am, the film is a crash course in a fascinating culture overflowing with passion." More from Leslie Felperin (Variety). Geoffrey Macnab talks with Turturro for the Guardian.

"Lope in Love?" proposes Lee Marshall, reviewing Andrucha Waddington's Lope in Screen. "The plot of this historic romp centring on the romantic intrigues of prolific Spanish Baroque playwright Lope de Vega at the beginning of his literary career bears so many resemblances to John Madden's 1998 Oscar-winner that you have to remind yourself that the script is in fact a fairly accurate account of Lope's colourful life. The result is an entertaining and surprisingly accessible film even for an international audience, which lopes along with a good deal of verve and panache." For Variety's Jonathan Holland, "despite being the best Spanish period item in some time, it lacks the deft contempo ironies of the projects to which it clearly aspires, including Shakespeare in Love and Cyrano de Bergerac.'"

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