And Now We Can … Relax?

Diane Lane, Disney's latest princessIt’s a slower release week than usual, which means that for the first time TIFF got underway it’s actually possible to stop and think about what you might want to see at the megaplex without being overwhelmed by all the big-name, big-studio options. That’s a good thing, trust me. And there are some good movies to see, as long as you keep your head straight. Let’s take a look:

“The Concert”: Radu Mihaileanu, director of the odd but engaging Israeli drama “Live and Become”, returns with an Oscar-bait tale of a defrocked Russian conductor (Alexei Guskov) who gets the chance to put his band back together for a performance in Paris. (“Inglourious Basterds” breakout Melanie Laurent is his ringer.) Glenn hated it like poison, which is not a good sign for anyone.

Deliver Us from Evil“: Ole Borndeal, director of the excellent “Nightwatch” (and its considerably less than excellent remake, but let’s not bring that up right now), gets his groove back with this vicious little thriller that basically transplants the village-siege dynamic of “Straw Dogs” to rural Denmark. Wicked nasty, this one.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story“: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck follow “Half Nelson” and “Sugar” with a lighter tale — if “lighter” is really the appropriate term to apply to a story about a suicidal teen who gets himself locked in an adult mental ward. But it is, thanks to fine performances from Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis and Emma Roberts, and Boden and Fleck’s excellent sense of tone.

“Life as We Know It”: Look, I’ve given Katherine Heigl plenty of chances to charm me. It’s not happening. So we sent someone else to review her new parenthood comedy, in which she and Josh Duhamel inherit an infant and spend two hours covered in goo. (I’m just going from the trailer here, you understand.)

“My Soul to Take”: A group of small-town teenagers start falling victim to the spirit of an executed murder in Wes Craven’s new horror movie … which sounds an awful lot like “A Nightmare on Elm Street” from the log line. No press screenings, so all we’ll find out together, I guess …

Return to El Salvador“: Jamie Moffett’s superficial look at the beleaguered nation’s path to recovery is a test case for people who confuse passion with technical competence. Does an important subject automatically make a weak documentary great? Obviously, I don’t think so … but the commenters on the piece clearly do.

Secretariat“: Randall Wallace redefines the art of populist pandering with this risible attempt to repackage the story of a millionaire and her racehorse as a great underdog drama. Yes, yes, rich people have problems too. But setting the stage by quoting the Book of Job is kinda pushing it.

And don’t forget, “Howl” and Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child” opened at the Lightbox yesterday, along with a new print of “The Godfather”. (That alone is a reason to get down there this weekend.) And there’s a whole bunch of other stuff playing around the city, which I examine in this week’s online column at NOW Daily. So, you know, we’re still spoiled for choice. Hope I didn’t scare you earlier.

3 thoughts on “And Now We Can … Relax?”

  1. Any thoughts on the TIFF Essential 100 list (in today’s Star)? It’s an interesting list, but rarified enough that there are quite a few that I haven’t seen (and a couple I just won’t see). The movies I’m surprised didn’t make the cut, off the top of my head, are To Kill a Mockingbird, King Kong (original, of course), and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Charles Laughton, of course). Were you one of the critics polled?

  2. I wasn’t part of the poll, and I’m quietly horrified by some of the final rankings — “Amelie” over “The Wizard of Oz”, “Vertigo” and “The Searchers”? “Pan’s Labyrinth” over “Nashville” and “Jules et Jim”? And this is just proximity stuff, you understand — any list that places “Jaws” at #79 is not a list I can accept.

    Of course, the Essential Cinema project is designed to spur conversation, and on that level it’s certainly a success. And anything that puts (most of) these movies back on the big screen is fine by me.

    … well, except for “Life is Beautiful”. Fuck that noise.

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