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Away From Her Review


Good
The act of being forgotten becomes pop-Bergman fair in Sarah Polley's Away from Her. If Polley's name rings a few bells, its because she was a rather prominent ingénue of independent cinema in the early '00s, her range swinging from Doug Liman's rollicking Go to Atom Egoyan's solemn, sublime The Sweet Hereafter. Here, director Egoyan serves as executive producer and gives the floor to Polley as she translates Alice Munro's short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" to the screen.

Fiona (Julie Christie) has begun to lose her memory as an effect of Alzheimer's. Grant (Gordon Pinsent), her husband, can only sigh heavily as he watches her slip away; at one point, she puts a frying pan in the freezer. Begrudgingly, Grant signs Fiona into a home for people with Alzheimer's and other diseases incurred through aging. There's a catch: He can't see her for a month, allowing her to settle in without any debilitations. He returns to find Fiona's memory thickly veiled, only remembering him as a figure without nuance. It also happens that Fiona has become cozy with a catatonic, wheelchair-bound man named Aubrey (Michael Murphy). While attempting to get his wife to remember him, Grant makes time to visit with Aubrey's wife Marian (a fantastic Olympia Dukakis) to see what her side is like.

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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 Clearing Review


Very Good
There's tension in them there trees, and hopefully some cash for Fox Searchlight in the form of counter-programming. Surrounded by a sea of summer popcorn escapist vehicles, the rock-solid kidnapping thriller The Clearing feels like a frigid and somber snowball dropped into the heart of the Arabian Desert. We're typically not trained to accept weighty emotional dramas in the dog days of July, though when one this good rolls through, let's hope it has a better survival rate than said lump of frost.

The adult-oriented character piece delves headfirst into the natural landscapes of the Southeast - primarily Georgia and North Carolina - to hide the criminal wrongdoings of kidnapper Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe) and his valuable target, Wayne Hayes (Robert Redford). While the men work their way to an undisclosed location in the woods, Clearing continues to focus on the consequent people affected by the impromptu abduction - from Wayne's wife, Eileen (Helen Mirren), and their children (Alessandro Nivola, Melissa Sagemiller) to the businessman's mistress (Wendy Crewson).

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Childstar Review


Good
In this smart but inconsistent look at the concept of celebrity, Canadian indie favorite Don McKellar pulls triple-duty -- writing, directing, and starring -- for the first time in seven years. That year, 1998, McKellar caught the eye of the international film audience with his end-of-the-world diary Last Night, and the ambitious epic The Red Violin, which he co-wrote. In comparison to those fine contributions, Childstar is lightweight stuff and sub-par McKellar.

Having conceived the idea for Childstar after a chance Oscar party conversation with Haley Joel Osment, McKellar stars as Rick, an experimental filmmaker who becomes the limo driver for Taylor Brandon Burns (great name!) a spoiled 12-year-old American superstar (Mark Rendall) shooting a new film in Canada. That movie, The First Son, is a ridiculous piece of jingoistic drivel where the President's son kicks some terrorist ass in order to save Dad, the White House and the whole damn country.

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The Saddest Music In The World Review


Excellent
The Saddest Music in the World starts off in the style of a dream, with impressionistic sets that are obviously stage props, grainy, low resolution black and white images obscured even further by fog or filtration, and stylized dialogue that seems more representational than real. But, about the time you expect the dreamer to awake and the film quality to revert to a slick 35mm normality, it doesn't. If this is a dream, or a vision, or the manifestation of a mind driven by mad storytelling technique, it's all part of the concept.

All of which seems to further 2003 as the year of the outlandish fantasy. As Sylvain Chomet's singular vision brought us a work derived purely from an irrepressibly inventive mind with The Triplets of Belleville, here Canadian director Guy Maddin (Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary, Fleshpots of Antiquity) works from a co-authored original screenplay with Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day) in a manner that combines the storytelling and musical vitality of Topsy-Turvy with the visual imagery out of the German expressionism of F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu, The Phantom) but with its own richness of character. I call it "high concept 8mm."

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Daniel Iron Movies

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...

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The Clearing Movie Review

The Clearing Movie Review

There's tension in them there trees, and hopefully some cash for Fox Searchlight in the...

The Saddest Music in the World Movie Review

The Saddest Music in the World Movie Review

The Saddest Music in the World starts off in the style of a dream, with...

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