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Mama Review


OK

Expanded from a sharp 3-minute short, this horror mystery is packed with clever jolts and witty freak-out moments. Argentine filmmaker Muschietti creates such an oppressively intense atmosphere that we only barely notice how thin and underdeveloped the script is. But when we're not cringing from the eerie imagery, it's difficult not to see the contrivances and conveniences that fill the plot.

Orphans Victoria and Lilly (Charpentier and Nelisse) have survived in a woodland cabin for five years, and when they're discovered they are understandably animalistic. But their Uncle Lucas (Coster-Waldau) takes them in, fending off a custody battle with an aunt (Moffat) to raise his nieces with his rock-chick girlfriend Annabel (Chastain). Then Lucas is hospitalised after a strange nighttime incident, and Annabel is left alone in the house with these still-feral girls. Their strange behaviour makes Annabel suspect that they weren't alone in that cabin, and may have brought a jealous maternalistic ghost with them. So the consulting psychologist (Kash) starts to investigate the cabin's history.

Oddly, despite the fact that Chastain's personal odyssey is at the centre of the film, most of the narrative comes from the psychologist's procedural investigation into the identity of the woman the girls are calling "Mama". This involves implausible luck as he discovers ludicrously detailed records in dusty archives and then helpfully leaves his documents lying around so the right person can find them. Meanwhile, Coster-Waldau is needlessly marginalised in a corny plot turn early on. And it doesn't help that we never quite accept Chastain as a goth rocker, even though she gives it her best shot. 

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Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer Review


Extraordinary
Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews) is a young plumber with a temper problem. He's had it ever since his childhood, when he witnessed a hairy monster devouring his family after an evening of music and campfires. He deeply regrets not stepping in to help his family, and the incident has left him with an unquenchable anger that he constantly struggles to control. To make matters worse, his frustration is fueled by an annoying girlfriend (Rachel Skarsten), a clueless shrink, and a dead-end plumbing job.

One night, however, everything changes after his college professor, Crowley (Robert Englund), asks Jack to fix some pipes in his formerly abandoned house. Jack agrees, but unknowingly releases an ancient evil while unscrewing something. After Jack goes home for the evening, the evil forces find their way inside Professor Crowley and take over his mind and body.

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Snow Cake Review


OK
Turning what might have been an "illness of the week" tragedy into an affecting, entertaining entry for arthouse patrons, director Marc Evans, working from Angela Pell's screenplay, pulls it off in a small-scale way but with emotional sensitivity and a solid cast with particular appeal to the increasing numbers of people who have personal experience with autism.

Vivienne Freeman (Emily Hampshire), a young hitchhiker with more spirit than fear, enters a restaurant, scans it, and picks a man sitting alone to delight with her company. Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman), a laconic Englishman, barely tolerates the intrusion on his quiet privacy with a gabby adolescent and, after displaying what is, for him, considerable patience, rejects her suggestion to ride with him. He leaves, as alone as when he came in, and drives off.

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Grey Owl Review


Grim
Pierce Brosnan stars in this period epic (and I do mean epic - this movie is looooong) about a British guy in the early 1900s who took on the persona of a native American beaver trapper named Grey Owl. The beginning of the film sports Grey Owl trapping beavers then coming to his senses for the environmental damage its causing, then Mr. Owl crusades around the world preaching "Not enough beaver." (I'll say.) By the end of the picture, Grey Owl is outed as being the Brit that he is, but no one seems to care. I only fell asleep twice.

THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD Review


Excellent

Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin is often compared to David Lynch. In reality, his influences hail from decades long gone: from the silent-era Germans and the early Hollywood pioneers. His exuberant, expressionistic 2000 short film "The Heart of the World," made for the Toronto Film Festival, was rightly hailed as a mini-masterwork, and now here he is with a new feature film that captures some of that magic once again.

"The Saddest Music in the World" takes place in 1933 Winnipeg. A wealthy beer baroness, Lady Port-Huntly (Isabella Rossellini) is the only one making a decent living; everyone wants to drink their sorrows away. To boost business she announces a contest to determine the saddest music in the world. Each of the world's countries may enter once, and so an estranged father and two sons from far corners of the globe reunite for the contest.

The father, Fyodor (David Fox), represents Canada, the happy-go-lucky Broadway producer Chester Kent (Mark McKinney) represents America and Roderick (Ross McMillan) represents Serbia. The woeful Roderick is a world-renowned cellist who mourns his dead child and his lost wife, Narcissa (Maria de Medeiros), who is now dating Chester. Chester champions the vulgar side of America, the urge to make everything big and bright with little regard for anyone else's feelings.

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