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If I Stay Review


Good

Based on the Gayle Forman novel, this teen weepie is wrenchingly emotional and packed with girly fantasies. But the characters and situations have a lot more earthy honesty to them than this summer's other big adolescent tearjerker The Fault in Our Stars. It may be just as relentlessly sentimentalised, but the issues involved are faced with a lot more grit and realism, so the film earns its sob-inducing emotions.

Set in Portland, Oregon, the story centres on the Hall family. Parents Kat and Denny (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard) are former rockers who have mildly toned down their wild ways as they have raised their children: 17-year-old Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz) and the younger Teddy (Jakob Davies) to be independent and artistic. Although Kat and Denny are rather taken aback by Mia's obsessive love of classical music and prodigious gift with the cello. Then Mia is shocked to discover that the cool rock-god Adam (Jamie Blackley) at her high school is interested in her. As their relationship develops over the next year, it hits a few bumps along the way. And it's during one of these bad patches that Mia is in a life-threatening car crash with her family. In an out-of-body experience, she watches everyone react to her life-and-death situation, wondering, "Should I stay or should I go?"

Which of course would be a much better title for a rock-n-roll movie than this one. Never mind, since the film is structured as a peeling-onion of flashbacks and out-of-sequence revelations, Mia's conundrum is genuinely complicated, in a movie sort of way. But then everything about this film exists only in the movies, most notably Adam, the most perfect boyfriend in the history of cinema: a bad boy musician with a deep soul, open emotions and thoughtful reactions. He has so clearly been devised to appeal to the teen-girl audience that it's occasionally a bit ridiculous.

Continue reading: If I Stay Review

Hector And The Search For Happiness Trailer


Hector (Simon Pegg) is a top psychiatrist who may appear to have everything one needs in life; a comfortable salary, his beautiful girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike) and plenty of friends; but after spending day after day listening to people complain about being so unhappy, he's starting to lose faith in his own advice. Bored of his own routine life, he takes a break from counselling and decides to embark on a round the world trip to uncover the true meaning of happiness. Visiting foreign lands far and wide shows him just how different people's lives really are and far from learning whether or not happiness exists, he begins to discover a new way of thinking. His desperate partner is feeling less than joyful about his long absence, but will his return bring them a fresh dose of contentment? Or will he decide that happiness can't be found within his London home?

Continue: Hector And The Search For Happiness Trailer

If I Stay Trailer


When one day the most scary thing you can contemplate is an important cello recital at Juilliard and the next you are fighting for your life, you're bound to feel a little messed up. Mia didn't realise just how much she had; her close family, her amazingly cool and loyal boyfriend Adam and a sparkling future in music; until a fateful family car journey in the snow forced her to see. She finds herself having an out of body experience, looking over her comatose body in hospital with her family and friends surrounding her. She understands that she is going to be an orphan with a future more uncertain than ever, but those who love her have to convince her to come back to them nonetheless. Will she brave it and return to the world? Or is it really her time to leave?

Continue: If I Stay Trailer

The Big Year Trailer


Brad Harris is having what he calls a 'no-life crisis'. He is stuck in a soul destroying job and he is still living with his parents, despite him being in his mid-thirties. The one thing that holds any interest for him is bird watching. When he discovers that this year is known to 'birders' as 'The Big Year' - one year where birders set out to find as many birds in the country as possible - Brad is determined to beat the record previously set by Kenny Postick.

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The Five Senses Review


Terrible
Not to be confused with that Bruce Willis ghost story, The Five Senses is more along the lines of Kieslowski Lite. The lives of five Canadians are connected by the sensations of touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight. They all reside in the same apartment complex, not unlike the lost souls wandering through The Decalogue. Each of the protagonists are faced with a glib moral crisis which must be resolved during the seemingly endless hour-and-forty-five-minute running time.

Ruth, a professional massage therapist (Gabrielle Rose, The Sweet Hereafter), uses the sensation of touch -- get it? -- to heal a wounded relationship with her daughter's former teacher (Molly Parker, who saw, smelled, tasted, and touched dead people in Kissed).

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Speaking Parts Review


Excellent
With Speaking Parts, Atom Egoyan showed that his long-simmering promise as a great filmmaker had finally been fulfilled. Early movies like Family Viewing were earnest but rough. Here, Egoyan crafts a meticulous and dazzlingly confusing tale of love, prostitution, obsession, technology, coldness, death, and potential incest, all wrapped into a tight 90 minutes. A plot synopsis would consume the better part of your afternoon, and would spoil too much for you -- just figuring out what's going on is have the fun of the film. Solid performances by a band of unknowns improve the film beyond typical low-budget experiences.

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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The Adjuster Review


Excellent
He's an insurance adjuster willing to do anything to make his clients feel better -- even if that means sleeping with them.

She's an adult movie censor that surreptitiously videotapes the screenings so she can get off to them after hours.

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The Five Senses Review


Terrible
Not to be confused with that Bruce Willis ghost story, The Five Senses is more along the lines of Kieslowski Lite. The lives of five Canadians are connected by the sensations of touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight. They all reside in the same apartment complex, not unlike the lost souls wandering through The Decalogue. Each of the protagonists are faced with a glib moral crisis which must be resolved during the seemingly endless hour-and-forty-five-minute running time.

Ruth, a professional massage therapist (Gabrielle Rose, The Sweet Hereafter), uses the sensation of touch -- get it? -- to heal a wounded relationship with her daughter's former teacher (Molly Parker, who saw, smelled, tasted, and touched dead people in Kissed).

Continue reading: The Five Senses Review

Family Viewing Review


OK
Early Atom Egoyan, before he quite figured out his style and before he had much of a budget. This is the story of a family obsessed with video -- and obsessed in general -- we've got a kid involved with his father's girlfriend and his father's phone-sex girl (he doesn't know about the latter coincidence -- it's just that both his grandmother and her mother are in the same room at the local nursing home). Not sure how well this succeeds in its quest to damn contemporary communication breakdowns, but it sure is screwed up. Shot partly on various video formats -- a sort of testament to how the then-nascent format (this was 1987, for Pete's sake!) was making relationships impersonal and generally screwing up life (dad erases childhood videos to make room for his homemade sex tapes). The DVD includes Egoyan's Next of Kin as well as a handful of his very early short films -- all very amusing and curious.

The Five Senses Review


OK

Canadian writer-director Jeremy Podeswa assigned himself a daunting task when he stepped behind the camera to make "The Five Senses": Create a five-dimensional world of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, in the two dimensional medium of film.

The resulting picture is penetrating metaphorical cinema that immerses the viewer in its characters' often internalized loneliness, anxiety, desire, shame and insecurity by watching them misunderstand, embrace and/or rediscover senses we often take for granted through five well-conceived, inter-connected narratives, one for each sense.

Richard (Philippe Volter) is a middle-aged French optometrist who has learned he is slowly going deaf. He makes a list of every sound he wants committed to memory before it's too late and sets out to record them in his mind. He calls his estranged wife's house just to hear his daughter answer the phone, and he becomes mesmerized while eavesdropping on a neighbor through heating ducts in his office floorboards.

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