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Enemy Review


This may be a thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, but mainstream audiences should also note that this is an artful film that refuses to tell its story using the usual formula. For some viewers, this psychological angle will be exhilarating and challenging, although it might feel elusive to others. Either way, Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) has boldly made a film that defies expectations and gives Gyllenhaal two of his strongest performances in years.

Yes, he plays two roles in this doppleganger mystery. We meet him as Adam, a Toronto history professor with a beautiful but busy girlfriend Mary (Melanie Laurent) and a dull repetitious life. One evening he watches a movie at home that features an extra who looks exactly like him, so he sets out to learn more about the actor, credited as "Daniel Saint Claire", although everyone calls him Anthony. Adam discovers that Anthony's wife Helen (Sarah Gadon) is six months pregnant, and when the two men meet they are both disarmed that they look so exactly alike, down to their scars. Adam's mother (Isabella Rossellini) insists that he doesn't have a long-lost twin. Then things start to take a darker turn as the two men begin to learn things about each other.

Director Villeneuve is superb at getting under the skin of his characters, and the film is shot and edited to take us right into Adam's troubled mind, revealing his more shadowy inner corners through movie clips and creepy cutaways that may or may not be part of Anthony's freaky secret life, which involves some sort of elite sex club. Villeneuve further builds the mood with a horror-style musical score (by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans) and insinuating, sexy editing. He also resolutely refuses to explain what everything means, including the central plot itself, preferring to challenge viewers to internalise everything and discover their own explanation.

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30th Miami International Film Festival

Zoe Kravitz - 30th Miami International Film Festival - 'The Boy Who Smells Like Fish' - Arrivals - Miami, Florida, United States - Saturday 2nd March 2013

Zoe Kravitz
Zoe Kravitz, Douglas Smith and Niv Fichman
Zoe Kravitz and Douglas Smith
Zoe Kravitz, Analeine Cal y Mayor, Douglas Smith and Niv Fichman
Zoe Kravitz
Zoe Kravitz and Douglas Smith

Antiviral Review


It may be style over substance, but Brandon Cronenberg cleverly blends his father David's love of medical yuckiness with an elusive Lynchian-style mystery to keep us unnerved all the way through this low-key thriller. And the film also works as a dark satire on today's celebrity-obsessive culture, in which fans will go to any lengths to be closer to their idols. So imagine if they had the chance to share a star's illness.

This is the work done by the gleaming, futuristic Lucas Clinic, where clinician Syd (Jones) works. He injects one patient (Smith) with an STD taken from mega-star Hanna Geist (Gadon). But Syd has secretly given himself a more powerful virus, which he learns is killing Hannah. Now everyone wants to get their hands on him, even as he realises that he needs to find a cure before it's too late. So he gets in touch with Hannah's assistant (McCarthy) and doctor (McDowell), and discovers that there's a conspiracy afoot involving his clinic's main rival.

The idea that fans would go to this kind of extreme isn't actually that unbelievable in a culture in which we watch their every move on reality TV and feel like their friends through Twitter. And Cronenberg's idea goes beyond sharing viruses, including cloned skin grafts and even a butcher (Pingue) who sells meat grown from celebrity cells. While the ideas echo some of David Cronenberg's films (mainly Videodrome and eXistenZ), this is also a strikingly original approach. The imagery looks amazing, with all-white surfaces and a spare use of colour, against which Syd's unravelling physicality looks increasingly garish.

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Hobo With A Shotgun Review

With its straightforward premise and a steady stream of random brutality, this lurid, corny movie, based on a trailer from 2007's Grindhouse, is almost mind-bogglingly grisly. But the anti-violence message gives it an amusingly ironic twist.

A homeless man (Hauer), looking for cash to buy a lawnmower to earn a living, finally gets fed up with the violence doled out by ruthless local gangster Drake (Downey), who delights in gruesomely killing anyone who crosses him, including his brother (Wells). Drake's also responsible for the arcade that's turning teens into game addicts with loan-shark debts and a desire for blood.

After running afoul of the crooked police chief (Akerman), the hobo is helped by kindly hooker Abby (Dunsworth). Then he gets a shotgun and sets out to clean up the streets.

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Blindness Review

Fernando Meirelles' Blindness was adapted from the novel written by Portuguese Nobel-laureate Jose Saramago. The novel follows a singular woman who somehow goes uninfected when a sudden, freakish plague of "white blindness" strikes the planet, leaving her the sole witness to moral and sanitary decay and atrocities unmentionable in a prison for the infected. What was a poetic, exhaustively-brilliant piece of fiction has now become a clunky, clattering, ever-collapsing film of bludgeoning rhetoric.

The woman (Julianne Moore) tags along with her ophthalmologist husband (Mark Ruffalo) when he is struck by the blindness and sent to the initial holding facility for the infected. Visually plagued by random flashes of pure white, the film hams up Saramago's eloquent metaphor as the wards of the facility become factions. One splinter supports a dictator (Gael García Bernal) and an accountant (Maury Chaykin) who garner the entirety of the rations supplied by the army. Possessions and eventually women are traded for meager portions as the nameless woman begins to consider her tolerance in the face of a shadowy, violent orgy that even Argentine provocateur Gaspar Noé might find a little too much.

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Snow Cake Review

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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Clean Review


There is one scene in Clean that sticks out to me. A supremely-groggy Nick Nolte sits at a small fast food joint and gets a small salad and water while Maggie Cheung (playing his widowed daughter-in-law) goes up to the counter and orders a monster burger, french fries, and onion rings with a large coke. It's her first real meal since getting out of prison and it's his first meal with her for god knows how long. There's a lot of symbolism, even though it's simple, being used in the scene, and it gives depth to a complicated relationship (everyone thinks she Courtney-Loved her rocker boyfriend). How did director Olivier Assayas, a seasoned pro, allow this to be one of the scant few scenes that hold any real fascination? Furthermore, how did he allow himself to write something so damn drab and insipid?

Emily (Cheung) spends the first 15 minutes of the film being the annoying Yoko to Lee (Nick Cave dead ringer and cohort James Johnston), an aging rocker trying to get a deal for his anthology. She gets nabbed for heroin possession just when she finds Lee's body but is saved by Lee's manager. Out of jail after a quick stint, she meets with Albrecht (Nolte), her father-in-law who has been raising her son Jay with his wife. It's apparent to all involved (besides Jay) that Emily needs to get clean, get a job, and take custody of her child. The journey is held up by a brief stint in Paris where she still takes pills, gets fired from a job and finally begins to detox after her musician friend Tricky (playing himself) ignores her requests for help with the custody issue.

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The Red Violin Review

A sprawling epic and a would-be masterpiece, The Red Violin is the story of an ill-fated violin, from the moment it is crafted in 1600s Italy to the day it is sold at auction in millennial Canada. The violin is passed through 1700s Vienna, to an Oxford virtuoso in the 1800s, and on to Mao's China for spell before landing in the lap of Samuel L. Jackson's instrument appraiser. Following the checkered past of such a fateful instrument makes you feel a bizarre sense of connection with it. But ultimately the movie rings a tad hollow -- with contrived plot points and an unbearable and unbelievable finale. But never mind that -- Violin is a grandiose production that should be seen and enjoyed.

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Last Night Review

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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Childstar Review

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 Clearing Review

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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The Saddest Music In The World Review

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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Clockenflap - 2015 Live Review

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