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Garbageman33 Dumps A Load Of Toronto Film Festival Reviews Right Onto Your Lap!

Beaks here... The 2008 Toronto International Film Festival has come and gone, but we've still got lots and lots of reader reviews to post. For those of you who detest the AICN style of review, here's Garbageman33 with some brief synopses and letter grades! How remarkable! He's also given us an extra few paragraphs on celeb sightings, not something we really do here at AICN, so enjoy that. By the way, if anyone wants to show me Kathryn Bigelow's THE HURT LOCKER, I'm ready, like, right now.
JCVD This French film follows a day in the life of faded action star Jean Claude Van Damme as played by, you guessed it, Jean Claude Van Damme. And what a crappy day it is. He's engaged in an ugly custody battle with one of his many ex-wives. None of his credit cards work. He just lost a plum role to Steven Seagal (who won the part by agreeing to chop off his trademark ponytail). And, when things couldn't get any worse, he ends up in the middle of a hostage crisis after a botched post office robbery. It's a great premise, but before long, the jokes start to repeat themselves, much like the robbery itself, which is replayed from slightly different perspectives. Thing is, it wasn't that exciting the first time. And by the third or fourth time, it's downright annoying. Grade: B- Me and Orson Welles The latest Richard Linklater film takes us behind the scenes of Orson Welles' stage production of Julius Caesar as seen through the eyes of a neophyte (Zac Efron) who talks his way into a bit part. On the bumpy road to the premiere, we see all the insecurities, ego clashes and logistical nightmares that go along with such a massive undertaking. It's fascinating stuff, especially the parts with Orson Welles browbeating his underlings (of course, he considers everyone his underling, including the theatre owner). The London stage actor (Christian McKay) who plays Welles is incredible. And Zac Efron is surprisingly not terrible. But his romance with Claire Danes is the weakest part of the movie. Mostly because it takes time away from Mr. "We Will Sell No Wine Before Its Time". Grade: B- Pontypool This Canadian production is set almost entirely in a church basement, which doubles as the studio for a local AM radio station. Through audio contact with the outside world (in this case, the snowy Canadian outpost of Pontypool), we're given an impression of widespread chaos. It's very War of the Worlds. But with zombies. It appears people are being infected, not by a virus, but through the mutation of words. And the only safe haven is, irony of ironies, a talk radio station. The Don Imus-like DJ (brilliantly played by character actor Stephen McHattie) and his two producers try to get the word out, but soon it becomes clear they're the only ones left. And, eventually, they have to stop talking or risk becoming zombies themselves. Trust me, it all makes sense when you see it. This is one of those rare horror movies in which the scares are actually scary. Grade: A- Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist The latest from Canada's favorite son Michael Cera is the story of a couple of bridge and tunnel kids from New Jersey in the city on an epic search for a top-secret show by their favorite band "Where's Fluffy?" They're both in the middle of painful breakups when they meet and fall in love, largely through their shared taste in music. The whole thing takes place over a single night, like a teenage After Hours, complete with a Jesus impersonator, a homeless Andy Samberg and the last remaining Yugo in New York City. It's not exactly high art, especially as film festival titles go. But, what can I say, I'm a sucker for George Michael Bluth, funny sight gags and a killer soundtrack. Grade: B+ Wendy and Lucy Wendy (Michelle Williams) is one of the millions of Americans living on the brink of financial ruin. All she has to show for herself are $527, a 1988 Accord that doubles as her apartment and her trusty dog, Lucy. The two of them are on their way to Alaska to look for work in a cannery when the car breaks down. Then, Lucy disappears. So Wendy spends the rest of the movie walking around yelling, "Lucy! Here, Lucy!" Riveting stuff. But that's not all. We also get to watch Wendy wash her underarms in a gas station rest room. Not just once. Twice. All in real time. The best thing I can say about the movie is that it was nicely shot on location in and around Oregon. And it was only 80 minutes long. 37 minutes of which was the aforementioned underarm washing. Grade: C Slumdog Millionaire The latest from director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Shallow Grave) tells the story of Jamal, a kid raised on the streets of Mumbai who stands to win a fortune on the Indian version of "Who wants to be a millionaire?" Trouble is, no one believes a "slumdog" could possibly know all those answers. He must be cheating. So, in between episodes, the police haul him in for questioning. And Jamal tells them his life story, with different parts revealing how he learned different answers. It's an interesting structure, at first. But by the end, it becomes a bit repetitive. Likewise, the film is great when Jamal is a kid. But as he grows up, the film becomes a rather melodramatic love story. A love story I didn't buy for a second. In fact, the adult Jamal and his long-lost love have all the chemistry of an Indian Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. But the film looks amazing and it's interesting how they portray the ghetto as a place of hope, rather than despair. (Note: Slumdog Millionaire won the Cadillac People's Choice Award voted on by audiences) Grade: B Uncertainty Speaking of despair, there's this film by the makers of The Deep End and a great film called Suture (put it in your queue right now). Uncertainty sounds like a decent premise. A young couple (Joseph Gordon Levitt and Lynn Collins) flips a coin to decide whether to stay in Manhattan for the day or go to Brooklyn for a family dinner. From there, the film becomes two films. A thriller that isn't thrilling. And a family drama that isn't dramatic. The "thriller" version involves a misplaced blackberry the couple finds in a cab. In trying to locate the rightful owner, they find themselves embroiled in a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse with an Asian assassin for the Russian mob (you know, because New York is a melting pot). In the family drama version, they, um, have a cookout. Combine the two and you have the worst film we saw at the festival, maybe ever. Grade: D The Hurt Locker Set during the Iraq war, the Hurt Locker follows a three-man unit (Anthony Mackie, Guy Pearce, some other dude who played the exact same role in Jarhead) charged with finding and defusing bombs. The unit is in their final days of service and just has to keep one of the bombs from blowing up in their faces. It's a job that requires teamwork and absolute trust, which gets thrown out of whack when a new team leader (Jeremy Renner) joins their unit. Turns out, he's a thrill junkie who enjoys his job a little too much (see also, Mitchell, Pete "Maverick"). Yes, his character is a bit of a cliché. And so is the rest of the movie. But it has quite a few tense, beautifully shot action sequences. What it doesn't have is any kind of narrative thread that connects them. Grade: B- Sugar The team behind Half Nelson (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) returns with a fresh take on the sports movie. The title character is a promising pitcher at a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic who gets called up to a farm team in Iowa. Gradually, he buckles under the pressure of expectations and his own feelings of isolation. Especially after an injury slows his progress. Suddenly, he's got nothing to fall back on. He's stuck in a strange land in which he doesn't even speak the language. It's an interesting character study that would've been just as interesting 20 minutes shorter. So, as we watched the closing credits it came as no surprise to learn the editor was, you guessed it, Anna Boden. Apparently, editing your own movie only works if you're the Coen Brothers. Grade: B- The Wrestler In our second straight sports movie, Mickey Rourke stars as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a wrestler 20 years past his prime. He continues to wrestle in high school gyms and legion halls against other has-beens. But he also has to work part-time at a supermarket so he can afford peroxide, painkillers, steroids, tanning sessions and the occasional lapdance from Cassidy (Marissa Tomei). When Randy has a heart attack after a particularly brutal match, he's forced to take stock of his life. He makes a halfhearted attempt to reconnect with his daughter and even tries to make an honest woman out of Cassidy. But, clearly, he misses the spotlight. Will he risk it all on an ill-advised comeback match against his old archenemy The Ayatollah? This film rests entirely on Rourke's broad shoulders and he absolutely crushes it. Just an incredibly raw, natural, heartfelt performance. Clearly, this is the role Rourke has spent 20 years preparing for. After all, Rourke's fall from grace has been nearly as dramatic as Randy's. Grade: A Flame and Citron This docudrama recounts the lives of two Danish assassins during the waning days of World War II. It's a decent story, with good production values, but it pales in comparison to recent espionage thrillers like Black Book and Lust, Caution. Mostly because those films featured nubile young lasses, willing to do anything, and I mean anything, for love of country. In this film, we follow two guys who wander around Denmark showing up on people's doorsteps and shooting them in the head when they answer the door. They're like the worlds worst Jehovah's Witnesses. Grade: C The Brothers Bloom The latest from the director of Brick (Rian Johnson) follows a pair of con artist brothers (Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody) as they attempt one final scam. Their mark is an eccentric heiress (Rachel Weisz) named Penelope. With the help of their silent sidekick Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi) the brothers draw Penelope into a con that has them crisscrossing the globe on an epic adventure. It's a clever, whimsical story, in which Johnson makes an interesting choice to have his characters seem like anachronisms from the 1930s. It's a fun little film, even though the scams aren't on the same level as the ones perpetrated in classics like The Sting and House of Games. Grade: B Sightings Within twenty minutes of arriving, I saw Ludacris at Burrito Boyz, a tiny dive near one of the theatres. Nothing like a guy in $60,000 earrings waiting in line for a $7 burrito. The cast of The Secret Lives of Bees rolled through our hotel lobby on their way to a press junket. Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson and Dakota Fanning all looked elegant. Queen Latifah, on the other hand, was sporting a tracksuit from the Reverend Al Sharpton collection. Apparently, it pays to be the queen. We saw Catherine Keener at lunch at the Four Seasons. Actually, we heard her first. She may have the most distinctive voice this side of Bobcat Goldthwaite (who, unfortunately, we didn't see). The InStyle party once again proved to be a celebrity goldmine. This year, we saw Paris Hilton and her boyfriend du jour, Benji Madden, who looks like a heavily tattooed Hummel figurine. Jason Mewes (Jay to Kevin Smith's Silent Bob) was sporting a faux-faux-hawk and purple scarf and generally looking like the kind of guy Silent Bob wouldn't be caught dead with. Tim Robbins sat in a booth, trying to look inconspicuous. The mock turtleneck no doubt helped. Movie stars don't wear mock turtlenecks. Anthony Mackie and the rest of his incredibly diminutive platoon from The Hurt Locker were there. Isn't there some sort of height requirement to be in the military? Actually, height (or lack thereof) was a recurring theme. Scott Speedman? Short. Joseph Gordon Levitt? Short. And judging by Uncertainty, incapable of reading a script. Rose McGowan was tiny and considerably less hot than she is onscreen. Rachel Weisz, on the other hand, was considerably hotter. Adrien Brody was there, looking an awful lot like Jesus. But with a better tailor. And the other Bloom Brother, Mark Ruffalo is now my favorite actor if only because he's from Kenosha and spent a few minutes talking to me about the Brewers. You have to love a movie star who feels the need to introduce himself, "Hey, I'm Mark".

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