AT FIVE IN THE AFTERNOON
(Samira Makhmalbaf) gives us another movie from the Makhmalbaf clan that gets another Cannes prize. But of course, the family don't like to miss out on a good and worthy cause to ingratiate themselves with Western audiences, and post-war Afghanistan and the status of women there feels like a pretty safe bet. Samira (Blackboards) takes us to Kabul - or what's left of it - in the wake of war and the Taliban's collapse. For the first time in years, girls are allowed to attend school and hope for a career. One of them, the determined Noqreh (Agheleh Rezaie), wants to become president of the country. The film has definite documentary value in the rendering of the ruins of Kabul and some strikingly powerful images. But sequences drag, there's an overabundance of noble political sentiments and a lack of real heart. 106 min. NNN (Joumane Chahine) Opens Oct 17 at Carlton.
Down and out with the doLLs
(Kurt Voss) misses the essential point of movies about struggling bands: if the music sucks, who cares about the band? Voss has done some good work before, notably a pair of scripts for Allison Anders, Things Behind The Sun and Sugar Town. Here he creates the fictional bio of a Portland band that's still playing grunge. The look is acceptable for cheap shot-on-vid, and some of the young actors might be worth seeing in a better movie. 88 min. NN (JH) Opens Oct 17 at the Royal and Oct 22 at the Music Hall.
FIX: THE STORY OF AN ADDICTED CITY
(Nettie Wild) argues, with overwhelming conviction, the need for harm reduction policies for drug addicts in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. It's an exemplary doc, passionate but balanced. Nettie Wild crafts the stories of her subjects, from addicts to politicians, into an intense, multi-layered narrative that plows unflinchingly into the complex heart of the issue. A troubled romance between the film's central figures - articulate addict and activist Dean Wilson and wryly impassioned advocate Ann Livingston - pulls the film together, but the people on the periphery of the story, like the woman whose nightmares force her to use drugs to stay awake, are just as compelling. This is an activist film that gives you something to do afterwards. The 7 and 7:40 pm screenings each day will be followed by community forums on harm reduction, attended by local health officials and central figures from the film. 96 min. NNNN (Wendy Banks) Opens Oct 17 at Carlton.
HIGH TIMES POTLUCK
(Alison Thompson) is what the mass-marketing of pot looks like, and it's every bit as bad as you might have expected. A gangster, a punk rocker, an artist and some small-time thugs straight out of central casting chase a suitcase full of marijuana around New York City until they all wind up at a pro-dope rally sponsored by - you guessed it - High Times magazine. It's billed as a comedy, but unless you find the very idea of weed screamingly funny, there's not much to laugh at. It's rated R, which is a shame, since it's hard to imagine anyone who isn't at a sixth-grade sleepover getting much out of this, aside from its inadvertent anti-drug message: potheads make really lame movies. 90 min. NN (Wendy Banks) Opens Oct 17 at Canada Square, Rainbow Market Square.
(Cédric Klapisch) appears to be a shameless plug for Erasmus, the European Union's transnational education initiative. A cute Parisian economics student signs up for the Erasmus program and spends a year in Barcelona, where he meets other cute exchange students, gets laid and learns about himself. Klapisch directed When The Cat's Away, a nice little youth-market romantic comedy. This has hints of a similar sensibility, but the promotional angle makes it feel more like The Real Cancún, and the end result is suffocatingly banal. It's not art, it's a public-service message with clever split-screen effects and Audrey Tautou. 122 min. NN (Wendy Banks) Opens Oct 17 at Cumberland, Grande - Yonge.
(Benjamin Ratner) is the sort of thing you might come across on Citytv late at night and keep watching because it's just good enough to keep you from going to sleep. It's a romantic comedy-drama that centres around 33-year-old Gene (Ratner), an unemployed writer who gets ditched at the altar by his flaky fiancée. His subsequent recovery is complicated by interference from his aging parents and autistic sister. The emotional acrobatics he undergoes are believable, the story is insightful and funny and the characters are likeable - it's a decent, intelligent breakup movie. But the performances are uneven and the dialogue topples over into treacly homily a few times too often. 82 min. NNN (Wendy Banks) Opens Oct 17 at Canada Square.
(Gary Fleder) - See review, page 86. 127 min. NNNN (CB) Opens Oct 17 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Elgin Mills, First Markham Place, Grande - Steeles, Interchange 30, Paramount, Queensway, Rainbow Fairview, Rainbow Market Square, Rainbow Promenade, Rainbow Woodbine, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Newmarket, SilverCity North York, SilverCity Richmond Hill, SilverCity Yorkdale, Silvercity Yonge, Varsity, Varsity V.I.P.
(Gil Portes) recounts the struggles of a young teacher in the rural Philippines. Confronted by corruption, exploitation and parental intransigence, she overcomes all obstacles to lead her class to triumph in a singing competition, teaching them a little something about the value of dreams along the way. You've almost certainly seen this story before in one of its many incarnations, but you haven't seen it set against a backdrop of extreme poverty, prostitution rings and guerrilla warfare that complicates its bass note of sugary sentiment. It's worth seeing for the way familiar plot devices change their meaning when they're taken out familiar contexts. 109 min. NNN (Wendy Banks) Opens Oct 17 at Canada Square.
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
(Marcus Nispel) should hang like a heavily ornamented wreath on the tomb of horror-movie irony. Given that it revisits the original 1974 slasher after the Scream movies parodied themselves into a hall of mirrors, it's hard not to read this as an attempt at a neo-classical blueprint for the future of the genre. Well, the future is disturbingly straight-faced. From the winsome hillbilly kid who makes creepy art from doll parts to the trailer decorated with a Griffin-and-Sabine-style collage of victims' photos, this film is art-directed to a baroque pitch of gruesome prettiness. And it's gross. Unlike the original, which was fuelled by suspense, lo-fi gore and gallows humour, the creepiest thing about this Massacre is the earnest, loving, imaginative sadism of its creators. 99 min. NNN (Wendy Banks) Opens Oct 17 at 401 & Morningside, 5 Drive-In Oakville, Beach Cinemas, Coliseum Mississauga, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Elgin Mills, First Markham Place, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Paramount, Queensway, Rainbow Fairview, Rainbow Market Square, SilverCity Newmarket, SilverCity Richmond Hill, SilverCity Yorkdale, Silvercity Yonge, Varsity, Winston Churchill.
(Joel Schumacher) stars Cate Blanchett as the Irish journalist who was assassinated by the drug dealers she wrote about. See review online at www.nowtoronto.com. 98 min. Opens Oct 17 at Bayview, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yonge, Varsity, Winston Churchill.