DISTANT (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) is a masterpiece of economical storytelling. A young hick, driven by economic recession, goes to Istanbul to look for work. He stays with his older cousin, a photographer whose life is quietly crumbling. Ceylan makes us sit back and watch the minutiae of their daily life - a lot of television gets watched, a lot of tea gets drunk, and suddenly, tiny, apparently insignificant events are awash in meaning. The building up of incidents has a cumulative effect that is quite moving. This story could have been told with violins and floods of tears, but it wouldn't have felt nearly as intense as it is here, revealed with subtle irony and meticulous realism. 105 min. NNNN (Wendy Banks)
Opens Mar 26 at Carlton.
DOPAMINE (Mark Decena) is very low-key, Sundance-branded film starring John Livingston as Rand, a man who spends his day designing a computer-based pet and who believes that all human relationships are literally based on chemistry. He meets Sarah (Sports Night's Sabrina Lloyd, and the closest thing Dopamine has to a star), who likes Rand but distrusts his belief that his attraction to her is mostly the result of pheromones. A respectable first effort, this low-key movie about realistic characters is the sort of thing people wait to see on video. It'd be hard to argue with that impulse here. 79 min. NNN (JH)
Opens Mar 26 at Canada Square.
GREENDALE (Neil Young) - See cover story, (page 76). 87 min. NNNN (Michael Hollett)
Opens Mar 26 at Carlton.
JERSEY GIRL (Kevin Smith) stars Smith's favourite star, Ben Affleck, as a suddenly widowed single dad fired from his music-business job who moves back to live with his dad (George Carlin) in Middletown, New Jersey. Jersey Girl is inspired in part by his own marriage and fatherhood, though Smith's wife is very much alive and has a small part in the movie. Affleck is good - he's better for Smith than for anyone else - and Carlin, in his largest film role, is better, with an able assist from Liv Tyler and a small gallery of Smith regulars in supporting roles, including the obligatory one scene with Matt Damon. See interview, page 74. 103 min. NNN (JH)
Opens Mar 26 at 401 & Morningside, 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 Promenade, Rainbow Woodbine, SilverCity Newmarket, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yonge, Varsity, Winston Churchill.
KITCHEN STORIES (Bent Hamer) is a very funny parody of the post-second-world-war social scientific method. To standardize the average household kitchen, Sweden's Home Research Institute conducts studies in a rural Norwegian village in which a researcher perched on a stool silently observes his subject's routines. There can be no contact whatsoever between the two (but if the characters really followed that rule, Kitchen Stories would be a considerably lesser achievement). Its gentle deadpan humour and warmly observed patterns of human behaviour recall the comic sensibility of Jacques Tati. 95 min. NNNN (Paul Ennis)
Opens Mar 26 at Carlton.
THE LADYKILLERS (Joel and Ethan Coen) is a slight remake of the old Alec Guinness comedy, with Tom Hanks as a baroquely stylized Southern gentleman who rents a room from the redoubtable Irma Hall (her last film performance) to knock over a casino with a mismatched set of thieves. This is very much the Coens in their Preston Sturges mode, showcasing Ethan's fondness for curlicued linguistic flights over Joel's mad visual invention. For the first time, Ethan shares directorial credit, acknowledging the reality of their working methods. Erratic but a lot of fun, thanks to Roger Deakins's superb cinematography and a colourful cast of supporting players that includes Stephen Root, Marlon Wayans and JK Simmons. 105 min. NNNN (JH)
Opens Mar 26 at 401 & Morningside, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Cumberland, Eglinton Town Centre, Elgin Mills, First Markham Place, Kennedy Commons, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity Newmarket, SilverCity North York, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yonge, Winston Churchill.
LUCK (Peter Wellington) is a movie about gambling, proto-slackers and the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series, and it's surprisingly good. It's got the gambler's psychology down and shows why you should never drink with people who bet horses (because they're bigger whiners than poker players). Wellington has shot it like an early-70s film, with hand-held cameras and real locations, letting natural exterior light blow out the windows on occasion. Luck also has Sarah Polley as the hero's dream girl, and I now understand why Cameron Crowe wanted her to play Penny Lane in Almost Famous, the role that went to Kate Hudson. 91 min. NNNN (JH)
Opens Mar 26 at Canada Square, Kennedy Commons.
NEVER DIE ALONE (Ernest Dickerson) plays like a jumbled shoebox-ful of trinkets rescued from Quentin Tarantino's trash. Based on a novel by Donald Goines, it leapfrogs around in the last days of a philosopher/pimp named King David who gets women hooked on heroin and then kills them. A potentially meaningful story retold by somebody who doesn't quite get it, it has violence without drama, characters without humanity and repetition without structure. It takes stabs at Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown but lacks Tarantino's wit, affection for his characters and narrative plate-spinning skills. Brutish, ugly and, worse, incoherent. 90 min. NN (Wendy Banks)
Opens Mar 26 at 401 & Morningside, Coliseum Scarborough, Interchange 30, Paramount, SilverCity Yorkdale.
SCOOBY-DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED (Raja Gosnell) has a smarter storyline, deeper characters and cooler co-stars (Seth Green, Alicia Silverstone) than the original. Yet, with twice the monsters and half the laughs, this is clearly the weaker of the two. Matthew Lillard again revels as the Shaggy we know and love, but where are the subtle references to Velma's sexuality or Fred's ascot-loving dandy? What's with the montage of their childhood, and why make a movie marketed to kids so scary? Fans of TV's favourite cartoon crime-solvers aren't looking for intellect or depth, they just want to be entertained. 90 min. NN (Lori Fireman)
Opens Mar 26 at 401 & Morningside, Beach Cinemas, Coliseum Mississauga, Colossus, Courtney Park 16, Eglinton Town Centre, Elgin Mills, First Markham Place, Grande - Steeles, Kennedy Commons, 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.