BARAN (Majid Majidi) -- See Openings Tip, this page. 94 min. NNN (SARAH LISS) Opens May 10 at the Bayview, Canada Square, Carlton.
ENLIGHTENMENT GUARANTEED (Doris Dörrie) -- See review, page 88. 110 min. NNN (SARAH LISS) Opens May 10 at the Carlton.
THE NEW GUY (Ed Decter) stars DJ Qualls (Road Trip's super-skinny virgin) as a nerdy kid who goes to prison, gets a make-over and becomes the most popular kid in his new school. See online review at www.nowtoronto.com 110 min. Opens May 10 at the 5 Drive-In Oakville, Cedarbrae, Docks Drive-In, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yonge, Silvercity Yorkdale, Varsity.
ON THEIR KNEES (Anaïs Granofsky) finds step-sisters Willie (writer/director Granofsky) and Mo (Ingrid Veninger) stealing their grandmother's body and hauling it out east so she can be buried with her family. Granofsky's low-budget labour of love plods along, hitting all the expected notes -- the sisters fight, run out of money, meet a few cute guys -- which makes for a competent but predictable drama. 76 min. NN (IR) Opens May 10 at the Carlton.
SON OF THE BRIDE (Juan José Campanella) stars Ricardo Darn as an overwhelmed Argentinian restaurateur who suffers a minor heart attack and reassesses his priorities. Darn is appropriately harried as a man coming to terms with aging parents, a midlife crisis and an unstable economy in a drama that's sweet but not overly sentimental. 124 min. NNN (IR) Opens May 10 at the Canada Square, Carlton.
TEXAS RANGERS (Steve Miner) stars James Van Der Beek as an idealistic young man who joins the Texas Rangers. Led by an obsessed Dylan McDermott, they're committed to wiping out the Mexican bandit problem. This is a slightly wiser take on the Young Guns western formula, only because McDermott plays the dying Texas Ranger with so much venom, but he alone can't save the movie. 90 min. NN (IR) Opens May 10 at Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Queensway, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Richmond Hill.
UNFAITHFUL (Adrian Lyne) -- See review, page 88. 110 min. NNNN (IR) Opens May 10 at the 5 Drive-In Oakville, Beach Cinemas, Cedarbrae, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity North York, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yonge, Silvercity Yorkdale, Varsity, Varsity V.I.P.
ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS (Kevin Bray) stars Ice Cube as a bounty hunter and Mike Epps as a con man. They team up to retrieve a winning lotto ticket and a fistful of diamonds in Florida's chi-chi South Beach. This lame, foul-mouthed buddy comedy suffers from the fact that Ice Cube's face is set in a permanent scowl, which makes comic repartee nearly impossible. 99 min. NN (IR) Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons
AMELIE (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) is the life-affirming movie of the year, a capricious, joyful study of shy waitress Amélie (newcomer Audrey Tautou), who spends her days doing good deeds for the people living in her Montmartre neighbourhood. Jeunet's fable-esque comedy is full of whimsy, and he's found the perfect fairy-tale heroine in Tautou, whose wide-eyed beauty (a cross between Snow White and Louise Brooks) is almost hypnotic. This is also Jeunet's love letter to Paris, framing the city like a series of vivid technicolour postcards. Beautiful. 120 min. NNNNN (IR) Carlton, Central Parkway Cinemas, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Mt Pleasant
ATANARJUAT, THE FAST RUNNER (Zacharias Kunuk) and his brother Amaqjuaq (the strong one) are reviled by the evil Oki, who sets out to murder the brothers and reclaim Atanarjuat's bride. Set long ago on the Arctic tundra, Atanarjuat is a breathtaking epic and a landmark for Canadian cinema (the first Inuktitut-language feature film). The plot is a little bit confusing at first, but stick with it and you'll be sucked into the tale and amazed at how the landscape alters. It's as if it becomes a character within the story.172 min. NNNN (IR) Bayview, Canada Square, Cumberland, Grande - Yonge, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Queensway, Winston Churchill
A BEAUTIFUL MIND (Ron Howard) picked up Oscars for best picture, director, supporting actress (Jennifer Connelly) and best adapted screenplay. It stars Russell Crowe as schizophrenic mathematical genius John Nash, who through sheer force of will controls his disease and wins international acclaim. This well-constructed film pulls off a few interesting plot twists, and if only Howard had shown us more of Nash's real-life contradictions, this good movie could have been great. 128 min. NNN (IR) Carlton, Central Parkway Cinemas, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Mt Pleasant, Victoria Terrace, Winston Churchill
BEHIND THE SUN (Walter Salles) is set in the remote, dry south of Brazil, where two families engage in a peculiarly slow vendetta that has gone on for generations. Apparently, they can only kill each other one at a time, and must wait for the blood to turn yellow on the shirt of the last murdered guy. Dumb rules for a blood feud, if you ask me. Anyway, it's about the endless grinding of sugar cane and the murderous impulses of people too blood-simple and bound by formality to bring the thing to a quick ending, until one character dares to end the cycle of violence. From the director of Central Station, and not as good as I've made it sound. 105 min. NN (JH) Cumberland
BIG FAT LIAR (Shawn Levy) casts Malcolm In The Middle star Frankie Muniz as a 14-year-old who torments a nasty producer (Paul Giamatti) who's stolen his story and turned it into a hot movie. This all-ages comedy is really a salute to the ingenuity of the Hollywood studio system, since most of the action takes place on or around the Universal Studios lots. What's the message? Lying isn't a good thing -- unless you can get away with it. 90 min. NN (IR) Central Parkway Cinemas, Colossus
BLACK HAWK DOWN (Ridley Scott) is the most relentless war movie ever, recreating the 18-hour battle of Mogadishu -- 100 U.S. Army Rangers against the heavily armed populace of the Somali capitol -- in brutal detail. You're consistently horrified but can't look away. Scott is a director who always knows what to do even if he has no idea why, which makes him the ideal craftsman to construct this tribute to American soldiers' courage in a situation none of them understands. Why are they in Somalia? Who are the people firing at them? Who knows? Scott is a tremendous stylist, and, as with Peckinpah and John McTiernan, even when an action scene seems chaotic, you're always utterly clear on its geography and the spatial relationships within it. 144 min. NNNN (JH) Interchange 30
BLADE II (Guillermo del Toro) is the second step in Wesley Snipes's creation of his own action franchise, and while director Del Toro (Mimic) does a good job of staging the action, he does an even better job in shooting Snipes as a devotional object. The plot has Blade, the half-human/half-vampire superhero joining forces with an ancient order of vampires to battle some new, super-duper mutated vamps who have no respect for the old order of things and feed on vampires. Nice moments, but too much time is spent in the church of Wesley. 122 min. NNN (JH) Eglinton Town Centre, Interchange 30, SilverCity North York
CHANGING LANES (Roger Michell) is a modern day morality tale starring Ben Affleck as a lawyer desperately trying to retrieve important paperwork that's fallen into the hands of divorced dad Samuel L. Jackson. The battle between the two men escalates into a nasty war, but the beauty of the movie is that it builds logically, and the story allows both men the chance to reflect on why they're acting like such idiots. The performances are strong, especially Affleck's, but the star here is the script, which was touched up by Michael Tolkin, who wrote The Player, The Rapture and The New Age -- all movies dealing with people facing moral dilemmas in a world that doesn't encourage them to make the right decision. 95 min. NNNN (IR) Beach Cinemas, Cedarbrae, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Grande - Steeles, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity North York, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yonge, Silvercity Yorkdale, Varsity, Victoria Terrace
CLOCKSTOPPERS (Jonathan Frakes) is a passable all-ages sci-fi drama about a teenager (Jesse Bradford) who discovers a watch that accelerates his molecules to such speed that everything around him seems almost frozen in time. Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation's Will Riker) wisely forgoes gross-out humour and sappy teen romance but plots a predictable movie that will neither offend nor impress anyone. 108 min. NN (IR) Colossus, Kennedy Commons, Queensway, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity North York, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Victoria Terrace
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (Kevin Reynolds) is Jim Caviezel, an innocent sailor who spends 13 years in prison and, when he escapes, seeks revenge against those who betrayed him, including his best friend (Guy Pearce). This surprisingly entertaining and faithful adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas book offers a blank-looking Caviezel as the heroic Count. (He's no dashing Robert Donat from the 1934 film.) But it scores with Pearce's strong supporting work as the peacockish villain and Richard Harris's as the priest who helps Caviezel tunnel his way out of prison. 131 min. NNN (IR) Interchange 30
DEATH TO SMOOCHY (Danny DeVito) is a weird mess. It's an oddball comedy that aspires to be another Being John Malkovich but lacks a coherent script to get the job done. Robin Williams stars as the acid-tongued Rainbow Randolph Smiley, the host of a children's TV show who wants to kill his replacement, the sweet-natured health-nut rhino Smoochy (Ed Norton). Norton is great as the earnest Barneyish star, but DeVito has no sense of how to orchestrate this madcap, very uneven spoof. 110 min. NN (IR) Interchange 30
DEUCES WILD (Scott Kalvert) is about a 1950s Brooklyn street gang who wear matching tattoos -- the word "deuces" with the image of a pair of aces. These guys are too stupid to get their logo right. Stephen Dorff plays the tough-but-sensitive gang leader who tries to keep his neighbourhood clean after his brother ODs. Kalvert can't film a simple rumble, the pacing is cloddish, and the movie isn't actually about anything. To keep awake, try to calculate how long it's been sitting on the shelf by guessing whether Frankie Muniz made it before or during season one of Malcolm In The Middle. 97 min. N (JH) Canada Square, Cedarbrae, Grande - Steeles, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity North York, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yorkdale, Uptown, Victoria Terrace
E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL: 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Steven Spielberg) has been digitally tweaked for its 20th anniversary reissue -- most noticeably, FBI agents in pursuit of the extraterrestrial hero now carry walkie-talkies instead of guns, and Dee Wallace Stone used to tell her oldest son that he shouldn't go out on Halloween dressed as a terrorist but now tells him he shouldn't go dressed as a "hippie," which makes no sense at all, given his camouflage pants and beret. It's still magical, but why, since E.T. wasn't broken, did Spielberg feel the need to "fix" it? It's as if the restorers working on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel decided that Adam should be wearing Armani. 105 min. NNN (JH) Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Yonge, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Queensway, Winston Churchill
FRAILTY (Bill Paxton) is a cross-decade gothic thriller with Matthew McConaughey flashing back to his childhood to explain to FBI agent Powers Boothe how his brother became a religious serial killer. The final act doesn't really work -- there are one too many plot reversals, which leaves the audience annoyed rather than stunned -- but along the way there are very good performances from unexpected sources. This is McConaughey's very best work to date, and Matthew O'Leary, who plays McConaughey as a teen, is great. 100 min. NNN (JH) Eglinton Town Centre, Kennedy Commons, SilverCity North York, Winston Churchill
GOSFORD PARK (Robert Altman) is so intricately constructed -- it won the Oscar for best original screenplay -- that you're halfway home before you realize that, despite the presence of a murder mystery, the film has no plot. Instead, it's a stream of tiny pleasures, from Helen Mirren's acrid glare and Alan Bates's mute, imperturbable dignity to Emily Watson's vicious gossip and Maggie Smith's ability to steal scenes from deep with the very busy mise en scène. Set during a shooting weekend at an English country house in 1932, Gosford Park is an epic of trivia so dense with acting talent that I'd forgotten Derek Jacobi was in the film until I checked the press kit. 137 min. NNNN (JH) Carlton, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Winston Churchill
HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE (Chris Columbus) stays true to JK Rowling's decidedly British novel about boy wizard Potter, which in itself is a major achievement. Director Columbus (the Home Alone films, Mrs. Doubtfire) doesn't cut and paste the story's tightly packed narrative, so the movie clocks in at two-and-a-half hours, but that's OK when we're being entertained by a who's who of UK acting talent, including Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, John Cleese and Julie Walters, who treat their jobs with the required regard. The fear factor has been diminished, but look for the sequel films, like the books, to grow progressively scary. 151 min. NNNN (IR) Central Parkway Cinemas
HIGH CRIMES (Carl Franklin) stars Ashley Judd as a tough San Francisco defence attorney who discovers her husband (Jim Caviezel) had a whole life before they were married, and now the Marines want to hang him for it. Morgan Freeman is on hand as an ex-Marine lawyer, which makes the film play as a weird recombinant mix of Double Jeopardy and Kiss The Girls. It's smartly if impersonally directed by Franklin (Devil In A Blue Dress), and Judd and Freeman have terrific rapport. But I think there are about 40 novels with this same plot: it's a big conspiracy, it's a big conspiracy, here comes the plot twist! 115 min. NNN (JH) 5 Drive-In Oakville, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Queensway, SilverCity Mississauga
HOLLYWOOD ENDING (Woody Allen) is a solid, consistent comedy that allows Allen the chance to play with a ton of filmmaking metaphors and issues, chief among them Does the camera see all? and Can the unconscious mind create great art? Allen stars as an Oscar-winning director down on his luck who agrees to direct his ex-wife's (Téa Leoni) movie. But he feels so overwhelmed by the prospect that he goes blind. The physical gags are great, and Allen takes good-natured digs at today's cutthroat Hollywood milieu. The film shines whenever Leoni's onscreen. She's the perfect no-nonsense Allen foil, able to go head-to-head with his spurned-neurotic antics. 112 min. NNN (IR) Canada Square, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Yonge, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Varsity
HUMAN NATURE (Michel Gondry) was written before Charlie Kaufman wrote Being John Malkovich, and unlike Spike Jonze, who treated Being with deadpan cool, Gondry goes for strained wackiness in this story of a hirsute researcher (Patricia Arquette), a prissy scientist (Tim Robbins) and a wildman of the woods (Rhys Ifans). While it has occasional great highs -- I particularly liked the idea of mice being taught to use cutlery -- it has to reach too often for its effects. Touching performance from Arquette, though. 96 min. NN (JH) Grande - Yonge, Varsity V.I.P.
I AM SAM (Jessie Nelson) insults audiences with its movie-of-the-week story about a mentally challenged father (Sean Penn) fighting for custody of his young daughter. Penn's ingratiating as the innocent but oh-so-wise daddy, while Michelle Pfeiffer flounders playing the hard-nosed lawyer who learns the true meaning of love. Ohhh, I think I already saw this on a Touched By An Angel episode. 120 min. N (IR) Interchange 30
ICE AGE (Chris Wedge) or Three Prehistoric Mammals And A Baby, is a triumph for 20th Century Fox's animation department, which had pretty much folded after the failure of Titan A.E. and Anastasia. A woolly mammoth (Ray Romano), a sloth (John Leguizamo) and a sabre-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) return a human baby to his family. This prehistoric road-trip movie delivers laughs thanks to a witty script that draws on the strengths of the three lead actors. Romano's weary whine, Leguizamo's hyper babbling and Leary's smoky sarcasm play off one another with comic precision. 85 min. NNN (IR) 5 Drive-In Oakville, Canada Square, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yorkdale, Winston Churchill
IN THE BEDROOM (Todd Field) is an exquisitely made adaptation of an André Dubus story about the bereft parents (Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson) of a young man killed by his girlfriend's abusive husband. I understand the raves it's getting but also find an underlying hypocrisy at work in this film, which spends most of its middle hour rousing our genteel bloodlust, then makes us feel bad for identifying with the parents' longing for revenge. 130 min. NNN (JH) Kennedy Commons
ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS (Lone Scherfig) is the first Dogme film made by a woman, and it shows. Scherfig brings a touch of romance to the usually dour Dogme genre, uniting seven Danish strangers intent on learning Italian and changing their solitary lives. There's still a lot of heavy dramatics, especially concerning mean-spirited parents, but the end result is uplifting. 118 min. NNNN (IR) Carlton, Regent
JALLA! JALLA! (Josef Fares.) is a frantic Swedish comedy about Lebanese Swede Roro (Fares Fares), who's caught in a cross-cultural mess when his fake engagement to a Lebanese woman interferes with his relationship with his Swedish girlfriend. The movie disintegrates into a lot of men yelling and beating the crap out of each other. This madcap clash of cultures would have worked better if director Fares had toned down the macho antics. 88 min. NN (IR) Carlton
JASON X (Jim Isaac) upholds the finest traditions of insanely cheesy horror films and shot-in-Toronto cheapies. In cryogenic suspension for four centuries, Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) wakes up on a spaceship and wreaks havoc. The only fun here is trying to guess which superior movie will be ripped off next? Aliens? SuperNova? The Brain From Planet Arous? On the other hand, it's funnier than Duct Tape Forever. 90 min. N (JH) Colossus, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Kennedy Commons, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Uptown, Victoria Terrace, Winston Churchill
KISSING JESSICA STEIN (Charles Herman-Wurmfeld) is that rare entity, a funny lesbian comedy. Jennifer Westfeldt stars as high-strung Jewish straight girl Jessica, who's had it with men and starts dating another straight woman (Heather Juergensen) who's also looking to cross over. Do these lipstick lesbians have what it takes to become dykes? Westfeldt and Juergensen wrote the film (based on their play), and it's brimming with quick, naturalistic dialogue. Westfeldt's Diane Keaton-like stammer and absent-minded braininess bounce off Juergensen's quippy, acerbic veneer. 96 min. NNNN (IR) Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Varsity, Varsity V.I.P.
LAST ORDERS (Fred Schepisi) adapts Graham Swift's Booker Prize-winning novel about a gang of aging Englishmen burying their old pal (Michael Caine) while every character in the film suffers from the galloping flashbacks. It's never actually confusing -- Schepisi is a reliable director, not a flake like Nicolas Roeg, whose time schemes can induce prolonged head-scratching. A jaw-dropping cast -- Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, David Hemmings, Tom Courtenay and Ray Winstone -- carries one through, but it all seems quite similar to Sidney Lumet's Bye Bye Braverman, though the milieu in that film was New York Jewish rather than working-class Brit. 110 min. NNN (JH) Canada Square, Carlton
LATE MARRIAGE (Dover Koshashvili) is a striking debut feature by a young Israeli director with a sure sense of how to make drama out of the tensions between a family steeped in old-country ways and a son devoted to the freedom of the new. Lior Ashkenazi plays Zaza, a young Israeli grad student under intense pressure from his Georgian parents to marry. They drag him from marriageable young woman to marriageable young woman and want to break up, by any means necessary, his relationship with a slightly older divorcee. Excellent performances, and Koshashvili really knows how to build a scene. 100 min. NNNN (JH) Bayview
LIFE OR SOMETHING LIKE IT (Stephen Herek) stars Angelina Jolie as a perfectly coiffed, career-obsessed newscaster who is told by a street psychic (Tony Shalhoub) that she is going to die, which will certainly put a crimp in her career plans. Her impending doom makes her realize she has to come to terms with her life and do life-affirming things -- mostly going on camera really drunk or having sex with Ed Burns. If you've seen the trailer, you've pretty much seen the movie. The cast is good, though after this and Tomb Raider, imagine what Jolie could accomplish if she used her powers for good. 110 min. NN (JH) Beach Cinemas, Cedarbrae, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity North York, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yonge, Silvercity Yorkdale, Varsity, Winston Churchill
LOLA (Carl Bessai) stars Sabrina Grdevich as a young woman who runs away from her relationship with an older man (Colm Feore) and assumes the identity of a waitress with an abusive past (Joanna Going). Aside from the fact that the title character is impossible to understand -- we can't tell if she's 16 or 30 or figure out what she's doing in her relationship -- the film looks like a raw slice of city life, then turns into a ruminative journey into the BC interior. If people are going to call Bessai's style cinéma-vérité, there ought to be a little vérité to start with. 98 min. NN (JH) Carlton
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (Peter Jackson) is a magnificent adaptation that may offend Tolkien purists with its canny telescoping of time and shifting of characters but is astonishingly true to Tolkien's vision of the confrontation between good and evil. The most amazing special effect convinces us that Bilbo (Ian Holm) and the other hobbits are half the height of Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the various humans and elves, but the whole second and third hours of this adaptation are a series of jaw-droppers, including Arwen carrying the wounded Frodo on her horse, pursued by the Ring-Wraiths, the battle in the mines of Moria, Jackson's perfect matching of various bits of the New Zealand landscape to the action of the story, and some tremendous CGI for Mordor and Sarumen's tower at Isengard. Jackson and his collaborators, particularly cinematographer Andrew Lesnie (Babe) and production designer Grant Major, have given us miracles. 179 min. NNNNN (JH) Colossus, Cumberland, Eglinton Town Centre, Kennedy Commons, SilverCity North York, Varsity V.I.P., Victoria Terrace, Winston Churchill
MEN WITH BROOMS (Paul Gross) was written and directed by and stars Paul Gross as a washed-up curler who reunites his rink for a final comeback. This ensemble comedy has its moments -- love the tongue-in-cheek pokes at Canadian culture -- but stalls when it comes to dealing with its many dramatic threads. A host of quirky characters who aren't fleshed out clamour for attention in what's essentially a clichéd sports film. 95 min. NN (IR) Interchange 30
MONSOON WEDDING (Mira Nair) brings us inside the "new India," where an extended Punjabi family prepares for the wedding of daughter Aditi (Vasundhara Das), who's having second thoughts about her arranged marriage. Nair (Salaam Bombay!) captures the chaos of a traditional wedding taking place in a technologically plugged-in India, where cellphones, TV and disposable income are now part of daily life. You can feel the fun and love that went into this film, which pays homage to Bollywood musicals without losing its strong narrative thread. 113 min. NNNN (IR) Bayview, Central Parkway Cinemas, Humber, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Regent, Varsity
MONSTER'S BALL (Marc Forster) wants to be a sincere, carefully observed relationship story, but it only goes halfway. Billy Bob Thornton plays a numbed, southern executioner who falls for a desperate death-row widow (best-actress Oscar winner Halle Berry). The languid pace, open script and restrained acting give this film a European feel. But schematic plotting and barely disguised movie-star theatrics subvert any play for honesty. Monster's Ball is appropriately downbeat and melancholy without ever being actually reflective. It's like a photocopy of a Wim Wenders film and works best as a character piece. 111 min. NNN (CB) Carlton, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Victoria Terrace, Winston Churchill
MURDER BY NUMBERS (Barbet Schroeder) stars Sandra Bullock as a police detective trying to nail two high school seniors (Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt) who believe they've committed the perfect murder. Bullock is wonderful as the wounded woman who uses sex as a shield, which once again makes it clear that Miss Congeniality Bullock really has a knack for drama. The movie is less a "whodunit" than a "when-will-they-get-caught" saga, but it works because Gosling and Pitt are convincing as rich, bored and very smart teens with few morals and big egos. 120 min. NNN (IR) 5 Drive-In Oakville, Cedarbrae, Coliseum Scarborough, Grande - Steeles, Interchange 30, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity North York, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yonge, Silvercity Yorkdale, Uptown, Victoria Terrace
NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VAN WILDER (Walt Becker) is another useless rip-off of Animal House. (Once and for all, leave well enough alone!) Ryan Reynolds stars as perpetual student Van Wilder, the campus legend who gives great parties, counsels freshmen and turns nerds into babes. He falls for reporter Tara Reid, who's looking to uncover his secrets. There are a few clever gags and Reynolds is charming, but this is a purely derivative work. 93 min. NN (IR) Eglinton Town Centre, Interchange 30, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity North York
PANIC ROOM (David Fincher) stars Jodie Foster as a single mom who, along with her preteen daughter (Kristen Stewart), is trapped in an intruder-proof room while three burglars try to break in. Fincher's restless, kinetic camera work serves screenwriter David Koepp's taut single-set thriller, which cleverly lays out the geography of the apartment through the dialogue so we're aware of where the characters are in relation to each other at all times. It's a precise, nerve-racking drama, and Foster gives another splendidly controlled performance. 120 min. NNNN (IR) Beach Cinemas, Carlton, Cedarbrae, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity North York, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yorkdale, Uptown, Winston Churchill
A PASSAGE TO OTTAWA (Gaurav Seth) finds eight-year-old East Indian Omi (Nabil Mehta) living in Ottawa with relatives during his mother's illness. He befriends a black tour-boat captain (Jim Codrington) who falls for Omi's cousin (Amy Sobol). Ottawa looks pretty, we learn racism is wrong, and if you've got kids this movie offers important life lessons. But adults will find it overly sweet. 90 min. NN (IR) Canada Square
PAULINE AND PAULETTE (Lieven Debrauwer) are two elderly Flemish sisters. Pauline (Dora van der Groen), who is developmentally challenged, wants to move in with the opera-singing Paulette (Ann Petersen) after their eldest sister, Martha, dies. Van der Groen gives a virtuoso performance as the childlike Pauline, but director Debrauwer is content to sketch out the sisters' lives, and we're missing a certain depth, especially concerning Paulette. Knowing more about what makes these women tick would have made this bittersweet drama more resonant. 78 min. NN (IR) Canada Square, Carlton
RED GREEN'S DUCT TAPE FOREVER (Eric Till) is the sort of movie where you start thinking about alternatives like "I'd rather be force-fed my own intestines than watch the rest of this movie." An evil developer wants to kick Red Green and his buddies out of the Possum Lodge, which I believe was the plot of Meatballs 3. Forty-five minutes into the picture, a writer from another paper leaned over and whispered, "And I thought Lord Of The Rings was long." 90 min. N (JH) SilverCity North York, Winston Churchill
RESIDENT EVIL (Paul W.S. Anderson) is a cheesy but thoroughly engrossing zombie flick that allows two powerful female leads to kick ass. Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element) and Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight) lead a team of commandos through an underground laboratory where a virus has escaped into the air and turned the workers into flesh-eating zombies. Based on the series of video games, Resident Evil is weighed down by a crappy script, but the action sequences are fun and the undead creatures are appropriately relentless. 100 min. NNN (IR) Kennedy Commons
RETURN TO NEVER LAND (Robin Budd) gives the Peter Pan story a feminist update: Wendy's daughter Jane winds up in Never Land and helps Peter defeat Captain Hook. I never liked the original Peter Pan, because Peter is one of Disney's most annoying cartoon characters, and Captain Hook is undermined as a villain by being destined to play out an existential, never-ending game of cat-and-mouse with Peter. Adding a girl to the story doesn't make a difference. Rent it on video for the kiddies. 72 min. NN (IR) Central Parkway Cinemas, Colossus
THE ROOKIE (John Lee Hancock) stars Dennis Quaid as a Texas high school teacher in his late 30s who discovers that he's still got a monster fastball and decides to follow his dream on the urging of the team he coaches. It's decent for what it is, neither as achingly nostalgic as Field Of Dreams nor as deadeningly tedious as For Love Of The Game. You've got to really love baseball movies to get enthusiastic about this one -- director Hancock shoots Quaid as if sizing him up for a spot on Mount Rushmore, and Rachel Griffiths never comes close to a real Texas accent. 129 min. NN (JH) Central Parkway Cinemas, Eglinton Town Centre, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Queensway, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity North York, Silvercity Yonge
THE SALTON SEA (D.J. Caruso) stars Val Kilmer as a crystal-meth-loving police informer searching for his wife's killers in L.A.'s seedy drug scene. First-time filmmaker Caruso is fond of flashy edits in this violent, stylish thriller, and his vision gives the film the needed oomph. This is really a Kilmer comeback movie, in which the talented actor gives a trademark quirky, intense performance that soars when he's acting with gifted supporting players like Vincent D'Onofrio, who plays demented drug lord Pooh-Bear, and Deborah Kara Unger, who remains the movies' most beautiful female character actor. 120 min. NNN (IR) Paramount
THE SCORPION KING (Chuck Russell) has about three narrative lines. The first is to see if The Rock, in this prequel to The Mummy Returns, can actually develop a fourth facial expression. The second is to see how naked Kelly Hu can get without it costing the film its PG-13 rating. The third is to see how close they can get to Conan The Barbarian without the Robert E. Howard estate suing. Just to spoil things: no; pretty naked; and very. The Rock plays an Akkadian, the last of his kind, seeking revenge against an evil king who wants to rule the world. Big, sweaty guys swingin' swords, and an orgy of CGI. Action lovers will see this and say, "The Rock ain't Arnie." 91 min. NNN (JH) 5 Drive-In Oakville, Beach Cinemas, Cedarbrae, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity Mississauga, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yonge, Silvercity Yorkdale, Varsity, Varsity V.I.P.
SHINER (John Irvin) stars Michael Caine as boxing promoter Billy "Shiner" Simpson, who sends his son Golden Boy (Matthew Marsden) into the ring against the American middleweight champion. This is a gift role for Caine -- he spends the film in a bloodied tuxedo, on a rampage looking for those who double-crossed him, possibly including his own family -- but he's hampered by a clunky script that steals badly from King Lear and 60s British crime dramas. Disappointing. 99 min. NN (IR) Carlton
SNOW DOGS (Brian Levant) stars Cuba Gooding Jr, and if that doesn't strike fear into a moviegoer's heart, I don't know what will. Gooding plays a successful Miami dentist who learns that he was adopted and that his birth mother has died and left him a team of sled dogs. In Alaska. So, like a good fish out of water, he hies himself to the frozen north and decides to train the dogs to run in a big race. The seven-year-olds at the sneak preview seemed to enjoy the CGI-enhanced doggy reaction shots, and James Coburn has fun as a "crusty old wilderness guy." Cuba, you've got an Oscar. Where's your dignity? 92 min. NN (JH) Central Parkway Cinemas
SPIDER-MAN (Sam Raimi) cuts through the web of hype, but just barely. Tobey Maguire is Peter Parker, the high schooler who's bitten by a genetically altered spider and morphs into Spider-Man. Maguire is a sweet, stone-faced hero who looks bemused rather than courageous, which is fine since Spidey is more tortured than macho. It's Willem Dafoe who hurts the film, hidden under the weight of a clunky Green Goblin outfit that covers his face, so that when he and the already fully masked Spider-Man go head-to-head there's only plastic and cloth, no facial expressions. The special effects are cool, capturing a certain saturated, comic-book quality, and when Spidey gets in full web swing you can almost feel the cityscape whipping by. It's 20 minutes too long -- Raimi should have tightened the film's flabby third act. 121 min. NN (IR) 5 Drive-In Oakville, Beach Cinemas, Cedarbrae, Coliseum Scarborough, Colossus, Docks Drive-In, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Humber, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yonge, Silvercity Yorkdale, Varsity, Varsity V.I.P., Winston Churchill
THE SWEETEST THING (Roger Kumble) stars Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate as San Francisco gal pals who think they're making a Farrelly Brothers movie until Diaz's character meets her true love. This was written by Nancy Pimental, who used to write for South Park, and it shows. Diaz is a good sport about the whole thing, and terribly enthusiastic. There are a handful of laughs, but the whole thing stinks of studio desperation and recuts -- the running time includes the credits and a four minute montage of outtakes and bloopers. 83 min. NN (JH) 5 Drive-In Oakville, Eglinton Town Centre, Grande - Steeles, Grande - Yonge, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Paramount, Queensway, SilverCity Richmond Hill, Silvercity Yonge, Silvercity Yorkdale, Winston Churchill
TIME OUT (Laurent Cantet) slides slowly from psychological study to oblique thriller, though without gunplay or car chases. Aurélien Recoing, the French Kevin Spacey, plays a man whose identity is so tied up in his job that when he's fired he pretends he's still working. This leads to elaborate subterfuges and long road trips that slowly turn into a series of con games. Deliberately paced (that's what we say about slow movies we like), Time Out is about the psychological investment a person makes in a job and how function consumes identity. 127 min. NNNN (JH) Canada Square, Cumberland
THE TRIUMPH OF LOVE (Clare Peploe) is an adaptation of 18th-century playwright Pierre Marivaux's romantic comedy about a Princess (Mira Sorvino) who disguises herself as a man and seduces three unwitting victims: Agis (Jay Rodan), the man she loves; the philosopher Hemocrates (Ben Kingsley); and his scientist sister Leontine (Fiona Shaw). Sorvino gives a surprisingly assured performance as the gender-switching Princess, while her lovestruck victims give overtly comic turns as characters who throw off their rational natures in the name of love. The movie feels long, and Sorvino is asked to repeat the same type of scenes. However, Peploe avoids boredom with inventive editing; she also sometimes shows audiences who are sitting watching the action as if it were a stage play. 118 min. NNN (IR) Carlton
WE WERE SOLDIERS (Randall Wallace) is appalling. With this feel-good war film, writer/director Wallace (who penned Braveheart and Pearl Harbor) wants us to love the men who gave their lives during the initial large-scale battle of the Vietnam War, but takes great care to show them getting blown to bits. The jingoistic script is full of platitudes about America the beautiful, god, fatherhood and grace that set up Wallace's war-porn visuals. You can respect the frenetic, what-the-hell-is-going-on horror in Black Hawk Down, but you can only abhor this simplistic view of war. 135 min. N (IR) Interchange 30
Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN (Alfonso Cuarón) is a ferocious, original drama about two 17-year-old pals (Gael Garca Bernal and Diego Luna) who take an ill 28-year-old woman (Maribel Verdu) on a road trip to the Mexican coast in hopes of seducing her. The tables get turned and it's the woman who ensnares the boys, creating a rift between them. The sex is raw, graphic and entirely real, and Cuarn isn't afraid to let it spill out all over the screen. The movie is also a study of well-off kids, who, like most of us, are seeing rural, off-the-beaten-path Mexico for the first time. See interview, page 72. 112 min. NNNNN (IR) Bayview, Canada Square, Cumberland, Interchange 30, Kennedy Commons, Winston Churchill
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb
No rating indicates no screening copy