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Toronto Fest: Day 4


Intro / Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4

It's pretty tough to sit down and enjoy a few movies when your nose is 98% clogged, you have a temperature of 101, and you're working on 3 hours of sweaty and ineffective sleep, but that's precisely what I've been dealing with for the past few days. Sick is what I am, friends, but I choose to muddle through regardless, because hey, I'm lucky enough to be at a film festival that most movie geeks would kill to attend. So while I feel like warmed up crap on toast, I force myself to drink lots of O.J., buy extra packets of Kleenex, and trudge off to various screenings.


BROTHERS OF THE HEAD is not a gay porn film. It's a faux-documentary (NOT a "mockumentary") from the directors of LOST IN LA MANCHA that focuses on fictional brothers who are "purchased" from their father, plucked from their isolated island home, and transformed into bona-fide rock-star idols. Conjoined twins who are attached at the mid-section, Tom and Barry turn out to be pretty talented rock singer/songwriters from the mid-1970s, and the flick offers all the highs and lows you'd expect from a rock-doc that focuses on a duo that burned brightly before fading away. Presented in a rather enjoyably realistic fashion, BROTHERS almost manages to convince you that the brothers actually existed, which is a testament to the lead performances by Luke and Harry Treadaway. Yes, it's pretty weird -- but since when is "weird" a bad thing?


THE PROPOSITION is a rather fantastic anti-Western that takes place in late-19th century Australia. Ray Winstone plays a hard-hearted lawkeeper who offers an outlaw (brilliantly played by Guy Pearce) one truly difficult proposition: Bring in the head of his murderous older brother -- or his innocent little brother will swing from the noose. Directed with sweaty vibrance by John Hillcoat, boasting a fantastic screenplay by Nick Cave, and offering a half-dozen excellent performances (and some truly harrowing violence), THE PROPOSITION proved to be a real surprise; I was half-expecting some sort of dry Aussie history lesson, and instead I got a fast-paced and fascinating tale of revenge, justice, and loyalty (or lack thereof). Solid points are also due to the filmmakers for not spoon-feeding the "good & evil" aspects to the audience. It's left up to you to decide who the heroes and villains are ... when in fact, all the participants are equal parts admirable and hate-worthy.


One of my very favorite films of the festival so far, and no, not just because it's full of female flesh, has got to be Mary Harron's THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE. Featuring a drop-dead phenomenal performance by the generally overlooked beauty known as Gretchen Mol, and directed with a 1950s period detail that's simply amazing, NOTORIOUS is a bio-pic that doesn't look to deify or vilify its subject, the amazingly curvaceous pin-up cutie known as Bettie Page. Besides Harron's flawless eye and some truly astonishing black & white cinematography, the flick features some colorful performances from the likes of Lili Taylor, David Strathairn, and Jared Harris. This is a movie that's smart, sexy, sympathetic, and simply beautiful to look at, and it's definitely one of the finest films I've seen all week. If this movie gets released in the right month, Gretchen Mol is an absolute lock for an Oscar nomination ... and not just because she bravely bares the bod on numerous (wonderful) occasions.


Speaking of blisteringly awesome lead performances, let's take a second to ruminate on the recent career of Mr. Christian Bale. Following his "breakout" performance in 2000's AMERICAN PSYCHO, Mr. Bale bounced around the genre farm with movies like EQUILIBRIUM and REIGN OF FIRE, but it was his truly amazing performance in THE MACHINIST that caught a lot of eyes, and ultimately led to his being cast in BATMAN BEGINS. And now he pops up in HARSH TIMES, debut directorial effort from David Ayer, screenwriter of movies like U-571, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, and TRAINING DAY. Basically the story of two aimless and unemployed malcontents who lie, rob, and abuse whoever gets in their way, HARSH TIMES is a scathing indictment of the American military machine.

Bale's Jim David is a veteran of Gulf War combat, only now that he's back in L.A. (and looking for a job in law enforcement), he has no idea how to behave besides violently. As his best buddy and partner-in-crime, Freddy Rodriguez provides the perfect counterpoint to Bale's intimidating presence; these are guys still trapped in an extended childhood, refusing to take any responsibility for their own lives, and only barely avoiding jail-time, beatings, and death. Ayer proves to be as crafty a director as he is a writer, and the two lead performances are absolutely magnetic. Really good stuff here, movie-fans, but HARSH TIMES is not exactly the sort of flick you'll find packing 'em in at the Friday night multiplexes. Still, it's absolutely worth seeing, and not just for Bale's brazenly entertaining performance.


Switching tracks completely, I then wandered into the ensemble rom-com known as TRUST THE MAN, which was recently snatched up by the fine folks at Fox Searchlight. Lightweight and fairly likable, this tale of two troubled couples features some solid work from leading ladies Julianne Moore and Maggie Gyllenhaal, but it's the guys who manage to steal the show. Both Billy Crudup and David Duchovny bring the house down with truly hilarious performances; Crudup as a wise-assed man-child who refuses to grow up, and Duchovny as a lovably confused father & husband who cheats on his wife with the seriously sexy Dagmara Dominczyk. The flick sinks just a bit near the end, when everything devolves into a broad, physical farce, but there's more than enough good humor and wit to keep you entertained throughout, plus there are some excellent extended cameos from folks like Bob Balaban, Ellen Barkin, Eva Mendes, and James LeGros.

And now it's time for a shower, some more orange juice, and maybe even a few more aspirins, because the movies sure ain't gonna stop just because movie-geek Weinberg is a little under the weather! Until next report, friends, this is your loyal correspondent from Ontario, sniffling, sneezing, and signing off...

Source: JoBlo.com



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