"Adolphe." "The Story of Adele H." star Isabelle Adjani returns to the screen in another period

"Adolphe." "The Story of Adele H." star Isabelle Adjani returns to the screen in another period drama about doomed, obsessive love: So strangely dispassionate that it sends a chill down your spine. ss
"Antwone Fisher." True-life story of a sailor (Derek Luke) whose therapy sessions with a Navy shrink (Denzel Washington who also directed) inspire him to seek out the family who abandoned him as a child. While too derivative of "Good Will Hunting" and "Ordinary People," the concluding half-hour moved me to tears. Partly filmed in Cleveland. ss1/2
"Ararat." In Atom ("The Sweet Hereafter") Egoyan's wildly ambitious if emotionally remote mini-epic about the 1915 Turkish genocide of one million Armenians, the horrors of the past are reflected in the present day lives of two Toronto families. ss1/2
"Bowling for Columbine." Michael ("Roger and Me," "TV Nation") Moore's intermittently amusing but rambling and unfocused look at America's abuse of firearms and "culture of fear." This Cannes prize-winner could afford to lose a half hour from its indulgent 125-minute running time. ss1/2
"Blue Car." A troubled Ohio teen (the dazzling Agnes Bruckner) has an "inappropriate" relationship with her high-school English teacher (David Straithairn) in this beautifully-observed Sundance discovery. sss
"City of God." Neo-realism enters the digital video age in this sprawling mosaic which spans three decades in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles' striking film packs a wallop similar to "Amores Perros" and "Pixote." sss1/2
"The Crime of Father Amaro." A newly-ordained priest (Gael Garcia Bernal from & quot;Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "Amores Perros") falls in love with a devout young woman (Ana Claudia Talancon). This should generate a storm of controversy when the Samuel Goldwyn Company opens it stateside next year. sss
"Dirty Pretty Things." Stephen ("High Fidelity") Frears' gritty, hard-hitting look at a motley London community of illegal immigrants. Audrey Tautou ("Amelie") and Sergi Lopez ("With a Friend Like Harry") both make impressive English-language debuts. sss1/2
"Dolls." Two young lovers wander the countryside tethered together by a clothesline in director Takeshi ("Brother") Kitano's vacation from yakuza movies. Inspired by Japan's Bunraku doll theater, this modern fairy tale is as innovative in its storytelling techniques as it is shiveringly beautiful. ssss
"Eight Women." Sort of a musical comedy version of "Gosford Park" with an all-female cast (including Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, and Danielle Darrieux), Francois Ozon's Agatha Christie-style murder mystery is extravagantly entertaining. ssss
"The Emperor's Club." Kevin Kline is an inspirational Western Civ teacher at an elite New England prep school: Teen costar Emile ("The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys") Hirsch will remind viewers of a young Leonardo DiCaprio. More "Goodbye Mr. Chips" than "Dead Poets Society." sss1/2
"Evelyn." A single father (Pierce Brosnan) in 1953 Dublin fights to regain custody of his three young children when the Catholic Church and Irish courts place them in orphanages. Based on a true story, Bruce ("Driving Miss Daisy") Beresford's feel-good weeper is for audiences who thought "Angela's Ashes" was too depressing. ss1/2
"Far From Heaven." 1950's housewife Julianne Moore's perfect world is irrevocably changed after learning of husband Dennis Quaid's homosexuality. Provocateur extraordinaire Todd ("Velvet Goldmine") Haynes brilliantly re-creates the look and sensibility of an actual Eisenhower-era Hollywood movie. ssss
"Femme Fatale." Alluring seductress Rebecca Romijn-Stamos ensnares voyeuristic photographer Antonio Banderas in her bizarre quest for vengeance. This latest exercise in high-style suspense from Brian DePalma was TIFF's Closing Night Gala presentation. ssss
"Frida." Stage and film director Julie ("Titus," Broadway's "The Lion King") Taymor's deeply sensual and exquisitely tactile big-screen biography of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (a knockout Salma Hayek) and her stormy 25-year marriage to fellow artist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina, never better). ssss
"The Good Thief." Neil ("The Crying Game") Jordan's jazzy, voluptuously stylized remake of Jean-Pierre Melville's "Bob Le Flambeur" is an arthouse variant on Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's 11:" Nick Nolte triumphs as a gentleman bandit orchestrating a Monte Carlo casino heist. ssss
"The Guys." A journalist (Sigourney Weaver) helps an NYC fire captain (Anthony LaPaglia) write eulogies for his men who were killed on 9/11. Adapted from an off-Broadway play, this feels more like a cable movie than a theatrical release despite good work from Weaver and especially LaPaglia. ss
"Happy Here and Now." Lots of familiar faces (including Ally Sheedy and David Arquette) pop up in director Michael (Ethan Hawke's "Hamlet") Almereyda's trippy "mystery" about the search for a missing woman. Strongly influenced by David ("Mulholland Drive") Lynch, Almereyda makes New Orleans look an awful lot like the dark side of the moon. sss1/2
"In America." Irish immigrants (Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton) journey to Manhattan to begin a new life in director Jim ("My Left Foot") Sheridan's first U.S. production. Ultimately joyous and uplifting, this features child performances worthy of a Steven Spielberg movie. ssss
"Irreversible." When his pregnant girlfriend (Monica Bellucci) is savagely raped, Marco (Bellucci's real-life husband, Vincent Cassel) hits the streets of Paris seeking bloody revenge. Told in reverse, "Memento"-like order, Gaspar Noe's masterpiece poses a formidable marketing challenge for U.S. distributor Lions Gate. ssss
"Japon." Torturously slow and impenetrable meditation on life, death, and Catholicism in the Mexican countryside. Acclaimed as a masterpiece at the Rotterdam and Cannes film festivals, it prompted more walkouts than any other TIFF entry. s1/2
"Jet-Lag." An appealing "opposites attract" romantic comedy about a free-spirited woman ("Chocolat" star Juliette Binoche) who finds love at a Paris airport with uptight business executive Jean Reno. Ripe for a U.S. remake, probably starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. sss
"Ken Park." Shockmeister Larry ("Bully") Clark re-teams with his "Kids" screenwriter Harmony Korine for TIFF's most controversial film in which teenagers and their parents come under equal scrutiny. How Clark expects this to get released in North America with or without an MPAA rating is beyond me. ssss
"Lost in La Mancha." This exceptionally candid showbiz documentary chronicles director Terry Gilliam's "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" from pre-production to the film's ultimate collapse one week into shooting. Narrated by Gilliam's "Fisher King" star Jeff Bridges. sss
"The Man on the Train." A retired schoolteacher (Jean Rochefort) befriends an aging thief (Johnny Hallyday): Patrice ("The Widow of St. Pierre") Leconte's lovely character study has an enigmatic ending that will haunt you long after you've left the theater. ssss
"Max." The subject of "Color Purple." screenwriter Menno Meyjes directorial debut is the unlikely friendship in 1918 Munich between a Jewish art dealer (John Cusack) and struggling artist Adolph Hitler (Noah Taylor of "Shine"). The lead actors' persuasive performances help this build to a crescendo of remarkable intensity. sss1/2
"Moonlight Mile" While grieving with his dead fiancee's parents (Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon), Jake Gyllenhaal falls in love with another young woman. Powerfully moving, this superbly-acted 1970s-set tearjerker marks writer-director Brad ("City of Angels") Siberling as a major American filmmaker. ssss
"Personal Velocity." The winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival tells the affecting stories of three women (Kyra Sedgewick, Parker Posey, and Fairuza Balk) struggling to make sense of their lives. sss1/2
"Phone Booth." In an Oscar-worthy performance, Colin Farrell triumphantly reunites with his "Tigerland" director Joel Schumacher for this dynamic urban thriller about a man who should have never picked up the ringing receiver in a Manhattan phone booth. This will do for public telephones what "Psycho" did for showers. ssss
"The Quiet American." Bravura cinematography by the incomparable Chris Doyle ("In the Mood for Love") is the chief virtue of this disappointingly juiceless adaptation of Graham Greene's novel where Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser listlessly compete for the affections of the same Vietnamese beauty in 1952 Cambodia. ss
"Rabbit-Proof Fence." In 1931, three aboriginal half-caste sisters forcibly removed from their family escape a state-run dormitory and travel 1,500 miles home in this fact-based Miramax drama which feels like an artifact from the early days of the Australian New Wave. sss
"Respiro." On the paradisical Sicilian island of Lampedusa, manic-depressive wife and mother Grazia (Valerie Golino from "Rainman") teeters on the verge of a nervous breakdown: The vividly-textured island is the film's single most indelible character. sss1/2
"Secretary." Strong performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader can't redeem this off-putting "romance" about a masochistic secretary who finds an accommodating playmate in her new boss. A Sundance Film Festival award winner. ss1/2
"The Secret Lives of Dentists." Distraught over suspicions that his wife (Hope Davis) is having an affair, a dentist (Campbell Scott) turns to a patient (Denis Leary) for advice. Another of director Alan ("Choose Me") Rudolph's smart, performance-driven comedies, and this is one of the very best in his quarter-century career. ssss
"Sex is Comedy." An overly analytical director (Anne Parillaud) has trouble shooting a love scene thanks to her two obstinate actors (Gregoire Colin and Roxane Mesquida) in the always provocative Catherine ("Fat Girl") Breillat's amusing movie-within-a-movie. sss
"Spider." Ralph Fiennes delivers a tour-de-force performance as a delusional schizophrenic in David Cronenberg's hypnotic and stunningly visceral psychodrama. In a triple role, Miranda Richardson deserves every acting award there is. ssss
"Spirited Away." Devotees of anime master Hayao Miyazaki ("Princess Mononke") will rejoice, but don't look for this to win him any new fans: Too sluggishly-paced and visually unappealing to make much of a splash domestically when Disney releases a dubbed version later this month. ss
"Sweet Sixteen." Young Liam (Martin Compston in an unforgettable debut performance) devises an ingenious plan to raise money for a "welcome-home-from-prison" gift for his mum. The only film by veteran British director Ken ("My Name is Joe") Loach that I've ever truly loved. ssss
"Try Seventeen." Tiresomely quirky teen comedy about an aspiring 17-year-old writer (Elijah Wood) with an overactive fantasy life. Franka Potente and Mandy Moore costar as "older women" who take a shine to him. ss
"Tuck Everlasting." A young girl (Alexis Bledel of "The Gilmore Girls") falls in love with a boy (Jonathan Jackson) who's part of a family of immortals (Mom and Pop are Sissy Spacek and William Hurt). This enchanting Disney fable based on the Nathalie Babbit novel has the feel of a young-adult "Somewhere in Time." sss1/2
"Welcome to Collinwood." Unofficial remake of the classic 1958 comedy "Big Deal on Madonna Street" about a gang of small-time crooks (including "Fargo"'s William H. Macy) attempting to pull a heist. Co-produced by George Clooney, who has an extended cameo, this low-key charmer was filmed in Cleveland by Northeastern Ohio natives Joe and Anthony Russo. sss
"White Oleander." A teen (impressive newcomer Alison Lohman) journeys through a series of foster homes after her mom (Michelle Pfeiffer) goes to prison for a crime of passion. Janet Finch's best-selling novel is given a first-class treatment, and the entire cast (including Renee Zellweger and Robin Wright Penn) is superb. sss1/2

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