The following short reviews of films screening on opening day (Thursday, Sept. 9) of the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival are by Rick Groen, Liam Lacey and Gayle MacDonald. Star ratings are out of four.
Score: A Hockey Musical Michael McGowan (Canada)
Scoreless: A Movie Mediocrity. Striving to tap into our national obsession and extract some populist syrup, Michael McGowan's musical wants to be The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in shin pads; instead, it's a singing Slapshot minus the laughs. The plot, such as it is, has a teenage phenom embracing the game while repudiating its fisticuffs. Along the way, the cast, on skates and off, warble and dance and fight and fall in love and, above all, ankle their way through the slushy doggerel of rhyming couplets like, "Are we supposed to believe that baloney/ You couldn't even drive a Zamboni." How fitting that the setting is Toronto - this thing plays like the Leafs. R.G.
Thursday, 6:30 p.m., Elgin; Thursday, 8 p.m., Roy Thomson Hall; Sept. 12, 12: 30 p.m., Varsity 8
Film Socialisme Jean-Luc Godard (Switzerland)
Largely opaque, but with some poetic electricity, Jean-Luc Godard's latest is a high-definition video and sound collage set in various locales, including on a Mediterranean cruise ship, with multilingual conversations with mockingly truncated translations (e.g., "Money was invented so we don't need to look God in the eye" ends up as "money invented"). There are densely edited images and quotations related to the Holocaust, Palestine and Hollywood, with onscreen quotations from Shakespeare to Derrida, and Patti Smith walking around with an acoustic guitar. The blend of sound and image is sometimes beautiful and there are moments of humour (a llama stands over a woman's shoulder as she reads Balzac's Lost Illusions), but the rewards are scattershot, compared to late Godard meditations on civilization and its discontents, Notre Musique and In Praise of Love. L.L.
Thursday, 6 p.m., Ryerson; Sept. 11, 3:45 p.m. AMC 5; Sept 19, 9:30 p.m., Bell Lightbox 2
Fubar II Michael Dowse (Canada)
The sequel to the cult hit about two irrepressible Alberta metal heads, Terry (David Lawrence) and Dean (Paul Spence), picks up from the first film as Terry celebrates five years of health following "nut cancer." At the party, their old friend Tron (Andrew Sparacino) brags about the easy money to be made working on the pipelines near Fort McMurray, so the boys head off. With its smokestacks, peeler bars and industrial squalor, the boomtown setting gives the movie a memorably gritty context and the characters some unfamiliar cash. Dean starts blowing his earnings on a gold-digging waitress (Terra Hazelton) and Terry contrives an injury that will get him on worker's comp. Director Mike Dowse and the actors walk a line here between comedy that's both cheerfully asinine and dark as bitumen. You can't help feeling this is a movie Terry and Dean would love. L.L.
Thursday, 11:59 p.m., Ryerson; Sept. 11, 12 p.m., Varsity 8
Inside Job Charles Ferguson (USA)
Perhaps there is no one better qualified than Academy Award-nominated documentarian Charles Ferguson (BA in math from Berkeley; PhD in political science from MIT) to dissect how the global financial crisis of 2008 spun out of control, impoverishing hundreds of thousands (mostly) lower-income families in almost every corner of the world. In Inside Job, Ferguson takes a clinical approach to uncovering the fat cats responsible for the colossal market meltdown - one that cost trillions with nary a soul going to jail. Get ready to get angry, but also squirm with delight when he turns his camera on a legion of unsuspecting bankers, market regulators and Ivy League deans whose greed and narcissism led to a financial calamity that - without regulation - could erupt again. And soon, if greater accountability isn't injected into the old-boy system. G.M.
Thursday. 9, 9 p.m., Ryerson; Sept. 11, 1 p.m. AMC 6