Toronto in Brief

Highlights of this past week's festival screenings in Toronto.

Anna Karenina
Directed by Joe Wright

Wright's bold, Tom Stoppard-scripted Tolstoy adaptation is "tight and pacy," wrote THR's Todd McCarthy, and will "make the grade as a solid upscale late autumn release." Instead of simply concentrating on the adultery of Anna (Keira Knightley) and dashing cavalryman Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), like past movie versions, Wright includes the parallel story of landowner Levin (Domhnall Gleeson), who seeks meaning in life -- plus the hand of Kitty (Alicia Vikander). But Stoppard anchors the drama on a literal stage set, which makes the book's sprawling realism feel "artificial, constricted, deterministic and counterfeit." Wright runs with the theater-set concept and has some success with a ballroom scene and one where a child's toy train becomes a real one in which crucial scenes are acted. However, overall the result is "arresting, mannered, gorgeous, stifling, surprising and facile by turns." Including more of the huge novel's story makes the downfall of Anna's romance too compressed and undetailed. Knightley gives Anna "a decent shot" yet lacks "the mature beauty and inner radiance" of an ideal Anna -- say, Marion Cotillard. Worse, callow Taylor-Johnson is damagingly miscast as her lover. Playing the older man instead of the young Casanova, Jude Law is good as Anna's husband, and rising star Vikander (A Royal Affair) makes a fine Vronsky-besotted Kitty.

Directed by Pablo Berger

More original than Mirror, Mirror or Snow White and the Huntsman, Berger's Snow White tale "gets doused in flamenco rhythms and shoved into the Seville bullfighting arena in this affectionate 1920s-set tribute to European silent cinema," wrote David Rooney. Kiko de la Rica's alluring black-and- white cinematography enhances "brisk, lucid and imaginative storytelling."

Directed by Andy Capper

In Capper's engaging doc, Snoop Lion, 40, laments, "Obama want me to come to the White House, but what the f-- can I perform?" Needing new material free of guns, thugs and bitches, Snoop metamorphoses from rapper to reggae star, with help from mediagenic Bob Marley bandmate Bunny Wailer and large Jamaican spliffs. The film, wrote Rooney, "whets the appetite for the disk to be released under his new moniker, Snoop Lion."

End of Watch
Directed by David Ayer

A macho, rule-breaker LAPD cop (Jake Gyllenhaal) aspires to make a doc about his own pursuit of Latino gangsters. And the bad guys are camera-happy too in Training Day scripter Ayer's adrenaline- soaked drama. "Gyllenhaal thoroughly inhabits this problematic personality," wrote John DeFore.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Directed by Stephen Chbosky

With an American accent instead of Hermione's, Emma Watson is "adequate but not quite memorable" as Sam, a Smiths- obsessed Pittsburgh high school waif in Chbosky's "heartfelt but generic" 1990s coming-of-age dramedy, wrote Jordan Mintzer. Logan Lerman is convincing as Charlie, the teen wallflower too scared to ask Sam out.As Charlie's semi-badass pal, Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin) "brings much life to party scenes and bug- out moments," like a Rocky Horror Picture Show performance that shows Miller can hold his own in drag.

Much Ado About Nothing
Directed by Joss Whedon

Some of Whedon's favorite actors (Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Sean Maher) put on "one of the funniest Shakespeare films in ages," wrote DeFore. Shot in 12 days at Whedon's home, this update of Shakespeare's Whedon-ishly wisecracking comedy earned howls and a standing ovation at Toronto. The gang of Constable Dogberry (Nathan Fillion) "swagger through the play like junior high kids making a '70s policier," wrote DeFore.

Directed by Brian De Palma

Despite eye-catching lead turns from Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams, De Palma's steamy, convoluted thriller set in a Berlin ad agency rife with professional jealousies and Sapphic tensions is, wrote Neil Young, "less a comeback than what economists call a 'dead cat bounce.' " But maybe the upcoming Carrie remake will add some marquee appeal.



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