September 10, 2008

TIFF Reviews: The Burrowers, Zack and Miri Make a Porno

So for years now I have managed to be away from Toronto while the film festival was on, and regretted this. This year I'm here, and it turns out I don't actually like film festivals: the crowds are oppressive, the tickets wildly overpriced, and you can neither buy popcorn nor bring coffee into the theatres. They do, however, offer tantalizing sneak peeks of future releases.

So: if you get a chance to see JT Petty's The Burrowers, especially on the big screen, seize it. Set in the Old West's Dakota Territories, it's about a search party sent after the survivors of what seemed to be an Indian massacre ... but who, it turns out, were victims of something(s) entirely else. Taut, lyrical, riveting, gorgeous, subtly allegorical, and haunting, It's more a western with horror tropes than the converse, closer to The Searchers than The Slugs, and the scariest thing in it isn't the trackless wastes or the inhuman monsters, but man's inhumanity to man. Very highly recommended.

Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno is basically a mediocre movie with a lot of good moments, kind of par for the course for him nowadays. Seth Rogen (who's really good, and yet I'm getting heartily sick of him) and Elizabeth Banks play roommates who decide to raise money to pay off their mountains of unpaid bills by making a porn film. Sporadically hilarious raunchy hijinks and tedious romantic complications (of the writer-fantasy "gorgeous woman falls hopelessly in love with loser schlub" variety) ensue, and the use of music - especially "Fett's Vette" and the Pixies' "Hey" - is superb. But the movie itself was really overshadowed by Kevin Smith's intro and Q&A; in person he's way more entertaining than any of his movies except Clerks. (Oddly, he's now apparently making a horror movie called Red State, which he described as "makes Dark Knight look like The Smurfs.")

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