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James Franco (Matt Carr/Getty Images)
James Franco (Matt Carr/Getty Images)

Today at TIFF

James Franco, James Caan and much more Add to ...

Sept. 18, 8:30 p.m., Varsity 8

Black Swan Darren Aronofsky (USA)

3 STARS

Audaciously whacked-out and never less than entertaining, Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan mixes a backstage dance drama with a Freudian psychological thriller that's indebted to Roman Polanski's studies of shattered feminine psyches and David Cronenberg's movies about repressed bodies in rebellion. The story follows a New York ballerina (Natalie Portman), who is striving to win the lead in a new version of Swan Lake, while suffering from hallucinations, an infantilizing mom (Barbara Hershey), an overbearing director (Vincent Cassel) and a sexy rival (Mila Kunis). Shot with a mixture of documentary-style handheld and traditional set-ups, Aronofsky's film has a lush surface and strong momentum, but he undermines the story's seriousness with horror shock effects and the absurdly overripe dialogue. Black Swan amounts to less than what meets the eye, but often what meets the eye - especially in Portman's entrance as the title character - is gorgeous. L.L.

Sept. 18, 9 p.m., Ryerson

The Town Ben Affleck (USA)

4 STARS

He hit a home run with his directorial debut of Gone Baby Gone in 2007. But with the high-paced thriller about a posse of low-life bank robbers in his hometown of Boston, Ben Affleck hits it out of the Fenway ballpark. Tightly woven, with edge-of-your-seat chase scenes that seem artlessly interspersed in an unlikely love story, Affleck directs and stars in this adaptation of the acclaimed book, Prince of Thieves. Flawless, and totally believable performances by Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm and Blake Lively bring the tough streets of Charlestown to despairing life in a redemptive tale about childhood friendship, loyalty, a woman (Hall) who finds herself in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong guy. G.M.

Sept. 18, 9 p.m., Elgin

Amazon Falls Katrin Bowen (Canada)

2 STARS

Beautiful Burnaby, B.C., stands in for seedy Los Angeles in this low-budget potboiler about a bottle-blond B-minus movie actress, Jana, who, at 40, is well past her best-before starlet/ingénue date yet determinedly continues her quest for Hollywood semi-stardom. She works in a dumpy lounge; her (younger) boyfriend is a feckless, drug-addled DJ; the guys she auditions and works for are creeps; she lies to everybody (including herself) to maintain the delusion/illusion of career mobility. Sound familiar? You betcha. While April Telek is entirely believable as the desperate, vulnerable Jana, her performance is largely for naught in a feature that never gets beyond the clichés that inspired it. First-time feature helmer Bowen shot Curry Hitchborn's hastily drafted script in just 12 days, and it shows. J.A.

Sept. 18, 9:15 p.m., AMC 9

Good Neighbours (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce) Jacob Tierney (Canada)

3 STARS

As 1995 slouches into 1996, winter holds Montreal in an unrelenting grip. Adding to the chill are a series of unsolved rapes and murders occurring in the west-end neighbourhood of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, all of which, it seems, have been perpetrated by the same man. That's the set-up for Jacob Tierney's third feature, using a self-penned screenplay adapted from Chrystine Brouillet's novel Chère Voisine. The action revolves around three tenants of a run-down apartment: a cat-obsessed waitress (Emily Hampshire) working in a Chinese restaurant that never seems to have any customers, a wheelchair-bound widower (Scott Speedman) whose suite is filled with aquariums, and an emotionally needy, newly arrived elementary-school teacher (Jay Baruchel). Tierney, who scored big at TIFF last year with The Trotsky, garners great (and not a little creepy) turns from each of his leads to concoct a twisty tale that's part-mystery, part-psychological thriller, part-comedy. His assured mise-en-scène echoes Polanski's The Tenant and Boyle's Shallow Grave. J.A.

Sept. 18, 12:45 p.m., AMC 6

Trigger Bruce McDonald (Canada)

3 STARS

Sometimes an on-screen pairing just clicks. Though filled with recognizable faces - Sarah Polley, Don McKellar, Callum Keith Rennie, Caroline Gillis - Trigger leans almost entirely on its leading ladies, Molly Parker and the late Tracy Wright. They play reunited rocker chicks who have taken widely divergent paths in life and are wrangling demons born of a youth spent with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Looking gaunt, Wright is splendid as Vic, the sharp and sarcastic half of the duo wasted by a taste for heroin. Parker is a charming and convincing foil as the cheerier Kat, now a well-paid TV executive still battling demons of her own. Trigger was rushed into production after Wright was diagnosed with cancer, but it doesn't feel that way. Shot simply but compellingly, it feels like a polished and practised portrait of rekindled bonds. J.B.

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