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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 ...

2 STARS

A potentially inflammatory story about Muslim freedom-fighters/terrorists in France during the Algerian independence war gets the generic gangster-epic treatment from director Rachid Bouchareb ( Days of Glory). After an early historical set up, the drama coalesces into a schematic tale of three Algerian immigrant brothers who choose different life courses to fight French authority. Oldest brother Saïd is an apolitical pimp and boxing promoter; Indochina war vet Messaoub is a warrior with a conscience, while bespectacled intellectual Abdelkader is a heartless fanatic. Shoot-em-up scenes borrow so liberally from such Hollywood models as The Godfather and The Untouchables that it's difficult to take the anti-imperialist message seriously. L.L.

Sept. 18, 3:45 p.m., AMC 6

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat) Apichatpong Weerasethakul (U.K./Thailand/France/Germany/Spain)

4 STARS

Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul has emerged at the top of international art cinema in the past decade - this latest film took the Palme d'or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Uncle Boonmee is a delightfully original, if not entirely explicable, story of a dying Buddhist man's journey into the jungle. On the last night of his life, Boonmee is joined on his veranda by the ghost of his dead wife and son, who disappeared years before and now appears as a "monkey ghost" in an ape costume with glowing red eyes. Finally, Uncle Boonmee begins a journey into the forest to revisit his first birth place (as a fish?) to relive his past existences, including as at least one of the agents in an erotic underwater tryst between a catfish and a disfigured princess. L.L.

Sept. 18, 9:15 a.m., AMC 5

West Is West Andy De Emmony (U.K.)

3 STARS

This is a sequel to East Is East, the 1999 hit family comedy about a Pakistani family living in Salford, England, and their struggles with their Old World father, George Khan (Om Puri), and Caucasian mother (Linda Bassett). The new movie picks up in 1975, when George decides to sort out his unruly youngest son, Sajid, on a journey back to Pakistan, leaving his wife (temporarily) at home. As in the previous film the form is peculiar, a blend of cultural-alienation drama and sitcom. Puri is compelling as George, a hypocrite who holds his children to standards of conduct he doesn't meet. His conflicted character can seem out of place against the broadness of the Carry On Gang-style humour. But somehow, the idea that the struggles of culture shock can be both psychologically traumatizing and a bit of a laugh works. L.L.

Sept. 18; 6:15 p.m., Scotiabank 2

A Beginner's Guide to Endings Jonathan Sobol (Canada)

2 STARS

Writer-director Jonathan Sobol (a Canadian making his feature debut) is obviously enamoured with guys' guys, and here he gives us a fistful: a wayward, drunk, gambling dad (Harvey Keitel), and the three grown sons he inadvertently screwed over, the tough one (Jason Jones), the responsible one (Paulo Costanzo) and the womanizing one (Scott Caan). The story covers one frantic week in which they all attempt to change their lives, and the plot is one of those where seemingly disparate threads escalate until they all come together in cathartic coincidence. While I got it, I didn't quite buy it. Still, it's fun to watch the brothers punch each other around, and I always love seeing J.K. Simmons, who plays Keitel's voice-of-reason preacher brother. But the revelation here is Jones, the Hamilton-born actor primarily known as a correspondent for The Daily Show (and as Mr. Samantha Bee), who is as riveting as his handlebar mustache. J.S.

Sept. 18, 11:45 a.m., Varsity 8

Mother of Rock: Lillian Roxon Paul Clarke (Australia)

2 STARS

With mixed results, an honouring documentary chronicles the inevitable rise and the quick anti-climatic fall of Lillian Roxon, the blazing sixties rock critic and libertine described so notoriously by the feminist pioneer Germaine Greer, who wrote of a fellow Aussie "who lives with nobody but a colony of New York roaches, whose energy has never failed despite her anxieties and her asthma and her overweight, who is always interested in everybody, often angry, sometimes bitchy, but always involved." An impressive cast of rockers, writers and confidantes recall Roxon, but it is the Warholian, counterculture art-and-music scene that stars just as much. The film suffers from sketchiness - we are not even told how old Roxon was when she died mysteriously. B.W.

Sept. 18, 12 p.m., AMC 2

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