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John Wick

The film breathes exhilarating life into its tired premise, thanks to some dazzling action choreography, stylish visuals and–most importantly–a vintage anti-hero performance from Keanu Reeves.

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Low Down

Preiss' movie does a consistently excellent job of explaining the lure of jazz, and the psychology of addicts, their enablers and their children, without explaining…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Toronto: Beware catalog spoilers!

There's nothing I hate more than a review that's mostly plot description -- unless it's a movie that's mostly plot. To me, movies are primarily about images, and after that, behavior, emotions, ideas, and so on. If there's a story in there, swell, but for me, story is the MacGuffin, the excuse that seems important when you're watching the movie, but which turns out to be just a tiny part of the experience when it's over.

So, I've always tried to avoid anything beyond the most basic statement of a film's premise, and perhaps a description of its main characters, when writing about movies. Which is why I'm so disappointed that so many of the entries in the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival catalog ($34.17 Canadian -- though the US exchange rate is practically even now) give away far too much.

I know it's tough to write these things (I did it for years in Seattle). You have to describe enough to make the movie sound enticing enough to potential ticket-buyers. But this is a festival, and one of the glories of a festival is getting to see something that hasn't already been pre-sold and ruined by giveaway trailers and TV spots. So, to cite just one example, if anybody's intending to see "Day Night Day Night" in Toronto, don't read the catalog description!

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