Love will tear us apart ... and, uh, so will the bullets

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Day one of the Toronto International Film Festival. New this year: badges with bar codes. Now, when you enter a screening room, they zap you in the badge instead of making you sign in. There's also a lot of construction going on in the mall that envelops the main festival theater. This is my third year at TIFF, but things feel a little unfamiliar so far.

Not the case with the movies (or the ancient-popcorn smell that fills the theaters...rank, yet comforting somehow). I've already seen some really great ones. Been up since 4am California time (is there any other time, really?) and I'm up at the same time tomorrow, so I'll keep this post pretty brief.

The day began as more of my days should: with a satisfying jolt of Spanish horror.

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You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave ... amigo.

The Orphanage -- directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, produced by Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth), and reminiscent of Alejandro Amenabar's The Others -- traces the spooky shit that happens when Laura (Belen Rueda) brings her family (stuffy-cute doctor husband, precocious-cute 7-year-old son) to live in a giant seaside house that was once the orphanage where she lived as a girl. I don't wanna spoil this atomospheric, mostly successful (if occasionally too-familiar) supernatural thriller, other than to say there are some jolly shocks, and one particularly excellent homage to Poltergeist. (Note: it does not involve a clown doll, thank gawd.)

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Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.

Next, I detoured a bit into Hollywood with The Brave One. I needed to see it because it's opening in SF next week. But I'm also hooked on vigilante movies. (Seriously, if you haven't seen Death Wish III ... why you lagging?) Horrible things happen to Jodie Foster (don't they always, in her movies?) and she turns into New York City's very own one-woman Crimestoppers. The line "Bitch, is you crazy?" is uttered. Terrence Howard pops up as a way more helpful cop than Aisha Tyler was in Death Sentence (now playing...kind of the same movie, except not as good, and way less artlful, and starring Kevin Bacon).

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Sam Riley as Ian Curtis.

Later, I answered my own rhetorical question of last week, which was, "If a film festival shows two Joy Division movies, which should you see? The narrative or the documentary?" Of course the obvious thing to do is see both. Control is based on a book by Ian Curtis' widow (portrayed by Samantha Morton here). It's black-and-white, directed by first-time helmer Anton Corbijn, and as stripped-down as a biopic can be while still conveying all the right emotions. Star Sam Riley does much of his own singing. Oddly, he played Mark E. Smith in 24 Hour Party People -- watch for the Fall joke in Control. Tres meta, y'all. TIFF's Joy Division doc screens Saturday (imaginatively, it's called Joy Division). So I'm not out of Manchester-y depression mode yet.

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He's a little bit Country, and a little bit rock n' roll. And, like, totally deadly.

The last movie of the day already has a place on my best of 2007 list. But come on, like you aren't gonna go crazy for the Coen Brothers? No Country for Old Men is a new West western set in 1980, based on Cormac McCarthy, and starring a trio of men whose guns fire more bullets then their mouths do words: Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem. Brilliant movie, beautifully shot, and as bloody-poetic as it gets.

Man, I am sleepy out here. Tomorrow, a doc about Iraq's only heavy metal band, and Dario Argento's new film -- early buzz says it's his best in 20 years.

Oh, and maybe some of this action ... gotta love Toronto street dogs.
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