Friday, October 21, 2022

Some standard stuff: A couple TIFF premieres and a Clooney/Roberts romp

Poster boy Harry Styles set more than a few Canadian hearts aflutter early last month outside and inside the city's venerable Princess of Wales Theater, where the 47th annual Toronto International Film Festival hosted the world premiere of "My Policeman," featuring the rock star-turned actor's work as the title character.

A few hours after raucous Styles' fans stampeded down King Street for a glimpse at their idol, he, his director (Michael Grandage), a couple of co-stars (Emma Corrin and David Dawson), and their lovingly made movie received a standing ovation.

I definitely wouldn't go that far, but the kind fans at TIFF almost always do. Regardless, the book-based, '50s-era story of "forbidden" love and some fine performances, especially from Dawson and the heartbreaking Gina McKee (playing a decades-older version of the same gentle teacher initiated by Corrin), make it all easy to embrace.

By the way, TIFF gave one of its very special Tribute Awards to the soapy film's six-person, lead ensemble, which also includes British veterans Linus Roache and Rupert Everett.

Rated "R" by MPAA: for sexual content; 1:53; $ $ $ out of $5

("My Policeman" opens today in select theaters before streaming exclusively Nov. 4 on Prime Video.)

Young Styles had more than a little celebrity company of all ages earning cheers and whistles at a variety of TIFF venues and red carpets. In fact, fiftysomethings Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor were among many on hand, too, though perhaps enjoying more polite applause for another world premiere showing, "Raymond & Ray."

The plot in the dramedy from writer/director Rodrigo Garcia ("Nine Lives") finds our ever-swell duo easily becoming half-brothers and reluctantly reuniting for the funeral of their derelict ol' man.

Of course, their father is the guy responsible for giving them the same first names, just one of a few purposeful acts of cruelty they discuss when getting together again. None of it is really much fun, but their inevitable homecoming allows each to discover things about their sibling, themselves, and the not-so-dearly departed's last wish for both of them: He actually wants his boys to dig his grave. 

A couple of strong women (portrayed by Maribel Verdu and Sophie Okonedo) pop in often enough, as well, to energize the proceedings and let us and the kids know that maybe the man they called Harris really wasn't such a bad persom down the stretch after all. 

Rated "R" by MPAA: language and some sexual material; 1:46; $ $ $ out of $5

("Raymond & Ray" opens today in a few theaters, including the Cedar Lee in northeast Ohio, and streams only on AppleTV+.)

Maybe the latest from Hollywood superstars Julia Roberts and George Clooney, another big-screen coupling with tons of red-carpet experience, didn't make the final cut for TIFF this year, but their fifth film pairing in "Ticket to Paradise" once again finds them as a divorced twosome with a problematic past.

Honestly, though, it's really as pleasant of a rom-com partnership as it sounds, especially since good-looking Julia and George just might now hold the all-time record for number of combined smiles in a movie. Despite their over-the-top bickering early on, playing the parents of a smart and pretty daughter (Kaitlyn Dever) finding first-sight romance in beautiful Bali, of all places, obviously pays dividends (apparently even with a gorgeously appealing part of Australia standing in for paradise).

Uh, on the other hand, all-the-way-at-the-end-credits begin with some insufferable outtakes, whose presence alone usually signals a production team's lack of confidence in much of what precedes them. Screenwriting certainly is not always the sharpest here, and predictability surfaces almost immediately. Ah, just go to see the stars (only at your local cineplex), and you'll smile along, too.

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: some strong language and brief suggestive material; 1:45; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

(Also new in theaters now: "Black Adam," "Detective Knight: Rogue," and "Till." Streaming just on Netflix: "The School for Good and Evil.")

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