HOTSHOTS

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film -

Smart Peo­ple ( M): Smart script, smart cast, smart com­edy. Den­nis Quaid plays a griev­ing lit­er­a­ture pro­fes­sor who finds ma­ture- age so­lace with for­mer stu­dent Sarah Jes­sica Parker. Noam Murro’s de­but fea­ture is this year’s most so­phis­ti­cated en­ter­tain­ment, aided by strong sup­port from Ellen Page ( Juno ) and Thomas Haden Church ( Side­ways ). — Evan Wil­liams

The Edge of Heaven ( Auf der an­deren Seite) ( M): This emo­tion­ally drain­ing film from Turk­ish- Ger­man wri­ter­di­rec­tor Fatih Akin is an up- to- the- minute ex­am­i­na­tion of cul­tural and re­li­gious di­vides. The beau­ti­fully struc­tured story in­volves six char­ac­ters: three par­ents and three chil­dren, four of them Turk­ish, two Ger­man. It’s im­pec­ca­bly acted and deeply com­pas­sion­ate. — David Stratton

Gone Baby Gone ( MA15+): An en­gross­ing, deeply mov­ing adap­ta­tion of Den­nis Le­hane’s novel about the search for a four- year- old girl in the mean streets of Bos­ton. Ben Af­fleck di­rected this supremely bleak, sin­u­ously plot­ted story of vice and cor­rup­tion, with his brother Casey su­perb as the private de­tec­tive work­ing with an­guished po­lice chief Morgan Free­man. — E. W.

Street Kings ( MA15+): Keanu Reeves is a racist killer- cop who also hap­pens to be the hero of this slickly made but morally in­de­fen­si­ble crime film. Work­ing from a deeply cyn­i­cal story by James Ell­roy, di­rec­tor David Ayer han­dles the wall- to- wall vi­o­lence with con­fi­dence, but the film is de­press­ing in its ap­par­ent cel­e­bra­tion of po­lice vi­o­lence. — D. S.

Nim’s Is­land ( PG): A rol­lick­ing out­door ad­ven­ture in which Jodie Fos­ter plays a shy au­thor search­ing for one of her ador­ing young read­ers ( Abi­gail Bres­lin) stranded on a re­mote is­land. Shot in Queens­land and based on Wendy Orr’s novel, the film has a naive ex­u­ber­ance that will con­quer reser­va­tions about plot and char­ac­ter. — E. W.

The Spi­der­wick Chron­i­cles ( PG): An ex­cep­tional cast, in­clud­ing the tal­ented Fred­die High­more, and fine pro­duc­tion val­ues give some dis­tinc­tion to this at­tempt to com­bine a fan­tas­tic sub­ject in­volv­ing fairies and gob­lins with a re­al­is­tic tale of chil­dren whose par­ents have sep­a­rated. The con­den­sa­tion of five short books works well. — D. S.

Lars and the Real Girl ( PG): In this strangely touch­ing com­edy from USbased Aus­tralian di­rec­tor Craig Gillespie, a loner ( Ryan Gosling) falls in love with a life- sized sex doll and wins the hearts of a small com­mu­nity. A brave idea, with some in­sight and ten­der­ness, but too much rep­e­ti­tion, too many laboured jokes and a weak end­ing. — E. W.

The Se­cret of the Grain ( La Graine et le Mulet) ( M): French di­rec­tor Ab­del­latif Kechiche’s film about the lives of a North African Arab fam­ily in France is dis­tin­guished by Habib Bo­u­fares’s deeply af­fect­ing per­for­mance as a re­trenched dock worker seek­ing a new life in busi­ness. This hu­mane, beau­ti­ful film is marred by long di­gres­sions. — E. W.

Pro­fessed love: Quaid and Parker

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