dir Darren Aronofsky; with Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis 10/US *****
Aronofsky comes up with yet another daring cinematic experience, and it's perhaps more Requiem for a Dream than The Wrestler this time, as it dips into some very deep, dark areas of humanity. The film cleverly adapts Swan Lake into a ballet company setting, with Natalie Portman as Nina, the lead dancer who begins to suspect that another dancer (the superb Mula Kunis) is trying to steal her position. The film is a bundle of insinuations and rather insidious suggestions, and as it goes along we are plunged deeper and deeper into Nina's tortured mind. And in the end the film seems to be playing with our own perceptions as well.
Catfishdir Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost; with Yaniv "Nev" Schulman 10/US ****
This starts as a documentary about an offbeat online relationship before warping into something much more interesting. It essentially becomes a real-life thriller packed with outrageously amusing observations. It's the story of 24-year-old new York photographer Nev, who begins an online chat with 8-year-old painter Abby Pierce in Michigan then begins to wonder if anything about Abby and her family is real. So he heads to Michigan with his friends to find out. The result is surprisingly funny and also packed with suspense as the showdown approaches - and then it takes a few very unexpected turns. The most clever thing about the film is the way it makes us wonder how much of it has been staged, because it really doesn't matter when it's this entertaining.
Circodir Aaron Schock; with Tino Ponce, Ivonne Galindo 10/Mex ***
This straightforward doc offers a fascinating profile of a nomadic family in rural Mexico struggling to maintain their old traditions in a world that's shifting dramatically. And it really captures their hopes and fears. The film follows a family that has been in the travelling circus business for more than 100 years and is struggling to cope with changes in both society and within their family. It's a telling look at how the world has shifted in recent years, and the family members provide plenty of humour and drama - plus of course amazing circus acts - along the way.
dir JB Ghuman Jr; with Savannah Stehlin, Sydney Park 10/US **
Rather too mannered for its own good, this colourful teen comedy combines serious subject matter with a silly production style, like the corny, cheap lovechild of Johns Waters and Hughes. It's the story of a 14-year-old who has been nicknamed "Spork" because she's both make and female. And as she finally stands up to the school bully and makes some decent friends, she find the ability to accept who she is. It's nice that the filmmaker has taken such a comical approach to a strong issue, but the film is too hyperactive for us to ever really resonate with it. At least there's a nice range of veteran scene stealers (Beth Grant, Chad Allen, Keith David) along for the ride.