By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Sep 14, 2010 at 6:00 PM

I've been in Toronto since Saturday, on an annual vacation trip to the Toronto International Film Festival. This year's visit included six movies in four days. I'm happy to let my girlfriend pick the flicks, and I usually enjoy even the bad ones.

This is a great city for a film festival. Movies are clustered in a mostly walkable corner of Toronto, near great restaurants and all the things a North American metropolis offers. It's also a fun place to see the stars, who come to Toronto to sell their new flicks.

In the last couple days, we sat in the theaters as actors like James Franco and Helen Mirren talked about their new movies, alongside the directors who made them. It's open to everyone who buys a ticket. (No, I'm not on a media junket.)

Here's my take on five of the movies I've seen. (I have one more, a South Korean thriller called "The House Maid" later today):

  • "Beginners" -- Christopher Plummer plays a guy in his 70s who comes out after the death of his wife, and Ewan McGregor is his son, who deals both with his dad's homosexuality, and his eventual death. The film moves back and forth in time, and really focuses on McGregor's halting attempts at a romance of his own with an enigmatic French actress. It's funny, touching and director Mike Mills gives it a personal touch, patterning it on his own father. It was worth seeing and a great first movie for this Toronto visit.
  • "127 Hours" -- James Franco plays Aron Ralston, who cut off his own arm after being trapped by a boulder in the Utah desert. It comes from Danny Boyle, and is far different from his last big movie, "Slumdog Millionaire." Franco is fine in the lead role, and Boyle turns what could be a claustrophobic setting -- with Franco stuck between a rock and hard place for the titled 127 hours -- into a great film experience. But there's a big BUT here, and it's the graphic nature of how Franco's character escapes. The camera doesn't look away and it's incredibly intense. I'm not squeamish in movies, but I had to close my eyes. Even the sounds were intense.
  • "Vanishing on 7th Street" -- Thandie Newton and Hayden Christensen star in a ridiculous horror movie about everybody disappearing but a small group of people who are saved by being near light. Nothing is ever explained about anything in this "Twilight Zone" episode on steroids. The best part of "Vanishing" was the final credits, because they signified the end of 90 wasted minutes.
  • "Everything Must Go" -- A semi-serious Will Ferrell plays a business guy who loses his wife and his job on the same day, thanks to his drinking problem. It's an entertaining little film that won't be a blockbuster. Based on a Raymond Carver short story, it's all pretty straightforward and lacks surprises.
  • "Brighton Rock" -- Brighton, England in 1964 is the setting for this story of small-time hoodlums amid a background of social change focusing on rioting between young gangs of "Mods" and "Rockers." The wonderful Mirren plays a tea shop owner in the seaside town whose worried about one of her waitresses and her involvement with a thug named Pinky. It's moody and stylish and evokes previous generations of such thrillers. It's worth seeing.

Of those five, "127 Hours" will be the biggest. But I'm guessing "Brighton Rock" and "Beginners" will at least make it to U.S. art houses, like the Oriental.

The festival runs through the weekend, but I'll be home tomorrow.

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.