So, in a very quick Short Takes, I highly recommend Junebug, a terrific indie film that deserves to be seen. A successful Chicago art dealer (Embeth Davidtz) travels to North Carolina with her wonderful husband George (Alessandro Nivola) to sign a reclusive artist. Their marriage is on solid ground until they arrive at his parent’s house (also in North Carolina) for a visit. Turns out the perfect husband isn’t all that he seems to be and the family is a bit crackers, except for George’s sister-in-law, a young pregnant woman married to George’s ornery brother. The movie is about what happens when family dynamics go under the marital microscope. Does anyone really know their spouse? The acting is superb, especially by Davidtz, Nivola, and Amy Adams as the pregnant Ashley, the only one in the family who understands the trap in which this southern family exists. Phil Morrison expertly directs from a beautifully realized screenplay by Angus MacLachlan.

I also highly recommend The Constant Gardener, which is based on the literary thriller by John LeCarre. A superb cast, headed by Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, stars in this intelligent and gripping mystery thriller about diplomats at work in Africa, corporate corruption, shattered love, and political conflict. Fernardo Meirelles brilliantly directs with a great sense of style and a real understanding of his material. This is one of the best movies of the year.

Jodie Foster stars in Flightplan, a taut suspense picture about a woman whose daughter mysteriously disappears ON a transatlantic jetliner. Was the kid ever really on the plane? Foster is always fun to watch when she’s in her manic mode. The movie keeps you on edge and the confined quarters create a nice claustrophobic atmosphere.

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride is another quirky animated treat in the tradition of his The Nightmare Before Christmas. This time around, we’re in Europe in the 19th-century and the story is about a groom (Victor) boning up on his wedding vows in the woods when he places a ring on what he thinks is a stick. The “stick” turns out to be a skeletal finger belonging to the Corpse Bride who is adamant that Victor and she are really married. The weirdness marches on and the movie’s a delight. Victor’s real future bride is named Victoria (no, I’m not making that up) and needless to she’s not a happy camper. Johnny Depp provides the voice for Victor, Emily Watson is Victoria, Helena Bonham Carter does the Corpse Bride, and also adding their vocal services are Richard E. Grant, Albert Finney, Christopher Lee, Tracy Ullman, and Michael Gough, among many others, including composter Danny Elfman who also wrote the sprightly musical score. Burton’s off-kilter sense of the ridiculous get high marks here.

Just Like Heaven is a screwball romantic comedy missing what all really good screwball romantic comedies need – a touch of cynicism. This is a movie that relishes its sweetness. Reese Witherspoon plays a very young, workaholic doctor who isn’t very happy. When an accident dispatches her into the spirit world, she haunts her old apartment, which is now rented by widowed architect Mark Ruffalo. Is she a ghost? A weirdo? Not really gone? Not really there? Who else can see her? Did the director Mark Waters really think Jon Heder’s line readings weren’t sleeping pills? Heder, famous from Napoleon Dynamite, plays a guy who runs an occult bookshop. He says his lines in a disastrous monotone. Screwball comedies are supposed to be fast-paced, but every time Heder opens his mouth, he slows down the films’ pacing. Of course, Witherspoon and Ruffalo fight with each other about the apartment – remember; she’s a spirit – but this only means they might be in love. Gee. No? Really?

The 40 Year Old Virgin is a one-note comedy about, well… about a guy who’s forty and has never had sex. There are a few jokes that work here and there, but the movie never really rolls on into coherency. Steve Carell has couple of funny bits, but I should have been laughing more, and I wasn’t. The film’s plodding direction doesn’t help matters. By Michael Calleri ALT Movie Editor

The Toronto International Film Festival brings in thousands of press, industry people, and movie stars, and manages to hold the film world’s attention for 10 days. But that doesn’t mean regular folks around the country – and here in Buffalo - don’t have their own openings. If Hollywood is nothing, it’s always hungry for the next big hit.

Of course, it is fun seeing Liza Minnelli or Shirley MacLaine, both of whom were at the festival, but a movie critic’s job is never confined to one concept. It may not always have been time well-spent, but I did see some current and up-coming films before and after Toronto.