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No laurels for 'All the King's Men' at Toronto fest

Written by: Staff
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TORONTO, Sep 17 (Reuters) Some of the biggest names in Hollywood had their egos bruised at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Critics and film buffs at the festival, which ended on Saturday, took special aim at Steven Zaillian's ''All the King's Men,'' starring Sean Penn, Jude Law and Kate Winslet.

Several major reviewers declared their disappointment in the most controversial film at the festival, ''Death of a President,'' a fictional documentary about the assassination of President George W Bush.

But international critics at the festival did give the film an award, citing its audacity.

''The last few years at the festival, we saw massive bombs like 'Elizabethtown' and 'The Human Stain,' movies that came in with glowing expectations and just bombed,'' said Tom O'Neil, show business awards columnist for The Envelope.com.

''But 'All the King's Men' was nuclear, because it dared to remake an Oscar best picture winner of 1949 and it had a galaxy of superstars performing very badly,'' he added.

Penn plays Willie Stark, an idealistic politician who rises from the poverty of the Great Depression to become governor of Louisiana, but then gives in to corruption.

Todd McCarthy, a critic for Daily Variety, called the film ''overstuffed and fatally miscast,'' and said in a review the movie ''never comes to life.'' Other disappointments included Christopher N. Rowley's ''Bonneville,'' starring Kathy Bates, Joan Allen and Jessica Lange in a road-trip flick.

''It had huge expectations, but massive disappointment. It looked like a made-for-Lifetime TV movie,'' said O'Neil.

Ken Loach's ''The Wind That Shakes the Barley,'' which won the Palme d'Or in Cannes, proved to be a letdown in Toronto, with members of the audience walking out of the screening.

Ridley Scott's ''A Good Year'' which stars Russell Crowe in a feel-good movie, also fell short of expectations. Crowe plays a cocky financier who inherits a vineyard estate in France. Initially he plans to sell it but then falls in love with it.

''It wasn't panned, but it wasn't beloved. People enjoyed watching it, but it just didn't live up to the greatness you expect from a Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe combo,'' said O'Neil.

Gabriel Range's ''Death of a President'' was criticized for a dramatic collapse after the president is killed.

''Death of a President' does not have the requisite brains to take on its conservative targets, much less exploit the potential or implications of its own gimmick,'' wrote New York Times critic Manohla Dargis.

''Marred by unpersuasive performances and sloppy errors, the film is all setup and no payoff. It also manages to be another presumably political film without any actual politics.'' India's ''Never Say Goodbye,'' at three hours and 12 minutes, was one of the longest feature films at the festival, and it was the first Bollywood feature to win a coveted Gala showing.

But the audience at the press and industry screening started drifting out after the first hour, and India's DNA Web site grumbled there were only around 20 reporters at a news conference that would have filled a stadium in India.

REUTERS DKB PM0836

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