Despite snaring an Oscar nomination for Half Nelson, Canada’s Ryan Gosling doesn’t look, or act, like a movie star. Try to place him, and no fixed persona comes to mind. He’s one of those rare, quicksilver character actors who can slip into a lead role as if it was written for him, and leave you wondering, “Who the hell was that?” With his narrow features and intelligent eyes, Gosling is like a younger, edgier Edward Norton. And if his new movie, an elegant legal thriller called Fracture, resembles Primal Fear, the film that launched Norton’s career, perhaps that’s because they were made by the same director, Gregory Hoblit.
In Fracture, a hot young Los Angeles prosecutor named Willy (Gosling) squares off against a wily defendant (Anthony Hopkins) who has shot his adulterous wife at point-blank range and signed a confession.The case looks like a slam dunk. It’s Willy’s one last gig for the DA before he trades up to a cushy job with a corporate law firm—and he’s already sleeping with his new boss. But the defendant, a Porsche-driving specialist in aircraft fracture mechanics, is a trickster. Representing himself in court, he plays Willy like a chess grandmaster blindsiding a cocky opponent. Fracture's plot is a bit thin around the edges, but it ticks along beautifully. The film’s lush, classconscious design preys on puzzles of L.A. architecture, from the villain’s glass mansion to the curves of Prank Gehry’s Disney Hall. As a smart yet uncultured lawyer lunging at the brass ring, Gosling projects a febrile intensity. And for Hopkins—savouring his Hannibal-lite role as a bemused genius—he makes a worthy match. Brian D. Johnson
After Nowhere With You was featured in a Zellers ad last year, Halifax’s Joel Plaskett regains his indie edge with Ashtray Rock, filled with perfect pop songs about two musicians and the woman who breaks up the band.
While Nothing More To Say is a beautiful violin-laced track, Drunk Teenagers,
with ’70s fuzz guitar, seems like a perfect Trailer Park Boys anthem.
Unlike mass-market jigsaws, Stave Puzzles (www.stave.com) trick the eye with handmade wooden pieces such as “phony corners” that don’t fit on the edge. These tabletoppers aren’t cheap—the 40-piece “Ladybug, Ladybug” teaser is $145—but are wonderfully addictive. And, considering there’s no picture on the box for guidance, incredibly tough. Patricia Treble
A LOOK INSIDE
Vancouver-based artist-photographer Adam Harrison is fast becoming one to watch in contemporary Canadian art. hollowing in the footsteps of his mentor Jeff Wall, Harrison renegotiates photography’s place in the realm of fine art. In Making Work (at Toronto’s Dyan Marie Projects until April 29), Harrison peeks into the private world of the artist during the creative process. Ronit Novak
THE PLAY’S THE THING
Shakespeare is the mortal god of many aBardolator, as his extreme fans are known. So it’s hardly
surprising that the fictional search for the truth about him, or for a purportedly lost play, has spawned as many thrillers as Jesus Christ and a secret Gospel. Most are as bad as The Da Vinci Code, but The Book of Air and Shadows (HarperCollins) by Michael Gruber is very good indeed: ingenious, suspenseful and mordantly funny. Brian Bethune
NOT YOUR TYPICAL TALKING HEADS
Between April 15 and 20, PBS will air 11 terrific documentaries in prime time as part of their America at the Crossroads series-topics range from first-hand accounts of U.S. troops in Iraq to neo-con Richard Perle arguing for an assertive American foreign policy. On April 19, Canada’s Irshad Manji explores the schisms within the Muslim world in Faith Without Fear, in part through debates about Islam with her devout mother. Patricia Treble
PACKS A PUNCH
As with a lot of oversized DVD box sets, the eight hours of extra material crammed into Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show might
only appeal to hard-core fans. While Garry Shandling’s boxing match/interview with Alec Baldwin includes some fine moments, the best part of this collection is the 23 original episodes of the show. Shandling’s show-withina-show concept was ingenious but, more importantly, wildly funny. Colin Campbell
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.