Row Three Presents: MASSIVE TIFF09 SUMMARY


We hope you have enjoyed the extensive coverage Row Three managed to spew out onto the internet over the 10 day madness of the Toronto International Film Fest, or tiff as it is know pretty much known. As a final palette cleanser to the festival all those of us that contribute around here, from the Mamo! Matts (B. and P.) to Rot, Andrew and myself, managed to give a quick summary and a tag [Best], [Worst], [Loved], [Liked], [Disappointed], [Hated] for each of the films we saw. It is all loosely organized below to give you as much of a snapshot as possible for expect and look forward to over the next 18 months as these films creep into moviehouses (and VOD, DVD, etc.) outside of the festival circuit.

The SHORT version:

Most Loved: Enter The Void (Kurt, Matt P., Matt B.), Collapse (Rot) and Mr. Nobody (Andrew)
Most Loathed: George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead (Kurt, Andrew), Wheat (Matt B.), Police Adjective (Rot), Nymph (Matt P.)

The MASSIVE summary of this years festival is tucked under the seat.

And our FULL REVIEWS during TIFF 09 are found by clicking the Big White Banner.

Enter The Void
Matt P. [BEST] – The less you know the better. I will now stop talking, because there’s nothing I could say that could live up to the experience of watching this. Best! Like Ever!
Kurt [BEST] – A visceral, visual experience unlike that of anything else. Everything, including the craziest and best opening credits ever, is designed to have a physical effect while watching this. Life, death, rebirth, limbo, and gliding POV camera work mesmerize for nearly 3 hours. I want more (much, much more) please!
Matt B. [BEST] – a work of dedicated genius. Best thing I’ve seen. Dozens of walkouts. I want to watch it again right now.

Mr. Nobody
Andrew [BEST] – Best of what I saw by a long long shot. Gorgeous cinematography and special effects coupled with fantastic camera work makes the visuals alone worth it. But the visuals alone only scratch the surface as to what this film attempts and achieves. This is a must see on the big screen which may prove difficult. Great cast with a unique story that fuses “Vanilla Sky” with “Sliding Doors” (and a whole bunch of other influences as well, including “The Fountain” and “2001.”
Rot [LIKED] – Benjamin Button meets Amelie, strong beginning and end but gets muddled in the middle.
Kurt [LOVED] – This is the film that Southland Tales should have been. It is the logical progression from Donnie Darko, and cult status awaits. A man lives out several tangent universes while waiting for time to end, while in the future, everyone is immortal due to their porcine gene donors. Kinetic as hell, a masterful sci-fi mind-trip and gorgeously edited, Mr. Nobody is one of the great gems of the festival.

Rot [BEST] – The fact-check zeal of An Inconvenient Truth meets the aesthetic aspirations of Fog of War, I never wanted this film to end.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Chris Smith knows a great subject when he sees one, and as a character study this is a fine effort. But as either a critical examination of ideas or an illustrated lecture I think it misses the mark. There simply isn’t enough filmmaking here to love the result.

Valhalla Rising
Kurt [LOVED] – Sergio Leone framing combined with hypnotic and strange pacing. Surely a divisive film, but it has blood eagling and a one-eyed ass kicking Mads Mikkelsen and red-tinted waters.
Matt B. [LOVED] – slow and powerful like a lava river.
Matt P. [LOVED] – Despite the calls of “Viking Fail” from non believers, this to me accomplishes in 90 minutes what Terence Malick couldn’t get done in 3 hours in “The New World”. Mads is perfect as One-Eye, there’s some early badassery that establishes credibility for the rest of the film, and overall it’s a hell of a trip. Would have been my top pick, if not for Enter The Void.

Mike [LOVED] – Documentary on Clouzot’s doomed masterpiece, has to be seen to be believed, cinema was truly reinvented in some of these never before seen clips.

Deliver Us From Evil
Matt P. [LOVED] – Like I said, and I said it first, It’s Straw Dogs with a nail gun. It’s also Rio Bravo goes to Bosnia. It’s also the best damn genre exercise at this year’s fest, a pure shot of exploitation as art.
Kurt [LOVED] – A very handsome (and stylized) updating of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs that manages to be even more violent. This might be due to the addition of a nail gun and a lot of drunk Danes. The closing moments of the film is harrowing stuff. Not for the squeamish.
Andrew [LOVED] – High octane suspense/thriller from Denmark that builds and builds to a suspense that can’t possibly pay-off. Then it does.

Kurt [LOVED] – High on visual virtuoso, is Lars von Trier’s Antichrist a satire of art films, or a full blown horror picture? Either way it is a match made in heaven and works in spite of its talking fox and high-brow pretensions.
Andrew [LOVED] – The delicate balance between arthouse cinema and exploitation is divine. The psychological trauma is almost as intense as the physical. Beautifully brutal.

Harry Brown
Matt B. [LOVED] – is solid as a sack of bricks. A real firecracker. Immaculately crafted.
Matt P. [LOVED] – Caine proves once again why he’s the greatest living actor in Britain in this shockingly clean and modern take on Death Wish. This is the first one of these that doesn’t take pains to amplify the behaviour of the criminals to justify the protagonists actions, but simply presents them as the only viable answer to what seems like a plausible problem. Also it kicks ass in all the right ways.

Waking Sleeping Beauty
Matt P. [LOVED] – I’m a huge Disney nerd, and this is a super well paced doc that fills in some background on the people that drove it back from the brink of irrelevance to make four of the best animated films in history. Well made and completely compelling.

Get Low
Kurt [LOVED] – A debut worth of Sarah Polley’s Away From Her which features a trio of fabulous performances from Bill Murray, Sissey Spacek, and Robert Duval. One of those iconic American stories that were made often in the 1930s and 1940s. A warm and fuzzy inversion of Billy Wilder’s Ace In The Hole.
Matt P. [LOVED] – Read Kurt’s review, it sums up the charms of this polished and impressive production. Duvall better get serious consideration come awards season. Frankly, so should Murray.

Bad Lieutenant – Port of Call New Orleans
Matt P. [LOVED] – A great mix of Nic Cage reclaiming his super crazy credibility and Herzog pointing the camera at whatever interests him at the moment. TO THE BREAK O’ DAWN, MUTHUFUCKA.
Andrew [LOVED] – Goofy Cage harnessed correctly by Mr. Herzog. A blast to watch things go all over the place with insanity yet somehow remain cohesive. My second favorite, non-MidMad screening of the festival.
Matt B. [LOVED] – shoot me again! My soul is still dancing!
Kurt [LOVED] – Herzog goofs on genre cinema, films iguanas in extreme close-up and allows Nicholas Cage to ‘release the wild pig.’ A match made in heaven, that gives a genre film that scribbles outside the lines.
Rot [HATED] – A quaint attempt at batshit crazy that is more dull than fist-pumping… Herzog what have ye done?

The Road
Rot [LOVED] As good an adaptation of the novel as we were ever going to get.
Kurt [LOVED] – A pitch perfect adaptation of the stellar Cormac McCarthy novel. Probably the bleakest multiplex film of the year, which is offset by more nude Viggo Mortensen. Be warned though, there is graphic cannibalism on display here.
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – By failing to exceed the book the film paints itself into a narrative dead end. It’s difficult in a case like this to figure out what went wrong, but it’s more like what failed to go right. The brilliant prose of the novel has nothing to replace it here, and although the performances are good, they don’t belie more than the text of what is happening.
Andrew [LIKED] – “Loved” is maybe a little bit strong, but I really really liked it. I think it won’t be all that rewatchable in years to come, but we shall see. Read the book first and then decide if you really need to see the movie.

Fish Tank
Matt B. [LOVED] – When a movie works at TIFF, it crackles. You knowa it instantly. FISH TANK crackles.
Matt P. [LOVED] – Like the best of Mike Leigh’s class commentary stuff, but with a tighter focus on story that drives us to connect emotionally and invest more in the outcomes. This is like everything good about british cinema in one 90 minute film.

The Informant!
Rot [LOVED] – One of Soderbergh’s most entertaining films, up there with The Limey and Out of Sight
Matt P. [LOVED] – Not the movie I thought it was going to be, and frankly so much more than just the affable morality play it’s been sold as. The secret of The Informant! is so good I won’t even reveal it, but when you realize what the subject of the film really is it’s like finding a pearl in an otherwise quite delicious oyster. Damon does some of the best technical acting I’ve ever seen, playing off his own internal voice over monologue like it’s a master class in movie acting.

Kurt [LOVED] – A step up from the already wonderful Dianipponjin, Symbol was the Midnight Madness film to beat this year. Epic in scope, while intimate in execution. Is it man’s ascention to godhood, or merely that god in itself is simply random? You will not find the answers, here, but you will have a lot of fun asking the questions.
Matt B. [LOVED] – is the greatest movie ever made about anything. Push the white room baby dick. Goodnight.
Andrew [LOVED] – Welcome to the “WTF” movie of the festival. Loads of fun and laughs to ultimately culminate into an actual message. Parsing that message may take more than the usual amount of thought and interpretation, but this is quality film making to be sure.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Certainly the most entertaining summation of Dante ever made, and that’s saying something. I’m sure Alighieri could never have envisioned white room baby dicks and mexican wrestlers as the ideal illustrations of his treatise on the afterlife.

Up In The Air
Kurt [LOVED] – Jason Reitman is officially A-list. His timely tale of downsizing, airmiles and digital manners has something for everyone while somehow never compromising its premise or characters. How they were able to make something like losing your job a warm and charming comedy is a testament to both the script as well as George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and young Anna Kendrick.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed
Kurt [LOVED] – A very solid 3 character thriller in the vein of Shallow Grave. A witty script that follows the basic creed of plot-driven filmmaking; I always wanted to know what happened next and how far depraved this kidnapping was going to go.
Matt B. [LOVED] – is terrific. Don’t let anyone tell you a fucking word about it. Except “terrific.”
Andrew [LOVED] – The sleeper hit of the festival for sure. Zero expectations or information made this little caper film a fan favorite – I didn’t hear a bad thing about it from anyone who saw it. Peel back those layers and be surprised. Thanks Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston!
Matt P. [LOVED] Three Handers don’t have to be the kiss of death when all the hands are as entertaining as these ones. Twist movies are getting impossible to pull off, but this one earns every turn by grounding every plot development in characters who think, and then act to change the events around them.

The Unloved
Rot [LOVED] – Samantha Morton in full-on Lynne Ramsay mode directs the hell out of a touching story of a little girl in adoption hell.

The Men Who Stare at Goats
Matt B. [LOVED] – “Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.” MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS rules.
Andrew [LOVED] – Super duper entertaining with an A-list cast of actors. Ewan McGregor takes the prize for best two lines of dialogue on the year. Probably the most fun I had in a non-Midnight Madness Movie throughout the festival.
Matt P [LOVED] – Again I connected to the deeply loopy nature of this rambling good time. Clooney is great, and the mileage they get out of Ewen MacGregor’s trip to Lucas land almost makes the prequels worthwhile in the first place.

The Joneses’
Andrew [LOVED] – A film that really took me by surprise as I didn’t really know what to expect. I promise that unless someone gives it away earlier, you won’t either. Showing me something new and you win. Congratulations Joneses.

Soul Kitchen
Kurt [LOVED] – One of those comedies that would be right at home at Fox Searchlight. Full of every comedy trick in the book, pratfalls, sitcom timing, goofy characters and everything working out OK. And it works like gangbusters thanks to the addition of some Honduran aphrodisiac and some sex and food moments.

My Queen Caro
Matt B. [LOVED] – a nice little gem, somewhat shapeless but quite smart and observant.

The White Ribbon
Rot [LOVED] – Unsettling puritan drama that evokes the very best of Bergman and Dreyer. An Instant classic.
Kurt [LOVED] – Michael Haneke’s Palm D’Or is not exactly the best film to watch in a crowed festival. The Dickensian sized cast and very slow-burn allegory demand space and probably several viewings to properly sink in, but wow does this film look gorgeous. And it managed to plant a seed in my brain. Still growing.
Matt B. [LOVED] – challenging, satisfying, a little too distant. Respect it more than enjoy it.
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – This is the first Haneke I’ve seen that failed to connect for me. Clearly what is here is lucid, controlled and ultimately brilliant, but I wasn’t able to find a way into the story. I can respect and admire this, but I found it hard to like and so due to my admittedly high expectations I am left disappointed.
Andrew [LIKED] – Here is an example of a film I appreciated more than I actually enjoyed. Though I suspect repeated viewings will do nothing but enhance the experience. Not Palme d’Orr worthy IMO, but it is staggeringly gorgeous for a B&W film.

Castaway on the Moon
Andrew [LOVED] – Just a nice piece of heartwarming drama with a unique concept that’s realized extremely well. Seems like it would be full of plot holes, but if there are any, I didn’t notice or simply overlooked them. Can’t wait for more from Korean writer/director, Lee Hey-jun.

The Hole
Kurt [LIKED] – Great use of 3D and evil clown puppets, Joe Dante delivers his most youth oriented film in some time, but it is a good one and has its share of edgy scares. Fun for the whole family, without the usual compromises of younger skewing films or 3D technology.
Matt B. [LOVED] – Up till we were kicked out, I’d happily call THE HOLE the best family adventure since GOONIES. I wanna see the end!
Andrew [LIKED] – Despite the 3D gimmick (which was not necessary) I found this to be one of the most fun films of the festival. If you liked “Drag Me to Hell,” here is a comparable experience; more aimed at teens though.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Until the fire alarm that robbed me of the last 15 minutes of this, this was a totally successful pg-13 horror comedy that I was excited to see resolved. It also, at least in the super-fancy 3d projection we saw, was the best 3d I have ever seen, better by all accounts than the Imax Avatar preview. If this is the future of 3d, count me all the way in.

Rot [LIKED] Eva Green + Girl School + Sex ought to equal more than this relatively conventional albeit enjoyable tryst of a film.
Kurt [LOVED] – Ridley Scott’s daughter shows the apple does not fall too far from the tree. This period boarding school film is gorgeous to look at, and features a number of up and coming young girls showing off their talent. It is familiar territory and not without a cliche or two, but finds its own unique story in the end.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Matt P. [LIKED] – The purest Terry Gilliam movie since Munchhausen. Also the sloppiest since Munchhausen. All the things we love about him, tempered with all the things we wish could be better, like story for instance.
Matt B. [LIKED] – is like mainlining Gilliam. Some story problems and almost indescribably beautiful imagination. Keep making movies, Terry.
Kurt [LOVED] – Terry Gilliam is back in a big way, and overcomes the death of Heath Ledger midway through production to deliver a film that looks intended to have the actor changes from moment one. A movie about storytelling imagination and how these things should be celebrated a little more than they are these days. Christopher Plummer owns the stage all the way though and credit should be given to Tom Waits who makes a great John Waters inspired Satan.
Rot [DISAPPOINTED] Great concept, great visuals, poorly executed, sugary after taste.

The Last Ride
Kurt [LOVED] – Inviting comparisons to The Road, this is more of a family apocalypse than worldwide. And Hugo Weaving gives one of his best performances as a recidivist dad taking his son for a run from the authorities across the Aussie Outback. Filmed mostly at dusk and dawn, it is also beautiful in a very low key sort of way.
Andrew [LOVED] – The more I ponder this movie the more I love it. It is the movie “The Road” could’ve been and delves much deeper into the father/son relationship rather than a series of intense situations. It says a lot about parenting, coming of age and general moral principality that I didn’t see coming. This will be a sleeper hit that should find a following down the road.
Matt P. [LOVED] – A super affecting story that demonstrated in every scene its complete understanding of what it means to come of age. Made me want to hug my own son.

Kurt [LOVED] – Simple and accessible. I now officially ♥ Russian musicals. Big production values and a willingness to have fun with some fundamentally big issues, this is populist cinema at its finest.
Matt P. [LOVED] – The most fun I had all week, it’s a Commie Swing Kids by way of Moulin Rouge. Every performance is great, the cutting pops, and the story holds up nicely, thank you. I already own the soundtrack, and this will be in my Blu Ray collection the minute it becomes available.

The Good Heart
Matt P. [LOVED] – Brian Cox. Bitter. Cantakerous. Brilliant. Wooly. Most of all, a great love letter to New York. Like all the best movies with a single city at their heart, this one was made by a foreigner in a clear eyed and sharply observed way. Also features Brian Cox. I want to live inside this movie.

Perrier’s Bounty
Andrew [LIKED] – Not all that it could’ve been, this story was carried squarely on the shoulders of its lead actors (Cillian Murphy, Jim Broadbent and Brendan Gleason). Think “Snatch,” but set in Ireland and without the cast, the quality humor or clever twists.
Matt P. [LOVED] – British crime ruled this year, and this was no exception. A bit like Mona Lisa meets Miller’s Crossing. All 3 leads crank it to 11, and there’s voice of god narration that drives this well built machine forward like a Mack truck.

The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Skies
Andrew [LIKED] – If you’re a fan of The White Stripes you should enjoy this immensely. Not inventing the wheel or anything as rock-docs go, but the live concert footage is a blast with the big speakers and Jack White is always relatively interesting to listen to. Ironically the best scene involves the pair sitting in with a group of Inuit elders and sharing traditional music.
Matt B. [LOVED] – the doc is fucking phenomenal.
Matt P. [LOVED] – Jack and Meg made me love my country more than before. Smart, almost canny in its pacing and choice of material.

The Loved Ones
Kurt [LOVED] – Solid debut from Australia plays like Carrie meets Pretty In Pink. Great editing, good soundtrack and a story that keeps changing things up so nothing every gets old. Manages to give toture porn a good name. Kudos for that.
Matt B. [LIKED] – It isn’t Midnight Madness till there’s CHUDs! Loved Ones tore the roof off the place!
Andrew [LOVED] – The best of the fest in the Midnight Madness category. Easily the best time in the theater and the crowd ate it up. Wonderful cast, wonderful direction and suspense build-ups that work like gangbusters. All on a next-to-nothing budget. Kudos!
Matt P. [LIKED] – I know I’m supposed to love this, but I only liked. Here’s what’s good – filmmaking is polished, well paced and has punch where it needs it. Lola is an all time great movie movie kind of monster, especially in scenes with her family. Here’s what left me a little cold – I don’t care enough about the main character to worry about him, and the movie clearly (from all the earnest stuff between him and his mom) wants you the viewer to care. Lola’s psychology is just a little too neat and tidy for me, and it took me out of the film in the early torture stuff. Overall, a mixed yes.

Bunny & The Bull
Matt P. [LOVED] – I hadn’t seen any Mighty Boosh, only heard vague, it’s really good type stuff. This is the kind of movie that makes you want to check out everyone’s back catalog in full. A great pomo take on Withnail and I. The visuals alone pull it above other comedies this year.

Kurt [LIKED] – A solid and worthy sequel to [REC] that manages to find a way to keep its camera perspective while upping the mythology and bullet count. No diminishing returns here.
Andrew [LOVED] – The scariest movie you will see all year. Holds up well to the original. Goosebumps are fun.

Air Doll
Kurt [LOVED] – Fantastic and low key, I’d say it is Kore-Eda’s weakest film, but his films are all golden. It is surprisingly breezy and yet also often hard-core. Unpredictable and very beautiful cinema that is never a slave to its high concept.
Andrew [DISAPPOINTED] – It’s been only a couple of days since I’ve seen this and already I’ve forgotten most of it. The performance by the lead is what is most impressive, but otherwise it is a tad on the slow side with too many lingering takes that don’t really add up to much.

My Dog Tulip
Kurt [LOVED] – The best animated film about the biological functions of a dog you are ever likely to see.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Chris Plummer is his usual dependably great self as he carries this ode to man’s best friend. It takes a nice clean unsentimental approach, and is kind of the antidote to Marley and Me. The animation has its charms, but also its limitations.

Kurt [LOVED] – Swords, Sandals, Romans, Jews, Christians, Togas and the biggest scientifi ode to the ellipse. Ignore the bad reviews, Agora may occasionally be blunt, but it has some fundamentally important things to say. The Christians are not let off lightly, either.
Matt P. [LIKED] – This intellectual epic clearly demonstrates one thing. The destruction of the library at Alexandria was inevitable, and all our regret at having to recapture the knowledge contained in it has been misplaced. Human beings, a fearful and superstitious rabble at the time clearly did not deserve what was contained within. Amenabar uses familiar tropes of the sword and sandal set to good effect, and Rachel Weisz is luminous as ever. Also the most exciting movie ever made about the investigation of the ellipse.

Kurt [LOVED] – Vintage Johnnie To with jaw dropping set-pieces and a familiar plot, with a twist – deadpan Johnny Hallyday with a faulty brain and fuzzy memory comes to Hong Kong for a little of the old ultraviolence. Trash is rolled, gangsters switch sides, people are shot like good poetry.
Matt B. [LIKED] – is the real Johnny To. Stylish and fun.
Matt P. [LIKED] – A mostly standard Johnnie To action pic with a great low key lead by Johnny Hallyday and a couple of standout set pieces to tie it all together. A Little familiar and forgettable, but just what the doctor ordered in the middle of a crowded fest.

White Materials
Kurt [LIKED] – A great title for an OK film that felt somewhat unfinished. A white plantation owner will not leave her property after the political situation turns quite hostile and child soldiers start walking around with AK-47s. When grinding coffee, the white stuff ruins a perfect black cuppa joe. See, great title.

Rot [LIKED] – Less a documentary on bees so much as on beekeepers, but fascinating nonetheless

Rot [LIKED] – Disappointing for Egoyan, but as a stand alone experience I enjoyed it. Great Toronto-watching in the scenery and Amanda Seyfried was nice on the eyes.

Kurt [LIKED] – Jean Pierre Jeunet’s most facile film. It is still fun as a Buster Keaton exercise, or one of the Amelie gags blown up to feature film length. But really, it is just tidbits dusted off from Jeunet’s script drawer and filmed for fun.

Beautiful Kate
Matt B. [LIKED] – pretty tame throughout, but really nails the closer.

Ahead of Time
Matt P. [LIKED] Ruth Gruber’s a great subject for a doc, and this is a well made and well researched look at one of the pivotal lives of the 20th century. It also has a lot to say about the state of Israel in the 21st. So glad I saw this.

Life During Wartime
Matt P. [LOVED] I just dig on Todd Solondz and the bravery of performance that he’s able to capture here. I need to see this again, and Happiness, too.
Kurt [LIKED] – Happiness 2 – Depression Boogaloo. Recasting all the roles in his signature film, Todd Solondz, doesn’t really find much new to say a decade (and a war) later. Still, it is a pleasure to see these actors munch into their roles, and the film is very, very funny for those with a droll sense of humour.
Matt B. [DISAPPOINTED] – didn’t do much for me. Was confused by its intentions.

Kurt [LIKED] – Bong Joon-Ho head back to Memories of Murder territory with a whodunit that is actually a red herring for itself. It is worth the ride (nobody does sudden tonal shifts like the Koreans) for the fascinating ending and the consequences addressed. Mother is not afraid to go places that In The Bedroom and The Deep End were fairly coy about.

A Town Called Panic
Matt B. [LIKED] – I swear the song at the end of PANIQUE AU VILLAGE goes like this – “Saginooganay! Mexico! Saganooganay, Mexico.” Am I tired?
Kurt [LIKED] – Zany stop motion from Belgium made from odds and ends found in a childs toybox, here is another film that goes full out from the first minute to the last. It’s wall to wall silliness, but doesn’t outstay its welcome at under 75 minutes.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Super funny for about 50 minutes, which is at least 30 minutes longer than it ought to be funny for. Unfortunately it’s 75 minutes all together, and when it runs out of steam there isn’t much you can do about it.

Like You Know It All
Kurt [LOVED] – Daytime drinking, social faux pas, and filmmaking. Yes it is another Hong Sang Soo film. But this may be his laugh-out loud funniest film so far.
Matt P. [HATED] – Pointless and meandering, and also there’s rapes that serve no purpose for story or character, and seem to be pitched as comic relief. Yechh.

Same, Same, but Different
Kurt [LIKED] – A pumping soundtrack and a split between German and Cambodia make this tale about a young European man (David Kross from The Reader and Krabat) finding a relationship with an HIV positive Asian prostitute.

Ong Bak 2
Kurt [LIKED] – The photography and the stunts have been improved, but the storytelling took a major dive. In the end, fun was had and stuntmen were hospitalized.
Matt B. [LIKED] – Fighting another dude on top of and under a living elephant is near the top of the 10 batshit craziest things you can do in a movie or in life itself
Matt P. [LIKED] Elephants! Alligators! The Thai version of Richard Kiel! Drunken Boxing! A 30 minute fight with like eleventy hundred bad guys! No Story! Go, right now!
Andrew [LIKED] – Punch, kick, repeat. Hey, it’s not everyday you see a 15-minute martial arts fight using an elephant for a jump off point.

Kurt [LIKED] – The belly of a tank becomes the crucible for the confusing transition of conflict to full out war. Not quite Das Boot, but it is sweaty and tense and meaningful stuff. Venice gave it the Golden Lion with good reason.

Women without Men
Andrew [LIKED] – The story isn’t quite as edgy as it could be. We’ve seen persecution type stories before; but the directing is pitch perfect – hence it’s Venice Film Fest award for best director I presume.

The Night Mayor
Kurt [LIKED] – Guy Maddin enthusiasts should find a lot to love here, even as it seems like more of a ‘holding pattern’ in the current groove Guy Maddin has found himself mired in. But Canada (and I suppose Winnipeg) needs more mythologizing and Maddin is certainly a great choice to do so. “I am the Night Mayor, the Nightmayor, the nightmare!”

Solomon Kane
Kurt [DISAPPOINTED] – Paint by numbers to the point where Pete Postleswaite should be officially banned from playing more of these supporting roles. The movie doesn’t do anything wrong, but it does nothing new either.
Andrew [DISAPPOINTED] – I liked it enough for what it was. Aesthetics and costuming were nice, but this isn’t anything we’ve not seen a billion times before.
Matt P. [LIKED] Sure, it’s Puritan Conan – The Videogame. But there are some nice boss levels and some real exuberance in the battle scenes. And there’s a bad guy with a smashed in face that’s like the best bad guy with a smashed in face ever.

The Misfortunates
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – I guess that after 50 plus films I just wasn’t in the mood for another kind of shapeless drama about how screwed up everyone’s family is.
Matt B. [LIKED] – It’s fun when it’s working but the story feels slim and interconnects badly.

Rot [LIKED] -Thirty-odd minutes of greatness succumbs to going through the motions genre storytelling by the end. Interesting for its vampires calling the shots role reversal.
Matt P. [LOVED] – My favorite Midnight Madness movie this year, A vampire flick that breaks new ground while keeping every bit of what made older vampire stuff cool. Also just a technical achievement in every area of special effects, from makeups to cgi. Balls out fun

Bright Star
Rot [LOVED] Like a Linklater slacker love story given the Jane Campion treatment, finally a Campion film I can praise!
Kurt [DISAPPOINTED] – Limp wristed and treacly, this film brought out the worst in poetry cliches, offered little insight into John Keats and is thus far the only Jane Campion film I’ve not liked.

Leaves of Grass
Andrew [DISAPPOINTED] – I liked the movie alright, but it was pretty paint by numbers. Thank God for Edward Norton (x2) keeping things fresh; otherwise this would be pretty boring and straight forward.
Matt P. [LOVED] – I’m kind of alone in loving this, but everything about this Coen-esque morality play hit me square. Norton is brilliant in both roles, this is easily the best actor opposite himself role ever for me (yes, I’m including Dead Ringers, a better film but not a better pair of performances) and the depiction of the Tulsa, Oklahoma jewish community had me tickled.

The Happiest Girl in the World
Andrew [LIKED] – I wouldn’t recommend one rush right out and try to find this Romanian low budget drama, but it made the most of what it could from a unique, albeit sparse, concept. Funny, touching, heartbreaking… kinda.

Kurt [LIKED] – Tsai Ming-Liang applies his usual long takes and barely there narrative to an ode to French Cinema and Francois Trauffaut. Casting famous French actors from Jean Pierre Leaud and Fanny Ardant (along with his usual star Lee Kang Sheng) he manages to capture some signature (sexual) images of the intercourse of french and taiwanese cinema which cluminates in Salome’s dance of the seven veils in the basement of the Louvre.

The Damned United
Matt P. [LIKED] – Michael Sheen is great, the story is well told, Colm Meaney is great, the direction is steady and sure, Jim Broadbent is great, and overall I liked the movie, but it just seemed a bit slight in comparison to other stuff this week. Glad I saw it, though.

Andrew [LIKED] – A film I should’ve loved more than I did. It is gorgeous and the acting is solid. It just needed that extra emotional punch that never really delivered. I’ll be certain to give it a second chance though.

An Education
Matt B. [LIKED] – is nicely accomplished and quite sweet. And Carey Mulligan is absolutely fantastic.
Matt P. [LIKED] – I’m a softie for polished performances and life’s lessons learned. So sue me, but there ain’t nothing wrong with this. Carey Mulligan is that whole Audrey Hepburn movie you’ve heard.

The Young Victoria
Rot [LIKED] – Director Jean-Marc Vallée and his actors inject life into an otherwise derivative Monarchy-in-training story.

The Last Days of Emma Blank
Matt P. [LIKED] Great black comedy set up, about a rich and empathy impaired superbitch using her fortune to make everyone around her behave how she wants them to. It’s too bad it blows its wad around the 2/3rds mark and never recovers enough to get the movie back again.

La Soga
Kurt [DISAPPOINTED] – The Dominican Republic’s version of Man on Fire. Obvious metaphors and clear good guys and bad guys make for populist cinema that incites righteous bloodlust in the audience. Points for a time-lapsed dismemberment of a pig though.

Kurt [LIKED] – Like mentor Johnnie To’s Breaking News, this film is worth it for the opening set-piece. It loses most of its momentum for an uninteresting and predictable plot in the middle and then winds back up for a kinetic conclusion.
Matt B. [HATED] – somewhat clever but entirely airless. Goes in entirely the wrong direction – surveillance is boring to watch!
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – A great stupidity ruined when the film (gasp!) starts taking itself seriously in act 2. If you’re going to set up something as ridiculous as two rival hit squads that both contrive technically perfect accidents to fool the police, at least have them fight it out in a crescendo of accident mayhem that’ll curl your toes. Instead we get morose introspection punctuated by scenes of people eavesdropping and staring into space.

My Year Without Sex
Matt P. [LIKED] – Sure, it’s a conventional take on the “in-the-life” genre. But it’s anchored in truth, and I could relate pretty easily to all of it. A solid double.
Matt B. [DISAPPOINTED] – I stayed for about five months.

The Invention of Lying
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – A Movie that simply fails to live up to its admittedly ambitious high concept. Good performances, the comedy all hits home, but the failure to serve the rules of the premise pull you out of the reality enough times that I can’t recommend it.

The Topp Twins
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – Can’t figure out why this was chosen as people’s choice, since it’s about a comedy music group that isn’t funny or musical enough. I’m not sure these two translate well to other cultures, and also if one of them hadn’t almost died there’d be no movie at all. I’m a little uncomfortable when a filmmaker benefits from cancer.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
Rot [HATED] – My Son, My Son, My God. I’m sure the film has value and meaning to Herzog but damned if I know what that may be.
Kurt [DISAPPOINTED] – Razzle Them, Dazzle Them. If only the powers that be had listened to Michael Shannon’s coffee cup. Herzog and Lynch despite being great on their own, prove to be a lackluster mix. Despite a knock-out cast including Willem Dafoe, Udo Kier, Michael Shannon, Chloe Sevigny, Grace Zabriskie, and Brad Dourif, things never quite hit the sizzle point, settling into lukewarm and forgettable.
Matt P. [LIKED, or something?] Who the hell knows what to say about this anti-procedural that isn’t about what happened, or even why it happened, but more about hey – these are the things that are happening. An almost perfect mix of Herzog and Lynch in one film, and anyone who says they know what it all meant is flat out lying to you.
Matt B. [LOVED] – terrible, exhilarating, bold and utterly daft. Herzog’s initials should be W.T.F.
Andrew – [HATED] – Droning on and on, this felt like Herzog trying to be Lynch and just making a boring mess that attempting to be weird just for the sake of being weird. I mean where was the story? Though DaFoe and Shannon were excellent, to say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

Bitch Slap
Kurt [LIKED] – Containing more cleavage shots than a Russ Meyer film, it brings the gloss of modern filmmaking and a Hard R but also a too spastic pace (pitched at “11” for its entire run time). But it knows never to take itself too serious, and races to the finish line with some impressive set pieces to go along with the gorgeous hard-bodies.
Andrew [DISAPPOINTED] – The novelty on this one is more fun than the actual product. The fight scenes are repetitive and some of the green screen stuff didn’t really work for me. This was pretty low budget and it felt like it. Watch a “Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!” instead – or at least “Crank.”
Matt P. [HATED] – One joke modern parody of Russ Meyer. A classic case of a bunch of douchebags making a movie who believe that they are in fact not douchebags. It turns out that they are. I forgot how little I thought of Xena, a TV show that played like a bad community theatre production every week. This was sufficient to remind me.

Andrew [DISAPPOINTED] – It is what it is. I left the screening early to make sure I made it in time to catch up with Cage and Herzog, but it was obvious where the film was headed. As with most docs in my experience, I got the gist of it about halfway through; no need to sit through the whole thing.

Bran Nue Day
Matt B. [LIKED] – like a big sloppy wet kiss from a round girl in the hot summer sunshine. Atrocious good fun. Funtrocious!
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – a completely unfocussed mess, saved by Geoffrey Rush’s scenery chewing and a couple of standout numbers. All over the map tonally, from silly High-School-Musical boy meets girl stuff to super serious Les Miz style indictments of Aboriginal suffering. None of it works together particularly well.

Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] Walkout. It’s tough, but basically my problem stemmed from the fact that despite what seemed like typically engaging performances of the “whatsamatta?!?” variety and beautiful shot selection and lighting, there is simply no way to connect to this as an audience member. The sequences have no shape and just flow into one another like one long scene, which by the time I left was nearing 75 minutes.

Jennifer’s Body
Matt B. [DISAPPOINTED] – feels a draft shy of figuring out exactly what it’s trying to do.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Megan Fox can actually act, and Diablo Cody can actually write. And it’s good fun, just not the genre bending brilliance many of us were hoping for. I’m blaming the director, Karen Kuzooma. (not sure on the spelling, just took it down phonetically from Colin’s intro)

Tanner Hall
Matt B. [HATED] – is aimless and pretty. Like teenaged girls. (OUCH!)
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – The best looking cast in the fest, and some scenes have a ring of truth. But this truly goes nowhere and is about nothing. I spent some portion of this looking at the cast and thinking impure thoughts.

A Prophet
Rot [DISAPPOINTED] Over-hyped prison drama that was too long and un-captivating to watch.

Matt B. [DISAPPOINTED] – obtuse, languid, and, of course, incestuous. The kind of foreign film that puts first-timers off the film fest for life.

Kurt [DISAPPOINTED] – Blue oceans and a shark cut in half by a samurai sword are not quite compensation enough for sloppy storytelling, bad pacing and garish CGI. I get what the film is finally about, i.e. Ninja culture in medieval japan was as close to art as anything, but the film is a total mess.
Andrew [HATED] – Generally looked bad and the story was completely pointless and disappointing. Funny enough, the most compelling bits that were of the most consequence to the story were also the slowest and dreariest.
Matt P. [HATED] – Walkout. Not that the story seemed tremendous or anything, but I just couldn’t get past the unbelievably bad effects work to find out. Looks like the post work was done in Photoshop. Below Sega Dreamcast quality.

I Am Not Your Friend
Kurt [DISAPPOINTED] – The opening ‘prologue’ with kids making and breaking friendships was far more compelling than the ‘Your Friends And Neighbours’ lite film. Boring.
Matt B. [HATED] – trivial and mundane. Disappointing.
Matt P. [HATED] – Gyorgi Palfi pulls a Costanza and does the opposite. Instead of a top-down, tightly controlled universe that squeezes meaning from every image, character and word, we get a rambling incoherence that feels like real life with all the interesting bits edited out.

Leslie, My Name is Evil
Matt P. [HATED] – one of my few walkouts, this is an unfunny satire with nothing to say about either the sixties or the times we live in now. The director came out before hand to tell us to laugh, presumably because no one did in the previous screening.

The Vintner’s Luck
Matt P. [HATED] – If you’re going to make a melodrama, the worst thing it can be is boring. Or possibly morose. Vinter’s Luck is both, a harebrained hodgepodge that ought to be shown to death row inmates so they’ll welcome the injection as sweet relief.

Les Dernier Jours Du Monde
Kurt [HATED] – A concept (the apocalypse as a metaphor for narcissism and sexual confusion) that could have made a sharp 15 minute short, but instead, at 130 minutes is an inexcusable bore. Those who wanted to see Sergei Lopez and Mathieu Almaric make out should find their wishes answered.

The Warrior & The Wolf
Matt B. [HATED] – what exactly am I supposed to feel about a “hero” who rapes someone that many times?

Matt P. [HATED] -Pointless and meandering, and also there’s rapes that serve no purpose for story or character, and seem to be pitched as comic relief. Yechh.

Matt P. [WORST] – Pointless and meandering, and also there’s rapes that serve no purpose for story or character, and don’t even seem to be pitched as comic relief. Also, the director has no idea what he’s making, and substitutes loud noises for actual suspense. Double yechh.
Kurt [LIKED] – The opening single take shot in the forest is one for the ages, and things are pretty slow-burn after that, but it is smart filmmaking, and appreciation grows upon reflection.
Andrew [LIKED] – A 90-minute lullaby. Visually, aurally and prose-wise. I liked it despite the fact that I slept through 45% of it and didn’t miss a thing.

Matt B. [WORST] – awe-inspiring to look at, coma-inducing to watch.

George A. Romero’s Survival of The Dead
Kurt [WORST] – Time to retire George, you are looking like your worst imitators with this amateur hour Hatfield vs. McCoy tale. When there are no scares and folks practically hang their hats on the Zombies with no worries, well, that just ain’t right.
Andrew [WORST] – Direct to DVD quality (at best) zombie film. Romero needs to rethink his strategy or quit. This was terrible.

Police Adjective
Rot [WORST] – Most boring film I have seen at a festival, period

Full Reviews on many of TIFF09 films are here:

And, the Mamo! and Cinecast September 2009 podcasts are full of TIFF discussion.

Exhausted? Bring on TIFF’10.

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Jandy Hardesty

Wow, this is EPIC! I'll have to go back through and take notes (even though I already pretty much added all the TIFF films I could to my Netflix queue). Good to see some positive stuff about the films that we didn't explicitly review, like Fish Tank, which I was really hoping would be good, after liking Andrea Arnold's Red Road a lot a few years back.

Glad to hear Hipsters is worth it – looked like that one could go either way, but the still and description made me want to see it anyway. And Micmacs just looks like fun. I just like seeing what comes out of Jeunet's imagination.

Andrew James

Kamui = "Below Sega Dreamcast quality" nice one Matt. Funny, but correct.


Wow, talk about comprehensive. I like the format you've used here. In full agreement on Deliver Us, Alice Creed & The Hole. Though it shouldn't surprise you that I got quite a kick out of Bitch Slap.


I must say this is very impressive and will be doing some in depth reading. I hate to admit but Survival of the Dead may be worst I saw too, but it may be tied with jennifer's Body.

I agree with Mr. Nobody, saw it last day of the festival and was so impressed. The Jones was fresh and fun.

Keep up the good work, I have been going to the festival for 10 years and average between 30 35 movies, will be checking out your site next year during festival when I can.

My reviews are not nearly as good as yours but I am learning.