Between written coverage and Mamo! on the Street podcasting, we hope you have enjoyed the extensive coverage Row Three brought your way during the 11 day madness of this years edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, or as pretty much everyone attending calls it, TIFF10. We have Mike Rot, Bob, Kurt and both Matts (B. and P.) together for our annual mega-post, offering a quick summary and a tag [Best], [Loved], [Liked], [Disappointed], [Hated] and [Worst] for each of the films we watched. And if you will indulge some mild boasting, I think it is safe to say that outside of the trade papers and festival catalogue, you will be hard pressed to find a more wide-reaching survey of the films played at TIFF10. For perspective, some of us were seeing more films in a day than the average American sees annually. Quick thoughts for all 100+ films are organized below to give you as much of a snapshot as possible for what to expect and to look forward to over the next 18 months as these films will (some quicker than others) move into the increasingly varied forms of distribution; some may appear on the big screen, but it is getting more and more likely that for the oddball gems, it will mean importing a DVD or checking your TV and Internet VOD listings.
The SHORT version:
The Best: The Illusionist (Bob), Black Swan (Matt P., Matt B.), Another Year (Kurt) and Blue Valentine (Mike Rot)
The Worst: Passion Play (Bob), Bunraku (Kurt), L.A. Zombie (Matt B.), Film Socialism (Matt P.) and Miral (Mike Rot)
But to really get to the heart of the festival, check out our MASSIVE summary which is tucked under the seat.
All of our FULL REVIEWS during this years festival can be found by clicking the Big White Banner.
Matt B. [BEST] – A flawlessly executed work by two masters. Natalie Portman gives an exceptional technical performance as a woman splitting into many slivers of her former self, and Darren Aronofsky accomplishes his finest picture.
Matt P. [BEST] – Easily the best. Far and away the best. Ten feet above the rest, Black Swan is just Aronovsky’s masterpiece.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 [LOVED/DISAPPOINTED] – A handsome picture featuring a very passionate and convincing performance from Natalie Portman. Not quite fever-dream enough for my tastes, the promise of Cronenberg meets Perfect Blue with touches of Show Girls was not fulfilled as Aronofsky pulls things back to reach a wider audience. More Winona Ryder, Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey could have rounded this out to something beyond a film that merely handsomely hits its mark!
Kurt [BEST] – Mike Leigh comes at happiness and fulfillment from the opposite end of the spectrum of Happy-Go-Lucky. Here you have a desperately sad and unmoored woman who finds company and kindness a well adjusted co-worker her husband. A film that focuses on not so much the content of the conversation, but how the flow and tone can tell us so much a couple or a person’s state of grace.
Mike Rot [LOVED] – Another Mike Leigh film, another masterpiece. Not since Naked has Leigh so perfectly devastated me with his interplay of pathos and comedy.
Mike Rot [BEST] – Second only to Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage in its nuanced anatomy of a divorce. Sad, funny, awesome. Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are remarkable.
Bob [BEST] – It did not take me long to fall in love with this movie. Its glorious hand drawn animation showing the beauty of Scotland is certainly part of the reason, but it’s director Sylvain Chomet’s ability to seemlessly merge his distrust of technology with Jacques Tati’s longing for the simplicity of the old ways that really puts the film into the upper echelons. Tati’s previously unfilmed script is touching, sentimental, bittersweet and sometimes just plain bitter. A wonderful mix.
Kurt [LOVED] – An animated re-envisioning of a never-shot Jacques Tati screenplay, set in Scotland of all places, plays as a melancholic tribute to a simpler stage entertainment, vaudeville and sleight-of-hand, lost in the technological shuffle of the modern world of rock n’ roll and cinema. More bitter than sweet, but with all the charms and delights of wunderkind animator Sylvain Chomet.
Bob [LOVED] – Sion Sono’s latest film is astonishing in how it single-mindedly approaches the “true” story of Japan’s most notorious serial killer – building tension and unease with just about every frame, it’s relentless and quite fearless in leaving its audience squirming and laughing at the same time. Remarkable.
Kurt [LOVED] – By the halfway mark of Sion Sono’s serial killer odyssey I was not sure if the film was going to justify its 2.5 hour run time, but by the end, the film certainly does and then some. If you want a bloody and often darkly absurd take on why Japan is a coiled spring of social repression waiting to explode, look no further than the ‘hero’ of the film.
Matt P. [LOVED] – In a year filled with the revival of the cinematic serial killer (I Saw the Devil, Confessions, A Horrible Way to Die) Cold Fish is the undeniable winner. Psychopaths come in all flavours, to be sure, but you surely won’t find one this enthusiastic about disposing of dead bodies anywhere. For an audience, you can almost never go wrong with a story set around a passive, mewling character who spends the first 70 minutes being savagely beaten in every way possible and the next 30 freaking out in a king sized revenge that leaves everyone dead and almost everyone covered in human entrails.
Kurt [LOVED] – The infamous 25 year old Tabloid story of a determined Beauty Queen trying to take back her man from the Mormon Church, in manacles if needs be, is revealing by way of Morris’ passive probing that once people repeat their story often enough, belief becomes cemented, entrenched even. The story here is how important details are omitted by all sides for the sake of rationalization. The ups and downs and ins and outs of Joyce McKinney’s story are even more entertaining and shocking as the titular news-rags in the UK.
Matt P. [LOVED] – Errol Morris interrotrons the hell out of this, the most elliptical, charming and just flat out masterful film he has produced since Gates of Heaven. No one can address character through interview like this man can, a unique product of his exceptionally rigorous approach to the art of listening. It is also funny as hell: A complete showcase for the most agile of documentary minds.
Mike Rot [LIKED] – The most entertaining documentary I caught at the festival, a story that is better the less you know what is coming next. Reminiscent of The Informant! – one artful dodge leading to the next. This is most definitely Errol Morris at the top of his game.
Kurt [LOVED] – Yes, we are the Monsters. Gareth Edwards takes the standard creature-feature and then removes the creatures to focus on his two principle civilians trying to get home through an ‘infected zone’ in Mexico. Another example of what good science fiction is capable of, it gives us the long-term consequences as a mirror on ourselves.
Kurt [LOVED] – Alan Corneau’s last film certainly does Hitchcock proud as an icy blond goes to war on the corporate battlefield with her icier boss. The ‘love’ is dangerous and seductive and the ‘crimes’ are meticulous and surprising.
Kurt [LOVED] – Now here is how you make a genre movie: Combine the apocalyptic road movie with vampires and nutty religious cults all with a frontier-western vibe. The jump in quality between Jim Mickle and Nick Damici’s previous collaboration Mulberry Street (a film I quite like as well) is so massive here that if they can repeat it on their third outing, they may have A Clockwork Orange on their hands. In the mean time, Stake Land is the best recent “Land” movie, with its ugly, animal (frankly, zombie-esque) vampires kicking the ass of the undead hordes in Land of the Dead and Zombieland.
Matt B. [LOVED] – The vampire mayhem is largely incidental; this is an absorbing portrait of post-apocalyptic American life, and rings eerily true in certain instances. But to get back to the vampire mayhem for a second, boy that helicopter scene is fun.
Kurt [LOVED] – Smart, funny, irreverent and knowing, Easy A has a great script that somehow avoids the smug-hipster vibe of Juno. It somehow manages to combine John Hughes with Nathanial Hawthorn and not make it feel forced or over-written. Emma Stone is warm and wonderful in the lead role, but anyone with kids probably wishes they were the parents that Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson manage to be.
Kurt [LOVED] – Kelly Reichardt proves that she can do a period piece with delicacy and veracity as well-accomplished as her two previous contemporary films. A story of tolerance and hubris in the desert that may echo the current events of the 7 years (and counting) American Invasion of Iraq, yet the director never takes the focus off of the intimacy and difficult of a community disillusioned by its leader and now in a very hard place, to dwell on allegory. Every actor is performing at the top of their game here. I heart Bruce Greenwood.
Mike Rot [LOVED] – Part suspense story, part historical drama, part meditation on the frailty of life, Meek’s Cutoff is a mesmerizing feat that while slow-moving is continually engrossing to watch. Added bonus: Bruce Greenwood channeling Yosemite Sam in his burly performance of Meek.
Kurt [LOVED] – Takashi Miike makes his prettiest and most epic film to date, that looks to set the high-water mark for bloody Samurai battles while playing homage to the classic Chanbara passion plays – perhaps the hallmark of Japanese Cinema. Have no fear though, despite the high sheen there are some very recognizable and wickedly repugnant director touches.
Matt B. [LOVED] – I will buy this on DVD and never watch the first hour again. The last 45 minutes, possibly the bloodiest battle sequence ever filmed, are extraordinary.
Matt P. [LOVED] – Some people loved the slow build, but I’m saying just throw the first hour away and focus your attention on the loving destruction of one of the most elaborate sets ever put on film. After that first hour (and its endless series of meetings), the film gives way to 45 solid minutes of brick shithouse chaos that almost overwhelms your pleasure centres.
Kurt [LOVED] – The best eulogy-film since Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion! Bruce MacDonald has made a film about community by using his own film community and Tracey Wright’s star has never shone brighter than her all night bickering, conversation and reflection with her friend and rival Molly Parker. Equal parts Before Sunset, My Dinner With Andre and good old fashioned Rock n’ Roll.
Mike Rot [LOVED] – Bruce McDonald has made his own My Dinner with Andre that soaks in the talent and environment of Toronto in a beautiful swan song for the late Tracy Wright, whose first lead performance as
Vic will break your heart.
Bob [LOVED] – A handy-dandy tip for all you youngsters studying to be clowns: in a pinch, household cleaning aids make good substitutes for makeup. There’s more to this film than the simple story of Insane Happy Clown versus Insane Sad Clown, but that certainly is the most entertaining part about it – especially the way-over-the-top final showdown.
Kurt [LOVED] – A grand guignol of the grotesque, Alex de la Iglasias’ latest mutated genre-bender has something to say about Spain’s mid-20th century run in with fascism, and he says it with maimed clowns, buxom trapeze beauties and machetes and heavy calibre machine guns. Not to be missed, even if you’ll fell a bit icky at the end of it.
Matt B. [LIKED] – The metaphor was well over my head, and the central image – berserk clowns trying to kill each other – takes too long to arrive. But hey: berserk clowns trying to kill each other.
Matt P. [LOVED] – “Prepare for Opera” I heard someone say on the way in. Two Clowns fight over the love of a beautiful woman, until all three are utterly destroyed. De la Iglesia proves again to be the master of combining high art with low, blowing us away with images that cannot be forgotten, or even diminished over the course of time. I ended my festival with this, and I couldn’t have asked for a higher note to go out on.
Kurt [LOVED] – Danny Boyle is back after the disappointing fantasy-slush of Slumdog Millionaire with an optimistic (if occasionally brutal) take on personal hubris and survival. Boyle’s usual display of sentimentality is present, but it seems to fit the story better this time around than it does with some of his other films. James Franco manages to build a very empathic performance even with all the unusual close-quarters camera-work.
Kurt [LOVED] – Join Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on a road trip throughout rural England so the two dual egos can attempt to outdo each other with Woody Allen and Michael Caine impressions while eating upscale cuisine and the occasional lecture of geology, Wordsworth and life-choices. One of the funniest bits of ‘on-a-lark’ filmmaking I have seen in years.
Matt P. [LOVED] – Time spent with messrs. Brydon and Coogan is time very well spent indeed, even if they do nothing more than riff off each other, eat ridiculously great looking food and spend a lot of time exploiting Steve Coogan’s self made reputation as kind of a jerk. Michael Winterbottom makes the very hard look very very easy indeed, constructing a satisfying narrative arc out of a series of very funny conversations.
Matt B. [LOVED] – Come on, who didn’t spend the rest of their TIFF week shrieking “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!!” at friends and strangers?
Mike Rot [LIKED] – “She was only 15 years old” – funny is funny, and for the most part The Trip is funny. No Tristram Shandy, nothing more than Coogen and Brydon riffing, and I am perfectly fine with that.
Bob [LIKED] – Santa Claus with REALLY big horns. A kid’s fairy tale that includes the gutting of a boar. The greatest number of naked old geezers per square foot that I’ve seen on film. Great concepts. Only reasonably good execution. Perhaps I just wanted more from this story of the discovery of a long-buried demonic Santa, but it never quite went where I wanted it to. Having said that, there’s a lot of imaginative stuff here.
Kurt [LIKED] – In my mind, Rare Exports was going to be Tremors where the grabboids were a demon Santa and his little helpers who kidnap naughty children. The film I got was not that thing, exactly, it is deadpan to a fault, never really hitting the ground running in the final act, although it is far more handsome and better acted than it has any right to be. Sequel Please.
Matt B. [LOVED] – Everyone in Canada should be slapping their heads for not making this ourselves. So should Guillermo del Toro, because this spooky revision of the Santa Claus myth is exactly what he’s been trying to do with pretty much every film he’s ever made, but particularly the Hellboys. So enjoyable it almost hurts.
Matt P. [LOVED] – Black Swan was the best film I saw, but Rare Exports is my hands down favorite, a film impossible not to enjoy. Think about the phrase “demonic santa claus”, turn it over in your mind for a minute. Now forget what you just imagined, because Rare Exports goes further and creates more with that simple idea than I ever thought possible. Perfectly realized black giddy fun.
You Are Here
Kurt [LOVED] – There is no way to spoil You Are Here, because I am not even sure what I have seen. The film keeps the big picture just out of reach by playing out using the rhythms of a hypnotist. A hypnotist that somnambulizes with the quiet and disarming chant of ‘wake-up, do not get hypnotized.’ How often is the avant-garde mixed with humour? Not enough. This was so magnificent that when it came to an end, I wanted at least another half hour of Daniel Cockburn’s peculiar brain on video.
Matt P. [LOVED] – In a conversation with a fellow Tiff’er, we both arrived at the same conclusion; the ideas make this film good. The warmth and emotional logic engage the mind, long past the films relatively short running time. But the humour on display takes it far beyond good. Charlie Kaufman comparisons can be put to rest, Daniel Cockburn’s ideas stand on their own.
Bob [LOVED] – Though I understand the Wes Anderson comparions (via elements of style), I don’t think it’s fair to consider this film the Welsh version of “Rushmore”. I love Anderson’s films, but “Submarine’s” central character is much more empathetic, likable and maybe even smarter than Max Fischer. I couldn’t help but be charmed by the film’s gentle humour, dark corners and self-aware stylistic touches.
Kurt [LIKED] – The obligatory comparisons to Wes Anderson are accurate, although Richard Ayoade’s Welsh coastal setting and excellent use of supporting players (Paddy Considine, Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor) makes sure the film never runs out of charm or steam. Submarine is a solid entry in the increasingly crowded field of highly stylized coming-of-age-love-story films.
Matt B. [LIKED] – A weird, distant, and ultimately affecting tale of yet another odd boy trying to find himself as a teenager is made memorable by gorgeous visuals and a distinctly Adrian Mole feel.
Matt P. [LIKED] – It was billed as “The Welsh Rushmore”, but in reality Submarine is both more and less than that. If it doesn’t reach that film’s dizzying heights, neither does it sacrifice character for the easy laugh or broad visual gag. Instead Submarine is a brilliantly observed collection of the small moments of adolescence when we are convinced that to exist is to be de facto superior to all those around us.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Kurt [LIKED] – Werner Herzog makes the best and worst use of technology in his foray into 3D filmmaking. When he keeps the camera still, the texture and relief of pre-historic cave paintings are magnificent to behold. When he moves the camera around in hand-held guerilla style filmmaking, it is garish. Nevertheless, he manages to reflect on how art from the past cannot quite bridge our understanding of an ancient people, but it can give us a worthy and interesting glimpse of their dreams.
Matt B. [LOVED] – Herzog sublimely peers thirty thousand years (!!) into the human past and draws meaning around the continuity of human creation like a big warm blanket. Only becomes a great film in its final moments, but when it does, man, does it ever.
Matt P. [LIKED] – There are times when Herzog, confronted by his decision not to digress from 3d even for a frame forces us firmly into seasickness with his inappropriate use of handheld and moving camera. There are times when he lingers just slightly too long, or just slightly not long enough on a given cave wall to fully satisfy the viewer. And yet, when he finally comes to the radioactive albino alligator, and its relationship to the human condition on this earth it is all worthwhile and we love his film because of who he is, and what it is.
Mike Rot [LIKED] – There is a lot to love in Herzog’s 3D film on the earliest cave paintings in recorded history, the 3D works when the camera is relatively still and you are admiring the walls, but when handheld things get blurry. Moments of greatness within a less than inspired whole.
A Horrible Way To Die
Kurt [LOVED] – A Mumblecore take on the Serial Killer genre that puts relationships and personal hang-ups over mayhem and gore. The film flirted with going into predictable (and predictably lame) territory, but manages to not only surprise, but transcend. This movie was everything that Repeaters was not!
Matt P. [LIKED] – Mumblecore continues to show its adaptability beyond the scope of small indie comedy, this time creating a compelling riff on the serial killer genre that brings a genuine freshness of concept, performance and cinematography. Doesn’t play its hand too early, sets everything up with logical precision and never lets us loose to worry about whether the story is working or not. Rest assured, it’s working like gangbusters.
Never Let Me Go
Kurt [LOVED] – A perfect, if rapidly paced, distillation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s delicate prose. This is how you use science fiction to tackle a lot of the biggie questions without sacrificing story and emotion. Mark Romanek manages to handle the ‘perception and perspective’ is everything nature of the story without resorting to trickery, which is refreshingly honest and actually bleakly ironic under the circumstances of Tommy, Ruth and Cathy.
Mike Rot [LIKED] – I read the book an enjoyed it and I think the film does an incredible job reproducing it onscreen. It wasn’t my favorite book of all time and neither is the movie. Everything looks meticulous and perfect and I think almost too perfect maybe. The score is awesome, the performances are great, all around solid film.
Bob [LOVED] – I suppose there’s not much new in this telling of class differences between a rich family, their old housemaid and a new addition to the cleaning/cooking staff. But when it’s so beautifully rendered with a slow building climb to the inevitable showdown, I don’t care.
Kurt [LIKED] – I do adore these tightly wound melodramas that focus on a household, often a world unto itself. Wealthy decor hides the ugly personalities inside, and the ground-down servant class with few options once the unfortunate wheels are set in motion. It is bombastic (as it should be), yet there is a small moment of hope in the final frames that perhaps pulls the films key punch, or maybe not.
The Four Times
Bob [LOVED] – This lovely, slow, meditative look at a small Italian mountain village and how all nature is interconnected is an exploration of the idea of soul transference from human to animal to vegetable to mineral. It also contains the best long single shot of the festival involving a dog, a runaway truck, a herd of goats and several crucifixes.
Bob [LOVED] – Quebec filmmaker Robin Aubert lays himself and his characters bare in this story of a man who cannot accept his second wife’s death and takes her body on a road trip through the rural motels of Quebec. In pursuit, his son and father work through their own issues as the beautiful countryside rolls on by.
Bob [LIKED] – A well put together atmospheric tale of a woman who is slowly going blind, but desperately wants to uncover the mystery of her sister’s death. It takes good advantage of shadows, darkness and those areas just out of the corner of our eyes.
Kurt [LIKED] – A very solid bit of horror filmmaking that benefits from a gorgeous and gloomy look. I cannot say that there is much original or overwhelmingly fresh on display here, but it certainly proves that young filmmakers from Spain are going to own this genre in a few years, if Guillermo del Toro keeps taking them under his wing.
Matt B. [LOVED] – A deeply contrived plot that knows just how far into the “you wait here while I check out the basement” wellspring of horror cliches it is sinking, Julia’s Eyes is nonetheless a better-made movie than The Orphanage, and director Guillem Morales shows genuine flair and skill.
The Legend of Beaver Dam
Kurt [LIKED] – A ode to slasher films, rock opera and Joe Dante. It is very short, but oh, so sweet.
Matt B. [LOVED] – This short film was one of the best Midnight Madness films I’ve seen of any length, and is a stern reminder that more short films should play in that venue. Loads of fun.
Matt P. [LOVED] – The best thing at midnight this year was this 12 minute slasher musical that overcame some pretty serious Fubar audience hatred in short order with its great mix of over the top acting and really great songs about murdering.
Kurt [LOVED] – It is the ‘naughty’ version of Kick-Ass that pushes past multiplex sensibilities into a fairly specialized brand of humour. Ellen Page and Kevin Bacon are the real stars of the show here giving quite off-the-wall performances that wonderfully defy expectation (and good taste), but there is (surprisingly) an interesting take on love and lonliness buried in there. And I adore those pencil-crayon credits.
Matt B. [LOVED] – A really shaky script and less-than-stellar filmmaking are entirely erased by the berserker awesomeness of Ellen Page’s entire performance; for the hour-or-so that she is on screen, the film is goddamned extraordinary, and as soon as she’s gone (or just before she arrives), it’s a big fat meh. Someone: make action figures of this. Please.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Many were keener on this than me, and many others I talked to hated it with vehemence. Overall, I fall somewhere in the middle on this lunacy. Is it a great midnight pick? Is it funny? is it about something real? Yes, yes and yes. But it also goes so far that it left a decidedly bad taste in my mouth, and even if it hadn’t, it blows its story with a character death that comes way too soon and just reduces the last half hour to a draggy mess of denoument.
Bob [LIKED] – The structure of this documentary about teenage magicians competing against each other at the yearly Las Vegas championships is nothing new, but it still succeeds in introducing us to some interesting characters and showing us behind the scenes of the basics of magic. It’s not quite as fun as, say, “Spellbound”, but very enjoyable.
Matt B. [LOVED] – Did the rest of the teen magicians know they were going up against Gandalf? A gaggle of American impressarios make mechanisms in their basements while a young Japanese boy wanders across rivers and valleys and makes leaves appear out of thin air. It’s hard not to fall in love with him, and the film around him.
Matt P. [LOVED] – Yeah, it’s Spellbound with teen magicians. But it’s also Spellbound, with teen magicians! And that Japanese kid is a full on sorceror, using river rocks and leaves as his magic props fer chrissakes! Of course I loved it, how could you not?
Bob [LOVED] – A road movie in a single night has to step outside of reality somewhat in order to give you the requisite number of strange characters and situations required. All the better for this Finnish tale of one man’s quest for a digibox to save his relationship with his girlfriend – it would be a shame if we didn’t get all the coincidences and silly scenarios that are presented so gleefully to the viewers.
Behind Blue Skies
Bob [LOVED] – What begins as a wonderfully told teenage coming of age story set amongst the workers of a summer resort morphs into an interesting mix of a father figure search, a morality tale and drug smuggling. Whichever branch it took, though, the film was expertly told (and with amazing attention to detail for its 70s period) and wonderfully performed.
Bob [LOVED] – Exploitative of its young characters and cynical as all get out, I could not help being thoroughly engaged in this story of a teacher’s revenge against the two children who killed her young daughter. The opening 30 minute monologue by the teacher is, by itself, a perfect short film.
Machete Maidens Unleashed!
Bob [LOVED] – Fun and fast-paced documentary that scans over the numerous 70s exploitation films made in the Philippines for the mass consumption of a North American audience. Cheap labour, lax safety rules and extras willing to do anything meshed very well with plots about women in prison and student nurses. If a documentary about a specific set of films makes you want to run out and watch them, then it has to be considered a success. Especially if it entertained the heck out of you while doing it.
A Useful Life
Bob [LOVED] – The opening section of this story of a career employee at a Cinematheque in Montevideo, Uruguay is enjoyable enough (watching the various duties carried out – live overdubbing of foreign films, radio shows, cataloguing reels of film, etc.), but once the Cinematheque closes and he is forced to interact with the real world, it becomes an absolute joy. In particular, during one of my favourite scenes of the entire festival, when he gives a speech about lying honourably for the good of others to a class of law students.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Thin but enjoyable fantasia on the life of a cinematheque. It seems designed to do one thing, and that is to play at film festivals worldwide. Still, it’s hard to be a cynic with this much quiet joy and self-deprecation on display.
The Promise: Making of Darkness at the Edge of Town
Mike Rot [LOVED] – I am more a Dylan fan than a Springsteen fan but the joy of this documentary is that it allows you to soak in 1978 with a constant stream of recording studio footage as Bruce and the E Street Band develop their voice, and create an album when an album meant something. Goes deep into the creative process.
Let Me In
Kurt [LIKED] – The very definition of an unnecessary remake as they got just about everything perfect the first time around. Here we get a film that is very solid for the American Multiplex, it is a well acted and solid piece of character-driven horror and suspense, but it does not quite have the elegance, flow, or patience of its predecessor. A pale case of Deja Vu.
Waiting For Superman
KURT [LIKED] – The type of documentary you would expect from David “An Inconvenient Truth” Guggenheim, an overview of the American public education system and why it is failing to turn out quality graduates in this day and age. It balances its anti-union rhetoric with an intimate look at a few systems in the lottery system for the few non-union public schools allowing for a bit of emotional breathlessness along the lines of Spellbound.
Matt B. [LIKED] – Will win the Oscar, beyond question, and likely several Nobel prizes. It’s as over-earnest and programatic as its spiritual predecessor, An Inconvenient Truth, and has none of the flair or joie de vivre evidenced in It Might Get Loud or even Guggenheim’s better Deadwood episodes.
Break Up Club
Bob [LIKED] – Director Barbara Wong plays up the relationship documentary by creating a fictional story of an on-again-off-again couple, but treating it like it’s a documentary. Wong plays herself as a director searching for people who are about to undergo a break-up and who are willing to record the ups and downs of what is more than likely the end stage of a relationship. The majority of the film is footage taken by one couple as break-up, get back together and break-up again (with help from a web site). It’s not perfect since the male character in the relationship isn’t overly sympathetic (you really wonder why she bothers with him in the first place), but there was enough humour and inventiveness (and the gorgeous Fiona Sit) to keep me engaged.
Bob [LIKED] – Apparently the Democratic Republic of Congo can have just the same kind of seedy nightlife as the typical North American underground city found in many genre movies. Throw in heavy military, church and government corruption along with dollops of racism and misogyny (by the characters, not the movie itself) and you’ve got a dark world that charming criminal Riva lives in. A pretty damn entertaining one too.
Kurt [LIKED] – Do not think there is a fuel shortage on our green planet? Well, gasoline is the commodity of choice in this Congolese gangster picture, where the prodigal son returns with a truck-load of gasoline, and something to prove to the local crime underworld. A sexy romp of a film that tends to put a lot of skin on screen in between its rather spare plot, but comes to a conclusion with a fair bit to say about the current social stasis of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Sure, it’s just a violent genre exercise. A congolese Scarface, if you will, full of sex, revenge and betrayal. Damn I wish we could relax and do that in this country. Viva Riva rocked hard and charmed the pants offa me.
I Saw The Devil
Bob [LIKED] – If you do monstrous things while chasing a monster, do you not become a monster as well? Kim Ji-woon’s followup to the spirited “The Good The Bad The Weird” is a flat out vengeance tale that doesn’t so much thrill as drag you down into its muck with it. It certainly answers that question though…
Kurt [DISAPPOINTED] – It is pretty and pretty much the goriest film to come out of South Korea ever; but Kim Ji-Woon’s take on the Vengeance films of Park Chan-Wook comes across like a shallow imitator. Owing as much influence, considering the unflappable serial killer at the center of the film, to David Fincher it is far more The Game than Zodiac so your milage may vary on whether you forgive the shallowness and praise the glossy mayhem.
Matt B. [LIKED] – Far too long and takes nearly an hour to present its basic premise, but once it does, hoo-boy, it’s a crackerjack take on the revenge thriller. Plus: Storm Shadow vs. Oldboy? Sign me up.
Matt P. [LOVED] – Yes, it’s another grand guignol about the toll vengeance takes. Whatever is wrong with the South Korean psyche vis-a-vis revenge and its many pitfalls, I hope nothing happens to heal the wounds. If only for the sake of the North American movie going audience, since I Saw the Devil is the latest example of mesmerizing movie making to make it out of there.
Kurt [LIKED] – Is it possible to make a movie featuring trains and not have it as a gigantic metaphor? There is as Russian prisoners return from Germany only to be suspects of treason and are Gulag’d in Siberia. Things get stranger when a mountain-woman enters the camp and upsets an already strained balance of the prisoners and the prison staff. Maybe 20 minutes too long, but one heck of a gorgeous bit of filmmaking. Not surprising that this is Russia’s Foreign Language to the Academy.
Matt B. [LIKED] – An enjoyably Herzogian tale of wilderness adventure in 1940s Siberia, goes on a bit too long but is pretty as hell, and features magnificent trains.
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – Leaves in high spirits from Bad-ass-russian-war-hero station; arrives 2 hours later at Tedium-on-Taiga, with few stops in between. I don’t know what I expected, but after a bang up beginning this just disintegrates right in front of your eyes.
The Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen
Kurt [DISAPPOINTED] – Film critic Grady Hendrix said it best when he said he was not the least bit interested in watching Donnie Yen furiously masturbate to Bruce Lee’s legacy. The film is loud and ungainly, a Frankenstein’s monster of everything from The Green Hornet to Temple of Doom to Casablanca but it does have one heck of an opener: Kung Fu vs. Germans in the trenches of World War One. I wish there were more of that and less of a posturing tuxedo’d Yen in pencil moustache.
Matt B. [LIKED] – Asian Dick Tracy is enjoyable enough and mixes moods and action with pleasurable frequency.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Sure, it doesn’t ALL work, and the final fights are painfully bad. But c’mon, how can you hate something this grandiose? And besides, a third of this seems to be set inside of Club Obi-Wan from Temple of Doom.
Kurt [LIKED] – An overly long, but still quite intimate look at first love and insanity and how sex complicates everything.
Kurt [LIKED] – Vincent Gallo gives another fearless performance in which his arab-on-the-run has to eat bark, ants and raw fish in a desparate attempt to avoid capture for killing an American Soldier and two civilians. The film takes the classic tale of ‘accused-man-on-the-run’ and inverts it to challenge audience sympathy while sticking (more or less) to genre conventions. Challenging and risque filmmaking here.
Bob [DISAPPOINTED] – The first half of the film is filled with some interesting setup mostly around the wanna-be-rich character of JW, but it starts to lose its Noirish sense and tension as it progresses to a letdown of an ending. JW is shown to be incredibly naive, so much so that a line like “people put themselves and the money first” appears to be revelatory to him.
Kurt [LOVED] – A smart and character-driven inversion of the typical gangster picture that is far more interested in fathers and family than guns and drugs. Three different characters come together in unusual ways, all are great but the stand out is Dragomir Mrsic
Matt P. [LIKED] – Taut and well constructed multi character crime thriller, a kind of Swedish Elmore Leonard riff. Moves its pieces on the chessboard as well as anything since Out of Sight, albeit with more pathos and less black humor. One of the highlights of my week.
Our Day Will Come
Kurt [LIKED] – Romain Garvas tells a cautionary tale of mayhem and violence as two red-headed men go on a testosterone fuelled rampage against the non-Gingers of the world. Are they using their hair-colour as an excuse to indulge in the darker places of their individual personalities? Probably. The director takes this film to some rather uncomfortable places of the so-called disenfranchised.
The Butcher, The Chef and The Swordsman
Kurt [LIKED] – a smorgasbord of styles and tones add to a film that feels like a first Neo-ShawBrothers film with a decidedly ambitious Saragossa Manuscript twist. Cooking, Slapstick, Prostitutes and Swordsplay, what more do you want in an evenings entertainment.
Matt B. [LIKED] – No goddamned idea what was going on at any particular point, but bears an entertaining in-triplicate flashback structure and is as goofy as a ball of eels.
Matt P. [LIKED] – This was the only real midnight madness entry for me, a nonstop genre bender with no appetite for the rules and no interest in slowing down the editing from bongo solo speeds. It’s sad for me that this was my favourite midnight madness feature this year, and the only one to be unreservedly fun to watch.
Detective Dee And The Mystery of the Phantom Flame
Bob [HATED] – OK, I admit I drifted off to sleep once or twice during Tsui Hark’s latest action spectacle, but shouldn’t an “action spectacle” manage to keep you conscious? Gobs and gobs of CGI (and not very good CGI at that) tacked on to a mediocre story that I didn’t care about with a mystery that just never materialized. Blah.
Kurt [LIKED] – Tsui Hark is back (after several disappointments) with a bright and colourful tale of supernatural thrills and intrigue in ancient China. The film plays like a Scooby Doo mystery with Kung Fu and Magic and that is pretty darn good.
Matt B. [LIKED] – Big-screen movie-movie filmmaking in fine order, fluffy and entertaining.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Even if it doesn’t reach the lofty heights of The Raid and Chinese Ghost Story, Detective Dee still manages to find some new ground in the grand adventure realm. It helps when the canvas includes magical talking kung-fu deer, facial shape shifting, and an assasination attempt involving a 300 foot tall golden Buddha. All adventure should be writ this large.
Bob [DISAPPOINTED] – Stunningly shot with a terrific slow-paced first 30 minutes, but it squanders much of its good will by never doing anything interesting with the variety of ideas it builds up.
Kurt [LOVED] – The second etherial cloning drama features Eva Green and two incarnations of her soul-mate. The first is her lover, the second is her son. They both are exact copies. Morality, memory, delusional expectations and the nature of how we view the world are all on offer from a film that wants to have a serious dialogue with the viewer while putting up on screen some of the most beautiful cinematography (and knit sweaters) in ages.
Matt B. [HATED] – The best first act of the film festival, utterly destroyed by an unsupportable character decision and a heroine who, we must quickly realize, is insane. Answer me this: what outcome do we, as an audience, want from this film?
22nd of May
Bob [DISAPPOINTED] – After a bomb explodes in a mall, a security guard meets up with the people who died and they accuse him of not doing enough to save them. An intriguing premise, but I never quite found an entry point to this odd walk through the purgatory of one man’s set of ghosts.
Kurt [LIKED] – What is the effect of a bomb going off in a public space? The Flemish director of the challenging Ex-Drummer chronicles the lives of the bomber and many of the bombed in a visual and spiritually engaging way.
Kurt [LIKED] – Terry and Deaner take Fort McMurray, and The MAC is a hard mistress. Bigger, louder and maybe a bit more emphasis on set-pieces do not deter this one from being the sloppy (and occasionally poignant) fun that a Canadian Hoser film should be.
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – High style hilarity in the form of a house trashing soon gave way to the mundanities of plot and deeper meaning this was trying to “sneak” past us. No sale, I’m afraid, telefilm. I like my comedies with the Seinfeld rules intact: Nobody learns, nobody cries. There are no “very special episodes” in my canon of greatness.
Vanishing on 7th St.
Bob [DISAPPOINTED] – High expectations (I mostly love director Brad Anderson’s other films) may have dashed any hope of me really enjoying this end of the world tale. However, I expect the lackluster characters, poor performances and rather bland, undistinguished look of the shadows that now envelope the world had more to do with it. Still, some interesting ideas to play with.
Kurt [LIKED] – Not a masterpiece, but an unusual take on the apocalyptic horror film. The characters desparately cry to acknowledge their existence in a universe that seems fit to snuff them out. I rather appreciated the films commitment to the inevitable.
Matt B. [LIKED] – Not terrific, but terrifically visual. Devoid of a third act, which should flunk it by default, but I like the first two acts enough to give it a grudging pass.
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – This is why it’s always the story first and everything else better follow. There’s some good directorial ideas here, and nothing inherently wrong with the cast. Dramatically, though, when you start a story by removing 99.999% of all the people on earth, you better show us some good reasons why we are left with the other 4. The characters in this story neither need to discover information which can validate the central premise, nor are they paying a price for something they do not understand about themselves. In short, their assignation to the current world is presented as random, and our interest in them correspondingly dim.
Miked Rot [LIKED] – My only Midnight Madness, lower-grade Brad Anderson that doesn’t fully payoff on its great visual conceit. Despite fairly weak characters I was enough involved in the mystery to give it a pass.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Sure, Ciarán Hinds and Sam Worthington play the same person (and worthington coming off the plane at the beginning looks an awful lot like the early shot of same in Avatar), and sure, everyone’s accent is literally all over the map, but The Debt is the kind of classy political thriller that Hollywood used to chuck up on the screen every month in the good old 1970’s. The screenplay by Matthew Vaughan and Jane Goldman is as good as anything they’ve done, and the plot genuinely went places I never expected. Also, Helen Mirren packs for a trip wearing only her negligee and for just a minute there I kind of lost myself.
Outside the Law
Matt P. [Liked] – I cannot find anyone else who saw this at tiff. Not one person I know copped to it. A shame, since it’s a gauntlet thrown down to film makers around the world to make drama from the pain of history. Epic, sweeping and pretty goddamn hardcore look at the Algerian independence movement is well worth checking out, and may wind up winning the Oscar this year for best foreign film.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Ondi Timoner’s new doc is squarely in essay film territory, but she isn’t just making the definitive response to An Inconvenient Truth. Cool It is more of an object lesson in how little we achieve by panicking, and how much could be done with simple non hysteria and a pragmatic approach. As a film I found it engaging enough, well paced, well constructed and well done.
Mike Rot [LOVED] – There is nothing quite like having long-held assumptions overturned in the span of a movie. Ondi Timoner’s documentary on Bjorn Lomborg, author of the skeptical environmentalist, is an eye-opener – you will not be able to look at An Inconvenient Truth the same way again.
Matt B. [DISAPPOINTED] – Yeah, and why do I care?
Matt P. [LIKED] – Gregg Araki comes back with his loosest and silliest since the Doom Generation. The plot unfolds like something scribbled on a napkin by a 7 year old birthday party attendee, then subsequently passed to the funny uncle who was supposed to stay 100 yards clear of the party. I could describe what happens, but honestly it doesn’t even matter. What does is that there’s no one better at placing characters directly in the middle of frame and making us kind of love them for being so unlikeable.
Nostalgia For The Light
Matt B. [LOVED] – An excellent counterpoint to Cave of Forgotten Dreams, this documentary examines the ageless time of the cosmos in direct counterpoint to the atrocities of the past 40 years in Chile.
Kurt [LIKED] – The voyeurism vibe in this slow-burn serial killer drama is dark and dangerous. Shot by the cinematographer of Let The Right One In, so it is gorgeous, if slow; almost as if Michael Haneke directed a European remake of Rear Window from the point of view of the Grace Kelly character.
The Sleeping Beauty
Matt B. [LIKED] – Not Catherine Breillat’s best work, but very, very “her.” Too much time spent wandering around imaginary landscapes, but not unexpectedly, its final points arrive like a well-timed suckerpunch.
Deep In The Woods
Matt B. [LIKED] – Rape and witchcraft and plenty of fucking in the bushes, this is the last time I will try Benoit Jacquot, who makes films that just don’t come entirely together for me. Some interesting ideas here and the best musical score of the festival, but an unsatisfying experience.
How I Ended This Summer
Matt B. [LIKED] – An interesting 2-hander premise buried in too much tail-end psychodrama.
Matt B. [LIKED] – Has a lot of useful things to say about childbirth and should be showed in sex ed classes instead of the usual shock doctrine.
Kurt [LIKED] – A single day odyssey of a woman released from prison to attend a funeral, and her plan to tie up as many loose ends and bail on Hungary back to her home in Russia. Based on a story from 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days’ Christian Mungiu, it is easy to see the similarity in story telling, but here you are asked to push past empathy and follow a bit more of an inscrutable lead into that long dark night.
Kurt [LIKED] – Fine performances and a winning idea, turning a school shooting movie inside out by focusing on the parents of the shooter, are not quite enough to elevate this one to the other masterpieces in the genre, Elephant, Bowling for Columbine and Polytechnique.
White Irish Drinkers
Matt P. [LIKED] – It’s an Irish Scotch Broth, a familiar stew full of tough pieces of meat cooked down to the nub. And even if we’ve been served this meal a few too many times, some of the ingredients are just too good to ignore. This coming of age noo yawk story has Stephen Lang playing an abusive drunken father, commanding every moment of his limited screen time. A silver maned Peter Riegert throws in some support, Karen Allen does yeoman’s work as the mom, and the young leads are functional and present in their scenes. I can even overlook Geoff Wigdor, playing the troubled thug brother like Fonzie with an impulse control problem.
Matt P. [LIKED] – It’s a series of Neapolitan songs, performed by some of Napoli’s greatest living artist. Occasionally, director John Turturro turns directly to camera and proclaims things like “Naples! It’s kind of awesome here,” and then with a wave of his hand towards the city behind him, he implores us to check it out for ourselves. What’s not to like?
Matt B. [LIKED] – Hobbits vs. Big Oil has some magnificent imagery, particularly as its deadly beast machine arrives in the final act.
Matt P. [LIKED] – David and Goliath for the oil spill age. The pipe is certainly authentic and at times gripping, but the “ending” seems entirely out of the characters control and makes for an unsatisfying resolution for the audience. Just because the events are real does not mean that the finished product can ignore the rules of storytelling. This is a minor complaint, but it prevents the film from achieving “Cove” like greatness.
Game of Death
Matt P. [LIKED] – Solidly well made with a real point of view on the effects of mass media on our ethics, The game of Death reenacts the Milgram experiments, updating them to a television game reality format to see whether this can make the authoritarians that much more compelling. That it does is certainly no great revelation, but the film is entertaining and mildly suspenseful in its treatment of the details. That it seems to completely ignore new media in favour of the broadcast dinosaur seems like an oversight, one that I hope can be corrected by yet more behavioural scientists.
Kurt [DISAPPOINTED] – The film is simply too polished and damned earnest to make its ground-hog day with drug-addicts conceit work. The characters and scenario are likable enough in the first act until the film makes a wacky over-the-top villain of one that is more yawn-inducing than menacing.
Matt B. [LIKED] – Better than it has any right to be, the dark version of Groundhog Day is enlivened by solid performances and decent shooting, even if it becomes a bit trying (and logic-defying) in its totality. Not bad.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Kurt [LIKED] – It always takes a bit to re-adjust to Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s particular style of long takes and hopping around – he is sort Tsai-Ming Liang with Attention Deficit Disorder. His films have moments of very high engagement, and others where you can simply snooze off. On the whole though, Uncle Boonmee takes similar conceits as Enter The Void and approaches them from the opposite end of the spectrum. A meditation on the important moments in life, and how they all slip away (or become dissociated and free-form) as death takes over. Some wonderful cave photography approaches the stuff in Herzog’s doc as this years TIFF. A bit of a surprise that it won the Palm D’or at Cannes, but there are moments of genius in here, that much is obvious.
Bob [LIKED] – Tom Tykwer’s latest is a slick stylish look at a couple from Germany who each separately engage in an affair with the same man. If not consistently entertaining throughout its entirety, it still has numerous instances of fun and experimentation as well as ending up being somewhat of a plea for tolerance and acceptance of what people might think of as a relationship.
Matt P. [LIKED] – A handsome stranger independently seduces both halves of a married couple, leading to surprising revelations and artistic risks for the filmmaker. I believe that is the description of “standard film festival entry 4b”, and yet as a movie Three makes the most of some pretty well trod ground, throwing in telephone line poetry, modern dance and some pretty frank depictions of testicular cancer to spice up the proceedings nicely. It ain’t Run Lola Run, but Tom Tykwer proves once again he’s a film director capable of presenting material in a professional and compelling way.
Chico & Rita
Matt P. [LIKED] – There’s a plot in this handsomely mounted musical tour through the last half of the 20th century. It involves a man and a woman, destined to be together but pulled apart by jealousy and misunderstanding. It’s a familiar story, but well served here and if that was what this was I would have been happy enough. Thankfully, Chico & Rita is much more, using the story to give us animated backdrops of vivid brilliance, from 1950’s Havana and Las Vegas, to Paris, New York and New Orleans. And the music, the music is as swell as it gets.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Beginners provides a solution to the terrible mess that so-called “romantic” comedies find themselves in these days, trading real heartache and genuine discovery for trite sit-commy boy meets girl shenanigans. It’s nice when something like this reminds you that all you need for greatness sometimes is honesty and charm, which this has tied around its neck like an ascot on gay Chris Plummer.
Wasted on the Young
Matt P. [LIKED] – The better of the two “aussie teen thrill kill” movies at Tiff this year. Creates a universe almost devoid of adults, pulling off perhaps the greatest narrative trick I caught all festival long. Despite this, or because of it, it’s a bracing thriller that serves to fully illustrate the idea of high school as hermetically sealed social experiment gone wrong.
Matt B. [LIKED] – Repetitive, but kindly portrait of a self-appointed mediator in rural India.
Matt P. [LIKED] – It lacks a solid frame in which to portray its subject, and from a filmmaking viewpoint feels slightly abrasive and noisy. But oh, what a subject. A cantankerous and indefatigable woman leading a singular attack on rural India’s systemic abuse of women makes for a very compelling 90 minutes of cinema.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Good to great performances and some spectacular photography make this a solid entry, if minor entry into the british crime milieu. A greatly satisfying exercise in pathetic fallacy, where the white cliffs of Dover never looked so good or so menacing.
Matt P. [LIKED] – Indie Indian. Not only is that fun to say, it’s pretty fun to watch. Dhobi Ghat seems like part of the maturation process, showing that the marketplace in southeast asia can support the kind of filmmaking that Americans starting making about 25 years ago with films like Mystic Pizza and Sex, Lies and Videotape. This isn’t as good as either of those, but it’s still a good sign for the future.
Marimbas from Hell
Bob [LIKED] – Whether you like Heavy Metal music or not, this film proves one thing: a marimba makes it better.
Matt P. [LIKED] – An affable shaggy dog story about combining traditional Marimba with a heavy metal band. Great music, great warmth of spirit. Just as slight as it sounds.
How I Ended this Summer
Matt P. [LIKED] – I would have said loved, as this has performances and wild scenery supporting what is a uniquely powerful plot about isolation and the dangers it holds. Except that as in many things, they can’t stick the landing and let the dramatic air out with about 20 minutes to go, leaving the film to founder in its own filth like a mutated cod in a reactor pool.
Matt P. [LIKED] – High level slick piece, the doc with the greatest chance of translation to a larger audience. Effortlessly contextualizes a problem everyone is affected by and yet no one understands. Plus it looks and sounds better than almost everything else I saw.
Mike Rot [LOVED] – It Ought to have been called: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Financial Crisis but Were Afraid to Ask. The DEFINITIVE documentary on the origin, impact and repercussions of the global financial meltdown of 2008, providing an oral history of the event for future generations to heed.
Matt B. [LIKED] – Jorgen Leth likes young, black girls with medium-sized breasts. So do I. But he is not speaking for the totality of human erotic attraction, any more than I could. Very pretty and occasionally arousing, but quite forgettable in its points.
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – Jorgen Leth shows how much less he is without Von Trier there to poke at him all the time. One of my most anticipated films turns out to be a forgettable and slight meditation on all the attractive women Leth has ever fucked.
Bob [LIKED] – Juno Temple is pretty fantastic as the title character who hits the road in search of her father with her sexually-confused-but-60-to-70-percent-sure-he’s-gay friend along for the journey. It has all the ups and downs of a road movie, with, unfortunately, far too many caricatures along the way. Some genuine charm and a couple of nice supporting turns from Milla Jovovich and Tim McGraw (yes, I was just as surprised as you) save it.
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – As my friend proclaimed “I get the Juno Temple thing now.” Temple owns her part, the titular Dirty Girl (and she has no problem showing you her titulars throughout). Pity she’s surrounded by a muddle of wanna be high school Priscilla plotting and emotional payoffs so apparent I was checking them off a mental list for the last 45 minutes of wish fulfilling gobbledygook. Temple’s commitment almost makes you overlook the general laziness of everything else, but not quite.
Bob [LOVED] – A first film as efficiently directed and effectively told as this story of five friends seeking revenge on a man they believe is responsible for a young woman’s death is something to appreciate. Aussie director Michael Henry told the audience during his Q&A that he wants to specialize in making thrillers. Rejoice I say!
Matt B. [DISAPPOINTED] – A “stupid people making stupid decisions movie.” The director will go on to make great films.
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – It is easy to see why this slick and well directed piece garnered plenty of fans at Tiff. At first glance its a showy take on the house invasion genre, given a lot of weight by the dark past of the victim. The problem is one of character, or rather a lack of it. When the object of our sympathy cannot fight back against his attackers in even the most obvious way, why is it again that I should invest in caring what happens to him?
Griff the Invisible
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – Unfunny, awkward and unclear on its own rules, this is the ironic superhero in a real world movie that doesn’t amount to much of anything at all.
Conscience of Fire
Bob [DISAPPOINTED] – Pretty colours. A big shrug to everything else.
Kurt [DISAPPOINTED] – Gorgeous, if paint-by numbers, entry into the Hong Kong bullets n’ cops genre shows that one day Dante Lam may be the next Johnnie To or John Woo, but he is not quite there yet
Matt B. [DISAPPOINTED] – A sorry choice for a final Midnight Madness, too long-winded to really hold one’s attention and a bit too in love with Heat for its own good.
Matt P. [HATED] – The worst closing midnight since Saw. A HK action fest that spends forever setting up its action sequences, only to butcher them until the audience just wished it was somewheres else. Ends with a bizarre and nonsensical subtitle haiku that makes the preceeding 90 minutes even less meaningful than they were when I merely hated it.
Kurt [DISAPPOINTED] – John Carpenter returns with a film that looks like it could have been made by anyone. The very definition of disappointment.
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – Carpenter apologists, who called this his “best film since 1995” (and what rarified ompany that is) aside, this is a standard (or substandard) take on the haunted hospital genre that arrives unremarkably and concludes the same way. A banal and charmless paint by numbers affair that got extra points from some simply because unlike Romero, Carpenter never bothers to colour outside the lines.
Home for Christmas
Bob [DISAPPOINTED] – I was actually quite enjoying the different storylines within Bent Hamer’s latest – each one about different concepts of finding home at Christmas time – but they never connected or amounted to more than a variety of short films about similar themes that were spliced together. There’s some lovely character work going on here, which makes it all the more frustrating that it could have been much greater.
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – Multi character stories around a central date can be done. They have certainly been done better than this, a muddled and underwhelming collection of scenes that strains to be a movie in the end.
Matt B. [DISAPPOINTED] – A film of infinite scalability – could be 2 minutes long, 2 hours long, or 2 years long and make all the same points. A bit boring, then, after 2 hours, to see the same general frame repeated over and over again.
Promises Written in Water
Mike Rot [DISAPPOINTED] – As Vincent Gallo films go, its not nearly as great as Buffalo 66 but not nearly as awful as Brown Bunny. There are some amazing shots, some funny bits, but ultimately experimental films are not my cup of tea.
Bob [DISAPPOINTED] – An Icelandic filmmaker’s mother struggles with Alzheimer’s while his latest film (about old people coping with death) meets public indifference and may financially ruin him. Though it has some sharp barbs towards the Icelandic film community and several great performances, it never quite built into anything more than just that.
West is West
Matt p> [DISAPPOINTED] – There’s nothing really wrong here, but this sequel to East is East provokes nothing in the viewer not fully expected from the get. It’s a teflon pan movie, absolutely nothing sticks.
Matt P. [DISAPOINTED] – It’s beautiful, perhaps the best photographed documentary since Baraka. It’s also a little dramatically inert, and never felt to me like it gave fresh insight into its subjects. Ultimately once I got past the visuals I was a little bored with the events.
The Sound of Mumbai
Matt P. [DISAPPOINTED] – A 60 minute documentary about slumdogs learning to sing Doe a Deer? How did it go wrong? Well, that running time is a good indication, there simply isn’t enough material here, enough of an investment by the filmmakers to produce something really special. This feels a lot like the crew had 2 months to get their footage, when they should have devoted a few years of trips and followed these kids and the ones that come after. Too slight to matter, with no new information and no unique connection to the subjects.
Bob [DISAPPOINTED] – Two immigrant workers from the Philippines wander through Taipei carrying back a couch they “found” that they believe will transform their living quarters. Not terrible by any stretch, but considering we spend the entire movie with these two characters, it would’ve helped if they were likeable.
Bob [DISAPPOINTED] – I’m not sure what I expected from James Wan’s (director of “Saw”) attempt at a ghost story…I wasn’t a big fan of his sequel-spawning hit, but I thought he might bring some energy and new ideas to my favourite type of horror film. There were indeed some nicely-realized moments and a concept that was, if not novel, at least a bit different than the norm. However, for each solid creepy scene, the filmmakers took two steps backward by amping up the over-the-top score or throwing in jarring effects.
Kurt [LIKED] – It is hard to make a Palestinian-Isreali film without getting peoples political dander up, but Julian Schnabel, after his humanistic look at a paralyzed man takes a look at a paralyzed situation through the coming of age of a young girl who is educated at a very unusual school. As much the story of Hind Husseini’s orphanage which gave the full private school experience to kids who lost their parents to the ongoing conflict, it does offer a chance to step back and look at everything in terms of people first, ideologues second.
Mike Rot [WORST] – Julian Schnabel is so much better than this film, hugely disappointed in what felt fairly absent of style or substance. Freida Pinto was miscast and the character was without any kind of momentum.
Kurt [WORST] – It looks like a pop-up book with its CGI origami transitions. That is not enough to sustain tedious action sequences and the over-production of just about everything but fun and entertainment. At nearly 2 hours, this is completely unforgivable. We could have had a snappy colourful Quick and The Dead if this were 80 minutes long with better writing and direction; instead we get a spaghetti western science fiction martial arts version of Repo! The Genetic Opera.
Matt B. [LOVED] – I would never dare call this a completely successful motion picture, but I kinda loved it anyway, and its daffy visuals and sense of style have stayed with me a hell of a lot longer than my early dismissal suggested.
Soul Of Sand
Bob [HATED] – I should say up front that there were elements of this film that were of interest. The story of a woman promised as a wife to a rich man but actually in love with another man outside her caste is not new, but “Soul Of Sand” attempts to bring a different style to it with thriller and Noir conventions wrapped around it. Unfortunately, it moves with fits and starts, is executed in amateurish fashion and was occasionally aggravating (e.g. if you can’t capture the sounds of someone eating live on set, do NOT try to overdub those sounds with over-the-top lip-smacking and chewing at twice the volume).
Matt B. [HATED] – Totally shits the bed in its lack of a third act, featuring a lead character who, we ultimately realize, is utterly passive and unwilling to take even the most basic action to ensure his own survival.
Matt P. [HATED] – For all its stylistic control and bravada sequences, no film should ask me to follow a character so inert he can’t even attempt to dig his way out of certain death even after he ascertains that he is no more than 4 feet below ground.
Matt B. [HATED] – How do you fuck up Jango Fett vs. Beowulf in Middle Earth? I dunno, but they sure did.
Matt P. [HATED] – Just to go after the 2 woefully inept lead performances from Ray Winstone and Temuera Morrison seems mean spirited. It’s probably the director’s fault anyways that this plodding and repetitive drama makes two great performers seem like community theatre chorus boys. Morrison gets by far the shorter end of the stick, being asked to display his Maori culture in a vacuum of meaning that renders it comical instead of brutal.
Matt P. [HATED] – Just like on Men With Guns, John Sayles takes a dramatic and compelling backdrop of war and creates a static canvas of trees and talking that compels the viewer to take a nap immediately.]
Matt B. [HATED] – An utterly uninteresting back-and-forth between two icy female leads of very little charisma.
Matt P. [HATED] – We were promised kink. Unusual kink, that we hadn’t seen before. Ten minutes in, what we got was just boring, repetitive and the worst thing a midnight madness film can be, dull. Maybe it gets better by the end, but at 1am who wants to stick around to find out?
Matt B. [HATED] – TIFF should not have screened Godard’s petty joke without a warning. Unacceptable treatment of an audience.
Matt P. [WORST] – There’s a litany of reasons to hate hate hate this spiteful fuck you to the audience. Incoherent, ugly, anti-meaning, trivial and boring. Oh, and did I mention that the filmmaker went to special effort to exclude english subtitling. He actually had the subtitles removed before sending the film to tiff. Fuck you right back, Godard.
Matt B. [WORST] – Not actually a movie.
Bob [WORST] – There are plenty of reasons to dislike this film, but I expect that most people will hate it for the wrong reasons. For instance, Megan Fox is actually decent in her role as a woman burdened with wings on her back and the magical moments of the film actually fit within the context of the plot (which is pretty obviously foreshadowed). The reason to dislike it are the rather bland, pedestrian performances of everyone else and the terribly dull story that plods its way to the end.