Rowthree Presents: Massive TIFF11 Summary

Boy the festival has gotten easier to do with friends since the advent of smart phones and social media! This is our 4th annual mega-size wrap-up of the Toronto International Film Festival from Row Three. TIFF11 was 11 days of cinema, viral infection, joy, madness and everything in between. From podcasting on street corners and in-the-line video segments, to the non-stop chitter-chatter and social libation, and of course, the films. This year We have Mike Rot, Bob, Kurt and both Matts (B. and P.) together to offer a quick summary and a tag [BEST], [LOVED], [LIKED], [DISLIKED], [DISAPPOINTED], [WALKED OUT], [HATED] and [WORST] for each of the films we watched. And we watched a lot. Quick thoughts for all 100 (or so) 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 and foreign dramas, it will mean importing a DVD or checking your TV and internet VOD listings.

The SHORT version:

The Best: Cafe De Flore (Bob), Take Shelter (Matt B.), The Story of Film – An Odyssey (Matt P.), Kotoko (Kurt) and Take This Waltz (Mike Rot)

The Worst: Americano (Bob), The Moth Diaries (Kurt & Matt P.), Hick (Matt B.) and Last Winter (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, below.

TAKE SHELTER
Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain give year-defining performances in a cunning, and visually astonishing, treatise on the wages of fear. Stay for the last drop. –MATT B. [BEST]
Oh. My. God! Michael Shannon gives a career best performance (and that is saying something, as he’s always excellent) as an honest man suffering acute anxiety. Fearing that a storm is coming and developing an unhealthy obsession with building a shelter, we can only watch helplessly as a man’s life comes completely undone. Take Shelter may possibly be labeled as a blue-collar, humourless version of A Serious Man, but I’m thinking this one is probably the better film. –KURT [LOVED]
Michael Shannon just locked down the Oscar. If he doesn’t get it for Take Shelter, than it’s simply a matter of time based on this tour de force. As I am wont to say, that is how you do that. -MATT P. [LOVED]
Apparently I am the voice of dissent on this one. Tackles themes very close to my heart, went into the film wanting to love it but felt in the end the choices made to depict a man wrestling with apocalyptic visions were both obvious and belabored. There is no momentum to the film, it just hangs in a holding pattern. The saving graces are the performances by Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain and a wonderfully evocative score. –ROT [DISAPPOINTED]

KOTOKO
Shinya Tsukamoto’s crazy camera-work finds a dynamite purpose as it comes to represent the adrenaline fueled energy of a bipolar mom living through panic attacks for the safety of her toddler. Quiet moments of wonderful singing from Cocco – a Japanese popstar that gives a fearless performance for which I can see no western analogue – are punctuated by moments of uncomfortable violence. This one stays with you, long after it is over, and makes you question the old adage of ‘live life to its fullest’ with the thesis that no emotional filters will surely drive you crazy. -KURT [BEST]

TAKE THIS WALTZ
My most anticipated film of the festival lived up and exceeded those expectations. A real beast of a film that is funny, sad, absurd, beautiful. Think a very Canadian Closer. Best closing shot in years. –ROT [BEST]

CAFÉ DE FLORE
Magnificent on every level. This is my “I won’t see a better film this year” film. –BOB [BEST]

THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY
It took me a while to come around to calling this the best, but on reflection it was for me. I spent 2 full days at this movie, and even though I shouldn’t have, came out changed profoundly on the other side. I don’t agree with everything I saw, but under the sheer weight of the academia displayed here my inner film nerd has no choice but to give it the crown. -MATT P. [BEST]
15 hours of one man’s personal view of the history of film could’ve easily stretched out to 30 or more – and I would have been equally as happy to see it all. –BOB [LOVED]
Fifteen hours of unadulterated cinematic bliss. Should have been longer. –MATT B. [LOVED]

TYRANNOSAUR
Featuring not one, but two pre-meditated dog murders, Paddy Considine’s directorial debut is designed to be an unpleasant experience. But the talented cast, including a world-shaking against-type role for Brit TV comedienne Olivia Colman, more than overcome a slightly-too-structured screenplay. I say the same thing for Peter Mullan as I did for Bill Nighy, these mighty character actors should be given lead performances more often. Bonus: Jurassic Park anecdotes. –KURT [LOVED]
Paddy Considine elevates the British social drama into something greater than your typical miserable affair, tapping into the grandeur of Western archetypes and feeding Peter Mullan a role of a lifetime as the sometimes repentant stick wielding equalizer trying to do one right thing in an ever maddening world. A damn near perfect film that from the darkness makes the moments of light all the more radiant. -ROT [LOVED]
Director Paddy Considine earned his standing ovation with this startlingly deft drama, a film of deep insight and deeper sympathy. –MATT B. [LOVED]
A great film in the tradition of Nil By Mouth and The War Zone. Equal parts brutish and british. Peter Mullan is amazing, and it’s a pretty neat trick to make us sympathize with a main character that begins the film by beating his own dog to death. Paddy Considine, make more movies. -MATT P. [LOVED]

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
It is never clear whether we are getting objective reality, or what is going on inside of the lead characters (Tilda Swinton – magnificent) head, but this plays out more like a full blown horror picture of raising children along with the sacrifices and consequences. There are some films that go so far with their symbols and themes that they hit operatic levels of genius. This is one of those. –KURT [LOVED]

THE AWAKENING
This classic Hollywood ghost story really turns the screw on its audience. It’s a darn near perfect bit of Victorian era filmmaking that makes only a single minor misstep in the final shot, a unnecessarily cute directorial flourish that tarnishes an otherwise perfect finish. If Robert Downey Jr. needs a perfect foil in the snappy new Sherlock Holmes franchise, the producers should take a good look at Rebecca Hall who has never looked more sexy or cocksure and delivers an absolute winner of a lead performance. Bonus: Hard to believe this was from a first time filmmaker. –KURT [LOVED]

I WISH
Adored is probably a better choice of words. A warm, wonderful look at kids looking forward and adults looking back. It also contains one of the sweetest scenes in recent memory. –BOB [LOVED]
At times I’ve found Kore-Eda’s stuff more admirable than good, a kind of flawless exercise that left me outside the films looking in. But I Wish, like Afterlife, doesn’t suffer from that one bit. This is warm and human and loveable. I just want to give this movie a big hug. -MATT P. [LOVED]

HIMIZU
I was laughed out of the room when I suggested that Sion Sono’s latest should be Japans entry into the Foreign Language Oscar race. I do stand by that as a reflection on how community and individuals react and move onward after a tragedy the size of the Tsunami that hit Japan in March, Himizu is a great bit of filmmaking. The Japanese equivalent of The 25th Hour. –KURT [LOVED]
Without a doubt Sion Sono’s approach to filmmaking is not for everyone – with emotion and volume pitched HIGH, his characters yell and scream extensively as he creates a constant level of tension while still providing an affecting story of hope for his countrymen following the destructive tsunami of March 2011. –BOB [LOVED]
Everyone shouts everything all the time, but holy cats, man. What a weird wooly way to get at the tsunami. Himizu feels utterly personal, and is utterly awesome. -MATT P. [LOVED]

THE ARTIST
Can you bottle this much cinematic joy into a single film? The director of the mannered OSS 117 films finds his calling in classic Black and White silent cinema, but not at the price of being invented. A silent actor having a nightmare in sound and foley is both creepy and magnificent. Bonus: Tap Dancing. –KURT [LOVED]
Yeah, it’s pretty much just as wonderful as you keep hearing – particularly the brilliant beginning and the absolute perfect ending. –BOB [LOVED]
Do you like things that are good? Do funny things make you laugh? Are you entertained by entertainment? Then go see the Artist, and bask in the silly brilliance of this heart leaping soaring box of wonder. -MATT P. [LOVED]

MELANCHOLIA
One of Lars Von Trier’s best films; and I like ‘em all! For the first time in a while it feels like the director is less interested in poking the viewer in the eye, and instead delivers a precise and measured bit of classic art-house cinema. Throw it up there with Tree of Life and Another Earth to make a 2011 trilogy of films dealing with the universe as insight into the personal. Only complaint is that the film need more Udo Kier. –KURT [LOVED]

DRIVE
Like a spiritual cousin to The Limey, Drive oozes style, keeps its story relatively contained, and lets the actors and the cinematography tell the tale. Extra points for: Making the violence difficult to watch (as it should be); a killer look at Los Angeles; and a magnificent sound track. Drive is cinema at is most pure. –KURT [LOVED]
So many of the films I see lately confuse underacting with good acting, forgetting that performance isn’t supposed to replicate real life, it’s supposed to communicate story through character. Drive, on the other hand, never ever makes this mistake. Gosling is actually pretty amazing at just standing still, one of the hardest things for any actor to do. Everyone plays the scenes so well that you’re left with the impression there’s a lot more actual car stuff in this than there is. Refn continues to cultivate one of the great directorial careers of the last 30 years. -MATT P. [LOVED]

THIS IS NOT A FILM
The festival’s purported serving of vegetables turns out to be an exaltation of human freedom that becomes a flat-out cinematic joyride in its magnificent final act. -MATT B. [LOVED]

A LETTER TO MOMO
A lovely take on a familiar theme, how fantasy can help us to rescue our reality. This would make a great companion piece to Neverending Story, or Alice in Wonderland, or any other classic children’s story. -MATT P. [LOVED]

ALPS
A worthy sequel to the batshit weird Dogtooth sees four strange people in business together with the mandate substituting in for people who have recently lost a loved one. It asks the question of where the line exists between being demanding of someone and indulging someone’s demands. The insight here is that we all are actors in our varied relationships – intimate or otherwise – with a seemingly limitless ability to rationalize and compartmentalize. Bonus: More weird dancing and repurposed pop music. –KURT [LOVED]
Darkly funny in how it plays on the way we all act our different roles and risk getting lost in them. –BOB [LOVED]

KILLER JOE
A quite standard, more or less TV quality neo-noir gets a mainline injection of craziness from Matthew McConaughey who spouts “Is that your Dick?” as a wacky refrain after getting all BDSM with the KFC. I would love to know how such a high profile cast (Gina Gershon, Thomas Hayden Church, Emile Hirsh, Juno Temple and of course, Matthew McConaughey) would read the Killer Joe script and agree to it (batshit and all!) but thank the Lord for small miracles. A very worthy follow up to Bug for William Friedkin, a 70s icon who has turned to small indie films (see also Francis Ford Coppola.) –KURT [LOVED]
Delivers its genre like a brick through a plate glass window. Will put you off fellatio (and KFC) for life… yet may actually be worth it. Juno Temple is the thinking pervert’s sex symbol. –MATT B. [LOVED]
Well, I’m never eating fried chicken again. -MATT P. [LOVED]

HABEMUS PAPAM
This is my favourite Nanni Moretti film, taking the crown from Caro Diario. Its got all the trademark touches, the wry observational quality, great performance, etc. But the resolution of the idea that a man is elected Pope and simply doesn’t want the job? A ballsy slap in the face of the church that makes this the bravest movie I saw at TIFF. -MATT P. [LOVED]

GENERATION P
A Russian version of Fight Club by way of Wag The Dog filled chock-o-block with satirical TV commercials all of which are in search for the Russian soul? Sign me up please! You would probably get 10 times the enjoyment of this film if you were Russian, but let me tell you, even the dilute understanding that I had of things made this one of the best surprises of TIFF this year. An average Joe gets caught up in the world of advertising during the mid 1990s boom created to slake the post-USSR thirst for western consumer goods. Does Generation P stand or Perestroika or Pepsi or re-Purposed Propaganda? Apparently, all of the above. –KURT [LOVED]
Even though I do not believe it’s possible for my North American mind to get all the references on display here, the Russian Trainspotting plays. It’s just a pretty wild ride, and so much good stuff is on display. Loopy. -MATT P. [LIKED]

THE RAID
Contains more pure violence than just about any film I’ve ever seen. Part martial arts, part video game, part crime thriller, there is a lot of entertainment its simple concept: a lot of cops trapped in a high-rise full of criminals. All right boppers, let’s get boppin.’ –KURT [LOVED]
Some of the most brutal, teeth-gritting and sustained on screen fights I’ve ever seen. Very violent and definitely not driven by plot or characters; but wow. –BOB [LOVED]
The “plot” is at the level of a 2nd tier videogame. This isn’t even GTA level storytelling, but that is seriously immaterial to this stupendous exercise in style and kinetic thrill. Gareth Huw Evans accomplishes the almost impossible, he makes hand to hand fighting cinematically compelling. The comparison in approach to classic musicals of the 40′s and 50′s is very much warranted here, and the film revels in showing us as much of the human figures as possible for as long as possible. The result is a pounding psychic melee that invested me completely in the (rather predictable) outcome. -MATT P. [LOVED]
Must I be the sole voice of dissent here? It is a good series of action set pieces, and an excellent filmed video game, but lacks the shopworn whimsy, or memorable characters, of a real movie. –MATT B. [DISLIKED]

KILL LIST
A worthy follow up and expansion on Ben Wheatley’s hidden gem, Down Terrace. Things start off innocently enough, but build to a thunderous crescendo worthy of the Wicker Man, a film Kill List is most definitely aiming to emulate. Bonus: The claustrophobic but quite noisy shoot-out set in a tunnel is a keeper. – KURT [LOVED]
I’m somewhat unsure how to approach my feelings on “Kill List”. I liked the steady build towards something much more sinister than initially assumed, liked the action set piece tunnel scene and felt that where the main character ended was quite fitting for what he was. But I never felt the punch to the gut everyone kept saying I would feel since I didn’t find the characters interesting and didn’t care for the way the ending was achieved. –BOB [LIKED]
I don’t just hate this film, I hate the people who made it. I might even hate the people who like it. I think it’s a work of total immorality, a shameful exploitation that diminishes all humanity just by its very existence. Ben Wheatley can just go fuck himself. -MATT P. [HATED]

YOU’RE NEXT
A low budget shocker that rests comfortably on a handsome location, creepy animal masks and a surprise-laden screenplay. A family re-union gone horribly awry sees one of the ladies stepping up to armed and dangerous home-invaders to make for the best ‘final-girl’ since High Tension. Never underestimate those Aussie women. –KURT [LOVED]
A solid genre entry, set in a world of pure fantasy where girls walk bare-titted to the window to search for the source of offscreen noises, and men in animal masks can kill a whole adult family while being laid low by a 90-pound Australian girl. Who’s complaining? –MATT B. [LIKED]
was always a few steps ahead of this, and yeah, there’s a humungo plot hole that pretty much makes it impossible, but none of that really matters. You’re Next knows exactly who its audience is and exactly what to give them and when. -MATT P. [LIKED]
A good solid genre film which provides its share of thrills, is genuinely funny in spots, has a kick-butt female lead and plays with conventions. I can’t help but wish it played with those conventions just a wee bit more as it starts out fussy and a bit slow and misses several opportunities, but once it gets in gear it should satisfy most folks. –BOB [LIKED]

SLEEPLESS NIGHT
You can probably imagine the logistical challenges to making an action driven chase film set almost completely inside a mega-sized night club over a single night: Camera placement, sound continuity, controlling the tightly packed horde of extras and communicating the complicated geography of the location to the viewer. Director Frederic Jardin not only rises to the challenge, but laughs heartily in the glory of what is possible with this basic genre concept. He layers in a sack full of cocaine, a dozen or more mobile phones, varied wardrobe, and a teenage hostage that swap locations as often as they change ownership. The mind reels thinking just how damn well this is executed. – KURT [LOVED]
A perfect genre film. Tomer Sisley is the next action movie god if there is any justice in the world. This is exactly how you execute a bottled action movie. Somewhere out there, Liam Neeson’s cock just moved. –MATT B. [LOVED]
A super simple idea done well, this is another lockdown movie, this time in a swanky Parisian nightclub/casino/pool-hall/drug-kingpin-lair/restaurant. Basically, it is all the worst parts of the bible, to paraphrase Billy Bob. But it kills in terms of keeping the chess pieces moving on the board, and especially in using the first half of the movie to set up the geography of the giant club so that when shit really goes down in the second half we always know exactly where we are and how long it is going take to go from one place to another. The last time I saw spatial exposition handled this well was in Titanic. -MATT P. [LOVED]

PAGE EIGHT
This is the kind of dialogue driven political thriller I’ve missed so much. Three Days of the Condor meets In The Loop with all around high-fives to Bill Nighy, Judy Davis, Michael Gambon and Rachel Weisz. Why hasn’t Bill Nighy been given major starring roles up to this point? –KURT [LOVED]

HARD CORE LOGO II
It is unfocused, indulgent and slightly loopy – exactly what the doctor ordered in a sequel to one of the scrappiest Canadian films of all time. Bruce McDonald turns the camera and the thematic musings back on the filmmaker here. Not exactly the focused and clear road-trip of the first one, but has a lot of pleasures, mainly in the form of triple the screen time for Julian Riching’s wonderful Bucky Haight. Could have used a few more rock numbers, but makes up for it in self deprecating meta-wank hilarity. Bonus: Random Japanese voice-over. –KURT [LOVED]
Arts & Crafts filmmaking, some of it sticks, some doesn’t, wait ten seconds and something new flashes on the screen. Unnecessary sequel to a great film but was never bored. –ROT [LIKED]

DREILEBEN
These three separate feature films interlocked across a single crime and following different characters are a fascinating exercise in mirroring images, doubling and assumptions. –BOB [LOVED]

OSLO, AUGUST 31ST
A day in the life of a recovering junkie a day against the rhythm and bustle of the eponymous Norwegian town. This film is a master class in directorial control that uses of time and location and character in ways that leaves one breathless, even as pity and empathy are earned by the lead character. –KURT [LOVED]
A terrific take on how we see ourselves reflected in others via one man’s struggle to believe he can find happiness. It also manages to be a pretty fine tour guide of Oslo. –BOB [LOVED]

WETLANDS
I’ve always wanted to say that I’ve just seen a film that “heralds the arrival of a new major talent”. Now I can. Quebec director Guy Edoin’s first feature film is truly remarkable. –BOB [LOVED]

HEADHUNTERS
This type of inventive and surprising genre film is the kind of thing that gets me excited at festivals. It is completely in a ‘movie-movie’ world, but don’t let that be a deal-breaker as you watch its douche-bag lead character go through a series of hells of his own making before coming out the other side a saint. Bonus: the best ‘man bites dog’ scene since No Country for Old Men. –KURT [LOVED]
This was exactly what I was hoping it would be, a European stab at the “American” thriller. Slick, full of people far too good looking for their station in life, a plot that twists like chubby checker. Carckerjack, pure sugary popcorn. -MATT P. [LOVED]

THE DESCENDANTS
It may lack the acerbic comedy one comes to expect from Alexander Payne, but it more than compensates by delivering a great lead performance from star George Clooney as he re-integrates with his daughters and he says goodbye to his comatose wife (who was having an affair.) I misted up several times, for what it is worth. Bonus: After Lost, it incidentally de-mythologizes the scenery of Hawaii. –KURT [LOVED]
The great return of Alexander Payne is a bit of a letdown, not because it is bad, it is just kind of solidly meh. High expectations may have tainted this for me. –ROT [LIKED]

SHAME
For me, this was a big step up from Steve McQueen’s festival favourite, Hunger. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan play a brother and sister raised with dysfunctional childhoods are now living lives lacking in any sort of intimacy. Both have their own private pains that clash electrically when they are together. Shame is more a commentary on our times of 24/7 instant gratification, than a nuanced look at addiction, but for me, it a bit more relatable than the directors debut, yet manages to retain McQueen’s now signature sense of style and cinematic rigour. -KURT [LOVED]
This by far was the most anticipated and most discussed movie of the festival, probably for all of us. I personally fell into at least 10 deep discussions on all the things that were wrong with it in the 5 days after I saw it. Mostly though, it’s a movie that once again equates sex with misfortune, and sports a surprisingly judgmental view of its characters. Technically it’s up to the standards of Hunger, but dramatically? A huge opportunity squandered in a sea of moralistic bullshit. -MATT P. [DISAPPOINTED]

THE HUNTER
A beautiful movie with a grim story that is reminiscent of Corbijn’s The American, only with a lot more nature – of both the wilderness and human variety. Willem Dafoe plays a mercenary for hire by big Pharma who are looking for cloning potential on a near extinct tasmanian tiger. Instead, through a series of encounters with the family that he is staying with, and various local conflicts, the hunter climbs his way out of his own personal wilderness. Well executed, and gorgeous to boot. –KURT [LOVED]

CARRE BLANC
A triumph of style as substance. Combining the themes of THX1138 with The Trial and mixing in a lot of amusing corporate humiliation shenanigans, Carre Blanc may not be the fastest paced or original piece of cerebral science fiction out there but it is certainly is bold in its intentions. The film is a candle-glimmer of optimism in a grim anonymous world; a scream into the oppressive silence that dares its hero to smash the absurd routine. It is kind of a small miracle these types of films (see also: Peter Sparrow’s “1″) ever get made and I look forward to the next film from this idiosyncratic filmmaker. –KURT [LOVED]
There’s no point citing specifics in terms of what I loved about Carré blanc, Suffice to say it is the love child of THX1138 and Daniel Cockburn’s You Are Here. Again, do you like things that are good? Then if you get a chance, see this. -MATT P. [LOVED]

CRAZY HORSE
Maybe a tad too long, this fly-on-the-wall look at the world’s most prestigious nudie-show and cabaret has a satisfying ebb and flow. Lights, boobs, back-room hand-wringing make for solid entertainment, and Wiseman’s films acts as the best possibly commercial for the artistry and care of the Crazy Horse Saloon. I am booking my trip to Paris soon. –KURT [LOVED]
Again, this was exactly the movie I was expecting it to be, a 2 hour best of the current -2009 when the film was shot- Paris show, intercut with a lot of long scenes of the creatives having meetings with each other and telling us how much the place means to them. It is a Wiseman doc, and after 35+ films I’m still blown when people are surprised that that’s all they get. He’s been pointing the camera at new subjects in order to make the exact same film for pretty much his whole career. That said, it’s still 20 minutes too long, and at a certain point my companion wanted to leave and I didn’t care either way so I went with him. -MATT P. [WALKED OUT]
Well, “hated” is a strong word, but “made me tired of boobs” earns it some enmity. –MATT B. [WALKED OUT]

VOLCANO
Depressing as all hell, but gorgeous and empathic. A retired man who has slacked on his domestic duties for forty years, has to care for his wife who recently had a paralytic stroke. There is also a wonderful parallel plot of grandfather-grandson bonding over the repair of a leaky boat. Kind of like Gran Torino without the immigrant neighbors or the Christ-fixation. This film could only come from Scandinavia. –KURT [LOVED]
Depressing as all fuck, but a workable picture of a gruff elder man sorting his shit out. By means of watching his wife die of a stroke. Argggh. DEPRESSING AS FUCK. –MATT B. [LIKED]

MONSIEUR LAZHAR
Though not as flashy as his previous films, Falardeau handles his theme of healing and guilt in subtle and lovely ways via his old-fashioned but very caring teacher. –BOB [LOVED]

SAMSARA
Gorgeous and breathtaking, it’s also all a bit too familiar in some subjects and music choices. In the end, though, it’s far too easy to get lost in it and all its glorious imagery to complain. –BOB [LOVED]
Another Baraka – and maybe the best one of these travelogues-cum-guided-meditations yet. And I did like it, especially as it was projected from a pristine source through a high brightness 4k rig. The images are so tangible the urge to lick the screen is hard to ignore. But as always the issue with the non narrative nature of this is that it prompts my mind to wander, and I spent as much time thinking about how long it would be before the shots I was seeing show up as stock video in adverts as I did contemplating my existence like I was supposed to. -MATT P. [LIKED]

TWIXT
Clearly this film is Francis Ford Coppola goofing off. Taken at that level, this Poe meets King tale of small towns and vampire goings on is a lot of silly fun. Bonus: Val Kilmer doing sweet, sweet improv. Extra Bonus: Elle Fanning’s braces used as a ballistic weapon. -KURT [LIKED]
Y’know what? Leave your pretensions at the door, cuz Francis brought all of his with him; you might as well enjoy his batshit artistic unchainedness. Elle Fanning is a spectral wonder, Val Kilmer gives a 3-minute improv master class, and Coppola gives the most judicious use of 3-D since Avatar. –MATT B. [LIKED]

THE LAST GLADIATORS
Although it’s an engaging doc about hockey enforcers, it gets sidetracked by spending too much time on just one. I was hoping for something a little more, i don’t know, sociological than this. -MATT P. [LIKED]

A FUNNY MAN
In the world of film festivals and ironic titles (“Happiness” anyone?) who would’ve guessed a film titled thusly would actually be funny? Well, it is and it is also, as far as I can tell, a spot-on look at how an audience can suck the life out of you. –BOB [LOVED]
An evocative bio-pic on Danish stand-up comic Dirch Passer which delivers on its title and examines the anxieties and pressure of comedians to pander to their audience instead of breaking new ground. The film sort of does this as well; meta-wise, for better or worse. It’s all worth it for this simple and hilariously absurd gag involving a sofa in the back-yard. You want an iconic image that represents everything for Dirch Passer? If Alexander Payne didn’t already steal the title Sideways, then it could have been used here. -KURT [LIKED]
Movies about comedy are tricky, but this one gets most of it right. Especially the comedy itself, which reinvigorates the tropes of 1950′s nightclub double acts. On a friend’s advice I forced myself to wait until the last second to look at the subtitles so that I wouldn’t have the punch-lines spoiled ahead of time, and the movie played out like the lighter side of Raging Bull. Don’t get me wrong, this ain’t Raging Bull, but it was enjoyable and accurate to its subject. -MATT P. [LIKED]

GOODBYE FIRST LOVE
A flawed central character runs through a rich set of emotions and pulls you into the story of how her first love affects her life. Obviously a truly personal story from director Mia Hansen-Love. –BOB [LOVED]

GERHARD RICHTER PAINTING
The documentary may not tell you much about this German painter, but it delights in showing his process and the textures and colours he teases out of his paintings as he feels his way towards his final creations. –BOB [LOVED]

SUMMER GAMES
I first thought it was a good film, and am now convinced it was a great film. An understated and chilly treatment of adolescent angst, and all the euphoria, rage, and sex that such a thing implies. Oh, to be a boy on the Mediterranean coast again! –MATT B. [LOVED]

UNDEFEATED
Stand up in your seats and cheer: a perfect sports drama, which just happens to be a documentary. You will remember the “uncommon man” speech for a long, long time. –MATT B. [LOVED]
It’s right place right time filmmaking, as the events that unfold in this football underdog story really are too good to be fiction. But the small moments in which “football doesn’t build character, it reveals character” are as great as the big scale will they or won’t they win this whole thing scenario that most people will focus on exclusively. -MATT P. [LOVED]

AMY GEORGE
Tweenblecore? A remarkably well-observed portrait of a Toronto adolescent. – MATT B. [LOVED]

DOPPELGANGER PAUL
Not convinced this movie has any idea what it’s trying to say, but whothefuckcares, it’s a daft hoot to watch it trying to say it. Curvy Canadian ideas don’t need big American budgets. –MATT B. [LOVED]

RESTLESS
Granted, it is a slight work, lesser Van Sant but even lesser Van Sant is better than most regular fare. The performances are lovely, the movie is so lovely and gloriously watchable, haters be damned. –ROT [LOVED]
It is Gus Van Sant in mainstream mode, of which I am not usually a fan, but solid performances from its leads and handsome cinematography overcome its often wobbly screenplay. Yet, a few quite interesting observations on how most of us deal with death in the ultimate form of suspension of disbelief make this film a bit deeper than it may appear at first glance. –KURT [LIKED]

THE LADY
Making a biopic that is epic, political and personal is a difficult thing to do. I’m surprised and satisfied to see action maestro Luc Besson succeeds at telling the story Aung San Suu Kyi and her husband against the backdrop of Burma’s struggle for democracy. Having David Thewlis and Michele Yeoh as your lead couple is a leg up, and they bring a brittle emotional component that the screenplay is lacking to wonderful life. Oscar time? Maybe. –KURT [LIKED]

FROM THE SKY DOWN
A serviceable documentation of the creation of Achtung Baby and the creation of modern U2, but does not hit the heights of IT MIGHT GET LOUD. Worth it for the ten minutes spent teasing the band’s defining singles out of the demo-tape ether. –MATT B. [LIKED]

SUPERCLASICO
This danish fish out of relationship water movie struck me as the kind of movie Woody Allen makes a lot these days, the travelogue farce. With its ironic voice over, its wry look at who sleeps with who and its fascination with insanely hot women I fell immediately in like with all of it. Like any farce it strains credulity, but never feels strained. -MATT P. [LIKED]

BUTTER
I think the worst thing you could say about Butter is that it’s an awful lot like Election. But there are way worse movies it could be like, and so it’s a very appealing social comedy about big fish in small weird ponds. Special mention to Rob Cordry and Alicia Silverstone, who both resurrect their acting careers the way Jason Bateman did in Juno. -MATT P. [LIKED]

LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE
Johnny To shows that all of the stylish genre tricks he’s been perfecting in his cops and crime thrillers and dramas can be equally applied to a comedy of errors and the collapsing stock and real-estate markets in Hong Kong. Not the director’s best, but far from his worst. Bonus: The only feel-good market-crash movie you are likely to see this decade. –KURT [LIKED]

FRIENDS WITH KIDS
Yes it is a conventional comedy but it IS funny, it does have Adam Scott in the lead, and some of the swipes at parenthood are worth the price of admission. Also Bridesmaids reunion! –ROT [LIKED]

LE HAVRE
If you like Aki Kaurismaki, you’ll like Le Havre. You may not love it though. A bit slower than his other humanistic films, but still with lots of hope to offer. –BOB [LIKED]
It’s pretty typical Kaurismaki, but with enough shaggy dog charm to outweigh the deliberate pace. I’m not sure I could recall the fine points of the story even a week later, but I remember that I liked it, and suppose that you would too. -Matt P. [LIKED]

PINA
Win Wenders’ tribute to dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch uses 3D in very controlled and restrained ways to give Bausch’s troupe of dancers lots of space and depth. Some gorgeous moments, but some flat ones too and not a great deal of insight into the woman herself. –BOB [LIKED]

ELLES
Juliette Binoche is exceptional as a reporter learning more about herself than the two high end call girls she interviews. You know how when most actors laugh on film it sounds fake? Not with Binoche. The film doesn’t add a great deal else though. –BOB [LIKED]
It seems well researched as a dispassionate examination of the realities of modern prostitution, but it keeps trying to weave in a fairly unengaging Juliette Binoche story that’s not compelling or memorable. -MATT P. [DISAPPOINTED]
Some standout moments and a few good ideas, but an incomplete package, dissecting hooking, sexual fantasy, and identity. Made me miss the blood and bite of Breillat. –Matt B. [DISLIKED]

THE LONELIEST PLANET
Gerry for couples, lacking the earlier film’s existential whallop, but holding its own with stark Georgian landscapes and solid lead performances. –MATT B. [LIKED]

MICHAEL
A successful portrait of a pedophile kidnapper? That’s a thing now? –MATT B. [LIKED]

SLEEPING BEAUTY
Huge artistic reach, decent cinematic chops, but no end in sight. Best Supporting Actress Emily Browning’s Vagina holds her own against more experienced actors, including Emily Browning. –MATT B. [LIKED]

WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW
At last! A dose of pure cinema. As in an unabashedly epic, oldschool Hollywood adventure movie. TIFF marketed this poorly: it’s a solid, crowd-pleasing bloodbath. –MATT B. [LIKED]

LOVELY MOLLY
There is an honest-to-goodness horror film trying to peak its way out from unnecessary subplots, characters and meanderings on display here. As it stand, half of the director duo behind Blair Witch Project inverts his concept and focuses on the witch, while providing effective creepiness and a compelling image or three. –KURT [LIKED]

PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY
Curiously, or perhaps because it’s been more than a decade since our last look at the West Memphis 3, the documentary directors Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky spend a large chunk of time on re-capping instead of trusting the audience to go back to Part 1, but when they get to the new stuff, the film is a fascinating (if incomplete) look at how the case and the perception of all parties involved has changed in the past several years. More significantly, the film comments indirectly on the filmmaker’s attitude and mindset of the first two films, and what traps the people of Robin Hood Hills and the filmmakers themselves have fallen into over this 18 year saga. Not so good is that the actual three kids, now adults are more or less ignored in this chapter, in favour of media, community and legal details. The final version of this film will be 12 minutes longer and probably undergo a title change, due to the events in August. –KURT [LIKED]

EXTRATERRESTRIAL
Puts a nifty and fun spin on what might happen in an alien invasion – it’s not the aliens you have to worry about. –BOB [LOVED]
A lighter, more character driven version of Time Crimes. Nacho Vigalondo’s highly inventive and mannered style of filmmaking, puzzles and misunderstandings drive the story as much as anything else, plays like an effervescent hybrid of Invasion of the Body Snatchers crossed with Three’s Company. We are all aliens in our own screwed up little worlds, and you know what? That shit is funny. –KURT [LIKED]
Nacho Vigalondo went way beyond his concepts with his last movie, Time Crimes, but here he just kind of brushes up against what he’s aiming for. It’s a nice little 3-hander with a strong sense of pacing and a generosity to its characters. There’s ultimately some stuff they set up and don’t pay off in terms of the aliens (for instance, why are they here and what are they doing) but it’s certainly miles better than the movie it’s trying to correct for, namely Skyline. -MATT P [LIKED]

MONSTERS CLUB
When you make a somewhat metaphoric adaptation of a manifesto, specifically the one from the Unibomber, it is hard not to be pedantic, didactic – but little did I know, soporific! Too many ‘-ics,’ perhaps, but suffice it to say that this film talks at you when it should speak to you. Nevertheless, it does look beautiful, and its message, albeit bluntly delivered, is an interesting commentary on the good, the bad and the ugly side of belonging to a family and a country. –KURT [LIKED]
Toshiaki Toyoda has some very Interesting ideas that compare current day Japanese society with how the Unabomber viewed American society. Unfortunately, they’re all told in a flat, dull manner that doesn’t attempt to connect with its audience. –BOB [DISAPPOINTED]

SONS OF NORWAY
Keeps the coming of age story fresh, funny and poignant. –BOB [LOVED]
Best. First kiss movie. Ever. –MATT B. [LOVED]
Take away the entire rest of the movie, if all we were left with was the 20 minute sequence at a swedish naturist camp it’d still be a loved from me. Ohhh, so many wangs. Wangs doing sit-ups, wangs on a unicycle, wangs using the parallel bars. But amazingly the movie around this is pretty damn good too. -MATT P. [LOVED]
A young boy raised on his Dads’ hippy ways, and, in equal measure, the punk music and myth of Ian Curtis and Johnny Rotten. The film is a bit all over the place, but this is a consequence of it being about a child coming to grips with a number of different life philosophies. Don’t worry; the film is funny, in spurts. –KURT [LIKED]

INTO THE ABYSS
Werner Herzog back in ‘serious mode’ after Bad Lieutenant and that closing monologue from Cave of Forgotten Dreams. The filmmaker takes a long hard look at the death sentence process in a Texas prison and finds families with most of their members incarcerated in one way or another, even as he finds some very strange characters. –KURT [LIKED]
Werner Herzog’s film is, of course, excellent. If that were at all surprising, I might have ranked it higher. Come on, Werner, screw something up already! –MATT B. [LIKED]
Preaching to the choir? Not so much. Into the Abyss, as much as Herzog joked that the title could describe all his films, is a singularly apt one for this exercise. Herzog is given one chance to record these death row inmates, and the film often uses almost all of the footage available to the filmmakers. And yet it’s a polished and engaging work that belies none of the challenges afforded the making of it. Ultimately it’s enjoyable to watch, but doesn’t bring enough new argument to become truly indelible. -Matt B. [LIKED]

FROM UP ON POPPY HILL
Hayao Miyazaki’s son Goro erases the disaster that was Earthsea with this small story of smitten youth. Like the village and the campus life portrayed in post-war Japan, the film brims with period detail and care. There is a point in the middle of the film where things could have gotten really interesting in matters of the heart, but like the teen-girl Manga of this films origin, it plays it safe and sweet, until the end. –KURT [LIKED]

INTRUDERS
For a good chunk of this film, I had my doubts that the director could mesh the completely-at-odds dual story lines, one in rural Spain, the other in London. He does in the end, and gets a lot of primal childhood inspired scares along the way. It ain’t perfect (a la the directors previous film 28 Weeks Later), but it is a pretty solid ghost story. –KURT [LIKED]
Fresnadillo provides some great atmosphere for his scenes of children’s worst fears coming realized and though the story pretty much kept me with it for its entire length, it didn’t really leave much of a lasting impression. The further I get from it, the less I care for it. –BOB [LIKED]
Sound and fury signifying nothing. Atmosphere without anything worthy to be atmospheric about. 28 Weeks Later… may have been a one-off for this director. –ROT [HATED]

THE BROOKLYN BROTHERS BEAT THE BEST
This is THE most marginal [liked] on the list. Pros: Scenes with the 2 leads are always funny, engaging and real. The music is believably amiable; described in the movie as “the shins meet sesame street”. Cons: There isn’t really any point to any of this, and the movie manages to be both aimless and predictable at the same time. I’d call this the kind of movie that when it comes on HBO at 2 in the afternoon and you want to have something on while you do other stuff you think “yeah, this seems okay”. -MATT P. [LIKED]

I’M CAROLYN PARKER
This is the best thing about Katrina I’ve seen yet. Since there’s really no effective way to do the big story (Spike Lee couldn’t do it; what makes you think you’ll have much luck?) Jonathan Demme just tells a little one. One person, her destroyed house, and the ongoing fight to make it right. Really smart and effective. -MATT P. [LIKED]

GOD BLESS AMERICA
Gets all its cards on the table in the first act, and then more or less rides out to the inevitable. There is still a lot to like, particularly if you are in the group of people that this film has a blast pandering too. It is like shooting fish in a barrel, but it does it with style in spite of budget limitations. –KURT [LIKED]
It starts out with one of the better midnight madness moments I can recall, a cathartic blood baby explosion that had us all cheering for more. Ultimately it kind of devolves and can’t live up to the outré genius of that first 10 minutes. By the end, it’s just spun itself out. The movie feels like that baby from the beginning, wailing and throwing a tantrum that slowly progresses until it’s a nap. -MATT P. [LIKED]
This year’s SUPER. Enlivened by a pair of fantastic lead performances, Murray and Barr give the film just enough lift to escape some written redundancy and a slight lack of punch. –MATT B. [LIKED]

URBANIZED
Does of urban planning what “An Inconvenient Truth” did for ecology. It begins the discussion. It goes AIT one better on the visual front, though. Urbanized is pretty slick to look at; this is no slideshow. It also acts as a very enjoyable travelogue, and it wears its heart on its sleeve in the best possible way. -MATT P. [LIKED]
Less an overview (as in Helvetica, and to a degree Objectified) and more a manifesto, Gary Hustwit’s capper in his ‘design trilogy’ focuses on cities and how their ergonomics as we push into the 21st century on a planet already too damn full of people. Bikes and footpaths are the future, and something has to be done about all these cars with only single passengers. The thing that Urbanized didn’t get so much at is the ‘I never noticed that!’ love, in favour of some pretty didactic lecturing. –KURT [LIKED]
I certainly have problems with this third installment in the design trilogy. It doesn’t cover as wide a variety of opinions as it could and ends up being far too political because of it. And yet, it’s still has many interesting ideas that will make you consider your own city. It’s also a treatise for community involvement and participation in the democratic process. Pretty damn entertaining too. –BOB [LIKED]
Having studied architecture in undergrad I felt mostly let down by this surface read of the problems of urbanized environments. No mention of New Urbanism, the briefest of mentions of Jane Jacobs, the global focus and the multitude of things to discuss left this documentary barely able to scratch the surface. –ROT [DISAPPOINTED]

SURVIVING PROGRESS
A great primer of everything wrong in the world today fit inside a visually appealing package, just for me, having been obsessed with this stuff for years now, too much felt rehashed. –ROT [LIKED]

JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME
Joyous and amazing. This is the best Duplass brothers joint yet. It’s a film nerd wonderland, all the performances are great, and above all else it’s fuckin’ funny. Very very close to getting my coveted [Best] tag. -MATT P. [LOVED]
I only ever LIKE Duplass Bros. films, mostly because they all have a pretty decent concept but never stray far from it. The opening speech in Jeff, Who Lives at Home is funny, but then the whole movies is a run on the same joke. –ROT [LIKED]

GIRL MODEL
Half a good film. Of the two women profiled, the elder, a former teen model with startling demons, is hauntingly fascinating. The younger, a current teen model, is a dimensionless waste. –MATT B. [DISLIKED]

EDWIN BOYD
It turns out that if you try to do a Canadian PUBLIC ENEMIES, you just end up with “really boring,” because we’re really boring. –MATT B. [DISLIKED]

SNOWTOWN
Completely successful cinematic treatment of Australian serial killers. No fun whatsoever to watch, though, unless you’re into watching kangaroos get chummed. –MATT B. [DISLIKED]

ARIRANG
With all due respect to Kim Ki-Duk’s emotional problems, the only thing ARIRANG achieves is to show how much more of a completely successful enterprise THIS IS NOT A FILM is. Panahi and Kim should hang out, though only if Kim is forbidden from singing. –MATT B. [DISLIKED]

DAMSELS IN DISTRESS
The single most stylized thing I saw this year. After about 25 minutes of the uptalk dialogue and bright bubbly world view I turned to the person next to me and mouthed “what the hell is this?” Then, when it became clear that she couldn’t read lips, I repeated it out loud. But shortly after that it became clear that Damsels has a lot more in common with the kind of mid-sixties new yorker short stories crowd and I kind of just leaned in and enjoyed it. The best description I could make is that it feels like what an 8 year old girl imagines college is like. You either go with it, or don’t go at all. -MATT P. [LOVED]
Hey I laughed, a lot. It is a mess of a film, but being farcical the issues of how well Whit Stillman puts it together feel less burdensome. Greta Gerwig is too damn much fun to watch. –ROT [LIKED]
In its uber-cute Idiocracy-On-Campus universe, this is easily Whit Stillman’s most mannered and silly film and thus disappointing on several levels for those with expectations of the director’s previous work. Yet, a singular performance from Greta Gerwig (channeling Chloe Sevigny) in the lead almost singlehandedly saves it from being a complete train-wreck. –KURT [DISAPPOINTED]

KEYHOLE
A film experiment gone horribly awry. All the right pieces are there for this to be a solid and interesting Guy Maddin film, but Jason Patric seems out of his element, and the rest of the ideas (ghosts stuck in their own haunted house) never gel into anything but untidiness and narrative confusion – and not the good kind. –KURT [DISAPPOINTED]
Many complained that this was nonsensical, disjointed and abrasive. In other words, it’s a Guy Maddin film. Have you seen Twilight of the Ice Nymphs? Or Careful? Or The Heart of the World? Because this was exactly the movie I thought I’d get, and I WANT to see stuff like this among my 50 film sched if only to remind myself what 2 hours of super art looks like. I’m not expecting plot, but I am expecting whimsy coloured with stream of consciousness goofballery, and I got what I paid for here. -MATT P. [LIKED]

TRISHNA
Michael Winterbottom is a personal favourite filmmaker, and to see him make something so undesirable pains me. Certainly Freida Pinto cast as a push-over wet noodle in an adaptation of Tess of the D’Urbervilles sounds appropriate, but the filmmaker cannot seem to bring things together in a dramatic fashion. The small joys to take from this film is the directors signature look at the hustle and bustle of city and country life. My wish is that that the characters and plotting didn’t get in the way of this bit of quality verite filmmaking. –KURT [DISAPPOINTED]

DARK HORSE
This preserves everything I like about Solondz best stuff; the dark humour, the formal experimentation, the performances that seem carved from an alternate universe. And yet, and yet, the mainstream can enjoy this, it’s funny and smart and recognizable and accessible. Solondz gave up none of his integrity or moviemaking DNA but still crafted a comedy that could bring enough audience to ensure his continuing ability to make films. Very very smart both as a film and as a career move. -MATT P. [LOVED]
Much like Damsels in Distress, expectation of certain auteur filmmakers come at a price. Todd Solondz continues to make the same material he started with Welcome to the Dollhouse and perfected with Happiness, but loses focus getting at the human tragedy of his characters. It becomes a sad freak show, told in fits and starts, satisfying nobody. Un-bonus: Wastes Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow in supporting roles who both resemble living, breathing acts of taxidermy. –KURT [DISAPPOINTED]

THE SWORD IDENTITY
There were very interesting ideas about action filmmaking presented here, with most of the actual contact occurring out of frame, so we see either the build-up to a move or the direct result of one. It’s a contemplative and slightly screwy take and I thought it worked well. The plot hinges on a lot of characters not quite knowing where the person they’re trying to kill is hiding, even though we know where everyone is and so the pacing seems laborious as we wait for the people onscreen to catch up to us. -MATT P. [LIKED]
An odd mix of martial arts fighting (mostly offscreen) and legendary stories which ends up being an odd mix of dull and occasionally engaging. –BOB [DISAPPOINTED]

CHICKEN WITH PLUMS
The film has a lovely central metaphor, but fumbles it away by mixing tones, using an incredibly unlikeable lead character and then slipping between wonderful & awful. It also contains one of the most embarrassingly bad scenes in recent memory. –BOB [DISAPPOINTED]

LIVID
A tricky choice for Midnight Madness due to the slow build and goofy payoff, but when this genre potboiler gets boilin’, it comes off like a Guillermo del Toro fever dream. Truly inventive scares and horror. –MATT B. [LOVED]
The film has some winning images and delightfully macabre finale, but what’s up with the 40 minutes of padding at the beginning. You will fear taxidermy, even as the film adds up to not much more than a shoddy jumble. Ambitious failure from the guys who made the tightly focused A l’Interieur – one of the scariest thrillers, ever. I’m hoping third time is a charm. –KURT [DISAPPOINTED]

ROMAN’S CIRCUIT
The complexities of the story and shifts between time periods are part of its point and force you to think. Always the sign of good sci-fi. –BOB [LIKED]
All the pieces are just out of reach for this Chilean cognitive science-fiction mind bender. It’s too bad that flat performances and too much holding back on the director’s part (or too much darn focus on the petty politics of academia) prevent this from being a compelling cross between You Are Here and In The Company of Men. A second viewing may help, but I don’t think this film lives up to its own promise. –KURT [DISAPPOINTED]

THE INCIDENT
All handsome build-up to very little pay off, The Incident ends like every other ‘terrorized and alone in a mental asylum’ movie ends up, and does little else beyond show that the director is capable of assembling a handsome shot. The very definition of idiotic is to make a restrained mental asylum movie when the only purpose of the film is to see the asylum be taken over by the inmates. –KURT [DISLIKED]
Don’t put me in a “we’re trapped in the asylum all night and the homicidal maniacs have the keys and we’re all fucked” movie, show me a rogues gallery of giant mutant George-the-animal-Steeles and then spend the next 80 minutes utterly failing to pay off on the promise of that. Also, why on earth are the 3 main guys in this in a shitty rock band together? It sets up nothing, goes nowhere and never pays off. Ditto on the super hot girlfriend. -MATT P. [DISAPPOINTED]

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE
Beautifully shot, edited and acted. MMMM falls flat on its face because the characters suffer from incomprehensible motivation, timing and the whole film comes across like a shrill exercise in David Koresh voyeurism with an arthouse veneer. Don’t be fooled by the artsy ending or the flash-back structure, the emperor has no clothes (or cult credibility) on this one. –KURT [DISLIKED]

VIOLET AND DAISY
Pulp Fiction for girls. Check that: Pulp Fiction for daughters. Better than HANNA. –MATT B. [LOVED]
It’s a bit of a throwback to 90′s Tarantino-escapades like Go, but so what. Pretty girls, guns, Gandolfini and a banana peel we can all feel good about slipping on. Terrific. -MATT P. [LOVED]
The screenwriter of Precious makes his directorial debut with a film that starts off like an excerpt from the Kill Bill universe, then gets all maudlin and preachy. A textbook case in how to go from excited to flaccid in under 10 minutes (and then there are 85 more minutes to slog through.) A waste of some really great actors (Saorise Ronan, James Gandolfini, Alexis Bledel) struggling with material that would be far better in the hands of the Japanese or the Koreans. This movie in no way made me want to bother with Precious. –KURT [DISLIKED]

COUNTDOWN
It starts off as another slick and enjoyable Korean thriller, this time about a hardcore collection agent who uses a cattle prod the way Oldboy uses a hammer. By the end, it has become a series of false endings and a really stupid blocked-memory melodrama that seems to go on and on. -MATT P. [DISAPPOINTED]

RAMPART
A character study with the most implausible character since Harvey Keitel (or Nicholas Cage) in Bad Lieutenant. Heck if this were in the BL franchise, and it certainly seems to fit, it would easily be the worst of the three. There is a waste of a lot of very fine actors in this ugly mess. –KURT [DISLIKED]
Oren Moverman is now on my don’t list. Two movies, this and The Messenger, and two major disappointments. This isn’t even a movie, really, it’s a character sketch, and it sure as hell is a misdirect as far as the title is concerned. Presumably this is supposed to be examining the rampart scandal at LAPD, but instead it follows Woody Harrelson around in a tangential subplot for 2 hours while it squanders some pretty nice acting from Ned Beatty and an almost unrecognizable Ben Foster. It wants to be Serpico, but I’d call it Serpican’t. -MATT P. [HATED]

THE DAY
The least inventive zombie apocalypse movie ever made. Not a single original element in the writing, the staging, or the visuals. –MATT B. [HATED]
I’ve got an idea, let’s take Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and purge it of any emotion, empathy or purpose, and focus instead on a group of half-decent actors slumming it in a house of cannibals. Great idea! Not. –KURT [WALKED OUT]

SMUGGLER
I left the film more because it was after 2am than because it was particularly bad. But from what I did see, it feels like a step down from A Taste of Tea or Funky Forest – as if working within the structure of genre lopped Ishii’s ‘sketch-style’ off at the knees. Watch Milocrorze: A Love Story instead, as both 2011 films seem shockingly similar in style. –KURT [WALKED OUT]
Had the film started on time, I likely would have stayed, but considering it started at 1AM and my next morning’s film was the first 8 hours of “The Story Of Film” which started at 9AM, I thought it best to hit the trail. Though it wasn’t terrible and contained some nifty slow-motion fight scenes, it was kind of inert outside of that. Ishii’s wonderful characters and silly, surreal view of the world seemed mostly absent in the film’s first half. –BOB [WALKED OUT]

CUT
Uninterested staging and repetitive, heavy-handed allegory tear this thing down almost immediately, and then persist for two hours. –MATT B. [HATED]

HYSTERIA
An insufferably cutesy take on a dark and complex piece of human history. Achieves what it’s trying to achieve, but its ambitions are meaningless. –MATT B. [HATED]

AZHAGARSAMY’S HORSE
This farce started out well enough with a Bollywood number reminiscent of “Downtown” from Little Shop, a kind of choreographed intro to a town full of fools. Pretty soon it became clear that I was into the law of deminishing returns, with the laughs becoming ever more forced and awkward, and no new song anywhere in sight. Then a retard came to town and the characters I was supposed to be engaged with beat the shit out of him because, you know, retard, and I walked out. -MATT P. [WALKED OUT]

WUTHERING HEIGHTS
So many of the authorial and directorial choices are good ones here. Wuthering Heights makes explicit the undercurrent of racism in the original text, and the change brings the story into sharp relief. The handheld style drag the movie as far from stuffy period piece as it is possible to go. The acting is all true and the choices are clear. It’s just that they’re the wrong ones, and the choice to go small and restrained when the material is this emotionally big and melodramatic is ultimately fatal to the piece. We should be feeling the story happen to us, and instead we just watch as it happens to other people. -MATT P. [DISAPPOINTED]
My only walk out of the festival, but mostly because I watched the worst film of the festival prior and lost the will to sit still long enough. Just felt wrong, trying too hard to be unique. –ROT [WALKED OUT]

LAST WINTER
Dull French film that became a series of vignettes of countrysides and raising cattle, and felt myself entirely disconnecting from everything onscreen. –ROT [WORST]

THE MOTH DIARIES
Dreadful on almost every level, The Moth Diaries is to Twilight, what Twilight is to Nosferatu – a huge step down for Mary Harron. It is embarrassing to see the director doing bad teen histrionics (and worse screenwriting) after The Notorious Bettie Page and American Psycho were both so good. –KURT [WORST]
Holy fucking shit. The worst screenplay, the worst acting. Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb. Also, they never actually bother to explain where the moths come in, or how they’re related to the vampire thing, or really anything. Also, the flashbacks look like I shot them with a filter on my iPhone. Bah! -MATT P. [WORST]
The actual worst-written screenplay I have ever seen professionally produced. An object lesson in how not to write. –MATT B. [HATED]

AMERICANO
Mathieu Demy goes a long way to say very little. Though he makes interesting use of clips from one of his mother’s old short films (he’s the offspring of Jacques Demy and Agnes Varda), his overall concept, script and acting let him down. The apple may not fall far from the tree, but in this case it rolled a long way away after it dropped. –BOB [WORST]

HICK
A 13-year-old girl is dragged into a cornfield and raped by a man twice her age and size, and the audience laughed. This film is an atrocity. –MATT B. [WORST]
Hick was a toss up for me, right on a knife’s edge of getting the coveted “worst” designation. But where my pick for worst is repugnant and morally evil, Hick is merely a gigantic embarrassment and total gargantuan failure. I have never seen a filmmaker so profoundly not understand the material he’s been handed as I did here. This is a movie where the sexualization and subsequent violent rape of a 13 girl is played for laughs. And the girl is the protagonist, we’re supposed to be rooting for her. -MATT P. [HATED]

We hope you enjoyed the wide variety of our TIFF coverage this year. And just for fun, here are the mega-summaries from 2010, 2009 and 2008





11 comments

  1. The Story of Film is being shown on TV over here at the moment. I’m absolutely hooked on it (I just watched episode 4, which was about genre and non-genre filmmaking in the 30′s). It’s an amazing achievement and a dangerous one for a DVD/Blu-Ray collector like myself – my shopping list is expanding by the minute! :)

  2. Since I’m in the UK as well I’m also having to watch The Story of Film an episode at a time each week it’s absolutely compelling and fascinating. Some people have complained about Mark Cousins’ earnest narration but he’s so passionate – and clearly extremely knowledgeable – that it doesn’t bother me. Do you think it’ll get a full DVD release, David? 15 parts/hours is A LOT.

  3. Amazing TIFF round-up guys. You clearly had your hands full. I cover Edinburgh fest each year and the most I’ve got to is 30 in 8-10 days. That’s quite a lot as well but you guys are doing 50+ films in that time!

    Of all those mentioned, from the reviews above and general buzz, the ones I’m looking forward to checking out most are:

    Take Shelter
    Shame
    Kotoko
    Take This Waltz
    The Artist
    We Need To Talk About Kevin
    Tyrannosaur
    The Raid
    Alps
    The Descendants
    You’re Next
    Sleeping Beauty
    Restless
    Extraterrestrial
    Lovely Molly
    Martha Marcy May Marlene
    Wuthering Heights

  4. Great job, guys. I’m amazed only Kurt saw Martha Marcy May Marlene, and that he is SO SO wrong about it. :)

  5. Kurt Halfyard

    I’m definitely waiting/anticipation the STORY OF FILM release on DVD so I can watch at my own pace. In this type of festival (TIFF) 3-7 hour blocks is just too much to make my scheduling work.

    If they had done it in a 15 hour MEGA-CHUNK on the last sunday with 2 1 hour breaks, and then given out a badge or a T-Shirt at the end, I might have tried for it.

  6. Ross, Mark mentioned that the entire 15 hours will indeed be released on DVD in one set (I think he mentioned middle of next year). I will pre-order and gladly watch this all over again – though I might break it up over 3 days instead of 2… 8)

    I’ve heard the same complaints about Cousins’ voice, but I got used to it quickly and was fine with it. And when you see him in person, he’s actually quite animated and bubbly and just a wee bit scatty. Terribly friendly too.

  7. @Bob – Thanks for letting me know, that’s fantastic. I would love to own it. Seems like something you can watch over and over and get something new out of every time. Not to mention it introduces you to a lot of films you might not have even heard of before.

    I think people are mistaking passion for smugness in his narration.

  8. I was actually referring to buying the films he talks about in my comment earlier, but yes I’ll be snapping up the DVD box-set of the documentary too when it comes out. I can see myself giving it a re-watch, despite the epic length.

    I found Cousin’s voiceover a little comedy at first, but yes you grow used to it quite quickly. I’ve seen and heard him on a number of DVD extra features anyway (he pops up on loads of them in the UK), so I knew what to expect.

  9. Wow… great job guys in putting all of these mini-reviews together.

    One of the movies not included in here that I saw was Morgan Spurlock’s Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope. I thought it was a great documentary not just covering what the event is about but having a number of human drama stories that I was really wrapped up in what would happen.

    I also saw Twixt, which I thought was okay but not great (it could have had better use of the 3D) and Hard Core Logo 2, which I really loved although it was completely not what I was expecting. It was great being able to see the first movie and it’s follow-up back to back.

  10. Darcy S McCallum

    I love Kill List, a film of great comedic horror offsetting, though whe it comes to the other dungy English film, Tyrannosaur I don’t get all the love, I was emotionally hooked 15mins when Olivia Colman 1st appeared, and apparent from her great performance I feel that beyond the televisual directing, Considine seems to conjure a Christ like allegory for Peter Mullans lead, which ain’t gonna work if you have a slew of stupid characters (which ain’t all bad, but given it outweighs true emotion, it is silly) and a scene where the lead describes the title, if you want some good dissection of lower middle class and the criminal rule, don’t look first to Britian, Neds Ect ATM, look to Australia my friends (yes from the biggest critic 4 years ago) with Snowtown, Mad Bastards, Animal Kindgom, films with my key ingridnet: the Ying & The Yang, which I also think was prevalent in above films: MMMM, Pina, Michael and could makes two very good films Melancholia & Drive even better, and I’m sure is solid in Take Shelter (an average film that I still hope I’ll connect to on rewatch)

  11. I saw SMUGGLER. You guys missed nothing by walking out.

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