Rowthree Staff Summary of TIFF 2017

Our traditional round-up of impressions and reactions to the massive slate of the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival has arrived in its tenth (!) edition, here in the third row. Happy Decade to us! As always, several of the Row Three staff and contributors, along with a few a regular reader or two, provide a tiny capsule – a postcard if you will – of all the films that they saw at the festival. These are accompanied by an identifier-tag: [BEST], [LOVED], [LIKED], [DISLIKED], [DISAPPOINTED], [FELL ASLEEP], [WALKED OUT], [HATED] and [WORST].

Collectively we – Kurt Halfyard, Bob Turnbull, Courtney Small, Mike Rot, and Sean Kelly – saw a sizable chunk of the films shown at the massive public festival. Hopefully this post can act as a ‘rough guide’ for films that will be finding distribution on some platform, whether on the big screen, small screen, or streaming service, in the next 18 months.
 
 

THE SHORT VERSION:

Personal BEST: FACES PLACES [Bob], mother! [Kurt], CALL ME BY YOUR NAME [Courtney], LADY BIRD [Mike], and I, TONYA [Sean].

Personal WORST: The personal low-lights were THE RITUAL [Kurt], THE CONFORMIST [Bob], VERONICA, [MIKE], and FIRST REFORMED [Sean].
 
 
Other Consensus Picks: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, THE CRESCENT, THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, THE DISASTER ARTIST, LOVELESS, THE SHAPE OF WATER and THE FLORIDA PROJECT.
 
 
The ‘MASSIVE’ version is below. All our thoughts and impressions from offerings of the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.

 
 
mother!
The best film of the festival, and the best film of the year so far. It is everything I like in a film, big performances, stylistic rigour, difficult themes, and that it utterly doesn’t give a shit if anyone likes it or not. Aronofsky has been making this type of film his entire career since Pi, but here it feels he has peaked in the same way as Gaspar Noe did with Enter The Void, or Andrzej Żuławski did with Possession. Be prepared for acute discomfort, and audacious assault, but it is unquestionably worth it. – Kurt Halfyard [BEST] 
Though billed as a psychological horror film, it strides confidently past the edges of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Gaslight” into whole other regions of insanity. Yes, it’s about The Act Of Creation and The Needs Of A Creator, but it’s also just plain fun to see how it sustains its sprint through complete and utter madness. Many people HATE it. I loved it. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED] 
It is far from an easy watch and there will probably be many people who end up repulsed by the film. However, if you can glean the message that Darren Aronofsky is trying to say, it also ends up being a somewhat important film to watch. – Sean Kelly [LIKED]  
?!!?! – Mike Rot [LOVED]

 
 
FACES PLACES
French filmmaker Agnes Varda travels through the French countryside and – along with young artist JR – pastes large images of people’s faces to buildings and exteriors. The beauty of the film comes from not only the contexts of those images in relation to the structures, but also Varda’s reflections on her life in art and the fading of her own eyesight. It’s thoughtful, charming and deeply inspiring. She’s one of our greatest living artists. – Bob Turnbull [BEST]   
 

 
 
I, TONYA
All but ignoring Nancy Kerrigan, I, Tonya is all about Tonya Harding’s side of the story surrounding the infamous 1994 incident and the film really casts her in a sympathetic light, placing most of the blame for the incident on Jeff Gillooly and his friend Shawn Eckhardt. With her career ruined and turned into a punchline by the media, it’s easy to forget Tonya Harding’s accomplishments, such as being the first American skater to land a triple axle jump. Altogether, I, Tonya is a surprisingly excellent biopic, with a very sympathetic portrayal of Tonya Harding. – Sean Kelly [BEST] 
Margot Robbie and Allison Janney give sensational performances in this dark comedy that is one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. – Courtney Small [LOVED]

 
 
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Saturated in the soothing sun-kissed Italian landscape, Luca Guadagnino’s film is a captivating romance that builds slowly to a wonderful crescendo. – Courtney Small [BEST] 
Amazingly gentle telling of a romance between a young 17 year old boy and an older post grad student (played by Armie Hammer) during a summer in Northern Italy. Builds beautifully and ends with a perfect single shot that pulls together its themes of embracing the sadness with the joy. Makes for one helluva tourism video for that region of the planet too. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Sean Baker’s latest film is a stunning and captivating look at the new level of homelessness going unseen in America. – Courtney Small [LOVED] 
Though the film is steeped in sadness in the shadows of Disney World, the mischievous and completely adorable 6 year-old Moonee and her friends still manage to carve out an endless summer of freedom as they roam between brightly coloured strip motels, souvenir shops and abandoned buildings. Remarkable filmmaking from Sean Baker as he seamlessly mixes first-time actors with professionals. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
THE DISASTER ARTIST
As James and Dave Franco (plus a bevy of cameos) take us step by step through the apparently true story of the making of “The Room” (far worse then the simply dull and incompetent “Plan 9 From Outer Space”), they manage to not overly mythologize Wiseau or smirk at him too much. It plays easily to non-ROOM devotees, feels honest in its characterizations and is truly funny in many spots. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED] 
A hilarious, and surprisingly compassionate, look at a truly unique filmmaker – Courtney Small [LOVED]  
Who knew James Franco had this in him, both as a filmmaker and this performance (where he becomes at times indistinguishable from Tommy Wiseau)? The perfect Midnight madness movie. – Mike Rot [LOVED]  
The biggest surprise in this successful Hollywood story about a distinctly non-Hollywood guy failing to make a Hollywood story and failing, is that James Franco and his writers have not adlibbed the comedy into tediousness, but accomplish rigorous structure, themes, and, you know, storytelling. It’s got a great big heart, and it is flat out hilarious to boot. – Kurt Halfyard [LOVED]

 
 
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
The People’s Choice winner at the fest and well-deserved. Incredibly well cast and acted across the board with a script that is dark, funny, and darkly funny. Looking forward to a return visit if only to further commit to memory many of the lines and barbs traded. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED] 
This one sticks. A killer script (that won at Venice) and two actors (Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell) that are a delight to watch elevate it. A completely original, surprising, moving, hilarious movie that left me with the same sense of awe felt on my first viewing of No Country for Old Men. – Mike Rot [LOVED] 
Frances McDormand + Martin McDonagh’s script = Match made in heaven. – Courtney Small [LOVED] 
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a pitch black dramedy, which features one hell of a performance by Frances McDormand. In fact, I would argue that this is McDormand’s best work since Fargo more than two decades ago and I would be surprised if she didn’t attract awards attention. There are also solid performances by Woody Harrelson, who is arguably the most sympathetic character in the film, and Sam Rockwell, whose character turns out to be much more three dimensional than he initially appears. It is a perfect mix of drama and biting dark comedy. – Sean Kelly [LOVED]

 
 
LADY BIRD
I forgot they made movies like this, do they make movies like this? An Indie film that straddles the edge of mumblecore and Hollywood, a bit Bottle Rocket, a bit Kicking & Screaming, that earnest first effort kinda straggly, kinda derivative, but funny and lovable like Greta. Her voice palpable throughout, breathless, Greta incarnate. And Ronan (she of the un-spellable first name) has arrived. Everything else was prologue. – Mike Rot [BEST] 
A conventional structure isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have when you can also provide great colour and shade to your characters. Gerwig has charmed as an actor and continues her form in the director’s chair. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
Yorgos Lanthimos’s best film to date, is an wonderful demonstration of why Colin Farrell is so suited to deliver his dialogue, and Nicole Kidman is a more than welcome edition in to his Greek Weird universe where a slighted teenager can make children bleed from their eyes by will alone, and where people love to talk about the materials in the wristbands of their watches. This film is not an easy watch, but it is a marvel. Guilt, Justice, Revenge, and Apple Pie. – Kurt Halfyard [LOVED] 
It is hard for me to talk too much about The Killing of a Sacred Deer without heavily spoiling the plot, though I will say that the film has some vaguely supernatural plot developments, which results in the film progressing from drama to almost a horror film. Probably the shining performance in the film is teenage actor Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk), who simultaneously is able to come of as sympathetic and creepy, with his somewhat autistic behaviour. While The Killing of a Sacred Deer might leave you a bit shaken and dumbstruck, it is still a film worth checking out. – Sean Kelly [LIKED]

 
 
LOVELESS
A missing child procedural told in a way I’ve certainly never seen before. One in which neither of the parents are all too interested in getting their child back. Andrey Zvyagintsev is one of the current best of the best in terms of formal style combined with humane storytelling. Not an easy watch, but one of the best films of the year. -Kurt Halfyard [LOVED] 
“Surviving this is hard” – Loveless paints an awfully bleak picture of not only Russian society, but of humanity’s future. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED] 
Andrey Zvyagintsev’s latest work is a visually stunning and emotionally devastating look at a couple whose selfishness rips their already fractured family apart in an unimaginable way. – Courtney Small [LOVED]

 
 
THE CRESCENT
Featuring the best opening credit sequence of the year, and the most risque playing with audience tolerance, The Crescent is nonetheless a triumph in hallucinogenic nightmares in the vein of bonafide classics such as The Shining, Carnival of Souls and The Babadook. – Kurt Halfyard [LOVED]  
To focus so much of its time on such a young child is a ballsy move by director Sean Smith, but boy does it ever pay off in spades by providing some of the most uncomfortable, scary scenes of the fest (along with some of the more original and stunning visuals). – Bob Turnbull [LOVED] 
The Crescent is pretty far away from being a conventional horror film, with the film being quite slow placed and akin to a mother/son drama. However, when the tension does start, it is unrelenting, probably thanks in no small part to the fact that it often involves Lowen, played by director Seth A. Smith’s real life son, being put into peril. In addition, there are the many repeated visuals of paint marbling, which is just hypnotic to watch. While The Crescent might be too slow for those who prefer more visceral horror, the film is still a very fascinating and surreal fever dream. – Sean Kelly [LOVED] 
Who knew the process of paint marbling could be so terrifying? Seth A. Smith crafts a slow-burn, but effective, psychological horror thriller. – Courtney Small [LIKED]

 
 
BODIED
Joseph Kahn’s hilarious rap battle satire takes many broad comedic swings at cultural appropriation, white privilege, challenging art, misogyny, outrage culture, and systemic racism. While not every hit is a home run, the film steps up to the plate in an entertaining, and thought-provoking way. – Courtney Small [LOVED] 
A wee bit too long, and probably difficult to get distributing, but it does swing for the fences, and there is something to be said about that. – Kurt Halfyard [LIKED] 
A film that pushes some major buttons and it is probably going to be a film that will insult some people. At first, it is kind of humorous seeing a nerdy white kid participate in hardcore battle raps, however soon the question raises about whether Adam truly means the very despicable things that he raps. With a cast that includes some real battle rappers, such as Dizaster and Dumbfoundead, Bodied is a film that is sure to find an audience among the hip-hop community, even as its subject aims for a wider audience. – Sean Kelly [LIKED]

 
 
THE RAVENOUS (LES AFFAMES)
This Quebec zombie movie says more about human spirit in 96 minutes than The Walking Dead has in years – and adds some real tension, characters, humour and dread. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED] 
While there is indeed plenty of blood and gore in the film, Les Affamés can be described as a bit of serious zombie film. That said, there is also some dark humour in the film, including a recurring gag that gets one hell of a payoff. The film doesn’t really bother with too much exposition or backstory, but you still get to know and care for the characters as the film goes on. In many ways, Les Affamés is like a Quebecois version of The Walking Dead. Take from that description as you may. – Sean Kelly [LIKED]

 
 
THE SHAPE OF WATER
The Creature From The Black Lagoon meets Amélie in Guillermo Del Toro’s 1950s fantasia of love and sex and song and cinema. This is GdT’s best work in English to date. – Kurt Halfyard [LOVED]  
A lovely romance that warms the coldest of hearts! Kudos to Guillermo Del Toro for taking this Beauty and the Beast style love story in directions I was not expecting. – Courtney Small [LOVED]

 
 
VALLEY OF SHADOWS
With an eye for cinematography as allegory, Valley of Shadows is cinematic to its very core as it follows a young boy wandering through a deep dark woods of fairy tales past. What we do not understand scares us. We often need monsters to blame. The biggest pure discovery for me at this years festival – Kurt Halfyard [LOVED] 
Valley of Shadows is an almost word-free (though far from silent), slow, beautiful look at a boy trying to solve a family & a monster mystery through a single trek through a gorgeous forest. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
EUTHANIZER
The darkest of pitch-black comedies. If you are the kind of person that does not like the idea of animals being killed in cinema, this is not the movie for you. Teemu Nikki’s Euthanizer mixes in some rough (but thank goodness, consensual) sex, a thuggish gang of white supremecists, and likely the highest domestic pet bodycount in the history of the medium, this is one of the more squalid, begrimed pictures from northern Europe since 2007’s Ex Drummer. The lead, Matti Onnismaa, is a dead-ringer for Ciarán Hinds, with his stone-cold visage and intelligent eyes, he commands the screen with his silence. – Kurt Halfyard [LOVED] 
Inspired (at least thematically) by grindhouse films that examined and judged the morals of its characters, Euthanizer shows that karma is the bitchiest bitch of them all. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE
Aki Kaurismaki’s typical grimness and dry humour is all over The Other Side Of Hope, but it’s sprinkled liberally with some actual humanity and even…OK, I’ll say it…hope. Wonderful stuff. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED] 
Plays its audience like a acoustic guitar, rolls with the droll Finland sense of humour, and has an eye and ear for where the world is at. A great companion piece to Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake – Kurt Halfyard [LIKED]

 
 
THE SQUARE
It’s quite easy to enjoy much of The Square and its take on the value of personal responsibility and the context of art. I couldn’t help wish they were a wee bit more succinct about it though. – Bob Turnbull [LIKED] 
Not quite as good as Ruben Östlund’s previous film, Force Majeure, but it continues to explore masculinity in the context of the modern world of the upper middle class. With every major film festival award this film wins, it makes its satirical points stronger. That it won the Palm D’Or whilst shitting on the Cannes intelligentsia is brilliant. – Kurt Halfyard [LOVED] 
Once again Ruben Östlund proves why he is the master when it comes to the comedy of awkwardness. While it does not top Force Majeure, the film is still in the top tier of his wonderful canon of films. – Courtney Small [LOVED]

 
 
HAPPY END
“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” Michael Haneke’s sequel to Amour follows Karl Marx’s theory of world building to a tee. It’s very funny though, and that shouldn’t be underestimated in what otherwise amounts to a lesser work from the Austrian master of disturbing voyeurism. -Kurt Halfyard [LIKED] 
Haneke in full dark comedy mode? Yes, please! – Courtney Small [LIKED]

 
 
BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99
Definitely a different type of role for Vince Vaughn, though he does a good job of switching between Bradley’s caring and violent sides. The ultra-violent second half of the film almost plays out like a video game, with Bradley being sent to a new prison or cell block every time he picks a fight with the guards or fellow prisoners, all leading towards the titular brawl in the very medieval looking cell block 99. If you can handle the violence, Brawl in Cell Block 99 is one hell of a ride. – Sean Kelly [LIKED] 
After the part classic western, part cannibal grindhouse of Bone Tomahawk, I’m happy that S. Craig Zahler manages to up the ante of ‘genre blend’ with this ultraviolent lock-up thriller cum domestic drama. Not for the squeamish. Vince Vaughn destroys a car with his bare hands, and then repairs his marriage with wonderful dialogue. Plus a wonderful Udo Kier role that is perhaps all too brief. [LOVED]

 
 
LET THE CORPSES TAN
The pure Giallo stylings and brutally loud soundscapes of LET THE CORPSES TAN can be tiring, but Cattet & Forzani manage to coax out a decent story and some characters this time around. – Bob Turnbull [LIKED] 
Just like The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, Let the Corpses Tan is an invasion of the senses, with the film having a whole lot of style over substance. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to discern what the plot of the film actually is, since there are so many quick cuts, bright colours, and extreme violence. In some ways, the film is more arty and western version of Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire. I can’t say I fully understood the film, but Let the Corpses Tan is unique in its designs. – Sean Kelly [LIKED] 
“Sexy Free Fire” kind of lost me in the end. This thing is too much sugar, and it wears on you. But those glorious time-stamps, euro-genre tropes, and twisted sexual asides are well worth the trip to this Mediterranean villa of violence. Bring coffee. – Kurt Halfyard [LIKED]

 
 
THE BRAWLER
After two middling movies, Anurag Kashyap is back in fine form with this crowdpleasing boxing movie, well within the vein of Rocky. Here an unconventional would-be pugilist goes up again systemic corruption in India’s national boxing circuit, and on an even large scale, the entire countries caste system. The film is also a love story, dabbles in feminism, and is the third film this year with a major character speaking in sign language. -Kurt [LOVED]

 
 
ZAMA
Argentinian master filmmaker Lucrecia Martel finally returns (after seven years between films) with a story about one man’s descent into hell. Before the film Martel stated that she is “quite a supporter of falling asleep at the cinema” which certainly fits with the slow, sleepy build of the first half. But then it transitions from purgatory into a long, languid, surreal, downward spiral of a nightmare. And that’s of course meant in the best way possible… – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
DOWNSIZING
There is of course a conversation to be had about the portrayal of a Vietnamese refugee at the heart of Alexander Payne’s new movie. It is going to be problematic in almost the same way as Mickey Rooney Breakfast At Tiffanies. But Payne shoots for satire at American values as they break the rest of the world. It is one of several movies that takes the issue of climate change and tackles it head on (here by way of spurious science fiction) On the whole, I think Downsizing is the best film he’s made since 1999s Election. Plus any film that gets Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz and Udo Kier in the same shot is a winner in my book. – Kurt Halfyard [LOVED] 
Alexander Payne channels his inner Charlie Kaufman taking a silly concept and making something uncomfortably human in the process. – Mike Rot [LIKED]

 
 
UNICORN STORE
Brie Larson’s directorial debut plays like the female version of an Adam Sandler arrested development comedy. Only because it skews female, its tone and the issues are an entire new set. The film benefits from some wonderful comedic timing on the part of Larson, and a great set of movie parents essayed by Bradly Whitford and Joan Cusack. Better and funnier than it ought to be, this one won me over from the get go. – Kurt Halfyard [LIKED]

 
 
ANGELS WEAR WHITE
Angels Wear White doesn’t throw its hands up in despair about young girls & women having their options limited, but it doesn’t hold back its anger either. A film that wears its cynicism very sharply. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
HOSTILES
A straightforward violent western anchored by a top-shelf performance from Christian Bale, and a curiously muted one from the usually excellent Rosamund Pike. There are a lot of campfires in this film, too many, and a fair share of burials in the morning. Far from perfect, but one could do worse in the genre, I suppose. -Kurt [DISAPPOINTED]

 
 
SWEET COUNTRY
A straightforward violent western anchored by a top-shelf performances from Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, and first time indigenous actor, Gibson John. Warwick Thornton considers and questions masculinity in this story of justice and vigilantism, in particular, the relationship of soldiering and rage. The best Aussie western since The Proposition, and nearly as many flies on skin. -Kurt [LIKED]

 
 
THE SWAN
Iceland seems to breed new directing talent fully formed. THE SWAN is yet another example with some deep characters, insight into traditions and different tones than might be expected across many moments. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
VILLAGE ROCKSTARS
An absolute gem of a film. It beautifully establishes its sense of place and people as its plot sits quietly in the background. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
BRAD’S STATUS
The White Man’s Burden: the roast. Funny, sad, thought-provoking, all around entertaining Greenberg-lite movie of the plight of my people. – Mike Rot [LOVED] 
A surprisingly astute comedy that takes an honest look at middle aged privilege of middle aged in America. – Courtney Small [LIKED]

 
 
DIRECTIONS
Slices of Bulgarian life assembled into a fantastic biting statement. Long takes used with purpose. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
UNDER THE TREE
You think you have problems with your neighbor? Small potatoes in comparison…Under The Tree would be tragic were it not so damn funny. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
NUMBER ONE
There’s a level of realism in the script, character and story of Number One that rivals the films of Assayas and Hansen-Love. So yeah, that’s a very good thing. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN
I will be looking at old Wonder Woman comics a whole different light now. – Courtney Small [LIKED]

 
 
LONG TIME RUNNING
The Tragically Hip were one of the bands that made up the soundtrack of my mid-late twenties. I played their second album (on cassette!) in the car while dating a young lady who would later become my wife. I was born in a town with a “long French name”. I played “Day For Night” on long road trips into the U.S. There’s just no way I can be objective about The Hip. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
JIM & ANDY: THE GREAT BEYOND
Didn’t quite transcend the concept for me but was very entertaining and every moment Tony Clifton was onscreen I laughed so worth it just for that. – Mike Rot [LIKED]

 
 
KISSING CANDICE
Every year I’m rewarded when I choose an Irish Film Board production. That trend continues with great style. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
EX-LIBRIS: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
This 200 minute documentary nimbly gets across its theme of education and intellect repeatedly and effectively without ever overstaying its welcome. Felt shorter than some films half its length. – Bob Turnbull [LOVED]

 
 
I LOVE YOU, DADDY
“If you went from knowing to confused, I think you learned something”. Another occasion of Louis C. K. trying to work shit out. – Bob Turnbull [LIKED] 
Even with the pre-code homage justification for the taboo assault of this movie, I still don’t think it is a well-made movie, or that it makes any satisfying points, or holds together on a basic narrative-level. There’s some great bits, but they would work better unburdened by plot in a stand-up routine. – Mike Rot [DISLIKED]

 
 
OUR PEOPLE WILL BE HEALED
An uplifting tale that provides hope for the future, while still acknowledging Canada’s disgraceful past. – Courtney Small [LIKED]

 
 
WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY
This film was an emotional gut punch that left me breathless. Some of the best performances you will see this year – Courtney Small [LOVED]

 
 
THE THIRD MURDER
Not one of Kore-eda’s most engaging films by any stretch, but it wasn’t intended to be a humanistic take of family relationships. This time around he examines the nature of truth and questions whether Herzog’s “Ecstatic Truth” (ie. getting to a larger more beneficial truth at the expense of details) may not actually be the better path. – Bob Turnbull [LIKED] 
The pacing is slower than it needed to be, but the film raises some great questions regarding the death penalty and who ultimately has control over a person’s life. – Courtney Small [LIKED]

 
 
THELMA
While Joachim Trier’s first foray into genre never quite lives up to it’s glorious and disturbing opening shot, if you wanted to know what a more humane, toned down Euro-version of Carrie might look like, well, here you go. – Kurt Halfyard [LIKED] This blending of horror and science fiction will not be for everyone, but I dug it. – Courtney Small [LIKED] 
Less emotionally engaging than Joachim Trier’s previous films, THELMA still quite stylishly plays with myths, religion & the power they have over us. If I’m a bit disappointed, it’s just because the bar was raised so high with his earlier work. – Bob Turnbull [LIKED]

 
 
MOLLY’S GAME
Jessica Chastain does a wonderful job of giving added weight to Aaron Sorkin’s fast-paced dialogue in this thoroughly entertaining film. – Courtney Small [LOVED]

 
 
A SEASON IN FRANCE
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s latest film is a touching look at the refugee experience in Europe. While the love story aspects could have landed better, it is an interesting film nonetheless. – Courtney Small [LIKED]

 
 
ROMAN J. ISREAL, ESQ.
I took too many “TIFF power naps” during this one. This is not a comment on the film, but rather on how exhausted I was by time this film started. – Courtney Small [FELL ASLEEP]

 
 
THE FINAL YEAR
I saw this directly after EX-LIBRIS and found it to be the perfect follow-up that continued to wave the banner for the importance and need for intellect & education. And maybe a dash of some goddamn compassion. – Bob Turnbull [LIKED]

 
 
THE MIRACLE
When your story depicts a desperate fall back to religion as being a character’s best option, then a Kaurismaki-ish tone suits it well. – Bob Turnbull [LIKED]

 
 
GUTLAND
Takes an interesting slow-burn approach to revealing its story and the real underlying character of its denizens as they incorporate a stranger into their lives. – Bob Turnbull [LIKED]

 
 
BIRDS WITHOUT NAMES
The telling of its story does a fine job keeping the viewer engaged and just disoriented enough to both appreciate its surprises and forgive an elongated, unnecessarily melodramatic end. – Bob Turnbull [LIKED]

 
 
SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD
Like the most compelling documentaries, the film focuses more on the person behind these stories rather than the details themselves. Having said that, there’s still gobs of salacious info about classic Hollywood stars (e.g. Scotty’s off the cuff mention of a 3-way with Ava Gardner and Lana Turner, etc.). – Bob Turnbull [LIKED]

 
 
THE DEATH OF STALIN
A lot of plot mixed in with its humour leads to frankly mixed results. It tried to cram so much into its running time that it suffers slightly from not being able to focus its satire. But still, Hello to Jason Isaacs! – Bob Turnbull [LIKED]

 
 
DISAPPEARANCE
One of two films name Disappearance that played the festival this year, Boudewijn Koole constructs an intriguing tale of a mother and daughter coming to terms with just how little they truly know each other. – Courtney Small [LIKED]

 
 
THE CURED
A zombie movie played somewhat in reverse, The Cured is a little heavy handed with its comparisons of former zombies (as well as those who weren’t able to be cured) with disenfranchised segments of society, but the story covers a lot of ground in efficient and mostly entertaining fashion. That may explain why so many people stuck around after being evacuated due to a fire alarm and then re-entered the theatre to see the end. – Bob Turnbull [LIKED] 
Like many zombie films, The Cured is a film that can be viewed as a social allegory about fear of “the other.” The fear of The Cured have parallels to racism, but the film’s Irish setting evokes comparisons to The Troubles, despite the fact that the film takes place in Dublin and not Belfast. This especially true when a group of The Cured begin committing what are essentially terrorist acts against the military that oppresses them. While the film does have blood and scares, The Cured is ultimately much more smarter than the average zombie film. – Sean Kelly [LIKED] 
Fire alarm pulled during screening so missed last fifteen minutes or so. That I was relieved says something. – Mike Rot [DISLIKED]

 
 
SAMUI SONG
What starts out as a pretty straightforward crime thriller, slowly shifts into a more dreamlike, self-aware look at why you should be careful what you wish for. – Bob Turnbull [LIKED]

 
 
WINTER BROTHERS
A very unique visual/auditory view of beautiful desolation. Don’t watch if you’re tired though – unless you are a big fan of sleeping during cinema… – Bob Turnbull [LIKED]

 
 
THE MOTIVE
THE MOTIVE has a fine premise (an aspiring author orchestrates people’s lives for the sake of his book), but was just never quite sharp enough in its pacing to really execute it wholly. – Bob Turnbull [LIKED]

 
 
FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL
Pretty standard Hollywood fare (even though it takes place on both sides of the pond), but the film does succeed in really allowing Annette Benning to transform into the glorious Gloria Grahame (primarily via her voice, but the entire performance is well crafted). – Bob Turnbull [LIKED]

 
 
VAMPIRE CLAY
Yeah, this was about as silly and stupid as expected. But even with that fizzle of an ending, it was still mostly good fun. A trifle though. – Bob Turnbull [LIKED] 
An an absolutely insane idea, which can be described as a mix between The Blob, The Thing, and Evil Dead, except with sentient clay. I’m not sure if Vampire Clay is meant to be a horror-comedy, but the scenes of the killer clay attacking the students are often quite hilarious to watch. While the film does slow down in the third act to tell the clay’s backstory, as well as there being an unnecessarily long epilogue, Vampire Clay is still a quite enjoyable watch. – Sean Kelly [LIKED] 
I did not fall asleep during Vampire Clay, but I should have taken the opportunity. -Kurt [DISLIKED]

 
 
IN THE FADE
Though not among Faith Akin’s best works, Diane Kruger’s performance alone makes the film worth it. – Courtney Small [LIKED] 
Even from back row of the Elgin through dry blurry contacts, Diane Kruger was luminous. Unfortunately, her fantastic work in this film is somewhat wasted as its theme essentially reduces to “Geez, Nazis really suck, don’t they?”. – Bob Turnbull [DISAPPOINTED]

 
 
YOU DISAPPEAR
After a 2 hour science lesson that questions how much effect body chemistry has in our choices versus what stems from free will, You Disappear abandons the questions and judges completely against its female character. Despite that huge betrayal to its audience, it does at least contain one of the best performances of the year by Trine Dyrholm. – Bob Turnbull [DISLIKED]

 
 
MANHUNT
Manhunt was truly horrible (all of John Woo’s bad qualities and very few of his good ones), but you just can’t help laugh at its ridiculousness and enjoy the one big set piece in the middle (the farmhouse battle showed flashes of quality action). But those damn CGI doves hurt me deeply… – Bob Turnbull [DISLIKED][DISAPPOINTED][LIKED][HATED] [It’s complicated] 
For his return to action films, John Woo seems to have his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, as the film is packed full of his signature elements, including dove, with it seeming at times that Woo is winking at the camera. While those expecting a film like The Killer or Hard Boiled might end up feeling a bit disappointed, Manhunt is still an entertaining and welcome return to action films for John Woo. – Sean Kelly [LIKED] 
I would not call this a good movie, but I am not upset that I saw it. – Courtney Small [DISAPPOINTED]

 
 
RADIANCE
Naomi Kawase pulls together some interesting ideas, but it’s all a bit too “heavy” and serious. Combined with having its last spoken word be the actual title of the film (including a pause for effect), RADIANCE lost all its subtlety. – Bob Turnbull [DISLIKED]

 
 
THE DAY AFTER
New Hong Sang Soo is always good Hong Sang Soo! Here he shoots in black and white, and substitutes a filmmaker in crisis for a literary publisher in crisis. Lots of drinking and social gaffes ensue. -Kurt Halfyard [LOVED]

 
 
AVA
A gripping drama about a teenager who is suffocating under the weight of an unjust societal structure. – Courtney Small [LOVED]

 
 
BREATHE
Andy Serkis’ directorial debut is an inspiring tale that plays things a little too safe. – Courtney Small [LIKED]

 
 
MARY SHELLEY
Elle Fanning’s performance is what kept me hooked. – Courtney Small [LIKED] 
While the few horror-tinged nightmares deviates from the formula a bit, Mary Shelley can come off as a bit dry for those not really into period-set British dramas. However, you cannot deny that the film has a feminist slant, which depicts Mary Shelley as an independent woman in a world largely controlled by men. – Sean Kelly [DISAPPOINTED]

 
 
MARY GOES ROUND
A solid look at substance abuse and the personal demons that we all struggle with at some point or another. – Courtney Small [LIKED]

 
 
BLACK COP
Cory Bowles’ sharp political satire skillfully, and uncompromisingly, places the audiences in the shoes of others in order to truly open their eyes to the systemic levels of injustice. – Courtney Small [LOVED]

 
 
PROTOTYPE
I do have to give Blake Williams credit for his interesting use of 3D, which is typically better utilized in PROTOTYPE than any mainstream film. However, PROTOTYPE’s 63 minute running time does feel quite long, which only feels longer by the amount of times the film fades to black. Ultimately, I have never been a huge fan of super avant-garde films, so I am just going to shrug off PROTOTYPE as simply being not my thing. – Sean Kelly [FELL ASLEEP]

 
 
STRONGER
Stronger is a pretty well executed drama about a man struggling to rebuilt his life following a horrible and traumatic incident. This film probably has the most challenging performance of Jake Gyllenhaal’s career, since he is playing a man that has lost both his legs, with me quite curious about how they achieved the effect for the film. Best known for TV’s Orphan Black, Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany really gets to show off her dramatic chops in this film, which suggests she has quite a career ahead of her. – Sean Kelly [LIKED]

 
 
MUDBOUND
While I am not completely sold on the multiple narrators, Dee Rees latest film still packs and emotional punch. – Courtney Small [LOVED]

 
 
PUBLIC SCHOOLED
This ridiculous premise could only happen in the movies, and yet they found a way to make it work. – Courtney Small [LOVED]

 
 
LUK’LUK’I
Since LUK’LUK’I is a hybrid of fiction and reality, there is an almost documentary feel to the film at times. However, there are also a number of cinematic touches to the film, such as the character of Mark always spotting UFOs, a karaoke sing-a-long, or Ms Rollergirl doing a choreographed routine. Without a doubt, LUK’LUK’I is in no way a conventional type of film, but it is still one that is worth checking out. – Sean Kelly [LIKED] 
This film feels like it is further exploiting the downtrodden individuals it is designed to evoke compassion for. The film did win the Best First Canadian Feature, so clearly it struck a positive nerve with some. – Courtney Small [DISLIKED]

 
 
MARLINA THE MURDERER IN FOUR ACTS
There is a big spaghetti western feel to Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, whether it the Morricone-esque guitar-based score or the wide shots of Marlina riding horseback across the countryside. In fact the western feel of the film is so authentic, it is almost jarring when modern elements such as cellphones are used in the plot. Aesthetically speaking, I would compare Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts to Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, since they are both films that utilize American genres in an foreign setting. While the actual story of Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts isn’t the most deep, it is still an interesting take on westerns. – Sean Kelly [LIKED] 
While the film stumbles a bit in the fourth act, I was all in for this feminist spaghetti western. – Courtney Small [LOVED]

 
 
SUPER SIZE ME 2
Morgan Spurlock’s target in Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! is less the fast food itself and more the marketing of such food using pleasing buzzwords. The film also dispels many myths about food production, while also revealing some shocking facts, such as how farmers are often mistreated by the five major “big chicken” corporations. When it is all said and done, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! will likely leave you thinking twice about where your all natural free range chicken comes from. – Sean Kelly [LIKED]

 
 
PORCUPINE LAKE
After the very ambitious He Hated Pigeons, a film designed to be seen theatrically with a live score, Ingrid Veninger returns with a coming-of-age film reminiscent of her early films Only and Modra. Veninger cast relative unknowns as the two lead girls and while it does result in some awkward line deliveries, particularly from Charlotte Salisbury, the performances are essentially just teenagers being teenagers. The end result is a lovely coming of age story about teenage friendship. – Sean Kelly [LIKED]

 
 
THERE IS A HOUSE HERE
While making There is a House Here, Alan Zweig traveled to Nunavut at three different points of the year to observe the Inuit way of life. As a white Jewish man, Zweig is a very visible outsider to this community and many people are reluctant to talk to him. Even his guide Lucie gets uncomfortable or annoyed at some of Zweig’s questions. However, by the film’s conclusion, There is a House Here ends up being a very candid look at both the positive and negative aspects of Inuit life in Nuvavut. – Sean Kelly [LIKED] This film is most interesting when Zweig lets his subjects tell their own stories, rather than when he aimlessly tries to both find and steer his narrative.

 
 
SHEIKH JACKSON
A surprisingly engaging coming-of–age tale that never veers into the realm of quirky despite have Michael Jackson as the glue that binds it all together. – Courtney Small [LIKED]

 
 
GRACE JONES
Grace Jones is magnetic and deserved a film with far better cinematography than what we get here. – Courtney Small [DISAPPOINTED]

 
 
CARDINALS
Sheila McCarthy gives a brilliant performance in this tense drama that is far better than most gave it credit for. – Courtney Small [LOVED] 
The plot plays out very much like a play, with the film only focusing on a very small cast of characters. More details about Valerie’s crime are revealed as the film progresses, with the film building towards a tense confrontation with Mark, who is desperate to know the truth. While Cardinals features some very solid performance from the cast, particularly Sheila McCarthy, the story chooses to end at a point where there is no real sense of closure, which brought my opinion of the film down a notch. – Sean Kelly [DISAPPOINTED]

 
 
MOM AND DAD
Half of the Crank/Crank2 team, Brian Taylor, assembles this ADHD zombie film in which the parents are infected with a rage virus only at their children. I’m sure people can relate to the idea, and the film panders like a motherfucker to its concept. It also injects enough ‘crazy’ Nic Cage – including the destruction of a billiard table in real time – for three movies. -Kurt [LIKED]

 
 
HIGH FANTASY
A magical tale that has interesting things to say about race relations in South Africa. – Courtney Small [LOVED]

 
 
THE ROYAL HIBISCUS HOTEL
Unlikely other Nollywood romantic comedies, this film lacks the engaging supporting characters needed to sell the comedic beats. – Courtney Small [DISLIKED]

 
 
BEYOND WORDS
A unique exploration of identity and cultural heritage. – Courtney Small [LIKED]

 
 
THREE CHRISTS
Probably the best word I have to describe Three Christs is “safe.” The film neither blew me away nor was it horrendous to watch. Instead, the film was a relatively straight forward telling of this story, with my only major criticism being that it comes off as major Oscar bait. The film also practically wastes Julianna Margulies as Allan’s possibly alcoholic wife Ruth and there is a subplot about Charlotte Hope’s Becky being attracted to Allan that is never heard from again. Altogether, Three Christs is fine, but you’re probably better off rewatching One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. – Sean Kelly [LIKED]

 
 
PYEWACKET
While on its own Pyewacket is a solid supernatural horror film, the film greatly pales in comparison with Adam MacDonald’s very tense debut Backcountry. The plot of the film is heavily cliched, playing up heavily on the “Satanic Panic” fears that assume that rebellious teens who wear black and listen to heavy metal are also obsessed with the occult. That aside, I didn’t really find myself scared by the film, which apes heavily from better supernatural horror films. Altogether, while Pyewacket is still OK, it’s a major sophomore slump for Adam MacDonald. – Sean Kelly [DISAPPOINTED]

 
 
A SKIN SO SOFT
From Denis Côté comes this observational look at the lives of various bodybuilders. Featuring a mix of both natural and staged scenes, Côté is less concerned about the bodybuilding itself and is more interested in how these men live their daily lives. The film did begin to lose me a bit towards the end, when Denis Côté had all the bodybuilders go on a camping trip with each other, but ultimately Ta peau si lisse is an interesting film showing how bodybuilders are just people too, except with extremely big muscles. – Sean Kelly [LIKED] 
A visually gorgeous, and meditatively hypnotic, fly on the wall exploration of the daily life of body builders. – Courtney Small [LOVED]

 
 
THE LODGERS
If there is anything positive I have to say about The Lodgers is that the film successfully establishes its gothic horror atmosphere. However, despite the atmosphere, The Lodgers ends up being a pretty disappointing film with a lackluster plot, CGI ghosts, and zero real scares. Then there’s the film’s big reveal, which is hinted at throughout the film, but is still pretty facepalm worthy. Overall, while its atmospheric, The Lodgers is a mediocre gothic horror film. – Sean Kelly [DISAPPOINTED]

 
 
REVENGE
Revenge is a film that can probably placed in a similar category to revenge horror film such as I Spit in Your Grave. While not as extreme as that film, Revenge’s inciting incident is still a very difficult-to-watch, yet relatively ungraphic, sexual assault scene. However, Revenge still ends up being a very entertaining and extremely bloody tale of female empowerment against male oppressors. – Sean Kelly [LIKED]

 
 
DOWNRANGE
For all intents and purposes, Downrange can be described as a slasher, except with a sniper instead of knife-wielding killer. The carnage becomes increasing unbelievable as the film does on, with director Ryûhei Kitamura not holding back on some very gory deaths. The film also plays a bit with viewer expectations, involving the tropes of these types of films. Overall, Downrange and entertaining and bloody game of cat and mouse. – Sean Kelly [LIKED]

 
 
KINGS
A thoroughly messy, and vaguely dreamlike…or nightmarish…I can’t decide, exploration of race that features the most ill-timed moments of levity. – Courtney Small [HATED]

 
 
SUBURBICON
George Clooney’s latest film, based on an old script by the Coen Brothers, plays like Fargo-lite, but stumbles when offering commentary on race relations in America. – Courtney Small [DISLIKED]

 
 
MIAMI
This tale of estranged sisters gets a bit muddled at times, but it kept my interest throughout. – Courtney Small [LIKED] The sappy and uninspired soundtrack pretty much sums up the film. – Bob Turnbull [HATED]

 
 
FIRST REFORMED
Like Taxi Driver, only instead of New York city being a cesspool that needs to be burned to the ground, it is the entire United States. Paul Schrader gets a sharp performance from Ethan Hawke as he traps him in cassock and a 4:3 frame. This film goes after the church and its utter neglect on addressing climate change, in the name of getting butts in seats. It is savage, but it is necessary in 2017. -Kurt Halfyard [LOVED] 
Paul Schrader is a filmmaker who is considered a master, primarily because he wrote a number of films for Martin Scorsese, such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, back in the 1970s and 1980s. However, after watching The Canyons, Dog Eat Dog, and now First Reformed, I have decided that Schrader is not worthy of the title of master. First Reformed is a film that starts off slow and somewhat boring and ends up being a complete joke, with Toller’s crisis of faith almost played for laughs. By the time Toller and Mary were literally flying together, I was done. – Sean Kelly [WORST]

 
 
VERONICA
Paco said this was his best movie. He lied. A well-made but derivative horror movie that doesn’t live up to the REC pedigree. – Mike Rot [WORST]

 
 
THE RITUAL
I would describe the The Ritual as a film that is trying to be The Blair Witch Project meets The Descent by way of The Wicker Man. However, I have to admit that the film doesn’t quite hit the mark in that regard. I didn’t find The Ritual to be all that scary and the film ends up crisscrossing in many different directions. I would still say that the film is fine for what it is, but it could have been a lot better. – Sean Kelly [DISAPPOINTED] 
Boring. Nothing New. Kinda tedious. The Worst. – Kurt Halfyard [WORST]

 
 
THE CONFORMIST
I paid close attention, discussed it with others afterwards, and I still have no idea what this film was trying to say. – Courtney Small [HATED] 
The problem with The Conformist isn’t that I lost the plot early on, it’s that I didn’t care. – Bob Turnbull [WORST] 

[fin]