Special guest star Shelagh Rowan-Legg joins us on day 8 of the Toronto International Film Festival 2015 to discuss highlights of the week thus far! Love! Evolution! Into the Forest! Sherpa! Baskin! Men & Chicken! And much much more!
What space would be possible for avant-garde French director, Gaspar Noe to go after Enter The Void? Well, clearly, a 3D sex film that could play Cannes was the direction he took, and indeed, it played (somewhat muted in response however) at the festival in May. Love in 3D now has a teaser trailer that gives new definition to ‘fade to white.’ Need I say that this one is not for watching in casual mixed company?
The trailer is tucked under the seat.
Bent Hamer’s quirky, visually formal romantic comedy was one of the most surprising pleasures at last years Toronto International Film Festival. In matters of science and love, if you get down to the most first-principle measurements at atomic levels, it’s more of an agreed upon reference than actual fact. What a novel and unusual way to articulate a life! The film might be on the nose at times and it’s driest of dry Norwegian humour is a bit of an acquired taste, but it is so brilliant and beautiful in how it goes about itself, that I fell in love with 1001 Grams, unequivocally.
When Norwegian scientist Marie attends a seminar in Paris on the actual weight of a kilo, it is her own measurement of disappointment, grief and, not least, love, that ends up on the scale.
Back in 2009, when Enter The Void quickly rose to the top of my ‘best of the year’ list (and likely in the running for ‘best of the decade’ list), I made the blithe comment that the man should just retire himself, because HOW TO DO YOU TOP THAT? Well, 5 years later, I am more than happy to see another film come out, and in fine Noe fashion, it features an eye catching, provocative poster. Body fluids and indulgence and taboo breaking are clearly on the menu here. The teaser poster for Love is not a tableau style bit of marketing, like the recent character and group posters for Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, this is right in close and personal to a threesome. Right in the mouth, in fact. And is that title image saliva or semen? Things could go either way.
Director: Ned Benson
Writer: Ned Benson
Producers: Cassandra Kulukundis, Todd J. Labarowski, Emanuel Michael
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Ciarán Hinds, Isabelle Huppert, William Hurt, Bill Hader, Viola Davis, Nina Arianda
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 122 min.
Somewhere down the line we’ll get a chance to see the great story of Eleanor Rigby but The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them isn’t it.
This new version of Ned Benson’s movie is very clearly an abridged, highly edited concoction made for the benefit of… good question, I don’t know who this is made for because it mostly lacks a through line and any sort of emotional connection to the characters.
James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain star as Conor and Eleanor, a young married couple who are having marital trouble. For a while it’s unclear where the trouble starts but we see enough to know that they were once in love and are still in love but that something has happened to separate them. The cause of the separation is played as a great mystery, this secret thing that is only hinted at and then slowly revealed in the movie’s second half and for a while, I found myself completely caught up in the mystery. What could it be? Did he cheat? Did he beat her? Why is she depressed? When it is eventually revealed, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them finally finds its groove but up until that moment, it’s as much of a guessing game as a movie about two people who no longer recognize each other.
I relish stories like this, tales of people with relatable life problems who struggle to find their way through the problems to a better place and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them certainly does that. The issue with the movie is that it jumps around from scene to scene, from the present to the past, with little connection. It doesn’t feel like a cohesive whole but more like someone took a pile of scenes and compiled them in a way that told a story that sort of makes sense but that has big gaping holes in it and which lacks any deep emotional connection.
Director: Jesse Zwick
Writers: Jesse Zwick
Producer: Adam Saunders
Starring: Nate Parker, Jason Ritter, Maggie Grace, Max Greenfield, Aubrey Plaza, Max Minghella, Jane Levy
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 96 min.
Regardless of how much or little we use it, technology has affected the way we communicate. It wasn’t uncommon for college friends to keep in touch via birthday and Christmas cards but it seems that in today’s connected culture, even email feels like too much work when you can just send someone 140 characters or a “Like.” Are we really so into ourselves that sending an email to an old friend is too much work?
For his directorial debut Jesse Zwick, son of Hollywood heavyweight Edward Zwick, begina by exploring some of these themes before About Alex turns into a familiar story of old friends coming together after years of not really talking. In this case, they all come together over Alex (Jason Ritter), the shy and sensitive one of the group who seems to be stuck in a pre “always connected” world. He’s been creeping his friend’s social networks but hasn’t managed to really connect with them in a meaningful way and on a particularly bad day, he attempts to kill himself, an event that is considered grievous enough by his college buddies that they all drop everything and come together to support their wounded friend.
In the mix are the Sarah (the unhappy lawyer with killer cooking skills – played by Aubrey Plaza), Isaac (the successful one – Max Minghella), Isaac’s new girlfriend Kate (Jane Levy), Siri and Ben (the apparently happy artist couple – Maggie Grace and Nate Parker) and Josh (the always angry at something – Max Greenfield). As expected, we quickly learn that these individuals bring with them not only the baggage of their current lives but also of their past together, of relationships that were or nearly were, romances that have fizzled out and others that may still ignite.
Director: Josh Boone (Stuck In Love)
Screenplay: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Webe, John Green (book)
Producer: Brendan Prost
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 125 min.
Cancer sucks and generally speaking, movies about cancer suck. They’re saccharin and overtly manipulative of emotions and show you beautiful people dying and those around them suffering and in the end there’s a moment of happiness when you remember the dead soul who so deeply touched the life/lives of the central characters in the short time they knew the sickly person. The Fault in Our Stars is exactly that movie. The only difference here is that this features such charismatic performances that it doesn’t feel like emotional manipulation but more like some sort of catharsis.
Emerging writing superstars Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber are starting to corner the market on touching teen dramas starring Shailene Woodley. Last year they were behind the script for the much loved The Spectacular Now and here they are again adapting from John Green’s best selling novel about cancer kinds falling in love. Hazel (Woodley) is really sick and Gus (Ansel Elgort) is in remission. The pair meet at support group and immediately strike up a friendship that later develops into romance before tragedy strikes. After all, you can’t have a movie about cancer without some sort of tragedy (because having cancer isn’t tragedy enough).
The thing is that in the case of The Fault in Our Stars, the tragedy and emotion that goes with it works. Part of it is the fact that Green’s novel has a streak of bluntness running through it. It’s not all good moments and bad moments but a mix of the two, comedy hand-in-hand with tragedy, and Hazel and Gus tackle life with a sarcasm and sense of mortality that is refreshing. They talk about death, about what comes after (if anything) about the limitless living one can do in our limited time on earth and rather than feel sorry for the sick kids, I couldn’t help but think about what I’m doing with my life. Nothing like seeing young people suffer and possibly die to make you consider if you’ve done enough with your 30 years on earth.
Director: Brendan Prost (Coch, Generation Why)
Screenplay: Brendan Prost
Producer: Brendan Prost
Starring: Zach White, Taylor Hastings, Jennifer Kobelt, Arianna McGregor
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 140 min.
Somewhere in Brendan Prost’s Spaces and Reservations is a really great story about relationships and the difficulties of falling out of love with your best friend. What’s frustrating is that the brilliant movie isn’t even buried but rather lost in a second act that goes on forever.
Clocking in at well over two hours, Spaces and Reservations opens with a wonderful story of two individuals who are in love but whose relationship is stagnant. Jamie and Kacie have been together for four years and living together for some time and they have a well worn routine that makes their life predictable. Jamie seems completely comfortable with this life; once a shy introvert who was pulled out of his shell by his now girlfriend he seems content dividing his time between work, home and the occasional visit to his sister’s. Kacie, on the other hand, looks tired and sad. The pair don’t kiss and they almost don’t touch, in some instances it almost looks like they avoid coming into physical contact with each other; a clear indication that all is not well in their relationship.
It’s clear that Spaces and Reservations is about what happens next in this relationship the problem is that the movie’s second hour becomes as stagnant as the relationship it depicts. The second act goes on for ever and the movie loses nearly all of the momentum in builds in the opening. The only thing that keeps the story afloat, though just barely, are the performances from Zach White and Taylor Hastings as Jamie and Kacie respectively. There’s a natural chemistry to the pair and their characterizations are brilliant, traversing from the comfortable to the cold and back into amiable friendship with ease. Not only are they the highlight of the movie, their chemistry and relationship is the only thing that manages to keep the movie afloat after a near disastrous second hour when Spaces and Reservations seems stuck in a repeating loop where nothing happens.
Well, this one slipped my by last week, which is a shame because I am a huge fan and am a big booster of William Eubank’s gorgeous indie sci-fi flick Love (Review) which features a man trapped on the dying International Space Station while an unnamed apocalypse has devastated earth, and is scored entirely with Angels & Airwaves songs.
His next film is called The Signal was very well received at The Sundance Film Festival in January. This gorgeous trailer which came out last week; better late than never here in the third row. Larry Fishburne is the big name in the project, but like Love, the real star is the drop-dead-gorgeous cinematography, and the heady science fiction conceits. When a character says “We’re not 100% certain with what we are dealing with here,” well that says it all. It’s beautiful and intriguing in the same way that Upstream Color was. Here’s hoping Eubank can hit that high watermark.
Nick and Jonah are MIT freshmen with a passion for hacking. While driving cross-country through Nevada with Nick’s girlfriend, Hailey, they follow rival hacker Nomad’s clues to a location 180 miles away. After a terrifying confrontation with Nomad in the middle of the desert, the trio regain consciousness in captivity. Struggling to comprehend the true nature of their confinement, they discover they are part of a plot much larger than themselves.
The silky, inflected tones of Scarlett Johansson as a Siri-ish Operating System allow her owner, nebbish Joaquin Phoenix in a moustache, to fall in love and proceed from there. This is the premise, one brilliantly executed in the trailer (below) for the film which is simply titled Her and directed by Spike Jonze. The director has always done these offbeat films on the ‘human condition,’ (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) and has made a few short films about robots recently, it looks to culminate in his first feature since the deeply empathetic Where The Wild Things Are. Amy Adams (her second recent pairing with Phoenix, here playing his sister), Rooney Mara and Olivia Wilde round out the cast.
Expect this film to make some waves when it gets released in November. For now, watch this trailer a half a dozen times and fall in love.
The latest razzle dazzle genre mash, For Love’s Sake, from the maddeningly prolific Takashi Miike tackles the high melodrama of unrequited love with a gaggle of high school seniors as they collectively pave the road to hell with good intentions via breaking out into song and dance numbers. Lest one, for even a second, think that Miike has hopped on the microtrend of gleeful high school musicals, the director cranks up the absurdity (and the deadpan) of the musical numbers: dance fights (including Miike’s over-the-shoulder take on the Oldboy corridor fight), J-horror gags, and lot wind and fire – all the while drenching everything with irony and bloody violence. And because the film is based on an early ’70s Manga (Ai to Makoto) the songs are crafted to resemble the J-Pop of the era. The word Bourgeoisie is thrown around a fair bit.