Rowthree Staff Summary of TIFF 2016

Our traditional round-up of impressions and reactions to the massive slate of Toronto International Film Festival has arrived in its ninth edition here in the third row. A always been the case, 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, accompanied by an identifier-tag: [BEST], [LOVED], [LIKED], [DISLIKED], [DISAPPOINTED], [FELL ASLEEP], [WALKED OUT], [HATED] and [WORST].

Collectively we – Kurt Halfyard, Matt Brown, Bob Turnbull, Mike Rot, Ariel Fisher and Sean Kelly – saw a sizable chunk of the 300+ films shown at the 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, or small internet enabled screen, in the next 18 months.


Personal BEST: MOONLIGHT [Mike Rot], [Ariel] & [Matt B.], MANCHESTER BY THE SEA [Bob], NOCTURNAL ANIMALS [Kurt], and LA LA LAND [Sean].

Personal WORST: Several folks were not willing to truly hate anything they saw this year (and that’s cool) but the low-lights were: THE DUELIST [Kurt], ONCE AGAIN [Bob], and DOG EAT DOG [Sean].
The ‘MASSIVE’ version is below. All our thoughts and impressions from offerings of the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.

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Trailer: Werner Herzog’s Lo And Behold

Werner Herzog wants to talk to you about the internet, its fragility and where the species sits at this moment. His latest documentary, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World is a very talking heads and stock footage affair, but it has the legendary voice-over narration (and interviewing skill set) one has come to know and love from the German auteur. Lo And Behold will have its premiere at the upcoming edition of the Sundance Film Festival. Toronto locals can probably expect to see it at Hotdocs a few months later. Let’s hope the internet survives the wait.

Blu-Ray Review: Aguirre, Wrath of God

Director: Werner Herzog
Screenplay: Werner Herzog
Starring: Klaus Kinski, Ruy Guerra, Helena Rojo, Del Negro
Producer: Werner Herzog, Hans Prescher
Country: West Germany
Running Time: 93 min
Year: 1972
BBFC Certificate: PG

I‘ve been churning through first time watches of classic movies recently. My own personal 2014 Blind Spot List (which was largely made up of titles not watched from my 2013 list) was pretty much obliterated in my ‘bachelor fortnight’ a couple of weeks ago (only 1 film remains) and after allowing me to finally begin my love affair with Seven Samurai last month, the BFI are treating me to another unseen classic in the shape of the UK Blu-Ray release of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God.

Herzog is a puzzling character who has always confounded expectations, covering all sorts of genres, largely to great success, whilst retaining his own unusual stamp on things. He’s worked exceptionally hard for the last 50 years. Looking through the IMDB, there are very few years where he hasn’t released something and he’s still making well respected films now at 71 years old. I must admit, I’ve barely scratched the surface of his filmography, having only seen four of his films before watching the two titles here (Fata Morgana is also included in the set – see below for details). Nonetheless, I’ve always had an admiration for the director in his refusal to be pigeonholed or rest on his laurels and that small collection of films I’ve seen are all of the highest standard. So it was with great pleasure that I sat down to watch the film which first brought Herzog to the attention of cinema-goers outside his own country.

Aguirre, Wrath of God is set in the jungles of Peru in the 16th Century. The Spanish, who have recently conquered the Inca empire, have been told the legend of El Dorado, the lost city of gold, so an expedition has been sent out to find it. From this group, a small band of soldiers, noblemen/women and their slaves are sent down the endless Amazon river as the main party are unable to continue on foot. Along the way, Don Aguirre, a ruthless man, sees this as an opportunity to claim the wealth for himself and takes control of the motley crew to begin a new civilisation. However, as they get further down the river and into the jungle, their surroundings and greed envelop them, leading to their inevitable destruction.

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Cinecast Episode 326 – Functionally Retarded, Yet Infectious

As it turns out, we discover as a very welcome surprise that this is Kurt and Andrew’s 300th episode together. So there’s reason enough to celebrate here. Kinda. But if you’re more into movies rather than nostalgia and landmarks, there’s plenty to get into with this episode. We have five, count ’em five, theatrical reviews to get to as well as our respective festival titles and experiences to mention. All of this spirals into a very important homework assignment for the week. Matt Gamble comes aboard to talk about Ridley Scott’s meandering. We get into all manner of awesome, including Robert Redford’s double takes, Polanski spelling it out, Elijah Wood is perpetually twelve years old and Judd Apatow’s version of a Richard Linklater film. All of this and a helluva lot more in another mega-episode that spans nearly four hours.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Trailer: The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing

I missed this very talked about documentary from Joshua Oppenheimer when it was on the festival circuit (and it’s brief Toronto run at Lightbox) but those who did see it came away devastated from the experience. This should come as no surprise when you have both Werner Herzog and Errol Morris offering their names to the project (which it should be added was conceived in Denmark, land of crazy doc experiments. It looks to be, all in all, barking mad.

This chilling and inventive documentary examines a country where death squad leaders are celebrated as heroes, challenging them to reenact their real-life mass killings in the style of the American movies they love. The hallucinatory result is an unsettling journey deep into the imaginations of mass murderers and the shockingly banal regime of corruption and impunity they inhabit.

It’s up at, we’ll embed one when it is availble in that form but until then, go here to have a look.

As one would expect, this is going out in very limited release, and Drafthouse Films has the dates here.

Cinecast Episode 298 – An Unorthodox Fishing Method

Watch List! Watch List! Watch List! Andrew, Kurt & Matt get together to talk a wide gamut of film watching: John Dies at the End, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Proposition, Dazed & Confused, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, and several more. The show has long tangents on the career of Don Coscarelli, Stephen Baldwin’s sordid resume and the Justice system from Damien Echols to Jeffrey MacDonald to Matt’s Uncle.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

The Iron Giant

1999 US. Director: Brad Bird. Starring: Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston.

It seems as if many view The Iron Giant as a precursor, of sorts, to the (allegedly) greater things to come from Brad Bird and Pixar as a whole. There is a grain of truth embedded in there, as Pixar has yet to have a true ‘miss’ (though I have not yet seen Cars 2) and two-dimensional animation has sadly become a relic, of sorts. Rest easy, as this is not going to become some half-assed or preachy bit of nostalgia … at least no more so than it already is. Rather, I feel that The Iron Giant has unfortunately been lumped with the somewhat underwhelming middle ground between ‘classic animation’ and the Pixar juggernaut … and yet The Iron Giant is, in my mind, the very best that the animated medium has yet to offer. The animation is crisp and beautiful, the characters are fleshed-out, believable, and lovable, and Michael Kamen’s score is simply stunning. Moreover, I am not sure that any recent film has crafted a greater portrait of 1950s sensibilities, particularly insofar as the Cold War is concerned. Would it be blasphemy to suggest, if not outright state, that this is a better version of E.T.? Perhaps … but it’s true.

Netflix Instant (USA)


1979 USA. Director: Ridley Scott. Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt.

A masterpiece of genre splicing in sci-fi and horror… for the art house. What makes Alien stand the test of time is it’s unwillingness to try and look futuristic and cool; rather it spends it time worrying about how the film looks, not what it should look like based on the time setting. It also works like a good Hitchcock thriller in its tension building. And dammit, did this thing win any awards for its sound design? Because it damn well should have walked home with a win for every nomination it received in this respect. Watching the Blu-ray of the theatrical cut really does seem like watching the movie anew. For the first time, my eyes were finally open to the gorgeous, artfulness of every conceivable detail.

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Trailer for Herzog’s ‘Into the Abyss’ might drop some jaws.

Perhaps it is my background in sociology that has me so interested. Perhaps it is my unhealthy obsession with Werner Herzog. Or maybe, just maybe, this is going to be one astonishing film documenting those involved in every aspect of a death penalty sentence – in an approach as far away from Dateline ABC as can be. The film is Into the Abyss and it has already won many awards and much praise.

What do you think of this trailer? Is your jaw dropped or is it schmaltzy? It is tucked under the seat

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It shall be Tom Cruise vs. Werner Herzog in Christopher McQuarrie’s (The Usual Suspects, Way of the Gun) new film, One Shot.

The book series by Lee Child follows Jack Reacher, a former military policeman turned drifter. In “One Shot,” Reacher investigates the case of a sniper accused of murdering five people before being captured. Herzog will play The Zec, an ex-prisoner of war who arranges and stages the killing and is the head of the conspiracy.

Movies We Watched

We watch a lot of movies around here, and sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. We’ll also note any particular recommendations we have that are available on Netflix Instant Watch in either the US or Canada by putting a direct link below the capsule.

A Streetcar Named Desire

1951 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Stanley, Karl Malden.

This is me knocking one more film off my List of Shame – as a huge classic film buff, there’s no excuse for not having seen A Streetcar Named Desire yet. I’d been putting it off because of its root as a play (which don’t always translate to film well), my apathy towards Marlon Brando and Elia Kazan, and not a small amount of rebelling against its reputation. But sometimes reputations are deserved, and this one totally is. Vivien Leigh plays Blanche duBois as a fading Southern belle, almost a “Scarlett O’Hara ten years later” sort of approach, with nervous energy and intentional theatricality. She’s desperate, and desperate not to seem desperate. Then when Brando steps into the frame as her brother-in-law Stanley, I suddenly understood why everyone idolizes him so – I never really got it until now, but he is utterly magnetic here, holding a languid tension that seems always ready to burst into passion or violence, and yet also ready with an irresistible cocky smile. Brando’s naturalistic Method acting and Leigh’s old-school theatrical style do not belong in the same movie, and yet somehow when the two meet on screen, sparks fly and the very contrast becomes part of their characters, their relationship, and the texture of the film itself. The film is an odd combination of realism and heightened gothicism, much more unusual in tone and feeling than I expected, and much more compelling.

Julia’s Eyes

2010 SPAIN. Director: Guillem Morales. Starring: Belén Rueda, Lluís Homar, Pablo Derqui, Francesc Orella, Joan Dalmau.

A sleekly made Spanish horror/thriller, Julia’s Eyes tells the story of woman afflicted by an illness that is slowly rendering her blind, but who is never-the-less determined to discover the culprit behind her sister’s death, ruled by the police as a suicide. Produced by Guillermo del Toro, whose name will no doubt be a big draw for foreign audiences as was for 2007’s The Orphanage, the first thirty minutes of Julia’s Eyes are not particularly impressive; the dialogue is clunky, and first time feature director Guillem Morales relies far too heavily on the film’s overly dramatic score to provide cheap jump scares. However as the film progresses the suspense is laid on thicker and thicker, culminating in a spectacular tense and rather ingenious finishing act and magnificently staged final confrontation. It’s (probably) only a matter of time before this film gets an American remake, so be sure to catch the original so you can snobbishly remark to your friends how much better it is.

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Sunday Bookmarks (April 25-May 1)


  • LionsGate Will Run Scenic Tours to The Cabin in the Woods
    “When MGM’s financial standing temporarily went to the great balance sheet in the sky, the two biggest projects that were left standing like children in a Charles Dickens novel were the Red Dawn remake and The Cabin in the Woods, a reportedly smart horror film directed by Cloverfield writer Drew Goddard and co-written and produced by Joss Whedon.”
  • Quentin Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western Script?
    “At this point we cannot confirm whether this has anything to do with recent rumors that this might be Quentin’s “southern” or if it is a “real” spaghetti western or anything else. ”
  • Will Ender’s Game make a good film franchise?
    “Summit Entertainment announced last week that they’ve obtained the rights to Ender’s Game with the intent to create another youth-driven series. The production company has recently been very successful with their youth-driven Twilight Saga, and is beginning work on The Hunger Games, which is based on a series of novels in the same vein as Twilight … There are a few problems with Summit’s plan. First is the quality of films that summit has been producing.”
  • The House Next Door Conversations: Wong Kar Wai
    “When did everything start to have an expiration date?” That’s a question posed by a lovelorn cop in Wong Kar-Wai’s 1994 film Chungking Express, and in a sense that line is a snapshot of what Wong’s films are all about. In the 20 years and change that Wong has been directing, he’s developed several signature flourishes that make his films instantly recognizable—from his striking use of deep, rich colors, to his affinity for repetitive musical sequences, to his judicious use of slow motion for emotional effect, and many more—but at the core of Wong’s filmography is an acute awareness of passing time and a palpable yearning for things just out of reach. “
  • ‘Every’ Werner Herzog Documentary Ranked from Worst to Best
    “The new film by legendary director Werner Herzog, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, comes out this Friday. In tribute, we asked Jay Cheel, the Herzog-obsessed founder of The Documentary Blog, to rank Herzog’s twelve feature documentaries. Be sure to also check out Jay’s own new film, Beauty Day, a fascinating documentary look at a very Herzogian subject. Here are his picks for Herzog’s documentaries, from worst to best”


You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button in the upper right of the page. It looks remarkably similar to this: