TIFF reviews: The Debt, The Trip, A Horrible Way to Die, Submarine, Miral, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, 127 Hours, Another Year, Never Let Me Go, Our Day Will Come, Bad Faith, Leap Year
We're now past the half way mark of this year's film festival and we have another batch of reviews of films we've seen so far. Like our previous posts we've grouped these into those we highly recommend, recommend or suggest avoiding.
Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon seem to be a failsafe combination. In this collaboration, Coogan and Brydon go on a road trip together in the English countryside on assignment for The Observer newspaper, sampling fine foods, visiting historic sites, hilariously quibbling and competing along the way. The comedians/actors play semi-fictionalized versions of themselves, much like they did for Winterbottom's Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. Gut-busting funny.
Screening Sunday, Sept. 19.
A Horrible Way to Die
A fresh take on the serial killer genre, Adam Wingard's A Horrible Way to Die manages to succeed as both an indie thriller and a compelling relationship drama. This is the set up: a soft-spoken escaped murderer goes on a vicious killing spree across the US. Meanwhile, his ex-girlfriend attends AA meetings, tries dating again, and struggles to build a new life for herself in a small town. Inevitably, their paths cross, with a climax that offers more than just cheap thrills, thanks to the very natural dialogue, a gradual unfolding of the story through flashbacks, and the perfect casting of AJ Bowen (House of the Devil) and Amy Seimetz. Bravo, Mr. Wingard.
Screening Tuesday, Sept. 14, Thursday, Sept. 16 and Friday, Sept, 17.
If you're looking for this years indie hit, then you've found it in Submarine. British comedian turned director Richard Ayoade made this quirky, unique coming of age story about young Oliver Tate who is simultamiously trying to keep his parents marriage together as well as woo his classmate Jordana. It is without question drawing comparisons to Rushmore and The Squid and the Whale -- which could be a turn off for some people but it definitely has it's own legs. It has extremely funny moments from supporting actors Noah Taylor and Paddy Considine, as well as a charming and honest telling of a high schooler's first love which is never puke worthy, but sometimes a little dark. (PF)
Screening Sunday Sept. 19th.
Julian Schnabel's latest doesn't disappoint. The artist/director who has yet to make a bad movie follows up his award winning Diving Bell and the Butterfly with another brilliantly crafted film - this one telling the true story of life in Jerusalem from the 6 Day War to the signing of the Oslo Accords. Freida Pinto (an Indian actress best known for her role in Slumdog Millionaire) takes on the role of Miral - a Palestinian-Israeli - and it works. But the best performance goes to Hiam Abbass who is so convincing as humanitarian Hind Husseini (a founder of an orphanage for girls) that she should be a shoe-in for consideration come Oscar time. (TS)
Director John Madden's latest is a remake of a 2007 Israeli film that tells the intriguing story of three Mossad agents sent to East Berlin to track down a notorious Nazi war criminal. What unfolds is a fast paced thriller with stellar performances by a cast headlined by Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington. Premiering last night at a gala at RTH, the crowd gave an enthusiastic standing ovation once the credits rolled.
Screening Wednesday Sept. 15th and Sunday Sept. 19th. (TS)
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
To be upfront, I've never been a fan of this 3D trend that has taken over Hollywood, but what I am a fan of is Werner Herzog. So when I heard the two were combining I was extremely curious; and after the first few minutes of the film, I was quickly put to ease. Herzog takes us into the Chauvet caves of southern France, focusing on some of the oldest known cave drawings known to man. The 3D was subtle and understated, the way it should be. It was never distracting, or necessarily eye popping -- but it was the textures it brought out that was the real prize. Of course what most look forward to the most in a Herzog documentary is his poetic narration, and it is in full force here. This film is the closest any of us will ever get to these caves, and after an hour and a half, you won't want to leave. (PF)
Screening Wednesday Sept. 15th, Saturday Sept. 18th.
It's as though Danny Boyle was looking for a challenge in retelling Aron Ralston's account of getting his arm wedged in a boulder for five days in a remote desert canyon in Utah. The outdoorsman's real life ordeal came to an end when he severed his arm loose with a dull pocket knife. But before this big climax, Ralston suffered through a long 127 hours of not-so-cinematic dehydration and hypothermia. How does Boyle pull it off? With his trademark energetic style (flashy edits and music), wide and saturated landscape shots, and with buzz magnet James Franco in the lead.
Screening Saturday, Sept. 18.
In perhaps his most brutally critical character study yet, Mike Leigh (Naked, Secrets & Lies, Happy-Go-Lucky)'s new film focuses on a group of middle-agers: a happily married couple at the center, and their unhappy single friends and relatives. Ouch.
Never Let Me Go
Mark Romanek's highly anticipated adaption of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel is probably better viewing for those of us who haven't read the book or reviews that contain plot details (which I won't reveal here) or even seen the trailer. It's a run-of-the-mill English boarding school romance starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley that becomes a little more interesting when the children learn about the outside world and what their futures hold.
Screening Saturday, Sept. 18.
Our Day Will Come
Without a doubt, the strangest road trip movie i've ever seen -- in a good way. Red heads have taken a beating in culture recently, especially from music video director turned film director Romain Gavras, first in his video for M.I.A. and now in his first feature Our Day Will Come. Reflecting on the movie afterwards all I could think of was "What the fuck" and I think that was the point. It was a completely bizarre, unhinged trip across Northern France. But it features great cinematography, an amazing original soundtrack by Sebastian Tellier, and standout performances by the great Vincent Cassel and newcomer Olivier Barthelemy. (PF)
A seemingly normal woman with an office job becomes fixated on a serial killer after witnessing one of his murders. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy films that present complex characters, and even more so when you're not quite sure if the protagonist is crazy. But in Bad Faith, Monia's motives are just perplexing. How does she always know where to find the killer? And why would she wander into remote locations simply to spy on him?
Screening Saturday, Sept. 18
Way too often, I fall for that it-won-in-Cannes trap. Leap Year centers on Laura Lopez, a struggling journalist living in a bug-infested Mexico City flat. The film captures the quiet isolation of working from home by not leaving the apartment in its 92 minutes. Laura breaks up her days with one night stands, and eventually picks up Arturo, who turns her onto more sado-masochistic sex. Okay, so there is character development and a back-story, but Camera d'Or for best first feature? Really?
Screening Thursday, Sept. 16, and Saturday, Sept. 18.
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