Tiff’s People’s Choice Award went to The Imitation Game. Based on the life of mathematician Alan Turing, the film jump cuts over his life from schoolboy to death, focusing mostly on him and his team of code breakers during WWII and how they came to save millions of lives by solving Enigma. Cumberbatch gives a great performance however overall it’s a pretty basic “Hollywood” biopic and generic Oscar darling. Good, but by no means wonderful.
The Voices stars Ryan Reynolds as Jerry, a good but unhinged man who refuses to take his court ordered medication. After accidentally killing his coworker crush (Gemma Arterton), his loyal dog and evil Scottish cat advise him it’s best to clean up the mess and move on as if nothings happened. But when her head begins to talk to him requesting a friend, Jerry has a dilemma on his hands. Very twisted and hilariously funny, this film keeps your interest from beginning to end.
Two new Oxford students seek to join The Riot Club, an infamous and extremely exclusive fraternity of young men with time to waste and (their families) money to burn. At the annual club dinner, things go from fun debauchery to violent chaos as the liquor flows and tempers flare. Chock full of Britain’s best (and best looking) rising actors, Lone Scherfig superbly directs Laura Wade’s explosive play about the dangers of excess.
Jermaine Clement’s latest, What We Do in the Shadows is a ton of fun. This mockumentary follows the lives of 4 flatmates, all vampires created centuries apart with very distinct personalities of their time. After the eldest “turns” a young man, the group learn to accept him, modern technology and his human friend into the fold. This film is a pure delight to watch, leaving you with a smile from beginning to end and laughing a loud more times then countable. Conchords fans will be happy to see familiar faces, including Rhys Darby as the alpha male of a werewolf pack. Looking forward to watching this one again.
In '71 Jack O’Connell plays Gary, a British Soldier who gets separated from his unit after a riot in IRA controlled Belfast. All alone and with such a fine line separating the Protestant Loyalists and Catholic Nationalists, Gary knows if he wants to find his way out alive, he must find someone he can trust. Director Yann Demange, in his feature film debut, creates a riveting drama with non stop action and suspense from beginning to end. Wonderful set and costume design capture the gritty feel perfectly and the script creates non stop suspense while also leaving you a lot to think about when it comes to war, religion and politics. Jack O’Connell gives a great performance (as usual, lets hope America finally opens their eyes to this talent!) as does the rest of the cast, creating believable menacing characters who feel they’ve been pushed to the edge and have nowhere to go but extremes. Loved this one.
Nabbed a free ticket to see director Fabrice Du Welz latest flick Alleluia. Based on Raymond Fernandas and Martha Beck, the real life “Honeymoon Killers” the film follows a couple of grifters who, posing as brother and sister, con old, lonely ladies into marriage so they can rob them blind and leave them high and dry. Thats the plan anyways, until the bodies start to pile up and Michel (played by Laurent Lucas) finds out first hand just how far Gloria’s (Lola Duenas) jealous streak can push her. This is the 4th adaptation of the story, done twice in America, once in Mexico and now in France. Having seen the original 1969 criterion cult classic The Honeymoon Killers I gotta admit I much prefer that one. While this was alright and has some interesting shots, I’d say if the subject interests you to go watch the ‘69 version.
Keira Knightly and Chloe Grace Moretz star in Laggies, a film about a woman in her late twenties who befriends a teenage girl when her own friends and life begin to become unbearable. Telling her fiance she’s going on a self discovery retreat, Knightley instead holes up in Moretz home, deciding to take a week to finally sort out her life and face adult decisions the way her group of friends have a long time ago. What she doesn’t count on is falling for Moretz dad, played by the charming Sam Rockwell changing everything she thought she wanted in life. I went into this with extremely low expectations and was happy to find that I was able to enjoy this one. While pretty average and certainly not memorable it’s enjoyable enough to pass the time. Go in low and you can only come out high.
Andrew Niccol once again casts Ethan Hawke in his latest film Good Kill. Hawke plays a troubled Air Force Officer who spends his days in a shipping container in Nevada sending out drones to kill terrorists in the Middle East. Already feeling unsettled with his part in the “War on Terror”, things become all the more difficult when new orders from the CIA come in, forcing him and his team to do drone strikes no longer on those who are confirmed terrorists but anyone they deem possibilities, regardless of the collateral damage. Hawke once again puts in a great performance as does Zoe Kravitz playing his co pilot. Niccol, as always, gives the audience a lot to think about with a strong script that tries to cover all sides compassionately.
Elephant Song stars Xavier Dolan as a highly intelligent but disturbed patient who ropes a therapist (Bruce Greenwood) into his mind games when another therapist goes missing after their last session. Fascinated by his new patient, and completely unprepared as to what he is up against, Greenwood soon discovers the longer they converse, the harder it is to discern the truth from a lie. Dolan gives a beautifully masterful performance as the manipulative patient, stealing the show scene after scene. Greenwood is strong, as is Catherine Keener who plays Dolan’s nurse, the person who knows him best but whose advise is dismissed. Certain character development could be stronger and the film could shave off the last few unnecessary and predictable closure scenes but overall is strong enough to make it a worthwhile watch.
Miles Teller tries to hit JK Simmons tempo in the audience favourite Whiplash. This was an interesting screening for me. Sometimes an audience can make a film experience all the greater and other times the complete opposite. I left this screening boiling with anger. Anger at the monster Simmons is onscreen and also anger at the audience who spent half of the time laughing at Simmons’ character while being an evil verbal and sometimes physical abuser. For me, just because a character might be clever enough to verbally abuse someone in a witty manner doesn’t make it funny to watch. I needed to take a day to separate the film and audience to really decide my thoughts on it.
There are two things that make this a stand out film, the superb acting done by both Teller and Simmons and Teller beating the crap out of those drums. Both of those make this a worthwhile watch but be warned, neither character is at all likeable and neither way the audience you watch it with!
Monday night was the premiere screening of The Keeping Room. The film follows two sisters (Brit Marling and Hailee Steinfeld), and a slave girl (Muna Otaru) whose lives are turned upside down during the American Civil War. Without men around for support and protection, the women are forced to band together and fight back when a pair of violent Yankee scouts (Sam Worthington and Kyle Soller), who’ve wandered ahead of the Union Army set their sights on them. It is wonderful to see a Civil War era film with strong women as the focus, fending for themselves and standing up against the enemy as opposed to just keeping house. The entire cast puts in great performances and the script is layered enough to stay riveting from beginning to end and leave you with some interesting things to think on such as gun control and PTSD.
Opening Credits for Se7en (1995) Created by Kyle Cooper
The lines get blurred between good guy and bad for Andrew Garfield in 99 Homes when after being evicted, is given the chance to reclaim his family’s home by evicting others from theirs. Michael Shannon once again does a good job as the menacing realtor who takes Garfield under his wing but it’s Garfield’s performance that makes this most worthwhile. Just be prepared to have your heart ripped out watching family after family lose everything.
My third Tiff screening was of Love & Mercy. Paul Dano and John Cusack star as Brian Wilson in this PG version of Wilson’s roller coaster life. Cusack does some of his best work in years with his portrayal of the troubled genius and Dano steps out of his comfort zone and does some of his own singing which is blended with tracks of Wilson making it come off much more naturally then if completely lip synched. Director Bill Polhad does a fantastic job with the studio scenes showing the magic Wilson was able to create out of his madness however overall I left the picture unsatisfied. Pohlad’s choice in showing the mere beginning phase of Wilson’s downward spiral then jumping ahead to show how he came out of it left me feeling as if we missed a significant part of Wilson’s life, as if I walked out of the theatre for a half hour and came back in, never finding out his condition or how it got to be so bad. Overall the picture is strong enough to make it worthwhile, just don’t go in expecting to learn the full story of Brian Wilson’s life.
This morning I saw David Gordon Green’s new film Manglehorn. Pacino stars as the title character, an aged locksmith whose life has been on hold since the day he lost the love of his life decades earlier. After meeting a younger bank teller (Holly Hunter) he is forced to confront past regrets, learn to stop keeping those who love him at arms length and begin again. As usual David Gordon Green creates interesting characters and a meaningful script. Great casting choices include Harmony Korine as a small supporting character who manages to hold his own against Pacino’s masterful performance.