I do wonder how I missed the Fangoria q & a between Jordan Peele and “Midsommar” director Ari Aster. The quote most outlets are using is Peele’s rave of Aster’s film, which is said to play heavily on pagan cult horror, much like “The Wicker Man.” No surprise then that, given Peele was on-stage with Aster, the “Get Out” director had over-the-top praise for Aster’s upcoming movie: “I think you’ve made the most idyllic horror film of all time. You’ve taken Stepford Wives and shattered the attractiveness of that movie with this one. That alone is a feat. This movie is just so unique. This hasn’t existed yet, and anything after Midsommar is going to have to contend with it. I mean, this usurps The Wicker Man as the most iconic pagan movie to be referenced.Read More
30-year-old Xavier Dolan, returns to his native Quebec for “Matthias & Maxime.”Read More
The removal of Zack Snyder in the DCEU seems to have a sparked a wide array of MCU-inspired movies. You know, films filled with meta-humor that don’t take themselves as seriously as, say, “Man of Steel” and “Batman vs Superman.” If Snyder wanted to, so badly, bring the dark layers that Christopher Nolan’s sublime, game-changing Dark Knight trilogy then he was dead-wrong in that decision. The drastically lighter tone shown in post-Snyder movies “Wonder Woman,” and “Aquaman” has none-too-surprisingly led to the hiring of James Gunn for “The Suicide Squad.” It is, after all, because of Gunn that the MCU has had this tonal shift in humor, his 2014 sci-fi romp “Guardians of the Galaxy” changed the game for the MCU and how they were going to handle their ensuing films (just look at “Thor Ragnarok,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” “Doctor Strange,” “Captain Marvel.”)Read More
What do you think? Do you agree with my assessment that it knocks it out of the park for its first 100 minutes, but then loses steam in its last act? I still gave it a B+ because the rest of the film was, quite frankly, highly entertaining and managed to set aside its murky message to nevertheless provoke.
I wrote in my review:
“It’s all led by Duke and, especially, Nyong’o’s performances. The latter, an actress of considerably imposing talent, inflicts a real sense of haunting into Peele’s frames. Much like his main character in “Get Out,” Peele’s camera deep focuses on his lead’s eyes every chance he gets. And what eyes! Aided by cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, Peele gives his film a surreal and nightmarish look with pertinently memorable frames unveiled every few minutes. The color scheme here is pure dread, focusing especially on reds and browns.”
“With “Us” Peele confirms that he will not be a one-hit-wonder director. This latest effort lacks the socio-political and satirical undertones of “Get Out,” but as a filmmaker who can expertly stage horror, he is second-to-none — his talent for shot composition is quite frankly impressive for such a young filmmaker.”
The message in the film seems to be that we are our own worst enemy. Something that was also tackled in “Get Out,” but in more expansive and provocative ways.
The film carved up $29 million on Friday night, coming in above expectations and headed towards an impressive $67 million+ debut weekend. Congratulations must go out to Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Evan Alex. These are mightily impressive numbers for an R-rated horror movie.
Not to carp on about it, but the new wave of indie arthouse horror, but has really tapped into something primal in our culture. Using formal rigor and a kind of patience that’s the opposite of jump scares, this new movement is bound by its collective desire to use atmospherics to unsettle us emotionally and psychological on a much deeper level. It’s a different kind of fear and one not traditionally scary in the boo! gotcha! sense, but in general, it’s so much more long-lasting and at its, best profoundly disturbing.Read More
The fact that Alex Lehmann’s “Paddleton'‘ concerns two friends, one of which has just been told he’s dying of cancer, could make you run scared from the sob-fest that is about to happen, but “Paddleton” isn’t a “Love Story” or a “Terms of Endearment,” rather it’s a film that is incredibly light on its feet with humor and heartbreak and which sidesteps whatever cliches can be found in this kind of gooey territory. Despite some narrative straining, the payoff is beautifully rendered.Read More
Spoke to a few people that said it was similar to the way he shot and told "Lincoln," and "Bridge of Spies," meaning the story does the talking, there's a lot of patient, held-back filmmaking, a very slow and dry affair. "Slightly square, old-school Hollywood craftsmanship," somebody told me, adding "It's no Spotlight." In other words, a movie that underplays its strengths. I thought "Lincoln" and "Bridges" were both ok, but that seems to be the direction Spielberg has decided to take on the last 5 or so years with his dramas.
I've already talked about "Prisoners" in a past post, so I won't go any further than that. Instead, I'm going to delve into other new stuff I've seen at the fest. Starting with Jonathan Glazer's much anticipated "Under The Skin" which -much to the delight of her male fans- features a naked Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress sent to earth to lure guys into her car and kill them. The film is going to be a love it/hate it kind of thing when it comes out. It caused the most walkouts out of any movie I have seen this year at TIFF. Johansson's alien drives her car for most of the movie, luring one male after another - the repetitiveness of the film's narrative might have turned off many but I had a blast watching Glazer's film. Its originality and absurdity is what I liked the most and of course I adored Johansson who seems to be having a deadpan blast here with her role. On a side note - it's refreshing to see actresses such as Johansson in this film and Winslet in "Labor Day" with a bit more weight and roundness to their bodies. They both look much better and healthier now.
"Joe" is yet another movie directed by David Gordon Green, after this year's "Prince Avalanche". Green has had a career of directing stoner comedies (Pineapple Express, The Sitter, Your Highness) and art films (George Washington, All The Real Girls, Snow Angels). "Joe" is clearly an art film and features a beefy Nicolas Cage. Cage's Joe is an ex con that is now a lumber merchant. He frequently visits the local brothel and is addicted to cocaine. An unlikely friendship happens when he meets a young 15 year old boy (Tye Sheridan of "Mud" fame) that is frequently abused by his drunkard of a dad. Even more trouble comes when Joe gets himself into debt with hoodlums visiting his small town. Green's film is quiet and devastating and Cage gives his best performance in a very long time (even though I have secretly admire for his absurd work in "Bad Lieutenant"). The film's small time Americana cliches are sometimes too apparent but the relentless intensity of the screenplay never lets up.
To conclude, a small note on Tsai-Ming Liang's "Stray Dogs" a polarizing film about a homeless Taiwanese family. Filled with long, endurance-worthy takes and not much plot, the film can sometimes be too much to handle but I dug it for all its weird, provoking madness. It's definitely a must see for anyone that is looking for cinema that pushes the boundaries and then some. It does say a lot about the poverty rates in that country and how the distance between rich and poor is enormous. You have been warned - it's not an easy watch. It has been chosen as official selection for next month's New York Film Festival, to not many people's surprise of course.
Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" is a film unlike any the director has made before. It stars Kate Winslet as a depressed, single mom that decides to give shelter to a wanted fugitive (Josh Brolin). The scenes WInslet and Brolin share are the heart and soul of this film. Winslet's Adele is a vulnerable mess, who's only reason to live is her 13 year old son. Sometimes we wonder if Brolin's fugitive is taking advantage of her vulnerability or if his love for Adele and her son is for real.Winslet is sheer perfection and as far as I'm concerned she's the second best working actress today (after Meryl Streep). It'd be a real shame if she doesn't get a nomination for this fine, fine performance. Reitman's film doesn't always work, the subplot involving Adele's son and his crush at school is a bit too forced for my liking. However, whenever Winslet and Brolin share the screen this film just works really well. Reitman hasn't yet made a film to match the brilliant textures of "Up In The Air" -I'll be getting haters for this comment- but here he's made a movie that delivers.
If Winslet's Adele gets her vulnerability tested wait until you see Isabelle Huppert in Catherine Breillat's "Abuses of Weakness" a film based on her own experiences. In 2004 Breillat suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of her body and then developed a "friendship" with a man that ended up being a con artist. This man made Breillat write him numerous checks that ended up putting the filmmaker on a 900,000$ debt. She ended up writing a book about it and now has made this movie. A brilliant, deceptive movie which explores the nature of vulnerability and tries to find answers as to how or why this could have possibly happened.
Directed by John Ridley "All Is By My Side" or -as people here are calling it- "The Jimi Hendrix Bio-Pic" is a flawed mess of a movie that features a great performance by Outkast's Andre Benjamin as Hendrix. I wouldn't call this a Bio-Pic since it only covers a year in the life of Hendrix. An Important Year nonetheless. 1966, is when Hendrix moved to London and found fame. However, there isn't enough material in this one year to justify such a long, dull film. The only bright spot is Benjamin who's phenomenal as Hendrix and sometimes makes you forget that it's an actor playing the legendary guitarist on screen.
The biggest applause any movie got at the fest was John Curran's "Tracks", which is another film based on true events. In 1975 Robyn Davidson set out on a 1700 mile journey through the Australian outback with 3 camels and her faithful dog. Mia Wasikowska plays Davidson and she's great, so's Adam Driver as the annoying photographer that follows her through this journey. A lot of people are saying this will win the audience award and judging by the long ovation the film garnered i just wouldn't be surprised. This could be another "Whale Rider" type of win.
One of the joys of being in Toronto is bumping into people you really admire so much. Seeing Chiwetel Ejiofor sneaking into a quick afternoon screening and of course bumping into Harvey Weinstein, hiding his nerves, right before the first press screening of “August:Osage County”. The critics were in town too, I caught a glimpse of the New York Post’s Lou Lumenick quite a few times, Newsweek’s David Ansen lining up for the new Miyazaki and caught up with Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly on what’s been the best of the fest so far – we both agreed “12 Years A Slave” and “Gravity” by a landslide.
“Gravity” is eye popping stuff. Alfonso Cuarron has made a movie that is unlike any we’ve ever seen before. It’s almost as groundbreaking as “Avatar” minus the flaws Cameron’s film had. A master is at work here and Cuarron has surely directed Sandra Bullock to her second Oscar Nomination – if not, her second win.
Meryl Streep will be giving Bullock a run for her money with her juicy role in “August: Osage County”. Streep is a ticking time bomb as the dysfunctional mom that heads a large family gathering. Americana caricature after caricature comes with director John Wells’ film, one that is very imperfect and left the press at my screening with a very mixed reaction. Streep is the lone shining light in this otherwise forgettable movie.
In my earlier article I talked about how good Chiwetel Ejiofor was in “12 Years A Slave”, competition has come in the form of Matthew Mcconaughey as Ron Woodruff. Sasha has already chimed in with this film but I will add to her praise and say that this is the Matthew Mcconaughey show. The 43 year old actor has been on a role lately (“Killer Joe”, “The Lincoln Lawyer”, “Bernie”, “Magic Mike”) but nothing tops what he’s done here with “The Dallas Buyer’s Club”. Looking gaunt and sickly, Mcconaughey wowed audiences here.
Doppelganger films have been big at TIFF so far. Director Denis Villeneuve -on a roll already with “Prisoners”- brought us two Jake Gyllenhaal’s with “Enemy”. Gyllenhall plays a Toronto professor that finds out he has an exact look alike living in the same city. It’a film very much inspired by Cronenberg but that also lets Villeneuve bring his own voice to the picture. This is sexy, smart, mysterious filmmaking at its best. The other doppelganger film had Jesse Eisenberg going insane with the appearance of his doppelganger. Directed by Richard Ayaode (Submarine) “The Double” is a dark comedy that fizzled out at its end but has shades of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” throughout its running time.
A much anticipated film here was Kelly Reichardt’s “Night Moves”, a film about eco-terrorism that strips down the genre conventions and ends up giving us the bare bones of its topic. Contrary to many here I wasn’t a big fan of Reichardt’s past films (“Wendy And Lucy”, “Meek’s Cutoff”) but this one works because it moves. There are tense, gripping moments in “Night Moves” and its performances -notably those of Jesse Eisenberg and Peter Sarsgaard) move the film along admirably.
(If you want more praise for Buster Keaton, check out my review of The Navigator by clicking right HERE)
You gotta love Buster Keaton,whether you're a film school aficionado or not. He just -quite frankly- was brilliant and so ahead of his time. His films still so damn good more than 90 years later. In fact, I don't see one too many brilliant films like his these days. Think about 1922's Sherlock Jr. which is a Hugo of its time, infiltrating the frame of a movie -making it a movie within a movie! In fact, I don't think there was another movie before it that actually played with its narrative this way- a sort of Adaptation and a beautiful tribute to movies that stands along the best of them. Sheer brilliant set pieces and a Keaton in full form, playing a Sherlock Holmes-esque character in his own day dream of a movie; the hero, the man who saves the day, the person that gets the girl and solves the big mystery. He is a film projectionist that believes in the magic of movies, a man so devoid of harmful traits that he truly wants to be the hero. And oh the editing, so damn good - in fact one of the greatest edited movies of all time (along with other Keaton gems such as The General and The Navigator). We all want to be Sherlock Jr. - At least Keaton thinks so and makes a movie that proves to be entertaining as well as gasp-worthy in its action.
The Conjuring 3/4
Opening the Fantasia fest this year was The Conjuring, a film that scared the bejesus out of critics and audiences this summer and became a sleeper hit. Did the film deserve all the buzz it got? You bet it did. Director James Wan, working with cinematographer John Leonetti, crafts a movie that leaves the gore out of the window in favor of psychological thrills. Wise decision. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson play real-life paranormal investigators that get entangled in a case that is more than meets the eye. The last third of the movie sets the stage for an exorcism unlike any you've seen before and director Wan works on the experience he built with past films (Insidious, Saw) to construct his most mature work to date. Job well done.