Sunday, September 25, 2011
Tabula Rasa - Directed by Matthew Rankin. A strange telling of people reacting in different ways to natural disaster, in this case flood. Perhaps I'm dense, but I didn't quite "get it". Nonetheless, there were some interesting images and subtle humor here and there. My imdb rating: 6/10.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
This story opens with the debris from a one night stand. Julio, portrayed by Julián Villagrán (Nacho called him the Spanish Adrien Brody), awakes alone in an unfamiliar bed, clothes strewn about the room. Unable to locate his pants, he wanders into the living room in his boxers. He and his co-conspirator introduce themselves. Somehow, he forgot that her name is Julia (Michelle Jenner).
Soon, the pair start to notice that things are not normal in Madrid. The cable is out, the streets are empty, and eventually they notice that a space ship, miles wide, is hovering in the sky. Nacho introduces a couple other characters, namely Julia's boyfriend Tipo (Miguel Noguera), and her intrusively creepy neighbor Ángel (Carlos Areces).
The presence of the UFO, which provides the plot with an excuse to keep the characters together, first distracts the characters from the obvious nature of Julio and Julia's relationship. Eventually, however, Ángel becomes suspicious, and to discredit him, Julia drops the suggestion that perhaps he is an alien and can't be trusted. This sets off a series of misunderstandings, confusion, and accusations -- all handled with comedic wit.
The script stays true to the self-absorbed characters, avoiding the typical "lessons learned" ending, yet ends satisfactorily. My imdb rating: 7/10.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Polley, who also wrote the script, assembled an small but interesting cast for this drama with occasional comedic moments. Michelle Williams plays Margot, a woman who apparently fears transitions, but at the same time craves the fire of a new relationship. Seth Rogen is her husband Lou, a chicken-only cookbook writing nice guy, with an odd practical joke sense of humor. Sarah Silverman plays Lou's (recovering) alcoholic sister Geraldine. Lastly, Luke Kirby is Daniel, a rickshaw owner/operator and aspiring artist who Margot meets out of town, only later to learn that he lives in an apartment building across the street from her house.
There is an instant attraction between Margot and Daniel, but when she informs him of her marital status, he politely backs away. Margot and Lou have an odd relationship. They occasionally pass the time by informing one another of the ways in which they will physically harm and mutilate each other, typically with kitchen implements. Lou seems quite content with simply being together, and doesn't recognize Margot's restlessness and anxiety. Daniel's presence so nearby, Margot will eventually have to make a decision between her husband and the new, shiny guy across the street.
Polley's script creates likable characters with depth -- you understand them and believe the course they choose for themselves. She weaves in a couple of moments of clever foreboding into the film, if you're paying attention. I was little shocked at a couple uses of nudity and sex, since she seemed somewhat embarrassed about her own "sex" scene (tame by comparison) from Guinevere, in which she starred several years ago. She was only 20 at the time, though. My one critique of the film is that I think the finished product could use some editing, as the pace suffers now and then. Overall, though, I liked the film. My imdb rating: 7/10.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Juan of the Dead's writer/director, Alejandro Brugués, hails from Argentina, though this Spanish-language film is set in Cuba. Brugués drops in humor now and then related to the reigning regime, which takes to using typical Communist propaganda to blame the zombie behavior on the Americans. Zombies are now "dissidents".
Other than that and dark humor moments, such as Juan's sidekick friend's occasional accidental harpooning of a non-zombie, there just wasn't too much much to keep a viewer awake for this one. Overall, the film had a very melancholy feel to it. A common theme was various characters' motivation to return to or to leave Cuba. Juan, meanwhile, is confident he will survive the zombie plague, as he has other catastrophes in his homeland. He's going nowhere.
I wanted to like this movie. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn't enough reason to. My imdb rating: 5/10.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Alas, only 5 rushers were allowed into the film, and we were numbers 9 and 10. Bummer, yes, but we still had a good time. We met a nice couple in front of us, who we stupidly convinced to rush for our film instead of the one they had in mind. We also were able to witness our first ever Longboarder Flash Mob, and get a peek at a former Canadian prime minister. You never know what you're going to see in this town.
You guys have little versions of countries I've never even heard of.
Loosely based on a true story, very loosely, it tells the story of a Jewish bouncer from New England named Doug Glatt who gets discovered by a minor league hockey coach when Doug beats the crap out of one of his toughest players. Doug can't skate, sure, but boy can he beat the snot out of guys.
Doug is brought on to protect the star player, Xavier Laflamme, who has never been the same since the crushing knockout he received from the league's predominant goon, Ross Rhea. The idea is that Doug will beat senselessly the face of anyone who threatens Xavier, who'll once again feel comfortable, and thusly regain his confidence and resume his offensive prowess.
Doug may be the nicest goon ever, even if a little dense, and it's easier than you'd think to get on the side of a guy whose career involves bloodying other guy's faces. Of course, he has a love interest, whose name I can't recall but I do recall that he found her very pretty. She was played by Alison Pill, who we'd just seen playing Zelda Fitzgerald in Midnight In Paris. She has a problem, though, in that she already has a boyfriend, but that can be worked out through a face pounding or two.
And boy, is there blood. And broken bones, and other body parts. And more blood. If you're squeamish about such things, you might want to blink for long periods of time here and there.
There are many laugh-out-loud moments, and Seann William Scott pulls off Doug's aloofness perfectly. You really feel behind him the whole way, especially since things don't work out so well for the guys in front of him. Liev Schreiber, of all people, plays the haggard goon Ross Rhea, and I'll admit that I didn't at first recognize him. He melts into the role.
We enjoyed this movie quite a bit, and you can't imagine the joy of watching it with a bunch of blood-thirsty Canadians. I don't know if it will make it to a theater near you, but you can surely catch it on Netflix next year sometime. My imdb rating: 7/10.
Maureen: This movie was my number one choice for the festival. This may be an odd selection, but it just seemed like the right movie for the Festival: fun, unexpected, and quirky. It was all this, and introduced as "the most Canadian film at TIFF".
It is a bit violent at times and I am not into brutality at all. But oddly most of the fighting had a real, yet over the top feel. The sound used for the hitting was extreme and so it became comical. I think the strongest point for the movie is the script. There is a great reference to ET (the extraterrestrial), that is so funny, I want to see the movie again for this one part.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
The movie, directed by Clooney, also casts him in a supporting role of a sitting state governor and presidential candidate, Mike Morris. The story, though, was really of the political behind-the-scenes education of his press secretary, Stephen Myers, played by Gosling. Rounding out the cast are Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti, Morris's and the opposition's battle-tested campaign managers, respectively, and Evan Rachel Wood, a young intern on the Morris campaign.
Myers is idealistic, energetic, and has drunk Morris's metaphorical Kool-aid. Throuigh a series of events and gamesmanship by the major players on both campaigns, Myers obtains a more realistic view of the world in which he's chosen to dwell. If he is able to thrive or even survive, he may have to ditch his idealism.
Some of it may be predictable, though some surprises will certainly seep through on occasion. Overall, the movie is fairly standard suspense fare, though made better than it may otherwise have been due to excellent performances from Hoffman and Giamatti. I've grown to expect it - these guys are just fun to watch.
As a side note, we were both dismayed to have our vacation from American politics interrupted by this film, a vivid reminder of the constant ugliness in which we are constantly drenched back home. Sadly, I can't print a line of dialog spoken by Gosling's character in the film, as it contains a major spoiler, but for me it is a sad truth of American politics and what is important to the public. Stupid scruples.
The film has strong performances from the entire cast and the script and production are solid, even if there's no new ground broken. If for some reason you feel like you haven't gotten a strong enough dose of political figures dumping on one another, this movie should serve you well. My imdb rating: 7/10.
Maureen's notes: The Ides of March page on imbd.com is missing a principle cast member. Jennifer Ehle, who is a big name in BBC circles, played Morris' wife. She is missing from the cast list as of now. It seems like an odd oversight on what is considered one of the best sources of film information available. ... Although I feel Giamatti and Hoffman steal the show from the leads, George Clooney has again thrilled many female fans by signing autographs and posing pictures as long as his handlers will allow. We have heard from fans and some industry folks he is as good of a guy as he is said to be. Oddly, we also heard the same about Woody Harrelson.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
The Rush line is a simple concept - if a show sells out and you want a ticket, you wait in the Rush line. If you're fortunate, you get a ticket when others don't show up. See the first picture for an idea of just how people will kindly wait around for hours in hopes of a ticket.
See picture number two for the bozo standing toward the front of the Rush line holding a sign proclaiming his need for a ticket. Hello, so do all these people.
Delta foiled our plan when our first flight was cancelled, our second flight was delayed, then delayed more, and then we missed our connection by mere seconds. So, our festival was to start of with Sons of Norway. Before the show, much to our delight, they brought out the film's writer, director and producers -- four Norwegian guys and John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten. Johnny, true to form, thrilled the crowd with his conclusion to the introduction, "You'll really enjoy this, and if you don't you're f---ing c-nts." (he left out the dashes)
The plot revolved around the relationship between a young teenage boy named Nikolaj (Niko) and his father Magnus. Åsmund Høeg, who played 13-year old Niko, gave a wonderful performance with strikingly sparse dialog.
It's 1978, and the punk scene is hitting Norway, but Niko is too happy with life and enamored with his mother Lone to buy into its anger and discontentment. Magnus, an idealist, atheist, banana-themed celebrater of Christmas (because we descend from apes) and architect, writes off the movement as a fad.
Things take a turn with the sudden and tragic death of Lone. Niko begins to rebel, giving himself a punk hairdo, piercing his ear, and joining a punk band named "Dirt". Magnus, meanwhile, is suffering his own heartache. He quits his job and takes Niko to a nudist camp. Frustrated by the lack of Magnus's attention and perhaps competing for rebellion points, Niko steps it up. He lashes out at government officials, takes drugs, and angrily pierces more of his face. It all culminates with a dream sequence where the boy is visited by a current day Johnny Rotten (missing teeth and all), a scene we learned was filmed in -20 degree weather.
While the film certainly had its comedic element, it certainly was not the lighter fare that we anticipated. The director takes you on a rollercoaster ride with moments of light laughter followed by gut punching sadness and even disgust. The drug-riddled cake eating scene was particularly difficult to stomach. The ride was intended, though, and it was skillfully delivered. My imdb rating: 7/10.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
We were walking down the sidewalk when we were suddenly brushed aside so that Jimmy Kimmel could emerge fro a late 70's model Mercury 4-door sedan unscathed and, we can only guess, check out his new star on the Mervish Walk of Fame. Jimmy, if you're not familiar with him, is the white guy.
We arrived in Minneapolis and quickly logged into Delta.com. There, we were happy to discover that our connecting flight was delayed. It was going to be tight, but with a little luck, we'd make it to the gate on time.
After a good half mile jog, I arrived at the gate (Maureen was a mere 50 yards behind). I looked up at the board and saw the destination "Cedar Rapids" listed. With desperation in my voice, over the telltale alarm clock style ring of the jet bridge, I ask, "Toronto?"
See the previous post "Words You Hate To Hear" for her response.
Friday, September 09, 2011
Our plane emerged from the hangar, and is now sitting a few hundred yards away, doing nothing, except for taunting us. The board still says we're leaving at 9:00. But it's 8:57 right now, so I'm thinking that's not going to happen.
You know how sometimes a sequel is okay, but not as good as the original, but the third or fourth in the series almost assuredly sucks?
Well, we've been delayed again. New departure time out of Des Moines: 9:15, arriving in Minneapolis exactly one minute after our connecting flight leaves. So now it looks like we'll miss our first film. Sorry, Ms. Ambrose.
So as it turns out, we weren't leaving at noon, but rather they just didn't know when we were leaving. I guess they figured if they sent a confusing enough message, we'd probably get in touch, which was the desired outcome.
Anyway, they rebooked us through Minneapolis, and not too much later (7:00) than we were originally scheduled. So that's nice.
Of course, no sooner than we finished our rather flagrantly priced airport breakfast sandwiches, we received another message from Delta. Our new flight has been delayed, departing at 8:00, arriving at 8:39. I guess we're going SST. Unless they really just mean, "Hey, could you give us a call?"
Monday, September 05, 2011
The man who called from TIFF was nice enough to throw in a couple extra vouchers for the mix up in our order, though, so it appears you, faithful reader, have 21 reviews forthcoming. There are a few of you out there, right?
Meanwhile, if we want to see The Ides of March, Take This Waltz, and The Island President, we'll have to rush for them (see Appendix B of my "How To Festival" post). Sadly, we didn't get tickets to those films.
Thursday, September 01, 2011
We are double-booked three times in two days. I don't know if you've tried it, but watching two movies at once is quite challenging, particularly when the theaters are over a mile apart.
I'm sure TIFF will rectify the situation by replacing our second choice tickets with vouchers for the three double-bookings, but that overlooks another little issue. This year, we bought a membership to TIFF. At our contribution level, I was told that our ticket order would be processed "before the general public". It would appear that we're in a rather large group and that all of us pre-general public people picked the same films. Or perhaps our order was processed among all the other John Q. Public's orders. I'm more than a little irritated, and less than enthused about renewing my membership next year.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Last year, our average screening was just over 111 minutes long. This year, we nosedived to just over 98.5 minutes, over 12.5 minutes shorter than 2009. Is it an industry trend? Sheer luck? I don't know, but maybe, just maybe, producers are trying to play into the hands of our short attention spans. Either way, we could call this year the Toronto International Short Film Festival.
Monday, August 29, 2011
But I digress. The point I was going to make is that the schedule of our picks is attached to the blog for your viewing pleasure. See the link in the upper right hand corner for a pop-up version, or the full schedule is embedded at the bottom. We had to make a few second choice picks, so you'll notice some overlapping. I colored the second choices differently, but for whatever reason, the second color is lost when I embed the calendar. I say hrmph to blogger on this point. Our second choices are thus noted by the text "(2nd)" following the title of the film.
We tried to balance light-themed films (Juan of the Dead and Sons of Norway) with more heavy themes (The Ides of March and Think of Me). We also made sure we would spend enough time reading during the festival -- at least in term of subtitles. Lastly, we arranged for a new novelty -- a complete day off. That's right, on Thursday, September 15th, we're not attending a single screening. What will we do instead? Whatever we feel like, of course.
One other note: If you click on a movie in the schedule, and then click on More Details, there is a link that will take you to the TIFF film summary for that screening. While you're there, you may find yourself perusing the 300+ films showing this year and subsequently complaining to us about a film that we should have seen. Happy reading!
Monday, July 25, 2011
The Honolulu Century Ride was the culmination of a significant fund raising effort for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through Team In Training. Maureen is a survivor of what she affectionately refers to as The Hodge, so it was a great way to give thanks for being able to hang out and have such a great time together. If you would like to take on a physical challenge, get free training to meet your goal, and raise money for a great charity, give them a try. It's a wonderful organization.
But this year I'm back, and with help. Now that we're married, Maureen owns half of this blog and will not only be running from theater to theater with me, but also offering her own reviews. Say hi, Maureen!
We're ticketed, both air fare (thank you frequent flier miles!) and festival-wise. We have a room booked at a B&B in Cabbagetown, a new neighborhood for both of us, as the last room was, as a certain Canadian songwriter might say, ungood. Alas, not much blog action will be coming in the near future, as the film schedule doesn't get released until sometime in the vicinity of August 23rd.
Hang in there, film fans. It's only 6+ short weeks away!