Tapeworthy

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TIFF10worthy - My Reviews from the Toronto International Film Festival

I managed to see 10 movies at TIFF10 this year. 11 if you count Easy A which showed at the Toronto International Film Festival but I saw when it then opened wide during the 2nd weekend of the festival.


Buried = A-
Written by Chris Sparling, Directed by Rodrigo Cortés
Official Website
Starring: Ryan Reynolds

Twitter review: "Tho considering Ryan Reynolds doesn't take his shirt off, I still really thought "Buried" was great. Very well made"

It really is just Ryan Reynolds trapped in a box. A horrific set up that would almost be perfect in some horror-film-with-a-psycho killer, but Sparling tries to deepen the story more by setting it up as a realistic result of the Iraq War.

Without giving too much away, Sparling's attempt to explain the situation as something real both heightens the fear and the anger, and partly cheapens the awful experiences from real Western foreigners in Iraq. There are a few groaners in the plot twists but the frustrations felt along the ride within the buried box are simply suffocating (pun intended), but not without some surprisingly humorous breather moments.

Rodrigo Cortés manages to build the twists and turns in such a (pun intended again) tight way, I managed to forgive some of the unlikeliness inherent in the set-up. Much of it from the simplicity of the film managing to remain completely in the box with practical lighting from within the buried box.

Ryan Reynolds, so winning and versatile in every genre, is simply riveting here as Paul Conroy, in a sweat-inducing gut churning dramatic role. He literally is the whole movie here, all glowingly lit under a haunting zippo lighter and a cellphone, and Reynolds and Cortés make it work to profound effect.


Girlfriend = A-
Written and Directed by Justin Lerner
Official Website
Starring: Evan Sneider, Shannon Woodward, Jackson Rathbone, Amanda Plummer

Twitter review: "Saw a great little movie called "Girlfriend" at #TIFF10. Shannon Woodward was superb. Jackson Rathbone (Twilight?) was great. Great cast"

Evan (newcomer Evan Sneider) has Down Syndrome and lives with his loving mother (a dear Amanda Plummer), and has a crush on his former high school classmate Candy (Shannon Woodward), who is a single mother struggling to survive in the small shanty town they all live in. When Evan comes into a large amount of money, he tries to help Candy out, only to stir up already shaky relations between Candy and the father of her child, Russ (Jackson Rathbone).

It's a sweet and dear little film that stays far from the saccharine and avoids over-sentimentalizing Evan's situation and simply lets Evan Sneider's natural charisma shine through. Keeping the balance, Shannon Woodward manages to portray Candy as a faulted woman struggling to survive, and who fully understands the manipulative situation she's been offered. Despite her characters flaws, Woodward never paints her as a caricature and manages to remain likable. Jackson Rathbone turns what could easily have been a hillbilly stock character and plays it with depth and some sly humour, but ultimately feels real and a man hurt from his own stereotyping.

Lerner does a wonderous job keeping the simple movie in balance and letting it breathe on its own accord. I love these little slice-of-life movies in "real" America and while at points I wondered where it was going, and their are a some film-school cliches (this is Lerner's first full-length feature after 4 shorts done in film school), it's a wonderful and honest debut.


Easy A = A-
Written by Burt. V. Royal, Directed by Will Gluck
Official Website
Starring: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Cam Gigandet, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell, Aly Michalka, Stanley Tucci, Dan Byrd

Twitter review: "Easy A was great. LOVED the cast. Forgot about the excellent adult cast they have."

A great teen comedy with a great teen cast but the bonus is a great adult cast as well. Amanda Bynes (Hairspray) and Cam Gigandet (Twilight) are hysterical as uber-Christian goody-two-shoes nemesis. Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl) is charmingly studly without being a jock. Dan Byrd (Cougar Town) is adorable as the closeted sap. Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci are the wonderfully oddball parents, and Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow as kooky but lovable teachers. Tucci, Clarkson, Church and Kudrow could be making an oddball indie dramedy (or even a serious award-baiting drama), but instead, they use their expertise to mainstream perfection here.

But even with a superb ensemble cast, the movie belongs to Emma Stone (Zombieland) as the teenage girl who becomes her own Scarlett Letter story. It may be a mainstream movie but Stone and director Will Gluck keep it fresh, funny and heartfelt in all the right places, and save for a too-tiddy-of-an-ending-without-the-right-amount-of-comeuppance, Royal's script has just the right amount of smarts and sass to make this a winning comedy. Not quite the easy A, but an Easy A- from me.


127 Hours = B+
Written by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy based on the book by Aron Ralston, Directed by Danny Boyle
Official Website
Starring: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara

Twitter review: "So decided on seeing Danny Boyle's 127 Hours. Mainly cause they let in 1st and I only had rush tix so I want the sure thing. But it's good."

Aron Ralston was that hiker that went hiking alone on the beautiful terrains of Utah and got himself trapped under a boulder for 127 hours, before he finally escaped by sawing his arm off. We know the ending, so it's to Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy's credit that they manage to flush out an exhilarating film that manages to not idolize the silly and cocky young man who stupidly got himself into the life-threatening position to begin with.

James Franco plays it out perfectly, making him likable enough for us to care, but selfish enough to shake our heads. And when he begins to go into delirium (and thus flashbacks for us), Franco pulls us back in.

Slickly directed, the film about a man trapped under a boulder, never manages to bore, but compared to Buried, another movie about a man trapped alone, it doesn't have quite the level of intensity or emotionally shattering experience quite as much. Plus, you know the Ralston lives to write a book about it, that gets made into a film.


Never Let Me Go = B
Written by Alex Garland, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, Directed by Mark Romanek
Official Website
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Charlotte Rampling

Twitter review: "Parts bored me, but overall, I enjoyed Never Let Me Go, but if Keira Knightly's character was cut out, it would be better (and I heart her)"

A beautifully haunting sci-fi story set in the pretty Merchant-Ivory-ish cinematography of England in the 2nd half of the last century. Too bad what starts off seductively and mysteriously, soon languishes in its own self-beauty which is boring for the rest of us. While I'm actually a Keira Knightely fan, and I think she does a wonderful job here, her character seems completely frivolous and unnecessary and the film as a whole would have worked better without her character, since the emotional core and resonance really works around Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield (both stars of the future. Mulligan so excellent in the underwhelming An Education and Garfield simply stunning in the superb Boy A).



Rio Sex Comedy = B-
Written and Directed by Jonathan Nossiter
Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Bill Pullman, Irène Jacob, Fisher Stevens, Daniela Dams, Jérôme Kircher, Jean-Marc Roulot

Twitter review: "Saw "Rio Sex Comedy" at #TIFF10. Like a Woody Allen film in Rio. Amusing tho too long. Great international cast. Charlotte Rampling < 3"

Rio Sex Comedy is kind of like a Woody Allen comedy, right down to the humour, the music and the multiple meandering story threads, except this time set in Rio de Janeiro.

What's wonderful to watch is an excellent international cast flaunter around the real Rio as a beautiful backdrop. From the famous beaches, to the Jesus Christ statue, and all the way into the dangerous favelas, it's an amazing tour around the Brazilian town.

While the stories about Charlotte Rampling's plastic surgeon, returning to do some charity work; Fisher Stevens as an enterprising American setting up tours of the flavelas; Irène Jacob and Jérôme Kircher as battling French documentarians; and Bill Pullman as the American Embassador looking for an escape, are all amusing in their own ways. But Nossiter lets each story ramble on far too long and by the end, the sexscapades no longer feel sexy but just tiresome, and you're just waiting for the climax to come.

There's still hope with some editing and cutting, although sometimes I'm not sure if I just enjoyed what I did from the film because it was kind of neat watching people like Charlotte Rampling and Bill Pullman being around Rio in an elaborate travel show.


Little White Lies (Les Petits mouchoirs) = B-
Written and Directed by Guillaume Canet
Starring: François Cluzet, Marion Cotillard, Benoît Magimel, Gilles Lellouche, Laurent Lafitte, Jean Dujardin

Twitter review: "Little White Lies: Or Beautiful French Ppl have inconsequential problems too. Lots of them, discussed over wine, for a longlong time"

Like Rio, what is a nice concept becomes tedious with an overlong film that runs far too long for its own good.

When a group of friends decide to continue with their vacation plans, despite a friends motorcycle accident, we follow along with them as they live the good life at François Cluzet's vacation home, with beautiful scenes of the French beaches and watching the beautiful cast sailing and eating delicious looking food and drinking a lot of wine. All while whining about all their insignificant little problems, all while they forget that their friend is in critical care back in a hospital in Paris.

The long stretches of the vacations and the little lies each person in habitats is nicely set against the harsh reality back in Paris, but director Canet practically forgets about the deeper meaning on the film while he's having fun with his vacationing friends. Then again, with folks like Marion Cotillard and Benoît Magimel, who wouldn't have the camera stare adoringly at his cast, but in the end, a good 30-40 min cut in the editing room will improve the exhausting film.


Ceremony = B-
Written and Directed by Henry Winkler
Starring: Michael Angarano, Uma Thurman, Reece Thompson, Lee Pace, Jake Johnson

Twitter review: "Saw "Ceremony". New Max Winkler movie (son of Henry). Ok, but mostly saved by Michael Angarano (and Lee Pace)."

I practically squealed when I saw Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) show up on screen, forgetting he was playing Uma Thurman's British douche of a fiance. And Jake Johnson is a delight as Uma's drunkard brother, the black sheep at a classy seaside resort for his sister's wedding.

But the movie centers on, and belongs to Michael Angarano (Jack's son in Will & Grace), who forces his friend Reece Thompson (Rocket Science) to drive them up to crash the wedding. Hilarity ensues, or so it's supposed to be, but the concept feels a little tired, and what holds up the film is Reece Thompson's lovable performance and especially Michael Angarano's mannered cockeyed hipster cool loser performance. Angarano has grown up well and he manages to un-Michael Cera himself and moving away from the naive doe-eyed youngun and into a naive but cocky young man (with a stubble and moustache that makes him look like a young Colin Farrell more and more).

It's a cute if unnecessary film but completely held together by Angarano's performance.


Score: A Hockey Musical = B-
Written and Directed by Michael McGowan
Official Site
Starring: Noah Reid, Allie MacDonald, Olivia Newton-John, Stephen McHattie, Marc Jordan, John Pyper-Ferguson

Review twitter: "Score: A Hockey Musical is as odd as it sounds. Weird. Cringeworthy. Laughable. Funny. Amusing. Awesome. Delightful. Winning. Still Odd."

A movie musical. About hockey. Yes, it is as odd as it sounds. And yes, it's very weird, and very cringeworthy, and the songs have lyrics that barely hold together, if at all, and partly on purpose. Like McGowan's previous film, the excellent One Week, this is an ode, though a very different one, to Canada and this time, particularly and ode to Toronto. But singing AND dancing hockey players (one being my fave Miles Faber from SYTYCDCanada) is weird to watch, even for a musical lover like me.

With cameos from tons of Canadians (from Nelly Furtado in essentially a glorified extra part, to CBC's Strombo and Evan Solomon), and jokes and references to all things Red, White and Maple Leaf, this is a film for Canada, because I'm not sure if anybody else will get it.

Again, like Ceremony, leave it to the lead male to hold it all together, with Toronto theatre actor Noah Reid (Jitters, Stratford Fest), as the naive home-schooled-by-hippies (Marc Jordan and Olivia Newton-John (who seems to enjoy appearing in bad movie musicals)) lovable boy-next-door (who is loved by the girl-next-door, a delightful Allie MacDonald) whose love for hockey is only surpassed by his undiscovered skills. When Stephen McHattie finally sees him on a neighbourhood rink, he's brought on to save the Blades, coached by John Pyper-Ferguson (Brothers & Sisters) and is slowly thrust into the spotlight. Pyper-Ferguson is terrific (and with his creepy appearance on Rookie Blue, and great stagework on Glengarry Glen Ross in Vancouver this summer, he's becoming a favorite despite barely registering on B&S).

Noah Reid is totally winning and the sweet moments between him and Allie ground the movie from the absurdity of the musical structure and bad lyrics, and Reid reminded me of a smarter version of Cory Monteith's Finn on Glee.

And in all it's badness and oddness, I still found myself strangely won over by the end of the film.


Silent Souls (Ovsyanki) = C
Written by Denis Osokin, based on his short story "The Buntings", Directed by Aleksei Fedorchenko
Starring: Igor Sergeyev, Yuriy Tsurilo, Yuliya Aug, Viktor Sukhorukov

In a grey Russian town, a monotone narrator takes us on a strange and slow journey when his boss asks for help when the boss' wife dies. It's a poetic journey and it's a haunting tale, but it's also incredibly boring and long, and for a film that clocks under 90 min., it felt like a miserably lifetime. Just because it's foreign, it's slow, it's grey, it shows a lower class life (which was kind of fascinating), does not automatically make it a good art film. Just a really dry one.


Our Day Will Come (Notre jour viendra) = D
Written by Romain Gavras and Karim Boukercha, Directed by Romain Gavras
Official Site
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Olivier Barthelemy

Twitter review: "Just saw Our Day Will Come w/ Vincent Cassel. Um. What the hell? Can I hate a movie if I morally disagree with it?"

Vincent Cassel, a psychologist (or something like that), and a redhead, picks up an angry and fellow redhead Olivier Barthelemy, and enact their revenge on France as they attempt to escape to Ireland where redheads prevail.

An interesting and controversial journey but while being ostracized as redheads is probably horrible, it's still hard to really feel any true compassion for the two vengeful redheads as they progress on an odd, and ultimately violent road trip.

I just found no reason to make or watch this movie and while I hate criticizing a film not based on its filmmaking elements, I just could not see what the point really was. I could go on and elaborate but I'm exhausted just thinking about the film.


Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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