OK, so I have been asked to provide ratings and mini reviews for the movies I saw at TIFF 2009. I will do this on a day by Day basis as I saw them.
I have no idea who will be reading these but should say a few things about me so you know what kinds of movies I like. I am a horror film fan and do not like comedies for the most part and when I do like a comedy it is usually a darker comedy. I do like romance movies though which I know does not make any sense, I loved The Lake House and Leaving Las Vegas to me was a truly romantic movie.
If after the above you want to go some where else for movie reviews and opinions I understand. I do try and look for the good in all the movies I review.
The ratings will be on following scale
0 - never see run from room if ever shown
1 - watch it only if tied down in Clockwork Orange chair or promised pleasures of 72 virgins once completed watching it
2 - OK you have a dentist appointment for a root canal or you can watch this movie well need I say anymore
9 - if you see it on TV while you are just passing by you stop and watch it loosing yourself in the movie
10 - you must own the DVD even if means you have fight a zombie for a copy or even worse a angry boxing day crowd at Wal-Mart(aka the devil)
11 - most awesome movie ever made on par with such classics as Blade Runner, Sound of Music and Dawn of the Dead 1979 version
Thursday September 10
This movie was a hugely hyped horror movie starring Megan Fox, written by Diablo Cody writer of Juno and it turned out to be a big disappointment. Predictable horror movie which couldn't decide whether it was HORROR-comedy or COMEDY-horror and turned out to be neither.
Friday September 11 Happy Birthday to my daughter Cassie
A very well made period piece about Charles Darwin and the authoring of Origin of the Species. The movie focuses on the relationship between Charles Darwin and his wife and the actual writing of the book rather than the whole controversy at the time about the book that quote "killed God". I recommend this movie to people who enjoy period pieces and enjoy great stories and good acting.
The latest from Steven Sodenbergh was greeted by all with a big love fest and while the director and stars were there I try and judge the movie on its merits not who is there. This movie is basically a one joke movie and the joke is told well but still after hearing essentially the same joke 10 or more times it gets a little tiresome. The movie is shot as if it were set in the 70's which they never explain and it seems there is not an intelligent character in the entire movie and it is suppose to be base on a true story. It may do well at the box office due to Matt Damon and Steven Sodenbergh but I did not enjoy this movie and did not find it all that funny.
Midnight Madness 2nd movie lives up to the title of Midnight Madness, it is the future and the world has been over run by vampires due to a plaque like illness that turns most people into blood suckers. The latest movie from the Spierig twins who brought Undead to TIFF in 2003 and like it this does not disappoint, a great story, lot's of gore and brilliant performances from Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neil. A must for all vampire fans.
Saturday September 12
Lars von Trier is back with another controversial movie, Antichrist which deals with guilt and grief in a way only Lars von Trier can. Well acted and did not deserve the hype about the gratuitous violence as this detracts from the point of the movie. If your fan of Lars von Trier you will enjoy this movie.
City of Life and Death
A Chinese movie dealing with the defeat and occupation of the then Chinese capital of Nan King. The Japanese occupied Nan King and slaughtered over 300,000 people most civilians and the movie does not hold back on the violence and brutality. Not for the squeamish but well made and acted but disturbing even for hardcore movie fan such as myself.
Hugh Hefner, Playboy, Activist and Rebel
My 1st documentary of TIFF and what better subject than Hugh Hefner. This movie was made by a Canadian woman and focused on Hugh's battles with the government over 1st amendment issues, his fight for woman's issues and through his love of music and comedy broke down race barriers. Hugh was there and as classy as ever even when asked an inappropriate question from a member of the audience.
Survival of the Dead
George A. Romero is back with his latest zombie movie and George was in attendance at the screening which was nice. The movie was not one of George's best movies and was more a horror comedy than a scary zombie movie. The movie had some good kills but the story was very simplistic and did not have many scares.
Sunday September 13
Rachel Ward directs her 1st movie set in the Australian outback. A family drama about a 40 year old son coming home to see his dying father and younger sister, and to deal with outstanding family issues. This movie is shot in a style that is popular right now using flashbacks and like most Aussie movie uses the scenery and starkness of the isolation as a character.
The story of the portrait of Dorian Grey retold from the perspective of Dorian Grey and not so much from the point of view of Henry Wotton. The movie deals with one mans corruption and the question being if one were not to grow old would one delve into pleasures and desires one would normally not delve into.
Under the Mountain
A new movie from director Jonathan King who brought us Black Sheep to TIFF in 2006. This new movie is based on a famous New Zealand kids book and deals with twins and how they save the world from alien creatures who plan on conquering the world. This is a more intelligent, more creative young adults movie than Harry Potter could ever be but maybe I am bias because I do love New Zealand.
Capitalism - A Love Story
A new movie from director Michael Moore about the very thing that made him rich Capitalism which is kind of ironic. In this documentary which is shot in typical Michael Moore fashion, using quick cuts, half truths and never following 1 or 2 subjects through with background and follow up. I found the movie to be quite hypocritical in the fact even when he finds a business that has adapted in these tough economic times he makes it seem like a bad thing.
The Loved Ones
A new director debuts his movie at Midnight Madness and it was awesome, exactly what this program is all about. The movie is about a boy grieving over the death of his father and after he is abducted by people unknown it is sense of loss that helps him deal with what happens to him. This movie mixes the creepiness of Saw with the torture porn of Hostel and throws in some Pretty in Pink just for added weirdness. I highly recommend this movie to all lovers of horror and thriller movies.
Monday September 14
Drew Berrymore directs her 1st movie starring Ellen Page the star of Juno as a unhappy high school senior whose mother is pushing her into the beauty pageant arena. Bliss (Ellen Page) finds roller derby and it is love at first site and the movie then follows a standard formula girl finds roller derby girl looses roller derby then girl gets roller derby back. It is written, acted and directed well and should do very well at the box office.
You know people say always read the book first and the book is always better than the movie well in this case the movie has inspired me to read the book. The Road is a post-apocalyptic movie starring Viggo Mortensen as a father traveling across America to find sanctuary for his young son. Together they face death at every turn and with only 2 bullets left in their gun, one reserved for each of them, the man as Viggo is credited never looses hope and never stoops to the level of some of the humans in the movie who have gone back t animal tendencies.
The Invention of Lying
Last year I came to TIFF and had tickets to Ghost Town and everyone raved about Ricky Gervais and I had never heard of him (don't watch much TV). This year The Invention of Lying sounded interesting and it started off very good. A world where no one can lie seems like a world that would be humorous to visit and it was. An interesting concept and when Ricky Gervais develops the ability to lie the movie moves to a darker comedy and I liked it. I will see it again to hear more of the jokes I missed due to the hee hawing of people laughing too much. People you can laugh quietly at the movie and enjoy the jokes you don't have to make sure everyone in the next city can hear you so you prove to your date and friends you got the joke.
A movie that was a homage to Russ Meyers movies from the 60's with large breasted tough women who played the mans game and played it well. This movie was marketed by these ladies who were at MM previous nights handing out swag for their movie and it paid off with a packed house and the lovely ladies were there. The movie itself was enjoyable and well made by the producers of Hercules and Xena, simple concept of 3 femme fatales looking for $20 million in diamonds to steal them. The movie moves well and the femme fatales in question do not even get naked other than loads of cleavage which again is a homage to Russ Meyers as his movies did not have allot of nudity.
Tuesday September 15
A great concept for a movie that reminded me of American Beauty as examines our society and makes you think. Demi Moore and David Duchovny star as parents of the typical nuclear family that moves into a very nice neighbourhood with there 2 teenage kids a boy and a girl. They immediately fit into the community and appear to be a happy family with no issues but as we begin to look behind the layers not all is at it seems. I highly recommend this movie to all who are looking for a refreshing movie with an original idea.
Atom Egoyan's latest which is a re-interpretation/remake of a French film Nathaniel from 2003. This was a great movie starring Amanda Seyfried as an escort Chloe who is hired to try and seduce Catherine (Juianne Moore's) husband David (Liam Neeson) and report back on her liaisons. I think Amanda Seyfried has a great career ahead of her and she is not afraid to take chances which is a good thing. The movie was shot in Toronto and is set in Toronto which makes the movie even more appealing.
A documentary about Rachel Scdoris who competes in the Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska. The race is over 1000 miles over the frozen tundra and what makes the fact Rachel competes incredible is the fact she is legally blind. The cinematography is quite spectacular showing the bleakness and harshness of the Alaskan landscape. I will be keeping track of Rachel's progress as I think anyone completing the Iditarod is a feat let alone someone who is legally blind.
Midnight Madness has its 1st sequel and it is a good one. In 2007 we had [REC] which was a Spanish film about a reporter who follows a fire crew and ends up trapped in an apartment building due to an outbreak of a strange virus. The sequel literally picks up 15 minutes after the first movie ends with a SWAT team entering the apartment building to find out what has happened. The movie has many thrills, and chills with a nice mix of gore and plain scariness to satisfy most horror fans.
Wednesday September 16 U2 Concert #1
The Front Line
Early morning Italian movie about a terrorist/revolutionary group called La Prima Linea which translates to the Front Line who staged kidnappings, bombings and eventually political assassinations during the 70's and 80's. The movie is a glimpse inside the organization through the eyes of one man who falls in love with another leading female member. The movie shows how "The Front Line" changed from a group supported by the people to a group who was reviled by the people. Can love flourish in a terrorist organization, this movie would have you believe yes. A good movie which will be on IFC before the end of the year I am guessing.
Mother and Child
This was one of those movies when I started watching I said maybe this too much of a chick flick for guys. The entire movie was a series of female characters for the most part revolving around motherhood, birthing, raising, etc. A mother gives up her daughter for adoption when she gives birth at 14 and flash forward 37 years to a bitter lonely woman who lives each day with regret unaware that her adopted daughter is close. Meanwhile a family with a wife unable to have children are trying to adopt and finding the road not easy. These there story lines intersect with humor, heartache and everyday life. I could have cornered the market on Kleenex at this movie and yes I even had something in my eye at on point.
The Glorious 39
This movie was not what I thought it was going to be, set in England in 1939 the last summer before Europe goes to war. It centers around the family of a British MP and his 3 children 2 natural born and 1 adopted and there life's. The movie starts as a light examination of there summer but soon changes as some secrets are discovered around the government and there secret dealings with Hitler. The movie changes into a darker espionage type movie with people not being what they seem. I would like to see it again to fully judge it.
U2 Concert at Rogers Center aka Skydome
This was the first of 2 U2 concerts for me and was looking forward to it allot. I had not seen U2 since there Elevation tour and so was curious to hear new songs and see if they had lost any of there energy. The band it the stage and were playing well and doing there best to get the crowd into it but unfortunately the crowd was quite subdued and could not be elevated above polite applause most of the concert.
There were brief moments like when the band went into Beautiful Day or Sunday Bloody Sunday when the crowd seemed to come to life but they could never sustain the momentum and the crowd would slump back to there seats and sit on their hands.
The concert ended on a high note but by this time Carmen and I had moved so we could rock a little more and not feel out of place. Not the best U2 concert I have seen but there is no such thing as a bad U2 concert.
Thursday September 17 U2 Concert #2
The Dammed United
Brian Clough arguably England's greatest football manager still to this date. This movie focuses on his 44 day term as manager of his arch rival Leeds and what went wrong and what went right if anything. This movie is well written, well acted and has a great story and when it is released in the US it will tank most likely because yanks won't empathize with a British football movie. I am hopeful Canadians will take it to there hearts as it is a great movie.
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
Pippa Lee, the young wife of an aging publisher moves with him to a retirement community and appears for all as the perfect wife with her aging but sophisticated husband. This is the setting of Rebbeca Miller's new movie and we see Pippa's life start to unravel in this seemingly idyllic life which is not as it seems. The movie examines relationships and focuses on the younger woman with a much older man when the man is in his twilight and the woman is still trying to find her place in this world.
A Korean gangster film beautifully shot on location in Macao and Hong Kong. The movie opens with the murder of a husband, wife and 2 young children in Macao and then the arrival of a mysterious french man. The woman is his daughter and she is alive and provides the barest of clues which sets the man on his quest for Vengeance, no one does Vengeance like the Koreans. This is a beautifully shot movie on location in the far east and I do not want to give away too much other than there is Vengeance and some interesting plot twists.
U2 Concert #2 at Rogers Center aka Skydome
The second of 2 U2 concerts for me and this one did not disappoint, if Wednesday was full of all the pretty people and corporate giveaways tonites show was the die hards and the people who paid hard earned money for their tickets. From the opening drum beat by Larry Mullen jr you could sense a change, everyone was on their feet and I mean everyone. The show rocked from start to finish and the band could feel it. It did not matter if it was a new song like Unknown Caller or Vertigo or even an old favorite like New Years day the crowd showed there support.
While the band did not play Pride for a 3rd night in a row a first since Pride was recorded back in the 80's the band did play Mysterious Ways the first time this song had been played on the current tour. The show was enthusiastic and energetic and my only regret was that my friend Carmen did not see U2 at there best.
The show ended almost 20 minutes later than the previous night show which indicates how much fun the band was having this night. This was what a U2 concert is all about the ability to turn a 50,000 seat stadium into the intimate atmosphere of a club.
Friday September 18
Love & Other Impossible Pursuits
Natalie Portman stars as Emilia a legal secretary who starts an affair with her boss and eventually leads to the breakup of his marriage. The movie deals with relationships and how communication and honesty effects peoples perceptions of each other and how communication can help work through pain of loss. The movie is set in New York and could only work in New York as it really is a New York movie. I enjoyed this movie but not sure if Natalie Portman is ready yet to be a leading lady.
Samson & Delilah
An Australian movie set in the outback about 2 young adults. Samson, is a glue sniffing lay about who does nothing but get high and waste his life away. Delilah is an industrious girl who spends her days tending to her grandmother and helping her with her aboriginal art. Samson decides one day that he wishes to be part of Delilah's life whether she wants it or not. The two of them face loss and much hardship in there lives and the movie does not hold back showing the bleakness of there life as they try and fit in a world without many of the life skills we take for granted.
The Boys are Back
Clive Owen gets to stretch his acting chops somewhat in this movie. A father who spent a great deal of time working on the road has a young son and loving wife has his world turned up side down when tragedy strikes. His parenting role changes and and he adopts a simple rule when is comes to raising his son "Just Say Yes" and by living by this causes him to be judged by some, condemned by others. This movie is based on a true story and I think most people will enjoy it.
Saturday September 19 Last Day of the Festival
Samantha Morton star of movies such as Elizabeth the Golden Age and In America writes and directs this movie which is a British TV movie getting a theatrical release. The movie shows the British child welfare system from the eyes of Lucy an 11 year old who is taken from her abusive father. She is placed in a group home and we see what life is like for a girl abandoned and she finds solace in god and never looses faith that her life will be better. Samantha Morton spent most of her childhood in the social system and still does her best to bring the plight of children to light.
Some have called this the Polish 13 and in some ways it is just that but it can also be taken on a different level all together. A 14 year old girl moves with her family from the country to a big city in Poland and she finds to fit in with a hip crowd she will have to sacrifice her morals. What will she do, to fit in and what I find interesting is how the movie shows how western culture was not just introduced to Eastern Europe but almost rammed down their throats. They went from almost living on the poverty line to all of a sudden everything that they were told was evil it is all there for the consuming. At what cost?
Probably my favorite movie of the festival and can’t really explain why. The movie was a weird flashback, science fiction movie set in the future. In 2092 no one gets old, dues to stem cell research but there is one man who is still dying from a natural death. His deathwatch has become the biggest rated TV show and the movie shows his life in flashbacks but the way it is done is what makes this movie and incredible journey. A must see for film viewers who enjoy and intelligent movie that does not spoon feed the story.
The Disappreance of Alice Creed
Another movie from a first time director, J Blakeson who has a history of being a screenwriter, The disappearance of Alice Creed starts as a standard crime drama/thriller. I also expect a little more from a screen writer turned director as they should know how to write for an audience and this movies starts very well building up the tension and story line. The movie then shifts gears and some of the plot twists are quite evident but others are not and keep the movie interesting. The ending was a little too clichéd but overall if you enjoy crime drama/thrillers like Lock Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels you will enjoy this.
Ong Bak 2
The last film of the festival as the closing night gala is over and all we are left with is the final midnight madness. Ong Bak 2 is not really a sequel to Ong Bak a martial arts movie which debuted at TIFF a few years ago. This movie is a very simple story of a son who wants to get revenge on a murdered mother and father, the son as a child falls in with a band of thieves and learns many styles of martial arts. The fight sequences are the really star of this movie and they do not disappoint as they are spectacular and numerous. In a nutshell, simple story but some of the best fight scenes you will ever see in a martial arts movie.
The festival ends and once the last reel ends there always seems to be an emptiness in you like “what am I going to do tomorrow”. When you get into festival mode it seems almost to become part of your life and when it is gone you feel like you have been fired from a job or finished a long journey.
If you have never done a film festival then I recommend doing it once before you die. I am not saying doing 35 movies in 10 days that is not for everyone but seeing 10 -15 movies in 10 days would be do-able for almost anyone. There are so many ways to do a festival, you could do all documentaries, or just go to see stars and not see movies, or focus on a country or director. It is an experience is all I am saying.
And from a famous movie here is a quote
“This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship”