#TIFF15: “INTO THE FOREST”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Of the many irrational fears I live with on a daily basis, INTO THE FOREST touches on two of them: an extended continent-wide power failure (a major plot point) and chainsaws (a smaller, yet significant plot point). Based on the beloved novel by the same name, Writer/Director Patricia Rozema takes us deep into a British Columbian forest where sisters Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) live with their father, Robert (Callum Keith Rennie) in a beautifully-furnished, technologically advanced home miles away from civilization when the apocalyptic moment occurs. As they quickly go into survival mode, we see the family dynamics. Whereas the father has a calming effect on his daughters, Nell, an academic with a history of partying hard, is somewhat selfish and Eva, a dancer, is obsessive and more of a loner. When tragedy befalls the father, the sisters are left alone to battle the environment, dwindling supplies and not knowing who or what will come next.
INTO THE FOREST succeeds on so many levels. It is the most sensuously filmed I have seen this year. Cinematographer Daniel Grant’s work is accomplished, menacing and breath-taking. Director Patricia Rozema has a history of bringing out the best in actresses. Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood sky-rocket. They bring out the best in each other in two very demanding roles with intensity, fervour and love. I was completely mesmerized watching these very talented performers.
It’s been over 15 years when Patricia Rozema feature length movie, Mansfield Park, graced the Festival. As much as I enjoyed that one, I loved INTO THE FOREST and hope it won’t be another 15 years when she returns.
Elevation Pictures release INTO THE FOREST, which screens at TIFF ’15:
Sat Sep 12 8:30 PM
WINTER GARDEN THEATRE
Mon Sep 14 2:15 PM
TIFF BELL LIGHTBOX 2
#TIFF15: “MISSISSIPPI GRIND”
Films have visited gambling addiction in the past like Owning Mahony and The Gambler, but Mississippi Grind from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, goes a bit deeper into the psyche of our down-and-out hero Gerry, thanks to a flawless performance by Australian talent Ben Mendelsohn.
The story follows a pair of gamblers, the lucky Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) who seems to bring to Gerry good fortunes whenever he’s around. Already in serious debt, Gerry hopes to make good with his wife Dorothy (Robin Weigert), on a panicked mission to pay back his gambling debt. Meanwhile, Curtis seeks commitment from a long-distance flame Simone (Sienna Miller), who just might be the one. His need to go about his own path however could impact Gerry detrimentally.
Mississippi Grind may lag in its developing stages, but Mendelsohn manages to keep us focussed in what looks imminently looks like a train about to derail. Despite a trail of hits and misses in his recent repertoire, Reynolds is cast perfectly as the gutsy and sensitive Curtis, completing a perfect Exactor with Mendelsohn.
See Mississippi Grind, to be released via VVS Films, at TIFF:
Wed Sep 16 6:30 PM
ROY THOMSON HALL
Thu Sep 17 12:00 PM
VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN)
Sat Sep 19 3:00 PM
VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN)
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Every now and then I will see a movie so perfect that I want to scream from the rooftop or grab strangers by the lapels and urge them to see it. BROOKLYN is perfection personified!
Set in 1952, it tells the compelling story of Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), who leaves her widowed mother and older sister in Ireland to start a new life in America where she ultimately meets and falls in love with Tony (a blistering, compelling, career-making performance from Emory Cohen). As their relationship progresses, Ellis must return to Ireland briefly for tragic reasons and is reacquainted with Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) and is immediately smitten with him. Torn between 2 lovers and 2 countries, what will Ellis do?
Peppered with outstanding supporting performances by a multinational and outstanding cast that includes Julie Walters, Canada’s own Jessica Pare and Jim Broadbent, BROOKLYN is a brilliant blend of comedy and drama that will have you reaching for the tissues to wipe away copious tears elicited from laughter, sadness and joy. I adore this movie and don’t be surprised if it wins the TIFF People’s Choice Award.
You can see it at TIFF ’15:
Sun Sept.13 6pm Elgin Theatre
Mon Sept.14 11am Elgin Theatre
#TIFF15: “THE LOBSTER”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
The Lobster is straight-up the most absurd and bat-shit crazy Movie I have seen in a very long time. Right from the Film’s wordlessly strange opening, Co-Writer/Director Yorgos Lanthimos takes you on a relentlessly-unpredictable ride that is unlike anything you will ever expect. And I loved every minute of it.
In the near future, single people like David (Colin Farrell) are sent to a hotel to find a partner. They have 45-days to accomplish this task, or else they are turned into an animal. Lanthimos goes a little deeper with the rules and conditions, but suffice to say, his deadpan-satirical depiction and dissection of love and marriage is not going to sit well with everyone. But this shocking, wildly unique and preposterously hilarious film is easily one of the best of the year.
Farrell is at his hysterical best here, giving a real poignancy to David despite how ridiculous the Film around him becomes. Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman and just about everyone who inhabits the Wes Anderson-themed hotel from hell are all aces. Relative unknown Angeliki Papoulia (who starred in Lanthimos’ Films Alps and Dogtooth) is among the most memorable as a Heartless Woman who will make you laugh just as hard as she will repulse every fibre of your being.
The Lobster screens Friday September 11 at 3:00PM at Princess of Wales and Saturday September 12 at 4:45PM at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.
Every once in a while we get the opportunity to see a Film at TIFF which leaves us shaken and in all honesty, the last one that affected me that deeply was 12 Years a Slave, going-on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Sicario, the latest from celebrated Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, is a Film which deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as that contemporary Steve McQueen classic.
Sicario takes us on a riveting ride with Kate Macy (Emily Blunt) as she accepts a joint-government mission in Juarez, Mexico to uncover the identity of a mysterious drug lord, whom caused the death of her colleagues in an operation turned fatal in Arizona. The true reason why she is chosen is somewhat of a mystery. She meets mercenary Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) who doesn’t appear to be working for the U.S. government and with a purpose none to clear other than it being eluded to that something shameful has happened to him. Kate reports to Matt (Josh Brolin), who also is careful not to unveil too much, clearly withholding information.
We go underground into dark tunnels of Juarez, unsure whom to trust at any turn on a mission in which several liberties are taken much to the disapproval of a by-the-book Kate. Actions are taken and only explained after, keeping us invested fully along the way with burning questions.
Villeneuve accomplishes a great triumph in storytelling with Sicario, a devastatingly-good Thriller. Blunt acts as our eyes in this dangerous, corrupt underworld, a real presence in all her vulnerability. An armed and fearsome del Toro aims with precision, delivering his best work in quite some time.
eOne Films release SICARIO, which is sure to make a great impact come awards season. During TIFF ’15, it screens as follows:
Fri Sep 11 10:00 PM
PRINCESS OF WALES
Sat Sep 12 11:00 AM
VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN)
#TIFF15: “THE WITCH”
Review by Justin Waldman for Mr. Will Wong
In Robert Eggers’ first attempt at writing and directing a Feature, he manages to wow audiences with his haunting and eerie debut, The Witch. The Movie comes across as a Brothers Grimm-like Fairy Tale, before they became Disney-fied, embracing the dark and disturbing in this suspenseful Horror that will deeply satisfy a crowd that has been looking for a good scare.
The Movie focuses on a family as they have to go through their lives after a strange encounter with a witch, something that leaves several of the children affected in horrifying ways. The parents, Katherine (Kate Dickie) and William (Ralph Ineson) believe that the witch is in fact their oldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) despite their being a very dark and ominous factor to their billy goat, Black Philip (Wahab Chaudhry).
What makes The Witch completely unsettling is the elements that Eggers takes from similarly-styled movies such as The Shinning, this resemblance of a rather normal life thrown in super-powers outside our comprehension, to create a supernatural thriller. The soundtrack also helps play an important part in the creation of this deeply-unnerving Film. The Witch is an absolute must-see for any Horror fanatic.
Elevation Pictures release THE WITCH, which premieres on Friday, September 18th at 6:15 pm at Ryerson Theatre and has a second screening Saturday, September 19th at 9:15 pm at the Bloor Hot Docs Theatre.
#TIFF15: “THE DAUGHTER”
Based on the his play The Wild Duck, Australian Theatre Director/Writer/Actor Simon Stone‘s The Daughter offers a modernization of the award-winning production. The Drama centers on two childhood friends, Christian (Paul Schneider) and Oliver (Ewen Leslie) as they reunite. A recovering alcoholic, Christian returns home for his estranged father Henry‘s (Geoffrey Rush) wedding to a woman half his age. Upon reuniting, we realize that there are buried tensions between son and father. We meet also Oliver‘s wife Charlotte (Miranda Otto) and their teenage daughter Hedvig (Odessa Young). This reunion, which should be a joyous affair, culminates in great tension with a deep, dark, buried history. Combined with the fact that Henry is forced to close his mill, which employs Oliver and several others in their town, leads to the untangling of a web of secrets and lies which if uncovered, could prove detrimental to all involved.
Despite building-up in unsuspecting enough a manner, The Daughter veers sharply to melodrama late, becoming a full-on theatrical tragedy. And this inconsistency tonally is a little off-putting even with some sprinkles of foreshadowing earlier on. That being said, young talent Odeya Young actually is quite a presence, and it is quite easy to sympathize with her as her world unravels. Australian actor Ewen Leslie begins as the easy Oliver and he transforms also his world unravels, doing so with great commitment. Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush sadly is underutilized and we wish there was a bit more development on his Henry.
Certainly not the feel-good Movie of TIFF ’15, The Daughter should still find an audience at the Festival for those looking for something more emotionally-heavy.
Mongrel Media release THE DAUGHTER, which screen at TIFF ’15:
Fri Sep 11 5:00 PM
WINTER GARDEN THEATRE
Sat Sep 12 8:45 AM
ISABEL BADER THEATRE
#TIFF15: “DARK HORSE”
This year at TIFF, we are gifted with not one but two films about Horse Racing. Mongrel Media handles distribution on Dark Horse, a heartwarming documentary about a syndicate of non-experienced, working class pub-goers who wound-up comprising the band of owners behind Welsh racehorse, Dream Alliance. The horse of non-remarkable pedigree was bred from the combined savings of 10£ a week multiplied by 30 people, surpassing all expectations to be good enough to compete in the important 2010 Grand National.
Regardless if you are a fan of the sport or not, Director Louise Osmond does a fantastic job engaging us from the get-go. It is impossible not to be sucked-in by the small village charm of breeders Brian & Jan Vokes, Howard Davies and some of the humble owners in the Syndicate as they recount the brilliant highs and devastating lows of their dream come true of a story. Osmond manages to do this while still maintaining a lightheartedness. The Film overcomes racing technicality and jargon which can alienate those not familiar with the subject matter, speaking to a wide audience. It is little wonder this got such strong reception at Sundance.
Dark Horse might not be on the radars of many this TIFF, but is a rewarding experience. You can see it:
Tue Sep 15 4:30 PM
TIFF BELL LIGHTBOX 3
Thu Sep 17 6:15 PM
THE BLOOR HOT DOCS CINEMA
#TIFF15: TIFF 40 SOIREE WITH NATALIE PORTMAN
An absolute joy being able to ring-in TIFF ’15 at the TIFF 40 Soiree tonight with none other than Natalie Portman. The Academy Award winner before an intimate audience reflected upon a massively-successful career which began at the age of 11 – just a girl from Long Island – in Luc Besson‘s The Professional. We received an extra-special surprise later in the conversation with TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey as Black Swan Director Darren Aranofsky made an appearance too.
Several local talents came out to show their support for the affair, gracing the Red Carpet at TIFF Bell Lightbox including Patrick J. Adams, Amanda Brugel, Kristian Bruun,Megan Follows, Natalie Brown, Kristin Booth, Sarah Gadon and many more.
Portman shed some light on her career, admitting a bit of embarrassment after a clip of The Professional played in the background. “I’ve got to be more forgiving on my 11-year-old self”. She adds that fortunately her childhood was free of unsettling things, especially after hearing stories from some of her colleagues who were child actors who saw drugs or experienced weird passes made at them. “My parents were always hovering, but they gave me this great freedom to do whatever I wanted.”.
She admits she wasn’t quite thinking about her career path and more just happy to get a job acting when she was cast in The Professional, stating “I have always loved singing, dancing and putting on shows for the family. A lot of kids form Long Island would do commercials and put it into a college fund. I knew a lot of kids who had agents, so I begged my parents to get me an agent. I think it was pure chance my first job I got a good director.”.
On her role in Beautiful Girls in which she starred opposite a Timothy Hutton, disarming him much like her character in Garden State, she says “It is a trope of cinema to have a very, very young girl disarm a much older man. She’s nubile and wise beyond her years. It’s not particularly a good trend. It (Beautiful Girls) was more screenwriters writing a fantasy of a young girl who an intellectual equal.”.
Portman openly admits to being a huge fan of the series Broad City, but admits she has some changed feelings now about her performance in Garden State. “Some of the coolest people I know hated Garden State, so that’s got me feeling a little bit insecure.”.
After a bit of time away starting a family, she now is ready to re-immerse herself as an Actress and we wait with great anticipation.
The Actress-turned-Director is set to premiere her directorial debut at Elgin Theatre tomorrow night, a Biopic about Israeli Author Amos Oz called A Tale of Love and Darkness.
(Photo credit: Mr. Will Wong)
#TIFF15: MR. WILL, DAVID BALDWIN, JONATHAN GODFREY, JUSTIN WALDMAN + GEORGE KOZERA’S TOP TIFF PICKS
With TIFF ’15 about to kick-off in one day, we asked our resident panel of film lovers which films they were most excited for at the Festival this year! Check-out top selections below from David Baldwin, Jonathan Godfrey, Justin Waldman, George Kozera and me!
Of course we will have Reviews posted right here throughout the Festival, so be sure to check-back daily throughout the Festival September 10-20th for the latest!
1. The Witch – super excited for this one. The buzz keeps building for this terrifying film, and it pains me that I need to wait until the end of the festival to see it!
2. Room – I read a one sentence synopsis and was hooked.
3. Green Room – Genuinely enjoyed Jeremy Saulnier’s slow-burn thriller Blue Ruin when I saw it at TIFF’13, and have been waiting for a follow-up ever since. Hoping it does not disappoint as this year’s Midnight Madness opening night film.
4. Love – I nearly had a seizure watching Enter the Void a few years back. So when Gaspar Noé’s said he wanted to make a movie with “blood, cum and tears,” and that movie is in 3D, then how can I say no?
5. Anomalisa – the cinematic return of the brilliant and enigmatic Charlie Kaufman. I was thrown off initially by it being animated and filmed in stop-motion, but now it just intrigues me endlessly.
1. Last year I went into TIFF with a focus on France, whereas this year if my focus is anywhere it’s on China. First and foremost I’m dying to see The Assassin. This Tang Dynasty epic about a lovelorn hitman looks absolutely breathtaking.
2. On that note, I’m also eager to see Office. In a category all its own, Office is a 3D musical whose songs sing of love, loss and capitalist corruption.
3. On the other side of the continent comes Kill Your Friends. Starring Nicholas Hoult, it is the tale of an A&R’s ruthless quest to become the king of Britpop.
4. Also taking place in Jolly ol’ England is Legend. Starring Tom Hardy as both Kray twins, Legend is inspired by the rise of their criminal empire.
5. Last but not least is The Lobster. This oddly-titled film follows an equally odd narrative wherein its characters must find a mate or be transformed into an animal.
Those are my top five picks for TIFF ’15, with Angry Indian Goddesses being a very close sixth. The film about a group of Goan women discussing their storied lives is not to be overlooked. All in all it looks like another great year at the Festival of Festivals, one that I am happy to cover alongside Mr. Will‘s Crew.
1. Room. Because of all the hype its been getting out of Teluride and when isn’t Brie Larson absolutely incredible?
2. Anomalisa. CHARLIE FREAKING KAUFMAN
3. High-Rise. Ben Wheatly directing Tom Hiddleston, what else can someone want?
4. Family Fang. Bateman’s first directorial debut, Bad Words was rib-splitting fun, hopefully his second time out is just as enjoyable.
5. Demolition. Hotly-anticipated new film from Jean-Marc Vallée starring Jake Gyllenhaal who has proven to be excellent in everything he’s been in of late.
1. The Danish Girl. In my mind, Eddie Redmayne can do no wrong and for him to be directed by again Tom Hooper and the subject matter makes this my number one.
2. Legend. Two Tom Hardys for the price of one? Portraying Britain’s most notorious twin gangsters? Directed by the man who won an Oscar for writing L.A.Confidential? I’m salivating.
3. Demolition. You can never go wrong with a Jean-Marc Vallée movie. Add Jake Gyllenhaal and a plot that will make you need tissues to wipe away tears and it’s a must see.
4. The Program. Here’s hoping this movie will delve in deeper into what made Lance Armstrong the lying scumbag he is than THE ARMSTRONG LIE documentary.
5. The Martian. With Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, it has to be better than the last time these two starred in an outer-space movie (INTERSTELLAR).
1. Sicario. So mesmerized by this latest effort from one of Canada’s greatest Filmmakers, Denis Villeneuve. It is riveting and impossible not to be mesmerized once again by Academy Award winner, Benicio Del Toro.
2. The Danish Girl. The wait has been cruel for this latest effort from Tom Hooper (Les Misérables, The King’s Speech) and I cannot stop looping the deeply-intriguing trailer on YouTube. I just know I am going to love this. Highly-relevant with gender reassignment being at the forefront of the social conscience.
3. Room. “Brielieve” the hype surrounding Brie Larson here. Both she and child actor Jacob Tremblay are devastatingly-good in this Toronto-shot Thriller/Drama. You won’t want to leave the theatre – partly because you’ll need a few moments to dry the tears.
4. Freeheld. Tear-inducing performances from Julianne Moore and Ellen Page in this fact-based drama about the fight for equality among same-sex couples make this an absolute must-see. Again, a timely Film with the subject matter being front and center.
5. Spotlight. An important film about the investigation that opened the dialogue about the Catholic Church abuse scandal. Phenomenal ensemble, and proud it was made partly in Toronto.
Honourable mentions to Bryan Cranston in Trumbo. You’ll know why after you see it. Although it isn’t on the radars of many, tear-jerker Miss You Already starring Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore is a friendship drama of the highest caliber. Think Beaches, minus the power ballads…
Happy TIFF, everyone! Which films are you looking forward to?