#TIFF18: “KINGSWAY” REVIEW
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Matt (Jeff Gladstone) is fragile and suicidal. He just found out his wife Lori (Colleen Rennison) is cheating on him and that she just so happens to be pregnant. As his life begins to crumble, his mother Marion (Gabrielle Rose) and sister Jess (Camille Sullivan) attempt to keep him from breaking any further, all while trying to forge ahead with their own love lives.
It may not sound like much of a Romantic Comedy, but veteran TIFF director Bruce Sweeney does his very best to keep the proceedings as darkly-comedic, quirky and vaguely romantic as possible. There is some genuine heart and raw emotion on display here (mostly from Sullivan), but the focus is disjointed and all over the place for the first two-thirds of the Movie. Once everything starts to come together in the third and Sweeney does away with all the superfluous characters, Kingsway really comes into its own and becomes a genuine slice of Canadiana. I just wish it got there faster.
KINGSWAY screens Monday, September 10, 7:15 PM, Jackman Hall [World Premiere], Thursday, September 13, 5:45 PM, Scotiabank Theatre and Saturday, September 15, 9:00AM, Scotiabank Theatre.
#TIFF18: “CLARA” REVIEW
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Real-life married couple Patrick J. Adams and Troian Bellisario star in Writer/Director Akash Sherman’s sophomore feature Film CLARA, a Toronto helmed Sci-Fi flavoured Film about an obsessive, humourless astronomer and a free-spirited young lady who form an unlikely bond which leads them to an astral discovery. As this sumptuously Film progresses, we slowly learn more about Isaac and Clara; the tragedies and circumstances they individually try to overcome as they search the universe to unlock some of the mysteries and find peace within themselves.
Whereas the pace of CLARA may be a little too relaxed and the long time it takes to relate to the character of Isaac who, as written, has minimal social skills, this is a wonderfully performed movie by the entire cast and by its conclusion, I was totally invested. CLARA is accomplished and assured.
CLARA screens Monday, Sept.10th, 5:30 PM, Ryerson Theatre and Thursday, Sept.13th, 9:30 PM, Scotiabank 3.
#TIFF18: “WILDLIFE” REVIEW
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Paul Dano’s directorial debut Wildlife comes to Toronto after premieres at Sundance and Cannes. Joe (Ed Oxenbould) is 14-years-old and looking for a job after his Dad Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his. Jerry has too much pride to look for a job, so he ends up taking work fighting local wildfires. With Jerry gone until the first snowfall, Joe’s Mom Jeannette (Carey Mulligan) must also look for work while also dealing with her newfound independence.
Wildlife is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Dano strives for period authenticity and alongside Cinematographer Diego Garcia, creates a beautifully nostalgic portrait of a family in crisis. The performances from Gyllenhaal, Mulligan and character actor Bill Camp are also quite well done, with the young Oxenbould turning in some absolutely stunning work. But the Film around them is increasingly dull as it moves sluggishly through its 104-minute running time. I understand the slice of life aesthetic Dano and Co-writer/Partner Zoe Kazan are going for, but Wildlife takes much too long to figure out where it’s going and is not all that satisfying when it gets there.
Wildlife screens on Monday, September 10 at 2:30 PM at Princess of Wales, Wednesday, September 12 at 5:45 PM at Ryerson Theatre and Saturday, September 15 at 6:15 PM at Winter Garden Theatre.
#TIFF18: “A STAR IS BORN” PRESS CONFERENCE
Words and Photos by Mr. Will Wong
The buzz for A STAR IS BORN is undeniable. On the day of its Premiere, the TIFF ’18 Press Conference was held for the directorial debut from Bradley Cooper. Joining him at the event moderated by Richard Crouse, were Lady Gaga, Dave Chappelle, Anthony Ramos and Sam Elliott. This is the first time the Cast reunited since they had shot the Film.
Crouse notes that the Film contains the theme of being true to one’s self at a time where funding in a time where the Arts are under siege with cuts to funding, and whether this was a conscious decision.
Cooper: “This was never anything conscious as funding for Arts is age-old tradition dating back to the ’40s and ’50s. As long as you want to create content that’s compelling, that’s the biggest motivator.”
Crouse asks what drew Cooper and the Cast to the story.
Cooper: “There was not one thing, but a sequence of sonic ideas, compositions and meeting people. I love faces, eyes and voices and all of these people have an incredible character I was obsessed with putting on film. I have such a unique dynamic with each one and they have with each other. In terms of the human element, that was all inspirtation and kept evolving depending who was going to be in the Movie.”.
“But really, it started about six years ago at Metallica concert and I was behind Lars Ulrich‘s drumkit. Just to be on stage, that’s how I wanna see a movie. I also wanted to tell a love story and not to be too specific, watching Annie Lennox‘s cover of I Put a Spell on You, looking at the veins on her neckand wanting to have that in a movie. You can’t hide when you’re singing. Lady Gaga propelled the whole thing being the epicenter of it all.”.
Crouse asks about creating the character of Ally, whom is played by Lady Gaga.
Gaga: ‘I have acted before , but I’ve never been a lead actress in a Feature Film. Every day was such a thrill to watch, act and work in this environment he created. He (Cooper) operates with such precision and has such a vision. You can see the gears turning while he’s working and even while he’s in character at the same time.”.
“He’d whisper things to me like ‘Tony (Bennett) ‘Ninja’ and ‘Come on, assassin!’ and we would pound each other. I had the lines memorized. He told me the important thing is to know what I’m trying to say, to tell the story I was meant to tell in that scene. I could just throw it all away on set. It wasn’t rigid. I could exist in this precise an compelely liberating environment.”.
A Star is Born screens on Sunday, September 9 at 6 PM, Roy Thomson Hall and 7:30 PM at Elgin Theatre. Monday, September 10 at 9:15 AM at TIFF Bell Lightbox and Friday, September 14 at 6:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
#TIFF18: “COLETTE” REVIEW
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
The last time Director Wash Westmoreland was at TIFF, it was to introduce his Movie Still Alice, which earned Julianne Moore an Oscar. He’s back with COLETTE, where Kiera Knightley, as the 19th-century French Writer, illuminates the screen.
At 20 years-old, she marries Gauthier-Villars, best known as Willy, a famous Author and Publisher (a career highlight performance by Dominic West), who ultimately encourages her to write and, more importantly, fully examine her sexual attraction to other women. As female authors were not accepted by the French in the early 1900s, Colette’s books, a series of semi-autobiographical stories about a young woman named Claudine, were published under Willy’s name. The success of these books create more havoc in their marriage due to Willy’s unbridled spending habits. Colette turned to acting and during one sketch on stage, exposed a breast and passionately kissed another woman, which scandalized the French elite.
COLETTE is an engrossing, Costume-Drama Biopic that hits stratospheric heights due to the letter-perfect performance from Kiera Knightley.
COLETTE screens on Thursday, September 11 at 5:45 PM, Princess of Wales Theatre and Friday, September 12 at 12:00 PM, Winter Garden Theatre.
#TIFF18: ” THE FRONT RUNNER” PRESS CONFERENCE
Photo and Words by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Ahead of its Canadian Premiere, TIFF held the Press Conference for The Front Runner. In attendance were Producer Helen Estabrook, Writers/Executive Producers Matt Bai and Jay Carson, Writer/Producer/Director Jason Reitman and Star Hugh Jackman. The Film, based on a true story, chronicles the fallout from reporters discovering and detailing the private life of Democratic Party Leader front running candidate Gary Hart (Jackman).
The Film has been in development for many years now, with the recent American Presidential Election not having any effect on the Film. “We were drawn to the story before we [lived] in the world today. It made it more relevant to us,” Reitman says. And while the ripped from the headlines plot may seem incredibly timely, the Film’s goal aims a lot higher. “The Film is always asking what do we want to know, and what should we know,” Reitman said, echoing the opinions of Bai and Carson and reminding us that news outlets did not report on political candidates’ personal lives before these stories broke out about Hart. Jackman, having met Hart while preparing for the Film suggests that had he been elected, “It’d be a very different world today if it had happened.”
The Front Runner‘s date was recently moved to Tuesday November 7, Election Day for public officials in the United States. Reitman was pretty empathic on his hope with the move: “First thing: vote. Second thing: see our Movie.”
The Front Runner screens Saturday, September 8 at 6:30 PM at Ryerson Theatre, Sunday, September 9 at 12:30 PM at Elgin Theatre, Friday, September 14 at 1:00PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox and Saturday, September 15 at 6:00 PM at Ryerson Theatre.
#TIFF18: “CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?” REVIEW
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
After receiving critical acclaim at its premiere in Telluride last week, Can You Ever Forgive Me? lands in Toronto and hopes to keep the momentum going. Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) is a Biography Writer desperately seeking a new book deal. She is behind on all of her payments, and is running out of ideas. After having some luck selling historical letters on the black market, Israel gets the idea to start fabricating some of her own.
Lengthy title aside, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a wonderful character study that remains compelling at all times. We want to see Lee succeed whatever way she can (even if she’s self-destructive), and we feel her every struggle. Most of this is due to McCarthy’s fearless performance. She still maintains her vulgar wit, but she is more subdued that what we are used to, going deeper than she ever has before. Her work here is some of the best of her career, showing off an emotional side she has only hinted at in the past. And if that was not enough, the Film also packs a delightful turn from character actor Richard E. Grant as her friend Jack Hock. I sense future Oscar nominations.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? screens Saturday, September 8 at 12:15 PM at Winter Garden Theatre, Sunday, September 9 at 3:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre and Saturday, September 15 at 12:00 PM at Princess of Wales Theatre.
#TIFF18: DAY FOUR – BRADLEY COOPER, LADY GAGA, CARA DELEVINGNE, QUINCY JONES, AMBER HEARD + MORE
By Mr. Will Wong
Toronto is “gaga” for A STAR IS BORN at TIFF ’18 as the Film saw two screenings tonight as part of the Festival’s Galas Programme. Stars Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Anthony Ramos, Sam Elliott and Dave Chappelle were at the Press Conference for the Oscar contender bright and early this morning!
While the Festival was particularly front-loaded this year, we look forward to a bit of a breather these next couple days, before we start focusing on seeing Films at the Festival!
See who we saw!
A STAR IS BORN – Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Anthony Ramos, Sam Elliott and Dave Chappelle
WIDOWS – Colin Farrell, Steve McQueen Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Duvall, Cynthia Erivo, Brian Tyree Henry, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and more
HER SMELL – Elisabeth Moss, Cara Delevingne, Amber Heard, Agyness Deyn
SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS – Elizabeth Olsen and Mamoudou Athie
BURNING – Steven Yeun
THE PUBLIC – Jeffrey Wright
QUINCY – Quincy Jones
A FAITHFUL MAN – Lily Rose Depp, Louis Garrel
FIRST MAN – Damien Chazelle
JASON REITMAN’S THE BREAKFAST CLUB LIVE READ – Aaron Paul, Bel Powley, Jesse Eisenberg, Christina Hendricks, Steve Zissis, Richard E Grant and Robert Wuhl
(Photo credit: Mr. Will Wong)
#TIFF18: “IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK” REVIEW
By Mr. Will Wong
Following-up on the Best Picture-winning success of Moonlight, Director and Writer Barry Jenkins brings to TIFF ’18 his much-awaited Adaptation of James Baldwin‘s 1973 Novel, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK. Just as relevant then as it is today, Harlem-set love story examines racial profiling, wrongful incarceration and injustice.
The stunningly-shot Story centers on young lovers Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Toronto’s Stephan James) who learn they are expecting a child. Divided by the justice system which sees Fonny imprisoned for a rape he didn’t commit. It is here we witness the strength of familial bonds and determination to overcome the worst case scenario as Tish and Fonny‘s love must withstand the rigours of dire circumstance. Brace yourself for some gorgeous Cinematography and outstanding work from veteran Regina King as Tish‘s mother Sharon. While it didn’t quite touch our core quite like Moonlight, Jenkins’ unique ability to pace a scene and tell a story is remarkable.
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK screens Sunday, September 9, 6 PM at Princess of Wales Theatre VISA Screening Room and Monday, September 10, 11 AM at Princess of Wales Theatre VISA Screening Room.
#TIFF18: “WIDOWS” REVIEW
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Widows follows four women who take up their deceased husbands’ next heist. It will have its World Premiere at TIFF ‘18 in the Galas Programme and is the follow-up Film to Director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.
This Film is different from McQueen‘s previous Films, however it still hits all those important messages and has complex, layered characters that have made his Films so special. His Script, which he co-wrote with Gillian Flynn, has four rich female leads that are all unforgettable. Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Erivo as spectacular fireworks that explode on the screen. This one is not to be missed.
Widows screens at TIFF on Saturday, September 8 at 9:30 PM at Roy Thompson Hall, Thursday, September 13 at 9:30 PM at Princess Of Wales and Sunday, September 16 at 6 PM at Elgin Theatre.