Category Archives: Festivals

TIFF 2013: 10 Films to Watch For

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Last week, we got a look at over 70 films that will premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. As always, there are some big names to be found among the list. But while it’s exciting to see recognizable faces and names, movies like Prisoners, Gravity, Rush, and August: Osage County will be widely released in theatres just weeks after playing at TIFF. Sometimes, it can be worthwhile taking a chance on smaller films; you never know how long it might be before you have another chance to see them.

So, after scanning the list of galas and special presentations, here are 10 movies that I’m interested in seeking out that that you may not have heard of and (to the best of my knowledge) have no current plans for immediate major release after TIFF.

1. Devil’s Knot

Atom Egoyan is one of Canada’s most acclaimed directors, so it makes sense that he would choose TIFF for the world premiere of his latest project, Devil’s Knot. The film stars Colin Firth, Reece Witherspoon, and Dane DeHaan and tracks the fallout of the infamous West Memphis Three trial. I haven’t heard much about it for a while, so it’s great to see that it’ll be ready in time for TIFF.

2. Night Moves

Deliberately paced dramas are kind of Kelly Reichardt’s thing (see: Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy), so it’s a bit surprising to hear that she’s directing a film that…well, seems to have a plot. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Peter Sarsgaard, and Dakota Fanning as a group of radical environmentalists who plot to blow up a dam.

3. The Past

Asghar Farhadi’s last project, 2011’s A Separation, earned him wide acclaim. Now, he continues to explore themes of divorce with The Past. Starring two of the best young actors working in world cinema, Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) and Berenice Bejo (The Artist), this one is surely a must-see.

4. Starred Up

I hadn’t even heard of this U.K. film until yesterday, but any film starring Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom) is bound to catch my attention. Starred Up tells the story of a young man sent to prison, only to find that one of his fellow inmates (Mendelsohn) happens to be his long-estranged father

5. Joe

David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls, George Washington) seems to have gotten his penchant for stoner comedies out of his system (at least, for now). He premiered the critically adored Prince Avalanche on the festival circuit earlier this year, and now he’s back and embracing the Southern gothic tradition again with Joe. It stars Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan (Mud).

6. The Art of the Steal

Homegrown favourite Jay Baruchel stars in this Canadian flick about brotherhood and crime, which also stars Matt Dillon, Kurt Russell, and Terrence Stamp, from director Jonathan Sobol (A Beginner’s Guide to Endings)

7. The Double

Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska star in this comedic update of Dostoevsky’s novella about a man haunted by his doppelganger. Submarine helmer Richard Ayoade writes and directs.

8. Hateship Loveship

Another one that was not on my radar. Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce, Nick Nolte, and Hailee Steinfeld star in an adaptation of Alice Munro’s short story of the same name. Canada!

9. Ida

How about some international contributions? In Ida, Polish-born Pawel Pawlikowska (My Summer of Love, The Woman in the Fifth) tells a grim tale of a young nun in 1960s Poland who discovers a deep family secret stemming back to the Nazi occupation

10. Tracks

If you like Mia Wasikowska, this is your movie. She stars in this drama based on the true story of a woman who set out on a 2700 km trek across the Australian outback in the 1970s.

TIFF 2013 Lineup Unveiled

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Cumberbatch fans rejoice! The Sherlock star will star in at least three films playing at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, including the fest’s opening night gala, The Fifth Estate.

For Torontonians and anyone else willing to make the trek to Canada, the Toronto International Film Festival is always one of the year’s biggest film events. And at this morning’s press conference, TIFF CEO Piers Handling and artistic director Cameron Bailey kicked off this year’s festivities by announcing TIFF 2013’s opening film selection, as well as the fest’s galas (red-carpet screenings, often boasting big-name actors and directors) and special presentations. Though more films will be added to TIFF’s roster, this morning’s announcement revealed more than 70 titles, giving festival-goers a good idea of what to expect from TIFF 2013, which runs from September 5-15.

The morning began with an early teaser announcement from Bailey via Twitter, where he revealed that Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave will have its world premiere at TIFF 2013. McQueen’s previous films, Shame and Hunger, helped put star Michael Fassbender on the map, and he will once again join with McQueen for 12 Years a Slave, alongside an ensemble cast that includes Chiwetel Ejiofer, Brad Pitt, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

The press conference kicked off by announcing a slew of gala presentations, including early Oscar hopefuls like August: Osage County, Rush, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, as well other high-profile premieres, such as The Railway Man (starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth), Kill Your Darlings (starring Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg), and Parkland (a retelling of what happened at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital on the day JFK was shot, starring Paul Giamatti and Zac Efron) and a few Canadian choices, like The Art of the Steal (starring Jay Baruchel, Matt Dillon, and Kurt Russell), The Grand Seduction (a comedy starring Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch) and The Right Kind of Wrong (starring Ryan Kwanten and Catherine O’Hara).

The long list of special presentations includes world premieres of The Dallas Buyer’s Club (which you may remember as the film that Matthew McConaughey lost a drastic amount of weight for), Atom Egoyan’s Devil’s Knot (the West Memphis Three drama starring Colin Firth, Reece Witherspoon, and Dane DeHaan), Jason Reitman’s Labour Day, Prisoners (Hugh Jackman and Jake Jake Gyllenhaal),The Double (a comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska), Paul Haggis’ Third Person (starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Liam Neeson), and international/North American premieres of Alfonso Cuaron’s hotly anticipated sci-fi offering, Gravity, as well as Joe (David Gordon Green’s second film release of the year, starring Nicholas Cage), Cannes winner Blue is the Warmest Color, Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves (Jesse Eisenberg, Peter Sarsgaard), Asghar Farhadi’s The Past, and Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton).

TIFF’s opening and closing night films were also announced. The festival will close with a comedy called A Life of Crime that stars Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, and John Hawkes. More noteworthy, though, is the choice of opening film, which is the new WikiLeaks biopic, Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange. Last year’s choice of Rian Johnson’s Looper as the festival’s opening film marked a shift for the festival, which in the past had always chosen a Canadian film as its opener.

The full list of this morning’s announcements can be found at tiff.net.

TIFF 2012: The Place Beyond the Pines

Just a few days in, and TIFF has already screened a spat of critic and movie fan favourites. From grand blockbusters like Looper and Cloud Atlas to human dramas like Argo and The Master, big stars and big directors are already pleasing crowds at the festival. And you might as well add Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines, to that list. Met with generally positive response from critics, the film is likely to connect on a gut level with many viewers.

Pines made its world premiere on Friday night, and I entered the press screening early this morning with the unique experience of knowing virtually nothing about the film. And honestly, it’s best to know as little as possible about this film going into it. As such, I’ll be very vague with the plot description. Ryan Gosling plays Luke, a motorcycle stunt driver. Bradley Cooper plays Avery, a newly minted and overqualified police officer. When Luke gets caught up in some illegal activities, the two inevitably come face to face. Their meeting then sparks a chain reaction of repercussions that affect not only them, but also their family.

At its core, The Place Beyond the Pines is a story about masculinity and the consequences of actions. And Cianfrance evokes the ache of regret beautifully. There is a palpable sense of uncertainty, and like the characters on screen, the audience is held in a constant state of tension. This is not an action-packed movie, yet there is such suspense in every character interaction. A number of figurative threads could be pulled at any time during this film and the lives of the characters would almost instantly unravel.

Cooper perhaps does the best job of conveying this unsettled tone. Much of the latter part of the film deals with Avery’s struggle to come to terms with his past decisions, and Cooper gives an aching, slow-burning performance. His character is wonderfully complex, and Cooper sinks his teeth into every nuance of the role. It’s easily his best performance to date.

Also breaking new ground here is up-and-comer Dane DeHaan. Though DeHaan does not appear until later on in the film, his character quickly becomes a key player, and DeHaan deftly navigates the epic relationship landscape that Cianfrance has constructed by this point. He’s already impressed me this year in Chronicle and Lawless, but now given a meaty dramatic role, DeHaan shines even brighter. He’s given some scenes that easily could have seemed overly laboured or difficult to believe, but DeHaan’s easy naturalness never wavers. He just sinks into the role and inhabits every corner of it.

Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, The Dark Knight Rises)gives another fantastic, chameleon-like performance as a man who takes Luke under his wing. His subtle humour is welcome in this heavy film, yet his character also has plenty of demons of his own. Gosling turns in yet another great, emotionally captivating performance, and Eva Mendes is surprisingly good as the woman his character peruses.

One thing that really surprised me about The Place Beyond the Pines was the scope of the film. Cianfrance has experimented with time lapses already in Blue Valentine, but while that film felt suffocating in its intimacy, Pines feels almost grand and epic in its ever-expanding story. And Cianfrance put every minute of the two and a quarter hour runtime to good use. Yes, a couple of story elements feel a bit convenient and/or melodramatic. And yes, I did find the second third of the film to be a little too conventional in its “dirty cop” tropes (though Ray Liotta is great in his very small role). But ultimately, none of that mattered. The Place Beyond the Pines packs an emotional punch the gut. This movie is about the consequences of our actions. And as characters’ past decisions start to affect innocent people, it’s hard not to get engrossed in the injustice and tragedy of it all. Simply put, The Place Beyond the Pines feels poetic without being pretentious. It might not fully satisfy those looking for a bit more violence in their studies in machismo, but the slow-burning drama makes for a far more substantial product.

9/10

10 Lesser-Known Films to See at TIFF

If you’ve been following TIFF this year, you probably know that several big films will be playing at the festival. Most notably, Rian Johnson’s sci-fi blockbuster, Looper (starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis) was selected as TIFF’s opening night film. As well, the Wachowski brothers’ Cloud Atlas
(which boasts a reported $140 million budget) will play, as well as the 3D blockbuster Dredd (which was announced as part of the festival’s Midnight Madness program). Other big names have garnered quite a bit of attention in during the lead-up to the festival, including Robert Redford’s star-studded The Company You Keep, Ben Affleck’s Argo, and David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook.

Like a lot of festival-goers, I’m excited for these big TIFF titles. But the festival has so much to offer beyond movie stars and blockbusters that will show up at your local multiplex within a couple of months. To celebrate some of the smaller TIFF films, I thought I’d make a list of 10 movies I’m excited for that you might not have heard about yet. These films haven’t played at any other major festivals and don’t boast big name directors, and they haven’t received much attention, so far.

1. Ginger and Rosa (Sally Potter, United Kingdom)

This drama from Sally Potter (Orlando) stars Elle Fanning and Alice Englert as two teenage girls growing up in 1960’s London during the time of the Cold War and the burgeoning sexual revolution. I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories, England, the 1960’s, and Elle Fanning, so this movie sounds like it’ll be right up my alley. Definitely one of my most anticipated for the festival this year.

2. Lore (Cate Shortland, Australia/United Kingdom/Germany)

Cate Shortland’s last film, 2004’s Somersault, helped to launch the career of Abbie Cornish. Now, she returns with a new film and another potential young ingénue. In Lore, Saskia Rosendahl stars as a teenager who must bring her siblings across the war-torn German countryside at the end of World War II, placing her trust in a man she has been taught to hate. This one looks pretty stunning.

3. Greetings From Tim Buckley (Dan Algrant, USA)

This one is a personal pick. As a massive Jeff Buckley fan, I am both nervous and curious to see how his life has been adapted to the big screen. And while the other Buckley project, Mystery White Boy (which stars Reeve Carney and has obtained the rights to use Buckley’s music) sounds more promising on paper, it’s still in pre-production (and has been in the works for years), so this one will have to do for now. I’m even optimistic about Penn Badgley, who at least showed some signs of life onscreen in a small role in last year’s excellent Margin Call.


4. In the House (Francois Ozon, France)

It’s the plot description on this one that’s got me interested. It revolves around “a high-school student whose essays about a friend’s family start to blur the lines between reality and fiction — and may conceal a dark purpose.” It also stars Kristin Scott Thomas, which is always a bonus.


5. Jump (Kieran J. Walsh, Ireland)

Jump revolves around a group of 20-somethings whose lives intertwine on New Year’s Eve in Northern Ireland. It looks highly stylish, and is described as a “twisty, blackly comic crime thriller”. And that’s enough for me.


6. Wasteland (Rowan Athale, United Kingdom)

If you follow young, British actors at all, you’ll probably recognize at least a couple of the leads in this heist thriller from first-time director Rowan Athale. You’ve got Harry Potter‘s Matthew Lewis, Attack the Block‘s Luke Treadaway, and Misfit’s Iwan Rheon all together here, and that is enough to get me interested. The plot sounds a bit standard, but enjoyable nonetheless.


7. Dead Europe (Tony Krawitz, Australia)

Dead Europe‘s TIFF synopsis boasts, “From the producers of Shame and Animal Kingdom.” And while this may be an unsubtle attempt to make the project sound gritty and shocking, aside from that, it sounds and looks like a fascinating film. Ewen Leslie plays a photographer who visits his ancestral hometown, and along the way, discovers some disturbing family secrets.


8. Blondie (Jesper Ganslandt, Sweden)

As part of TIFF’s provocative Vanguard program, this Swedish drama is bound to throw out some interesting twists. The film revolves around three sisters who reunite for their mother’s birthday, causing “conflicts to rise to the surface”. Things are going to get weird.

9. Twice Born (Sergio Castellitto, Italy/Spain/Croatia)

Italian actor Sergio Castellitto directs Penelope Cruz and Emile Hirsch in this Italian-language war romance. It looks intense and vaguely like Angelina Jolie’s In the Land of Blood and Honey, but the cast involved is enough to catch my interest.

10. I Declare War (Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson, Canada)

This Lord of the Flies-esque Canadian film follows a group of children whose neighbourhood adventure games turn deadly. It sounds like a great Midnight Madness pick, but as part of the Vanguard program, you know it’ll pack a punch.

TIFF Gears Up for Big Stars, Big Hits

The Toronto International Film Festival announced its first wave of festival programming via a live press conference this morning. After weeks of speculation and rumour, it turns out that many of the films that fans were hoping to see on the list will in fact play at the festival this year.

TIFF, which usually favours smaller, independent fare, will play host to a couple of big-budget blockbusters-to-be in September. Rian Johnson’s Looper will open the festival with a special gala on September 6. The sci-fi action film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt, and is set to hit theatres for a major release on September 28. This marks a significant step up for TIFF’s opening film in terms of budget and profile. Last year’s opening film was the U2 documentary From the Sky Down, and the year before that, the Charles Darwin biopic, Creation.

The folks at TIFF also announced that the Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas will also premiere at the festival. Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant and boasting an estimated budget of $140 million, this is definitely one of the biggest films TIFF has ever welcomed.

On a slightly smaller scale but no less exciting is the announcement that Terrence Malick’s latest project, To the Wonder, will screen at TIFF. Given the long post-production life of The Tree of Life and Mallick’s typical long gaps between films, some fans thought it was unlikely Mallick’s next project would be ready in time. However, the film, which stars Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, and Javier Bardem will in fact make its world premiere at TIFF this year.

Other big name directors whose films will show at TIFF include Ben Affleck with Argo (starring Affleck and Bryan Cranston), David O. Russell with Silver Linings Playbook (starring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, and Jennifer Lawrence), Noah Baumbach with Frances Ha (starring Greta Gerwig), Joe Wright with Anna Karenina (starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law), and Robert Redford with his star-packed The Company You Keep (Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Terrence Howard, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Elliott, Anna Kendrick, Richard Jenkins, Nick Nolte, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, and Chris Cooper).

Speaking of stars, TIFF will once again celebrate Ryan Gosling, as they host the world premiere of The Place Beyond the Pines. Directed by Blue Valentine helmer Derek Cianfrance, the film stars Gosling and Bradley Cooper as a stunt rider and a cop who square off. Other big names you might see walking around Toronto this September include Zac Efron (At Any Price), Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone), Bill Murray (Hyde Park on Hudson), Jake Gyllenhaal (End of Watch), Kevin Bacon (Jayne Mansfield’s Car), and Kristen Wiig’s (Imogene).

And while it’s easy to get caught up in the glitzy star spectacle that TIFF can become, it is also a festival that honours a lot of Canadian and foreign films, too. TIFF will round out its line-up in the coming weeks with more of these titles. For now, though, we know that Ruba Naddi’s Inescapable (starring Marisa Tomei and Fringe‘s Joshua Jackson) and Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children will be two Canadian films having their world premieres at TIFF. The latter also tie’s into the festival’s “City to City” theme, which this year will highlight films from and about Mumbai, India.

The Toronto International Film Festival will run September 6-16. See the full list of films announced this morning at tiff.net/thefestival/filmprogramming