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TIFF Bell Lightbox Release: Coherence

September 19, 2014

By John Corrado

Coherence Poster

After making a splash at Fantastic Fest last year, D Films is releasing the creative and intelligently written science fiction thriller Coherence at TIFF Bell Lightbox this weekend.  Tickets and showtimes are right here.

The setup for the film is deceptively straight forward.  Eight friends gather at one of their houses for a dinner party, and it’s clear that there are some unresolved issues between them.  But there is also a comet passing dangerously close to the earth, that may have shocking effects on all of their realities, and this is where the inventive twists start to come in.

Two of their iPhones mysteriously break, and the internet goes down.  Then the power shuts out, leaving them in the dark and scrambling for glow sticks.  A few of them decide to go out and explore.  As the night goes on, they start to uncover the true implications of what might be going on, faced with moral dilemmas and paradoxical problems to solve.

The feature debut of director James Ward Byrkit, Coherence is an intriguing puzzle that is worth piecing together, making the most of a small budget and limited locations with plenty of big ideas and thought provoking twists.  This is a smart and entertaining little film that comes together quite nicely, and is worth your time and the conversations you are guaranteed to have leaving the theatre.

Blu-ray Release: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

September 16, 2014

The Winter Soldier Blu-ray

Last Tuesday, Marvel released Captain America: The Winter Soldier on Blu-ray.  Dark, gritty and also thought provoking, while still managing to breathlessly entertain, this is one of the best blockbusters of the year.  We all reviewed the film in theatres back on April 4th, and our overall consensus was:

“With exhilarating action sequences and a surprisingly smart screenplay full of twists, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a spectacular sequel that takes the Marvel Cinematic Universe in exciting new directions. ***3/4 (out of 4)”

The Blu-ray includes commentary with the directors and screenwriters, deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel and three short featurettes.

The first season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was also released last week, following a different group of heroes put together by the mysteriously returning Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), after the events of The Avengers.  Although not in the same league as the movies, fans of the show are going to want to add this set to their collections, including all 22 episodes of the TV series and a bunch of featurettes.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is 136 minutes and rated PG.

-John Corrado

Final #TIFF14 Reviews: The Crow’s Egg, Big Game, Men, Women & Children, 99 Homes and Haemoo

September 14, 2014

By John Corrado

#TIFF14 Poster

We have now officially reached the end of TIFF, with The Imitation Game winning the Grolsch People’s Choice Award, further cementing the film as a surefire Oscar contender.  I’m not going to miss the crowds and running between venues, but I am going to miss the routine that the festival has started to offer after the last few days.

But before we start the countdown to next year’s fortieth anniversary edition, I still have a few more reviews left in me, like the four good ones that I saw yesterday.  They include The Crow’s Egg and Big Game, which could both be called family films in very unconventional ways.

The third film I’m profiling is Men, Women & Children, which I went into with pretty high expectations, and left blown away.  My evening finished with a late night showing of the gripping 99 Homes, which was thankfully another winner.

This afternoon I caught up with the Korean film Haemoo, which brings my total review count up to a whopping 27, which is the most that I’ve ever done.  Although there were a few disappointments and I didn’t see every film that I wanted to, I really liked and even loved most of what I saw, which in the end makes the whole experience worthwhile.  Please see below for a complete list of everything that I reviewed, and I hope you all had a good festival!

The Crow’s Egg: After their playground is developed into a local pizza place, two young Indian brothers find themselves determined to try a slice of the delicious looking new food.  But the problem is that they are poor and living in a Chennai slum, and a single pizza would cost them a month’s wages, money that could go to helping their mother get their father out of jail.  Although some of the supporting characters are a bit cartoony, The Crow’s Egg does an admirable job of introducing kids to the very real issues of classicism and extreme poverty.  With some nicely edited musical montages, this is a charming and energetic family film about being thankful for what you have, that has a great final scene.

Friday, September 5th – 6:45 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre
Saturday, September 6th – 3:00 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre
Saturday, September 13th – 12:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 2

Big Game: Who knew that one of the best protecting the American president films would come from Finnish director Jalmari Helander?  But Big Game is just as much fun as many of the summer blockbusters being released.  Sent out to prove himself as a man on his thirteenth birthday, young hunter Oskari (Onni Tomilla) stumbles upon President William Moore (Samuel L. Jackson) in the middle of the wilderness, after Air Force One is taken down by terrorists.  With the bad guys hot on their trail, the young teenager becomes the only one who can protect the most powerful man in the world.  With the feel of something that Amblin Entertainment could have produced back in the 1980s, Big Game is a ridiculously entertaining coming of age thriller that deserves a wide audience of both teens and adults.

Friday, September 5th – 11:59 PM @ Ryerson Theatre
Saturday, September 6th – 9:00 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre
Saturday, September 13th – 2:30 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

Men, Women & Children: Director Jason Reitman knocks it out of the park with the haunting Men, Women & Children, a multi narrative drama that seamlessly weaves together the sex lives of numerous teenagers and their parents.  Tim (Ansel Elgort) is slowly withdrawing into the world of online gaming, and his only real friend is Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever), whose mother (Jennifer Garner) closely monitors all of her online activity.  Don (Adam Sandler) and Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) are unhappy in their marriage, both using the internet to cheat in different ways.  Joan (Judy Greer) is living out her own failed dreams of an acting career by posting pictures of her teenage daughter Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia) on the internet.  Emma Thompson narrates as an almost divine voice from above, while images of satellites floating through space provide a visual representation of not only how we are all connected, but also our minuscule space in the universe.  Engaging every step of the way, Men, Women & Children is a provocative, profound, mesmerizing and moving encapsulation of the digital age.

Saturday, September 6th – 6:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre
Sunday, September 7th – 10:00 AM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 1
Saturday, September 13th – 6:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre

99 Homes: After Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) as well as his young son (Noah Lomax) and mother (Laura Dern) are forcefully evicted from their family home at the hands of sleazy real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), he is determined to do anything to get the property back.  Dennis starts doing favours and working for Rick, evicting other people from their homes and blurring his own moral boundaries in order to make money for his family.  Not only is 99 Homes a return to form for director Ramin Bahrani after the somewhat disappointing At Any Price, it’s also one of his best.  This is a stirring recession era dramatic thriller that pulsates with tension, carried by an intelligent and brilliantly written screenplay full of tested morals and heated arguments, as well as outstanding performances from Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon.

Monday, September 8th – 10:00 PM @ Princess of Wales
Tuesday, September 9th – 11:30 AM @ Ryerson Theatre
Saturday, September 13th – 10:00 PM @ Princess of Wales

Haemoo: When the crew of a small Korean fishing boat agree to smuggle illegal immigrants from China, the vessel quickly becomes a melting pot of violence and abuse.  Although Haemoo starts slowly, the film picks up and takes a disturbing turn partway through, as those aboard are willing to do anything in order to gain power.  Co-written by Bong Joon-Ho, who directed the great Snowpiercer earlier this year, this is a very dark thriller that is well made and interestingly written, but also brutal and disturbing.  It’s technically good, but I don’t think I could watch this one again.

Tuesday, September 9th – 6:30 PM @ Roy Thomson Hall
Wednesday, September 10th – 12:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre
Sunday, September 14th – 12:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre

Read more…

#TIFF14 Reviews: St. Vincent, The Good Lie, Wild and Before We Go

September 13, 2014

By John Corrado

#TIFF14 Poster

We have reached the final weekend of TIFF, which always seems to happen just as soon as I start finding my stride.  I saw four movies yesterday at Princess of Wales, starting with a double bill of The Good Lie and Wild, both featuring Reese Witherspoon.

The night culminated with me finally seeing St. Vincent.  This only seems appropriate considering that Reese Witherspoon and Bill Murray were two of the biggest stars being celebrated this year, with the festival dubbing September 5th Bill Murray Day and hosting the Mavericks Conversation With Reese Witherspoon last Sunday night.

Somewhere along the way last night I also attended the world premiere of Chris Evans directorial debut Before We Go with the cast and crew in attendance, and got the actor to sign my ticket after the screening.  So yeah, that happened.

I have another two days of screenings still ahead of me, so please come back tomorrow for my thoughts on The Crow’s Egg, Big Game, Men, Women & Children, 99 Homes and Haemoo.  Enjoy!

St. Vincent: After moving to a new neighbourhood with his single mother Maggie (Meilssa McCarthy), preteen Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) finds an unlikely mentor and friend in Vincent (Bill Murray), the ornery older man who lives next door.  Vincent is a depressed Vietnam war veteran who spends his days drinking, making bets at the race track, and sleeping with pregnant stripper Daka (Naomi Watts), but there is also a genuinely caring side to him that Oliver starts to uncover.  Director Theodore Melfi nails the perfect tone in the entertaining and touching St. Vincent, moving seamlessly between comedy and drama, with a unique cast of characters that we really come to love as more layers of depth are revealed throughout the film.  Bill Murray is in top form, offering plenty of expectedly quotable lines but also stealing our hearts as his backstory is slowly revealed, and his performance is matched by some wonderful work from newcomer Jaeden Lieberher.

Friday, September 5th – 9:00 PM @ Princess of Wales
Saturday, September 6th – 12:00 PM @ Roy Thomson Hall
Friday, September 12th – 9:30 PM @ Princess of Wales

The Good Lie: After being orphaned as children during the Sudanese Civil War, adult siblings Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Ger Duany) and Paul (Emmanuel Jal) are taken to America through a Christian outreach program.  The three brothers find themselves in Missouri, looking for work under the guidance of Carrie Davis (Reese Witherspoon).  But they face a serious culture clash, struggling to hold down jobs as they suffer from PTSD and try desperately to reunite with their sister Najah (Sahlima), who has been separated from them.  Although this is his first studio film, French Canadian director Philippe Falardeau hasn’t lost his deeply empathetic touch and maintains a sometimes painfully realistic tone throughout, that also allows for moments of gentle humour to offset the genuine pathos.  With excellent performances from the authentic leads, and some nice supporting work from Reese Witherspoon, The Good Lie is a touching and very well acted film.

Sunday, September 7th – 3:00 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)
Monday, September 8th – 12:30 PM @ Roy Thomson Hall
Friday, September 12th – 12:00 PM @ Princess of Wales

Wild: Battling multiple addictions after her mother (Laura Dern) died, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) started hiking solo along the Pacific Crest Trail.  Her journey became the subject of a bestselling memoir, and French Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée does justice to the material with Wild, a strikingly mature and solidly crafted drama that is both heartbreaking and inspirational.  Reese Witherspoon delivers one of her best performances, fearlessly throwing herself into the grittier aspects of the character, but also displaying fierce hope and the determination to keep moving forward no matter what the cost.  Laura Dern has several memorably touching scenes.  With a story that comes together beautifully through some perfect editing, Wild is a moving, engaging and achingly heartfelt film.

Monday, September 8th – 9:00 PM @ Roy Thomson Hall
Tuesday, September 9th – 11:30 AM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)
Friday, September 12th – 3:00 PM @ Princess of Wales

Before We Go: Perhaps the most interesting thing that could be said about Chris Evans directorial debut Before We Go is that nobody would have expected Captain America himself to make such a corny romance.  After Brooke (Alice Eve) misses the last train of the night at Grand Central Station, she meets struggling busker Nick (Chris Evans), and the two spend the night together, trying to find her stolen purse and scrounge up enough money for her to get home.  But the reasons why they are spending the night out just aren’t very interesting.  With a sappy and contrived screenplay, at times the film feels amateurish, like something that would be more at home On Demand, than at a major festival.  But at least Chris Evans makes for a likeable and charming romantic lead, and it’s his performance that keeps this otherwise mediocre film watchable.

Friday, September 12th – 6:30 PM @ Princess of Wales
Saturday, September 13th – 12:15 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Sunday, September 14th – 8:45 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

#TIFF14 Reviews: Love & Mercy, Infinitely Polar Bear and The Guest

September 11, 2014

By John Corrado

#TIFF14 Poster

We are now exactly a week into TIFF, but in some ways it feels like I’m just getting into the swing of things.  I mean, I saw a double bill of Infinitely Polar Bear and Love & Mercy today with barely five minutes in between them, which seems like a pretty genuine film festival experience, don’t you think?

I enjoyed both of them, and they are also two of the three films that I’m profiling today.  The third one is the hugely entertaining genre film The Guest, which was actually the first title I screened for the festival way back on August 20th, and will be closing out the Midnight Madness section on Saturday night, before opening in regular theatres on September 26th.

But the festival isn’t over until Sunday and I have another three days of busyness ahead of me, so please come back tomorrow and throughout the weekend for my final few sets of capsule reviews, including several highly anticipated titles.  Enjoy!

Love & Mercy: With solid performances from Paul Dano and John Cusack, portraying Brian Wilson at two crucial moments in his career, Love & Mercy is a good biopic of the legendary musical genius.  The film starts with flashbacks of him as a young man in the 1960s suffering from untreated mental illness, while struggling to keep The Beach Boys together and complete his masterpiece Pet Sounds.  This is punctuated by scenes in the 1990s when he is washed up and middle aged, receiving unexpected kindness from Melinda Leadbottom (Elizabeth Banks), while struggling to get his life back in order under the iron fist of his psychiatrist (Paul Giamatti).  Although running a little long at two hours, director Bill Pohlad does a good job showing two different sides of the iconic musician, with a double narrative that is nicely tied together through some impressive editing.  Matched by commendable production design, and a great soundtrack from Atticus Ross that seamlessly mixes together some of the band’s most famous songs, Love & Mercy offers plenty of “Good Vibrations” and is worth seeing.

Sunday, September 7th – 9:30 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)
Monday, September 8th – 10:45 AM @ Winter Garden Theatre
Thursday, September 11th – 2:30 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

Infinitely Polar Bear: After their mother Maggie (Zoe Saldana) goes to business school in New York to try and get a better job, sisters Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) are left to live with their father Cameron (Mark Ruffalo), who is struggling to keep his manic depression in check.  The two girls love their father deeply, but they are also sometimes embarrassed by his erratic behaviour, and because of his mental illness are left living in poverty.  Based on director Maya Forbes own childhood experiences, Infinitely Polar Bear is a wonderfully written film that is held together by a perfectly balanced tone that seamlessly manages to be both hilarious and heartbreaking, often at the same time.  Mark Ruffalo shines in one of his best performances yet, bringing genuine warmth and humour to this complicated but improbably loveable man.  Tightly constructed at just under ninety minutes, Infinitely Polar Bear is an absolute delight, an entertaining and very touching little film that reaches a bittersweet final scene.

Wednesday, September 10th – 6:30 PM @ Roy Thomson Hall
Thursday, September 11th – 12:30 PM @ Winter Garden Theatre

The Guest: When David (Dan Stevens) arrives on the doorstep of the grieving Peterson family, claiming to have fought with their son who was killed overseas, he is immediately welcomed into their home by the well meaning mother (Sheila Kelley).  The seemingly charming David becomes a confidante to their bullied teen son Luke (Brendan Meyer), but when people start mysteriously showing up dead, their crafty young adult daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) becomes suspicious of the new houseguest.  Starting as a drama with comedic undertones, before seamlessly morphing into an exciting action thriller and finally becoming a full stop horror film in the last act, The Guest is simply a great blast of genre filmmaking from director Adam Wingard.  From the stylish cinematography to the perfect soundtrack, there are any number of memorable scenes throughout this tense, darkly funny and just scary enough film that is suspenseful and entertaining as hell to watch unfold.

Saturday, September 13th – 11:59 PM @ Ryerson Theatre
Sunday, September 14th – 6:45 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

#TIFF14 Reviews: Out of Nature, Good Kill, Seymour: An Introduction and ’71

September 10, 2014

By John Corrado

#TIFF14 Poster

Ethan Hawke gives a solid performance in Good Kill, and does impressive work behind the camera on the documentary Seymour: An Introduction, both of which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this week.  They are also two of the four movies that I’m profiling today.

Ethan Hawke and Seymour Bernstein came on stage after this evening’s premiere of Seymour: An Introduction for an inspiring conversation with documentary programmer Thom Powers, which was definitely another highlight of the festival.  They touched on how their shared nervousness and anxiety around performing is very much a part of talent and success, and how every artist should pursue their passion throughout every aspect of their life.

The two also talked about how they immediately felt a connection as both “creators and recreators.”  They explained how they are creators through their respective writing and composing, but that they become recreators when bringing to life characters that other people have written or through performing classical compositions.

Although we are already past the halfway point of the festival, I’m looking forward to the films that I have scheduled over the next several days, so please come back tomorrow evening for my reviews of Love & Mercy, Infinitely Polar Bear and The Guest.  Enjoy!

Out of Nature: Fed up with his boring office job and quiet family life, Martin (Ole Giaever) takes a weekend to himself, hiking through the Norwegian wilderness often with only his thoughts to keep him company.  Ole Giaever also directs Out of Nature, telling a quiet and contemplative minimalistic story, that is mostly narrated through the inner dialogue of the main character.  Although relatively plotless and sometimes mundane, this is a uniquely told and always beautifully filmed study of isolation and loneliness, that comes alive through Ole Giaever’s good leading performance.

Saturday, September 6th – 7:45 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 2
Tuesday, September 9th – 11:30 AM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 4
Saturday, September 13th – 6:00 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

Good Kill: Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) is an Air Force officer who now works as a drone pilot, locked in a bunker all day in the middle of the Nevada desert, firing unmanned missiles at people in Afghanistan, before going home to his wife (January Jones) and kids.  But he can only manage living this privileged suburban life for so long, before the trauma and guilt of his work catch up with him and take their toll on his personal life.  Director Andrew Niccol stages some suspenseful and exciting sequences in the control room, forcing the characters to confront the shaky morals of their actions, as the screenplay draws strong comparisons between video games and real life violence.  But unfortunately the domestic scenes aren’t equally gripping, with the subplot involving his increasingly estranged wife often veering into melodrama, especially at the end.  Thankfully Ethan Hawke sells the role every step of the way, turning in a compelling and nuanced performance that makes Good Kill worth seeing.

Tuesday, September 9th – 9:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre
Wednesday, September 10th – 3:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre

Seymour: An Introduction: After questioning the meaning behind his own art, Ethan Hawke met musician Seymour Bernstein several years ago at a crucial moment in his acting career, inspiring him to direct his first documentary Seymour: An Introduction.  An acclaimed classical pianist in New York who gave up performing publicly fifty years ago to focus on becoming a piano teacher and composer, Seymour Bernstein makes for a warm and wise subject who serves as our collective mentor throughout the film.  A deeply personal project for Ethan Hawke, who shows a deft hand behind the camera, Seymour: An Introduction is a very inspiring and often philosophical conversation piece about our desire to create art, and how music is our universal language.

Wednesday, September 10th – 7:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 2
Thursday, September 11th – 4:45 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Saturday, September 13th – 9:30 AM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 2

’71: The set up for director Yann Demange’s ’71 is deceptively simple, giving way to a politically charged story wrought with tested morals.  The year is 1971, and after his troop is deployed to a small town in Belfast right on the border of the Protestant and Catholic conflicts, young soldier Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) gets lost in the increasingly violent riots and has to find a way to survive the night.  The shaky camerawork is at times nauseating, but works to viscerally throw us right into the disorienting violence and conflict.  With solid leading work from Jack O’Connell, ’71 is a pretty good thriller that often effectively mixes quiet character drama and intensely gritty action.

Wednesday, September 10th – 7:00 PM @ Princess of Wales
Thursday, September 11th – 3:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 1

#TIFF14 Reviews: The Theory of Everything, Whiplash and The Imitation Game

September 9, 2014

By John Corrado

#TIFF14 Poster

We have made it through the first weekend of TIFF, which means that now we can get to some of the films that have already played other festivals, including Sundance award winner Whiplash and Telluride standout The Imitation Game.  These are just two of the three movies that I’m profiling this time around.

The third one is The Theory of Everything, which had its world premiere on Sunday evening, immediately drawing Oscar buzz for the performances.  These were some of the most anticipated films going into the festival, and I’m happy to report that they don’t disappoint.

Now I normally don’t ask for autographs, but director Damien Chazelle and actors J. K. Simmons and Miles Teller stuck around to meet fans after this afternoon’s screening of Whiplash, and were nice enough to sign my ticket.  I also got pictures taken with both J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller, which was really cool.

I will be busy until the end of the festival with a bunch more movies still to be seen, so please come back tomorrow night for my thoughts on Out of Nature, Good Kill, Seymour: An Introduction and ’71.  Enjoy!

The Theory of Everything: Director James Marsh has assembled a beautifully filmed and very respectful biopic with The Theory of Everything, charting the life of renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) from his time as a student in 1963, to the publication of his groundbreaking bestseller A Brief History of Time.  The film is also primarily a love story between him and his first wife Jane (Felicity Jones), who helped him through his challenges with grace and quiet strength, as his life was changed by a heartbreaking diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease.  With a fine screenplay that offers some thoughtful ideas about science versus religion, The Theory of Everything is a poignant and also inspiring film that is elevated by the excellent cast.  Eddie Redmayne gives an outstanding performance that is matched by a stunning physical transformation, perfectly embodying both the striking intelligence and surprising humour of the man he is representing.

Sunday, September 7th – 6:00 PM @ Princess of Wales
Monday, September 8th – 3:00 PM @ Princess of Wales

Whiplash: After earning acclaim at both Sundance and Cannes, director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash comes to TIFF with plenty of accolades already behind it, and emerges as one of the absolute best films at the festival.  Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is a young jazz drummer who dreams of being one of the greats, even if it means enduring the shocking abuse dished out by his teacher Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), who sees no problem with pushing his students over the edge in the name of success.  Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons delver two of the best performances of their respective careers, masterfully portraying the increasingly tense and volatile relationship between this abrasive teacher and his shy student.  With stunning camerawork and brilliant editing, this is a gripping drama that plays with the intensity of a thriller.  One of the best music films since All That Jazz in 1979, Whiplash is an energizing and emotionally powerful experience that reaches a stunning crescendo.  Wow.

Monday, September 8th – 3:15 PM @ Ryerson Theatre
Tuesday, September 9th – 12:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 1

The Imitation Game: Benedict Cumberbatch delivers possibly the best work of his career so far in director Morten Tyldum’s handsomely produced biopic The Imitation Game.  At the height of World War II, British forces enlisted the help of mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to help crack Enigma, a code being used by the Germans to send coordinates of their upcoming attacks.  Leading a group of intellectuals, including sole female Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) who was the closest match to his own fierce intelligence, Alan Turing created a machine that helped them win the war.  From his walk to the way he clenches his hands, Benedict Cumberbatch gives a captivating performance that draws us into the mind of this brilliant but socially awkward man, who was tragically persecuted for his closeted homosexuality.  Although the final images are marked with sadness, The Imitation Game is also inspirational, celebrating his remarkable achievements.  This is an engaging, intelligently written and emotionally affective biopic, that comes alive thanks to the magnetic leading performance.

Tuesday, September 9th – 6:00 PM @ Princess of Wales
Wednesday, September 10th – 3:00 PM @ Princess of Wales
Thursday, September 11th – 10:00 PM @ Princess of Wales

#TIFF14: Jordan Canning, Peter Mooney and Steve Cochrane on We Were Wolves

September 8, 2014

By John Corrado

Steve Cochrane, Jordan Canning and Peter Mooney

Steve Cochrane, Jordan Canning and Peter Mooney

Aside from all the star studded premieres and awards season hopefuls that now make up the bulk of TIFF, the festival still offers some great discoveries, and this year one of those films is the very good little Canadian drama We Were Wolves, which is premiering tomorrow night.

This is a film that I genuinely really liked, and when I sat down with director Jordan Canning and actors Peter Mooney and Steve Cochrane, the driving forces behind the film, I walked away with an even deeper appreciation for what they created.

I immediately sensed their enthusiasm to talk candidly about the project, even on a Saturday afternoon when they were doing interviews at a restaurant lounge instead of watching movies, and it’s always great to see artists so passionate about their work.  We also chatted a bit about what films we’ve been seeing, giving me a chance to recommend Nightcrawler, which Jordan Canning told me she can’t wait to see, prompting her to tell me how much she loved Xavier Dolan’s “really emotional” Mommy.  “It’s amazing that he’s just 25,” I remarked, and she absolutely agreed.

As I listen back to my recording and write this transcript, I hope the chemistry that they have together isn’t lost in translation.  The three of them have a very easygoing rapport in real life that made for a delightful interview, freely jumping off each other’s points and adding to the overall conversational feel of the piece below.  Enjoy!

Read more…

#TIFF14 Reviews: While We’re Young and My Old Lady

September 7, 2014

By John Corrado

#TIFF14 Poster

There is an interesting serendipity to the fact that my reviews of While We’re Young and My Old Lady have ended up on the same day.  These two films that both premiered this weekend at TIFF couldn’t be more different, but their titles contrast and compliment each other quite nicely.

Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young was actually a pretty late addition to my schedule just this morning, but it’s one that I’m really glad to have seen.  Although I didn’t see as many movies as I would have liked this weekend, this left my schedule wide open to do an interview with the director and cast of We Were Wolves yesterday afternoon, which will hopefully be up soon.

I also had one of my biggest highlights of the festival so far attending the Mavericks Conversation With Reese Witherspoon this evening.  The event started with clips from some of her most famous roles, before the Oscar-winner came on stage to deliver a fascinating and entertaining talk about her career and women in film.  The already huge amount of respect I have for her just kept growing throughout the conversation.

There were also plenty of great little moments of insight.  Like how she based her iconic characters in Election on a girl she knew in high school and still can’t stand whenever she runs into her, and how she helped rework the script for Legally Blonde from a more feminist standpoint.  Along with talking about her work as a producer, she also revealed that she might be directing something at the end of the year.  Reese Witherspoon is just as smart, funny and engaging in real life as she is on screen, and now I really can’t wait to see both The Good Lie and Wild later on in the festival.

My schedule is already pretty packed for the rest of the week, so please come back on Tuesday night for another round of capsule reviews, including the extremely anticipated films The Theory of Everything, Whiplash and The Imitation Game.  Enjoy!

While We’re Young: Josh (Ben Stiller) is a struggling documentary filmmaker in his forties who has settled into a quiet life with his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts).  They are at odds with their friends who all have kids, and struggling to accept that they are now middle aged.  But then they meet aspiring filmmaker Jamie (Adam Driver) and his free spirited wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a hipster couple freewheeling through their twenties, who inspire them to embrace spontaneity.  At first, the four artists find a lot to learn from each other, but their different ideologies ultimately turn their friendship into rivalry, leading up to a fascinating and unpredictable last act.  With a great cast at the top of their game, and a sharply insightful screenplay, While We’re Young is an inspired and very entertaining high concept comedy from director Noah Baumbach.  The film succeeds because there is emotional truth behind the laughs, showing the sizeable disconnect between older and younger sensibilities, and how each generation carves out their own perception of truth and meaning.  I really enjoyed this one.

Saturday, September 6th – 7:00 PM @ Princess of Wales
Sunday, September 7th – 12:30 PM @ Roy Thomson Hall
Thursday, September 11th – 11:30 AM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

My Old Lady: Directed by Israel Horovitz from his own stage play, My Old Lady works mainly as a three person drama.  After his father dies, depressed New Yorker Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) returns to the Paris apartment that was left to him with plans to sell the large property, only to find the place occupied by the feisty elderly woman Mathilde (Maggie Smith), and her bitter daughter (Kristen Scott Thomas).  The film runs a little long at 107 minutes, and some of the framing is a little stagey.  But there is an intriguingly dark undercurrent of long buried pain and depression coursing through the well written script, keeping things interesting and taking the story to some surprisingly deep places.  Topped off with a trio of standout performances from Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas, My Old Lady is worth seeing.

Sunday, September 7th – 5:30 PM @ Winter Garden Theatre
Monday, September 8th – 9:15 AM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 1

#TIFF14 Reviews: Nightcrawler and Pride

September 6, 2014

By John Corrado

#TIFF14 Poster

I’ve been waiting two weeks to tell everyone about Nightcrawler, and now that the first weekend of TIFF is upon us and the embargo has lifted after Friday night’s world premiere, I can finally tell you that the film is an absolute stunner.

And then there’s the glorious Pride, which is already on my list of favourites for the year.  Although tickets might be hard to come by at this point, especially as the rave reviews start to appear including the ones below, both of these films should absolutely be added to your schedule if you can.

But not all of the good stuff at the festival is even feature length.  There are also numerous short films worth checking out, including Zero Recognition, which plays as part of the first Short Cuts Canada Programme.  The directorial debut of Canadian actor Ben Lewis, who stars alongside fellow Degrassi: The Next Generation alum Lauren Collins, Zero Recognition is an autobiographical satire of fame and how people react to meeting celebrities, that manages to be both funny and smart in just under ten minutes.

All things considered, I actually have a pretty light opening weekend this year, but I will be seeing the bulk of my movies throughout the week, so please come back tomorrow for reviews of While We’re Young and My Old Lady, and on Tuesday for my thoughts on the highly anticipated films The Theory of Everything, Whiplash and The Imitation Game.  Enjoy!

Nightcrawler: Deserving comparisons to Martin Scorsese’s iconic Taxi Driver, Nightcrawler has all the makings of a modern classic.  Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a small time thief, but when he stumbles upon a gruesome car crash, he discovers the competitive and morally ambiguous world of freelance crime journalism.  He buys a camera and starts driving around the nighttime streets of Los Angeles, filming various emergencies and selling the unflinching footage to a local TV station where he meets Nina (Rene Russo), a cutthroat news director who fuels his obsession.  Jake Gyllenhaal is simply mesmerizing to watch throughout every scene of director Dan Gilroy’s gripping and often disturbing thriller.  With intoxicating cinematography, a brilliantly written screenplay that compellingly challenges how we view violence in the media, and a constant sense of palpable suspense, Nightcrawler is a fascinating and shocking film that creeps up on you and is impossible to shake afterwards.  Mark my words, see this one before everyone starts talking about it.

Friday, September 5th – 9:00 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)
Saturday, September 6th – 12:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre
Friday, September 12th – 9:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre

Pride: There is perhaps no greater compliment than to say that Pride left me with the same feelings I had after seeing The King’s Speech at the festival four years ago.  Based on a true story, the film takes place in 1984, when a group of lesbians and gays from London, led by the determined Mark (Ben Schnetzer), came to the aid of striking miners in a small Welsh town, after their job security fell victim to Margaret Thatcher’s reign.  With a cast that includes Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton, as well as moving work from the young George MacKay, all of the actors come together to create a rich group of characters that we find ourselves genuinely rooting for.  Director Matthew Warchus nails the perfect tone, mixing humour, drama and politics without ever taking a wrong step.  With an ending that left me in tears of joy, Pride is a profoundly affective crowdpleaser filled with plenty of wonderfully humorous and also genuinely heartfelt scenes along the way.  We might not see a more rousing, entertaining, inspiring and also moving film this year.

Saturday, September 6th – 2:45 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)
Sunday, September 7th – 12:30 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

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