For awhile there my TIFF prospects died, so I haven’t been updating the blog for obvious reasons. Now they seem to have been resurrected so I’ll get back to running down the titles – assigning them a number and so on and so forth. Because I was working on documentary features before – generally redundant because I see, at the very most, three or four of those during the festival as I’m not much a fan of non-fiction – I’m just going to sift through them without writing too intricate of descriptions and when I come across ones that pique my interest I’ll throw them on the list and give a reason as to why I (and you) should see it at the festival. As for the rest of the regular features, they will receive the same treatment as the ones mentioned in the first post.
If You Walk Away, I’ll Walk Away (REEL TO REEL – Documentary Features)
Boxing Gym (Fredrick Wiseman, USA) Fredrick Wiseman is hands down the most beloved documentary filmmakers in cinema. From controversial, difficult to endure – not only because they consisted of difficult subject matters, but also because of their duration – features like Titticut Follies to Juvenile Court to Domestic Violence… the man will go down in history as the greatest documentarian. He turned 80 this year and I love my boxing – count me in. (Anticipation Meter: 9/10)
Cave Of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog, USA) The idea of Werner Herzog filming obscured age-old pictorials in inaccessible caves – in 3D no less – sounds a bit too good to be true. Considering the man is one of the finest visualists, especially when he’s at his most laidback in nature, this promises to be something beautiful. While the content itself isn’t much to my liking, odds are I’ll just check this out for the experience. (Anticipation Meter: 8/10)
The Game Of Death (Christophe Nick, France) One of the greatest films I’ve ever seen is I As In Icarus (Henri Verneuil, 1979) and one of the finest scenes in that masterpiece is one where the protagonist goes to a psychology plant and watches two men be placed into a room. One man is set up to an electric current while the other is told to turn to up the shock until he can’t handle watching the other man’s pain any longer. This is essentially what ‘The Game of Death’ is about – people controlling the comfort of other people with the reward of one million dollars for whomever will hurt their opponent most. Sounds like an amazing documentary – I am so down. (Anticipation Meter: 9/10)
Machete Maidens Unleashed! (Mark Hartley, Australia) Two years ago, documentarian Mark Hartley made one of the most pleasurable documentaries I’ve ever seen with ‘Not Quite Hollywood’ (if you love cinema and haven’t seen it, you’ve got to, an absolute riot). Although the interviewees were mostly with very low-profile B horror filmmakers, the stories that were told and the way it was all edited together made for 90 minutes of cinematic fellatio. I have complete faith that Hartley’s followup will share a similar zeal. It’s about all of the films that were made for cheap in the Philippines in the 1970s. Fun. (Anticipation Meter: 8/10)
So those are the four documentaries from Reel to Reel that have strong possibilities of winding up on my film festival list. I’d do a post for the Wavelengths, but the TIFF site is absolutely ridiculous this year and is very unhelpful with this programme. However, I may see James Benning’s Mahr, but I wouldn’t put too much money down on that happening. Hope it does though – I’ve been meaning to check out some of his work.
I Don’t Read Books and I Can’t Be Your Lover (MIDNIGHT MADNESS)
Bunraku – starring: Josh Harnett and Woody Harrelson. What do you get if you take guns away from our way of life? A lot more sword crime, of course. ‘Bunraku’ is set in a world where guns are banned upon death and if you want to enact revenge on a mobster – in this case, the mobster’s name is Nicola because we’ve got to perpetuate the stereotype that all Russians are mobsters – you’ve gotta chop his head off in well-choreographed fashion. With a young Japanese samurai forming a triad with two locals to take Nicola down a peg (or a life) the three set off to… well, find Nicola. It promises to be a bloodbath and a lot of fun. I’ll see it if I can handle its midnight placement. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)
The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman – starring: No idea. To be blunt, this film sounds bad. I mean, it could be good, but the synopsis possesses a lot of what I have about Chinese cinema. It’s got a fantastical plot, overly eccentric sounding character, is meant to contain a lot of slapstick/absurd humor and borrow from films that I was none too fond of. I’m never going to see this movie… if you like the spaghetti western stylings of ‘Sukiyaki Western Django’ then this might be for you. It wasn’t for me… however visually appealing that film was. (Anticipation Meter: 2/10)
Fire of Conscience – starring: Leon Lei and Richie Ren. As mentioning in my other post, Cantonese cinema hasn’t done anything for me yet. This isn’t giving weight to the idea that it could. It sounds rather generic – two cops go out to investigate the murder of a prostitute, but their sleuthing soon evolves into a shoot ’em up extravaganza. I don’t doubt the intentions of the filmmakers and I’m certainly not suggesting that this won’t be a mildly amusing flick… it’s just not worth staying up to see at a festival that steals more hours of your sleep than… ghosts? Too tired to be clever. (Anticipation Meter: 4/10)
Fubar 2 – starring: Paul Spence and David Lawrence. I couldn’t get through the first one… obtuse, beer-guzzling humor just isn’t my thing. Like a paltry ‘Harold and Kumar’. If you’ve seen the first, you know what the sequel must be about. If you haven’t, it’s just about two dudes drinking brews and acting retarded. No thanks. (Anticipation Meter: 2/10)
Insidious – starring: Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne. An absolute must. ‘Saw’ is the film that really got me into cinema, so I’ll forever be indebted to James Wan and Leigh Whannell. This is their first original collaboration since ‘Dead Silence’ (not so good…) but their latest promises to be wonderful. Although I’m not easily enticed by supernatural horror films – this about a family (headed by a husband and wife played by Wilson/Byrne) who face tragedy after one of their sons fall into a coma. After the incident, spirits begin to pervade their home. Doesn’t sound all that amazing, but as I said, Wan + Whannell = have to be there. (Anticipation Meter: 10/10)
Red Nights – starring: Frédérique Bel and Carrie Ng. TIFF describes this cat and mouse thriller to be pulpy and fetishistic. From the stills I’ve seen, it looks to be exactly that. While the visual design is appealing and the premise promising some softcore lesbian scenes, I can’t get behind this feature because it sounds far too mundane – far too great a waste of time and not worth depriving myself of sleep over. The plot is literally just one person has something the other wants… ensue 90 minutes of “get back heres” and “nos”. (Anticipation Meter: 3/10)
Stake Land – starring: Connor Paolo and Nick Damici. Just copying and pasting TIFF’s description: In the aftermath of a vampire epidemic, a teen is taken in by a grizzled vampire hunter on a road trip through a post-apocalyptic America, battling both the bloodsuckers and a fundamentalist militia that interprets the plague as the Lord’s work. Sounds like it could be good fun – I especially like that George A. Romero and the author of ‘I Am Legend’ liken the film to hardcore vampire films of yore. Could be good – it’d be interesting to see it. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)
Super – starring: Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page. ‘Real’ superhero films have been a pretty hot trend as of late. From 2006’s ‘Special’ which depicted a man taking pills that made him feel like a superhero to this year’s ‘Defendor’, filmmakers seem to have been swayed the way of vigilance. This feature – starring Dwight from The Office, Ellen Page and Kevin Bacon – promises to be nothing, if not a fun time. I don’t anticipate this to be an amazing film – the only directorial credit to writer/director James Gunn’s repetoire is ‘Slither’ which was average at best – but I do expect to be amused, and isn’t that all you’re looking for in a sold-out crowd at midnight? (Anticipation Meter: 8/10)
Vanishing on 7th Street – starring: Hayden Christensen and Thandle Newton. Brad Anderson has made a small name for himself this past decade. Not only did he direct one of the more acclaimed small budget horror films of the aughts with ‘Session 9’ but he’s also been responsible for the psychologically bent ‘The Machinist’ and most recently ‘Transsiberian’ (a film that could’ve been great if the second half had lived up to the first). While his latest, ‘Vanishing on 7th Street’ stars two of the most paltry actors working today, the film sounds very entertaining. It’s about a group of people banding together to escape the darkness that has consumed their town. I will definitely see this if it plays early on in the festival and might risk crucial sleep later on. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)
The Ward – starring: Amber Heard and Jared Harris. John Carpenter’s first film in almost a decade promises to… well, be more interesting than ‘Ghosts of Mars’. Mr. Carpenter’s latest feature is simple – a young woman (Heard) is terrorized by ghosts in a mental institution. Yeah, it isn’t a high concept thriller or will be bound to spark conversation over how intricate the plotting was, but it does sound like a good time and an even better vehicle for the young Amber Heard. Depends what day this plays on – if it’s early on in the festival, I’ll see it. If it’s later… no. (Anticipation Meter: 6/10)
I’ve got a lot of titles to go through still before August 24th… and then a few more on that day as well. Glad I get to attend this year’s festival once again. Two more things: first, I saw the trailer for ‘Black Swan’ and my anticipation shot up plenty – count me in for that. Secondly, if you don’t understand these little quotes I prompt before announcing titles, they’re lyrics – you’d do well in googling them and experiencing a new song or two.