TIFF Titles: More Special Presentations and Some CWC

I Have Some Regrets, But I Can Just Forget Them

127 Hours – starring: James Franco and Clemence Posey. Easily one of my most anticipated of the year, ‘127 Hours’ isn’t just Danny Boyle’s follow-up to Slumdog Millionaire, but it also sounds like the most amazing adventure film ever. Essentially, it’s about a guy who goes mountain climbing and has a boulder fall on him, trapping him in the mountains without anybody around to save him. What follows is a reflection of his life as told by him (I’m unsure as to if there’ll be narration, though I doubt it). Franco will dominate this film and I honestly couldn’t be more excited. (Anticipation Meter: 10/10)

Amigo – starring: Garret Dillahunt and Chris Cooper. John Sayles is known for doing exceptional work on occasion and has for well over 20 years now. Be it 1987’s Matewan which garnered plentiful critical laudation or 1996’s Lone Star which is beloved by many, Sayles, while an obscured name in cinema, is a person who can shine at any time. Although he’s been on a more subdued streak as of late, his reteaming with Cooper can only be a positive thing. As for the film itself, it’s about a young man (gotta figure it to be Dillahunt) who is torn between family and country during a war conflict in 1900. It’ll either be great or very average… I’ll be sure to watch a Sayles film between now and the festival before I make up my mind about this one, but I do like me some Dillahunt. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10, but it could grow)

Balada Triste – starring: Santiago Segura and Fernando Guillén Cuervo. Spanish humor is a bit too eccentric for my tastes – at least the most popular kind of Spanish humor – and that exactly what ‘Balada Triste’ seems to be founded on. With a plot about the lives of two clowns after they disfigure one and other over the love of a lady during the Civil War, this, to me, screams ‘Not for you, Tyler’. That said, if you’re fond of the abrasive quirkiness of traditional Spanish comedy… it will be? Haha. (Anticipation Meter: 3/10)

Deep in the Woods – starring: Isild Le Besco and Nahuel Perez Biscayart. One of the more interesting sounding films to be announced thus far at the festival, plot-wise at least (really sounds like something that should’ve been categorized in Vanguard, actually). This French feature, the latest by Benoit Jacquot (with whom I am not acquainted), is about a wild man who emerges from the woods one day in 1865, casts a spell on a beautiful doctor’s daughter and runs away with her deep into the woods where they explore the basic principles of man – sexual interaction and violent destruction. Seems simple, sounds exciting, but execution is vital in films such as these so I’ll be sure to watch a Jacquot film before really deciding anything. Could easily be the best of the festival if executed with dexterity. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)

Everything Must Go – starring: Will Ferrell and Rebecca Hall. When this project was announced a few months ago, I had eagerly hoped production would wrap early (as most indies do) so that this feature would play at TIFF. Well all has worked out as I’ve wished and I cannot wait to see this. It stars Will Ferrell (one of the most interesting actors working today when he picks up a script that allows him to utilize his dramatic chops) as an alcoholic motivator. After his life (Hall) leaves him, he attempts to turn his life around. Alright, not the most fascinating of concepts, but Ferrell in the lead of this feature has me pitching a tent… and camping outside of the screening room so I can be first in line to see what promises to be Ferrell’s best performance to date. (Anticipation Meter: 8/10)

Force of Nature – starring: It’s a documentary. It’s a documentary about environmentalist David Suzuki… that sums it up, haha. I am not a fan of Suzuki (unless we’re talking about Seijun or Ichiro… kidding, neither tickle my fancy much – I respect both of them in their individual fields, but eh, one’s a bit of fun and the other’s a consistency. Too bad they never teamed up or something…) Anyway, haha. (Anticipation Meter: 1/10)

Good Neighbours – starring: Jay Baruchel and Scott Speedman. After receiving moderate acclaim at last year’s festival, writer/director Jacob Tierney is back with ‘Trotsky’ star Jay Baruchel in this, a feature about disconnection from society. Victor (Baruchel) moves into a new apartment, disrupting Louise (Emily Hampshire) and Spencer’s (Scott Speedman) subdued relationship. Coupled with the arrival of Victor, too, is a slew of murders in their vicinity. It’s meant to be a darkly humorous spin on a realism thriller – I haven’t seen what kind of talent Tierney wields, so hopefully The Trotsky will be available to me before TIFF because this is a concept that sounds more prone to failure than success, especially for the inexperienced. (Anticipation Meter: 6/10)

Gorbaciof – The Cashier Who Liked Gambling – starring: Toni Servillo and Mi Yang. Toni Servillo has been on quite a tear as of late – starring in not only one, but two of Italy’s most acclaimed films in the last few years with ‘Il Divo’ and ‘Gomorrah’. Well here he’s back with a feature that falls just shy of a 90 minute duration and sounds appealing as a Coca-Cola raindrops (no idea where that comparison came from). Anyway, the film is about a gambler (Servillo) who works cash-office at a prison who tries to get both he and a pretty illegal immigrant (Yang) out of their dead-end lives. I also like that the film is said to be sparse in dialogue. All of this sound a lot like an Aki Kaurismaki film set in Italy – I like that a lot. (Anticipation Meter: 8/10)

Heartbeats – starring: Xavier Dolan and Niels Schneider. Apparently Xavier Dolan is a phenom after last years ‘I Killed My Mother’ which is said to be something Eric Rohmer would’ve made if he were a 19 year old Canadian. I wouldn’t know – for some reason the distribution of that film for English-speaking Canadian is pretty shitty. You’d think you’d want Anglophiles to enjoy the film considering English is Canada’s primary language, but whatever. Well anyway, the plot of this is about three young adults struggling with their three-way relationship. Guess Dolan’s doing Truffaut now. In all honesty, the trailer looks beautiful, but I’m not seeing this at TIFF – it’s already playing in Quebec. (Anticipation Meter: 8/10, but for TIFF it’s a 3/10)

Hereafter – starring: Matt Damon and Cecile de France. One of the films I didn’t expect to play at TIFF was this, Clint Eastwood’s latest. Why? Well he hasn’t exactly been kind to the Toronto International Film Festival, but I’m glad he’s come to his senses and has chosen to premiere his latest at our fine film exhibition. Albeit a bit vague, the film is about three people (Damon, de France and Bryce Dallas Howard) who have an encounter with death and react to it in their own individual ways. I believe they’re separate narratives that stem from the same incident. Although, yes, this story has been done to death, Eastwood has never steered me the wrong way yet. Even ‘Invictus’, which looked to be a gigantic bore, turned out to be an exhilarating and very motivational film with plentiful going for it. I’m definitely seeing this. (Anticipation Meter: 9/10)

The House By The Medlar Tree – starring: Antonio Ciurca and Omar Noto. A re-adaptation of the novel that Luchino Visconti’s ‘La terra trema’ was based on, ‘The House By The Medlar Tree’, too, is about a family of fisherman who are adherent to the whims of the sea. Its dramatic tension is meant to be based around a disconnection between generations in ritual which is an interesting theme, but something about all of this smells fishy. Writer/director Pasquale Scimeca not being the owner of a well-regarded film in a decade… and even then that’s been his greatest achievement. That and I don’t really care about family values perceived by cinema – they get so maudlin and boring so quick that it’s almost sickening. Sea-sickening. I won’t be swimming to this one, and no, I won’t feel gutted about it either. (Anticipation Meter: 3/10)

I’m Still Here – starring: Joaquin Phoenix. For the longest time, I thought this was all a hoax – all signs pointed to it being a big practical joke… but then I saw the trailer and now I don’t really care about the authenticity of it. It looks like an amazing study of one man’s collapsing under the burden of being a star in Hollywood. How you can lose your identity because you’re being seen as so many different figures by a multitude of people at one time. I still retain the thought that this is a mockumentary, but if it isn’t, man will this be the most depressing film in a long time. Gotta see it – definitely a film festival movie, even if it comes out in theaters in September (or is meant to, anyhow). (Anticipation Meter: 10/10, but for TIFF it’s an 8/10)

Incendies – starring: Maxim Gaudette and Mélissa Désormeaux-Pouli. Last year, director Denis Villeneuve released the most potent feature about school-oriented massacres with ‘Polytechnique’. Because of the chilly, horror-esque atmosphere of that feature, I’ve a lot of faith in Mr. Villeneuve. However, the concept for this, his latest, sounds rather mundane and without much thrill. The film is about twins Simon and Jeanne who find out that their father, who they had thought was dead, is still alive and living in the Middle East with a brother that they were unaware of. Could be a good drama with plentiful mystery, but I think I’ll just wait for it to have a conventional cinema run in Toronto instead. (Anticipation Meter: 6/10)

Julia’s Eyes – starring: Belén Rueda and Lluis Homar. There is so much awesome packed within this feature. First of all, Guillermo del Toro is producing it. Second, it stars Belen Rueda from The Orphanage and Lluis Homar from (most recently) Broken Embraces. Third, it’s a horror/thriller about a woman (Rueda) stumbling across her blind twin who was hanged to death in her basement – she believes it to be a murder and investigates the surprising death of her sister. Yeah, that sounds really great – I’m seeing this. (Anticipation Meter: 9/10)

Let Me In – starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz. Two years ago, there was a Swedish film that received a lot of acclaim by the name of ‘Let the Right One In’. The respect it ascertained quickened the heartbeat of American producers and two years later… we have a readaptation of the novel of which that Swedish film was based. I didn’t like that film – a story about a lonely boy who befriends a peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire – and the trailer for this version of the film looks to show no signs of improvement. Shame because the concept is pretty cool – just how its developed is really, really lame. (Anticipation Meter: 4/10 – my rating for the original)

Mothers – starring: Ana Stojanovska and Vladimir Jacev. Macedonian cinema isn’t exactly… popular. In fact, there’s only one Macedonian director that I know of and it’s the one who directed this feature. His name: Milcho Manchevski – and if you’re in tune with foreign cinema of the 1990s, odds are you’ve seen one of his films in ‘Before the Rain’ which won the Golden Lion in 1994, along with picking up an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Feature. But more about this film. It’s about… well not mothers, really. Actually, it sounds rather fascinating. It’s three short stories that take place all over Macedonia. One’s about a kid who gets flashed and reports the crime; the second is less interesting as it’s about the only two old souls left in a destitute little town, regaling a documentary crew in its history; the third is a mockumentary look at a serial killer who targets, you’ve got it, mothers. This sounds really ambiguous and I am interested in it, but I’m also gunshy when it comes to the uncertain at TIFF. If I hear people raving it, I’ll make sure to snag a ticket for it or if it plays at a convenient time I’ll throw it into my schedule hoping for the best. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)

Passione – starring: Misia and Massimo Ranieri. With a no-name cast, the great appeal for this feature isn’t who is in front of the camera, but rather who’s behind it – John Turturro. Unfortunately, that’s about all to the film that is appealing to me. It’s a look back on Italy’s long history, telling tales of disaster with a great collection of the homeland’s rich musical catalog in the background. It isn’t for me, not whatsoever. The Italians cherish history and take great pride in traditionalism; this is what the film appears to encompass. I do not. (Anticipation Meter: 3/10)

The Poll Diaries – starring: Paula Beer and. Edgar Selge. The latest film by Chris Kraus (the best name in cinema) is ‘The Poll Diaries’ – Oda, a fourteen year old girl (Beer) nurses an ill Estonian behind her oppressive scientist father’s back. The setting is just prior to World War I – there is great racial tension and Oda’s actions will hold serious ramifications if she is found out as she’s a German. Sounds pretty interesting – Kraus is known for making pretty fine pictures (the other two films to his credit have achieved moderate international acclaim; much more in Germany), so I’d be willing to check this out. Not too enthusiastic, but I wouldn’t mind it finding a spot in my list. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)

Repeaters – starring: Dustin Milligan and Amanda Crew. Drawing a lot of comparisons to ‘Groundhog Day’ in formula, ‘Repeaters’ is a Canadian film about three young drug addicts are given a one day pass in hopes of rebuilding relationships with those they’ve wronged; parents, friends, others. Their anxiety and misfortunes do not end as the day does because the following day they awake to have the day repeat itself. It’s a pretty good concept and it only sits at 85 minutes in duration which is good when I’m unsure as to the quality of a film. Doubt I’ll see it at TIFF, but I won’t be surprised if it’s well-liked. (Anticipation Meter: 6/10)

Rio Sex Comedy – starring: Charlotte Rampling and Irene Jacob. When you’ve got Charlotte Rampling and the word sex mingling with one and other in a film description, you know you’ve got something hot. Toss in Irene Jacob and it becomes even sexier. The film is about the US ambassador to Brazil (Bill Pullman) who has a liberating experience upon arrival – meeting new and exciting people in exotic places. The concept is far too familiar to leave anything but a stale taste in my mouth and I wouldn’t anticipate this to be anything more than a fun yarn. (Anticipation Meter: 5/10)

Special Treatment – starring: Isabelle Huppert and Bouli Lanners. Similar to Before Sunrise and other films entirely about two people connecting over a period of time, ‘Special Treatment’ is about two fractured people trying to ascertain a sense of self. Alice (Huppert) is a high-class prostitute feeling exhausted with her life, so she sees Xavier (Lanners), a well-regarded psychoanalyst with marital issues and a fleeting identity. Over the course of their time together, Alice and Xavier attempt to remedy one and other with their individual wisdoms. This could either be a very invigorating character study about two lost souls or a very boring one. I’ll take the risk if my schedule allows it. (Anticipation Meter: 7/10)

Trigger – starring: Molly Parker and Tracy Wright. This is IMDb’s synopsis: Trigger’ is the story of two rock n’ roll women who once shared a friendship, a band and a whole lot of chaos. Now a dozen years later they meet again, and over the course of one evening rediscover friendship, remember rock’n’roll and reignite chaos. Bruce McDonald (one of Canada’s most popular filmmakers) directed it, so it’ll probably be alright, but “embrace life” films like these tend to irk me far more than they get me rhapsodizing. (Anticipation Meter: 4/10)

What’s Wrong With Virginia?
– starring: Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris. After winning Best Original Screenplay in 2008 for ‘Milk’, Dustin Lance Black is back and taking a crack at directing his first major feature with ‘What’s Wrong With Virginia?’, a story about a woman (Connelly) who is mentally ill and devotes herself to her illegitimate son (Harrison Gilbertson). Ed Harris plays a married Mormon sheriff who could be the boy’s father, but because he’s running for public office, tension hits a high in regards to the father of this boy. In an additional twist, the daughter he has with his wife (Emma Roberts) begin to date Virginia’s son. If not for that last bit of information, I would’ve called this film flagrantly melodramatic and while I would’ve seen it, wouldn’t have encouraged anyone to do so for TIFF. But I have faith in Dustin Lance Black (his script for Milk was wonderful) and he seems very sincere in what he pontificates, so count me in, if for nothing but watching Connelly absolutely dominate a leading role for the first time in ages. (Anticipation Meter: 8/10)

Now to catch up on the few Contemporary World Cinema films…

We Keep Having Sex With Our Exes

A Night For Dying Tigers – starring: Jennifer Beals and Gil Bellows. According to TIFF: The night before Jack goes to prison for five years, his family gets together at their ancestral home for a farewell dinner. What begins as a civil, if not joyful, reunion quickly devolves into a morally questionable whirlwind of regret, reversals, and revelations. Could be good – I do find the actors to have some merit so I have faith in them carrying out such a story with relative conviction, if nothing else. My main concern is that the filmmaker hasn’t proven himself to be capable of such a heavy concept and films like these need fantastic writing to keep from sinking like so many similar ones. I’m too uncertain with this to watch it, but I hope it turns out to be something great. (Anticipation Meter: 4/10)

Crying Out
– starring: Jean Lapointe and
Michel Barrette. One of the five Canadian films selected for the CWC programme is ‘Crying Out’, a Quebecois tale about three generations of men from the same family drunkenly travel around Quebec, slowly forming a stronger bond with each other. In all honesty, family… yeah, that’s nice, sometimes films about family bonding can be great, but this sounds so very bluntly contrived. (Anticipation Meter: 2/10)

Modra – starring: Hallie Switzer and Alexander Gammal. So I watched the trailer for this because I’m unsure (here, if you’re curious) and while it may seem nice and all, I don’t have faith in either of the leads conveying an authentic performance. And films about gradually growing from friends to partners in love rely entirely on the chemistry of the actor you have at your disposal. I would’ve been far more inclined to see this if I felt otherwise about the actors, but because I their efforts will be rather paltry, I have no interest. (Anticipation Meter: 3/10)

Route 132 – starring: François Papineau and Alexis Martin. According to TIFF: ‘Route 132’ focuses on a man who loses a loved one and embarks on a journey in an attempt to rediscover his roots and come to terms with his grief. A really, really boring concept – I won’t delve into why because that should be rather tacit by this point. (Anticipation Meter: 2/10)

Small Town Murder Songs – starring: Peter Stormare and Aaron Poole. To begin, the title is pretty cool – I’m hooked already. As for the plot, it’s meant to be a Gothic mystery about a sheriff (Stormare) trying to ascertain the identity of the person who raped and murdered a young girl by a lake. He has a storied past – he, too, is an enigma. However, despite how cool all of this sounds, the TIFF review makes sure you know that this film plays on religious themes quite heavily, which can be great, but often come off preachy. I’ve had too many bad experiences with religion playing a big part in contemporary films (really, I haven’t felt a great inclination to praise any religion-based film since the 70s), so I’ll pass on this one, but of all the Canadian features announced in this programme, this is the most interesting one. (Anticipation Meter: 6/10)

That’s all for now. I’ll be sure to update my blog with the City to City announcements and catch up on the Masters, Galas and whatever else may be announced. I cannot wait to see what Vanguard churns out – please, oh please, be screening Gus van Sant’s ‘Restless’.

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