THE EDITOR Review | TIFF 2014

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the editor review

The sweet Manitoba chaps behind Astron-6 have been cranking out homemade tongue-in-cheek trash epics like Father’s Day and Manborg for a while now, but nothing they’ve done thus far will prepare you for The Editor.  Granted, it’s a movie that is about as inside baseball as it gets. If you don’t even know what the word giallo is referring to, you’ll still laugh because these guys are almost too funny for their own good. However, if you’re someone who savors the same Italian horror flicks as co-directors Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy clearly do, then The Editor will knock you on your ass with its perfect reaction of the gorgeous visuals and indeliberate comedy that defines the genre.  Hit the jump for my The Editor review.

TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER Review | TIFF 2014

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tales of the grim sleeper review

Documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield (Biggie and Tupac, the Aileen Wuornos docs) has a knack for stirring up trouble on the way to the truth.  His films always chronicle his own struggle to a given subject.  Even when his movies lead to dead ends, that becomes the focus of the film and often the results are better than if he’d succeeded.  However, every now and then Broomfield stumbles onto a subject that he’s able to pull such disturbing and mind-boggling stories from that the docs turn out rather spectacularly.  Tales of the Grim Sleeper is one of these projects.  What starts as an attempt to determine the guilt of a certain serial killer gradually transforms into an indictment of the justice department and a depiction of a overlooked community.  It’s a pretty fantastic little movie, provided that you can stomach it. Want to know why? Then hit that jump.

THE LAST 5 YEARS Review | TIFF 2014

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Finding a new way to tell a love story is tough.  Relationships are what hold us together, and the wide range of emotions felt throughout them—passion, attraction, anger, jealousy—are what remind us that we are indeed human.  Director Richard LaGravenese’s feature film adaption of the stage musical The Last 5 Years attempts to tell this kind of universal story in a unique fashion, as the story tracks the life of a relationship between a man and a woman from beginning to end simultaneously. We begin at the end from the woman’s point of view, and then trade off every other scene with the man’s point of view, which starts at the beginning of the relationship.  On top of that, the whole thing is a full-on, genuine musical.  While the catchy songs and a fantastic performance from Anna Kendrick make the film enjoyable, some odd directorial choices and an unfortunate miscasting of the male half of the duo prevent the film from ever fully coming together.

GOOD KILL Review | TIFF 2014

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Writer-director Andrew Niccol has some thoughts about drone warfare, and he wants to share them with you.  His new film, Good Kill, is one of the first mainstream fiction films to deal directly with the subject as opposed to some wishy-washy, pretentious subtext in a Hollywood picture (I’m looking at you, RoboCop remake).  While Niccol once again shows himself to be a great “idea man”, he can’t manage to create a story even half as interesting as his subject.

THE KEEPING ROOM Review | TIFF 2014

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Daniel Barber’s The Keeping Room begins with a quote from Union General William Tecumseh Sherman: “War is cruelty, there is no use trying to reform it; the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”  The Keeping Room takes place during war, but it is not about war, at least not in the traditional sense of soldiers on a battlefield.  It is more about cruelty; specifically, the cruelty visited upon women.  The threat of rape pervades the entire story, and Barber maintains the tension without ever feeling exploitative.  Although the dialogue can be a little too on the nose, the weight of the narrative and Brit Marling’s powerful performance make the dread palatable throughout this painfully relevant tale.

RED ARMY Review | TIFF 2014

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When it comes to American sports, we love our individual figures: Babe Ruth, Joe Montana, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky.  It’s part of the individualistic nature of county, and while we’re not against teams, we prefer legends.  There’s an entire movie set around 1980’s “Miracle on Ice”, but with Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) at the center.  These sports legends reinforce our notions of what we aspire to be. “History is written by the victors”, Churchill said, but sometimes the more interesting stories come from the defeated.  Gabe Polsky’s superb sports documentary Red Army crosses the Atlantic to explore how hockey was viewed in Russia, and how their culture affected their play and their players.  Filled with terrific mini-narratives within its larger context, Red Army is deeply insightful and constantly entertaining.

PASOLINI Review | TIFF 2014

by     Posted 12 days ago

pasolini review

Pier Paolo Pasolini was one of cinema’s greatest provocateurs and his mysterious murder is one of film history’s great mysteries.  So it only makes sense that Pasolini’s life would attract the attention of a certain Abel Ferrara.  The man who made the transition from the grindhouse to the art house with plenty of dirt left under his fingernails has spent a career walking the line between high art and gutter trash.  Pasolini offers heaping handsome doses of the former with a little taste of the latter for sting.  It’s not Ferrara’s greatest accomplishment, but it’s still another solid piece of work to add to his resume.  Hit the jump to find out why.

LOVE & MERCY Review | TIFF 2014

by     Posted 12 days ago

love-mercy-review

The Beach Boys are one of my favorite bands of all time, and their seminal 1966 album Pet Sounds is also one of my favorite albums of all time, so I came into director Bill Pohlad’s Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy with high expectations and a certain degree of skepticism.  As it turns out, the film is actually really good.  Pohlad takes a non-traditional approach to the biopic genre by splitting the story between young Brian Wilson (Paul Dano) and older Brian Wilson (John Cusack), focusing on the creation of Pet Sounds and the troubled SMiLE in the Dano timeline and Wilson’s severe mental illness and abusive relationship with his caretaker in the Cusack one.  Both actors rise to the challenge, with Cusack turning in his best performance in years, and Pohlad ends up crafting not only one of the more interesting biopics to come along in a while, but also a moving and honest chronicle of mental illness and success.

ROSEWATER Review | TIFF 2014

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Gael Garcia Bernal plays incarcerated journalist Maziar Bahari in Rosewater, but writer-director Jon Stewart is the true lead.  For fans for The Daily Show, his personality shines through every episode, and it’s one that has become wearied over the years as news coverage has declined at an exponential rate.  His hopes for a better world have become a life raft, and his refusal to give into cynicism is what keeps his directorial debut afloat even if it veers into being earnest to the point of cheesiness.  Rosewater may not have much depth, but Stewart’s personal connection to the story—both professional and ideological—give it an abundance of heart.

WILD Review | TIFF 2014

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wild-review

Perseverance is easier said than done.  We all understand that if we can just get through this, push a little harder, fight through the pain, then we will more than likely come out better off on the other side.  But it is so easy to stop trying.  Laze seems to be some kind of natural instinct that takes over and tells us to just give up and accept our life as it is.  Director Jean-Marc Vallée follows up last year’s Dallas Buyers Club with a much more solitary drama in Wild, which recounts author Chery Strayed’s three-month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, during which she reflects on past mistakes and hardships, and struggles to find some inner peace.  That’s a trite enough premise, but through Vallée’s confident, dynamic direction and a truly fearless lead performance by Reese Witherspoon, Wild turns out to be an honest, surprising, and unabashedly feminist chronicle of determination and rebirth. 

ELECTRIC BOOGALOO Review | TIFF 2014

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I love learning behind-the-scenes stories about movies, and the crazier the movie and the production team behind it, the better.  During the 1980s, no major studio was making movies like Cannon, which was run by Israelis Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus.  Their schlocky movies have developed a cult following over the years, and although some of it is ironic appreciation, the stories behind those films are fascinating.  In his new documentary, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, director Mark Hartley regales us with wild anecdotes and clips, and while the structure is a bit scattershot, it’s still an exciting and hilarious look at the madness that went into creating delightfully loony pictures.

THE REACH Review | TIFF 2014

by     Posted 13 days ago

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I like the premise of humans hunting other humans for sport because it’s delightfully ludicrous and perversely entertaining.  It’s a lean, direct concept that removes the frills to become a battle of wits between the hunter and “the most dangerous game”.  For the majority of its runtime, Jean-Baptiste Léonetti’s The Reach sits comfortably inside this framework.  The story takes the occasional shortcut, but it also works in some subtext about economic inequality, which is a nice touch.  However, as the movie starts winding down, I realized I was perhaps giving Léonetti too much credit as The Reach crashes and burns in spectacular fashion.

BACKCOUNTRY Review | TIFF 2014

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backcountry-review

I already think twice about going into the ocean thanks to Open Water and now I’ll have the same problem with camping courtesy of Adam MacDonald’s disturbingly brilliant feature directorial debut, Backcountry.  We get a “based on a true story” title card a few minutes in and the film honors it to the fullest.  Everything from the secluded setting to the characters to their decision-making process feels so authentic that it’ll leave you with the impression that it could happen to anyone.  Good thing I’ve got a trip to the woods coming up in a week, right?  (Really.)

MANGLEHORN Review | TIFF 2014

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manglehorn-review

In my review of Joe, I mentioned how I liked David Gordon Green’s return to smaller, character driven stories.  His newest film, Manglehorn, is another character piece, and while I stand by my appreciation for his decision to make this kind of movie, it also failed to hook me.  It’s an interesting film in how it tries to handle a character who is an intriguing collection of contradictions with regards to how he interacts with others, but eventually his navel-gazing and obsession with a lost love becomes tedious.

TOP FIVE Review | TIFF 2014

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On stage, Chris Rock is consistently one of the funniest men on the planet.  In the movies…well, it’s been a rocky road.  With a few exceptions (typically in supporting roles), filmmakers have just never been able to figure out how to take advantage of his comedic voice when playing a fictional character.  Even the two times in the past that Rock has directed his movies, something felt off.  At least that was true until now.  Rock writes, directs, and stars in Top Five as a loosely fictionalized version of himself.  Just like a Woody Allen movie, it comes off as personal without being autobiographical. More importantly, it’s incredibly funny, just like Rock has always been with a mic in his hand. About time.  Hit that jump.

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