My Year of Film Festivals: Looking Back at Sundance, SXSW, TIFF, and Fantastic Fest

by     Posted 1 year, 358 days ago

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I went to more film festivals this year than I ever had before.  I went to Sundance in January, SXSW in March, and TIFF and Fantastic Fest this month.  It’s exhausting, but it’s fun.  I see it as a nice break from the grind of delivering news stories.  It’s not that news is bad, or that it doesn’t have value, but it’s nice seeing the final product of the smaller films we’ve reported on since we probably only heard of them from a casting story as opposed to an onslaught of trailers and posters.  Obviously, there are film festivals where there are marquee titles making their last big push before opening in wide release (Sundance is the only festival where the biggest films—those filled with recognizable actors—might not even have distributors let alone a release date).  But it’s always a nice variety, and each festival has its own flavor.

After the jump hit the jump for my impressions of each festival.

Matthew Fox Talks EMPEROR, SPEED RACER, The Wachowskis, ALEX CROSS, LOST, WORLD WAR Z and Comic Book Movies

by     Posted 2 years ago

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One of the many films to premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was Peter Webber’s (Girl with a Pearl Earring) historical drama Emperor. The film takes place during the days following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II and stars Tommy Lee Jones as General Douglas MacArthur, the de facto ruler of Japan as Supreme Commander of the occupying forces.  Matthew Fox plays a leading Japanese expert on the staff of MacArthur who is tasked with deciding whether or not Emperor Hirohito should be tried as a war criminal.  Fox’s mission becomes more complicated as he searches for a school teacher (Eriko Hatsune) who first drew him to Japan years before the war.  For more on the film, here’s a clip and some images.

Shortly before the world premiere, I sat down with Matthew Fox for an exclusive interview.  We talked about why he wanted to do Emperor, how the finished film compares to the original script, how he prepares for a role, if he prefers a few takes or a lot, and more.  In addition, we also talked about Speed Racer (a film I love), his physical transformation for Alex Cross, World War Z, the reshoots, Lost, would he ever do a comic book movie, and a lot more.  Hit the jump to either read or listen to the interview.

2012 Toronto International Film Festival Awards Announced; SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS Among Winners

by     Posted 2 years, 4 days ago

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The winners of the 37th Toronto International Film Festival were announced earlier today with David O. Russell‘s Silver Linings Playbook taking home the festival’s People’s Choice Award and Martin McDonagh‘s Seven Psychopaths being recognized with the Midnight Madness Award. For the sake of context, it’s worth noting that the 34 previous Peoples Choice winners have gone on to garner 10 Best Picture nods at the Academy Awards (with Chariots of Fire, American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire, and The King’s Speech bringing home the Oscar).

For a complete list of the festival’s winners, including director Bartholomew Cubbins‘ Best Documentary win for Artifact, hit the jump to check out the press release. After perusing that, be sure to stay up to date on all of our ongoing TIFF 2012 coverage.

TIFF 2012: A Look Back

by     Posted 2 years, 5 days ago

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Later today, I will be on a plane home.  I have spent the last ten days at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, and given a reminder on how film festivals are exhausting and a total blast.  I’ve gotten a huge jump on a lot of fall films, and an even bigger jump on movies that won’t arrive until probably late next year.  Hopefully, this jump will allow me to provide you all with more informed coverage when we report on these flicks.

This was my second year attending TIFF.  It’s still a remarkably well-run operation, especially when you consider the mind-boggling level of logistics that goes into making a festival like this work.  There are some professional frustrations along the way, like only having one press screening of a movie (which is why I missed Rust and Bone and Amour), but I’m still grateful for all the films I got to see even if a picture didn’t meet my level of expectations.  Hit the jump for more of my thoughts on TIFF 2012.

TIFF 2012: FRANCES HA Review

by     Posted 2 years, 5 days ago

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Even though his films are most easily classified as comedies, you rarely feel good coming out of project by writer/director Noah Baumbach. That’s not a bad thing as his caustic wit and insightful observations about terrible, self-obsessed people have lead to some great films like The Squid And The Whale. However, his latest feature is a little different. Teaming up with mumblecore darling Greta Gerwig following their collaboration on the underappreciated Greenberg, Baumbach has surprisingly delivered his most warm and sweet movie to date in Frances Ha. After being produced almost in secret, the film premiered at TIFF to a far more positive reception than he has ever received before. Hit the jump for additional appreciation for the appropriately frivolous and insightful ode to late 20s irresponsibility.

TIFF 2012: GHOST GRADUATION Review

by     Posted 2 years, 7 days ago

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Javier Ruiz Caldera‘s Ghost Graduation mashes-up The Sixth Sense, Heart and Souls, and The Breakfast Club, and does so with a big smile on its face.  Happily aware of the clichés of ghost films, Ghost Graduation has plenty of fun embracing the major rules of the genre (body possession, walking through walls, etc.) while still poking fun at the little quirks.  Caldera and his charming cast have created a sweet film that never gets too saccharine, and a nice parody that never becomes too self-aware.

TIFF 2012: PASSION Review

by     Posted 2 years, 7 days ago

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There’s a difference between “old-school” and “out-of-touch”, and Brian De Palma‘s Passion disappointingly falls into the latter.  In an attempt to dig into his old bag of tricks when making a sexual thriller, Passion starts out promising, but then slowly devolves into a series of gimmicks and decisions that render the movie increasingly cheesy until it becomes unintentionally hilarious.  De Palma revisits woman’s sexual duality, but with Passion, his attempt feels like a mash-up of previous ideas played out to disastrous results.  The score is corny, the performances feel stilted, the cinematography is heavy-handed, and the twists become inane.  Passion is a throwback that should simply be thrown away.

TIFF 2012: HELLBENDERS Review

by     Posted 2 years, 7 days ago

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Hellbenders teaches a valuable lesson: even with a neat premise and a strong cast of a character actors, a film can get real old, real fast.  Writer-director JT Petty wants to coast on the hook of a bunch of hellbound, sinful exorcists charged with doing the church’s dirty work, but he has no idea how to build on it.  The film becomes an endless loop of people in cleric’s collars doing raunchy stuff.  Petty’s motto seems to be, “When in doubt, give Clancy Brown something filthy to say.”  The cast is out of balance so there never feels like a team dynamic, and even when the story raises the stakes, the characters don’t feel much of an impetus to save the world.  Hellbenders may trip over the occasional humorous moment, but it’s mostly a constant reminder of wasted potential.  To rub salt in the wound, the movie is in crappy 3D.

TIFF 2012: NO ONE LIVES Review

by     Posted 2 years, 7 days ago

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Ryûhei Kitamura‘s No One Lives is trying so hard to be cool, it hurts.  It is a complete and utter wreck of a screenplay that sounds like it was written by an idiotic 16-year-old boy.  The acting is abysmal, and only made worse by the fact that there are real actors put side-by-side with amateur ones.  Kitamura’s earlier film, Versus, wasn’t a great, but it at least showed some kinetic energy.  However, that kind of slick movement, or any personality beyond a generic slasher, is completely absent from his new movie.  All it has to offer is gruesome kills, and not even particularly inventive ones at that.  But hey, the protagonist is a violent psychopath in a black trench coat, so I guess that means this movie has a personality.  It’s just a personality no one wants to be around.

TIFF 2012: THE PAPERBOY Review

by     Posted 2 years, 8 days ago

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Lee DanielsThe Paperboy technically has a plot.  It’s an idiotic, rambling plot that has no level of cohesion or momentum whatsoever, but it’s a story that chronologically follows from “A” to “B”.  Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy has characters.  They’re gross, idiotic people whose actions are repulsive and ambitions are bizarre, but their repulsive behavior and bizarre ambition are consistent.  Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy doesn’t earn points just because it meets the bare minimum of plot and character since it fails on just about every level of filmmaking.  Daniels, in his effort to go big all the time, mistakes luridness for atmosphere, sweat for character, and style for substance.

TIFF 2012: Jorge Hinojosa and Ice-T Talk ICEBERG SLIM: PORTRAIT OF A PIMP, How Ice T Took His Name, Filmmaking Challenges and the Legacy of Iceberg Slim

by     Posted 2 years, 8 days ago

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Iceberg Slim is either a name you adore or haven’t heard of. He was a pimp in the early half of the 20th century, then went to prison, got out, raised a family, and in middle-age reinvented himself as an author. His autobiographical first novel “Pimp: The Story of My Life” became an instant underground classic and he followed it up with equally excellent and candid stories of the streets, the mafia, and conmen. He released an album (Reflections) and had his book “Trick Baby” turned into a movie. Yet, thanks to crooked publishers and literary prejudice, Slim died practically penniless.

Slim’s story has been vividly brought to life in the new film Iceberg Slim: Portrait Of A Pimp, featuring interviews with surviving family members, colleges and celebrity fans like Snoop Dog (or Lion), Chris Rock, and Ice T. The man holds special importance to Ice T who took his name from the author and produced the movie that was directed by his longtime manager Jorge Hinojosa. The director and producer made a visit to the Toronto International Film Festival to promote their new documentary and Collider got a chance to speak with them about the legacy of Iceberg Slim and the challenges of making the film. Hit the jump for all the details along with some predictably saucy language.

TIFF 2012: AT ANY PRICE Review

by     Posted 2 years, 8 days ago

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The American Dream is based on keeping the nuclear family intact and creating uninterrupted growth of property.  Our families can always be closer, and we can always have more wealth.  That’s the “dream” part, since families can’t stay close if some members expect to grow their independence, and acquiring more wealth usually means taking it away from somebody else.  Ramin Bahrani‘s At Any Price doesn’t show the corruption of the American Dream; it shows the American Dream’s complexity.  Set in the American heartland and revolving around farming—the industry our nation was built on, and one that still relies on family relationships—At Any Price is a thoughtful, rich exploration of how there’s not enough dream to go around.

TIFF 2012: DISCONNECT Review

by     Posted 2 years, 8 days ago

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Modern technology has radically changed the way we interact socially.  Go stand in a line, and I guarantee at least a few people will have whipped out their smartphones and are happily ignoring the world around them.  We don’t call anymore; we text as if that were the same as a discussion.  As author, psychologist, and MIT professor Sherry Turkle recently noted in a New York Times editorial this past April, “we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.”  Henry Alex Rubin‘s Disconnect ignores this contemporary issue, and sacrifices worthwhile social commentary for mere cautionary tales.  Disconnect has all the dramatic weight of a driver’s education video, but then pads its thin plots with three loosely-connected narratives, two of which feature character actions so ludicrous that the movie becomes almost completely disconnected from reality.

TIFF 2012: SPRING BREAKERS Review

by     Posted 2 years, 8 days ago

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Harmony Korine‘s Spring Breakers is a wild, aggressive, mildly disturbing, darkly comic, and surprisingly thoughtful film about hedonism so thick you’ll about to choke on it.  For college kids who feel entitled to a good time and never want the party to stop, Spring Breakers takes their debauched desires, and plays them out to a grotesque degree where the characters are tested in how far they’ll go to keep the passion of spring break burning forever (the other burning will require penicillin).  Complimented by the glorious stunt casting of James Franco as a goofy drug dealer, Spring Breakers defies simple explanation, and sends the audience spinning as we grasp for some kind of anchor in this sweaty mosh pit of a movie.

TIFF 2012: IMOGENE Review

by     Posted 2 years, 9 days ago

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Over the years, I’ve written at length at how far too many indie comedies mistake quirk for character.  Characters feel like people.  They have emotions, goals, fears, etc.  A character can have quirks, but they can’t be quirks.  Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini‘s Imogene is yet another example of an indie comedy that derives its comedy not from clever jokes, thoughtful set-ups and payoffs, or believable characters.  It attempts to get laughs from its miserable eponymous protagonist interacting with her goofy family of one-dimensional eccentrics.  As much as Imogene strives to coast on the wackiness of the characters, the best jokes in this shapeless comedy come from the little off-handed moments that slip through the tortured, hollow idiosyncrasies.

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