I'm sitting here in a Starbucks on Bloor Street in Toronto, trying to catch up on some writing before heading over to catch a screening of an indie film called Gigantic. There's one thing I always think about at every screening or while I'm writing every review, and it's the motto at this year's fest: For The Love Of Film. Some fellow journalists have gotten tired of seeing it everywhere, but every time I see it, it reminds me that this festival and everything I do is truly for the love of film. I don't care that I didn't get a press pass and I don't mind watching awful and boring movies, because I still enjoy every minute of every day. Right down to the audience yelling out "argh" during the anti-piracy message and the charming song during the opening video. So let me try and recap the last few days of the Toronto Film Festival as best as I can.
Style, substance, comedy, romance, suspense, explosions, guns, con men, Belgians, Russians, Lamborghinis, harps, and everything in between. I don't know how Rian Johnson does it, but he's done it again. The Brothers Bloom is a con film, in short, and is colorfully entertaining and immensely quirky, eclectic, and brilliant, to say the very least. From Brick to Brothers Bloom, Johnson is a very young filmmaker that exudes raw creativity and here yet again it really shows to the fullest extent. To be honest, it was quite confusing, just like Brick, but within the rather short 109 minutes, I was convinced - this was fantastic and pure cinematic storytelling at its finest. Bravo on another success Rian Johnson, bravo!
To say I enjoyed Zack and Miri Make a Porno would be inaccurate. I loved it, every last second, right down to the mushy story about love and relationships that Kevin Smith gets to in the end. It's hilarious, it's saturated with sex, and it's charming, too. To be honest, I think Kevin Smith has actually taken a gigantic step forward, away from his previous films like Clerks and Dogma, and ventured into new comedic territory that used to only be reserved for Judd Apatow. I thought Seth Rogen might not be able to keep up his consistently strong comedic performances, but he's outdone himself and even topped Pineapple Express this time. Zack and Miri isn't exactly as reflective as Clerks II, but it's definitely sweeter.
Five days into the Toronto Film Festival and I've found another one of my favorites. I never would've thought that I could gain so much respect for professional wrestling, but after seeing this film, I have. The Wrestler, the latest feature from brilliant indie filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, is an attempt to step out of the norm and try something new again, and this time it's telling the story of an aging wrestler nicknamed "The Ram", passionately portrayed by experienced actor Mickey Rourke. Aronofsky should be immensely proud of yet another cinematic achievement of this caliber, considering this is his fourth film and yet another one that ranks up there in line with Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain before it.
We're right smack in the middle of yet another day here at the Toronto Film Festival. In an attempt to catch up, I've put together two reviews for two films I saw on the same day. They couldn't be more different but both have their merits and both have their flaws. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is a film that I've been looking forward to, but wasn't the most excited to see, while Blindness was a film that I've been anxious to catch ever since Marco gave it a fairly good review from Cannes. Nick and Norah turned out to be the remarkably sweet little comedy that I didn't know I was in the mood for and Blindness turned out to be a rough film to actually watch, not to mention enjoy. Take a look at both full reviews below.
I've been up here at the Toronto Film Festival for nearly four days and haven't written one of my typical daily updates yet. I'm going to try and give you a good excuse, because I think everyone deserve one, so let's get down to it. Film festivals are not only time-consuming and exhausting, but there are so many things going on that it's hard to find extra time to even sit down and write. When I'm not writing or watching movies, I'm traveling between screenings, attending parties, eating, or otherwise trying to find a suitable place with electricity to work. It's an exhausting life but I love every last minute of it. Toronto this year has actually been fantastic - I've seen a total of eight movies so far and have nearly seven days left.
Comedy from chaos - that's what Burn After Reading is all about. Essentially this film is a chaotic ensemble drama about six intersecting characters - but remarkably it's hilarious. I don't know how the Coen Brothers did it, but all of the eclectic characters they gathered together in Burn After Reading all really shined through in the finished product. The only problem was the felt it a bit skimpy, like there could have been so much more. At only 96 minutes in length, the film plays fairly well throughout most of it, but ends abruptly and often mixes darker elements and comedy, not always successfully. However, it's still a smart comedy with a hilarious ensemble cast that most people will end up enjoying thoroughly.
I would have never thought that a period piece about Orson Welles directed by Dazed and Confused's Richard Linklater would be any good, but I was wrong. Me and Orson Welles is Linklater's latest film, a very intimate portrait of Orson Welles (played by Christian McKay) and his work (meaning both directing and starring in) the theatrical production of "Ceaser" in 1937. The story is told through the eyes of Richard Samuels (played by Zac Efron), an 18-year-old kid who gets a bit part in the play as Lucius and comes to experience first-hand the wrath of the legendary Welles. The film is pretty much a typical amusing period piece, however McKay's exceptional performance as Welles really pushes the film to the next level.
Coming out of the Cannes Film Festival in May, buzz for Steven Soderbergh's Che seemed only mediocre, but now heading into Toronto, it's been boosted back into the spotlight. In advance of the film's public premiere next Friday and press premiere this Monday, the NY Post reports that Mark Cuban's company Magnolia Pictures has made a deal for distribution. No details on how much they bought the film for or any other major plans, besides an expected limited release starting on December 12th in order for the film to be in the running for the Oscars. With Benicio Del Toro's performance being praised by almost every critic so far, we can expect Del Toro to eventually get a nomination next year.
Earlier tonight in Toronto I caught the world premiere of director Richard Linklater's newest film, title Me and Orson Welles, a delightful period comedy drama starring Zac Efron, Claire Danes, and Christian McKay. After the screening I briefly stopped by the film's official party to chat with Linklater and the other guests. I couldn't help to mention how excited I was to see School of Rock 2, a sequel I'm honestly looking forward to, but his response to my mentioning of it wasn't all too positive. In July, the news about the sequel was officially confirmed by Variety, but apparently that's not the case. Linklater was quick to say to me that the film "might not" happen at all and that Paramount just jumped the gun on the news.
Who is the most popular Belgian actor of all-time? Jean-Claude Van Damme, of course! JCVD, which literally stands for Jean-Claude Van Damme, is a personal introspective on the action star as brought to us by French filmmaker Mabrouk El Mechri. Van Damme actually plays himself, a real life movie star who gets caught up in a routine robbery, but it becomes more than just a story about kicking ass. It's much more about the actor's personal life and troubles he's going though, including losing custody of a child and running out of money. The film starts with an impressive action sequence but unfortunately heads down hill over time. It's not what you might expect, but at the start that's a good thing, at the end, it's not.
Guy Ritchie has done it again. RocknRolla is yet another Ritchie classic like we've seen twice before with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in 1998 and Snatch in 2000. It may not exactly top either of those two in content, but it's certainly the best British gangster film in the last eight years, which says a lot. Plus it doesn't hurt to add another great film to the Ritchie library, especially one with such a genuinely entertaining line-up of actors. In short, RocknRolla boasts that same brilliant visual style that Ritchie is known for, as well as a deceitful story as sharp as the one from Snatch. Whether you end up liking the story or not, there's no denying that Ritchie is a talented filmmaker capable of pure entertainment.