The last interview I did up in Toronto was with two of my own favorite actors - Tim Blake Nelson and Edward Norton. By now you've probably heard about their new film Leaves of Grass (read my review), that Nelson directed and Norton stars in as two brothers, one a stoner the other a professor. I caught up with the two of them the morning after the premiere of their film, so both were in high spirits. We talked about developing the story in Leaves of Grass, figuring out the distinctions between the two brothers, shooting Norton twice in scenes, balancing the humor and action, and maybe even a little about the Hulk.
"Just call me… Defendor!" Although the Toronto Film Festival has wrapped up, our coverage isn't entirely finished just yet. A few days ago Peter from SlashFilm and I decided to just recorded a video on the streets of Toronto talking about our thoughts on both Peter Stebbings' Defendor and Michael Moore's new doc Capitalism: A Love Story. Not only was it just easier to record all this, but now you get to hear both perspectives on these two films. It's a fun little video that's worth checking out, especially if you want to hear more about either of those films. So without further ado, drop what you're doing and fire this video up!
Don't ask why, but I wasn't expecting much out of Get Low. I remember hearing about the story when it was first announced, but I just didn't expect it to be that great. Boy was I wrong. Get Low is a film that mixes emotion and comedy in a hugely impressive way (for a first-time feature filmmaker) and is endearing at the same time. It's led by an incredible performance from Robert Duvall and is a remarkably wild ride, which almost doesn't make sense considering it's a period piece set in the 1930s, but it works. I wasn't expecting to like it, but I fell in love with it, thanks to all the little details that director Aaron Schneider brought to it.
With so many gritty low-budget British gangster films these days, the better ones really need something that makes unique if they want to stand out. At first I thought that was exactly Perrier's Bounty had - a great cast with a perfect dynamic. But as I watched the story play out, I realized this wasn't at all any different, and it started to follow a formulaic path. By the end I knew what was coming -- well, not entirely, but I knew that he'd get the girl, and I knew that he'd live to see another day. No surprise there. I'm not trying to spoil the film, but rather just criticize it, as it really had a chance of being great but lost its edge once it got going.
My first introduction to the world of roller derby and thankfully there was no painful initiation. Whip It is no masterpiece, but for the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore, it's pretty damn good. I'm looking forward to whatever she directs next, but for her debut behind the camera, I was considerably impressed. As for her stars, Ellen Page has never looked better on roller skates, and Alia Shawkat has never been funnier. It's a sweet, charming, occasionally humorous, and fun little southern film, but it doesn't hit as hard as the girls in the derby do. I wanted to love it but just couldn't. There's just not enough to appreciate, I guess.
To end the Toronto Film Festival, I caught a 9:30PM screening of The Disappearance of Alice Creed at the Ryerson Theater late last night. We arrived just on time, as I had just finished a big dinner with some friends, and decided to sit on the balcony. I'd never set foot up there before (in three years) and thought, why not check it out? The seats were fine, although they were far away, but as is usual when sitting below the projection booth, I could see the light shining in the air from the window all the way to the screen. What a way to end this fest, I thought, getting that true feeling of sitting in a cinema (think Cinema Paradiso).
What a way to end this festival! After hearing some fairly good reviews, I decided to catch J Blakeson's The Disappearance of Alice Creed as my final film of the festival, my 22nd here in Toronto. This film has such a great concept. I wouldn't call it brilliant or groundbreaking, but it's pretty damn unique. It stars only three people. It starts with two men who buy supplies and fortify an apartment for what looks to be a prison for someone they're about to kidnap and rape. A gruesome start, but there are plenty of twists and turns. They nab a girl, put her in the back of a van, bring her to the apartment, chain her up, and then we're off.
This has been an unusually great year for dual roles in films. There's Sam Rockwell in Moon and Michael Cera in Youth in Revolt. But one of my favorite dual role films is already Leaves of Grass, which I saw up here at the Toronto Film Festival at its world premiere. The film stars two Edward Nortons (as brothers) and is directed by one Tim Blake Nelson (who also has a role in the film as well). It's a down-home kind of story set in Oklahoma about these two brothers and their family. Not only does it have quite a few good laughs, but it packs a punch in terms of action and story, and is a great bit of entertainment overall.
My apologies for the lack of coverage from the Toronto Film Festival in the past few days, as it has been pretty damn crazy up here. I always talk about my whereabouts and thoughts on films I've seen on Twitter, so head over there if you want to stay on top of everything from TIFF. One film I saw a few days ago was Mr. Nobody, a sci-fi drama starring Jared Leto. The film was about making decisions and it explained that in life, you have to make so many big decisions that you can't change, that sometimes it's best to not make a decision (it explores that idea in a fascinating way). And decisions are the biggest issue for me up here.
If it weren't for two films I saw in the last two days, I would've been unhappy with the start of this year's Toronto Film Festival. The first two I saw on Thursday, the first day of the fest, were two films I was looking forward to seeing, and yet both of them were huge let downs. Not a good start for a festival that lasts 10 days and boasts a line-up of over 250 international features. I'm glad to see that they've kept their slogan "For the Love of Film" this year, though I'm not seeing it up on display as much as last year. Maybe that's why it's off to a slow start? Or (more likely), maybe it's just a coincidence that they switched their signs?
Can the Coen Brothers ever do wrong? Okay, they can, but this really isn't one of those times. A Serious Man is a seriously great film, with some brilliantly dark humor and a simple story that turns out to mean quite a bit by the end. It's probably the most Jewish comedy you'll see all year, about a Jewish family in a small Jewish town. The performances are all great and everything about it is pretty much spot on, but at this point I don't think anyone expects any less from the Coens. And in terms of their comedy, I laughed more during this than I did during Burn After Reading, and I even really enjoyed that film (at Toronto last year).
I caught the premiere of Karyn Kusama's new horror feature Jennifer's Body, written by Oscar winner Diablo Cody and starring the luscious Megan Fox, up in Toronto tonight (where it played extremely well). I actually dug it quite a bit, I had a good time, and despite plenty of Cody's always-fresh pop-culture dialogue, I had a good time. The story is actually much more about Amanda Seyfried's character, who kicked Fox's ass, in terms of acting at least (in the movie, though, I won't say). It's not a perfect movie, but it is one of those fun kind of 80's horror throwbacks that is good to just pop in on Saturday nights with a bunch of friends.
Today I embark on another 28-day adventure around North America to three great film festivals. I fly today to Telluride, Colorado for the Telluride Film Festival, then head to Toronto on September 8th for the Toronto Film Festival, then head to Austin, Texas on September 20th for the Fantastic Fest held at the world famous Alamo Drafthouse, before finally returning home on October 1st. It's a whirlwind adventure that I've been excited to go again since finishing the same "epic tour" last year. Joining me on the road for all 28 days is Peter Sciretta from SlashFilm. You can expect plenty of great fest coverage all this month.
Where did this even come from? Earlier this year, the LA Film Festival premiered a film called Paper Man, that starred Ryan Reynolds as a wanna-be superhero. Now along comes Defendor, which is premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, also comedy starring Woody Harrelson as a wanna-be superhero. Some photos have popped up online for this courtesy of both TIFF and SlashFilm and it looks pretty damn good. At least the costume Harrelson made looks great, especially the duct tape D on his chest. Defendor is both written and directed by actor-turned-filmmaker Peter Stebbings. Anyway, I've said enough, juut check these out!