Wednesday, July 31, 2013

TIFF Announces Vanguard Titles

Horns

The Toronto International Film Festival Vanguard programme takes audiences on a sensory roller coaster ride with boundary-pushing international works that are bold and bodacious. Curated by international programmer Colin Geddes, this lineup brings the best in genre and arthouse together for a cinematic odyssey that eludes conventional definition.

“From revenge and ruin to sex, drugs and taxation, this programme challenges audiences to go places that no audience has gone before,” said Geddes. “Where Midnight Madness opens up audiences to a world of fear and fantasy, Vanguard plunges them into a confrontational and unnerving one that sometimes comes a bit too close to reality for comfort.”

The Vanguard roster features a provocative partnership between Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) and Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever),the darkly comic and esoteric Jeremy Saulnier (Murder Party), the ironic social commentary of Alex van Warmerdam (The Last Days of Emma Blank, Ober), the daring French duo of Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani (Amer), and horror master Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, Piranha 3D, The Hills Have Eyes). The full list of Vanguard titles are listed below:

TIFF Announces Midnight Madness Titles

R100

The Toronto International Film Festival® celebrates 25 years of Midnight Madness with a murderers' row of wild cinematic thrills. Programmed by Colin Geddes, the international lineup aims right for the jugular with everything from an extraterrestrial gore-thriller and sinister sex-comedy, to an Asian exotic horror film and a visually-stunning reinvention of the Italian cannibal genre.

"Since its 1988 launch, the Midnight Madness programme emerged as a touchstone of cinematic shock, satiating the adventurous palate of bloodthirsty cinephiles from all over the world," said Geddes, International Programmer for the Festival. "When the witching hour strikes and the human brain starts slipping into dream mode, the Ryerson Theatre will once again serve up a feast of phantasmagorical characters and jaw-dropping scenes, playing host to bizarre biological monstrosities, ruthless dominatrix gangs, paranormal mirrors, and the hijinks of supernatural cheerleaders."

You can find the titles screening this year, including new works from Eli Roth, Hitoshi Matsumoto and Sion Sono, in list below:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Only God Forgives


Only God Forgives is a nightmare. A nightmare in the purest form; filled with images that do not always connect but still manage to frighten. It is a fevered dream consumed by monsters, each one more gruesome than the next. There are no characters to cheer for, no one to even cry for. Everyone navigates through the neon coated slum of Thailand with a cold almost lifeless demeanour.

It is a dream world that only the most harden souls would find comfort in, and director Nicolas Winding Refn would not have it any other way. Unfortunately, there will be many viewers who will refuse to travel down Refn’s dark rabbit hole. Those who were introduced to Refn’s work through his stylish 80’s inspired thriller Drive are in for a shock. This film is actually where Refn is most comfortable, being stylishly abstract and loving every minute of it. Although there are subtle similarities to Drive, the film feels more like the dark love child of Refn’s Valhalla Rising and the Pusher trilogy.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Downside of the Stinger Era in Cinema


The uproar was spontaneous and loud in the dark theatre that was 80 percent full. Considering that the film was The Wolverine, such a response should not have been shocking at all. Superhero films generally get the crowd pumped if done well. What surprised me about this particular response was that the cheers and applause did not come during one of the many action scenes in the film. It did not even occur as the credits began to roll as a sign of overall approval, like the euphoric responses that overtook the crowd once The Avengers ended. Instead this reaction was for the brief post-credit scene (aka. the stinger).

That is right, after sitting in the theatre for over two hours, the biggest reaction came during a teaser for a completely different film. Exiting the theatre the talk amongst the folks who sat through the credits was not of Wolverine fighting on top of a 300 mph bullet train going through Japan, nor was it the questions of mortality that the film touches on. The only thing that was coming out of people’s mouths was the cameos from familiar characters in the stinger. While I understand that we have been conditioned to be impressed by the further marketing that occurs in post-credit sequences, I cannot help but think we have gone too far in the wrong direction.

While I will not spoil the stinger for The Wolverine, though chances are you have already read about it by now, I will be referring to some previous summer blockbuster post-credit sequences below. So you can read on at you own caution.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Senna


“Once you experience it, you keep searching for it again.”

Like an addict searching for their next high, Formula One racing can cause such an adrenaline rush that it is too intoxicating to ignore. Though I consider myself to be amongst the causal racing fans, I knew from early age that it took a special kind of person to be a race car driver. It takes a lot of passion, and a certain amount of crazy, to risk one’s life on a weekly basis in a sport where one mistake can be the difference between life and death.

This passion is eloquently conveyed in Asif Kapadia’s exhilarating and heartbreaking documentary, Senna. While I had a basic understanding of Ayrton Senna’s importance going into the film, my introduction to the world of Formula One began shortly after Senna’s tragic passing. I had started to follow racing during Michael Schumacher’s reign of Formula One in the 1990s and early 2000s and therefore never fully grasped what Ayrton Senna did for the sport. Fortunately, Kapadia’s film not only provides insight into Senna’s life, but also manages to capture the thrill of car racing unlike any other film.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mr. Hulot’s Holiday


There is something inherently appealing about physical comedy. Like the classic episode of The Simpsons, entitled “A Star is Burns”, pointed out, there is something amusing about seeing a man get hit in the groin by a football. Sure comedy has evolved over the years, with sharp quotable dialogue dominating of late, but there is still something universally entertaining about seeing a comedian in tune with their physical timing.

It is this familiar, dare I say nostalgic, approach to comedy that makes a film like Mr. Hulot’s Holiday such a pleasure to watch. Considering it was my first experience with the films of Jacques Tati, the homage in the animated film The Illusionist does not count, I did not know what to expect from the film. Having recently watched Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush for the first time as well, I figured Mr. Hulot’s Holiday would be a similar silent film romp. It seems I only got the “romp” part right. While the character of Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) remains silent for the majority of the tale, the actual film itself does not fall into the silent genre. This is not to say that the influences of silent film legends Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton are not evident.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

TIFF Announces First Wave of Titles

Prisoners

The first wave of TIFF titles were unveiled yesterday and as expected the list is stunning. New films from Atom Egoyan, Steve McQueen, François Ozon, Jonathan Glazer, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Stephen Frears, David Gordon Green and Alfonso Cuarón to name of few! The thing to remember is that this is only the tip of the iceberg, more titles will be announced in the coming weeks. Now begins the tough task of narrowing down the list of films I want to see. You can watch the press conference below or see the list of films announced after the jump.


Monday, July 22, 2013

The Wolverine + Comix Asylum Magazine


My apologies for the lack posts over the last few days, but I was enjoying a much needed vacation with the family. While I slowly ramp things on this site back up to speed, I recommend that you give the latest issue of Comix Asylum Magazine a read. In this issue you will find a piece I wrote on the upcoming film, The Wolverine. The magazine is currently available in the iTunes Newsstand and will also be available on the Google Play and Amazon platforms shortly.

If you have not read an issue of Comix Asylum Magazine before, you can get a free video preview via the magazine’s Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Bling Ring


Inspired by the Vanity Fair article The Suspects Wore Louboutins by Nancy Jo Sales, Sofia Coppola’s latest film is an examination of the increasing obsession with celebrity culture that is prominent within this generation of young people. The Bling Ring is the story of a group of über rich high school kids from Calabasas, California who broke into celebrities houses in the Hollywood Hills and stole over 3 million of dollars worth of clothing, money, jewels and designer items. The gang followed celebrity news websites to monitor their targets movements using premieres, out of town appearances, or film shootings to decide when to strike. With the assistance of Google, to locate the home of the stars, the group would gleefully declare "Let's Go Shopping" as they ventured into every home they stole from.

By opening the film with the group, known as The Bing Ring, being unaware that they have been captured on a security camera after one of their thefts, Coppola sets the tone early for both the group’s methods of pilfering and their general lack of awareness. The story picks up one year earlier when we meet two high school aged girls, Nicki (Emma Watson) and her adopted sister Sam (Taissa Farmiga). Part of the entitlement generation, the girls stay out late and consider breakfast to be a combination of Adderall and cereal. Home schooled by their new age mother Laurie (Leslie Mann), who bases what they learn on the popular book The Secret, the girls’ lives are anything but typical.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Have Scene It Before

It is time to test your film knowledge with the July edition of I Have Scene It Before. Last month proved a little too easy as all 21 films were identified rather quickly. Here is this month’s selection of film scenes. How many can you identify?

1.


2.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pacific Rim


There was a moment in the early trailers for Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, Pacific Rim, when a 250-foot tall robot stomps through the streets of Hong Kong dragging an oil tanker in one hand. The ship is eventually used as a baseball bat to strike an equally large monster much to the audible delight of several people in the audience. While this brief teaser, and the buzz from Comic-Con, had many eager to see Pacific Rim, I had no interest whatsoever. The strange thing was that, by all accounts, Pacific Rim should have been the type of summer spectacle that I would have normally been counting down the days to see. The trailers highlighted that it would be filled with action and it was made by a director whose work I normally love. However, I could not shake the feeling that I had seen all of this before.

Having watched a fair bit of Japanese anime television shows and films, not to mention reading several Manga comics, the concept of humans piloting giant robot suits was not foreign to me at all. Immersing myself in the worlds of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Voltron, Gundam, The Vision of Escaflowne and Robotech, I had reservations about what a film like Pacific Rim could add to the genre. Despite my low expectations going in, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the heights that Guillermo del Toro reaches with this film. Pacific Rim is not only a visual overload to the senses, but more importantly, it brings an element of fun to a summer that was in desperate need of it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Syrup


If we are to believe the protagonist of Aram Rappaport’s latest film, then our entire life is based around marketing. Everything from the products we buy, the way we present ourselves at work, and even how we go about courting that special someone is calculated to evoke a precise image. Which is exactly what marketing is all about…creating an image. Enticing others to believe they will run faster in a particular pair of sneakers and get the girl if they drink the right beer.

The cutthroat world of marketing is the focus of the satirical film Syrup. Based on the novel by Max Barry, who also penned the screenplay with Rappaport, the film follows Scat (Shiloh Fernandez) as he tries to make it big in the world of advertising. Scat has come up with an idea for an energy drink called “Fukk” that he believes will take the industry by storm. Of course Scat must convince one of the top corporate marketers, Six (Amber Heard) to buy into the concept. Cold, calculating and attractive Six’s mixture of advertising expertise and sexuality proves too intoxicating for Scat to resist.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Authentic: Young Rival's Journey Through Canada


After screening his film Ages & Stages: The Story of the Meligrove Band at last year’s NXNE festival, director Brendan McCarney is back, this time with Mike Gillespie, on the musical beat once again. This time around he introduces us to Hamilton’s not so punk band, Young Rival. Following the band as they tour Canada, the film captures the grind of life on the road for a small band.

Travelling from show to show, crammed into an old van, Young Rival are their own roadies, instrument technicians and stage crew. If they do not like how a venue is set up, especially if it inhibits people from coming to the stage or dancing, lead singer Aron D'Alesio will rearrange the tables himself. To get the true feel of the band’s experience, McCarney travels as the band does, including spending many nights sleeping on the floor of their hotel rooms.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

B.B. King: The Life of Riley


The documentary opens with Bill Cosby speaking about how the story of Riley B. King (more famously known as B.B. King) is one of survival. Other celebrities and musical greats including Bruce Willis, Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton also chime in with their commentary about the blues legend. They speak to the distinct sound of his music recognizable by only one note and the ever present vibrato.

Narrator Morgan Freedman eventually takes over to recount the main elements of B.B. King’s early years starting with his 1925 birth on a sharecropper's plantation along the Mississippi Delta. King reflects on his early years, referring to himself as just a blues singer, while sitting on his tour bus headed back to his birthplace for the annual B.B. King Homecoming Festival. It is clear that the early period in his life is what shaped the man he would become. Influenced by the reverend Archie Farms, King learned a lot about both music and himself from attending church regularly. This was important because King was not immune to the realities of the era. The KKK was very active in his community and he was witness to a lynching that still haunts him to this day.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Blind Spot: Judgment at Nuremberg


As an outsider it is always easier to pass judgment on others during difficult times. We can proclaim how we would never have done this, or would have never participated in that with an air of self-righteousness. Of course, it is a completely different beast when one must actually live within the horrors that other chastise.

While we would like to believe that everyone has the freedom to choose their own path, there are times when the prevailing view of society, regardless of how wrong they are, can become too overwhelming. As a result, choices that are made in the name of patriotism can lead to truly horrific consequences. It is this conflict between personal conscience and the widespread immorality of society that beats at the heart of Stanley Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me


They are considered one of the most influential American bands of all time, but up until the 1990s they did not get the love they truly deserved. While those who heard their music fell in love with them instantly, Big Star’s sound never seemed to connect with mainstream audiences. Not for a lack of trying mind you but, as with most musical geniuses, their music was just too ahead of its time. It would take several years before their sweet melodies and unique guitar hooks would influence a whole generation of rock musicians.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the name Big Star, you have no doubt heard their music or at least know of bands who site them as major influences. Big Star’s song “In the Street” was used as the opening theme song for the 90’s sitcom That 70’s Show and bands such as R.E.M., Primal Scream, The Flaming Lips, The Replacements and Yo La Tengo all claim to be disciples of Big Star’s sound. So how did such a highly regarded band go unnoticed for so long? This is what directors Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori set out to answer in their engaging documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Man of Steel


In an age where social media is nearly impossible to ignore, it took a lot of skill and luck to get through the last three weeks without hearing any spoilers about Man of Steel prior to seeing the film. Outside of the rumblings that the film had greatly divided critics and comic book fans alike, I was not sure what to expect from Zach Snyder’s latest film. While I have always been fond of Snyder’s work, the misguided Sucker Punch being the lone exception, I was curious as to how he would tackle the most iconic superhero of all time.

There is no doubt that there was a lot riding on this film. Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns failed to reintroduce Superman to a younger generation and the success of The Avengers had DC itching to get the building block for the Justice League film out to the masses. After the success of the Dark Knight trilogy, it was clear that DC and Warner Bros. would want to take a more serious approach to the reboot of the Superman franchise. Though I do not think anyone was ready for how serious the tone of Man of Steel would be. If I can get one minor complaint out of the way early, it would be that the film is devoid of any real humour. It is quiet telling when, in a summer tent pole film such as this, the biggest reaction comes towards the end of the film when a minor character remarks that Superman is “kinda hot.” In many ways, Man of Steel is more suited for a fall release than a summer one. Although there is no shortage of action in the film, more on that later, a good portion of the time I found myself feeling sorry for Superman rather than rooting for him.