Hey, TIFF happened! And I was there! Well, the festival covers almost all of downtown Toronto, and since I work in the financial district, it was kinda hard not to be there. But thanks to some writing connections, I actually wound up at some press screenings, a couple premieres, and even a press conference. Considering I've never been to TIFF, or a proper film festival, the last two weeks have been very exciting. And tiring. Tiring and exciting in equal measure. So lemme just quickly list-off the hot 'n steamy industry awards-bait I lucked my way into seeing, lest this wind up running overlong like that last post (hyperlinked titles lead to actual review).
Rating: 3 out of 5
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, and Daniel Brühl
Alternate title: The Anti-social Network
The Wikileaks Cablegate scandal represents a major flashpoint in the early 21st century's defining civil rights debate, privacy vs. security. Seeing as the site's founder, Julian Assange, only rose to public notoriety in the last few years, you might think it's too early for a biopic to be made properly. You would be right. The Fifth Estate is perhaps the most lavishly produced, best acted made-for-TV movie ever made. It's good for some soapy fun, but those looking for either a history lesson, or a look at the Wikileaks message instead of the man who started it, will have to wait.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Starring: Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal
Alternate Title: Les Miserablists
I really enjoyed, or rather, appreciated Denis Villeneuve's 2010 drama Incendies, despite the grimness of its subject matter. Understandably, some critics accused Villeneuve of hackish exploitation of war crimes, rape and incest for dramatic effect, and also understandably, those same people are not happy about the child-kidnapping drama Prisoners. I can sympathize with calling out the film for using low-hanging alarmist fruit for a premise, but the exploration of that premise makes for a well-paced, and gorgeous looking police procedural.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Starring: Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet
Alternate Title: Love in the Time of Cobbler
Two things that automatically predisposed me to liking this one: 1) director Jason Reitman makes really, really good movies, and 2) I'm a sap. Labor Day is a rural weepie through and through, but it's a really well-acted, warmly shot and heartfelt rural weepie. To really get swept up in all the melodrama, go in with open arms, and stomach empty (not since Waitress has pie been filmed so lovingly...or frequently). I'll add an addendum later once the press conference I covered for the film is posted, which includes a couple neat little tidbits from Reitman and 2/3rds of the cast.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Starring: Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo
Alternate Title: White People and Guitar - A Love Story
Photogenic movie stars playing musically talented dreamers looking for a shot at stardom/redemption? Love letters to the enduring vibrancy of New York City? Guest appearances by Cee-Lo Green and the guy from Maroon 5? Yup, this thing is pure, uncut, Bolivian-grade catnip for white people. So sure enough, me and the rest of the near-monochromatic audience I saw it with were pretty thoroughly won over by this one. The review is basically me writing an 800-word caveat, before ending with, "buuuuut, if you can ignore the core phoniness at the heart of it all, it's pretty great." I'm also one of those guys who unironically likes a bunch of Taylor Swift songs, and as we've already established, I'm a sucker for schmaltz, especially when it sounds this good.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Starring: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney
Alternate Title: Fuck You, Space
So basically, Alfonso Cuarón decided it would be really funny if he based his next film on my biggest nightmare. Yeah, Gravity is the closest i'll ever get to becoming an astronaut, both for adding another compelling and discouraging example of the many, many ways space is a never-ending deathtrap, and for being one of the most immersive and visceral film experiences I've had in ages. Somehow, 2013 has turned out to be the year of me becoming an IMAX pitchman, because just like Pacific Rim, this one needs to be seen on the biggest screen you can sit yourself in front of. The script is nothing to write home about, but it's not insulting or problematic in the way most effects-driven epics tend to be. This was the definite highlight of the festival for me, and I'm strongly anticipating/dreading getting the chance to see it again.