TIFF Review: 'Ned Rifle'

Ned Rifle
(USA, 85 min.)
Written and directed by Hal Hartley
Starring: Liam Aiken, Aubrey Plaza, Parker Posey, Martin Donovan, Thomas Jay Ryan
Programme: Special Presentations (World Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
“Where indie meets epic.” The Toronto International Film Festival used this tagline a few years ago to invite audiences to celebrate the versatile range of films that one may enjoy in the festival experience. One could just as easily employ the ad line to sell Ned Rifle, Hal Hartley's satisfying conclusion to the epic art house trilogy that begin with Henry Fool in 1997 and continued a decade later with Fay Grim. This third and final entry in the saga of the Grim-Fools is an epic, idiosyncratic sequel that caps off a trilogy with the kind of verve to which Hollywood trilogies can only aspire.

TIFF Reviews: 'Tu Dors Nicole', 'The Riot Club', 'Manglehorn'

Tu Dors Nicole
(Canada, 93 min.)
Written and directed by Stéphane Lefleur
Starring: Julianne Côté, Catherine St-Laurent, Marc-André Grondin
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (Toronto Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Reviews from Cannes offer ample comparisons of Tu Dors Nicole to Frances Ha. This Québécois comedy from Stéphane Lafleur merits the likeness to Noah Baumbach's Brooklyn-set film. The beautiful black and white cinematography invites an obvious point of comparison between the two, but they're just as bouncy and funny thanks to the aimless young protagonists who discover themselves in the films.

TIFF Review: 'The Imitation Game'

The Imitation Game
(USA/UK, 113 min.)
Dir. Morten Tyldum, Writ. Graham Moore
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, Mark Strong
Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Misfits unite for The Imitation Game! This solid ensemble film nabbed the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival from the group of eccentrics united in their passion for film. It’s no surprise to see The Imitation Game take Toronto since this Oscar-friendly title bears a hearty resemblance to the 2010 TIFF-champ predecessor (and fellow Weinstein Company) title, The King’s Speech. The Imitation Game is no King’s Speech, though, although it’s very much a film to admire. While The King’s Speech is inspiring thanks to the universal appeal of King George VI’s plight to find his voice, The Imitation Game doesn’t have the same level of rousing relatability, for its protagonist, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), is one prickly character.

'Imitation Game' Takes People's Choice Award at Toronto

Photo courtesy of TIFF.
The people have spoken! The Imitation Game takes the Grolsch People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, thus making Benedict Cumberbatch a back to back champ at the Festival after opening TIFF last year with The Fifth Estate and appearing in 2013’s People’s Choice Award winner, 12 Years a Slave. TIFF’s official hashtag should really be #Cumberbitchin’.

TIFF Reviews: 'Backcountry', 'Ruth and Alex', 'The New Girlfriend'

Playing catch-up with capsule reviews. First up: three very different tales of love and marriage.

(Canada, 91 min.)
Written and directed by Adam McDonald
Starring: Missy Peregrym, Jeff Roop
Programme: Discovery (World Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Backcountry is essentially Open Water with a bear. That’s not a bad thing. This debut feature from Adam McDonald is a tense two-hander that uses the expansive Canadian wilderness to great effect. The woods are beautiful, especially in the multi-coloured palette of autumn in which McDonald sets the film, but they’re also threatening and menacing with their unknown elements and untameable forces. The woods are a lot like marriage: they’re beautiful to visit, but they devour you.

TIFF Review: 'An Eye for Beauty'

An Eye for Beauty (Le règne de la beauté)
(Canada, 102 min.)
Written and directed by Denys Arcand
Starring: Éric Bruneau, Mélanie Thierry, Melanie Merkosky, Marie-Josée Croze,
Programme: Special Presentations (Toronto Premiere)             
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Denys Arcand disappoints with his latest offering An Eye for Beauty (Le règne de la beauté). Arcand’s signature flair for capturing cultural mores and attitudes in clever language just doesn’t work this time around. For a filmmaker who seemed so perfectly on the pulse of culture in 2003’s The Barbarian Invasions (arguably the best Québécois film ever made), this latest entry feels out of touch and empty. There’s no beauty and poetry here. Only witty repartee.


TIFF Review: 'A Little Chaos'

A Little Chaos
(UK, 116 min.)
Dir. Alan Rickman, Writ. Alison Deegan, Alan Rickman, Jeremy Brock
Starring: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Helen McCrory.
Programme: Galas (World Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Hat’s off to the Toronto International Film Festival. The TIFF folks pick a winner with their closing night selection of Alan Rickman’s latest film, A Little Chaos. This rousing comedy is one of the most pleasant surprises of the Festival. It’s an utter treat to end the fest on a high note of escapism and exuberance.

TIFF Review: 'The Cobbler'

The Cobbler
(USA, 99 min.)
Dir. Thomas McCarthy, Writ. Thomas McCarthy, Paul Sado
Starring: Adam Sandler, Cliff ‘Method Man’ Smith, Ellen Barkin, Melonie Diaz
Programme: Special Presentations (World Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Oy, The Cobbler is terrible! The film proves TIFF to be the Launchpad of several awards races including, well, the Golden Raspberries.

TIFF Review: 'Still Alice'

Still Alice
(USA, 99 min.)
Written and directed by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Starring: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish
Programme: Special Presentations (World Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Julianne Moore continually amazes me. Moore delivers a one-two punch at the Toronto International Film Festival this year with the go-for-broke craziness of Maps to the Stars and the emotional wallop of Still Alice. It’s impossible to compare the two performances or say which one deserves to bring Moore major kudos at the end of the year. They both do. Each turn sits on opposite poles of the scale for award-season friendliness, but together they show that Moore remains at the forefront of her craft, pushing herself and breaking barriers for actresses as she shows that no role is off limits. She’s the acting champ of TIFF this year.


TIFF Review: 'Miss Julie'

Miss Julie
(Norway/UK/Ireland/France, 129 min.)
Written and directed by Liv Ullman
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton
Programme: Special Presentations (World Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.

Here is a bizarre case. Miss Julie contains a trio of great performances, some beautiful cinematography, and handsome production value, but it has a deadness that I can't quite put my finger on. One might fault the acclaimed source material by August Strindberg for Miss Julie's stiffness, but that almost seems unfair given the pedigree of the play and everyone in the production. (And most period pics are as tightly skins as a corset is, which generally leaves this reviewer satisfied.) More than one the servants, John and Kathleen (Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton), exclaim, “I'm rooted, Miss Julie!” as the spoiled Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain) plays with people as if they are dolls. Audiences, too, might also be whimpering “I'm tired” to Miss Julie long before it ends.

TIFF Review: 'Maps to the Stars'

Maps to the Stars
(Canada/Germany, 112 min.)
Dir. David Cronenberg, Writ. Bruce Wagner
Starring: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Evan Bird, John Cusack, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon, Robert Pattinson
Programme: Galas (North American Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Maps to the Stars is fucked up in every best possible way. This scathing satire written by Bruce Wagner and directed by David Cronenberg lets the shit hit the fan and spray doo-doo all over Hollywood. Julianne Moore stars in a riotously batshit crazy performance as a sexy has-been actress named Havana Segrand who is eager to make a comeback and will do anything or anyone to win a coveted role. Maps unfolds Havana's attempt at a comeback in a twisted fever dream as she throws herself into the role that made her mother famous. Her mom, Clarice (played by Sarah Gadon), died in a fire and she haunts Havana as Havana tries to impress everyone that she is the best actress for the part. Talk about mommy issues. Havana sees the Oscar with this role, and the shoddy old Canadian Genie she displays in her living clearly isn't enough of a mark for a legacy. She wants the prize her mother never won.


TIFF Review: 'October Gale'

October Gale
(Canada, 91 min.)
Written and directed by Ruba Nadda
Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Scott Speedman, Tim Roth, Callum Keith Rennie
Programme: Special Presentations (World Premiere)
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Ruba Nadda tries her hand at genre again in October Gale, which has its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, after seeing mixed results with her TIFF '12 Gala selection Inescapable. October Gale certainly marks an improvement for Nadda after the clunky Middle East-set thriller, but let's hope third time's a charm. The film makes little sense and feels farfetched even for such a tale of two-handed realism, plus the finale sequence is so hokey and bizarrely-lit (why are there flood lights outdoors at midnight during a blackout?) that this jaunt to cottage country might not be worth the trip. October Gale is mostly, if only, worth seeing for the lead performance by a strong Patricia Clarkson, who wields a shotgun like a motherfucker in an unexpected departure from her body of work.