September Recap, Part 2: TIFF 2016

stubs

Earlier this summer, I was planning on skipping TIFF altogether because my sister was expecting around the same time, and I knew it was just going to be a really crazy time. And then they started rolling out film announcements. The first wave they announced was already full of films I really wanted to see and just couldn’t pass on the opportunity to see them early. So I made the conscious decision to still go to TIFF, but not in the same way that I’ve been doing it the past few years. What I normally did was buy the TIFF Choice Premium Package, which had the TIFF programmers pick 3 premiere movies for me to attend. Sometimes I’d get lucky and got a movie I actually wanted to see; most times I’d get movies that weren’t necessarily high on my list, and sometimes they were at really odd times. Anyways, so instead of going that route, I opted to buy the 10-pack Flex Package, which meant forgoing the Premieres for tickets to regular screenings. The upside to the Flex Pack was getting to choose my films before the single tickets went on sale, which was a blessing because the new system TIFF implemented to get tickets was really confusing.

So between my Flex Package, my friend handling single ticket sales, and checking the websites for additional tickets at 7 AM, I ended up getting tickets to 11 movies. That’s right. ELEVEN. In all my years of going to TIFF, this was a record for me, especially considering my time/travel constraints. But that’s what happened and I don’t regret it at all, because I got to see some really good movies.

Colossal was a weird movie. Good, but weird. Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, the movie stars Anne Hathaway as a woman who moves back to her hometown to get her life back together, and suddenly figures out she somehow controls a monster in Japan. Like I said, weird. Yet somehow it works.

For the second screening of COLOSSAL, there was no appearance from stars Anne Hathaway or Jason Sudeikis. But we got writer/director Nacho Vigalondo and supporting actor Austin Stowell.

For the second screening of COLOSSAL, there was no appearance from stars Anne Hathaway or Jason Sudeikis. But we got writer/director Nacho Vigalondo and supporting actor Austin Stowell.

ARQ is a sci-fi movie, that’s just totally right up my alley. Even though I knew it was going to be on Netflix, literally the week after I saw the movie, I still wanted to see it on the big screen. Also I was really hoping to see Robbie Amell again, despite the fact that it was a second screening; lucky for me, he was there! The movie was written and directed by Tony Elliott, who is also a writer on Orphan Black, which is a plus right there. Robbie Amell and Rachael Taylor star as a couple who find themselves in a time loop. That’s the very simplified version of it, but it really is such a well-crafted script that puts a nice twist to the already complex idea of a time loop. Definitely one of my favourites from the fest. Like I said, already on Netflix, check it out!

ARQ writer/director Tony Elliott, and of course, star Robbie Amell

ARQ writer/director Tony Elliott, and of course, star Robbie Amell

Moonlight is such an understated but powerful movie, chronicling the life of a man at three points in his life: as a kid, a teenager, and an adult. The movie deals with what it means to be a gay African-American male in Miami, struggling with definitions of masculinity and identity. It was just so well done, on so many levels. This is the type of movie that needs to be seen and talked about. A bit heavy for a 9 AM screening (as I had done) but completely worth it. I fully expect Oscar nods for writer/director Barry Jenkins, and some of the cast. With the main character being played by three different actors, categorization gets a little complicated, but Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris need to be nominated in Supporting. The movie is slowly getting released in theatres, so go watch it when you have a chance!

I was truly not expecting to see the cast during this second screening and at 9 A.M! But it was certainly a welcome surprise. L-R: Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, writer/director Barry Jenkins

I was truly not expecting to see the cast during this second screening and at 9 A.M! But it was certainly a welcome surprise.
L-R: Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, writer/director Barry Jenkins

Queen of Katwe (which is already out in theatres) centers around the true life story of a Ugandan chess prodigy named Phiona. I honestly don’t understand chess. The movie though is truly inspiring, with great performances from newcomer Madina Nalwanga, who certainly holds her own opposite Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo. Not gonna lie, I teared up towards the end.

I honest to goodness was going to wait until SING! came out in theatres (around Christmas time), so I could take my nieces to go see it. But when you find out the all-star voice cast of the movie, including the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Scarlett Johansson, are going to be in town to attend the premiere, you go! And that’s exactly what happened! The movie itself, which is about a theatre owner putting together a singing competition to help revive his theatre, was pretty darn adorable. Bonus was getting a short set from Tori Kelly and Jennifer Hudson after the screening, performing a few songs from the movie.

SING! Premiere! L-R: Jennifer Hudson, Nick Kroll, Tori Kelly, Taron Egerton, Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, Matthew McConaughey

SING! Premiere! Look at all those beautiful people!
L-R: Jennifer Hudson, Nick Kroll, Tori Kelly, Taron Egerton, Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, Matthew McConaughey

OH. MY. GOD. LA LA LAND! I heard the hype and praise. I obviously wanted to see it because Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in a musical was enough to sell me on it. I was bummed when the premiere and subsequent screenings were during the week. But then, TIFF did me a solid and added more screenings, one of which was on a Saturday, meaning I immediately swapped one of my other movies for it. And man, it was just SOOOOO GOOOOOOOD!!! I left the screening singing “City of Stars” and just the biggest smile on my face, despite the rain that day. I can’t wait until December to go see it again, not to mention get my hands on that soundtrack!

Another film based on a true story, Brain on Fire centers on Susannah Cahalan, a New York Post journalist who suffered through a month of various health issues that went misdiagnosed by various doctors, before she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. It’s certainly a challenging feat to not only do right by Cahalan’s real life story, but also present the medical side of things without making it seem like an episode of House. Director Gerard Barrett struck the right balance in adapting Cahalan’s book, and Chloe Grace Moretz, who played Cahalan, found herself in one of her best roles to date. It was informative and eye-opening, but also a bit scary to think of the struggles that Cahalan and her family went through in that time period.

I had been waiting so anxiously to see Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids, the concert documentary from renowned director Jonathan Demme, shot during the last two dates of The 20/20 Experience Tour in Las Vegas. When they had initially filmed, I just thought it was going to be released on DVD just like other concert movies. When they announced it as screening at TIFF, I was surprised but then figured it was probably more documentary than concert. When I saw it, I realized it was pretty much the concert I had seen in person, minus one hour, and it was still WONDERFUL! Of course, what the film really showcased was not just JT, but also all the dancers, band members, back-up singers (aka The Tennessee Kids), and even the crew members who worked so hard to literally put the show together. And watching it again on the big screen, with the surround sound? It felt like I was there again, and all I wanted to do was get up, dance and sing along.

Burn Your Maps centers on an 8-year-old boy named Wes (played by the ever adorable Jacob Tremblay), who is convinced that he was born in the wrong place and is supposed to be a Mongolian goat-herder. His tenacity and beliefs pushes him and his mother (played by Vera Farmiga) to go on a journey to Mongolia and find themselves. It’s a unique story to say the least, and I certainly found myself enjoying the film quite a bit.

Blue Jay turned out to be a movie that was both something I normally wouldn’t have chosen to go see in theatres, but also something that I have been drawn to lately. It stars Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass as ex-high school sweethearts, who run into each other when they return to their old hometown. The movie plays out with them reconnecting, with a sense of nostalgia. Shown in black and white, it gives off a feeling of an old home movie and you’re not sure what’s going to happen with these two (while you also wonder when they’ll reveal why they broke up 20 years ago). It felt almost too personal, like you’re intruding on this reunion, but even if you haven’t gone through it yourself, it made you connect with them.

My last movie of the festival was Arrival. I love Amy Adams, like Jeremy Renner, and have become quite the fan of Denis Villeneuve’s work that I really wanted to see this before it gets released in November. Adams plays Louise, a linguist, who along with Renner’s scientist Ian, is tasked with helping the army to communicate with a group of creatures that have appeared in spacecrafts in 12 places around the world. I don’t want to even attempt to explain more, in fear that I might spoil it. Trust me though, it’s a smart sci-fi drama, and definitely worth your time.

So all in all, it was yet another great year at TIFF. Was I a little bummed that I didn’t get to do my premiere screenings like I normally do? A little bit. But honestly, it became a nice reminder of why I liked going to TIFF – the movies…and of course, getting to be among the some of the first people to see a movie. The movies are what it’s all about though.

TIFF 2015 Wrap-Up

DSCN2438

Another year of the Toronto International Film Festival has come and gone. Per usual, there were a lot of movies that I wanted to see but not enough time to see them. Also, with not actually living in Toronto, there’s really only so much time I can commit to the fest. However, I did manage to get in seven movies (beating my previous record of six) during the three days I did make it out.

My first day (Saturday) consisted of the premieres for About Ray and Maggie’s Plan. About Ray stars Elle Fanning as Ray, a transgender teen preparing to transition from a girl to a boy. The focus is rightly on Ray, but the film is also very much about Maggie, Ray’s mother (played by Naomi Watts), as she comes to terms with her past in order to give Ray the future he wants. As timely as the film is, I enjoyed the fact the movie wasn’t preachy as can sometimes happen given the subject matter. After a quick dinner break, it was time to line-up for my second movie of the night, Maggie’s Plan. In the six years that I’ve gone to the festival, the weather has always been decent. On this day, I got stuck in the pouring rain and it got increasingly cold and windy as we were waiting in line to get in (didn’t help either that the movie/post-Q&A was running long). Anyways, Maggie’s Plan (heh I just realized the coincidence between my two movies of the day) stars Greta Gerwig as the title character, who has decided to have a child via sperm donor Around the same time she meets John (Ethan Hawke) and ends up in an odd love triangle with him and his wife Georgette (Julianne Moore). It’s a rom-com, sort of in the vein of Woody Allen with all its quirks. Overall, just an okay movie for me, nothing spectacular. I do have to mention though that I’m incredibly proud of the fact that both movies are written and directed by females.

ABOUT RAY premiere (L-R): Susan Sarandon, Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts, director Gaby Dellal

ABOUT RAY premiere
(L-R): Susan Sarandon, Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts, director Gaby Dellal

MAGGIE'S PLAN premiere (L-R): Julianne Moore, Ethan Hawke, Greta Gerwig, writer-director Rebecca Miller

MAGGIE’S PLAN premiere
(L-R): Julianne Moore, Ethan Hawke, Greta Gerwig, writer-director Rebecca Miller

Sunday was another two premieres. The first was Desierto, the latest film directed and written by Jonas Cuaron. The film follows a group of Mexicans (led by Gael Garcia Bernal) as they attempt to cross the border into the United States, but are met by a vigilante (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) determined to take down all these “intruders.” What follows is an intense game of cat and mouse, where survival really is everything. The movie was very much an intense thriller, so basic in concept, but wrought with emotions, thrills, and more blood than I expected. Followed one intense movie with another, this time being Florian Gallenberger’s Colonia. The film follows Lena and Daniel (played by Emma Watson and Daniel Bruhl), a young couple caught in the midst of a military coup in Chile in the 1970s. When Daniel gets arrested and is sent to a secret cult camp, Lena infiltrates the camp in order to do the impossible – find Daniel and get out. It is such an incredible story, based on true events during the Cold War, that is part love story, part political drama, and part thriller – which amazingly enough, works.

DESIERTO premiere with Gael Garcia Bernal and writer-director Jonas Cuaron. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was there, but could not stay for the Q&A.

DESIERTO premiere with Gael Garcia Bernal and writer-director Jonas Cuaron. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was there, but could not stay for the Q&A.

COLONIA premiere with cast and crew, including Daniel Bruhl. Emma Watson was unable to attend as she was filming a new movie in LA with Tom Hanks (so I guess that's alright lol)

COLONIA premiere with cast and crew, including Daniel Bruhl. Emma Watson was unable to attend as she was filming a new movie in LA with Tom Hanks (so I guess that’s alright lol)

I didn’t get back to the festival until the following Saturday and I did something I swore I wasn’t going to do again: see three movies in one day. The last time I saw three movies in a day at TIFF, I was so drained by the end, and that was with breaks in between the movies to eat and whatnot. This year, I decided to do a crazy thing and not only go see the 3-in-1, but they were back-to-back-to-back. The time in between the movies (an hour) were mostly spent waiting in line for the next one or walking around the vicinity of the TIFF Lightbox and Princess of Wales theatre (where I saw all three) to stretch before getting in line. Anyways, I realized the error of my ways the last time was that all the movies I saw were pretty (and increasingly) dramatic. So key to doing multiple movie days – variety.

The first of my three movies of the day was Our Brand is Crisis, starring Sandra Bullock as Jane Bodine, a political consultant who is hired by a Bolivian presidential candidate. The movie is a fictionalized, Hollywood version of similar events that actually occurred in Bolivia in 2002. It was very much a political dramedy, in that even with all the serious political stuff going on in the film, there was a lot of humour in it. The second movie of my day was The Danish Girl, which had been getting a lot of buzz about it for Eddie Redmayne’s amazing performance as Lili Elbe, the first person known to have gender reassignment surgery. As deserving as Redmayne is for the recognition of his performance, Alicia Vikander is absolutely incredible as Gerda, the wife of Einar Wegener, who struggles but ultimately supports her husband’s desire to be Lili. I’m saying this now: It will be an absolute travesty is Vikander does not get proper awards recognition (meaning Best Actress, not Supporting like some believe she will be categorized) for her performance here. My final movie was the Fest’s Closing Night film: Mr. Right. The movie is sort of a dark action-comedy starring Anna Kendrick as Martha, an unlucky in love girl who meets and falls for Sam Rockwell’s hitman Francis. I thought it was kind of a weird movie for Closing Night, but regardless, I loved it. It was a lot of fun and kind of weird in a good way. Plus, the introduction to the movie by director Paco Cabezas, writer Max Landis, and the cast was one of my favourite moments from the Festival, as Landis led the entire theatre to a sing-a-long of Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” for no reason at all – and it was wonderful.

MR. RIGHT premiere (L-R): Anna Kendrick, Sam Rockwell, Michael Eklund, director Paco Cabezas, writer Max Landis

MR. RIGHT premiere
(L-R): Anna Kendrick, Sam Rockwell, Michael Eklund, director Paco Cabezas, writer Max Landis

 

TIFF 2014 Wrap-Up

IMG_1040

Another year at TIFF has come and gone. Known as the people’s film festival, the Toronto International Film Festival turns downtown Toronto into star-gazing central and a collective place where film fans can take in new movies before (almost) everyone else. This year marked the 5th year in a row that I’ve been to TIFF and you know, every year is a slightly different experience. For the first weekend, TIFF actually shut down King Street in Toronto, and turned it into Festival Street, filled with various cool street art, mini-concerts, food trucks, and so much more. It basically reminded a little bit of Gaslamp during SDCC (obviously not to same degree of craziness, but it’s similar). With the amount of stuff that they put on Festival Street, it actually made star-gazing a little bit harder, especially at Roy Thomson Hall (the biggest venue for premieres). I had wanted to check out the red carpet premiere of This Is Where I Leave You, which premiered at RTH, because it has such a big cast (Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver, Connie Britton, and more!) I was there two hours before the film screening, which is to say about 1-1.5 hours before any of the actors arrived and there was already a massive crowd! Compared to previous years, there wasn’t a lot of room to stand and check out the carpet; plus, being someone who’s short it was hard for me to see anything. Needless to say, I decided against waiting around.

Now let’s talk about the actual movies! Not actually living IN Toronto, I amaze myself sometimes at the number of movies I manage to go see every year, and this year I did three days in a row of driving back and forth to Toronto for TIFF. This year I got in 5 movies and one Mavericks conversation.

My first film of the festival was The Reach, starring Michael Douglas as Madec, a corporate shark who hires Ben, played by Jeremy Irvine, to be his guide on a hunting trip in the desert. What ensues is a suspenseful cat-and-mouse thriller, with hints of an old school western. It’s an interesting film, but with the pieces laid out, you knew how the movie was going to end. Douglas really chews the scenery, relishing the part of the villain (not unlike his iconic Gordon Gekko); at the same time though, you question what his character is really all about, because he comes across as just a psychopath – and I’ll just leave it at that. The movie was picked up for distribution by Lionsgate/Radius.

I was really happy to get the Mavericks Conversation with Jon Stewart, as part of my TIFF Choice package. Jon Stewart was in town to introduce his directorial debut Rosewater, which is the true story of Maziar Bahari, a Canadian journalist who was imprisoned in Iran for five months. Stewart had a personal connection to the story: Bahari was working in Iran, covering the Iranian elections for Newsweek and had then also filmed a segment for The Daily Show, which did not go over well with the Tehran authorities who accused him of being a spy. The Q&A was a great way to hear not only Stewart talk about making the film and how it became such a passion project for him, but also hearing from Bahari himself, who talked about bringing this time in his life to his book which became the movie. As serious an issue as it is, the Q&A was still interspersed with a lot of Stewart’s self-deprecating humour.

Mavericks Conversation with Jon Stewart

Mavericks Conversation with Jon Stewart

I loved Love & Mercy, a film which looks at the life of Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys, and his struggle with mental health and substance abuse. Paul Dano and John Cusack both play Wilson, at two very distinct times in his life – when the Beach Boys were on the rise in the 60s, and the beginning of his resurgence as a solo artist in the late 80s. The film is not your standard biopic, and I feel like both Dano and Cusack really portrayed Wilson in the most honest way possible. They didn’t gloss over Wilson’s condition and struggles, nor did they overly dramatize it. It was just straightforward and honest – there’s no other way to say it. Also of note is Elizabeth Banks role in the film as Melinda Ledbetter, who helped Wilson in his career resurgence and would become his second wife; Banks, who is more known for comedy, really shows us another side of herself in this role and was so wonderful. The film was picked up for distribution by Lionsgate/Roadside, and I’d really like to see it get some kind of awards recognition whenever it gets released.

DSCN0851

Some of the cast of Love & Mercy (L-R): Kenny Wormald, Jake Abel, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Dano, John Cusack

???????????????????????????????

Director Bill Pohlad, with Banks, Cusack, Dano, and other producers on the film

99 Homes tells the story of Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), an out-of-work construction worker in the middle of the U.S. housing market meltdown, who along with his family, is evicted from their home. Desperate and struggling to get by, he finds work in the shady business of realtor Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), the man who had a hand in evicting his family from their home. It’s sometimes easy to forget that Andrew Garfield does act outside of being Spider-Man, and this film does a great job reminding us of Garfield’s talents. Remember how good Garfield was as Eduardo Savarin in The Social Network? He’s EVEN BETTER here; arguably, the best work he’s done. Nash is shown to us as the good guy, doing whatever he can to provide for his mother and son, but the deeper he gets in Carver’s world, the lines between good and bad get blurred. It’s a compelling film that really begs the question, “What are we willing to do for our family?”

???????????????????????????????

Cast of 99 Homes (L-R): Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, Noah Lomax

???????????????????????????????

Cast with director Ramin Bahrani

When I heard that Chris Evans’ directorial debut Before We Go was going to premiere at TIFF, I knew I HAD to see it, and I got SO excited when my friend told me she got tickets for it. I’ve been a fan of Chris Evans for a long time, since The Perfect Score (a totally underrated movie, by the way), and I’ve seen almost everything he’s been in since then. He could’ve continually be typecast as this jock/action hero or heartthrob, but he’s done such a variety of roles, even before he took on Captain America. Through it all, he just seems like a very humble guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously, and let’s be honest, he’s also incredibly charming and handsome. Anyways, Evans makes his debut as a director with this movie about two strangers, Evans’ Nick and Alice Eve’s Brooke, who meet at New York’s Grand Central Station after Brooke misses the last train leaving for Boston. With her purse stolen and nowhere to go, Brooke reluctantly gets help from Nick to get her back to Boston, and together these strangers spend a sleepless night unexpectedly wandering the city and helping each other with their personal struggles. The movie works well because Evans and Eve have fantastic chemistry, which help to elevate the subdued story. Evans did a great job as a first-time director, highlighting the subtle beauty of New York as a backdrop and focusing on the interaction between these two strangers. Story-wise it has hints of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, aesthetically it has qualities to it that are similar to Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy (a movie I absolutely loved when I saw it at TIFF 3 years ago). So happy to see that the movie got picked up for distribution by Radius Films.

???????????????????????????????

World premiere of Before We Go, Chris Evans’ directorial debut

Chris Evans, feeling just the slightest bit embarrassed after forgetting to introduce co-star Alice Eve

Chris Evans, feeling just the slightest bit embarrassed after forgetting to introduce co-star Alice Eve

I capped off this year’s TIFF with a screening of Nightcrawler, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, a freelance photographer/videographer who captures footage from gruesome L.A. crime scenes, and sells them to a local TV news station. Gyllenhaal has been on an absolute roll lately with characters and roles that are really stretching him as an actor. If you’ve seen him in recent films like Prisoners and Enemy, you’ve seen him play characters that are kind of creepy and have an edge to them. In Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal has turned in a performance that is so creepy, you question Lou’s mental state, what with his willingness to do anything to get the footage, to get what he wants, and at times there’s just a blank stare looking back at you. It’s a suspenseful thriller that should definitely play well when it gets released in theatres October 31st.

And that’s it from me for TIFF! There were so many other movies I wished I got the chance to see (Foxcatcher, The Last 5 Years, Wild, Rosewater, Men Women and Children, Whiplash), but I’m just going to have to wait until they officially get released to see them. Also, it was announced earlier today that the People’s Choice film was… The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley!

Until next year!

TIFF 2013 Wrap-Up!

It was another successful year at the Toronto International Film Festival! At the end of the festival, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave won the Blackberry People’s Choice Award, with the runners-up being Stephen Frears’ Philomena and Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners. As a movie fan, I always enjoy going to TIFF, not only for all the celebrities who come to Toronto, but because it allows me to see some movies before it gets released and see movies I might not have seen otherwise. This year was no exception.

Due to last year being quite a success for us, my friend and I opted to once again purchase the TIFF Choice Premium package, whereby TIFF organizers choose three films for us and allow us to see the premiere screenings of those movies, for which the stars of said film would be in attendance. Last year we got to see Rust and Bone (starring Marion Cotillard), Venus and Serena (the directors of the documentary were there, as was Wyclef Jean who did the music for the film), and Twice Born (featuring Penelope Cruz, with bonus Javier Bardem sighting, and Emile Hirsch). This year, the movies we got to see were Philomena, Dom Hemingway, and Bright Days Ahead.

Philomena stars Dame Judi Dench as the title character, a woman who after decades decides to open up and reveals that she once had a son as a teenager and was forced to give him up for adoption. The film follows her quest in finding her son, with the help of a journalist played by Steve Coogan (who also co-wrote the screenplay). Although I was unfamiliar with it, the movie was based on a true story. What the film did well was counter the dramatic moments of hope, despair, and heartbreak, with moments of humour. At the end of it, I started tearing up, along with most of the audience, because the movie was just so emotional.

Premiere Screening of "Philomena" w/ director Stephen Frears and writer/co-star Steve Coogan. Dame Judi Dench was unable to attend.

Premiere Screening of “Philomena” w/ director Stephen Frears and writer/co-star Steve Coogan. Dame Judi Dench was unable to attend.

Our second movie, Dom Hemingway, written and directed by Richard Shepard, was a completely different movie experience from Philomena. The movie stars Jude Law as the title character, playing against type in a role that is unlike any of his previous roles. Dom Hemingway is a foul-mouthed and aggressive safecracker, just getting out of prison after 12 years. Upon his release, he’s looking to collect his money for not ratting out his boss all these years, and then wants to re-connect with his daughter (played by Emilia Clarke) and his grandson. If it wasn’t for the festival, I don’t think I would have watched this movie because it’s not something I’d watch normally, but that feeling didn’t come until after it was over. If you ever watch this movie, you’ll realize that it is a very different role for Law, and you’ll immediately get a sense for the tone of the rest of the film.

Premiere Screening of "Dom Hemingway" (L-R): Director Richard Shepard, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir, Madalina Ghenea, Emilia Clarke, Jude Law

Premiere Screening of “Dom Hemingway”
(L-R): Director Richard Shepard, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir, Madalina Ghenea, Emilia Clarke, Jude Law

The third film that got chosen for us was a French film, Bright Days Ahead. The film follows Caroline (played by Fanny Ardant), an older woman at a crossroads in her life after retiring from dentistry, who begins an affair with a younger man. The plot doesn’t seem like much, but the execution to which director Marion Vernoux developed Caroline was wonderfully done.

We also took in two other movies, which were looking for distribution at the festival, and ended up being the hot movies getting picked up. The first was John Carney’s follow-up to the wonderful little movie Once, Can A Song Save Your Life? The movie stars Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, as two down on their luck individuals, who connect after the former performs a song at an open mic night. Knightley’s Gretta has just been dumped by her rising star boyfriend/musical partner, Dave (played by Maroon 5’s Adam Levine in his feature film debut), and decided that with nothing holding her to New York, she’ll move back home to England. Ruffalo’s Dan is a music exec who refuses to play to the current industry’s state of business, has an alcohol problem, and estranged from his wife and daughter. The movie does invoke a similar feeling to Carney’s first film, but the good intentions and the great music really made it a wonderful movie. The Weinstein Company picked up the film and I am eagerly awaiting its official release (along with the soundtrack).

We capped off the festival with Bad Words, the directorial debut of Jason Bateman, who also starred. A small registration loophole for a national spelling bee for kids allows 40-year old Guy Trilby to enter and wipe out his pint-sized competition. It’s a great first effort by Bateman as a director, which also allowed him to play a character that isn’t completely likeable like we’ve come to see of him. Bateman is also supported in the film by the likes of Kathryn Hahn and Allison Janney, who add so much hilarity to the movie. Focus Features picked up distribution rights and I can totally see the general public LOVING this movie upon its release, because it is just so funny.

That’s it for this year, and I can’t wait to do it all again next year!

DVD Review: 10 Years

10 Years

I am so incredibly happy that I finally get to write about 10 Years. I had the pleasure of seeing this movie back in September 2011, when it made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and I instantly fell in love with it. The movie succeeded in getting distribution at the festival, so I waited rather impatiently for the chance to see it a second time, and now that it has been released on DVD, I finally get to watch and enjoy the movie over and over again.

10 Years is a film written and directed by Jamie Linden, who previously wrote the screenplays for We Are Marshall and Dear John. The movie is about the lives of high school friends and what they discover about each other when they come together for their high school reunion. The ensemble cast is comprised of a wonderful group of this generation’s actors, including Channing Tatum (who also serves as a producer on the film), Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Scott Porter, Justin Long, Rosario Dawson, Max Minghella, Kate Mara, Oscar Isaac, Chris Pratt, Ari Graynor, Brian Geraghty, Lynn Collins, Aaron Yoo, Aubrey Plaza, and Anthony Mackie.

Cast of 10 Years at TIFF 2011 premiere (L-R: Brian Geraghty, Lynn Collins, Kate Mara, Ari Graynor, Aaron Yoo, Oscar Isaac, Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Scott Porter, Kelly Noonan, Max Minghella, Justin Long, writer/director Jamie Linden)

Cast of 10 Years at TIFF 2011 premiere (L-R: Brian Geraghty, Lynn Collins, Kate Mara, Ari Graynor, Aaron Yoo, Oscar Isaac, Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Scott Porter, Kelly Noonan, Max Minghella, Justin Long, writer/director Jamie Linden)

The premise of a high school reunion isn’t anything revelatory or new. What Linden has done is actually make an ensemble character drama that just so happens to take place at a high school reunion. The movie takes on the questions that come up when you’re well in your 20s and are faced with an event like a reunion (How much have I changed since high school? Am I living the life I want? Am I happy with who I am with? What happened to “the one that got away”? Is life what you expected it to be?) The answers are delivered with varying degrees of insecurity and self-actualization that is expected of anybody in this situation, as well as an abundance of charm and heart.

One of the best things about the movie is that, despite the fact that they assembled an all-star cast, when you watch it, you feel like you know these people and not in the way that you’re watching actors in a movie. It happens a lot of times when movies are made with the full intention of casting a lot of actors that you get taken out of the movie and are too busy reveling in so-and-so’s presence, rather than focusing on their characters (looking at you Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and What to Expect…) With 10 Years, even with instances like Scott Porter’s character being named Scott Porter, you don’t feel like you’re just watching a bunch of actors on screen. It makes you feel like you were attending your own high school reunion and that you were friends with these people. There’s a realness to it that carries on throughout the movie, where you also get the sense that the cast are actually friends in real life, not just put together for filmmaking purposes.

10 Years is a great movie to watch, no matter what kind of mood you’re in. It’s the very definition of a dramedy – a drama with comedic elements to balance it out. It’s too bad the movie didn’t get a wider release in theaters, with proper marketing, because with this cast alone, it could have been a decent hit at the box office. That aside, it is out there and available for everyone to see now, so I sincerely encourage you to give this movie a try; you won’t be disappointed.