The Toronto International Film Festival this year was spectacular, judging from the responses to the movies that played. We're getting a lot of great movies coming this fall and winter. Here's Talkbacker Garbageman33 with a look at some of the movies he saw this year. Take it away, Garbageman33...
The latest from Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) follows a 27-year-old part-time dancer (Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the script) stuck at a point where she doesn’t feel like a responsible adult, but knows she can’t keep acting like a kid. When her best friend moves out of their Brooklyn apartment and she can’t afford the rent on her own, Frances crashes on a series of couches and tries to figure out her life. All in black-and-white. The plot isn’t new or particularly inspired and some of the dialogue feels overly written, but Gerwig’s gawky charm more than makes up for its shortcomings. It’s also nice to see Baumbach direct something in which he seems to actually like his characters for a change (which might have something to do with Gerwig being his girlfriend).
In this thriller from director Ben Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, The Town), actor Ben Affleck (Daredevil, Gigli) is Tony Mendez, a CIA “ex-filtration” expert. His latest assignment: rescuing 6 Americans who escaped during the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Iran. They’ve taken refuge in the residence of the Canadian ambassador, but it’s only a matter of time before someone figures out they’re missing. So he hatches a plan to have the 6 pose as a Canadian film crew working on a science fiction film called, you guessed it, Argo. But first, he needs to make it seem like a legitimate Hollywood production. So he enlists a big-time producer (Alan Arkin) and makeup artist (John Goodman) to develop a script and get some press for the fake project. The beauty of the film is that it’s really two films. A satire about the Hollywood system and a tense, white-knuckle thriller. And as Affleck mentioned in his intro, it was especially powerful watching the film in Canada, given their role in the rescue.
The director of the fantastic In Bruges returns with the story of a struggling writer (Colin Farrell) and his two dog-napping friends (Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken) who’ve run afoul of a psychotic gangster (Woody Harrelson) by taking his beloved Shih-Tzu. What follows is a schizophrenic movie in which the action follows whatever plotlines Farrell is pursuing in his book. Like Adaptation. But with less orchids. And more psychopaths. It’s a hilarious, bloody, twisted romp with tons of great dialogue and a bunch of inspired cameos by the likes of Tom Waits as a reformed serial killer (but only of other serial killers) who carries around a rabbit to help keep him calm.
FIN (THE END)
In this Spanish thriller, 6 friends meet at a secluded cabin for a reunion that coincidentally lands on the same weekend as the end of the world. But somehow, they’re spared. At least for a little while. As they go off in search of answers, they start to disappear one by one. We never see what happens to them, we just know they’re not there anymore. It’s supposed to be a big mystery. But the only real mystery is how this piece of shit got made. Or why the director thought it’d be a good idea to have his big action scene feature a herd of rampaging goats even though he only had a CG budget of $75. Somewhere, Ed Wood is nodding his head in approval.
NO ONE LIVES.
Sorry. Spoiler alert: No One Lives. In this midnight madness flick, a vicious backwoods clan (is there any other kind?) terrorizes a young couple. But after running them off the road, the psychopaths discover something strange in the horse trailer they’re pulling. Could it be that the couple isn’t as helpless as they appear? Over the next 90 minutes, all is revealed. But not before all kinds of mayhem is unleashed with guns, knives, chains and clipboards. Yes, clipboards. It’s that kind of movie. In fact, there’s a scene early on that’s so ridiculously over the top that you can’t help but laugh. And yes, much of the dialogue elicits the same response. But hey, you don’t go to midnight madness expecting David Mamet.
THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE
The latest documentary from Ken Burns (along with his daughter Sarah) paints a grim portrait of New York City, the justice system and the media in the notorious 1989 Central Park jogger case. In that case, a woman was viciously beaten and raped in a crime that shocked and angered the public so much that many called for the death penalty against the suspects, some as young as 14. Just one problem: in their rush to satiate the public’s bloodlust, the NYPD nabbed the wrong guy. Five of them, actually. Their only evidence was the videotaped confessions the frightened kids made under extreme duress. Never mind that they got most of the details wrong. They still confessed, right? That was plenty for the D.A. to convict them. It wasn’t until they’d served 7 years in prison that the real assailant came forward (with all the right details) and the boys (who were now men) were freed. It’s a pretty straightforward documentary, with lots of talking heads, including four of the five suspects and archival footage, like a young Donald Trump screaming for the electric chair. But the case itself is so compelling that it doesn’t need a lot of adornment.
(Note: The Burns family brought one of the exonerated to the screening with them. When he was introduced, it was the loudest, longest standing ovation I’ve ever heard at the festival. I’m sure it doesn’t make up for 7 years in prison, but it was still pretty cool.)
I DECLARE WAR
In this Canadian film, a neighborhood game of Capture the Flag is transformed into a war movie, complete with real guns, explosions and copious amounts of blood. All the war movie archetypes are represented, from the gung-ho general to the frightened newbie to the unhinged Colonel Kurtz figure. But in place of the usual gruff dialogue, they talk about things kids typically talk about, like girls, juiceboxes and how much money it’d take for you to eat dog poop. It’s an interesting premise that doesn’t really go anywhere. I’m sure the director is trying to make a larger point, perhaps about the futility of war, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what it is. But hey, I wouldn’t worry about it. Because your chances of ever seeing it are slim to none. Unless distributors are clamoring for films about kids (one of whom has obvious emotional problems) shooting at each other.
Without writing a full-fledged review, I will say that I dug I DECLARE WAR quite a bit more than Garbageman33. Me review will be forthcoming in the next few days.