12-years-a-slave-TIFF-review

Based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free northern man who was kidnapped and sold into bondage in the 1840s, 12 Years a Slave doesn’t shy away from the horrific aspects of a slave trade that existed for hundred of years, sweeping up more than 12 million souls. Familial separation, abuse, torture, the idea that the slaves were no better than beasts; it’s all laid bare for the audience to witness.

Though not a “light” film by any measure, this is a well-executed drama dealing with a horrific historical occurrence. Director Steve Mcqueen has proven that he’s a burgeoning young auteur, a vibrant force that should deliver us a slew of great films in the decades to come. Just as with his previous film, Shame, this is a gutting experience, and McQueen, as channeled through the extremely capable cast of Chewitel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, and Brad Pitt, crafts a two-hour story that can’t help but leave you drained as the credits come up. Read More »

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TIFF Review: ‘Gravity’ Soars Above the Rest

GRAVITY

Director Alfonso Cuarón is finally back, and he’s showing us truly amazing things.

Gravity is a technical marvel, an optical treat of the highest order. However, it can also lay claim to being one hell of a narrative, combining genius-level visuals with a taut script; the end result coming together as something really special. On the face of it, it’s the story of two NASA astronauts on a mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, and the obstacles they’ll have to overcome to survive in space. Really, Gravity is the age-old set-up in which humankind attempts to operate in an environment designed to kill. Indeed, though a far different film than Children of Men, both thematically and in terms of scope, Cuarón has created another film with weight, resonance, and a strong sense of style.

George Clooney and Sandra Bullock easily carry this briskly paced film, Bullock in particular (as Mission Specialist Ryan Stone). She turns in a remarkable performance, more textured and compelling than anything we’ve seen from her prior, including The Blind Side. Making the hostile setting of space the focal point of a film certainly comes with a huge element of risk, but I’m pleased to say everyone involved pulled it off. They’ve made a 90-minute cinematic gift for us.

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fifthestate

The Fifth Estate is an extremely strange movie. That’s fitting, perhaps, given the central focus of the film: Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Star Benedict Cumberbatch is his normal awesome presence, but the story itself should have been redacted.

As a story attempting to encapsulate massive cultural questions regarding government secrecy, privacy rights, dictators, and the misuse of power, it would seem that The Fifth Estate had everything teed up to be a vitally important film. That it doesn’t end up getting there is likely the fault of a weak script or lesser directing, because Cumberbatch, as Julian Assange, comes off pretty great. Yes, the Cumberbatch was willing, but the muddled mess of The Fifth Estate isn’t able to stitch together anything nearing cohesion, even with these significant built-in advantages. Read More »

We Gotta Get Out Of This Place header

In today’s Hollywood, unless a poster is sold online, odds are it stinks. The marketing for most films has become so generic that any kind of artistic expression of what a film is in its advertising has all but gone away. Every once in a while, however, a poster pops up to challenge that belief. That’s the case with We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, directed Simon and Zeke Hawkins.

The film will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival and follows three teens who leave their small town and turn to a life of crime. It’s written by Dutch Southern, who is also writing the female Expendables film, and the poster was designed by Eisner Award winning artist Sean Phillips.

You could know nothing about the film, see this poster, and want to see the movie. And isn’t that what a great poster is supposed to do? Check it out below. Read More »

the_wind_rises-big-4

Hayao Miyzaki‘s new film The Wind Rises has been a box-office monster in Japan, coming in at number one for a month straight. We’ve seen a trailer, but now thanks to the Toronto International Film Festival, which will soon host the film’s premiere outside of Japan, we can get a subtitled version of the footage.

Check it out below. Read More »

almosthuman_02

I like this trailer for Almost Human, a sci-fi horror story that will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September, but I’m going to have to watch it a few times before I can look at the story without seeing it as a reflection of the great, weird Xtro from 1983. (There’s also some of Carpenter’s The Thing in here.)

That said, this is a solid trailer that promises a no-frills horror exercise with a good otherworldly leaning. There’s clearly a current of ’80s sci-fi/horror running through this one — just check out the poster below. But there could be some unique twists and ideas in here, too. Check out the trailer below. It’s definitely not safe for work, thanks to some blood and gore. Read More »

Devils Knot

One of the most prestigious film festivals in North America, the Toronto Film Festival, has begun to announce its line up for 2013. The event takes place September 5-15 and as usual, the line-up includes pretty much every highly-anticipated awards contender scheduled for release through the end of the year.

Just a few examples are the Jackie Brown prequel Life of Crime, Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, the star-studded August: Osage County, Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave, the West Memphis Three film Devil’s Knot (above), Jason Reitman’s latest Labor Day, Jason Bateman’s debut Bad Words, Ron Howard’s Rush, the Wikileaks film The Fifth Estate, Mike Myers’ documentary Supermench, Matthew Weiner’s You Are Here, Hugh Jackman in Prisoners, Keanu Reeves’ Man of Tai Chi and Alfonso Cuaron’s space drama, Gravity.

And they haven’t even finished announcing everything. Below, read everything in this first wave. Read More »

Early Buzz: Joss Whedon’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Joss Whedon‘s already two for two this year, earning critical raves for The Cabin in the Woods (which he co-wrote with Drew Goddard) and then knocking it out of the park on every level with The Avengers. But he’s not finished: His third film of the year, the black-and-white William Shakespeare adaptation Much Ado About Nothing, just premiered at TIFF. And based on the reviews so far it sounds like the perfect capper to Whedon’s already stunning year.

Shot in just 12 days while Whedon was finishing up The Avengers, this version retains the Bard’s dialogue but moves the action to contemporary LA. (Specifically, Whedon’s own house.) Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof star as Beatrice and Benedick, acquaintances whose prickly banter signals an obvious compatibility. Other Whedon favorites fill out the rest of the cast: Fran Kranz, Nathan Fillion, Sean Maher, and Clark Gregg. Read more of the early buzz after the jump.

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