foxtrot review


Comedy and tragedy are usually treated as two wildly different emotions – the Golden Globes even consider them so different as to break up their film awards into two tracks on those lines. But for a writer/director like Samuel Maoz, the dichotomy is not so clear-cut. His new film Foxtrot, the stealth sensation of 2017’s fall festival season, evinces how these two experiences are not opposites, but rather two sides of the same coin. Maoz, in just his second narrative feature, repeatedly demonstrates the way hilarity and calamity are never far removed from one another. Just one break in the other direction can produce a wild twist of fate. 9/10 [Marshall Shaffer’s review]


happy end tiff

Happy End

Michael Haneke is not known for light-heartedness. The Austrian filmmaker behind Funny GamesCachéThe White Ribbon, and Amour specializes in challenging, often incredibly bleak dramas where all is not right in the world.

So when Haneke’s new film was announced with the title Happy End, most people familiar with the director likely assumed this was a deliberate misnomer. Well, it is and isn’t. Happy End, which played at the Toronto International Film Festival, is perhaps one of the least-depressing films Haneke has made, while also still being plenty of bleak. There’s a bemusement at work here, as if Heneke is winking at the audience with every scene. 7/10 [Full Review]

hostiles review


Hostiles features far more big narrative events and skirmishes than the usual existential, moody tone poem, and it has two effects. The first is that it unfortunately makes the film a little uneven, but the second (and more positive) is that it gives Bale and his companions plenty of opportunities to brood over their actions and treatment of the Native population. 7/10 [Marshall Shaffer’s review]

i, tonya

I, Tonya

In the 1990s, the story of figure skater Tonya Harding dominated the early days of the 24-hour news cycle. It was the testing ground for where news was headed, away from reporting and into gossip. It would be repeated tenfold by the O.J. Simpson trial, which came after the Harding incident was dying down. By then, the media was learning a valuable lesson: everyone loves a juicy story with a lot of dirt.

Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya trades in gossip, but it also wants to get to the truth. The truth that many people probably don’t even know. For most people, Tonya Harding is little more than a punchline. I, Tonya wants to remind you she’s also a person. 7/10 [Full Review]

Man on the Moon Documentary - Man on the Moon Documentary - Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond Review

Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond

Thanks to the magic of time and the countenance of producer Spike Jonze, the tapes finally see the light of day in Jim and Andy, which might have been for the best. Now unyoked from any burden of needing to put butts in seats, Carrey’s filmed hijinks are now free to serve as a window into the mindset of his boundary-defying performance style. Smith intercuts and overlays a contemporary interview with Carrey, which adds nearly two decades of perspective to the material. It also provides a good deal of insight into what the actor has been up to in recent years. 8/10 [Marshall Shaffer’s review]

sacred deer

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Tragedy wins out over comedy, and the last half-hour of Sacred Deer descends into the pits of misery porn hell. There’s nothing wrong with a dark movie, but the darkness should be in service of something beyond breaking the audience’s spirits. Because if that’s the true goal…where we’re left wondering “how much horror the human mind can stand and still maintain a wakeful, staring, unrelenting sanity,” then why bother at all? Still, there’s enough talent on display here, from direction to performances, to warrant a watch. But when the credits roll, don’t be surprised if you find yourself wishing The Killing of a Sacred Deer would lighten the hell up just a little. 6/10 [Full Review]

kings review


Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Kings is the latest, but almost assuredly not the last, cinematic response to the increased visibility and amplified intensity surrounding conversations on police brutality towards black Americans. The Turkish director claims to have been working on the project for over a decade since she attended film school in the United States, and it’s highly likely that a significant factor in getting the film greenlit (and attracting the talent it did) came from the continued prevalence of racially biased policing in the news. If we’re due for a rash of these woke-minded dramas, though, they need to have a firmer, more strident voice than what Ergüven displays here. 5/10 [Marshall Shaffer’s review]

lean on pete review

Lean on Pete

Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete is a social realist drama of the highest order, combining the gentle pastoral touch of David Lynch’s The Straight Story with a probing sympathy for individuals on the edge of society recalling the best of the Dardenne brothers. There’s no armchair sociology here, just rich character observation steeped in a spirit of compassion. Haigh never veers into grandstanding “issues movie” territory or troubled youth drama. It’s just the story of an adolescent boy in need of the tiniest bit of permanence and security. 9/10 [Marshall Shaffer’s review]

let the corpses tan

Let The Corpses Tan

There’s a lot going on here, most of it quickly introduced in the opening scenes of Let the Corpses Tan. Love triangles, gang rivalries, wild fantasies of gold body-painted goddesses glimmering in the summer sun…but any sense of forward motion is held back by the whims of Cattet and Forzani’s filmmaking. The plot and character development exists to such minimal extent that it’s hard to believe the film is an adaptation of a novel. The writing-directing duo successfully transitions the prose to cinema, though they do so apparently by slaughtering any literary elements and wrangling them into the submission of their aggressive aesthetic. 6/10 [Marshall Shaffer’s review]

manhunt tiff


John Woo made a career creating operatic, ultra-violent crime films peppered with shoot-outs, stand-offs, morally ambiguous characters, and lots and lots of slow-motion doves. Woo eventually made the leap from Hong Kong cinema to Hollywood and created one of the greatest action movies of all time, Face/Off. But Woo’s Hollywood adventure was never truly able to rise above the joys of that film, and the filmmaker returned to Hong Kong.

Woo’s latest film, the Chinese-Hong Kong production Manhunt, is being heralded (by people who are paid to promote the film) as a return to form, supposedly recalling his classics like A Better Tomorrow and The Killer. Well, don’t believe the hype. 6/10 [Full Review]

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