Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TIFF 2010: short takes

I hafta admit, I ended up scheduling for "fun" more than "quality." In part it's because "quality" will probably end up at the Brattle, Somerville, and Kendall, like, last week (THE TOWN), or next week (NEVER LET ME GO), or during Oscar season, right? THE KING'S SPEECH won audience choice and that's supposed to be superbait, so I fully expect to catch that this fall.

What I got to do was see some movies I really enjoyed. Man, if the 10.30.10 fails to restore sanity and the U.S. of A. tanks (and doesn't take Canada with it), I think I could be pretty happy in Toronto. At least, in Toronto along the University Line TTC subway, with stations short walks to a dozen movie theaters. The festival venues I went to are all quite cushy and this new theater building, the Bell Lightbox, is just plain gorgeous. Also, you can get Burger King (I would prefer McD's, but whatevs), Starbucks, pizza, hot dogs, and poutine (no curds for me, tho, thanks) in their AMCs.

Also, Mike's Hot Dogs, across from the Lightbox, cooks up a quality dog (with wheat or white bun), I tell you hwhat. =)

Allright, here's what I saw in quick-ish, non-spoilery takes (I'm hoping to sit down and *really* ramble about these later this week, before my impressions fade away)...

MONSTERS (9/16 @Ryerson)
TIFF listing | trailer
Really enjoyed it! Not a run-for-your-life action romp. HOST-ish, but maybe more like THE SIGNAL meets CLOVERFIELD. Like the best monster/scifi, it's about the human beings, their society, civilization, and relationships. There just happen to be monsters in the background.

TIFF listing | trailer
Very hit or miss with me. The Chef's story was solid, but the others were a bit shaky. The action was all decent, but I'm afraid about half the humor was lost (on me) in translation. That happens quite a bit with comedy in HK flicks for me. Sometimes it's just a little too broad or low. Maybe that's for the kids? I dunno.

TIFF listing | trailer
Probably the favorite of my fest screenings! Packed with what Tsui Hark does well and none of his iffy, goofy stuff. Well, almost none. Great characters, cast, and action choreography, and a very down-to-earth conspiracy mystery plot. Well, y'know, as down-to-earth as a conspiracy involving spontaneous combustion in whichever dynasty China goes.

BUNRAKU (9/17 @Scotiabank 2)
TIFF listing
I love it. The weakest bit for me was probably Demi Moore's character thread. She didn't get to do or mean enough, but could have. The visual style is probably gonna divide people sharply, but it totally works for me. It's what you'd get in STAR TREK the original series if someone dropped a collection of Shaw Brothers flicks on a cowboy world, and of course, there's nothing wrong with that!

CONFESSIONS (9/17 @Ryerson)
TIFF listing
Wonderfully vicious vengeance and soulless impudent grade school children. Good times!

TIFF listing | trailer
A nice tight little "GROUNDHOG DAY" story, but really rough. Maybe some of the gray area issues of the groundhog day god complex get smoothed over too quickly. And I heard some thuds as some odd and unnecessary lines fell out of characters' mouths. Y'know, supposedly off-the-cuff convo that just sounded poorly written. It's a DAYBREAK with some screwed-up kids as the focus, not a dutiful top cop (Taye Diggs in DAYBREAK, watch that series if you get a chance =).

STAKE LAND (9/18 @Scotiabank 4)
TIFF listing | trailer
A little bit of a lot of stuff I love. Post-vampoc western society, crazy cult leader action, boy meets girl, unconventional family-building, and vampire hunting stake-fu. Surprise understated goodness from Kelly McGillis, and not a bad junior vampire hunter by GOSSIP GIRL's little brother, too! If I had to pick a nit, a few seconds of the action could have been shot better.

WASTED ON THE YOUNG (9/18 @Scotiabank 2)
TIFF listing
I like it. High school clique viciousness with not an "adult" in sight. VERONICA MARS (without her righteous justice-fetish) meets GOSSIP GIRL and that porny sheen of WILD THINGS. A possibly ambiguous, possibly confusing ending. Stars Australian doppelgangers of Michelle Williams, Peter Facinelli, and Joshua Jackson. Well, okay, not exactly Joshua Jackson.

TIFF listing | trailer | site
A super fun kids-in-competition doc. I felt a little cheated cuz the film focused on certain kids (great kids w fun stories) in the competition, which is fine, understandable, necessary and all, but didn't give us more than a few seconds' look at the other kids' performances. Would've been nice to show us more of everyone when it counted. O well.

YOU ARE HERE (9/19 @AMC 10)
TIFF listing | trailer
If Haruki Murakami wrote SLACKERS, you might get something like this. That might sound like a nightmare to some people, but it totally works for me. A puzzlebox of a film where everything is open to interpretation.

All right. That's all I've got just now. I'll try to tackle individual films in their own posts soon (ish =). My thanks to TIFF organizers, volunteers, and filmmakers—and especially to Vitamin T—for playing such spectacular enablers of my movie madness! =)

Keep on screenin on~

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Where in the world am I?

Where else?

Meat country! Actually, this was just an un-pass-up-able photo-op, stumbled upon after bibimbap and bulgogi at Buk Chang Dong in Toronto's Koreatown.

Good stuff. =)

Keep on keepin on, eh~

TIFF 2010 so far...

So, I'm in Toronto! And I'm seeing films at the Toronto International Film Festival! And it's pretty frickin shweet! =)

I arrived on Thursday and knocked off two films, an evening MONSTERS (understatedly awesome!) and a midnight madness screening of THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF, AND THE SWORDSMAN (very fun, but missed half its shots at my funny bone). I kicked Friday off with an early afternoon DETECTIVE DEE (Tsui Hark + Andy Lau awesome!), then an early evening BUNRAKU (genre-mashing awesome!), and finished with a nighttime CONFESSIONS (dark, vengeful, Japanese awesome!). And today began with a very crisp, if slightly clunky, REPEATERS (I *had* to get in at least one Canadian film) followed by a great romp of a post-apoc road movie, STAKE LAND (some more awesome genre mashing, this time, with vampires!).

Several of the screenings have had post-show Q&A with filmmakers, so, I got to see and hear the director and stars of MONSTERS, the director of BUTCHER, the director and stars of STAKE LAND. And, thanks to my digital camera and the interwebz, you get to see some of them, too...

Here's me, explaining the WristStrong spiel to STAKE LAND director Jim Mickle, who was game for taking up the cause...

To raise awareness as efficiently as possible, you're supposed to pass a bracelet on to celeb-types, like pro athletes and entertainers, famous individuals whose faces—and hopefully, wrists—are seen by many people. I predict Mr. Mickle will prove to be a strong WristStrong campaigner in the near future.

Outside the theater, I caught the vampire-hunting stars of the film, from left to right, Sean Nelson (soldier Willy), Nick Damici (hunter Mister), and Connor Paolo (helper Martin, but you *might* know him better as the youngest van der Woodsen =). Nick and Connor were excellent as master and apprentice hunters in the post-vampocalypse of STAKE LAND.

Alas, vampoc survivors Kelly McGillis (a sweet surprise in the role of Sister), Danielle Harris (plucky young siren, Belle), and charismatic cult leader Michael Cerveris (lately of FRINGE, excellent as the vengeful extremist Jebedia) were not spotted. Cerveris WAS part of the Q&A, but I didn't see him afterward. McGillis was reportedly newly married that day. And I thought Harris was in town, but I guess wasn't available for that particular screening. O well.

Pretty frickin cool. =)

Keep on keepin on~

TIFF 2010: Arrrrrr! Eh?

Haven't hunkered down to type out any proper rambles on the wonderful films yet, sorry. Will try to start posting before I leave, tho.

Keep on keepin on~