Monthly Archives: July 2013

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Okay all, here it is, my review for the CK’s Not-So-Secret Santa Review Swap (July). You can check out The Cinematic Katzenjammer website here. Enjoy the review!

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A wonderful, transcendent, socio-political drama that tackles some difficult content whilst remaining pure and liberal. “To Kill a Mockingbird” might be a little too eager and old-fashioned for some. Nonetheless, is wholly and genuinely wide-eyed, open-minded, and immaculate, which results in a universally acknowledged cinematic masterpiece. Telling a fair amount of parallel stories that eventually merge and entwine to a shocking, bittersweet ending. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is an elegant, yet harrowing, tale of anti-racism, maturity, and the ever-changing, home-grown values. It is acted and directed with unwavering honesty and unhampered brilliance. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is an invaluable film that is decidedly simply, but not easily forgotten. It wasn’t my first time viewing it, and it will not be my last.

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Scout (Badham) and her brother Jem (Alford) live in Alabama during the 1930s with their father Atticus (Peck). Scout and Jem’s days are filled with childish wonder and play, with occasional trips to the Radley house to hopefully catch a glimpse of Boo (Duvall), who has never left the house.  Atticus is a lawyer with a strong belief that all people who should be treated equally, much to the dismay of the townsfolk. Soon, the local judge appoints Atticus to defend a local black man named Tom (Peters) who is accused of raping and beating a local teenage girl. Not long after accepting the job, Atticus and his family begin experiencing the wrath and ignorance of the entire town.

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Although “To Kill a Mockingbird” is dated and bares its message on the cuff of its sleeve. Hollywood has yet to concoct a film that even remotely touches the fear and love portrayed here or rival the overall experience of its 1962 classic. Which should speak to the level of originality on display and how timeless the film is. The characters are affectionate, intelligent, and innocent…and the extent in which these delicate, not easily replicated emotions are authentically recreated is truly baffling. Winner of three Oscars, critical acclaim, and a favourable consensus from the movie-going public, in addition to undoubtedly being a member of the cinematic canon. “To Kill a Mockingbird” has acquired an endless source of merit and numerous awards over its existence which it has full-heartedly earned and deserves.

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Based upon the novel of the same title, which just so happens to be an elite member of the literary canon. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is fortunate enough to have not lost anything in the transposition, unlike the majority of screenplays adapted from their literary counterparts. Directed by Robert Mulligan, who arguably never completed a piece as illustrious as this during the remainder of his career, does a superlative job behind the camera. Whether he is capturing the genuine child-like wonder and imagination of his youthful protagonists, the moral consciousness and socially obligated burden of a handsome, vastly intelligent lawyer, or a serious accusation that leads to loss and violence. Mulligan does an absolutely phenomenal job not just capturing his cast, but complimenting them.

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“To Kill a Mockingbird” is a very character driven film, requiring strenuous amounts of charisma, genuineness, and heart. Things that the cast, comprised of Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Philip Alford, Brock Peters, Robert Duvall, know precisely how to navigate and fulfill. Duvall barely garners ten minutes of screen time, but with his usual style and flare, manages to make his portrayal and character one of his most memorable. As a brother and sister duo ripe with childish wonderment and unnecessary fears, Badham and Alford are decidedly convincing. Their portrayals truly make the film unforgettable and easily relatable. Not to be forgotten is the supporting cast members who do a terrific job keeping the film grounded, becoming, and repulsive all at the same time.

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Brock Peters is sort of the unsung hero. His performance is usually pushed to the wayside to make room for the more relevant, relatable characters. Despite this fact, Peters, although briefly used, does an outstanding job in his limited time on screen. His portrayal is utterly disheartening, stomach-churning, and down-right stunning. Matching Peters stride for stride, albeit in a much more appreciated and viewer-friendly role is Gregory Peck. His performance as Atticus Finch is easily one of his best. Doing his utmost to be an attentive and nurturing single parent, as well as firm with his two children. Peck absorbs and exudes the very essence of what it means to struggle and thrive. Despite having to deal with being thrust into a moral conundrum while his children fight with growing-up, Peck manages to appease every facet of his character.

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Impeccably acted and superbly directed. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is an undisputed classic and will continue to be an important part of cinematic history for years to come.

To Kill a Mockingbird: 9.5 out of 10.

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TIFF 2013 Unleashes Midnight Madness Lineup, Docs, and Vanguard:

We are a little over a month away from opening night at one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, the Toronto International Film Festival. Last week was a treat as the first 75 films were announced, including galas and special presentations. Now, it’s fair to say that the films presented last week were are a little more serious and dramatic, those hoping to generate Oscar buzz and compete for the “people’s choice award.” The films announced last night however, are much more easygoing.

Around midnight (fitting), TIFF unveiled its lineup for what is quickly becoming the festivals most notable, fun, and bizarre sub-competition, Midnight Madness! Which hosts films ranging from horror, thriller, dark comedies, and oh so much more. This yearly tradition celebrates filmmaking that stretches the human psyche, tests the viewers tolerance level, and essentially weeds out the weak cinephiles from the tough. This will be the 25th anniversary of Midnight Madness and this year’s line-up is an outstanding gift to the public. Check out the all the Midnight Madness films here. Below you’ll find what I believe to be the highlights!

“The Green Inferno” (2013, Eli Roth).

Horror maestro Eli Roth (Hostel) returns to the director’s chair for this gruesome homage to the notorious Italian cannibal movies of the late seventies and early eighties.

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“Rigor Mortis” (2013, Juno Mak).

A public-housing tenement is plunged into a dark storm of supernatural chaos, in this loving tribute to the cult classic Hong Kong horror-comedy series Mr. Vampire.

Next up, is Vanguard! Described as “Provocative, sexy… possibly dangerous. This is what’s next.” You can check out all the films announced for Vanguard here. Below you’ll once again find what I believe to be the highlights of this section.

“The Sacrament” (2013, Ti West).

Inspired by the infamous mass suicide of Peoples Temple cultists at Jonesetown, Guyana, the latest film from indie genre icon Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) sends frequent collaborators AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg and Kentucker Audley on a harrowing journey into madness and messianic bloodshed.

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“Horns” (2013, Alexander Aja).

Blamed for the brutal murder of his longtime girlfriend (Juno Temple), a small-town guy (Daniel Radcliffe) awakens one morning to find a pair of horns growing from his head, in this offbeat supernatural thriller from horror ace Alexandre Aja (Haute tensionPiranha 3D).

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FInally, for those of you interested, you can find all the Documentaries premiering at TIFF here. It isn’t my cup of tea so I’m not really sure what the highlights are. If you happen to be a documentary enthusiast, be sure to let me know what you think of the selection in the comments section below.

Okay all, that’ll do it for this announcement. I didn’t think it was possible for me to become more enthusiastic and aching with anticipation after the first set of announcements, but I’ve been proven wrong. The horror crop looks terrific at TIFF this year and I’m really looking forward to checking them all out at the festival. Remember, The Cinema Monster is your number 1 source for TIFF news and reviews!  Be sure to follow me on Twitter @cinema_monster or on Facebook here for up to the minute news. Please comment below on the selection for the festival already presented and let me know which films you are most excited to see. Have a great week!

Top 10 Zombie Flicks

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In all honesty, this Top 10 is long overdue. I should have posted this when I first started the website. Regardless, here it is!

I don’t think there is a film category I love more than the notoriously gory, excessively violent, and at times, down-right idiotic Zombie sub-genre. Show me someone who doesn’t yearn for rotting flesh so detailed you can almost smell the decomposition or over-the-top brutality conducted with a plethora of vicious weapons thrust into action by survivors fighting for their lives and I’ll show you a liar. Below, you’ll find a variety of films about the undead ranging from satirical romps, dramatic thrillers, brilliant homages, and so much more.

Remember, the films listed are my own personal favourites, not that of the movie-going public. So, try your best to differentiate preference from the general consensus. Nonetheless, hopefully you’ll find a lot of your own cult-favourites ranked and enjoy this week’s top 10!

 

Honourable Mention:

“The Horde” (2009, Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher). The Horde is the header image in case anyone was wondering.

 

10: “Planet Terror” (2007, Robert Rodriguez).

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9: “Dawn of the Dead” (2004, Zack Snyder).

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8: “Zombieland” (2009, Ruben Fleischer).

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7: “Dead Alive” (A.K.A “Braindead” 1992, Peter Jackson).

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6: “Zombie” (1979, Lucio Fulci).

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5: “28 Weeks Later” (2007, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo).

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4: “Dawn of the Dead” (1978, George A. Romero).

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3: “Shaun of the Dead” (2004. Edgar Wright).

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2: “Night of the Living Dead” (1968, George A. Romero).

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1: “28 Days Later” (2002, Danny Boyle).

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Alright guys, that’ll do it for this week’s edition of the top 10. Hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did organizing it. Please comment below if you think I’ve overlooked a film or if you feel a film made the list that shouldn’t have. Have a great weekend!.

Only God Forgives (2013)

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Violent, vulgar, and morally deplorable. Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” is a potent, virus-like blend of the director’s brilliant, ever-expanding repertoire and showcases Refn at his most abstract and unrestrained. Featuring another intentionally heartless, complex, and remorseless performance from Ryan Gosling. “Only God Forgives” might not be as structurally sound or hauntingly visceral as the duo’s previous collaboration,  but it is undoubtedly another art-house spectacle from the rapidly ascending team. Although visually beautiful, “Only God Forgives” remains simultaneously disturbing and littered with symbolism. Clocking in just short of ninety-minutes, its compact and offers a lot of content to absorb, yet isn’t easy to chew or digest. Its vivid, surreal, and ferocious, which makes “Only God Forgives” a delight for Refn veterans and will most likely deprive occasional cinephiles of any remaining cinematic innocence or consciousness.

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Julian (Gosling) is an american living in Bangkok. He runs a boxing club, which is a front for his family’s massive drug smuggling operation. His older brother Billy heads out for a night of self-destruction and is eventually murdered. Soon, Crystal (Thomas), Julian’s mother, arrives and arranges for her son’s murderer to be killed. When the family finds out that Lieutenant Chang (Pansringarm) is also embedded in the killing, Julian is urged to to take his life, but it is not that simple.

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It’s a veritable sucker-punch to structural cinema, character labels, and appropriated guidelines. “Only God Forgives” is sure to frustrate and enrage many with its sparse, unsuited dialogue, frequent sequences of prolonged eye-contact, and neon-lit brutality. Nonetheless, the film is an undeniable visual feast and its dynamic, allegoric storyline is beautiful, imagistic, and emblematic. Undoubtedly, some will claim “Only God Forgives” to be nothing more than an exercise in violence, frightening imagery, and shock. Granted, the substance may not be as prominent and hypnotic as Refn’s hyper-style. However, if you dig under “Only God Forgives” sensationalized, hallucinant surface, you’ll surely find the devil in the details. It may not be the answer you’re looking for, seeing as the material is just as touchy and delicate as Refn’s breathtaking, foreboding visuals, but it is the answer regardless.

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“Only God Forgives” is an expressionistic piece of humanity fighting physically, vitally for their soul and mind against hallowed, unquestionable, fearfully revered beings. Whether you chose to brand it temptation, good against evil, man against god, etc…There is a battle of morality and mortality raging inside every single one of us and Refn has conveyed this message with his typically subtle, violent, suave flare. Some may confuse this for pretentiousness, infer that the film lacks grounding, or insist they cannot relate to the film’s characters. Plainly put, you’re not meant to connect with the exterior qualities of “Only God Forgives.” Refn masked the message intentionally with sexual dysfunction, fury, and stoic characters, essentially the opposite of everything we live and die for. Anything worthwhile isn’t easy to obtain.

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Amidst all the chaos, symbolism, and violence. “Only God Forgives” portrays an unnerving, obscure, and powerful family drama. While dealing with one another and their own, personal identity crises, true intentions and characteristics are revealed. The viewer is subjected to this unflinching gaze at self-destruction, madness, and honesty, which rivals even the most stomach-churning gore and bone-shattering violence Refn can concoct. Additionally, each individual is dissected through their actions and must suffer the consequences. This is quite possibly the most important facet of “Only God Forgives:” action, reaction, and consequence.

Without question, what drives an experimental, artistic film such as “Only God Forgives” is the cast’s performances, it is essentially cinema’s marrow. Starring Ryan Gosling, Kristen Scott Thomas, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, and Vithaya Pansringarm. Refn has found himself vibrant, strong, and flourishing facets to comprise this heartless mechanism that keeps “Only God Forgives” chugging along.

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Yayaying Rhatha Phongam really caught me off guard, she is outstanding throughout the film and looks really good doing so. However, in comparison to her co-stars, she just can’t measure up. You’d think that portraying distant, emotionally void, and bereaved would defeat precisely what cinema stands for, yet, it’s quite the opposite. Apparently, Ryan Gosling could care less what some viewers thought of his faceless, malicious, in my opinion brilliant performance in Refn’s previous flick “Drive” and decided to do it all again…and I am so thankful he did. While it may not top his performance in “Drive,” it’s a completely different form of inhumanity and proves Gosling has got the chops. What can I say about Vithaya Pansringarm? His character’s passion, uniqueness, and intimidation may have stemmed from Refn’s screenplay, but Pansringarm brought it to immaculate life. While I can’t say I’m a big fan of Kristen Scott Thomas, I can say that you will full-heartedly hate her in “Only God Forgives,” which I am assuming is what they were aiming for.

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Although it might not be clear-cut, family-friendly, or easy to watch, “Only God Forgives” is why I love cinema. If you can stomach its bloody violence and understand its message, Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” is well worth the arduous journey.

Only God Forgives: 8.5 out of 10.

The Conjuring (2013)

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It wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last time this frequently treaded fable gets a slightly altered, cinematic treatment. Nevertheless, James Wan’s “The Conjuring” is a tension-filled, unrelentingly terrifying spook-fest that trades in buckets of gore and excessive violence for old-fashion scares that effectively and completely paralyze the viewer in fear. Complimented by a cast that fully invest in their characters and give it their all. “The Conjuring” is a devilishly authentic, heart-stopping haunted house story that is surprisingly and thankfully refreshing. While it may not be a universally acclaimed instant classic, it’s pretty damn close. There is no denying its solidness or steady stream of constsnt fright, nor the fact that Wan is one of the best in the genre currently and is heading in the right direction. “The Conjuring” is the creepy thought you try to forget, but can never quite shake.

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In 1971, the Perron family move into a rickety, depleted farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Soon, the family begins to experience strange events like unexplainable bruises, tugging, and the death of their dog. Later, one of the daughters is attacked by a mysterious entity and the Perron’s seek the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are noted paranormal investigators. Upon arriving and searching the grounds, the couple come to the conclusion that there is an evil spirit dwelling inside the Perron family’s house. Now, Ed, Lorraine, and the Perron family must work with a few volunteers to rid their house of this malevolent spirit.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. What makes a horror film genuinely   petrifying is the level of believability and empathy it’s characters are able to evoke from the audience. The more the viewer relates and sympathizes with the tormented, the more chilling, disheartening, and horrifying the tormentor and its results become. Wan has seemingly always understood this well, but it appears that in his most recent efforts such as “Insidious” and now “The Conjuring,” he’s eking closer and closer to perfecting this most necessary genre tactic. With “The Conjuring” Wan encases all his characters with this honest authenticity, even the paranormal entity. And what you’re left with is a complex cocktail of emotion and dread that bores down into the roots of the viewers. Effectively disengaging their ability to differentiate film from reality, ultimately allowing the film to transcend the screen and sincerely scare.

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Whether you believe the hoopla surrounding “The Conjuring” to be true or not is basically irrelevant. The film is nightmarish enough on its own, let alone the addition of it possibly being fact. Of course I am talking about the real Ed and Lorraine Warren, their encounters, and the film’s source material. Apparently the film is a dramatic retelling of the Warren’s life-work, in particular the Perron family case. Essentially what I’m driving at is that “The Conjuring” is supposedly based on a true story. I’ve done some research into the couples storied history and their experiences, somewhere between enough to keep me informed and not scared half-to-death for the rest of my existence. And while I’ve never experienced first-hand interactions with the paranormal (I hope I never do). It seems as if they’ve had their fair-share of communication and physical clairvoyance with the paranormal, which is just…terrific. Now “The Conjuring” is even more utterly terrifying and startling. Obviously, research and judge for yourself.

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There is a vast difference between being able to create subtlety and explosiveness and knowing how to use these facets to one’s advantage. James Wan is in complete control of his films and “The Conjuring” is no exception. Wan knows when to fluidly open a creaky wooden door and when not to. As simple as it may sound, a lot of filmmakers can’t effectively place even the most played-out and mundane of cinematic tactics, this is not the case with James Wan. His camera work is as swift and seamless as ever. Tossing some sly, simplistic scares into an old, rickety farmhouse with a few unnerving sounds here and there, in addition to a possession that rivals “The Exorcist.” Wan has spawned a haunted-house flick that looks primed to enter the horror canon soon enough.

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Atmosphere and horror really do go hand-in-hand. A big reason for this is a mix of visuals with a beautifully ambient, yet unsettling score to accompany it. This is the second collaboration for James Wan and composer Joseph Bishara, who initially teamed up for 2010’s frightening hit “Insidious.” Although Bishara’s original soundtrack for “The Conjuring” isn’t as phantasmagoric or memorable as 2010s “Insidious,” it’s still fairly alarming and intoxicating. Check out all of Bishara’s work if you get the chance, a very talented man.

Of course, what horror film would be complete without its unfortunate victims? Someone to witness the door eerily crack open, hear a repetitive noise down the hallway, or succumb to a shadowy entity. Someone needs to keep the devil company and it surely isn’t me. Luckily “The Conjuring” has found its fair share of talented souls to deal with the paranormal. Starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, and an unheralded, courageous supporting cast. James Wan and associates appear fortunate enough to have conjured up a cast as crazy and brave as they are. The Perron family, although portrayed well, is sparsely used. That being said, Livingston and his family do an outstanding job making the fear real and pull hard on the viewers heart-strings. Making for a meaningful and frightening ghost story.

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It still astounds me how Patrick Wilson continually manages to fly under the radar. After giving brilliant performances in “Watchmen” and “Little Children,” in addition to a plethora of smaller, yet significant roles. You’d think that filmmakers would take notice of his talent and how he makes everything look so effortless. Nonetheless, Wilson gives another firm, heartfelt, and intimidating performance here and will hopefully proceed forward later this year when he teams up once again with James Wan for “Insidious: Chapter 2.” As for the other heavyweight, Vera Farmiga, I feel that she’s still flip-flopping. For an actress who has given immaculate portrayals in “The Departed” and “Source Code,” she still sprinkles an odd choice here and there. Don’t get me wrong, she’s terrific in “The Conjuring,” I’d just like to see a little more consistency.

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Gleefully scary and decidedly heartfelt. James Wan’s “The Conjuring” is proof that the genre isn’t dying, even though it may feel like a blast from the past.

The Conjuring: 8.5 out of 10.

TIFF 2013 Announces First Batch of Films

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With a little over a month until the Toronto International Film Festival officially kicks off its 38th edition. The first batch of attending films were ceremoniously announced around 10am this morning in what is shaping up to be one of the most prolific, star-studded years in festival history!

75 films were announced Tuesday in what should become roughly 290 total, at least equalling last years output. Expect the entire Midnight Madness lineup to be released July 30, with the remaining films formally presented throughout the coming weeks. Check out the Galas here and the Special Presentations here.

The most notable from the first batch are as follows:

August: Osage County John Wells, USA, World Premiere:
August: Osage County tells the dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. Based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize– and Tony Award–winning 2007 play of the same name. Starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Sam Shepard and Chris Cooper.

The Fifth Estate Bill Condon, USA, World Premiere:
Triggering an age of high-stakes secrecy, explosive news leaks and the trafficking of classified information, WikiLeaks forever changed the game. This dramatic thriller based on real events reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century’s most fiercely debated organization. The story begins as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Soon, they are breaking more hard news than the world’s most legendary media organizations combined. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of modern time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society — and what are the costs of exposing them? The film also stars David Thewlis, Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney, Anthony Mackie and Dan Stevens.

Kill Your Darlings John Krokidas, USA, International Premiere:
Kill Your Darlings is the true story of friendship and murder that led to the birth of an entire generation. This is the previously untold story of murder that brought together a young Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), and William Burroughs (Ben Foster) at Columbia University in 1944, providing the spark that would lead to their Beat Revolution. Also stars Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen, Kyra Sedgwick and John Cullum.

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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Justin Chadwick, South Africa, World Premiere:
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is based on South African President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography of the same name, which chronicles his early life, coming of age, education, and 27 years in prison before working to rebuild his country’s once-segregated society. Starring Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela, and Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela.

Rush Ron Howard, United Kingdom/Germany, International Premiere:
Two-time Academy Award winner Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon) teams up once again with two-time Academy Award–nominated writer Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) on Rush — a spectacular big-screen re-creation of the merciless 1970s rivalry between James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). Also features Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara and Pierfrancesco Favino.

12 Years a Slave Steve McQueen, USA, World Premiere:
12 Years a Slave tells the incredible true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841 and finally freed in 1853. The story is a triumphant tale of one man’s courage and perseverance to reunite with his family that serves as an important historical and cultural marker in American history. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Garret Dillahunt, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong’o, Adepero Oduye, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Michael Kenneth Williams and Alfre Woodard.

Blue Is The Warmest Color Abdellatif Kechiche, France, North American Premiere:
At 15, Adèle doesn’t question it: girls go out with boys. Her life is changed forever when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adèle grows, seeks herself, loses herself, and finds herself. Starring Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos.

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The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her Ned Benson, USA
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her is a two-part love story seen through the eyes of a New York couple trying to understand each other as they cope with personal hardship. The different perspectives of “Him” and “Her” result in two films with a unique look into one couple’s attempt to reclaim the life and love they once had. Starring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Nina Arianda, Viola Davis, Bill Hader, Ciarán Hinds, Isabelle Huppert, William Hurt, and Jess Weixler.

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Don Jon Joseph Gordon-Levitt, USA, Canadian Premiere:
Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a strong, handsome, good old fashioned guy. His buddies call him Don Jon due to his ability to “pull” a different woman every weekend, but even the finest fling doesn’t compare to the bliss he finds alone in front of the computer watching pornography. Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) is a bright, beautiful, good old fashioned girl. Raised on romantic Hollywood movies, she’s determined to find her Prince Charming and ride off into the sunset. Wrestling with good old fashioned expectations of the opposite sex, Jon and Barbara struggle against a media culture full of false fantasies to try and find true intimacy in this unexpected comedy.

Gravity Alfonso Cuarón, USA/United Kingdom, North American Premiere:
Gravity is a heart-pounding thriller that pulls its audience into the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space. Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer accompanied on her first shuttle mission by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney). On a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone — tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth… and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But their only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.

To say that I am excited for TIFF 2013 would be a massive understatement! Can’t wait to see what other films will be joining this first wave.

Top 10 Films That Give Me Goosebumps

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Now, before you jump to any conclusions about this week’s top 10, just bear with me for a minute. When I mention “goosebumps,” I mean these specific films listed provoke a profound reaction of euphoria, nostalgia, and wonderment in me, essentially any strong emotion. These feelings can be caused by breathtaking imagery, an ambient, sedating soundtrack, haunting dialogue, or simply a magnificent performance. I know this top 10 is rather personal and abstract, seeing as any film can evoke any reaction depending on the individual. I just think its time I put more of myself into these weekly posts. While the other editions of the top 10 segment are sorted and ranked by me and me alone, I do take other factors into account before concluding and publishing. You might think that this top 10 contains a lot of my all- time favourite films. Although it is a good indicator of what I look for and enjoy in a film, you’d be surprised at how many are actually considered to be some of my preferred films…but I digress…let’s just get into it!

For each film listed I’ll provide a brief clip for you all to check out. If you like what you see, I highly recommend all films listed, so give them a watch and be sure to let me know what you think!

Honourable Mention:

“The Trip” (2010) Michael Winterbottom.

 

10: “Melancholia” (2010) Lars Von Trier.

 

9: “Another Earth” (2011) Mike Cahill

 

8: “To the Wonder” (2012) Terrence Malick.

 

7: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004) Michael Gondry.

 

6: Into the Wild (2007) Sean Penn.

 

5: “The Tree of Life” (2012) Terrence Malick.

 

4: “127 Hours” (2011) Danny Boyle.

 

3: “Take Shelter” (2011) Jeff Nichols.

 

2: “Moon” (2009) Duncan Jones.

 

1: “Sunshine” (2007) Danny Boyle.

 

Okay all, that’ll do it for this week’s top 10, hope you all enjoyed it! If you have any comments or questions about the top 10 or any of the films listed, don’t hesitate to ask. Everyone have a great weekend!

13 Assassins (2010)

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An homage to the period-flicks of old. Takashi Miike’s “13 Assassins” is an epic addition into the samurai canon and sets a dizzying new height on the measuring stick. Unrestrained, impassioned, and utterly violent. “13 Assassins” is sure to quench the viewers appetite no matter how bloodthirsty. Revamping and reviving what was a faltering and fading sub-genre. Miike puts his modern twist on, while never forgetting, the immortal rules and makes “13 Assassins” an instant classic. Spending just as much time training and characterizing his samurais before sending them off on a path soon to be littered with severed heads and clever tactics. Takashi Miike once again proves why he is such a revealed filmmaker and adds another notch to his already legendary cult-status. “13 Assassins” is so relentlessly entertaining that you’ll never want it to end.

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In the 18040’s, samurai power in Japan is coming to a close. Lord Naritsugu (Inagaki), younger brother of the current Shogun, kills and rapes at will. When a senior government official realizes that these heinous crimes are taking place and will continue to grow in severity when the Lord ascends to a higher position of political power, he hires a battle-hardened samurai named Shinzaemon (Yakusho) to secretly assassinate Lord Naritsugu. After gathering together his assassins, Shinzaemon and crew set out to ambush the Lord and his subjects. Upon being attacked by a weak force payed off by Hanbei (Ichimura), a loyal subject and protector of Lord Naritsugu, the 13 assassins must prepare for a battle that could mean their demise.

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There’s something not seen by the human eye, seemingly invisible, but has an impact so immense, its undeniable, like dark matter…and it changes the ordinary into the extraordinary. Takashi Miike’s “13 Assassins” has this irrefutable quality in spades. We can argue that it’s the performances, Miike’s unparalleled ingenuity, or the story itself till we explode. Now, there is no question that all of these characteristics are bursting from “13 Assassins.” Nonetheless, this thing, is not a physical trait, it’s an aura, something infused that causes “13 Assassins” to transcend the screen and become priceless, timeless, a universally acknowledged masterpiece. Whatever it is, whether it’s some kind of magic, sorcery, or sheer dumb luck. “13 Assassins” will never be topped. I’m not insane, some films have this trait and it is a hallowed, humbling experience.

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Miike’s “13Assassins” is a poetic showcase of his dynamic lyricism and unrelenting savagery. The efficiency and smoothness in the way “13 Assassins” pace proceeds is unrivalled. Miike takes his time, building up the sadistic, unsympathetic evil brick by brick while simultaneously constructing an unstoppable, immovable force for good in his unforgiving samurais. His monstrous, larger-than-life filmmaking style pays huge dividends throughout “13 Assassins,” especially during the seemingly never-ending final battle sequence that is breathtaking and heart-racing. His ability to capture the slightest detail with the utmost importance while remaining true to the large-scale “13 Assassins” is based upon garners endless kudos. It is exceedingly difficult to find fault in Miike’s form or genius, which in my opinion, has never been better.

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You’d think that because there are thirteen characters playing relatively similar roles, in addition to a ruthless villain, his protector, and a massive army. It would prove senseless to try and keep track of each individual. Even if you wanted to, the task would appear confusing and daunting to say the least. However, in actuality, it is the exact opposite. The cast Miike and company have chosen add a distinguishable face and personality to each samurai and soldier. Miike simply laid out the characteristics for each of the thirteen and let the charisma and talent of the actors take control. Regardless, albeit sadly, of how impressive and unique each performance is, there are only three leads to speak of: Koji Yakusho, Goro Inagaki, and Masachika Ichimura. I’m not downplaying the supporting cast, they are equally as impressive, just in a more limited sense.

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Goro Inagaki successfully tackles the challenging endeavour of creating a villain who surpasses all calamity, maliciousness, and wickedness, to become an antagonist who is truly repulsive, infuriating, and inhumane. Essentially, an adversary without morals, heart, or emotion. Someone who’d one would never want to come across. Koji Yakusho has the privilege of being at the centre of “13 Assassins” and doesn’t waste the opportunity. Carrying the weight of his samurais, Yakusho shows no signs of discomfort. Exuding the steady-hand, persistence, and leadership needed to accomplish even the most revolting of chores. As for Masachika Ichimura’s character, he is rather hard to categorize. Although he is a ruthless killer, there is no denying that he is torn between loyalty and what is right, and Ichimura illuminates this struggle perfectly.

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Part ways with the annoyance of reading subtitles, if you have a problem with it, set priorities. After you’ve finished watching “13 Assassins,” you’re just going to want to watch it again anyway. So anything you may have missed visually when you were reading the extreme and emotionally diverse dialogue will be easily picked up the second time you watch it, or the third, or the fourth, etc…get it? Takashi Miike’s “13 Assassins” is that rare picture who’s merit will never diminish, no matter how many times you view it. For a genre with numerous masterpieces such as “Seven Samurai” and “Yojimbo,” it would appear nearly impossible to add another. If anything, Miike’s entry tops all other pieces in the canon, which should speak volumes to the effectiveness and entertaining value of “13 Assassins.”

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Wildly entertaining, decidedly vicious, and utterly clever. Takashi Miike’s “13 Assassins” is an instant classic and an undeniable masterpiece.

“13 Assassins:” 9.5 out of 10.

Pacific Rim (2013)

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Although it may ask the viewer to acquiesce a fair amount of inconsistencies and genre cliches. “Pacific Rim” ultimately rewards its audience with jaw-dropping visuals, bone-shattering action, and evoking genuine childlike wonder. It is somewhat of a let down that we are treated to only a small taste of what makes Guillermo Del Toro the revered visionary he is today. Nonetheless, without the aforementioned creator working behind the scenes. “Pacific Rim” would have undoubtedly fallen victim to the bombastic, over-driven destruction that has plagued and doomed countless others in the genre. While I didn’t expect the catchy slogan “Go big or go extinct” to be the film’s structural criteria. Luckily for Del Toro and crew, you can’t get much bigger than 250 foot robot assassins piloted by humans duking it out with genetically-engineered alien war-machines in an intergalactic battle. Powered by Del Toro’s youthful inspiration and wide-eyed ambition, “Pacific Rim” is literally a summer smash.

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In the near future, extraterrestrials dubbed “Kaiju” enter through a portal in a crevasse deep beneath the Pacific Ocean and begin destroying Earth’s major cities. To combat these monsters, humans create massive weapons known as “Jaegers” which are humanoid fighting machines that stand roughly 250 feet tall. These “Jaegers” are controlled by two pilots simultaneously through a neural link that allows each co-pilot access to inner thoughts, memories, and reactions. Soon, the human race begin to take the upper-hand, but are quickly knocked back down by bigger, more complex “Kaiju” and must find a way to close the portal between worlds.

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Similar to J.J Abrams “Super 8,” Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” was conceived upon childhood nostalgia and a yearning to rebirth the creature feature. Having rekindled a long-dormant fascination with classical foreign monster films. Del Toro and crew set out to instill that feeling of childish giddiness into a generation who’ve been rotted with endless pedestrian and vapid blockbusters. And as far as big-budget action-thrillers go, you’ll find none better than “Pacific Rim.” Establishing new heroes with timeless qualities that get the job done or die trying, a slew of immense, godly fighting robots equipped with inventive, resourceful weapons, and a plethora of monstrous, grotesque extraterrestrials. It might be a tad predictable, even stereotypical. Yet, “Pacific Rim” is a breath of fresh, rejuvenating air into a faltering genre that was failing to inspire and bewilder.

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It’s easy to see that in any other filmmakers hands, at least a majority of them, “Pacific Rim” would have faced a rather swift extinction so to speak. That being said, it would have been nice to see Del Toro infuse a bit more of what makes his previous releases so compelling. While there are tiny bits of his repertoire sprinkled throughout “Pacific Rim’s” rather modest (roughly) two-hour runtime (only when stacked up against the films scale). One can’t help but feel that it lacked his ambience and atmosphere, the unwavering human element. Undoubtedly, we are subjected to the brilliant diversity and growth of Del Toro as a filmmaker and it is astounding to say the least. I just can’t help but conclude that “Pacific Rim” would have been infinitely better if Del Toro took an extra half-hour, added his usual artistic detail and firmly grounded this flick. However, it’s still one hell of a ride.

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Now, inevitably, more than a few will draw comparisons between “Pacific Rim” and the “Transformers” franchise, amongst other big-budget action blunders. But don’t mistake my clamouring for typical Del Toro as a sign of skeletal, visual, and sympathetic weakness. It’s actually quite the opposite. What sets “Pacific Rim” apart from these brain-dead blockbusters is its strength in the aforementioned categories. I’m simply stating that Del Toro could have done it better, it’s still phenomenal in every sense of the word. The visuals are stunning, Oscar worthy and the story’s progressive form, formidable characters, and connectivity is sturdy enough to stand on its own. “Pacific Rim” is essentially pleasing to all cinematic senses. If you find yourself unable to enjoy it, odds are your inner-child suffocated under your pretentiousness a while ago.

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As for the film itself, you’ll find no shortage of witty humour, deceptively charismatic and humanized characters, and of course gargantuan battle weapons built by two rival races deconstructing one another using any means necessary. Still, what makes “Pacific Rim” so utterly admirable and atypical is its ability to separate from what is slowly becoming a modern convention. Amongst the abundance of comic book films that depict superheroes struggling with their own mortality and moral obligation. “Pacific Rim” reinstates the solidified, courageous, head-held-high heroes who live and feed off of the battle, albeit somewhat cockily. Not to mention, Del Toro and crew make excellent use of the underdog premise and play it out flawlessly. However, most importantly, “Pacific Rim” portrays belief in humanity, something cinema has gotten away from.

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Now, not just anyone can control these immense Jaegers or understand the Kaiju and that’s why “Pacific Rim” has such a diverse, talented, and somewhat obscure cast. Starring Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, Charlie Hunnam, and Rinko Kikuchi, this crew of tenacious, at times ruthless individuals is not to be trifled with.

Out of everyone cast in this film, Charlie Day struck me as an odd, risky choice. Having only seen the actor in various comedies, a high-profile role in a serious action-flick seemed like the last place he’d be effective. Well, I was wrong. He does a fantastic job providing some much-needed comic relief and even surprised me with his capabilities a few times. Idris Elba is as intimidating as ever and continues to be one of the most underrated actors currently in cinema. Adding his usual style, suave, and dramatic flare to a rather limiting role. Ron Perlman, although sparsely used, still manages to steal every scene he’s in and he’s as hypnotic as ever. Carlie Hunnam definitely stole the show, for me anyway, and that’s due in large part to his chemistry with Rinko Kikuchi. The two really know how to give and take, while remaining independent enough to stand-out on their own.

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One of the most decedent pieces of eye-candy I’ve ever witnessed, “Pacific Rim” is exactly what you thought it’d be…loads of fun.

Pacific Rim: 8 out of 10.

Upstream Color (2013)

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Staggeringly beautiful and disconcertingly haunting right down to the microscopic level. Upstream Colour is a delicate, interwoven fabric that, much like everything in existence, has an intricate, atomic balance at its core to upkeep in order for it to flourish. If there is even a slight miscue, the film in its entirety would implode. Yet astoundingly, Upstream Colour strikes an unparalleled equilibrium between its content that ranges from severely bizarre, decidedly violent, and remorselessly disheartening. Written, directed, and produced by Shane Carruth, who follows up his first full-length feature Primer with something equally as confusing. And even though it may not be as obscure, it is certainly as innovative and brilliant. Upstream Colour is overwhelmingly melancholic for the majority, but if you can stand it, the reward is unlike anything else you’ve every felt while watching a film.

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PLOT: SPOILERS!

Kris (Seimetz) is abducted by the Thief (Thiago Martins) and infected with a worm, which is used to brainwash her.  After the Thief successfully completes his transgressions, he hands Kris over to the Sampler (Andrew Sensenig), who transfers the worm into a pig. The transfer of this worm establishes a connection between Kris and the pig and allows the Sampler to witness the victims experiences. Essentially, each time the Sampler approaches a pig, he can see what is going on in that persons life. The Sampler uses these experiences to create music which he sells through his record company. When a pig needs to be discarded, it is tossed into a lake. The Orchid Mother (Kathy Carruth) and Orchid Daughter (Meredith Burke) collect the orchids which have been latched onto by the worm from the deceased pig. When Kris meets Jeff (Shane Carruth), the two strike up a loving relationship, but soon uncover dark secrets about one another.

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Shane Carruth’s evolution from Primer to Upstream Colour is unbelievably remarkable and unprecedented. Anything that was somewhat amiss in his directorial debut has been touched-up and perfected. Not only has he ditched the incoherency, shadiness, and lack of emotional integrity that remotely plagued Primer. Carruth has infused a sense of awe and wonderment that was vacant throughout his debut, as well as adding the significance of empathy. Carruth has always had the intellect, intrigue, and drive to accomplish riveting and vivid filmmaking. Nevertheless, now that he has merged his craft with the heart and sentimentality needed to spawn truly complete pictures. Carruth’s growth has made him an up-and-coming force to be reckoned with, regardless if you respect his films or not.

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It is exceedingly difficult to capture the transcendent, disturbing, atmospheric, sociopathic Upstream Colour in mere words. A similar problem fell upon  Primer, as it frustrated and isolated countless viewers. With Upstream Colour, even more so than Primer. Carruth’s idealistic and resourceful search for honesty and truth in fictional settings has left myself and many others speechless. Not to say that time travel, inter-species splicing, or multi-brain connectivity will never exist. Simply put, as of the moment, these futuristic ideals are radical and irrational. Regardless, Carruth’s ability to birth these unique, futuristic irregularities is unrivalled as of the moment and inadvertently makes him one of the most forward-thinking, original, and creatively outstanding individuals in cinema today.

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Aside from relying heavily on the shocking and passionate nature of Carruth’s script. Upstream Colour found itself a very favourable and capable lead in Amy Seimetz. She showcases extreme diversity and talent stretching her emotional capabilities to an unmatched extent. Watching her performance, one can’t help but feel bewildered and exhausted. It’s unnerving to see how calm and composed she remains throughout despite, or perhaps in spite of the events she has withstood. Seimetz’s co-star who also happens to be Shane Carruth who pulls multiple duties once again matches up adequately. I don’t have an issue with Carruth acting in his own pictures. That being said, his performances in his first two outings have been passable. Nonetheless, for his future films, I would suggest investing in more experienced and accomplished actors, or at least lessons. It should greatly enhance the effectiveness of his masterful direction and unmatched ability to concoct abstract and beautiful stories.

Decidedly visceral, highly hallucinogenic, and utterly mesmerizing. Carruth’s Upstream Color is rooted with outstanding performances and firm direction.

Upstream Color: 9 out of 10.