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TIFF 2016 Review: The Promise (2016)

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The Promise (2016)

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Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

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I’ve heard a few claim that actors, such as Christian Bale for “The Fighter”, only won an Oscar or other accolades simply due to the sheer amount of weight they either lost or gained for the corresponding role. That their achievement was merely bestowed upon them for such radical weight shifts and was not the result of towering talent and investment. Of course, this topic has come up more often recently due to award season buzz surrounding the aforementioned Christian Bale, who once again changed his weight for the film “American Hustle” and skyrocketing star Matthew McConaughey, who lost a dangerous amount of weight for his film “Dallas Buyers Club.” Is it a coincidence that these two actors are at the centre of most award season rumours and predictions? Or is there merit in changing oneself physically as well as mentally for a role that demands it? What do you think?

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I feel that this statement, regarding the cohesiveness of recognition and weight modifications, which may or may not resonate with each of you, is completely and utterly false, no matter which way you swing it. Even if one was recognized or given an award for a role in which they endured a significant weight change, it takes an incredible amount of balance, self-restrain, and discipline to pull of such fluctuations, and the recipient, in my opinion, is very much deserving of the praise, maybe even an award. I mean, it’s not as if this type of endeavour is a walk in the park, regardless if you’re gaining or losing excessive pounds. I think it’s important for actors to throw themselves entirely into their characters, and if significant physical alterations is what needs to be done in order to achieve total and believable portrayals, so be it.

That being said, of course I think that there is more to garnering universal acclaim in the film industry than mere weight transitions. One can lose all the weight they please, but like a performance that requires no physical changes, if the facial expressions, emotion, authenticity, rawness, talent, and honesty isn’t there, the performance is moot. Keep in mind however, that rising and falling numbers on a scale do contribute significantly to a characters appearance, obviously, as well as the mental stability and impression the character’s surrounding environment has on him/her. It can enhance the viewer’s experience to an uncomfortable, realistic extent and increase the range of an actors talents. Weight fluctuation is a skill, a tool utilized by actors to accomplish their job as impressively, thoroughly as possible.

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PLOT:

Based on the real story of Ron Woodruff, “Dallas Buyers Club” centres around Mr. Woodruff, an electrician who doubles as a hustler and who is your stereotypical redneck, racist and homophobic. When he isn’t at work however, Ron partakes in a lifestyle consisting of frequent, unprotected sex and drug use. Upon waking up in a hospital after a work-related injury, he is informed that he is HIV positive. Fearing the worst, Ron quickly finds an illegal way to obtain the most recent, potent drug to assist in his recovery and stabilization. Soon, Ron comes to terms with the fact that the drug is destroying his body and other patients systems as well. And with the assistance of a foreign doctor, companies abroad, and a few locals, Ron starts the Dallas Buyers Club. A membership-driven organization that distributes unapproved remedies that work safely and effectively to those suffering from AIDS. Of course, illegal activity cannot go unnoticed and unpunished, and it’s not long before those not benefiting from this secret operation take action.

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As I mentioned previously, Matthew McConaughey, the star of “Dallas Buyers Club,” lost a threatening amount of weight for his role as Ron Woodruff. He’s already earned the golden globe for his outstanding portrayal here and has been nominated for an Oscar as well. That should speak enough to the caliber of his performance here. It’s a risky character to undertake, but he’s done a stellar job capturing and exuding the fear, vulnerability, and courage of Ron Woodruff. McConaughey’s recent rapid ascension is unprecedented. Over the past couple of years, he’s shifted from rom-com playboy to Oscar heavyweight with outstanding outings in high-profile gigs such as the television series “True Detective” alongside Woody Harrelson and the film “The Wolf of Wall Street” directed by Martin Scorsese. You can catch McConaughey in another hotly-anticipated flick “Interstellar” directed by the illustrious Christopher Nolan set for release later this year. It’s looks prime to earn him more accolades and praise.

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Now, I know I might catch some flack for this next statement, nonetheless, it’s my honest opinion and needs to be said. Jared Leto, who has already earned a Golden Globe win like his co-star, did not impress me nearly as much as the performance’s reputation leads on. It’s a good portrayal, but nothing to get overly excited about. I respect and admire the heart and bravery needed for the role and Leto fulfilled it quite well, just not as sufficient and brilliant as McConaughey. Maybe Leto’s character was so over-shadowed by McConaughey’s Woodruff that it left me cold and indifferent. Regardless, it’s definitely a notch above most, but not Oscar worthy, again, in my opinion.

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“Dallas Buyers Club” is completely driven by its performances. The story is inspiring, riveting, and thought-provoking. Yet, apart from these facets, cinematically there isn’t a lot to marvel at. That being said, it does provide some of the most honest, harsh filmmaking of the year. All in all, “Dallas Buyers Club” is without question one of the best of 2013 and should be respected as such, despite what it obviously lacks.

Dallas Buyers Club: 8.5 out of 10.

American Hustle (2013)

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It’s been quite a while since a film’s come along and moseyed its way on in to the lore of cinema. You know, the type of film you can watch over and over again…that plays on TV every other weekend. A film you’ve seen so many times over you can catch it midway, watch till the end, and still enjoy each and every part. A movie that plays in the background of gatherings, parties, or while you’re performing other tasks without taking away from these other primary distractions. These are the flicks we quote day in, day out to no end. Now, these pictures may not always the best of what cinema has to offer, they might not have even garnered many awards or much critical acclaim, but still we love them more than most things we’d care to admit.

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On the other hand however, these timeless movies do pertain to our greatest cinematic achievements and have been acknowledged as such by critics and cinephiles. And of course the odd award or two has been bestowed upon them. Nonetheless, what’s so special, enduring about these films is that they’re so appealing and appeasing. They’re fun, entertaining, and most importantly, they never seem to get old. “American Hustle” fits somewhere in this criteria, I’m just not quite sure where exactly. It’ll win its fair share of accolades come award season 2014, it’s endlessly entertaining, and full of quote-able dialogue. Wherever it finds itself, expect this flick to be on television in the near future and in your hearts after the initial viewing.

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Directed by the aforementioned David O. Russell, “American Hustle,” is the much anticipated follow-up to his Best Picture nominee “Silver Linings Playbook.” Glamorizing the lives of a couple of con-artists and corrupt politicians until they are dealt a harsh reality check by a power-hungry detective. I think it’s safe to say O. Russell went in a completely new direction with this one. Using a magnificent soundtrack, the trademark styles and imagery of the late 70s and early 80s, and extremely potent, masterful performances from his entire ensemble to conjure up a mafioso-like thriller with moments of overwhelming drama and an array of diverse comedy. O. Russell has truly created a unique cinematic experience with “American Hustle.” Although, it is one that feels vaguely familiar, even Scorsese-esque. Yet, it remains so original and genuine that Marty himself would be proud.

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There is so much that makes O. Russell’s “American Hustle” this instant classic, a modern masterpiece. The first thing to hit you is this obscure, dated, penetrative humour executed flawlessly by the film’s cast. Speaking of which, has an undeniable, limitless chemistry that bursts forth from the screen and roots in their bones. It’s this bizarre, surprising nature that spawns so many instances in which you’ll find yourself asking, was that just said? Did that just happen? It’s content and characters are fresh and honest, the “what you see is what you get” type that refrains from being bland and predictable. O. Russell’s camerawork is the most stellar I’ve seen in recent memory, reminiscent of the aforementioned Scorsese, albeit younger. It’s a concoction of all these facets mixed with impeccable timing, immense, boundless talent, and extraordinary vision by all involved that makes “American Hustle” shine so bright.

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Fine, you got me, it’s not all sunshine and roses. The story definitely takes a bit of a backseat to the characters, which isn’t necessarily a big deal. That being said, with “American Hustle,” the stakes don’t ever appear or feel as high as they actually are, or at least should be. I mean, I never really feared that the lifestyle or the lives of those who’ve been chosen to lead us through this picture were ever compromised. They just never seemed to be in as much danger or trouble as they should have been, if that makes any sense? It’s plot is as captivating, enthralling as can be and the characters are some of the most well-written and developed of the year. The end however, the last thirty minutes give or take, is a tad anticlimactic. That being said, the fact that the film’s ensemble and spectacular, utter enchantment can overcome this slight blemish should speak to its almost fully realized immaculacy.

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The cast, the ensemble, that’s all I keep blabbering on about. I supposed it’d make sense to inform you of who comprises this plethora of talent and achievements. Returning are O. Russell vets Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence, with new faces Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner rounding out the unit. Now, I could go on and on about the superlativeness of each and every member and how it wouldn’t surprise me at all if each individual got a nomination come award season, but I’m a realist. If I had to stake my life, I’d say Christian Bale is the front-runner to take home some hardware. The rest, I feel are too up in the air. There’s been a surplus of solid flicks with tremendous portrayal this year, so it’ll be tough to break through. Cooper, Adams, and Lawrence bring their predictable flair and still manage to stun. Renner is the only one who comes close to rivalling Bale’s brilliance and already his outstanding performance is being overlooked. Oddly enough however, is that funny man Louis C. K somehow steals every scene he’s in. Figure that one out and let me know.

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Hilarious, intoxicating, and bloody brilliant, “American Hustle” is, without question, one of the best films of the year.

American Hustle: 9.5 out of 10.

Top 10 Movie Antiheroes

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With the passing of each week, the more I enjoy concocting these top 10s, and this week’s entry is no different. As you may have guessed from the title or header image, this top 10 will feature, in my opinion, the best antiheroes in cinema history. As always, if you feel I’ve overlooked a contestant or listed one that shouldn’t have been considered, leave all comments and questions below. I’m always looking to improve the segment and love interacting with fellow film lovers.

Every now and then there comes along a protagonist who might go off the deep end. You know, beat someone half-to-death, take pleasure in humanities destruction, or have the occasional soul erased from the face of the earth. Now, however they chose to go about there business is irrelevant. We, as cinephiles love these colourful characters for their more shady characteristics and the nonchalant way they handle things that would send normal people into spiralling depression.

Let’s do it!

Honourable Mentions: 

Severus Snape (Harry Potter series, Alan Rickman), Oh-dae Su (Oldboy, Min-sik Choi), Marv (Sin City, Mickey Rourke), Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Rooney Mara), Patrick Bateman (American Psycho, Christian Bale), Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day Lews), Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee, I Saw the Devil).

10: Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson)

Jules is someone who really radiates anti-heroism. Almost like a gun-slinger with a bible in one hand and a gun in the other.

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9: Charles Bronson (Bronson, Tom Hardy)

Talk about taking pleasure in abhorrent behaviour. All Bronson wanted was to fight for the sake of fighting and to become Britain’s most violent prisoner.

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8: The Driver (Drive, Ryan Gosling)

Torn between his only skill-set and doing right by his friends. The Driver may lull you in with his heartwarming nature, but make no mistake, he is ruthless and unforgiving.

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7: Tyler Durden (Fight Club, Brad Pitt)

Driven by a desire to disrupt the world and destroy his opinion of oppression. Tyler may be trying to help out his bud, but he accomplishes it in true antihero fashion.

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6: Alex (A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell)

Alex simply wants to see others suffer, whether it be through violence, mental degradation, or dominance.

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5: Leon (Leon: The Professional, Jean Reno)

An assassin with a heart of gold.

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4: Tony Montana (Scarface, Al Pacino)

Willing to do whatever is necessary to become his own interpretation of king. Tony Montana is as cold-blooded as they come.

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3: Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver, Robert De Niro)

One can’t help but feel for Travis, attempting to free the unfortunate girl sucked into prostitution. However, his sociopathic mentality, obsessions with firearms, and desire to murder is too repulsive to overlook.

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2: Henry Hill (Goodfellas, Ray Liotta)

From the beginning, we are led to believe that Hill and his fellow thugs are normal, everyday hard-working guys. However, the truth is much more sinister and ferocious.

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1: Michael Corleone (The Godfather, Al Pacino)

Although we’ve been given a veritable gaze into the Corleone family and begin to care for them. There is no denying that this mafia family will do whatever it takes to remain atop, especially Michael.

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Okay all, that’ll do it for this week’s edition of the top 10, hope you all enjoyed it. Have a great weekend!

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

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Where to begin with a film that is so entrancing and cataclysmic it sets off air raid sirens to everyone of its viewers senses. Christopher Nolan once again manages to spawn a villain more loveable than the superhero. As destructive and necessary his evil may be, Bane has a method to his madness and somehow this insanity is acceptable and cheer worthy. The scale of the entire film is stupefying and the entire ensemble is out of this world. Literally featuring one of the greatest casts ever assembled. Leading The Dark Knight Rises is Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, and Joseph Gordon Levitt. Directed by the previously mentioned Christopher Nolan or otherwise known as the series saviour. The Dark Knight trilogy’s beginnings may have grown from a simple comic book, but what the cast and crew have done is not that of the imagination from a few colourful pages. The trilogy has shattered stereotypes and the box office, redefined a genre, and set the bar for every comic book film to follow.

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Eight years after the events in The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne (Bale) is a recluse trying to recover mentally and physically from his arduous battles for Gotham. At the anniversary party of Harvey Dent’s death at Bruce’s manor, a seemingly normal maid steals from Mr. Wayne’s safe and proves elusive in his attempts to capture her. Bruce later finds out that this thief is career burglar Selina Kyle (Hathaway), however he is unaware that she is the least of his problems. Commissioner Gordon (Oldman) and a hot headed cop named Blake (Levitt) out on a call run into trouble. The commissioner is taken captive by the evil force named Bane (Hardy). While dealing with his financial problems with Mr. Fox (Freeman) and Miranda Tate (Cotillard), his return to the world, and the absence of Alfred (Caine), Bruce Wayne now must deal with the terrorist, Bane.

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One would have figured it safe to assume that it would be impossible for The Dark Knight’s follow up to compete, so most would watch The Dark Knight Rises with low standards. When in actuality the bar along with our expectations should have continued to rise (no pun intended). Yes Heath Ledger’s performance was delightfully mad and morally impartial, but he wasn’t the only aspect of that great cinematic achievement. Regardless of his tragic death, would the story have continued with the Joker? Calculating the way Nolan and his crew function, I think it’s a safe bet that they would have gone in a new direction. Therefore, for any of those who dismissed the sequel without giving it a chance or those not respecting Nolan and cast. it is your loss. The Dark Knight Rises, one of the best films of all time, let alone 2012 is an electric and stirring thrill ride that is deserving of our praise, its runtime, and to hold the Batman legacy for eternity.

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The Dark Knight Rises: 9 out of 10.

The Prestige (2006)

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If you’re looking for a film that keeps you guessing, is full of tricks, and will leave you infatuated with its characters till the very end, The Prestige just might be for you. In my opinion, The Prestige is Christopher Nolan’s best and most complete film. Written by Christopher and his brother Jonathan, The Prestige is the ultimate magic trick that keeps on giving, viewing after viewing. Christian Bale (Batman Begins) leads a superb cast that includes: Hugh Jackman (X-Men), Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation), Michael Caine (Children of Men), and Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings). With its nonstop twists and a script that never undermines the audiences intelligence, The Prestige is full of sacrifice, guilt, and struggle. With Nolan behind the scenes and a stellar cast up front, The Prestige is not to be missed.

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Nearing the end of the nineteenth century in London, Angier (Jackman) and Borden (Bale) are a couple of stagehands for a friend while learning some tricks as both are upcoming magicians. One night during a routine performance, Angier’s wife dies and he places the blame on Borden. Angier and Borden continue to work at their craft as enemies and competitive rivals. As both come into their own, fame begins to bestow itself upon them. Their competitions become more violent and elaborate while both attempt to sabotage the others career. When Borden perfects and begins to perform the greatest trick the world has ever seen, Angier becomes obsessed with discovering the secret and will stop at nothing to obtain it.

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In the history of cinema, I don’t believe there has ever been a rivalry quite like this. Nolan has proven with every feature he has helmed that he is the creator of instant masterpieces and the mental kick the film industry has been waiting for. With the exception of Following (1998), Nolan’s full length feature debut, The Prestige is possibly his most underrated piece. Christopher and Jonathan provide the foundation of anguish, loss, and loyalty through a clever screenplay adapted from the Christopher Priest novel of the same title. Nolan’s ability to control and manipulate his cast into the perfect tones, external movements, and emotions is unparalleled. Bale and Jackman steal the show as usual as they both hurdle head first down a mountain of regret and anger. Through a vicious competition they had no hand in starting, Caine and Johansson are remarkable as they try to decipher their loyalties and scramble to make the right decisions. The Prestige is intelligent, violent, and at times very disturbing, but is a definite must see.

The Prestige: 9 out of 10.

Just a quick note. As the blog has just been started, for now I will only be posting reviews of some of my personal favourites and lesser known pieces of film genius. Reviews for current and upcoming films will begin this weekend starting with Chan-wook Park’s Stoker.