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Best Cinema Experiences of 2014:

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What really counts in this post is the experiences, not the wording or grammar, etc… That’s my polite way of asking you to disregard the lazy, formulaic summaries and to focus on each, particular screening and the atmosphere each created. Also, please forgive my shoty camera work and the quality of some of the videos…

I Origins (Cast and Director Q and A):

I’m a Mike Cahill admirer. “Another Earth” blew me away and I couldn’t wait for his follow up…and it did not disappoint. Oh, and having Michael Pitt join Cahill in a post-screening Q and A was the icing on the cake.

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99 Homes: (Cast and Director Q and A):

Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, and Andrew Garfield so close I could literally reach out and touch them…need I say more? Shannon is one of my all time favourite actors and the chance to hear him speak about his latest film nearly had me in tears of fortune and excitement.

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Locke: (Stephen Knight Q and A):

If you know me, you know that my fandom in regards to Tom Hardy and “Peaky Blinders” knows no bounds. Naturally, having the chance to catch an advance screening of “Locke,” Hardy’s and “Peaky Blinders” creator Steven Knight’s latest collaboration, left me winded. It’s also the only time my mom has ever stepped into my world, the life of a die-hard cinephile. And the fact that she loved it in its entirety left me overjoyed.

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The Imitation Game: (Cast and Crew Q and A):

Benedict Cumberbatch…in person…that is all… Oh, and Keira Knighley and Matthew Goode too.

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Q and A: Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

The Guest: (Director/Writer/Cast Q and A):

This past year’s screening of “The Guest” during TIFF 2014’s Midnight Madness program was easily the most fun I’d had at a cinema all year. Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard are uproariously funny and extremely talented at what they do. Add in the charismatic, unbelievably charming and handsome Dan Stevens in addition to the lovely Maika Monroe, and you’ve got one hell of a theatre experience. The film itself cracks my top 10 of 2014 with ease and this screening has a lot to do with it. I hate to admit it, but having my lame-o friends undergo the craziness with me made all the difference in the world. Plus, we were the only ones to bring a beach ball! Which only added to the over-the-top atmosphere throughout the entire screening. I should probably explain… Midnight Madness is TIFF’s most out of control cinephile experience. There’s loud music beforehand, it starts at midnight, there’s the potent scent of substance abuse lingering in the air, and usually has a ball or two being tossed around. It’s essentially a rock concert that replaces the band with a film.

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The 50 Year Argument: (Martin Scorsese Q and A):

This is, without question, the best experience I’ve ever had in a theatre to date, let alone 2014. Of course, any occasion that has you sitting in the presence of one of cinema’s greatest filmmakers is a monumental occurrence indeed. To be completely honest, the film, “The 50 Year Argument,” although thoroughly engaging and utterly interesting, was simply a welcomed formality, a terrific bonus. Being granted the opportunity to listen and digest Martin Scorsese discussing film and his career for an extended period of time is unlike any euphoric treat that’s ever graced itself to my presence.

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Did you have a particularly awesome cinema experience this past year? Let me know in the comment section below, I’m dying to know! Also, if you haven’t contributed your voice to the latest poll, please click on Vote! in the bar above to do so…don’t make me chase you down!

TIFF 2014: My Screenings

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TIFF 2014 is finally upon us! With that in mind, I present to you my schedule for the festivities. For up-to-the-minute coverage, reviews, media, Q and A, etc…make sure to follow me on twitter (@cinema_monster).

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The 50 Year Argument: Martin Scorsese, David Tedeschi

Premium Screening with co-director Martin Scorsese in attendance.

Martin Scorsese co-directs this documentary tribute to the New York Review of Books, whose six-decade history saw it frequently on the frontlines of cultural and political debate.

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’71: Yann Demange

In the divided city of Belfast at the height of The Troubles, a rookie British soldier (Jack O’Connell, Starred Up) finds himself separated from his unit and lost in IRA-controlled territory.

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99 Homes: Ramin Bahrani

Premium Screening with Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, and director Ramin Bahrani in attendance.

Desperate to save his family home, an unemployed construction worker (Andrew Garfield) joins an unscrupulous realtor (Michael Shannon) in the dirty business of foreclosing on the disenfranchised.

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Clouds of Sils Maria: Olivier Assayas

A veteran stage star (Juliette Binoche) turns to her assistant (Kristen Stewart) for solace as she jousts with an arrogant younger actress (Chloë Grace Moretz).

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The Drop: Michael R. Roskam

A Brooklyn bartender finds himself caught between the cops and a crew of Chechen mobsters, in this gritty crime drama starring Tom Hardy, Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust & Bone), Noomi Rapace and the late, great James Gandolfini.

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The Guest: Adam Wingard

Premium Screening with Dan Stevens and writer-director duo Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard in attendance.

Writer-director duo Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die, You’re Next) serve up a slick, eighties-style action thriller with this story of a mysterious and devastatingly charming visitor (Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens) who arrives at the home of a bereaved family claiming to be the best friend of their dead son.

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The Imitation Game: Morten Tyldum

Premium Screening with Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, and director Morten Tyldum in attendance.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as brilliant Cambridge mathematician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, who spearheaded the Enigma code-breaking operation during World War II and was later persecuted by the British government for his homosexuality.

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Laggies: Lynn Shelton

Premium Screening with Chloe Grace Moretz, Keira Knightley, and Sam Rockwell in attendance.

Following a dismal high school reunion and a disastrous proposal of marriage, a going-nowhere twentysomething (Keira Knightley) falls in with a carefree teenager (Chloë Grace Moretz) and takes a week off to reassess her life. Co-starring Sam Rockwell (Moon).

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Maps to the Stars: David Cronenberg

Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Sarah Gadon, and Robert Pattinson star in this acidulous vision of Tinseltown from Canadian master David Cronenberg.

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Nightcrawler: Dan Gilroy

A drifter and petty thief (Jake Gyllenhaal) joins the nocturnal legions of scuzzy freelance photographers who scour the city for gruesome crime-scene footage, in this gripping portrait of the dark side of L.A. from veteran screenwriter and first-time director Dan Gilroy.

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The Theory of Everything: James Marsh

While students at Cambridge, Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne, Les Misérables) and Jane (Felicity Jones, The Invisible Woman) fall deeply in love. His earth-shattering diagnosis leads him to embark on his ambitious study of the nature of time with Jane fighting tirelessly by his side, in this moving adaptation of Jane Hawking’s memoir from Academy Award-winning director James Marsh (Man on Wire).

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Which film are you most looking forward to at TIFF 2014? Be sure to let me know what your thoughts on the festival and my schedule are below!

You’re Next (2013)

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What do you get when you “blend” gallons of gore, a clever story, and pitch-black humour? A rip-roaring, brain-scrambling, lung-aching comedic blood-fest that’ll give your entire body a run for its money. If this happens to sound like your diabolical, twisted, hemorrhaging cup of tea. Watch “Your Next” at a local theatre and drink in the laughs, carnage, and fear until you get your fix. Which shouldn’t take too long considering this abhorrent, funny, and down-right disgusting nightmare is oozing with all the necessary, horrifying accoutrement. This soon-to-be cult favourite puts its own unique stamp on home invasion flicks. And although there isn’t much presented that’ll revolutionize, when the hunters become the hunted, redefining the genre is the last thing on any given horror enthusiasts mind. With a classic, almost giallo feel and an absolutely awesome soundtrack. “You’re Next” is a strong contender for horror flick of the year.

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A wealthy family heads up to their remote vacation house to celebrate the parents anniversary. Each sibling has brought their loved one with them and the first evening is spent getting to know one another. At dinner, things begin to unravel when sibling rivalries and jealousy works its way into the meal. When things get heated, one of the guests is murdered by an unknown assailant. Little does the family realize that they are being hunted and their night of terror has just begun.

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It’s rather difficult to summarize the tension, violence, and gory substance of “You’re Next” into perspective. Every aspect sort of congeals together to such an extreme satisfaction that these facets now, somehow transcend all definition and memory to become something you’ve never experienced before. The genuine effectiveness of the onslaught, ferocity, and expelling of human innards is nearly unprecedented. It seems as if every five minutes your looking away or cringing, not out of terror, but gleeful disgust. The viewer is so willing to abandon all morality just to urge on the brutal assault and keep the ending of human lives progressing. Honestly, I can’t remember a time when mayhem, bloodshed, and disconcertion was so tasteful. Never has watching continuous murder and being subjected to physical torture been so much fun. “You’re Next” perfectly encapsulates what horror is and should always be.

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During the first five minutes, my bud, who normal despises watching horror films, turns to me and says “I guess they’re just gonna get right to it,” which made me chuckle…but the laughs didn’t stop there. The hilarity is paced and constant throughout “You’re Next,” but make no mistake, it is the darkest of humour and is definitely not for everyone. Which shouldn’t really surprise anyone considering that writer Simon Barrett knows his target audience fairly well and tends to stick to what he does best. That being said, “You’re Next” is without question his best outing to date. Barrett’s bizarre, witty, and savage script is devilishly captivating. And although the story isn’t overly original, it is definitely unique. Littered with quips, brute force, and what seems like an endless stream of unrivalled kills and household murder weapons. Barrett’s melodramatic family never stood a chance, much to the delight of viewers everywhere.

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As much as the violence, story, and laughs are left up to the scribe, the tension and overall effectiveness of the screenplay is placed in the hands of the director. “You’re Next” is fortunate to have such an imaginative and ruthless writer like Simon Barrett and a firm, visonary director of Adam Wingard’s caliber. The two play off each other extremely well, which is why the film is so abundantly successful. Throughout “You’re Next,” I lost count of how many times Wingard’s excellent camerawork spawned an unbearable amount of strain and nervousness. He doesn’t just capture the imagery amongst the carnage and destruction. Wingard absorbs it through the lens and expels it with meaning purpose. A truly magnificent job done by the pair, both on and off screen. I also want to mention “You’re Next’s” outstanding soundtrack. It has this old-school, slasher feel to it which melds perfectly with Barrett and Wingard’s visuals.

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Rarely does a film rely so heavily on the collective performances of its ensemble instead of individual bright spots. “You’re Next” is a terrific example of how a casts ability to invest, collaborate, and perform as a singular unit benefits the general efficiency and power of the films material. In all honesty, apart from Sharni Vinson and Joe Swanberg, it’s nearly impossible to differentiate the strength in performances of the supporting cast. Seeing as they’re all so equally outstanding and potent. The group doesn’t force the humour, terror, or violence either, every aspect of their portrayals is smooth and authentic. That being said, without question Sharni Vinson is the shining star here. Her performance supersedes all others and should be enough to launch her into the mainstream. As for Joe Swanberg, he is so incredibly and consistently frustrating and hilarious, it’s insanely hard not to give him kudos.

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Bloody, violent, and decidedly funny, “You’re Next” is further proof that the genre isn’t dying.

You’re Next: 8.5 out of 10.

V/H/S 2 (2013)

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It has become quite the rarity when a sequel contains staying-power that dominates its forerunner in every facet. Nevertheless, evoking more chills and thrills, “V/H/S 2” is a masterful upgrade from its predecessor. Taking our criticisms regarding last years unbalanced indie hit “V/H/S”to heart. “V/H/S 2” cut down its runtime and has fewer segments. Evidently, this slowly blooming horror anthology franchise has learned that less is more. Not only evolving, “V/H/S 2” has matured, interweaving its vignettes with precision and taste. As well as improving on the variety, these snapshots touch upon more sub-genres and turn its attention to appeasing die-hard enthusiasts. Surprisingly, a couple of these shorts have the capability to be full-length features. Filling up the buckets with gore and keeping its viewers hearts racing. “V/H/S 2” is a sequel that works in ways its ancestor could only have nightmares about.

The frame narrative is entitled “Tape 49” and follows two private investigators who are sent to uncover the mystery surrounding the disappearance of a young male student. The segment was created by Simon Barrett.

PHASE I CLINICAL TRIALS: (Adam Wingard), 7 out of 10.

A man sitting in a doctor’s office is having his eye examined. When he pulls a mirror up to his face, we see that instead of his eye, there is a prosthetic replacement. This fake eye is equipped with a camera for research purposes. Informed that it will take some time getting used to, the man returns home and soon begins experiencing weird occurrences.

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A RIDE IN THE PARK: (Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale), 7.5 out of 10.

A man straps a camera to his helmet and has a brief conversation with his fiancee before heading out on a bike path. Soon, the man stumbles upon a woman who jumped out of a bush covered in blood and lacerations. Screaming over her boyfriend, the man assists the woman until she begins to attack him by clawing and biting at his flesh. The man eventually pushes her away and makes an escape and calls for assistance himself.

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SAFE HAVEN: (Gareth Evans), 9 out of 10.

A news crew goes into an Indonesian cult to report on what happens behind its closed doors. Filmed entirely by the camera crew or hidden cameras from inside the compound. The crew eventually persuade the leader of the cult to do an interview. When the camera crew begins to experience equipment problems, the seemingly docile cult members turn suspicious.

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SLUMBER PARTY ALIEN ABDUCTION: (Jason Eisener), 8.5 out of 10.

A group of young teenagers are making silly videos with a camera strapped to their dog. After one of the boys parents leave, the group of friends decide to have a sleepover and begin pranking the boy’s older sister. Soon, this strange, defining sound shakes the house and members of the group start disappearing.

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Astoundingly, “V/H/S 2” has managed to find the human element that its former was considerably lacking. Now, one can’t help but wonder about the limitless potential this franchise carries, provided of course that the growth continues. “V/H/S 2” profits, predictably albeit from an increase in showmanship and stage-value. While 2012s “V/H/S” stayed truer to the premise than its successor. As the series improves, the more we are willing to let slide in order to witness better, more complete segments. For this sequel, the filmmakers produced more complex, empathetic shorts that never substitute effectiveness for sensibility. These filmmakers give the audience credit. Each one of the snapshots is equally terrifying, sympathetic, and intelligent. Nevertheless, for fanboys such as myself, what truly makes “V/H/S 2” a worthy successor and in every facet better than its predecessor, is its ability to push the boundaries of normalcy to see what we can tolerate. Give respect, and receive it back.

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“V/H/S 2” really comes into its own, fully realizes its capabilities and premise. The ability to hone in on situations and circumstances that allow each short to maximize the terror, ingenuity, and emotion that “V/H/S” was critically missing benefits “V/H/S 2” substantially. Each segment allows the viewer to somewhat place themselves in the scenario and feel it play out as if it could theoretically happen to them. Of course, what sends these shorts over the top is this supernatural, murderous extravagance that we all fear deeply. And the ability to cower under this trepidation as a serious threat really pushes the envelope, ultimately allowing for a more involved, horrifying experience. In the end, “V/H/S 2” is exceeds its predecessor in every aspect of the word and will undoubtedly for this franchise to continue forward.

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V/H/S 2: 8 out of 10.