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TIFF 2013: Joe (2013)

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The “coming-of-age” sub-genre is one of the most thematically diverse and abundantly rewarding. Its films provoke vast emotional reactions, they make us laugh, allow us to remember what it was like to be young, and offer limitless insight into living, humanity, and love. Yet, despite all this positivity and relevance, these films remain on the periphery of mainstream cinema, but I digress. So far this year, two of the best films released, “Mud” and “The Way, Way Back,” fall into this category. And while at TIFF 2013, I was fortunate enough to catch another hidden coming-of-age gem, David Gordon Green’s “Joe.” Although it has yet to receive an official release, I’m more than content to deem “Joe” a sublime finale to what I’ve dubbed as 2013’s “coming-of-age” trilogy…”Mud” and “The Way Way Back” being the other two entries. While not as obviously strong structurally and story-wise, “Joe” rivals it’s brethren in nearly every other aspect.

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Now, If we dig a bit deeper, the “coming-of-age” sub-genre can be broken down into more specific tangents. For example “Joe,” much like its trilogy partners, fits into the “finding-yourself-a-mentor” class. In which the adolescent protagonist finds a rough, off-beat, anti-heroic kindred spirit to ease the very trying transition into adulthood. All three flicks have this plot point in common. Additionally, each protagonist, in one way or another, comes from a broken home. The list of commonalities goes on and on, but that’s besides the point. What I’m driving at is that although each film has some labelled similarities, each brings their own uniqueness to the fold and differ significantly. “The Way, Way Back” shares a lot of DNA with the romantic comedy, while “Mud” offers more of a veritable, serious, realistic gaze into the loss of innocence and growing up. “Joe” is much darker and focuses equal parts on the protagonist and anti-hero.

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Out of all three, I’d say that Green’s film is the one that most plays out like a movie, if that makes any sense? I mean, “coming-of-age” films arguably relate most to real life and are the most receptive to a connection with the audience. With “Joe,” it might be more difficult to relate due to its violent, depressing nature. I guess what I’m saying is that out of the three films released this year, while not overly cinematic as to hamper the film, “Joe” is the most dramatic and far-fetched, which I am not claiming to be a bad thing.

Its progression of events is nothing that you haven’t heard or seen before, but this is also not necessarily a bad thing. While none of the three films present any tactic or vantage point that hasn’t been utilized before. The “coming-of-age” sub-genre has a fairly basic list of criteria that needs to be met, so it’s all essentially been done before and this is no filmmakers fault. That being said, the story, characters, and circumstances are all subjected to change, which is what separates each film…but what sends the superior over the top is the investment of the personnel. And much like “The Way, Way Back” and “Mud,” “Joe” has a dedicated, veteran, youthful ensemble, both on and off screen.

Much like the other genre films released this year. David Gordon Green’s “Joe” is a highly-visual piece. Using the lovely states of Texas and California as a contrasting backdrop to the upsetting, violent elements of the film. Additionally, David Wingo, who composed the original score for “Joe,” compliments the immensity and atmosphere of the scenery impeccably. On occasion however, the sheer uncomfortableness, violence, and stomach-churning family drama is too much to handle, let alone subdue.

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Even though “Joe” is a return to form for director David Gordon Green. This dark, southern drama is as much a showcase for its three leads: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, and the late Gary Poulter. Sheridan continues to prove that he’s the next big thing with another heartfelt, courageous performance, much like that of his in “Mud.” Mark my words, if this boy continues making films of this caliber, there’s not doubt in my mind he will skyrocket to stardom. As for Cage, truthfully, he hasn’t been this stellar in a good long while. Parading around with his usual confidence and flair, Cage is funny, passionate, and ruthless. Yet, as impressive as Cage, Sheridan, and Green are, the incredible story and performance of Gary Poulter steals the show. Poulter, prior to being cast in the film was homeless. Initially intended to be cast in a supporting role, Poulter stunned Green and eventually landed a significant part. Sadly, he passed away shortly after the film wrapped and Green dedicated the film to his memory. Poulter’s portrayal alone is worth checking out this flick.

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Incredibly performed, visually mesmerizing, and presenting a story that’s hard to ignore. David Gordon Green’s “Joe” is an impressive outing for all involved.

Joe: 8.5 out of 10.

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The Guest List: Mr. Rumsey’s Film Related Musings

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Well, it might be only the third edition of The Guest List, but I think it’s already a huge success. It’s accomplished exactly what I had hope, introduced fellow film lovers to one another, spurred on some debate, and definitely stirred the pot. And I can already tell that this week’s edition featuring James from Mr. Rumsey’s Film Related Musings is only going to improve upon the segment. If you don’t know who James is or haven’t already followed/subscribed to his website, I highly recommend you do so right now. You’ll find some solid reviews, terrific articles, and a lovely segment entitled “Who’s That?” when you head on over. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Now, I have to get some administrative stuff out of the way. For those of you who have signed up for The Guest List segment, could you please post a comment below on when I can be expecting your article. I am very organized about my posting and would love to get a schedule going with this segment.

If you’d like to submit your very own top 10 to The Guest List, here’s how to do it! First, shoot me an e mail (thecinemamonster@gmail.com) with your name, website info (if you have one), and the topic you have chosen for your top 10. If I like what I see, I’ll give you the all clear and you can begin composing your entry. Make sure to include a descriptive, yet brief introduction and a picture or clip for every entry in your top 10. Use my own top 10s as references. Then, send it back to me and we will discuss a date of publish.

Also guys, please if you haven’t already, check out my TIFF 2013 reviews. I wouldn’t usually beg like this, but I worked extremely hard on them. It is totally worth your while, there are a bunch of films reviewed that haven’t even be released yet with plenty more write-ups to come. So head on over to a review or two by clicking on the picture under the sidebar entitled TIFF 2013.

Okay, now that the boring stuff is all taken care of, I am going to turn things over to James, enjoy!

Top 10 Films of the 2000s: by James

Thanks Joseph for allowing me to spread my opinions out across your blog here! This is my pick of the top ten films of the last decade. There are endless films which could have made it into here but didn’t, such as Oldboy, so feel free to criticise, praise, rant or rave at me and my choices in the comment section below! For now though, take a look at what I did pick out:

10: Spirited Away

This charming tale of a young girl who ends up in a mysterious place inhabited by gods and monsters is the only animated film to make it onto this list, and it truly deserves its place here. It’s some of the finest animated storytelling of all time, and a personal favourite to re-watch.

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9: Battle Royale

Shockingly different to the previous entry; Battle Royale has kids killing each other off in all sorts of ways after being forced into a nightmarish situation. For its satirical commentary and also sheer entertaining spectacle Battle Royale makes it onto this list.

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8: Volver

One of the first films that introduced me to Almodóvar, Volver quickly became one of my favourite films for it’s well handled and performed story of loss and redemption. If I said any more I would spoil it, but please do seek it out if you haven’t already seen it.

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7: Kill Bill: Volume 1

I often describe the final third of this film as being perfect cinema; and anyone who listens long enough will hear me rant and rave about the use of colour and music, the well-handled action, and the enormous sense of fun that Tarantino seems to be having which then crosses on over to the audience. The rest of the film isn’t too far off this level of entertainment either, making Kill Bill an obvious entrant into my list here.

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6: The Pianist

Adrien Brody is incredible here as he takes us through the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto. This isn’t an easy or an uplifting watch, but it’s certainly one that lingers in your mind for a long time after the credits roll.

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5: Hero

This is one stunning film. The focus on the splendour of the visuals may not be for everyone, but Hero really deserves more praise than it often gets. It is not a fast paced action film; rather it’s an exploration of movement.

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4: City of God

Now this is where the list becomes really tricky, I can play around with the ordering of these last four movies endlessly and quite happily put any four of them in first place. City of God is a tale of violence set in Rio de Janeiro and is essential viewing if you haven’t already seen it. The directing style and rawness to the film makes it a pretty special watch.

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3: No Country for Old Men

Javier Bardem is an unforgettable presence in what is arguably the Cohen brothers’ best film, and yet its success is not all down to those three. Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Kelly Macdonald all contribute fantastic work and collectively make this one of the best and most important films of the decade.

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2: Lost in Translation

My personal favourite out of all the films on this list, or in this decade, Lost in Translation is the deceptively simple story of two people who meet in Tokyo and form a relationship that’s more meaningful than they could have previously imagined. It features excellent performances by both Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, who have brought characters to life here that I have grown far too attached to and fond of. This is easily one of my absolute favourite films.

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1: Adaptation

I know of no other film which so confidently, nor so successfully breaks itself apart and exposes itself. This is unquestionably a fantastically handled film that is about film; it’s about itself, the creation of itself and then the evolution of itself. Not only is it incredibly clever though, it doesn’t come across as pretentious but is instead warm hearted, funny and occasionally touching with great performances given by Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper. I cannot recommend Adaptation enough.

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What an outstanding list. A BIG thank you to James for contributing his list this week. Remember, check out the criteria for submitting your own list above. Have a great weekend!

Top 10 Films Screening at TIFF 2013

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Well, TIFF is a mere 6 days away and I’m finding it extremely hard to contain my excitement. So, I figured I’d compile this list to somewhat ease my strain as well as inform you all of what you can expect to be radiating from the festivities this year. Now, with nearly 300 films screening at the festival, narrowing it down to the top 10 was extremely difficult. Not to mention that each individual carries their own interpretation of anticipation and cinematic values. Inevitably, this means it’s almost a foregone conclusion that many of you won’t agree with most of my choices. That being said, I did my best to include the general public in my decisions regarding the films playing in Toronto and how hotly anticipated they are. So, please keep that in mind when judging this list. Click on the film title for all the information you need regarding the film.

As always, if you feel I’ve overlooked a film or listed one that shouldn’t have been included, feel free to voice your opinions and comments below.

Honourable Mentions: Kill Your Darlings, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her (it’s a film told in two parts from two perspectives), Prisoners.

James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby”

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Horror: The Sacrament, The Green Inferno.

Eli Roth’s “The Green Inferno.”

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Now, without further ado, let’s get to it!

10: August: Osage County.

Seriously, just read the cast list for this film and you’ll see why I’m so smitten.

9: Joe.

Similar to Mud, except instead of Matthew McConaughey, Nicholas Cage takes on the role of the mentor.

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8: Don Jon.

The Directorial debut for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, what’s not to like?

7: Enemy.

TWO Jake Gyllenhaal’s, yes please!

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6: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

This just might earn Idris Elba an Oscar nomination.

5: Blood Ties.

Marion Cotillard and Clive Owen light up the screen in this thriller.

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4: The Fifth Estate.

Is this performance by Benedict Cumberbatch going to earn him an Oscar?

3: Dallas Buyers Club

Has anyone ever, in the history of cinema had two consecutive years as amazing as Matthew McConaughey’s past two? They are calling his role in Dallas Buyers Club Oscar worthy, even though he should probably win for Mud.

2: Gravity

This film has recently shot up the list since its initial screening. It is garnering masively positive reviews out of the gate.

1: 12 Years a Slave

There is tremendous Oscar buzz surrounding this film and for good reason. Watch the trailer and you’ll find out for yourself.

That’ll do it for this week’s top 10, hope you all enjoyed it. Remember to leave all opinions and comments below. Have a great weekend!

TIFF 2013 Releases Schedule and Final Announcements

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We are now less than two weeks away from when the Toronto International Film Festival tickets go on sale to the public and a mere 16 days away from the start of the actual festivities. On Tuesday morning, another slew of films were announced along with the schedule itself and a long list of celebrities set to attend the festival. I don’t know about you, but the anticipation is overwhelming me. I suppose the nervousness and excitement will dissipate somewhat when I actually know what screenings I will be attending, or it could skyrocket even higher. Either way, this is shaping up to be one hell of a festival!

Schedule:

Now, for those attending, or those simply who’d like to know what’s going on and when, you can find the full schedule by clicking here.

FInal Film List and Programmes:

If you’d like to know what films are playing at the festival, you can click here for the entire list or click the TIFF button in the main menu at the top of this page. You can also find all the programmes offered by the festival by clicking here. Essentially, all films screening at the festival are divided into groups for attendees to better understand what type of genre and themes the film will contain.

TIFF Guests:

Perhaps the most exciting news released Tuesday morning was the endless list of celebrities ready to attend the festival. Amongst the names are Benedict Cumberbatch, Meryl Streep, Rebecca Hall, Josh Broliin, Alan RIckman, Clive Owen, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Ruffalo, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Tom Hiddleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nicholas Cage, Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, Ben Foster, Anton Yelchin, Liam Neeson, James McAvoy, Nicole Kidman, Felicity Jones, Ed Harris, Spike Jonze, Melissa George, Paul Giamatti, Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sarah Gadon, Colin Firth, Michael Fassbender, Jesse Eisenberg, Sandra Bullock, Chris Hemsworth, Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Mia Waikowska, Owen Wilson, Steve McQueen, Jason Reitman, Keanu Reeves, Keira Knightley, Matthew McConaughey, Ti West, Eli Roth, Daniel Radcliffe, Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Oliva Wilde, Mike Myers, James Franco, Adrien Brody, Marion Cotillard, and Thandie Newton, just to name what I feel to be the most important. And honestly, I couldn’t type any more names. There is a bunch more on the list you can find here. Also, these are just the people confirmed thus far, it is expected that the likes of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, amongst others will be attending.

Jason Reitman’s Live Read:

You can find all the information below, provided by the TIFF website.

The Festival proudly welcomes back Jason Reitman’s Live Read — a unique event in which classic movie scripts are read by contemporary actors. With no rehearsal, the actors come together for a one-take read-through with Reitman narrating stage direction. In 2012, the Festival welcomed Reitman and an all-star cast — including Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Adam Driver, Sarah Gadon and George Stroumboulopoulos — for a live table read of Alan Ball’s screenplay for American Beauty. This year, Reitman is back with a surprise script from a modern classic and a new cast at the Ryerson Theatre on Friday, September 6. Details, including cast and script, for the 2013 Live Read event will be announced in early September.

IMAX Screenings:

New this year, audiences are invited to be part of the action with two official Festival selections and two special screenings presented in spectacular IMAX. The two films will be Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” and Keanu Reeves “Man of Tai Chi.”

Next Wave and Manifesto Announced:

You can find another plethora of titles announced by clicking here.

New Galas and Special Presentations:

Metallica Through the Never: Nimród Antal, Canada/USA, World Premiere

Dane DeHaan (The Place Beyond the Pines) stars as a Metallica roadie dispatched to hell and back in this mind-blowing mash-up of concert film and post-apocalyptic adventure, presented in IMAX 3D.

The Wizard of Oz: Victor Fleming, USA, World Premiere

Experience Judy Garland’s over-the-rainbow adventure in vivid new detail with this IMAX 3D presentation of Victor Fleming’s family classic.

10th Midnight Madness Film Unveiled:

Witching & Bitching:

Fleeing through the impenetrable forests of the Basque countryside after a jewel heist, a hapless band of robbers runs afoul of a coven of witches, in this madcap supernatural spectacle from Spanish genre specialist Alex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus).

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Okay then, that’ll do it for the pre-TIFF announcements. The Cinema Monster will be covering the festival in full, providing reviews, news, and Q and A’s as often as possible, make sure to follow our website to keep up with the festival. Also, follow The Cinema Monster on Twitter (@cinema_monster) and Facebook for up-to-the-minute news and posts, not to mention special pictures and videos provided by me from the screenings. Have a great week!

Matchstick Men (2003)

Sorry guys, this will be another quick post as I am beyond exhausted. I hope each and every one of you had a great weekend. Also, I want to thank you all for your continued support of my site through these difficult first few months :).

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A light, delicate, well managed thriller sporting outstanding performances from its three leads. Matchstick Men may deviate from Ridley Scott’s genre sweet spot, nonetheless is proof of Scott’s ability to handle a variety of themes. Never having an issue keeping the attention of its audience through a paced, yet deliberate build to a clever, heart wrenching finale. Matchstick Men might be a tad predictable and sentimental in its delivery, but not so much as to hamper its psychological advantage. Reaping the benefits of its lulling nature and jolting the viewer with heavy doses of harsh realities and unforeseen twists. Matchstick Men never takes itself too seriously which would usually be a death sentence for most thrillers. But Scott and company manage to obtain the best of both sides. Starring Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, and Alison Lohman. Matchstick Men’s cast are as absurd as they are grounded, which is a terrific mix for a film of this caliber.

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Roy (Cage) is a con artist living in Los Angeles. Working with his protege Frank (Rockwell), the two own and operate a fake lottery, selling water filtration systems to vulnerable victims. Roy suffers from a variety of mental illnesses such as OCD, agoraphobia, and an aggressive tic disorder. Roy eventually attends therapy and receives medication in return for his visits. During a session, Roy unveils information about a past relationship and the possibility of him being a father. When Roy convinces his therapist to contact his past lover, he learns his has a 14 year old daughter named Angela (Lohman). Just as Angela and Roy start to conduct a meaningful relationship, an opportunity arises to con a wealthy businessman out of a lot of money.

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The story may be foreseeable to an extent. However, Matchstick Men separates itself from the litter of horrifically cliched psychological thrillers with unfathomable emotional depth and a criminally artistic muse portrayed by exceedingly loveable cons. Ridley Scott takes a break from shooting the vastness of space and ancient ruins to remain in place on Earth. Although the plot is still relatively uncommon and extravagant. The core of it is something sensible and every viewer can empathize with. Whether you’re dealing with parenting issues, mental illness, or self preservation, Scott manages to extract the human element in an inhumane story. Scott’s terrific filming and camera techniques mastered to capture large scale cinema transfers to the simplicity of struggling to comprehend reality.

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Nicolas Cage perhaps gives the performance of his career with his lead roles in Adaptation being the closest comparison. Cage portrays a severely delusional con artist suffering from extensive OCD and loneliness. Every twitch, tweak, and repetition is carefully calculated and delivered with impeccable timing. What is truly remarkable about his portrayal of this socially challenged individual is the authenticity he brings to the role. It’s nice to see Sam Rockwell somewhat break free of his typical roles to inhabit the body of the antagonist for Matchstick Men. There is something about his mannerisms that always seems to draw the viewers attention to him, he acts like a magnet. Alison Lohman does an outstanding job capturing the disorientation and angst of a boundless teen hanging on to her sanity by a thread.

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With its tremendous cast, incalculable plot, and firm direction from Scott. Matchstick Men is a psychological thriller that should impress even die hard fans of his more ambitious pictures.

Matchstick Men: 8 out of 10.