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The Counselor (2013)

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If there’s something remarkably unique to be said about “The Counselor,” it’s that the creation of said film brought to fruition an immensely sought-after joint-venture (a ballsy one at that) between director Ridley Scott and writer Cormac McCarthy. Now, you might be thinking that this statement can be applied to any film written and directed by separate individuals, especially when considering how many filmmaking tandems exist already, regardless if it be in reality or cinephiles fantasies, and you’d be somewhat right. That being said however, it feels as if this time around the minds behind this collaboration are much greater than any previously attempted high-profile partnership in cinema. Don’t believe me? See McCarthy and Scott’s illustrious track-records, they speak for themselves. Very rarely are we treated to a collusion of such magnitude. Two of the great artistic minds working today in cahoots to spawn the visual manifestation and absorption of a compacted novel to unleash upon us…what could be better, right?

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Nonetheless, as much as we, the cinephiles, research, obsess, predict, and conclude, we can never pinpoint the exact product that will be presented before us on release day…that just happens to be the beauty of inspiration, imagination, and creation. Sadly though, judging by the harsh negativity and criticism, it seems as if “The Counselor” wasn’t what most critics and film lovers were expecting, even in the most general sense. Did the genius of Scott and McCarthy unfortunately allow for fanatics to set the bar unreachably high? Was McCarthy’s transition into screenwriting premature? Has Scott lost his touch behind the camera? Since I’ve seen it, I’ve debated endlessly about what exactly the root of this onslaught against “The Counselor” is. Why has it let so many viewers down? Well, I’d love to tell you, unfortunately however, I’m not apart of the former camp. I rather enjoyed “The Counselor.” It might not be everything I anticipated, but it’s damn close. I see no fault to the extreme degree to warrant the way in which critics and film lovers everywhere are destroying “The Counselor.”

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Let’s begin with McCarthy’s responsibilities in the film, story and dialogue. The most prominent and seemingly universal complaint about “The Counselor” is the thick, complicated interactions that some go as far as to deem wordy to a point of illogicality and misunderstanding. Now, what’s most disconcerting about this accusation is that I perfectly understood the narrative and back-and-forths. So either the general public is insane, or I am. Not to be pretentious, but the reason for this might be my education in english, literature, and writing. Nevertheless, McCarthy’s talent certainly didn’t falter in the transition from literature to screenwriting. He’s kept the lyrical way about him and transfered the typical beauty he infuses into gloom and destruction. Granted, the dialogue is dense, almost unbearable heavy. Yet, it’s also hypnotically descriptive, serene in its own way.

The author of a few novels adapted to the big screen such as “The Road” and “No Country for Old Men.” McCarthy certainly knows his way around captivation and how to construct a meaningful story…”The Counselor” is no different. Keeping his wits about him, McCarthy continues to utilize traits he’s mastered and best suited for his style. I mean, the story’s complex, sexy, violent, and intelligent, what else could you ask for? What’s that? Not good enough? Want even more? Fine McCarthy says and adds a pitch-black layer of comedy to this already stellar tale. Honestly, Cameron Diaz literally has sex with a car, I can’t make this much clearer. Even if all these cool facets aren’t right up your alley, the love and passion infused into each character is astonishing. It creates such a stunning contrast of humanity, vulnerability, and ruthlessness. I think its safe to say that McCarthy held up his end of the responsibilities.

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As for Ridley Scott, director of classic masterpieces such as “Alien” and “Blade Runner” and more recently academy award winner “Gladiator” and the tragically underrated “Matchstick Men,” once again triumphs. Scott is one of the most revered and talented filmmakers in cinema history, so any outing he is attached to, no matter how discredited, has some form of merit. “The Counselor,” as it is for McCarthy, is no hamper on his storied career. Watching Scott’s work behind the camera here is nothing short of astounding, yet it baffles me. Every angle, every movement, every shot is impeccable. What’s even further proof of his prowess is his ability to digest and regurgitate the complex, dramatic, diabolical, even obscure moments of “The Counselor.” If ever there was a question regarding Scott’s abilities, “The Counselor” put those worries to rest.

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So, Scott and McCarthy weren’t enough to draw you into the theatre to see “The Counselor?” How about an A-list cast that features Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, and Javier Bardem? That get your attention? Mmhmm…I thought it might.

First off, let me clarify for the fangirls, Pitt is a supporting player in this flick, not the star. So don’t go getting your panties in a bunch when Fassbender handles the spotlight. Don’t get me wrong, Pitt is fascinating here and if you’re a fan of his work as much as I am, “The Counselor” is a must see. As for the aforementioned Fassbender, I feel as if any praise I give will just be me repeating myself. His performance here might not compare to what is soon to be his Oscar winning performance in “12 Years a Slave,” but is superlative nonetheless. In my honest opinion, Bardem’s the one who steals the show. Everything from his questionable attire, erratic hairstyle, and emotional vulnerability is bewildering. He’s funny, honest, and devilishly persuasive. Overall, it’s an intoxicatingly memorable performance. To my surprise, Diaz garners the most screen time outside of Fassbender and utilizes every second. I’m not usually a fan of her work, so when I give her any credit, you know its deserved. Finally Cruz, who rarely makes an appearance in the film, is without question the most seductive and earnest. Still, would have been nice to see her in a larger role.

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Look…the film isn’t perfect, rarely is a film ever. “The Counselor” suffers from time to time because its clever, intricate plot is muffled by subtlety and McCarthy’s dialect camouflage. It’s occasionally over-the-top (Diaz dry-humping a car) and a tad cliched. Yet, these minor imperfections and tiny, superficial errors are mere peanuts compared to the film’s successes. It’s extremely difficult to attract, debrief, and attach so many talented minds, and even harder to enact on a singular wavelength.

The Counselor: 8.5 out of 10.

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TIFF 2013: 12 Years a Slave (2013)

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Illuminated by the dazzling and substantially detailed imagery typically associated with up-and-coming director Steve McQueen, in addition to a slew of electrifying, immensely powerful performances. “12 Years a Slave” is ironically every bit as watchable as it is difficult to witness. Anchored by a true story so harrowing and unbelievable that it’s hard to acknowledge the source material as fact. It is a tale surrounding abduction, inhumanity, and slavery, and is without question not for the squeamish or faint-hearted. That being said, its content, although delicate, is extremely important and should be absorbed and remembered by all those with a shred of compassion. Very rarely does a film triumph not only as a motion picture, but as a piece of history come alive. “12 Years a Slave” is a prime example of this achievement.

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Of course, we’d all like to forget what is easily one of our species shadiest, most ignorant times. Which can be grounds for the reason why there are so little films of any real substance regarding this subject. It’s a shame considering how vital the mistakes we make are to our insight and progression. Thankfully, the director of “12 Years a Slave” Steve McQueen has provided a veritable, unflinching look at what is perhaps humankind’s greatest error. It may not be easy to watch or sit well with those of us who don’t like to be reminded of our weaknesses. To see what we are all capable of when we lose our humanity isn’t pretty after all. However, it is impossible for light to exist without darkness and vice versa. McQueen comprehends this truth fully and displays both valiantly. These opposites might not be balanced throughout, but when faced with the choice, we will always search out the bright spots, no matter how arduous the journey. Positive will always trump negative, no matter how heavily outmatched or discouraged.

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PLOT:

Solomon Northup (Ejiofor) is a free black man living with his family in upstate New York. A skilled carpenter and excellent fiddler, Solomon is approached by two men hoping to lure him into accepting a job offer in Washington DC. Upon agreeing and travelling to Washington with the two men. Northup performs as instructed and is paid for his work. One night while out celebrating with his newly found friends, Northup is drugged. Waking up the following day, he slowly comes to the realization that he has been kidnapped and sold into slavery. Transported on a ship to New Orleans, Solomon has no idea how long he will remain captive, or when or if he will ever see his family again.

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For a majority of the cinema going public, director Steve McQueen has seemingly rose to these dizzying heights out of no where. But for those of us who have been with the immensely talented director since his inception in 2008 with “Hunger,” his skyrocket to stardom is no surprise. McQueen looks poised to finally garner an Oscar nomination with “12 Years a Slave,” although his previous outings such as the aforementioned “Hunger” and more recently “Shame” are equally as impressive.

One thing McQueen has consistently made apparent throughout his first two full-length features is that his ability to handle uncomfortable material knows no bounds. And with “12 Years a Slave,” McQueen not only maintains his stance, but asserts it with an exclamation point. There was no shortage of questionable, unsettling, hazardous, or even controversial topics for McQueen to tackle while adapting Solomon Northup’s memoir, whether it be violence, racism, slavery, sexual abuse, and so on. With this dramatized biopic, McQueen certainly didn’t cut corners or leave any distressing issues out. He’s managed to put together a disturbing, upsetting, cringe-worthy, endearing epic without compromising the integrity or authenticity of its source material. Although I have to admit, the uplifting moments are undeniably bittersweet.

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As impressive and truthful as the adaptation is, thematically and structurally. The film’s technological facets and cinematic aspects are equally astounding. In my opinion, McQueen’s work behind the camera has never been this seamless. The division and pacing of “12 Years a Slave” is remarkably complex and he works it flawlessly. There’s one scene where essentially what McQueen is filming is utter stillness, say for a few minor movements and the vividness he evokes is breathtaking. The colour scheme, panoramic shots, and detailed violence is so faithful and captivating, it practically leaps forth from the screen. I also want to mention the incredible score composed by the masterful Hans Zimmer who continues to churn out masterpieces. If there’s anything in the film that takes the harsh edge off, it’s Zimmer’s atmospheric, enthralling soundtrack.

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Now, aside from the lead role of Solomon Northup, portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave” is very much the beneficiary of a superlative group effort. The film oozes with outstanding performances from its entire ensemble. Which, in addition to Ejiofor features Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy, Taram Killam, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, and Lupita Nyong’o. And luckily for those who can’t stomach the violence, inhumanity, or the film’s content as a whole. The performances throughout “12 Years a Slave” are alone worth the price of admission.

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Without any doubt, Chiwetel Ejiofor shines brightest. He completely astounds with an enthralling, mesmerizing, heartbreaking performance full of emotion and a thirst for life. I would be completely flabbergasted if Ejiofor does not at least earn an Oscar Nomination for best actor with his performance here. That being said, he certainly isn’t the only actor in “12 Years a Slave” who appears to have punched their ticket to the Academy Awards. I feel that Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o are sure-shots to be nominated in the supporting actor categories. Both are just amazing, pure scene-stealers. Benedict Cumeberbatch, although remarkable when on screen, is a long-shot to earn a nomination for “12 Years a Slave,” especially considering all the other incredible performances his given so far this year. Finally, the other members of this immaculate supporting cast, Pitt, Paulson, McNairy. Killam, Dano, and Giamatti deserve a great amount of recognition.

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When a film has Oscar written all over it, much like Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” does, it’s usually for good reason. Trust me, this is one of the best of the year and is a must see, cinephile or not.

12 Years a Slave: 9.5 out of 10.

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!

Top 10 Male Actors Who’ve Never Won An Oscar

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As far as being acknowledged for a piece of work goes, an Oscar nomination is easily one of the most difficult to earn. That being said, year after year, there are front runners. The same, familiar faces we, as cinephiles, have come to expect great things from. And every year, as sure as the seasons change, one of these remarkable actors is fortunate enough to capture the gold statue. The talented men below, are not one of these lucky individuals. For whatever reason, the 10 men listed below can’t seem to close the deal. Granted, it isn’t for a lack of effort or quality, neither is it due to some misguided bias. It just so happens that every performance they’ve given that has eventually earned them this elusive recognition, has been trumped by another individual. Now, we may not unanimously agree on the winner yearly, but one thing we can all agree on, is the men listed below, should have some Oscar gold on their shelves.

The way I concluded on how to compile this top 10 is simple. Each actor mentioned in the top 10 has a performance I feel should have earned them an Oscar win. A lot of the men listed have been nominated, some more than once. Nonetheless, have yet to take home the hardware. As for the “still time” and “honourable mentions,” they might not have been nominated previously, but I still feel will win an Oscar in my lifetime.

Still Time:

Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Cillian Murphy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Michael Shannon.

Honourable Mentions:

Johnny Depp, John Travolta, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel, Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Ian McKellan, Joaquin Phoenix, Patrick Stewart.

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

10: Ed Harris – The Truman Show

A four-time Oscar nominee, Ed Harris just can’t seem to get the respect he deserves or be able to catch a break.

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9: Edward Norton – American History X

“Fight Club,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” and “American History X,” Edward Norton has no shortage of great performances under his belt. Now, if he could just get that elusive win, we could all cross him off of our lists.

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8: Bill Murray – Lost in Translation

His best chance to win the golden statue may have already passed with the release of “Lost in Translation.” But who knows, maybe he can surprise us once more and finally grab a victory.

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7: Tom Cruise – Jerry McGuire

All Cruise craziness aside, he has stared in numerous films that should have garnered him at least one Oscar win, if not more.

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6: Sam Rockwell – Moon

Many of you may not agree with this choice. Nonetheless, I feel Sam Rockwell has given the performance of our lifetime in “Moon” and should have been at least recognized for it, in my opinion, he should have been given the Oscar hands down.

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5: Samuel L. Jackson – Pulp Fiction

Really? How did Jackson not win an Oscar for his performance in “Pulp Fiction?”

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4: Liam Neeson – Schindler’s List

Another no-brainer. Liam Neeson is an outstanding actor, yet has not earned an Oscar.

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3: Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

One of the most illustrious actors on this list, Mr. Oldman has only been nominated once. While it should have been more, his performance in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” should have gotten him the win.

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2: Brad Pitt – 12 Monkeys

Now we are getting into ridiculousness. Take your pick, Pitt should have multiple Oscar wins, but has yet to receive his first, utterly insane.

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1: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Aviator

Arguably one of the best actors to ever grace the big screen. Leonardo DiCaprio has yet to win an Oscar. WIth a plethora of performances that should have gotten him at least one win. We, as cinephiles can only hope he will be recognized for his work sometime in the near future.

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Alright, that’ll do it for this week’s top 10, I sincerely hope you all enjoyed it. As always, if you feel I overlooked an actor or listed one that should have excluded from this list, please leave all comments and questions below. Everyone have an outstanding weekend!

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.

Fish Tank (2009)

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Anchored by a couple of tremendous performances from its two outstanding leads and an honest, gripping script. Fish Tank may not be the typical coming-of-age story we’re all used to. Nonetheless, it’s a more authentic, albeit darker take on growth and the vulnerability that encompasses it. Although its characters run about gritty neighbourhoods and struggle to find their place. Writer and director Andrea Arnold has a firm hold on Fish Tank and its seemingly reckless rawness is more of a guided chaos. Fish Tank is a highly vivid film with socio-political motivations and realism. More than a few will likely be turned off by its stark, brash, and paced simplicity. However, any blemishes one is inevitably going to stumble upon are easily rubbed out by infallible performances from the entire cast and visually harsh, yet stunning realities.

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Mia (Jarvis) is an angry and isolated 15-year-old. She lives in East London with her mother and younger sister. Mia is an aspiring hip-hop dancer and will do anything to achieve her dream. Seemingly, Mia had a falling out with one of her close friends and now antagonizes her and other kids her age. Walking home one day, Mia spots a weak and weary horse tethered in a parking lot. When Mia tries to free the horse, she is attacked by two young men, but eventually saved by another. Mia’s mother’s new boyfriend Connor (Fassbender) begins hanging around the house more frequently. As he becomes closer to the family, the more Mia becomes infatuated with him. What follows is an obscure tale about growing up and the consequences of youth.

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Be forewarned that watching Fish Tank does come with a few challenges. Every so often there is a scene dealing with relatively subtle disturbances and unsettling content. At moments, it isn’t even the material that gets under your skin. The portrayals by Fish Tank’s ensemble are so real, it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a film. Regardless, without these bold, at times unpleasant sequences, Fish Tank’s unflinching gaze into adolescence would be rendered useless. Besides, the reward heavily outweighs any disgust one might feel while experiencing Arnold’s Fish Tank. When agreeing to succumb to the uninhibited, effervescence of youth, you’re accepting both ends of the spectrum, you can’t have the good without the bad. In the end, Fish Tank is the winner of the Cannes jury prize for a reason.

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If you’re unable to find value in Arnold’s story of a broken family struggling to find an identity together and individually. At least take solace in the immaculate performances, you’ll find it very easy. Featuring Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing, and newcomer Katie Jarvis. Fish Tank has the investment of the collective to match its undying spirit and emotional complexity. Wareing, despite being hardly used, manages to steal every shot she is in. Jarvis, who makes her cinematic debut in Fish Tank, is astounding. Capturing the angst, defencelessness, and infatuation that swims through youthful veins. Jarvis shows remarkable range and persistence for someone with little-to-no experience and undoubtedly gives the best performance in the film.

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The only other performance worth discussing, besides the stunningly accurate and haunting portrayal by Katie Jarvis belongs to Michael Fassbender. Since Fish Tank, he has absolutely skyrocketed to stardom with high-profile performances in such films as Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, Steve McQueen’s Shame, and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Yet, oddly enough, Fish Tank contains one of Fassbender’s best, most polarizing performances and still remains sparsely seen. Throughout Fish Tank, it becomes apparent that one can’t quite get a read on his character, this isn’t by accident. Fassbender beautifully exudes the questionable ambitions and lulling safety needed to lure in the wounded and vulnerable. Ultimately, Fassbender continually reminds us that he always had the talent and still does. Earning his status of one the most sought after actors in the business currently and why he is one of my favourite actors of all time.

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Sinister, endearing, and utterly entrancing. Fish Tank is a unique story about one girl’s struggle to cope with growing up.

Fish Tank: 8.5 out of 10.

Top 10 Films of 2013 Predicted

To make the directive of this list clear. The films contained are what myself and cinema2033 believe to be the best hopes for cinema in 2013. Again, these are our preferential films, not that of the general viewing public. We are simply predicting what we think will be our favourite or preferred films of the year. We will be creating a separate list with what we believe to be the most anticipated films of 2013. That list will be our perceived notions from discussing and judging the amount of publicity, budget, and overall excitement of the general public. Without further delay, Enjoy another chapter of our top 10 series.

Let’s begin this list with the honourable mentions. Stoker, A Single Shot, The Look of Love, American Hustle, Don Jon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, The Fifth Estate, Out of the Furnace, Kill Your Darlings, and Before Midnight. We would also like to insert Terrence Malick’s 2013 film, even though its cast, story, and release date are kind of up in the air at the moment.

10: Inside Llewyn Davis. Directed and written by the Coen brothers and starring Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, and John Goodman. Inside Llewyn Davis is sure to be another Coen brother smash.

9: Mud. Written and Directed by Jeff Nichols, the mind behind Shotgun Stories and the hauntingly epic Take Shelter. Mud stars Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Michael Shannon.

8: Trance. The new film from the brilliant Danny Boyle. Trance is a mind-bending thrill ride featuring outstanding performances from James McAvoy and Vincent Cassel.

7: The Counselor. Based on Cormac McCarthy’s incredible novel and helmed by none other than Ridley Scott. With its outstanding cast that features Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, and Javier Bardem. The Counselor is ripe with genius and ready for viewing.

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6: The Place Beyond the Pines. Directed by Derek Cianfrance and starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Rose Byrne, and Ben Mendelsohn. The Place Beyond the Pines is an intricate gem.

5: The Way, Way Back. What seems to be an endearing coming of age romantic comedy. The Way, Way Back looks to have another outstanding performance from Sam Rockwell and an unusual role for Steve Carrell.

4: Nymphomaniac. Directed by the creative and controversial Lars von Trier. Nymphomaniac appears to be a fresh take on sexual addiction with Shia LaBeouf, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Stellan Skarsgard leading the way.

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3: The Wolf of Wall Street. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, need I say more?

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2: Only God Forgives. The Duo of Gosling and Refn appear to be stealing the spotlight from Scorsese and DiCaprio, and rightfully so. This follow up to their 2011 hit Drive is one of the most anticipated releases of 2013.

1: Twelve Years a Slave. Steve McQueen, director of Hunger and Shame, teams up once again with Michael Fassbender for this mid-1800 slavery epic. Also starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, and Scoot McNairy. Twelve Years a Slave has all the key facets to take top spot as our best film of 2013 predicted.

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If you think we overlooked a film or made a grave error on our list, please comment below. Also, if you have recommendations for future top 10’s, don’t hesitate to let us know.

Prometheus (2012)

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Part of Ridley Scott’s prequel series to the widely successful “Alien” franchise. Prometheus may not provide answers to all of its promised questions, but it certainly set the stage for them. A supposed sequel in the mix which was apparently the plan all along, Prometheus, regardless of a follow up is able to stand on its own. Scott reminds us that science fiction is his genre wheelhouse and he’s returned to set the curve once again. Giving a sense of wonder and amazement to our existence, Prometheus and its intergalactic, cosmic journey is spellbinding. A formidable cast led by Michael Fassbender (Shame), Guy Pearce (Memento), Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Charlize Theron (The Italian Job), and Idris Elba (28 Weeks Later), Prometheus is definitively original and visually baffling. Do not expect to be swept up in the search for our creators, Prometheus is a tough blow of  what could possibly be reality.

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A group of scientists and astronauts travel through space on an unknown mission. Upon being woken from their sleep pods, the group is informed of their mission. Their goal is to investigate ancient markings found on Earth that could lead to the discovery of humanities existence. Following the markings, they arrive at a planet numerous light years away from Earth. They discover signs of a distant civilization and investigate. During the search, they encounter artefacts believed to be linked to humanity and our beginnings. Soon, their breakthrough turns violent and the planet becomes hostile. What follows is a dark descent into the search for humanities existence.

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Before it completely rips apart the very fabric of humanities hopes, beliefs, and purpose, Prometheus is actually quite enthralling. Vast landscapes and oceanic skylines backdrop the birth of our world as we know it. A beautifully baron spaceship zooms across light years passing cosmic materials as its crew sleeps soundly. Scott and company once again flawlessly design awe and wonderment while conversely depicting dread and horror. Fassbender, as a robot, is the performance to look out for in Prometheus. Seemingly malicious and corrupt while contradicting these traits with a caring face and helpful acts, Fassbender expectedly delivers. Followed by Rapace and Pearce who, despite butting heads have similar motives and values. Their collective disappointments and optimisms echo throughout their performances and ring out to the viewers and pluck at our sympathy. Prometheus is smartly written and visually stunning. A welcome return to the genre for Scott and leaves us begging for a sequel.

Prometheus: 8.5 out of 10.

Shame (2011)

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If you have any inquiries regarding your sexual orientation or if you think you masturbate too frequently, this film will answer all your questions. Of course I am kidding, to an extent. Shame is an uncensored look at sexual addiction and the strain it places on social interactions, careers, and personal and formal relationships. Shame stars the always incredible Michael Fassbender (Fish Tank), Carey Mulligan (Drive), and James Badge Dale (The Departed). Shame is directed by the emerging rock behind the camera Steve McQueen (Hunger), who has one of the most highly anticipated films of 2013, Twelve Years A Slave.

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Brandon (Fassbender), is a New York office worker in his thirties. On the outside, Brandon appears to be any ordinary New Yorker, social, formal, and active. It is these very qualities that allow Brandon to carry out his sexual needs and desires in a consistent and secretive manner. However, when Brandon’s sister Sissy (Mulligan) arrives unexpected and begins to live with him, Brandon’s sexual addiction starts to become unveiled. After a night out with David (Dale) to watch Sissy perform, boundaries are crossed and Brandon and Sissy’s personal lives begin to disintegrate.

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If you plan on watching Shame with family or on a first date, I would reconsider. If you feel uncomfortable viewing nudity or sex in private or public, this film is not for you. After seeing this film at the Toronto International Film Festival, I would urge you to reconsider however. Set aside your morals and pride for a couple of hours and watch this film. This unflinching look at sexual addiction is the first film of its kind. Fassbender goes all out, literally and figuratively with no restrain. This is Fassbender’s most invested role since Hunger, also directed by McQueen. Fassbender and McQueen are the future Scorsese and DiCaprio. Carey Mulligan’s portrayal of a wild, unforgiving, depressed sibling was one of the best supporting actress performances of 2011. McQueen, who has been relentless since directing his first full length feature Hunger, sheds a necessary light on film censorship and the need for less of it. There is no hiding behind the curtain of appropriateness in this film. The world is a harsh environment and McQueen displays it beautifully.

Shame: 8.5 out of 10.