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TIFF 2013 Adds Another Batch

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Hello all, just a brief post today outlining the Toronto International Film Festival’s newest additions announced Tuesday afternoon. For reference, you can check out all of The CInema Monster’s post regarding the festival thus far by clicking on TIFF in the main menu at the top of this page. Also, be sure to follow The CInema Monster on Twitter (@cinema_monster) and Facebook for up to the minute festival news, reviews, and Q and A’s. Now, below you’ll find what I feel to be the highlights of this newest batch. If you’d like to check out all the films announced thus far, click here. And in addition to the newly presented galas and special presentations, announced Tuesday afternoon were films in the Contemporary World Cinema, Contemporary World Speakers, Wavelengths, and TIFF Kids categories. You can see the full list of those films here.

Child of God

The latest from actor-turned-filmmaker James Franco is adapted from characteristically tough and violent Cormac McCarthy novel that draws the director’s ambitions into disturbing terrain as it explores the rituals and desperation of the Southern US’s rural poor.

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The Face of Love

Five years after the death of her beloved husband Garrett (Ed Harris), Nikki (Annette Bening) meets a man who seems to be his exact double. Ari Posen directs this emotionally thorny drama about how we cope with loss, live in the moment, and ultimately move forward. The film also stars Robin Williams.

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Blood Ties

Clive Owen and Billy Crudup lead a powerhouse cast — including Mila Kunis, Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone) — as a pair of brothers on opposite sides of the law in Guillaume Canet’s English-language remake of the gritty, 1970s-set crime drama Les liens du sang. The film also stars Zoe Saldana and James Caan.

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How I Live Now

Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) stars in this adaptation of Meg Rosoff’s award-winning near-future novel about an American teenager sent to live with her family in Britain on the eve of the Third World War, directed by Kevin McDonald (The Last King of Scotland).

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The Wind Rises

This decade-spanning epic from maestro Hayao Miyazaki is his most unique films to date, inspired by the true stories of Jiro Horikoshi, visionary designer of one the most beautiful airplanes in history — the famed Zero fighter — and the poet Tatsuo Hori, whose verses are brought to life by the vivid animation of Studio Ghibli.

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Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

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It may not be as innovative or complex as its predecessor. Yet, Star Trek Into Darkness bursts forth with a renewed source of ambition and on the shoulders of the Enterprise’s crew, successfully tackles nostalgia with a fresh, brooding twist. Capturing the wonder of space, jaw-dropping action sequences, and spectacular performances from the entire cast. Abrams and company follow up 2009’s franchise resurrection with another inconceivably epic entry into the Star Trek universe. Playing out the mystery and anticipation to full effect, Star Trek Into Darkness is bigger, louder, and surprisingly more heartfelt. Blending the perfect amount of sentiment, hilarity, and bone-snapping (reference) hand-to-hand combat, Star Trek Into Darkness doesn’t miss a beat. If the time since 2009’s smash hit has left a bit of a void in your life. Star Trek Into Darkness is sure to satisfy your Trekkie addiction, die-hard enthusiast or not.

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Upon returning from a mission, the crew of the Enterprise isn’t allowed much time to rest as rogue Starfleet agent turned terrorist, John Harrison (Cumberbatch) bombs a Starfleet base in London. When Harrison flees Earth and retreats to a distant planet, Kirk (Pine) and the Enterprise are commissioned to hunt him down using any means necessary. Eventually finding Harrison on a abandoned planet, the Enterprise and its crew is attacked. Barely escaping with their lives, the crew is soon face to face with Harrison and a slew of difficult decisions that Kirk and company struggle to make.

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While the primary goal of 2009’s Star Trek was to reintroduce this timeless sci-fi tale to the modern viewer, by and large. Nonetheless, the reboot was more of a rebirthing for the exceedingly long-running saga (not that I am complaining). Now, with Into Darkness, Abrams is definitely paying more of an homage to the original series that seems to set its sights on appeasing the fans of old, like myself. Coincidentally, Star Trek Into Darkness deals with more mature content as its predecessor felt more directed into pleasing a wider variety of viewers. To the dismay of Trekkies all over the world, Abrams decided to keep the villain’s identity heavily under wraps. If you happened to watch any publicity for the film, such as late night talk shows, you’d know that this secret was as vigilantly guarded as some nuclear missile silos. That being said, I fully agree with the decision as it significantly affects the storyline.

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Regardless of the fact that Into Darkness isn’t as encompassing to the rules and regulations of physics and space, particularly bending them as 2009’s entry so brilliantly did. Into Darkness fixates more on the universe created by the original series and exploiting our fascination with it, as lovingly as one can. Now, dealing with these facets is sure to alienate those unfamiliar with their origin. However, it should initiate a sense of eagerness to explore Star Trek’s storied history for those who don’t have the knowledge and gives a chance for those who do an excuse to revisit.

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Perhaps the most outstanding aspect of Into Darkness is the story’s growth even though there has been a four year absence. When the film begins, the audience becomes aware. We are somewhere down the road now, we’ve missed something and there is this yearning to catch up. To see the empire that is Star Trek move forward and evolve is refreshingly reassuring. J. J. Abrams  singles out each member of the Enterprise’s crew, giving more scree time to each individual and digging deeper into the emotions and heart that drives them, even Cumberbatch’s character.

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In addition to the original crew that consists of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, and Simon Pegg. Into Darkness adds Alice Eve, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Peter Weller to StarFleet…Even though each actor brings their own charisma, motivations, and vulnerability to their individual roles, there is no denying that there is only three leads amongst them, Pine, Cumberbatch, and Quinto. That being said, like any good starship, Into Darkness would be rendered useless without its crew, and this crew substantially upped their game.

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Cho, Saldana, and Pegg are all fortunate recipients of increased screen time and added emotional character depth. Cho grows into a firm and steady stance, earning respect and parting ways with his comical errors from 2009’s Star Trek. Pegg and Saldana’s roles, or lack there of in Star Trek has been dealt with. Taking full advantage of the emotional intensity in their roles to showcase their diverse talents. While Greenwood’s role is somewhat diminished, he arguably gives a stronger performance. Yelchin and Urban’s importance remain unchanged except for the addition of a plethora of one liners you can’t help but laugh at. As for the new recruits, Eve and Weller make for interesting and formidable additions. Eve’s role, ripe with potent sexiness and cute arguments with Spock, is so much more. Playing the sweet, intelligent love interest of Kirk, Eve takes no nonsense. Finally, Weller’s objective remained a mirage throughout Into Darkness’s publicity, but storms in with chaotic indifference. As brash and toxic as ever, Weller is quite the surprise.

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As masterful, endearing, and exhilarating the supporting casts performances may be. Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pine, and Zachary Quinto are light-years ahead. Let’s star with Pine, who’s face now permanently comes to mind when anyone mentions the name Kirk. Undoubtedly, Into Darkness contains Pine’s most involved, mature, heavy-hearted, and overall best performance to date. I can think of no one better to have taken over the chair. Quinto is quite the anomaly. He so elegantly, actually perfectly captures the essence that is Spock. His heartless, emotionless, and vastly superior intellect are mere surface qualities and Quinto knows this well, diving so deep into his soul that it leaves his exterior vacant. Now, where to begin with the immaculate Benedict Cumberbatch. I don’t think it is possibly for this man to do any wrong. With every role, he completely immerses himself and disappears into his characters skin, Into Darkness is no exception. Exuding every emotion necessary with pin-point precision, Cumberbatch gives one of the best villain performances in cinematic history.

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Flawlessly acted, impeccably directed, and visually spectacular. The sheer immensity and heart of Star Trek Into Darkness is enough to give you shivers.

Star Trek Into Darkness: 9 out of 10.

Star Trek (2009)

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Being able to draw fresh blood to the franchise while still appeasing those who practically have Starfleet emblems burned into their skin like birthmarks would appear daunting to say the least. Well, it just so happens that J.J Abrams put quite the strangle hold on the long running saga, revived it, breathed new life into it. A re-imagining that astonished and reached vast across the universe as an intelligent, undeniable virus that infected Trekkies new and old alike. While the effects and intricate plot provide the majority of its wonder. The real achievement is the development and portrayal of its familiar characters that is truly awe inspiring. Star Trek’s three leads Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Eric Bana, as well as the supporting cast are a revelation. With an all star cast and a story so elaborate, Abrams and company boldly go where no man has gone before.

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The first shots profile the early years of James Kirk (Pine) from birth to his enrolment in Starfleet. Kirk’s father George (Hemsworth) was killed in a final stand against a rogue time traveling ship looking for Spock Prime (Nimoy). Around this time, a young Vulcan named Spock (Quinto) is torn between his heritage that is split with humanity. Roughly twenty-five years later, Kirk is challenged by Christopher Pike (Greenwood) to best his father by joining Starfleet to become captain of his own ship. When the Enterprise is called into action some time later, its crew is thrust into a battle to save Earth from Nero (Bana). With the help of Scotty (Pegg), Uhura (Saldana), Sulu (Cho), Chekov (Yelchin), and Bones (Urban). Kirk and Spock must set aside their differences to rescue Captain Pike and prevent Earth from being destroyed.

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Woven in coexisting timelines and protruding from singularities. The Enterprise and cast find that nothing is improbable and everything is relevant. As complex as it is personal, Abrams Star Trek is a rebirthing. It possesses the nostalgia and intellect to remain embedded in enthusiasts hearts while its modern appearance and script is enough to bolster a fresh fan base. With the previous chapters in the film series, the brains were always present but there was a significant drop off when it came to the emotional depth. Abrams Star Trek sacrifices nothing, paying close attention to every detail. Eric Bana is diabolical as Nero. A villain powered by loss and revenge, Bana comes through emotionally and viciously. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, and Bruce Greenwood comprise the crew of the Enterprise, each more impressive than the last. Rounding out Star Trek’s all star cast is Leonard Nimoy, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, and Jennifer Morrison.
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If you’re thinking this reboot is comprised of the old Star Trek series and films, you’re probably running through the list of stereotypes. It’s for sci-fi nerds, boring, and in the case of the original series, visually abominating. This is not the case with this new, heavenly spawn. The visual effects are rivalled by none. There is no idiotic costume designs, shaky acting, or irrelevant, embellished story lines.  Star Trek has the brains, the performances, and the cosmic mass. Overall, it is beyond stellar across the board.
Star Trek: 9 out of 10.