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Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

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Director and writer Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a peculiar film regarding vampirism. And, as it most commonly is when submitting oneself to a piece from Jarmusch’s body of work, it’s a tough beast to tame. It tackles all the vampiric themes one would expect, undying love, an unquenchable thirst for healthy vitals, eternal existence, and so on. Yet, it’s the fresh, atypical, achromatic reality he brings to the sub-genre that sets “Only Lovers Left Alive” apart from the pack. Jarmusch manages to create and capture these blood-sucker trademarks with such a genuine, almost non-fictional authenticity that the ideal of a vampire transcends the fantastical realm into our own.

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“Only Lovers Left Alive” is subtle, self-referential, inter-textual, allusive, and most importantly, intelligent. Exploding with an entrancing musical score, gloomy visuals, and an engulfing atmosphere. But perhaps what’s most surprising is the dark, sly, morbid sense of humour present throughout the film’s runtime. For example, our anti-hero consistently likens the general human population to “zombies” and our species technological advances have never seemed so insignificant. Caught somewhere between the complexity of electricity and the emergence of the smartphone, there’s no shortage of witty jabs at our futuristic gadgets and their controlling, outdated prowess.

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Not stopping at our achievements, “Only Lovers Left Alive” continues to shine a harsh light on humankind’s shortcomings. With the persistent bashing of our kinds stupidity for dismissing and cutting those down who propel us forward, those who think differently…like scientists, musicians, and philosophers…humanities faults are never far from prominent here. We’ve even managed to contaminate our own blood, which doesn’t sit well with those who bare fangs, as it poisons them, leading to an arduously slow, painful death. Forcing those who want to stay healthy into obtaining uncontaminated blood from a secure, reliable source, which is always risky. There’s symbolism oozing from Jarmusch’s latest, one must only look.

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I can see how being alive for centuries, watching mankind progress at a crawl, might be frustrating. Hell, I can barely stand where we are currently or even look at where we’re heading without buckling…but I digress. There’s a beautiful theory, apart from Einstein’s Theory of Entanglement in “Only Lovers Left Alive,” comparing blood and water as the basis for all life and sustenance, a kind of eternal currency, that’s absolutely transcendent. Make sure to gather all the pieces scattered throughout the dialogue to form the thesis when watching.

“Only Lovers Left Alive” has so much to offer, it needn’t be carried by its two leads, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton. Nevertheless, both Tom and Tilda can’t help but put the film on their backs. Hiddleston as Adam, a modern rock god, mopping around a gloomy apartment, suicidal, experimenting, and helplessly in love. Swinton as Eve, sniffing about for fresh sustenance, full of wisdom and love, “ruthless, brutal” as Hiddleston’s Adam claims in the film. Both look so lovely, calm, but underneath storms brew and an evil dormant. Hiddleston, who continues his rapid ascent to the mainstream, is nothing short of marvellous and Swinton matches her co-star stride for stride. Never faltering under the obscurity, complexity, and weight of “Only Lovers Left Alive,” Swinton and Hiddleston run the show.

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Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, Jeffery Wright, and William Hurt round out the cast and provide a much needed chaotic, grounded, human element to their cold-blooded, nocturnal co-stars and the film as a whole. Apart from Wasikowska, the supporting staff doesn’t garner much screen time, yet fulfill their limited duties with a very predictable capability. There’s a fear radiating from the supporting ensemble that the viewer can sympathize with, a need to tread lightly when in the company of these mysterious, stoic beings, which we can abide by. They’re never out of place or speak unless spoken to. Their performances are hypnotic, fragile, terrified.

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Not simply a story with characters and structure, rather, Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” has a point to make. Its unnerving, smart, haunting, and beautiful, a toxic cocktail that tastes too good to put down.

Only Lovers Left Alive: 8.5 out of 10.

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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!

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.

Like Crazy (2011)

Warning: What lies ahead is the most personal, incoherent, ambiguous review I’ve ever written. Proceed with caution.

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That inexplicable venom that swirls around in your head when you’re sleeping. It fills your gut with air until it rises into your throat, suffocating your chest cavity. Those tiny pricks that feel like sparks tingling your extremities. This is love, and it’s what Like Crazy desperately tried to create and at times, succeeded. Maybe I’ve been shell-shocked and most likely, I’m not too bitter. But Like Crazy’s authenticity is never in question and for such a universally recognized and understood force, as love is, nothing can even remotely seem falsified. Starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, two youthful and capable leads. Written and Directed by Drake Doremus and featuring an amazing supporting performance from Jennifer Lawrence. Like Crazy shows the foundation and the setbacks in building a fortified relationship.

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Anna (Jones) is studying at a college in Los Angeles. Originally from Britain, Anna meets Jacob (Yelchin) in one of her classes overseas. The two hit it off on their first date and fall in love. When they graduate, Anna decides to violate her visa and remain in Los Angeles with Jacob for a little while longer. Later when Anna travels home to London, she is denied a return flight back to the United States because she overstayed the allotted time given by her visa. After Jacob ventures to Britain for a short period of time, he must return to his business in America. The two decide to part ways as it is impossible to continue their relationship with the massive distance between them. When Jacob returns, he begins a love affair with a coworker named Samantha (Lawrence). As time passes, they realize they cannot be away from one another. Trying to devise a way for Anna return to the United States permanently, Jacob and Anna soon realize their problems are just beginning.

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I’m not going to lie. Yes, at times it tore me apart and yes it gave me misty eyes. I’ve probably fallen for Felicity Jones just from watching it. It isn’t so much the love I’m calling into question because it is very apparent Yelchin and Jones conducted chemistry. The issue I find with Like Crazy, is it’s very much a young love driven film and for some, that can alienate. Don’t get me wrong, Like Crazy is miles ahead of the seemingly weekly releases of Nicolas Sparks adapted pictures. Yet, the ending and ambiguity of the film in its entirety is enough to make you want to rip out your heart and never use it again. If you end up watching Like Crazy and feel nothing, there is something wrong with you, not the film. The heart of Like Crazy is something we all wish we had and it destroys us to confront, arguably the reason we were put on the planet.

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If I’m to be honest, I’m going crazy writing this review because I am sitting on a fence, debating if I hated it or loved it and I can’t come to a conclusion. I don’t like to burn bridges and if I jump too hastily, I could be condemning a film I’d grow to appreciate. This is getting too personal but I’m starting to lean to the positive side. I don’t think I’ve ever been so morose after watching a romance film. For all the right reasons, Like Crazy is difficult to watch, I mean it really hits home. Forgive me if I am too personal, preachy, or disconcerting in my review. Like Crazy is a very personal film and it is hard to separate oneself from it.

The acting is superb. It is very difficult to force or fake such a deep emotion and Yelchin and Jones do nothing of the sorts. The majority of their brilliance stems from their slight facial expressions, eye movements, and silence. Which, much the same as reality, are important tactics when conveying an emotion, especially one as complex as love. Jennifer Lawrence, in a sparse amount of screen time, manages to steal every minute she’s visible.

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I don’t really know what else to say about Like Crazy. The story is fairly straightforward, the acting is terrific, and it aches to watch it. Which, I guess is essential to romance films. All cards on the table, this is one of the more favourable romance films I’ve seen.

Like Crazy: 7.5 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.