Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Real to Reel and Vanguard selections

Below are the newly added titles to the Real to Reel and Vanguard programs. Standouts are the eagerly anticipated Phil Donahue documentary BODY OF WAR and Gus Van Sant’s Cannes selection PARANOID PARK. Full list and descriptions from the TIFF website are below:


PARANOID PARK Gus Van Sant, France
Alex (Gabe Nevins), a teenaged skateboarder, is at the centre of a criminal investigation after a security guard is killed near a skate park. Through non-linear fragments of action, voiced memories, skating scenes and Alex's inner conflict, his connection to the case is made clear. Like Van Sant's recent trilogy (GERRY, ELEPHANT and LAST DAYS) the sophisticated PARANOID PARK, based on the novel by Blake Nelson, is a provocative work about the human condition.

DÉFICIT Gael García Bernal, Mexico
Mexican star Gael García Bernal's compelling directorial debut is about a 20-something rich kid named Cristobal (Bernal) and a party he throws over a weekend. The clash between his and his younger sister's friends is comic and intense; class differences also reveal a unique social commentary on the state of Mexico.

CHRYSALIS Julien Leclercq, France
In Julien Leclercq's action feature debut, a lieutenant returns to the line of duty to hunt down a dangerous smuggler behind a series of murders, including his wife's own. The investigation leads him to a state-of-the-art clinic where memories are a precious and highly coveted commodity. Starring Albert Dupontel, Estelle Lefébure, Marie Guillard, Marthe Keller and Mélanie Thierry.

EX DRUMMER Koen Mortier, Belgium
Three disabled punk rockers find their perfect drummer in the uber-hip and arrogant author Dries, except for the fact that he can't actually play drums. Dries' unscrupulous behaviour sets off tension within the band, as family vendettas and personal disputes begin to jeopardize their fragile future. Set to a blood-soaked, sweat-drenched punk rock soundtrack, Koen Mortier's debut feature is as coarsely gruesome, sexually raunchy and blackly comic as the novel - by controversial writer Herman Brusselmans - on which it is based.

HELP ME EROS Lee Kang-sheng, Taiwan
From acclaimed actor Lee Kang-sheng comes a darkly comic and sexually daring tale that follows a young, penniless stock broker (Lee) who consoles himself with marijuana grown in his apartment closet. In his misery, he calls a suicide help line and falls for his counsellor, then sets a love triangle in motion when he projects his fantasy of her onto another girl who sells nuts at a nearby stall.

ME Rafa Cortés, Spain
The feature-directorial debut from Spain's Rafa Cortés, ME sees the writer-director musing on the place of his birth - the island of Majorca. When Hans (co-writer Alex Brendemühl) arrives in a small island town to take up work as a caretaker, his presence persistently invokes memories of the previous caretaker, also named Hans - memories that hang heavily over him as he searches and struggles to find an identity to call his own.

Streetwise swaggering Christopher "C-dub" Wang is a suburban guy who waxes political on all things Asian American and clings to pro basketball pipe dreams. But when misfortune strikes his family, C-dub must overcome living at home, working a dead-end job and his worldly older brother, to run his Mom's ping pong classes and defend the family's athletic dynasty.

XXY Lucía Puenzo, Argentina/Spain/France
Fifteen-year old Alex carries a heavy secret about her gender status and, at puberty, must make a decision one way or the other. But friends visiting from the family's former hometown with their 16-year-old son, Álvaro, and the inevitable attraction between teenagers, complicates matters.


Four Algerians of Muslim origin revisit the last years of their country's War of Independence, searching for truth about their own lives while recalling memories of troubled relationships with their Jewish and Christian neighbours.

BODY OF WAR Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro, USA
Wounded after serving in Iraq for less than a week, 25-year-old Tomas Young - now paralyzed from the chest down - transforms his personal suffering into political activism, evolving as a powerful voice against the ongoing war. Featuring new music by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.

A call to action to help stop the genocide in Darfur, the struggles and achievements of six very different individuals - including actor Don Cheadle - bring to light the situation in Darfur and illustrate the need to get involved.

THE DICTATOR HUNTER Klaartje Quirijns, The Netherlands/USA
Revisiting the horrific torture, imprisonment and murder carried out in the 1980s under the regime of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, THE DICTATOR HUNTER follows Human Rights Watch activist Reed Brody in his quest to bring Habré to justice.

DINNER WITH THE PRESIDENT: A NATION'S JOURNEY Sabiha Sumar and Sachithanandam Sathananthan, Pakistan
In October 1999, Pervez Musharraf assumed power in Pakistan through a bloodless military coup. Hearing his vision for Pakistan over dinner, filmmakers Sumar and Sathananthan ponder the irony of a President in army fatigues delivering democracy to the masses. A part of Why Democracy?.

In his first documentary since GRIZZLY MAN, Herzog, accompanied only by his cameraman, travels to Antarctica, gaining unrestricted access to the raw beauty and humanity of the ultimate Down Under.

Filmmaker Scott Hicks (SHINE) documents an eventful year in the career and personal life of distinguished composer Philip Glass as he interacts with a number of friends and collaborators, including Chuck Close, Ravi Shankar and Woody Allen.

Punctuated with clips from over 100 movies, HOLLYWOOD CHINESE offers a captivating revelation on the Chinese in American feature films, from the very first Chinese-American film produced in 1916 to Ang Lee's triumphant BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.

IRON LADIES OF LIBERIA Siatta Scott Johnson and Daniel Junge, USA
As the first freely elected female head of state in Africa, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf appointed other extraordinary women to leadership positions in all areas of government. IRON LADIES OF LIBERIA asks the question, 'can Liberia's first female president bring sustainable democracy and peace to such a devastated country'? A part of Why Democracy?.

A JIHAD FOR LOVE Parvez Sharma, USA/UK/France/Germany/Australia
The first feature-length documentary to investigate the complex global intersections of Islam and homosexuality, Sharma's feature directorial debut brings to light the hidden lives of gay and lesbian Muslims with empowering stories from twelve countries.

Variety critic Todd McCarthy explores the legacy of Pierre Rissient, a key behind-the-scenes figure in Cannes for more than 40 years.

MY ENEMY'S ENEMY Kevin Macdonald, France/UK
From the director of THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND comes a documentary about the post-war activities of one-time Gestapo commander Klaus Barbie, infamously known as the "Butcher of Lyon."

Chronicling the rise to fame of Marla Olmstead - a four-year-old painter whose work has taken in over $300,000 - filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev examines society's obsession with child prodigies while exploring the complex on-going debate over what constitutes art.

OBSCENE Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O'Connor, USA
Drawn from more than 60 years of home movies, media appearances and rare archival footage, OBSCENE tells the story of American publisher Barney Rosset, who fought battles in court to put out some of the most forbidden works of the explosive post-war decades, including Tropic of Cancer and Naked Lunch.

When the dreams of a young Iraqi film student are crushed following the bombing of Baghdad's film school, actor Liev Schreiber invites him to intern on the production of EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED. But in a comedic turn of events, Schreiber's good intentions quickly backfire as the eager student proves to have intentions of his own.

PLEASE VOTE FOR ME Weijun Chen, China
In an experiment to determine how democracy might be received in China, third-graders hold an election to select a Class Monitor, competing against one other for the coveted position while being egged on by teachers and doting parents. A part of Why Democracy?.

Filmmaker Doug Pray tells the bizarre story of an eccentric family: 85-year-old legendary surfer Dr. Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, his wife Juliette, and their nine children - raised and home-schooled in a camper on a California beach.

Veteran director Barbet Schroeder explores the life, career and conscience of criminal lawyer Jacques Vergès, whose clients - including Klaus Barbie, Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein - are among the most infamous figures of the 20th century.

TRUMBO Peter Askin, USA
Told through spoken-word performances of some of its subject's extraordinary letters, TRUMBO presents a portrait of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who fought back after being blacklisted by HUAC. Featuring appearances by Donald Sutherland, Michael Douglas, Joan Allen and Liam Neeson.

VERY YOUNG GIRLS David Schisgall, USA An eye-opening survey of teenage prostitution in New York City, David Schisgall's film also tells the story of Rachel Lloyd, the remarkable woman who founded Girls Education & Mentoring Services (GEMS), dedicating her live to help ensure that young girls avoid making the same mistakes that she did.

30 new titles

It looks like TIFF has turned an ordinary Tuesday into an event. I was only aniticipating the announcement of the final two Midnight Madness films, and instead, we are introduced to 30 new titles, including the 2 remaining from Midnight Madness, most of the Reel to Real program, and 8 new Vangaurd titles.
The final 2 Midnight Madness titles are...



Monday, July 30, 2007

Fest winner finds distribution

The TIFF06 "People's Choice Award" winner BELLA, looks to have found a distribution deal almost one year after it's premiere in Toronto. Bella follows in the footsteps of past winners TSOTSI, HOTEL RWANDA, ZATOICHI and WHALE RIDER. It was also the first winner since the festival changed their voting procedure. Only time will tell if the new system is a good indicator of future success, as it was with the last three out of four.

Article is by By John Jalsevac for Lifesite.net:

July 26, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Bella, the heart-warming independent film that took the 2006 Toronto Film Festival by storm, winning the prestigious "People's Choice Award," is in final negotiations with a major U.S. distributor, a representative at Metanoia Films told LifeSiteNews.com.
According to the representative, barring any last minute glitches in the signing of the papers, the film will be released in theatres across the country on October 26 of this year. Currently, however, he said, further details cannot be released until the contract is finalized.

Click here to read the full article.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wishful thinking

Even though the announcement of the final 2 Midnight Madness selections are only days away, I can’t help but keep my fingers crossed for a very unlikely entry; [REC] is receiving all kinds of hype due to it’s (originally) imaginative execution and simplistic teaser trailer (see below). The idea of a zombie film shot with hand-held camera footage, documentary style, was an interesting concept months ago, but now with the technique becoming so popular, by the time J.J. Abrams CLOVERFIELD hits theaters in March, it may have already become a tiresome gimmick. Anyone remember the noise theatergoers raised after sitting through THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT? Regardless, I’m sure DIARY OF THE DEAD will be fantastic, given this is Romero’s first independently produced film in over 20 years, and I’m sure it will be filled with his unique blend of social commentary and scares. But for me, [REC] was the one to beat. With such a similar theme and execution, I doubt we’ll see two hand-held, first person perspective zombie films in the same festival. So what are the chances? Not great, but [REC] is playing Venice days earlier, so there is always hope (and whatever the 2 selections are, they’re not UNDERWORLD)!

Friday, July 27, 2007

What's missing?

You may have noticed something is missing from the TIFF press releases this year. The film descriptions are missing that drum roll of hype that typically follows the sprawling list of stars. Give up? It's that there is absolutely no mention of whether a film is having its World Premiere, International Premiere or North American Premiere at the festival. These types of titles that accompany most films are what have typically helped festivals build prestige, pride and publicity. They help festivals define themselves and stand out amongst their competition. Apparently TIFF no longer believes this is effective. Or, it’s quite possible that, in this strange overlapping festival universe, that Venice and Telluride are stealing their thunder. Both festivals have the ability to show the same films, just days earlier. Granted, distinguishing an International premiere from a North American premiere is strictly for the PR/marketing professionals and rarely resonates with the general festival going audience. But what does this say about the TIFF? Does festival director Noah Cowan have a bigger picture in mind for the festival, or is this simply a ploy to prevent the appearance of eating leftovers?

Since Venice (which is similar to Cannes - both are considered “competitive” festivals, unlike Toronto) runs Aug. 29-Sept 8., many films will screen there prior to playing in Toronto. Take a look below for their complete list, just released Thursday:


Opening Film: "Atonement," Joe Wright, (U.K-U.S.)

"The Darjeeling Limited," Wes Anderson (U.S.)
"Sleuth," Kenneth Branagh (U.K.-U.S.)
"This Is Chaos, " Youssef Chahine (Egypt)
"Redacted," Brian De Palma (U.S.)
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," Andrew Dominik (U.S.)
"Nessuna qualita agli eroi," Paolo Franchi (Italy)
"Michael Clayton," Tony Gilroy (U.S.)
"Nightwatching," Peter Greenaway (Canada-France-Germany-Poland-Netherlands-U.K.)
"En la cuidad de Sylvia," Pilae Lopez De Ayala, Xavier Lafitte (Spain)
"In the Valley of Elah," Paul Haggis (U.S.)
"I'm Not There," Todd Haynes (U.S)
"The Sun Also Rises," Jiang Wen (China-Hong Kong)
"Help Me Eros," Lee Kang Sheng (Taiwan)
"La Graine et le mullet," Abdellatif Kechiche (France)
"Lust, Caution," Ang Lee (U.S.- Taiwan)
"It's a Free World." Ken Loach (U.K.-Italy-Germany-Spain )
"L'ora di punta," Vincenzo Marra (Italy)
"Sukiyaki Western Django," Takashi Miike (Japan)
"12," Nikita Mikhalkov (Russia)
"Il dolce e l'amaro," Andrea Porporati (Italy)
"Les Amours d'Astree et de Celadon," Eric Rohmer (France-Italy-Spain)

"Cassandra's Dream," Woody Allen (U.K.-U.S)
"Cleopatra," Julio Bressane (Brazil)
"La Fille coupee en deux," Claude Chabrol (France)
"Beyond the Years," Im Kwon Taek (South Korea)
"Glory to the Filmmaker," Takeshi Kitano (Japan)
"Cristovao Colombo-O enigma," Manoel de Oliveira (Portugal-France)

"For a Fistful of Dollars," Sergio Leone (Italy-Spain-Germany) (as part of Spaghetti Westerns retro)
"Blood Brothers," Alexi Tan (Taiwan-China-Hong Kong)
"REC," Paco Blaza and Jaume Balaguero (Spain)

"Far North," Asif Kapadia (U.K.-France)
"The Hunting Party," Richard Shepard (U.S.-Croatia-Bosnia)
"The Nanny Diaries," Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini (U.S.)
"Nocturna," Adria Garcia, Victor Maldonado (Spain-France)

"Sad Vacation," Shinji Aoyama (Japan)
"Mal nascida," Joao Canijo (Portugal)
"Searchers 2.0," Alex Cox (U.K.)
"Medee Miracle," Tonino De Bernardi (Italy)
"Cochochi," Laura Amelia Guzman, Israel Cardenas (Mexico-U.K.-Canada)
"With the Girl of Black Soil," Jeon Soo-il (South Korea-France)
"L'Histoire de Richard O," Damien Odoul (France)
"Autumn Ball," Veiko Ounpuu (Estonia)
"The Silence Before Bach," Pere Portabella (Spain)
"Exodus," Penny Woolcock (U.K.)
"The Obscure," Lu Yue (China)

"Dust," Hartmut Bitomsky (Germany)
"Madri," Barbara Cupisti (Italy)
"Death in the Land of Encantos," Lav Diaz (Philippines)
"Man From Plains," Jonathan Demme (U.S.)
"L'Aimee," Arnaud Desplechin (France)
"Umbrella," Du Haibin (China)
"Andarilho," Cao Guimares (Brazil)
"Useless," Jia Zhangke (China)
"Il Passaggio delle linea," Pietro Marcello (Italy)
"Anabazys," Joel Pizzini, Paloma Rocha (Brazil)
"Berlin," Julian Schnabel (U.S.)

"Hotel Chevalier," Wes Anderson (U.S.)

"La Via del petrolio," Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy)
"Spider's Stratagem," Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy)

"Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D," Tim Burton and Henry Selick (U.S.)

Roll out the red carpets

The star power just got kicked up a few notches when the TIFF released 8 additional titles to their Special Presentations program, a showcase for high-profile films featuring major stars and directors. Great news for the celeb spotters and red carpet regulars this year. Click here for the full film descriptions.

A film from Andrew Dominik and stars Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Mary-Louise Parker, Paul Schneider, Jeremy Renner, Zooey Deschanel and Sam Rockwell.

ATONEMENT A film from Joe Wright and based on the award-winning novel by Ian McEwan. The film stars Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave.

BATTLE IN SEATTLE from Stuart Townsend and stars Andre Benjamin, Woody Harrelson, Joshua Jackson, Ray Liotta, Michelle Rodriguez, Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron.

I'M NOT THERE from Todd Haynes and sees Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw and Marcus Carl Franklin as the embodiment of different 'Dylanesque' characters - expressions of Dylan's mercurial personality and his chameleon-like persona. Also starring Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Bruce Greenwood and Michelle Williams.

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH from Paul Haggis and stars Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, Charlize Theron, Jason Patric, Josh Brolin and James Franco.

INTO THE WILD from Sean Penn, and based on a true story documented by author Jon Krakauer. The film stars Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener and Vince Vaughn.

MARGOT AT THE WEDDING from Noah Baumbach, and stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicole Kidman and Jack Black.

THE SAVAGES from Tamara Jenkins, stars Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Philip Bosco.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

DVD releases for 7/24

A couple TIFF06 selections are debuting this week on DVD. THE HOST is available in a standard issue single disc as well as the two-disc Collector's Edition. It's a fantastic film that's become an international sensation and will hopefully find a new audience here on DVD. I've gushed over the film in a previous posting, so all I will say is: If you have not seen it yet, rent/buy it now.

The other release is RENAISSANCE, which was featured in last year's newly formed Vanguard program, and is created in what Colin Geddes labeled "revolutionary high-tech animation" in striking black and white. It also includes a talented voice cast of Daniel Craig and Catherine McCormack just to name a few. Netflix summarizes it best; "It's 2054 Paris, and a megacorporation called Avalon dominates contemporary life and sells eternal youth and beauty to the citizenry in this animated sci-fi thriller. When promising young Avalon scientist Ilona Tasuiev is kidnapped, the company hires top detective Barthélémy Karas (voiced by Daniel Craig) to find her. As he investigates, Karas discovers others on the hunt for Tasuiev -- along with a trail of witnesses that keep turning up dead."

Other notable DVD releases this week include:


The Number 23

Raise the Red Lantern

Hard Boiled Collector's Edition

Les Enfants Terribles

The Monster Squad

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A few updates

In order to make this site more useful, I've added a few new sections to highlight some helpful TIFF info. In the left column, I've added TIFF box office locations, TIFF participating cinemas, and (to some, most importantly) theater seating numbers. When it comes time to select your first and second choice film selections, seating may become an important factor in your decision making process (more on that to come).

On the right, I've created a TIFF Resources section to feature links to sites dedicated (or sites with sections dedicated) to the TIFF. I have many, many more links ready to post once the sites go live. This will be a great resource for those of you looking to get an early scoop on film reviews, film buzz, and festival events. Keep checking back as it gets closer to the festival for those.

If there is anything else you would find useful, or would like to see added to the blog, please post a comment below and I will do my best to accommodate. Just 43 days to go!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Midnight Madness announced!

New this year, the festival is releasing a handful of full program lists and schedules before the usual full schedule announcement in August. 8 out of the 10 Midnight Madness program titles were announced today and as usual, they are a rowdy mix of blood, kinetic marital arts, edgy animation, and (new this year) superhero giants! The final 2 titles will be announced July 31st. Anyone know, or have any speculation of what those final 2 films will be?

To wet your appetite, I posted the schedule as well as the trailers to (most) of the selections below. Let the madness begin...
(Beware, some trailers may not be for the squeamish.)

Friday, September 7

Watch more Frontieres Trailer 's

Saturday, September 8
(no link as of yet, keep posted!)

Sunday, September 9

Monday, September 10
Click the link below or copy and paste:

Tuesday, September 11

Wednesday, September 12

Thursday, September 13:

Friday, September 14
(5th link from the left)

Saturday, September 15

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Before Midnight...

For those of you who cannot wait for the 2007 Midnight Madness program to begin, here’s something that may tide you over in the meantime. If you live in the Toronto vicinity, head on down to the Bloor Cinema (506 bloor st. w.) for the Fight n’ Fright festival, occurring every Friday night until August 31st. It’s a classic double feature with an asian Martial arts pic followed by a classic horror flick. Check out the website for more info.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

2007 artwork revealed

Above is the just released poster design for this year's festival. I appreciate its stark simplicity. Although some may call it safe, I've always appreciated the creative use of theatrical imagery, such as the dramatic curtains, rows of seats, and the decorative ceilings - imagery we moviegoers relish. In a day in age of movies on demand, high-def, and elaborate home theaters, it’s more relevant than ever to romanticize the movie theater itself as a destination for adventure. And while it wasn't "safe", the abstract style of last year's design did not appear to be a favorite of recent years...everyone I spoke with thought the wings were eyebrows! It’s a nice image to have as part of my growing TIFF poster collection.

Also announced is the closing night film, EMOTIONAL ARITHMETIC. From the festival website:

Based on Matt Cohen's eponymous novel and adapted for the screen by Jefferson Lewis and Barzman, EMOTIONAL ARITHMETIC is a story of redemption, healing and reconciliation ignited by the reunion of three Holocaust survivors. The film stars Susan Sarandon, Christopher Plummer, Gabriel Byrne, Roy Dupuis, and Max von Sydow.

With its prestigious closing slot and marquee names, it's yet another suggestion of the growing strength and influence of Canadian cinema at this year's TIFF. With offerings in Canada First!, Real to Reel, and Contemporary World Cinema, it's really shaping up to be a strong lineup, gala or no gala.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thank you TIFF

I would like to thank the Toronto International Film Festival for linking to my blog as featured in their new TIFF Blogs section. I would also like to welcome any new visitors who may have stumbled over here from the festival website. I hope you enjoy what you read, and feel free to leave any comments concerning my posts or film festival experiences.

Yesterday, the festival announced the inclusion of at least 26 more titles to their lineup. Most notable is David Cronenberg’s EASTERN PROMISES, which is receiving the gala treatment and reunites him with A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE’s Viggo Mortensen. In EASTERN PROMISES, Mortensen plays Nikolai, a Russian gangster whose life is thrown into turmoil by an encounter with an innocent midwife which leads him into “a harrowing chain of murder, deceit, and retribution”.

It’s nice to see Cronenberg taking his talent of packaging the allegory and substance of his earlier horror films and applying them in a more universal context. He’s moved far from his fascination with biological / sexual horror of the body (see SHIVERS, the BROOD, and RABID), to the horrors of reality, which he applies so successfully in 2005’s A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. HISTORY was the rare film that exposes violence through its roots, its offspring and its consequences without stooping to a showcase of blood and fireworks. Granted it contained its brutal moments, but they are not without the emotional and contextual impact necessary for the scenes. I have high hopes for this film, and even though its currently slated for a U.S. release at the same time as its festival premiere, I still hope to catch it at the festival. Fingers crossed for a non-gala Q+A.

Other highlights are:
L'ÂGE DES TÉNÈBRES by Denys Arcand, which is also being shown as a Gala.
HERE IS WHAT IS – A look at the inner workings of music production with appearances by U2 and Brian Eno.
THEY WAIT - A ghost story inspired by true events.
WEIRDSVILLE – An overdose leads a group to a satanic cult performing a sacrificial ritual.
MY WINNIPEG – Guy Maddin’s newest experiment with live narration from the director.
THE WILD HORSE REDEMPTION – A look at how a prison in the Colorado Rocky Mountains handles prisoner rehabilitation in a most unique fashion.

But who am I kidding? They all sound great. So head on over to the TIFF website to read about all 32 titles.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

DVD releases for 7-17

Notable releases this week include:

The Hills Have Eyes 2 - Gratuitous gore? Check. Unknown cast? Check. Limited budget? Check. Iraq metaphor? Check. It apparently contains all the ingredients of a successful contemporary horror movie (unfortunately). What else do you need to know? It's a sequel of a remake. The real highlight this week? Check out ACE IN THE HOLE, one of Billy Wilder's most important films. Expect a fantastic transfer and insightful extras courtesy of Criterion (who else?).

Also this week:

  • Avenue Montaigne

  • Factory Girl

  • Baxter

  • Ace in the Hole

  • Poison Friends

  • Basic Tsukamoto

  • Chalkdust Memories

Monday, July 16, 2007

Recommended: RESCUE DAWN

It's easy to get caught up in the blockbuster frenzy occurring this summer; trilogies, wizards and robots are converging on what will surely be one of the biggest box office seasons in years. But if you're looking for an escape from the marketing vehicles we're now calling movies, take a stroll down to your local arthouse to see this years potential Best Actor nominee Christain Bale in the prisoner of war pic RESCUE DAWN. Opening July 27th, Bale gives yet another self-sacrificing performance as Dieter Dengler, a U.S. fighter pilot who is shot down and captured in Laos during the early stages of the Vietnam War. The film is a real-life story that was previously documented by the director in the 1997 documentary LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY. It’s also worth noting that Steve Zahn, while known for his comedic roles as a stoner friend or goofy side-kick, also turns in a devastating portrait of a fragile POW joining Deiter in his desperate attempt to escape. It's a frightening, rousing, and ultimately moving experience at the movies. Who needs a hundred million dollar blockbuster when you have this? What else could you want?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

DVD releases for 7-10

Notable releases this week include:

After the Wedding (Efter brylluppet) - Oscar nominated festival favorite.

Bodyguard Kiba 2: Combat Apocalypse - Relatively unknown early Takashi Miike film.

Sweet Land - Independent Spirit Award-winning tale of a German immigrant's struggles in America.

The Page Turner (La Tourneuse de Pages) - Stylish psychological drama.

And in true Midnight Screenings spirit and not to be forgotten; Warner Home video released Cult Camp Classics Volumes 1-4 on DVD last week, featuring the titles: ATTACK OF THE 50 FT. WOMAN (1958), GIANT BEHEMOTH, QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE, THE BIG CUBE, CAGED, TROG, HOT RODS TO HELL, SKYJACKED, ZERO HOUR, COLOSSUS OF RHODES, LAND OF THE PHAROAHS, and THE PRODIGAL.

Monday, July 9, 2007

TIFF passes and coupons on sale today

Passes and coupon books went on sale today to VISA card holders via phone and internet sales. If you're planning on attending, this is a recommended purchase, and if you're located outside of Toronto (like I am), then I would highly recommend getting in on these quickly. Out of towners should also pick up the Out of Town Ticket Selection service with Program Book. To those unfamiliar, the passes and coupon books allow you to select your films in advance. The Out of Town Selection service includes the Program Book, schedule, ticket order forms, as well as a pre-paid FedEx envelope with which to return your completed order forms. On August 26th, you will be able to exchange your coupons for films in the Advance Order Draw (film selection). The Advance Order Draw takes place on Friday, August 31, 2007 at 1:00pm. Individual tickets will be available on September 5th, but many screenings can and will be sold out. The Advance Order Draw is your first and best chance to get your first choice selections.

Also available are packages to the following programs: Canadian Retrospective, Midnight Madness, Sprockets Family Zone and Wavelengths. Gala and Visa screening room passes are also available, and if you're serious about attending the red carpet premieres at Roy Thomson Hall, I would recommend picking up the passes NOW to ensure you get tickets. Many of the more popular titles sell out fast due demand, not to mention, the larger studio films tend to have less tickets available to the public. The only drawback is that you have to purchase all 8 nights in advance of knowing the schedule. The positive is you're guaranteed tickets to some of the biggest, most in demand premieres of the festival. Some of the recent Galas were: VOLVER, BABEL, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, RAY, and WALK THE LINE.

Good luck!

Sunday, July 8, 2007


It looks like the Michael Bay spectacle THE TRANSFORMERS destroyed this week's box office, taking in $152.5 million in its extended 6 day opening. It also scored the highest seven-day performance for a non-sequel in history, previously held by Spiderman. And while many critics say it's more car advertisement than film, word of mouth contintues to be positive, but only next week's BO will tell.
In the spirit of transformations, the Fantasia Festival 2007 also kicked off this week, and one of their many fantastical selections is WOMAN TRANSFORMATION (Yokai Kidan). It's a different kind of transformation all-together. Check out it's teaser trailer here. From the Fantasia website:

Michiko is an unhappy young model whose body is going through some bizarre changes. She checks into the hospital where she is diagnosed with an highly unusual spinal-cord disorder that manifests itself in a superhuman elasticity, allowing her to stretch her neck to fantastic heights. In a subsequent story, a teenage girl obsessed with her expensive fake nails starts noticing that her real nails are growing at an alarming rate, to the point where she can't work, can't eat, can't function. Cutting her nails proves futile, as well as intensely painful. Eventually she is driven to drastic measures. In the last of three tales, Mana is a cruel and thoughtless high school student whose transformation involves a bizarre loss of identity.

While anthology films have a bad rep, these three grim tales of female bodily transformation co-exist through peripherally connected characters, imbuing the film with a fluidity that allows it to bypass the patchiness that plagues efforts at a similar structure. The Japanese title Yokai Kidan translates directly as “Strange Story of Monsters,” a title that deliberately conjures images of classic Japanese monster movies like 100 Monsters and Spook Warfare (both of which also feature the mythological long-necked woman). But what sets this film from director Toru Kamei (Double Suicide Elegy, 2005) apart is his use of the “yokai” concept to externalize the inner ugliness and turmoil of his characters.

Kamei's latest recalls the suspicion of femininity espoused in classic horror films like Cat People, Wasp Woman and The Reptile -- but the sombre tone of the film is all its own. Each girl is forced to undergo her respective transformation alone; the film emphasizes their physical and emotional isolation with a solemn score, moody lighting and the distinct lack of helpful authority figures. In this particularly terrifying reference to female puberty, each woman is driven to despair over her bodily changes -- which, at such an image-conscious age, can be deadly.
—Kier-la Janisse

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

New TIFF07 films announced

Last week, The Toronto International Film Festival announced the titles of 32 new films making their premieres this September. The one garnering the most attention is ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE, a sequel of sorts that features Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush reprising their roles from the original 1998 ELIZABETH. It's being touted as a Gala presentation, the most prestigious of the premieres in Toronto. Galas, which generate a considerable amount of pre-festival buzz, are typically reserved for more commercial Hollywood fare than that of your typical festival screening. Held at the magnificent Roy Thomson Hall with a long red carpet sprawled down the walk, the stars always make a point to show up and support their films. And while the press is always present and the tickets are in constant demand, their hype sometimes overshadows the films, as buzz does not equate to quality. Case in point: last year's snoozer ALL THE KING'S MEN.

ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE may be an exciting premiere considering it's high profile stars and familiar subject matter, but the film I'm most excited about is the highly praised Cannes selection NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. It's the latest from the acclaimed Coen brothers and after taking a couple comedic detours, this one promises a return to their pitch-black thriller territory they nailed so well with FARGO and BLOOD SIMPLE. Initial word is Javier Bardem (no stranger to quality) steals the show as a vicious drug trafficker.

You can read about all 32 international releases here in the TIFF press release here.

Monday, July 2, 2007


As the Toronto International Film Festival gets closer, I'm starting to realize this blog's focus will be shifting. It's not exactly my desire, well maybe it is a little, but I tend to become infected with the festival buzz as it grows louder, and with each announcement or press release, I get the urge to share my excitement with the world. Whether the causal reader is going to attend the festval or not, hopefully you will appreciate the info on upcoming films and their treck from festival screenings to the art houses near you. So again, expect to find weekly announcements on new titles, details on changes to programs or ticketing procedures, TIFF events, TIFF locations, as well as general TIFF info as it becomes available. I will also do my best to keep you in the loop with my festival experience from ticketing, to the actual film screenings, and if all goes well, possibly share some recommendations. Feel free to contact me or post them here if you have any festival topics, questions or just want a place to add your $.02.