House Logo

Toronto International Film Festival (#110 of 132)

Toronto Film Review Walter Hill’s (Re)assignment

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto Film Review: Walter Hill’s (Re)Assignment

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Walter Hill’s (Re)Assignment

Walter Hill’s first feature film since 2012’s Bullet to the Head is, like much of the finest pulp fiction, designed to shock. To wit: Did you hear the one about the rogue surgeon who turned the hitman into the hitwoman? What a hook! And what a lurid, tattered paperback it would make, though Hill treats the story more like an underground comic book, complete with transitional sequences featuring exaggerated thought bubbles and garish splash panels.

Sensitivity, at least of the calculated sort, doesn’t enter into the proceedings. The film’s as steely as Sigourney Weaver’s Dr. Rachel Kay, a sort of Hannibal Lecter by way of Marlene Dietrich who liberally quotes Shakespeare and Poe, and has a monomaniacal disdain for most of humanity. But as she tells the smug head psychiatrist (Tony Shaloub) of the mental hospital where she’s imprisoned, the main target of her ire is assassin Frank Kitchen (Michelle Rodriguez), who murdered her brother (Adrian Hough) several years before. The doctor’s elaborate revenge culminates in the bearded, virile Kitchen given forced gender reassignment surgery. And then the counter-revenge begins.

Toronto Film Review Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto Film Review: Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival

However you feel about Denis Villeneuve, you have to hand it to the Quebecois director: He knows how to start a film. His latest, Arrival, balances two significant, image-driven arcs in its first few minutes. The first concerns the tragically brief motherhood of linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), who we see in a montage giving birth to a daughter and raising her all the way through the girl’s death as a teenager from a rare disease. The second shows the sudden appearance of UFOs in various corners of the globe, kicking off a worldwide frenzy of fear. Louise finds herself deputized into service by the military’s attempts to deal with the situation, brought in to try and decipher a language of guttural roars and hisses to facilitate communication between humans and aliens.

Toronto Film Review Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto Film Review: Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal

Nacho Vigalondo has a knack for making movies that feel simultaneously apiece of their attendant genres while flush with mordant, if not schizoid, self-awareness. So it goes with Colossal, which stars Anne Hathaway as Gloria, an alcoholic writer who somehow finds herself telepathically linked to a scaly monster on the other side of the world, laying waste to Seoul and killing hundreds of innocents during one blacked-out evening.

Gloria has relocated to her tiny hometown after bottoming out in her posh New York life (SoHo apartment, Brit boyfriend, infinite chances to screw up), putting her childhood friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), in position to help her get things back in order again—and, predictably, make good on his unconsummated lifelong crush. After she’s shared her secret with him, he steps onto the same patch of earth (an innocuous playground) and finds himself controlling a towering kaiju right beside her. For much of Colossal’s runtime, the symbolism is irresistible: Vigalondo archly deploys a bogus premise to interrogate alcoholism and entitlement, making the monster and robot into stand-ins for the long post-9/11 hangover of the American id.

Toronto Film Review Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto Film Review: Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight

A24

Toronto Film Review: Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight

Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, the director’s first film since 2009’s Medicine for Melancholy, is an ambitious account of the life of a closeted black man from a rough childhood gripped by bullying and poverty to a hardened adulthood built on self-denial. At its best, the film mines much from the faces of the actors who play protagonist Chiron at various points in his life (Alex Hibbert as a shy child, Ashton Sanders as an awkward, searching adolescent, and Trevante Rhodes as a cynical adult), bridging these time periods through incredibly specific body language that each performer manages to share.

Toronto Film Review Jonathan Demme’s Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto Film Review: Jonathan Demme’s Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Jonathan Demme’s Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids

To witness Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids, which captures the final performance of Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience World Tour at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, is to be in pure bliss. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to those familiar with Jonathan Demme’s history as one of the premier documenters of musical performance, though his previous subjects, like the Talking Heads (Stop Making Sense), Neil Young (Neil Young: Heart of Gold), and Robyn Hitchcock (Storefront Hitchcock), often tended toward niche more than mainstream embrace. So what happens when the director trains his uniquely empathetic eye on a bona-fide megastar? He finds, happily, the potent heart and soul underneath all the rehearsed glitz and glamor.

Toronto Film Review Pablo Larraín’s Jackie

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto Film Review: Pablo Larraín’s Jackie

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Pablo Larraín’s Jackie

In Jackie, it doesn’t take long for Pablo Larraín to pull his first subversion of the biopic genre. Those familiar with Natalie Portman’s previous work as an actress will be startled to hear her vocal approximation of Jackie Kennedy’s distinctive speech patterns in the film’s opening moments. But when Jackie makes it clear to a visiting journalist (Billy Crudup, playing a version Theodore H. White, who profiled her in Life magazine a week after John F. Kennedy’s assassination) that she’ll be controlling this interview as much as possible, one quickly realizes that Larraín wants us to be aware of Portman’s performance as an act. The spectacle of a famous actress like Portman taking on one of the most iconic figures in American history becomes, under Larraín’s direction, just another level of performance, in a film concerned with elucidating levels of performance in public and private spheres.

Toronto Film Review Werner Herzog’s Salt and Fire

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto Film Review: Werner Herzog’s Salt and Fire

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Werner Herzog’s Salt and Fire

Werner Herzog’s fiction filmmaking in the 21st century has struggled to live up to his quest for the “ecstatic truth,” producing a spate of strange, out-of-step experiments that never cohere like his documentaries. Initially, Salt and Fire, about the abduction of UN-appointed ecologists by the company responsible for the man-made disaster they’re sent to probe, is every bit as enervating as some of Herzog’s recent fiction. Characters are established via blunt, awkwardly extraneous exposition, and everyone speaks lines with obvious discomfort, as if the actors had been handed the script just before the camera rolled, with no time to internalize the material’s meaning. Some of the dialogue suggests that Herzog himself has grown accustomed to being a meme, as when two of the captured scientists eat bad food and develop diarrhea. Or, as Gael García Bernal’s Dr. Fabio Cavani puts it: “There’s hordes of protozoans swirling in my digestive tract!”

Toronto Film Review Damien Chazelle’s La La Land

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto Film Review: Damien Chazelle’s La La Land

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Damien Chazelle’s La La Land

The latest bit of movie-musical pastiche from Damien Chazelle could be alternatively titled All the Oscars!, eager as it is to please those who might vote it into the AMPAS pantheon. But gilded statuettes aren’t the only thing on this Los Angeles-set film’s mind. La La Land is also out to win over the cinema-savvy and, to a lesser degree, the jazz aficionados who likely complained about Whiplash’s bebop point of reference being white guy Buddy Rich. (Based on co-star Ryan Gosling’s painfully inadequate basso warbling, though, vocal coaches aren’t on the writer-director’s list to impress.)

Chazelle wears his influences proudly. As in his first feature, 2009’s charmingly slight musical romance Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, Jacques Demy hovers over the proceedings like a patron saint. The French director loved melancholy as much as he loved music. In films like 1964’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and 1967’s The Young Girls of Rochefort, he fused the fancifulness of old Hollywood song-and-dance productions with the soul-searing emotions brought on by broken hearts and dreams too big to bear fruit.

Toronto Film Review Amma Astante’s A United Kingdom

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto Film Review: Amma Astante’s A United Kingdom

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Amma Astante’s A United Kingdom

As in director Amma Asante’s previous film, Belle, A United Kingdom uses romantic drama to account for the legacy of racism in Great Britain. The film opens in London in 1947, where one night a young Englishwoman, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), goes with her missionary sister, Muriel (Laura Carmichael), to a party populated by African exchange students. There she meets and promptly falls for Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), who confesses to be the next in line to rule the people of Bechuanaland in modern-day Botswana. With Seretse due to return home and lead his people, he hastily proposes to Ruth, who accepts just as quickly.

Toronto Film Review Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Daguerrotype

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto Film Review: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Daguerrotype

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Daguerrotype

Japanese writer-director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s first European production is, for better and (mainly) for worse, a film far out of its time. Though it takes place in the present day, its naïve emotional attitudes and molasses-slow pacing (more charitable viewers might deem it “hypnotic”) seem imported from a different era. Change the language and setting, but keep the overall tone, and this could be a gothic Hollywood melodrama from the 1930s or ’40s. The way the film prizes long-term contemplation over instant gratification is also admirable, but it proceeds with humdrum literalness.