Monthly Archives: September 2014

Mr. Turner – Mike Leigh, Director

Timothy Spalding stars in this incredible story of the 19th century landscape painter, J.M.W. Turner. Turner was a true eccentric and iconoclast who had a remarkably successful career as a painter and made an incredible fortune. He was also a remarkable artist and creative genius who took landscape painting and particularly the use of light in new directions. His personal life was complicated with a very close relationship with his father, a broken marriage, two daughters he basically denied the existence of and an affair at the end of his life with a women he was deeply in love with. He himself, if the film is to be believed was a remarkably unlikeable individual. The movie is stunning. The cinematography is spectacular as Leigh clearly tries to compete on film with what Turner created on canvas. This film is hypnotic, well written and acted and wonderfully filmed. I will have trouble choosing the best movie I have seen this week but this one definitely rates as one of the best movies at this year’s festival.

Hector and the Search for Happiness – Peter Chelsom, Director

I had high hopes for this movie. Simon Pegg is one of a group of British comic actors who did films like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. He also was the perfect Scottie in the Star Trek reboot but here he is trivial and trite. The film follows a psychiatrist who goes off on a round the world quest to find himself and the meaning of happiness. All we get are a bunch of clichés like “Happiness is being loved for who you really are.” Or “Nostalgia is not what it used to be”. It was stupendously disappointing. Now I caution that some may like this film and you really have to like Simon Pegg (and I do) but if you don’t want to be disappointed as I was in the star. I could not find the words until I found this review that says it all.

“Looking to run fortune cookie writers and the post card industry out of business in one fell swoop, Peter Chelsom’s Hector and the Search for Happiness is not a film meant for cynics. With its pithy musings on what it means to be content, and slideshow approach to giving those musings an air of worldly wisdom, it asks the viewer to suspend not just disbelief, but emotional continence. If you’re capable of that, it will no doubt prove a wildly exciting and uplifting story of self-discovery. Keep even a shred of your self-awareness about you, and the empty enlightenment Hector and the Search for Happiness is offering becomes as grating as it is pat.”

Breakup Buddies – Ning Hao, Director

This is a Chinese movie. It is entirely in Mandarin with really bad subtitles. It is apparently a classic of the genre (road trip) but to be honest I did not like it, could not follow the plot and ultimately did not care either way. I think this is a cultural thing totally. I do not get Chinese cinema at all. So while there were some very funny scenes and some spectacular scenery the movie left me cold. So unless you can understand Mandarin stay away. I sadly made a very bad choice here.

Who am I – No System is Safe – Baran bo Odar, Director

Sadly this movie will not likely show up in Toronto in the near future except maybe at the TIFF Lightbox. It is an all-German film about a group of computer hackers who start out having fun by hacking into right wing political parties and other obnoxious groups but got challenged to do more in order to be recognized by the hacker community. They started to take on bigger and bigger challenges until they go too far. The consequences are likely to land them all in jail but they manage to come out of it although how that happens is a very fun ride with at least two twists to the ending that leave you reeling. A fast paced ride that does not disappoint. If you can see this movie do so. It reminded me of The Usual Suspects and other classics of the genre.

Mavericks – Jon Stewart

The last of the Maverick interviews for this week for me at least. This time with Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, who is premiering his new film Rosewater. Stewart’s fans will remember he took last summer off to go to Jordon to film a feature length docudrama about the arrest and torture of Iranian/Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari. Stewart is an incredibly smart and very funny satirist who has taken a very serious look in his first feature film. He was interviewed by CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi, also an Iranian/Canadian. The interview also included Bahari who joined the stage part way through the interview. It’s just one of the special opportunities you can have at the festival. By the way this interview and all the other ones are recorded and will be posted online at in the coming days.

The Theory of Everything – James Marsh, Director

This was so far the best film I have seen this week and it is without doubt a likely contender for best picture of the year in any awards ceremony you can think of. The star Eddie Redmayne portrays Stephen Hawking from his early days at Cambridge to his diagnosis of ALS and his subsequent life up to the publication of A Brief History of Time. He is simply brilliant and will certainly claim an Oscar nomination if not the prize and his co-star Felicity Jones also turns in a great performance. The cast, the script, the music, the acting, the cinematography and the subject (Hawking) are without many equals. I can highly recommend this film to everyone. Simply superb. We saw the full cast at a Q and A after the film and they were eloquent and interesting particularly Eddie Redmayne.

Here are a couple of pictures outside the theatre as the stars arrive and the buzz inside the Princess of Wales theatre:

The Riot Club – Lone Scherfig, Director

Today the theme was British Universities. First the Riot Club – a film about the British upper class at Oxford. The premise of the film is a secret but very exclusive club (only 10 members) committed to debauchery. The film has elements of the ultra-violence of A Clockwork Orange and a contemporary condemnation of the one percenters. Those who are moneyed and arrogant and totally without ethical foundation. The film happens almost entirely in a rural pub where the newly initiated members of the club are to be feted with drugs, alcohol and sex. The evening goes terribly wrong and the outcome is the lesson to be learned. It is not a pretty film and has little redeeming to say about this part of British society or of the top 1 percent of our society. I found it disturbing and unpleasant and not particularly insightful although my reaction was not universal. It is certainly not easily forgotten but I would personally not recommend it to anyone so if you are tempted by the information provided below I warned you.

St. Vincent – Theodore Melfi, Director

Hard to believe that this fall is the 30th anniversary of Ghostbusters, the classic Bill Murray comedy that stars Sigourney Weaver, Canadians Dan Ackroyd and Rick Moranis and the sadly missed Harold Ramis. Just to keep the record straight however there were four ghost busters and the one who is often forgotten is the black member – Ernie Hudson. However TIFF gave a full day to celebrate Murray’s film career with special showings of Ghostbusters, Stripes and Groundhog Day plus the premiere of his latest: St. Vincent. It is a wonderful film. Murray plays a curmudgeonly retired man who appears to dislike everyone and who is living on the edge of alcoholism and financial ruin. We learn more and more about him as the film evolves through his relationship with his new 12 year old neighbour. The film is funny without being silly, heartwarming without being too sweet, sad without being maudlin or melodramatic. My guess is it’s a real contender for this year’s People’s Choice Award. Bill Murray is a great actor who can move from comedy to tragedy with ease and grace and is a master of it all. This is definitely his movie although one must recognize the supporting roles of Melissa McCarthy and especially 10 year old Jaeden Lieberher who plays the twelve year old boy that Murray befriends. Tonight I will sit back and watch Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic for my own bit of Murray nostalgia.

More at:


The Drop – Michael Roskam, Director

This is an excellent thriller starring Tom Hardy as a bartender working a bar used as a money drop by Chechen gangsters. The film also stars James Gandolfino in what is likely his final film release. The story and script are by Dennis Lehane. We got to see the Director and the full cast for a Q and A after the film as well. It is a dark story with a tension that builds slowly and inevitably to what should be an expected but nonetheless surprising climax. Again, like The Judge, there is strong cast all making a contribution to a tight well written script. If you are a dog lover there is a subplot in this movie that will warm your heart. The movie will come out this fall and Hardy has to be considered for award nominations and Lehane for screenplay. Highly recommended.

Go here for the film description and trailer:

Robert Duvall – Mavericks Program

This year I decided to try out the Mavericks Program. TIFF invites some of the stars and film makers to sit down for an hour to an hour and a half with an interviewer. This year I booked two, one with Robert Duvall and the other with Jon Stewart. So on the 5th Robert Duvall was the guest and he was great fun to listen to. The session was started with a series of short clips from his incredible career, starting with To Kill a Mockingbird to Tender Mercies to M.A.S.H. to The Judges. They really brought back memories although they did not include the napalm scene from Apocalypse Now. (so here it is: ). He gave us anecdotes of the early days when he shared a Manhattan flat with Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman before they were stars. Told us about the making of the Godfather, The Apostle, and Tender Mercies. We got a really great insight into one of the great film actors of our time. Should you get a chance to do this at a future festival I highly recommend it.