Category Archives: TIFF 2014

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.

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.

The Judge – David Dobkin, Director

It was great to have a chance to see this year’s opening gala presentation of The Judge, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall and a stellar supporting cast. It tells the story of a hotshot criminal lawyer (Downey) who returns to his small rural home town where he finds himself defending his estranged father (Duvall), a local judge, against a murder charge. The film is being touted as going back to the way films used to be, an honest drama where who is good and who is bad is never really clear. We need to be honest about this movie. It’s really a very Hollywood movie with mega stars and excellent cinematography but the story is not particularly strong and it has but a tear jerky happy ending. That said, the acting is stunning. Duvall and Downey drive each other to ever higher heights and the supporting cast is brilliant. There are some great scenes, my favourite being one in which the jury selection is done, and will be well worth your money when it is released this fall. Also there is little doubt that there will be some Oscar nominations coming for this cast. Go here for the official description and to see a trailer:

Welcome to TIFF 2014

Welcome to my blog for this year’s festival. Already the cranky people who loved the festival in the past are complaining that it has become elitist and no longer the wonderful experience it was back in 1975 or 1980 or whenever their own involvement started. Yes now there are memberships and members get earlier access and yes there are very expensive packages that only the 1 percenters can afford but the truth is that in the “good old days” it was way worse. There were few high quality films and getting tickets was incredibly time wasting and only the real addicts could handle the hassle. The truth is that this is still the only film festival with everything from Oscar contenders to small independent documentaries and dramas to which anyone can get tickets. The crowds on King Street are fun in themselves and yes you will see stars if you persist. Looking forward to a great week shutting out the buzz killers and seeing some great films.