Mr. Turner (TIFF 2014 Review)

Mr. Turner (2014)

Dir: Mike Leigh

“Wise men, when in doubt whether to speak or to keep quiet, give themselves the benefit of the doubt and remain silent.” J.M.W. Turner was a wise man who opted to say little and express himself in other ways, becoming one of England’s most famous painters. (more…)

Wild (TIFF 2014 Review)

Wild (2014)

Dir: Jean-Marc Vallée

Much of the talk surrounding Wild will likely be about Reese Witherspoon and her immersive central performance. She’s in almost every frame of the movie and does career best work, bringing a real person to the screen in a rounded and believable way. But is the movie surrounding her any good? (more…)

Foxcatcher (TIFF 2014 Review)

Foxcatcher (2014)

Steve Carell steps out of the office and into the dark mind of John du Pont in Bennett Miller’s gripping drama Foxcatcher. Bolstered by a trio of awards-worthy performances and heavy on the verisimilitude, it’s an exceedingly dark tale of classism, corruption, and how the strong prey on the weak. Returning to the true crime genre that he so successfully mined in his debut feature Capote, Miller’s Foxcatcher takes its time in its portrayal of a distinctly American tragedy and says a lot about the country that spawned it, much of it unflinching and bleak. (more…)

Nightcrawler (TIFF 2014 Review)

Nightcrawler (2014)

Dir: Dan Gilroy

A slimmed down Jake Gyllenhaal astounds as a guileful freelance crime journalist in the morbid and hilarious L.A. Noir Nightcrawler. Writer and first time director Dan Gilroy brings audiences into the underground world of “if it bleeds it leads” nightcrawlers – men and women who chase violent crime scenes in the hopes of scoring gory footage to auction off to local news stations. Ostensibly about this profession, the film is more a bleak analysis of the current U.S. job market laced with (more…)

The Tribe (TIFF 2014 Review)

The Tribe (2014)

Dir: Miroslav Slaboshpitsky

It’s been said that there’s only a finite numbers of stories and that everything made now is just a variation on what’s come before. That may well be true, but the magic is in the telling. Narratives boundaries can still be bent or broken and new experiences can be had. Exhibit A: the Ukrainian film The Tribe. Featuring mostly deaf actors playing deaf mute characters, The Tribe is told entirely through action – no dialogue, subtitles, voiceovers, or spoken language of any type ever appear. In case there was any doubt, (more…)

Revenge of the Green Dragons (TIFF 2014 Review)

Revenge of the Green Dragons (2014)

Dir: Andrew Lau, Andrew Loo

A stylized crime film with real world roots and a varied international cast, Revenge of the Green Dragons seeks to mythologize Chinese-American gangs of 1980’s New York with the same scope and craftsmanship that Martin Scorsese brought to his peak-period gangster films. Despite Scorsese serving as producer here and the presence of co-director Andrew Lau (who previously made Infernal Affairs, the fine Hong Kong pic upon which The Departed was based), Green Dragons falls shy of greatness and barely (more…)

Whiplash (TIFF 2014 Review)

Whiplash (2014)

Dir: Damien Chazelle

J.K. Simmons’ wonderfully profane and shockingly abusive instructor Terrence Fletcher is an antagonist for the ages in Damien Chazelle’s rollicking sophomore feature Whiplash. A streamlined hybrid of a thriller and coming-of-age tale, Whiplash presents a bare-knuckle and bruised view of that most blood thirsty of all collegiate activities – playing in a jazz ensemble. Ostensibly about jazz drumming, the film probes the depths that devoted students must plumb in order to be (more…)

Cut Snake (TIFF 2014 Review)

Dir: Tony Ayres

Cut Snake opens on a slow motion close-up of a cigarette heater pulsating as a drag is taken. Smoke swirls and ebbs, backlit by the blinding afternoon sun. The shot is enticing and evocative, and makes promises that the disappointing Cut Snake is unable to keep. While idyllic and sun-drenched Melbourne is an inspired choice to set a period noir in, it’s the visuals alone that pop in this overblown melodrama.

Taking place in 1974, the film opens with Pommie (Sullivan Stapleton, memorable in Animal Kingdom and perfunctory as a place holder in 300: Rise of an Empire) being released from prison and tracking down an old acquaintance. Side-stepping ambiguity, Pommie’s motivations are quickly made clear from the ominous music overlaid atop scenes of him stalking parking lots and threatening the elderly. He’s searching for (more…)