Tag Archives: 2013 movies

TIFF 2013: 10 Films to Watch For

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Last week, we got a look at over 70 films that will premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. As always, there are some big names to be found among the list. But while it’s exciting to see recognizable faces and names, movies like Prisoners, Gravity, Rush, and August: Osage County will be widely released in theatres just weeks after playing at TIFF. Sometimes, it can be worthwhile taking a chance on smaller films; you never know how long it might be before you have another chance to see them.

So, after scanning the list of galas and special presentations, here are 10 movies that I’m interested in seeking out that that you may not have heard of and (to the best of my knowledge) have no current plans for immediate major release after TIFF.

1. Devil’s Knot

Atom Egoyan is one of Canada’s most acclaimed directors, so it makes sense that he would choose TIFF for the world premiere of his latest project, Devil’s Knot. The film stars Colin Firth, Reece Witherspoon, and Dane DeHaan and tracks the fallout of the infamous West Memphis Three trial. I haven’t heard much about it for a while, so it’s great to see that it’ll be ready in time for TIFF.

2. Night Moves

Deliberately paced dramas are kind of Kelly Reichardt’s thing (see: Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy), so it’s a bit surprising to hear that she’s directing a film that…well, seems to have a plot. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Peter Sarsgaard, and Dakota Fanning as a group of radical environmentalists who plot to blow up a dam.

3. The Past

Asghar Farhadi’s last project, 2011’s A Separation, earned him wide acclaim. Now, he continues to explore themes of divorce with The Past. Starring two of the best young actors working in world cinema, Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) and Berenice Bejo (The Artist), this one is surely a must-see.

4. Starred Up

I hadn’t even heard of this U.K. film until yesterday, but any film starring Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom) is bound to catch my attention. Starred Up tells the story of a young man sent to prison, only to find that one of his fellow inmates (Mendelsohn) happens to be his long-estranged father

5. Joe

David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls, George Washington) seems to have gotten his penchant for stoner comedies out of his system (at least, for now). He premiered the critically adored Prince Avalanche on the festival circuit earlier this year, and now he’s back and embracing the Southern gothic tradition again with Joe. It stars Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan (Mud).

6. The Art of the Steal

Homegrown favourite Jay Baruchel stars in this Canadian flick about brotherhood and crime, which also stars Matt Dillon, Kurt Russell, and Terrence Stamp, from director Jonathan Sobol (A Beginner’s Guide to Endings)

7. The Double

Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska star in this comedic update of Dostoevsky’s novella about a man haunted by his doppelganger. Submarine helmer Richard Ayoade writes and directs.

8. Hateship Loveship

Another one that was not on my radar. Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce, Nick Nolte, and Hailee Steinfeld star in an adaptation of Alice Munro’s short story of the same name. Canada!

9. Ida

How about some international contributions? In Ida, Polish-born Pawel Pawlikowska (My Summer of Love, The Woman in the Fifth) tells a grim tale of a young nun in 1960s Poland who discovers a deep family secret stemming back to the Nazi occupation

10. Tracks

If you like Mia Wasikowska, this is your movie. She stars in this drama based on the true story of a woman who set out on a 2700 km trek across the Australian outback in the 1970s.

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TIFF 2013 Lineup Unveiled

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Cumberbatch fans rejoice! The Sherlock star will star in at least three films playing at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, including the fest’s opening night gala, The Fifth Estate.

For Torontonians and anyone else willing to make the trek to Canada, the Toronto International Film Festival is always one of the year’s biggest film events. And at this morning’s press conference, TIFF CEO Piers Handling and artistic director Cameron Bailey kicked off this year’s festivities by announcing TIFF 2013’s opening film selection, as well as the fest’s galas (red-carpet screenings, often boasting big-name actors and directors) and special presentations. Though more films will be added to TIFF’s roster, this morning’s announcement revealed more than 70 titles, giving festival-goers a good idea of what to expect from TIFF 2013, which runs from September 5-15.

The morning began with an early teaser announcement from Bailey via Twitter, where he revealed that Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave will have its world premiere at TIFF 2013. McQueen’s previous films, Shame and Hunger, helped put star Michael Fassbender on the map, and he will once again join with McQueen for 12 Years a Slave, alongside an ensemble cast that includes Chiwetel Ejiofer, Brad Pitt, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

The press conference kicked off by announcing a slew of gala presentations, including early Oscar hopefuls like August: Osage County, Rush, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, as well other high-profile premieres, such as The Railway Man (starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth), Kill Your Darlings (starring Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg), and Parkland (a retelling of what happened at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital on the day JFK was shot, starring Paul Giamatti and Zac Efron) and a few Canadian choices, like The Art of the Steal (starring Jay Baruchel, Matt Dillon, and Kurt Russell), The Grand Seduction (a comedy starring Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch) and The Right Kind of Wrong (starring Ryan Kwanten and Catherine O’Hara).

The long list of special presentations includes world premieres of The Dallas Buyer’s Club (which you may remember as the film that Matthew McConaughey lost a drastic amount of weight for), Atom Egoyan’s Devil’s Knot (the West Memphis Three drama starring Colin Firth, Reece Witherspoon, and Dane DeHaan), Jason Reitman’s Labour Day, Prisoners (Hugh Jackman and Jake Jake Gyllenhaal),The Double (a comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska), Paul Haggis’ Third Person (starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Liam Neeson), and international/North American premieres of Alfonso Cuaron’s hotly anticipated sci-fi offering, Gravity, as well as Joe (David Gordon Green’s second film release of the year, starring Nicholas Cage), Cannes winner Blue is the Warmest Color, Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves (Jesse Eisenberg, Peter Sarsgaard), Asghar Farhadi’s The Past, and Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton).

TIFF’s opening and closing night films were also announced. The festival will close with a comedy called A Life of Crime that stars Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, and John Hawkes. More noteworthy, though, is the choice of opening film, which is the new WikiLeaks biopic, Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange. Last year’s choice of Rian Johnson’s Looper as the festival’s opening film marked a shift for the festival, which in the past had always chosen a Canadian film as its opener.

The full list of this morning’s announcements can be found at tiff.net.

What’s your favourite movie of 2013 (so far)?

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We’re well into July, and with some of the year’s much buzzed-about weightier offerings, like Fruitvale Station and The Spectacular Now (both of which I’m dying to see), starting to open, this seems as good a time as ever to look back on the first half of the year. Here’s my list of my favourite 2013 films I’ve seen, including a one-sentence review for each. Be sure to leave your own list in the comments!

  1. The Place Beyond the Pines – A truly impeccable cinematic treat in terms of acting, visual style, and structure.
  2. Mud – A hazy, atmospheric look at corrupted youth, featuring brilliant performances from McConaughey and Sheridan.
  3. Lore – Haunting visuals and two fantastic first-time performances from its leads make for a gripping viewing experience.
  4. Before Midnight – Seeing Delpy and Hawke reunite once again is magical, and Linklater takes the series in a darker but equally honest direction.
  5. Star Trek Into Darkness – It betters the first installment thanks to tight plotting, amazing action sequences, and a deliciously villainous turn by Benedict Cumberbatch.
  6. Stoker – Park Chan-wook offers some of the most memorable images of the year and has plenty of fun embracing Stoker‘s batshit crazy tendencies.
  7. Side Effects – Though I preferred the film’s moody first half to its increasingly pulpy second half, Side Effects is successfully suspenseful and features strong lead performances from Mara and Law. 
  8. Iron Man 3 – Way more fun than it had any right to be, thanks in large part to Shane Black’s whip-smart writing and directing style.
  9. This is the End – Rogen and co. hold nothing back, making everyone wonder why nobody thought to make this sort of film sooner.
  10. Byzantium – It may not be groundbreaking, but Byzantium still has bite (pun intended) and Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan prove to be more than game to take on the vampire genre.

Before Midnight (2013)

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I first watched Before Sunrise a few years back and, like everyone else, I was immediately taken by Celine and Jesse’s story. Fortunately for me, I suppose, Before Sunset had already been released at this point, so I only needed to wait a couple of days to get the answers to my questions, as opposed to the actual nine years that occurred between the releases of the two films. But while it was fascinating to see Delpy and Hawke instantly age and to fast-forward through time to see the outcome of their story, it felt as though these movies existed in their own isolated world to me. I figured that it must have been a far more rewarding experience for those who had waited the nine years, not knowing if they’d ever even get an answer to the open questions posed at the end of Before Sunrise. These viewers, too, aged like Celine and Jesse did and lived their own nine years of life before catching up once again with these old onscreen friends.

When I later heard that a third installment to the series was in the works, I was excited, but also a little apprehensive. I felt like this was my own opportunity to play along with the series. Though I hadn’t been forced to wait a full nine years between installments, and though I am much younger than the Jesse and Celine of Before Midnight, I now felt an extra sense of investment in the story. Watching Before Sunset, I hadn’t known that we were going to see any more of these characters’ lives. So while I was uncertain as to whether Linklater could recapture the magic for a third go-round, I was still excited to see what Celine and Jesse were up to a few years after I’d last left them. And I’m happy to report that Before Midnight didn’t disappoint.

As much as I liked this movie, Before Sunrise is still my favourite film in the series. Watching the two young optimists meet and explore and get to know each other is exciting, and their giddy romanticism is just fun to watch. But, then again, that’s part of the point of the sequels. It’s impossible to sustain that mystique and exhilaration for nine years or for eighteen years. It becomes about something different, and while that something may not be quite as fun, it’s just as important as the initial spark of magic.

The major different between Midnight and the prior two films is that Celine and Jesse really know each other by this point. The first two films are more about meetings and reconnections. But without getting into “spoilers” (although the mere existence of Before Midnight is probably a bigger spoiler than anything that is actually revealed in the movie), they’ve spent some significant time together in the years since Sunset. And Hawke and Delpy do a brilliant job of conveying this. There’s still a playfulness to their relationship, but there’s also a more serious sense of responsibility. Rather than aimlessly roaming the streets of Vienna spouting quasi-philosophical thoughts like they did in Sunrise, this movie starts with a purposeful car ride and a discussion about careers and familial strains. And yeah, there is a lot more tension between the Celine and Jesse in this movie. The love between them is apparent, but the intervening years have raised new concerns and conflicts. It would be naive to expect them to be the same people at 41 as they were at 23, and the movie isn’t afraid to show the wearing of time.

But, of course, they still ponder life and gender dynamics together (which, by now, Celine refers to as “bullshitting”). And Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy (who all wrote the script together) wisely even introduce some other characters into the mix this time around. This allows Celine and Jesse to bounce some of their ideas off other people, and for us to see how the outside world perceives them. There’s a great, long dinner party sequence that offers some sharp rebuttals to the romantic views of Sunrise and Sunset, and it’s fun to see our protagonists contend with characters other than each other.
Overall, Before Midnight feels like a mature and perfectly pitched continuation of this expansive take on the intricacies of love.  Parts of it feel like territory that has already been covered earlier in the series, but the film offers a few knowing winks to acknowledge this, and there’s a comfort in the familiarity. Granted, more idealistic viewers may not like some of the less-than-rosy reveals about the direction that Celine and Jesse’s relationship may be heading it. But hey, that’s life – it’s just the part of it that we don’t usually get to see on screen.

8/10

Mud (2013)

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You may not think you need another small-town America coming-of-age indie, but believe me, you definitely need Mud.

This hazy drama tells the story of two 14-year-old boys, Ellis and Neckbone (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) who live in an Arkansas fishing community. One day, they stumble on the mysterious, alluring Mud (Matthew McConaughey) and inadvertently get tied up with his shady past by agreeing to help Mud get in touch with the girl he loves (Reece Witherspoon).

The plot of Mud is simple enough, but it’s director Jeff Nichols’ screenplay that adds layers of richness, giving the film a novelistic feel. Nichols proved with his previous project, 2011’s Take Shelter, to have a knack for authentically portraying “regular” characters caught in quietly extraordinary situations, and he only tops himself with Mud. Even the most minor characters feel wonderfully complex, and it’s easy to become immediately sucked into the small community that Nichols lifts the curtain on.

Of course, it also helps to have great actors telling your story, and Mud has plenty of top-notch performances to offer, too. McConaughey continues his resurgence here, and he is mesmerizing as Mud. We understand instantly why the boys are drawn to him, but we also see the strong undercurrent of danger that keeps them partially at arm’s length. McConaughey believably conveys both the quiet menace and the true sensitivity that Mud wrestles with, and it may actually be his best performance since 1993’s Dazed and Confused. Also stellar is young Tye Sheridan, who marks his spot high on the “actors to watch” list. As the emotional stakes skyrocket later on in the film, Sheridan sells every moment of feeling. He’s so relatable as a confused adolescent slowly getting the optimism knocked out of him, and while Ellis has strengths and weaknesses just like every character in the movie, Sheridan is easy to sympathize with.

Mud calls to mind other great coming-of-age movies, such as Stand By Me, Mean Creek, and the early films of David Gordon Green. Yet, thanks to Nichols’ hyper-assured direction, nothing feels redundant. He crafts the sense of Americana and yearning in subtle but wholly authentic ways, and his spot-on sense of mood and deliberate pacing made Mud a unique and unexpectedly profound viewing experience. It may not hit everyone on an emotional level, but even if it doesn’t, it’d be hard not to recognize the craft.

4.5/5