TORONTO — Hollywood has long embraced the trope of the suffering superstar. You know the story, don’t you? A talented but misunderstood singer or actor struggles with the downside of living in the spotlight. Often there is a parent trying to live dreams through his or her child’s adult career. There might even be a hero who will appear from outside the creative world to protect the artist from the perils of fame and fortune. Yes, this is a narrative idea that has been explored countless times in movies and TV shows. It’s also the very simple logline for the new Relativity Media drama "Beyond the Lights." Thanks to the masterful direction of Gina Prince-Bythewood, however, the film shatters these cliché origins and turns into an unexpectedly electric and moving romantic drama.
TORONTO — Actors who undergo extreme physical transformations for dramatic roles often are overpraised for their performances. That will never be the case for Eddie Redmayne’s remarkable depiction of Stephen Hawking in the new Focus Features drama "The Theory of Everything."
TORONTO — If you were to look over Chris Rock's lengthy and impressive career you might think he peaked with HBO's "The Chris Rock Show." Or perhaps it was his string of Emmy-winning standup specials including 2008's "Kill the Messenger." Or perhaps it was as the producer and co-creator of the critically acclaimed TV series "Everybody Hates Chris." Well, happily, at the ripe young age of 49, Rock has hit a career high with his new film "Top Five," which debuted at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival Saturday night.
TORONTO — Do you remember saying hello to people on the sidewalk? Whispering in a friend’s ear? Or perhaps you recall the art of purposefully ignoring someone in the hallway when you were in school? Thanks to the advent of smartphones, those key human interactions are slowly becoming extinct. During one of the first few scenes in Jason Reitman’s “Men, Women & Children,” which premiered today at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, the camera slowly moves above a large High School corridor. Not only are the students walking heads down glued to their phones, but so are their teachers. It’s a stark reminder of how much has changed in our day-to-day world this century and a smart framing point for the audience. The question is whether Reitman has anything else to really say about it or if the screenplay's framework will let him.
TORONTO — You may find this hard to believe, but the last time the world was treated to a movie with Bill Murray in a leading role was 2005’s “Broken Flowers.” The legendary comedic actor has kept busy since then in supporting roles, but much to his fans' chagrin, he hasn’t really been at the center of the action. That has all changed with the new comedy “St. Vincent,” which debuted at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on Friday night.
TORONTO — The 39th annual Toronto International Film Festival kicked off Thursday night and its opening night film, "The Judge," brought some major star power. TIFF is known as being a red carpet festival (they seem to even be openly hyping it up this year) and nothing is better than Robert Downey Jr., one of the biggest stars in the world, posing for the paparazzi outside the massive Roy Thomson Hall.
Anyone who had read my work over the years known if there is any event I have almost complete disdain for, it's the Hollywood Film Awards. You remember that one, right? It's the "awards show" that gives out honors to stars and filmmakers who are usually appearing in films that have not been released and often not even screened for critics or guild members yet. And yet, because it's usually situated at the end of October, movie studios have used it as a one-night publicity vehicle right before awards season really gets into high gear.
TELLURIDE — It's impossible to see every movie at a film festival, but you can certainly come close if you're able to catch a few of the main centerpieces beforehand. At Telluride, the benefit of having viewed "Foxcatcher," "Mr. Turner," "Mommy" and "The Homesman" at Cannes allowed this pundit to catch a few of the lower profile titles that are still worthy of your attention. Here are a few short capsule reviews for some films that will also screen at the Toronto and New York film festivals and that should most definitely be on your radar.
TELLURIDE — The 41st Annual Telluride Film Festival is over, and as noted by HitFix's own Kris Tapley, it has provided an important awards season kickoff for films such as "Birdman," "The Imitation Game," "Wild," "Rosewater" and "Foxcatcher." Even with the recent star power of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, Telluride has been able to hang on to its singular charms as a non-red carpet, low-key, cinephile event (even if there were two new Canadian journalists on hand to check everything out and report back to the motherland).
TELLURIDE — Mr. Stewart, if you read this article I believe the first few paragraphs may make you chuckle. Now, it's not because I'm a master wordsmith or unheralded comedic voice waiting to be discovered. No, after saying goodbye after our memorable interview on the patio of a Telluride restaurant Sunday afternoon, I turned and walked toward the street with my iPhone in hand. I'd stopped the recording of our chat and two choices appeared before me: delete or save. And, perhaps like a crazy person, I hit delete.