TORONTO - Matthew Weiner has proven himself to be an incredible writer and director on the small screen. He's earned critical acclaim and numerous awards for his landmark series "Mad Men." On Saturday afternoon, Weiner unveiled his screenwriting and feature directorial debut at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival with the dramedy "You Are Here." It was not his finest two hours.
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Boy was there a wealth of topics to write about this week. I could have dug in on an extremely crowded Best Actor race that already features 12 or 13 performances that have actually been seen (with a handful that could be real threats still to come). I could have done a typical roundup of awards prospects for films that dropped in Toronto over the weekend. I could have commented on the amount of quality we've already seen and how, so far, it's looking like 2013 could be one of the great film years.
But then I saw this Vulture piece, and something I had been fending off as mere inside baseball bitching suddenly stuck in my craw. So let's get this business out of the way at the top so we can enjoy the season.
Nine Inch Nails have had plenty of time and space to regroup. New "Hesitation Marks" is the industrial rockers' first in five years, and first since taking time off from touring in as many moons. It's a fresh lineup and, in the time in-between, Trent Reznor has won and Oscar, launched How To Destroy Angels with his wife and longtime collaborator Atticus Ross and, apparently, made amends with a major labels in time to launch a proper campaign to push a significant and solid radio single.
TORONTO - Since the first time I came to Toronto for the annual film festival, I have viewed Midnight Madness as my favorite part of the entire event. I've managed to attend nearly every possible Midnight Madness screening each year, and some of my favorite memories of my time here come from not only the movies shown, but the people in the audience and the lunacy of the event surrounding the movies. Programmer Colin Geddes throws a hell of a party, and until I'm in the Ryerson, surrounded by the bloodthirsty fans of the madness he unveils every year, I don't really feel like I'm in Toronto.
As a result, the first two nights of this year's festival left me a bit off-balance because scheduling issues left me stranded, unable to get to either "All Cheerleaders Die" or "The Station." I hope to catch up with both of them, but it won't be the same as it would be with that audience. On Saturday night, however, I finally worked things out and I made it to my favorite aisle seat in the Ryerson in plenty of time for Eli Roth's world premiere of his new horror film, "The Green Inferno."
Old Yeller is gone (hey, McCrae called Amanda that, not me), and so is Elissa. We're left with McCrae and the Exterminators, which could be a great doo-wop group name, but suggests this could be a potentially dull week. If McCrae doesn't win the veto, the rest of the house is perfectly aligned in sending him packing. I mean, this is "Big Brother" and anything is possible, but for once, it seems like everyone (except McCrae) can relax for a few days knowing the target is on someone else's back.
A review of tonight's "Breaking Bad" coming up just as soon as we flip a coin for the honor...
It's safe to say HitFix's Drew McWeeny was a big fan of John Carney's "Can a Song Save Your Life?," which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival yesterday. "It should not come as any surprise that John Carney, who wrote and directed 'Once,' has made another great film that focuses on songwriters and the way their lives influence their work, and I love that it doesn't feel like he's just trying to reproduce that movie's charms," Drew wrote in his review. "It's the sort of movie that I feel protective of right away, because it's delicate. It's not trying to be a giant megablockbuster that opens on 3000 screens. It is heartfelt and deeply human, and it means every word it says."
A number of distributors must feel similarly (or see the potential for audiences to feel similarly) about the film, which stars Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo: an all-night auction eventually led to The Weinstein Company securing exclusive talks to acquire it. Deadline is reporting that the film will be picked up for $7 million minimum for US rights with a $20 million P&A (prints and advertising) commitment.
VENICE - "I have a feeling Bertolucci's going to be a bit spikier than that," a colleague said to me yesterday, after I ventured my not-at-all confident prediction that Hayao Miyazaki's romantic animated biopic "The Wind Rises" would win the Golden Lion. To some extent, actually, we agreed. This year's Bertolucci-led jury didn't exactly seem likely to hand the top prize to the comfortingly middlebrow "Philomena," however much the crowds at Venice wanted them to: with other jurors including Andrea Arnold, Pablo Larrain and Carrie Fisher, it was hard to tell just what they'd agree on, but the odds were firmly stacked against it being safe.
TORONTO - As is often the case during the first weekend of the Toronto International Film Festival, two potential awards season contenders debuted within hours of each other Saturday night. In fact, "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" premiered in theaters literally across the street from one another. And, happily, both have something to add to our long road to Oscar.
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show:"Star-Crossed" (The CW)
The Pitch: "It's like Roswell, only with aliens! Oh. Wait. It's like 'Beauty and the Beast' if the only thing beastly about the Beast was a couple marks on his face! Oh. Wait. It's like 'Vampire Diaries' if she were a human and he were the one with impressive powers! Oh. Wait. It's like every CW show ever made. It's The Uber-CW Show!"
Quick Response: On Thursdays at 9 p.m. this fall, The CW is airing the strange, risky, possibly off-brand period drama "Reign," which isn't such a terrific match with "Vampire Diaries" or anything else on the network. Part of what's allowing The CW to take that chance is that the network has possibly the most on-brand piece of programming imaginable on its bench ready to go in. It's hard to believe that Matt Lanter's only been on one CW show. It's hard to believe that Aimee Teegarden's only CW experience is a couple episodes of "90210" and the first pilot for "The Selection." Put them together and it's a match made in brooding-but-affectless and wide-eyed-but-plucky heaven. Or does that sound too positive? Or negative? I really can't say. There are aspects of Meredith Averill's script that come across as a bit more layered than necessary -- Teegarden's character is an outsider because of health problems, while the crash landed aliens have a parallel Earth society that borrows more than a little from "District 9," only with the ETs looking wicked hot instead of like prawns. It's near-future speculative fiction and "Star-Crossed" has a few ideas regarding how people and society would react to this sort of close encounter and some of those reactions are slightly fresh and not so wildly outlandish (others are wildly outlandish and fairly stale), so I guess I appreciated that degree (some degree) of differentiation from "Roswell" and whatnot? Mostly, though, this is straight-forward, generic CW love-triangle stuff, made even more generic by the presence of Grey Damon, who seems to specialize in being in the middle of semi-supernatural love triangles on either The CW or ABC Family. [And no, I don't remember if Hastings Ruckle and Julie Taylor ever shared quality time together, so "Star-Crossed" doesn't get to benefit from additional "FNL" flashback glow in the way it might have if they'd cast Zach Gilford here. Teegarden is, incidentally, nearly unrecognizable here from her Dillon Days.] There's a commentary on American immigration policy vis a vis aliens that there's a 3% chance "Star-Crossed" might become. There's a 97% chance that "Star-Crossed" will just become another CW show about the pretty girl torn between the man her loins crave and the man she knows is better for her psyche. And there's a 60% chance that I'll watch every episode of "Star-Crossed" no matter which show it becomes. Sigh. I'm weak and I feel like shows like "Star-Crossed" are mass-produced to take advantage of my weakness and the weakness of women aged 18-34. Damn you, CW.
Desire To Watch Again: Desire? Meh. Inevitability? Probably. I end up watching a lot of The CW. You know this about me. I watched the entire initial run of "Cult," for heaven's sake (before it got pulled and held to the summer, when I quit). It takes something as unbearable as "Beauty and the Beast" to scare me away. This is much, much better than "Beauty and the Beast," though it's much, much worse than "Vampire Diaries." But is it worse than "Vampire Diaries" when it first premiered? Probably not. It's just blander.
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Intelligence'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Crisis'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Rake'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Mom'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Lucky 7'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Dads'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Super Fun Night'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Welcome to the Family'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Millers'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'The Goldbergs'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Ironside'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'We Are Men'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Almost Human'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Back in the Game'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Sean Saves the World'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Reign'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Crazy Ones'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Enlisted'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Betrayal'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Blacklist'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show'
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
The Toronto Film Festival is in full swing and HitFix's Greg Ellwood have chimed in on a number of films, from "Dallas Buyers Club" to "Enough Said," while a handful of Telluride players -- "12 Years a Slave," "Labor Day," "Gravity" (also Venice) have landed as well.
One of the films Greg has been high on is Jason Bateman's directorial debut, "Bad Words." Praising Bateman's transition to feature director (he's been directing television for years), Greg wrote that the film "will make many wonder if some of [Bateman's] recent flicks might have actually been even better if he'd been behind the camera instead of just in front of it." Indeed, with misses like "The Change-Up" and "Identity Thief" as of late, Bateman could certainly use a smash.
Focus Features will be aiming to turn "Bad Words" into just that as the studio acquired the film earlier this morning. Written by Andrew Dodge (and a Black List entry in 2011), it be released worldwide by Focus in 2014.