'Transformers' star and her 'Body' co-star Johnny Simmons chat with HitFix
Doing interviews at the same time that you're up here trying to see movies is, frankly, insane, and yet I had a pretty good time because of the other journalists up here. I have nothing but admiration for the insanity that almost all of the publicists were dealing with, stretched too thin and trying to do 40 things at once in most cases.
At the "Jennifer's Body" press day, people were all abuzz before I even got to the Park Hyatt. Same place I stayed recently when I was up here for the "Scott Pilgrim" set visit. The first thing I was told, about six times by different people, was that I was not allowed to ask Megan anything about Michael Bay. There were all sorts of bizarre outlets pulling god knows what. One guy threw water on himself and tried to take his shirt off while talking to Fox.
My conversation with her and with co-star Johnny Simmons (probably the best performance in the film is him) was considerably less eventful than that. Still, it's worth a look.
Australian film plays like 'The Texas Chainsaw Prom Night'
You know the highest compliment I can pay this audacious, crazy, gory little thriller?
When I walked out of it, I felt like I was in Austin.
I'm heading to Fantastic Fest next week, and I'm already excited about going. But my first exposure to the programming and personality of Midnight Madness at the Toronto International Film Festival and Colin Geddes is that here's another place to call home. Here, again, is one of us.
That's why I go to festivals in the first place. Where else are you going to be around people who are so engaged in the conversation about film that two old friends can end up yelling at each other over the relative merits (or lack thereof) of a documentary made for $385? Or where else would you pass strangers on the street who hear you mention the festival, stop, then turn back just so they can offer you a quick list of the three best things they've seen?
That's the atmosphere at a good festival, and being on foot for much of this week, that's the environment I've been immersed in pretty much all day every day. Every town is different, of course, with my favorite being Austin for all sorts of reasons. I just plain feel at home there, and dealing with Colin Geddes and all the great volunteers and festival folks here, and enjoying the movies with the crowds at the Ryerson... all of it got me in exactly the right mood for next week, and even more importantly, now that I know this place feels this much like home, I'm absolutely coming back next year.
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The Spierig Brothers fine-tune their style in their second film
I wasn't crazy about the first film by the Spierig Brothers, but I respected it as a piece of independent filmmaking just in terms of what they accomplished and how much it cost. It's a very, very tiny film, but there are some gigantic moments and images in it that had an almost Gilliam-esque approach to effects work. I remember writing at the time that I had faith that if they ever had some greater resources behind them and a better script, they had a really good movie in them.
"Daybreakers" is, for the most part, that movie.
I'm impressed by the gore noir look of the movie, set in a world about 20 years from now, once vampires have completely taken over the world. They don't just outnumber humans... it's gotten to the point where humans are basically extinct except for giant private blood farms. It's reached the point of crisis, so Edward (Ethan Hawke) works with a research time to develop a blood substitute that can keep the vampire population alive. Those that starve, unable to find real blood, become monsters, crazed and powerful. The last pockets of humans have been driven completely underground. It looks like everyone's going extinct at the same time, with no hope.
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But when people go to a Ricky Gervais comedy, is this what they're expecting?
After letting it sink in for a few days, I honestly believe that "The Invention Of Lying" is a more scabrous, despairing portrait of human nature than "Anti-Christ" is.
But, you know... funny.
Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson co-wrote and co-directed this sure-to-polarize satire, so when the riots in the street begin... and they might... you know who to blame. Go to their houses first. I'm sure I'll be included on a list of the guilty, though, because I sat there in shock during much of the film's running time, amazed that what I was watching exists. There is an audacious ugliness to the film that is sort of breathtaking, especially when you realize this isn't some anonymous indie. This is a Warner Bros. release starring some of the biggest names in comedy on the planet, after all. And one of the most unflinchingly angry ones I've ever seen.
The premise is deceptively simple: in a world where lying was never invented, what happens when someone lies for the first time? In this world, keep in mind, there is nothing that is not literally, almost bluntly true. No slang. No fiction. No subtext. And, in what suspect will be the most difficult material for some people, no religion.
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George Clooney's career-best work just one of this film's pleasures
Life in a suitcase requires a particular skill set, and either you're good at it, or you're not. I was not good at it for a loooooong time, and then I realized I was making it harder on myself than it needs to be. I got good at it. I developed the skills to make air travel at least tolerable. I can do it. I will never enjoy the process. Even when I've flown business or first class (which, admittedly, is not often), I still find it to be, at best, something I can make myself do.
But I do understand why it could be seductive. And at certain points in my life, I've tried to embrace that lifestyle a bit, and always strategically. If you're living in several places, it's exciting. It keeps you focused, I've always found. There was a point when I was younger when I was living bicoastally for a while, working on something in New York and another something in LA, and going back and forth, with two very different social circles on the two coasts. No one can hold you responsible on one coast for something you do somewhere else, I found. It's an attractive way to live, and if you multiply those stops from two, like I was doing and you add in a bunch of cities... in fact, nothing but one different city after another... so that you think of the environment of a hotel as home. I can see it. If you're going top-flight, if things are easy. If it's all like clockwork for you, and you like it...
The first thing Jason Reitman does right in "Up In The Air," adapted from the novel by Walter Kim, is he shows us why Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) would want to live the way he does. And considering how much I disagree, how much I hate traveling, I found myself seeing it from Ryan's point of view, and Reitman makes it look sleek and inviting, from the airports to the surprising and impressive nude figure of Alex (Vera Farmiga), a woman whose path keeps crossing Ryan's, leading to a casual repeated affair that slowly starts to look like it might not be casual. That sounds like the most basic, familiar device for a Hollywood romantic comedy... but that's not this film.
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Pointed social satire as always, but with some new twists in tone
I've had a great experience with the Midnight Madness programming at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, and I feel lucky that I finally got a chance to see what it's all about. Colin Geddes has proven to be a wonderful MC for a week's worth of genre gems. I'm praying I make it to [REC] 2 review at midnight tonight, my last night in town. Even if I don't, though, I got three midnight movies in a row, with the final one being Saturday's screening of "George A. Romero's Survival Of The Dead," which is not related to his early films, but which is a direct sequel to the last one he made, "Diary Of The Dead.'
I didn't like that film much. I thought the "shooting a documentary" framework was miserable, and the movie kept driving by other better films. The Amish dude with the dynamite, the warehouse full of people... those were great little sequences. There was also that great roadside stop by the military dudes who just took what they wanted and split. Well, this time, Romero made the story of what happened to those military guys. Both before and after that moment in the RV with the "Diary" kids. So part of me is delighted that those other better movies I complained we drove by in the first film might actually end up as individual movies, starting with this one. Great idea, and if that is the case, "Diary Of The Dead" gets a little better in my book for sheer chutzpah at setting up a series.
This one's a little bit wacko, but that's what I like about it. Set on Plum Island, off the New England coast, this is the story of a pair of families, locked in eternal feud, who finally destroy each other by fighting over stupid shit. In this case, zombies.
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Southern period character comedy seems like a hit in-waiting.
It's my understanding that "Get Low" does not have a theatrical distributor yet.
Yet being the key word.
Because someone is going to pick this film up, and when they do, they're going to make a bucket of money for their troubles. Depending on when and how they release the film, it could easily be an Oscar-nomination stealth missle for the great Robert Duvall. That's not to say this one of those one-man-show Oscar-bid-for-an-old-guy movies. Aaron Schneider, working from a warm and simple script by C. Gaby Mitchell and Chris Provenzano, has crafted a really lovely movie, and the entire ensemble does great work.
So come on... what are you distributors waiting for?
Robert Duvall stars as Felix Bush, a hermit who has been known as a nearly-mythological figure of fear for the residents of his local town and county for almost 40 years. They never name the year specifically, but it's got to be set in the '20s or '30s. The real Felix Bush whose story inspired the film threw his own funeral so he could be there in 1938. Times are tough, obviously, and Frank Quinn's funeral home is going down in flames, bankruptcy looming. In walks Felix, a wad of "hermit money" in his fist, demanding something unusual. He wants to throw a funeral party. And he wants to hear the stories everyone tells about him. All of them.
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But underneath the provocation, is there substance to the shock?
Starting in May, when this film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, there's been a lot written about it, and now I think I've read most of it. Two things occur to me in doing so.
First, considering how jaded people think film critics are, I actually believe the opposite is true. I think most film critics are exactly like most general audiences. They do not want to be challenged or provoked or upset by what they watch. They want comfort food. They want something that reinforces what they believe, not something that punches them in the face without apology. They want films that conform to their definition of "entertainment," and anything outside of that has to be dismissed or, worse, torn down.
Second, anyone who considers themselves a critic but whose whole analysis of this film consists of listing all the most graphic moments is no critic at all. It's one thing to discuss details in context to support a point you're making, but when you intentionally try to undercut or even sabotage an audience's experience, you're not a critic. You're just an asshole with an outlet.
None of that means I think people have to like "Anti-Christ." I'm not sure I'd say I "like" it in any conventional sense. But I respect the film, and I think it's a major puzzle piece in the career of one of the most slippery and enigmatic game players in world cinema today.
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Second Jack White movie this year that really plays
It's been an interesting year for Jack White on film. At Sundance this spring, I saw and loved "It Might Get Loud," which finally got some theatrical dates last month. It's a documentary about guitar legends The Edge, Jimmy Page, and White, who absolutely stole the movie out from under the other two guys. His love for performance is palpable in that movie, as is his love of rock and blues history, which seems driven by genuine unfettered love instead of commerce.
That film is largely about the love of guitar itself, and the way each player approaches the instrument differently. This film's a little different. Jack White explains:
"Having never done a tour of Canada, Meg and I thought it was high time to go whole hog. We want to take this tour to the far reaches of the Canadian landscape. From the ocean to the permafrost. The best way for us to do that is ensure that we perform in every province and territory in the country, from the Yukon to Prince Edward Island. Another special moment of this tour is the show which will occur in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia on July 14, The White Stripes' Tenth Anniversary."
Emmett Malloy shot the tour, and the result isn't what I would call a concert film, although there is some strong dynamic performance footage in the movie. Instead, this is more about the rhythms and demands of a full tour and what happens to a band emotionally over the time they spend on the road. More than anything, the film serves as a really canny bit of rock and roll mythmaking.
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500 blog entries since HitFix went live
It is, appropriately, five in the morning when I finish formatting and preparing some reviews that I'll be posting soon, and I look at the blog that I've just been editing and shuffling and planning for, and I realize that the next thing I publish will be the 500th entry since we went live in December of 2008.
It's an arbitrary number, but it's enough to make me realize that the past year has been particularly energizing for me as a critic and as an online writer in general. Even after doing this for over a decade at Ain't It Cool, it wasn't really doing this, since whatever this is, it seems to evolve a little more each day, each event, each review. And I'm really pleased with the way things are going so far.
I've met many of you on the streets of Toronto or on the subways or at press events or at screenings this week, and it's been nice, as always, to actually speak to the people who are out there reading all of this stuff I shovel onto the website, hoping some of it sticks, knowing that for every one thing I publish, there's three more things I wish I could publish at the same time. I'm working as hard as I can, and it still doesn't seem hard enough, although no one's more critical than I am of my output.
I had a weird, sort of frustrating day, but when I heard about MCN's Kim Voynar, who had to be taken from the festival to the hospital, I realized that complaining when you're being paid to see movies and discuss them with the filmmaker, no matter how much walking or waiting or anything else is involved, is just plain ridiculous. This is a great job I have, and I enjoy the conversation just as much today as I ever have.
I hope that whether this is the 500th of these blog entries that you've read or the first, that you'll make this a regular bookmark, and just know that all of this so far is warm-up. We're just getting to the good stuff, and I'm hoping to really pack on the movies for the next three days so that you feel like you get a good picture of what's being offered here at the Toronto International Film Festival.
First up, a very interesting music documentary, and I'll have that for you in the next hour...
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