I canít believe itís already over, but another edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is in the books. Once again it was my great pleasure to represent JoBlo.com at the festival (my 7th year believe it or not). Over ten days I wrote thirty-four reviews and participated in three junkets, with video interviews with the cast of THE MARTIAN, SICARIO and TRUMBO all coming up in the next few weeks. I also got a really solid twenty-minute interview with Brad Bird about the IRON GIANT: SIGNATURE EDITION re-release thatís on its way into theaters. Look for that one soon.
As usual, the Toronto lineup was incredible. Several of the movies I saw there, including SPOTLIGHT, ROOM and BLACK MASS, seem to have a good shot at Oscar glory this season, while a few others, like the poorly conceived Lance Armstrong biopic THE PROGRAM saw their hopes dashed. Itís all part of the game. Hereís a list of the ten best movies I reviewed for JoBlo.com at TIFF this year Ė and if you want to catch up on all my reviews just click the links below!
Robert Eggersí THE WITCH scared the bejesus out of me. As a critic, Iím pretty a pretty tough nut to crack as years of movies have left me desensitized to horror. However, the arthouse-horror hybrid THE WITCH did the trick and then some. A throwback to the kind of genre movies made by auteurs like Ken Russell and Stanley Kubrick in the seventies, THE WITCH is a must-see for all although please, do you best to see it in theaters as it really needs to be appreciated on the big-screen (with kick-ass sound).
Iím actually amazed Gavin Hoodís EYE IN THE SKY hasnít picked up a massive distribution deal yet. A major comeback after the X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE debacle, Hoodís exciting, complex take on drone warfare is everything GOOD KILL is not. Thought-provoking, but also entertaining and accessible, EYE IN THE SKY has the makings of a hit, with Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman and Aaron Paul leading a top-notch cast. This is one to keep an eye out for.
With so many heavy movies playing TIFF, itís often a treat to take a break and lose yourself in a fun movie, and if thereís anything THE MARTIAN is, itís fun. Often hilarious, and extremely engaging in 3D, THE MARTIAN is Hollywood blockbuster film-making at its best. Ridley Scottís made a terrific sci-fi adventure for the whole family, and Iím certain Matt Damonís portrait as a stranded NASA astronaut (as well as Jessica Chastain as his C.O) will inspire many kids to want to become astronauts when they grow up. Look for my interviews with the cast and Ridley Scott next week!
By now, many of you will have seen Scott Cooperís BLACK MASS. To me, this powerful gangster tale was as good as recent Boston-set sleepers like THE TOWN, and Johnny Depp is pretty much a lock for a best actor nomination (although Iíd wager a win is unlikely). Joel Edgerton also deserves some consideration for his part as the FBI agent who turned Deppís Whitey Bulger into a snitch, and turned a blind eye to over a decade of murders.
John Crowleyís BROOKLYN was a movie I heard tons about at Sundance last year, but some bad luck (in the form of the nasty Sundance flu) caused me to miss it. Luckily, I got to see it at TIFF and itís just as charming as everyone says. Saoirse Ronan is most definitely an Oscar contender, with her effortlessly making the jump from child-star to leading-lady with this lush, romantic, pleasant tale. Itís just a very nice movie, which is something rare these days.
Brie Larsonís pretty much jumped right to the top of every Oscar guruís best actress list thanks to her turn in Lenny Abrahamsonís ROOM. A tremendous jump in quality from his last film, FRANK, this is a powerful, often hard-to-watch film about a mother, whoís locked up in a garden shed with her son for seven years. Larson is certainly Oscar-worthy, as is young Jacob Tremblay, who plays her son Ė a boy whoís never experienced the outside world. Expect distributor A24 to have this playing everywhere within a few months.
Jeremy Saulnierís GREEN ROOM might be even better than his deservedly Ėacclaimed BLUE RUIN. A dark, often-terrifying thriller, this is like a punk-rock John Carpenter movie, with Anton Yelchinís band of punk singers being trapped in the green room of a dingy club by a gang of murderous neo-nazis. Patrick Stewart is magnetic as the skinhead-leader, with Macon Blair and Imogen Poots also delivering standout performances.
Cary Fukunagaís BEASTS OF NO NATION is the yearís great experiment, with it getting a day and date Netflix release on October 16th. This means you can watch this Oscar-worthy film right from the comfort of your own home Ė legally! Idris Elba once again makes the case for his impending stardom in this story of an African warlord who takes an orphaned boy under his wing and turns him into a murderous child soldier. Itís not an easy film to watch by a long shot, but itís a brilliant, necessary one and one of the most important movies of the year.
SPOTLIGHT was just about the best movie I saw at TIFF this year, were it not for the next entry which just edges it out. No matter, Thomas McCarthyís SPOTLIGHT is one of the best films about journalism made since ALL THE PRESIDENTíS MEN, with arguably the best ensemble acting of the year with tremendous, naturalistic performances by Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and more. God I loved this movie.
Denis Villeneuveís SICARIO was the first movie I saw at TIFF this year, and as I predicted in my review it was also the best. A harrowing look at the cartel wars, SICARIO offers Emily Blunt a truly dynamic follow-up to EDGE OF TOMORROW, while giving Benicio del Toro one of the best roles of his career as a shady mercenary gun-man tasked with initiating Bluntís naÔve FBI agent into this violent world. SICARIO goes into wide-release October 2nd. Look for my interviews of the whole cast next week!