TIFF 2015 Wrap-up & Top 10!

I can’t believe it’s 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 that’s 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. It’s all part of the game. Here’s a list of the ten best movies I reviewed for JoBlo.com at TIFF this year – and if you want to catch up on all my reviews just click the links below!


1. Sicario

Denis Villeneuve’s 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 Blunt’s naïve FBI agent into this violent world. SICARIO goes into wide-release October 2nd. Look for my interviews of the whole cast next week!

2. Spotlight

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 McCarthy’s SPOTLIGHT is one of the best films about journalism made since ALL THE PRESIDENT’S 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.

3. Beasts of No Nation

Cary Fukunaga’s BEASTS OF NO NATION is the year’s 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 – 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. It’s not an easy film to watch by a long shot, but it’s a brilliant, necessary one and one of the most important movies of the year.

4. Green Room

Jeremy Saulnier’s GREEN ROOM might be even better than his deservedly –acclaimed BLUE RUIN. A dark, often-terrifying thriller, this is like a punk-rock John Carpenter movie, with Anton Yelchin’s 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.

5. Room

Brie Larson’s pretty much jumped right to the top of every Oscar guru’s best actress list thanks to her turn in Lenny Abrahamson’s ROOM. A tremendous jump in quality from his last film, FRANK, this is a powerful, often hard-to-watch film about a mother, who’s 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 – a boy who’s never experienced the outside world. Expect distributor A24 to have this playing everywhere within a few months.

6. Brooklyn

John Crowley’s 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 it’s 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. It’s just a very nice movie, which is something rare these days.

7. Black Mass

By now, many of you will have seen Scott Cooper’s 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 I’d wager a win is unlikely). Joel Edgerton also deserves some consideration for his part as the FBI agent who turned Depp’s Whitey Bulger into a snitch, and turned a blind eye to over a decade of murders.

8. The Martian

With so many heavy movies playing TIFF, it’s often a treat to take a break and lose yourself in a fun movie, and if there’s anything THE MARTIAN is, it’s fun. Often hilarious, and extremely engaging in 3D, THE MARTIAN is Hollywood blockbuster film-making at its best. Ridley Scott’s made a terrific sci-fi adventure for the whole family, and I’m certain Matt Damon’s 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!

9. Eye in the Sky

I’m actually amazed Gavin Hood’s EYE IN THE SKY hasn’t picked up a massive distribution deal yet. A major comeback after the X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE debacle, Hood’s 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.

10. The Witch

Robert Eggers’ THE WITCH scared the bejesus out of me. As a critic, I’m 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).

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