TIFF And Fantastic Fest Wrap-Up: The Lightning Round!

I love writing reviews and for the most part, you guys seem to enjoy reading them. But while I piss Peabodies and puke Pulitzers, even I’m not so arrogant as to believe that you’re all clamoring to read more extensive critiques of films you won’t be able to see for another year. I try to write full reviews of everything I see, but when you’ve seen a lot in a short amount of time, that’s all but impossible. Or more accurately, really hard! ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Nonetheless, I gotta justify these tax write-offs somehow. So in lieu of, in addition to, and/or in some cases in preparation for, full reviews, I’m going to give you the run down of some of the festival movies we saw in the most succinctest manner possible. You know, in case you’re into that whole brevity thing.

Movie: The Judge

Where We Saw It: TIFF

Is it being released? Yes, it opens October 10th.

What’s it about? A tale of two Roberts, in which big city lawyer Robert Downey Jr. returns to his small-town home town where he has to defend his father, the town judge, played by Robert Duvall, in a man slaughter case. (Trailer)

Is it any good? No. (full review)

Movie: The Humbling

Where We Saw It: TIFF

Is it being released? Yes. No release date yet, but most likely 2015.

What’s it about? Directed by Barry Levinson based on the novel by Philip Roth, Al Pacino plays an aging actor who’s losing his marbles, who falls in love with/is sort of adopted by a young lesbian played by Greta Gerwig who idolized him as a child. It’s told partly as conversations between Pacino’s character and his shrink, because I gather that’s Philip Roth’s favorite method of telling stories (trailers here and here).

Is it any good? I was pleasantly surprised. I went in with an instinctive distrust of the aging Great Men Of American Letters and their barely-disguised boner fantasies, but it was far more self-critical than I expected, and Pacino and Gerwig prove surprisingly adept at humanizing Philip Roth.

Movie: The Drop

Where We Saw It: TIFF

Is it being released? Yeah, bro, it came out like three weeks ago.

What’s it about? Tom Hardy works at a bar that the Chechen mafia uses to launder money, where James Gandolfini is the manager. They get into some dirty business. Also, Tom Hardy adopts a pit bull puppy and names it Rocco and they become best friends.

Is it any good? Yes. So good. I mean did you read the thing about the pit bull? (full review)

Movie: Foxcatcher

Where We Saw It: TIFF

Is it being released? Yes, November 14th.

What’s it about? The story of Olympic wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) and their relationship with John DuPont (Steve Carell), who eventually murdered Dave. (Trailer).

Is it any good? It’s decently entertaining, but mostly full of sh*t. I guess it depends what you want in your based-on-a-true-story movies. (Full review here)

Movie: Wild

Where We Saw It: TIFF

Is it being released? Yes, December 5th.

What’s it about? Reese Witherspoon goes “into the wild” to try to win the Oscar. Jk, it’s based on a novel by Cheryl Strayed, who sets out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail as a journey of self-discovery following her mother’s death and her own heroin addiction. From the director of Dallas Buyers Club. Reese Witherspoon shows her boobs a lot. (Trailer)

Is it any good? It’s okay. Reese Witherspoon shows her boobs a lot. (Full review)

Movie: Duke Of Burgundy

Where We Saw It: TIFF

Is it being released? It’s being released by IFC Films in the US and Mongrel Media in Canada, but a date has not yet been set.

What’s it about? Set in a parallel universe unstuck in time and inhabited only by women, where everyone seems preoccupied by the mating habits of moths, it’s an extended riff on an S&M-type relationship between two women (there are no men in the movie). Definitely had the most face-sitting and peeing in mouths of any film I saw. Director Peter Strickland says he wanted to delve into the ridiculousness of sexual fantasy, and laugh at some of the practicalities of it. According to Strickland, it’s understood that in an S&M relationship, the masochist is really the one calling the shots. (Clip here)

Is it any good? Definitely worth a watch. It may have been too out there for me to fully appreciate on a first watch, but listening to Strickland talk afterwards actually made it more interesting, which is rare. A truly unique film, and a must-watch for any fans of girl-on-girl face sitting.

Additional Note For Insiders: If your movie is playing the festival circuit, it’d be a great idea to have a trailer and some stills ready to go in case people actually want to cover it. Just saying.

Movie: Rosewater

Where We Saw It: TIFF

Is it being released? Yes, in limited release staring November 7th.

What’s it about? Jon Stewart’s writing/directing debut, telling the story of Maziar Bahari, who was imprisoned in Iran on the pretense of spying over an interview he did with The Daily Show. (Trailer)

Is it any good? It’s okay. It has its moments (full review), but I wish it focused less on the guy-sitting-in-prison aspects of the story.

Movie: Mommy

Where We Saw It: TIFF

Is it being released? Yeah, sort of. It came out in Quebec this month, making it eligible for the Oscars, and was picked up for some kind of US release by Roadside Attractions, but we don’t have details on that as of yet.

What’s it about? Sort of an adolescent, French-language version of We Need To Talk About Kevin, with incest overtones, from 25-year-old French-Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan, his fifth feature. (Trailer)

A widowed single mother, raising her violent son alone, finds new hope when a mysterious neighbour, a woman, inserts herself into the mother and son’s household, providing the mother with needed support.

Is it any good? If you google this, you’ll find one glowing review after another, but if you axe me, it was mostly art house conventional and kind of a chore to sit through by the end. Still, Dolan has potential.

Movie: ABCs of Death 2

Where We Saw It: Fantastic Fest

Is it being released? Yes, by Magnet Releasing. OnDemand and iTunes October 2nd, October 31st in theaters.

What’s it about? Basically, 26 different directors all pick a letter, then shoot a short film about a death based around word beginning with that letter. (Trailer).

Is it any good? It’s 26 different short films that range from amazing (EL Katz’s A is for Amateur, a bizarre stop-motion claymation one, W is for Wish) to not-so-great (sorry, B is for Badger). I really enjoy this kind of format.

Movie: Bros Before Hos

Where We Saw It: Fantastic Fest

Is it being released? You got me, man. It came out last year in the Netherlands and Belgium, but I can’t even find an English-subtitled trailer. Again, you’d think that would be something you’d want to throw online if the film’s going to play US festivals.

What’s it about? “A unashamedly offensive bromance from the killer comedy team behind NEW KIDS TURBO and NEW KIDS NITRO.” Basically, it’s a stoner love triangle movie between Max (Tim Haars) and Jules (Daniël Arends), pussy-chasing adopted brothers, and the ridiculously attractive Sylvia Hoecks who comes between them.

Is it any good? Eh, not really. It’s occasionally funny, and the guy sitting next to me laughed as hard as Deniro in Cape Fear every time Daniel Arends said “bitch” or “n*gga,” but for an “unashamedly offensive” film, the plot was painfully conventional. You appreciate the Dutch un-PC-ness of it, but basically, if you’ve seen any dopey stoner comedy ever you’ve seen this one. Think Dutch Neighbors. And the ending truly had no balls. If you’re looking for foreign comedy, definitely see Klown instead of this. Also, it must be said, the Dutch seem to have a borderline unhealthy obsession with the mentally disabled. (Yes, there’s an actor from Downistie in this). That said, I’ve rarely seen an audience as amped for something as the Fantastic Fest crowd was for this. The guy next to me was clapping his hands together like a seal the whole time and even rubbing his palms together in anticipation for the next joke. I suspect he had some problems.

Movie: Tusk

Where We Saw It: Fantastic Fest

Is it being released? Yeah, last Friday and sh*t.

What’s it about? Kevin Smith goes to Canada and turns Justin Long into a walrus and sh*t. A great many tired Canada jokes ensue. Also Johnny Depp is there for some reason and whatnot.

Is it any good? No. Though it would’ve made a great short film (no sarcasm). (Full review).

Movie: It Follows

Where We Saw It: Fantastic Fest

Is it being released? Yes, but not until 2015 (noooo!).

What’s it about? A sexually transmitted demon has infected the youth of the Detroit suburbs. As I noted in my review, it’s sort of the genre horror movie version of The Virgin Suicides, if that makes any sense.

Is it any good? Yes! It’s great! It won best picture and best screenplay at Fantastic Fest, in case you don’t want to take my word for it.

Movie: Horns

Where We Saw It: Fantastic Fest.

Is it being released? Yes, unfortunately. On October 31st.

What’s it about? Daniel Radcliffe’s girlfriend is murdered and the whole town thinks he did it. One morning he wakes up with horns, which causes everyone he meets to reveal their “darkest” secrets. (Trailer).

Is it any good? Oh my, heavens no. It’s terrible, and I don’t say that lightly. I came away with a much greater appreciation for Tusk, after I saw how much worse a movie could be. (Full review)

Movie: Tokyo Tribe

Where We Saw It: Fantastic Fest

Is it being released? It already came out in Japan, but as for a US release date, no news yet.

What’s it about? Directed by Sion Sono, it’s basically a contemporary Japanese The Warriors delivered entirely as a rap musical. Yep.

Is it any good? Honestly? I didn’t know what to make of it (see description above). It had English subtitles, but the whole thing was as inscrutable to me as if it had been an obscure Eastern Orthodox religious ceremony performed entirely in Latvian. It’s beyond campy and the entire thing is characters rapping at the camera, usually in ways reminiscent of the old “My name is ___ and I’m here to say, I love ___ in a major way.” I’ve certainly never seen any film like it, but three things I have a low tolerance for are camp, outsiders aping hip hop culture, and musicals, so it could just be that it isn’t my thing. Bummer, because Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play In Hell was probably my favorite movie of last year’s Fantastic Fest. That opens in November, incidentally.

Here’s the trailer, which doesn’t have subtitles, but should give you a pretty good idea of how bugf*ck this is:

Not what you’d call “minimalist.”

Movie: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story Of Cannon Films

Where We Saw It: Fantastic Fest

Is it being released? It’s getting a limited release in Australia next month, but no US date planned as of yet. (Also, I can find neither stills nor a trailer for this one. Nice going, guys.)

What’s it about? From Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens Unleashed! director Mark Hartley comes another documentary about another semi-underground B-movie factory, this time Cannon Films, a production house run by a pair of Israeli cousins that churned out B-movies throughout the 80s, notably including Breakin’ and Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo, as well as Masters of The Universe, some Death Wish sequels, and Bloodsport.

Is it any good? Yes. I could watch these behind-the-scenes-of-terrible-movies documentaries all damn day and this one’s no different. Still, I can’t believe they didn’t get into Bloodsport. You can’t show clips from Bloodsport and then not talk about Bloodsport, I got balls bluer than Van Damme’s spandex over here. I hope they only left it out because there’s going to be a sequel entirely about Bloodsport. Bloodsport.

Movie: Dwarves Kingdom

Where We Saw It: Fantastic Fest

Is it being released? In theaters? Doubtful. Here’s the official site.

What’s it about? “Some have called The Kingdom of Little People the most offensive theme park in the world. DWARVES KINGDOM takes us inside to meet its performer residents.”

Is it any good? I mean, just look at that picture. You know it’s going to at least be interesting. Basically, the twist is that however offensive you think the theme park is, a lot of the actual little people find it less degrading than the outside world. Subtitle: China Is A Rough Place For Dwarves. I found it to be a fascinating movie, but I would’ve liked a little more background on the social conditions that made it possible. At one point you see a worker giving us a tour of a whole village of padlocked miniature houses, but we’re not really sure why they’re padlocked. Are they abandoned? Another little person hints that the park may be in financial trouble, but it’s unclear. At one point, someone one of the main little people is trying to sell yogurts to berates her for the high prices, saying “You’re not the only one who left her village to try to make a dollar, you know.” So basically, degradation is relative – we’re all putting on a stupid costume and dancing for our dollar in some way or another. Anyway, interesting movie, my only criticism is that I’d like to know more.