Toronto International Film Festival #1: Film Reviews

I saw a total of twelve films at the Toronto International Film Festival this year.  It helped that I was working there and got to see these films for free 🙂

As a cinephile, I would like to have seen twelve films a day instead 🙂 However, I had to work (at the TIFF Bell Lightbox) in between watching films….haha.  Actually, working there was great and I hope to do it again next year!

Now onto the point of this post: my very short synopses/reviews of said films. Hopefully they will come to a theatre near you soon – a lot of them were excellent.

Here they are, in no particular order:

#1: Shrew’s Nest – Spanish horror/psychological thriller about two disturbed sisters who trap an injured man inside their home. Excellent! Hollywood, take note of how to construct a GOOD horror movie…i.e. character development and a decent plot are needed.
#2:  Magical Girl – Spanish drama about an unemployed father who goes to extremes (i.e. blackmailing a vulnerable stranger) to provide his dying daughter with her last wish. Very slow-paced and unsatisfying at times, but interesting and thought-provoking nonetheless.
#3.  Red Amnesia – Chinese film about an aging woman’s quest to remain relevant …and her Communist past in Red China brings some skeletons out of the closet. Good, but slow paced and I didn’t quite understand the ending.
#4: They Have Escaped –  A Finland/Netherlands co-production about two troubled teens who run away from a group home together. It was really good, but also very sad…..I actually cried afterwards. It was one of those movies where you’re not sure if the last scene is reality or a fantasy, and you want it so badly to be reality but you’re pretty sure it’s not…other movies with that kind of scene at the end include Titanic, Inception, and Pan’s Labyrinth.
#5.  Wild – this was a Hollywood movie starring Reese Witherspoon as a woman who hikes 1100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail to escape a self-destructive life and to purge her grief over her mother’s death. Well done for a Hollywood movie (forgive me if that makes me sound like a movie snob.)
#6.  [Rec 4]: Apocalypse – mediocre zombie movie from Spain. [Rec] 1,2, and 3 are much better. No need to make the 4th one, really.
#7.  Atlantic. – Netherlands/Finland co-production about a Moroccan windsurfer who tries to windsurf from Morocco to Spain. Beautifully filmed with a good story and characters. The star was at the screening too, and he is a real Moroccan windsurfer (not a professional actor) who owns a restaurant in the town the movie was filmed in.
#8.  Bang Bang Baby – Canadian film about a young girl who lives in a small town and dreams of becoming a professional singer. It is a strange mix of comedy and horror. It lampoons both 1960s culture and 1950s monster movies. It is also a musical. I REALLY liked this one. The cinematography is really unique and it’s the best Canadian movie I have seen in a very long time. It also won the TIFF award this year for Best Canadian Feature.
#9: Hautoa/The Dead Lands – New Zealand/United Kingdom co-production about the native Maori people of New Zealand. In the film, a young man has to avenge the deaths of his father and ..well, his whole tribe. It is the first movie to ever be filmed entirely in the Maori language. The movie contains some anachronisms (i.e. the perfectly sculpted bodies of the men a la “300”), but overall it’s a really good movie.
#10.  Songs from the North: South Korean movie about North Korea. It is a documentary filmed in a style that lets you draw your own conclusions. It left me even more confused about North Korea than I was before. It is definitely worth watching though.
#11.  Still the Water –  Japanese film with great cinematography but not much else going for it (overly long scenes, underdeveloped characters, etc). This was the only TIFF film I saw this year that I didn’t really like that much.
#12.  What We Do In the Shadows – New Zealand mockumentary about a bunch of vampires living in modern-day Wellington, New Zealand. It was HILARIOUS and was my favourite film at TIFF this year !! ! You all must watch this one! After the screening, the director (who also acted in it as “Vladislav”) and one of the actors (who played “Stu”) were there and did a Q and A where they wouldn’t let up on the fact that it was a “real” documentary. Hahahahhahaha 🙂 It also won the Midnight Madness award at TIFF this year.

Stay tuned!

Photo credits: tiff.net

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