TADFF 2014: Review: Zombeavers (2014)

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Zombeavers (2014)

TADFF 2014: Interview: David Hayter (Wolves)

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TADFF: Interview: David Hayter (Wolves)

TADFF 2014: Review: Housebound (2014)

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TAD’14 is coming to a close and as usual, I am behind on coverage. For those of you who don’t know, I obtained a press all-access pass this year to cover the festivities. I will be posting all content related to the festival: reviews, interviews, etc…over at Gone With the Movies, a site I have been contributing to for a while. If you feel so inclined, please head on over (click the link below) and give my coverage a look. The first film I reviewed is “Housebound,” a delightfully original take on the haunted house premise.

Housebound

TIFF 2014: Nightcrawler (2014)

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Nightcrawler (2014)

TIFF 2014: The Imitation Game (2014)

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My TIFF 2014 reviews continue to trickle through and today I’ve got something special, one of my most anticipated films of the year, “The Imitation Game.” Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, and Rory Kinnear, “The Imitation Game” retells the unbelievable life-story of Alan Turing. Feel free to click on the link below which will redirect you to my review over at The Cinematic Katzenjammer and please drop a like/comment/share.

The Imitation Game (2014)

TIFF 2014: Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

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Greatly influenced by Arnold Fanck, pioneer of the mountain film genre, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and his film, “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.” Oliver Assayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria” can’t help but keep its glamourized mindset floating amongst the thin, cool, moist air. Whether it’s the altitude, a life of fame, or a last-ditch attempt at recapturing dissipated youth, the fleeting, ungraspable nature of the film’s gaseous metaphor leaves little to sink one’s teeth into. That’s not to say there isn’t redemptive qualities about having one’s head in the clouds, literally and figuratively.

The Swiss Alps, ripe with greenery and dusted with snow at their dizzying peaks, provide a heavenly backdrop for this supremely meta drama. Yet, the promise of a Maloja Snake, the result of ideal atmospheric conditions, clouds drifting north from Italy and slithering their way through the distant mountain scape is the scenic treasure we, along with our leading ladies, can’t help but ache for.

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We arrive at the remote, sparsely populated town of Sils Maria via a spectacular train ride through central Europe’s vistas and some fine vehicular maneuvering brought on by our heroine, Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) and her passionate assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart). Enders, a well-renowned actor, has dragged her lovely and devout second in command Valentine to the middle of nowhere to accept a rather prestigious award on behalf of Wilhelm Melchior, the author/director who’s play had a significant role in launching Maria’s career when she was 18.

We’re now 20 years down the road from her big break and Enders is dealing with a rough divorce, a tragic loss, and an up-and-coming co-star (Chloe Grace Moretz). All whilst struggling to grasp the opposing role in a reimagining of the same play from her youth that landed her in the spotlight. Alienating herself in Sils Maria to rehearse with her assistant, Enders inability to comprehend and execute her latest part slowly dissolves everything around her.

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“Clouds of Sils Maria’s” intertwining narrative is a tough code to crack. Touching on a slew of themes with relevance to both the lives of the film’s characters and the actors who portray them (Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloe Grace Moretz). This makes it exceedingly nerve-wracking to decipher the film in its entirety upon a single viewing. It’s quite easy to see that Assayas’ intentions were to infuse a sense of realism into his characters, a sort of funhouse reflecting multiple vantage points on age, immediacy, choices, power…and he achieves a level of theatrical meaning and importance unlike anything I’ve witnessed.

In addition to the intersecting paths of Assayas’ characters and cast, the dialogue between Maria and Valentine rapidly shifts from rehearsal of Binoche’s character’s source material, which the two constantly run-through, and genuine, wholehearted conversations…seamlessly I might add. These prolonged isolated interactions Maria and Valentine find themselves in often descend into visceral altercations, envy, and sexual meddling, curiosity on Maria’s behalf, akin to that of the two characters in Enders’ source material, making the origins of their discussions almost indecipherable.

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Typically, a film of such self-reference and intertextuality would be better off leaving hints, subtle clues throughout to assist the viewer in the process of decoding. Yet “Clouds of Sils Maria” benefits greatly from the shroud of mystery and is surprisingly quite rewarding, like the satisfaction that accompanies the solving of an intellectual recreation puzzle. Assayas does a phenomenal job structuring and carrying through his latest as the experience will greatly attest.

The uncanny similarities between the cast and their characters makes it relatively easy for the ensemble to invest, explore, and portray their respective roles. Chloe Grace Moretz, a serious talent with an extremely bright future, does what she can in the limited screen time given. She adds a much-needed comedic element to a rather bleak, intentionally monotonous picture. Not to mention the hilarious, yet oddly depressing connection to modern starlets.

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Juliette Binoche is everything Assayas could’ve hoped for when scribing the role of Maria Enders. She’s encompassing, stunning, complex, and there’s rarely a moment when she doesn’t command the screen. Her character might not demand that significant of a stretch, but there’s no room for error. If a hint of disingenuousness or indifference seeped, the rest of the film would crumble. Thankfully this is not the case.

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With little hesitation I conclude that Kristen Stewart’s performance in “Clouds of Sils Maria” is a career-best, ‘On the Road’ being the only evidence to the contrary. Stewart has always chosen interesting, emotionally driven roles and that doesn’t change. As she matures, Stewart has ditched the mannerisms that plagued her early on and has really become comfortable acting outside of the ‘Twilight’ series. With Valentine, there isn’t much on the surface, but there is a hurricane under the skin. Clearly producing the stoic surface and hidden treasures of emotional vulnerability and honesty, Stewart is brilliantly transparent.

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Easy on the eyes yet incredibly intricate, Olivier Assayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria” is beneficiary of strong performances and striking panoramic views…

Clouds of Sils Maria: 9 out of 10.

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2014: First Slate Unmasked

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TIFF 2014 has barely begun and I’m already looking ahead to the next incomparable Toronto-based film festival, Toronto After Dark! A few days ago, the first set of films screening at this years festivities were unveiled and needless to say, TAD definitely picked up the slack left by this year’s Midnight Madness programme. You can see the full, 10-film list below with trailers and synopses. I’ll be posting the remainder of films yet to be announced when they’re unleashed at the end of september.

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Hellmouth

From the twisted mind of writer Tony Burgess (PONTYPOOL) comes a stunning, spectacular ode to classic horror and fantasy.

The Babadook

In the scary new horror hit from Australia, single mother Amelia must battle with her son Samuel’s fear of a monster lurking in their house.

Predestination

Based on a story by acclaimed sci-fi author Robert A. Heinlein (STARSHIP TROOPERS), the Spierig Brothers (DAYBREAKERS, UNDEAD) direct Ethan Hawke (GATTACA, TRAINING DAY) in this riveting sci-fi thriller in the mold of LOOPER and MINORITY REPORT about a Temporal Agent, tasked with traveling through time to stop crimes before they’re committed.

Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead

The gruesome army of awakened Nazi Zombies from fan favourite DEAD SNOW once again return to terrorize the Norwegian countryside!

Wolves

In this coming of age werewolf action movie from David Hayter (writer of X-MEN, X-MEN 2), Lucas Till (XMEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST) plays Cayden Richards, a high school senior who awakens one day to find his parents brutally murdered and his body transforming into a wild, savage wolf.

Open Windows

In the vein of Alfred Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW comes this gripping cyber-thriller from acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo (TIMECRIMES) that exposes a terrifying dark side to internet voyeurism.

Zombeavers

From the producers of CABIN FEVER, THE HANGOVER, and AMERICAN PIE comes ZOMBEAVERS, a crowd-pleasing zombie comedy co-starring Cortney Palm (SUSHI GIRL) that delivers exactly what you’d want from its title and more!

Suburban Gothic

Richard Bates Jr. follows up his acclaimed horror film EXCISION with a supernatural comedy about an unemployed graduate (CRIMINAL MINDS’ Matthew Gray Gubler) who returns to his small-town family home, only to encounter a vengeful ghost and a mystery that must be solved before everyone’s lives are lost.

Time Lapse

In this award-winning new sci-fi thriller, three friends, including Danielle Panabaker (THE FLASH) discover a mysterious machine in an abandoned apartment that seems to print photos taken 24 hours into their future.

ABCs of Death 2

Get ready to gasp, laugh, shriek and cheer at this latest anthology of 26 short tales, each punctuated by a different shocking, wickedly entertaining death.

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Which film at TAD are you most looking forward to seeing? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section below! A big thank you to TADFF for supplying a majority of the information in this post!

 

TIFF 2014: My Screenings

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TIFF 2014 is finally upon us! With that in mind, I present to you my schedule for the festivities. For up-to-the-minute coverage, reviews, media, Q and A, etc…make sure to follow me on twitter (@cinema_monster).

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The 50 Year Argument: Martin Scorsese, David Tedeschi

Premium Screening with co-director Martin Scorsese in attendance.

Martin Scorsese co-directs this documentary tribute to the New York Review of Books, whose six-decade history saw it frequently on the frontlines of cultural and political debate.

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’71: Yann Demange

In the divided city of Belfast at the height of The Troubles, a rookie British soldier (Jack O’Connell, Starred Up) finds himself separated from his unit and lost in IRA-controlled territory.

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99 Homes: Ramin Bahrani

Premium Screening with Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, and director Ramin Bahrani in attendance.

Desperate to save his family home, an unemployed construction worker (Andrew Garfield) joins an unscrupulous realtor (Michael Shannon) in the dirty business of foreclosing on the disenfranchised.

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Clouds of Sils Maria: Olivier Assayas

A veteran stage star (Juliette Binoche) turns to her assistant (Kristen Stewart) for solace as she jousts with an arrogant younger actress (Chloë Grace Moretz).

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The Drop: Michael R. Roskam

A Brooklyn bartender finds himself caught between the cops and a crew of Chechen mobsters, in this gritty crime drama starring Tom Hardy, Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust & Bone), Noomi Rapace and the late, great James Gandolfini.

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The Guest: Adam Wingard

Premium Screening with Dan Stevens and writer-director duo Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard in attendance.

Writer-director duo Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die, You’re Next) serve up a slick, eighties-style action thriller with this story of a mysterious and devastatingly charming visitor (Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens) who arrives at the home of a bereaved family claiming to be the best friend of their dead son.

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The Imitation Game: Morten Tyldum

Premium Screening with Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, and director Morten Tyldum in attendance.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as brilliant Cambridge mathematician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, who spearheaded the Enigma code-breaking operation during World War II and was later persecuted by the British government for his homosexuality.

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Laggies: Lynn Shelton

Premium Screening with Chloe Grace Moretz, Keira Knightley, and Sam Rockwell in attendance.

Following a dismal high school reunion and a disastrous proposal of marriage, a going-nowhere twentysomething (Keira Knightley) falls in with a carefree teenager (Chloë Grace Moretz) and takes a week off to reassess her life. Co-starring Sam Rockwell (Moon).

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Maps to the Stars: David Cronenberg

Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Sarah Gadon, and Robert Pattinson star in this acidulous vision of Tinseltown from Canadian master David Cronenberg.

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Nightcrawler: Dan Gilroy

A drifter and petty thief (Jake Gyllenhaal) joins the nocturnal legions of scuzzy freelance photographers who scour the city for gruesome crime-scene footage, in this gripping portrait of the dark side of L.A. from veteran screenwriter and first-time director Dan Gilroy.

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The Theory of Everything: James Marsh

While students at Cambridge, Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne, Les Misérables) and Jane (Felicity Jones, The Invisible Woman) fall deeply in love. His earth-shattering diagnosis leads him to embark on his ambitious study of the nature of time with Jane fighting tirelessly by his side, in this moving adaptation of Jane Hawking’s memoir from Academy Award-winning director James Marsh (Man on Wire).

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Which film are you most looking forward to at TIFF 2014? Be sure to let me know what your thoughts on the festival and my schedule are below!

The Guest List: The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger: Volume 2

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The Guest List is thrilled to have its first ever returnee, the magnificent, the lovely, Zoe from The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger! If you don’t already follow/subscribe to her brilliant blog, I must insist you do so immediately. There’s no shortage of interesting, funny, informative posts that differ vastly in topics. Additionally, there’s always a few ingenious blog-a-thons that find their way into Zoe’s posts. Which brings me to my last compliment, Zoe is as punctual as they come. So whether you’re looking for something challenging, laid-back, or hilarious, you’ll never be disappointed!

The Guest List is always looking for future contributors, so if you want to know how you can submit your very own list, here’s how!

All you need to do is shoot me an e mail (thecinemamonster@gmail.com) with your name, website info (if you have one), and the topic you have chosen for your top 10. If I like what I see, I’ll give you the all clear and you can begin composing your entry. Make sure to include a descriptive, yet brief introduction and a picture or clip for every entry in your top 10. Use my own top 10s and other Guest List entries as references. Then, send it back to me and we will discuss a date of publish!

I’m going to shift things over to Zoe now, enjoy!

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So I am sure by now most of you know that I have something of a cape fetish…yes, I truly do. I won’t even defend it, I will just state it as the fact that it is. I thought that I would take the time and compose a list of ten capes that thrill me and that I love, they’re just splendid and deserve some recognition. This may not be the definitive list, but I truly do love seeing these on screen!

Superman:

I need to get fussy on this and point out that I mean this as Man of Steel. While the movie had its issues and what not, one of those issues was definitely not the cape that Superman dons. From the trailer I knew that I was just in love and that there were certainly no two ways about it. Red, graceful, rich, gorgeous… yes. Winner.

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Darth Vader:

No way was Vader not going to make my list… I mean have you seen that cape? All black and swishy and dark side. I love it, really I do. He has one of the most awesome costumes ever, and that cape that just billows out, dark and threatening, sort of just makes it that much more awesome each and every time.

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Erik “Magneto” Lehnsherr:

I find Magneto’s cape to be very unique, something different, and I love the colours used in it. I thought his cape was really distinctive when he was younger (running at an angle). Later, when he is older, there are some really cool ones, including long black ones with red inners as well as full black ones… either way, Magneto has a seriously remarkable collection of capes.

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The Witch King of Angmar:

A formidable character, no doubt, and one that had an amazing costume. But moving on from that, the shredded black cape hanging from his shoulders was just wicked, completing him in more ways than one could imagine. Very imposing.

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Spawn:

I don’t even know what to say when discussing this, except wow, it is really cool and absolutely stunning. It is enthralling, vast and red, ripped and torn, and is just really, really exceptional when all is said and done. It also does some cool things.

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Batman:

When Christopher Nolan stepped up and redid Batman, we were all thrilled with the end result. Then there was the cape that came in with the revamping, and oh my soul, was I ever delighted?! It’s damn near perfect, and has plenty of trippy things that it can do. And it’s huge. It just spreads out everywhere with such style, and it is a knockout. Wow… really.

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Jamie Lannister:

This was just one of those breath-taking moments. The purity, the beauty, the length, the detail, all hanging from the Kingslayer’s shoulders, a shattered oath swathed in purity, but undeniably something spectacular. I think it’s such a good look for him.

Loki:

See now, I am a huge fan of green. So when there was this green cape, I fell in love with it immediately. The cape is flattered immensely by Loki’s outfit, further (though not the dastardly helmet so much), and it all came together. But that cape… just going back to it… flowing, green, demanding, and mesmerising. I am a fan!

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Dracula:

The infamous blood drinker has to be on the list. One of the original capes, it needs to be acknowledged for all that is awesome, dark, gothic, and truly vampiric.

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Faora:

Again, we are going Man of Steel here. My heart almost gave out watching this, so many stunning capes making their appearances! Now, Faora definitely had a stunner with her. Black, solid, forbidding, it was thrilling. Zod’s was like hers; also exciting, but I cannot find a nice picture of it. But between them, they had lovely capes.

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I Origins (2014)

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The cleverness of Mike Cahill’s latest, “I Origins” stretches way beyond the title itself, but it’s as good a place to start as any. Presenting the fairly new prospect of cataloging the entire human race through iris recognition, “I Origins” takes a fantastical twist into much more profound philosophical territory. An arduous trek for validation to all that we consider hallow and priceless. A search for individual definition and a unanimous understanding of our universe, both spiritually and scientifically.

Looking through a lens of such broad, unfathomable depth, it feels down-right irresponsible to define “I Origins” by the placement of this witty, otherwise utterly precise homophone, but if the contact fits… Regardless, I’m sure this relative synopsis of “I Origins” will only further discourage those intimidated by the sheer magnitude of what Cahill proposed with “Another Earth,” from ever seeing it. You know, alternate universes, tears in the very fabric of space and what not. If these topics flabbergast and frighten you, what’s beyond will surely send you into fits of cardiac-arrest, as I assure you the scale of “I Origins'” grasp couldn’t possibly reach any further.

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It’s difficult to break-down what Cahill is proposing with “I Origins” into manageable portions while trying simultaneously not to get caught up in their scope. I mean, we’re literally left to decipher the direction of our compass as a conscious being. That being said, one can’t help but become transfixed by what’s on display here. The science of it all is enough on its own to discombobulate and overwhelm, like a virus. And that’s a mere superficial blemish compared to where “I Origins” delves. A place where belief and fact collide like charged particles in an acceloator. Leaving us aware of our predetermined doom, scattered about desperately searching for answers to unanswerable questions. Yet, perhaps what’s most engaging, conversely infuriating about “I Origins” is that it doesn’t exactly provide a formidable solution. However, much like the things we cling to for meaningless solace during our brief existence, it does act as a sedative, a distraction, a numbing agent.

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This war between religion and science is nothing new and as a result, predictably so, “I Origins” offers nothing imperative to its resolution. “I Origins” simply explores where either road will lead you. That said, one must invest genuinely to reap its benefits. If there’s been one thing consistent about Mike Cahill’s body of work it’s that the viewer must be willing, at any given moment, to entrust their experience entirely to Cahill and his vision. We might be asked to skip a few steps along the way, forgive the occasional absence of slight details or the probability of suspect coincidences. In the end however, our reward outweighs the risk.

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The performances aren’t imperative to a successful experience here. One can’t help but feel that “I Origins” would’ve been better off as a documentary rather than a romantic drama infused with frequently incomprehensible elements of sci-fi. But, each character does come off as believable, creating the right amount of sympathy and intrigue. Michael Pitt keeps getting stronger, Brit Marling is as entrancing as ever, Steven Yeun will have to settle for ‘Walking Dead’ fame at the moment, and Astrid Berges-Frisbey is surprisingly memorable. Most importantly though, it’s clear that each cast member understood the insignificance and subtlety that defined their respective characters. Yes, they’re to represent humanity, but buy and large, they’re a progressing agent.

Without question, “I Origins” is Mike Cahill’s most visually impressive picture to date. Where his previous efforts, such as “Another Earth” tackled the macro universe, “I Origins” is a veritable microscope. Cahill has really solidified his delicate touch and flaunts it. Some might find the visual contrasts too dissonant, ranging from cringe-worthy dismemberment to angelic symbolism, but there’s no denying the stimulation that accompanies it. Yet, perhaps the biggest surprise of Cahill’s latest is the musical accompaniment composed by Will Bates and Phil Mossman. A film that can barely keep grounded is lifted to even dizzier heights by a soundtrack of such epic proportions.

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I choose to believe that too much ambition is never a bad thing. I applaud Mike Cahill endlessly for the leaps of faith and fact he took to arrive at his fully formed vision and will never condemn him for exercising it. It’s a cloudy, often beautiful, yet oddly empty vision, but something to marvel nonetheless. Unfortunately, we live within the bounds of reality, so at its core, “I Origins” is mere assumptions and hypothesis. There’s a lot of material to digest split by merit and belief. Coincidentally, what this concoction of opposites accomplishes is a hollow victory. Easy on the eyes rather than thought-provoking fodder. However, it’s occasional spurts of brilliance rooted in research and passion makes “I Origins” noteworthy, watchable. Nevertheless, tackling the human eye’s ‘Irreducible Complexity’ head on is admirable no matter which way you slice it.

I-Origins

I ORIGINS: 8 OUT OF 10

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