TADFF 2014

All posts tagged TADFF 2014

Predestination TADFF 2014

Published November 12, 2014 by rmpixie

predestination

Predestination (2014, 1 hr 37 mins)

 

TADFF Sci-fi Night’s stand out film brought us a truly different take on time travel, love and self-exploration with the must-see Predestination.

A time travelling agent on his last assignment (Ethan Hawke) must cross decades in order to foil the elusive “Fizzle Bomber”, a criminal that has decimated countless buildings and killed many.  Placing himself in the ’70’s as a bartender for his investigation, he meets a mysterious writer.  After hearing this weathered stranger’s bizarre life story, the agent decides to help him get revenge on a scorned love in exchange for his service as a temporal agent, taking them down a paradoxical rabbit hole of a journey.

This unique film, based on the short story “All You Zombies” by Robert A. Heinlein, and written and directed by Daybreakers creators the Spierig Brothers, doesn’t try too hard to make you understand the plot.  Rather, it takes you on a winding road that will connect and reconnect in very surprising ways.  It will certainly keep you riveted, and that winding road of a story is well paved and free of any extenuating obstacles to muddy the plot.

Ethan Hawke is slowly winning me over.  I have never really been a fan, especially since Gattica and those saccharine romance movies, but he was impressive in this role.  I saw an openness from him that really conveyed a refreshing artistic maturity.  I also like the loyalty that is evident with the Spierig Brothers in terms of casting him in another one of their films which surprisingly, doesn’t get tired.  And Sara Snook will surely be noticed for her excellent portrayal of the mysterious stranger and all the subtle and not so subtle changes in the character.

The production was sleek, the sets meticulous and inventive, and the costuming was amazing.  Having to cross many eras and staying true to each decade was executed with great accuracy.  And hats off to the makeup department.  From the flawless period beauty makeup to Snook’s convincing transformation, they did an amazing job.

When screened at the festival, there was no North American release date, but it will now be in theatres as of January 2015, so go see it.  I applaud the Spierig Brothers for taking on such a complex story and bringing moviegoers something different.  It may take you a moment to wrap your head around it, but this futuristic film noir of sorts addresses some interesting issues about gender and power, and there is an underlying thread that actually warmed my heart of stone.

 

Wyrmwood TADFF 2014

Published November 9, 2014 by rmpixie

wyrmwood

Wyrmwood (2014, 92 mins)

Australian films seemed to be a hit at this year’s TADFF with films like Housebound and the much-anticipated The Babadook, so when I heard about Wyrmwood, I was all in.  Described as Mad Max with zombies, I really couldn’t pass this one up, and I’m glad I didn’t.  It is definitely a different take on the post-apocalyptic zombie film, and one I think action movie fans will enjoy.

Similar to the aftermath of a falling star from the Book of Revelations, a weird stellar event creates zombies that run amok in the surrounding Australian countryside and cities.  Family man Barry (Jay Gallagher) has to scramble to save his wife and daughter, and after an urgent call, sets out on a quest to find his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradey). He meets up with other survivors, including the kooky Benny (Leon Burchill), in very tense circumstances, and they band together to battle zombies that emit strange green fumes and become more active at night.  They realize these zombies can be of great use, and their larger purpose is also being discovered by a dancing mad scientist played by Berryn Schwerdt, who has captured Brooke and uses her as a guinea pig.  Little does he know that Brooke will exceed his expectations.  Both siblings have their trials to deal with before they can ever think of reuniting, and things stay consistently hairy until the bitter end.

The After Dark team let the audience know that this film took a long time-several years actually-to finish, and the end result is a pretty crazy ride.  Mixed in with some brutal action and zombie kills, there are also some decent laughs to be had along the way, the most memorable punctuated by the literal Benny.  His goofy observations are backed with a lot of heart and heroics that make him unforgettable, and it is always nice to see some much-needed diversity in horror films.  And the kick-ass Brooke is one of the most unique final girls ever.  Talk about girl power, and she sports possibly the best smokey eye for zombie killing I have ever, ever seen!

brooke

I’m still a makeup artist at heart so here is Bianca Bradey as Brooke and her kick-ass smokey eye.

I only had one issue with the film.  I would have loved a back story about the mad scientist, billed as “The Doctor”.  He was one of the more compelling characters and I can’t resist a great bad guy.  I wondered if his home base lab came equipped with a disco ball or whether he was wearing a ruffled disco shirt under his haz-mat suit.  I call for a prequel starring The Doctor and the gorgeous Captain played by Luke McKenzie, who battles Barry in the film’s final act.

For the die-hard, jaded zombie movie fan, I think Wyrmwood will be a pleasant surprise.  It breaks convention with tons of action and an inventive storyline.  Definitely worth a watch!

*If you have a keen interest in Australian film, check out Curnblog.  There is a 5 part series listing the top 100 Australian films of all time, and it is excellent!

 

The Babadook TADFF 2014

Published October 29, 2014 by rmpixie

babadook

The Babadook (2014, 1hr 33 mins)

I had read about The Babadook several months ago.  Drawn in by the strange name, I had to see what this indie Aussie horror, touted as one of the best horror films out this year, was about.  I was immediately intrigued by the trailer, and was ecstatic when I found out it was coming to the Toronto After Dark Film Festival as the closing gala film.  This fairytale nightmare was worthy of all the buzz and anticipation as it kept your gut in knots and will make you avoid your bookshelf for a while.

On the day of her son Samuel’s (Noah Wiseman) birth, Amelia (Essie Davis) loses her husband in a car crash.  Samuel, who is now 6, is a handful; his imagination runs wild with monsters he must battle, and he invents treacherous gizmos that creates problems at school.  His mother is a broken woman trying to keep her head above a sea of unrealized emotion, and gets no support from her sister.  One evening for a bedtime story, Samuel picks a book called The Babadook.  It has mysteriously appeared on his shelf, and it is a menacing tale that becomes too close for comfort, immediately scaring the living daylights out of Samuel and his mother.  What ensues is the unleashing of a supernatural force that stakes its claim on their home and their lives.

What draws you in to The Babadook is not the dollhouse-like sets or the moody lighting and midnight blue palette, but the performances.  Davis, with her fresh face and big eyes, played the hell out of her character who goes from distraught to a demonic transformation that will give you chills.  To be in abject terror for such a sustained amount of time deserves an award of some sort!  Wiseman sold the excitable, anxiety-laden Samuel who just wants happiness in his life really well, drawing out concern just as you were ready to write him off.

Writer and director Jennifer Kent uses the age-old fairy tale rule of a moral or warning in its most literal sense, in this case burying your fears and emotions that will eventually come back and bite, or stab you.  She has also made a visually engaging film.  From the simple household sets that conveyed a sad isolation, to the vintage silent film footage that haunts Amelia’s dream and waking life, Kent makes the indie into high art.  And the fact that our antagonist, The Babadook, is not treated like your regular demon/spirit fare elevates the monster to what I hope will be iconic status.  Also note the brilliant sound design that at times you could feel in your seat and made your skin crawl.

When this film comes out in a wider release, and I think with all its success it will, go see it.  You will get a kick out of some old-fashioned scares, harkening back to the spooky stories you remember as a child, and the unusual ending will leave you wondering what will happen to Amelia and Samuel.  Ba Ba Dook-Dook-Dook!

Hellmouth TADFF 2014

Published October 27, 2014 by rmpixie

hellmouth

Hellmouth (2014, 1 hr 35 mins)

 

The trailer for Hellmouth was exciting.  It had a definite retro feel, and there was a campiness that lead me to believe that there were some laughs to be had.  What I came to realize is that it is an unexpectedly beautiful surrealist horror; a swirling combination of both modern and classic influences.

Charlie Baker is retiring.  After many years of working as a grave-digger and tending to a bleak, solitary environment, he is going to pack up his bags and head to Miami where he can actually talk to people, and not be tormented by the local kids.  He is also ill, a husk of a man, battling an episodic brain disorder that will eventually kill him.  Definitely time served, but an unexpected visit from Mr. Whinny (Boyd Banks), his supervisor, presents a 6 month, non-negotiable extension that crushes Charlie to the core.  He must travel to the Forks of Heaven Cemetery, possibly the creepiest final resting place ever, where his grave tending duties take a nightmarish turn.  His journey becomes one of life-changing proportions, and with the help of a mysterious woman Fay, he will battle demons, beasties, convicts and his own limitations to save himself and the woman he grows to love.

I was completely drawn in by the visuals of this film.  The effects created by Nick Flook were really beautiful; black and white with pops of colour that to me, indicated glimmers of hope in such a bleak world.  During the Q & A after the film, director John Geddes was asked about whether Sin City was an influence.  He definitely acknowledged the influence, but wanted Hellmouth to have more of an Ed Wood feel.  I saw the obvious similarities with the Frank Miller film, but you will quickly realize that aside from being technically and visually similar, this film’s story makes you forget any Sin City reference.  Other references you may notice are of course Dante’s Inferno as well as a touch of Samuel Beckett’s absurdism and Lynchian surrealism that created a great visual and cerebral package.

The performances were fantastic.  As you may know, I love Stephen McHattie.  He can do no wrong in my eyes.  His portrayal of a broken and weary Charlie was spot on; a perfect conduit for this character which was a custom fit.  I will echo the sentiment from the crew that without Mr. McHattie, there would be no film.  Siobhan Murphy was gorgeous as the mysterious femme fatale and guide for Charlie, and it was great to see Canadian indie directing great Bruce McDonald play a cameo role in what was probably my favourite part of the film in which creepy detective Cliff Ryan (Mark Gibson) recounts the fates of doomed cemetery staff before Charlie.

Writer Tony Burgess, who also wrote Pontypool and Septic Man, was also at the screening.  Always entertaining, he told the audience that he at first balked at the story Geddes brought to him.  The world as a cemetery?  He thought it was “bat shit crazy”, but committed to it anyway.  What looked crazy on paper ended up being a great story, examining one man’s relationship with his mortality and love to become an unlikely, but worthy hero.  This team of Geddes, Burgess, McHattie et al can stay together if they are going to bring us thoughtful and beautiful films like Hellmouth.  Treat yourself and go see this weird and exciting marriage of retro-stylized horror and technology.

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