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TIFF 2012: Five Capsule Reviews, including “Picture Day”

September 7, 2012

By John C.

The 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival kicked off last night with the world premiere of Rian Johnson’s much anticipated science fiction epic Looper.  The festival will be going strong until September 16th and an incredibly diverse selection of films will be screened, ranging from much anticipated awards season contenders to small independent projects looking to find an audience.

Below are my thoughts on five films that I’ve already had the chance to see, four of which I previewed in advance and still have more screenings coming up.  These titles will hopefully give you a small taste of the genuine diversity amongst the numerous films that will be screened throughout the festival.

My capsule reviews will be published every couple of days throughout TIFF and please come back on Sunday for another round of five, including thoughts on Hotel Transylvania, Silver Linings Playbook, Finding Nemo 3DThe Sessions and Greetings From Tim Buckley.  You can get more information on TIFF and purchase tickets right here.  I hope you all find something to see during the festival.  Enjoy!

Rust and Bone:  Alain (Matthias Schoenearts) is a single father who is struggling to make ends meet when he takes a job as a bouncer and has a chance encounter with the beautiful whale trainer Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard).  After losing her legs in a terrifying accident, she calls him up and a bond is formed between the two.  The excellent soundtrack includes a perfect use of Katy Perry’s “Firework” and the cinematography is often mesmerizing with many beautifully shot scenes, including tight close ups and some breathtaking slow motion sequences.  But Marion Cotillard is the real star here and it’s a shame that she isn’t quite as much of a main character as the early buzz made it seem.  Portions of the film meander along without a clear focus on what the main narrative should be and the final few scenes skirt the edge of melodrama.  The film is worth seeing for Marion Cotillard’s brilliant performance and there are some powerful scenes, but it also offers the perfect example of a movie that is merely good when it had the potential to be great.

Thursday, September 6th –  9:30 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

Friday, September 7th – 12:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre

Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story:  Tomi Ungerer was a bestselling children’s book artist who inspired the likes of the great Maurice Sendak, before branching out to sharing his strongly felt personal beliefs through political protest posters in the 1960s.  But his career was cut short and his books were banned for years when it came to the public’s attention that he was drawing explicit erotica to further sexual fantasies in his spare time.  Although Far Out Isn’t Far Enough will likely hold most interest for those already fascinated by Tomi Ungerer’s story, first time director Brad Bernstein keeps the film moving with nicely done interviews and animated renderings of even the most erotic illustrations being discussed.  Those already interested in the subject are guaranteed to get the most value for the price of a ticket, but the film still offers a fine insight into the mind of a controversial artist and the cultural turning points that changed him for those of us less familiar with his work.

Thursday, September 6th – 9:45 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Saturday, September 8th – 9:30 AM @ Cineplex Yonge & Dundas

Saturday, September 15th – 4:30 PM @ Cineplex Yonge & Dundas

Picture Day:  Apathetic about repeating her last year of high school, Claire (Tatiana Maslany) spends her nights at a club where she picks up older musician Jim (Steve McCarthy), and her days hanging out with science nerd Henry (Spencer Van Wyck) who she used to babysit.  Living with her depressed mother (Fiona Highet) and freely having one night stands, Claire is physically stuck in adolescence and her awkward transition into adulthood is represented by these two very different guys who are both pining for her attention.  The debut feature of promising writer-director Kate Melville, Picture Day is a low key Toronto dramedy that is worth seeing for the sharp script and very believable leading work of Tatiana Maslany and Spencer Van Wyck.  The music by Toronto “funk meets punk” band The ElastoCitizens is just excellent, and the steady handheld camerawork adds a feeling of realness to every scene.  We get the sense that everyone involved is super proud of the work that they put into this very good little film and it deserves to find an audience at the festival.

Friday, September 7th – 9:45 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Saturday, September 8th – 3:30 PM @ Cineplex Yonge & Dundas

Sunday, September 16th – 6:45 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

End of Watch:  Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as two tough South Central Los Angeles cops in End of Watch, always finding drug rings to bust without being averse to firing their guns or getting into a fight, all under the watchful gaze of their personal cameras.  Despite the solid performances and a surprisingly affective twist right after the big finale, this is a relatively plotless exercise in found footage filmmaking that is loosely held together by action movie clichés.  The film is punctuated by a few violent set pieces that range from confusing to unpleasant, providing plenty of graphic brutality sometimes seemingly just for the sake of it.  The conceit of it all being filmed by the characters only adds to the confusion, as director David Ayer often forgets the gimmick and shows us things from an unexplained second camera.  The lovely Anna Kendrick provides some much needed scenes of levity in a supporting role, but her moments on screen are unfortunately few and far between.  There will be people who admire End of Watch and all the actors do the best they can with the material, but the film as a whole just didn’t quite work for me.

Saturday, September 8th, 9:45 PM @ Princess of Wales

Sunday, September 9th – 3:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre

Saturday, September 15th – 9:00 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

My Awkward Sexual Adventure:  Despite the attention grabbing title and several scenes that are sure to get the restrictive NC-17 rating across the border, My Awkward Sexual Adventure is a lot more charming than you might expect.  Jordan Abrams (Jonas Chernick) is bad in bed and his shallow girlfriend Rachel (Sarah Manninen) dumps him because she usually falls asleep during their “gentle time.”  So he takes a trip to Toronto to get advice from his womanizing friend (Vik Sahay), and has a chance encounter with Julia (Emily Hampshire), a stripper who agrees to be his “sex Yoda” if he helps get her finances back in order.  With a sharp and witty screenplay by Jonas Chernick and strong direction from Sean Garrity, who really knows how to stage an effective comedic set up, My Awkward Sexual Adventure is as sweet as it is raunchy.  With some insightful things to say about the importance of having a balanced relationship, the film is surprisingly accessible for adult audiences and deserves to find a market at the festival, where it should play well at the late night screenings.

Tuesday, September 11th – 7:00 PM @ Scotiabank

Thursday, September 13th – 8:30 PM @ Cineplex Yonge & Dundas

Saturday, September 15th – 9:45 AM @ Cineplex Yonge & Dundas

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