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TIFF 2012: Five Capsule Reviews, including “The Sessions”

September 9, 2012

By John C.

The first weekend of the 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival has just come to a close, and I’ve been spending my time standing in lines and sitting in the dark.  It’s been a good few days, with the fun movies and bona fide awards contenders that I’ve seen far outweighing a few disappointing experiences.

This past Friday, I published capsule reviews of Rust and Bone, Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story, Picture Day, End of Watch and My Awkward Sexual Adventure.  For my second set of capsule reviews, I decided to balance the more serious with the just plan fun, including my thoughts on Hotel Transylvania and Finding Nemo 3D alongside such great films as Silver Linings Playbook and The Sessions.

I was also hoping to share my thoughts on The Perks of Being a Wallflower, because the book means a lot to me and I literally can’t wait to see how it translates to the big screen, but am very sad to have missed the premiere on Saturday night after standing in the rain.  Please come back on Wednesday for my next round of capsule reviews, including thoughts on Thanks for Sharing, The Impossible, A Late Quartet, To the Wonder and Still.  You can get more information on TIFF and purchase tickets right here.  If you haven’t already, I hope you all find something to see during the festival.  Enjoy!

Hotel Transylvania:  Back in 1895, Dracula (Adam Sandler) built Hotel Transylvania so that he could keep his precious daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) safe from the “evil” humans.  But at 118, Mavis wants to actually see the world and everything is about to change when a human tourist named Johnny (Andy Samberg) ends up at the monsters only hotel.  Life lessons and lots of laugh out loud scenes ultimately ensue.  Frequently hilarious and sometimes totally ridiculous, this is a purely entertaining animated film that also manages to have a heart beneath all of the infectious manic energy.  I saw the film with a great crowd that shared their enthusiasm through thunderous applause.  With excellent 3D animation, a strong voice cast and lots of laughs, Hotel Transylvania is a ton of fun and should be a huge hit with audiences of all ages when it opens in theatres at the end of the month.

Saturday, September 8th – 2:30 PM @ Princess of Wales

Saturday, September 15th – 12:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Silver Linings Playbook:  An excellent script and brilliant performances help the touching Silver Linings Playbook reach greatness.  Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has just gotten out of an eighteen month stay at a mental hospital.  As he tries desperately to realize his delusional dream of winning back his ex-wife, he starts falling for the equally fragile Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence).  With the support of his superstitious father (Robert DeNiro) and put upon mother (Jackie Weaver), he tries desperately to find a silver lining.  But the happy ending to his story might not be the one he was initially expecting.  Chris Tucker is just perfect in a funny and tragic supporting role.  Although the excellent screenplay by director David O. Russell sometimes deviates from Matthew Quick’s brilliant debut novel, both the book and movie stand proudly alongside each other. With brilliant performances from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook is entertaining and moving in equal measure, ranking as one of the best films at the festival and among the best of the year.

Saturday, September 8th – 6:30 PM @ Roy Thomson Hall

Sunday, September 9th – 11:00 AM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

Finding Nemo 3D:  Watching Finding Nemo 3D, we are constantly reminded why the Pixar film from 2003 is regarded so highly as a classic in the world of animation.  The story of a father clownfish, Marlin (Voice of Albert Brooks) searching for his lost son Nemo (Alexander Gould) across the vastness of the ocean with the help of the lovably simple Dory (Ellen Degeneris), the timeless messages of the film still hold up.  This is a tenderly told and beautifully animated modern classic that looks spectacular back on the big screen and in 3D.  Playing before the film is the latest Toy Story Toon, Partysaurus Rex, a brightly colourful and very amusing little party film complete with bath toys and a great club beat.  Watch for our full reviews of Finding Nemo 3D when the film opens in regular theatres next Friday.

Sunday, September 9th – 12:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre

The Sessions:  At 38 years old, Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) is still a virgin and lives much of his life through an iron lung, because he had polio as a child.  But with the support of understanding Catholic priest Father Brendan (William H. Macy) and kind sex surrogate Cheryl (Helen Hunt), he sets out to realize his goal of virginity lost.  The sex scenes in The Sessions are explicit and all is bared in terms of nudity, but there is also a tenderness to the entire film that makes it feel deeply touching and real.  Based on a true story, the film premiered to one of the biggest and most emotional standing ovations I have ever experienced at the festival and it deserved it every step of the way.  With brilliant performances from John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy, The Sessions is an often funny and ultimately profoundly moving look at spirituality, sexuality and the need for those with disabilities to feel wanted.  This is one of the best movies of the year.

Sunday, September 9th – 2:30 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

Tuesday, September 11th – 2:30 PM @ Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

Saturday, September 15th – 12:00 PM @ Ryerson Theatre

Greetings From Tim Buckley:  Taking place a few years before the release of his acclaimed 1993 album Grace, Greetings From Tim Buckley follows Jeff Buckley (Penn Badgley) as he comes to terms with the rocky relationship he had with his father, in the days leading up to a tribute concert.  Hitting the road with Allie (Imogen Poots) and ignoring his own life back at home, it’s clear the singer is headed down the same tragic path as his father.  Although an impromptu musical performance in a record store is a particular highpoint, the film’s downfall comes in the fact that it is relatively plotless and the screenplay doesn’t provide quite enough character development for those who don’t already know the story.  But Greetings from Tim Buckley is still mildly worth a look for the strong and clearly dedicated performances of Penn Badgley and Imogen Poots, as well as the excellent musical numbers.

Sunday, September 9th – 6:00 PM @ The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Tuesday, September 11th – 12:00 PM @ The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Friday, September 14th – 9:00 PM @ Cineplex Yonge & Dundas

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