Friday, July 31, 2009

Things are Happening!

The festival's gearing up, announcements are flying left and right, and I'm...not here. Well, I'm obviously HERE, since I'm writing this into Blogger right now. But my mind is definitely somewhere else right now. Somewhere far, far away from here.

You see, life is doing some funky stuff right now--funky in ways both small and enormous--and I just haven't had the desire to plunk down at the computer and write up some dinky report about press releases that every other TIFF blog has nailed already. Add that to the lack of visibility this site gets (what with TIFF not including personal blogs on the site this year) and you get a blogger who is deeply distracted and increasingly disinterested.

So I'm currently in a holding pattern. I intend to get back in the normal swing of things, but I won't even try to say when that will be, as I'm notorious for missing deadlines. Let's just say the site is on a temporary hiatus and leave it at that. Thanks for listening, folks and I'll see you when I see you.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

We've Got Madness

So the Midnight Madness press release is out and I can assess how well I guessed the films. The answer: poorly. Very, very poorly. Frankly, I sucked.

It's not really my fault. A lot of the films chosen this year are fairly under the radar, which is a good thing, though it does frustrate the amateur prognosticator. This year, despite the presence of two big Hollywood films (Jennifer's Body and Daybreakers) Midnight Madness seems even more low-key than usual, which makes me happy, as that's always more fun. Here are the choices, with commentary:

  • Jennifer's Body (Karyn Kusama) - To quote Stephen Colbert: I CALLED IT!! Yeah! Of course, a blind octogenarian who'd never heard of Midnight Madness could've called this one. I most likely won't be seeing this one, but it should definitely be a hot ticket.
  • A Town Called Panic (Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar) - I CALLED IT!! Strange Belgian animation based on a cult animated television series. The clips I've caught of the show on YouTube haven't exactly wowed me, but I might have to give it a shot anyway.
  • Bitch Slap (Rick Jacobson) - AKA, the most popular movie in Midnight Madness history. A boob-tastic boob-tacular that looks so ridiculously tacky it's not even funny. Or maybe it is. Regardless, this will be Roger Ebert's favorite film of the festival, without a doubt. Bonus points for the sheer kick of seeing that title in the relatively austere online film list.
  • Daybreakers (Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig) - I'm no fan of their last film, the excruciating Undead (think Night of the Living Dead, but now with 90% more pointless bitching), but this one looks like a big step up, at least visually. The trailer gleams with glistening cityscapes and seems filled to the point of bursting with visual panache. Could be fun.
  • George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead (George A. Romero) - I CALLED IT!! A follow-up of sorts to his previous zombie flick, the deeply frustrating Diary of the Dead, this is yet another variation on his beloved zombie themes. The well might be getting dry on the whole zombie thing, but this one at least sounds promising. I'm not as excited as I was for Diary, but Romero's still a horror god, so I might have to give it a chance.
  • The Loved Ones (Sean Byrne) - More teenage blood and angst, this time from Australia. The press release describes it as a cross between Pretty in Pink and Misery, which does sound intriguing.
  • Ong Bak 2: The Beginning (Tony Jaa) - AKA, Tony Jaa's last-ditch effort to redeem his reputation after breaking down while making this movie and running away to live in the jungle for months on end. Seriously, if you haven't read about the Ong Bak 2 saga, I highly recommend pulling up this short article and taking the whole thing in. It's fascinating stuff. As for the movie, it's been seen for months by several folks around the internet, and it's fairly well liked. I'm sure watching it with an enthusiastic crowd will elevate the experience exponentially.
  • [Rec] 2 (Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza) - A first-person horror film follow-up to [Rec], a film I have yet to see, but which gets consistently high praise. This is the serious horror film to beat at this year's festival, no doubt.
  • Solomon Kane (Michael J. Bassett) - A pulpy action extravaganza, or at least that's how TIFF is selling it. It's something of a wild card, since it seems to be off the radar of just about every one of my usual news sources. Could be the find of the festival, or it could be a slightly better Van Helsing. We'll see...
  • Symbol (Hitoshi Matsumoto) - I CALLED IT!! Matsumoto's follow-up to Dainipponjin won a slot in the MM program and it sounds awesomely strange. The teaser caused more than a few people to scratch their heads and wonder aloud if Matsumoto was losing it. I love it, but a lot of people didn't. Check it out here to form your own opinion (trust me, it's not spoiler-ish in the least). One of my must-sees of the festival.
And that's it. I said in my last post that I hoped I'd hit three or four of the ten and I was dead-on. It definitely looks like a diverse selection this year, much more so than the last two. Should be a fun September.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Anticipating Madness

It's July 21st, so you know what that means: lock up the kids, put the chickens to bed and set the house on fire: it's Midnight Madness time!

Yup, the films are about to be announced and the excitement is palpable. This year, just for fun, I'm going to make a completely wild, non-educated, only half paying attention guess at the lineup for the programme. Why? Because I have no life, folks. That's why. So, take that, non-existent audience!

Anyway, here are my guesses for tomorrow's announcement:


Jennifer's Body (Karyn Kusama)

WHY? It's a trashy b-movie with a high profile, thanks to it being Diablo Cody's follow-up to Juno. Plus, it stars Megan Fox, who seems to be some sort of actress, I'm not sure. I guess I'll have to look her up or something. Anyway, this one gets a wide release on the last Friday of the festival, so the TIFF premiere will get it tons of publicity.
WHY NOT? Can't think of one.

Doghouse (Jake West)

WHY? This one's a horror-comedy from the director of 2005's Evil Aliens, so he's a TIFF legacy, which is always a bonus. Its mix of Maxim-style "guy humor" and horror should go over well with the Midnight Madness crowd. Frankly, I'm kind of getting sick of "guy humor" these days, especially after The Hangover. Regardless of how I feel, I'd say it's a solid bet to be one of the ten films.

The Horde (Yannick Dahan)

WHY? It's got zombies, guys with guns, exploding heads, gore, gore, more gore, and gangsters. It's also French, which seems to be the home of serious horror these days (see also, Inside, Martyrs, Frontieres, etc.). It's got Midnight Madness written all over it, frankly.


Town Called Panic (Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar)

WHY? It's the requisite crazy film (unless Symbol finds a place in the line-up), an animated film from Belgium about three friends (an Indian, a cowboy and a horse) who have wacky adventures. Wild comedies are a standard for MM and this one, based on a cult television show, looks like a shoo-in.

Banlieue 13 Ultimatum (Patrick Alessandrin)

WHY? There's always an action film or two in the Midnight Madness and this one looks like the most likely. As a bonus, it hasn't played at any of the major festivals yet (it will appear at the Fantastic Film Festival in Austin, but that's after TIFF). I have no other reason to suppose it'll be there--just a hunch.

The Pack (Franck Richard)

WHY? Another French horror film, filled with gore and crazy monsters. Seems like a no-brainer, except for the fact that it might get confused with The Horde, which seems like a more likely pick for the fest. My only complaint: ideally, any film called The Pack should have either wild packs of evil, roaming dogs or Joe Don Baker. Or both.

House of the Devil (Ti West)

WHY? I don't know, since I haven't actually read much about this one. All I know is that it's being talked about a lot on the internet and...well, that's about it. I never said all of these would be winners, folks.


RoboGeisha (Noboru Iguchi)

This one's pretty crazy. It has something to do with fighting geishas, a deadly robot, and buckets of blood and viscera. And fried shrimp. As a weapon. The director was responsible for the equally insane Tokyo Gore Police from a few years ago and this looks like more of the same. It seems perfect for a slightly buzzed midnight crowd, but it might be a little too crazy for the festival. Then again, they have played a lot of Miike films and this doesn't look any wilder than Ichi the Killer or Gozu.

Symbol (Hitoshi Matsumoto)

I'm not sure about this one. Matsumoto's last film, Dainipponjin (released as Big Man Japan), played the festival in 2007, to much acclaim. This one might be perfect midnight material as well, but I can't say, since I don't know anything about this film. The only information that's leaked out is a seriously whacked-out teaser and something about the film utilizing hundreds of extras. Is it a comedy? Drama? Fantasy? Nobody knows. If it doesn't end up here, keep an eye on the Vanguard and Visions programmes, where it might find a home.


Untitled George Romero Film (Currently listed as ... of the Dead on IMDB)

This seems like a no-brainer, since any new Romero film would seem to be a shoo-in. But I haven't heard anything about this film for months, ever since a promo reel showed up at the beginning of the year and promptly vanished. All that's known at this point is that it might or might not be a follow-up to his lackluster Diary of the Dead, and that it's set on an island, a la Zombie (which was an unofficial sequel to Romero's Dawn of the Dead). It's likely that the film is finished and ready to go, but the silence on this one is deafening, so I wouldn't be surprised if it failed to show.


Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese)

I would love dearly if Martin Scorsese would release his latest in the Midnight Madness programme, especially since it appears to be an unabashed genre film. But Scorsese doesn't usually do the festival and even if he did, it would definitely be a Gala, not a lowly midnight movie.

Antichrist (Lars Von Trier)

As a straight-up genre film with copious gore, this would definitely be a good fit at midnight. But would Colin Geddes program such a high-profile film for his wonderfully disreputable corner of the festival? I'd love it if he did, but I don't see the film getting anything less than a Special Presentation showing at the Elgin. Which amuses me to no end, when you consider how unprepared most of that audience will be for this one.

And that's about it. I'm hoping I'm right about four or five of these, but we'll see. Some other possibilities include: The Box (the new one from Richard Kelly); Raging Phoenix (martial arts meet hip-hop dancing); Zombieland (the big-budget, Woody Harrelson-starring zombie comedy); [Rec] 2 (the follow-up to the well-regarded [Rec.]; Splice (Canadian horror, likely to be in the Vanguard programme); Cargo (Swedish science fiction/horror); Chaw (Korean monster film, with effects by the people who brought us The Host); Stingray Sam (the follow-up to the bizarre The American Astronaut); and Hiss (the latest from Jennifer Lynch).

See you some time later today, when I've assessed how I did!

Thursday, July 09, 2009


(Apologies for the lame-ass title. I'm so ashamed...)

Now that I'm done with the obligatory 2008 wrap-up, I can get to the good stuff. A few weeks ago, the good people of TIFF released a couple of interesting press releases, naming the first films and detailing some changes to the festival itself. I'll get to the films eventually, but what I really want to talk about here are the changes (quotes directly from the press releases):
  • "Availability of repeat Gala screenings to ticket package-holders" (thus avoiding last year's Elgin debacle, where several screenings weren't available to package-holders).
  • "Increased access to the Visa Screening Room at the Elgin Theatre for ticket-package holders"
  • "reduction of wait time for advance order pick-ups"
  • "improvements to the single ticket sales process"
  • An earlier release of the Festival Programme, "allowing six days for festivalgoers to drop off their selections"
  • "A clear criteria for premium-priced screenings" (translation: genuine premieres with genuine celebrities)
  • A new programme, CITY TO CITY, which will screen 10 films from and about a chosen city each year, alongside special panels and discussions. This year's city will be Tel Aviv.
The information about galas and the like don't really interest me, since I never attend those anyway, but the other details are definitely interesting developments. For the first time in a few years, I have absolutely nothing to complain about regarding the festival's decisions. A quick glance at some of the entries from the last two years will reveal a world of whining and moaning about the direction the festival was heading. This year, nothing. These are all good changes, especially the increased time for choosing films. In the past, nothing was more frustrating than trying to make a schedule for thirty to fifty films in one day. A festival this big and this complex requires a fair amount of time to properly assess, so it's nice to have a couple extra days to compile a schedule (yes, I'm aware this might be a bad thing, especially for us obsessive types. Let me have my momentary victory).

As for the Elgin stuff, I'm happy they made it more prole-friendly this year, though I'm not sure I'll even take advantage of the new screenings. It's dependent on what plays and how willing I am to give up a slot for something that's likely to play nationally in the coming months. As for the new programme, it certainly sounds intriguing, though a lot depends on what they screen.

So kudos, TIFF! I have nothing to complain about this year. You've killed about half my potential blog entries in one fell swoop. Thanks, guys.