12 Years A Slave
Another brutal sit from director Steve McQueen (Shame, Hunger), who turns his attentions to the institution of slavery, and the effect it has on several recognizable figures from our nation’s timeline. Chiwetel Ejiofor excels as a free man sold against his will to a string of plantation owners (personified by Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Fassbender). His lengthy journey is as uncompromising as we’ve come to expect from McQueen, and the glimmers of hope and humanity help me to recommend a movie I’m not sure I have the strength to ever watch again.
Alfonso Cuaron’s masterpiece is a tightly-wound thrill ride following two astronauts (Sandra Bullock, George Clooney) trying to get back home after an accident occurs in outer space. A breathtaking, visceral experience that absolutely needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Right now, it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year.
Can A Song Save Your Life?
Irish filmmaker John Carney follows up his winning romance Once with an equally uplifting drama that weaves music and songwriting through every scene. Mark Ruffalo plays a washed up A&R man who rekindles his passion for pop songs when he hears a struggling songwriter (Keira Knightley) performing in a club. Contrived, yes, but Can a Song succeeds as such a crowd-pleaser, it’s near impossible not to plug intot he light-hearted mood Carney musters. The cast shines, and the movie blows kisses toward NYC. It’s a pure delight.
One of the trippiest films I screened at TIFF this year. Jesse Eisenberg plays two characters who look identical but act completely different in this dystopian comedy from Richard Ayoade, the director of Submarine. The Double has a distinct voice, one culled from the offbeat worlds of Terry Gilliam or David Lynch. Eisenberg is fantastic in both roles (convincingly playing meek and aggressive), while Mia Wasikowska (Stoker) continues to prove she can excel in virtually any part.
Oscar bait from director Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity), who tells the true story of an older woman (Dame Judi Dench) and a disgraced BBC journalist (Steve Coogan) seeking the son the lady gave up for adoption decades earlier. Philomena is mildly touching, and will entertain my mom and her friends. In baseball speak, it’s a solid double, and nothing more.