Three to see

Let’s turn to the Toronto Film Fest (September 4-10), where cool movies surface and Oscar contenders abound.

Here are three to look out for, the first has been released today (9/19):

1. The Guest 

Plot: Dan Stevens, who played Matthew Crawley on Downtown Abbey, stars as a veteran of the Iraq War who insinuates himself into the bosom of a family of a fellow soldier who had died in Iraq. (Not particularly an original premise). Stevens gets to dig out his acting chops as his character goes from super nice to super psycho. (Not such an atypical horror plot.) (But it looks like tons of fun!) (a website dedicated to horror flicks and that started out as a magazine in 1979)

Review has no byline.

Skimmable? YES! You just need to skip over the second paragraph, which is all spoilers. The rest of the review is safe! Phew!

Bottom Line: 3.5 out of 4 skeletons.

“The film strives for nothing more than pure, unadulterated, unapologetic entertainment and so delivers on that promise….THE GUEST is a blast.” Dan Stevens pulls off a character whose very nice, but still creepy. The supporting cast is also excellent.

Why, hello!
Why, hello!

Comment: You would think that “intellectual horror-reviewer” is an oxymoron, but it sure isn’t here. This writer is smart, eloquent and well-versed in movie-making. Here’s an example:

Barrett’s script is lean…’s specifically on point and headed towards carefully constructed carnage. Wingard [the director] often presents long, wide takes of the Carpenter mold and pulls similar tension from the technique while still delivering a distinct style all his own….

On a Personal Note: A few years ago, I met Dan Stevens at the local airport. A friend of mine was escorting the cast of Downton Abbey to a benefit for PBS in Seattle. Can I tell you? Dan Stevens was GORGEOUS! Oh. My. Gawd. Exquisite. Yum.

2. Love & Mercy


Review  by Eric Kohn

A tiny bit o' resemblance
A tiny bit o’ resemblance (kind of. Not really.)

Plot: This is a biopic of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. As critic Eric Kohn explains:  “Love & Mercy”…overcomes the boundaries of linear plot to cast Wilson’s struggles in a unique light. The narrative unfolds across two timelines at once: the sixties, in the aftermath of the Beach Boys’ first wave of fame, when an emotionally disturbed Wilson [Paul Dano] breaks away from the group to craft more adventurous sounds; and his more perilous state some two decades later [played by John Cusak], when he’s forced into the dictatorial care of therapist Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). 

Uncanny resemblence (if you're blind).
Uncanny resemblence (if you’re blind).

Skimmable? Pretty much. There are spoilers, but I think they help interpret some of the action in a way that respects what is at the center of the film–Wilson’s music.

Bottom Line: B+. The film is “an engrossing portrait of Wilson’s specific artistic inclinations which draw from no real precedent.” Paul Dano is excellent as the earlier Brian Wilson; but as the older Wilson, Cusak “never fully breaks away from his familiar cadences.” In Cusak’s scenes, the supporting characters, played by Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamotti, seem practically one-dimensional.

Comment: Take a look at the cinematographer’s impeccable pedigree and his intriguing methodology:

Cinematographer Robert Yeoman (best known for his credits on Wes Anderson films) conveys the lively California setting in bright colors that strike a recurring contrast to Wilson’s troubled subjectivity. That same tension exists at the root of his artistry. 

3. Top Five

The Hollywood Reporter

Review by Jordan Mintzer

Plot: Chris Rock wrote, directed and stars in the movie. It takes place over a day in which  a journalist (Rosario Dawson) interviews and follows Chris Rock’s character–a famous comedian. I don’t know anything more: I couldn’t skim the review amidst the spoiler bomb-shells.

Hilarity ensued
Hilarity ensued

Skimmable: No. I couldn’t get past the first couple of sentences, however, what wonderful sentences they are–eloquent and well written. Mintzer falls into the spoiler trap common to many reviews of comedies: he sets up the jokes so that when we see the movie we know when they are coming.

Here’s an easy formula for Mintzer and hils ilk to take to heart (I have tested this theory many times.):

Joke – surprise = .50 t0 .75 joke

What’s more, he identifies the actors who appear in cameos. The names are in bold, making the skim simply impossible.’

Moving on——

Bottom Line: Whoo-hoo! This movie ROCKS (get it?)! He LOVES IT: It piles “on one hilarious sequence after another in a barrage of hard-hitting humor that has rarely been so successfully dished out in a single film.”

Comment: Mintzer refers to Chris Rock  as a “notorious comedian.” Really, Jordan, really?




2 thoughts on “Three to see

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