#TIFF16: Jordan Ruimy’s Abridged Coverage

Below are excerpts from writing both at www.mrruimy.com and The Film Stage – click on titles to link to original content.
“The question that must first be asked when discussing Antoine Fuqua’s misbegotten “The Magnificent Seven is simple: why? Why remake the much celebrated original with its pristine Elmer Bernstein score and John Sturges’ crisp direction… …The classic story goes that seven gunmen come together to save a town from thieves that have invaded and taken ownership of it. You know where this is going. The opening hour has Washington’s Chisolm rounding about the troops one by one. The setup is recognizable because it has been done many times at the movies. This is not new territory by any stretch of the imagination. It could work, but it doesn’t because Fuqua lacks the talent and the cinematic chops to pull it off. What he does lack in narrative he can almost make up in action sequences. There are two grandiose action set-pieces that work wonders.”
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“At least for the better part of its 116 minutes it is an exercise in style, just like Ford’s first film A Single Man, except here there is more to chew on, more thrills, more overall everything… …It’s a movie movie filled shocks and awes and highly stylized costume and set designs. The film’s balance of B-movie thrills with more subtle nuances can be shaky at times, but to not give in to Ford’s delicious mind-teaser would be a cinematic sin.”
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“The film is imaginative and contemplative. Nolan haters will, yes, hate it, but the rest of us will dissect it for the years to come. This movie will inch him closer to Nolan’s throne. What Villeneuve is doing is building up a strong fanbase that will follow him in any project he embarks on. Did I mention he’s going to be doing “Blade Runner 2” as his next film? Expect “Arrival” to surprise the industry with the box office it is about to get. Villeneuve is for real.”
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“Writer-director Jim Sheridan has built a career off the plight of the Irish working class, with his best films (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, and The Boxer) all starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Lately, without Day-Lewis, Sheridan has been stuck in a rut of average American films (Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Brothers, Dream House) and yet I still had somewhat decent expectations for his newest work… …As if this misbegotten movie needed more flaws, it ends with a Kelly Clarkson song that puts a toxic exclamation mark for what we had endured for the past 100 minutes. It’s a mess that might seem genuine and well-intentioned, but gives out the feeling that its creators have lost touch with what made Barry’s book praised in the first place.”
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The mood was awkward at today’s press conference, as Parker kept dodging questions concerning his past: “This is a forum for the film, the people sitting on the stage, I don’t want to hijack it with my personal life,” he said when asked why he hadn’t yet apologized to the family of the woman at the centre of the case. “Respectfully I want to continue to celebrate the people that are in front of us today… …Bothered again by another question on his past, this time by The New York Times asking if his upcoming promo visits to American campuses this fall for the film might have him also dealing with the topic of sexual abuse in college campuses throughout the country, Parker replied “I want to give young people some kind of way in with the material at hand, but I have talked specifically with Gabrielle [who recently spoke out with a powerful piece about her own sexual assault years ago] about dealing with the issues facing me in the proper way.”
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“It’s been more than 17 years since The Blair Witch Project arrived in theaters and changed the way Hollywood viewed horror, and filmmaking in general, for better or worse. Its low budget and hand-held camera style revolutionized the way studios would think… …what distinguishes this film’s rightful place in the franchise is the moment our main characters finally find what they’ve been looking for, and embark on one of the most surreal and nightmarish horror house sequences in recent memory. Of course, there are cuts, but Wingard goes for a one-take manner and the fluidity of the camera during these horrific moments had the packed house ducking under our seats.”
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“In a film that has so much going on, action-wise, it would have been nice if [Peter] Berg slowed down the visceral aspect and tried to build some kind of personality to his characters. Many go on and off screen with little provided background, the likes of which is saved solely for [Mark] Wahlberg’s Mike and [Kurt] Russell’s Jimmy. If anything, Deepwater Horizon reminds us just how talented an action director Berg is and how often substance becomes a second thought for the director.”
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“If the first half is an indelible treat and gives one high hopes that a film delicately placed in the awards season will in fact meet its steep expectations, the second half is troublesome and falls flat… …This is no doubt a fascinating story to tell in Lion, but the potential is never met. Despite its promise, the drama ends up feeling like one big Google Earth advertisement with no sense of culture whatsoever.”
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“Terry George‘s The Promise begins with a title card that appears on-screen stating that 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Turkish government during World War I. It’s a tragedy that has been depicted before in film, perhaps most notably in Atom Egoyan’s underwhelming Ararat, with ample room still made available to deliver the definitive version. Despite formidable talent on both sides of the camera, unfortunately we’ll have to wait longer for such a drama to arrive.”
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“Expertly shot by Guy Godfree, the Nova Scotian landscape is beautifully captured and the farm and fishing lands of the Maritimes feel authentic and uniquely Canadian. While pretty to look at clearly it’s not enough to win over the audience. Ultimately, the labored romance overshadows Maude’s art, and the saccharinity throughout is just too sentimental to bear.”
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“Featuring the voices of Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Maya Rudolph and more, “My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea” is acclaimed graphic novelist Dash Shaw‘s feature-length directing debut and he renders the entire weirdo affair as if the viewer is reading a graphic novel and turning page after page. And what this film accomplishes is reaffirming what a true original artist Shaw really is.”
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“[Robin] Swicord, mostly known for her screenplays such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Little Women, shows a surprising amount of restraint as compared to her previous works. Here she makes a film stripped of artifice designed to ponder deep, humane questions about existence. With an ending meant to spark debate and cause both anger and provocation in its audience, Wakefield fights formula and creates its own unique cinematic language.”
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“The food in the film is also a genuine highlight, recalling the delectably sumptuous images of cuisine in Stanley Tucci’s Big Night. A tough watch if seen on empty stomach, the care and love that [Eleanor] Coppola renders the food scenes will have one booking a flight right to the South of France for the mouth-watering delicacies on display. After exploring the insanity and depression that went into her husband making Apocalypse Now with Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, here Coppola seems to revel in playing it light, while also making what is seemingly a very personal film.”
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“There’s often a genuine dramatic pull to films in the courtroom drama genre, yet they’ve suffered the last few decades because of the conventional tropes that can come with it. How do you reinvent such a genre to become less predictable and less by-the-books? While Denial doesn’t do anything new on a technical side, it is fully aware of its gripping plot, one that welcomely avoids pushing its inherent clichés to the forefront of its story… …In the current political climate which has people constantly trying to sell lies as truth and truth as lies, Denial hits a poignant spot that feels regrettably timely.”
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“During his college days in New York, Barack Obama used to be called “Barry.” At that point in time he hadn’t fully embraced his African American roots yet, but was headed towards a journey of self-discovery that would change him forever. That is at least what writer-director Vikram Gandhi tries to show us in compelling drama Barry, which captures the tumultuous first few college days of the future U.S. president at Columbia University.”
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“In director Alex Lehmann’s slight, but competently made Blue Jay, a chance meeting between two former high school sweethearts (as played by Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson) is all about past wounds that haven’t seemed to escape either of their lives… …The mid-life crisis that these two characters face is universal, and the questions of purpose and fate are as well. Instead of filling his frames with ceaseless dialogue, which has become a staple in most indies featuring Duplass, Lehmann is unafraid of having moments of pure silence. He also focuses his lens of Paulson’s ever-changing eyes, filled with both longing and resentment.”
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“There’s been no shortage of Lyndon B. Johnson depictions on film as of late, with Ava DuVernay capturing the 36th U.S. president as an arrogant man trying to diminish MLK in Selma (as played by Tom Wilkinson), Bryan Cranston getting an Emmy nomination as Johnson in All The Way and, now,Rob Reiner directing Woody Harrelson in the makeup-heavy historical drama LBJ… …Some of the most captivating sequences deal with the political talk that was going in the White House between staff, recalling Steven Spielberg’s much more complex and masterful Lincoln. With his film, Reiner chooses a strange, almost too-focused aesthetic for his film.”
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Jordan Ruimy can be found on Twitter: @mrRuimy
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