September 18, 2016

TIFF16: J-Horror Monster Rally and a Post-Apocalyptic Cannibal Western

In your timeline, the Toronto International Film Festival is over. In mine, it is 8:27 am on the final Sunday and I am in a line-up waiting to get into the Scotiabank 14. To the max extent possible I have programmed the funnest, most watchable flicks for this last exhausted crawl over the finish line. And, to give away the ending, that worked exactly according to plan.

(My full capsule review round-up, for your clip and save convenience, drops on Tuesday.)

Godspeed (Taiwan, Chung Mong-Hong, 4) A young drug courier takes a cab to a distant hand-off location, forming a combative friendship of circumstance with the aging driver. Elusive interweaving of character comedy, gangland violence, and Buddhist existentialism.

From the director of past Ken & Robin fave Soul.

I managed to make it to the final day before resorting to movie theater poutine, so that’s an achievement. (We’re talking Toronto here, so the involvement of pulled pork can be taken as read.)

Neruda (Chile, Pablo Larrain, 4) Cynical secret policeman (Gael Garcia Bernal) hunts politician-poet Pablo Neruda after the Chilean government issues a warrant for his arrest in 1947. Magical-realist manhunt biopic shot in the blues and purples of a faded photograph.

One of two biopics Larrain had at the fest this year, the other being the much buzzed about Jackie.

Catfight (US, Onur Tukel, 4) A chance meeting between former college frenemies (Sandra Oh, Anne Heche) leads to brutal combat and a cycle of reprisals. If you need your movies to feature likeable protagonists, you will not enjoy this cruelly hilarious satire of America’s poisoned discourse nearly as much as I did. Kubrickian not in its visual style but in its use of music and view of humanity.

Sadako vs Kayako (Japan, Kôji Shiraishi, 4) When two young women fall prey to separate ghostly curses--one connected to an abandoned house, the other to a cursed VHS tape--an exorcist hatches a scheme to save them by provoking the two legendary bakemono to fight each other. Monster rally sequel to The Ring and The Grudge has creepy, crazy fun merging the two J-horror franchises.

The Bad Batch (US, Ana Lily Amirpour, 5) Sentenced as an undesirable to a vast, lawless Texas internment zone, a young woman (Suki Waterhouse) plans vengeance against the cannibal community that cut off and ate her arm and leg. Visually bold, sometimes shocking post-apocalyptic western. With Jason Momoa as the main people-eater, Keanu Reeves as a local potentate who looks like Andy Kaufman’s Tony Clifton character, and an unrecognizable Jim Carrey in the old coot role.

Capsule review boilerplate: Ratings are out of 5. I’ll be collecting these reviews in order of preference in a master post the Monday after the fest. Films shown on the festival circuit will appear in theaters, disc and/or streaming over the next year plus. If you’ve heard of a film showing at TIFF, I’m probably waiting to see it during its upcoming conventional release, instead favoring choices that don’t have distribution and might not reappear.

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