Labor day has passed and the summer is officially over. For most people that’s very depressing news, but if you live in Toronto there is a nice little silver lining. The end of summer brings to town the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival, and with it a cavalcade of movie stars and some of the best and worst films that will be released over the next year or so.
It’s an exciting time for anyone who loves to watch images flicker on a big screen in the dark. However, with hundreds of titles to choose from, it can be a little daunting to decide which titles are worth plunking down an inflated film festival ticket price to see. Too alleviate some of the pressure from that daunting task, we’ve decided to provide you fair readers with a few prime film fest choices. These aren’t necessarily the most ambitious or artistically challenging movies to play at the festival. This is a list of recommendations for the genre movie, comic book, and gaming crowd. These 5 choices will tap into your pleasure centers and maybe even tickle your brain ever so slightly. There’s no guarantee that these will be best movies to screen over the next few weeks, but they are safe bets of solid entertainment.
1) Drive: Ryan Gosling stars as a stunt man who spends his nights serving as a wheelman for a variety of delightfully illegal activities. Already a prize-winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Drive is one of those rare movies that will delight the critical community with it’s impeccable craft and skill, while still providing high speed car chases and blood spurting violence to please the masses. The film comes from underrated Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, The Pusher Trilogy) a master of crime movie shenanigans who has a big following in Europe, but has yet to make a serious impact on the North America. That should all change with Drive, as Refn consistently elevates crime clichés into arty thrills. His skill with off-beat suspense ensures that even the quietest scenes are filled with unnerving tension, and when the inevitable explosion of violence finally occurs, Refn executes his set pieces with a graphic severity rarely seen in a studio movie these days. Throw in comedian Albert Brooks as a terrifying gangster in a role that will probably land him a few awards, and you’ve got yourself a future genre classic in the making. It’s unlikely that you’ll see a movie in 2011 that’s better than Drive at the TIFF or otherwise. Seriously people, it’s that good.
2) Comic-Con: Supersize Me director Morgan Spurlock returns with another one of his patented irreverent documentaries, this time on a subject that should hit close to home for all you readers out there. Spurlock will be setting his gently satirical sights on the ever-growing world of geek culture and, as you may have guessed from the title, the springboard will be San Diego’s annual ode to geekiness: Comic-Con. Given how suddenly and unexpectedly both the world’s biggest comic book convention and geek culture has been swallowed up by the mainstream, it was inevitable that someone would make a documentary about it and Spurlock is a good man for the job. He should poke fun at the inherent silliness of the world, while still acknowledging the warm sense of community that has been fostered in the geek community as of late. Regardless, this will be the only movie at TIFF that’ll give you the chance to laugh at overweight geeks in poorly made Star Trek costumes. If that doesn’t set this movie out from the pack, I don’t know what does!
3) Livid: Genre movie lovers know that the number one TIFF program to watch is the Midnight Madness. Every year the festival selects some of the finest and most fucked up horror, action, and sci-fi movies from around the world and screens them at midnight to a rabidly appreciative crowd. No trip to the festival is complete without seeing a horror movie at midnight in the company of hundreds of appreciative gorehounds applauding every drop of blood. The best Midnight Madness bet this year is probably Livid. The film is a sophomore effort from co-directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo who previously shocked TIFF with their vicious little pregnancy horror flick Inside. Their new film is about three friends who search an old mansion for hidden treasures and accidentally discover a dark puzzlebox of a home filled with terrifying supernatural surprises to punish the would-be thieves for their greed. The concept and filmmakers virtually guarantee 90 unrelenting minutes of thrills and bloody spills that’s sure to have the blood-thirsting Midnight Madness crowd squealing with delight. French genre movies have been known for their unsanitized explosions of gooey mayhem over the last decade, and I’m sure Livid will be no exception. Not to be missed by anyone who don’t mind dealing with nightmares and dabbling in horror.
4) God Bless America: Most people don’t realize it, but former Grover-voiced stand-up comedian Bobcat Goldthwait (yep, the screamer from Police Academy) has turned into one of the smartest and edgiest dark comedy directors in America. The man previously used bestiality and autoerotic asphyxiation as a jumping off point for the disarmingly twisted and sweet comedies Sleeping Dogs Lie and World’s Greatest Dad. His latest movie is called God Bless America, and get ready for the concept: a middle-aged burn-out gets so disgusted by watching a bratty teenage reality TV contestant that he turns off the television, drives across the country, and kills her. Soon he befriends an ADD addled 15-year-old girl who shares his cultural contempt and together they set off on a Bonnie And Clyde style crime spree to rid the world of trash culture. If you aren’t at least kind of curious to see how that concept will work as a comedy, then there’s probably something wrong with you. Either that or there’s something wrong with me for wanting you to see it so badly. I’m not sure, but I think it’s safe to say that there will be nothing else quite like God Bless America at TIFF this year.
5) Killer Elite: Finally, if the previous movies just sound a little too artsy-fartsy for you (I did recommend a subtitled movie and a documentary after all), then fear not! There is at least one pretension-free action flick available at TIFF for you fine folks, and it’s Killer Elite. The movie teams up Jason Statham, Robert De Niro, and Clive Owen for a tale of an ex-Navy Seal forced to save his mentor from the clutches of a vengeful oil tycoon. No need to worry about thinking too hard here. This is good old fashioned balls-to-the-wall action entertainment that should only be screened in theaters with seatbelts. Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but this piece of pure action spectacle would be a nice palate cleanser from the more high-minded movies you might seeing over the festival. We all need to see two hours of machine guns, explosions, and macho posturing once in a while, and Killer Elite looks to be the best way to feed your guilty pleasures at TIFF this year.