Toronto After Dark Lineup Announced – 3 weeks until showtime!

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Showtimes and trailer links below!

It’s almost time for Toronto to usher in the Halloween season with the Toronto After Dark (TAD) Film Festival, eight nights of horror, sci-fi, action and cult movies. This the perfect type of festival for someone like me, as my interest in film lies with the mysterious and the fantastic. After the first wave of TAD films were announced, it became apparent that I would be spending a lot of time at the TAD venue, the Toronto Underground Cinema. Now that the complete lineup has been announced, I’ll just have to see if they have a room I can rent for eight nights.

The lineup for TAD looks amazing, and features a variety of ravenous undead, lonely astronauts, thirsty vampires, unfathomable futures, menacing ghosts, otherworldly secrets and pile-driving monsters, but this is just scratching the surface. Over the years TAD has garnered a reputation for their professionalism, and dedication to screening a wide variety of the best genre films from all over the world. This year will be no exception, and may just be the most exciting TAD yet!

Father’s Day (the latest from notorious Troma Entertainment, Inc.), VS (a bloody battle between four kidnapped superheros and their arch nemesis) and War of the Dead (a WWII zombie-action film out of Lithuania) make up the world premiere lineup. Highly anticipated festival circuit films include The Woman, which has been shocking audiences for a while now (check out this clip of a guy freaking out during a screening at Sundance), and The Innkeepers, the latest from Ti West, director of the creepy The House of the Devil.

In addition to these big name genre films are some that may not have as much hype, but still have me anxious for the festival to start.

The Corridor – A group of friends travel to a cabin for one last getaway before jobs, marriages, etc. make it impossible for them to do it again. The getaway takes an unexpected turn when the friends discover a spectral hallway in the middle of the woods. The corridor seems to be a harbinger of things to come and sparks negative emotions in the hearts of the men. If they hope to survive the weekend, they must face not only the corridor, but each other.

A Lonely Place to Die – From the UK comes a thrilling mountain chase film, in which a group of hikers discover a young girl trapped in the mountains. The girl turns out to be a kidnapping victim, and the hikers attempt to bring the her to safety but are tracked and attacked by the her kidnappers at every twist and turn. This film has been getting fabulous reviews and apparently must be seen on the bigscreen.

The Divide – The end of the world starts to occur just outside the windows of a towering apartment building. The tenants stampede to the secure basement in hopes of surviving the apocalypse, however, the first few to make it slam the door on the rest. The surviving group must now survive each other, as cabin fever, claustrophobia and the possibility of being the last surviving members of the human race begin to weigh heavily on the cellar’s new inhabitants. From Xavier Gens, the director of the graphic Frontier(s). Sci-fi or not, this one is probably not for the squeamish.

Redline (animated) – This animated film out of Japan is supposed to be Death Race 2000 on steroids. The plot is about a deadly intergalactic race that happens every five years, and apparently has some stellar sound effects. Let’s hope the TAD crew cranks the volume for this one!

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE (The official schedule will be announced on the 4th, when single tickets go on sale. I’m not sure when VS and War of the Dead will screen)

Click on a title to be directed to the trailer.

Thursday, October 20th

7pm – Monster Brawl

Friday, October 21st

7pm – Exit Humanity

9:45pm – Father’s Day

Saturday, October 22nd

4:15pm – Redline

7:00pm – DeadHeads

9:45pm – War of the Dead

Sunday, October 23rd

1:30pm – Some Guy Who Kills People

4:15pm – Love

7:00pm – The Theatre Bizarre

9:45pm – Midnight Son

Monday, October 24th

7:00pm – Absentia

9:45pm – A Lonely Place to Die

Tuesday, October 25th

7:00pm – The Divide

9:45pm – Manborg

Wednesday, October 26th

7:00pm – The Corridor

9:35pm – VS

Thursday, October 27th

7:00pm – The Woman

9:45pm – The Innkeepers (no trailer yet)

Sleepless Night Review TIFF 2011 (Nuit Blanche) – An evening of action and thrills in a Parisian nightclub

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In a previous online interview, the programmer of Midnight Madness, Colin Geddes, said his two picks for films that may surprise some people were Sleepless Night (Nuit Blanche) and The Day. Based on this recommendation, I was very anxious to view Frédéric Jardin’s Sleepless Night because the films at Midnight Madness had taken an inevitable dip in quality from the non-stop excitement of The Raid and You’re Next, although it should be said that every single film has been interesting in its own right. Nobody knew anything about this Sleepless Night going in. Tomer Sisley, the lead actor, even told us so during the introduction, with a smirk on his face and in a slightly arrogant manner. The man certainly seemed confident in the film. Did he have reason to be?

Sleepless Night begins with the credits rolling in reverse. It turns out they are gliding over the hood and roof of car speeding through the streets of Paris. Intense music and balaclavas let the audience know that Sleepless Night isn’t going to hold their hand, but will rather force them into the narrative, ready or not. Two crooked cops, Vincent (Tomer Sisley) and Manuel (Laurent Stocker), rip off some small time thugs for a gym bag full of cocaine. The drugs belong to Marciano (Serge Riaboukine), an established criminal that operates out of his nightclub, Tarmac. Before we have a chance to get comfortable, Marciano has identified Vincent as one of the thieves that ripped him off, and has kidnapped Vincent’s teenage son, Thomas (Samy Seghir). The remainder of the film sees Vincent running and fighting his way through the nightclub, trying to evade Marciano’s henchmen as well as undercover internal affairs officers, all while trying to save Thomas.

Sleepless night reminds me of hugely entertaining non-stop action-thrillers like Taken and Edge of Darkness. Sure, the characters played by Liam Neeson and Mel Gibson have a serious problem NOT killing people, that Sisley’s Vincent does not seem to share, but the allure of the films is the same, adrenaline pumping tension and action. What separates Sleepless Night from other films of the same ilk, is that the action and use of force escalates at a very gradual and realistic rate. Words are initially the primary vehicle of the suspense and action, followed by fists and feet, and then finally bullets. It’s refreshing to see a hero not come out ‘guns a blazin’ when the odds are stacked so heavily against him.

The nightclub works perfectly for the setting of the film. I love it when single locations are utilized effectively for nearly entire runtimes. Unnecessary and copious scene changes require work from the audience and often detract from the narrative. Marciano’s nightclub, Tarmac, with its variety of rooms and patrons provides an excellent environment for the struggle between Vincent, Marciano and the internal affairs agents. Effective cinematography and music also help convey the confusion and tension of the predicament that Vincent has found himself in. The camera work even has a bit of a French Connection realism feel at times.

It was great to see Sisley before and after the film. He had his phone out taking videos of the fans in line and then their reactions at the end of the film. He looked like a kid in a candy store. It’s only at film festivals where you can see a sight like that and get an idea of how much satisfaction film makers and actors can derive from a successful screening. The best way to describe Sleepless Night is probably as a ‘cops and robbers’ chase that doesn’t let up until the final credits roll. Congratulations to Jardin and crew for creating a very entertaining film. Check this one out if you get the chance!

The Raid Review (TIFF 2011) – Iko Uwais is going to own you!

The Raid poster is not the property of Entertainment Maven


Midnight Madness kicked off last night with Indonesia’s The Raid, which looked to have all the makings of a high paced action film. Director Gareth Evans and rising Indonesian action star Iko Uwais had previously worked together on Merantau, the story of a young man’s journey from his hometown village to the big city, and his fight against black market goons specializing in selling young women. I had recently enjoyed Merantau and was very excited for the second offering from Evans and Uwais.

It was quite shocking during the introduction to The Raid, when some of the cast and crew were brought onstage and the microphone was passed to a young boy claiming to be the 28 year old Iko Uwais. Dressed in jeans and sneakers, standing about five foot two, Uwais was very unimposing on stage. However, that is not the case on film. In The Raid, Uwais is a no nonsense killing machine, and his hobby appears to be kicking people in the head, rendering all of their major joints useless, kicking them in the face and then shooting them in the neck. Did I mention that he is one of the good guys?

The Raid begins quickly, with a nervous Rama (Uwais) leaving his pregnant wife for a police assignment. Rama and a group of 20 or so other officers will be infiltrating an apartment complex, in order to take down one of Jakarta’s most notorious criminals. We are introduced to the main villain and begin to understand just how villainous he is, as he executes five men on screen, four with a handgun, only to run out of bullets and casually opt for a hammer to finish off the last man. The police officers surreptitiously get into the heart of the complex and are about to push on, when the lights are turned off and a loud speaker, which can be heard throughout the whole complex, casually informs the apartment tenants that anyone who kills a police officer will get free rent for life. Out of the woodwork comes a ‘who’s who’ of neighbours from hell; drug dealers, killers, and the mentally deranged, all of them armed to the teeth. A firefight ensues and the officers find their numbers greatly reduced. The fate of the remaining officers lies in the hands of the rookie cop, but expert combatant, Rama.

I hope I don’t gush too much, but I absolutely loved The Raid! Sure, seeing the movie at a film festival on opening night and listening to the crew must add some excitement to the experience, but I can’t recall ever seeing an action movie like The Raid. I went in expecting a martial arts film with a few thrills, but I was way off. The Raid is a claustrophobic, relentless, ultra-violent action film that had me on the edge of my seat, when I wasn’t cowering in it.

There is no doubt in my mind that Iko Uwais is the next action star waiting to take the world by storm. Uwais’ success is a combination of his onscreen charisma and his expertise in Silat, an Indonesian martial arts style, which is a combination of lightening fast palm strikes, joint manipulations and throws. At the beginning of the film, Uwais unleashes a flurry of Silat blows on a punching bag. The crowd erupted in applause, hungry for more. It wasn’t even a person, just a punching bag. That’s how good this guy is!

The entire film was masterfully choreographed by Uwais and Yayan Ruhian (who also plays the very unsettling villain named Maddog). The sound effects and score are perfect for the claustrophobic and frenetic pace of the film. I haven’t heard bone crunching sound effects this good since The Brotherhood of the Wolf. Also, the score adds to the madness of the fight scenes, as the music often rises to a menacing crescendo near the end of important brawls.

I don’t want to compare Iko Uwais to Tony Jaa, because they bring very different things to action cinema, but one inevitable comparision is that they both bring refreshing style and buckets of talent to the bigscreen, something that the action film world sorely needs. I hope that the director, Gareth Evans, and Uwais team up for at least one more film. I can only imagine what success lies down the road for both of them if they stick together. They are a deadly duo.

I could go on about The Raid, but really, you need to just get out there and see it. If TIFF tickets are still available, then seek them out. Otherwise you will have to wait until 2012 to see The Raid, and that would be such a shame. Also, Uwais might come to your house and break your face.


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