TIFF 2012 – Top 10 Anticipated Female Performances (Paolo Kagaoan)

The greatest female performance I’ve seen so far this year is Zoe Kazan in the titular Ruby Sparks, a role that she wrote for herself. Now I don’t think that I need to ‘rectify’ anything but I’m sure you’re all thinking that I need to watch more movies. Well, TIFF fixes that. In ten days, the festival gives us a dose of what will be in our theatres for the next season, and they are also a way for actresses – established, relatively obscure or upcoming ones – to show what they’ve got to the most eager and eclectic movie lovers in the world.

Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone – This seems like a quiet movie but then I watched the trailer and saw Cotillard play fifty interpretations of broken. She was always third in my mind, especially with her clunky work in American movies that can only be described as passable. But this film might just make her jump to first in my heart.

Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina – Keira Knightly is a good actress, and some people agree with me on this, ok? (Eds note – Where’s the proof?) If she pulls this off, she can complete her hat trick of overlooked awesomeness, pulling the rug out from under actors like Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender in movies like Never Let Me Go? and A Dangerous Method.

Maggie Smith in Quartet – Back up other festivals because we TIFFers get to see Quartet first. This movie, based on Ronald Harwood’s play, is Dustin Hoffman’s highly-anticipated directorial debut and he has Maggie Smith on his team playing Jean, an opera singer stirring things up in a retirement home for a musical clientele. Will she do her own singing? It doesn’t matter because she’s Maggie fricking Smith.

Zhang Ziyi in Dangerous Liaisons – Director Hur Jun-ho gives one of my favourite actresses ever, Zhang Ziyi, a great challenge in casting her in this new adaptation of Cholderos de Laclos’ epistolary novel of the same name. She plays Du Fenyu, based on the character Madame de Tourvel, a woman of 1930’s Shanghai whose innocence comes into conflict with a blossoming sexuality. The trailer already shows how she can convey desire and sorrow, marking a truly great actress.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Smashed – Mary Elizabeth Winstead is my MVP in 2010’s Scott Pilgrim because of her voice and poise, giving the love interest archetype a different colour. Winstead retells Ramona Flowers’ troubled past but in James Ponsoldt’s Smashed she makes her audience confront Kate Hannah’s present drug addiction. The buzz for her performance here has started in Sundance and it will continue to build until the whole world will get to see what her talent can offer.

Isabelle Huppert in Dormant Beauty – Huppert’s buzzier film is Amour but she’s barely mentioned in reviews of that movie, despite being Isabelle Huppert, who I would call the best French actress ever had I seen The Piano Teacher. She leads an ensemble cast who have to live amongst people with comas. I’m not trying to dissuade you from seeing Amour but that movie will come out and depress you during winter. This might not get limited distribution here in Canada.

Olivia Williams in Hyde Park on Hudson – Early reviews have not been nice to this movie and, if I take their word for it, it deserves the lack of praise. Director Roger Michell’s takes us to the story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (Bill Murray) affair with his cousin (Laura Linney), but I hope that Olivia Williams will show her usual innate strength in playing FDR’s wife Eleanor, without relying on stereotypes of what we the audience think of her historically. She’s the reason I’ll be buying a ticket.

Halle Berry in Cloud Atlas – Unlike Scott Weinberg, I’m actually looking forward to Halle Berry’s comeback, and I shouldn’t be using that word because she has starred in under-watched curiosities after her Oscar win. It’s her mix of beauty and pathos that still gets her in the door. Despite being in an all-star cast to end all-star casts, she can make her two subplots stand out. I’m jealous of people seeing this and I also can’t wait to see what they will tell us about it and one of its many stars.

Rachel McAdams in Passion – McAdams mixes up her good romance movies with vampy ones, and as her career progresses it’s as if she’s trying to see what would happen if Regina George grew up. Passion is based the French movie Love Crime, where Kristin Scott Thomas cobbled the shoes McAdams has to fill. This also looks like a chance for her to dive into the inner bad girl within the heroines of director Brian de Palma’s hero, Alfred Hitchcock.

Janet McTeer in Hannah Arendt – This movie seems like the Barbara Sukowa show but being the MVP in last year’s Albert Nobbs, I can’t wait for her to steal the show as the equally tough Mary McCarthy, a writer who deserves a biopic of her own.

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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Review (Kirk Haviland)

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

Starring Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Adam Brody, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, Derek Luke and Martin Sheen

Written and Directed by Lorene Scafaria

For the second week in a row, this time coming from Entertainment One (eone), we get another piece of summer blockbuster counter programming that is a quirky oddball romantic comedy with a sci-fi twist. After last week’s time travel comedy Safety Not Guaranteed we get a film about the end of the world as it literally states in the title, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Safety was a film that worked because it didn’t get buried under its own quirkiness, can Seeking do the same?

As the film opens we discover that the world will end in 21 days due to the last attempt at derailing an inbound meteor failing. We see Dodge (Carell) and his wife sitting in a parked car listening to the news on the radio trying to come to grips with the consequences of this announcement, when Dodge’s wife bursts out of the car and runs away, never to be seen again. Dodge tries to carry on with his normal daily routine, he goes to work and is offered a raise as most of the higher ups have left, trying to maintain a hold on his sanity. His friends Diane and Warrens’(Britton and Corddry) host a simple “last dinner”, which devolves into a free-for-all with drugs, underage drinking, and inappropriate sexual advances. Dodge heads home where his solitude is interrupted by the sobbing of Penny (Knightley) on his balcony. After inviting Penny in, the pair pass out in front of the television. Dodge walks Penny back to her place where she gives him the mail that she had mistakenly received over the last 3 years! Amongst the mail is a handwritten letter from Dodge’s long lost first love where she professes he’s always been her true love. The letter, combined with a riot, make Dodge and Penny road trip partners, at the expense of her ex-boyfriend Owen (a very funny Brody). Penny agrees to take Dodge to meet up with the lost love from the letter while Dodge agrees to get Penny back home to England as all flights have been cancelled but he knows a pilot who can do it. Much happens along the way as the road trip twists and turns and we meet other characters including another of Penny’s exes (Luke) and a slew of stand-up comedians in supporting roles.

The story behind Seeking a Friend for the End of the World may not be that original (romantic comedy road trip), but the script is smart and funny. Carell and Knightley both perform admirably here. Carell’s comedic timing and Knightley’s quirky adorableness are on full display, but the chemistry between the two is a little forced. You know where the story is heading for the most part between the two, but you never truly feel the two of them fully earn the payoff for their shared story. The surrounding cast really works well though, including very funny turns from comedians Britton, Corddry, Patton Oswalt, TJ Miller and others. Also, Martin Sheen lends some pathos to a role I will not spoil here. Writer/Director Lorene Scafaria’s script is smart enough to keep us interested and entertained throughout.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World may not fully succeed with the relationship of it two leads, but thankfully it has a lot more going for it. Seeking is a recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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A Dangerous Method Review

It seems like David Cronenberg had taken a brief hiatus from the film world following A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, two films which are truly unsettling thanks to their depiction of cruel and sometimes indifferent violence in the world of organized crime. Cronenberg returns with A Dangerous Method, a decidedly different story from his past two films, with a focus on the cerebral and the emotional world of psychologists and those afflicted by mental illness.

A Dangerous Method is about the relationship between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), two of the most important figures in the history of modern psychology, and as a result probably one of the most interesting relationships between two individuals in the past hundred years or so. The contrast between their beliefs and character could not be more emphatic. Jung is a young man, open-minded, and has a generally positive outlook regarding the human mind; Freud on the other hand is an older man, certain about the importance of his theories, and satisfied that the underlying cause of neurosis is always sexual in nature. These notable differences make it easier to understand how upon meeting, these men famously had a conversation which lasted thirteen hours. In addition, the relationship between Jung and Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), one of Jung’s patients, also takes centre stage in A Dangerous Method. Spielrein is a fiercely intelligent woman with a debilitating mental illness which Jung finds fascinating. The circumstances surrounding these three characters provide more than enough content for an intriguing story, unfortunately the final product comes off as a little dull and severely hampered by one character/performance in particular.

Fassbender and Mortensen do a remarkable job in their portrayals of these intellectual giants. Their onscreen meetings are enthralling and often contain amusing humourous moments. The best scenes in the film are those in which Jung and Freud discuss their unique views and theories which cascade across the dialogue for the enjoyment of audience members with an interest in psychology.  Many viewers familiar with Jung and Freud will recognize some of the pairs most storied discussions about dream analysis and one in particular about occult powers. Despite these intriguing scenes, the narrative in A Dangerous Method does not seem properly suited for film. The story often slows to a crawl thanks to the fact that much of the communication between these two men was in the form of written correspondence; be prepared for plenty of letter reading and writing scenes. Finally, any hope of salvaging what was probably a much better book than film is lost thanks to the otherworldly performance by Keira Knightley as, apparently, the single most neurotic person to have ever walked the earth.

I wasn’t familiar with the real life character of Sabina Spielrein going into A Dangerous Method, but if she was anything like Kiera Knightley’s portrayal, then this is further reason to tell this story in a book rather than a film. Knightley is onscreen for the majority of the picture, and most of her time is spent screaming, crying, thrashing about, and just looking downright tormented. Dynamics and niceties have been ignored in favour of a frontal assault on the senses. Hints of Spielrein’s intelligence can be found only at the level of the screenplay and are not communicated through Knightley’s acting. She looks to be in the running for over-actor of the year with this excruciatingly abrasive performance that is accompanied by a Russian accent which goes on and off like a strobe light. In the end, she is hugely distracting and manages to topple a film which was already on unstable ground.

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