My take on TIFF 2011: The Good, the Bad and the Zombies

Just got back from my final screening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.  I saw six movies this year, which is maybe a bit more than usual; it seems I generally go to four or five.  As with past years, I hand-picked a handful of independent Canadian and foreign films, avoiding the premiere galas in the process.  I just don’t see the point in paying upwards of 40 bucks (once you add the tax) for a shitty seat off to the side of a theatre, where all the good ones are reserved, just to catch a glimpse of Brad Pitt–especially when his new movie opens next weekend.  That said, I kinda wanna see Moneyball, but I’ll wait till it’s out in theatres.

The six screenings I attended can be placed under three categories: The Good, the Bad and the Zombies.  Because everybody needs a little Sergio Leone in their lives from time to time… ;)

The Good

Sons of Norway.  A side-splitting Norwegian punk-rock coming-of-age story, featuring the music of the Sex Pistols and a cameo from Mr. Rotten himself, who also showed up at the screening.  Great stuff!

The Last Gladiators.  A gripping documentary about the hockey goon centred around ex-Habs star Chris “Knuckles” Nilan, but featuring candid interviews with other former fighters as well.  This one’s actually showing one last time tomorrow nite at 9:15.  Well worth the price of admission, if there are any tickets left.  Should win the People’s Choice Documentary award in my humble opinion.

Goon.  Although the sight of Seann William Scott on skates may seem a little strange, he stars in this Michael Dowse-directed film as a kind-hearted hockey scrapper who fights his way up to the top minor league.  I’d imagine this one will get some sort of theatrical run north of the border, but I didn’t mind paying a couple extra bucks to see the premiere–even if I was seated way off to the right of the screen.

The Bad

Play.  This Swedish film just didn’t resonate with me, for whatever reason.  A true-life tale of teenage bullying, it left me feeling cold and detached in spite of the subject matter.  There is a recurring scene with a crib on the train that, while mildly humourous, doesn’t add anything to the storyline, yet they kept going back to it for comic effect.  (A bit of levity, perhaps?)  The ending scene is also slightly strange, to say the least.

Hard Core Logo II.  My curiosity drove me to see this film, despite the strong belief that a sequel to Hard Core Logo should never have been produced.  An egotistical attempt at an art film with a tenuous connection to the original, bringing back the great Bucky Haight (played by Julian Richings) as a record producer and with Toronto band Die Mannequin replacing the Hardcores.  Bruce McDonald reprises his role as the documentary filmmaker while also casting himself as the ever-present narrator, unlike in the original, where his on-screen presence was minimal.  If McDonald really wanted to reuse the name, he should have called his last film, Trigger–which I quite liked, actually–Hard Core Logo II and renamed this one Die Mannequin!  Kill!  Kill! (or something like that), ditching the Joe Dick Exorcist bullshit in the process.

The Zombies

Juan of the Dead.  The first zombie film ever shot in Cuba, Juan is certainly more like Shaun, rather than Dawn of the Dead.  It follows two loveable losers and their offspring as a zombie outbreak strikes the communist country.  There is plenty of Cuban-spiced humour on tap, like the state TV news anchor who keeps referring to the zombies as political dissidents paid by the Americans, or the mass exodus of homemade rafts from the island.  An interesting new take on a classic horror theme.

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