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I Am Legend

Now that finals are over, I finally took the chance to relax a bit. I went with Shai, Dan, and Todd (and almost Courtney, Nic, and Natalie, but the movie sold out before they go there) to see I Am Legend. I have been pretty pumped about this movie since Dan let me know about it a while back. It seems that the premise is just too cool to screw up too badly. Of course, that didn’t stop the 1970s version with Charlton Heston, “Omega Man,” from attempting, but even that movie was not a complete bust. A modern version with Will Smith was a pretty sure-fire thing, right?

Right! This story actually has a happy ending. I did enjoy the movie — my first in quite a while to be honest. It had funny moments, intense moments, a few too few thoughtful moments, but overall it was a good ride and did enough right with the compelling premise to be a good way to get back into the movie-watching swing of things.

I Am Legend gets a 4 out of 5 on my movie scale.

3:10 to Yuma and Stardust

After a week off of movies after seeing 13 at TIFF, I saw 3:10 to Yuma with Kunlun last week and I just got back from watching Stardust with Ananth, Todd, and Jason.

3:10 to Yuma was a disaster in my mind. By the time the movie reached its climax, I was so sick of the ridiculous decisions everyone was making that I didn’t really care to see an unreformed criminal tricking a kid into thinking his dad was great. Hopefully that doesn’t spoil it for anyone who wanted to watch it, but then what really can spoil a movie this ridiculous? I didn’t even find it funny, as one of my friends did. 2.0/5

Stardust, on the other hand, was hugely enjoyable. It immediately suspended disbelief (something that Yuma never tried to do — another failure, in my opinion), and everything happened just about as it should have, with just enough unpredictability to make it fun, but not so much to take away that smug feeling of figuring out whats about to happen before it happens. Definitely worthwhile. 4.0/5

Goodbye, Toronto

We just got back to Mississauga from Toronto for the last time this trip. The film festival and this trip are winding down. Fortunately, things went smoothly today and the films were good, so everything is ending on a positive note. First up was Reservation Road, a drama about two families involved in a hit-and-run accident — one is the victim’s family, the other is the perpetrators. As the story goes on, their lives become more intermingled even as the truth remains just out of grasp. It was a wonderful foil to last night’s Until the Devil Knows You’re Dead — it explored the same dark side of human nature but with characters that were much more human and much more approachable and believable. And it didn’t leave you feeling dirty for having watched it, also a relief. It was one of the better films of the festival, and I would rate it 4.0/5.

We then had a six-hour break until our next film, and extra train tickets due to yesterday’s fiasco, so we returned to the hotel where Dan did laundry, I cooked lunch for myself, and then Scott and I went on a bike trip along the same route as the first bike trip. This time, however, a strong headwind and high temperatures made the trip somewhat less pleasant.

We returned, showered, and headed out for our final film, La Citadelle Assiege. This was the one film I most wanted to see and it didn’t disappoint — it was a story about a termite fortress and the battles it had with the nomadic ant colonies on the humid plains. I’m sure some kids will end up with nightmares of being eaten by ants or termites, but the story was well executed, if a little underdeveloped at times, and the footage was fascinating and fantastic. Not quite on par with Winged Migration, but definitely worth seeing — hopefully it will be released in the US. I give it a 4.0/5.

After the final movie we made it down to the historic Distillery District where we ate some pretty good food at a nice pubhouse, then we returned to our Hotel for our final night in Canada. Tomorrow we drive home via the mighty Niagara Falls; I still need to get some souvenirs for friends so they will likely come from there. It will also be nice to get a closer, longer look that I did on the way up.

Goodbye, Toronto, and thanks for all the good times.

Overall, the best films of the festival for me was Mongol, hands down. The best part of the trip was the CN Tower, hands down. Now, back to America!

Thursday at TIFF — AKA Passive Agressive Meltdowns

Today we had 4 movies on the docket — everyone knew it was going to be a long day, but just how long is another story entirely. My day started with Scott waking me up sometime around 7:20 to the best of my recollection. Our first movie was at 9:00, so to catch it we needed to get on the 7:44 train, which would arrive in Toronto at 8:07 and allow us a little less than an hour to traverse the several blocks to the Rhyerson University Theater, where the movie was playing. After Scott showered very quickly, I jumped in and took maybe twice as long as he had, but it was still a pretty quick shower. I already had my contacts in from when Scott had showered; as I got out Scott and Dan were leaving for the train; it was about 7:33 at that time.

I dressed, gelled, collected my belongings, and dashed out the door and down the stairs with 6 minutes to go. I caught up to Dan about a block away — he had taken the elevator. I tried urging him along with countdowns and such, but it didn’t work out so well. Soon I was sprinting ahead as the train pulled in with three minutes to go. I made it to the stairs to the platform where Scott had stopped about a minute before the train would depart. The train stayed for a couple of minutes because it had arrived early, but it pulled away just on time, about a minute before Dan would have made it. Scott had already decided to drive, which I guess pissed me off a little because I had just sprinted in the early morning to catch the train and would have made it. But at any rate, the car wasn’t far away, so we turned around and headed back, but not before the accusations started flying every which way.

Well, we got in the car and hit the highway, which was slow all the way into Toronto. Scott doesn’t like driving in the city so much, as I found out on Saturday, so he wasn’t too pleased. I was pissed off because by the time we got the the first exit on the highway, I could have already been in Toronto. Dan was pissed because there had been a bus which appeared to him to be headed to Toronto that we could have taken. Scott was pissed off because he was the first to the train station and had told everyone to be up on time, which technically I was. Anyway, it was a tense drive in.

We barely made it, pulling into an all-day parking place just as the movie was starting. We took our seats a few minutes late to watch Silk. Unfortunately, it was a terrible movie. Poor acting, poor directing, poor cinematography, a poor script, terrible dialog, and an unreasonable and unreasonably poor plot. It was pretty much a high budget, faux classy softcore porn film. Just about the only redeeming factor was that the detestable main character tool felt bad at the end. Too bad he wasn’t destitute and mauled and dead to boot. Oh well. I give it a 0.5/5, and just barely at that.

After the travesty of a movie, we grabbed food while headed north to the Varsity theaters to watch All Hat, a late addition to our docket. It was, fortunately, a lot better than the of the day — the acting was good, the idea was fun if imperfectly executed, and the scenery was good. Just about every shot had the actors drinking, which was a flaw (they apparently never eat), but overall it was nice to have what was probably a lower budget movie destroy what was probably a higher budget movie on the primary strength of a good story versus a bad story. Story matters. Anyway, I’d give All Hat, as in “All hat an no cattle” a 3.5/5.

As a bonus, the producer, director, and lead actor were at the movie before for an intro and after for a Q&A session. We were pretty sure the actor was as high as a kite on something pretty strong. He was clear for brief moments, but he also took about 2 minutes to collect himself enough to answer the first question, banged his head on the microphone after answering a question, and at one point was seen examining the wall rather closely with his hands, while still in the spotlight. It was an interesting, awkward time, to say the least.

At this point we had a pretty decent break, and since we were fairly far north compared to where we’d been before, we headed more north. We started going up Yonge Street (the longest street in the world!) at Bloor street. Scott decided he’d had enough walking without a cause a little after St. Claire’s street and turned around. Dan and I continued North to Eglington, stopping at a market for me to buy berries (yummy!) and at a pro audio store for Dan to salivate over some expensive headphones. At Eglington, we bummed around the mall for a few minutes until it was 5:00 at which point Dan jumped on the subway and I headed back south because by then I needed some alone time.

We convened back at the Ryerson for the 6:00 showing of Death Defying Acts, at which the producer (whose name I don’t remember) and lead actor (Guy Pierce) were present. He spoke briefly beforehand and was a bit funny, but nothing much of substance that I remember. Anyway, the movie itself was alright — it was about Harry Houdini and a psychic woman; it was a bit like a poorly done version of the Prestige, but with a love interest (Catherine Zeta-Jones) thrown in for good measure. It was not a terribly strong movie, but at least it didn’t suck — I’d give it a 2.5/5, and maybe thats a little generous but then it was definitely better than atonement, which I may have to downgrade to a 1.5… who knows.

After the movie, we took off for the Elgin for our final movie of the night. It was an evening showing and I have a Platinum Visa card (although the account is currently on hold because of my expenditures in Toronto), so I was able to use the card to gain early entry with Dan into the theater, as the screening room was sponsored by (and named after) Visa. We saved seats for Scott who was actually not far behind us, but at any rate we had pretty good seats. The show was “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” — it was a gratuitous and calculated look into the darkest deeds of some very evil people. Beforehand the director, who is apparently somewhat famous though I had never heard of him, gave a brief introduction in which he introduced a rather pretty lady that we would almost immediately see naked on the screen. During the introduction someone from TIFF also said that this was a movie as good as any of the movies that this director was famous for, and it was relevant because of America’s current moral crisis (referring to the Iraq war), just like the previous movies had been relevant during the Vietnam war.

Anyway, I guess what this movie proves quite well is that you can be very good at the science of making a movie while completely missing making something worthwhile watching. The movie was grotesquely in every important way that , but very well done at the same time. It was a masterpiece of sewage, perhaps. It revoles around two brothers who have very much achieved what might be called the American dream but are in the middle of screwing it all up with a salvo of bad choices and worse choices. It spirals out of control as all of the characters grow uglier and uglier souls. No one is redeemed, and I guess the moral of the story is that everything sucks, and don’t do drugs. I can’t really recommend it, and I really don’t want to — 1.0/5.

So after the last movie, we headed back to the car. Scott was stressed out due to driving once again; it didn’t help that the car was locked inside the garage for about 5 minutes either. It also didn’t help that Dan and I both had ideas about how to drive and which way to go. I mostly hummed a Christmas tune and brushed my teeth on the way back. Dan asked about 10 times if we wanted to do laundry. Seeing as I brough enough clothes for the trip, the answer has been no since the beginning and it continued to be no. When he asked again right before I left to find internet to blog, I kinda blew my top and yelled. Scott isn’t really talking to anyone right now. So hopefully the sleep will help everyone get along again. But with a 9:30 movie tomorrow, I’m not sure how well things will work out with the schedule — at least I know I’m taking the train and not waiting for anyone.

Well, thats the news I guess.

Wednesday in Toronto

Today we started the ramp up in our movie schedule towards tomorrow’s climax of four movies by watching two — the first at the Ryerson University Theater was a Samuel L. Jackson movie called “Cleaner,” a fun little whodunnit movie about a cop turned legitimate crime scene cleaner who gets involved in a less-than-legitimate job and has to extricate himself and his family. The plot was not-quite guessable, and it was fun, but it didn’t feel great — I’ll give it a 3.0/5.

Next we traveled South the the Elgin Theater for Atonement, a well-done but depressing movie about the overactive imagination and misunderstanding of a young girl royally screwing over a bunch of people. It was well-made, but not any fun, and not terribly thought-provoking either. I want either entertainment or thought; this unfortunately provided neither. I’ll give it a 2.0/5.

Next came the CN Tower, which I have been looking forward to this whole trip. We decided to try our luck with 360, the rotating restaurant at the top of the tower. I ordered a Caesar salad and came close to picking up my third grilled Atlantic salmon of the trip, but went instead for what I thought would be a safe steak fillet with a somewhat adventurous foie gras, which I have never had. The bread that arrived first was excellent. The salad was among the best I’ve ever had. The vegetables that came with my dinner with also very good. Which makes it all the more the mystery why the main course was so terrible. The meat was tough, unseasoned, unsavory, and really quite bad. The foie gras was not to my liking either. So basically everything was perfect except for the main course which sucked balls. I wasn’t the only one — Scott didn’t like his cut of meat much either, although he, unlike I, was able to finish his meal.

After the meal, we visited the glass floor, which gave a very real sense of incredible vertigo when I ventured onto it and peered straight down over a thousand feet. Now that is trusting an engineer! It was exhilarating and amazing and wonderful and awesome all at the same time. Of course, looking straight down into the Yankees-Blue Jays game going on in the Sky Dome (aka Rogers Centre) was pretty cool too. After the glass floor and a loop around the observation deck, we headed up another couple hundred feet to the tallest observation deck in the world, the Sky Pod, to watch the sun finish setting along with a panoramic view of all of Toronto and its environs. Scott and Dan wanted to go, but I wanted to bask in the feeling of being on top of the man-made world (until the tower in Dubai is finished, at least), so I stayed up on top for another hour or so, just soaking it all in. Despite the meat meal mishap, I am going to say that the experience was well worth it — nothing really compares to being on top of the world, physically or metaphorically.

TIFF 2007 Movies — Monday and Tuesday

On Monday we saw the movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a slow, methodical drama with a long title and a deep, refreshingly textured outlook on the event of it portrayed. Two and a half hours of deliberate film making — good, but not terribly exciting.


Today we saw Into the Wild, a self-discovery movie about a young man’s existential quest away from his plush life into the Alaskan Wilderness. I started out not liking the main character, but I gained respect for him — a theme that was repeated throughout the movie with many of the characters. It felt like it was showing people in all their glory and agony — the good, the bad, and everything in between, just as all of us really are.


TIFF: Three Movies, Three Winners

Despite a number of logistical setbacks leading up to TIFF, we managed to exchange a majority of our vouchers for tickets this morning with a very nice lady who put up with all of my inane anti-TIFF comments very well. We ended up seeing three movies today: at 10:00am we watched Persepolis, an animated movie about an Iranian girl growing up amid the Shah, the revolution, and the even more oppressive regime of the Imans. It was a little unexpected and a little sad, but quite good actually. Next we walked across the hallway to our second movie, My Kid Could Paint That, at 12:15. It was a documentary about a child abstract painter, Marla Olmstead, whose family became mired in accusations of helping with her paintings when they claimed to provide no aid. The documentary was deeply textured but overall quite damning on the topic of whether Marla actually painted “her” masterpieces herself. The director himself was there and answered a few questions afterwards; he came across as a very likeable character who almost hated himself for coming to the inevitable conclusion that Marla had some help. He leaves open the possibility that his implied accusation is false, but he couldn’t find any other way to interpret the mountain of evidence that was gathered while making his documentary. Finally, we hoofed our way to the Visa screening room where we watched an epic about Ghengis Kahn, Mongol. It was a great and epic way to end our first day at the festival — unfortunately, our day didn’t end there. Although making it into Toronto without any problems in the morning, traffic leaving the city was something truly incredibly awful: In about two hours we made it only about two miles and nearly ran out of gas. We finally made it to a gas station, where we decided to hang out for a while until traffic died down some. We finally made it back to our hotel about 9:00, when we had originally left at 6:00. It was a somewhat stress-ridden ride, to say the least. At any rate, here are my totally off-the-cuff ratings (:

Persepolis: 3.0/5.0
My Kid Could Paint That: 3.5/5.0
Mongol: 4.5/5.0