Xavierpop Previews #TIFF12 – Next Up, MovieJay Takes On The Highly Popular @mmadnesstiff
Earthquakes, exorcisms, viruses, and an abundance of death highlight the strongest Midnight Madness lineup in years. While scenesters are chasing after-parties and more mature out-of-towners are catching some z’s before they join all the others during the day in what Roger Ebert calls “the Trail Mix Brigade”, the most energetic audience at TIFF settles in for a movie at midnight at the Ryerson.
Here are the deets on this year’s lineup, featuring a more heavyweight pedigree in overall talent than I can remember in recent years.
The ABCs of Death
Drafthouse Films is the two-years-young Austin-based distributor specializing in all things odd and/or unusual in genre films. In late 2010 they released the BAFTA-winning jihad satire Four Lions, which made more than one top ten list that year. Earlier this year they were behind the mind-bending Bullhead (Rundskop), the Dutch-French crime-drama involving a cattle farmer, a veterinarian, and a beef trader. That was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Their new one, The ABCs of Death, represents one of the boldest anthology films ever. The film is made up of 26 shorts, part of a competition where the 25 directors involved in the pic set about choosing the 26th director among several dozen applicants. The exercise? You have to make a short-short, there has to be a death, and the letter of your title must begin with the letter “T”–i.e. “T is for Taser”. Among the directors are a few familiar faces like actress Angela Bettis, the lead in the teen-thriller May; Ben Wheatley (Kill List) who’s also here with his new feature Sightseers; and Nacho Vigalondo (Time Crimes). Who’s the 26th director? Watch out for the claymation short “T is for Toilet“, from contest winner Lee Hardcastle.
Actor-writer-director Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) stars here along with Selena Gomez–a.k.a. Justin Bieber‘s main squeeze–in Nicolas Lopez‘s first film at TIFF. This one’s a hybrid disaster-horror flick about a guy who was just starting to score while visiting Chile when a great earthquake strikes while he’s at an underground nightclub. It is promised that “getting to the surface is just the beginning of the nightmare”, which means if somebody’s face doesn’t seriously get eaten by the end of this, I’ll be somewhat upset.
Remarkably, Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Wag the Dog) is making his first trip to TIFF with the eco-terror scare story of a virus that wipes out a small Maryland town. Levinson in the Midnight Madness programme, who’d a thunk it? It stars Kristen Connolly–fresh off of Cabin in the Woods, and Anthony Reynolds (The Hunger Games), who is quickly becoming one of those dependable character actors whose face you know better than the name.
Come Out and Play
Another first-timer to TIFF is Mexican helmer Makinov, who brings us a thriller about a couple on vacation before their first child is born. On an island away from the tourist trap, they discover that only children live there and begin a journey to figure out why that is. With Vinessa Shaw (3:10 to Yuma, Two Lovers) and Ebon Moss-Bachrach (The Lake House, Higher Ground).
Pete Travis (Vantage Point, Endgame) took home TIFF’s Discovery Award in 2004 with his powerful, Paul Greengrass-scripted IRA bombing drama Omagh. This time he’s back with probably the most hyped MM flick, the futuristic sci-fi noir that will try to breathe new life into the UK comic character, who first appeared in the lackluster Stallone pic Judge Dredd. The movie, about cops with the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, boasts the writing talent of Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go) which only makes this project all the more intriguing. Karl Urban (Bones in the latest Star Trek) stars as Dredd. Can’t wait.
J.T. Petty came to TIFF ’06 with his twisted, peeping-tom horror pic S&Man. He returned with the western-horror flick The Burrowers in ’08. His third promises more cross-cutting of genres with Hellbenders–presented in 3D–described as “an exorcism comedy”. This one–based on Petty’s own graphic novel–follows an exclusive sect named The Order of Hellbound Saints, a sort-of CIA special-ops if the Vatican ever got to have one in order to combat hellish enemies. Get this: Clancy Brown is the star here, best known to most audiences as the hard-ass prison guard from The Shawshank Redemption–and along with his other TIFF movies At Any Price and John Dies at the End, they figure in as his 197th, 198th, and 199th credits as an actor, according to the IMDB. We need to give this guy some love next month.
John Dies at the End
It’s all so kismet that Don Coscarelli will be back 10 years to the week that he was last at TIFF, with the strange and wonderful Bubba Ho-Tep. After the wild TIFF reception, that pic went on to an outstanding 30-festival run, lengthy arthouse exposure, and multiple fest awards. His new horror-fantasy-comedy was a hit at Sundance, and it stars Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes as two college dropouts who are somehow called upon to save humanity due to the side effects of a street drug called Soy Sauce, which apparently delivers an out-of-body experience that sends people back and forth across time. Paul Giamatti and the aforementioned Clancy Brown star.
The Lords of Salem
Rob Zombie (House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects) is another high-profiler at TIFF for the first time, this one a tale of 300 witches who came back to haunt the dependably-haunted town of Salem, Mass. But this time the baddies are groovy, since what unlocks them from their centuries-old sleep is found on a record that’s been shipped to a local DJ, causing her to have unwanted flashbacks of Salem’s violent past. Starring Judy Geeson, after a decade-long hiatus (she was Pamela in To Sir, With Love (1967) and Maggie on TV’s Mad About You).
No One Lives
Ryuhei Kitamura‘s third TIFF effort (Versus in ’00, Alive in ’02) and second English-language movie after The Midnight Meat Train (2008) finds him “following a gang of highway killers who kidnap a wealthy couple”, according to the IMDB. Luke Evans (Immortals, The Raven) and Adelaide Clemens (Carnival Girl in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) star.
This and Dredd 3D are the two big headliners at MM this year. Oscar-winner for best short live action film with Six Shooter (2005) and then nominated for best screenplay for his excellent debut feature In Bruges, Martin McDonagh‘s highly-anticipated follow-up brings him to California. He’s got Colin Farrell returning to pitch in once again, this time as a struggling screenwriter who gets mixed up with the L.A. crime underworld after what the synopsis appropriately claims are his “oddball” friends in Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell. They lift a pooch from gangster Woody Harrelson, setting off the whole mess. Also starring Abbie Cornish and Tom Waits. Please be amazing.