Fall films: J.W. Ward’s 5 to see & 5 to flee

Toronto, the city in which Biff Bam Pop! is based, is about to be overrun by cinephiles and their ilk.

The Toronto International Film Festival kicks off today and runs until September 18th.

Unless you’re a part of the media or have some special connections, TIFF is a tough nut to crack.  The glitz, the glamour and the stars might be pretty to look at, but it’s the line-ups and the ticket-finding headaches that drive most people away.

In that spirit, Biff Bam Pop! presents a Fall film guide for the rest of us: 5 films to see, and 5 to flee. 

Click the titles of each to see the trailers on YouTube.

5 to see

September 9th

Starring Tom Hardy (Inception) and Joel Edgerton (Whisper) as estranged brothers competing against each other in a mixed-martial arts tournament, Warrior may become Rocky for the MMA set, but with two Balboas to feast your eyes upon.  Hardy’s Tom Conlon is a former Marine trained by his alcoholic father (Nick Nolte), while Edgerton’s Brendan is a physics teacher and former MMA competitor trying to get back into the game.

Early reviews have been solid, and RottenTomatoes.com is already giving the film an 88% fresh rating.

Wrestling fans should also keep their eyes out for a former Olympic champion turned sports-entertainer.  You’ll know when you see him.

September 30th

Based on the true story of screenwriter Will Reiser, 50/50 follows Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, of 300 Days of Summer), an otherwise healthy 27 year-old suddenly diagnosed with cancer.  Seth Rogen plays a version of himself in the film as the pair deal with the cancer treatment and other people’s reaction to Adam’s struggle.

Stepping in for original lead James McAvoy, Gordon-Levitt is an actor worth watching.  He’s grown out of his 3rd Rock From the Sun TV roots to embrace indie films like Women in Trouble and Electra Luxx, and become the standout talent of mainstream films like Inception.  See the next step of an actor’s evolution right here.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
September 30th (Limited)

Tucker (Alan Tudyk, of Serenity and Transformers: Dark of the Moon) and Dale (Tyler Labine, of TV’s Reaper) are two hillbillies that just bought their dream home in the woods.  When a college girl gets injured near the pair, they try to help her out, but the girl’s friends think she’s been kidnapped.  Worse yet, her friends start accidentally killing themselves off as they try to mount a rescue, leading to even more confusion about Tucker & Dale’s intentions.

Already enjoyed through video on-demand in the United States, this Canadian production was made in the spirit of Shaun of the Dead and Hobo with a Shotgun.  It looks hilarious, especially if you know your horror movies.

Let’s hope the best moments aren’t just the ones in the trailer.

The Thing
October 14th

Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter-helmed remake of the 1951 film by Howard Hawks (whew!) stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an American scientist brought to a Norwegian camp in Antarctica following the discovery of an alien ship in the ice.  Turns out the ship’s passenger isn’t quite dead yet, and starts killing and mimicking the crew one at a time.

Winstead’s proven herself with some modern horror pedigree in Final Destination 3 and Black Christmas, as well as Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but the real test of the film lies in how well it sticks to, and improves on, the template laid by Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece.

The Rum Diary
October 28

A passion project for actor Johnny Depp, this adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s first novel finds the international superstar channeling his take on Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas as Paul Kemp, a journalist drinking his face off in Puerto Rico while obsessing over a blonde woman named Chenault (Amber Heard, of the forthcoming Playboy Club).

Directed by Bruce Robinson, The Rum Diary was in development hell for years until filming started in Puerto Rico in 2009.  While it likely won’t be the hit that Fear and Loathing turned out to be, the chance to see Depp do his best Thompson impression makes The Tourist and Pirates of the Caribbean worthwhile investments in hindsight – Depp’s company Infinitum Nihil helped to foot the production bill.

5 to flee

I Don’t Know How She Does It
September 16th

It stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear and Pierce Brosnan.  That should be reason enough.

If you’re still not convinced why you should duck this one, Parker plays Kate Reddy, a financial executive balancing family life under the admiring eyes of her peers (hence the title) until a new work opportunity comes along that could take her further away from her husband (Kinnear) and kids.

Syrupy sweet, this depiction of perfect people living perfect lives should have been called Pablum.  It fits.

October 14th

This remake of the 1984 classic that starred Kevin Bacon updates the story of a city boy bringing back dancing to a repressed town, this time with professional dancer Kenny Wolmand in the starring role.

Casting a pro dancer over an actor tells you where this film’s focus lies, and it’s even more telling in the trailer.

Made for a modern audience brought up on So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol, this Footloose is best avoided in favour of a night-in with the original.

The Three Musketeers 3D
October 21st

Director Paul W.S. Anderson gives the oft-filmed Alexandre Dumas novel a steampunk spin in 3D with names like Orlando Bloom, Christoph Waltz and wife Milla Jovovich in supporting roles.

Known mainly for his work with his wife in the Resident Evil series, Anderson is known for crafting pretty-looking films that are big on explosions and light on story.  If you didn’t enjoy Michael Bay’s recent Transformers films, this wouldn’t interest you either.

Paranormal Activity 3
October 21st

Once more milking the cash cow that was the first Paranormal Activity, this installment is more prequel than sequel, tracing the “incidents” back to their origins in 1988, when protagonists Katie and Kristi were children.

The first film, made for about $15 thousand, saw a wide release in 2009 and raked in almost $200 million at the worldwide box office.  The sequel was made for $3 million, grossed about $178 million and received far less favourable reviews.  This one will likely be a stinker, but if you’re in the mood for a cheap scare, it’ll do.

Johnny English Reborn
October 28th

Rowan Atkinson is a far away from his heyday as Mr. Bean and Edmund Blackadder, and this attempt to parody secret agents is ill-timed and ill-conceived.

Picking up many years after the 2003 original, the titular secret agent has been living in hiding but is called back to active duty to unravel a globe-spanning conspiracy that threatens our way of life.

If seen for any reason, it should only be to enjoy Gillian Anderson on screen again.

What films are you excited to see this Fall?

JW Ward is a Toronto-based writer, media personality and professional cynic. Follow him on Twitter at
@jasonwardDOTca, through his website at www.jasonward.ca and every Thursday here at Biff Bam Pop!

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