Takashi Miike’s been one of the biggest shock jockeys of Japanese cinema for eons. Ichi the Killer (2001) was a high-splatter mark for lovers of extreme gore, and Miike’s output has been an extraordinary arterial gusher. Blade of the Immortal is billed as Miike’s hundredth film, and while one could quibble (glancing over his Wikipedia bio, I count somewhere in the mid-nineties), the fact is the guy’s made an astonishing number of films. And he’s only fifty-seven!
Blade of the Immortal finds Miike plying his grisly gonzo in the service of a long-running samurai manga. Is the legendary director finally in danger of becoming a hack, or does his blood-slicked blade cut through one more time?
Mudbound is a fascinating, moving film from director Dee Rees. Set in the deep south during the forties, this adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s 2008 bestseller is deeply affecting but not without its own contradictions, a sprawling literary epic that feels somehow too contained.
In a world where the third entry in a film series is supposed to deliver lesser returns, the latest Marvel Studios epic has bucked the trend, and delivered and outstanding debut. Here’s what went down:
Thor: Ragnarok arrived in theaters this weekend with a thunderous slam dunk, bringing in an estimated $121 million. That’s significantly more than 2011’s Thor ($65 million) and 2013’s Thor: The Dark World ($85 million) delivered on their respective opening weekends. Having Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk certainly helped out, but director Taika Waititi’s humours tone definitely put the film on a unique path that other Marvel movies haven’t taken.
Francis Lee’s debut feature God’s Own Country finds its soul in the rugged English countryside, bleak and affecting. Getting raves on the indie circuit, it’s a stark romance about a young farmer discovering his sexuality. But is it Brokeback UK, or is there more to it?
Noah Baumbach knows families. Not feel-good crap or five-hankie manipulated drama. Baumbach families are a lot like the ones we share, with real awkwardness, back-handed affection and incidental trauma wound up together in the loving bonds of our flesh and blood. Despite its precious title, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) captures its titular extended clan with a disarmingly frank gaze. Debuting on Netflix today, it’s among Baumbach’s best films.
Next week, Blade Runner 2049 releases to immense hype, sans the original’s helmer Ridley Scott. That this is a good thing is almost undeniable, after Scott’s belaboured Alien sequels Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. Instead, fans will get a new replicant iteration, courtesy of French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. That’s unequivocally awesome, cuz Villeneuve has been doing great work for awhile.
Showcasing Villeneuve’s talents is an easy win for TIFF, and they’re showing four key films from his modest filmography this week, starting tonight, Thursday, September 28th, with the inscrutable Maelström.
It’s incredible to think the real life Battle of the Sexes tennis match happened at all. Putting world number one woman tennis player Billie Jean King up against fifty-five-year-old former champ Bobby Riggs was a patently insane contest. But feminism was breaking new ground, sexism was rampant, and this circus sideshow became a cultural juggernaut. Their man vs. woman match is still the most watched tennis event ever, to this day. Does the movie Battle of the Sexes live up to its namesake, the wacko pinnacle of seventies gender wars? Or is it just a lot of racket?
Beast wasn’t in my original TIFF plans. Extremely limited press screenings forced me to blow up my schedule twice, but I saw the main things I wanted. Beast was a pick-up, from promising new filmmaker Michael Pearce. In the film, a woman is forced to defend her lover when he falls under suspicion for a series of brutal murders. While the film’s twists yank it a tad too far from the realm of believability, it’s a tense thriller and a quality debut.
Martin McDonagh’s likes his comedies like his coffee: black. Actually, I have no idea how McDonagh takes his coffee, if he takes it at all. But boy does he have a way with finding the humour in very dark situations. His first two features were uneven, but both In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths unearthed surprising depths among their myriad quirks. With his latest, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, McDonagh has created a richer film, bubbling with tension, stark satire and even a hint of that elusive trait redemption.
The Shape of Water is, ah, shaping up to be the film of the year. Guillermo del Toro’s latest brilliant film just won the top prize, the Golden Lion, at the Venice Film Festival, and it’s a good bet to win at least The People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. It’s been such a hot ticket, it took me two tries to see it. And that’s at press and industry only screenings! It doesn’t come out until Friday, December 8th in North America, but lucky for all y’awl, the Red Band trailer just dropped. That and a mini-review after the jump!