Another day, another set of reviews from some of the best movies playing up at the Toronto International Film Festival. Below, you'll be have to find takes on "The Master," the highly anticipated new film from Paul Thomas Anderson, and "To the Wonder," the highly anticipated new film from Terrence Malick.
Still, for all its clever work, "The Master" is highly clinical. It’s a movie for students of film history, and for audiences far more patient than average. The themes of "The Master" are relatively clear, and right up there on the surface level for all to note. Can you invent a new way to "help" the troubled out of thin air? How and where does fanaticism form, and what type of person is drawn to the trappings of power, or to follow the newly powerful? These themes get bludgeoned home in a big way throughout the nearly three hours of the film, though not to anyone’s benefit. "There Will Be Blood" shared this issue of repetition, but Daniel Day-Lewis was a more lovable scoundrel than Hoffman’s Mr. Dodd. There was more room to breathe in each and every one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films, and by comparison "The Master" is oppressive and claustrophobic. Beautifully done, yes, but missing the entire point of "freeing one’s mind" while watching a film. "The Master" wants you to do it simply so it can lock you up in its own personal cage. -Laremy Legel
Kristen Wiig is a national treasure. Her comic timing is virtually unmatched among her peers. It’s the looseness in her own skin. She knows when to go broad and when to underplay, and little reaction shots and bounced moments that add extra color to the story are as much to be celebrated in "Imogene" as anywhere else. Unfortunately, there’s a movie surrounding these little bright spots, and that movie is hollow, uninteresting and false. -Jordan Hoffman
Spike Lee’s "Bad 25? is, on the face of it, nothing too removed than one of those "Classic Albums" programs that used to air on VH1. Songs are discussed one by one, with tidbits about the recording and writing, and sometimes the mix is finagled so we get to focus on what the bass player is actually doing. "Bad 25," however, is a Spike Lee film. While his off-camera voice is only heard once in a while, and to great effect, the collage of clips and talking head interviews burst with an exuberance worthy for a subject who called himself the King of Pop. -JH
I conclude with the unenviable task of giving “To the Wonder” a letter grade. I wish I could give it a “Q,” because this movie exists far outside of the normal parameters of critique. It is so, so gorgeous, and there are instances that soar (and not solely Bardem’s), but it doesn’t add up. I’m certainly glad I saw the film, and I recommend it for fans or for anyone who’ll get a buzz out of hearing a line like, “What is this love that loves us” spoken in French. If you aren’t in that group, well, you have been warned. -JH