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« The Furniture: Love & Friendship's Country Charm | Main | A Cocktail with Sigourney »
Monday
Sep122016

TIFF Quickies: A Monster Calls, Colossal, Santa & Andrés

Nathaniel R reporting from the Toronto Film Festival 


A Monster Calls (JA Bayona, USA/Spain)
This fable about grief and growing up will surely be someone's favorite movie. Alas, it isn't mine. A Monster Calls is a simple fantasy about a boy named Connor (Lewis MacDougall) whose mother (Felicity Jones) is dying of cancer. His grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) and father (Toby Kebell) attempt to console him but the only solace Connor can find is in visitations from a giant tree monster (voiced by Aslan... excuse me, Liam Neeson) who promises to tell the boy three stories in exchange for the boy's own. The film is somewhat moving and fantastically visual in its three animated stories within the movie; they're sensory overload mashups of computer generated imagery, watercolor fluidity, and bold color choices. In both its earthbound and magical moments, though, A Monster Calls is relentlessly gilding the lily. It's so concerned with putting its parables over that its' constantly explaining them and telling us how to feel about grief and loss. Still, Bayona's movie is always coming from a place of compassion and humanity which can be a godsend in the soulless landscape of CGI heavy movies. While the tech elements are strong, particularly sound and visual effects (though why does the creature look so much like Groot?),  it all comes down to the boy and his mother if you want the tears. MacDougall & Jones are beautifully cast as they both look and feel like mother & son. MacDougall, who made his debut as a Lost Boy in Pan last year, impressively carries the movie with something like ease while filling up all the unspoken spaces with heartbreak and fury about his impending loss. Felicity Jones half-gone feeling in her final scenes provides generous Oscar clipping. If only the movie had given the emotions more room to breathe and to speak for themselves. If trees can walk and talk, and demand that we listen, feelings deserve the same respect. Less CGI and scripted preaching, more intuitvie tears, please. [Animated Stories Within the Movie: B+ /Movie: C+ ]

Colossal (Dir. Nacho Vigalondo, Canada)
Finally a movie that Hathaway fans (*raises hand high and shamelessly*) and the "Hathahaters" can enjoy together. This oddball movie from Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo places Anne Hathaway at the center of a kaiju movie. Nope, she's not a scientist or a hero - believe it or not she's the kaiju. Yes, she's Colossal's rampaging beast destroying Seoul ... not figuratively but actually! She's also "Gloria" a drunk who gets thrown out of her boyfriend's apartment (Dan Stevens) and ends up returning to her hometown where she takes a job with a former friend (Jason Sudeikis) who still harbors a crush. When Gloria realizes she's unknowingly wreaking havoc all the way around the world she's even more freaked out by her self destruction and drunken blackouts. If that all sounds like it might work better as a midnight madness short, you could be right. Colossal starts brilliantly with a priceless perfectly-pitched prologue in South Korea with a little girl and her dolly. Though it's numerous twists have a kind of welcome insanity, the length of the thing, and particularly its deadly over-investment in the Jason Sudeikis character (to the detriment of Gloria's own emotional arc) undoes it. Lop off an entire half hour of this film's running time and it might just work as a delightfully weird and funny cult oddity but as it is Colossal is something of its own kaiju, an lumberingly awkward, self-destructive beast which keeps crushing the precious little movie its building. [Anne Hathaway's Willingness to Do This Project: A / Movie: C+]

Santa & Andrés (Dir. Carlos Lechuga, Cuba/Colombia)
Havana born director Carlos Lechuga takes aim at the disconnection of idealogies amongst Cubans in this 80s set drama about a homosexual writer deemed a dissident and the woman assigned to monitor him to keep him from contacting international press and delegates at a local political event. Initially this drama's slow burn doesn't seem to be paying off with a dull first half hour and lots of shots of Santa & Andrés warily staring at each other and barely speaking. But their eventual emotional, if not political, understanding is wonderfully portrayed by the actors and smartly delineated in the screenplay. What the patient filmmaking lacks in verve it makes up for in insight, with each painfully tentative kindness between them feeling like a precious miracle in a climate of hopelessness. B

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Reader Comments (11)

Well a whole lotta movies since the dawn of time have "staring at each other and barely speaking" sequence..

September 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

I'm a Hatha-supporter and I think Colossal seems like a very interesting project.

September 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

The tree in A Monster Calls also looks somewhat like the trees in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Nice write-ups. Hope these movies make it to commercial theaters.

September 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

Amazing that you find the time to do any writing given how intense TIFF gets.
Sounds like you're having a good festival.

September 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

I'm impressed how since winning the Oscar Anne has kept her projects some commercial and also some interesting.

September 12, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordon

Wow- Santa and Andres is remarkably similar to this year's Cuban submission in Foreign Language! That's some Capote/Infamous business right there!

September 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I saw Santa & Andres yesterday and really enjoy it, very nice presentation with the director, it is a very unique and emotional film.

September 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

I definitely want to see A Monster Calls and Colossal. Especially the latter as I just love the idea of Anne as a kaiju. I'm a Hatha-supporter too. Hatha-haters can suck it. If they diss Anne, they will also have to deal with the Portmaniacs and the Johanssonites and the rest of fanbase of THE BULLET CLUB.

September 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

GREAT

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRDY

I really enjoy to see movies like Santa & Andres. Now I'm waiting for the
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children The trailer tell us the fantasy story about teenager Jacob. I'm definitely obsessed with it. By the way I'd like to recommend you to see all new movies here .

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterErikka

I have to say I love both Bayona and Vigalondo, and I am somewhat worried about your C+ grades to their work. Given the tepid reception "The Impossible" and "Extraterrestrial" had (specially in relation to their actual quality), these two directors latest offerings, I'm inclined to think I'll love them both, as I did with all their previous films (these two and "The Orphanage" and "TimeCrimes" and "Open Windows"). Bayona's favoring manipulation doesn't surprise me at all (he did so in "The Impossible" even if that wasn't half as manipulative as it was said to be), neither that Vigalondo might mistep here and there (the last reveal of "Open Windows" was executed as a shoot in the foot, almost completely derailing the previous 85 minutes of film). Still, two of the most interesting directors at work, of their generation.

September 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

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