Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
Interstellar Review
The Making Of The West Wing
Subscribe To Empire Today
Save money and get 12 issues for only £25
London Film Festival 2014
Our round-up of the galas, films and interviews
Empire Blogs
Words From The Wise

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Toronto 2013: Child Of God, Bad Words, Life Of Crime, All Cheerleaders Die, The Dog

Posted on Friday September 13, 2013, 11:23 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Toronto 2013: Child Of God, Bad Words, Life Of Crime, All Cheerleaders Die, The Dog

Here we start coming to the square pegs of the festival, the films that don't quite fit into any of the usual sections. I'll briefly skim over James Franco's Child Of God, partly because it was in Venice too but mostly because it's really not very good. Like his Cannes entry As I Lay Dying, it is a literary property, adapted from a novel by Cormac McCarthy, that tells the story of a gibbering hillbilly (Scott Haze) who is dispossessed of his father's estate and later finds some kind of comfort in the company of not-very-living ladies, one found in a natural state, the rest made not-alive to order. It must be said that the most enjoyable thing about this dingy misery-fest was watching people at the film's press and industry screening leave the cinema in droves, but Franco's film isn't an actual misfire, just an unsuccessful attempt to translate the writings of a sage and superior talent without the equivalent visual vocabulary with which to do so. Haze, given too loose a leash here, clearly has talent, while Christina Voros's cinematography is suitably atmospheric and wintry. But quite what Franco wishes to articulate, other than “I've read a book”, is anyone's guess.

Something I ducked into during a gap and didn't expect to like was Justin Bateman's Bad Words. Variety's review was encouraging, and I liked Bateman as Pepper in Dodgeball. It's a slight film, with the looming shadow of Bad Santa hanging over it, but Bad Words is one of those odd-duck comedies that improves with hindsight rather than blustering to an overdone climax that undoes all the good work. Bateman himself stars as Guy Trilby, who, in his forties, decides to enter a children's spelling bee contest. Quite why this should be is the film's enigma, and for most right-thinking people his reason had better be a good one, since Trilby is a rude and even quite repellent character, especially when he meets his nine-year-old nemesis, the precocious Chaitanya (Rohan Chand).

It takes a little while to get going, but there's an oddly joyous quality to this mismatched-buddy caper, especially when a subtle twist takes the self-satisfied, mission-pursuing Trilby out of the driving seat. The results are predictable for this kind of movie, but, without spoiling things, there's an unexpected emotional residue, not simply because Chaitanya is really quite adorable but because the story does pan out in a way that these kinds of movies generally don't.

In a similar vein was Life Of Crime by Daniel Schechter. Based on the novel The Switch by Elmore Leonard, it taps the sun-bleached, underworld world of Jackie Brown – as well it might, being a prequel of sorts to that film's source: Rum Punch, also by Leonard. The cast is just as impressive – here we have Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey (the artist formerly know as Mos Def) – and the sunny mise-en-scene is just as toasty and light, but this, by comparison is really more of a stretched-out anecdote. Hawkes and Bey start the film, hatching a plan to kidnap well-to-do housewife Mickey Dawson (Aniston) and extort money from her husband (Robbins). That it doesn't go to plan is a given, but though it doesn't quite match the best adaptations of Leonard's breezy pulp-crime stories (Jackie Brown and Get Shorty), it really does share both those films' humidity and atmosphere, juxtaposing crime and real life to reach a very funny punchline.

Opening Colin Geddes' now infamous Midnight Madness strand was All Cheerleaders Die by Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson. I didn't stay up late to get the full flavour of its Ryerson cinema premiere, which would have added a lot of much-needed atmosphere, and that's perhaps why I didn't enjoy it as much as many others seemed to. Beginning as it means to go on, it appears at first to be a found footage film, with an airheaded cheerleader as the subject of an amateur documentary. After a fatal accident, however, her place in the team is taken by the filmmaker, Maddy (Caitlin Stasey), who has a secret agenda: to infiltrate and divide the team. Just as we're expecting a slasher flick, however, the film takes another turn, involving a car crash, magic runes and witchcraft. At this point, all hell breaks loose, and though I enjoyed such genre-bending insanity in Don Coscarelli's psychedelic horror John Dies At The End, it didn't really work for me here, feeling more like an Exquisite Corpse exercise made up of genre tropes. It's been described as Bring It On meets The Craft, which is fair enough. But that doesn't quite account for the zombieism and vampirism.

Something I did enjoy very, very much was The Dog (pictured), a documentary by Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren about John Wojtowicz, the real-life inspiration for the character played by Al Pacino in the 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon. Wojtowicz rose to notoriety in 1972 when he and an accomplice robbed a bank in Brooklyn so that his lover Ernie could have a sex-change operation. As this candid and frequently unbelievable movie proves, Hollywood did not – for once – embellish the situation, and as the archival footage shows, what began as a simple in-and-out job soon degenerated into a three-ring circus, with Wojtowicz playing to the cameras, ordering pizza and throwing wads of cash into the street, much to the delight of the massive crowd that gathered outside.

Why Wojtowicz was not simply shot and killed is a sign of simpler times, but Wojtowicz never seems to question his clement fortune. Instead he relishes his outlaw status, becoming more frank and more complex as the film progresses (it was made over a period of some 11 years). His lack of self-awareness is amply revealed in scenes where he returns to the scene of his crime to sign dollar bills, wearing a T-shirt that states “I Robbed This Bank”, but, annoying as he is, there is a certain larger-than-life quality that makes him a magnetic presence. Even so, he is upstaged by his mother Terry, a bird-like Jewish momma who indulges her boy in everything. Terry gets the best line of the film and possibly the festival; speaking of her son's transsexual lover, she turns to the camera and rolls her eyes. “She ain't a woman,” she drawls. She's a fuckin' man.”

Login or register to comment.

Currently No Comments

Log in below, or register to post comments
Username:
Password:
Remember Me:

CATEGORIES

Empire States (440)

Under The Radar (323)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (35)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

i, Robot Goes 3D On Blu-Ray
By James White

DreamWorks Touts New 'Toon Footage
By James White

Golden Globes 2012
By James White

James Cameron Talks Titanic 3D
By James White

The 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony: What Can We Expect?
By Helen O'Hara

The Sorcerer's Apprentice Edit Bay Visit
By James White

Shutter Island: A Thriller Out Of Time?
By Damon Wise

What Chris Nolan Could Bring To Superman
By James White

The Oscar Back-And-Forth
By Helen O'Hara

The Oscar Race: What Upsets Would You Like To See?
By Damon Wise


RECENT COMMENTS

Little Favour, Big Impact
"A really good short film. Gripping from the outset, a noir-ish action thriller with an interesting s"  Jaks
Read comment

i, Robot Goes 3D On Blu-Ray
"I received this yesterday with high expectations Now I am an advocate for 3D and a massive "  BigNickUK
Read comment

Golden Globes 2012
"Someone at E! needs to get fired! Their coverage was shocking! Thanks god for Empire showing me the "  guysalisbury
Read comment

Golden Globes 2012
""Harvey Weinstein’s nickname apparently being The Punisher. Write your own Thomas Jane jo"  loafroaster
Read comment

Golden Globes 2012
"Have to agree with the previous comments about the coverage by E! Truly inept. Other than that, high"  wgfuzzydunlop1
Read comment

Golden Globes 2012
"Sadly boredbluekoala is spot on with the description of E!'s shockingly incompetent handling of the "  spacemonkey95
Read comment

Golden Globes 2012
"Great, so let's get the Oscars back on the BBC then."  Cameron1975Williams
Read comment

Golden Globes 2012
"I don't know which broadcast everyone else was watching, but the one shown by 'E' in the UK was shoc"  boredbluekoala
Read comment

Golden Globes 2012
"Either Gervais was told to tone it down this year or he just couldn't come up with anything funny (m"  BenTramer
Read comment

James Cameron Talks Titanic 3D
"As a younger generation movie lover, i am thrilled by the fact that Titanic is coming back to the bi"  AusteV
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

You Wouldn't Steal A Car...
140 comments

Should Spider-Man Have Gone 3D?
27 comments

Spielberg's Harvey: Why It's A Good Idea
26 comments

What Chris Nolan Could Bring To Superman
21 comments

The Oscar Back-And-Forth
18 comments

James Cameron Talks Titanic 3D
16 comments

The Oscar Race: What Upsets Would You Like To See?
11 comments

Golden Globes 2012
7 comments

The Sorcerer's Apprentice Edit Bay Visit
3 comments

The 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony: What Can We Expect?
2 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (297)
Helen O'Hara (181)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (20)
Owen Williams (15)
Simon Braund (6)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
Ian Nathan (1)
David Parkinson (1)

SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS

SAVE UP TO 48% GET 12 ISSUES FOR ONLY £25
Get the best seat in the house by subscribing to the world's biggest movie magazine today. Save up to 69% and every month you'll get exclusive subscriber-only covers, access to the biggest stars and the best news, reviews and behind-the-scenes reports straight from the set. Click here to find the perfect offer for you


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The 25 Shatneriest William Shatner Moments Of All Time
Prepare. For. Many. One. Word. Sentences.

Marvel Announces Phase Three Film Slate Up To 2019
Photos from the event and have a look at all the new movie logos

Lists Of Our Lifetime: Empire's 25 Greatest Scares
Monsters, ghosts, horrible old ladies: the scenes that have kept us hiding behind the sofa for the last 25 years. Warning: contains spoilers.

Empire's Interstellar Review
Read our official verdict on Christopher Nolan's science-fiction epic

The 40 Most Fearsome One-Man Armies In Cinema
When you absolutely, positively have to kill every last mutha in the room...

Movie Poster Mashups: The Arctic And Antarctic Animals Edition
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be appalled at the punning...

Why Are We Waiting? The Stories Behind 16 Long-Delayed Movies
The reasons behind films that audiences waited to see... and waited... and waited...

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)