from tiff: ‘la la land’ is a shimmering, hollywood homage the world will fall for

There are real life magicians working today who have performed lesser feats than what Damien Chazelle has done with ‘La La Land’. Like, actual magicians. The kinds that pull rabbits from top hats and all that.

Even those who adored the director’s miraculous, perfectly paced debut ‘Whiplash’ were a little apprehensive at the thought of his follow up being a fully fledged musical. An appreciator of fine composition, both musically and in film, Chazelle has stuck to his guns here, presenting us with a rare, lovingly made movie that the messed up modern world has been calling out for.

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from tiff: ‘bleed for this’ is a light impact boxing biopic

Miles Teller is an undeniable talent, albeit one still waiting to match the greatness of the film that made him a star. Back in 2014, Damien Chazelle’s ‘Whiplash’, a ‘Raging Bull’-inspired musical tour de force in which boxing gloves are swapped for drumsticks, won the young actor the respect of both critics and fans alike. For a while, he’s been tied down by young adult fiction franchises and been left bobbing in the shallow end of Marvel’s comic book universe – neither of which making much use of his expertise. Two years later, Teller was still waiting, until his attachment to Ben Younger’s, Scorsese produced boxing flick ‘Bleed for This’ had his supporters chomping at the bit to see him succeed again.

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from tiff: ‘past life’ is a moving morality drama

Past Life, Avi Nesher’s highly anticipated follow up to 2013’s The Wonders, is a moving moral fable about how we face and process the demons that can define our lives.

The year is 1977, and Sephi Milch is a young woman studying vocal performance and composition in a Tel Aviv university. A trip to West Germany leads her to a shaking encounter with a woman who, recognising her last name and language, labels her father a murderer. Unaware of what could have led to this, she alerts her outspoken older sister Nana of what she has heard, and together they band together to visit scenes of his wartime past in an attempt to uncover the truth.

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from tiff: ‘jackie’ is an ornate beauty

In Pablo Larraín’s Jackie, The White House frames Jacqueline Kennedy the way castles frame their queens. The definitive First Lady of the 1960s, who also earned herself the title of a fashion icon, made that place her home; her appreciation of fine decor and relics appearing in almost every room. It makes sense then, that Larraín’s eagerly awaited biopic of the icon feels like the kind of film Kennedy herself would make; astute, swooningly good-looking and blessed with an extraordinary leading lady.

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from tiff: ‘sing’ is a lively, if unsurprising musical

If anybody could add innovation and colour to a film by Illumination Entertainment, chances are that person would be Garth Jennings. The British director, who previously helmed the ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ remake and the charming ‘Son of Rambow’, has a tendency to make movies packed with both warmth and wit. We haven’t seen anything new from him since the latter hit our screens back in 2007, but he marks his big screen comeback with ‘Sing’, the latest inevitable box office smash from the studio behind ‘Minions’ and ‘The Secret Life of Pets’.

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from tiff: ‘arrival’ is a nuanced and beguiling sci-fi masterpiece

There’s something sort of ominous about the way the alien spaceships in ‘Arrival’ simply hover over earth in relative silence. Perhaps, after years of directors choosing to depict unknown entities blasting the living daylights out of our landscapes, it’s even more intimidating to see them sit still and do nothing as we wait for their unpredictable reaction. That is, in a way, what makes Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to the widely acclaimed Sicario so special. We’ve come to expect our science fiction films to have grandiose set pieces and stunning CGI, while Arrival burrows itself under your skin by swapping out violence in favour of conversation.

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from tiff: ‘the secret scripture’ is a drab, disappointing period piece

Rooney Mara is one of those rare actresses who almost never puts a foot wrong. Kicking off her mainstream career as the female muse of David Fincher in both ‘The Social Network’ and ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’, she has delivered a string of exemplary performances that paint her as one of this century’s strongest talents. Perhaps that’s why it’s so sad to see her skills reduced to a sappy, ineffective rubble in ‘The Secret Scripture’, the latest film from ‘My Left Foot’ director Jim Sheridan.

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from tiff: ‘the birth of a nation’ is the formidable film that modern america needs

Personal provocations aside, there is no denying that Nate Parker’s directorial debut is a formidable, well-rounded piece of filmmaking. Since premiering at Sundance back in January, The Birth of a Nation has been tipped by many a critic as the film to beat come award season – and rightfully so. Parker’s imagining of the almost untold story of a 19th-century slave rebellion has all the hallmarks of a buzzy awards film: great storytelling ambition, an exemplary cast, and a swoon-worthy technical flare. That’s all well and good, but what makes this film so special is its proud, powerful intent; one that manages to say as much about those days as it does about today.

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from tiff: ‘a monster calls’ is a sobering movie anecdote that made us cry

With films like The Secret Life of Pets prevailing over beauties like Pete’s Dragon, it’s easy to see why most people dismiss kids movies as, well, movies for kids. With the exception of the odd Pixar film hitting the ‘Fresh!’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, most films geared towards a younger audience are relegated to Sunday morning screenings, drifting out of cinemas once an onslaught of three-year-olds have seen them. A Monster Calls is the kind of film that, without the right treatment, could suffer a similar fate. Thankfully, this adaptation of Patrick Ness’ acclaimed children’s novel is handled so delicately by the great J.A. Bayona that it maintains every ounce of the source material’s power and sadness.

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from tiff: ‘the bad batch’ is a lifeless, pop art western

Very few independent films, especially Iranian skateboarding vampire movies, take off in the way Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut did. Back in 2014, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night grabbed accolades and glowing reviews for its left-field aesthetic and accomplished directing – both of which went over our heads here at Frowning. We have to admit to being in the minority there, with Amirpour’s vision beguiling a strong arthouse audience upon its official release, but the film’s lovers or haters eagerly awaited what strange film would come next.

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