TIFF 2011 Preview Pt. 5: Machine Gun Preacher, Pina, and The Raid

A scene from 'The Raid'. Courtesy TIFF.

In part five of our TIFF 2011 preview, Andrew Parker takes a look at Machine Gun Preacher, Pina, and The Raid. Check back over the next few days for more previews of films playing at TIFF 2011.

Machine Gun Preacher
Gala Presentation
Director: Marc Forester

Gerard Butler gives the best performance of his career in the true story of Sam Childers, an ex-con biker who finds Jesus and devotes his life to missionary work with orphans in war torn Sudan. Director Marc Forester (Finding NeverlandQuantum of Solace) works way too hard to tug on the heartstrings at times and the film takes its sweet time getting to the point (not very much happens plot-wise for the first 40 minutes, but it is still entertaining), but Butler is simply electric as a man who stood by his convictions no matter what side of the law he was on. Michelle Monaghan is good, but slightly wasted as Childers’ wife. Michael Shannon fares much better as the drug addicted best friend.

Rating: *** (out of 5 stars):

September 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Roy Thompson Hall
September 16 at 12 p.m. at the Scotiabank

Director: Wim Wenders

Auteur Wim Wenders dips his toes into the waters of 3-D filmmaking with a look at the works of ballet choreographer and director Pina Bausch. The 3-D is stunning as it captures dancers recreating the works of Bausch in vivid detain both in and out of the studio. As a biopic, however, it is far less successful. Wenders simply uses footage of Bausch students and protégées saying how much she affected their work without giving much insight or reason to care on a personal level. Pina never amounts to more than a really great looking clip show aimed squarely at an audience that already knows who Bausch is. That’s all well and good, but sadly this is also a film that could have been made by just about anybody and despite Wenders at the helm, it has no real sense of authorship. For such warm and vibrant dancing, it all feels very cold.

Rating: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)

September 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bell Lightbox
September 18 at 12 p.m. at the Bell Lightbox

The Raid * Criticize This! TIFF Pick *
Midnight Madness
Director: Gareth Huw Evans

Rightfully opening the genre based Midnight Madness series, The Raid gets off to a quick start by starting some of the best action sequences committed to film in years within the first 10 minutes and it almost never lets up. The story is simple, as a group of tactical police officers perform a botched raid on a tenement building full of the worst criminal scum imaginable. But between the knife fights, fists fights, gun fights, and exploding refrigerators, there is so much more that this film offers to attentive viewers. Director Gareth Huw Evans has created an action film that is as tightly made and claustrophobic as the original Die Hard. The tension level and fully realized performances almost make it feel like a horror film at times. The Raid achieves action movie perfection and is a must see for genre buffs of all kids at this year’s festival.

Rating: ***** (out of 5 stars)

September 8 at 11:59 p.m. at the Ryerson
September 10 at 12:15 p.m. at the AMC

TIFF 2011 runs from September 8 – 18. For more information, visit tiff.net.

Top image: A scene from The Raid. Courtesy TIFF.

Andrew Parker

About Andrew Parker

Andrew Parker writes for numerous blogs and publications, including Notes From the Toronto Underground and his more personal pop-culture blog, I Can't Get Laid in This Town. He is also the curator of the Defending the Indefensible series of films at the Toronto Underground Cinema.