In the sixth part of our TIFF 2012 preview, Andrew Parker takes a look at Hotel Transylvania, Ship of Theseus, and 90 Minutes. Follow all of our TIFF 2012 coverage at criticizethis.ca/tiff.
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
While it won’t be much of a game changer in terms of animated children’s storytelling, Hotel Transylvania entertains effectively. It will easily keep youngsters engaged, it looks wonderful, and it’s easily the best thing Adam Sandler has put his name on in ages.
After building a remote castle to protect his daughter and provide refuge for monsters wanting to hide from humans, Count Dracula (Sandler) wrestles with his now teenaged (at 118 years old) charge’s desire to see the outside world. During her birthday party, however, an unwanted, dimwitted, Dave Matthews loving American human (Andy Samberg) turns up and nearly ruins everything for the vacationing monsters and Dracula while striking up a relationship with the birthday girl (Selena Gomez).
Plot wise, the film (co-written by Robert Smigel) plays to Sandler’s strengths and to the type of film he’s more widely known for making these days. Still, it’s nice to see him play the straight man to Samberg’s crazy guy, and the love story between Samberg and Gomez is really sweet. Powerpuff Girls creator Tartakovsky also creates some stunning visuals with a constantly moving camera to create a real sense of scope and place. The outcome of the film never once feels in doubt, but it’s still fun while it lasts.
Rating: *** ½ (out of 5 stars)
Saturday, September 8 at 2:30 p.m. at Princess of Wales
Saturday, September 15 at 12:30 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Ship of Theseus
City to City
Director: Anand Gandhi
The lives of those affected by organ donation come together in this uneven, overlong, but not altogether without merit tapestry of three stories from first time filmmaker and playwright Gandhi.
In the first story, a blind photographer has to readjust her focus after receiving a new set of eyes, putting a strain on her personal and professional expectations. Story number two finds a politically inclined monk struggling with needing a new liver because he’s a hardcore vegan that refuses to take drugs from big pharma companies that test on animals. Finally, a stock broker gets involved in investigating an organ smuggling ring by trying to get to the bottom of why a man went into a low rate hospital with appendicitis and left without one of his kidneys.
The final story is the only one of the three with an actual plot arc, suspense, and some dark humour, and it’s a shame that it comes at the end of a needlessly overlong (139 minute) movie. The first story features good performances, but it suffers from obvious dialogue that makes melodramatic mountains out of relatively easy to understand symbolism. The second story is positively snooze inducing, eats up the most time, and can sadly be summed up in one word (duality) after spinning its wheels for almost a full hour. Gandhi has some bits that work and it all ties together, but it’s nowhere near as deep or profound as it thinks it is.
Rating (out of five stars): **1/2
Thursday, September 6 at 9:30 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Friday, September 7 at 2:30 p.m. at the Cineplex Yonge-Dundas
Sunday, September 16, 12:00 p.m. at the Scotiabank
Director: Eva Sorhaug
Although the title is a slight misnomer – not so much in terms of the film’s actual running time, but in what it thematically suggests – Norwegian director Sorhaug’s slow burning and menacing look at three separate incidents of domestic violence effectively shocks the audience without lapsing into exploitation.
The film looks at three unrelated incidents and bounces between them. A businessman skittishly begins cancelling accounts and getting rid of personal items before going home. A man paces his apartment in worry over debts and his baby in the next room. A mother and her ex-husbnd clash at a child’s party. It would be a disservice to say where these stories go, as Sorhaug does a great job of pacing the film and keeping the ultimate endgames to each thread well conceived, even if the audience already knows that they won’t end happily.
The title supposedly refers to the last 90 minutes of a person’s life, but given the plotting here that’s patently impossible, and sometimes the film trips over its own occasionally heavy handed symbolism, but as a stark and unflinching portrait of a commonly shunned societal problem, it works quite well.
Rating: *** ½ (out of five stars)
Saturday, September 8 at 9 p.m. at the Cineplex Yonge-Dundas
Sunday, September 9 at 9 a.m. at the Cineplex Yonge-Dundas
Sunday, September 16 at 11:45 a.m. at the Cineplex Yonge-Dundas
TIFF 2012 runs from September 6 – 16. For more information, visit tiff.net.
Top image: A scene from Hotel Transylvania. Courtesy TIFF/Sony Pictures.