This year, I finally crossed "Go to a major film festival" off my bucket list.  I went to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) for a vacation.  Here are the movie screenings I saw:


  1. The Belko Experiment — This is a must see, if you like violent films.  Workers are forced to kill their coworkers or face deadly consequences for themselves.  Prior to the screening, director Greg McLean spoke to the audience and warned, "This is a violent film.  This is a violent film.  This is a violent film."  It was, indeed, a splatter fest.  It also explores how people forced to face their own mortality might react to instructions to kill other people.  In a delightfully sick twist, there is appropriately timed humor sprinkled in.  (opens March 17, 2017)
  2. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives In the House — This is a must see, if you like ghost stories.  A hospice nurse is hired to look after a dying horror novelist.  She begins to suspect she might be the subject of one of the author's works.  The only thing I found that didn't quite seem to fit is that she is a little too disturbed by death to be believable as a hospice nurse.  Writer/director Oz Perkins explained during the Q&A session that she is mostly uncomfortable with the thought of her own death, though I didn't think this distinction came across in the film.  I would need to re-watch it with this explanation in mind.  (opens October 28, 2016)
  3. Brimstone — This is an excellent movie, but I might stop just short of calling it a must see.  A woman's family is in danger as she tries to escape a sinister preacher.  It has a non-linear story line, which is difficult for some viewers to follow along with and there is a great deal of violence directed at women and young girls.  The showing I attended was the North American premier and star Dakota Fanning was there to take part in the Q&A.  (USA release date not set)
  4. Arrival — This is a must see, if you like alien sci-fi movies.  Aliens arrive on Earth and humans do what humans do: panic.  Scientists and linguists around the world work to figure out how to communicate with the seven legged aliens (dubbed heptapods) and figure out their intentions and purpose for being here.  (opens November 11, 2016)
  5. Mean Dreams — This is an excellent film, but definitely not a John Hughes teen angst movie.  Two teens steal a duffel bag full of likewise stolen cash from the girl's abusive father, who also happens to be a crooked cop.  They go on the run in a desperate attempt to protect each other from the father.  The screening I saw was the North American premier and most of the main cast attended the Q&A session.  (USA release date not set)
  6. The Bad Batch — This is a must see, if you like post apocalyptic dystopian movies.  In this world, criminals and outcasts determined to be too disruptive to be part of mainstream society are dubbed the Bad Batch and are exiled into a wasteland that used to be Texas.  It features cannibals, total bad asses, a guy trying to build a society with himself at the top (complete with a barefoot and pregnant harem), and a hermit you'll never recognize without reading the cast list.  (opens September 23, 2016)
  7. Una — This is a really good movie, but difficult to watch, due to the subject matter.  A woman confronts the man who sexually abused her as a teen, only to find that he is not the same man.  Long since forgotten, he is forced to relive the events.  (now showing)
  8. ARQ — This is a must see for fans of sci-fi with a side of mind games.  A scientist is stuck in a time loop featuring bad guys, warring factions, back stabbing, and an energy source that could save humanity in the right hands or destroy it in the wrong hands.  Renton must find out whose hands are whose, but with each trip through the loop it becomes more or less clear whose hands are the right hands.  (now showing on Netflix)
  9. The War Show — This one falls short of being good.  It is OK, especially considering the difficulty of making  documentary in a war zone.  It is a documentary that attempts to personalize a few of the people who were part of the Arab Spring as they fought to oust Assad from Syria.  I found that instead of personalizing the people behind the fight for freedom, it was more like watching someone else's home movies.  (USA release date not set)
  10. The Autopsy of Jane Doe — This is a must see for horror fans.  The title pretty much sums up the start of the movie.  There was a gruesome murder scene, but one of the deceased has no visible signs of physical trauma.  The police need her identity and cause of death ASAP, so the coroner and his son begin an autopsy.  When they get ready to begin the internal examination, strange things happen and horror ensues.  (opens December 21, 2016)
  11. Carrie Pilby — Pass.  The description sounded interesting, but it turned out to be just another formulaic romantic comedy.  I guess if you're into that sort of movie, then feel free to enjoy it. (USA release date not set)
  12. Prevenge — This one was pretty good, but not great.  It is a dark comedy about a pregnant woman who is psychically controlled by her homicidal fetus to commit murder.  The effects could have been much better, but it had to be prepared and filmed quickly, because star/writer/director Alice Lowe was actually 7 months pregnant at the time. (USA release date not set)
  13. (Re)Assignment — This is a must see for anybody who likes action/revenge movies.  I waffled on whether I wanted to see it, because it sounded like it might be exploitative, but I figured if it was, I could always trash talk it.  After her brother is murdered, a deranged cosmetic surgeon has the hit man kidnapped.  She performs facial feminization, breast augmentation, and sex reassignment surgery on him, so this womanizing, macho, manly man who prides himself on his masculinity will have to face the world in a female body.  Explaining why it is not exploitative of transgender people would require giving away spoilers, so for now, trust me. (USA release date not set)