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TIFF 2016 Review Wrap-Up: All good things must come to an end

September 18, 2016Ben MK

Another year, another Toronto International Film Festival. For its 41st year, TIFF has once again brought a world of cinema to Torontonians' doorsteps; and, like every year, the amount of star power on display, coupled with the sheer diversity of the film line-up, has proved staggering. But, alas, all good things must come to an end (at least until next year). So, without further ado, here's my wrap-up for TIFF 2016...

(The following is a best-to-worst ranking of the 11 films reviewed over the 11 days of TIFF 2016)
(Click on the film titles to read the full reviews)

#1 — The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook)

Adapted from Sarah Waters' 2002 book, "Fingersmith," Chan-Wook Park's The Handmaiden is a haunting, twisty-turny exploration into the depths of depravity, passion, love and revenge. Suffice to say, when it comes time for the wicked to receive their just desserts, you'll be hungering for more. (TIFF Review)

#2 — Free Fire (Ben Wheatley)

Violent and bloody, yet with plenty of breathing room for suspense and humor as well, the '70s-inspired action-thriller Free Fire is effectively director Ben Wheatley's retro vision of Reservoir Dogs. As such, it's Tarantino fans who may appreciate this film the most. (TIFF Review)

#3 — The Age of Shadows (Kim Jee-woon)

The Age of Shadows may be the latest South Korean film set during the Japanese colonial occupation of the country. However, it may also be the most resonant, marrying stylish thrills, period character drama and political intrigue to deliver a compelling account of one of the darkest periods in the nation's history. (TIFF Review)

#4 — Colossal (Nacho Vigalondo)

Both a dark comedy that tackles such heavy themes as physical and substance abuse, and a lighthearted riff on Pacific Rim (complete with a giant robot and all), Colossal never fails to endear itself to viewers. And that goes double for its ending, which is as applause-worthy as anything Toho Studios ever released. (TIFF Review)

#5 — Sadako vs. Kayako (Kôji Shiraishi)

Pitting the evil spirits from Ringu and Ju-On: The Grudge against one another, Sadako vs. Kayako features a premise that's simply too ridiculous to not be enjoyable. Suffice to say, fans of either series will have a blast with director Kôji Shiraishi's love letter to fans of the J-horror genre. (TIFF Review)

#6 — The Bad Batch (Ana Lily Amirpour)

The Bad Batch is a film with a B-movie premise; however, what writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour does with that premise is anything but B-grade. Bouncing between horror, indie, exploitation and romance, the film subverts audience expectations at every turn, with unpredictable, genre-bending results. (TIFF Review)

#7 — Queen of Katwe (Mira Nair)

Queen of Katwe is straightforward to the letter, adhering to the template set forth by the underdog films that have come before it. Nonetheless, that doesn't make the movie any less heartwarming and inspirational, especially when it comes to the charismatic performances of its cast. (TIFF Review)

#8 — Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas)

Director Olivier Assayas has a tradition of using picturesque locales as the backdrop for his films. However, in Personal Shopper, he also juxtaposes this beauty with scenes of disturbing ugliness. The result is an atmosphere-heavy foray into the unknown, but it's the questions the film raises that linger on. (TIFF Review)

#9 — Headshot (Timo Tjahjanto, Kimo Stamboel)

Directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel (the duo behind Macabre and Killers), Headshot is a brutal, bone-crunching and blood-spattered beat 'em up. And if you're a fan of star Iko Uwais' extreme brand of ass-kickery, the fight scenes certainly won't leave you disappointed. (TIFF Review)

#10 — The Girl with All the Gifts (Colm McCarthy)

The Girl with All the Gifts features a rock-solid cast, and there's just enough bloody carnage to satisfy hardcore zombiphiles. That being said, if you're looking for a zombie movie that strives to exceed the usual genre expectations, your best bet is to just keep calm and shamble on. (TIFF Review)

#11 — Snowden (Oliver Stone)

Compared to the 2014 documentary Citizenfour, Snowden feels tepid. For despite director Oliver Stone and co-writer Kieran Fitzgerald's best efforts, this biopic of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden only supplements the facts with clichéd melodrama and a flat, unconvincing romantic subplot. (TIFF Review)

(See you next year!)

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