The rains finally fell, with sky opening up on many in line for the penultimate day of TIFF07. With most of the stars and media off to cover other things (even the local papers have switched over to Sundin instead of Clooney or Pitt), and it's left for the most part to the locals, to smaller films with less glamour draw, and to the locals who populate the vast majority of attendees.

While were a few films still to play of note, the director and producer of Son of Rambow were in fine form, and you could certainly tell that sharing a pint with the two lads wouldn't be such a displeasure. With an introspective and somber monster movie to round out the evening, shattering my already fragile brain into several fragments, the day ended with a psychotic cab ride home, sleeping for a few hours before getting back to the fun tomorrow.

Heavy Metal in Baghdad
Quite simply, this shooting-from-the hip digital doc is one of the best looks at the current conflict in Iraq that's been made.

The story begins with the boys from Vice magazine wishing to document the Metal scene in Iraq, as a series of Western-leaning locals were trying to put on a Metal show after the fall of Saddam. In 2003 things were bad, but looking like they'd be improving - the freedom to grow a bit of facial hair and rock out were on the minds of the band and their fans. A concert is organized, and while many hurdles need to be overcome, it finally comes to pass.

The film then continues to focus over the next several years, as the quality of life for these metalheads continues to deteriorate. American bombs destroy their rehearsal space, they are forced to dodge bullets simply walking among their city, and life gets harder and harder. Finally, they are forced to flee to neighboring Syria, where their life proves to be even more of a challenge.

The access that the filmmakers have, with their attitude of just go out and shoot, portrays a Baghdad that few who are not local have seen. These musicians are the prime candidates for what the neo-cons wanted out of the war, Western leaning individuals fully open to embracing American values in a post-Saddam Iraq. Instead, as we see their growing frustration and justified anger at the situation, we literally witness a growing despair over the years as these musicians are beaten down again and again, with a widening gap between their world and ours.

A haunting film, one that cuts through much of the rhetoric and provides a ground level view about just how fucked up things have got over there. Much more than a simple look at the band and their music, this is a compelling look at a modern-day existential crisis, perfect fodder for any Metal head to derive inspiration, if only they didn't have all their equipment blown to shit.
Directed by: Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi
Grade: A-
Son of Rambow
Like Millions from a couple years back, Son of Rambow is a cute, precocious film about a couple kids that want to remake First Blood with their clunky VHS camera. This is surrounding a tale of the class bully becoming friends with one of his victims, stories of childhood neglect, all wrapped up in a feel-good story arc that pays off for the viewers in the end. It's hardly new, but it's a tale told in a cheeky and fun way, elevating itself from being utterly banal and proving to be quite enjoyable.

The performances from the kids are top notch, echoing a film like Rushmore's younger characters with a great sense of verisimilitude for the plight of the pre-adolescent. The over-the-top French exchange student Didier is a particular delight, but the core pair of Will and Carter truly shine.

There aren't a lot of surprises thrown at you, as the film takes the route you figure it will, but there's a certain satisfaction to be felt in a film getting it all right. After the mixed reaction to Jennings' take on Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this film is free to carve its own niche without undue audience expectations, and with this freedom and confidence the flick is allowed to succeed quite well.
Directed by: Garth Jennings
Grade: A-
Weirdsville
A Canadian stoner caper flick, complete with Satanists, drive-in cinemas, and a lot of weed. In fact, weed is no doubt the motivating factor for not only the protagonists but for the writer himself (whose notable credit prior to this was production assistant on Bride of Chucky).

It's all completely over the top, with fairly unlikable characters doing pretty ridiculous things, but Weirdsville thankfully never takes itself too seriously as it careens to its conclusion. Bonus marks are allotted for giving Matt "Max Headroom" Frewer another notch on his IMBD listing.
Directed by: Allan Moyle
Grade: C
Dainipponjin
A surreal, unique monster film, a Man Bites Hulk mockumentary about a hapless individual who is called upon by his nation to be electrocuted on a regular basis. This process causes him to become a giant, fated to fight the enormous monsters that plague Japan, following in the giant footsteps of his father and grandfather.

The public, who in years past feted these protectors of the nation, have now soured on the entire idea. Placards denounce the copious amounts of electricity involved, as well as the inevitable property damage that results from every battle. Shinto rituals that proceed each transformation have become mere rote formalities, and even the technicians have become bored with the whole mess.

Creating this sense of melancholy is what the film does best, making even the most amazing even seem boring and pedestrian. Towards the end, when the flick has clearly run out of ideas, it turns into a full-blown 70s TV show, the formerly CGI creatures now clearly men in suits with underscale models for them to trample. A final My Dinner With André cap to the whole affair ups the surrealism by a notch or two.

It's a cerebral and sardonic monster flick, slower than a Midnight Madness ought to be, but a genuinely unique picture that sustains interest even at the latest of hours.
Directed by: Hitoshi Matsumoto
Grade: B