Saturday, September 13, 2014

TIFF 2014: Midnight Madness With a Finnish Woodsman, a Walrus and Samuel L. Jackson

Posted By on Sat, Sep 13, 2014 at 7:30 AM

The saying "nothing good happens after midnight" is hooey.

Just ask the thousands of half-crazed fans who queue up for Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness series, now in its 26th year of sci-fi, horror and bizarre offerings. This year, I chose to be a bit more sleep-deprived than usual to catch a couple of midnight showings. I wasn't disappointed.

I'm still trying to shake off some of the scenes from Tusk, the latest shock-and-awe from director Kevin Smith that inspires as many laughs as it does screams. If I gave you three guesses what Tusk was about, you might eventually get it right. There are tusks involved; in particular, walrus tusks. The movie stars Justin Long, Michael Parks and Johnny Depp as an eccentric Quebec homicide detective. The audience was in stitches ... as is the bloodied victim in this thriller. I must confess I'm easily scared, but I'm convinced Tusk is destined for cult greatness.

Making Tusk all the more provocative is that Smith has also unveiled an historic marketing ploy: two cannabis strains with the Tusk brand. Smith said that he intends to make the medical marijuana available in a Los Angeles dispensary under the names Mr. Tusk and White Walrus. That is genius/madness.

My other all-nighter at TIFF Midnight Madness was a new Samuel L. Jackson action thriller Big Game. And it had the audience squealing with laughter. Here, Jackson plays the U.S. President whose Air Force One is brought down by a terrorist's missile. He crash-lands in the Finnish wilderness where he is rescued by a 13-year-old woodsman (Onni Tommila), who has been sent into the wild to prove his manhood. The film was craftily-packed with 1980s genre cliches and Jackson and Tommila are hilarious. And, right on cue, Jackson gets to further build his collection of motherfuckers. If you can laugh at Big Game for what it is—a blowhard piece of good guy vs. bad guy nonsense—you'll have quite a ride through this funhouse.

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