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TIFF Review: Assassination Nation


by Raquel Stecher

Assassination Nation
dir. Sam Levinson
starring: Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Abra, Joel McHale, Bella Thorne, Bill Skarsgard, Maude Apatow

“You had it coming, America.”

When a movie starts with a preview of trigger warnings you know you’ll be in for a wild ride. Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation was one of my most anticipated films of TIFF and it delivered on many fronts. This modern take on the Salem witch trials is dark, twisted, raunchy and violent. It follows the story of four teens as they navigate their senior year with all the peer pressure that comes with it but kicked up several notches when key members of the community get hacked. Led by Odessa Young, the four young women including Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse and Abra, the town of Salem begins to spiral out of control and they become the target of the community’s blood thirsty need for their brand of justice. On the surface this might seem like another scary movie to watch on Halloween but on a deeper level it delivers some cutting critiques about modern day society. It explores peer pressure, the sexualization of young women, toxic masculinity, privacy, doxxing, public shaming, mob mentally, misplaced righteousness and distrust of authority. And if you’re like me and shy away from horror films, this one has some violence but there is so much to enjoy from the visual imagery, costumes, lighting cinematography, typography that makes it well worth the gory scenes. I loved the female empowerment message and found myself pumping my fist in the air and cheering the protagonists on. Assassination Nation is not one to miss.

Neon releases Assassination Nation in theatres on September 21st.

I attended a special press screening of Assassination Nation at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

My Preliminary TIFF ’18 Picks

by Raquel Stecher

Anticipation is building for the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. The programmers released their full list of galas and special presentations last week and I dove into the list to single out the films I’m most interested in. But honestly all of them sound amazing. Once the full schedule comes out next month I’ll be combing through the final list making what I’m sure will be some very difficult decisions.

Here is the list of galas and special presentations that stood out to me.




Beautiful Boy

  • directed by Felix van Groeningen
  • starring Steve Carrell, Timothee Chalamet
  • Trailer

Beautiful Boy is based on Nic Sheff’s memoir about his struggle with drug addiction and his father David Sheff’s own memoir response. It looks to be both a harrowing story about addiction and a touching story about the bond between a father and son. I predict this will be one of the top films to see at the festival and will be hard to get into. I’m not sure I’m ready for the emotional roller-coaster this film will send me on but I’d love to see Timothee Chalamet ( Call Me By Your Name changed my life) on the big screen again.


First Man

First Man

  • directed by Damien Chazelle
  • starring Ryan Gosling
  • Trailer

Biopic. check. Period drama. check. I loved La La Land  and I’m curious about this new film from Chazelle about the life and times of Neil Armstrong. It follows Armstrong’s journey from his early days at NASA to the historic moment when he landed on the moon in 1969. Next year is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing so this is a timely biopic that audiences will be ready for.



Hidden Man

  • directed by Jiang Wen
  • starring Eddie Peng
  • Trailer

I was mesmerized by the trailer for this period thriller about a spy who goes home to seek revenge. Set in China, Hidden Man looks to be equal parts Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Kill Bill and I’m here for it. If I don’t get into this film screening, I wouldn’t mind watching Zhang Yimou’s Shadow which looks like a visual masterpiece.



The Public

  • directed by Emilio Estevez
  • starring Emilio Estevez, Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling, Jena Malone etc.
  • Trailer

Estevez is a triple threat as The Public‘s director, writer and star. This urban drama follows a group of homeless library patrons who refuse to leave the library in the middle of winter because the city’s emergency shelters are full. The sit-in quickly escalates into a standoff with the authorities. I’m hoping this film delivers a poignant social message in the midst of the escalating drama.



Red Joan

  • directed by Trevor Nunn
  • starring Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I want to see this for one reason: Judi Dench. And if I see her in person at TIFF I might pass out. This is a reality. And it doesn’t hurt that this period drama about a British physicist turned KGB spy sounds super interesting. The story is inspired by the real life KGB spy Melita Norwood. This is theatre director Trevor Nunn’s return to film directing. His last film was Twelfth Night: Or What You Will (1996) which I watched as a teenager infatuated with period pieces and literary adaptations.



A Star is Born

  • directed by Bradley Cooper
  • starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga
  • Trailer

As someone who loves classic movies, I’m curious about this fourth iteration of A Star is Born. The 1937 version starring Fredric March and Janet Gaynor is still the gold standard but I’m keeping an open mind for this one. Cooper’s directorial debut is a remake of the Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson 1976 version. The story follows musicians who fall in love but whose very different career trajectories put their relationship in jeopardy. The Lady Gaga documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two premiered at last year’s TIFF and I’m excited that she’ll be back at the festival.




  • directed by Steve McQueen
  • starring Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson, Jacki Weaver, Colin Farrell, and Michelle Rodriguez
  • Trailer

This film looks so bad-ass! Four women are left widows when their criminal husbands are killed in a botched heist. Instead of allowing themselves to be victims of their circumstances, the women take action and set out to finish the job that their husbands started. I love the cast and the trailer had me on the edge of my seat.


Special Presentations




  • directed by Wash Westmoreland
  • starring Keira Knightley
  • Trailer

If you know me, you know I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley but she always finds a way to be in movies I’m dying to see. This biopic about the provocative French writer Colette explores the struggle of early women writers and the sexual dynamics of turn-of-the-century Belle Epoque France all with a bit of gender-bending thrown in. I’m all over this one like a bad rash. With Colette, I’m hoping for a film celebrating female empowerment and independence.


Can You Ever Forgive Me?

  • directed by Marielle Heller
  • starring Melissa McCarthy
  • Trailer

By day I work in book publishing so this biopic about author turned forger Lee Israel is right up my alley. Melissa McCarthy is one of my favorite actresses and I can’t wait to see her in this role. The TIFF website calls this film “charming” but I’m hoping Israel’s exploits will have be squirming in my seat. I love a good story about deception and the consequences of being caught red-handed.



If Beale Street Could Talk

  • directed by Barry Jenkins
  • starring Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Regina King

I adored Jenkins’ Moonlight and Raoul Peck’s James Baldwin doc I Am Not Your Negro  so this seems like a natural fit. The racial tension in Baldwin’s novels are still so relevant today so I’m excited to see how Jenkins delivers this message to the big screen.



Old Man and the Gun

  • directed by David Lowery
  • starring Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Elisabeth Moss, Casey Affleck
  • Trailer

Could this be Robert Redford’s swan song before he retires for good? If it is, I’m not about to miss it. Redford is joined by Sissy Spacek and an all-star cast in this tale of a professional bank robber who falls in love and is determined to live life on his own terms.



Papi Chulo

  • directed by John Butler
  • starring Matt Bomer, Alejandro Patino

I was hoping for a good Latino/a story to pop up in the TIFF line-up and maybe this is it? No trailer yet but the synopsis looks intriguing. Set in Los Angeles, lonely weatherman hires a Latino immigrant to be his friend. I’m intrigued, tell me more!




  • directed by László Nemes
  • Trailer

Shot in 35mm for you film nerds out there, Hungarian director Nemes’ movie is about a young milliner who tries to work at her parents’ hat store but is turned away by the new owner. It looks to be a good period piece.



The Wedding Guest

  • directed by Michael Winterbottom
  • starring Dev Patel

Michael Winterbottom’s Jude was one of the pivotal movies I saw in my youth. In this film, Dev Patel stars as a young British muslim man who treks across Pakistan and India. There’s no trailer and very limited information on the movie so I’m basing my interest on the director, star and basic concept.



Where Hands Touch

  • directed by Amma Asante
  • starring Amandla Stenberg

This WWII drama tells the story of a young Black German teenager who falls in love with a member of the Hitler Youth. I’m here for the unusual twist on a coming-of-age romance and for the female directed period piece.




  • directed by Paul Dano
  • starring Ex Oxenbould, Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal

I’ve already heard a lot of buzz about Paul Dano’s directorial debut Wildlife. Set in the 1960s, it follows the story of a teenage boy as he deals with his parent’s divorce. You had me with the period aesthetics and the cast now all I need is a good story and I’ll be happy.


I’m hoping when TIFF releases the new schedule that there will be some more films directed by women and LGBTQ stories to add to my repertoire!

2018 Toronto International Film Festival

by Raquel Stecher

I’m very excited to announce that I will be attending this year’s Toronto International Film Festival as a member of the press! This will be my very first time attending TIFF and I can’t wait to bring you coverage here on Quelle Movies. I’ll also be writing and posting about TIFF on my Twitter, Instagram, on the Cine Suffragette blog, and over on DVD Netflix’s Inside the Envelope blog and on their Instagram. I hope to secure some more outlets in the coming weeks. While TIFF is a 10 day festival, I’ll only be able to attend the first five days. But I’m confident I’ll see lots great films in that time frame!

In light of the tragedy that occurred on Sunday in Toronto, TIFF decided to forego their annual Festival Press Conference. Today announced their big films in a press release instead. These movies will receive gala screenings, special presentations, press conferences and red carpet premieres. Here is the list of today’s announced films.



Beautiful Boy (world premiere)
dir. Felix van Groeningen
Steve Carrell, Timothée Chalamet

Everybody Knows
dir. Asghar Farhadi
Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem

First Man
dir. Damien Chazelle
Ryan Goslin, Claire Foy

dir. Mélanie Laurent
Elle Fanning, Ben Foster, Beau Bridges


The Hate U Give (world premiere)
dir. George Tillman, Jr.
Amandla Stenberg, K.J. Apa, Regina Hall

Hidden Man
dir. Jiang We
Eddie Peng

High Life (world premiere)
dir. Claire Denis
Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, Andre Benjamin

Husband Material (world premiere)
dir. Anurag Kashyap
Vicky Kaushal, Abhishek Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu


The Kindergarten Teacher
dir. Sara Colangelo
Maggie Gyllenhaal

The Land of Steady Habits (world premiere)
dir. Nicole Holofcener
Ben Mendelsohn, Edie Falco, Connie Britton

Life Itself (world premiere)
dir. Dan Fogelman
Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Annette Benning, Antonio Banderas

The Public (world premiere)
dir. Emilio Estevez
Alec Baldwin, Jena Malone, Gabrielle Union, Christian Slater

Red Joan (world premiere)
dir. Sir Trevor Nunn
Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson

dir. Zhang Yimou


A Star is Born
dir. Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga

What They Had
dir. Elizabeth Chomko
Hilary Swank, Blythe Danner, Robert Forster, Michael Shannon

Widows (world premiere)
dir. Steve McQueen
Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez


Ben is Back (world premiere)
dir. Peter Hedges
Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges

Burning Lee
dir. Chang-dong

Can You Ever Forgive Me?
dir. Marielle Heller
Melissa McCarthy

dir. Nadine Labaki

Cold War
dir. Paweł Pawlikowski


dir. Wash Westmoreland
Keira Knightley

dir. Matteo Garrone

The Front Runner
dir. Jason Reitman
Hugh Jackman, Vera Fermiga, J.K. Simmons

Giant Little Ones
dir. Keith Behrman
Kyle MacLachlan, Maria Bello

Girls of the Sun
dir. Eva Husson

Hotel Mumbai (world premiere)
dir. Anthony Maras
Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Anupam Kher

The Hummingbird Project (world premiere)
dir. Kim Nguyen
Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgard, Salma Hayek


If Beale Street Could Talk (world premiere)
dir. Barry Jenkins
Stephan James, Kiki Layne, Dave Franco, Pedro Pascal

dir. Nandita Das

Maya (world premiere)
dir. Mia Hansen-Løve


Monsters and Men (opening film)
dir. Reinaldo Marcus Green

MOUTHPIECE (world premiere)
dir. Patricia Rozema

dir. Olivier Assayas
Juliette Binoche, Guillaume Canet


The Old Man & The Gun
dir. David Lowery
Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Elizabeth Moss, Casey Affleck

Papi Chulo (world premiere)
dir. John Butler

dir. Alfonso Cuarón (closing film)

dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda
Cannes Palme d’Or winner


The Sisters Brothers
dir. Jacques Audiard
Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed

dir. László Nemes

Through Black Spruce (world premiere)
dir. Don McKellar
Tantoo Cardinal, Brandon Oakes, Graham Greene, Tanaya Beatty


The Wedding Guest (world premiere)
dir. Michael Winterbottom
Dev Patel

The Weekend (world premiere)
dir. Stella Meghie
Sasheer Zamata, Tone Bell, DeWanda Wise, Y’Lan Noel

Where Hands Touch (world premiere)
dir. Amma Asante
Amandla Stenberg

White Boy Rick
dir. Yann Demange
Matthew McConaughey, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Eddie Marsan

dir. Paul Dano
Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal

See you in Toronto!


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