TFCA Friday: Week of Friday, November 24th, 2017

November 24, 2017

Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA critics.

Reviews and features by: Peter Howell (PH), Gilbert Seah (GS), Radheyan Simonpillai (RS), Barry Hertz (BH), Karen Gordon (KG), Norm Wilner (NW), Chris Knight (CK), and Jim Slotek (JS).

Opening this Week

The Breadwinner (dir. Nora Twomey)

Things get dire and desperate, but [Twomey] provides comfort in the warmth between Parvana and her family and friends, who still cling to humanity. There’s humour, too, especially in the magical stories Parvana narrates in a complementary plotline rendered with breathtaking imagery and packing an emotional gut punch” — RS

As cute as the animation is, the charm lies more in the delicious tale set in a foreign country” — GS

This is a grown-up story that can (and should) be seen by the young. Look for The Breadwinner to capture another Oscar nomination for Twomey and Cartoon Saloon, a three-for-three record not even the mighty Disney/Pixar can match” — CK 

Coco (dir. Lee Unkrich)

It’s a joy to see the company doing something genuinely creative again, after a pair of cash-in sequels (Cars 3, Finding Dory) and a factory-issue children’s story (The Good Dinosaur). Pixar looked for a while there as if it was content to embrace mediocrity as long as it kept multiplexes full” — PH

The best animated feature this year” — GS

May get off to an uneven start, but once it gets rolling it’s a carnival of wonders – a gorgeous, weird comedy filled with vivid imagery, eccentric characters and a marvellous payoff” — NW

The visuals are wonderful to behold; the land of the dead is not only brilliantly colourful, but boasts its own infrastructure, including nightclubs, transit, passport bureaucracy and even cinemas” — CK

Last Flag Flying (dir. Richard Linklater)

The more structured narrative serves as both an advantage to his film with more focus, but then lacks some of the inventive energy he is so well known for” — GS

With Last Flag Flying, the director shows off his ability to gently pushes a narrative along while allowing the audience to remain firmly in the moment” — BH’s interview with Linklater finds the director in his groove

It’s a pleasure to watch these actors just sit and be together, but I’d be overly generous if I said it was especially memorable or even dramatic. We’re left with an interesting experiment, but not much of a movie” — NW

A paean to age, misguided patriotism, lost opportunities and other melancholy things that wallows rather than contemplates” — JS

Linklater handles the material adroitly and unfussily, with a minimal score that if anything could be dialled back even further – it feels intrusive whenever the music swells” — CK

The Man Who Invented Christmas (dir. Bharat Nalluri)

The film’s most keenly felt presence is Scrooge, however, just as in A Christmas Carol. Quarrelsome in a nightcap and fearsome in a top hat, he’s played by the invaluable Christopher Plummer as a combination bully and muse, and Plummer is clearly enjoying himself” — PH

Humbug” — GS

Despite a fine cast and elegant trappings, the whole thing feels like it’s clutching at straws, slapping together what seems inspiring and festive like we’re overstuffing a turkey” — RS

With its humour, performances, universal themes, and just basic good heartedness, this is a movie for anyone who wants to end the year in a theatre feeling happier and more hopeful” — KG

Should be a humbug. Instead, it’s a humdinger” — CK

Roman J. Israel, Esq. (dir. Dan Gilroy)

Roman’s behaviour frequently vexes, and the narrative occasionally does, too. But Washington turns this seemingly unsympathetic character into a figure to embrace on the screen and to remember at awards time — the actor once again courts serious consideration at the Oscars” — PH, who talks turkey (and peanut butter?) with the actor and director

What stands out in this incredible story is Roman’s downfall” — GS

Dan Gilroy makes thoughtful, considered points about recent Black activism, its different variations and the contradictions between them. But he throws it all into a confused and frustrating mix that gets sentimental but doesn’t emotionally engage” — RS

It’s yet another testament to Gilroy’s writing that I could have spent more time with both Farrell’s and Ejogo’s characters, so intricately and realistically are they drawn” — CK

You’re Soaking In It (dir. Scott Harper)

The doc finds intriguing ways to illustrate its points, including interviews with key figures in advertising past and present. A personal favourite is Ethan Zuckerman, who wrote the code for the pop-up browser ad and is very, very sorry” — NW