TFCA Friday: Week of Friday, October 20th, 2017

October 20, 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), Barry Hertz (BH), Karen Gordon (KG), Liam Lacey (LL), Brian D. Johnson (BDJ), Norm Wilner (NW), and Susan G. Cole (SGC).

Opening this Week

Boo 2! A Madea Halloween (dir. Tyler Perry)

There’s a long jittery sequence in which the four nervous old-timers drive through the woods at night in Madea’s broken-down Caddy, acting both brave and terrified by turns, which had the preview audience, including me, right in its pocket. It might even rank up there with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” — LL

Breathe (dir. Andy Serkis)

We get flashes of a far more complex and unsettling movie – one that really understands the psychological weight with which Serkis seems unwilling to engage” — NW

Ex Libris (dir. Frederick Wiseman)

Probably half an hour longer than it needs to be, but at this point Wiseman can take as much goddamn time as he wants… The acts of kindness and outreach pile up, one after another, and Wiseman is there to record them all. It’s heartening to see an institution working with the loftiest of goals, every action intended to better someone’s world. Maybe Ex Libris doesn’t need to be any shorter after all” — NW

Human Flow (dir. Ai Weiwei)

Beyond its value as a documentary, it’s a statement of principle. Through his images and his own on-screen actions, Ai makes the case that simple decency can be contagious, and that profound despair can be alleviated – if only momentarily – by empathy and kindness” — NW

Politically-savvy viewers may reasonably object that there is more breadth than depth here, in a film that hopscotches around the planet” — LL

Though Ai’s film is by no means perfect, it accomplishes its aim to make a difference. If one can’t sacrifice a little for a suffering fellow human being, then what are we?” — GS

Drone shots that show panoramic quilts of human suffering are “beautiful and shocking at the same time,” says Ai, in an insightful interview with Brian D. Johnson. “Only God can have a view like that. It shows how fragile our human condition can be”

Leatherface (dirs. Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury)

Those looking for genuine insight into the origins of the eponymous maniac will be disappointed to find a gruesome crime picture rather than a horror movie” — NW

Okay for [franchise] fans, but does the rest of the world need to see this?” — GS

Only the Brave (dir. Joseph Kosinski)

A middling, overlong drama about courage, camaraderie and square-jawed heroism, every moment laden with meaning because this is a Tragic True Story” — NW

Great performances all around, particularly from Josh Brolin and Jeff Bridges” — GS

The Snowman (dir. Tomas Alfredson)

To get back to the real mystery here, how did Alfredson manage to screw this up so badly? … Some cold cases are never meant to be solved, I suppose, and The Snowman isn’t just chilly—it’s frozen stiff” — PH

Really, this kind of disaster is nobody’s fault; it’s just what happens when a movie is pushed into theatres in an unfinished state. It’s underdeveloped, missing vital connective tissue, not quite strong enough to live on its own” — NW

So baffling in tone, maddening in story, and laughable in execution that you’d think there would be no place to go but up. But there is so much more room to fall” — BH

Like someone pulled every fifth page out of the script and no one noticed. Without establishing who Harry is and why he’s stumbling around in the dark recesses of his own mind, never mind this film, what do we have to hang on to?” — KG

Alfredson’s worst film—a sad deviation from a director who has seldom missed his mark” — GS

Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton (dir. Rory Kennedy)

This flattering doc by Rory Kennedy is as much an infomercial for the man’s showmanship and business savvy as it is a life study of a grown-up kid who finds “a certain peace” in riding the waves” — PH

As interesting as Laird the man” — GS

Una (dir. Benedict Andrews)

The whole thing has a claustrophobic feel – and not in a good way. Instead of making the audience squirm, the strategy only brings into focus the pic’s low budget… Still, Mara’s terrific” — SGC

Remembering Gord Downie: Moving Images Made With Words

In addition to a tribute to the late musician, Peter Howell recalls an incredible story involving the Tragically Hip