TFCA Friday: Week of June 14th, 2019

June 14, 2019

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

Opening this Week

The Dead Don’t Die (dir. Jim Jarmusch)

Marries Jim Jarmusch’s bemused detachment with George Romero-inspired zombie apocalypse for a frighteningly droll take on horror” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

It’s really weird. It’s also moody, drenched in irony and sometimes explosively funny. And it never even comes close to being scary, even as characters are having their flesh eaten on camera” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Totally amusing, aided by solid performances from an all-star cast and some hilarious writing coupled with a bit of parody” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

It all plays out as a kind of love letter to George Romero, the problem being that love letters don’t make for very compelling drama” — Chris Knight, The National Post

While its overall style of excessively literal deadpan humour won’t be to everyone’s taste (especially horror fans going into this expecting a broader, gorier zombie comedy), The Dead Don’t Die is a silly, unpretentious, and admittedly slight bit of good fun from art house darling Jim Jarmusch” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Dry, pointed and often very, very funny” — Karen Gordon, Original-Cin

Late Night (dir. Nisha Ganatra)

A light-hearted comedy with something to say and an excellent cast, that is unfortunately hobbled by a storyline that doesn’t quite add up” — Karen Gordon, Original-Cin

This Sundance 2019 smash seeks to amuse rather than fire up its mainstream audience, to zing rather than sting. It largely succeeds” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

The movie keeps things likable, accessible and even silly at times but without compromising an incisive and critical look at how deep biases run in the entertainment industry” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

Entertaining despite its overeagerness to please, all the more enhanced by Thompson’s and Kaling’s winning chemistry” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

For much of its running time, Late Night feels like two punchlines struggling for equal airtime” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail, including an interview with Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson

It’s suitably rousing and frequently funny, but there’s so much more outside Kaling’s margins that could’ve been explored further. It’s a good movie that could’ve been exceptional” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The dose of woman power you’ve been seeking and it’s hilarious” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

At Sharp Magazine, Pat Mullen interviews Nisha Ganatra

Men In Black: International (dir. F. Gary Gray)

The sparks between Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson that helped make Thor: Ragnarok an unlikely hoot barely ignite in this charmless spinoff from the durable sci-fi comedy franchise about covert alien-busters” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

The two actors – again, preposterously excellent physical specimens – try their sorta-best to give their wan dialogue some kind of energy, but they are no match for this entirely predictable, wholly disposable product” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

Prioritizes clumsy plot beats and cheap spectacle over character and as a result gives Thompson and Hemsworth scraps to work with” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

It gradually becomes apparent that this isn’t really a sequel to anything. It’s barely a film at all” — Chris Knight, The National Post

A creativity vacuum, a contract obligation fulfilled, nearly two hours, part of which can be filled by debating in one’s head whether this or Hellboy was the bigger waste-of-time narcoleptic reboot in a summer movie season that is decidedly short of high points” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

This unnecessary sequel is entirely perfunctory. It’s the kind of film that exists solely to fill a programming slot with a valuable intellectual property” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The film trudges along too slowly for an action flick, which is also plainly derivative” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Murder Mystery (dir. Kyle Newacheck)

By the low standards of Sandler’s cinematic output these days, Murder Mystery is assuredly better than it has any right to be” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

This is Agatha Christie Extreme Lite, but Aniston’s energy and commitment, despite the thin, familiar premise, is reason to watch” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

A good mystery — funny and light, and what one needs after a hard day at work” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Rolling Thunder Revue (dir. Martin Scorsese)

Captures what that period in American folk culture must have been like, as the protests eased off and people started wondering what to do next. Dylan chose to enjoy the music again. It seems like a pretty good move from this vantage point” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

For those with only a casual interest in the artistic process, it will feel like a rare peek behind the creative curtain. For Dylan fans, it is the warmest of embraces” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

A cheeky and sometimes deliberately obtuse reworking of documentary conventions from a master filmmaker” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Approaching Rolling Thunder Revue primarily as a Scorsese fan who appreciates Dylan’s music, I loved every minute of the film’s phantasmagorical and kaleidoscopic assessment of a tour that clearly means a lot for music buffs” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

To be a Bob Dylan fan these days means to be an apologist and enabler,” writes Peter Howell in the Toronto Star, who also recounts how he attended one of these legendary shows

Shaft (dir. Tim Story)

Good times, mostly, as the trio of two aging MFers and one MFer-in-training get their groove on as only Shaft can, comically assisted by Hall’s and Shipp’s characters” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

It’s straight-up awful: not just indifferent to its own themes, but aggressively lazy in almost every aspect. The director’s going through the motions, the actors don’t care, even the stunt performers feel checked out. I know it’s a movie, because I sat through all 111 minutes of it, but this Shaft doesn’t feel like anything at all” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Shafts its own hard-action legacy with uninspired action sequences and a sentimental wrap-up. As with many of these slapped-together action-comedy hybrids, it’s a game effort by a talented cast but a shame about the movie” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

There Are No Fakes (dir. Jamie Kastner) 🇨🇦

Can be seen as a nuts-and-bolts investigation of what one gallery owner calls “a massive art scam,” but there’s something else boiling underneath – an understanding of, and revulsion at, the way Canada’s white power structure consumes and perverts the work of Indigenous artists, even after they’re gone” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

It may cross your mind that somebody must be making these paintings and that somebody, unlike the rest of the profiteers in the chain, may be Indigenous. Soon, Kastner provides the answer and it’s a stunner” — Liam Lacey, POV Magazine

A riveting detective story that goes beyond the art world and into larger issues of society and endangered principles of integrity” — Karen Gordon, Original-Cin

It’s a complicated but fascinating story that touches on art forgery, appropriation of voice, cultural genocide and even murder” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Rigorously researched, exceptionally edited, and emotionally draining… be one of the most vital, complex, and controversial Canadian films of the year” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Watergate (dir. Charles Ferguson)

A multi-faceted, if completely exhausting, glimpse into the Nixon administration, its perverted power struggles, and the will of the American people to hold their nation to a higher standard than its Chief Executive” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

Political junkies and American history enthusiasts will gobble up all four hours and twenty minutes” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

While good at getting into the muck and weeds, fails in providing overview” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

What is truly amazing are the number of interviewees on film who had participated in Watergate” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

For anyone who has seen All the President’s Men, Nixon, The Post, Frost/Nixon or Dick – or for anyone who has ever cracked the slimmest of U.S. history books – there is little in Ferguson’s super-sized doc that will necessitate smelling salts” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

Xavier Dolan’s Next Act

He’s got plenty of time to reboot his career, writes Brian D. Johnson in Maclean’s

Toronto True Crime Festival

At The Gate, Andrew Parker has reviews of opening night films: Bei Bei (pictured) and Sakawa

Talent to Watch

Barry Hertz in the Globe and Mail: Lots to expect from the new crop of Talent to Watch filmmakers

The Film Atlas: 2

Genevieve Citron, the TFCA’s emerging critic of 2019, has recently published the latest edition of her film journal, The Film Atlas. This instalment features perspectives from Canadian director Kevan Funk, Academy Award winner Jeff Melvin, as well as academic voices. You can read the issue here: