TFCA Friday: Week of November 16th, 2018

November 16, 2018

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

Emerging Critic Award

Are you an aspiring film critic? Announced at our Gala, the TFCA’s Emerging Critic Award is a fellowship and mentorship opportunity. Applications are open and due December 3rd, 2018.

Opening this Week

A Private War (dir. Matthew Heineman)

Turns the last decade or so in the life of Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin into a surface-level biopic that occasionally finds something more profound” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

The best sequences and touches … could make many viewers forget that they aren’t watching a documentary” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Reminds us that the story’s always better when the writer cares. We need more soldiers like Marie Colvin now more than ever” — Pat Mullen, Cinemablographer

Drums the heroism and conviction of the journalism into the audience to no end” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Sums up in eight words why journalists feel compelled to risk their lives to report on conflicts: “I see it so you don’t have to”” — Chris Knight, The National Post

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (dirs. Joel and Ethan Coen)

Watch it straight through or break it up into chunks; the thing plays” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

The film as a whole satisfies, even if it’s something less than the sum of its parts” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Has something here to tickle your fancy, and if you adore everything they’ve done, there’s an embarrassment of riches here” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Highlights the best of the Coens’ mordant minds, but not without tripping over a few unintended obstacles. Which probably suits the pair, always in awe of things never going right, just fine” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

This may not be top-tier Coens, but it’s still some of the most charming, effective, intelligent cinema you’re going to see this year” — Jason Gorber, High Def Digest

Has a few flat notes, but it remains the purest, most unadulterated Coen brothers movie in years. That alone makes it worth listening to” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Unforgettable central characters. Each story has one that stands out and each are performed by a famous actor trying on something completely different” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Extremely watchable, packed with curios and contrasts and narrative twists, filled with the sincere and the ersatz, the stupid and the clever, the grotesque and the goofy” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (dir. David Yates)

The whole thing is so overstuffed, exhausting and tedious that when the cute magical creatures pop up like “hey, remember us?!” it’s a pleasant relief” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

Boring and offensively convoluted… a naked attempt at squeezing every last galleon out of J.K. Rowling’s cinematic Potter universe” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

Confused storytelling, muddled twists and turns and too many characters to keep track of lead this film to boring irrelevance” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

A movie that seems to want to recreate the Potter universe and does it in the most plodding way, crowding it with characters and plot points, many of which go nowhere” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

The Front Runner (dir. Jason Reitman)

Reitman thinks Gary Hart is the hero of this story, when he absolutely is not.  Privilege is a hell of a drug, I guess” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

While it’s probably not the high level prestige project everyone involved hoped it would be, The Front Runner still has a lot to like within its standard construction” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Provides an instructive how-did-we-get-here tale, looking at how media intrusion, once started, and whether for good or ill, is difficult to rein in” — Chris Knight, The National Post

The trouble is, there’s an abundance of evidence, from contemporary coverage and historical perspective, that Hart was a self-deluding, risk-taking compulsive womanizer who was fated to fall” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

It all seems pretty tame when set against the daily outrages perpetrated by Donald Trump against his family, his country and the world” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Green Book (dir. Peter Farrelly)

A road movie, a buddy comedy and a prestige studio release all at once… You get to watch Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali exist together, from one moment to the next, giving performances so textured and alive that they knock the film up the scale from “pretty good” to “goddamn transcendent”” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Best of all are Ali and Mortensen, superb actors both, and guaranteed Oscar nominees. They create fully realized characters who come to know each other in a way that can be summed up with an Aretha song title: “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.”” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

The casting of Mortensen and Ali is ultimately the defining difference between Green Book being a good movie and a mediocre, problematic one. Both of them are relishing the chance to play against type and opposite an equal” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Captures the ugliness of racism without resorting to cheap theatrics and crowd pleasing dramatic setups” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

There’s pleasing the crowd, and then there’s patronizing them” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

This really is a tightly-focused story, with Mortensen and Ali working off each other beautifully” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

A smart, nuanced story of two men thrown together by unlikely circumstance, and how each gains something from the experience” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Instant Family (dir. Sean Anders)

Balances flashes of snappy banter and slapstick comedy with an overwhelming amount of realism and emotional intelligence … one of the most pleasant surprises of not just the holiday season, but of the year in general” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The movie plays like a public-service announcement for the U.S. adoption industry, complete with an onscreen website at the end where you can go to learn more. That might rub you the wrong way. But here’s the thing – emotional exploitation aside, it’s still a pretty good movie” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Touched (dir. Karl R. Hearne)

A small, mournful drama about a lonely man who has conversations with a little girl in an empty apartment. It’s a ghost story, sort of, but the haunting is entirely internal” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

A moody and willfully ambiguous late-career debut” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

Isn’t interesting and as a horror movie, it isn’t chilling” — Pat Mullen, Cinemablographer

Widows (dir. Steve McQueen)

A propulsive, artful genre film that finds something electric and unnerving in familiar material, elevating every moment with perfectly considered casting and a willingness to find unconventional choices and run with them” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Would seem to make [McQueen] an odd choice for the ticking-clock pace of a caper pic, but don’t be fooled” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

By giving Rodriguez, Davis, Debicki and Erivo characters worthy of their talents, McQueen has made one of the most vital films of the year. A movie that sees America in all its fractured fury” — Eli Glasner, CBC

Offers respite from a glut of John Wick wannabes and Neeson’s own assembly-line thrillers” — Bill Chambers, Film Freak Central

But the combination of McQueen’s visual rigour and Flynn’s sharp-as-a-serrated-knife narrative instinct cements Widows as one of the greatest films of the year” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

It’s an enjoyable ride, but some of the story’s weaknesses make it less than it might have been” — Karen Gordon, Original-Cin

The kind of double-crossing heist thriller that is usually a dime-a-dozen venture. But in the hands of the master, it’s a consistently surprising, twisty, (female-) character-driven drama” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Quite a few plot twists — inserted into the storyline, they serve to enrich the drama” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Isn’t just a great piece of twisty entertainment, but also one of the finest films of the year” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (dir. Alison Reid)

Naturally enlightening, inspirational, and rousing without resorting to unnecessary cinematic trickery” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Reid’s terrific doc is a must-see: a biography of one of Canada’s greatest scientists, woman or man” — Marc Glassman, POV Magazine, including an interview with Reid by Pat Mullen in the same outlet

Remembering Stan Lee

Excelsior! Smilin’ Stan Lee has left the planet, Peter Howell laments in the Toronto Star

“It is impossible to overstate just how much Marvel’s output under his heyday has changed Western culture,” writes Barry Hertz in the Globe and Mail

Catching Up With Mr. Potter

Barry Hertz had never seen a Harry Potter film, so he watched all 8 (9? 10?) for the Globe and Mail