Reviews include Close, Knock at the Cabin, and Alice, Darling.
TFCA Friday: Week of April 1
April 1, 2022
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
This Week in Movies!
100UP (dir. Heddy Honigmann)
“100UP is a doc that is easily made, without much research or difficulty, but whose charm is derived from the subjects,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Ahed’s Knee (dir. Nadav Lapid)
“It’s extraordinary how much outrage can be caused by a slap in the face, isn’t it?” asks Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “That age-old gesture, designed more to humiliate than injure, is part of the background of Ahed’s Knee, a film by Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid (he made the 2018 Berlin winner Synonyms). It’s a film of jagged edges and erratic momentum, tracing a day in the life of a filmmaker undergoing a personal and political crisis.”
“Much time is devoted to the director’s issues, including his mandatory military service. There are also a few dance numbers dropped in, and some strange whip-pans that suggest a distracted point of view. It’s a rather confusing mess,” admits Chris Knight at the National Post.
“Does Ahed’s Knee work as a film? Quite frankly, I’m not sure,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “I’ve never loved diatribes, not even in documentaries, and far less in dramas. For some potential audience goers, this film might prove to be an eye-opener.”
“[O]ne of the most spirited films of the year – never mind the confused theme or message,” advises Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “But Ahed’s Knee, unlike his other films, is the most disjointed resulting in often annoying segments inserted without much connectivity.”
Apollo 10 ½ (dir. Richard Linklater)
“Richard Linklater mines the events and cultural ephemera of his Houston-adjacent youth, creating a Kodachrome-hued shaggy-dog tale that unfolds during the halcyon days of 1969 leading up to NASA’s historic Apollo 11 moon mission,” writes Jennie Punter at Original Cin. “Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood is definitely Linklater’s most granular film, rich in the small details and moments of daily life that unite to power the biggest stories of our times.”
“Roughly half the film’s 98 minutes are given over to this kind of gentle nostalgia, together with a mild how-did-we-survive-this wonderment. This was an era when seatbelts were decidedly optional, drinking and driving was legal, and there was nothing more fun than playing in the dust of a DDT spraying truck,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “But there’s still a lot of time devoted to the space program, with animated recreations of key moments of the Apollo program, including launches, landings and of course moonwalks. Young Stan drinks it all in, to the point where he imagines he was part of it all.”
Better Nate than Ever (dir. Tim Federle)
“It’s an elaborate production, mirroring Nate’s fantasies and imagination, it’s bursting with goodwill and acceptance, an extremely important message for today’s audiences, given the egregious new prejudicial laws in the southern US,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
The Bubble (dir. Judd Apatow)
“Apatow evidently felt the idea of narcissistic and noxious celebrities forced into a Big Brother situation so that they could continue making millions during a global health crisis was inherently funny,” groans Radheyan Simonpillai at NOW Toronto. “His movie doesn’t add much by way of jokes. Instead it simply leans on its self-satisfied premise and a cast willing to embarrass themselves for pratfall chuckles for more than two deathly boring hours.”
Burn (dir. Patrick Lazzara)
“Director Lazzara demonstrates some stylish and slick and well-paced work; is a neat, low budget absorbing little thriller,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Everything Everywhere All at Once (dir. The Daniels)
“Imagine sitting through DJ Snake’s Turn Down For What music video for two-and-half-hours. If that sounds good, boy do I have a movie for you,” suggests Radheyan Simonpillai at NOW Toronto. “Everything Everywhere All At Once has all the spastic energy, phallocentric humour and visual wit directors the Daniels brought to that Lil’ Jon video about bodies gyrating with seismic force, but with one extra and essential ingredient: Michelle Yeoh.”
“A scatological Jackass comedy, a Matrix-y sci-fi thriller, a Wong Kar-wai-flavoured melodrama, a Crouching Tiger-esque martial arts spectacle and an unknown number of other kinds of movies…Everything Everywhere represents either the end point of genre cinema or the beginning of something startlingly new,” notes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. He also chats with Daniels Kwan and Scheinert about their potpourri flick and working with Michelle Yeoh. “[W]hen we actually met Michelle, we realized she’s weirder than people know,” says a Daniel. “What an honour to show that side of her to the world. We were euphoric leaving that meeting.”
“Driven by a superb performance by Michelle Yeoh, Everything is likely to end up the year’s wonkiest movie, and one of its most satisfying. More than that, with its mix of insanity and joy, it is a tonic for these times,” raves Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “Yeoh plays Evelyn Wang: wife, mother, and co-owner of a laundromat and cleaning business with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). She’s exhausted, and terminally unhappy. To her family, she’s hostile, caustic, toxic.”
“And the film does ramble on in the final act, so adamant to leave no hanging threads that I thought I was going to exit the screening with a new sweater,” knits Chris Knight at the National Post. “At two hours and 12 minutes of high-energy shenanigans, it’s at least 20 minutes too exhaustingly long. But I’d bet my last hot dog that there’s a universe where that cut exists, and where this already admirable, fun film is actually perfect. We just don’t live in the best of all possible worlds.”
Everything Went Fine (dir. François Ozon)
“François Ozon has made a tough film, one with little sentimentality about a family in crisis,” notes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “It reminds me of the best of Truffaut, how in films like Les quatre cent coups (The 400 Blows) or Jules and Jim, the matters of life and death and friendship are dealt with in a matter-of-fact style. Everything Went Fine is a film about life and death—not about a problem.”
“Ozon’s most serious film: the story is a layered one with many other important subplots related to the theme of the subject of medically assisted suicide,” says Gilbert Seah at Toronto Franco.
“Relying heavily on the strength of his actors, particularly Marceau and Dussolier and being immeasurably rewarded for it, Everything Went Fine devastates with finely tuned emotional precision. When Emmanuèle lets her guard down and briefly cracks, Marceau injects the film with the raw heartache of letting go,” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf.
Family Squares (dir. Stephanie Laing)
“Family Squares is another uninspired dysfunctional family film forced to be watched ZOOM-style,” groans Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Last Survivors (dir. Drew Mylrea)
“[D]espite its flaws, Last Survivors is an entertaining time-waster with enough incidents for the story to move merrily along,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
The Last Tourist (dir. Tyson Sadler 🇨🇦)
“It’s a tough slog, this film, partly because it delivers its arguments with a sledgehammer, and partly because we know what it’s saying is true,” says Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “‘The key issue isn’t how we stop travel,’ a commentator offers near the end. ‘It’s how do we get travel right.’ Never, ever posing for pictures with wild animals would be an excellent start.”
“[H]as some of the most stunning images of places to visit on the planet, but offers no surprises in terms of storytelling,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The film is at its most effective at the end when various individuals tell the audience what they have done and can do to promote sustainable tourism.”
“Jane Goodall and other provocative activists make an argument for changing the very concept of travel – to value the places you want to see,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Sobering and important.”
“The Last Tourist also makes some interesting arguments about so-called voluntourism, in which travellers do charity work while abroad. Seemingly positive, it can also represent a neo-colonial saviour complex and can even drive up rates of children in orphanages in developing countries, as poor parents leave their kids for rich foreigners to mind,” observes Chris Knight at the National Post. “It’s a complicated trade-off, but interview subjects make a good point when they ask if viewers would want a revolving door of untrained strangers visiting a school or orphanage in their own country.”
“With picturesque views of 30-odd locations around the world, The Last Tourist inspires a sense of wonder with one image, but provides a sense of what’s at stake with the jarring trash-filled and overpopulated snapshots in the next,” says Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “It’s a compelling case for change.”
Let Me Be Me (dir. Dan Crane and Katie Taber)
“A feel-good movie that shows that when everything seems hopeless and the world appears to be crumbling down, there is hope as witnessed in this in Kyle’s incredible journey to manhood,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Morbius (dir. Daniel Espinosa)
“It’s been far too long since I’ve seen a superhero movie whose special effects were both jaw-dropping and seemingly effortless,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “I mean, of course Morbius leaves this wispy, streaky, smoky effect behind him when he moves. If you liked The Flash entering the speed force, you’re going to love this. His character’s wildly impractical, questionably safe and certainly illegal wafting around in front of a subway train is worth the price of admission.”
“As for vampire lore, virtually none of it applies here,” notes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “The transformation to blood sucker is more Hulk-like than Dracula (Morbius even tosses off a Bruce Banner-ish line when he is briefly in custody: ‘I’m getting hungry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.’) Even when not in vamp mode, both [Jared] Leto and [Matt] Smith (whose character wants in on the cure-my-disease action) have abs, pec and guns-for-arms they can’t help but want to show off. A lot of weight-training went into this movie.”
“It is kind of fun witnessing the absolute nadir of a cinematic genre,” admits Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “A hack-tastic effort in turning golden intellectual property into lung-clogging coal, director Daniel Espinosa’s movie is irredeemable in every fashion. It is charmless, incoherent, ugly and so aggressively stupid that it defies any attempt to shove it into the desperate ‘guilty pleasure’ box.”
Night’s End (dir. Jennifer Reeder)
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah concedes that the film is “an ok horror watch, not particularly good but nothing really wrong with it either.”
Nitram (dir. Justin Kurzel)
“Caleb Landry Jones goes full-on psycho as Tasmanian serial killer Martin Bryant in Nitram a somber meditation on a young man with an IQ of 66 and Aspberger’s who carried out the worst mass murder in Australian history,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Filmmaker Justin Kurzel makes no judgment, shows no gore; the film’s spareness is its strength as is Landry Jones’ superior, controlled and haunting performance.”
“Nitram is both a deeply troubling and a resounding excellent film. It’s weird that it can be both, and most viewers will likely be overwhelmed by just one of those reactions. But it’s possible to experience both,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “Nitram gets high marks for drama and performances. Whether you want to watch is the same question you need to answer every time you go to the cinema.
You Won’t Be Alone (dir. Goran Stolevski)
“The film is layered with ideas about life that resonate down to our time,” writes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “The role of women and mothers in society is an obvious one, but there are other, more broadly philosophical themes. The tone, at times, is reminiscent of films by Terrence Malick, enhanced by the camera work of director of photography Matthew Chuang.”
“It doesn’t quite gel in this first feature, which premiered at the Sundance festival this year,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “You Won’t Be Alone also played the Palm Springs International Film Festival, where Stolevski won the Directors to Watch prize. I’d agree – his obvious technical expertise makes me curious to see what he’ll do next. But other than advertise that prowess, You Won’t Be Alone has little to recommend it.”
“The premise is basic enough, but You Won’t Be Alone gets you in your feelings,” raves Radheyan Simonpillai at NOW Toronto. “It’s a brutal and beautiful coming-of-age story about discovering cruelty, toxic masculinity and the mysterious ways that human connection and affection keep us going.”
“It’s also a wicked thing, this film,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “An art-house horror that is well made though not for everyone.”
Oscars: On the Slap, the Backlash, and…oh yes—the winners!
“[Will] Smith would have had ample opportunity to make a statement that reflected the love he insisted he wants to embody: Alopecia affects millions; no one should speculate why a woman shaves her head, or indeed does whatever she wants with her hair; making fun of someone’s appearance is cruel, etc. Good grief, [Chris] Rock himself made a documentary, 2009′s Good Hair, about the cultural implications of Black hair. Smith could have eviscerated Rock through grace. He would have been a hero,” writes Johanna Schneller at The Globe and Mail of the Oscars’ infamous moment. “Instead, he turned himself into the embodiment of toxic masculinity, on a night that was built to celebrate Hollywood’s humanism.”
“It was confusing, hostile, toxic, ugly and immediately incomprehensible,” says Barry Hertz on the slap at The Globe and Mail. “Much like the current mess that the Oscars – and by extension the rest of Hollywood – finds itself in the morning after. I have no remote idea what the next step forward is, but I can recognize that Sunday night’s gala was a giant leap backward. That said: No one can accuse the 2022 Academy Awards of being boring. Only infuriating, and more than a little sad.”
Hertz also lists the best, the worst, and the weirdest moments of Oscar night (free guess where the slap is) and includes other highlights like Dune’s victory and Timothée Chalamet’s shirt or lack thereof: “After last year’s subdued affair, the red carpet came alive on Sunday with a number of outré looks. Perhaps the most outrageous, in the best sense, was a shirtless Timothée Chalamet,” writes Hertz. “Good luck to the Dune star if the Academy menu happened to include soup. Though I can picture the New York Post headline now: Chalamet flambéed by consommé, oy vey!”
At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell doesn’t let one bad apple ruin a whole night and notes the significance of CODA’s come-from behind win. “Perhaps most significantly of all for the movie industry, CODA is the first film by a streaming service, Apple TV+, to win the Academy’s biggest prize. It represents a sea change for Hollywood, which has for years seen the rise of streamers as a threat to traditional theatrical movie-going,” notes Howell. “The immensity of her achievements had already started to hit writer/director Heder as she accepted the prize for Best Adapted Screenplay, for her film, which is a remake of a 2014 French film. She described the experience of making CODA as ‘life-changing as an artist and as a human being’ for her, since she learned so much from working with her mostly deaf cast.”
“Not since Michael Moore called shame on President George W. Bush has the Academy Awards announcement for Best Documentary Feature inspired such a viral moment,” observes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “The Smith/Rock outburst, however, overshadowed the moment. While Summer of Soul took the stage, the mention of the other nominees probably didn’t even register for many folks at home wondering in disbelief about what transpired.”
TV Talk: Kiefer and Gary
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz chats with The Contractor star Kiefer Sutherland about his new show and his relationship with Toronto over the years: “It’s only changed because Toronto has changed,” observes Sutherland. “When we were shooting [the series] Designated Survivor in Toronto for three years, I couldn’t help but notice that all my firsts were happening on those four corners of Yonge and Bloor. My first job at the food court at the Hudson’s Bay Centre. My first meaningful kiss with a girl at the Bloor Street subway station. The first time I got beat up was on the southeast corner. The first time I busked with a guitar. I remember the Harvey’s – I lived in that Harvey’s, and now it’s gone.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie enjoys the mini-series Slow Horses: “Smartly, often funny scripting, an ace cast of characters and a peek at failed spies is rousing and entertaining, and this is one heck of a great behind-the-scenes adventure, and more.” The Christopher Walken mini-series The Outlaw, meanwhile, brings a dash of comedy: “It’s fun and bouncy, then it’s dark and dangerous, but one thing’s certain – it’s all for one and one for all.” Amy Schumer also rebounds from her Oscars gig with Life After Beth: “There are awkward and relatable moments aplenty and a vivid imagination at work as Beth attempts to get a grip on her life.” And if Dr. Quinn is your preferred brand of medicine, Jane Seymour is back with Harry Wild: “If all this sounds like a flight of unbelievable fancy, it is, but Seymour’s having fun hamming it up, asking her son for weed and being generally outrageous.”
At Original Cin, Liam Lacey enjoys Gary Oldman’s performance in Slow Horses even if the mini-series itself isn’t on the same level: “Oldman’s performance is a lot of fun. His character could be the alter-ego to LeCarré’s self-effacing, polite George Smiley, who the actor played in Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy. He’s bolstered by such veteran language chewers as Oldman’s Darkest Hour co-star, Kristin Scott Thomas, as an ice-queen MI5 section head, and Jonathan Pryce as a retired master spy, it’s all pungently watchable.
At Zoomer, Nathalie Atkinson chats with Oldman’s Slow Horses and Darkest Hour co-star Kristin Scott-Thomas about bringing characters from the popular books to life. “’In a way the book sort of dissects acting,’ she says of the character’s internal monologues and many ‘little foibles,’ like applying lip balm to gird herself before confrontation,” writes Atkinson. “‘What really struck me was how obsessed she is with the mask. With her appearance, with her armour, with her looking absolutely impeccable and not a hair out of place. That kind of thing I think isn’t just about the way she looks it’s about the way she carries herself. Her power is held in her backbone and she’s a really strong woman and she is going to display that strength by this, her outward appearance.'”
Domee Shi on Turning Red
Emerging Critic Award winner Rachel Ho chats with Oscar winner Domee Shi about the infamous Turning Red review that set the Internet on fire, as well as finding power in being true to her experiences in her work. “My hope is to keep going to a point where it doesn’t have to be headline news that an all-Asian cast is in the next big budget Marvel movie or whatever. That it just becomes so normal that we get to a point where we can go easier on ourselves and have mediocre stories [and] prestigious movies,” Shi tells Ho. “That it just becomes normal to go to the theatres and watch a movie with the entire cast being Asian or otherwise. I think that’s my dream for the future.”