TFCA Friday: Week of April 12th, 2019

April 12, 2019

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

Opening this Week

Amazing Grace (dirs. Sydney Pollack and Alan Elliott)

Amazing Grace is the glorious proof, right on the big screen. It’s a marvellous remembrance of the power and glory of Aretha Franklin” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

A revelation, and I mean that literally: I never thought this documentary would see the light of day” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

All of this feels very much of a time capsule” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

The film’s a testament to Franklin, an outstanding talent that defined a generation” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

The film might demystify the album to some degree, but it also makes for a richer experience. Amazing Grace never supplants Franklin’s album. It only enhances it” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The cinematography is rough and ready, the editing a touch ramshackle; at one point Franklin seems to undergo a costume change in mid-song. But the heart and soul and joy is what come through – that and the heat, with the performers sometimes dripping sweat” — Chris Knight, The National Post

And what a show it is” — Jason Gorber, High-Def Digest

The Best of Enemies (dir. Robin Bissell)

The “beats” in the story where hearts are supposed to swell are so telegraphed as to render The Best of Enemies emotionally flat. There are no surprises, no change-ups, no setbacks in this collision of sensibilities” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

The Brink (dir. Alison Klayman)

It’s competent, well-paced documentary filmmaking, but I can’t imagine it changing anyone’s opinion or even leaving viewers feeling like they understand the subject any better” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Lightly critical of right wing political strategist Steve Bannon’s desire to spread isolationism around the world, but it also unwittingly gives the man a platform” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

You may need a shower after… fascinating and nauseating” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Should documentarians make movies about ultra-conservative toxic scumbags like Steve Bannon? The answer, after watching Alison Klayman’s The Brink, is, unfortunately, “yes”” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

A question the film raises, though doesn’t answer, is: what is the antidote to this poison?” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Most intriguing is that one can never be sure on is whether director Klayman is on Trump’s or Bannon’s side” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

An unhappy Bannon takes to comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln, who wrote about America being on the brink of destruction, with himself surrounded by enemies. But Bannon is no Lincoln. He’s merely a cog in a right-wing machine. This is a fascinating close-up of that gear” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Far. The Story of a Journey Around the World (dirs. Patrick Allgaier and Gwendolin Weisser)

The best movie on offer this week is a documentary. It has scores of locations shot around the world on a budget barely above zero. And the “production” moved from place to place over nearly four years, mainly via hitchhiking” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

Fausto (dir. Andrea Bussman) 🇨🇦

The storytellers aren’t always as captivating as the filmmaker’s eye, but this version of Faust is also at the nexus of a lot self-relfection and questioning happening more broadly in cinema right now” — Kevin Ritchie, NOW Magazine

It’s a tale of shadows and men, and people and their environments. It’s hard to say what exactly Fausto is or means, but the spirit of the film leaves an insatiable hunger to know more” — Pat Mullen, Cinemablographer

Occasionally pretty look at though, it makes little sense most of the time” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

A work of contemplative art that packs its small, unassuming, and intimately composed frame to bursting with unanswerable questions about man’s place in the universe” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Girls of the Sun (dir. Eva Hussan)

It doesn’t stint on war-movie tropes and cliché-filled speeches, sometimes to its detriment. It fares better in recognizing the humanity and determination of the female soldiers” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Feels like a forgettable motion picture in an overstuffed genre that has been elevated thanks to a narrative shift that could be looked upon – at the same time – as being empowering and manipulative” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Too obvious in its attempt to propagate the importance of feminine issues” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

While it does little that is novel aside from the gender swap, and throws in a few say-what? coincidences, it remains a powerful story with a rousing finale, thanks in no small part to Morgan Kibby’s score, and the gorgeous, sunlight-in-dust cinematography” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Hellboy (dir. Neil Marshall)

An unholy mess” — Chris Knight, The National Post

It’s as if, every time the audience starts to remember just how bad a movie this Hellboy is, they throw another monster at us, start another fight, or gross us out with entrails” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

It’s in tune with the current public taste for over-the-top horror. But it seems pointless regardless, as does the CGI overkill that turns every battle into a bloodbath leaving mutilated and decapitated bodies” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Her Smell (dir. Alex Ross Perry)

A fame-to-flameout movie that leaves scorch marks on the brain” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star, including an interview with Elisabeth Moss

Like a lot of the best songwriting, Her Smell is frequently ugly but it’s also intensely empathetic” — Kevin Ritchie, NOW Magazine

The question is whether anyone would want to pay good money to watch another caustic journey of a self-destructive punk. But I must admit that I was moved” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews 

Elisabeth Moss gives the performance of her career and possibly of the year in writer-director Alex Ross Perry’s unflinching and note perfect look at addiction, celebrity, and recovery” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Little (dir. Tina Gordon Chism)

Isn’t just Big in reverse… It’s also a message movie about the scourge of bullying, which is a worthy pursuit but often makes it seem more like an after-school special than escapist entertainment” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

One of the most unnecessarily mean spirited, unfunny, unassured, and cynical comedies in quite some time, Little takes a tried and true genre formula that often yields feel good results and squanders it on pettiness and lame gags” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Should satisfy kids, despite a few rude jokes and the less demanding viewer unaware of the abundance of cliches and retreads of similar older films” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

While the three stars’ charm distracts from some of logic and taste gaps, there’s an energy drop when Regina Hall and her appalling, fun grown-up character goes off-screen. The movie’s accept-yourself message feels like a low bar for a character of her ceiling-busting ambitions” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Mary Magdalene (dir. Garth Davis)

Passionless… relegates its fascinatingly complex titular character to the sidelines of her own story” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The film’s not intended to be action packed or provocative; it appears to be an act of faith told simply” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Non-believers won’t have much to connect with, while conservatives may not appreciate the revisionist, anti-patriarchal message” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (dir. Yuen Woo-Ping)

Isn’t much more than an elaborately staged excuse to watch some some good guys beat up some bad guys. If that’s what you’re in the mood for, that’s what you’re going to get” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

A movie with a familiar recipe of gangland crime plus jolting martial arts sequences” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Mia and the White Lion (dir. Gilles de Maistre)

If you can rein in your doubts, you’ll find an appealing human-animal tale that’s all the more astounding for being the real deal. I never tired of watching De Villiers and Thor work together. Is it acting, stunt work or a documentary? Whatever you call it, it’s stunning” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Sends a powerful message about African hunting farms posing as sanctuaries” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Missing Link (dir. Chris Butler)

A deft blend of stop-motion and CGI. The animation is almost too good for a story this slender — the water imagery is especially impressive. But it helps make this pleasant diversion all the more enjoyable, for bigfeet and smallfeet alike” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

By the time Missing Link reaches its big finale, all is forgiven. It’s a dazzling accomplishment, featuring a wonderful cameo from Emma Thompson – playing Tilda Swinton, I think? – and one of the very best lines of dialogue I’ve heard all year” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Not the most profound movie in Laika’s catalogue. But Missing Link is an entertaining 90 minutes, with glib dialogue that may skew a little old for younger viewers, but with maybe enough realistic physical comedy and terrific stop-motion animation to make up for it” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

Stockholm (dir. Robert Budreau) 🇨🇦

A pleasant enough ride for what it is, even though Dog Day Afternoon casts a mighty long shadow; Lumet also knew how to play his abrupt ending for catharsis, not just a sudden stop” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

This entry in the “truth is stranger than fiction” canon strangely lacks real tension but laughing at the outlaw’s expense is kinda fun” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Hawke gives it his all in a noisy, messy, can’t-take-your-eyes off him performance… It’s almost enough to make me forgive the movie its faults” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Yet another stilted comic thriller” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin