Reviews include Close, Knock at the Cabin, and Alice, Darling.
TFCA Friday: Week of Aug. 12
August 12, 2022
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week!
Ainbo: Spirit of the Amazon (dir. Jose Zelada, Richard Claus)
“What’s missing is any sense of originality or charm. Characters have paper-thin motivations that remain hidden until a quick dose of exposition reveals them,” sighs Chris Knight at the National Post. “Granted, the animation is lovely. But the story of a self-styled teenage warrior trying to save her Amazon village from an ill-defined curse that is killing her people and destroying the environment has none of the awe and wonder one expects from such a story.”
Bank Robbers: The Last Great Heist (dir. Matias Gueilburt)
“Bank Robbers: The Last Great Heist is another Netflix original true crime documentary that is as fascinating as any fictional bank robbery/heist film popular in the 60’s and 70’s,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Bloom Up: A Swinger Couple Story (dir. Mauro Russo Rouge)
“Director Mauro Russo Rouge enjoys access as intimate as intimacy can be by joining Hermes and Betta whilst swinging,” says Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “The film seeks not to titillate, but to illuminate. The, er, thrust of the matter is that love becomes complicated when more bodies are interlinked.”
Bodies Bodies Bodies (dir. Halina Reijin)
“There is much to enjoy in the film – the dark skeletons in the closet revealed; the sexy bodies on display; the bitch fights; the arguments and the slasher type killings,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“The characters are a mix of types and clichés. The exceptions are Bee and Glen, who are both working-class and newcomers to the group. When things go south, they are the first to become objects of suspicion. But no one is safe from the scrutiny,” says Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “Under pressure everyone has reasons to be suspicious of everyone else. Some of the characters are grating. But making fun of types isn’t the point here. The clichés are part of the genre, and the fun. And why shouldn’t this generation have its own murder mystery film?”
“The result balances adroitly on the horror/comedy cusp, eliciting lots of nervous, I-shouldn’t-be-finding-this-funny laughter at a recent screening,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “And perhaps owing to the relative youth of the screenwriters, the dialogue manages to find humour in the ways of late Millennials / early GenZers without openly mocking them. There’s a great scene that finds the (still living) protagonists engaged in a shouting match, slinging terms like ableist, ally, body dysmorphia and feelings are facts. If Fan Expo had a psychiatry hall, these would be the keynote speakers.”
Costa Brava Lebanon (dir. Mouni Alk)
“The new and impressive directorial debut Costa Brava, Lebanon is brimming with social comment, set in a familial setting,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“In this wryly satiric drama, these modern-day hippies find their principles and loyalties challenged when the city garbage follows them to their haven,” explains Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “At one point, Walid imagines a flock of blue trash bags set afire and floating like balloons into the sky. In another scene, Soroya looks out her window at night and sees the landscape rolling by, as if she were on a train. Escape, whether to a different haven or into fantasy, is no more than a respite before the inevitable return to the fight.”
Day Shift (dir. J.J. Perry)
“Day Shift almost succeeds as a no-brainer time waster,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
The Duke (dir. Roger Michell)
“If you love British actor Jim Broadbent the way we do here at What She Said! then run, don’t walk to your device to catch The Duke,” raves Anne Brodie. Broadbent plays disabled pensioner and working-class family man Kempton Bunton who in 1960 stole Goya’s 1812 portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London! He’d meticulously planned the heist, not for his own enrichment, but to protest the government’s license fees on television, and demand better care for the elderly.
Emergency Declaration (dir. Han Jae-rim)
“It’s intense and completely berserk in a lifelike way, a great premise for a thriller but the length and fury of the film is problematic,” admits Anne Brodie at What She Said. “It’s hard to sustain the level of anxiety it creates and you just want it to end but it keeps going with new life-threatening obstacles piling on.”
Emily the Criminal (dir. John Patton Ford)
“It’s a terrific cast. Rossi as the practical-minded Youcef is nuanced and kinder than you might expect. But the film really belongs to Plaza, who gives Emily much complexity,” says Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “The character is like a shark, constantly moving, trying to get a job, a break, something that will give her stability. She’s smart and resourceful and keeps her emotions in check but at the same time, is also slightly sloppy, which leads her into places that test her resolve.”
“Plaza is superb in the role, in part because she’s playing so well against her usual type,” remarks Chris Knight at the National Post. “Her trademark cold stare helped her play funny while looking serious, but here it has the opposite effect – you keep waiting for her to get goofy, but it never happens. And that adds to the tension of both the performance as well as the larger story.”
“Aubrey Plaza is Emily an underemployed woman with crippling student debt of $70K plus interest,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “The film raises the spectre of student debt, an historic and persistent problem, a disability for millions of people. Well-executed and an interesting portrayal of a morally ambiguous woman facing test after test.”
The Fall (dir. Scott Mann)
“The gold standard in the genre is probably 127 Hours… with James Franco as hiker Aron Ralston, stuck in a canyon with a titchy knife and forced to, um, disarm himself in order to escape,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “Fall isn’t on par with that one, but if you enjoy a bit of vertiginous adventure with a couple of plucky protagonists and one seriously tall and skinny costar, then things are looking up.”
“Tense moments from on high force us to look away as we wonder why anyone would attempt the stunt in such an unforgiving isolated place,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “But a goosebumpy actioner and character study is worth the phobia. And kudos to the actors who actually climbed the thing.”
“To its credit, Fall doesn’t pretend to be a metaphor for more meaningful ruminations on life and death,” admits Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “It’s a female-led thriller designed to make you gasp and wince, plain and simple. You probably should see it just for the acrobatic camerawork and insane vistas. But you will hate yourself.”
“Incredibly stupid but also incredibly thrilling The Fall proves the power of cinema over all rhyme or reason,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Girl Picture (dir. Alli Haapasalo)
“Though feelings are hurt and angry words exchanged, nothing very bad or sensational happens, unlike almost any other movie or TV series with the word ‘girl’ in the title,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “Directed by Alli Haapasalo and written by Ilona Ahti and Daniel Hakulinen, it is an empathetic, almost sociological portrait that could be shown in health class in a progressive high school.”
“Director Haapasalo examines these pressures (of growing up) with sensitivity and insight,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Mimmi, Emma, and Rönkkö, (Aamu Milonoff, Linnea Leino, and Eleonora Kauhanen) take their first steps into romantic and sexual journeys on three consecutive Fridays,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Emma’s a skater training for the European Championships, while Mimmi and Rönkkö while away their off-school hours manning a mall juice bar. They’re best friends who share dreams, troubles, clothes and intimate details of what’s going on in their lives.”
Mack and Rita (dir. Katie Aselton)
“Diane Keaton pays tribute to her beloved Grammy Hall in the fantasy comedy Mack & Rita,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “It’s a fantasy wrapped in Keaton’s distinctive style, personality and charm that feels like a children’s fairy tale. It’s not deep or probing and it doesn’t ask a lot of us but Keaton is always a draw because she is one-of-a-kind, a star, and a treat.”
“After the predictable jokes about sagging breasts, aching body and lank grey hair there are charming moments of cross-generational advice. The lessons learned are not an attempt to rewrite the past but about being true to oneself at any age, and as an opportunity to improve on her future,” writes Nathalie Atkinson at Zoomer. “The self-consciously quirky feature is perhaps not as good as it should be, but as a friend-com it has its pleasures.”
The Princess (dir. Ed Perkins; Aug. 13)
“Charles and Diana ran the media gauntlet for twenty years and presented visuals that make her pain heartbreakingly visible,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Kudos to the filmmakers for leaving long sequences silent – we can easily fill the space with our horror and outrageous betrayal. The gut punch this doc delivers really hurts.”
“A chorus of camera shutters clicks eerily throughout The Princess. Not since Asif Kapadia’s Amy has the public gaze come so sharply under scrutiny,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “It’s a probing and masterfully assembled feature that briskly weaves through Diana’s briefly tumultuous time on earth. With razor-sharp precision, it flips the paparazzi’s gaze back on the viewer.”
We Are Living Things (dir. Antonio Tibaldi)
“For a grounded human drama, the film’s backdrop of alien abduction does not help the story’s credibility and neither do many of the incidents,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “But the film is not without its arthouse pleasures that include excellent sound mixing and editing, cinematography, social comedy and apt direction.”
“There’s more than a little of Close Encounters’ DNA in We Are Living Things, a low-key drama about two people searching for a truth they know is out there,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “But director and co-writer Antonio Tibaldi also infuses his story with a sense of social realism missing from Steven Spielberg’s 1977 blockbuster.”
When I Consume You (dir. Barry Blackshear)
“[E]xtremely dark and metaphorical,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Director Blackshear blows his audience away showing that love can hurt and there is always hope amidst grave impossible odds.”
Getting Sporty: Classics Revisited
As Prime Video revisits Penny Marshall’s 1992 movie as a series, Nathalie Atkinson at Zoomer digs into the history that inspired A League of Their Own: “The one fleeting intersectional moment in the film version of A League of Their Own has now rightfully become iconic: in the wordless, barely fifteen-second scene, a Black woman spectator (a longtime casting mystery who has since been identified as real-life softball legend DeLisa Chinn-Tyler) seated in the stadium’s “coloured” section silently throws a ball back to the players. Her pitch is impressive and she and Davis silently nod at one another — a tacit acknowledgement of the injustice of segregation in the sport (and society),” writes Atkinson. “The original was faithful to the real, albeit narrow, slice of history it covered — the AAGPBL was segregated at the time. The colour barrier also excluded Black men from organized baseball, which remained segregated until 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier.”
At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen looks at the restored 1982 tennis documentary The French, which recently played Toronto as part of TIFF Cinematheque: “Any good referee should cry ‘foul’ that The French isn’t widely considered a canonical doc,” writes Mullen. “The French captures the thrill of the game and the drive that makes the players sweat. It observes the tennis champs from every best seat in the house through an array of 16mm handheld cameras. One can only watch the tennis balls smash from either side of the net with wonder that no cameraperson was harmed in the process.”
TV Talk/Streaming Scribbles: There Is Crying and Baseball
At Exclaim!, Rachel Ho goes to bat for the remake of A League of Their Own: “Much like the original team, the Peaches are cast very well and their chemistry as a ball club is excellent. Berlant and Ephraim in particular shine in supporting roles that provide a lot of the show’s humour,” writes Ho. “After always stealing the show as the hilarious best friend, Carden is finally given a shot at a leading role and she smashes a home run. As Greta she’s sexy, fun, genteel, strong and vulnerable, carrying on Madonna’s ‘All the Way’ Mae legacy formidably.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie finds a hopeful note in the real-life disaster drama Five Days at Memorial: “What I like to take away is that the world didn’t end, people are basically well-intentioned, and everyone has a story.” Meanwhile, she agrees that A League of Their Own offers a fresh take on the film: “The spirit’s bright as these women overcome barriers and build a team to be reckoned with and it gets spicy as the girls explore their sexual identities.”
At The Globe and Mail, Johanna Schneller finds The Bachelorette offering an indecent proposal: “[W]atch a few minutes of any prior season of The Bachelorette, and you immediately see it’s the iteration [franchise creator Mike] Fleiss is least comfortable with. The Bachelorette is a patriarchy in microcosm: Nine of its 10 directors are male, as are all three of its writers,” writes Schneller. “The more we’re titillated by seeing women as objects or prizes or punching bags, the more we can stomach it. A series that pretends to give women a seat at the power table and then yoinks the chair away as they sit reinforces that patriarchal structure, and implants a lasting cultural bruise.”
Have you tried binge-watching? The real way to enjoy a show is Hagi-watching. At Gawker, Sarah Hagi explains the art of snack-sized streaming: “I thought that was the end of my Alita: Battle Angel experience, but the next morning I found myself looking for something to watch while eating lunch (boiled egg) and thought, may as well see what Alita does next,” writes Hagi. “Surprisingly, I found I really enjoyed watching five minutes of this movie while eating an egg. So, for the next two months or so, I watched Alita: Battle Angel whenever I had a few minutes to kill, and I loved it.”