Reviews include Dear Evan Hansen, Maria Chapdelaine, and Saint-Narcisse.
TFCA Friday – Week of Aug. 27
August 27, 2021
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
American Sausage Standoff (dir. Ulrich Thomsen)
“With idiotic characters, an idiotic premise and an idiotic premise of a story, it is not surprising the kind of film would result,” chuckles Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“A sub-Coen Brothers allegorical black comedy, American Sausage Standoff follows the battle between a Bavarian sausage maker and a Christian in the small cowboy town of Gutterbee,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “It also features a racist immigrant-hunting rooster, a cabaret-singing town boss, and considerable discussion about the varieties of intestine casings that can be stuffed with meat.”
Candyman (dir. Nia DaCosta)
“Particularly damning is the film’s all too literal invocation of ‘Say His Name,’” argues Sarah-Tai Black at The Globe and Mail. “The pit-of-the-belly urgency inspired by the Candyman’s summoning request of ‘say my name’ in both films already invokes such haunting resonances between past fictions and present realities, but here – as is customary within the film – overly pedantic political statements that trade on Black life and death, and Black bodies that endure both, attempt to add an ill-conceived depth to its already tenuous storyline.”
“The stunning sequences of the Black experience through American history told through cutout paper puppets will chill and horrify and reveal the origins of the myth,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Beautifully directed by Nia DaCosta with an equally beautiful, pulse-pounding score, Candyman sets the standard for post-modern horror.”
“The film is an effective body horror (those stings! that hook!) that uses jump scares but also more subtle forms of fear-mongering to get under its audience’s skin,” observes Chris Knight at the National Post. “While some of the violence is shown in gruesome closeup, other instances take place off screen or, in one supremely creepy moment, in pitch-blackness.”
“But what the film lacks in traditional scares, it makes up for with an unsettling scenario that plays slowly throughout the film, indicating harsher realities even legends can’t compete with,” says Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “And DaCosta’s vision is highly stylized, accented with performances that resonate with disquieting accuracy.”
“It’s not as relentless as Rose’s original, but that might just be the lack of novelty; as with most reboots and remakes, we’re a little bit ahead of the characters as the story unfolds, so the biggest shocks are inevitabilities,” writes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto…”at just 91 minutes this Candyman is refreshingly swift and effective.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “well paced with the horror escalating at the film’s climax, although at times too confusing to follow.”
The Colony (dir. Tim Felbaum)
“A well made but ultimately boring exercise in sci-fi dystopian society where no one really cares about the characters or to the planet Earth for that matter,” sighs Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Flag Day (dir. Sean Penn)
“[A]ll is forgiven with Penn’s newest, Flag Day, in which he does double duty as director and star, and also casts his own kids, Dylan and Hopper, as those of the ne’er-do-well character he plays,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “Does that make this a self-conceited movie? If so, it’s going to give vanity projects a good name.”
“What sets Flag Day apart is a sort of boxing match between two really good performances: Sean Penn, a great actor playing a bad actor, the wheedling, backpedaling charlatan John Vogel, who has an excuse for every bad impulse,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “And Dylan Penn, in her first movie role…as her dad’s terrific foil.”
“What is clear in the film is Penn’s fascination with the dysfunctional family which can be seen to be the direct result of John’s inability to stop his bullshit, despite his genuine love for his daughter Jennifer and his family,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Penn’s first features, The Indian Runner and The Crossing Guard, told heartfelt stories of family loyalty colliding with moral responsibility, so it’s strange to watch Flag Day consider that same theme while refusing to engage with it in the slightest,” admits Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
“Flag Day star Dylan Penn has acting in her genes,” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “Her natural and down-to-earth performance totally upstages her two-time Oscar winning father.”
The Hidden Life of Trees (dir. Jorg Adolph, Jan Haft)
Gibert Seah calls it “intelligent, quiet and insightful” at Afro Toronto.
The Lost Leonardo (dir. Andreas Koefoed)
“The Lost Leonardo is one of those docs that is absolutely worth seeing because the story is so compelling,” writes Marc Glassman at POV Magazine. “Not only is Andreas Koefoed’s film well researched, but it also has a pace and rhythm that makes one relish its complex narrative.”
“The Lost Leonardo is a dizzying documentary on the highest echelons of the art world – those collectors who will pay any amount of money to own a piece,” raves Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Now, THIS is an exciting movie by writer-director Andreas Koefoed.”
“[L]ots to learn from this insightful documentary with director Andreas assembling a very impressive cast of experts to lend their say,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“The Lost Leonardo delivers a much more complex and revealing narrative,” says Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “It’s a story about the intersection between art, history, power, commerce, greed and the desire to possess something rare just to own it.”
Sweet Girl (dir. Brian Andrew Mendoza)
“Jason Momoa’s wasted in Sweet Girl, now on Netflix, a standard revenge actioner that starts from a good place but devolves into endless shoot ’em ups, mano-a-manos and waka-mole assassins popping up,” groans Anne Brodie at What She Said.
They Who Surround Us (dir. Troy Ruptash 🇨🇦)
“They Who Surround Us finds its lugubrious groove effectively,” notes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “The problem is finding its way out. Roman is clearly a man in need of therapy, and lots of it. But with 91 minutes to play with, the last act is understandably rushed, highlighted by an awkwardly platitudinous speech by a dying soldier and a lot of emotional baggage landing perfectly placed on the carousel.”
“The Who Surround Us is a beautifully shot Canadian drama with a stunning Alberta on display but it ends up too slow and an often frustrating film,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“[A]fter a few sun-dappled, slow motion memories of his wife, coupled with sepia-tinged recollections of the war, there’s little to engage the audience,” admits Chris Knight at the National Post. “It’s a beautiful story, personal and earnest, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also narratively a little thin.”
Till Death (dir. S.K. Dale)
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “a neat small budget lean little sexy thriller well plotted and executed.”
Unapologetic (dir. Ashley O’Shay)
“In observing the resolve the women possess, O’Shay’s film effectively captures just how exhausting activism is,” notes Courtney Small at POV Magazine. “They may convey a ferocious energy when leading marches and confronting police, but the toll of constantly confronting trauma wears on the women.”
“Shot over five years, O’Shay’s documentary about the efforts of the Movement for Black Lives and Black Youth Project 100 in Chicago feels more urgent now than ever – maybe even more so since its screening in the TIFF Next Wave festival earlier this year,” says Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
“Takes great effect when it focuses on real events.” – Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto
“A stirringly confrontational film, Unapologetic earns its title with an early scene where young Blacks interrupt a bunch of privileged Whites eating brunch in an upscale restaurant with fierce words about deadly police violence against their people,” writes Marc Glassman at Classical FM.
Vacation Friends (dir. Clay Tarver)
“A clichéd occasionally funny forgettable movie aided by its four lead actors who at least display comedy chemistry together,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
A Wake (dir. Scott Boswell)
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah says the film “film looks extremely stagey and the actors speak their lines as if on stage in a play.”
Whelm (dir. Skyler Lawson)
“The story’s convoluted but interesting, it’s a challenge but it’s reeeaaal pretty,” admits Anne Brodie at What She Said. “That gorgeous natural colour palette intensified through the use of 16mm film in forests, cornfields, old brown houses and shady hotels hides the men who dress in brown Depression drab.”
TV Talk – Murders, Clickbait, and Mr. Corman
At What She Said, Anne Brodie really seems to enjoy Only Murders in the Building, writing, “Hilarity, imagination, old-world brocade and silk Manhattan and a great sense of National Enquirer-worthy revelations make this sing.” On the other hand, Marie Kondo’s latest self-help series Sparking Joy doesn’t quite live up to its name. “The new series trades heavily on emotional displays, high drama, tears and sad stories, but my takeaway is that it is a pungent indicator of the tyranny of living in a consumer society,” writes Brodie. More joy is sparked by Mr. Corman, which sees Joseph Gordon-Levitt excelling as star, director, writer, and producer. Brodie says the series is “a worthy showcase of his vivid imagination and refusal of conventional television.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah also checks out Only Murders in the Building and notes, “Despite heavyweights Steve Martin and Martin Short, everyone seems to be marking time in this sorry excuse for a apartment murder mystery.”
At NOW Toronto, Norm Wilner reports on the binge-worthy Clickbait. “[S]avvy casting goes a long way: Kazan’s full-on panic as Nick’s messy younger sister contrasts well with Gabriel’s fraying composure as his stunned wife, and Raei is really interesting as a missing-persons cop whose personal life gets tangled up with the case before it even begins,” writes Wilner. “I gobbled this show like popcorn – knowing it was probably bad for me, but enjoying the experience too much to stop.” Wilner also gives a shout-out to Chapelwaite and its Canadian ingredients: “The Halifax locations are appropriately moody, and the supporting cast includes Gord Rand as a sympathetic minister, Gabrielle Rose as the manor’s former housekeeper and Eric Peterson, effectively cast against type, as an imperious antagonist – with Julian Richings and Steven McCarthy glimpsed in the first half of the season as Charles’s departed family members.”