Reviews include Slash/Back, Elvis, and Official Competition.
TFCA Friday: Week of August 20
August 20, 2021
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
ICYMI: The TFCA released a statement this week regarding safety and screenings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Release this Week
Cryptozoo (dir. Dash Shaw)
“If you only take the kids to see one animated movie this week, make sure it’s not Cryptozoo,” cautions Chris Knight at the National Post. “It’s a fantastic story, but it’s not for the very young.”
“[P]lays like an adult fairy tale comic book nightmare; animation is differently fresh but the storytelling gets a bit messy with a dull middle where the plot remains stagnant for a bit,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Though neither the action-adventure stunts nor the B-movie messaging feel particularly fresh, the film itself makes a case for the care and nurturing of difference,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “The inventiveness and range of the artistic styles here, from the firefly delicate to the monstrous, make Cryptozoo stand out as a rare cinematic beast.”
“Bakus! Unicorns!! Animation orgies (done tastefully, of course)!!! Who says the Sixties are dead?” writes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “You can’t tell it from the animation, which is terrific, although decidedly low-budget. Disguising the problem of not being able to delicately animate every creature, Sambroski goes for quick cuts and amazing shots.”
Demonic (dir. Neil Blomkamp 🇨🇦)
“Blomkamp here mixes high-concept science fiction with corporeal supernatural horror in a way that feels postmodern,” writes Sarah-Tai Black at The Globe and Mail. “Unfortunately, Demonic often lacks the substance and energy needed to back up its narrative originality and hybrid genre form.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah says it “never meets up to the expectations it raises.”
“Demonic has little going for it except the Blomkamp name,” admits Chris Knight at the National Post. “I don’t know what wrath Blomkamp might have faced from fans if he’d never made another feature, but this is clearly a case of damned if you do.”
“This atmospheric horror-mystery has a couple great moments, but they don’t make up for the flat characters, clunky writing, and poor pacing,” sighs Victor Stiff at That Shelf. “Demonic is nowhere close to the worst horror movie I’ve watched this year, but given who’s at the helm, it is the most disappointing.”
I Carry You with Me (dir. Heidi Ewing)
“It’s a lot of ground to cover in under two hours, and the film often resorts to easy clichés, like a scene where Ivan explains to one of the chefs in the restaurant, where he works as a plongeur, how to properly cook a tomato,” observes Chris Knight at the National Post.
“Though the subject of immigrants from persecuted minorities fleeing their homelands is topical, what elevates I Carry You With Me above most social dramas is its finespun, artisanal quality,” notes Liam Lacey at Original Cin, “That includes the soulful performances, cinematographer Juan Pablo Ramirez’s furtive, handheld glimpses of new love in twilight, editor Enat Sidi’s interwoven time frames, and the melancholic soundtrack from Jay Wadley.”
“Ewing’s sensitive naturalism gives this poignant story intense intimacy and universality, with haunting scenes crossing the night deserts, evading untold dangers, which have new urgency with what we know now,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “The New York cityscape and longing daydreams of love and memory are achingly moving.”
“Director Ewing allows the strength of his source material i.e. the real life story to manifest itself, not relying on melodrama or cheap theatrical dramatics like added on confrontation,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“How many love stories can say they’ve spanned decades, crossed borders, and traversed genres?” asks Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “I Carry You with Me is, above all, a love story and each frame of the film resonates with tenderness.”
In the Same Breath (dir. Nanfu Wang)
“In the Same Breath is among a handful of recent documentaries examining the Wuhan outbreak, but Wang stands out for her ability to tell a big-picture story through intimate scenes of working people forced into difficult choices beyond their control, while also exposing the levers of state power every step of the way,” says Kevin Ritchie at NOW Toronto.
“As with her bravura feat of filmmaking One Child Nation, Wang interrogates the power of propaganda and a nation’s willingness to be deceived,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. He also speaks with Nanfu Wang about navigating censorship and the Chinese authorities. “My close family members in different areas were questioned by the local police,” says Wang. “It’s still unknown to me and my family what will happen after the wide release on HBO because that was simply a reaction back Sundance premiere.”
Mosquito State (dir. Filip Jan Rymsza; Aug. 26)
“Mosquito State is one of the better foreign horror films to debut on Shudder – a creepy psychological terror that develops in the mind of an obsessed and paranoid Wall Street strategist,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
The Night House (dir. David Bruckner)
“The sound design really makes your skin crawl, though, especially repeated spins of ‘The Calvary Cross,’ a haunting song by Richard and Linda Thompson that speaks of being possessed by an indefinable urge: ‘Everything you do / You do for me,’” sings Peter Howell at Night Vision.
“Hall is terrific,” raves Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “A key scene where Beth goes to the half-finished house across the lake in the middle of the night during a rainstorm while drunk would seem preposterous if Hall didn’t portray Beth with such clarion commitment to descending the rabbit hole of discovery, consequences be damned.”
“But as good as Hall’s performance is, she can’t make the ending work,” counters Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto. “Bruckner had the same difficulty with his last feature, The Ritual, which started well but couldn’t stop overcomplicating its slender story, ultimately hanging all its tension and suspense on an ambitious revelation it just couldn’t pull off.”
At Original Cin, Jim Slotek speaks with Rebecca Hall, who situates the film’s haunted house within her family history. “I’ve been to a lot of spooky places. This wasn’t spooky, but it was filled with history. It was the ancient Greek theatre at Epidaurus. My father (the late theatre director Peter Hall) directed a play there when I was a kid,” says Hall. “I was doing the production of The Winter’s Tale, and Simon Russell Beale makes a speech during which he references ‘the Oracle down the road.’ And in fact, the actual temple of the Oracle of Epidaurus was literally down the road.”
Paw Patrol: The Movie (dir. Cal Brunker, Andrew Hickson 🇨🇦 🇺🇸)
“It is slightly smarter, slightly funnier, slightly more challenging, and far prettier than a typical episode of the animated small-screen Canadian-made phenomenon,” yelps Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “In Paw Patrol-ese, it is the Zuma of the franchise: so inoffensive and eager to please that you’ll forget it exists by the time that you finish reading this sentence.”
“It’s a nailbiter and it’s also really cute and sweet and energetic,” yips Anne Brodie at What She Said. “And what a voice cast in addition to the original members we have Kim Kardashian, Randall Park, Tyler Perry, Jimmy Kimmel and our own Raoul Bhaneja.”
“Thankfully, Cal Brunker’s Paw Patrol: The Movie did not make me question my life choices like other animated films geared towards my kids have,” writes Courtney Small at That Shelf. “In fact, it was far better than I expected. Brunker’s film captures the magic of the show without feeling like an overly long episode.”
“I have given the animated film that I found rather boring 3 stars for fear of being confronted by a riot of pre-school under 10-year old children,” confesses Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “For truth be told, Paw Patrol: The Movie is not half bad.”
“Paw Patrol is on a roll!” cheers Chris Knight at the National Post. “It’s been less than a week since the Liberal government announced the country will be facing a fall vote, and already the Canadian-made animated show about a team of search and rescue dogs has released a full-length movie with an election theme.”
The Protégé (dir. Martin Campbell)
“There is also a genuine thrill in seeing a female character outfox, outperform, outfight, outsmart, and generally outmaneuver a cadre of thugs and international masterminds with little more than her wits and physical agility,” writes Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “Q had me believing in her superpowers from her first grisly murder to her last, and while that may not be something to applaud in the broader sense, it sure propels a plot.”
“If one can forgive the outlandish plot and silly storyline, The Protégé is actually quite entertaining,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Rare Beasts (dir. Billie Piper)
“If Rare Beasts appears familiar, it bears resemblance to Mike Leigh’s excellent Happy-Go-Lucky which put its lead Sally Hawkins on the international filmmaking map,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Still Rare Beasts is a worthy attempt at an anti-romcom and it succeeds at being different despite a few flaws.”
“The result is an occasional brilliantly funny but exasperatingly chaotic, vignette-style examination of relationships, male rage, and female insecurities,” says Linda Barnard at Original Cin. “When Rare Beasts succeeds, it’s down to Piper. She’s a brilliant physical comic, whose face works like she’s trying to loosen a toffee from her back molars. But she has to wear the movie’s weak spots, too.”
Reminiscence (dir. Lisa Joy)
“Overall, Reminiscence pushes the limits of how much a movie can make sense if it is constantly attempting to explain the rules of the world it is presenting to you,” groans Sarah Hagi at The Globe and Mail. “For a film about memories, Reminiscence is ultimately truly forgettable.”
“There are easily 20 minutes amid the film’s two hours featuring closeups of Jackman looking romantically dumbstruck. It’s a little embarrassing,” cringes Chris Knight at the National Post.
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “an absorbing enough romance set in a sci-fi dystopian Miami that has stunning enough logistics to impress audiences despite its flaws.”
The Truffle Hunters (dir. Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw)
“[I]ts contemplative, observational style – and the charms of its subjects – make The Truffle Hunters well worth watching on a late summer evening. Kershaw and Dweck drift along with their characters, favouring long takes and a reserved perspective,” writes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
“Dweck and Kershaw evoke the ritual of the truffle savants who explore the textures, aromas, and fragrances in the film,” notes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “Like the experts, the film raises truffles and gives them a good sniff, exploring the facets that and complexities that make them as rich as the best bottles of wine.”
Also at POV Magazine, Jason Gorber speaks with the directors about the joys of documenting the delectable truffles and delighting the senses. “A lot of what we talked about is how to really bring the audience into this world,” sais Kershwa. “We tried to find a cinematic language that might give you some insight into all of the other senses. There’s a smell of food being cooked over a wood-burning stove, there’s the feeling of the marble tiles that you’re walking on, and the sensation of a world that cinema can’t touch but can get at indirectly. A lot of the conversation was about we can bring somebody truly into this place. It’s magic.”
On Adam and Julia
At The Ringer, Adam Nayman sees Annette as the culmination of everything Adam Driver has done and looks back at his career to date, especially his Oscar-nominated turn in Marriage Story. “Besides serving as Marriage Story’s cathartic climax, ‘Being Alive’ anticipates the musicality of Annette, which, other than the Ape of God scenes, is almost fully sung-through,” writes Nayman. “Driver not only has to modulate Henry’s descent into evil in a way that keeps us invested, he has to do it on beat and on key.”
At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen reports on a special panel devoted to Julia Child on her 109th birthday in which directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen unveiled a clip of their TIFF-bound doc Julia and discussed everything from food to feminism. “Her whole life story presented a fully realised, accomplished, and smart person apart from her husband,” observed Cohen. “Empowering women to create deliciousness…amen to that!”
TV Talk – Oh and Kidman Shine
At NOW Toronto, Norm Wilner says audiences looking for next White Lotus or Big Little Lies will find something unexpected in Nine Perfect Strangers: “Those looking to recapture the sharp edges and overlapping domestic issues of Big Little Lies might find new show to be a little off-putting; Nine Perfect Strangers shares its predecessor’s careful attention to detail and appreciation of idiosyncratic performances, but this one has something much wilder and sadder going on underneath.” Meanwhile, he says it’s not worth holding a seat for The Chair, noting that Sandra Oh is great as Ji-yoon, but that the series doesn’t know what to do with her: “And if The Chair stayed with Ji-yoon, it’d probably be a lot more entertaining. But it insists on splitting its time with Duplass’s sad-sack Bill, whose mockery of a Nazi salute triggers a scandal that runs through the entire series – and with whose clueless entitlement the series gradually sides.”
At What She Said, Anne Brody is in a New York state of mind with Spike Lee’s docu-series NYC EPICENTERS 9/11➔20211⁄2. (“Absolutely one of the great doc series but be warned that some may be triggered.”) Meanwhile, Gossip, a docu-series about gossip columnist Cindy Adams, has her hooked. (“Four episodes of Adams spilling the beans or having her beans spilled is pretty addictive.”) She also raves about Nicole Kidman in Nine Perfect Strangers. (“[H]er character’s cold, seductive and calculating presence hangs over it.”) Anne also agrees with Norm that Sandra Oh shines in The Chair. (“Oh has a natural gift for comedy and watching her is a comic joy.”) Audiences catching the travel bug after Nine Perfect Strangers, finally, can binge Motel Makeover. (“[C]reative, panicky, joyful and triumphant.”)