Members name the standout docs at this year’s festival.
TFCA Friday: Week of Dec. 18
December 18, 2020
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
Another Round (dir. Thomas Vinterberg)
“[Mads] Mikkelsen finds a way to play both the liberation and misery of a never-ending drunk, turning down his quicksilver charisma to blend into the ensemble – until it all comes pouring out of him in a brilliant, and brilliantly ambiguous, final dance number,” writes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
“Mikkselsen is a perfect choice for the role,” agrees Chris Knight at the National Post. “The actor, who turned 55 this year, has a face that seems to settle naturally into a kind of sad resignation, but when he cracks a smile it’s hard to imagine that he ever looked anything but happy.”
Anne Brodie at What She Said calls it an “interesting story, a well-made made cautionary tale for grownups with a strange elegance.”
“It’s disappointing that Another Round doesn’t go the extra mile in many departments, but it’s still better than a lot of films on the subjects of peer pressure, depression, male friendships, and destructive vices,” argues Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“Mikkelsen’s affecting performance is backed by an exceptional ensemble cast, who bring to life the fears and emotional scars that come with age, and the part alcohol can play in it, for better or worse,” writes Jim Slotek at Original Cin.
“Second viewing proved just as entertaining!” salutes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Definitely a film for all those who love drinking.”
Chicago 10 (dir. Brett Morgen; re-release)
“(The film has) sufficient material to anger audiences at the Nixon Administration and the Vietnam War, which is clearly the intention,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
The Kid Detective (dir. Evan Morgan 🇨🇦)
“The Kid Detective is hands down one of the best Canadian films of the year and one of 2020’s most welcome surprises,” raves Andrew Parker at The Gate. “Even though 2020 hasn’t been kind to most films released this year, mark my words: The Kid Detective is destined for cult movie status, and rightfully so.”
“What could be a classic film noir story is turned into a solid small town detective mystery,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “A well written and executed adult comedy mystery that is a lot of fun.”
“James Bond may have vacated 2020 for greener pastures, but Adam Brody’s grubby, drug-addled sleuth feels like a more appropriate hero for this year,” observes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
“Morgan occasionally borrows from the hard-boiled private-eye handbook,” writes Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “But for all its gumshoe references, Kid Detective is not a throwback to the film noir of the 40s, certainly not in the same way as, say, Rian Johnson’s Brick.”
“An irreverent sense of humour might have pulled it off, but Morgan’s restraint doesn’t let the film nail the landing. Brody also looks hungover throughout the film, as if his performance as Abe is a bit too method and draws upon benders from the night before,” remarks Pat Mullen at That Shelf.
“Viewers who can handle the rather abrupt changes in pitch may get more out of The Kid Detective, which does at least hold our attention with a simmering mystery and the promise of a payoff,” advises Chris Knight at the National Post.
“It’s a very strange film, playing like a custody battle between Wes Anderson and David Lynch as Brody’s deeply broken Abe Appelbaum slouches through life,” observes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
Leap (dir. Peter Ho-Sun Chan)
“If the film is aimed at propaganda, it succeeds 100%,” argues Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (dir. George C. Wolfe)
“Ma Rainey, dressed like a flapper but with gold teeth like a modern gangsta rapper, is played with don’t-cross-me authority and simmering fury by Viola Davis,” writes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “Inhabiting the role as if born to play it, Davis seems assured to garner another Oscar nomination.”
“Boseman’s Levee goes through the most changes through the film, and covers the most emotional territory. It is a masterful and powerful performance – a beautiful take on a difficult and tragic character,” exclaims Karen Gordon at Original Cin.
“Revelations, recriminations, truth telling, and glorious, stirring music lift this wonder, the latest in Denzel Washington’s film adaptations of [August] Wilson’s plays,” remarks Anne Brodie at What She Said, who also chats with star Viola Davis about the work that went into her showstopping turn as Ma Rainey.
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz speaks with director George C. Wolfe about creating his “blistering treatise on the Black American experience” and getting that “incendiary” final performance from Chadwick Boseman.
“Can you blame anyone for not wanting to mess with [August] Wilson’s beautiful words?” asks Radheyan Simonpillai at NOW Toronto. “But this is a story that rewards being able to stretch its legs on screen and explore the moment in culture and history in ways that the play couldn’t.”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a must-see, though possibly too theatrical, and one can only hope that Denzel Washington will be able to produce the rest of August Wilson’s cycle,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM.
“An electrifying and intimate look at cultural shifts within the black community at the height of Jim Crow and a mass exodus from the American south, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom bristles with intensity, anguish, and above all else, confidence,” observes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“[E]xtremely stagey but as a play, Black Bottom covers a wide variety of issues including racism, religion, the recording industry, poverty and romance in the blues setting,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Max Cloud (dir. Martin Owen)
“Given its tight budget and special effect limitations, British director Martin Owen has achieved quite the feat by elevating this otherwise ‘just another video game movie’ into something fresh, funny and occasionally smart,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“The fantasy-adventure yarn Max Cloud embraces old school gaming and B-movie standards to create a fun and familiar bit of entertainment,” admits Andrew Parker at The Gate.
The Midnight Sky (dir. George Clooney; Dec. 23)
“Clooney’s dark study offers a ray of hope,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “It’s not his greatest film, it’s uneven and dense, likely due to it being on completion of scenes.”
“The script bounces back and forth between Earth and space through a succession of nail-biter predicaments, mixes in some awkward flashbacks, and relies on a third-act narrative cheat,” observes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “And for all that, it feels derivative of better films.”
“I don’t mean to knock a guy for persistence,” cautions Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “But what other filmmakers could offer such a checkered IMDb profile and still continue to wrangle marquee stars and high-profile budgets and glowing what-he-really-wants-to-do-is-direct profiles?”
Modern Persuasion (dir. Alex Appel)
“It’s so pre-pandemic party hearty New York a time when we wore hard clothes and shoes and dressed to seduce, show power, and impress,” says Anne Brodie at What She Said. “It’s fun and breezy, and an eyeful.”
Monster Hunter (dir. Paul W.S. Anderson)
“[T]he beginning of Paul W.S. Anderson’s video-game adaptation is peak fantasy thriller cuckoo-bananas madness,” hurrahs Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “I had to stop myself three times from yelling out, ‘Hell, yeah!’ lest I woke up my 11-month-old son napping upstairs.”
“Jovovich — the uncontested reigning monarch of video game–based action films — again proves her moxie when dealing with unearthly creatures,” proclaims Thom Ernst at Original Cin.
Gilbert Seah agrees, calling it “a solid video game movie” at Afro Toronto.
“Without the accompanying bells and whistles that can sometimes add to (or detract from) theatrical experiences, I am forced to grade Monster Hunter objectively,” admits Andrew Parker at The Gate. “And, objectively speaking, Monster Hunter sucks.”
“[I]t ends on a huge tease, like a game from another era asking if you’d like to insert another quarter to continue,” sighs Chris Knight at the National Post. “Thanks, but I’m out.”
Palm Springs (dir. Max Barbakow)
“A delicate mash-up of meet-cute and time looping tropes that works rather well, even though the film constantly feels like it’s about to fall apart at any moment,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“I’ve already watched it twice, finding new depth the second time around,” writes Chris Knight in a five-star review at the National Post. “Like its cinematic cousin Groundhog Day, Palm Springs feels like a movie you could revisit many times.”
“While Barbakow and writer Andy Siara don’t exactly reinvent the ever-spinning wheel here, they do add enough of a winsome, layered charm that Palm Springs feels like a vacation you actually might want to extend forevermore,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. Hertz also chats with star Andy Samberg about the much-delayed Canadian release and doing the time loop again.
“Like a reworked jazz standard, Palm Springs is enough of a variant on Groundhog’s Day to make it a delight on its own,” riffs Marc Glassman at Classical FM.
“[A] film that speaks to the current moment better than almost any other: we’ve all had to come to terms with our own time loops this year, knowing that tomorrow will be exactly the same as yesterday and feeling powerless to change our trajectory,” says Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
Wild Mountain Thyme (dir. John Patrick Shanley; Dec. 22)
“[A] film that celebrates everything that is Irish and that should draw romantics to see this film during Christmas,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Shanley’s lilting poetic script and the cast’s earnest delivery are soul soothing, as is the rural life envisioned here, but there’s a long row to hoe before the ageing would-be lovers see things clearly,” admits Anne Brodie at What She Said.
Canadian Film Horrors
Jim Slotek at Original Cin chats with the ever-enigmatic actor Julian Richings about his new film Anything for Jackson, horror flicks, lockdown life, and more.
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz shared Michelle Latimer’s public statement in which she addressed suspicions about her Indigenous heritage. “I made a mistake,” says the acclaimed director of Inconvenient Indian.
Tube Talk: Boys and Ballet
At What She Said, Anne Brodie recommends A Suitable Boy: “There’s much afoot in this sprawling, ambitious series on Acorn now, so for warm temps, hot colours and plenty of passion, this is the pandemic winter series to go to.” She also checks out Valley of Tears, noting, “incredibly lifelike and terrifying battle scenes, period details and performances are painstakingly rendered.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah does pirouettes with the doc series On Pointe, calling it, “Eye-opening, entertaining and insightful!”
2020 Year in Review
At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell picks 10 standout films for 2020 that provided human connections in a socially distanced year, including Nomadland and Mank. (With notes on where and when to see them.)
At NOW Toronto, Radheyan Simonpillai looks at films like Mangrove, Residue, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom that explore safe spaces for Black audiences: “Perhaps such movies feel even more impactful than usual because of 2020: We’re paying more attention to confined spaces in a pandemic that hit the Black community harder than others.”