TFCA Friday: Week of December 13th, 2019

December 12, 2019

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

Opening this Week

6 Underground (dir. Michael Bay)

A big, loud, stupid action movie that most people will end up watching on their tablets… it’s very expensive and has movie stars in it. It’s also virtually unwatchable” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

A Hidden Life (dir. Terrence Malick)

Malick’s gorgeous sense of nature, love, family and the oneness of life remains but overshadowed by the power of tragic true events. Still, it’s Malick, and rises to the metaphysical in balance with straightforward historical, social and human collapse. The leads’ delicate performances, founded in emotion, strength and quiet opposition are incredibly moving” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (dirs. Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Kathleen Hepburn) 🇨🇦

Canada’s history of removing Indigenous children from their homes hangs like Vancouver’s cloud cover over these women. We’re caught in these feelings. This vital film, exquisitely shot on 16mm to look like it’s happening all in one take, doesn’t offer a reprieve. The characters never get very far. They’re stuck in that opening scene. And that says a lot about how progress in this country is hard to achieve” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

Quietly illustrates the eternal conundrum of trying to be good without being a do-gooder, and trying to be independent while also recognizing the need for a helping hand” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Pure hell to sit through. It’s worth the pain, though, since this outstanding drama by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn is one of the year’s best Canadian films” — Pat Mullen, That Shelf

The filmmakers leave much to our imagination and empathy in this barebones and deeply affecting film. Newcomer Nelson has tremendous presence, gravity and authenticity” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

An inner-city road picture. It’s a mouthful of a title that some (me) will have trouble remembering, but it’s a picture that few will be able to forget” — Thom Ernst, Original-Cin

A difficult watch, for its attention to detail, its slow pace and sombre and depressing story” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Jumanji: The Next Level (dir. Jake Kazdan)

The script is technically well-crafted, but it’s lost the spontaneity and genuine joy of the first film. There are still some very good moments and is not likely to disappoint younger audience members despite a few frightening scenes and mild language” — Thom Ernst, Original-Cin

Takes this multiplex cash cow to a higher level of mooing, as it repeats most of the same ideas and jokes of the 2017 franchise reboot” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

The plot requires our heroes to solve several puzzles in order to escape, and while it would be a spoiler to say whether they make it, I can reveal that each of their in-game avatars has a checklist of strengths and weaknesses that will come in handy” — Chris Knight, The National Post

It’s all in good fun — and should be treated as such” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Kingsway (dir. Bruce Sweeney) 🇨🇦

Both a slow-rolling farce and a genuinely thoughtful film about depression and mid-life panic, Kingsway is a modest but worthy little picture. I don’t think Sweeney snaps everything together the way he wants to, but it’s still his best movie in years” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Things do get tied together in a little too neat a package, wrapped around some tasty live-performance blues-rock. Kingsway is a light comedy, to be sure, despite its underpinnings of depression and anxiety (which I think are required by law to be in Canadian movies)” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

The director knows how to tread the fine line between anxious and crazy” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Midnight Family (dir. Luke Lorentzen)

The film has the trappings of a moody genre piece: an atmosphere awash in strobes and neon, corrupt cops, intense car chase-type sequences and heartbreaking drama. Talk of money is constant, amplifying the already-high stakes inherent in the high-speed action. What emerges is an empathetic and nuanced portrait of a desperate situation with no winners” — Kevin Ritchie, NOW Magazine

They barely survive on the pittance they earn as most victims refuse to pay for their services, still, they carry on. They may always be wiping up blood, but they seem to enjoy the work, helping ease pain where they can. Not easily forgotten, this dark trip” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

A cinema vérité take on the pressing realistic emergency health system in Mexico City” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Richard Jewell (dir. Clint Eastwood)

This newest is an almost textbook case of cinema as a catharsis machine. There’s little nuance, a stirring score, a scene where Jewell’s mom castigates the media, and another where he gets to give what-for to the FBI. They do have it coming; Hamm’s character spends much of the film portraying Jewell as a lone bomber, and then tries to spin him as a lone bomber – with an accomplice” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Eastwood knows what he’s doing here, and he does it well, especially with the casting of Hauser, Rockwell and Bates, excellent actors all. They breathe life and empathy into characters who could easily have been caricatures” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star, including an interview with star Sam Rockwell and Eastwood himself

You can still feel Eastwood itching to wrap things up and get to the next picture. Imagine what he could accomplish if he spent a few days breaking down his scripts with the people who write them” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

What can you say about a film that tells an amazing story about unlikely heroism and lynching-by-media, but also incidentally betrays everything that story is supposed to teach us?” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

There’s a distinct pleasure lies in the way the events are re-created on film” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

The Twentieth Century (dir. Matthew Rankin) 🇨🇦

Inspired by William Lyon Mackenzie King’s diaries and mixing historical figures with fictionalized characters, Rankin reconfigures the future 10th Canadian prime minister’s formative years into a melodramatic fever dream. The result is a crafty and visually inventive revisionist history that completely skewers Canadian political mythology” — Kevin Ritchie, NOW Magazine

It’s Monty Python by way of Rankin’s fellow Winnipegger Guy Maddin, whose film regular Louis Negin plays King’s creepy mama. Sean Cullen helps up the insanity ante with his portrayal of a Governor-General who’s a royal pain” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

The finished product looks as though it could have been released in the early days of the talkies, with the caveat that to have screened this film during one of King’s terms of office might have been considered high treason. The passage of decades makes the humour more palatable, even when it cuts not just at our nation’s history but its character” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Nothing can prepare audiences for The Twentieth Century. This balls-to-the-wall phantasmagoria of maple syrup soaked ridiculousness is unlike anything we’ve seen” — Pat Mullen, That Shelf

No Docs at Canada’s Top Ten?

At Pat Mullen writes at POV, there is not a single feature documentary on the list

DOC Institute Awards

In POV Magazine, Pat Mullen reports on the winners of these prestigious awards