TFCA Friday: Week of December 14th, 2018

December 14, 2018

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

Opening this Week

Ben is Back (dir. Peter Hedges)

Pulls no emotional punches and viewers will feel every bit of it” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Hedges turns in a beautiful performance of a man grappling with shame and fear” — Chris Knight, The National Post

[Roberts] gets to work, disappearing into the  character and standing back and making room for Hedges to take center stage” — Karen Gordon, Original-Cin

An engaging, emotionally draining, and ultimately rewarding portrait of addiction’s ability to tear families apart” — Pat Mullen, Cinemablographer

A rare family drama tied in with an added thriller element” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Blaze (dir. Ethan Hawke)

Might be telling a story we’ve seen before, but it does so from an angle that offers a few surprises” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

As warm, inviting, and tragic as sitting down among friends over beers and joints to reminisce about someone who is loved and missed on a profound level” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Beautifully shot, this low-key life story feels at times like you’re flipping through an old album, crammed with artfully arranged memories and aphorisms” — Chris Knight, The National Post

A meandering tale of genius and futility, tender, but overlong and wallowing, given that we know how it ends” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

There’s no gently traditional arc, the characters are as messy as you or me, and much time is spent following Foley as he drinks, fools around in bed with wife Sybil Rosen, and idly strums his guitar” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

A remarkable piece of work, one that comes across as a sincere warts-and-all tale of Blaze Dexter” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

The film itself is good, but I can’t say I am too enchanted by yet another self-destructive artist” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

The House That Jack Built (dir. Lars Von Trier)

Isn’t so much a motion picture as it’s a confrontational, baffling, effort ridden, messy, and somewhat pitiful cry for help and forgiveness from the person who created it” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Felt my soul turn black watching this stuff” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Mary Queen of Scots (dir. Josie Rourke)

The movie tries to have it both ways, by remaining mostly true to history while also taking numerous factual liberties” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Pulses with regal tension as Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie face off as the royal rivals in two powerhouse performances” — Pat Mullen, Cinemablographer

You don’t get [Cate] Blanchett, but you do get Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie interpreting historical drama as empty pageantry instead” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

A lot more fun, relatable, and less stodgy than many of its contemporaries” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

We dream of escaping the theatre and opening up the Mary Queen of Scots page on Wikipedia and having done with it” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

A handsome period piece that comes complete with stunning Scots landscape and top royal costumes” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Mortal Engines (dir. Peter Jackson)

One of the dullest, least involving, hollow, and crass attempts at franchise filmmaking ever attempted” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The notion of cities on tank treads, rolling around and ingesting the landscape in front of them, could function as an apt metaphor for the excesses of the Hollywood franchise machine; endless appetite coupled with voracious recycling” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Grandly, majestically, epically inert, a high-concept fantasy with a wide chasm between the money we see up on the screen and poverty of the story” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

An exceptionally well constructed CGI movie, top marks in looks and special effects” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

The Mule (dir. Clint Eastwood)

Butts headfirst into the holiday movie season, and maybe even the Oscar race, with a layered story and performance that beckon to be seen” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Pitched somewhere between dead-serious character study, tawdry crime thriller and shaggy comedy, the likes of which might star Will Ferrell (or maybe Alan Arkin) as a bumbling accidental trafficker” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

It’s economical storytelling, but who wants to travel economy?” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Touches on some deeper currents of regret and social alienation in the digital age without risking undue seriousness” — Liam Lacey, Original-CIn

An improvement on Gran Torino, but you know that’s not saying much” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

A rich character study, beautifully acted by Eastwood as a man who walks his own walk no matter what and finds redemption when he most needs it” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

It’s Eastwood’s performance that makes The Mule more transfixing than it probably would’ve been otherwise” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Once Upon a Deadpool (dir. David Leitch)

It’s a clever cash snatch, though, and actually makes for a mildly funnier film” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

A shameless attempt to bleed a cow dry by vigorously milking it” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse (dirs. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman)

Remember how much fun The LEGO Movie was, and how shocking it was to see a movie that ambitious be so light on its feet? Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is like that” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

An animated freakout that simultaneously celebrates, sends up and advances the extremely diverse world of your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

It’s almost painfully overwhelming in the film’s opening minutes, but once you attune yourself to the techniques, it’s downright thrilling” — Chris Knight, The National Post

A laugh-out-loud funny take on the world of superhero movies and comic book lore. It’s one of the funnest movies of the year” — Pat Mullen, Cinemablographer

Might be the best Spider-Man film ever made” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

A gorgeously animated and welcome addition to the Spider-Man canon” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

“[A] crazily imaginative, hilarious and frenetic animated feature that’s practically a palate-cleanser for comic book earnestness” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

Nothing shy of brilliant; the only truly unmissable blockbuster of the holiday movie season” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

With three directors and two writers, it’s no wonder this is all over the place” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

SuperGrid (dir. Lowell Dean)

Doesn’t have a huge budget or many clever or original ideas, but it’s a breezily efficient romp just the same” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

An exercise in getting the most out of an extremely limited budget” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Aims for a Mad Max look and the film captures it, being shot in the open sparse plains of Saskatchewan, Canada.The special effects are all right and the action sequences passable” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

They Shall Not Grow Old (dir. Peter Jackson)

Tough to stomach, and rightfully so. Jackson makes their pain and sacrifice unbearably real, and never makes the documentary’s technical ingenuity and acumen feel like a gimmick” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

If there is only one film you see this year, this should be it” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

You Are Here: A Come From Away Story (dir. Moze Mossanen)

Offers the stories behind the hit musical told by the people who inspired the characters” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

1968: The Year Everything Changed

In POV Magazine, Marc Glassman writes reflections on a pivotal chapter of history