TFCA Friday: Christmas!

December 20, 2019

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

On this Week

1917 (dir. Sam Mendes)

Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins re-team for the filmmaking answer to “who can hold their breath the longest?”” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

Clearly the best film I have seen in 2019 – hands down – in terms of action, cinematography, direction, performances an art direction” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

63 Up (dir. Michael Apted)

Apted has given us so much more, and it’s up to us to take whatever lessons we can for our own lives” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

What started out as a political series has become more existential, a documentary about measuring and contemplating life “passages”” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Such moments of joyful personal insight are why the “Up” series endures” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star, including an interview with director Michael Apted

A Hidden Life (dir. Terrence Malick)

Made me appreciate Christianity as a matter of principle – that simply being a good person from one moment to the next takes profound commitment, and no small measure of grace. “Jesus’s life was a demand,” someone says in the film, and I think I understand that. Malick absolutely does” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

One of the year’s most ambitious films and an arguable masterpiece, though, admittedly, your receptivity to it depends on your capacity to experience three solemn hours of waving fields of wheat, theology and Nazi cruelty” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

The Texas auteur falls prey yet again to the voice-over whispering and dreamy cloud-watching he relies on too much” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

With each frame of A Hidden Life, the hills are alive with the sound of Malick” — Pat Mullen, That Shelf

Bombshell (dir. Jay Roach)

Absolute dynamite. Featuring an all-star cast and a script that bites with caustic wit, the film does for the #MeToo movement what The Big Short did for the financial crisis” — Pat Mullen, That Shelf

The pace, access and action as fast and builds from minute one, but the film’s held back by some obvious continuity and plot gaps. The newsroom scenes are accurately brisk and in sum it’s like watching a high stake, blood curdling three-ring circus” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Explodes on contact with the senses. It fractures attention with multiple urgent distractions, much like the Fox News television environment it recreates and consciously mimics” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

While the story it tells is real and quite dark, even tragic, the treatment is fast-paced and often funny” — Chris Knight, The National Post

A no-nonsense drama that gets right to the crux of the matter with little humour and nothing else” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Refrains from showing much of the vitriolic propaganda Fox News spews. Perhaps Roach and Randolph fear alienating Fox viewers inclined to dismiss the characters’ allegations, but the effect is sanitizing” — Kevin Ritchie, NOW Magazine

Cats (dir. Tom Hooper)

Turns the most vacuous stage musical of the 1980s into a big-screen litter box for the hammiest of stars to unload into. Hello kitty, do they let loose!” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Go see the stage musical instead. Or stream the 1998 film of the West End production. Those will give you much nicer memories” — Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine

Sadly, despite the film’s gallant efforts, I am forced to join the ranks of the naysayers. In the end, I did find that the CGI effects were as creepy as they are impressive, and there were more failed numbers than there were successful ones” — Thom Ernst, Original-Cin

Looks like a sequel to Avatar, set on the Planet of the Furries” — Chris Knight, The National Post

I have to confess — I loved certain parts of it” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Little Women (dir. Greta Gerwig)

What emerges isn’t a cozy, sentimental movie about the Sisterhood Of The Travelling Petticoats (although both the costumes and cinematography are impeccable), but a fierce, angry look at the constraints on women during Alcott’s era – and, of course, our own” — Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine

Nomad: In The Footsteps Of Bruce Chatwin (dir. Werner Herzog)

Is it essential Herzog? Not really. But it’s watchable, and lovers of Chatwin’s spirit will find plenty of him here” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Is as much about Herzog as it is about his subject. You can be a fan of either and enjoy the film and its voice, so seamlessly did they apparently share a vision of the world” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

The film might be Herzog’s most personal film to date. It’s a film that could only be made by someone like Herzog who has travelled the world and pondered deeply about life and its complexities” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

The Song of Names (dir. François Girard)

A maudlin melodrama about lives lived in the shadow of the Holocaust. It’s professionally made and it features some talented actors, but from the very first frames it’s an empty box” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Spies in Disguise (dirs. Nick Bruno, Troy Quane)

Buoyant, zippy and pleasing to look at. With all the glitter and rainbow weaponry at Beckett’s disposal, the movie doesn’t want for bright colours” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (dir. J. J. Abrams)

It could have played as sacrilege, or weaponized nostalgia, but it doesn’t – somehow it’s okay, a fond echo of an old friend long gone. In a way, that’s what Abrams has done with the franchise itself, re-creating something we thought lost in a flurry of digital noise and wonky obsessions” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

This is the result of a fan culture that puts the past on a pedestal. The best we can hope for are echoes of our original experience” — Eli Glasner, CBC

The pattern of fight, blast off, obstacle, and repeat lacks interest, and the endearing qualities of the early films are few, lost to this 2.5-hour array of tech effects” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Checks the boxes of a lot of the audience’s base, while seeming unburdened by real gravity“— Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Was it worth the wait? On the one hand, probably not. After all, what mere movie can satisfy the urgings of a hundred million fans over the 42 years since the first film premiered? But this Star Wars devotee teared up twice during the action, and almost a third time in the final scene” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Pure fan service, for better or worse — and it’s mostly for the better” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Uncut Gems (dirs. The Safdies)

A misshapen rock formation that could look gritty and ugly from one angle, shine brilliantly from another and then mesmerize when leaning in close. The closer you get, the more these gems cut right to your soul” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine, including an interview with the Safdies