TFCA Friday: Week of December 21st, 2018

December 21, 2018

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

Opening this Week

Aquaman (dir. James Wan)

None of it makes a ripple of sense, even when blown up to IMAX 3D size” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

It was only about 20 minutes into Aquaman that I heard the unmistakable sound of a movie taking on water” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Effortlessly entertains if you’re able to get on board with its particular blend of genteel corniness and old school blockbuster swagger” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Aquaman works, you guys” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Lacks any good plot development, character intelligence and spicy dialogue. Lazy writing leaves a lot of unexplained and choppy facts in the story” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

A big dumb acid-trip of a super-hero movie” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

Bird Box (dir. Susanne Bier)

[An] apocalyptic horror thriller that has positively nothing stimulating or original to say, despite expert direction and an astoundingly overqualified cast” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Bullock delivers a convincing portrait of a woman in danger of losing her humanity” — Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine

Could easily be reduced to, “It’s A Quiet Place meets Blindness crossed with The Happening!” And that high-concept pitch wouldn’t exactly be wrong” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail, including an interview with star Trevante Rhodes

Bullock’s perf is the most interesting part of this familiar film” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

An excellent dystopian futuristic film” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Bumblebee (dir. Travis Knight)

Charming and heartfelt in ways that most people wouldn’t associate with a Transformers movie” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

A relief for Transformers fans who can still enjoy the simpler pleasures from the 80s cartoon and the toys they were designed to sell” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

Basic narrative competence and visual coherence shouldn’t be greeted as the second coming, or at least [the] “fresh” score Bumblebee currently boasts on Rotten Tomatoes” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail, including an interview with director Travis Knight

If brevity is the soul of wit, it’s also the saving grace of a franchise that seemed played out” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

For a Transformers instalment, the theory of louder and bigger do not apply here” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Lots of thrills and special moments touching on friendship, familial love, growing up and experiencing what the world – and space – have to offer” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

This movie’s Bumblebee is nowhere near as annoying as in previous outings” — Chris Knight, The National Post

The Great Buster (dir. Peter Bogdanovich)

A celebration of not only Keaton, but the artists of the silent era” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

A straightforward and charming look back at the career of one of the most comedic and creative minds in cinematic history” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Some of the most astonishing action and comedy sequences you can see on movie screens this holiday happen to be on films that are almost a century old” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Bogdanovich might be a better film historian than he is a director, and this comment is by no means a slight on his filmmaking” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

Chris Knight looks at five takeaways from the film: Did you know Buster got into movies thanks to Fatty Arbuckle?

If Beale Street Could Talk (dir. Barry Jenkins)

Doesn’t offer the ecstatic highs of Moonlight, which confused a few people when it premiered at TIFF; it’s just not that kind of movie. If anything it’s closer to Jenkins’s first feature, 2008’s Medicine For Melancholy, in its confident observation of two people moving through the world together – and apart” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

The tonal range is typical of director Barry Jenkins’s wide emotional reach and expressive cinematograp​hy — to judge from both this sensitive film and, of course, its Oscar-winning predecessor, Moonlight” — Kate Taylor, The Globe and Mail

Jenkins plays it like an intimate dance of the elements, wind, sun and rain that you feel and hear in spectacular ways. These incredible moments rise above the noise of ordinary life and bring the magic” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

At Beatroute, Pat Mullen interviews star KiKi Layne: “You start to kind of tap into that love that they have for each other.”

Extremely slow-paced, sometimes unintentionally funny with many segments plain dragging along” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Lifechanger (dir. Justin McConnell)

One of the most original, inventive, and stimulating Canadian thrillers to come out in quite some time” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Strangely melancholy for a body-swapping thriller. That’s a feature, not a bug” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Mary Poppins Returns (dir. Rob Marshall)

There’s more than a spoonful of sugar in this felicitous revisitation” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Emily Blunt fills the iconic role fabulously, doing the rosy-but-stern bit with her comic and thoroughly delightful charm” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

A joyous and somewhat purposefully frivolous reworking and ever-so-slight updating of a Disney classic” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The grand finale to the “movie we need right now” festival of 2018!” — Pat Mullen, Cinemablographer

It’s good to feel like a child once again” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Whether you have fond memories of the first one or are asking “Mary Who?”, this return engagement should provide a jolly holiday” — Chris Knight, The National Post

A more-than-worthy follow-up and a total delight” — Karen Gordon, Original-Cin

Mirai of the Future (dir. Hosoda Mamoru)

Well-observed and gently amusing, Mirai of the Future clocks in under 100 minutes, just about as much super-cute as you need in one dose” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Simplistic, but it’s in this simplicity that the film works its charm” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Of Fathers And Sons (dir. Talal Derki)

A harrowing and unflinching examination of the ways religious extremism can take root across generations” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Pick of the Litter (dirs. Don Hardy Jr. and Dana Nachman)

More inspirational, suspenseful, and unpredictable than the best sports movies and more genuinely moving than an all day marathon of romances” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Call it puppy love. It’s impossible to resist the sheer volume of adorableness packed into Pick of the Litter” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

On the Basis of Sex (dir. Mimi Leder)

It’s reductive and simplistic, and honestly the idea that anyone going to see a movie about Ruth Bader Ginsburg would want something this timid is pretty insulting” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

It’s a shame that [RBG]’s singular story is given the Hallmark treatment, conventional beats, swelling orchestral telegraphing; she deserves better” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Second Act (dir. Peter Segal)

[An] affable, but unexceptional workplace comedy” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Welcome to the job-com” — Chris Knight, The National Post

It’s pure escapism, it’s predictable and thin, but Lopez is a charmer. That’s the film’s strength” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Endearing while entertaining, not going into excesses, but dealing out quite often the right mix of comedy and drama” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Shoplifters (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda)

A moving meditation on what truly constitutes the meaning of family” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Grows richer and warmer, building to an ending that’s no less powerful for being so very small” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

A spare and stunning film that is also a shock to the system” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

A meditative, detailed reflection on family and morality” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Kore-eda knows exactly how to capture a moment” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Springsteen on Broadway (dir. Thom Zimny)

A remarkable and captivating blend of autobiography, performance, and motivational speaking” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

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

It’s not a stunt, but a way to change our relationship to the footage; Jackson has said he’s trying to collapse the distance between archival material and the human experience, and show us the war as these people would have seen it” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

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

A technical tour-de-force of CGI and restoration, editing and colourizing and 3-D reconstruction” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Vice (dir. Adam McKay)

Brash, complicated, and somewhat of a gorgeous mess” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The best villain of the year” — Pat Mullen, Cinemablographer

Bale is fabulous, disappearing entirely into the man” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Precisely the sort of furious political study Michael Moore wishes he could make. I don’t mean that as a compliment” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Cheney remains an enigma throughout, less a character than another anonymous object for McKay to smash in his cinematic rage room” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

A powerful bio on Dick Cheney, but not one without McKay’s biting humour” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Vox Lux (dir. Brady Corbet)

Celebrates falseness, with the only true thing about it being a dedication to nihilism” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star, including an interview with star Natalie Portman

An ambitious, abrasive, overwhelming, and sprawling look at the dubious link between tragedy and popular culture” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

A devilishly audacious tableau of pop rock violence” — Pat Mullen, Cinemablographer

While the film is an intriguing portrait of fame, it functions as more of a snapshot than a moving picture” — Chris Knight, The National Post

If the log-line Melancholia meets Stop Making Sense doesn’t sound like a nightmarish fever dream to you, then Vox Lux is the only pop-music melodrama you need this year” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail, including an interview with director Brady Corbet

Feels a bit disjointed, Corbet knows what he is doing and brings his film to a satisfying conclusion” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews 

Welcome to Marwen (dir. Robert Zemeckis)

A well intentioned, but woefully misguided attempt to mine real life trauma for feel good whimsy” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

One of the worst movies about trauma I’ve ever seen – a terrible film made with the best of intentions, oversimplifying the devastating story at its core for cheap sentiment or inexplicable action beats” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

A bloated Hollywood techno fantasy that should be seen to be disbelieved” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

The ultimate Robert Zemeckis movie. This is not intended as a compliment” — Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail

What could be a gut-wrenching real life recovery drama ends up as Hollywood feel-good fluff” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

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

If the musical was a testament to human kindness triumphing in times of unfathomable hardship, [this] is a more detailed look at the enormous amount of work that goes into such an immense and slapped-together emergency operation” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Spielberg at TIFF

At The Gate, Andrew Parker looks at the Steven Spielberg retro happening at TIFF this month

The Best Christmas Movie Alternatives

For holiday movie marathoners, Nathalie Atkinson offers in Zoomer an alternate selection of Christmas chestnuts — including the thriller where Christopher Plummer plays bad Santa and Toronto plays itself

NOW Magazine’s Best of 2018

Norm Wilner’s top 10, with Roma taking first

Radheyan Simonpillai’s top 10, with Burning searing hot

Susan G. Cole’s top 10, with Eighth Grade on top

The Globe and Mail’s Best — And Worst — of 2018

The 10 most underrated films of the year

The 10 best films of the year, period

The 10 WORST films of the year

The top cinematic trends of the year

The Best Canadian Films of the Year

At Cinemablographer, Pat Mullen ranks his favourite Canuck openings this year