TFCA Friday: Week of Feb. 17

February 17, 2023

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania | Photo by Jay Maidment. © 2022 MARVEL.


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


In release this week!


Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (dir. Peyton Reed)


“Is Hollywood running out of multiverse, or just imagination?” asks Chris Knight at the National Post. “The newest Ant-Man movie (No. 3 in the Ant-Man and the Wasp and now also his daughter series) is a feast for the eyes, but much of that feast looks like warmed-up leftovers, a tasting menu of other movies…The we’re-stranded-and-have-to-get-home plot feels more like a science-fiction series from the ’70s than a modern movie – shades of Land of the Lost, Lost in Space or Swiss Family Robinson.”


Quantumania has been touted as an introduction to the MCU’s next villain, Kang (Jonathan Majors), but those who watched Loki will already be familiar with what a force the actor and character should be for the franchisem,” notes Rachel Ho at Exclaim!. “This shouldn’t be a big deal, but because Quantumania‘s use of Kang is so pedestrian (with the exception of the mid- and post-credit scenes that do hint to something intriguing to come), the use of this film as his cinematic introduction will feel like a nothingburger to those who watched Loki, i.e. Marvel’s more committed fan base.”


“Reed’s Ant-Man films are low-key hangout films. All manner of people and cars and multistorey buildings might shrink and supersize themselves, but the movies are careful to humanize even the tiniest of bit players, up to and including the actual ants,” observes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “All of which is why Reed’s third Marvel outing, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, is such a sloppy and rotten thing to stomach. Interminable, ugly and almost completely bereft of charm, the new film is both a dispiriting reminder that the MCU has abandoned wit and that even the most clever and idiosyncratic of filmmakers can be steamrolled by the unstoppable obligations of corporate storytelling.”


“Special effects, action, sets are typically what is expected from a Marvel film, but best is to see Quantumania for its humour,” suggests Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


Body Parts (dir. Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Helen Hood Scheer)


“Actor Sarah Scott details how scene partner Kip Pardue assaulted her twice on the set of Mogulettes and SAG told her not to report him. She did and lays out her story,” reports Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Rose McGowan’s staunch activism is one of the doc’s greatest takeaways- she and others are fighting the fight. This may curl your hair but sheds light on what you’ve been watching all these years. It’s not pleasant.”


The Boy from Nowhere (dir. S.J. Finlay)


“[The] film is sympathetic to the rebels, despite their guerrilla tactics and acts of violence to further their cause,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “But it is the peaceful way of rebellion that director Finlay wishes to make known.”


Cat Daddies (dir. Mye Hoang)


“All the stories presented in Cat Daddies are very sweet and endlessly charming, with David’s taking on particular resonance as he battles serious illness. Cat Daddies also explores how cats (OK, OK, cat caretakers) have leveraged Instagram and TikTok to exalt their appeal, reinforcing the truism that dog lovers congregate in parks while cat lovers congregate online,” writes Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “But, with the notable exception of a spotlight on cat rescue org Flatbush Cats and its founder Will Zweigart — who spearheads essential sterilization efforts to reduce the homeless cat population in Brooklyn — there is a striking lack of depth to the film.”


Marlowe (dir. Neil Jordan)


“Marlowe’s fun, unusual, Lange’s fabulously outre, Neeson’s snoop whose height and physical presence dominate, but no signature action moves,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Kruger’s cool ambition, Huston’s seething rage – it’s all there. Jordan had fun with this.”


“Director Jordan plays it safe with the production values – sets, props as well as dialogue and references,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Perhaps too safe! This film lacks punch!”


“The movie that follows is elegantly cast, impeccably shot, and dull as dishwater,” deduces Chris Knight at the National Post. “On the first point, we get such talent as Jessica Lange (Clare’s mother), Danny Huston (her lover), Alan Cumming (his rival), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (his driver) and Colm Meany (everybody’s police detective). Everyone smokes. Everyone drinks. Many do drugs. Most shoot. All the men talk in the same squawky voice that sounds like it should be narrating a newsreel, and all the women talk in delicious, delirious circles. I did like the bit where Lange’s character griped that James Joyce never did a day’s work in his life, and Neeson replies: ‘Apart from the books.’”


“By the time that Danny Huston arrives playing an uber-Huston archetype – the shady strings-puller who YELLS A LOT – it is clear that Marlowe has little new to offer the genre, and is instead playing some kind of strange tick-the-boxes international-sales play,” sighs Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “You cannot help but watch the film and wonder if Jordan – so far removed from his Crying Game era, or even the high but lazy camp of 2018′s Greta – ever contemplated slapping an Alan Smithee on the credits. But as Chandler writes, ‘There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself.’”


“The film remains mechanical and stilted, like some grim combination of taxidermy and ventriloquism,” admits Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “One might have hoped that Neeson would be challenged by the character Marlowe, the smart-ass knight, memorably played over the years by Humphrey Bogart, Elliot Gould, and Robert Mitchum. Instead, Neeson’s Marlowe — his 100th movie role — plays yet another version of his character in Taken, a stoical, narrowly focused man who, in brief flurries, can take out four or five goons half his age, adding, as he breaks a chair over one’s back, ‘I’m getting too old for this.’”


Of an Age (dir. Goran Stolevski)


Of An Age is a sweet-bitter story that will resonate with anyone who ever pined for love (gay or straight is largely immaterial here) while on the cusp of adulthood. ‘They don’t know this feeling,’ Kol says at one point of his unrequited yearnings. ‘Only I do. How lucky,’” writes Chris at the National Post. It’s a poignant moment, the comment perfectly capturing that sense of being alone in one’s heartbreak. And of course it’s not true. We’ve all been of an age where we can know that feeling. How lucky.”


At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah says the film “is generally a slow trudge with nothing much really happening.”


“The film plays out in a shot/reverse shot cadence as Kol and Adam converse en route to Ebony. Fans of come-hither glances will swoon for this leisurely ride that DP Matthew Chuang shoots in intimate Academy ratio close-ups,” says Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “The guys throw stares in each other’s direction, sizing each other up on the sly. Green especially cuts a mean side-eye and gives Of an Age an immediate spark thanks to his potent, yet playful screen presence. At the same time, Anton and Green are effortlessly at ease together. They have natural chemistry and create relatable characters driven by curiosity and the spark of young love.”


Oscar Shorts (dir. various)


At the National Post, Chris Knight samples all three shorts programs and says the live action shorts might require caution: “The live-action shorts are a real mixed bag, emotionally speaking. Funniest of the lot is An Irish Goodbye, in which two brothers try their best to fulfill their mother’s bucket list on her behalf, just after her death,” writes Knight. “There’s also Night Ride, in which a Norwegian commuter becomes the accidental driver of a city tram. And Le Pupille, which takes place at a Catholic boarding school in Italy during the First World War, and finds its young charges up to no end of mischief.”


At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah reports on the animated shorts and reviews all five: “A strong section for animation this year with The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse coming as a sure shoo-in as the winner. Canada has The Flying Sailor in competition.” Of the documentary shorts, he says, “Unlike last year when the doc provided the strongest section, only one this year stands out – Haulot that gets my vote for best Documentary short.” Finally, he saves the best for last with the live action shorts. “The strongest of the three sections this year;” Seah declares, “a hard fight for the best, with three outstanding ones that are riveting and moving.”


At POV Magazine, Marc Glassman and Pat Mullen review the short docs and split their votes. Glassman places his money on The Elephant Whisperers: “Genuinely sweet-natured, The Elephant Whisperers delights us, with moving scenes between people and elephants and the natural world that will touch the heart.” Mullen, meanwhile, likes The Martha Mitchell Effect best: “Full of intrigue, scandal, twists, turns, and a doozy of a character, The Martha Mitchell Effect salutes an unsung hero and delivers all the receipts that prove her tale.”


At Classical FM, Marc Glassman has further thoughts on the short docs; “Haulout is a gorgeously shot ethnographic film set in the desolate Siberian Arctic,” writes Glassman. “Overnight, tens of thousands of walruses have landed on the island. Maxim is stuck in his cabin, surrounded by walruses for over a week until one day they move on. We find out that the poor creatures are used to living on ice floes while catching fish but the warm weather is forcing them to go from island to island. Maxim is there to record their activity and monitor their deaths, which amount to over 600. This is a brilliant film and my personal favourite of the nominees.”


At That Shelf, Pat Mullen checks out the animated shorts and tips The Flying Sailor as best in show: “The Flying Sailor emerges as the singular voice among the nominees. It’s a surreal odyssey that straddles the lines of narrative and experimental filmmaking…The bar for the Halifax Explosion was high after the iconic Heritage Moment, but Forbis and Tilby just raised it.”


Sharper (dir. Benjamin Caron)


Sharper has teeth, a suspenseful, shocking foray into the minds of elite Manhattan thieves that will leave you gasping,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Julianne Moore and her husband Bart Freundlich produced the film which provides her with an all-new character for her actor’s toolbox. The plot is genius, the beat constant, relentless and wow – insights into why savvy folks are so often successfully targeted.”


“Just how the script ties together Sandra and Tom to Max, Madeleine and Richard is, presumably, half or even three-quarters of the fun here – yet the twists and turns inherent to scam cinema are easily guessed by anyone with even a passing familiarity of the genre,” notes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Double, triple, quadruple crosses, the backward reveal and the front-facing gotcha moment – Sharper doesn’t so much telegraph these twists as it texts them straight to your brain with a loud, repetitive and rather needy ‘ping!’ There is a dangerous game of low expectations being played here, and audiences are the prime mark.”


File Under Miscellaneous


At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah looks at the theatrical return of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: “The film has everything an epic has to offer – adventure, action, romance (times two), a journey, the fight between good and evil and all in a period backdrop of beautiful ancient China with excellent cinematography by Peter Pau, of the bamboo forests where the climactic fight takes place and the barren desert and mountains.”


At What She Said, Anne Brodie also soars to the treetops with excitement over Crouching Tiger’s return. “The 20th-anniversary 4K restoration release of Ang Lee’s masterpiece Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The quadruple Oscar-winning landmark film, a departure for Lee whose prior work included Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm, Ride with the Devil, and later Brokeback Mountain, changed the action genre,” notes Brodie. “Lee’s sweeping cinematography, and stupendous, gravity-defying fight choreography, with Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat, and Zhang Ziyi made our jaws drop – and still do.”


At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz chats with Toronto’s Oscar nominee Daniel Roher who shares that his subject Alexei Navalny heard about their nomination: “Somewhere in a very cold, very dark solitary-confinement cell, Navalny received good news,” Roher tells Hertz. “His lawyers are able to speak with him once every week or two, yes. But their interactions are very weird. They have to see him through this opaque glass wall, so they can’t really see his face, just his form. And they don’t have attorney-client privilege there, so it’s hard to confer with one another. But he does know. He’s in a challenging spot, his survival is in question. He’s in greater peril now than the two years he’s already been in prison. The authorities there weaponize other prisoners as biological agents to go in and infect him with COVID or tuberculosis. They could murder him at any moment. But for him, his family, this was a meaningful honour, and he’s very grateful.”


At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell would like to remind readers about Holy Spider: “It seems almost too horrific to believe (and to watch) but it’s based on a true story, circa 2001, about a religiously motivated serial killer of prostitutes. Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, who [won] Best Actress honours at Cannes, plays a journalist named Rahimi who risks her life in the quest to find the savage strangler who is determined to ‘cleanse the streets of sinners.’ She’s working largely on her own: many people consider the killer to be God’s avenger, worthy of support rather than scorn.”

As bittersweet romantic classic The Way We Were turns 50 and two new books take us behind-the-scenes and Nathalie Atkinson at Zoomer considers why the movie has endured, including its subversion of the male gaze: “Here is a movie where the man is object of a woman’s blatant desire — for a change,” writes Atkinson. “Katie pursues Hubbell and sends openly longing glances his way. (And it’s a tanned and shirtless Redford — getting dressed or running on the beach, that the camera lingers on.) There’s that poignant scene in the apartment when Katie, nervous but thrilled and almost in disbelief, slips into bed with the blond she calls ‘America the beautiful.’ As she reaches an impeccably manicured hand to rake her fingers through his long bangs, the intimate gesture becomes a signature of the film repeated in the bittersweet final scene.”


A Festival of Festival Coverage: From Whitehorse to Berlin


At Original Cin, Kim Hughes gives the word on Whitehorse’s Available Light Film Festival: “That ALFF happens in a remote northern community in wintertime makes attending it even more of an adventure,” writes Hughes. “Trust me, if you want to raise eyebrows, tell someone you’re going to Whitehorse in February. Watch your back, Sundance: you’re not the only festival offering a slate of outstanding documentaries, features, and shorts with a side of skiing and a legitimate reason to drink copious amounts of scotch. A powerful lure indeed.”


At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen reports from the Available Light Film Festival in Whitehorse and finds it refreshing: “2023’s Available Light Film Festival was also well-timed with the return of the Yukon’s Rendezvous—a celebration of the returning daylight—and the Yukon Quest dogsled race on the first Saturday of the festival. The collision of events added an air of festivities to Whitehorse’s downtown core. There were as many people out and about watching the dogs as there were watching movies on the big screen, which let a visiting guest like myself enjoy the best of both worlds in a whirlwind experience that included a few moose and lots of movies.”


At Classical FM, Marc Glassman reports on the Animation Show of Shows, which offers further viewing for cinephiles intrigued by the Oscar shorts: “The Show of Shows concentrates on poetic animation pieces, which juxtapose music and grand ideas with stunning visuals,” notes Glassman. “They’re less about plot or dialogue and more about abstract thoughts and imaginings. In Empty Places, accompanied by the Moonlight Sonata, we see a modern world, filled with luggage in carousels and elevator doors opening and closing but with no people to use them. Is it COVID film? We don’t know. The startling Beyond Noh is a bravura montage of masks from Africa, Asia and the Americas, as well as the ones used by Guy Fawkes and the Simpsons.”


At Original Cin, Liam Lacey previews the Toronto Black Film Festival: “The opener, Lovely Jackson is Matt Waldeck’s documentary about Rickey Jackson, a Cleveland man who spent 39 years in prison, including three years on death row, for a murder he didn’t commit. The film is narrated by Jackson, who also participates in dramatic re-enactments,” writes Lacey. “The festival closes Feb. 20 with Aisha, an Irish drama. Aisha follows a Nigerian woman (Letitia Wright) caught in the Irish immigration system, and her friendship with an Irish former prisoner, played by Josh O’Connor (he played a young Prince Charles in The Crown.)”


At the Berlin Film Festival, Barry Hertz reports at The Globe and Mail that the Tyrese Gibson drama The Pig Farmer, directed by Andy Armstrong, may be based on Canadian serial killer Robert Pickton: “Production of the film was first announced this past May, under the title Squealer. In his statement to trade press at the time, Armstrong said that ‘this spectacularly brutal story is actually inspired by real events. Therefore all darkness and violence in the movie is firmly grounded in reality, yet leans heavily into each character’s personal eccentricities,’” writes Hertz. “There is no direct mention of Pickton in The Pig Farmer’s promotional materials at the EFM, where the completed film is being screened for international buyers.”

TV Talk/Series Scribbles


At What She Said, Anne Brodie binges the double agent mystery series A Spy Among Friends: “Guy Pearce plays [Kim Philby] as the ultimate picture of cool confidence,” writes Brodie. “He was a top British agent but his heart belonged to Marxism and the Soviet Union, he operated in that dangerous netherworld skillfully evading discovery and winning multiple Russian awards for his service.” Brodie also calls The Nature of Things: Secret Agents of the Underground Railroad “a terrific documentary, kind of an archeological thriller, about the unearthing of proof of the crucial history of Black resistance 1840- 1863 at Niagara Falls.”