Reviews include Across the Spider-Verse, Bones of Crows, and Close to Vermeer.
TFCA Friday: Week of Feb. 4
February 4, 2022
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
2022 Cineplex Emerging Critic Award!
Have you mastered the perfect Letterboxd review, blogged your heart out about a film you loved, and wondered how to take the next step? We are now accepting applications for the 2022 Cineplex Emerging Critic Award! Writers in the early stages of their careers are encouraged to apply. Get the details here.
This Week in Movies!
Book of Love (dir. Analeine Cal y Mayor)
“Unique twists but underperforms, like how could Henry be so blind to reality?, and has a sunny kind of artifice,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
A Cops and Robbers Story (dir. Ilinca Calugareanu; Feb. 8)
“[D]irector Calugareanu lets the subject tell his story and lets the audience make up their minds for themselves,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
A Grand Romantic Gesture (dir. Joan Carr-Wiggin 🇨🇦)
“This is a better-than-average romcom packed with witty dialogue, humour, and subtlety plus Edith Wharton quotes and loads of Shakespeare,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Great good fun.”
“[N]othing new, nothing clever and nothing really funny at all in this supposedly comedy,” groans Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Immanence (dir. Kerry Bellessa)
“[T]his film is over the top (with a) confusing and abrupt ending,” sighs Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Jackass Forever (dir. Jeff Tremaine)
“[T]his Jackass is not for me,” admits Chris Knight at the National Post. “I’m sure it will find its fans, just as there are always going to be devotees of flaming hot chicken wings, Nicholas Sparks novels and, I don’t know, sado-masochism. But this particular viewer will adhere to the movie’s don’t-try-this-at-home ethos, and even take it one step further. Don’t try this in the cinema either.”
“Better than anyone working in Hollywood today, the Jackass crew understand Mel Brooks’s old maxim that tragedy is when you cut your finger – comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
The Long Night (dir. Rich Ragsdale)
“[S]pecial effects (regarding the snakes/serpents) are scary and convincing and totem pole prop is also impressive.
Moonfall (dir. Roland Emmerich)
*Not playing in a theatre near you.*
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz answers the $140 million question, “What happened to Moonfall?” Roland Emmerich’s latest disaster extravaganza got dumped by its Canadian distributor and is bypassing the local market altogether. “The absence of Moonfall – which, in a delicious smack of irony, was filmed in Montreal – is a blow for Canadian audiences looking for big-screen escapism,” writes Hertz. “But the move will also surely wound domestic theatre owners, who are already dealing with myriad public-health restrictions, a cautious consumer base, and few enticing new releases.”
The Other Me (dir. Giga Agladze)
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah says it “could have been an intriguing film in the right hands.”
Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché (dir. Celeste Bell, Paul Sng)
“While mother and daughter reconcile as adults, Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché feels like a deepening and extension of that process,” observes Jennie Punter at Original Cin. “The film adds an authentic emotional resonance to an important story about an exceptional human who was singing her mind at a pivotal moment in 20th-century pop-culture history.”
“Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché is too long and overly stuffed with a laudatory commentary from a slew of musicians and writers who love and miss the iconic singer,” sighs Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “It is what you would expect from a daughter attempting to portray her mother: indulgent, respectful, wishful and lovingly aware of the flaws and gifts that made her a star.”
“Bell is at once too close – as keeper of her mother’s legacy, she’s eager to see it shine – and too far away; how well do we ever really understand our parents, particularly the lives they had before us?,” agrees Chris Knight at the National Post.
“Besides being a biopic, the film also covers important issues like mixed race prejudice and women’s liberation, making the doc an important one to watch,” suggests Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Scream (dir. Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin)
*Playing catch-up – it’s finally here!*
“Most likely, the filmmakers wouldn’t be averse to going down in cinema history as the movie to introduce the term ‘requel,’ a term spell-check has yet to catch up with,” observes Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “I can’t confirm whether a requel is a legitimate thing or not—I’m not your go-to guy to find out which terms are cropping up in the fan sphere. Like most, I’m a prisoner to the expertise of characters in the film who present the requel as being not quite a reboot but not quite a sequel. A requel.”
“It gives the fans what they want,” admits Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto. “It’s easily the most enjoyable Scream movie since the second one, even as it still suffers from the diminishing returns Randy warned us about in that very movie: when you insist on restaging the same story in the same place with different characters, there’s not a lot of room for innovation.”
Slapface (dir. Jeremiah Kipp)
“[T]he blend of horror and growing-up drama does not work at all, the result being an unsatisfactory mess of a movie,” signs Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
The Velvet Queen (dir. Marie Amiguet, Vincent Munier)
“The Velvet Queen is a rare beast that demands and rewards patience,” says Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “This languidly paced expedition through the mountains summons the call of the land. One can only surrender to the power of the exquisitely shot images and join the photographer in the joy of the hunt. What an epic cat movie!”
Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America
(dir. Emily Kuntsler, Sarah Kuntsler)
“The film is unmistakably a very powerful one,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Everyone will attest that the film has made its mark in terms of information insight, angering the audience for injustices done and a desire for a nation of zero tolerance against racism.”
“Robinson notes that statues of white supremacists have been removed, but police still kill young Black men walking down the streets,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “It can be dangerous for Black people to make others uncomfortable. Robinson’s deep wealth of knowledge, charisma and eloquence drive these hard truths home – for good reason.”
“Who We Are is ultimately about Robinson and his family, who survived racism in Memphis to become successful in their lives,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “It’s about a man, who after all the tragedies he’s recounted, still believes in America. Are they at another tipping point?”
“These are emotional, often moving encounters, but there’s also some real tinder for outrage here,” raves Chris Knight at the National Post. “Take the fact that slavery was not only baked into the U.S. Constitution (though without mentioning the word), but a sub-clause prohibited any modification of the status quo until at least 1808. In reality, it took much longer to change.”
“It urges audiences to grasp the desire for change in the air,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “Who We Are is a significant work, both for its confrontation of a nation’s troubled past and for its hopeful look to the future.”
Features: The Film Biz
At The Globe and Mail, Johanna Schneller unpacks the business that’s a-boomin’ in Toronto. With films like Nightmare Alley putting local talent to good use and streamers like Netflix booking up real estate, productions are happening wherever soundstages can pop up. “In 2019, the Ontario film and TV industry hosted 340 projects, poured a record‐breaking $2.16-billion into the province’s economy, and created 44,540 jobs, many of them union and blue-collar. (Even in the pandemic-hushed 2020, the industry brought in $1.5-billion. The 2021 figures are still being tallied.) Atlanta rakes in about US$4-billion annually, and Ontario is on track to catch up. Productions also spread around money like it’s butter – Uber drivers, florists, restaurants, stores, hotels and home rentals all benefit,” writes Schneller.
Also at The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz chats with Bow Tie Cinemas’ Charles B. Moss, Jr. on the release of his new book and the state of movie-going. When asked about the future of theatres amid an epidemic of superhero movies, Moss is cautious: “I think it’s a real threat, “says Moss. “Tent poles are becoming more and more important. But, COVID aside, if you can restructure your economics as a theatre-owner so you can afford to gross less money and still be profitable, you become a viable venue for smaller films. I think there’s a good shot for that type of product, your Searchlight type of movies, to come back stronger in the theatrical marketplace than today. But it’s a total guess.”
Hertz also catches up with director Penelope Spheeris to chat about the 30th anniversary of Wayne’s World. Does she still keep in touch with Mike Myers and Dana Carvey? “No, I don’t care,” Spheeris tells Hertz. “The bottom line is, as a woman in Hollywood, you can’t ever care too much. It’s too hard. You have to go, ‘Whatever!’ and throw it over your shoulder. I do invite Tia [Carrere] to go to film festivals, because we have a good time. But that’s about it.”
Black History Month Viewing
At That Shelf, Courtney Small offers a list of Black History Month recommendations, like Bessie, The Harder They Fall, and Tongues Untied, which provide a more expansive view of Black cinema. “In fact, some of these films are not even about being Black,” writes Small. “They are just entertaining works that happen to have Black characters in lead roles. They are included on this list to remind you that not every film featuring a Black individual revolves around trauma (e.g. slavery, police brutality, etc.). It is just as important to see films where Black people are allowed to be heroic, vulnerable, and complex…you know, regular people.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie kicks off BHM viewing with the docu-series One Thousand Years of Slavery. “The story of the next hundreds of years in a white supremacist colony – stolen from First Nations – is tragic, the true story of repression, state-sanctioned murder, identify theft and egregious laws meant to keep Black people down, as we see once again today in the US,” writes Brodie.
A Festival of Festival Coverage: Summing Up Sundance
At That Shelf, Jason Gorber, Victor Stiff, and Pat Mullen join their fellow writers in discussing the best (and worst) of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Favourite flicks include After Yang, Fire of Love, Nanny, The Territory, Living, and innovative works in the New Frontiers spaceship.
At Zoomer, Nathalie Atkinson unpacks eight takeaways from the mini-series Pam & Tommy, including the couples’ notorious contribution the Internet: “In one scene, a character accesses the New York Times’s slow-loading new website, which began publishing daily on the web in 1996 and uses search engine AltaVista,” writes Atkinson. “The sex tape effectively became the first viral video — the first viral anything — of the internet era. And of the modern celebrity era as well.”
“Buried under uncanny-valley prosthetics, Lily James does terrific work giving Pam the vulnerability and complexity she deserves, going beyond impersonation to show us a woman who’s been underestimated and undervalued at every turn, and doesn’t have the confidence in her own worth to laugh off personal slights,” says Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto. “The show’s thesis is that Anderson’s best performance was the more confident version of herself she brought to talk shows.” Wilner also finds Jack Reacher “a considerably less annoying incarnation” than the Tom Cruise movies, and Murderville offers a good time. “I can’t say I laughed a lot at Murderville, but I enjoyed the hell out of every episode,” writes Wilner.
At What She Said, Anne Brodie enjoys the Uma Thurman caper Suspicion: “Suspicion is fun and fast-paced, and a cut above, and it’s great to see Thurman in all her icy evil majesty. Interesting touches add to the series’ realism and expansive humanity but nothing gets in the way of the electrifying pace.” Murderville, meanwhile, is a hoot: “Half-hours of squirmy fun are gold with shades of total brilliance.” Similarly, The Afterparty is “innovative and hilarious,” The Girl Before is an “intense gaslighting drama series,” and Jack Reacher is, expectedly, “unique macho fun.”
At NOW Toronto, Glenn Sumi notes that the fourth season of Ozark offers more of the same, but worthy pandemic binge-watching: “There’s a scene late in this season where [Julia] Garner expresses Ruth’s loneliness that is one of the most affecting moments in the entire series. Ultimately, I don’t care what happens to the Byrdes. But I want Ruth to have a happy ending. After what she’s been through – hell, after what we’ve all been through these past two years – I think we deserve to watch that happen.”