TFCA Friday: Week of February 15th, 2019

February 15, 2019

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

Opening this Week

Alita: Battle Angel (dir. Robert Rodriguez)

Can cyborgs and humans find lasting affection? For the answer to this burning question, I direct you to Blade Runner and its sequel, which you’ll probably find more satisfying watching for the umpteenth time than watching Alita: Battle Angel for the first time” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Arrives at your local IMAX 3D thunderdome as a blur of three-dimensional action and one-dimensional characters: state-of-the-art effects, meet paper-thin script” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

By the end of two hours, I was ready for the movie to end, and yet I was still disappointed when it did because it left so many unanswered questions” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Great fight scenes abound. But after a while, you zone out. There are way too many superficial or uninteresting scenes that slow down an already long movie.  And the film is frustratingly shallow emotionally, which may be one of Cameron’s weaknesses” — Karen Gordon, Original-Cin

Not the best of Rodriguez and Cameron’s efforts” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Everybody Knows (dir. Asghar Farhadi)

A kidnapping whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie — although it wouldn’t rank as one of Christie’s finest teases, or Farhadi’s” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Farhadi is regularly celebrated for walking that fine line between low-key thriller and slow-burning soap opera, but that can also be frustrating. The filmmaker’s multiple dramatic turns and late-breaking revelations get in the way of any meaningful exploration of class-fuelled bitterness” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

[Farhadi’s] latest, the woefully underrated Everybody Knows, is another richly drawn, rewarding movie” — Karen Gordon, Original-Cin

This riveting drama is a moral fable disguised as a potboiler as the two-time Oscar winning director of A Separation and The Salesman pulls the strings on a deceptively familiar premise” — Pat Mullen, That Shelf

It’s a stellar setup, but one that Farhadi can’t quite bring to a satisfying denouement” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Farhadi explores the problems of privilege and need, the realities of resentment and tribalism and how they poison what appears to be a happy family” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Happy Death Day U 2 (dir. Christopher Landon)

Doubles down on the streak of self-aware goofiness that made Christopher Landon’s first Happy Death Day so much fun, pivoting away from its slasher-Groundhog Day origins into a new, much weirder direction” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Isn’t It Romantic (dir. Todd Strauss-Schulson)

Pretends to be the smartest kid in the class, with its fantasy mocking of the romantic-comedy genre. It comes across instead as the knucklehead at the back of the room making fart noises with his armpit” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

A cheeky premise and Rebel Wilson’s charms are stretched thin in Isn’t It Romantic. Fashioned as an anti-rom-com, its entire runtime is spent taking shots at all the aesthetics, narrative gaps and clichés that have kept Drew Barrymore and Katherine Heigl gainfully employed” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

It might be a little early to declare this a new golden age of romantic comedies, but let’s at least admit it’s a solid silver” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Does it turn the romantic comedy clichés upside down? It lists them. Is it entertaining? Mildly. Is it romantic? It’s the opposite” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

There’s nothing truly innovative about Isn’t It Romantic? — it has a premise that the script does not really know what to do with” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Mr. Jane and Finch (dir. Ngardy Conteh George)

Pat Mullen, POV Magazine, on this select Toronto Black Film Fest title: “Finds a portrait of an upstanding citizen who champions his community and advocates for the rights of Black Torontonians who face ongoing oppression by leaders who fail to understand that the nuances of their experiences

Trouble in the Garden (dir. Rosamund Owen)

Ends with a declaration that the film was made in collaboration and consultation with survivors of the Sixties Scoop, it still feels awfully problematic in its presentation: the decision to score the entire film with music by Indigenous artists creates a wincing disconnect at the sight of Gee, Van der Burg and Koty dancing in a circle to Buffy St. Marie’s We Are Circling. There’s on the nose, and then there’s on the nose” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

A well-meaning Canadian drama with a reach that exceeds its grasp. But its efforts, and the quality of the acting, already put it head-and-shoulders above most low-budget dramas, so let’s not be too hard on it” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Too ambitious and too many issues that are never satisfactorily resolved in the 70 minute movie” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

A devastating defence of those stolen children and a well-crafted, beautifully acted, heartbreaking film” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

I’m certainly driven to tell stories that are about something important,” director Rosamund Owen tells Thom Ernst at Original-Cin

The Oscars 2019

Nathalie Atkinson, Zoomer: “Here’s your cheat sheet to the Oscar costume design race and a few overlooked favourites that deserve a second look

Peter Howell, The Toronto Star: “After Midnight Cowboy, which would go on to win Best Picture at the 1970 Academy Awards, the only X-rated film ever to do so, the movies would never be the same again