An interview with Someone Lives Here director Zack Russell about his Rogers Best Canadian Documentary nominee on Toronto’s housing crisis.
TFCA Friday: Week of Jan. 13
January 13, 2023
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
ICYMI: We announced the winners for the 26th annual TFCA Award winners with Aftersun sweeping the vote, netting four honours including Best Picture. Also, we are now accepting applications for the TFCA Emerging Critic Award. Apply today!
In Release this Week
Adult Adoption (dir. Karen Knox 🇨🇦)
“This is a movie that will make you think about the significance of seemingly banal activities like this, and being ‘tucked in’ as a child,” says Glenn Sumi at So Sumi. “And there’s a clever, knowing acknowledgement of men’s actions in this era of consent and responsibility. Brian’s awkward, roundabout approach to a difficult proposition is fascinating to watch, as is Donald MacLean Jr’s gently comic turn as a sensitive guy Rosy’s age who wants to know he’s not taking advantage of her in the bedroom.”
“The film’s plot is ultimately a little thin – the cult, for instance, feels a bit too spot-on Handmaid’s Tale, and the resolution of that storyline oddly simple – but there is still much to admire, most particularly in Moon’s committed performance,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “And as far as subject matter goes, Adult Adoption is very much in a creative category all its own.”
Backlash: Misogyny in the Digital Age
(dir. Léa Clermont-Dion, Guylaine Maroist 🇨🇦)
“It would be wonderful to report that the film ends with some solid prescriptive measures. But while Boldrini helped pass a law to protect minors against cyberbullying, many of the final comments speak to the prevalence of online hate, and the difficulty of rooting it out and making it stop,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “This is not an admission of defeat. It is a call to action.”
“‘Social media is the toilet of the Internet,’ Lady Gaga told Jimmy Kimmel after Twitter users speculated about her relationship with A Star Is Born co-star Bradley Cooper following their performance at the Academy Awards,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “But in repeating the sensationally toxic rhetoric and doing so with such a sheer volume of messaging edited in a frenetic pace that matches the pulse of heavy metal music videos, Backlash risks instilling viewers with the same anger that makes social media such a rage-filled toilet.”
“Get past the schlocky trappings though, and the core of the film has value, focusing on four women from different countries who have been through the social media fire and are willing to speak about it,” admits Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “They include Canadian schoolteacher, Laurence Gratton who, along with other women in teacher’s college, was harassed for years by a male classmate and now teaches classes in online bullying…The sensational tone and TV-friendly newsmagazine pace of the documentary may be ascribed to its intended young audience.”
Door Mouse (dir. Avan Jogia 🇨🇦)
“Logue (as a kind-hearted pervert) and Janssen (as the seen-it-all bar owner who employs Mouse and her friends) bring an air of seasoned professionalism to the motions,” observes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “But ultimately that is all the film is: a series of motions, bumps, swerves, dodges and turns, all deployed for a journey to nowhere special.”
“Style, happily, is not a problem with Door Mouse, veteran actor Avan Jogia’s low-budget noir that uses its premise – comic book creator/stripper follows the trail of dead strip-club friends – to pump up the sluggishness that often afflicts attempts at the genre,” remarks Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “Door Mouse isn’t exactly noir for the ages, and it has story problems. But it moves, and as played by Law, Mouse is a dead-pan heroine I’d like to see again, backed by a bigger-budget.”
A Man Called Otto (dir. Marc Forster)
For additional reviews of A Man Called Otto, please see the Jan. 6 round-up.
“A Man Called Otto is an acceptable remake of A Man Called Ove aided primarily by the performances of both Tom Hanks and Mariana Treviño who can be funny in one moment and turn dead serious the next, in the supporting role of the Mexican neighbour,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Otto is obstinate and impatient with acquaintances and strangers alike while making his rounds of the neighbourhood, constantly muttering that everyone’s a moron or an idiot,” notes Nathalie Atkinson at Zoomer. “His every attempt at suicide is thwarted by malfunction or interruption, the latter often from a quirky new neighbour who sees through his façade. He’s the curmudgeon next door but, beyond the scowl, there’s a heart of gold that’s slowly, predictably revealed through unlikely friendships (and with the help of a gorgeous stray cat).”
“Man Called Otto is a January release — typically the dumping ground for weaker films — but it is much, much better than one might expect,” notes Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “Perhaps this is another Hollywood tradition upended by the advent of streaming services which require agility and fresh strategy to compete. The winner is the audience, and it’s unlikely anyone will leave this film feeling worse than when they walked in. In January, that’s enough.”
Noise (dir. Ryūichi Hiroki)
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “a reflective and compelling drama, playing like a whodunit mystery set on a Japanese island community.”
The Old Way (dir. Brett Donowho)
“The Old Way is one of the best revenge westerns in a long while with Nicholas Cage in fine and restrained form,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Plane (dir. Jean-François Richet)
“There are some great kill shots and other moments of crowd-pleasing violence that make Plane an absolute romp, but the film’s biggest takeaway is the ease at which Butler steers the ship (er, plane),” notes Rachel Ho at Exclaim!. “The role of Brodie is tailored well towards Butler’s strengths: Scottish and dryly humoured with a penchant for the heroics. It’s a character he knows well and has played convincingly in a number of films.”
“Plane – stripped-down title for a stripped-down story I guess – doesn’t have much excuse to be opening on a January Friday in the 2020s. It should really have been released 35 years ago, during a summer heat wave that would have you scurrying to the cinema for the air conditioning, cold drinks and whatever was on the screen, in that order,” admits Chris Knight at the National Post. “You’d have forgotten about it by now. Heck, I’ve almost forgotten it, and I only saw it last week.”
“According to their character type, the passengers play stoic, heroic, or panicky. They provide the film with the “What the…Hey the…Who the…Why the?” background voices of fear and anger. Their collective performance is a reminder that disaster films are nothing without the likes of long-gone veterans, Red Buttons, Jack Albert, and Shelley Winters,” says Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “Plane is a mild diversion that carries more baggage than necessary, a forgettable thriller pieced together from a collage of other films and ideas.”
“Richet also gets bonus points for staging a series of surprisingly effective, relatively no-frills set-pieces, starting with a genuinely terrifying scene of plane turbulence and concluding with a showdown involving dozens of bad guys, black-ops mercenaries, the disembodied voice of Tony Goldwyn (playing the airline’s crisis-management expert) shouting orders, and a bullet-riddled Butler attempting to [redacted],” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “It is all such gloriously smart stupidity that you cannot help but applaud everyone involved for sticking the landing.”
“Overall, Plane is a passable entertaining actioner, aided by some well executed special effects, making it a plus to watch the film in theatres,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
The Seven Faces of Jane (dir. various)
“Directors Gillian Jacobs, Gia Coppola, Boma Iluma, Ryan Heffington, Xan Cassavetes, Julian J. Acosta, Ken Jeong, and Alex Takacs shared chapters in the Roman Coppola-produced experimental film The Seven Faces of Jane,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “The randomness of it actually adds to a sense of tension and fear, we worry about her driving alone, and her state of mind, as she finds a few days of freedom. It’s an unusual and bold experiment.”
The Stalking Fields (dir. Ric Maddox; Jan. 17)
“The film is a mess from the very start and gets terribly confusing despite the relatively simple plot,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “A lot of characters or incidents do not contribute much to the story nor make any sense.”
The Super 8 Years (dir. Annie Ernaux, David Erneaux-Briot)
“The period the film records is filled with a sense of melancholy, of her frustration, of a marriage ending, of political hopes dashed,” notes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “It was years later, when her now-adult sons expressed interest in learning more about their grandparents, that the faded films were watched again. Ernaux’s precise and thoughtful commentary connects the images to memories, discovering yet another harvest from the well-cultivated field of her autobiography.”
The Tomorrow Job (dir. Bruce Temple; Jan. 17)
“Apart from the confusing fact, The Tomorrow Job still manages to fascinate as a sci-fi time travel action flick, with a little bit of humour added for good measure,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
File Under Miscellaneous: Saluting Gravestock, Considering Cineplex, Revisiting Women
At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell speaks with the Toronto International Film Festival’s outgoing Canadian programmer Steve Gravestock, who is retiring after 25 years with the festival. “It was a dream job, and I am forever grateful to the filmmakers who trusted us with their films (from Canada and internationally), the audiences who supported them, and the awesome people I got to work with,” Gravestock tells Howell. “Basically, it just felt like the right time… “It’s much more fun to just deal with the films and the filmmakers than to manage departments. That’s cool, too (being the boss), but I’d just rather watch movies.” Gravestock also picks his three favourite Canadian films that he’s programmed for TIFF: find out what they are!
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz recaps the rocky return of the Golden Globes, which had enough highs and lows to get people talking. Among the highlights? Winner and presenter Jennifer Coolidge’s speech that encapsulated the wonderful chaos of the evening: “After decades of struggling in the margins, Jennifer Coolidge is embracing her big moment in the spotlight, and made sure that everyone else in the Beverly Hilton knew it, too,” writes Hertz. “Her acceptance speech after winning the award for Best Supporting Role (Limited Series, Anthology Series or TV Movie) was a thing of beautifully rambling beauty, especially when she singled out White Lotus mastermind Mike White.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie looks at the collection of early feminist film, Cinema’s First Nasty Women, which restores classics and silent works by and about women. “These Nasty women (the name Trump gave Hillary Clinton during the election campaign), were everywhere, as comediennes, filmmakers, actors, and sh*t disturbers,” writes Brodie. “They lived it up and weren’t afraid to act up in a time of deep social repression and dependence on males. Do yourself a favour and get a hold of this wonderful compilation and run wild. It comes with a terrific book detailing the movement and the women.”
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz reports on the partnership between theatre chain Cineplex and U.S. distributor Lionsgate to bring the latter’s films to Canadians through the former. Hertz writes that the deal has serious implications for the theatrical marketplace. “With Cineplex taking a larger step into the distribution game, independent distributors face a siphoning of potential business,” writes Hertz. “Then there is the concern that Cineplex could have the incentive to prioritize Lionsgate titles over competitors’ fare inside its theatres, such as giving those films better venues, more favourable showtimes and increased marketing in the form of poster displays and trailers.”
TV Talk/Series Scribbles – The Last Movie Stars — and the Last of Us!
At Zoomer, Nathalie Atkinson looks at Ethan Hawke’s docu-series The Last Movie Stars and the mystique of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s perfect marriage: “‘While Newman’s memoir is a skillfully edited account of the actor’s inner landscape — stunning in its brutal honesty and self-interrogation by “a man who admitted to being a mystery to himself,’ according to actor and reviewer Simon Callow’s recent review, the docuseries takes a different approach,” writes Atkinson. “It doesn’t, however, shy away from exploring Newman’s discomfort both with the emotional demands of acting and his own beauty, for example, or Woodward’s resentment at stepping back from her career so his would thrive.”
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz finds The Last of Us a zombie series that’s a bit too much of a Dr. Frankenstein creation: “When the show jumps ahead two decades to find Joel working as a small-time smuggler in a military-controlled quarantine zone situated inside the ruins of Boston, it all just feels so familiar to the myriad postapocalyptic epics that originally inspired Druckmann’s game. Not just Romero’s films, but also 28 Days Later, Escape from New York and especially Children of Men.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie says the new Ken Burns doc series The U.S. and the Holocaust “rips the lid off the systemic evil in America that cost untold numbers of Jewish lives during WWII… Fascinating series that casts a dark shadow over the promise of the Statue of Liberty – ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ Just breathtaking.”