TFCA Friday: Week of January 17th, 2020

January 17, 2020

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

Opening this Week

Bad Boys For Life (dirs. Bilall Fallah, Adil El Arbi)

That chemistry isn’t any less potent. Lawrence especially is as hilarious as ever, his frustrated comic foil act never gets old. Or rather, he finds so much more ammo in getting old” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

Could have been shortened and made tighter — but it has actions sequences with expensive pyrotechnics which should satisfy fans” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

A cynical cash grab built on franchise greed, ridiculous car chases, inane banter and an insane body count. There’s also a negative side” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Clemency (dir. Chinonye Chukwu)

Undeniably Woodard’s show. Writer/director Chinonye Chukwu makes it that way, using her own largely invisible hand to train our eyes on the performance while using Bernadine as a guide through death row’s nuts and bolts. We’re constantly looking to Woodard for some answer or sense that is repeatedly denied as her character exercises self-control in harrowing circumstances, fighting human instinct at every turn” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

An extraordinary performance in a hidden gem of a film” — Pat Mullen, That Shelf

The movie plays out inexorably, often clinically and most movingly when it’s almost completely silent — as when a rush of tears arrives that may provide only momentary relief for someone who is inconsolable” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Chukwu creates dramatic set-pieces with discipline and authority, though one can tell that she is trying too hard with her various alternative camera placements” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Woodard is phenomenal! The film veers into straight-up melodrama but sheds light on the pathetic plight of innocent prisoners of colour who line death rows across the US” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Dolittle (dir. Stephen Gaghan)

Mostly just a bore. It’s too far from the annals of both so-bad-it’s-good studio duds and the more buoyant, Johnny Depp-anchored Gore Verbinski adventure tales it resembles, down to its star’s eyewear and woozy body language, to register as anything more than the quintessential January movie – sheepishly leaked into the world” — Angelo Muredda, NOW Magazine

A tiresomely chaotic concoction, tossing in Victorian settings, a Pacific island quest, and script that never seems to know where it’s going from one scene to the next” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

A tiring and boring voyage” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Les Misérables (dir. Ladj Ly)

Cuts back and forth between the cops, the kids (most prominently newcomers Issa Perica and Al-Hassan Ly) and various gangsters and community figures, always keeping an eye out for defining moments of decency. And true to Hugo, they don’t always come from the people you expect” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

An intense ride, a gripping action-filled police procedural that leaves you with grappling with social issues and youth when the movie ends” — Karen Gordon, Original-Cin

As the cops run out of options to avoid mass violence, surrounded on all sides, this starts to seem like a dystopian survival drama or zombie thriller” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

An exhilarating discovery and a bold introduction of a new voice. Les Misérables gets my vote as the best first feature of the past year” — Pat Mullen, That Shelf

A totally gripping film, a real roller coaster ride, will undoubtedly keep one on the edge of ones seat right to be very end where surprises and twists in the plot abound” — Gilbert Seah, Toronto Franco

What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael (dir. Rob Garver)

If Kael were still alive, she might well have wanted What She Said to cock a more critical eye toward her. She says right in the doc that it’s dangerous for a critic to be too popular” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

This doc never rises to the subject strongly enough but for film fans, but it helps set the cinema landscape for the years Kael was active” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Seems more interested in celebrating Kael’s public persona than it is in investigating the woman behind it” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

It’s easy to see how Kael’s highly readable prose and infectious cinephilia stimulated so many filmmakers and critics. But one can also appreciate why Kael remains a divisive figure” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

The subject alone should ensure that it gets lots of attention from film reviewers and despite a jumpy, hodge-podge style, should be generally enjoyable to anyone interested in the seductive, contentious cultural phenomenon of the famous critic” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Besides learning about the woman, the clips of the classic films whether good or bad take the audience bring back nostalgic films of the past — films that made a difference.  This is enough a reason to view this film” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

The Oscar Nominations Are In…

In NOW Magazine, Norm Wilner reacts — and he’s not laughing

In the Star, Peter Howell suggests it’s not all that bad

In Maclean’s, Brian D. Johnson acknowledges Hollywood isn’t nearly as woke as it thinks it is

John Cooper on Sundance Changes

In the Toronto Star, Peter Howell speaks with Sundance’s John Cooper on the festival’s new horizons