Reviews include Dune, The French Dispatch, and The Electrical Life of Louis Wain.
TFCA Friday: Week of July 16
July 16, 2021
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
Movie theatres in Toronto are finally open again! Before masking up and heading out to catch up on buzzy films on the big screen, Barry Hertz explains what the reopening means for theatres.
In Release this Week
Alice (dir. Josephine Mackerras; July 20)
“The dark emotional marital thriller Alice stars Emilie Piponnier in a demanding role she nails, a loving mother and wife, who is harried but accomodating and “pure” as her husband François (Martin Swabey) describes her,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“A dramatically power charged minor masterpiece with a nod to Belle du Jour that fully covers feminine issues while being relevant and entertaining,” raves Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “You cannot stop watching this one!”
Creation Stories (dir. Nick Moran; July 20)
“Muddled, manic and ultimately boring as a Trainspotting wannabe!” groans Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Fear Street: Part 3 – 1666 (dir. Leigh Janiak)
“Part 3 is a more serious and deliberate horror, not so much fun as the first two parts,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Janiak and her co-writer Phil Graziadei have proven that, yes, they’ve watched a lot of scary movies over the years. But they haven’t learned much, from a filmmaking perspective,” admits Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Ultimately, Fear Street is a shiny and expensive super-cut of callbacks and needle-drops. It is cool but empty horror worship.”
Gunpowder Milkshake (dir. Navot Papushado)
“In the [John] Wick series – and Nobody, for that matter – the substance gets stylized. In Gunpowder Milkshake, it is all style – shameless, uninspired, endless,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
“This movie knows what people want from it, and delivers one elaborate set piece after another, from a high-concept shootout to a battle that fragments into four separate sections within one building,” says Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “a film as unimaginative as its title.”
The Loneliest Whale (dir. Joshua Zeman)
“The documentary expertly balances on a fin-thin line between sentimental anthropomorphizing and science,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “We meet some winsome oddballs, like the guy who plays his saxophone at sea, letting the whales harmonize with his music. And there are marine biologists and oceanographers, though even they are clearly caught up in the soulful side of the story.”
“The team was to get photos and video, skin samples then tag it with a tracker. Drones, sonar detection and flute playing gained the team traction,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “But what they found was utterly unexpected, a shock. I’ll let you find out for yourselves!”
“Intriguing as the subject matter is, The Loneliest Whale feels like a very lonely watch,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“The Loneliest Whale also includes terrifically interesting nerd details: the difference between how sound moves in air and under water; the impact of global shipping on sea creatures, especially those using sonar to transmit crucial information about mating, predators, and food supplies; and of course, a digression on whether whales can feel lonely in a way we understand,” writes Kim Hughes at Original Cin.
At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen chats with director Joshua Zeman about embracing the myth behind the 52-hertz whale. “All we’re doing is adding another chapter to the story of the loneliest whale,” explains Zeman. “That’s what filmmakers and storytellers learn: no matter how much you may blow apart a myth, you never really take it away. All you end up doing is adding another chapter and another layer to that mythology, which, in some ways, makes it that much richer and helps it grow.”
The Misfits (dir. Renny Harlin)
“In sum, we have a silly Hollywood-style action movie with a Robin Hood theme, serving the ideology of an elitist authoritarian regime. In other words, a real misfit,” notes Liam Lacey at Original Cin.
Pig (dir. Michael Sarnoski)
“Pig is a serious movie with heady themes that just happens to come at you from oblique and unexpected angles,” notes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “Sometimes less really is more. And if Cage really has tamed his ‘pig,’ his performance suggests he just might teach it some subtle new tricks worth watching.”
“Cage’s unshowy, quiet and visceral presence dominates every frame,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Rob’s pain and will and history elevate him to a higher plane. A heartbreaking love story as important as any and as mesmerising in which Cage’s saintly loner is a beautiful thing.”
“What begins as a simple tale of abduction and revenge quickly mushrooms into something sweeter, with undertones of loss and keening regret. And Cage, God bless him, pulls it off,” oinks Chris Knight at the National Post.
“The director shows promise from his cinematography, creation of mood and atmosphere and setting up of key segments,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “What the film seems to lack in a goal or message, it more than compensates in its depiction of the drama and desperation resulting in living in isolation.”
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (dir. Morgan Neville)
“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is a carefully made film, a wonderful homage to a flawed hero. It will lift you up, it will potentially break your heart,” writes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “But it will remind you that you’re not alone. We’re in this together.”
“And while Bourdain’s death is front and centre in the film’s final act, the overall tone of the work is celebratory,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “That said, it doesn’t shy away from the man’s darker aspects, which included an addictive streak that once manifested itself in heroin use, later swapped out for ju-jitsu and, in one bizarre episode late in his life, a passion for parallel parking.”
“Whenever food appears in Roadrunner, it’s just a vehicle for exploration, just like in Bourdain’s own work. The film is a mix of bitter, salty, sour, and sweet as it harnesses Bourdain’s madcap energy and passion while driving towards his inevitable finale,” says Pat Mullen at POV Magazine.
“There’s an extraordinary moment when Bourdain and his crew are sitting around a hotel pool in Beirut when war breaks out,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “They watch. It makes sense, as big things always seemed to happen to him.”
“A strange journey, but one that makes one think about life on total and perhaps it is good therapy, as Bourdain says, to meditate about death for a few minutes every day,” reflects Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Bo Diddley, the legendary rocker, wrote in the song Roadrunner, ‘you said you’re fast but it don’t look like you gonna last.’ I’m afraid that he was right about the immensely gifted Anthony Bourdain. We’ll never know why but we’ll miss him,” concludes Marc Glassman at Classical FM.
Space Jam: A New Legacy (dir. Malcolm D. Lee)
“By the time the credits roll, A New Legacy doesn’t feel like a love letter to Space Jam so much as a blatant cash grab,” argues Victor Stiff at That Shelf. “Everyone understands that Hollywood’s all about the Benjamins. This is the movie business, after all. But such flagrant corporate plundering destroys the illusion that the moviegoing experience is anything more than transactional.”
“There’s a good Michael Jordan joke, but A New Legacy is an outsized commercial, a dizzying, gigantic, ballsy, shrill self-referential electronic mess of an algorithm warning. If that’s your thing,” sighs Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“I’m calling foul. Not sure if it’s carrying or traveling, technical or flagrant, but Space Jam: A New Legacy isn’t half the film that 1996’s Space Jam was,” says Chris Knight at the National Post.
“The corporate-synergy-ness of it all is both deeply distressing and unintentionally fascinating,” admits Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “There is something stomach-churning-ly captivating about watching a wooden [LeBron] James, stripped of whatever comedic charm he displayed in Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck, strut his stuff on the court while dialogue-less extras dressed as WB’s most beloved characters…cheer from the sidelines.” Hertz also interviews Scarborough’s own Eric Bauza, who voices a number of beloved Looney Tunes characters in the movie.
“It’s cleverness in place of a story,” says Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “But let’s face it. The original Space Jam didn’t have much of a story either. They were simpler times though, and Space Jam’s mission was clear – highlight one of the studio’s most durable franchises, Looney Tunes, on the back of the most famous basketball player on the planet.”
“Kids will probably like the bright colours and nonstop motion, but their parents won’t find much to enjoy here beyond Cheadle and Sonequa Martin-Green doing their best to make their line readings land,” groans Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
The Best Films of 2021 (So Far)
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz drops his mid-year top ten list. Readers looking for prestige pics won’t find them, but instead be rewarded with Gerard Butler and Jason Statham actioners. But Michel Franco’s love-it-or-hate-it exercise in ultra-violent brutal nihilism New Order tops the list: “Sadistic and nerve-wracking, the film is also fully riveting, demanding every second of your attention as Franco follows a revolution in a near-future Mexico City,” writes Hertz.
At That Shelf, Pat Mullen picks his top five films of the year so far. It’s mostly a Sundance celebration with the festival award winner Flee topping the list: “Flee is the story of someone who was in hiding while hiding, carefully masking every aspect of his soul from the family members who shared a stake in his survival.”
A Festival of Festivals: Cannes – Week 2
Jason Gorber has been busy gobbling beef tartare and cinema in France. At Roger Ebert, he offers a dispatch on some of the festival highlights, including Where Is Anne Frank?, Stillwater, and Icelandic director Valdimar Jóhannsson’s debut Lamb: “Jóhannsson’s background in Special Effects for Hollywood blockbusters (including locally shot Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Prometheus and Transformers: Age of Extinction) turns what’s really an intimate family drama into something far more interesting to audiences attuned to its odd brand of tale.” At POV Magazine, he looks at one of the festival’s lows, Oliver Stone’s JFK Revisited: “I fear that this film does nothing other than burn down the existing narrative and replace it with something no less rickety and perhaps even more irresponsibly presented.”
TV Talk: Broadway Whimsy and Cautionary Capers
At What She Said, Anne Brodie sings high praise for AppleTV’s Schmigadoon: “Each character is a colourful stereotype, problems are solved through song and villagers dance their way to exhaustion for any and all occasions. Six episodes of this ear-piercing, high-pitched tuneful hijinks goes down easy thanks to runaway imagination.” Meanwhile, Never Have I Ever is welcome trip down memory lane (“its good to step back in time to those heady innocent days via this superior series”) and Turner and Hooch is a decent revival of a Tom Hanks classic (“Cute family fare and an endearing dog”).
At NOW, Norm Wilner gets a tour of Canadian content with the CTV series Surreal Estate: “Mysteries of the week take precedence over deep mythology and season-long arcs, which is downright refreshing in a Syfy series. It’s worth a drop-in.” He also agrees with Anne that Schmigadoon is lots of fun: “Shot entirely on soundstages to replicate the overlit, Technicolor look of Hollywood studio productions in the 40s and 50s, Schmigadoon! is aimed squarely at Broadway nerds, theatre kids and folks who enjoy winking genre deconstructions.”
At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen says that Netflix scores with its latest true crime mini-series Heist, which recaps three zany capers: “The fun, however, comes in the telling as the parties who pulled off the scores recount how they beat the bank. Unlike many true crimes series that usually offer grisly details and whodunit head-scratchers, Heist unpacks the toll of the big score.”