Reviews include Dune, The French Dispatch, and The Electrical Life of Louis Wain.
TFCA Friday: Week of July 2
July 2, 2021
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
The 8th Night (dir. Kim Tae-hyung)
“[M]ore complicated than the story needs to be, and it gets really confusing with too many incidents involving too many characters,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto
Audible (dir. Matt Ogens)
“Though over-serious, director Ogens gets his message on deaf minorities across,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Black Conflux (dir. Nicole Dorsey 🇨🇦)
“Each character is a bit rough around the edges in their small Newfoundland town, the performances are offbeat and arresting, but the film’s great strength is its naturalistic realism, the visual spell cast by the evocative, isolated and terrible beauty of the landscape,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“A bravura single-take sequence midway through the film lays out its ugly subtext for us, scored to Gowan’s Moonlight Desires, of all things,” observes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto. “And while Black Conflux functions primarily as a character study…it’s also about showing us the environment that shapes those characters – and the odds against their ever escaping it.”
“Dorsey also maintains the tension throughout, suggesting that Jackie and Dennis will meet eventually but offering few clues as to how, why or when,” writes Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “When the creepy conflux of the title occurs, it’s terrifying because its conclusion is unforeseeable. Like life you might say: impossible to predict but nevertheless captivating.”
“The film shows director Dorsey’s bravery and faith in her story telling,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The ending is a surprise one would not have expected. A very assured debut feature from Dorsey again enforcing the power of women.”
“[Ryan] McDonald is simply brilliant as Dennis. He’s a brooding menace of simmering, restrained rage,” notes Pat Mullen at That Shelf.
“Black Conflux is a film with promise that showcases the talents of two hopeful up-and-comers, Nicole Dorsey and Ella Ballentine,” proclaims Marc Glassman at Classical FM.
At Original Cin, Liam Lacey speaks with Nicole Dorsey, who offers a thoughtful impression of Black Conflux’s complicated leading man: “I don’t see Dennis as just a victim of his delusions…He’s an active participant. This is a world he created for his own comfort. He’s part of a culture, a society that objectifies women. Every feminine image — wife, mother, girlfriend or femme fatale — is part of a specific culture that also defines what masculinity is, what it means to be a man. And if you can’t meet those standards, what worth or value do you have?”
Bone Cage (dir Taylor Olson; July 6 🇨🇦)
“Director Olson has created an effective and credible mood and atmosphere for his film,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The confines and trappings of small town Canada are well created, with lots of attention to detail.”
The Boss Baby: Family Business (dir. Tom McGrath)
“Parents are strangely oblivious to the horrific little creatures they’re raising, but that’s because the wee ones can turn it on and off,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Evil Mr. Armstrong’s dastardly plan is to have these shrieking, nipple twisting, miniature disasters reset the world as we know it.”
“Might’ve been Goldblum’s lacklustre line readings that did me in. I didn’t know phoning it in could apply to voice work, but apparently so,” admits Chris Knight at the National Post. “On the other hand, there’s 63-year-old Baldwin, playing a filthy rich CEO one moment, and a baby in diapers the next. What range!”
“When focusing on the father-daughter dynamics, The Boss Baby: Family Business hits the perfect blend of irreverent humour and genuine heart,” says Courtney Small at That Shelf. “The film evokes a sense of wonder and endless possibility whenever Tim attempts to unlock Tabitha’s creative side.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “more entertaining and funnier than the original.”
Dynasty Warriors (dir. Roy Chow)
“Dynasty Warriors is a video game action film with CGI gone mad,” sighs Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Fear Street: Part 1 – 1994 (dir. Leigh Janiak)
“If I had a gun to my head (or really a butcher knife to better reflect the proceedings), I’d cautiously recommend Fear Street for a certain breed of undemanding slasher fan,” admits Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
“Director Janiak, who directs all the three films and also co-wrote the script, knows her teen horror films, keeping the action fast and furious with lots of blood and gore in the killing scenes,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
The Forever Purge (dir. Everardo Gout)
“Given what it is, The Forever Purge is a somewhat OK action flick basically about a couple escaping predator,” shrugs Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“There’s a bit of Saw in the traps set by the Forever Purgers; some Mad Max in the desert chase scene that comes near the end of the movie; and even a touch of Green Book, as Dylan learns that Mexicans aren’t all that bad, after spending 90 minutes dodging rednecks trying to murder him,” laughs Chris Knight at the National Post.
“Filmed back in the fall of 2019, The Forever Purge arrives today not exactly dated, but certainly past the prime of its big sick Trump 2.0 joke,” sighs Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
“The Purge films are not without their politics, albeit just enough to rationalize their commercially profitable blood lust. What better way to kick back and enjoy a movie inundated with violence than by framing it within a story that actively criticizes violence?” asks Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “But the insinuating promise The Forever Purge has of a free-for-all display of mayhem and violence is never fulfilled. The violence is surprisingly understated, glimpsed through the window of a passing vehicle, or witnessed from a safe distance.”
The God Committee (dir. Austin Stark)
“This medical pulse pounder is smart and efficient, written and directed by Austin Stark based on Mark St. Germain’s play,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Despite Grammer’s politics, I must say he’s superb and in his element as the lead heart surgeon.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah finds “problems with credibility, dealing with too many subplots and falling into melodrama.”
The Legend of the Underground (dir. Nneka Onuorah and Giselle Bailey)
“Audiences who (re)discovered Paris Is Burning thanks to the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Legendary will devour The Legend of the Underground,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “Much like Jennie Livingston’s acclaimed, if controversial, 1990 portrait of the New York ballroom scene, Nneka Onuorah and Giselle Bailey deliver an invigorating and necessary study of the necessity for safe spaces.”
Let Us In (dir. Craig Moss)
“Tobin Bell (Saw) is the star ticket here, but his presences amounts to little more than a cameo. He is something of the town’s Boo Radley, a man surrounded by rumour, conjunction, and mystery,” writes Thom Ernst at Original Cin.
“A lazy script results in a lazy horror film with very few answers,” warns Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“It’s all very much a family-oriented horror movie—weird, but admirable,” groans Pat Mullen at That Shelf. However, this is also the kind of movie where characters describe the villains as smelling like ‘cheese and butt.’ It took me a second to realize they weren’t talking about the screenplay.”
No Sudden Move (dir. Steven Soderbergh)
“The film zips along at a smart, efficient pace, as desperate men and women live and die, when what ho, Matt Damon shows up with a sack full of cash,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “It may be derivative but No Sudden Move is also a big sack full of fun.”
“No Sudden Move is almost always a pleasure to watch – it’s hard to look away when the screen is crowded with the coolest cast in ages. Yet there is a nagging pang that it could, should, move faster, slicker and smarter,” notes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail, who also chats with cool cast members Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro.
“Ed Solomon’s script feels like an adaptation of some long-lost collaboration between Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy, using a riff on the Humphrey Bogart thriller The Desperate Hours to launch into a more sophisticated thriller with strategies playing out across racial, political, and socioeconomic lines,” says Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
The One and Only Dick Gregory (dir. Andre Gaines; July 4)
“You’ll be floored by this man’s complexity and goodness, his blazing wit and tireless spirit. Watching is time well used,” advises Anne Brodie at What She Said.
Paper Spiders (dir. Inon Shampanier)
“The film’s no-nonsense, dignified approach to mental illness is truly unique, and memorable performances by [Lili] Taylor and [Stefania] LaVie Owen are informed by dignity,” says Anne Brodie at What She Said.
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (dir. Will Gluck)
“There are truckloads of gags and pranks, more animals, more mounds of vegetables and subplots, though with less impact. Call it a case of the dreaded fungus sequel bloatitis,” diagnoses Liam Lacey at Original Cin.
“[T]he story is marred by predictability and clichés and the fact that the target audience is younger, as the stories were initially aimed at pre-school kids,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Summer of Soul (…Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
(dir. Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson)
“In his jubilant and mesmerizing directorial debut Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson constructs a compelling exploration of how such an iconic event got swept under the rug of history,” writes Courtney Small at That Shelf. “Using Tulchin’s footage as a canvas, Questlove weaves together a rich tapestry of culture, race, politics, and Black pride.”
“[Thompson’s] brilliant found-footage restoration of many hours of unseen videotape of the event represents not only superior filmmaking — it won two top prizes at Sundance 2021, where it premiered — but also a hip-shaking history lesson and a challenge to current and future times,” raves Peter Howell at the Toronto Star.
“Summer of Soul is an absolute triumph,” agrees Jason Gorber at POV Magazine. “It uncovers a holy grail of soul, Latin, and jazz music that quite literally reshapes the story of what took place musically in the summer of 1969. Thompson and his team have performed a magic trick of the highest order. Forevermore, that historic summer that continues to shape contemporary music will have a long-forgotten setlist added to the top of its running order.”
“What makes Summer of Soul so compelling is many of the attendees and artists interviewed react to seeing the footage for the first time, so the talking heads tap a direct, emotionally charged pulse that is very much in line with not only the performances, but conversations around reclamation and Black identity and artistry today,” praises Kevin Ritchie at NOW Toronto. “An essential movie for music fans.”
“In current footage, an emotional [Marilyn] McCoo and [Billy] Davis [of 5th Dimension] watch their breakout performance and remember the racial politics of being pop artists and ‘not Black enough,’” notes Jim Slotek at Original Cin.
“Still, it isn’t just the music that makes Summer of Soul absolutely remarkable. The film is more than that: it captures the spirit of the Sixties politically and emotionally,” observes Marc Glassman at Classical FM.
The Tomorrow War (dir. Chris McKay)
“Whereas Tenet took great pains to existentially explain itself (albeit to no avail for some of us), the writers of The Tomorrow War seemingly didn’t care about things like paradoxes or just plain logic,” sighs Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “Just charge up the weapons, and fire away at the carnivorous bug-like aliens.”
“The Tomorrow War has a properly epic sensibility, telling its gargantuan story through a very personal lens,” notes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto. “It’s a little hinky on its temporal mechanics, and the pacing is a little off, but it’s engaging and even thrilling from moment to moment.”
“Kind of an exercise in what might look good on paper until the third act which perks things up with insights and actual real-life themes like the importance of innovation and research funding,” admits Anne Brodie at What She Said. “A mixed bag.”
“It is a fool’s errand to imagine what someone like [Paul] Verhoeven would have done with The Tomorrow War’s material – this is a movie made for the express purposes of delivering some lazy woo-hoo summer fun, not any kind of sneaky subversiveness,” groans Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
Tove (dir. Zaida Bergroth)
“What follows is a pretty standard but watchable story, enlivened by a lead performance by Alma Poysti, who also bears a striking resemblance to Tove. I was hoping for more of the Moomins themselves,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post on the film and Tove’s cartoon creations, “but, to fair, they’ve had their share of attention in film and television, music and even theme parks – Moomin World and the more recent Moomin Ice Cave.”
“Telling the story as a non-fiction feature instead of a documentary allows a more rigid and stronger narrative with sex scenes that would be left out in a documentary,” suggests Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Werewolves Within (dir. Josh Ruben)
“Mishna Wolff’s script mashes up the 70s shut-in classic The Beast Must Die with the goofy spirit of Clue and Knives Out, mining the absurd conflicts that result when outsized personalities start pointing fingers (and firearms) at each other,” writes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
Zola (dir. Janicza Bravo)
“There is a bristling, neon energy to Zola which, given its provenance as a series of real-life tweets from waitress and exotic dancer (and now executive producer) A’ziah ‘Zola’ King, seems about right,” observes Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “This is a road trip movie straight outta weirdsville.”
“Not one’s typical enjoyable bit of commercial cinema but Zola (think American Honey) is fantastic if one can bear to watch it,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
At NOW Toronto, Radheyan Simonpillai speaks with Zola about her Twitter thread that took the world by storm and the open conversation about sex work that it invited. “‘It was a now or never breakthrough type of time for me to share my experience,’ she says. The story Zola put out in that Twitter thread was rife with on-the-ground details and nuances about strip club and backpage.com economics that you would never know if you saw a movie or TV show with sex workers in it.”
Summer Movie Reads and Disney Queer-Coding
At That Shelf, Pat Mullen lists 10 upcoming film adaptations that should inspire film buffs to read the books before seeing the movies. On the list? The Power of the Dog, coming soon from Jane Campion, Rebecca Hall’s Passing, Joel Coen’s solo outing Macbeth, and a double dose of Ridley Scott with The Last Duel and House of Gucci. “The glamour! The greed! The murder! The madness! Things get awfully Shakespearean in The House of Gucci,” writes Mullen. “This captivating take on the fashion family dynasty has it all and should be atop every cinephile’s summer reading list.”
In the NOW What? podcast, Glenn Sumi unpacks Disney’s problematic history of queer coding characters after Luca has audiences reviving the old are they or aren’t they debate. “I read it as hiding,” says Sumi on Luca. “Hiding anything. It could be that they’re queer, it could be that they’re from a lower socioeconomic class. You know, there was stuff about people ‘smelling’ them… one of the antagonists said that they smelled sort of funny. It could be about hiding your religion, the fact that you have really annoying parents. And I think when I was younger, I would have understood all of that. It’s just sort of another layer.”
A Festival of Festivals
At Toronto Franco, Gilbert Seah surveys some of the films screening at Lavazza Drive-In. Among them: Ok! Madam (“starts off pretty badly”), Out of My League (“an entertaining piece of young romantic comedy”) and Peace By Chocolate (“he film does include what it is the plight of a refugee is like how one can lose their home, family and even ones dignity”).
TV – Ab Fab Fun
At What She Said, Anne Brodie has high praise for the latest generation of Ab Fab fun, Motherland, which returns for a third season: “Each character is powerfully defined, so rebellious, so trapped and so funny. Witticisms and excellent observations on modern urban society and love drive this six-part comedy dream that you won’t want to end.”