Reviews include Slash/Back, Elvis, and Official Competition.
TFCA Friday: Week of June 10
June 10, 2022
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
Baloney (dir. Joshua Guerci)
“You just can’t beat good meat,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “Baloney is a boisterously funny, no-frills affair—but you’ll have to see for yourself where the tassels are hidden.”
The End of the Line (dir. Emmett Adler; June 14)
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah says the doc “moves as quick and efficient as a well-functioning subway train.”
Erzulie (dir. Christine Chen; June 14)
“A camp teen horror movie that is somewhat fun but could be ‘funner’, with co-writer and director Christine Chen trying too hard while missing a few opportunities,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Halftime (dir. Amanda Micheli; June 14)
“This new and intimate doc marks a symbolic halfway point in her life, behind the scenes at the Superbowl, President Biden’s inauguration, and in her roles as mother, wife, artist, and person,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “She is tough in reputation and reality (I can vouch for that) and why not, there is a lot riding on her shoulders as a groundbreaking representative of important cultural entities.”
Hustle (dir. Jeremiah Zagar)
“However modest the character of Sugerman, the film’s success revolves around Sandler. Although he’s been a polarizing actor in some of his comedies, is it a surprise to anyone at this point that he’s an actor capable of depth?” notes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “Sandler is an actor who can own the screen if the role demands it. In Hustle, Sugerman is an ordinary guy, and Sandler plays him that way, making no attempt to draw attention to himself. In fact, he’s the opposite: listening, watching, reacting. In a number of scenes, he’s just another guy in the room. And yet, especially in those scenes, we look for him. He’s our anchor in the film.”
“There are a lot of nice touches here, including Queen Latifah and Jordan Hull as Stanley’s wife and daughter, the latter acting as videographer for many of Bo’s practice sessions so the world can see him play,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “This gives the footage a rough and ready look, its verisimilitude aided by having actual athletes in the mix. Many basketball stars play themselves in Hustle, although Bo’s chief nemesis, a bully played by Anthony Edwards, gets the name Kermit so we don’t have to watch a real NBA player being mean to him.”
“The typical sports movie with no fresh ideas but it works as the actors try very hard and audiences love to see an underdog make good,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Don’t mistake Hustle for a Safdie Brothers-level achievement à la Gems – director Jeremiah Zagar’s new film is a mostly straight-ahead underdog sports story, with a few stylistic flourishes and enough stamps of brand approval from the NBA that it plays like the well-funded fever dream of commissioner Adam Silver (in actuality, it’s produced by Sandler and LeBron James, so we’re not far off),” cautions Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “But there is enough to admire here that Hustle is leagues beyond Sandler’s typical streaming output.”
Jurassic World Dominion (dir. Colin Trevorrow)
“[A] a long movie that feels like a three-course meal stuffed inside an all-you-can-eat buffet. Far too much time is spent having various characters split up and reunite, often after travelling by hired aircraft, stolen car, ejection seat, parachute and hyperloop,” sighs Chris Knight while checking his watch at the National Post and wondering why the hyperloop is so slow and why that title lost its colon. “What’s even more troubling is that I had time to ponder these questions during the movie, whose lumbering plot puts the plod in diplodocus.”
“T-Rex, Giganotosaurus and raptors et al mainly thrash away in the dark, doubtless to hide the digital stitching of CGI work that is considerably less awesome than you’d expect, three decades after Jurassic Park,” yawns Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “There are numerous action set pieces in which humans must escape pursuing dinos, but they all fade to a dull blur after a while, since nobody but the occasional faceless goon seems to suffer more than a scratch. Planes crash, cars overturn and people make death-defying leaps, but it all has a weightless CGI look and feel that robs it of drama.”
“Exactly how many dump-trucks loaded with cash and/or cryptocurrency keys would it possibly take to lure original series stars Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern (not to mention BD Wong!) back for one more dino-chore?” asks Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “All these questions and a few more even-more-ridiculous ones will be asked and answered throughout Jurassic World Dominion, a movie that is as fun as it is stupid, as expensive as it is overlong and as completely unnecessary as its title is in desperate need of a colon.”
At The Globe and Mail, Hertz also chats with Sam Neil about getting back in the saddle at Dr. Alan Grant, how audience expectations have changed, and how befriending Laura Dern is the reward of a lifetime. “Some friendships you make for life, you know,” Neil tells Hertz. “It’s a bizarre thing about what we do. I always think that if you make a good film and you make a good friend or two, that’s a great result. If you make a bad film and make a friend or two, well, that’s a great result as well.”
“It’s stuff: there are dinosaurs and people running from them, so it’s okay, but in terms of blockbusters, it might not be the highest on your list to seek out,” says Jason Gorber at Metro Morning. “People who like dinosaurs will like it…so much of this film seems like a James Bond film…the first film was so remarkable…”
Madeleine Collins (dir. Antoine Barraud)
“Barraud cleverly provides the tiniest tidbits of information, creating a path of breadcrumbs to her reality, and we ponder why she acts so. Is her need to lead two separate loves genetic? trauma-based? narcissism?” wonders Anne Brodie at What She Said. “And breadcrumbs turn into shockwaves in this absolutely stunning portrait of a monster.”
“Madeleine is a neat little ménage-a-trois, fresh in concept with a strong female slant to the story for a change,” writes Gilbert Seah at Toronto Franco.
“We all inhabit various versions of ourselves. There’s work-you, home-you, perhaps parent-you, spouse-you, gym-you and more,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “Virginie Efira’s character in Madeleine Collins is an extreme, perhaps even pathological example of this. As Margot Soriano, she lives in Switzerland with her partner Abdel (Quim Guttirrez) and their little girl, Ninon. But when she travels, ostensibly for work, it’s often to her husband (Bruno Salomone) in France. There she goes by the name Judith Fauvet and has two more children, both boys…Director and co-writer Antoine Barraud brings a Hitchcockian level of suspense to his French-language tale.”
“A word here on Virginie Efira, who plays Judith/Margot/Madeleine: magnificent,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “A former TV presenter and as a young beauty, a weather girl, Efira has emerged out of a very long apprenticeship in her forties as a superb actor. She’ll never have the career of Moreau or Signoret, but Efira is terrific in this film.”
Ninja Badass (dir. Ryan Harrison; June 14)
“An awful and terribly bad and unfunny film, posing as an outlandish comedy,” groans Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
On the Third Day (dir. Daniel de la Vega)
“Director Daniel de la Vega achieves full marks for the creating a horror film atmosphere – reminiscent of the best Italian Gallo B-flick horror – even from the bloody red opening titles to the poor English dubbing over its original language version,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
A Festival of Festival Coverage: TJFF and FEFF
At What She Said, Anne Brodie previews the Toronto Jewish Film Festival: “Helen Zukerman’s brainchild is packed with specially curated films by Jewish filmmakers from around the world, 70 titles from 16 countries, in-person from June 9 to 15 at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, Innis Town Hall, Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk, and Leah Posluns Theatre, with more films available through the TJFF Virtual Cinema in Ontario from June 16 to June 26. Further in-person screenings, including closing night, will also take place from June 23rd to 26th. One notable event is a tribute to actor, TV presenter and producer Marilyn Lightstone celebrated with five free archival screenings at Zoomer Hall, at the ZoomerPlex in Liberty Village.”
At Original Cin, Liam Lacey looks at some TJFF highlights, including the music doc The Rhapsody: “Paul Hoffert, in describing his initial contact with Leo Spellman, said it came to him as a ‘vanity project’ which, judging by the long list of credits and thank yous (everyone from Moses Znaimer to Rush’s Geddy Lee), evolved into something more like a collective passion project. For Spellman, who performed at more than a thousand weddings and bar mitvahs, the tribute seems fittingly sentimental and ceremonial, a communal celebration of the perseverance of creative work.”
Lacey also previews the Female Eye Film Festival at Original Cin, and spotlights the work of Valerie Buhagiar among its celebration of girl power: “This year, the festival gives a tribute to Toronto director Valerie Buhagiar, who has had four films in the festival since 2008. Her latest, Carmen — which debuted at the Canadian Film Festival earlier this year — is a crowd-pleaser starring English actress Natasha McElhone (Solaris, Designated Survivor) as the middle-aged unmarried sister of a village priest who, according to local tradition, is obliged to also be his housekeeper.”
Deep Dives: Cronenberg, Cineplex, and Setting a Streamer on Fire
At The New Yorker, Adam Nayman offers an extensive feature on David Cronenberg in which the Canadian auteur opens up about Crimes of the Future, his rapport with Viggo Mortensen, and his thoughts on the afterlife: “In a lot of horror films, you’re talking about supernatural things…I totally deny that. In fact, I think it’s a distraction, as I think religion is. I mean, to me, that’s the basis of religion: the avoidance of the reality of death,” Cronenberg tells Nayman. “I’m certainly haunted, no question…If I were a different kind of person, raised in a different culture, I would definitely have ghosts floating around this house. After my wife died, people said I was going to sell the house and move into a condo, and I thought, Absolutely not—why would I do such a thing?”
At Bloodvine, José Teodoro digs into Cronenberg’s latest: “Crimes of the Future ends as so many Cronenberg films end: by pushing in on a close-up of a single figure, a wordless micro-scene depicting a man in a state of profound disquiet or ecstatic discovery. After many strange twists and reveals, we are left suspended, our story arriving not at a resolution, but rather at a turning point. Cronenberg has created a cinematic space that, not unlike a virus, is designed to disseminate, to burrow into our consciousness, and linger long, like the traces of a fever dream. Closure has been annexed. Wonderment trumps despair. The future remains unwritten.”
At CBC Arts, Peter Knegt chats with Fire Island director Andrew Ahn about making a movie milestone and expanding the portrait of queer representation on screen. “We’re the first orgies on Disney+!” Booster tells Knegt. “We didn’t want to sugarcoat the Fire Island experience…As much as it is a safe space from straight people, it’s still a risky or uncomfortable space for people who don’t necessarily fit into this white, cisgender, muscle gay kind of role. And so, for me, I think it’s very cool that Fire Island has this legacy.”
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz profiles Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob upon receiving a lifetime achievement award and, more importantly, a shout-out from The Rock at CinemaCon. Jacob tells Hertz about the evolution of Canada’s theatrical monopoly, riding the waves of COVID, finding balance with the streamers, and reimaging the moviegoing experience now that theatres are open again. “You’re going to see an evolution, but one of the advantages that we have is that our average screen count per location is lower than the U.S.,” Jacob explains…“We’ll look at all locations and refocus on the use of square footage. It’s maximizing the return and creating entertainment destinations. It’s not just about coming to the movies, but staying there.”
TV Talk / Series Scribbles: Markham’s Marvel; Olivier’s Irma
At Exclaim!, Marriska Fernandes has much to say about the marvelous Ms. Marvel, starring Markham’s Iman Vellani: “In Ms. Marvel, it’s hard to tell where Kamala ends and where Vellani begins — they feel one and the same, especially since the actress has said that she’s basically Kamala Khan. She brings warmth, humour, wits and awkwardness as a clumsy, giddy-headed teen, which makes her utterly relatable,” writes Fernandes.
Fernandes also speaks with Vellani for the Toronto Star where the local hero opens up about her Marvel inspirations, the role of representation, and how the Ms. Marvel team worked to get things right. “They’ve done such an incredible job in hiring Muslim creatives and South Asian creatives, who all have their own attachment to the story and the source material. So their stories combined and me basically living Kamala’s life just created an incredible collaboration,” Vellani says. “I really do hope that this inspires more people to tell their stories because this isn’t obviously the singular representation of the Muslim experience.”
At Original Cin, Liam Lacey checks out Olivier Assayas’s return to Irma Vep and finds it more original than one might expect. “He doesn’t exactly repeat himself, but he digs up old ground with his new HBO series, Irma Vep…The series takes its title and general plot from his 1996 film of the same title, a wryly satiric portrait of independent filmmaking that was like a punk generation version to 8½ or Day for Night,” writes Lacey. “To be honest though, Irma Vep initially feels a bit flat-footed, stuffed with character introductions and clusters of exposition and inside showbiz references that feel a bit trite.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie swipes right for Grindr Killer, a grisly true crime tale about a British predator and a family’s fight for justice. “The central family figure is Sarah Sak, mother of Anthony Walgate whose tenacity and ferocious calls for justice were finally heeded; she’s played by a versatile English treasure Sheridan Smith. A sobering, true, and not-so-long ago story that needs to be heard this Pride Month,” writes Brodie. The Responder, meanwhile, boasts a great performance from Martin Freeman. “What makes the series so good is Freeman’s signature quirky performance, as a man racing to stay alive. He lingers,” says Brodie. There’s dark crime drama ahead as well in the Icelandic procedural Black Sands: “The subtlety of the writing, the complex characterisations, and the fact that not one of the townsfolk has clean hands make for delicious intrigue,” notes Brodie.