TFCA Friday: Week of June 28

June 28, 2024

Green Border | Agata Kubis / Kino Lorber

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


In Release this Week


Brats (dir. Andrew McCarthy)


“For McCarthy, who puts his quest to track down his ‘80s co-stars via phone calls and voice messages on-camera, the film feels like an exercise in catharsis. Among fans there exists the illusion that the Brat Pack hung out together off the set, forming lasting friendships. But it’s a fantasy,” says Rachel West at That Shelf. “Blum’s article destroyed any friendships and camaraderie the group may have felt prior and the actors mostly stopped socializing with one another. McCarthy reunites with several members of the Brat Pack for the first time in nearly 40 years for his film.”


“The actors’ fame and income soared as they and churned out movie after movie, lining studio pockets – their youthquake,” adds Anne Brodie at What She Said. “But it cost the pack jobs – they weren’t considered serious professionals, they were ‘trite.’  Only Ally Sheedy has good feelings about it; she says she’d been a lonely teenager and was happy to be part of something.  McCarthy captures the realities of then and now, including a fun moment when the Rat Pack collided with the Brat Pack.”


“The idea of revisiting the Brat Pack is entirely compelling, especially given the penchant for ’80s and ’90s nostalgia these days. However, after a few interviews, McCarthy’s less than subtle desire to steer the conversation towards bashing the phrase becomes cringe-inducing,” writes Rachel Ho at Exclaim!. “Each of the interviewees admits to hating the term when they were young. Collectively there’s an agreement that Blum’s article clearly intended to be derisive towards them as people and as actors.”


“If Brats is a bittersweet reflection on childhood stardom, it needs more emotion and credibility,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “In the end, the doc ends up having the pack and journalist Blum included, acknowledging the adverse effects of the article initially and then saying that it eventually did them well while justifying the actions they had overcome.  Again not many would care.”


Daddio (dir. Christy Hall)


“Perhaps a sharper, genuinely sexier screenplay could have enlivened such a cringe-inducing affair. But the worst side effect of Hall’s thin and sizzle-free script is that it encourages Johnson and Penn to go overboard in a bid to compensate,” says Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Johnson barely survives the journey, making it hard to believe that such a young woman would give any time of day to a man like Clark, whose ideas about women and marriage seem imported from the era of Travis Bickle. But it is Penn who is ultimately responsible for steering the production into a ditch.”


“We’ve seen two-handers and we’ve seen solo characters in cabs (Tom Hardy in Locke) in internal monologues and phone conversations,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “We’ve seen passengers and drivers in scenes between war strangers that are often emotionally charged.  Writer/director Christy Hall, in her excellent first feature Daddio brings a tired trope to new life when Dakota Johnson (Girlie) gets into Sean Penn’s (Clark) airport cab to get home. She’s returning from an extended visit with her manipulative sister in Oklahoma, and she’s mentally exhausted.”


“Despite the basic film premise of two strangers sharing views on different topics and their personal lives, the story requires credibility,” argues Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The audience must believe the conversation occurs in the film’s 100-minute running time.  The audience has to believe that two strangers can embark on honest dialogue.”


“It’s fascinating stuff, and it rests both on its leads and on the universal truth that unburdening to strangers is often easier than unburdening to intimates, as any real-life cab driver or bartender can attest. And yet, as Daddio shows, that very spontaneous act fosters an intimacy all its own,” says Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “Clark and his passenger disseminate and dissect the usual sources of pain. But as their conversational posture volleys between cat and mouse, confessor and arbiter, and man and woman, each display wisdom and bafflement that feels entirely genuine. Hall’s writing is top-notch.”


“While Hall’s premise is dragged to a breaking point sheerly through the limitations of the chosen setting, stars Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn carry on with a well written, perceptive tête-à-tête that keeps things moving along and emotionally charged,” observes Andrew Parker at The Gate.


Drawing Closer (dir. Takahiro Miki)


“For a movie about death, the film is treated as a fairy tale fantasy instead of a tragedy,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “One might argue that one should always look positively at the bright side of things, but the darker side should not be overlooked, as in the case of this unrealistic treatment of the subject. Only mildly entertaining, this is a film that omits key issues while meandering aimlessly around the lives of its two subjects.”


The Escort (dir. Lukas Nola)


Escort plays like a Kafka-ish plot.  Director Nola proves himself apt at getting the audience’s attention at inconsequential details,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


A Family Affair (dir. Richard LaGravenese)


At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah says the film “strives to be a hilarious comedy, a family drama and a deeply felt love story but fails in all three.”


“It’s predictable in the extreme, which can make things drag out to feel longer than they actually are, but A Family Affair is packed with enough zingers, interesting characters, and chemistry between its stars to carry the day,” notes Andrew Parker at The Gate. “It’s the kind of movie best watched at home on a rainy night with sweatpants on and a bowl of snacks by one’s side. It’s not challenging, but it’s certainly entertaining.”


“[S]ometimes audiences need to confront, head-on, just what the streaming giants are churning out – this is such an oddly conceived and executed production that it must be seen to truly understand what the big algorithms think subscribers want,” admits Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “And if it’s easy titillation, unfortunately A Family Affair isn’t going to get you too hot and bothered, either. Whereas The Idea of You had some genuine heat to its love scenes, the chemistry and physical body language between Kidman and Efron here is so chilly and loose as to feel like the cinematic equivalent of Jell-O. Except you should try to not make much room for it.”


Fancy Dance (dir. Erica Tremblay)


“Jax is tough, strong, and smart and wary of others, and does her best for Roki and her missing sister,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “This one stirs many complex emotions highlighting issues facing indigenous peoples and the common emotions that holds us together, love, mourning, fear and determination.  The triumphant feature directorial debut of co-writer Erica Tremblay also stars Shea Whigham, Isabel Deroy-Olson, Ryan Begay, Crystle Lightning, and Audrey. Gladstone is a force of nature.”


Ghostlight (dir. Alex Thompson, Kelly O’Sullivan)


“On one hand, I was disappointed that Ghostlight didn’t hit as hard as it should and that it was filled with obvious sentiments designed to move the viewer to tears that never came,” admits Andrew Parker at The Gate. “On the other, it’s a fully realized, creatively mounted, and playful tweaking of several well worn concepts at the same time. It can be simplistic and tricky in the same breath, which leads to an uneven final form, but also something more interesting than a project pitched straight down the middle.”


“The script by Kelly O’Sullivan avoids this easy way out and replaces humour with bouts of angry scenes and a few with uplifting moments,” says Gilbert Seah  at Afro Toronto.


Green Border (dir. Agnieszka Holland)


“Agnieszka Holland‘s devastating Green Border lays bare the harsh, horrific realities of Europe’s refugee crisis faced by those escaping war and oppression in Africa and the Middle East,” says Anne Brodie at What She Said.” So much is packed into this chaotic, heart-wrenching story that so vividly reveals this modern political hellscape of a problem. Brilliant, sometimes unbearable, and important.”


“Relentlessly paced and fully embracing the appalling reality of life for those caught between the two borders – just as in reality, no character’s survival is guaranteed – Holland’s docudrama plays like a horror movie in which the bogeymen are you and me: comfortable citizens of rich, largely white countries who are comfortable ignoring those unlucky enough to be born in less privileged circumstances,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. Green Border is not only a courageous film, but a confident one: Holland knows that sometimes the only way to open the world’s eyes is to pry them open by force, with no softening of tone or sense of sentimentality.” Hertz also speaks with Holland and learns if she thinks her films can change the world.


“One of the most vital and important films of the modern era, Green Border painstakingly illustrates the ways in which impoverished and marginalized peoples looking for a lifeline are often cruelly used as pawns in a larger game played between warring governments with mounting far-right sentiments,” raves Andrew Parker at The Gate.


“Holland crafts the film with resolute skill to incorporate the disparate voices and attitudes of Poles, Syrians, and others into a compelling narrative,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “She does marvellous work, evoking the terrors of the forest at night. The viewer is invited to feel the fear that non-Europeans would endure once the terrain turns dark: it makes one think of Grimm fairy tales and worse. Fifty years of filmmaking has turned Holland into a master. There isn’t a scene that runs too long or feels out of place; the performances from actors ranging from professional to amateur and 70 to seven always feels correct for the film.”


Green Border runs a bit long because it tells in detail, the story of refugees from three different points of view,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “It takes a little patience to wash the entire film as it is not an easy watch, it being a difficult subject but well worth it.”


“Can contemporary Europe survive its current political turmoil with any humanity left? That’s the biting question at the heart of veteran Polish director, Agnieszka Holland’s multi-strand new film, Green Border,” notes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “Shot in black and white, with scenes of razor-wire barriers and terrified families hiding in the forest, Green Border evokes images of the Second World War and the Holocaust.”


Horizon: An American Saga – Part One (dir. Kevin Costner)


“Costner only appears in Horizon’s first chapter for a fraction of the time. We’ll have to wait for later instalments to see how his story will intersect with the remaining ensemble playing opportunistic settlers, union soldiers and the Apache communities,” writes Radheyan Simonpillai at Zoomer. “A forward-looking epilogue, featuring scenes from the next chapter, gives good indication that Horizon is basically the most Kevin Costner Western that Kevin Costner could tell; an accumulation of so much that he’s done leading up to this point.”


“Costner packs his story, which is arrayed around the fictional Arizona township of the title, with as many characters as a Russian novel and leaves many plot threads dangling,” says Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “But many of these mini-narratives fascinate, with glorious cinematography and standout performances that include Costner as a gruff cowboy, Sienna Miller as a tenacious frontier mom, Luke Wilson as a no-nonsense wagon master and Owen Crow Shoe and Tatanka Means as determined Indigenous warriors confronting the invading settlers.” Howell also chats with Costner about crafting his epic western: “History for me comes alive, and I want to tell all of it. It’s tragic. It’s embarrassing. It’s shameful,” Costner tells Howell.


Kalki 2898 AD (dir. Nag Ashwin)


“Although there’s a fair bit of cultural specificity to be found within Kalki 2898 AD, this sci-fi epic is clearly casting a wide net in an effort to bring in the widest global audience possible,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate. “It’s great at what it does, and as an obvious franchise starter, one could do a lot worse, but Ashwin has also cobbled it together from the spare parts of other films that have come before it. But if all you’re looking for is kinetic fights, shootouts in space, and explosions aplenty, Kalki 2898 AD will give you more and then some.”


Kinds of Kindness (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)


“There aren’t many kinds of kindness in the latest from Yorgos Lanthimos, an almost-three-hour trilogy of dark, sometimes funny stories featuring an ensemble cast playing different parts in each of the loosely linked tales,” admits Chris Knight at the National Post. “Kinds of Kindness continues Lanthimos’s penchant for absurdism — there’s even an absurdist mid-credit scene — and stilted speech patterns, neither of which endear him to me. He is a filmmaker I will readily admire, even as his creations continue to leave me cold.”


“The film contains bouts of graphic violence like the cutting off of a finger, to be cooked and served with cauliflower for dinner,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “There is also a foursome sex scene involving Plemons and Stone – more shocking than erotic – deliciously wicked delight.”


“Yorgos Lanthimos is a fascinating filmmaker. He knows how to extract great performances from his players, but his style isn’t necessarily bravura,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM.Poor Things had an extraordinary look, but his earlier films didn’t, nor does this one. What he enjoys is black comedy. Lanthimos loves psychodrama and elaborate, unknowable metaphors.”


“Whatever his motivation, Kinds of Kindness is a difficult movie to grade, since the stories range from an intriguing tale that could use one more act, to at least one that arguably overstays its welcome,” notes Jim Slotek at Original Cin.  “Kinds of Kindness is certainly a display of disparate kinds of weirdness. But unlike Poor Things, which was both provocative and told with absurd clarity, this anthology is a mixed bag of wannabe profundities.”


“Part three, ‘R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich,’ finds the gang of deadpan artisans exploring the limits of death and sex,” observes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “Stone and Plemons play a couple on a quest to find a person who they’re convinced can magically bring the dead back to life. They’re members of a sex cult ruled by a man named Omi (Dafoe) and woman named Aka (Chau). Cult rituals include collecting the sweat of supplicants and testing it for purity. It seems almost like an afterthought given the unhinged exertions of the first two chapters, but part three might be the most revealing. Be sure to stick around for the credits.”


“A truly torturous experience for almost everyone involved – up to and including the starry cast of Lanthimos regulars, who must now surely realize they have been duped by a master cinematic con artist – the film is an aggressively juvenile and tedious dissection of the notion of free will,” charges Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “But the message Lanthimos wants to deliver across all three shorts is as clear as the space the filmmaker believes exists between his audience’s heads: We are a stupid, selfish bunch, deserving of our downfalls. Except, of course, true artists like Lanthimos, who can see through our self-deceptions with the clarity of a god.”


“Fans of Yorgos Lanthimos know that a lobster can be a most excellent choice. But when shellfish goes off, there’s no saving it. Lanthimos’s new film Kinds of Kindness is an oyster shucked a little too late,” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “What Lanthimos leaves the audience is a puzzle that doesn’t fit together and isn’t really worth the effort. Or, to bring things back to the shellfish idea, he’s an artist who knows how to serve a mean lobster roll but gives audiences a Subway seafood salad foot-long that’s been sitting out for way too long.”


My Pet and Me (dir. Johan Kramer)


“Ever walked a 200-pound pet pig, Francis Bacon down the street without a leash?  Had a date refuse to enter your apartment because she’s afraid of your three hairless Sphinx cats? Is your cat an Instagram star responsible for your $$$ deal with Nike? Or have you had an African Giant Snail called Her Majesty climb up your body?” asks Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Well, some folks in Europe do it all the time. My Pet and Me, a revealing Dutch documentary from Johan Kramer on our relationship with our pets hits is endearing, joyful, filled with examples of interspecies bonds of love, dreams come true, the gamut of behaviours, living together, dying and mourning and recovery.”


Nobody Wants to Talk About Jacob Appelbaum (dir. Jamie Kastner 🇨🇦)


“Kastner speaks with journalists who investigated the claims and shattered their credibility,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “Similarly, people who openly dislike Appelbaum—and ask aloud why Kastner even bothers wasting his time making a documentary about the guy—say the allegations are bogus and have the receipts to prove it. And yet nobody still wants to talk about him. He’s a pariah any way one slices it. The film raises compelling questions about one’s ability to bring the truth to light in an age of polarized and volatile communication.”


A Quiet Place: Day One (dir. Michael Sarnoski)


Day One leans less on the horror stylings of its predecessors, instead spending its time on the relationship between Sam and Eric and their individual humanity within the film,” notes Rachel Ho at Exclaim!. “By placing their stories in parallel, Sarnoski, who also serves as the writer of the film, delivers a nuanced approach to the larger horror story being told. Amidst the chaos are two people grappling with mortality from opposite ends of the equation. These reflective notes don’t land a particularly devastating gut-punch, but they do lend the film an unanticipated texture.”


“There’s a wonderful/terrible moment when Samira witnesses a death and, unable to make a sound, ends up looking like the model for Munch’s The Scream,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post. “Her cat, meanwhile, has to be one of the most fantastic fictional filmic felines since Jonesy, the ginger tabby in Alien. Sympathetic, intelligent and (crucially) quiet, Frodo the cat is introduced as Samira’s emotional support animal, a role he ably fulfills and then some. I feared for his safety as much as I did for the humans in the film.”


“Surely there’s a terrifying story to be told as one of the world’s greatest — and noisiest — cities encounter aliens who lethally react to the slightest sound?” asks Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “This conceit works brilliantly for the first 20 minutes of Day One, a pre-title prologue that introduces us to Samira (Lupita Nyong’o), a patient in an upstate New York cancer hospice who finds little reason to live, apart from caring for Frodo, her black-and-white pet cat and constant companion. …By accident or design, scene-stealing Frodo becomes the character viewers are most likely to care about, not unlike the truffle-hunting porker of Sarnoski’s Pig.”


A Quiet Place: Day One comes across not only like a pitch-perfect prequel, but also like a continuation of what Sarnoski did with his debut feature, Pig, which was also a stripped down, expertly crafted genre piece about people refusing to let go of memories and things that kept them grounded amid troubling times,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate.


“It is also an oddly repetitive endeavour, given that audiences have already seen what happened the very first day the Earth stood silent during the flashback scenes in A Quiet Place Part II,” says Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Sure, there’s an ostensible ballooning in size and scope this time around, with the film set almost entirely in Manhattan instead of Part II’s upstate New York, but writer-director Michael Sarnoski’s take is also conversely intimate and, eventually, limiting. It is one thing to make a small movie, another to make one so tiny it feels redundant.”


“Definitely well made but the premise of sound-tracking aliens preying on human victims has worn out its interest in the third of the Quiet Place franchise resulting in a boring piece with portions that make no sense,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


File Under Miscellaneous: Revue at Stake, 2024 in Review


At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz reports on the shocking news that the Revue Film Society may cease operations at the Revue Cinema on July 1 following a hostile takeover by its landlord, Danny Mullins: “We have not been served a written eviction notice, but we have been told by our landlord and his representative that he will have us out on July 1,” Grant Oyston, chair of the Revue Film Society, told Hertz. “The business license is in our name, we own the equipment, we oversee the programming, we have the relationships with the distributors…We view this as a hostile takeover from Danny, but he won’t be able to seamlessly take over a cinema.”


At That Shelf, Joe Lipsett, Pat Mullen, Courtney Small, and Rachel West join local writers in picking the best films of 2024 so far. For Lipsett, it’s Femme. (“Career-best performances from leads Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and George MacKay.”) Mullen picks Challengers. (“Three cheers to Challengers for bringing sexy back.”) For Small, it’s I Saw the TV Glow. (“[F]inds strength in the unifying power of art and fandom.”) And for West, it’s Kneecap. (“I have never seen a movie like Kneecap before.”)


At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz picks the 25 best Canadian actors of all time. Atop the list? The one and only Christopher Plummer: “Plummer was the first and perhaps last kind of Canadian legend – an actor who appealed across the board, his charisma unlimited. Whatever Christopher Plummer wanted from an audience, he got. And we were more than happy to offer ourselves, for however long that he might have been available,” writes Hertz.


At That Shelf, Rachel West catches up with viral hit I Am: Céline Dion: “Painted in broad strokes, I Am: Celine Dion is less a definitive look at the singer’s rise to fame and more of what her life is now. She is a frail woman, trapped in the gilded cage of her Las Vegas residence with her twin sons, unable to leave the house both due to her physical condition and her perceived one. For Dion, the fans are still at the forefront as she muses how someone would react to seeing the singer enjoying family time when they held a ticket to her now-cancelled series of performances,” writes West.


At Maple Popcorn, Marriska Fernandes launches the third season with an in-depth conversation with Kari Skogland.


TV Talk/Series Stuff


At What She Said, Anne Brodie says that Sherwood bides its time and is better for it: “Its a breathtaking series that proves that the old maxims that truth is stranger than fiction and the mills of the gods grind slow but they grind exceeding small.” And if last night’s debate has you feeling shaken, Anne recommends tuning into Turner Classic Movies to escape the present: “TCM with all its marvels and opportunities gives us the chance to place the here and now in historical, political, social, and cultural perspective and that’s a privilege.”