TFCA Friday: Week of June 7!

June 7, 2024

Robot Dreams | Arcadia Motion Pictures, Lokiz Films, Noodles Production, Les Films du Worso


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


In Release this Week


Am I OK? (dir. Tig Notaro, Stephanie Allynne)


“Any girl who’s wondered if she’d like to drive a Volvo, or any guy who’d rather drive stick, will fall head over heels in love with Am I Ok?. Anchored by a never-better Dakota Johnson, this film is a refreshing coming-out comedy that shows that it’s never too late to discover yourself,” says Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “The film smartly draws on the wonderful chemistry between Johnson and [Sonoyo] Mizuno.”


Bad Boys: Ride or Die (dir. Adil & Bilall)


“In fact, every aspect of Ride or Die operates like a gaudy hyper emphasized version of its predecessors — a collage of the best parts of action movies with none of the connective tissue to earn them,” observes Jackson Weaver at CBC. “And unlike in silly self-deprecating examples like Fast and Furious or even Riverdale — where the late stage ridiculousness at least seem self-aware — Bad Boys: Ride or Die reads like a fan film that lacks respect for even simple story, or its audience.”


On In the Seats With…, Dave Voigt chats with directors Adil and Bilall.


“The Miami-set series’ gradual transition into lesser-than action fare might not hurt so bad today had the first two Bad Boys films not been master classes in modern action cinema,” says Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “It turns out that yesterday’s price is not today’s, though, as Ride or Die frequently feels ready to bust itself for aggravated cinematic assault.”


“There are hardly any surprises in this instalment.  The cameo surprises of Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig and D.J. Khaled (who appears for a mere minute) do not help much,” sighs Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “One would wonder if this film will make money and whether Will Smith’s disastrous act of slapping Chris Rock will affect the box-office potential of the film. The film even so far as to have Will Smith’s Mike Lowry slapped three times by Martin Lawrence in one scene, which did not get much response from the audience of the screening I attended.”


At Exclaim!, Rachel Ho chats with directors Adil and Bilall about balancing indie films and Hollywood movies: “We love to balance between Hollywood and independent movies,” Bilall tells Ho. “And I think as directors, it makes us richer. If you work in a Hollywood system, you have all the tools in the world you can work with, like the biggest actors — it’s a dream. But it’s a big-ass machine that’s really difficult to navigate and take creative risks. When we make independent movies, we have that creative freedom, totally. Jumping back and forth is really the ideal career that we have in mind.”


“[Y]ou don’t go to Bad Boys for rationality,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post. “You go for the explosions (there are many) and the gunplay (also lots) and the helicopter (one but it’s a doozy) and, increasingly, the nostalgia. And you go with the intention of going again, in a year or a few. Cast and crew have already teased the possibility of Bad Boys 5, possibly set in an international location. Call it Bad Boys: Family Holiday.”


Basma (dir. Fatima Al-Banawi)


“There are two plusses going for this Saudi Arabian family drama,” explains Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Firstly, unless one is Arabic or Muslim, there are a lot of practices and mores that North Americans are unfamiliar with, and these that are revealed (like Eid) on screen are both intriguing interesting as well as education. Secondly, Saudi Arabia and all its modernity can be witnessed, from the ultra modern airport to the high rise buildings as well as the beautiful sea surrounding the city.  The film is set in the city of Reddah on the Red Sea’s eastern shore.”


Cottontail (dir. Patrick Dickinson)


“The film is a slow burn with not much happening making the film one requiring a bit of patience,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Though veteran star Ciaran Hinds has star billing, he only appears after the hour mark and only for a brief part of the film.  There are too many coincidences such as Ken’s son suddenly meeting and appearing at the same spot of the Lake Windermere area.”


Edge of Everything (dir. Sophia Sabella and Pablo Friedman)


Edge of Everything is a difficult film to watch because directors Sophia Sabella and Pablo Friedman does not compromise Abby’s personality,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “This is the director’s debut feature and they have bit to learn about making their film likeable while tackling a tough film on a tough subject.”


On In the Seats With…, Dave Voigt chats with star Sierra McCormick.


How to Rob a Bank (dir. Seth Porges and Stephen Robert Morse)


“How to Rob a Bank is an often fascinating doc on a particularly fascinating individual who robs banks as a challenge rather than for the money,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


I Used to Be Funny (dir. Ally Pankiw 🇨🇦)


“I love so many things about this movie: How organic Sam’s comedy feels (‘My flirty trick on first dates is to make the man pinky swear not to kill me’),” raves Johanna Schneller at The Globe and Mail. “How hard she tries to make the assault not happen. How difficult it was for her to tell the truth, knowing it would devastate Brooke. How long everything stays difficult for assault survivors (in some ways, forever). I love that what Sam is robbed of – being funny – is everything, but not something we often think about.”


“Pankiw’s use of mystery and thriller to build compelling tension shows a remarkable command over the tone of her film, particularly impressive in a first feature. Her confidence is evident as she reroutes and backtracks the story, going from point B to point A without losing focus. I Used to Be Funny is truly a stunning debut for the Canadian filmmaker,” says Rachel Ho at Exclaim!.


Longing (dir. Savi Gabizon 🇨🇦)


Longing is a remake of a successful 2017 Israeli film. This version has a strong cast that includes Richard Gere and Diane Kruger, so there’s really no excuse for how lifeless an undertaking it proves to be. Whatever magic that writer/director Savi Gabizon brought to the original seems to have evaporated for this second go,” notes Liz Braun at Original Cin. “It’s a tough slog to get through Longing. You’ll wonder if the film concerns Daniel’s pride over his newly discovered fatherhood rather than Allen’s brief existence; Allen’s life does not exist except in the way it is interpreted and remembered by other people, which seems important.”


Longing moves to the totally bizarre as the film reaches its conclusion. In his increasingly frequent visits to Allen’s gravesite, Daniel has become friendly with Jacob, who is visiting his daughter, a gifted redheaded violinist who committed suicide when she was 18,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “The stage is set for the strangest of endings: a celebration of these two young people, gone too soon, attended by their extended families. It may not be a wedding, but the party is the closest either will ever have for that kind of loving release.”


“Daniel’s intrusions into people’s lives are not welcome, but they do his bidding as he seeks to fulfill his curiosity and feel what it’s like to be a father, as a man who scrupulously avoided it,” adds Anne Brodie at What She Said. “The situations are absurd like his power over others and the offbeat, unlikely details distract.”


“A tonally bizarre and dramatically inert feature that is so detached from baseline human emotion it might as well be the fever dream of Artificial Intelligence, the new Canadian-Israeli film Longing is the most frustrating cinematic experience of the season,” admits Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “On the surface, it appears as if writer-director Savi Gabizon…suggests that the filmmaker is treating his ridiculous material with a fatal solemnity. Perhaps this all worked better in Hebrew. But rendered into English, Gabizon’s vision isn’t so much lost in translation as it is consigned to linguistic oblivion.”


“Gere plays his dramatic role with a quiet and calculated intensity that suits the mood and atmosphere of the film. A film of self-discovery and a sort of alternative coming-of-age story of an older adult, the film has enough plot twists to keep the film both intriguing and entertaining,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


Gere sustains a powerful performance throughout which, ironically, is more reminiscent of his role in the harshly criticized Intersection (1994) than in roles from better-received films,” says Thom Ernst at Northern Stars. “The connection between the recent release of Longing with Intersection is not in similarities of story and style (although I like Intersection) but in the underlying investigative aspect that turns a human story into a mystery: Who is this young man, now gone? Who was this musical prodigy who was either a great poet or a vandal with an inappropriate message?”


Nelma Kodama: The Queen of Dirty Money (dir. João Wainer)


“The filming subject is treated in a humorous way while never diminishing the severity of the crime she committed,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


The Price of Nonna’s Inheritance (dir. Giovanni Bognetti)


“The film is an easy-going, guilty pleasure that is perfect for a family to laugh it out at themselves at what a family could be. Nonna’s Inhertience opens for streaming on Netflix this week,” writes Gilbert Seah Afro Toronto.


Return to Reason (dir. Man Ray; June 12)


“An excellent anthology of experimental films, Le retour de la raison is a curious and intriguing blast from the past,” advises Gilbert Seah at Toronto Franco.


Robot Dreams (dir. Pablo Berger)

***TFCA Award Winner: Best Animated Feature***


“This is such a simple movie, easy to watch, appropriate across a range of ages, so how does it lead to such a deeply felt emotional film? Spare as it is, it is never dull, with little visual grace notes along the way that are delightful. There’s magic here in Berger’s telling of the story. How does an animated dog taking the hand of a robot evoke such farklempt feelings in the viewer?” writes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “In the end, Robot Dreams is a lovely story about so many things: the yearning for connection, and the joys of love, friendship, and resilience. Most of all it’s a movie of such sublime tenderness that it’s a little salve for the spirit.”


“Simply but smoothly animated, and featuring no dialogue whatsoever, director Pablo Berger’s film is a charming fable that rides the line between sentimentality and schmaltz just right,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Ideal for children of a certain age – the lack of dialogue might initially confuse or stress kids out, but they’ll hop on the wavelength soon enough – and adults who know the pains of growing up, Berger’s film is rich, genuine and achingly real. Never mind this Manhattan’s menagerie – Robot Dreams is a movie that is all too human.”


Robot Dreams is an amazing feel good and fresh innovative animated feature full of rich nuanced emotions including many spirited segments like the snow sled segment in which dog rides his out of control self with his tiny floppy waging behind,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


“Much of Robot Dreams is funnier and more effervescent than the film’s narrative twists suggest,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “What remains true is a sense of loneliness and solitude throughout the film that feels like the condition one too easily experiences in Manhattan. It makes the separation of the two friends so difficult to bear—and so compelling to watch.”


Under Paris / Sous la Seine (dir. Xavier Gens)


“Will the triathlon athletes survive as they dive into the Seine in the film’s final scene?  The answer is a big surprise proving Under Paris (Sous La Seine) the best shark horror movie after Spielberg’s Jaws,” raves Gilbert Seah at Toronto Franco.


The Watchers (dir. Ishana Night Shyamalan)


The Watchers is not a perfect movie, but it is an excellent start, heralding the arrival of a bold new talent. I remember thinking the same thing about Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral a dozen years ago, with the realization that not only does the apple fall close to the tree, it does so with a satisfyingly pulpy splat,” says Chris Knight at Original Cin. “The actual denouement makes things more complicated before clearing them up again, which may annoy some viewers who prefer a tidy conclusion to a messy one. But a conclusion it is, and a decent one at that. I can’t wait for Ishana’s next project.”


“The problem with creating a film that so strongly recalls her famous father’s style is that the audience members are looking for that Shyamalan twist — similar to the expectations put upon Brandon Cronenberg in the body horror space. But unlike Cronenberg, Shyamalan doesn’t make the family trademark her own,” notes Rachel Ho at Exclaim!. “Although the novel (and film) does contain a twist of sorts, it’s a rather lukewarm, generic one that’s a bit of a let down in comparison to the story it has built up, fizzling out any momentum it has created.”


“Director Ishana Shyamalan has a lot riding on this movie, this being her feature debut while riding on her father’s reputation,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “She deserves credit for marinating a consistent suspenseful atmosphere throughout the film.  The film only falters during the last 15 minutes where too much happens, though one can blame the critical flaw due to the source of the material, the novel.”


The Watchers works so well visually — the title creatures are something to behold — that it’s disappointing when the story all but collapses under the weight of its unwieldy design, especially in the rushed third act,” admits Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “Other flaws include a major plot reveal early on that makes no sense in the context of the story and robs it of suspense.”



File Under Miscellaneous: Canadian Content Edition


At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz says the Canadian Screen Awards were a big improvement, provided one could hear the broadcast: “Smushing together four days’ worth of separate CSA ceremonies doling out 171 awards – with the bulk of footage coming from Friday afternoon’s two-hour gala held at the CBC Broadcast Centre in Toronto – into a single one-hour telecast was always going to be an impossible challenge,” writes Hertz. “Yet the Ozempic-fied result that made it to air felt as comprehensive as it could possibly be under the honestly insulting circumstances.”


Also at The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz breaks down the CRTC/Bill C-11, which has Canadian bodies publicly praising the developments, and Hollywood streamers firing warning shots: “The veiled threats are twofold: Streamers will either raise their Canadian subscription prices to offset the new measures, or they will pull up stakes altogether and leave the country,” says Hertz. “Both outcomes are ridiculous in their own ways, and underline a bullying mentality that requires a united defensive front if Canadian culture has any hope of not being swallowed whole by the twin forces of Hollywood and Silicon Valley.”


At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen reports on an open letter from the documentary community asking the CBC to address allegations of Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism in the news and documentary units: “On the documentary front, the letter addresses a pattern of erratic behaviour by a CBC documentary executive posting racist and Islamophobic content of increasingly aggressive tone since October 7, 2023,” writes Mullen. “These social media messages include posts on the executive’s personal Facebook page and Twitter/X profile, as well as comments on posts by members in the documentary field. Said executive frequently used their Facebook profile akin to a community message board to share news and accomplishments of CBC documentaries, drawing the “likes” and engagement of peers in the field and demonstrating the role of personal social media accounts in community engagement.”


A Festival of Festival Coverage: Tribeca and TJFF!


At What She Said, Anne Brodie looks ahead to the Toronto Japanese Film Festival: “23 films intends to showcase the rich diversity of its artists both at home and in the diaspora…The opening night film is North American Premiere of Hayato Kawai’s comic retelling of the 47 Ronin story, Don’t Lose Your Head makes its North American premiere” and Revolver Lily “features a memorable performance by Haruka Ayased.”


At Original Cin, Liam Lacey previews the Toronto Japanese Film Festival and finds a distinct tradition: “Cultural generalizations are often suspect, and there’s a distinctive quality people often find in Japanese films, evident in films such as Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Academy Award–winning Drive My Car and many of the films of this festival. In Japanese, it’s called “mono no aware,” literally translated as ‘the pathos of things,’ which is both a source of sadness and a reason for compassion and the appreciation of beauty. To put it more plain English: Don’t Lose Your Head! This too shall pass.”


At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen chats with I’m Your Venus director Kimberly Reed, who explores the life and death of Paris Is Burning star Venus Xtravaganza: “[T]he more important impact that watching Paris Is Burning and meeting Venus for the first time through film had was that it gave me an example of how to live as a trans woman and be myself and be public,” says Reed. Mullen also speaks with Sister Helen Prejean and director Dominic Sivyer about sharing the sister’s story in Rebel Nun: “When Tim Robbins was working on the film Dead Man Walking, he kept saying, ‘The nun is in over her head,’” recalls Sister Helen. “That’s the title of the whole bloomin’ thing: ‘in over my head.’ I didn’t know anything about the death penalty, criminal justice. I thought I was bloomin’ gonna write some letters to a man on death row, he would write back, and that’s all the relationship was going to be.”


TV Talk/Series Stuff


Dave Voigt gets the scoop on Mayor of Kingstown with co-producer/co-creator/co-star Hugh Dillon on In the Seats With…


At What She Said, Anne Brodie says that Netflix’s espionage docu-series Spy Ops is your best bet this week: “unearths secrets of international espionage and it’s a real eye-opener,” notes Brodie. On the other hand, Camilla Before Charles is a “puff piece of a documentary.”