TFCA Friday: Week of June 7th, 2019

June 7, 2019

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

Opening this Week

Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch (dirs. Jason Kwan and Wong Jing)

[Plays] out more or less how one might expect, and while nothing about Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch is ever all that impressive or action packed… it’s economical, competent, and just entertaining enough to hold together” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Dark Phoenix (dir. Simon Kinberg)

The X-Men franchise goes down in flames… again” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

Sophie Turner’s Jean Greyembraces evil in Dark Phoenix, the regrettable new X-Men movie, but has there ever been a more joyless supervillain?” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

A lot less like watching an ensemble cast of talented people bringing out the best in each other, and more like watching captives in a hostage crisis where only some of them are making the best of a bad situation” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Consider it a noble but failed attempt. Better luck next time” — Thom Ernst, Original-Cin

Far from saving the world, Dark Phoenix often just satisfies itself with issues of guilt, responsibility, and the nagging feeling that things done with the best of intentions can still result in the worst of consequences for all involved” — Chris Knight, The National Post

The action sequences are well staged, a lot of which are done practically — like exploding real houses — instead of CGI” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Echo in the Canyon (dir. Andrew Slater)

A documentary about the California folk-rock scene of the 1960s, and the movie is every bit as pleasantly trippy” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Isn’t a pitch perfect music doc and its appeal is still somewhat niche, but it’s never cloying or self-congratulatory” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

An affectionate look at the pop music that came out of the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles in the mid-‘60s, a period that the film argues quite effectively, was hugely influential “— Karen Gordon, Original-Cin

Might be the Baby Boomer-iest film ever made” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

Framing John DeLorean (dirs. Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce)

An enjoyable if slightly indulgent documentary about the life of the visionary car designer whose vaunted DeLorean Motor Company collapsed following his arrest in a 1982 drug sting, but whose car achieved pop-culture immortality” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

The hodge-podge of storytelling techniques works quite well, especially since the chapters of DeLorean’s life don’t mesh neatly” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Alec Baldwin plays DeLorean with ample gusto, and it’s no wonder that DeLorean himself once wanted the star to play him in one of the many proposed movies about his life that never ended up being made” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

Accomplishes plenty, given both the human element and geopolitical complexity of its subject’s story, as well as the fact that so many people have tried to tell that story and failed” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

An entertaining, high wire filmmaking experiment that does well by the controversial visionary at its centre, while transparently deconstructing itself in the process” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil (dir. Lee Won-Tae)

Delivers the goods at every turn and a nice counterbalance to the recent glut of uninspired Hollywood tentpole blockbusters currently taking up way too much space down at the multiplex” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

I Am Mother (dir. Grant Sputore)

Were it not for Mother’s telegenic exo-skeleton, which whirrs with every little maneuver, the film would be little more than a talky, over-stuffed mess of tropes better exercised elsewhere (there’s even a hi-tech surgery sequence, now, curiously, a must in elevated science fiction)” — Jake Howell, The Film Stage

Looks like a work of art, but boasts a story that feels like it was pulled straight from the remainder bin” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Mouthpiece (dir. Patricia Rozema) 🇨🇦

A brilliant, moving and fully cinematic adaptation of the award-winning, internationally acclaimed stage play” — Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine

The daring concept, execution and humour make this something distinctly out of the ordinary” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

While the transition from stage to screen isn’t seamless… all of the emotional power and thoughtful provocation remains importantly intact” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

A pretentious artistic exercise” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Pavarotti (dir. Ron Howard)

It’s the voice that will live on, and this film includes some remarkable footage, including a clip taken from the wings of the tenor effortlessly hitting a series of high Cs in La Fille Du Régiment that will make you giddy” — Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine

This isn’t quite a warts-and-all biography; little mention is made of his reputation as the ‘king of cancellations’” — Chris Knight, The National Post

More a valentine than evaluation of his achievement and conduct, but this seems about right” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

A work-for-hire film, plain and simple, which makes it a bit of a rarity in the world of theatrical documentary, but relatively in tune with Howard’s overall filmography” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

Isn’t exceptional by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a nice tribute to a relatively humble and somewhat misunderstood artist. In short, it’s exactly what you think a Ron Howard documentary about Pavarotti would be” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Project Ithaca (dir. Nicholas Humphries)

Despite ripping off several other films shamelessly and wholesale, has flashes of intelligence, but it’s ultimately undone by its juvenile execution and an inability to convincingly create a world” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The Secret Life of Pets 2 (dir. Chris Renaud)

Your smile mileage may vary. It will likely have everything to do with whether or not you have children and/or dogs and cats in your life and whether or not you enjoy infantile and animal antics on YouTube” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

If your kids want to see it, it’s fine, I guess, but consider yourself warned that this is less of a sequel and more of a cash grab” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

There’s not enough here to keep an adult engaged for even the film’s brief 86 minutes, but the small fry should enjoy the yuks” — Chris Knight, The National Post

The Souvenir (dir. Joanna Hogg)

A masterful portrait in its own right, depicting love as an addiction for which there is no easy cure” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Just four features into what I hope is a long and challenging filmography, it feels as if Hogg has delivered her masterpiece – a measured drama about the formation of her own artistic consciousness that refuses to mythologize any of the messy, complicated elements” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

You could get lost in the echo chamber of parallels between life and art, but you’d do better to just get lost in the film, which won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance this year” — Chris Knight, The National Post

This is a filmmaker in full control of her craft” — Thom Ernst, Original-Cin

This is the work of a filmmaker who isn’t holding back in the slightest, despite its overall quiet and modest tone. It’s delicacy and power cannot be understated. The Souvenir is truly a marvel to behold” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

This odd love relationship tale of a young filmmaker runs close to home” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

The Tomorrow Man (dir. Noble Jones)

One gets the idea that Jones wants The Tomorrow Man to play in a fashion akin to David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, but it reads instead like a knock-off of Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter that was rewritten by Garry Marshall” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Labours under the double task of presenting a believable romance and humanizing a species of online hominid many of us encounter and even hate in our daily lives” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

The film shows that there is life after 60 and that a romantic comedy about seniors can still have appeal and zest” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Wild Nights With Emily (dir. Madeleine Olnek)

Shannon – a terrific comic performer who’s always been able to tap into veins of insecurity and self-doubt – builds a fully considered character out of Emily, a woman of boundless creativity and ambition whose situation is entirely subject to the whims of others” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

The choice of Molly Shannon in the title role suggests a comic take on the subject, and the low production values, clanging anachronisms and cliché period music reminded me of an episode of Drunk History” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Revisionist history played to the hilt. This devilishly funny film from writer/director Madeline Olnek is a must-see for any bookworm or nerd for literary history” — Pat Mullen, Cinemablographer

A cheeky, playful period piece comedy with a serious desire to change perceptions about one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted poets in literary history” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Weird does not automatically translate to smart or deadpan funny” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Toronto Japanese Film Festival

Mindfulness, tea, and sake: Original-Cin writers Liam Lacey and Jim Slotek have best-of reviews for the annual TJFF

Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue 

In the Toronto Star, Peter Howell recounts — in light of Scorsese’s new project — how he attended one of these legendary shows