Reviews include Close, Knock at the Cabin, and Alice, Darling.
TFCA Friday: Week of March 18
March 18, 2022
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
This week in movies!
*Anne Brodie took the week off from her column, bit notes that you can tune in to hear her reviews on Saturdays at noon On 105.9 The Region (Toronto and SW Ontario), Saturdays at 8am and Sundays at 5pm on 107.7 Pulse FM (Vancouver/Surrey), Mondays at 3pm and Wednesdays at 8pm on Blast the Radio (Ottawa and Region).
Alice (dir. Krystin Ver Linden)
“Alice is an objectively bad movie wrapped around one great, all-in performance,” admits Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “This is a promising premise, though one that is not supported by narrative logic.”
“If M. Night Shyamalan and Quentin Tarantino got together to make a movie, the results might well resemble Alice,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “It’s a revenge tale wrapped in the trappings of a ’70s Blaxploitation film, tucked inside a drama with a Twilight Zone-y twist.”
Deep Water (dir. Adrian Lyne)
“[L]et’s drill down to the central problem: Someone hired Adrian Lyne to direct this,” argues Johanna Schneller at The Globe and Mail. “Which means they must have known what they’d get – a movie so outdated in its view of women and relationships, and so outlandishly pervy and reductive, they should have called it Male Gaze.”
“What could have been is perhaps undone by the other bad marriage between Lyne – once a glossy purveyor of steamy thrillers like 9 ½ Weeks, Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal – and Disney,” cautions Radheyan Simonpillai at NOW Toronto. “The uptight family brand inherited Deep Water when they took over 20th Century Fox In 2019. We could only imagine the corporate meddling, evidenced by Deep Water’s messy stitched together feel and a misplaced timidity around sex and intimacy, along with the numerous delays and finally an unceremonious dump to streaming, as Amazon takes custody of the movie in Canada.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah says it “works well as both a mystery and a thriller.”
“I am likely to categorize Deep Water to the list of more memorable among Lyne’s achievements,” notes Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “This is possibly because a drought in this kind of film – where sexual promiscuity is used as emotional torture, and cuckolding as a wincing call-to-arms – has rendered the film nostalgic.”
Gold (dir. Anthony Hayes; March 22)
“[A] cautious fable of greed comes with authenticity and conviction making it a compelling watch and insightful though not always pleasant entertainment,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (dir. Pawo Choyning Dorji)
“If you thought it took forever for the titular death on the Nile to happen, just wait and see how long it takes for the yak to appear in the classroom,” says Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “The Bhutanese drama is a visually appealing ditty. However, it’s also very, very slow, if languid in the pleasantly enveloping nature of slow cinema.”
“It doesn’t even overplay the yak in the classroom, which at no point farts, poops or does an amusing double-take,” observes Chris Knight at the National Post. “For the most part it just hangs out yakkily at the back of the room. It’s name, by the way, is Norbu.”
Master (dir. Mariama Diallo)
“Master casts [Regina] Hall in a serious light, or rather the oppressively brooding shadow of all the self-serious horror movies that came before,” writes Radheyan Simonpillai at NOW Toronto. “You can easily predict in the post Get Out-era that Gail along with the only Black freshman (Zoe Renee) will face constant microaggressions from supposed allies and haunting visions of racist ghosts and maggots. The characters don’t get to define themselves much beyond what’s frightening/oppressing them.”
Measure of Revenge (dir. Peyfa)
“[A] tedious and mostly boring exercise of revenge with too much emphasis put on the character of the mother,” sighs Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
The Outfit (dir. Graham Moore)
“There is an old-fashioned sensibility to The Outfit that is both reassuring and refreshing, like taking a sip of the coldest water from the comfort of Leonard’s most weathered leather armchair,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Initially, Leonard’s shop seems too much of an itchy, claustrophobic setting for an entire film – yet as more rogue elements walk through its doors, and more bodies pile up in its corners, the space becomes a welcoming home for entertaining deviancy.”
“There are some terrific performances here. In particular, Rylance is, as always, note perfect as the ’cutter’ who may or may not be who he says he is. Also fun to watch is British stage legend Beale, who plays the head of the Boyle gang,” says Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “As well the film’s design team has done a fantastic job of evoking an era and a mood.”
“A thinking man’s action movie, The Outfit offers a fresh look at the well-worn (again pardon the pun) gangster genre,” stitches Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“First-time feature director Graham Moore, who also wrote the screenplay with actor-turned-writer Johnathan McClain, manages to throw a lot of tricks into the mix without coming off as overly clever,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “Part of that is down to the writing, which is form-fitting and not at all baggy.”
“Rylance’s performance as Leonard in The Outfit nicely mirrors the meticulousness of his bespoke tailor,” says Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “His carefully crafted turn considers every measurement, every cut, every stitch, and every finishing.”
The Shepherdess and the Seven Songs (dir. Pushpendra Singh)
“[S]ucceeds because of actress Randhwa’s controlled and yet powerful performance and the story but mostly because of the film’s unforgettable and stunning visuals,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
A Small Fortune (dir. Adam Perry 🇨🇦)
“Excellent pacing, relatable character, superlative performances, several twists in the story all make A Small Fortune the surprise thriller that it is,” approves Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“A Small Fortune offers a hint of Fargo and a dash of A Simple Plan as Kevin decides to keep the big bag o’ cash,” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “One hardly expects such a bloodbath amid such picturesque Canadiana. Lobster bites probably rank among PEI’s most violent crimes.”
Tin Can (dir. Seth A. Smith 🇨🇦)
“[A] stylishly looking film despite its flaws, the main one being that it is not convincing as a mystery thriller,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Tollbooth (dir. Ryan Andrew Cooper)
“Director Hooper displays a unique style that blends well the combination of violence, humour, drama and coincidences,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The brilliant script and spirited performances from the cast help create fresh entertainment shot in the stunning landscapes of Wales.”
“For better or worse, the movie is also brashly unoriginal, riding the line between inspiration and mere imitation,” admits Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “There are nods to the Coen brothers’ Fargo, Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and, most distinctly, the bloody-minded humour of the Irish brothers, Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, In Bruges) and John Michael McDonagh (The Guard).”
Win a Trip to Browntown (dir. George A. Tramountanas; Mar. 22)
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “a film about family values with some dirty stuff inserted.”
Windfall (dir. Charlie McDowell)
“Jesse Plemons is fabulous as an abrasive and obnoxiously wealthy tech bro, the latest role on his wildly varied resume that has me convinced he’s the next Philip Seymour Hoffman,” observes Radheyan Simonpillai at NOW Toronto. “Too bad Windfall can barely support his performance.”
“A ‘clever’ film that doesn’t do anything clever at all beyond its Hitchcockian opening credits, Windfall is a disposable and eye-rolling endeavour that will have you re-evaluating your household streaming budget,” sighs Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “[E]xactly what happens when bad ideas turn into very bad movies.”
X (dir. Ti West)
“Director West pokes fun at both the horror particularly the Texas Chainsaw Massacre genre and the porn industry with gory fun and a bit of wit,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Taking on horror and porn means aiming low, and at this level succeeds in providing audiences with guilty entertainment that one should really be disgusted with.”
“The results weren’t really my cup of tea, but fans of horror, and particularly those with an interest in the history of the form, should get a kick of it,” admits Chris Knight at the National Post. “It’s well acted and beautifully shot, except for the porno scenes, which are poorly acted and terribly shot. Just as you’d expect.”
“Tastefully trashy X is at its best when it’s following the warm, funny and familial Texan sex workers played by Mia Goth, Brittany Snow, and Martin Henderson as they sneak around a rented guest house on a farm,” notes Radheyan Simonpillai at NOW Toronto. “They’re trying to make porn without drawing scrutiny from the cranky old farmer who rented them the property. But as you might expect, they rolled into a Texas Chainsaw Massacre situation involving the farmer’s creepy wife.”
Festivals and Oscars, Ahoy!
At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell previews the Canadian Film Festival, which returns to Super Channel with a slate of homegrown indie flicks. He speaks with Ashleigh Rains from CFF about how the festival has been able to expand its audience outside of traditional means. “The response has been incredible,” Rains tells Howell. “When we’re exclusively in-theatre, we have 300 audience members per screening over five days. In this virtual format, we engage Super Channel’s subscribers, which are more than 450,000 Canadians.”
At Classical FM, Marc Glassman takes an early stab at Oscar predictions. He thinks this is the year they’ll crown Will Smith for his portrayal as the taskmaster father of Venus and Serena Williams. “This will be the culmination of Smith’s career,” writes Glassman. “He’s never won an Oscar but has been a bankable star for decades. This is his best chance. As Richard Williams, the likeable, obsessive, fascinating father of black female tennis pioneers and legends Venus and Serena, Smith is brilliant.”
TV Talk – Crashing and Rising
At Original Cin, Liam Lacey endures the Jared Leto/Anne Hathaway mini-series We Crashed so you don’t have to: “Martin Scorsese, in Goodfellas, and more recently The Wolf of Wall Street, provides the model for the modern scoundrel bio, including the over-used trope of fusing retro pop songs with the time-collapsing montage,” notes Lacey. “It takes style, wit and precision to establish that anxious tension between exhilaration and shame. By contrast, WeCrashed, like the couple it magnifies, feels dubiously self-satisfied. The Neumanns, who still walked away from their public disgrace with a fortune, come across as vain and hollow as a pair of drums. It probably shouldn’t take eight hours to show that.”
At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen checks out the two-parter doc Phoenix Rising: “This is an emotionally and mentally exhausting documentary, but whatever hell it is to watch is nothing compared to what Evan Rachel Wood endured or experienced while revisiting it…Phoenix Rising plays like an airtight procedural as Wood names her accuser and finds justice in documentary form where the courts failed her and many other women.”