TFCA Friday: Week of March 22

March 22, 2024

The Queen of My Dreams | Cineplex Pictures

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


In Release this Week


Coming to You (dir. Gyiro Byun)


“Director Byun’s doc can hardly be called groundbreaking as the issues of coming out have been covered countless times since the times when gays were ostracized till now when gays are largely accepted,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “However, the emotions experienced by the 4 subjects (each given around equal screen time) are still felt everywhere and it is still heartbreaking to see what the subjects went through.”


Dad & Step-Dad (dir. Tynan Delong)


“The three actors are comedians with an impressive acting resume,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “To their credit, they interact in their scenes credibly and the chemistry works well.  Though occasionally repetitive in their dialogue, expected for improv, it is what it is.  The characters of the dad and set-dad etch out different personalities.  The character of the mother appears unnecessary, except to put some tension in the relationship between the stepdad and the family.”


The Fox (dir. Adrian Goiginger)


At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “a gut-wrenching emotional true story set in WWII told with conviction and credibility.”


The Fragile King (dir. Tristan Holmes)


“It is hard not to get emotionally connected with a subject that is unloved by all including family,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (dir. Gil Kenan)


“The highly derivative plot, already revealed in the trailers, concerns the threat of a second Ice Age brought on by an army of ghosts. The phantoms are led by a fearsome new creep, Garraka, a malevolent ancient god who looks like the angry older brother of tree man Groot from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise,” writes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “Anybody who can lift a proton pack — and it feels like almost every cast member, big or small — is deputized as a Ghostbuster to fight the scourge.”


“The film works for a variety of factors.  Firstly, the blend of comedy and scary effects works well, with the ghosts being scary fun while not too frightening for the kids.  The Splenger family (played by Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace) is the hereof the film, a family with normal problems with the kids with growing up problems like another family,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “There is enough family in the story without boring audiences.  All the beloved in the Ghostbusters franchise is included, especially the equipment to aid in the capture and containment of ghosts.”


“As a story of a young woman finding a place and knowing her worth in a world that undervalues her, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is okay,” admits Andrew Parker at The Gate. “Could be better, could be worse. As a Ghostbusters movie, this is worse than anything that has come before it: a befuddled, chaotic, and sometimes downright incoherent assortment of only loosely connected scenes and gags crashing into each other and desperately hoping for laughs and chills. You know a movie is drowning in flop sweat when it forces one of its characters to laugh at one of the film’s own lame jokes.”


“While Ghostbusters showcased the charisma of its leads and creative, quirkily horrifying fun of its world, every sequel is forced to prop itself up as a way to reframe the same gags and characters in an exercise in diminishing returns,” writes Jackson Weaver at CBC. “So as Frozen Empire does so for the fourth time, it is overburdened by the lore and jokes it’s forced to point back to, and the rogue’s gallery of new characters it’s been forced to pick up. But even with the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Game of Thrones-like story splintering that’s required to follow them all, it’s accomplished with a sense of style.”


Golden Years (dir. Barbara Kulcsar; Mar. 26)


“[A] sincere senior comedy-drama, unlike most Hollywood senior comedies in which the older stars still cannot get over their aging process,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The aging process in Golden Years is covered with heart and credibility, with the points of view of both the male and female gender.


Immaculate (dir. Michael Mohan)


Immaculate is ultimately caught somewhere between recent ‘elevated; horror offerings and old school B-movie chillers, without ever fully landing on either side,” notes Andrew Parker at The Gate. “But then Mohan’s final act kicks in and the last twenty minutes or so offer up some truly gnarly visuals, grotesque body horror, and intense cat and mouse action that more than makes up for any perceived slightness that came before it.”


“I have a confession to make. Watching Immaculate, starring (and co-produced by) the radiant, she’s-everywhere Sydney Sweeney, I felt — bored,” admits Chris Knight at Original Cin. “It’s not among the seven deadly sins, or even one of the lesser ones, and there’s no commandment against it, so I should be catechismally safe in my reaction. But I wish this latest nun-beset-by-evil story (see The Nun, The Nun II, Annabelle: Creation, Agnes, Prey for the Devil — and that’s just in the last few years) had more going on that just a mishmash of horror tropes, religious symbolism, and over-the-top gore.”


“The film is mostly a one-handler with the success of the film largely lying on Sydney Sweeney’s shoulders,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “But she can only do so much as what transpires onscreen has been seen [another] time or other in a horror film.  It does not help that nothing is explained of the pregnancy.  The ending before the climax where the priests chases and attacks Cecilia plays like a cheap slasher film where the killer never dies.”


Late Night with the Devil (dir. Cameron Cairnes, Colin Cairnes)


Late Night with the Devil isn’t just an effective horror movie that goes berserk at the end, but something that also captures the giddy glee of watching a television train wreck unfolding in real time,” says Andrew Parker at The Gate.Late Night with the Devil is one of the most satisfying and memorable genre efforts of the year.”


Problemista (dir. Julio Torres)


Problemista is a comedy and a savage send-up of much of what America holds dear. Torres’ absurdist humour underpins the storytelling,” says Liz Braun at Original Cin. “There are wonderful visual jokes throughout; allegedly desirable New York is ugly and the streets are full of garbage, for example, but in that garbage are the colourful bits of art and whimsical children’s things people have tossed out. And there are laugh-out-loud digs at the art world and at bureaucrats.”


“Occasionally all over her place with a message that is left ambiguous, the film is still entertaining, inventive and playful showing Problemista as a worthy debut for the talented Julio Torres, a new comedic filmmaker and a talent to be reckoned with,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


“Torres proves an amiable lead and his wry passivity really lets audience feel what it’s like to be in Alejandro’s shoes whilst enduring someone as manic, demanding, and riotously draining as Elizabeth. The character is a total bag of cats and Swinton really lets the dragon roar by injecting the part with gusto,” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “It’s a tricky feat, playing a character this big in a film that finds its charm through mannered humour. But Swinton and her Scottish brogue offer a zany foil and ally alike for Torres’s knight. They both really know how to slay a dragon.”


The Queen of My Dreams (dir. Fawzia Mirza 🇨🇦)


“The conceit of The Queen of My Dreams, and it’s a winning one, is that actor Amrit Kaur plays both Azra and Mariam as young adults, with the two inhabiting wildly different worlds that underscore both their similarities and variations,” says Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “[E]verything about the film is conveyed with such warmth — and music and dancing and fabulous blazes of colour.  Mirza has coaxed committed, sincere performances from her ace cast, giving them dialogue that feels just right. In a word, delightful.”


“Mirza adds clips from a beautiful 1969 Bollywood film, Aradhana, which starred Sharmila Tagore and is most famous for its song ‘Queen of My Dreams.’ Azra associates it with her youthful mother and to a Pakistan that she could only dream of entering,” observes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “In their mutual grief over Hassan’s death, the mother and daughter do finally achieve a form of closure. The Queen of My Dreams probably attempts to do too much stylistically but it is lively and features terrific performances by Amrit Kaur as Azra and the young Mariam, the veteran actress Nimra Bucha as the middle-aged Mariam, and Hamza Haq as Hassan.”


“Mariam’s experiences in 1969, as Azra imagines, are lively, glamorous, and colourful in stark contrast to current her life in Toronto,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “She travels to Pakistan to bury her father where the contrast between the family’s split lives comes into clear focus. And she recognises how wonderful they are in their unique ways. But the film also suggests the upheaval of people who leave their homelands to live far away and the possibilities they missed and gained. The film glows with colour, music, and imagination, and a lively lead character we are delighted to follow. A promising debut feature by a writer-director with flair.”


“Mirza’s time shifting structure is also quite snappy, often employing a nifty slideshow sort of editing technique to pull the viewer into and out of various eras in the story,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate.The Queen of My Dreams (based in part on one of Mirza’s previous shorts) is a confident and fully realized crowd pleaser that values the audience’s intelligence and sense of compassion. It’s a definite winner.”


Road House (dir. Doug Liman)


Road House, a remake of an ’80s testosterone fuelled action picture that has maintained cult status for decades, is dumb as a box of rocks, and I’m positive that fans of the original wouldn’t want it any other way,” observes Andrew Parker at The Gate.


Shayda (dir. Noora Niasari)


“The film demonstrates the empowerment of women and sends a necessary and strong message that women must stand up and fight for what is right in their lives,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


“Both a horror story about domestic abuse and a love-letter to the mother-daughter relationship, Shayda is an award-winning first feature about female agency from writer-director Noora Niasari. It’s partly based on Niasari’s own childhood experience living with her mother in a women’s shelter,” notes Liz Braun at Original Cin. “Shayda is Iranian, having come to Australia with her husband a few years prior; now she has left that abusive relationship and must protect herself and her daughter, even as she deals with censure from the Iranian community and racism from some of the locals. It’s a lot to handle. Nonetheless, Shayda remains focused on her daughter’s wellbeing.”


“An emotional pressure cooker inspired in part by Niasari’s own personal experiences and set in 1995 Australia, this story of an abused woman trying to get a seemingly impossible divorce while protecting her six-year-old daughter is unforgettable in terms of scope, detail, and emotional impact, with a trio of impeccable performances at the centre of it all,” says Andrew Parker at The Gate.


“A truly affecting aspect of the film is the caring relationship Shayda has with her clearly traumatized daughter. Much of the film is set in a shelter and one gets the sense of other stories of abuse, thankfully taking the focus away from Iran. Niasari, who was a five-year-old in an Australian shelter with her mother, makes it clear that Iran has a wonderful, poetic culture although the character of Hossein is made a truly threatening figure. The film builds to a dramatic conclusion, which offers hope for both Shayda and Mona, giving some light for a story that has much darkness in it,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “A stunning debut, the film benefits from an exceptional performance by the Iranian actor Zar Amir Ebrahimi as Shayda.”


William Shatner: You Can Call Me Bill (dir. Alexandre O. Philippe)


“Eloquent, long-winded, fascinating, maddening, and hypnotic, Shatner keeps nothing back as he ponders life’s mysteries and life itself. This is an intensely Shakespearean showman, a philosopher, a kid at heart (says he takes care of his inner child), and an old man who faces the end with imaginative freedom and apparent fearlessness,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Of course, he deconstructs his favourite characters, especially Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. He talks about going into space in 2022, being homeless, and his losses openly, nothing is off limits. Call Me Bill is raw, scary, wonderful, naked, fast and hypnotic. The doc is Shatner alone, no one else is interviewed, talking for almost two hours. Who else could do such a thing?”


“Although Shatner prattles on at great, lugubrious length about the pitfalls of having a big ego in show business, William Shatner: You Can Call Me Bill – a title that places his own name above a title that includes his own name – is blissfully ignorant with regard to the egotistical nature of this entire enterprise,” notes Andrew Parker at The Gate. “Everything in this film is about he feels or felt about everything that happened or is yet to happen in his life and his life alone. A moment where the actor curiously claims to not understand why so many people do impressions of his unique vocal inflections and line deliveries subtextually illustrates that William Shatner has the capacity for self-reflection, but little understanding of self-awareness or perception. William Shatner: You Can Call Me Bill is a portrait of an artist who is in touch with the greater mysteries of the universe, but who has also created their own hermetically sealed microcosm within it.”


“For viewers looking for a more tabloid-y biopic, they’re going to be disappointed. Every moment is navigated entirely by the single subject, and structured deliberately, almost solipsistically, to be directed from this single point of interest,” writes Jason Gorber at POV Magazine. “There’s almost nothing in the way of external reflection, and no other voices brought in to either buttress Bill’s claims or counter any sense of self-aggrandizement. Feeling at once like a mix of a stage show, a private conversation, and the vicarious witnessing of a therapy session, the result in an unadulterated dose of monologuing by this remarkable man as he regales us with whatever it is he wishes to share.”


You’ll Never Find Me (dir. Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell)


You’ll Never Find Me has an excellent build-up – too good that it is hard to reach a climax that meets the audience’s anticipations.   Watch the film for the buildup anyway, and forget the muddled ending,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


Yuni (dir. Kamila Andini)


“Director Anini paints a troubled teen life and the audience gets to learn what Indonesia is like as well as what teen girls have to face.  But director Andini takes on a bit too many issues that include her literature teacher turning out gay and proposing to her as well,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


A Festival of Festival Coverage: Cdn Film Fest Cont’d


At Original Cin, Liam Lacey surveys the movies at the Canadian Film Festival: “Fresh from strong festival screenings at Whistler and Glasgow, The Burning Season is set at a holiday resort where the middle-aged owner, J.B (Chernick) is about to celebrate his marriage, but things go awry when Alena (Sara Canning) and her husband (Joe Pingue) show up,” writes Lacey. “The twist here is that the story, cowritten by Chernick and Diana Frances, is that of an affair told backwards; 25 years at the same resort with the same couple, starting Chapter 7 and working back to the prologue when they were in their teens and the event that set them on their compulsive path.”


TV Talk/Series Stuff


At Original Cin, Karen Gordon logs onto 3 Body Problem: “The cast is uniformly excellent. Fans of Game of Thrones will note the casting of Cunningham, who played Davos Seaworth, and Bradley who was Samwell Tarly,” writes Gordon. “As you might expect from the team behind Game of Thrones, and True Blood, the production values here are very high. The mood is at times playful, but most often dark and sinister.”


At What She Said, Anne Brodie confronts artificial intelligence through 3 Body Problem: “This is a high-octane, multi-level AI adventure, as outrageous and stunning as the plots all interconnected to the tiniest details; so it sweeps and hides, crammed with anxiety-provoking but poetic prose warning of end time,” she says. Meanwhile, Time shows that algorithms can replace humans just yet: “Superb performances draw us deeply into these characters and their heartbreaking stories,” notes Brodie. “Time is realistic and well made.” Meanwhile, Dick Wolf gets real with Homicide: New York: “the level of caring we see in the detectives participating in the series is deeply reassuring.” And Fluid: Life Beyond the Binary “suggests a fascinating theory that language created the need to define and make things stay defined, and according to the research that just isn’t the way things go.”


At Original Cin, Liam Lacey checks in to Palm Royale: “Though lavish production values and the stellar cast hold interest, a progressively wonky plot and pacing mute the potential impact of this this update on William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair,” writes Lacey. He also looks at the doc series Photographer: “The series has no hot tips to offer regarding shutter speed, white balance, and composition. Rather, this series from Free Solo filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin is about the biographies of photographers, connecting their personal experiences to the emotionally charged images they capture and create.”