Reviews include Across the Spider-Verse, Bones of Crows, and Close to Vermeer.
TFCA Friday: Week of March 24
March 24, 2023
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
88 (dir. Eromose)
“There are few thrills in this thriller, though Femi occasionally ventures outside the campaign office and his home, including a visit to a dying old conspiracy theorist and writer (Jonathan Weir). Later, he meets a Deep Throat figure from a secret counter group, who is determined to let the whole plot come to fruition so they can expose it,” notes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “There’s even one of those absurd scenes where Femi calls his friend Ira to his garage at 5 am, so he can display one of those Beautiful Mind-type cork board demonstrations with strings of yarn connecting bits of paper, which looks like a kit you can buy from Paranoiacs Art Supplies.”
The Colour of Ink (dir. Brian D. Johnson 🇨🇦)
At Zoomer, Brian D. Johnson elaborates on his process and his journey from writing about films to making them—and then writing about them, too: “Ink is our oldest visual medium, and typically used to send a message, to leave a mark on some near or distant future,” writes Johnson. “But Logan’s ink flows both ways: It carries a story of the place it comes from. Purple ink made from wild grapes picked along a rail path near his home in Toronto evokes memories of his mother, who died when he was nine. She introduced him to grapevines by the train tracks near their home in rural Ontario. The tracks scared him, but he saw the grapes as a kind of magic portal.”
At POV Magazine, Liam Lacey speaks with Brian D. Johnson and profiles his portrait of ink and artisans. “Jason was the compass needle of the narrative, the one who determines where the story is going to go, where we’re going to travel and who we’re going to meet. He’s someone who’s always on a quest for something, but he doesn’t know what he’s looking for,” Johnson tells Lacey. “For a documentary filmmaker, that’s gold. You can script, plan, and schedule all you like but, in the end, all you’re looking for is a moment that you never saw coming.” Lacey also looks at the film for Original Cin, noting, “The film, following Logan’s urban forager example, promotes a heightened attention to the interconnectedness of things and reminds us how fundamental creativity is to human nature.”
“Despite the off-putting sound of the doc’s title (don’t let the title discourage you from picking this film), director Johnson has brought the subject to life bringing forth insight, knowledge and with the additional bonus of entertainment,” advises Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Although The Colour of Ink rightly concentrates on the lovely work being created by Jason Logan, his personal life is also revealed. When Jason was young, an intimate documentary was made about his mother Pat, who was dying of cancer,” notes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “The excerpts we see leave us a moving impression of a boy and his family having to cope with such a tragedy. As an adult, Jason is married to a highly regarded novelist and in a couple of scenes, they are shown as being parents to a lively group of children. The film ends with them at the Lesley Spit, merrily gathering rocks and branches and insects, all grist for Jason’s ink-making mill. They’re a family of creators using our environment in the best possible way.”
Filmmakers for the Prosecution (dir. Jean-Christophe Klotz)
“The mission to bring the guilty to justice, the trial, and all doubt erased, but the growing Cold War put a kibosh on the Schulbergs’ film; it was never seen in the US,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Now it is widely available entitled Nuremberg Its Lesson for Today. It details growing pre-WWII German nationalism, racism, blind allegiance to a leader, and civil and economic unrest that gave rise to Hitler. Filmmakers for the Prosecution is an astounding achievement and a global warning about that time and our times.”
The Five Devils (dir. Leá Mysius)
At Toronto Franco, Gilbert Seah calls it “an ambitious, in fact over ambitious project that the director takes many risks that does not always pay off.”
“The Five Devils is a serious film, which combines the supernatural with such important subjects as lesbianism and the bullying of Vicky, a mixed race child,” writes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “The film is an awkward mixture of the fantastic and the all-too-real. It benefits from wonderful performances by Adele Exarchopoulos as Joanne and Sally Dramé as Vicky. Lea Mysius’ film is a heavy potion with a mixture that doesn’t completely mesmerize. But it’s a brew worth imbibing.”
“In the end, there’s insufficient emotional pay-off or psychological insight here to justify the credibility-defying tricks and narrative convolutions,” says Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “But the kid is adorable and Exarchopoulos, as the hot and cold Joanne, is believable at every moment, in a film more attuned to mood and sensation than literal meaning.”
Ithaka (dir. Ben Lawrence)
“As sympathetic and authentic as John and Stella come across, the Assange devotees’ reflexive rejection of criticism of Assange’s judgement and actions begins to feel cultish. There are plenty of reasons why liberal media turned on Assange a half-dozen years ago that can’t be blamed on government spin,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “Those include Wikileaks’ interference in the 2016 elections by releasing emails stolen from the Democratic National Party, allegedly obtained by Russian hackers, and welcomed by Donald Trump, and Assange’s promotion of the false conspiracy theory linking DNC employee Seth Rich to the leaked emails.”
“While Shipton is unfortunately dry as a subject, Ithaka finds better material with Morris. For one, Assange’s fiancée is more comfortable with the cameras,” notes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “She’s open and vulnerable, and uses the project to humanize Assange by reminding audiences that he is a family man eager to create a fair and just world for his children. Her solid media training, meanwhile, lets her articulate key points succinctly. Ithaka heightens Assange’s plight by situating it within the USA’s growing attack on journalism. She knows how to pivot the story without losing sight of the goal.”
John Wick: Chapter 4 (dir. Chad Stahelski)
“Unfortunately, there are as many high “falls” in the new John Wick as there are distressingly low stumbles. Clocking in at a severely bloated 165 minutes, Chapter 4 is both a thrill and a slog, an all-you-can-eat buffet that insists on stuffing your guts before it spills them,” admits Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “By the time that the movie reaches its beautifully brutal finale – a 45-minute stretch containing some of the best fight scenes ever committed to the screen – your attention span might be so wounded as to become brain-dead to John Wick’s gutter-minded charms.”
“Never mind the over-simplistic neo-noir storyline and extended running length of the movie, the main thing to be entertained with and which are all extremely well executed are the outstanding action set pieces,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“John Wick: Chapter 4 – which is positioned as the finale of the series, even aside from the real-life death of regular Lance Reddick – is a really big (and very long) canvas for stunt-wizard-turned-director Chad Stahelski to work his undeniable magic,” writes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “A circus of violence, it’s a noisy, non-stop combination of dance and Loony Tunes-worthy manic cartoonishness.”
“The film succeeds mightily – no small feat for an “episode 4” that isn’t Star Wars – by virtue of leaning into its lunacy,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “There are some wicked stunts that will take your breath away – and should by all the laws of physics and biology take Wick’s breath away permanently, but whatever. But there are also moments of sly humour. I love the Sisyphean notion of climbing the 222 stairs to the Paris cathedral of Sacré-Coeur for a showdown, only to be knocked back down every last riser by a random assailant at the top.”
The Lost King (dir. Stephen Frears)
“The filmmakers deal with that by externalizing her intuition by having King Richard appear to her at various points through the film. The king shows up in the form of the theatre actor (Lloyd) who played him in the production that started her off on this quest in the first place,” writes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “In a movie that this low-key and down-to-earth, this is a risky choice that could have been tipped the movie into something tacky. But in the hands of this filmmaking team, and with Hawkins’ empathetic, grounded performance, it works in quite a lovely way.”
“Director Stephen Frears’ The Lost King stars Sally Hawkins as amateur historian Philippa Langley whose instincts and apparently ghostly bond with ‘son of York, last Plantagenet King of England Richard III’ who reigned until his death in 1485, inspired a monumental discovery,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “With the help of the ghost, powerful instincts, and sheer grit in the face of patriarchal dismissal she set about her task. It’s satisfying to see an ordinary person stand up to bureaucracy and achieve something great that rewrote history and bring history to life all these centuries on. You could look up what happened but I recommend you catch The Lost King.”
Refuge (dir. Erin Levin Bernhardt, Din Blankenship)
“Chris, addicted and hate-filled, was arrested, treated, and given an ultimatum by his wife, change or she’s gone. He reaches out to Erno, an extremist interventionist out to help shed his hatred of Muslims,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Follow Chris’ journey, baby step by baby step to reach his stunning conclusion.”
You Can Live Forever (dir. Mark Slutsky and Sarah Watts 🇨🇦)
“Amanda is a fascinating character. Though Campbell is just a few years older than Laporte, I at first took her to be the teenager’s mother. But we soon learn that Marike’s mother left “the Truth,” as the religion is known, and that the rest of the family has been told to think of her as literally dead to them,” writes Chris Knight at Original Cin. “Amanda has stepped into the role of maternal caregiver, a responsibility she takes seriously. The contrast between Marike’s pretend-dead mother and Jaime’s really-dead father is stark.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “a charming and gentle gay coming-of-age story set in stunning Quebec that celebrates what the difficulties of life have to offer, both the good and bad.”
“A queer coming-of-age romance set against a backdrop of rigid puritanism, the film is steeped in longing and desperation for a love just out of reach. Yet for all its aches and pains, the heart of You Can Live Forever doesn’t so much beat as skip, haltingly and disconcertingly, as it tries to keep its own lifeblood pumping,” says Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “The performances are exceptional across the cast, with Laporte and O’Driscoll well paired – there is a real chemistry between the two that gives the film a prickling jolt of authenticity. And Campbell, in a small but memorable supporting role, leaves a cold-eyed impression that chills.”
A Festival of Festival Coverage: Canadian Film Fest
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah looks ahead to the Canadian Film Festival, which opens with the Toronto premiere of Monia Chokri’s Babysitter: “Director Chokri shows the worst of sexism on screen, particularly at the beginning to get the message across,” writes Seah. “A relevant film that is occasionally all over the place rather than entertaining, but the film is a brave choice for the opening of the festival.”
TV Talk/Series Scribbles: Succession Returns!
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz reports on the most pressing issue of 2023: the return of Succession. “Perhaps creator Jesse Armstrong’s show can chalk up its zeitgeist-capturing success due to, well, its obsession with the zeitgeist. If North American media love one thing above all else, it is North American media,” writes Hertz. “Inevitably, a series about the messy intersection of news, politics, power, technology and money would itself spawn a mainstream media cottage industry of profiles and essays and evaluations (such as, ahem, this very column). If Succession is going to analyze its source material, then its source material is going to analyze it right back, with glee. But beneath Armstrong’s slick, perhaps cynically savvy packaging, there lies a series that is constructed with that one, big missing link of contemporary television: wit.” Hertz also chats with one of the series’ favourite scene-stealers, Nicholas Braun, aka Cousin Greg.
At What She Said, Anne Brodie goes down a Rabbit Hole with Kiefer Sutherland: “The crafty, soulless influence of the parties involved affects us all, through media and real-world manipulation,” notes Brodie. “Each episode ramps up the stakes in exciting ways, and I am hooked.” There’s more espionage and intrigue with Gabriel Basso in Netflix’s The Night Agent: “Good, gripping, and aided by solid character development and relationships,” says Brodie. Meanwhile, The Big Door Prize is binge-able content: “Listed as a comedy, it runs the gamut from terror to laughs and pulls while ripping off carefully constructed masks,” adds Brodie.