Reviews include Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Mr. Malcolm’s List, and Passengers of the Night.
TFCA Friday: Week of March 4
March 4, 2022
Stay tuned to @TFCA on Twitter Monday, March 7 as we announce the winner of the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award for 2021! Will the teams behind Beans, Night Raiders, or Scarborough walk away with the $100,000 prize?
This Week in Movies!
The Batman (dir. The Matt Reeves)
“The Batman makes Batman Returns look like Mary Poppins. And just for the record, Batman Returns starts with parents throwing their disfigured baby off a bridge,” says Victor Stiff at That Shelf. “It blows my mind that Warner Bros. went along with such a dark Batman story.”
“The problem with this Batman is, he does more reacting than revealing. And for all the clues he’s given, he’s actually a dismal detective,” counters Eli Glasner at the CBC. “The private dicks and gumshoes never took themselves too seriously, and in a world still processing the horrors of the Second World War, their sardonic wit is what kept the darkness at bay. But instead of shining, this dour knight is a slog.”
“Pattinson digs deeper and goes darker into the psychological sickness of vigilante justice than Christian Bale did in Christopher’s Nolan’s Batman trilogy, which is really saying something,” notes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “Shot with minimal illumination and colour by Greig Fraser, the Oscar-nominated cinematographer behind Dune, rain-soaked Gotham City is even more of a cesspool than it was in Joker.”
“Grimy, slick and genuinely frightening in true horror-movie fashion, Reeves’ new film reassembles the best elements of Batman lore into one overwhelming and epic-length package,” argues Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Almost everything here works – not despite our current overload of Batman culture, but because of it.” Hertz also chats with Andy Serkis about playing Alfred Pennyworth and navigating the brainwaves of actor and director: “When I’m acting, I hang up and absolve myself of any director-ness. I’m putting it aside while focusing on the character, which is a wonderful thing,” says Serkis.
“Robert Pattinson as Batman takes to the material passionately, giving him ungimmicky gravitas,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Buff as can be, with fighting skills, an urgent, compelling sotto voce delivery, and chiseled cheekbones you just want to pinch, it is his elegant interpretation of the superhero that stands out.”
“[The] best things about The Batman are its cinematography by Greig Fraser, visual effects by Dan Lemmon (who worked before with Reeves on the Planet of the Apes movies) and the production design,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“The Batman offers the most human-scaled take on the character to date, trading the polish and scale of Christopher Nolan’s films for a grimy, grotty palette of smeared reds and thick blacks, where Robert Pattinson’s costumed vigilante – who’s been operating for about two years, long enough that some cops know it’s better to have him on their side – fights an endless battle to keep the citizens of Gotham safe from corruption, exploitation and villainy,” says Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
“The good news is that director and co-writer Matt Reeves does not waste time on an origin story, though there’s no guarantee he won’t batarang back to one in the future,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post. “Also, he appears to have no desire for adding other superheroes to the mix. Though clearly hoping for sequels, Reeves’ movie more closely resembles the start of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy than Snyder’s work.”
“The Batman is the most self-serious and even a bit cerebral take on the Dark Knight yet. Director Matt Reeves has acknowledged being influenced by ‘70s fare like Taxi Driver,” notes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “But you can only fit so many Travis Bickles into a film while leaving room for an impressive vehicle-flipping car chase and an Armageddon-ish last act. Hence the movie’s nearly three-hour running time.”
“The Batman is a very bleak film,” admits Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “Reeves has paced its three-hour running time relentlessly. There are many set pieces with suspense building repeatedly. The colour palate is dark and there is a garishness to the look that reminds one of Forties noir thrillers. Pattinson is very persuasive as the obsessed Batman; he may be one-note but it’s a remarkable note.”
Bootlegger (dir. Caroline Monnet 🇨🇦)
“Monnet’s background explains Bootlegger’s precise sense of the spaces and places its characters inhabit: even the transition from the steel and glass of Mani’s academic surroundings to the vast wilderness of her ancestral home carries an unspoken weight,” observes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto. “The film’s sense of character is equally considered… this is a powerful debut with a distinct artistic voice.”
Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor (dir. Shelley Thompson 🇨🇦)
“Shelley Thompson’s feature debut Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor is a great first step film to open discussion with children about LGBTQ+ issues and the people inside the acronym,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “It’s lifelike and hopeful, a message needed today especially given new anti-trans laws in Texas.”
“It’s a beautiful story, all quirky fun one moment and quietly graceful the next,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “I loved the scene in which an older friend of the family meets Dawn and, despite my expectations to the contrary, hits the perfect note of acceptance. ‘Just a kid last time I saw you,’ he says. ‘All grown up, eh? Different person now. Good you’re home for your mom. Bless ya.’”
Fresh (dir. Mimi Cave)
“This hot-button horror movie – starring Normal People’s Daisy Edgar-Jones as Noa, a young woman who learns her amazing new boyfriend Steve (Sebastian Stan) does, in fact, see her as nothing more than a piece of meat – aims to blend the self-aware ingenuity of Get Out and the self-satisfied provocations of Promising Young Woman, mixing arch irony with buckets of artfully aestheticized gore,” sighs Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass (dir. Oliver Stone; March 8)
“The sometimes mesmerizing, sometimes frustrating film proves that Stone, ever the professional provocateur, still has what it takes to rile an audience,” suggests Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Or at least make your head spin round so many times that you’ll be backward thankful for the migraine.”
“As Stone himself travels through [Alice’s] mirror, he refuses to look at his own reflection, to look at the many (many) contradictions and confabulations in the counter narratives that truly just shotgun ideas until one of them stick,” groans Jason Gorber at POV Magazine. “While it’s fun entertainment, such a screed may be as dangerous as what Stone purports to attack, removing investigatory precision in favour of a wild mishmash of skepticism that leads to chaos.”
Jockey (dir. Cliff Bentley)
“[T]his is a heart-felt film with one great performance by Molly Parker as Ruth and a very good one by Clifton Collins as Jackson,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “It’s almost a great film, which frustrates me. But it should be seen: you’ll like it. Jockey may have its heart on its sleeve but the story is worth experiencing.”
“American drama Jockey is superb, the perfect confluence of a great story expertly directed, with outstanding performances, stunning cinematography, and a dazzling score,” raves Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “That’s a lot of lofty adjectives to throw around, but it’s simply impossible to overstate the film’s beauty and emotional heft.”
“Bentley’s script is slight but effective, content to get by without too many moving parts. It lovingly sketches the relationship between Ruth and Jackson, making it clear how close they are and for how long, while never quite revealing whether they were ever anything more, or whether they ever might be,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “Much credit must also go to the actors here, and particularly Collins, whose easy physicality makes him completely believable in the role.”
“The body language between Parker and Collins is exquisite, expressive yet subtle, they seem extensions of one another,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “There are no love scenes but also every scene is a love scene. The film’s dependence on nature, horses and their spirits, and unspoken things is just as intimate and captivating.”
“After peppering everything from Traffic to Capote to Westworld to Pacific Rim, Collins Jr. finally gets the starring role of a lifetime here as Jackson, a veteran jockey who has pushed his body to the limit,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “You believe Collins Jr. as Jackson partly you because you have a shared history of watching the actor slip in and out of dozens of other productions over the years.” Hertz also chats with Collins about finding his groove as a character actor and learning to ride horses: “My grandfather Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez was a contract player with John Wayne, so the western environment was a big part of the family,” says Collins. “And coming from Westworld, too, where the horses are so highly trained it’s like driving a brand-new Porsche.”
“More drama than a feel-good racing sports film, Jockey is a solid sports drama well shot and crafted in an authentic equine atmosphere,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“The film has a lovely sense of place, immersing us in the off-track routines of the jockey community,” notes Radheyan Simonpillai at NOW Toronto. “That specificity goes a long way while the tender moments are just far too obvious and familiar.”
“Jockey offers a great example of the magic that happens when a character actor lands the perfect lead role,” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “This is a passionate understated performance, sharp and focused, with eyes on the prize.”
The Long Walk (dir. Mattie Do)
“With its languid pace, rural setting, and natural beauty, The Long Walk is not your typical ghost story,” notes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “And yet, as it goes on, it becomes increasingly darker. We question what we’ve previously thought. What’s rattles here aren’t the short sharp turns of conventional Hollywood horror, but the way the minor changes in the past affect the present.”
“The film will definitely bore the hell out of commercial horror fans familiar with films like Friday the 13th or Scream but arthouse cineastes might find the film intriguing,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Lots of patience are required in this snail paced two-hour journey that does not really go anywhere.”
Nightride (dir. Stephen Fingleton)
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls the film “a taut thriller, delivered on a tight budget with coherence.”
The Pink Cloud (dir. Luli Gerbase)
“The film goes in all the wrong directions, resulting in a really bad fit that is not only boring but meaningless and tedious,” sighs Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
All the News That’s Fit to Print
At NOW Toronto, Radheyan Simonpillai chats with Sarah Polley about her new collection of essays Run Towards the Danger: “The essays were writing themselves over many years,” says Polley. “Some of them took decades to write. Although they were about very different things, [they] had this connective tissue, this relationship between the past and the present; the way the past was coming up through the present and the way my present life was informing my relationship to my memories and my past.” Their full conversation is also available in podcast form.
Turning from poutine to Putin, Barry Hertz considers the call to boycott Russian cinema and the move to withhold international releases from Russian theatres. “If we turn our eyes away from Russian cinema, then we will only be left with Hollywood’s perspective of the world power. And that is not serving any audience, anywhere,” writes Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Perhaps Putin himself is too real a villain. Or, more likely, there is a profitable laziness to be had from ensuring that audiences – especially in North America – don’t think too hard or too long about why they have been conditioned to cheer the fall of yet another vodka-swilling Russian mastermind.
Talkative Barry Hertz also chats with Canadian comic scribe Chip Zdarksy at The Globe and Mail about taking over the responsibility of the cape and cloak. Is there an over saturation of Batman, though? Zdarksy doesn’t think readers need to pull out the Shark Repellent Bat-Spray just yet: “He’s a popular character!” says Zdarsky. “The only thing that will derail the Baturation, or has in the past, is bad work. And it can be challenging to make good work when so many stories and versions of the character exist out there already.”
TV Talk: A Million Little Pieces
At What She Said, Anne Brodie checks out Netflix’s latest women-in-peril series Pieces of Her starring Toni Collette. “Pieces of Her is a deliciously, excruciatingly intense drama, with more twists and turns than fusilli – two women determined to survive against massive shocking threats. I dare you not to binge,” says Brodie. She also raves about Renée Zellweger’s performance in The Thing About Pam: “The two-time Oscar winner is astounding, so over-the-top, so zany and sneaky, so perfectly detailed and executed it’ll knock you off your beanbag.” The doc series Dear…, meanwhile, is a love letter to stars, celebrities, and fandom: “Ordinary people who found comfort and hope in their star’s life story reveal how they were transformed by it and how they were able to make their own place in the world thanks to the star.” Shining Vale with Courtney Cox, meanwhile, while throw audiences for a loop: “Yikes! It’s fast, furious, filled with f-bombs and nightmares, whiskey and wine.” The Dropout, meanwhile, isn’t essential viewing: “Not a particularly strong series but an eye-opener.”
At Original Cin, Jim Slotek finds Amanda Seyfried offers enough to tune into/stream The Dropout: “Seyfried is the best thing about The Dropout, in that she’s not playing a ‘type\ with her quirks and strange behaviour. If the point of dramatizing the life of a real person is to explain them, then this is not that. She is a mess of quirks and contradictions, ruthless one moment, unsure the next, sincere and yet duplicitous.”
At NOW Toronto, on the other hand, Norm Wilner says that Pieces of Her doesn’t deliver on the potentials of its talents: “But for a show where people die violent deaths on a regular basis, it’s incredibly dull, with Heathcote’s miserable Andy sleepwalking through her investigation, while Collette’s barbed Laura couches everything she does in cryptic ambiguity in order to keep viewers hitting the ‘next episode’ button. Despite the talent assembled, the story just isn’t that interesting – and the execution is mediocre at best.”
Also at NOW Toronto, Glenn Sumi has high praise for the third season of My Brilliant Friend, now in the hands of showrunner Daniele Luchetti: “Luchetti has said he was influenced by the films of indie filmmaker John Cassavettes, and indeed there’s a loose, almost improvisatory feel to many scenes and a more restless use of the camera. This season’s standout scene features nearly all the main characters together at a dining table, with Ferrante’s themes of class, sex, violence and politics practically crackling in the air.”