TFCA Friday: Week of May 10th, 2019

May 10, 2019

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

Opening this Week

The Hustle (dir. Chris Addison)

What The Hustle does is fine; it’s just that we’ve seen it done better. It’s the same problem that plagues most remakes of already-beloved movies – and, weirdly enough, makes Dirty Rotten Scoundrels seem like even more of a treasure” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

It’s not a good sign when a comedy begins with its two stars begging for you to laugh at them. That goes double for The Hustle, a movie that’s supposed to be about the art of the con, not a con by the artists” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

The only people hustled are the audience that pay good money to see what has been advertised as a comedy” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Non-Fiction (dir. Olivier Assayas)

Maybe [Assayas] just needs to do one of these every decade or so to take stock of the world and see what’s changed. I’m here for it” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Assayas astutely devises highly literate yet perfectly relatable conversations between art aficionados” — Pat Mullen, Cinemablographer

Assayas proves once agin his auteur status with this playful yet literary and contemporary take on art imitating life” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Ordinary Days (dirs. Jordan Canning, Kris Booth, and Renuka Jeyapalan) 🇨🇦

If Ordinary Days was just a calling card for a trio of Canadian filmmakers looking to show their range, it’d be a decent accomplishment. But it’s not a stunt; it’s an actual movie. It plays. You should check it out” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

The three segments, though quite watchable on their own, are stylistically and narratively incompatible” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

Two-thirds of a great movie, but it’s easily one-hundred percent worthwhile as an ambitious, smartly acted exercise in independent auteur filmmaking” — Pat Mullen, Cinemablographer

Well put together, and ultimately satisfying and entertaining” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (dir. Rob Letterman)

The comedy here delights in how absurd Pokémon can be, acknowledging my long-held frustrations over who would come up with this stuff and why it’s so appealing. Meanwhile, my son came out of Detective Pikachu declaring it the greatest thing he’s seen on the big screen in his lifetime” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

Doesn’t quite manage to create a coherent story out of its convoluted mythology, and its playful winks at the detective genre feel misplaced. But the lack of authenticity to noir films is unlikely to deter the preteen card-carrying Pokemon fans that the movie is targeting” — Thom Ernst, Original-Cin

The film keeps levelling up without putting anything down, so that by the final battle you could make a decent sweater out of all its loose threads. Gotta catch ’em all? Good luck with that” — Chris Knight, The National Post

Poms (dir. Zara Hayes)

At least provided a bunch of older women actors with roles and a paycheque, if not their dignity” — Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine

Shadow (dir. Zhang Yimou)

As with Hero and Flying Daggers, the action sequences are the meat and potatoes. We have to wait to get to the battles, but Zhang doesn’t skimp when serving up the balletic movements, the imaginative ways to impale bodies and the slow-mo splash blood makes against water” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

They say the pen is mightier, but give me a razor-sharp parasol any day” — Chris Knight, The National Post

While the thematic scheme may be ancient and remote, Zhang’s poetic compression and technical pizazz feel as fresh as a splash in a mountain stream” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Lacks effective dramatic content that connects the audience with the plot” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Tolkien (dir. Dome Karukoski)

Is to filmmaking what spoon-feeding is to infants. This bland biopic of English author J.R.R. Tolkien… acts as if everything was a preamble to his literary fame and we need it served up in large dollops” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Just the latest in origin stories about authors who wrote landmark literature – a trend that took shape after Shakespeare In Love and Finding Neverland, and has grown tiresome with Goodbye Christopher Robin and Rebel In The Rye, which also stars Hoult” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

Fans looking to get deep insights into what might have inspired the great writer likely won’t find many clues in the movie” — Karen Gordon, Original-Cin

Not a perfect biopic by any means – the end rattles on for almost as long as Peter Jackson’s Rings finale – but moments like this will carry you over any narrative rough patches. Fans of the author should find fellowship in their enjoyment of it” — Chris Knight, The National Post

A handsomely mounted period piece production, though be it a dull one at that” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

The White Crow (dir. Ralph Fiennes)

Spends two full hours watching Nureyev establish total creative control within the structure of the Soviet Union, and then abandon it all on a panicked impulse. He didn’t know where he’d land, but he jumped. And everybody saw it” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

The use of flashbacks and forward is a bit whiplash, but it’s a great story, recalling the Cold War era when politics had a chokehold on everything, Nureyev’s dismal early years and later glories” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

There’s the material of a lovely more precise film here, not a fragmentary and unconvincing biography, but perhaps a sharp comedy, or even more daringly, a dance” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

As a biopic, Nureyev’s life story contains sufficient events to make it extremely absorbing if not entertaining” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews 

Wine Country (dir. Amy Poehler)

The emotional temperature of the trip changes a lot like any great four-day romance. Not Preston Sturges but good dirty fun” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

What happens when very talented people just decide to wing it” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Asking Dr. Ruth

In the Toronto Star, Peter Howell speaks with Dr. Ruth on the documentary about her work