TFCA Friday: Week of May 17th, 2019

May 17, 2019

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

Opening this Week

Aniara (dirs. Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja)

An evocative, elegiac work that never pushes too hard on its metaphoric or allegorical points; they’re just there for us to pick up as the story unfolds” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Astonishingly ambitious, an unlikely emotional rollercoaster anchored by a beautifully-realized protagonist who manages to maintain hope and optimism without being a Pollyanna” — Bill Chambers, Film Freak Central

[This] low budget, highly ambitious and blackly comedic Swedish sci-fi thriller is one of the most original and literate genre experiments in quite some time” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

A corker of an ending kind of makes up for long stretches of nothingness, and if you can make it to the end, there is a reward. This is one strange trip” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

The premise is excellent coupled with great production sets but the film’s narrative is a dead end” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

This is a space adventure I can confidently recommend to people with heart conditions” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

Ask Dr. Ruth (dir. Ryan White)

An affectionate documentary by Ryan White that finds the indefatigable “goddess of good sex,” as the late Joan Rivers called her, still vigorously opinionated and eager to instruct, even as she approaches the age of 91” — Peter Howell, The Toronto Star, including an interview with Dr. Ruth

White’s remarkable choice of a subject and the treasures he unearths create a one-of-a-kind doc experience that lifts up and entertains” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Although the core subject of White’s film is far less prudish, Ask Dr. Ruth is this year’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

White has assembled exhaustive footage on his subject, resulting in an informative and entertaining documentary” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

At POV, Pat Mullen interviews both Dr. Ruth and the director

The Biggest Little Farm (dir. John Chester)

A film about noble aims and goals that never sugarcoats the hard work and dedication it takes to raise animals and produce crops in tandem with nature and without taking chemical or technological shortcuts” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

This dramatic, glorious two hours remind us that the world can be made better if we open our eyes and learn. An eco-rallying cry tucked inside a nature love story with pigs” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

A genuinely insightful meditation on agriculture, nature, and our precarious relationship to the planet that feeds us” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

A wonderful portrait of the hands that feed us” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

The message is worthy enough that the preachiness can be overlooked” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

City Dreamers (dir. Joseph Hillel) 🇨🇦

[This] documentary chronicling the work and advocacy of four trailblazing female architects should be required viewing for anyone interested in city planning, urban development, or understanding why preserving neighbourhoods is so important” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

The film effectively draws parallels between urban life and the women’s movement to encourage audiences to expand their way of thinking outside of restrictive and outdated definitions. It’s 2019: our ways need to change” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

A Dog’s Journey (dir. Gail Mancuso)

Like opening up a Hallmark card and getting sprayed in the eyes with napalm, the shameless and shameful sequel will appeal only to those who like tears jerked from their face with maximum force and by any means necessary” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Sure, the movie alludes to grander themes about family and unconditional love, but its sole purpose is to make you cry, and the filmmakers aren’t leaving anything to chance” — Thom Ernst, Original-Cin

Best looked as a doggie fairytale, very corny and very sentimental” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Gift (dir. Robin McKenna) 🇨🇦

Robin McKenna’s intelligent and life affirming documentary will make viewers consider how they give, receive, and create art in a fresh, new light” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (dir. Chad Stahelski)

If you’re just going for the mayhem, John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum delivers it and then some” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Do you want to see someone getting beaten down with a large book of Russian folktales, horses fighting side by side with our hero in unlikely ways, or someone comedically and repeatedly getting thrown through glass display cases like the world’s darkest Looney Tunes cartoon?” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

I don’t know what this is, but I want John Wick, the feeling, sentient hero, back” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

In comparison with its sequels, the plot of the first John Wick was cut-and-dried, A-to-B. So, it’s counterintuitive that they find time to kill so many more people while tacking on so much narrative” — Jim Slotek, Original-Cin

Nothing more than actions set pieces that eventually get really boring and repetitive” — Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto

Meeting Gorbachev (dirs. Werner Herzog and André Singer)

Maybe Herzog and Singer thought it was important to show us the process of the conversation, but … it just feels like they’re trying to get their film to feature length” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

Because the potential is extraordinary, it’s a surprise that the film, co-directed by Herzog and Andre Singer, is so conventional and enthusiastic, bordering on adoring” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

Herzog and co-director André Singer don’t even indulge Gorbachev in the sugar-free chocolate they bring him for his birthday. That’s how safe the film is” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

It’s like watching someone on a stage giving an overly long introduction to the next speaker while the subject patiently waits a few feet away” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Herzog is the ultimate fanboy, alternately slopping sugar on Gorbachev then asking leading questions and cornering him. He flatters and cajoles then tells him he loves him. Weird. He says the films subversive, but much of it is about himself” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

Peterloo (dir. Mike Leigh)

Mostly it’s just a long march to a messy, ugly, tragically foregone conclusion” — Norm Wilner, NOW Magazine

There are enough speeches in the movie to make the film seem more curated than directed. But hang in until the third act, and you are likely to find that the lecture has a significant payoff” — Thom Ernst, Original-Cin

An okay and almost forgivably mediocre film that would be a lot more impactful by trimming a full hour or more of repetitive, bludgeoning, superfluous material from its unnecessarily elephantine 154 minute running time” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

This is honest storytelling, authentic and seemingly simple but extraordinarily natural and rich” — Anne Brodie, What She Said!

An expectedly brilliant film from an equally brilliant writer / director who has delivered great films in the past” — Gilbert Seah, Festival Reviews

The Sun is Also a Star (dir. Ry Russo-Young)

The movie doesn’t bother with the labour to make you believe: not in the chemistry (or lack thereof) between Natasha and Daniel or even the urgent circumstance that plays out while they negotiate love like a real estate transaction” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

Balances the coincidence-riddled fantasy against a plausible backdrop of immigrants’ struggles. Apart from a single reference to “the current political climate,” it does this without ever feeling like an issue drama” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

This is North Preston (dir. Jaren Hayman) 🇨🇦

Hayman seems to be making three different documentaries at the same time—one about a rising music star, one about a community with a richly complicated history, and one about an urgent sex trafficking crisis—and one of them ultimately takes precedence over the other stronger elements, which leaves something to be desired” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

Looks at what rightfully and wrongfully is one of Canada’s most maligned, feared, and somewhat misunderstood communities” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

A couple of times, the film simply relinquishes its social documentary ambitions and turns into a music video, with local success story, crooner-rapper Just Chase, offering direct-to-camera performances” — Liam Lacey, Original-Cin

I cringe at calling the film a doc when its passing insights into systematic racism and sexual violence are wielded so disingenuously into a promotional tool for Just Chase” — Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Magazine

Walking on Water (dir. Andrey Paounov)

Adds to the enigmatic appeal of Christo by evoking many of the same tensions observed by the Maysles and other filmmakers who tell his stories” — Pat Mullen, POV Magazine, who spoke with Christo and the filmmaker

It entertains with great access to [Christo], but doesn’t probe the work too deeply” — Kevin Ritchie, NOW Magazine

Will hold immense amount of telling details, emerging as something deeper than the exhibition being profiled” — Andrew Parker, The Gate

Cannes Film Festival 2019

Peter Howell, Toronto Star: Cannes goes Hollywood; arthouse apocalypse films are hot at Cannes; “I don’t know how the hell I got this job,” says Bill Murray; cinema fights hate and lies, says Cannes jury

Jennie Punter, Variety: Hit docs fuel a market at Cannes

Remembering Doris Day

At Zoomer, Nathalie Atkinson remembers the late screen legend: “The brightest star on and off the screen”