An interview with Swan Song director Chelsea McMullan about their Rogers Best Canadian Documentary nominee on Karen Kain’s Swan Lake.
TFCA Friday: Week of May 21
May 21, 2021
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
Army of the Dead (dir. Zack Snyder)
“Army of the Dead’s first chapter delivers buckets of blood, acres of destruction and enough topless zombie showgirls to satisfy the most perverted of teenage gore-hounds,” cheers Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “It is a tasteful assemblage of all things tasteless.”
“Army of the Dead is a fine addition to the zombie movie pantheon, and a decent heist flick too,” agrees Chris Knight at the National Post. “It doesn’t reinvent either genre, but it doesn’t have to. Sometimes all you need to succeed – Dr. Frankenstein will back me up on this – is to put two old things together in a new way.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it an “entertaining enough action blockbuster that should be credited for its diversity in casting and homage to many film classics.”
“And though Army of the Dead doesn’t have the same clarity or power as its predecessor, it’s still enjoyable for what it is: a big, noisy heap of carnage determined to mash every button on the zombie checklist, and then mash them again,” admits Norm Wilner at NOW Magazine.
Bloodthirsty (dir. Amelia Moses 🇨🇦)
“Canadians already made the definitive young-woman-turned-werewolf movie, with 2000’s Ginger Snaps, which is a bar to clear if Bloodthirsty is to make an impression on veteran horror fans,” notes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “But the pop music angle, an LGBT angle, and a studio Svengali who lives in a mansion in the woods, gives Bloodthirsty some points for fresh twists.”
Drunk Bus (dir. John Carlucci and Brandon LaGanke)
“The negatives here include Farrelly Brothers-style disability humour, including a hot-to-trot goth nursing student nicknamed Night Tara (she has screaming nightmares), and an elderly mentally ill paraplegic named ‘F—k You Bob’ on account of his favourite phrase,” groans Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “The bigger eye-roll here though is yet another story about an insecure white introvert who finds a large dark-skinned man to help him restore his masculine mojo, even if something like that really did happen.”
“Drunk Bus turns out to be a time waster in the bad sense – a waste of time,” zings Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Felix and the Treasure of Morgäa (dir. Nicola Lemay; May 26 🇨🇦)
“An all right watch for young kids, especially boys who love fishing or to go treasure hunting or who love the open sea,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Final Account (dir. Luke Holland)
“Documentarian Luke Holland had a mission, to pull together interviews with ordinary Germans who took part in Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich to discover why they did what they did,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “There’s a sense of urgency as all the subjects are elderly. There are shocking, surprising and time-worn ideas expressed, and an overall feeling that they “didn’t know” what was happening in concentration camps, sometimes right next door.”
Into the Darkness (dir. Anders Refn)
“It’s interesting to see this side of history and where neutral countries’ loyalties lay, how the moral fabric of Denmark was nearly destroyed and concessions made against better judgment and moral standards,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “It’s an ambitious film, the first of a planned trilogy. It lacks urgency and fire given the subject matter and takes its time.”
The Retreat (dir. Pat Mills 🇨🇦)
“There is much to like in the film, from moments of gripping suspense, some severe bits of dead-on carnage, and masterful work of villainy among its cast,” argues Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “But it’s the meticulous scenes of torture of its gay characters that leave a nasty taste. It adds up to an uneasy blend of conventional thrills with the worst kind of exploitation.”
“The Retreat isn’t just pitting gay heroes against straight villains as a thought experiment: it’s making sure we understand where Renee’s strength comes from,” counters Norm Wilner at NOW Magazine.
At the National Post, Chris Knight says that screenwriter Alyson Richards “has crafted an original story with relatively few moving parts, and a satisfyingly frightening premise. You might run from it if you’re squeamish about violence, but otherwise it’s definitely worth chasing.”
“Director Mills’ slasher flick does not really tread new ground though Mills provides a neat gay twist to the well-worn genre,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Riders of Justice (dir. Anders Thomas Hensen)
“I may have just seen the winner of the best international feature film at the 2022 Oscars,” raves Chris Knight at the National Post. “Granted, I’m not even sure if it’s eligible, since it opened last November in its native Denmark, but Anders Thomas Jensen’s Riders of Justice could hold its own against the most recent winner, Another Round, also from Denmark.”
“Jensen is a master at finding that sweet spot between oddness and pathos,” agrees Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “Mikkelsen makes you believe it’s all possible.”
“I’m not exactly sure why it’s called a comedy, there are light moments at the expense of the statisticians, but overall this is dark, dark and dark,” admits Anne Brodie at What She Said.
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “a hilarious, intelligent and entertaining flick (that) belongs on my list of 10 Best Films of 2021.”
“In less eccentric hands this would be a straight-up revenge picture, but Jensen’s not interested in playing to the genre,” says Norm Wilner at NOW Magazine.
Sound of Violence (dir. Alex Noyer)
Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto calls it “a film filled with senseless violence that goes nowhere.”
Strange Birds (dir. Elise Girard)
The film is “an absurdist yet charming romantic drama about a ‘could be’ relationship between two highly different individuals,” according to Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
There Is No Evil (dir. Mohammad Rasoulof)
“[My] only complaint about the film is director Rasoulof’s occasional preachiness,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “But at the director’s best, his film shows his ability at subtlety too.”
A List of Lists
Gilbert Seah joins eTalk to discuss the legacy of Asian cinema for Asian Heritage Month. From the lush style of In the Mood for Love to the wild action of Infernal Affairs, which was remade as Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winner The Departed, the influence of Asian films is significant. And let’s not forget Parasite, a film that Seah praises for its ability to deal with social issues in a very entertaining way.
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz passes the popcorn and delivers a list of the 25 best action movies ever made. Complete with ridiculousness quotients, scientifically accurate body counts, and quotable quotes, the list of actioners runs the gamut from Baahubali to Mad Max: Fury Road. But it also asks a pressing question: has Canada ever produced a great action movie?
Readers might find some hints to that question in Linda Barnard’s list of the best 25 Canadian movies ever made at Reader’s Digest. Swapping some tried and true favourites for contemporary Canucks that bring new energy to our national cinema, some films on the list that could be fudged as Canada’s great action movie include Bon Cop, Bad Cop, Goon, and the great chase movie, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.
Speaking of Canadian film, Barry Hertz recaps the good, the bad, and the weird from last night’s virtual broadcast of the Canadian Screen Awards. The good? Tracey Deer’s Beans scooping Best Picture and Best First [Dramatic] Feature. The bad? The whole Trickster thing. The weird? The bittersweet reminder that we’re through with both Schitt’s Creek and Kim’s Convenience.
With no signs of Toronto theatres opening anytime soon (thanks, Doug!), cinephiles might need to keep digging through the streamer queues. Norm Wilner, Radheyan Simonpillai, and Kevin Ritchie at NOW Magazine recap the 50 best films to watch on Netflix Canada as a handy guide. The list includes old favourites like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Pulp Fiction, through to hidden gems like The Queen and Residue.
Summer Movie Reads
At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell turns the pages of a new biography of Canadian icon Norman Jewison, A Director’s Life by Ira Wells. “Toronto-born Jewison turns 95 on July 21, and even a man as buoyant and positive as he is wouldn’t deny he’s closer to his final fade to black than his opening credits,” writes Howell. “It’s a reality the bearded and bespectacled raconteur is undoubtedly approaching with a great cigar and also good humour — a ham actor as a kid, he loved faking theatrical death scenes.”
At Zoomer, Nathalie Atkinson speaks with former Brat Pack bad boy Andrew McCarthy’s appropriately titled memoir, Brat. “Aside from a brush-off from Elisabeth Shue and a lingering off-screen kiss from Jacqueline Bisset, his May-December Class co-star, salacious details are scant and the revelations don’t add up to much of a sizzle reel,” writes Atkinson. “Spoiler alert: McCarthy is frustratingly discreet. Chatting on the eve of Brat’s publication, we agree that anyone interested purely in gossip is bound to be disappointed.”
TV Talk: Babies and Boomers
At What She Said, Anne Brodie is giddy about the return of Trying on AppleTV+. She says the new season of this comedy about a couple entering the adoption process delivers “heart-tugging and hilarious results around their hopes, preparations, and attempts to ditch bad habits to become good parents.” The meditation series A World of Calm has “stunning visuals” along with Nicole Kidman and Kate Winslet. There’s also the Oprah/Harry doc series The Me You Can’t See, which spreads a message of “inclusion, hope and wellness,” and Joss Whedon’s strange The Nevers, which “puts women up as heroes but at the same time, indicates an antipathy for them.”
At NOW Magazine, Kevin Ritchie digs into the return of Netflix’s Master of None, the five-part series Moments in Love. “Director Ansari’s self-consciously art-house aesthetic is matched with a desire to upend the expectations of TV structure, but at the end of the day this is a series full of plot twists and cliffhangers,” writes Ritchie. “And yet, through all of that, Moments In Love successfully keeps focus on specific details to suggest the intensity of Denise’s isolation. Without casting a clear point of view on the characters, the series captures the push-and-pull between personal choice and external pressures.”
The seemingly endless stream of Boomer nostalgia music docs passes the crown to 1971: The Year that Music Changed Everything. Norm Wilner assess the series for NOW Magazine: “Every time I found myself wondering if 1971 was just the latest example of a megacorporation trying to sell boomers their own history in a shiny new package, it delivers a moment like David Bowie’s unpolished, exquisite performance of Changes – at Glastonbury, to a crowd that’s barely awake – and it’s as if the show opens a window to a moment in time when it actually felt like a generation could save the world from itself.”