TFCA Friday: Week of May 24

May 24, 2024

Hit Man | VVS Films

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


In Release this Week!


Babes (dir. Pamela Adlon)


“Fresh, real, and funny, Buteau’s presence is a charming one as Dawn navigates upper-middle class life with a house, husband, and kids,” says Rachel West at the Alliance of Women Film Journalists. “A successful career woman, Dawn’s frustrations resonate as she’s called on to be the caregiver both at home and with Eden. There is so much to explore within her story that combined with Buteau’s screen presence and ‘main character energy,’ one almost wishes she was the focus of Babes. But, however great these women are separately, they’re even better together.”


“Dawn won’t allow Eden to move in and complications, albeit funny, pile up as she waits to give birth,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “This uplifting couple of hours isn’t interested in art and goes full throttle on two exuberant girls living their lives with humour and energy. It’s guileless and sweet and those blue jokes seem somehow so right. The actors have exceptional comic chemistry and a kind of matched, wacky choreography that adds to the fun.”


“It’s an outrageous, bawdy, riff-o-rama, but with ideas and notions that can be taken seriously within the comedic context,” observes Andrew Parker at The Gate. “Together, Adlon, Glazer, and Buteau are a formidable comedic team that should work together again down the road. Come for the jokes about body parts getting stretched out, sore nipples, and friends comparing each other’s poops. Stay for the chance to laugh about things many women don’t get a chance to laugh about in the company of people who get the jokes.”


“This film certainly makes me hope that Pamela Adlon will get the opportunity to direct more features because Babes unquestionably shows she’s got the chops for it,” says Dave Voigt at In the Seats.


Babes is a terribly annoying female slant comedy in which the filmmakers think what they are proving on screen is funnier than what it is,” sighs Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Shouting and screaming half the time, I wanted to walk out of the cinema at the one hour mark.  And I should have!”


“Glazer and her team–writing partner Joel Rabinowitz, Michelle Buteau, and director Pamela Adlon—have created something remarkable in Babes: a funny, unpretentious truth-telling film about friendship, love, pregnancy, and childbirth,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “They have figured out many ways to make people laugh—and having seen the film with a preview audience, I can attest that people absolutely enjoy it.”


The Beach Boys (dir. Frank Marshall, Thom Zimny)


“To hear this version of The Beach Boys story is to believe that Brian just had severe anxiety and got messed up as a result of taking too many psychedelics, and Mike Love never did anything wrong. It’s very reductive and somewhat disrespectful towards audiences who know there are bigger stories here,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate.


Bending Light (dir. Alan Goldman; Sept. 27)


“Getting the teams and the equipment to remote western Australia was unbelievably daunting but as the film shows, it made superstars of the scientists as well as the Aboriginal peoples who expertly navigated the hostile terrain for them. Women also played key roles in the expedition,” writes Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “The doc then skips forward, somewhat jaggedly, to more contemporary scientists trying to chart and record the sound of gravitational waves, looping back to Einstein’s original theory of how light interacts with gravity. His remarkable theory, put to ever-more-rigorous testing across subsequent decades, remains airtight.”


Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (dir. George Miller)


“What’s so impressive about the film is not just its ability to craft dazzling new action set pieces (though it does that in spades), but how Miller and co. create genuine audience investment in Furiosa’s revenge plot,” writes Joe Lipsett at Queer Horror Movies.


“Taylor-Joy gets very few speaking lines in the film, a deliberate move by Miller to avoid any distractions, but she makes silence commanding,” observes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “Miller’s dystopian vision, set to the score’s pounding drums and sonorous cellos, has never been more brutal than it is in Furiosa. His random images of the ravaged expanse that is the Wasteland include a dog gnawing on a human foot and a tree growing from the body of a man.”


“Origin stories that begin in childhood tend to shortchange the child, but Miller gives child Furiosa her fair due. By the time adult Furiosa appears—about the 40-minute mark—we’re ready for her. And though the delayed entrance of Taylor-Joy might seem like a long wait to introduce the poster-image heroine, there is still plenty of time (almost another 90 minutes) of road rage to go,” says Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “Furiosa feels epic, a viable entry into the ongoing mythology that began as a small independent film to come out of Australia.”


“The story does not really matter much as the importance is only secondary to the action sequences,” adds Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “So despite loose narrative with loose ends as well, director Miller’s film still succeeds, thanks to his visionary look of a dystopian desert landscape similar to that of the Australian desert where much of the film was shot.”


“Furiosa features more ambitious action sequences than Fury Road, but there’s one major caveat: this film uses a lot more digital effects. Many of Fury Road’s most impressive stunts were captured in-camera by flipping and crashing actual cars. This choice lends the high-octane carnage a grittiness and sense of weight that even the best CGI can’t replicate,” says Victor Stiff at That Shelf. “Miller still opts to physically stage much of the action here, but there’s a heavier reliance on digital effects this time out. This trade-off allows Miller to up the ante on the film’s vehicular carnage, even if these shots at times don’t pack the same visceral punch.”


“Taylor-Joy is suitably angry as Furiosa, and functions as the literal driver of the plot, but it’s Dementus’ quest for power that often pushes things forward, as he tries to seize The Citadel, makes a play for Gastown, and at one point battles Jack and Furiosa in the Bullet Farm,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “The combat scenes are thrilling (spring for a large-format Imax screening if possible), though it must be said that they don’t quite match the furor of the previous Mad Max movie.”


“Furiosa is the kind of film where calling it a saga actually fits,” declares Andrew Parker at The Gate. “Miller’s latest differentiates itself from all of the other Mad Max entries before it by having a scope and breadth similar to that of an old school biblical epic. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga owes more to the works of David Lean and Cecil B. DeMille than the sort of Ozploitation b-movies that birthed the franchise in the first place.”


“Keenly aware that Soderbergh and others have spent the past decade watching and waiting for Miller to either surpass or sabotage himself with a follow-up, the director now seeks to build his Mad Max world rather than simply blow it up,” notes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “By tracing Dementus and Immortan Joe’s self-destructive rivalry – which involves not only an extended visit to the franchise’s fabled Gas Town but also a trip inside its sister city, Bullet Town (the end of the world is no time to get clever with names) – Miller gets to flesh out a demented dystopia that was only haltingly dissected beforehand.”


The Garfield Movie (dir. Mark Dindal)


“Critical obligation – if not parental responsibility – kept me in place for the full 101 minutes (!) that director Mark Dindal sadistically stretches out his tale, which is not only plodding but fundamentally misunderstands its title character,” groans Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Just know that this film involves precious little Jon, an odious lack of Odie and enough crass corporate shilling… to make even the most YouTube-addicted child feel rather patronized.”


“The film’s animation is colourful and lively enough and with the film keeping true to the comic strip, ends up being a mild and barely entertaining exercise,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


Hit Man (dir. Richard Linklater)


“Carrying a similar sexy cool vibe as Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, part of what makes Hit Man such a treat is the insanely hot chemistry that Glen Powell and Adria Arjona share,” says Courtney Small at That Shelf. “As Johnson and Madison’s relationship evolves from one steamy encounter to the next, the audience feels as if they are the third wheel observing it all through the fingers that should be shielding our eyes. The chemistry not only sells the romantic beats, but also ensures that one remain invested in Johnson’s journey even when unsure if Madison can truly be trusted.”


Hit Man is just a classic charmer of a naughty cinematic romp where we get so invested in the two leads that even when they are doing something wrong, it just feels so damn right,” observes Dave Voigt at In the Seats.


“Since this is Richard Linklater, the movie is subtle and enjoyable with a nice layer of complexity that builds in as it progresses. And he has a terrific partner in the naturally charismatic Powell, who tackles the changes thrown in Gary’s direction with such ease that you feel like you’re going to run into the guy at the popcorn stand on the way out,” adds Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “It’s a deceptively simple movie, a lot of fun. And it doesn’t require you to do a deep dive to really enjoy it. But for those who are so inclined, there are things to think about as you leave the theatre.”


“Glen Powell gives a wonderfully shaded performance, gradually imbuing his character with confidence and attractiveness as he learns to play the role of a hit man,” notes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “Powell and Linklater massage the anecdote about not accepting money from a would-be client, described in Hollandsworth’s true account of Johnson’s adventures, and turn it into an edgy romance between Madison ‘Maddy’ Masters and ‘Ron,’ (really Johnson) the cool potential killer. The film really takes off then, as Maddy and Ron have a passionate affair, right under the noses of the police, in particular, their frustrated rival, the underemployed Jasper.”


“While much of the police shenanigans feel just an inch above sitcom level, especially the banter between Gary’s handlers played by Retta and Sanjay Rao, every moment between Powell and Arjona is thrilling and alive,” agrees Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “There is one electrifying scene in particular toward the film’s end that, during its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September, sent the sold-out crowd into wild hoots and hollers.”


“Based somewhat on a true story (and a Texas Monthly article from renowned journalist Skip Hollandsworth), Hit Man has a high concept plot that fits perfectly into Linklater’s love for quirky, small town characters and Powell’s increasingly formidable leading man charms,” notes Andrew Parker at The Gate. “Together the director and star – who wrote the screenplay together – make Hit Man an unlikely romantic comedy with some thematic and philosophical meat on its bones, putting it a cut above most genre films of this type.”


“[I]n the era of algorithms and clicks, Hit Man will have to contend with being a streaming sensation; not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. Rather than swim against a changing tide, Linklater’s only adapting to the inevitable,” notes Rachel Ho at Exclaim!. “For those theatrical experience advocates among us, though, Hit Man exemplifies why we still go to the cinema: when clever humour and engaging performances hit, they hit hard.”


“The script written by both Powell and Linklater contains enough twists and turns with a good chemistry-romance between the leads,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Powell and Linklater make a good team as did Linklater and Ethan Hawke.”


Hit Man aims straight for the heart and doesn’t miss,” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf, and gets some words with Richard Linklater and stars Glen Powell and Adria Arjona. Powell talks about exploring the mask his teacher/hit man-moonlighter wears: “We started thinking about if he got stuck in this identity as this fake hit man, you have this amazing character mask where you have a guy who’s teaching humanity, but not experiencing humanity,” says Powell. “Getting stuck in the mask, in the body, of someone who embodies all the dangerous, exciting elements of what humanity is, this sort of rollercoaster ride, and ends up finding that he can be a more three-dimensional/fun version on the other side of it.”


Illusions for Sale (dir. Matías Gueilburt)


“The doc being little tech savvy and easy to understand is an easy watch for those not well versed with investing,  As every person dreams of riches, the doc is of interest to almost everyone,  And there are important lessons to be learnt in this fast moving documentary,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


Lyd (dir. Rami Younis, Sarah Ema Friedland)


“People once called Lyd the city that connected Palestine with the world. Now, people call the city Lod and say it’s in Israel,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “Directors Rami Younis and Sarah Ema Friedland chronicle the very complicated history of the city and, in turn, a deep-rooted conflict that spans generations. Ambitiously tackling perhaps the most controversial geopolitical issue in the world, and doing so in under 80 minutes, the filmmakers offer a provocative cri de coeur for a free Palestine.”


My Girl Oni (dir. Tomotaka Shibayama)


“The best things about My Girl Oni are its Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki look, its fascinating Japanese folklore, and a coming-of page story that feels unrushed and genuine,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


Raphael: A Portrait (dir. Howard Burton)


“Meticulously researched, overstuffed (even overflowing) with information, Raphael: A Portrait is a heady rampage through the life and artistic history of one of the great artists of history,” says Chris Knight at Original Cin.”Raphael’s director and narrator Howard Burton is also something of a polymath, with an MA in philosophy and a PhD in theoretical physics. He was founding director of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and the founder of the Ideas Roadshow.”


The Sales Girl (dir. Janchivdorj Sengedorj 


The Sales Girl is a humorous coming-of-page story set in a different setting of the sex toys trade and in Mongolia, a place unfamiliar to North Americans, two facts that make this film worth a look,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


The Silent Land (dir. Aga Woszczyńska)


“Director Woszczyńska sublimely builds up an atmosphere of dread and menace culminating in a surreal scene at the end that is kept as a surprise,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


Stress Positions (dir. Theda Hammel)


“If Gaspar Noé or Michael Haneke decided to make a pandemic set comedy about entitled queer millennials, they might turn out something close to Hammel’s work, although their films would come with a bit more polish and substance,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate. “Stress Positions is a tough sit. It’s meant to be tough. But it’s also curiously underwhelming for all Hammel is putting the audience through.”


Wildcat (dir. Ethan Hawke)


At the Toronto Star, Marriska Fernandes chats with Ethan Hawke about his new turn in the director’s seat with Wildcat and where he sees acting and directing playing into the later years of his career. “I’ve been an actor my whole life. I’ve learned about directing through acting. I’ve learned about writing through acting. Acting has been the gift that has carried me my whole life,” Hawke tells Fernandes. “I have a suspicion that as the last act unfolds, I’ll probably end up doing a lot more of this because it’s really enjoyable to work with young people and to have your fingers in the different aspects of the profession. But I’ll always be an actor.”


Wilfred Buck (dir. Lisa Jackson 🇨🇦)


“A stylishly made hybrid documentary, Jackson’s film weaves together re-enact­ments of Buck’s really tough early years, including poverty and addiction, with beautiful pictorial 1960s and 1970s archival materials from the NFB, and vérité footage of Buck from today, driving and talking,” writes Kelly Boutsalis at POV Magazine. She also gets some words from director Lisa Jackson. “I hope the approaches to showing his past life and what it’s like now, the poetic sequences and star knowledge stories, would [create] a kind of a synergy that could bring us out of a simple emotional story,” says Jackson.


“Anishinaabe filmmaker/documentarian Lisa Jackson’s Wilfred Buck follows the Cree elder and astronomer whose life story is a study in extreme contrasts,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “He mentors countless indigenous young people, he teaches traditional skills like building sweat lodges, officiating traditional ceremonies, leading pow-wows, and being there. He had an audience of Harvard science professors eating out of his hand. He’s colorful, charming, a great storyteller.  Catch this remarkable portrait of a one-of-a-kind teacher.”


“An inspirational and contemplative documentary about one person’s lengthy journey to make others recognize the space where ancestral knowledge, personal hardship, and science intersect, Wilfred Buck is the sort of personal profile that’s increasingly rare to see these days,” remarks Andrew Parker at The Gate.


File Under Miscellaneous


At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz previews the Canadian Screen Awards and asks if there’s any way for the show to redeem itself after Samantha Bee phoned it in from New York (see above): “Perhaps the omnipresence of director Matt Johnson’s BlackBerry – the second-most popular Canadian film at the domestic box office last year behind the Paw Patrol sequel, and easily the most talked-about homegrown movie in ages – will help draw in curious eyeballs,” notes Hertz. “Like last year’s CSAs, where Clement Virgo’s drama Brother won a record 12 awards including Best Picture, the odds of a BlackBerry sweep this edition could generate desperately needed buzz. The same goes for the multiple nods scored by Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool, the Crave miniseries Little Bird, and the final season of CBC’s Workin’ Moms.”


Speaking of crises, Barry Hertz also reports at The Globe and Mail about the temporary closure of Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.


At The Globe and Mail, Johanna Schneller chats with Tonya Williams, who will receive the Changemaker Award at the Canadian Screen Awards in part for her work with the Reelworld Film Festival: “[Reelword] began with me trying to get other festivals to be more inclusive when they didn’t want to be,” Williams says. “TIFF had the Planet Africa platform, but that was for Black people from everywhere except Canada. I kept thinking about when, as a little kid, I asked my dad why there wasn’t a Black Barbie. He said, ‘Because the world is waiting for you to build the factory.’ I didn’t want to start Reelworld – I had to.”


On the In the Seats With… podcast, Dave Voigt he goes into the vault to take a look at the newly remastered horror/mystery We Go On and talks with the one and only Annette O’Toole about her work on the film and her career in general.


A Festival of Festival Coverage: Another One in the Cannes, Inside Out Returns


At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell picks the best films that debuted at Cannes this year. Atop the list? Anora from 2017 TFCA Award winner for The Florida Project, Sean Baker: “Sean Baker’s flair for rough-edged characters, as seen in Tangerine, The Florida Project, and Red Rocket, pays off handsomely in this high-voltage screwball comedy,” writes Howell. “Mikey Madison, who played a Manson Family killer in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, brings seen-it-all chutzpah to the role of Anora (she prefers ‘Ani’), a potty-mouthed Brooklyn sex worker having a cockeyed Cinderella moment…this speedster of a tale takes turns we can’t see coming. Madison keeps us loyal to her character and awestruck at her knack for getting in and out of tough scrapes.”


At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz speaks with director David Cronenberg about his new film The Shrouds, bagged milk, grief, and mortality. “There are so many ways to avoid suffering because it can be incredibly painful,” Cronenberg says. “Drugs, therapy. But ultimately, you’re suffering. That’s it. Religion is also partially invented just to find a way to deny the reality of death and the pain that comes with it. Since I’m an atheist, I don’t have that. You just say, well, I’m suffering. It’s painful, that’s it.”


At What She Said, Anne Brodie highlights some films at Inside Out, including Sisters (“looks at the revelation in Lou’s life. She has a best friend but always wanted a sister. When her father dies, she discovers she does!”) and nanekawâsis (“an absorbing documentary about nêhiyaw artist George Littlechild”).


At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah looks at Inside Out films including Extremely Unique Dynamic: “The concept is neat and kind of stoned confusing who the directors play with quite a bit throughout their film.  The concept gets a bit tiring after a while and watching the childish antics of these two young adults can get quite challenging.”


At Original Cin, Liam Lacey, Kim Hughes, and Thom Ernst collaborate on a preview for Inside Out and offer some highlights: “[O]n May 27, in another nod of respect to the old-timers — and in conjunction with the Cinema Studies Institute and McGill-Queen’s University Press — Inside Out is presenting a free screening of what is widely considered the first gay Canadian film: a 60th anniversary screening of Winter Kept Us Warm, also the first Canadian film ever to screen at the Cannes Film Festival.”


At Xtra, Pat Mullen speaks with actor Theo Germaine, who proves one of the voices leading a breakthrough generation for trans and non-binary representation by having two films at the festival, Desire Lines and Spark. Both films let Germaine by vulnerable, messy, and sexy. ““I haven’t really gotten to act on screen without my shirt on a lot, and there are some shots where you can very clearly see my top surgery scars. I watched the movie recently and I felt really proud of myself, especially the scenes with my and Vico’s characters,” Germaine says. “I think it is a great example of showing that queer actors can act…We need more examples of queer actors acting well and not just doing Stereotype A, which still happens. It’s hard. It’s rough out there.”


TV Talk/Series Stuff


At Sharp, Marriska Fernandes chats with Ncuti Gatwa about playing the latest version of Doctor Who and what he hopes to bring to the shape-shifting character. “I think predominantly the excitement of life; the Doctor’s a character that regenerates, so they’re constantly born again and getting these second chances at life,” Gatwa says. “They die and their organs start to regenerate, and it’s like a new lease on life. They’ve got all the same memories, and all the same experiences of, obviously, all the other incarnations, but there are new eyes now, experiencing things. They’re just excited by everything.”


On his “In The Seats With Podcast” Dave Voigt deep dives into the art of cinematography on not one but TWO Apple TV+ shows talking with Owen McPolin and Cathal Watters for their work on Foundation and with Jac Fitzgerald for her work on Masters of the Air. He also asks the question of what it means to be a Music Supervisor in his talk with Zoe Ellen Bryant and her work on A Gentleman in Moscow, now on Paramount Plus.


At What She Said, Anne Brodie checks out the smoky miniseries Murderesses: “The series looks at cultural differences; everyone smokes and drinks heavily. There’s rarely a sequence without smoking.  Strange in this day and age.”


At Exclaim!, Rachel Ho grooves to Stax: Soulsville, USA: “Soulsville encapsulates the turbulent ride of one of America’s groundbreaking musical hubs in a manner befitting those who lent their talents to the label. It’s a thrilling story that ends on a bittersweet note: Stax fell at the hands of a dirty deal, but the music and influence continues to sing loudly today, a fact that Wignot celebrates with grace and pride.


At The Gate, Andrew Parker encounters the good and the bad of music docs. For the good, it’s Stax: Soulsville, USA: “Jamila Wignot casts a wide net to look at all aspects of the venerable STAX record label, which only lasted in an unadulterated, independent form from the late 1950s to the late 70s, but turned out some of the most enduring and powerful music ever produced by black artists. It pays reverence to those who made it such an influential brand, but is also willing to examine the financial and racist power structures that helped contribute to its demise,” writes Parker. For the Bad, it’s Lolla: The Story of Lollapalooza: “The most telling image in the entire three part series from director Michael John Warren comes at the tail end of every episode when the logo for the C3 management company appears. That’s the company that’s still putting on Lollapalooza, which means they control basically the entire show here.  That tells you all you need to know about Lolla: The Story of Lollapalooza, who’s steering the ship, and why it stinks as a documentary and retrospective.”