Reviews include The Boy and the Heron, Eileen, and The Three Musketeers: Part One – D’Artagnan.
TFCA Friday: Week of May 26
May 26, 2023
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week!
About My Father (dir. Laura Terruso)
“Kim Cattrall steals scenes as the matron; her family’s willing to cut father and son slack if Salvo would only accept them as people not symbols of social oppression. Judging by the trailer, I expected junk,” admits Anne Brodie at What She Said. “It’s not, it’s a heartfelt, sincere, and funny tribute to [Sebastian] Maniscalco’s own father, who is often the subject of his stand-up routines. The class jumping, hypersensitivity, and awkward culture clash melees tell a recognisable story.”
“There is nothing really innovative in the two stories but at least the film is sufficiently funny with more than a few laugh out moments, writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “It is always good to see De Niro doing comedy.”
Being Mary Tyler Moore (dir. James Adolphus)
“The film steps lightly around the negative, but it has a welcome feel-good factor, the way she might want to be remembered,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “One critic remarked on her death that the Chuckles the Clown funeral episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show is the funniest sitcom moment in television history. Well done, Mary.”
Cracked (dir. Surapong Ploensang)
The film “lacks strong credibility with some silly exorcism bits at the end, but the film’s strength is its creation of menace and atmosphere in its first half,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
L’immensità (dir. Emanuele Crialese)
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it an “intriguing and absorbing emotional Italian drama starring the beautiful Penélope Cruz.”
“But leaving things open to interpretation is both a strength and weakness of the film. Some things happen that seem out of the blue and without enough context. At the same time, Crialese avoids melodrama and big emotional crescendos, which would be a jolt given the naturalistic feeling of the movie,” says Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “He relies on his cast for the nuances that give us a sense of the relationships between the characters. And strong performances by the always formidable Cruz and newcomer Guiliana are particularly compelling.”
Influencer (dir. Kurtis David Harder)
“Influencer shares a similar theme as Alfred Hitchcock’s second last film – the suspense thriller London-set Frenzy involving a neck-tie serial killer,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “It is not often that thriller films have this theme and Influencer makes this welcome change. As a result Influencer is extremely entertaining and different, marred only by too many loose ends in the story.”
It Ain’t Over (dir. Sean Mullin)
“One observable note about director Mullin is his ability to recognize little things about life that he has included in his films,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The intimate moments that he has included in the doc such as the reading of one of Yogi’s love letters to his wife are what makes the doc stand out.”
“Even at a fast-paced 98 minutes, It Ain’t Over feels padded,” admits Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “There’s an indulgent account of how Lindsay [Berra] used Twitter to get celebrities to promote a petition to help get her grandfather a posthumous Presidential Freedom of Honor medal, and needless observation about his language from an English professor. “
The Little Mermaid (dir. Rob Marshall)
“Mindful of the changing sensibilities towards women, Ariel’s decision to abandon her fins for legs and become a person is made to be a lifestyle choice, not something she is doing solely out of love,” notes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “And Lin-Manuel Miranda’s revised lyrics to Howard Ashman’s ‘Kiss the Girl’ is rendered as a harmless exploration, not a passionate assault by a boy on a girl. The creation of Queen Selina, the Black ruler of a Caribbean island and Prince Eric’s stepmother is a nice addition to the plot, filling in the story in a politically sensitive way. Still, it must be mentioned that this version of The Little Mermaid is 135 minutes, quite a bit longer than the 83-minute original.”
“Like most Disney films, The Little Mermaid is layered with messaging about finding one’s place in the world. That rang true for the cast,” writes Marriska Fernandes at the Toronto Star. Fernandes chats with stars Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem, and Jacob Tremblay and learns how the pandemic inspired McCarthy to look at Ursula in a new light: “Two years of being locked down and COVID-19 put a very different idea of what isolation does to our mental health and, suddenly, I had such compassion and empathy for her,” McCarthy tells Fernandes. “It means still knowing that she makes bad choices, but why those choices are made became a whole different thing to me.”
“A thoroughly pointless cash grab of a thing, this new Little Mermaid is one of the most uninspired films to slither out of Disney since the company started raiding its own vault, a practice that started in earnest with 1996′s 101 Dalmatians but didn’t become a viable new line of production till Tim Burton’s redo of Alice in Wonderland in 2010,” sighs Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “In pure economic theory, it’s a brilliantly evil double whammy: Keep remaking your own intellectual property to draw in a new generation of viewers while at the same time juicing nostalgic interest in the original movies. Disney has even started to reboot its own live-action remakes, starting with 2021′s dire 101 Dalmatians prequel, Cruella.”
“[U]ltimately quite a bore,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “One wonders what the Disney people are thinking regarding the film’s target audience. Action fans obviously will avoid girly fairy tales like this film and the action fight set pieces, while Melissa McCarthy with squid tentacles is too scary for kids.”
“[T]he overwhelming problem at the heart of this remake: a seeming belief that adapting a cartoon well means making it fit better into the bounds of reality,” notes Jackson Weaver at CBC. “The most obvious example is the visuals, as once cute anthropomorphized animals are turned into horrifying sea-creature abominations — Sebastian’s eye stalks are sure to haunt your dreams, while Flounder’s literal fish face just had me reciting the Jaws‘ monologue: ‘lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes.’”
Mission Kandahar (dir. Ric Roman Waugh)
“Mission Kandahar gifts viewers with helicopter fights, fast cars, slow cars, and motorcycles bursting out of the back of flatbed trucks. There is even a western-style shootout. But Waugh keeps the action sequences down to Tom Cruise-lite, more like the Cruise we see at the top of Austin Powers in Goldmember,” notes Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “Mission Kandahar is standard entertainment that pushes for more than what they can deliver. Slight entertainment is the best it can be.”
“Mission Kandahar (which is simply titled Kandahar by its U.S. distributor) is not going to surprise or enthrall audiences,” admits Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “But it does deliver on the many B-movie promises that its star has now built his throat-slitting career on. The movies need Gerard Butler like popcorn needs a layer of artificial butter. It’s not good for us, but we don’t – and shouldn’t – care.”
Mother’s Day (dir. Mateusz Rakowicz)
“Mother’s Day, a rare Polish action thriller (the first I have seen) is forgettable fluff but with a few acts and action set pieces that stand out, not to mention a few edgy creepy villains that all make the 90 minutes an acceptable watch – perfect for Netflix,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Tin & Tina (dir. Rubin Stein)
“Tin & Tina is a surprisingly effective Spanish suspense thriller full of suspense and impending terror,” days Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Director Stein makes it clear that something evil is always about to happen, and when it happens, it will be something unexpected and truly horrible. Tin & Tina is an absolute delight.”
Victim/Suspect (dir. Nancy Schwarzman)
“Victim/Suspect is an informative and entertaining though often disturbing little doc that needs to be seen on an important subject that matters,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
White Balls on Walls (dir. Sarah Vos)
“The art world is shrouded in mystery (on so many levels) but writer/director Sarah Vos wades in fearlessly in the documentary White Balls on Walls — a film about Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum and that institution’s work on diversity and inclusion. It’s a fascinating film,” writes Liz Braun at The Alliance of Women Film Journalists. “But as the museum’s curator-at-large Yvette Mutumba suggests, all the angry reactions actually show how important the exhibit is. White Balls on Walls is likewise important. Vos has captured a massive, crucial, ongoing transformation with a surprisingly light touch.”
You Hurt My Feelings (dir. Nicole Holofcener)
“Holofcener knows how to write lean and subtly drawn movies about characters going through bumpy and complicated emotional territory. She also directs with a light touch. In the grand tradition of New York comedies, You Hurt My Feelings plays as natural, not overly fraught, despite all the insecurities and problems,” notes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “When you boil it down, we may not all be working on our first novel, but the dilemmas here feel familiar, ordinary things that most of us go through in one form or another. While not an instruction manual, in an economical 93 minutes, You Hurt My Feelings is a lovely little encouraging slice of life.”
“Director Holofcener skillfully balances humorous and dramatic moments throughout the film,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Nearly every performance here is excellent, a beautiful balance of nerves and neuroses,” says Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Louis-Dreyfus is a particular wonder to watch as Beth nosedives from proud wife, mother and author to grievously injured victim, while Saturday Night Live veteran Watkins and Moayed (perhaps best-known as Stewy from HBO’s Succession) provide as much comic relief as they do anxiety-stricken supporting panic. And while I wish dearly that Menzies was allowed to perform with his native British accent, the actor’s emotional shorthand with Louis-Dreyfus feels entirely, almost supernaturally organic, as if the two had spent the past several decades living together, with just one rather large secret left to fester between them.”
“After losing herself somewhat in the generic adaptation The Land of Steady Habits and adding a welcome perspective to the work-for-hire gig of The Last Duel, both of which favoured male protagonists, You Hurt My Feelings returns her to the terrain she knows best. Her films have always rung true as down-to-earth stories about what women want. Few directors capture the anxiety of aging like she does, while few are willing to be real about their characters’ relative privilege in the grand scheme things,” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “As Beth and Don learn what it truly means to commit to a relationship, many viewers should see themselves, their friends, and their family in these characters. You Hurt My Feelings is a humanely heartfelt dramedy that hits home for anyone who worries their shoes no longer fit.”
“Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said) makes a welcome return to the fest with a barbed comedy about human failings and the equally human tendency not to be truthful about them. Julia Louis-Dreyfus leads a terrific ensemble cast of neurotic New Yorkers as Beth, a writer and professor whose serene life with her therapist husband Don (Tobias Menzies) is about to shatter,” notes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “Beth’s recent memoir failed to sell — if only there had been more family trauma! — and she’s having trouble getting her first novel published. She’s comforted by knowing she can count on Don for unfailing support, until she overhears him mildly dissing her work. An accidental truth snowballs into a mountain of antic excuses and dodges.”
File Under Miscellaneous
At Zoomer, Nathalie Atkinson gets the truth from Ruth E. Carter while interviewing her upon the release of the book The Art of Ruth Carter. The two-time Oscar-winning designer looks back upon her early days, mentorship, how the industry’s changed, and where it has to go. “Costume has been thought of as women’s work and we live in a society that does not pay women equal wage,” Carter tells Atkinson. “I remember when I first signed with (talent agent) Phil Gersh in the late ’80s, after he’d seen Do the Right Thing, he said I was worth more and should be getting more and was instrumental in me getting those raises. And that was the first time I heard something like that.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie looks at the documentary classic The Sorrow and the Pity, which received a new restoration: “Director Marcel Ophüls’ stunner, a compilation of opinions from those who were there is dispiriting. But we also hear from the small covert army of resistance fighters from the village of Clermont-Ferrand who worked under great risk,” writes Brodie. “The extraordinary detail in the film, the total expressions of the banality of evil present in many interviews, and French shame are shocking. Ophüls made the four-hour and some doc for French television in 1969 but broadcasters refuse to air it on the grounds that it showed France as “exclusively populated by traitors”. It is two films in one, the first, The Collapse, and the second The Choice. Searing and essential viewing to properly understand the war and Europe.”
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz chats with Hot Docs’ outgoing president Chris McDonald, who looks back on 25 years with the festival. “Arts groups in this country are struggling, and getting audiences back is a real issue. It’s not just a matter of turning on the lights again. In 2019, our cinema averaged 750 people a day, every day, for 364 days a year. Those were huge numbers, we were on fire,” McDonald tells Hertz. “I would say it’s half of that right now, on average. But we built that audience once, and I’m confident that we can do it again.”
A Festival of Festival Coverage: Cannes Closes, Inside Out Anticipates Pride
At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell recaps the best of the Cannes Film Festival. Atop his list is Tran Anh Hung’s Pot-au-Feu: “The most delicious film at Cannes 2023. Amour to swoon over and cuisine to die for, it’s set in 1885 France and served with seduction by dedicated cook Eugénie (Juliette Binoche) and serious gastronome Dodin (Benoît Magimel),” writes Howell. “They’re a magnetic pair with both the kitchen and bedroom in mind — although only one of them contemplates marriage, hence some tension. The lengthy food preparation scenes are so alluring I wanted to nibble the screen. You don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy this savoury romance from cinema poet Tran Anh Hung (The Scent of Green Papayas), but you’ll love it all the more if you are.” Howell also has first looks at Killers of the Flower Moon, Asteroid City, The Idol, and Indiana Jones.
At POV Magazine, Jason Gorber chats with Maciek Hamela about his Cannes documentary In the Rearview and telling the stories of Ukrainians while literally driving them to safety. “The camera was handheld at all times by a human. At any time you could say ‘no’ and he would put the camera down,” Hamela tells Gorber. “That was one important part of the whole thing. We didn’t put the cameras around the car and say, ‘This is all filmed and you don’t know when it’s filming or not.’ There was a human behind the camera—that was first and foremost the most important aspect. The second aspect was that we had the people sign the permission for the shoot only after we delivered them to the destination. Then they were absolutely free to sign it or not.”
At Original Cin, Liam Lacey previews Toronto’s Inside Out LGBTQ Film Festival and speaks with Supporting Our Selves filmmakers Lulu Wei and Jenn Mason about their doc at the fest: “As a queer filmmaker,” Mason tells Lacey, “I was struck by the idea that this organization had such a massive impact in helping other organizations during a really bad time. They also gave Inside Out of some of their initial funding. But no one had really heard of them. I was also interested in the idea of looking back at what the need was back then and comparing it to the state of our community today.”
At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen previews the documentaries at Toronto’s Inside Out LGBTQ Film Festival. Highlights include KOKOMO CITY, Commitment to Life, and Hummingbirds. “Get ready to be wowed by the women of KOKOMO CITY. This first feature by D. Smith rightly earns its all caps assertiveness and gets an overdue Toronto premiere after wowing Sundance,” writes Mullen. “The film is a fun and intimate study of the lives of four Black transwomen and sex workers. Without any hint of judgment, Smith chronicles the daily experiences of these women as they make a living through the oldest profession—and one historically forced upon Black transwomen by necessity.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie previews the Blue Mountain Film Festival, which returns June 1. “This year’s festival opens with Spain’s comedy Two Many Chefs directed by Joaquín Mazón. A ‘fine dining comedy’ about an ambitious chef whose father, long thought dead, shows up,” writes Brodie.
TV Talk/Series Scribbles
At The Globe and Mail, Johanna Schneller speaks with the Little Bird team of Jennifer Podemski, Hannah Moscovitz, Zoe Hopkins, and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers about their series—a breakthrough for Indigenous work by Indigenous storytellers. “It forced me to make personal connections to survivors, to hear stories of the worst kind of violence and abuse, and to realize that this is my kin,” says Podemski. “And not just in history, in current reality. It brought up a lot of stuff. But this is the work I do. It’s my purpose.”
At Zoomer, Marriska Fernandes interviews Arnold Schwarzenegger about his first series gig, FUBAR, and what it means to be a seasoned star. “I’ve learned that I was wrong when I was young when I thought that the most important thing is for me to be successful,” Schwarzenegger tells Fernandes. “And then, eventually, you get wiser and you get older and more experienced and smarter and then you realize that maybe this ‘me’ should turn into ‘we.’ And that the greatest pleasure actually is to give something back to society and to serve people.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie gets pumped up by Arnold’s FUBAR. “Big action scenes, special effects, and whatnot are reminiscent of time far away and long ago when Arnie was the Terminator, The Running Man, etc. Kudos to him for taking the reigns again,” writes Brodie. She also notes that the Netflix doc series on Schwarzengger is “really good.” Drops of God, on the other hand, is “gripping, entertaining, and in a weird way amusing,” says Brodie. “There is plenty to be learned here about wine and family.”
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz gives the Succession power rankings for all the fictional movies made by Waystar Studios, all of which have undoubtedly been vetted my Gerri Kellman for potential copyright infringement. Titles include Doderick and Friends, The Biggest Turkey in the World, and Morons: “A gigantic poster for this animated film covers one side of a Waystar Studios building, depicting little brightly coloured critters who look suspiciously similar to the sidekicks of Universal Pictures’ Despicable Me franchise,” notes Hertz. “Which suggests that, somewhere in Waystar’s catalogue, there must also be at least one film called Contemptible I, or something.”
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz looks at Judd Apatow’s Platonic, which has fun with Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen, and Luke Macfarlane: “As with most Apatow-adjacent projects, the story here isn’t so much the thing as the vibe, as witty as it is warm,” writes Hertz. “The series’ barely there conceit – that Will and Sylvie are constantly mistaken for husband and wife, but have almost no interest in pursuing such a relationship – works because the performers are so naturally loose and comfortable with one another.” Hertz also recaps other streaming highlights, including FUBAR and Clone High.