Reviews include Across the Spider-Verse, Bones of Crows, and Close to Vermeer.
TFCA Friday: Week of May 5
May 5, 2023
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
Carmen (dir. Benjamin Millepied)
“The first half works beautifully. Jörg Widmer’s cinematography captures the sun-baked vistas with real poetry, bursts of flames popping up around the central characters as if we know their journey is doomed to meet a fiery end,” notes Glenn Sumi at Go Ahead Sumi. “And Millepied gets a chance to show off his choreography, especially in a haunting nighttime sequence set in an unlikely desert carnival.”
“Barrera, best known for the film adaptation of In the Heights and the latest iteration of the Scream films, has a smouldering presence that lingers,” says Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “But Mescal, the Normal People and Aftersun star anointed Hollywood’s favourite new heartthrob (and for good reasons), seems profoundly lost much of the time, neither capable of the dancing required nor whatever American accent he is trying to pull off.”
“Millepied’s kinetic, moody piece profits from his play of light and shadow, the astounding score, operatic and soaring by Nicholas Britell,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Not a wasted moment, as we follow their troubled journey that edges into dreams, fire, and poetry.”
“Despite its flaws, Carmen is an ambitious film that showcases Millepied’s talent as a director and choreographer,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. The impressive dance and music sequences, as well as the strong performances by the cast, make it worth watching.”
“The film’s climactic showdown encapsulates both the flaws and the strengths of Millepied’s unorthodox creativity: To raise money, Aidan is compelled to engage in a bare-knuckle battle to the death. The fight takes entirely inside a ring of krumping dancers with a referee who doubles as a rap announcer (Tracy ‘the D.O.C.’ Curry), chanting a demon-voice growl, as he struts around the bloodied fighters,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “It’s deeply silly but also kind of great, with some of the best onscreen dance-fighting since Zoolander.”
Charles: In His Own Words (dir. Tom Jennings)
“[D]igs deep into the archives to paint his portrait, not as a publicity exercise but as a need-to-know guide,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Archives reveal the first son of royals and all that entails for the boy who would be King.”
The Forger (dir. Maggie Peren)
“The real forger, Cioma was interviewed four times for the film and what is witnessed on the screen is a remarkable and winning account of a young man trapped in dangerous times,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (dir. James Gunn)
“[A]round the hundred-minute mark, everything in Gunn’s perfect little cinematic galaxy falls apart in a magnificently depressing fashion,” groans Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “It is as if the MCU higher-ups got wind of what was going down and quickly engineered a black hole of studio notes to suck the Guardians into a tesseract of meaningless set pieces and prolonged B-plot detours. The result is a beautifully frustrating mess of a capstone to Gunn’s Marvel career, a love letter mistakenly employed as a scrap of toilet paper.”
“But is Guardians 3 any good? Well, let’s call it … adequate,” admits Chris Knight at the National Post. “It’s worth watching if you’ve been invested in the fate of Star-Lord and the gang for the past 10 years. It’s definitely a little long, and the bad guys (Warlock and the High Evolutionary) a little underwhelming in the evil department…It’s also exceedingly busy, with at least 60 per cent of the dialogue being shouted, and a single-take fight sequence that manages to disguise its own awesomeness with whip-pans and other distracting camera moves.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah says it “contains an even balance of action and humour without resorting to excessive gore, blood of violence, making the film suitable for family fare.”
“Ignoring the cloying, doll-eyed cast of animals Rocket is given to draw obvious pathos from, the strength of Vol. 3 is undeniably in its action (the trilogy-ender has some of the most impressive fight scenes yet), multiple climactic moments and grown-up, but-not-too-grown-up tone,” writes Jackson Weaver at CBC. “For the first time in a long time, it’s a Marvel movie made to tell a story, instead of dragging a story along as an excuse for bright colours and explosions. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is twice the excitement with half the fat, which may not be all that appetizing to those just here for the dessert.”
“Worlds collide and spacecraft explode with dizzying abandon and there are so many characters old and new, the film threatens to numb brains and butts as it rumbles over its 149-minute running time,” sighs Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “The bombast is frequently glorious, but Guardians 3 might be an even bigger assault on the senses than The Super Mario Bros. Movie, the billion-dollar-grossing animated champ that this film will likely dethrone as box office champ this weekend.”
Trials to Triumph (dir. Dan Ratner, Greg Romano, and Misa Garcia)
“One of the key issues omitted in the doc, the larger problem that is responsible not only for Freddie’s football injury but for the injuries of all footballers is the fact that football is a dangerous sport with already documentation of a very high percentage of permanent injuries arising from professional football players,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
File Under Miscellaneous
At Toronto Franco, Gilbert Seah highlights France’s La nuit du 12 as a hidden gem in need of a Canadian release: “Cesar winner for best film and for director Dominik Moll, the film La nuit du 12 has not yet got a Canadian distributor – a gripping and taut pricier that is more interested in the emotions surrounding the crime then the solving of the case. (Opens U.S. May 5)”
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz chats with Beau Is Afraid scene-stealer Patti LuPone [and beware spoilers if you’ve also been too preoccupied with Hot Docs to see it yet!] about her upcoming Toronto show and playing the villain. “You can’t play a villain unless you play their good side, too,” says LuPone. “There’s a reason that she’s this way. It’s not all villainous. I have a son, and I’m constantly worried about his safety. He’s out jogging now, and I’m like oh my god, is he going to fall and die? It can be an irrational fear. But it is common for mothers.”
Also at The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz breaks down what the writers’ strike means for your current streaming (Succession will be fine) and what it means for shows on the go: “Right now, if a show is in production past the script stage and not in need of rewrites, production should continue apace,” explains Hertz. “But if the strike goes on a decent amount of time, any film or series that requires WGA members is going to be in trouble, no matter whether it is shot in the U.S. or Canada. And given that Canada has become an extremely busy hub for what are called foreign ‘service’ productions – projects whose creative origins and players are international but rely on Canadian crews and tradespeople – the financial impact could be felt hard within our borders.”
A Festival of Festival Coverage: Hot Docs’ Home Stretch
At Zoomer, Nathalie Atkinson talks to activist and former model Bethann Hardison about her new self-portrait documentary Invisible Beauty. “Making the film and working on her memoir has helped her to take stock of the confidence she has in the next generation of advocates. ‘You get to a certain point in life,’ she says, and know you’ve helped a shift in how people see things. And improvements in racial diversity in fashion are ongoing…’You know you can’t take your foot completely off the clutch but in the end of the day you basically know you have some room to spread your wings a little bit.’”
At CBC, Jackson Weaver offers some streaming highlights available through the festival this weekend, including the Toronto true crime story Cynara: “Described by its director as a documentary meant to put Canada’s justice system on trial, Cynara is a Serial-esque look at a murder in question,” writes Weaver. Director Sherien Barsoum does an artful job of holding the conflicting accounts in hand over the course of the documentary. While the eventual landing place is far less persuasive than Cynara feels like it wants to be, the questions it raises are compelling enough.
At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell picks the best of this year’s festival, including local favourite Someone Lives Here. “Toronto carpenter Khaleel Seivwright has wood, a saw, a hammer and, most importantly, a heart. He’s determined to actually do something about the chronic problem of homelessness,” writes Howell. “But Seivwright encounters a wall of indifference and heartlessness from city bureaucrats and then-Mayor John Tory. Director Zack Russell gives us the lowdown on when good intentions meet sticky red tape.”
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz chats with Still subject Michael J. Fox about putting his story on film: “As a young man, I was pretty naïve but I always knew when I was selling a movie or enjoying the attention,” Fox tells Hertz. “This was different. When I met Davis [Guggenheim] and he told me how much my books affected him, I agreed to go on a journey with him and see where it goes. I had no agenda. I didn’t hope it would respark my film career or anything like that. I just wanted to see how a guy who thought in a similar way, and had a great track record of filmmaking, would treat this material.”
At POV Magazine, Susan G. Cole speaks with The Disappearance of Shere Hite director Nicole Nenham about revisiting the story of the groundbreaking sex researcher. “She was idealistic in the way most change agents are,” Newnham tells Cole. “You have to believe things are going to change in order to invest your time in trying to make those changes. The more you read, the more you understand that she could never give up on the ideal. She felt that if people got information that could liberate them, why would they not want a future like that?”
At POV Magazine, Jason Gorber interviews Jackie the Wolf director Tuki Jencquel and learns about the process of documenting his mother’s chosen dying days. “Filming became almost therapeutic for both of us,” Jencquel tells Gorber. “The camera was a therapist who wasn’t talking but who was there. When she passed away, I had already started editing with Sylvie. We had a first approach of what the film was going to be, and I even showed it to my mom.”
At POV Magazine, Marc Glassman reports on the Hot Docs Forum. “Of the 21 projects this year, the big winner, which received the $50,000 first look Pitch Prize was I of the Water, pitched by director Kimberlee Bassford and one of the forthcoming film’s producers, Linda Goldstein Knowlton, whose previous work includes the New Zealand international success Whale Rider,” writes Glassman. “The second first look prize, for $15,000, was given to The Sandbox, whose director Kenya-Jade Pinto and producer Shasha Nakhai, were the project’s successful pitchers along with distributor Robin Smith.”
At Zoomer, Nathalie Atkinson unpacks the story of Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella, which fuels Without Precedent: “Throughout her time on the bench, Abella’s progressive and compassionate rulings made headlines on both sides of debate,” writes Atkinson. “Not everyone was a fan. The documentary includes footage of the resistance and protests at her various appointments to the Ontario Court of Appeal and later the Supreme Court — criticism of legal rulings and being an “activist judge” persisted until her retirement. Abella’s outgoing message reiterated her belief that judges should reflect the people they serve.”
At Variety, Jennie Punter looks at a strong slate of western Canadian productions, including I’m Just Here for the Riot, the doc by Asia Youngman and Kat Jayme about the Vancouver hockey riot. “’The riot was a story that no one had ever really talked about,’ said Youngman, who’s currently working on a film about the first Indigenous woman to compete in Japan for professional wrestling. ‘We found out Vancouver was the only city in North America that rioted because of a loss of a game—it was like a black cloud and I think people were ashamed.’”
At Original Cin, Jim Slotek interviews Without Precedent director Barry Avrich on telling the story of Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella: “She was right of out Hollywood central casting in so many ways,” Avrich tells Slotek. “It’s an amalgam of Bette Midler meets the ultimate Jewish grandmother meets Barbara Walters…I think I did a bit of a balancing act in the film, because there are those who were not fans. Some of those people who were not fans of hers I invited to be in the film, and in classically Canadian fashion, they declined.”
At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen speaks with director Philippe Falardeau and writer Nancy Guerin about Lac-Méganitic: This Is Not an Accident and bringing a Quebec tragedy to the screen. “I wanted the real voices of the people in Mégantic to carry this story,” says Falardeau. “It’s so emotionally involving,” acknowledges Falardeau. “You go home at night and there’s no fire door closing behind you. The emotion and the testimonies pour into your house and you sleep looking at the ceiling, thinking about these people and thinking about their grief.”
TV Talk/Series Scribbles
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz draws readers’ attention to the latest blind-and-you’ll-miss-it release from Apple, Silo: “This is a heavy tale of humanity’s last stand, with each actor committing to their dark world through and through. [Rebecca] Ferguson, best known for her work in the later Mission: Impossible films, is a standout here, a hero of steel nerves and unbreakable determination,” writes Hertz.
At What She Said, Anne Brodie agrees on the Silo front: “Rebecca Ferguson is Juliette, an engineer, trying to solve the murder of someone close to her, so she keeps things to herself. But one day, the Sherriff decides he must know what’s outside. He must clean the window; everything depends on it. Suspense, dread, death, and murder are present in the Silo. Will they ever have the surface as their home again? At what price? A terrific international cast includes Common, Harriet Walker, Tim Robbins, Harriet Walker and Will Patton.” Get Organized: The Home Edit, meanwhile, might be worth streaming in the background amid spring cleaning: “Their accumulated wisdom has netted them workable solutions to clutter and mess, like the rainbow theory, specific containers, labels, and the kinds of things that help transform the personal spaces of the owners who have taken consumerism too far.”
At Original Cin, Karen Gordon looks at the Anne Frank drama A Small Light: “In eight parts, the series paints a picture of a society that is pursuing daily life, while Nazi restrictions and attitudes begin to seep in to some of the residents. Others, like Miep, refuse to compromise their humanity and their morality, and put their lives at incredible risk for what they believe is right.”