Reviews include Solo, Swan Song, and Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe.
TFCA Friday: Week of May 7
May 7, 2021
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot (Number 1 Will Blow Your Mind!) (dir. Zach Lumplugh)
“Your mind is likely to remain un-blown,” deadpans Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “That said, as a sort of scruffy, patched-together sketch-comedy parody of contemporary clickbait journalism, the film is often wryly funny.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it, “an easy watch and if one is not too demanding in one’s choice of movies – an entertaining film.”
The Boy from Medellín (dir. Matthew Heineman)
“It’s a beautiful-looking film that captures the intensity of a particular moment, but it ultimately boils a collective uprising down to a personal existential crisis that is not particularly revealing,” admits Kevin Ritchie at NOW Magazine.
“The backdrop for The Boy from Medellín is far more interesting than the favourable celebrity profile at its core,” sighs Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “The intent to do good and honour the larger picture is present, but it doesn’t go all in and is a near-miss as a result.”
A Bump Along the Way (dir. Shelley Love)
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah says this Derry-shot film is “a charming surprise [that] could be the sleeper of the year.”
“Director Shelly Love doesn’t really break any new ground with the story, but it glides along smoothly enough on the strong performances of the leads, completely believable as a somewhat wild quadregenarian and her please-don’t-embarrass-me-mammy daughter,” offers Chris Knight at the National Post.
The Columnist (dir. Ivo Van Aart)
“The Columnist is a revenge tale that exists in a realm of fables and allegories,” says Thom Ernst at Original Cin, noting that the film’s Dutch title is worth a Google. “It is a fairy tale that is more Grimm than Aesop. And because Aart isn’t concerned with realism or gaping plot holes that allow Boot to go undetected despite careless daylight killings, the film bounces between parody and parable.”
“A satisfying revenge fantasy, both wicked and deliciously entertaining set in the current times of unblocked social media,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
The Disciple (dir. Chaitanya Tamhane)
“The Disciple’s story unfolds through a series of beautifully composed, quietly scathing scenes that school viewers on the particulars of Northern Indian classical music,” writes Kevin Ritchie at NOW Magazine. “We watch as Sharad’s insistence on artistic purity slips into self-absorption as he is confronted with a series of rude awakenings, refusing to acknowledge that a level of financial success is a material necessity.”
Drifting Snow (dir. Ryan Noth 🇨🇦; May 11)
“Prince Edward County never looked so beautiful on film,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Drifting Snow, a meditation on mourning and kindred spirits offers a bracing, heartbreakingly beautiful dive into mid-winter there, off Lake Ontario. Howling winds and hard snow are the gorgeous backdrops for Ryan Noth’s simple story of connection.”
“A pensive, beautifully crafted film that ironically creates a warm fuzzy feeling celebrating the quiet pleasures of human connection in a gorgeous Canadian wintry setting,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Duty Free (dir. Sian-Pierre Regis)
“Duty Free spends little time exploring the ageism that’s at the heart of Danigelis’ employment difficulties,” admits Linda Barnard at Original Cin. “There’s a quick mention at the end of the doc that 25 million Americans don’t have enough money to pay for retirement, but no exploration of the how and why.”
“Rebecca’s emotional journey is challenging and Sian gives up his career to support her; it’s a tough spot,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Still, she’s a stiff upper lip Brit and withholds but she’s a terrific subject and her struggle’s real.”
Eat Wheaties! (dir. Scott Abramovitch)
“Possibly, Eat Wheaties! will age well, but at this point, there’s more cringe than comedy here,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “The character of Sid isn’t just endearingly awkward or amusingly fatuous, like Steve Carell’s Michael Scott in The Office. He’s just thickly insensitive.”
“Abramovitch and Hale have clearly worked hard to craft a character who is ungainly without being frightening – we remain fully aware through the film that, whatever else Sid may be, he’s not stalker material,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post.
“Ultimately, the movie is as odd as its hero, with a supporting cast filled with gifted comic players like Sarah Burns, Sarah Chalke, Elisha Cuthbert, Sarah Goldberg, Paul Walter Hauser, Lamorne Morris, Alan Tudyk and David Walton,” admits Norm Wilner at NOW Magazine. “And please make sure to watch it all the way to the end.”
“A winning film about losers!” cheers Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“The opening chapters are gently downcast and get darker as Sid struggles to maintain dignity even with his family, in the face of his cluelessness,” admits Anne Brodie at What She Said. “But after a long hard slog, the final chapters come roaring back to life.”
Fried Barry (dir. Ryan Kruger)
“Totally disgusting and funny!” – Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto
Here Are the Young Men (dir. Eoin Macken)
“Though suffering from a weak narrative, it is primarily the three solid dramatic and realistic performances that make the movie,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
The Outside Story (dir. Casimir Nozkowski)
“Henry … is quietly great in his first leading role, and Nozkowski keeps the tone pleasantly busy rather than panicked,” writes Norm Wilner at NOW Magazine. “There’s one scene that threatens to break the movie’s genial spell, but I’m pretty sure that’s by design.”
“The tone is light, reminiscent of an old Seinfeld episode,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “Henry, wasted in the recent Godzilla vs. Kong, brings his talents to bear here, hitting just the right note of oh-hell-no exasperation.”
“I’m a Brian Tyree Henry fan, and he shines in the intimate feel-good / character study The Outside Story,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“Director Nozkowski’s script is pretty cool,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Who can dislike a character like Charles who has a job as an editor for TCM? The script sneaks in a romance and messages like ‘Everything happens for a reason’ and helping one’s neighbour.”
Oxygen (dir. Alexander Aja)
“Director Aja’s hefty aims of a sci-fi horror sinks under its lofty goals,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Oxygen thy name is INTENSE,” reckons Anne Brodie at What She Said.
Reboot Camp (dir. Ivo Raza)
Noting cameos and good laughs a-plenty, Anne Brodie at What She Said chuckles, “Hilarious, insightful and really indicative of what we are as a species.”
Silo (dir. Marshall Burnette)
A “clichéd low budget disaster film that is neither insightful nor too entertaining (despite good intentions),” groans Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (dir. Marilyn Agrelo)
“I could watch hours upon hours of the musical sequences that are sprinkled throughout the doc, from the famous Pointer Sisters animated pinball sequence, through Stevie Wonder’s take on the theme song, Paul Simon strumming along with a “dance dance dance” obsessed young girl, to an amazing moment where Odetta shows up to sing to a small crowd,” sings Jason Gorber at POV Magazine.
“Marilyn Agrelo and Michael Davis’ documentary Street Gang How We Got to Sesame Street goes back to the show’s unlikely roots and traces its flowering, the characters and ideas along the way and the reasons for its existence,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“Street Gang shows the power of what good can accomplish, thus making watching (it) quite inspirational!” cheers Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Together Together (dir. Nikole Beckwith; May 11)
“Beckwith’s film educates with the trials, worry and wonder of the miracle of childbirth,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Tu me manques (dir. Rodrigo Bellot)
“In the era of Moonlight and Love, Simon, gay happy endings are more the norm,” observes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “But in its defense, Tu me manques reminds us that progress is only measured in comparison to the past, and the whole world does not move forward on the same time-frame.”
Wrath of Man (dir. Guy Ritchie)
This actioner is the”best, bloodiest surprise of the year,” according to Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “This is a determinedly dark, enjoyably grim endeavour that revels in the ugliness of underground characters who Ritchie typically employs for black comedy.”
“Guy Ritchie’s newest provides such a testosterone hit that I had to pause the movie 20 minutes in for a quick shave. It’s that manly,” grunts Chris Knight at the National Post.
“A mixed bag of tricks,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The film has an excellent first 30 minutes before getting muddled.”
Hot Docs: The Home Stretch
At Variety, Jennie Punter offers three reports on the Canadian biz. She speaks with programmers and producers about the Canadian slate and finds a crop of homegrown films engaged with diverse worldviews. “We saw a range of themes like other years, but we also saw a number of films where the subjects’ lives, or the production, were interrupted by COVID, so we have films that are shot over a period of time, with certain expectations, and then take a hard turn,” says programmer Alex Rogalski. Punter also reports on one of the most talked-about films of the festival, Elle-Máija Tailfeathers’ Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy and profiles Toronto’s Jennifer Holness ahead of the big premiere of her film Subjects of Desire, which celebrates Black beauty.
At POV Magazine, Jason Gorber chats with Hot Docs’ Outstanding Achievement Award winner Stanley Nelson about his career in documentary, working with William Greaves, and mentoring the next generation of filmmakers. Pat Mullen, meanwhile, dives into the animated essay film Archipelago with director Félix Dufour-Laperrière. He also speaks with Courtney Montour about her short doc Mary Two-Axe Earley and honouring women Indigenous activists, Danish singer Lukas Forchhammer about his music doc 7 Years of Lukas Graham, and Set! director Scott Gawlik about tackling the intensely entertaining world of high stakes competitive table setting. For more festival coverage from the POV team, visit their Hot Docs Hub, which includes reviews from members Marc Glassman, Susan G. Cole, and Liam Lacey. PS: POV’s latest issue is in the mail and features several member contributions!
At What She Said, Anne Brodie serves praise for Set!: “[A] surprisingly satisfying study of a cult-like pocket of the population that competes in Table Setting. Yes. Setting the table. Scott Gawlik covers the US to paint portraits of folks who time their lives out in accordance with the next Tablescaping competition. And yes, they exist, either as standalone events or as part of the annual Toronto Blooms exhibition.”
TV Talk: Jenkins, Gibney, Curtis, and more!
At NOW Magazine, Radheyan Simonpillai dives into Barry Jenkins’ The Underground Railroad. By his report, it’s a tough but worthy odyssey: “I won’t describe the violence, which outdoes anything we’ve seen in 12 Years a Slave or Django Unchained. Suffice to say the memory of it still leaves me feeling hollowed out. And that sensation has been far too familiar lately, not just because of recent headlines but also movies and TV shows that admonish racism but linger on Black suffering. The trauma porn has felt dialed up and inescapable between the Groundhog Day-style time loop in the Oscar-winning short film Two Distant Strangers, about a Black man who is murdered on repeat by police, and the abhorrent and unspeakable cruelty depicted in the 50s-set horror series Them.”
Marc Glassman at POV Magazine has lots to say about Alex Gibney’s latest documentary mini-series The Crime of the Century. Airing on Crave, The Crime of the Century tackles the opioid crisis with the makings of a classic noir. The film “should be seen by people who still believe in the legal system and the democratic process,” writes Glassman.
At What She Said, Any Brodie finds a dose of true crime in Dark Woods: “There seems to be no shortage of suspects, a woodsman living in the firest who collects weapons, a cemetery gardener whose narcissistic egotism may distract from his private life, and a serial killer in whose basement the bodies of several women are found. Now, remember this is a true story! Yikes.”
Gilbert Seah tunes into the latest animated Star Wars series The Bad Batch, but isn’t hooked. “It is difficult to get really excited with animated beings fighting each other or animated weapons and structures being blown up,” writes Seah at Afro Toronto.
At NOW Magazine, Norm Wilner struggles with the third season of The Girlfriend Experience, writing, “Goldani Telles is strangely flat as both Iris and her sexytime alter ego Cassie, moving through scenes like a blunt object (and, at several points, adopting a truly horrible English accent).” There is, however, a milder level of enthusiasm for Jupiter’s Legacy: “If Invincible didn’t give you enough parent-child superhero material, Netflix’s adaptation of the 2013 comic created by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely is here to double down on conversations about the whole great power, great responsibility thing.”
Writing on the latest Adam Curtis opus Can’t Get You Out of My Head for Cinema-Scope, Jason Anderson bobs to Kylie Minogue and joins the chorus: “Freer and unrulier in their mergers of sound and image, the most mesmerizing passages of Can’t Get You Out of My Head feel like extensions of Curtis’ partnerships with Massive Attack on the 2013 installation Everything Is Going According to Plan and the visual backdrops for the trip-hop heavyweights’ Mezzanine tour in 2019. As much as his montage technique remains rooted in the lessons of Emile de Antonio and Craig Baldwin, Curtis’ capacity for surprising and exciting juxtapositions has increased, perhaps because he demonstrates a greater understanding of when to linger on a moment and let the viewer sink into the mood he’s calibrated so carefully.”
Summer Movies and Fall Festivals
What’s the forecast for summer moviegoing? With the dumpster fire that is Ontario’s vaccine rollout, that all depends on movie theatres’ ability to open their doors. Fortunately, Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail breaks down the annual summer movie preview into two sections: titles that are definitely coming to streamers/VOD like Cruella, Akilla’s Escape and CODA, and the bigger movies, like A Quiet Place 2, F9, and In the Heights that depend on theatrical screens and/or distributor goodwill.
Yes, Toronto, there will be a film festival in September. Barry Hertz gets the scoop on TIFF’s plans for the 2021 festival. Speaking with co-heads Cameron Bailey and Joana Vincente, the organizers admit that all full-fledged live event is unlikely and instead expect a hybrid live/online festival like last year’s showcase, albeit on a larger scale. ““It’s going to take a lot for us to get back to where we were, so we’re hoping there’s support for not just us, but for independent cinemas across the country,” Bailey says.”
With theatres and festivals operating on shaky ground, how are productions faring? Barry Hertz offers a case study with Six Guns for Hire and speaks with star Colm Feore and producers Matt Campagna and Melissa D’Agostino about keeping cameras rolling during COVID. “The biggest challenge is trying to retain any sense of ‘normal’ between the words ‘action’ and ‘cut’,” says Feore. “Everything about our new protocols isolates each of us in what is usually a hugely collaborative operation. Matt promised and delivered a very safe environment while at the same time creating a free space to work, even if I had to be alone to do it.”
On the photography front, Kevin Ritchie at NOW Magazine highlights some of the outdoor attractions at the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. Among the highlights are works by this year’s Jay Scott Prize winner Kelly Fyffe-Marshall at Malvern Public Library and Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute. “CONTACT’s curatorial visions are often rooted in social, economic and environmental dilemmas,” notes Ritchie, writing in collaboration with Kelsey Adams. “Following the groundbreaking year of widespread critical analysis of the power structures that govern our world, artists created works that explore the Black experience in contemporary and colonial times, Indigenous sovereignty and anti-colonialism, women’s bodies as sites of power, humanity’s impact on the environment and surviving extended periods of isolations throughout the pandemic.”