TFCA Friday: Week of Nov. 11

November 11, 2022

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

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


In Release this Week


All Jacked Up and Full of Worms (dir. Alex Phillips)


“Sound and visual effects are inventive in a low-budget way —including a scene in which Roscoe envisions a giant worm floating in the air, like a Chinese paper dragon. There are even a couple of jokes that sort of land: Want to get high faster? Snort your worms. What would worm addicts do when their supply runs out? Rob a live bait shop, of course,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “So, points for shoe-string filmmaking on several fronts. But however open-minded one might try to be, it’s hard to imagine how high, or how low, you’d have to be to recognize human beings in this grungy geek fantasy.”


Bantu Mama (dir. Ivan Herrerra; Nov. 17)


“Director Herrera is not fond of explaining what is going on in his film,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “A lot of scenes are also shot at night and it is sometimes hard to figure out what is happening in the darkness.”


Being Thunder (dir. Stephanie Lamorre)


Sherente’s great triumph ends this portrait, indicating to us, as concerned viewers, that she is going to be fine,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Stéphanie Lamorré’s sensitive doc raises multiple issues that must no longer be ignored.”


Being Thunder is a welcome and insightful portrait of Two-Spiritedness that uses Sherenté’s openness and resilience to explore a facet of both the rainbow and Indigenous culture that remains under-examined in film and media,” says Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “Sherenté provides a worthy role model for queer youths.”


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (dir. Ryan Coogler)


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a return to the old Marvel magic filled with spectacle and superheroes but more than that, what Coogler and his co-writer Joe Robert Cole have created is a gift. A chance for Boseman’s castmates and the characters they played to say goodbye — and move the story forward,” says Eli Glasner at CBC. “The film opens with a surprising illness claiming T’Challa, the king of Wakanda. There is anger and confusion mirroring how the world learned of his secret battle. On screen Black Panther gets a solemn send-off, a coffin with his iconic mask ascending into the sky as the nation stands in stark white garments. Expect theaters filled with sobbing.”


“While there is a lot crammed into the film’s nearly three-hour running time, Wakanda Forever falls into the same potholes as other MCU films. The film occasionally stumbles when it tries to balance the central plot with its requirements to set up the story for future Marvel properties. Although one of the reveals will bring a smile to hardcore Marvel fans, the introduction into the universe feels stunted,” writes Courtney Small at That Shelf. “Although the business of Marvel occasionally risks overshadowing the story, Coogler’s skilled hands remain firmly in control. Offering a much-needed collective catharsis and thrilling action, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a tribute fit for a king.”


“The middle portion of the film groans from expositional overload, as familiar Black Panther characters return with differing impacts: Danai Gurira’s Okoye, leader of Wakanda’s all-female Dora Milaje military force; Lupita Nyong’o’s Wakandan master spy, Nakia; Winston Duke’s gruff M’Baku, a rural Wakandan defender; and Martin Freeman’s CIA good guy, Everett K. Ross,” writes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “Gurira’s Okoye fares the best of all the supporting players. Her supremely stoic character is allowed to grow and experience pain and humour, the latter an important asset to the film.”


“It’s fast and frantic and maintains a high level of tension for almost three hours,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “That’s a problem – too much of a muchness without subtlety or relief; putting it into comic book/video $$$ game universe. Director Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole laid it on thick, but they did give us a satisfying tribute to the late, great Black Panther and hope for the future.”


“The first 30 minutes of the film are dedicated to T’Challa’s death with a moving, ceremonial sendoff and an incredibly touching rework of the Marvel logo. His death is explained as an undisclosed illness that he kept to himself, and part of Shuri’s grief is that her brother suffered silently, never asking for her or anyone’s help. While some may find this parallel to reality too close for comfort, there is an element of catharsis that is evident in the cast’s emotional performances when it’s clear that no actual acting was needed,” observes Rachel Ho at Exclaim!. “Boseman was the soul of Wakanda, and though his absence is felt, Wakanda Forever respectfully and thoughtfully carries his spirit on for future generations.”


“Initially, Wakanda Forever’s problems feel minor-key, even forgivable given the circumstances. The story, for starters, is a slick packaging of comic-book canon, MCU franchise obligations, and grand thematic urgency,” notes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “The thunderous explosions and clenched jaws and steely speeches are all stretched and inflated to an interminable, unjustifiable length that underlines just how much pressure Coogler placed upon himself (and was placed upon him) to get this tribute-slash-cash-cow right.”


“The pacing feels a little languid by Marvel standards – long minutes go by without anything blowing up – but the action scenes, when they arrive, are worth the wait. One finds Shuri and Okoye (Danai Gurira) attempting to spirit Riri out of America while the feds try to stop them, and the blue people show up to fight with both sides,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “There is a mid-credit sequence worth watching, and the wait will give you time to appreciate Rihanna’s sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated new song, Lift Me Up.”


“Add the expansive production budget, and one can expect lavish costumes, exotic African-type choreography and massive set action pieces,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “A few things are not right here – such as the princess wearing ivory ear ornaments (ivory now banned and frowned upon in the world as poachers kill elephants for their tusks); the fondness for totally white attire) But the film lacks that bite that makes it stand out – never mind the emphasis of black lives that matter.”


Wakanda Forever is far from a failure, except that where there should be excellence, there is a middling feeling of watching something spectacularly competent,” admits Thom Ernst at Original Cin. Wakanda Forever is a busy movie with a wider cultural outreach than its predecessor. But there are no unauthorized superhero cameos to crash the party (unless you consider Martin Freeman reprising his role as Everett, their man on the inside, heroic). There are plenty of references, from Transformers to Titanic, plus a scene that might have the unintentional effect of making one nostalgic for Ray Harryhausen to help carry you through the film’s two-hours-and-forty-minutes of screen time.”

Capturing the Killer Nurse (dir. Tim Travers Hawkins)


“Hawkins’ doc plays fast and gets to the point without any messing around,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “There is no Chastain or Redmayne to indulge in dramatic effects to enhance the story as in The Good Nurse, which (the story) is itself is chilling enough to be told as it is.”


Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (dir. Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson)


“The title of Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio could easily be interpreted as short-hand for ‘this is so not Disney,’” observes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “Deeper, darker, mordant, with a definite horror movie vibe, it is what you might expect from del Toro, a filmmaker who gave us Pan’s Labyrinth – essentially a dark fairy-tale wrapped in real-world fascism, as this is as well. (This Pinocchio is also nominally a musical, which some might also find frightening).”


“The film grinds to infrequent halts with random songs,” notes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “There’s no ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ here, although a scatological ode to Mussolini invites a few laughs. However, since one practically forgets the songs as soon as they’re over, the aura of the fable quickly pulls one back in… No film has ever created the puppet boy with such a personality. Who knew the key ingredient to Pinocchio was, well, wood?”


“I’m fawning over the images, as when Pinocchio practically sunbathes on a naval mine in one of many golden hour shots,” writes Radheyan Simonpillai at The Globe and Mail. “And I’m welcoming the hard gothic take on this centuries old fable that isn’t afraid to incorporate history’s cruelty. But I’m ultimately left unmoved and even a tad frustrated by a movie that’s easy to admire while it struggles to entertain.”


In Her Hands (dir. Tamana Ayazi, Marcel Mettelsiefen)


“When Ghafari leaves,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine, In Her Hands takes a jarring turn for another character. The film situates the stories within a collective of disenfranchised men who blame women’s progress for their ills. The film is not so much a portrait of a hero, as it is a powerful portrait of the necessity of heroes who take a stand.”


The Last of the Winthrops (dir. Vivian Winthrop)


The Last of the Winthrops is a relatively straight forward predictable documentary,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “So are many home movies that family members have taken great care to make. It also feels like one – just like sitting through a neighbour’s boring family movie.”


Mandrake (dir. Lynne Davison)


At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “a captivating film and a worthy debut from director Lynne Davison.”


Paradise City (dir. Chuck Russell)


Paradise City might look attractive featuring Bruce Willis and John Travolta who were also co-stars in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, but do not expect too much from director Chuck Russell’s  mis-directed and uninspired action flick,” advises Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


ROSIE (dir. Gail Maurice 🇨🇦)


“An authentic performance by Bray reveals her split feelings about being a mum to Rosie, and as a defiant, frustrating, and wreckless person who doesn’t realise she has been given a gift,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said.Rosie marks the feature debut of Métis filmmaker/actor Gail Maurice.”


“It’s a joyous story, propelled by a bouncy soundtrack that includes yet another use of Trooper’s ‘Raise a Little Hell’ in a Canadian film this year, after the recent Vandits and Drinkwater,” observes Chris Knight at the National Post. “Maurice, who is also First Nations, finds a way to wrap everything up tidily, the better to keep the film’s crowd-pleasing vibe intact.”


“Traumas notwithstanding, the main characters are all adorable, including Jigger (Brandon Oakes), the twinkle-eyed homeless guy on the corner, who takes to teaching Rosie Cree,” writes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “There will be a happy resolution, of course. Rosie is tragedy uplifted and leavened by positivity into something that is intended to leave the audience smiling. It’s preferable to gloom, I suppose.”


At Xtra, Pat Mullen chats with director Gail Maurice, who shares why she framed the story through a child’s eyes. “Maurice says she set ROSIE in the 1980s to reflect the time of her own queer awakening. “I grew up in Northern Saskatchewan and my village was only 700 people, so I wasn’t exposed to gay culture at all,” says Maurice. “ROSIE represents that time where it was wild and free…My heart was open like Rosie’s, which is why I made the lead a six-year-old. Children are innocent and I wanted Rosie to look at the world with wide-eyed acceptance.”


Sam & Kate (dir. Darren Le Gallo)


“It’s Christmas time, the tree’s up – along with expectations – with all the trimmings,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “As the four begin to open to one another, those frailties and vulnerabilities emerge and demand attention. The performances are solid and while a bit dour, the film offers gentle respite from the noise of provocative, demanding awards season entries.”


“For a romantic comedy, Sam & Kate is not really funny and in the dramatics department, it lacks bite and credibility,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The film ends up a meandering piece that appears to go nowhere for the most part and when something happens, it seems contrived.”


The Witch 2: The Other One (dir. Park Hoon-jung)


The Witch 2 does noticeably offer anything that have not been seen in U.S. horror flicks such as in for example, Stephen King’s Firestarter,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


A List of List: Box Office Woes/Wowzers

At Night Vision, Peter Howell breaks down the weekly box office, which saw Black Adam prove yet another triumph for superheroes, although this week’s trivia suggests that audiences might be hungry for a bit of nuance: “The title character was originally supposed to debut last year in the supervillain comedy The Suicide Squad,” writes Howell. “But the idea was dropped when James Gunn (‘Guardians of the Galaxy”) was named director.”


At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz has some streaming advice, including the tip for an overdue look at Bros: “We can talk all day (or, more likely, tweet all day) about why Bros failed at the box office,” writes Hertz. “Are straight audiences to blame for not showing up for this queer rom-com?” asks Hertz. “Or did Universal Pictures badly market the Billy Eichner vehicle, emphasizing its history rather than its comedy? Whatever the answer, now is the time to discover director Nicholas Stoller’s genuinely hilarious movie, which offers a wealth of knock-’em-dead jokes and super-charming lead performances from Eichner and Canadian Luke Macfarlane.”


A Festival of Festival Coverage: Lots to See at DOC NYC and Reel Asian


At POV Magazine, Marc Glassman and Pat Mullen preview 50 top picks at DOC NYC. Here’s Marc Glassman on one of the Canadian pics, Cabin Music: “Pianist and filmmaker James Carson has been merging his music with the natural world for decades. It took the classically trained musician away from the conservatory route, which started for him as a youth in Alberta, and put him on a long journey of self-exploration,” says Glassman. “His Cabin Music is a true artistic endeavour, capturing free form beautifully played piano music with the dance he perceives in the movement of people and, above all, birds. To say the least, this is not a standard doc but it is one that is made with sensitivity and perception.”


At Toronto Franco, Gilbert Seah previews Reel Asian and gets a few words with festival director Deanna Wong. “There has been a creative explosion of Asian talent both on screen and behind the camera this past year, as our collective storytelling gets stronger,” Wong tells Seah. “This year, we are incredibly fortunate to be able to share an abundance of outstanding films with our audiences and also expand our offerings to both in person and digital experiences as we continue our commitment to showcasing the best in Asian cinema.”


TV Talk/Series Scribbles


At Toronto Life, Marriska Fernandes chats with Oakville native Adam DiMarco about landing a part in the second season of Mike White’s hit series The White Lotus. “The first season went pretty in depth into privilege and class, and our season has all of that too,” says DiMarco. “But I think Mike had a bit more fun this time delving further into sexual politics and the sexual aspects of the characters. I remember him describing it as a bedroom fire. People are coming in and out of bedrooms, playing little games. There’s just so much to be extracted from the theme of sex—infidelity, sex addiction, sex as a power play. And Sicily is a very romantic place.”


At What She Said, Anne Brodie says the fifth season of The Crown delivers, especially with Elizabeth Debicki stepping into Diana’s shoes: “Debicki’s eerily real performance of the most famous woman in the world at the time, and maybe the loneliest, is physically a carbon copy of Diana.” Another series that plays with history is The English starring Emily Blunt: “This provocative and ultra-violent series may or may not be based on fact, but it certainly is the spirit of what we know about the white rush for land in the opening American west,” notes Brodie. Meawhile, Chris Hemsworth flexes his documentary series Limitless, which Brodie calls “an important and radical experience.” Audiences looking for laughs, though, might find them in Mammals: “One big can of worms, coming right up with a side of misleading truffles.” Mammals can learn the art of etiquette with the series Mind Your Manners, hosted by Sarah Jane Ho: “Ho instructs six people from around the world, one per episode, with a great sense of humour, understanding, and mentorship as we too soak up her knowledge,” writes Brodie. Finally, get the Christmas cheer going with The Santa Clauses: “Bright, colourful, noisy, and cheery with plenty of 3D effects to bewitch very young audiences,” says Brodie.


At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz profiles Sylvester Stallone, who is still going strong at 76 and starring in the new series Tulsa King: “Filming the show is equivalent to doing five sequels in a row, Rocky one through five non-stop. It beats you up, so I now have great compassion for people doing their ninth season of something,” Stallone tells Hertz. “Is the pleasure worth the pain? There’s also the isolation. How long have I been acting? After 46 or 47 years, I’ve spent at least 15 away from home.”