TFCA Friday: Week of Nov. 4

November 4, 2022

The Swearing Jar | levelFILM

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; Nov. 8)


“[T]he weirdest most disgusting film that can be seen in theatres or VOD this year,” winces Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “This is not necessarily a good thing. Undoubtedly a curiosity piece, but All Jacked Up and Full of Worms is a film one would find hard to get out of one’s mind.”


Armageddon Time (dir. James Gray)


“A child’s eye view of how small sins of daily life can add up to major wrongs,” says Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “It’s directed by Cannes regular James Gray, from his personal experiences and observations growing up in Queens, New York, in the 1980s at the dawn of the Ronald Reagan presidency. There are superb performances across the board, especially by the youngest members of the cast (Banks Repeta, Jaylin Webb) and the oldest (Anthony Hopkins).”


“There’s a lot going on here. Armageddon Time is a kind of coming of age story, or at least the beginning of one, and also one that deals with race and class. Gray gives us the child’s view of all of this. The moments of friendship, silliness, but also the contradictory messages Paul gets from the significant adults in his life,” observes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “This is a thoughtful movie. Gray isn’t sending us out of the theatre with neatly tied-up threads.”


At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it an “excellent personal period coming-of-age drama.”


“Johnny is almost always used as a lesson about race and injustice without ever getting his own storyline,” observes Marriska Fernandes at Exclaim!. “Casual racism is a key theme in the movie for Paul and his family, but it’s never given more oxygen. The film doesn’t justly serve Johnny; he’s just a tool who, oftentimes, is just forgotten.”


“It’s a fraught time to be a young actor. Hard enough to shoulder the weight of a starring role in a major motion picture – imagine the added difficulty of being asked to perform as a young version of the man directing the film,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “It’s a messy film, which doesn’t help Repeta’s performance. The script wants him to be a holy terror one moment, a budding artist the next, sensitive and unselfconscious and sometimes unaware that he’s being a monumental jerk. It’s a tall order for anyone, and the young actor does the best he can with it.”


“Gray fills his memory play with curiously enticing detours, including one extended cameo from an actress who I won’t reveal that rips his audience right into the present before splashing them back down in the 1980s,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “But every detail and narrative swerve are stacked on top of the other to build a monumental story of compromises and consequences. This is a brave film, bracing and thoughtful.” And, after getting named-checked by Kendall Roy on Succession, The Globe and Mail declares Armageddon Time star Jeremy Strong “the fiercest actor of his generation.” Hertz speaks with Strong and learns how the actor draws from insecurities to fuel his work. “You know, out of that feeling of despair, usually discoveries happen,” Strong tells Hertz. “I’ve certainly got to the point where I feel that I’ve taken on something that I can’t do, and don’t know how to do. But you go further into it and get to the other side, and you discover something. I haven’t yet not been able to make it to the other side.”


“Cut to a school assembly where Maryann Trump, played by Jessica Chastain in one of those powerhouse cameos that take a film to another level, outlines the rules of the game,” says Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “The future judge preaches to the boys about hard work. ‘No handouts,’ she sternly advises. This is, of course, rich coming from a product of one of New York’s most privileged dynasties. (Although Maryann doubtlessly worked much harder than her brother Donald did.) Something in Ms. Trump’s words touches Paul. He’s not entirely buying what she’s selling as he recognizes that he and Johnny aren’t on the same playing field.”


“The most beautiful aspect of Armageddon Time is young Paul’s respect for his grandfather,” observes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “Anthony Hopkins gives a fine performance as Aaron, a European Jew, still grieving the loss of so many friends and relatives during the Holocaust, but he still holds onto his idealism and belief in supporting the underdog in every situation. There’s a lovely moment when Paul launches a toy rocket ship in a park with his grandfather, which shows how precious a bond can be created between an older generation and a younger one.”


Causeway (dir. Lila Neugebauer)


“To be clear, nothing very much happens externally in Causeway,” notes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “It is a movie where events are on a replay loop in characters’ heads (though it doesn’t resort to graphic depictions of same). It’s bold to make a film like Causeway these days. Wounded-people-find-each-other films have worked, from 1962’s David and Lisa to another Lawrence film, 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook. But where the latter had loud humour to fall back on, Causeway meanders on one mood, fueled by Linsey and James’ shared curiosity of the others’ trauma. This they do over beers, pot and the occasional trespass in a clients’ pool.”


“Causeway treads similar terrain to the 2014 Jennifer Aniston awards vehicle Cake with its portrait of grief and healing, but also its somewhat staid effort to find a story to match the weight of its lead performance,” notes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “Similarly, Lawrence’s performance finds great catharsis in a relatively bleak affair. Lynsey’s scene of reconciliation with her brother, played out entirely in sign language, is a moving window into this young woman and her family’s pain. Much like Aniston’s acclaimed turn in Cake, which makes a dud of a movie worth seeing thanks to one shattering feat of silent acting, Lawrence’s layered turn leads Causeway to a memorable final act. It’s just too bad the film itself is such a slog.”


Enola Holmes 2 (dir. Harry Bradbeer)


“In Enola Holmes 2, there is a bit too much action, Enola claiming to know Jiu Jitsu for Holmes fans, but at least there is more balance that can be acceptable,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Holmes fans love the wits and brains and not the brawn and action in solving the cases.”


Good Night Oppy (dir. Ryan White)


Good Night Oppy is an exciting, educational and entertaining film, set to instil wonder in audiences of just about any age,” writes Jason Gorber at POV Magazine. “And while it may feel slightly like cheerleading, it’s nonetheless a welcome addition to the range of space docs that thrive on large format screens. Seen through the eyes of children, it will be easy to fall for the charismatic portrayal of these rovers. Seen through the slightly more jaded lenses of adulthood, you’ll nonetheless likely be swayed by the powerful story and mindboggling human achievement.”


My Policeman (dir. Michael Grandage)


“Adapted by Ron Nyswaner (the Oscar winning Philadelphia) from the Bethan Roberts novel, and directed by Michael Grandage with restraint and understated elegance, My Policeman shows both the quiet power of a love the fortunate times gay people now live in,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


“The love scenes are choreographed to the point of being clinical. They let viewers see some cheeks without feeling any heartbeats,” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “Compare the trysts of My Policeman to the rough-and-tumble coupling of Bros, which gloriously let Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane slap one another with manly delight: there’s a huge difference when a sex scene has a palpably passionate pulse and the other plays like dead fish at a market.”


“Just as he was left grasping for gravitas in September’s high-concept thriller Don’t Worry Darling, Styles seems adrift and frustrated by his duties in My Policeman, never quite sure of or confident in his acting abilities,” admits Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Perhaps a stronger director could have tethered Styles to the bubbling frustrations and dashed dreams of Tom, but Styles seems perpetually kept at a distant, frustrating remove from his character.”


“In a bit of stunt casting, pop star Harry Styles is Tom, the titular character, a married Brighton copper,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “The muted colour palette, the isolation, sadness, and pain make for a dreary couple of hours, uplifted by forgiveness and the importance of finding one’s way.”


“There’s nothing particularly problematic or offensive about My Policeman (and the cast — Styles included — is perfectly serviceable), except perhaps how cold it left me, and how unnecessary it seemed to begin with,” writes Peter Knegt at CBC Arts. “This is not to say we can’t have another inclusion in this subgenre of queer cinema; it’s just that, given how many times this type of story has been told so well, you have to really have something to say if you’re going to give it another go.” Knegt recommends five other queer tragedies that are more worth your time than My Policeman.


At the Toronto Star, Marriska Fernandes speaks with director Michael Grandage, who shares his excitement over casting Harry Styles and hopes that the rocker disappears in viewers’ minds: “The point of acting is that you take on another character and then you inhabit that character,” Grandage tells Fernandes. “The ultimate goal is that somebody as global as Harry would, as quickly as possible in the film, make you forget that you’re watching him and you watch the character instead of the actor.”


At Elle Canada, Fernandes also speaks with star Emma Corrin, who thinks My Policeman’s tragic love story should resonate with young people today. “I was really captured by how much I felt like so many people would be able to relate to it today, and how much it will remind people that even though this is a film about the past, and the period of time in the past, where a lot of people didn’t have the freedom to love who they wanted to know or be who they wanted to be like, we still have so much progress to make,” Corrin says. “And it really gives people the courage and willingness to keep fighting for that.”


My Small Land (dir. Emma Kawawada; Nov. 9)


“Director Kawawada’s film (which is based on her novel and her experiences) is sincere and well-intentioned but sometimes feels too manipulative,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


“What starts as a slow, gentle coming-of-age story builds note by note to a dramatic, gutwrenching cry for social justice in a world teeming with immigrants,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said.My Small Land is Kawawada’s impressive first feature and the first feature released by Momo Films, a new distributor in Canada specialising in Japanese film.”


Nothing Last Forever (dir. Jason Kohn)


“Author Aja Raden’s hilarious, searing takedown of the diamond myth alone is worth watching,” notes Anne Brodie at  What She Said. “She says the problem is not synthetic diamonds but lack of disclosure about them, i.e. fraud. She calls DeBeer’s sale of Black Boxes to detect fakes ‘security theatre.’ This excellent doc argues both sides with zealots and common sensers on both sides.”


The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile (dir. Kathlyn Horan)


“The somewhat awkwardly titled documentary, The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile, turns out to be an accurate summary of a film that celebrates two women,” notes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “The film, by Kathlyn Horan, is an entirely straight-forward chronicle of the recording, release and eventual success of Tucker’s 2019 album, While I’m Livin’, which earned Tucker four Grammy nominations and one win.”


“What follows is a joyous look at the creative process, as Tucker makes some new recordings of old standards, but also works on fresh material,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post. “Interspersed with this story, clips and images of a much younger Tucker from the 1970s, when she flew high and crashed hard, tried (and failed) to move into rock music, and took to drinking. During that time she was also dating Glen Campbell, 22 years her senior.”


“The doc praises Tanya to no end, so fans of Tanya should be more than pleased,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


“Carlile devoted five years to T’s comeback and while T hesitates at each step, she’s also grateful and surprised by the attention,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “There are moments of excruciating tension but there is so much love for her from the musical team, T’s boyfriend and her adoring adult son, let alone Carlile. The final act is a complete joy and says a lot about T’s strength.”


The Return of Tanya Tucker is the story of a survivor, a talent given her long-overdue recognition as an artist rather than merely a celebrity,” says Jason Gorber at POV Magazine. “The film serves well to both contextualize this return but also show the challenges that were overcome in its making, highlighting Carlile in particular for both her musical and psychological assistance. Given that Carlile has recently coaxed the likes of Joni Mitchell back to the stage to enormous celebration, this may be a particular part of her own legacy as someone able to reignite flames while there is still time for them to burn.”


Satan’s Slaves 2 (dir. Joko Anwar)


“Director Anwar creates many excellent horror action pieces set in the dark of a power outage, scenes lit only by candle or flashlight,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Gilbert. “Another scary horror film with an Indonesian flavour.”


Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me (dir. Alek Keshishian)


“Keshishian followed Gomez for six years and the result is this powerful, naked, and hopeful portrait of a woman in crisis and her unique journey to recovery,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “She writes her diary, talks with friends, and allows herself to be heartbreakingly vulnerable. My Mind & Me is worlds apart from Madonna: Truth or Dare, Keshishian’s revolutionary 1991 doc on another, much tougher superstar.”


The Swearing Jar (dir. Lindsay MacKay 🇨🇦)


“If this were a generic rom-com, these scenes would be squished into a sparkly, wordless montage, but The Swearing Jar gives the genre an indie spin,” notes Johanna Schneller at The Globe and Mail. “Hewlett is smart enough to know that if she has a character say, ‘It’s a rare and miraculous thing to find your one true soulmate,’ then she better show us some specifics in why these two particular people click like no others. And not just their physical sparks, but the ways in which they fight, and the things they say to make each other laugh.”


“It’s one to savour, as Clemens’ Carrie weathers a tragic upheaval and attempts to move forward,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “This brilliantly conceived story is a truthful and complex study of mourning, moving on, and the enduring quality of love; it’ll get you.”


“I haven’t even got to Kathleen Turner, the Oscar nominee who delivers a fantastic performance,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “What else can one say without ruining the surprises in store? Only that the characters are so complicatedly real, in the script and the performance, that there were moments where I was certain Carey and Simon’s marriage was doomed, times I wanted it to be, and periods of feeling the exact opposite. The Swearing Jar will play with your emotions and your anticipations. But it will also earn every tug on your heartstrings, every reversal of expectation.”


Vandits (dir. Stu Stone 🇨🇦)


“An early Christmas present out of Winnipeg, Vandits imagines what would happen if a heist comedy got crossed with Groundhog Day,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post. “The result may not be everyone’s slice of turkey, but it goes far on its Looney-Tunes energy, courtesy of director, co-writer and actor Stu Stone.”


Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (dir. Eric Appel)


“It’s high-energy, non-stop zaniness, full of bonkers, off-the-wall humour and celebrity cameos, as in famous people playing different famous people,” laughs Chris Knight at the National Post. “Weird Al himself pops up as a record executive who doesn’t get why people would want to listen to parodies of music they already own. This might just be the funniest comedy of the year. It’s certainly the weirdest.”


“[W]ho would be more willing to sign on to a movie called Weird than Radcliffe? The erstwhile wizard, whose homegrown lip fuzz seems more ‘porn ‘stache’ than parodist, is having fun. This is his preference these days, the weirder the choice the better. He’s worn demon horns (in Horns), played a farting, floating corpse in Swiss Army Man and a youthful version of the poet Allen Ginsberg (Kill Your Darlings),” notes,” Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “Physically, the casting seems like part of the joke. The real Yankovic is more than six feet tall. But Radcliffe throws himself head first into over-the-top substance abuse, gunplay and at least one near-death experience.”


At the Toronto Star, Marriska Fernandes speaks with star Daniel Radcliffe about diving into Weird Al’s world, which including some pretty strange scenarios. “[T]he weirdest scene is the drug trip sequence where I burst out of a giant glowing egg naked, except for this electric guitar while covered in slime,” Radcliffe tells Fernandes. “That was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done, but that was great. Getting to work with Evan (Rachel Wood) and getting to do all the crazy love scenes as we document Al’s relationship with Madonna … that was really fun and crazy.”


The Willowbrook (dir. Zach Koepp; Nov. 8)


“Director Koepp’s social media horror film is watchable, not because it is very good but it is at times quite bad,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The odd things like the operated farm and other weird goings-on are difficult to explain and also quite unbelievable that all the evil can be managed by just one woman – Lacey Willowbrook. She should also offer management courses online. The film gets increasingly weird rather than scary.”


The Wonder (dir. Sebastián Lelio)


The Wonder is a compelling film, one fully in keeping with the novel by the Irish-Canadian writer Emma Donoghue,” says Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “Like Room, Donoghue’s huge success as a novel and a film, The Wonder has dark issues to be revealed but that doesn’t prevent an unlikely but very happy ending to take place. And perhaps that’s the most brilliant thing about Donoghue: her conclusions feel deserved, not imposed by publishers or producers. They’re simply the way that life can turn out if people finally get the luck they deserve.”


“Pugh, in a magnificent turn as Lib, eats often and lustily as she has in previous films,” munches Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Pugh’s brilliant, as always and young Cassidy is a revelation. Extraordinary opening and closing scenes with co-star Niamh Algar looking at us, assuring us what we have seen shouldn’t surprise us.”


“A compelling and disturbing film that joins the list of many films condemning religion and the Catholic Church in particular,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.


File Under Miscellaneous: Tarantino, Coogler, and Cronenberg


At the Toronto Star, Peter Howell cracks the spine on Quentin Tarantino’s book Cinema Speculation and reads about the director’s professed indifference to criticism. “Funny he should say that, because it’s clear in a chapter about movie critics that he really does care what people think about him,” observes Howell. “Naming writers for the Los Angeles Times whom he despises — Tarantino really should have bottled this bile, which is unworthy of him — he unloads on movie critics in general: ‘It would appear most critics writing for newspapers and magazines set themselves up as superior to the films they were paid to review. Which I could never understand, because judging from their writing, that was clearly not the case.’”


At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz chats with Black Panther director Ryan Coogler about Wakanda Forever and carrying on after the loss of star Chadwick Boseman. “I think Lupita was dreading us handling it in a different way than what we were doing, but after we talked she felt better. I myself didn’t have dread. I felt like we were doing something that was honest and right,” Coogler tells Hertz. “I was nervous, though. As I am whenever I’m getting ready to do something that has a great importance to me and my family and my life. I get quite a bit of anxiety. But I feel like we were doing something that Chad would approve of.”


At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz offers five picks for streaming. There are Netflix movies and a trip back to The White Lotus, but most importantly, David Cronenberg’s latest film, Crimes of the Future, is now available to watch at home with the kids: “Crimes of the Future is a testament to the twisty, squishy, uncompromising vision of a brilliant filmmaker whose imagination is endless and endlessly terrifying,” writes Hertz.


A Festival of Festival Coverage: WIFF and Cinefranco


At Toronto Franco, Gilbert Seah previews Cinéfranco and gets some words from executive director Marcelle Lean about the festival’s 25th anniversary. “Cinéfranco 2022 is a particularly bittersweet anniversary as we celebrate without my dear colleague and friend Bernard Lecerf who passed away this summer,” Lean tells Seah. “For 6 years, Bernard was the glue of Cinéfranco tirelessly and gracefully working behind the scene to make us look good. His Cinéfranco family misses him terribly as do I. Here’s to you, mon cher ami, Bernard.”


At Original Cin, Liam Lacey previews Cinéfranco and observes that there’s much more to French cinema than the usual images of Parisians strolling down the street with baguettes. “As this year’s festival reminds us, French-speaking people also enjoy such universally amusing things as a woman trying to pee in a coffee cup in her car, a snooty banker getting a golf club in the teeth or a cheating naked  bride hiding in a double bass case,” writes Lacey. “Cinéfranco, the largest festival of francophone cinema in English Canada, is determinedly inclusive. Cinéfranco includes 19 features and one shorts program in person in Toronto at three downtown theatres. Another nine features and two shorts programs are available online across Canada.”


At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen reports from the Windsor Film Festival where Riceboy Sleeps won the WIFF Prize in Canadian Film, which now carries a $25,000 prize. He speaks with Festival director Vincent Georgie about upping the ante. “‘One of the best ways to be committed to Canadian film is committing to it,’ notes Georgie. ‘We exhibit it, we show it, we promote it, but then the prize goes right to the filmmaker and we’re doing something substantial.’ Georgie says the move to raise the purse to $25,000 from $15,000 was one of the easiest decisions the WIFF board has ever made. ‘We wanted to make a very strong statement to Canadian filmmakers that we are here, we’re behind you, and we want to honour you.’”


TV Talk/Streaming Scribbles


At What She Said, Anne Brodie discovers there’s yet another Rolling Stones documentary, this time titled My Life as a Rolling Stone: “While the narration script is a bit plummy and obvious, the interviews are terrific, especially Mick’s,” says Brodie. As for the Keith Richards episodes, Brodie finds it electric: “The filmmakers again nail the sensuality of the band’s music, this time focussing on that unmistakable sound of Keith Richards on his guitar.” Then there’s a slice of history in James Hemmings: Ghost in America’s Kitchen: “No portraits of Hemings have been found and just one grocery list, but his influence is felt today across the Americas,” notes Brodie. However, film buffs fight enjoy the blast from the past of Blockbuster and the return to video store days: “Staffers, young and old are well-steeped in film and are just as keen to keep Tommy and their now-famous Blockbuster on track. Fun, light, thirty-minute episodes of cultural humour.”


At Exclaim!, Rachel Ho chats with Blockbuster’s Randall Park, who debates the pros and cons of online shopping versus visiting brick and mortar stores for the full experience: “I can’t say I really miss this, because we still can do it, but I do love going into a store and buying clothing. I love going in, trying clothes on, feeling the fabric,” says Park. “It’s a very personal and tactile thing. I still don’t fully get buying clothes online; I don’t understand it. I do it on occasion, but a piece of me dies every time I return something that didn’t fit right or just feels wrong for some reason.”