Reviews include Slash/Back, Elvis, and Official Competition.
TFCA Friday: Week of Oct. 1
October 1, 2021
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
The Addams Family 2 (dir. Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan)
“They’re dull though animated / Macabre but PG-rated / And sad to say I hated / The Addams Family!” sings Chris Knight at the National Post.”
Adventures of a Mathematician (dir. Thor Klein)
“Though decently acted and with convincing production values, the film only partly succeeds in turning Ulam’s eventful biography into an effective drama,” says Liam Lacey at Original Cin.
American Night (dir. Della Valle)
“The Jonathan Rhys Meyers paint splattering sex scene that is perhaps inspired by Antonioni’s Blow Up is definitely disgustingly low grade trying to pass on artistic. The entire film has that similar feel, with director Della Valle trying to pass his nonsense as art. The Andy Warhol slant in the film is typical. Does Warhol pass as art or is he just plain kitsch?” asks Glibert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Falling for Figaro (dir. Ben Lewin)
“Endearing, clever and funny, with stirring acting and singing, Falling for Figaro is heartwarming fodder for a cold fall night,” advises Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“Figaro works largely because of Lewin’s talent for casting actors more suited to the roles than to any box-office appeal,” notes Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “But as good as Macdonald is, it should come as no surprise that it’s Joanna Lumley who steals the show.”
“Directed and co-written by Australia’s Ben Lewin, who also made the sweet biopic The Sessions with Helen Hunt and John Hawkes back in 2012, Falling for Figaro features some fabulous Scottish scenery, pitch-perfect singing voices and PG-rated romance. What less could you ask for?” wonders Chris Knight at the National Post.
Fire Music (dir. Tom Surgal)
“Tom Surgal, a veteran music video director and musician, has made with Fire Music, a labour of love: a film that passionately traces the musical fight against the mainstream through the evolution of the brilliant but obscure form known as free jazz,” writes Marc Glassman at Classical FM.
The Guilty (dir. Antoine Fuqua)
“Jake Gyllenhaal blazes as a hotheaded cop assigned to 911 call centre duties, seeking in real time to find a distressed woman (Riley Keough), a possible kidnap victim, while L.A. literally burns from climate-change wildfires,” writes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “Antoine Fuqua’s remake of a 2018 Danish movie, working a script by Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective) is the rare redo that exceeds the original.”
“Rarely do remakes capture the lightning in the bottle of the source material,” agrees Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “But The Guilty does, no doubt in part because screenwriter Nic Pizzolatto, best known for the True Detective series, drafted Gustav Möller, who wrote the original screenplay for and directed the original. Whether a remake was needed remains debatable, but the vision remains intact.”
“[A]t its heart this is a simple, spine-tingling tale of a man working with limited resources and a finite timeframe to solve a mystery,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “It works in any language, and if you haven’t seen the Danish original, this one will do nicely.”
“The Guilty is an all right watch, an OK thriller with nothing exceptional and with lots of Gyllenhaal’s closeups,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
At The Globe and Mail, Johanna Schneller chats with Jake Gyllenhaal and Antoine Fuqua about how the shot the film so quickly during the pandemic. “My work gives me the opportunity to exorcise feelings that so many people would be holding in – about the climate emergency, the police killings, the pandemic,” says Gyllenhaal. “I’m so grateful I have a safe space to come to and express the anger I have, the pain I’m feeling, the anxieties and the terror I think we’re all feeling. It’s the essence of why I love to act.”
“Joe has a hard time managing his anger and anxieties, but powers through to a gut punch conclusion,” says Anne Brodie at What She Said. “How hard it must have been for Gyllenhaal to hold that headspace for the length of the shoot in two claustrophobic rooms, but he did it.”
“A nail-biting plot and a ferocious (if unrestrained) performance by Jake Gyllenhaal are the main reasons for watching this remake of the superior 2018 Danish thriller,” writes Glenn Sumi at NOW Toronto. “The idea of police violence has a different meaning in the U.S. than Denmark, and Gyllenhaal is suitably intense and exhausted-looking.”
Implanted (dir. Fabien DuFils)
“In these two weeks, this reviewer has seen 3 one-handlers in which the protagonist spends the majority of the screen time talking to one person,” sighs Gibert Seah at Afro Toronto on the heels of Lakewood and The Guilty. “In Implanted, Sarah spends most of the time talking to LEXX. In each of the three films, the directors up the angst in what could be a very intense period. The movie is reduced here to a one-act play. One can and should complain that movies are meant for the big screen and audiences expect blockbusters.”
The Many Saints of Newark (dir. Alan Taylor)
“Here’s the rub: David Chase seems to be a lot better at making TV than making movies,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “To be fair, his filmography is sparse: A 1980 made-for-television social-issue drama, Off the Minnesota Strip, and Not Fade Away (2012), a semi-autobiographical nostalgia-soaked sixties-set rock-and-roll drama. The Many Saints of Newark covers that same era, in the same state, with similar pop music, home décor and fashion.”
“Two women stand out in this tale of mostly violent men: Tony’s depressed and angry mother Livia (Vera Farmiga) and Michela De Rossi’s Sicilian immigrant bride Giuseppina, who has her own vision of the American Dream to pursue,” observes Peter Howell at Night Vision. “They’re like wildflowers growing in a cemetery, glimpses of life in a gangster’s garden of sin and death.”
“Mucho macho mayhem, betrayal, awakening, addiction to violence and crime and the simmering rise of the Black Power movement define this gritty, profane take that isn’t up to the series but fills in the DiMeo family background,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“Unfortunately, the Tony Soprano storyline is more like fan service in The Many Saints of Newark, which is really more about the future mob boss’s uncle and father figure, Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola),” argues Radheyan Simonpillai at NOW Toronto. “Sopranos buffs will recognize the name Moltisanti. Dickie’s son Christopher (Michael Imperioli) was Tony Soprano’s Achilles’ heel in the series, and the movie’s origin story attempts to flesh out why the latter was so devoted to the young Moltisanti; not that it actually needed explaining.”
“Would you like to find out exactly how Tony’s father Johnny Boy landed in jail? Or how Uncle Junior originally injured his back? Good news! How about an endless parade of groan-inducing callbacks to the series’s most famous moments? And I don’t mean subtle homages that contextualize The Sopranos’ greatest hits. More like full-throated ‘ahem!’ coughs that erase any thoughtfulness that Chase and company originally evinced,” whacks Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
“Sopranos fans will find lots to love: there are name checks and references a-plenty to favourite characters and a welcome revival of the what-sausage-is-the-key-to-a-perfect-baked-ziti debate,” noodles Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “Audiences who haven’t seen The Sopranos, though, might actually like it better.”
Mayday (dir. Karen Cinorre)
“It’s a radical strident feminist fable, the women’s sole purpose is to their oppressors, and they’re cool with it,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Sam Levy’s magical cinematography is warm and practical, and strangely romanticises the war and the dead soldiers and the women’s murderous victories.”
“The casual violence was a little unnerving to this viewer, which is surely the point. And while Ana quickly finds her role as the group’s sharpshooter – Marsha tells her women are naturals at the job, since it requires holding uncomfortable poses for long periods of time, and making yourself invisible – she gradually comes to question the nature of their activities,” says Chris Knight at the National Post.
“It can be seen that this is a Pandemic influenced film,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Ana is seen in most scenes alone, and if with others, socially distanced. “
Pharma Bro (dir. Brent Hodge)
“[A] gripping doc on pharmaceutical entrepreneur Martin Shkreli, the guy who raised the price of the prescription drug Daraprim by 5500% and lost patents their chance for the life-saving AIDS drug back in 2015,” reports Anne Brodie at What She Said. “He became the Most Hated Man in America, an alleged sociopath, narcissist and provocateur currently cooling his jets in prison serving twenty years.”
Séance (dir. Simon Barrett)
“Seance does not break new ground but director Barrett’s aims to rehash old material,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Nothing wrong here, as Barrett succeeds in keeping his audience entertained by the murderous goings-on at the academy if not titillating them with young female flesh, though no nudity is present, just lots of teasing.”
Titane (dir. Julia Ducornau)
“[I]f you can imagine David Cronenberg’s Crash and Clare Denis’s Beau Travail having furious make-up sex after a week-long fight, and raising the resulting baby on nothing but Leos Carax movies, that’s Titane. This is an endorsement,” raves Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
“The movie has a certain gonzo accelerative feel to it, like a dream where you’re in an out-of-control car and the brakes don’t work,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “But I found the overstuffed plot and its soap-opera elements – double lives, willfully mistaken identities, etc. – all a bit much.”
“A horror movie, a serial killer movie, a romance, and an adoptive family movie, it’s a story about the lies we tell each other in order to get by,” says Jason Gorber at That Shelf. “Think of this as an incredibly dark version of Yentl… it’s gender fluid, it’s violence and romance fluid, and it’s playing with our expectations in a way that is really quite captivating.”
“An audacious and demented film,” writes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “the WTF? Factor is front and center in the imaginatively Cronenberg-esque Titane, at least until its twistily sentimental last act, a section that is such a radical departure from what preceded it, it changes the movie’s entire mood.
“Titane is not the shock-cinema sucker-punch that you might have been crossing your fingers for,” reveals Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Which is fine, even welcome. There are enough slippery and knotty ideas in Ducournau’s feature, along with two remarkable lead performances, to soothe the sickest filmgoer’s barf-bag expectations.”
“Ducournau is a vital talent, a filmmaker of mad vision and uncanny power. I think, though, that her best is still to come,” suggests Peter Howell at Night Vision. “Henry Ford’s ghost just had a heart attack.”
Venom: Let There Be Carnage (dir. Andy Serkis)
“It does speak to a lack of re-think that the villain in Venom 2 is again the same species as Venom,” writes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “It also suggests the character will finally connect with others in the Marvel Universe. This is something others might welcome, but I kind of liked the fact that this story existed almost without referencing Marvel at all.”
“Whatever makes the fans happy,” admits Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto. “And that’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage, y’all. I hated the first one, I did not hate this one. It moves quickly, everyone’s enjoying themselves, there are at least three more laughs than the first one offered and it’s a full hour shorter than the Bond movie I saw the day before.”
“For those who don’t care and want to assault their eyes and other senses, then Venom: Let There Be Carnage (or V2nom, as I’m choosing to stylize it just because) is here for you,” warns Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Ugly, cheap and dumb-but-not-good-dumb, the film is a throwaway kind of trashy nothingness.”
“As directed by Andy Serkis (Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle) and written by Kelly Marcel (Cruella) with input from Hardy himself, the Venom/Brock dynamic is pitched somewhere between buddy comedy and old-married-couple farce,” explains Chris Knight at the National Post. “Listening to them bicker quickly grows stale, although there is a strangely compelling quality to their physical battles – imagine watching Frank Oz wrestling Cookie Monster.”
A Festival of Festival Coverage: TIFF in Transition
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz reports on the departure of TIFF co-head Joana Vincente to headline the Sundance Institute as its new CEO. He looks at the implications for Toronto: “In addition to sparking theatre-capacity restrictions, which have no clear end in sight in Ontario, the pandemic has accelerated a shift in consumer habits toward digital viewership, and shortened or cut altogether the amount of time it takes for a film to go from being a theatrical exclusive to a home-entertainment release. While TIFF launched a digital film-rental platform last summer, it remains to be seen how much that project can compensate for a diminished in-person presence.”
At Film Comment, José Teodoro reports on a (mostly) back-in-swing TIFF with an encouraging forecast of new talent. Among his top picks for the first features at the fest is Aga Woszczyńska’s Silent Land: “The film is most compelling when things are left unsaid, with a devastatingly wordless final scene supplying us with all we need to know about how these characters will proceed in the wake of a tragedy that, while buried by local authorities, refuses to stay silent.”
TV Talk – Cronenberg, Ramakrishnan, and more!
At The Globe and Mail, Johanna Schneller chats with David Cronenberg about his recently wrapped film Crimes of the Future and his acting gig in the fourth season of Slasher: “I got to do things I’ve never had a chance to do, in acting or in life,” Cronenberg said gleefully. “I got to yell at people and say foul things to my children. I said to my own children, ‘You see how I could have been?’ It was a lot of fun. It was cathartic. I loved it.”
At NOW Toronto, Radheyan Simonpillai profiles Never Have I Ever star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and likes what he sees: “I’ve never seen a 19-year-old more confident and self-aware, understanding her own boundaries and being assertive about the space that she needs. She’s grown fast in the last couple of years, which is obvious when you see her much more confident performance in Never Have I Ever season two. And while shooting our little tour through the city, she took control when needed, correcting my positioning for the camera or being mindful during our walk-and-talk on the street scenes to make sure the cameraman was safe. She has it in her to be a director one day.”
Less enthusiastic is Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto when it comes to Maid: “Maid is exactly what you think [its] team would deliver: an occasionally moving study of working-class anxiety that’s also desperate to take the edge off of the story it’s telling with little comic flourishes and outsized performances, the better to make it accessible to viewers who might otherwise recoil from the darkness
At What She Said, Anne Brodie reports on the American crime story of the Lewinsky-Clinton affair in 15 Minutes of Shame: “[Lewinsky] narrates this exhaustive and learned documentary on the tremendous, culture-changing impact of social media and reputation…She says she was the first victim of online cancel culture, back in 1998.”