Reviews include All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, White Noise, and The Inspection.
TFCA Friday: Week of Oct. 21
October 21, 2022
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In case you missed it, the 26th annual TFCA Awards will be announced on Sunday, January 8 at noon EST. We’ll reveal the winner of the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award on March 6.
In Release this Week
And Still I Sing (dir. Fazila Amiri 🇨🇦)
“The first hour of And Still I Sing is a well-organized, relatively conventional competition documentary, as director Amiri follows them through the weekly show, and their public appearances to canvas for votes,” says Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “In the last 20 minutes, And Still I Sing becomes a different kind of documentary. We’re reminded that while the contest was holding the public’s attention, it took place under a shadow of Washington and the Taliban peace talks. Sayeed’s worst fears come true. The U.S.-led international coalition’s withdrawal and the Taliban taking control of the country, shutting down both women’s progress and putting an end to music.”
“And Still I Sing follows Zahra and Sadiqa’s run on Afghan Star to create a stirring human rights portrait of women in contemporary Afghanistan,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “Director Fazila Amiri weaves the contestants’ story within similar trials that Afghan pop superstar Aryana Sayeed, a judge and mentor on Afghan Star, faces while taking the spotlight in a patriarchal society. The film finds in these three brave and talented women the story of a people fighting for progress. As the singers persevere amid vicious threats and attacks, they afford necessary optimism for a generation of Afghan women.”
Black Adam (dir. Jaume Collet-Serra)
“There’s so much explanatory narration going on in Black Adam, the movie sometimes seems like a tutorial. That is, when there isn’t a lot of smashing, punching and characters being thrown through brick walls, just to get up and start punching again,” yawns Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “For a movie that’s supposed to take D.C. in a new direction, Black Adam sure seems like something we’ve seen plenty of times before.”
“Black Adam is typically an action hero movie,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “It is what it is. Comic action fans who have a high tolerance of intelligence abuse will let this film get away with a pass.”
“Johnson fatally plays against type as a peeved anti-hero rather than an amused action star,” observes Peter Howell at Night Vision. “Johnson flexes his pecs with little enthusiasm and even less mirth, robbing his character of all interest beyond watching him slam stooges and smash walls (he weirdly hates doors). All while constantly declaring that he’s no hero and grimacing like he’s passing a kidney stone.”
“The movie’s human heart is Sarah Shahi as Adrianna Tomaz, an expert in antiquities who wants to get her hands on the all-powerful crown of Sabbac so she can hide it away from others who would use it for evil purposes,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “Pretty much everyone else in the movie has evil purposes, backed by a bewildering bevy of ordinary weapons, futuristic flying motorcycles and Doctor Fate’s extraterrestrial Helmet of Fate, which has no eyeholes but does allow him to see the future – though apparently not the destiny of this movie, which is to be savaged by critics.”
“Opening with 10 solid minutes of exposition-vomiting in the form of gee-whiz narration from a young boy who ultimately means little to the story, Black Adam runs through the comic-book basics with astounding indifference,” sighs Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “If none of this sounds particularly original or enticing, I have bad news for you, as the remaining 114 minutes just get further mired in the nonsensical muck, which might be intriguing in its incoherence if it weren’t so absolutely, dreadfully dull.”
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On (dir. Madison Thomas 🇨🇦)
“[H]er presence on screen, just being herself, is the best part of this doc – her spirit shines, her wit and warmth blast through the screen and her many talents inspire,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
Descendant (dir. Margaret Browne)
“With its nearly two hour running time, the film is never quite sure what it wants to be, whether that’s a historical retelling, a quest for the hidden ship, a rumination upon reparations, or a broader examination of how the scars of the past continue to be left unhealed,” admits Jason Gorber at POV Magazine. “As a film, Descendant is messy and frustrating, yet it’s undeniable how powerful this story is, which makes the delivery of its worthy message all that more disappointing.”
“Though one might claim that this doc might be more appreciated by the descendants of the captured slaves, Descendant is a story that still needs to be told, one that involved massive injustice and the guilty brought to light if not punishment,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “For viewers of the doc, the material will both astonish and anger that such cruelty and injustice have occurred and is still going on.”
Duality (dir. Ryan Dowling)
“Dowling’s film is undoubtedly educational and informative of the city graffiti art scene, especially for audience who are unfamiliar with the culture,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “On the other hand, Dowling does not stop to convert anyone to the art and as a result the doc might not appeal to many of the general audience.”
The Good Nurse (dir. Tobias Lindholm)
“Chastain plays her as a quiet, centred, woman who loves her job. It’s a beautifully calibrated, thoughtful, and unshowy performance. She is matched beautifully by Redmayne who, despite all the good work he’s already done, is a revelation as Charlie, in his darkest role to date,” writes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “It takes time before we see him, and then we only see him briefly. But in Redmayne’s hands it is absolutely chilling.”
“My nerves are shredded from watching The Good Nurse,” admits Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Eddie Redmayne’s extraordinary turn as a repressed psychopath is visceral, he goes down a dark path that must have taken a toll on him. The way Amy helps the police and the tension of it all is bone-deep and I’ll admit, it’s scary.”
At The Globe and Mail, Johanna Schneller chats with star Jessica Chastain about going beyond typical true crime tropes in her new moview and the types of roles that inspire her. “I’m moved by someone who seeks justice despite a role they’re forced to play, whether that’s because of their gender or how they grew up,” says Chastain. “I’m inspired by stories of complex women. I grew up surrounded by incredible women, and the media still has difficulty telling those stories. So I’m excited to use my platform to amplify those women.”
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.
“My Policeman is a cold movie in which love is spoken of, but never felt,” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “My Policeman admittedly has good intentions as it revisits the recent history in which it was a crime for queer people to realise their love. However, stories of heartache and tragedy too often define queer cinema, and My Policeman doesn’t change that. On the heels of fellow TIFF selection Bros, which premiered in the same venue two days prior and felt like a game-changer with a refreshingly contemporary gay rom-com that was deeply rooted in the history that came before it, My Policeman is a familiar story that brings little new to the table.”
Raymond & Ray (dir. Rodrigo Garcia)
“More surprise brothers show up from other mothers – twin acrobats who never met Harris and don’t have conversations while Ray’s new friend, a spot-on Sophie Okonedo, encourages Ray through conversation, while Raymond searches for answers in Lucia’s bed,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “McGregor’s performance is reserved and powerful, Hawke’s is out there and naked, opposite and equally powerful.”
“Director Garcia attempts to layer his characters with personalities changing when skeletons are revealed for the closet,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Unfortunately, the entire exercise feels too contrived and overdone (drama for the sake of drama) – what one might call the cinema’s equivalent of ‘cheap theatrics’.”
“It starts off better than it ends up, sometimes strains logical credibility, and slowly starts to wear out its welcome down the stretch, but the brotherly bond at the heart of Raymond & Ray is clearly realized and engagingly performed, even when the two leads don’t exactly ever feel like family,” observes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
Shady Grove (dir. Dale Resteghini; Oct. 25)
“The killings are sufficiently gory (the slashing of a victim’s throat in the bedroom) to satisfy horror fans and the suspense (the killer shown already in the cabin when Mark asks Shaina to lock all the doors and windows) is sufficient to create the audience anticipation (the faint and smell of death coming from the locked room that the pregnant Shaina can smell) required in such movies,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Though there is nothing relatively fresh in the film, Shady Grove succeeds as an entertaining horror time-waster.”
The Talented Mr. Rosenberg (dir. Barry Avrich 🇨🇦)
“If The Talented Mr. Rosenberg has a fault it is that it fails to fully explain why he does what he does,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post. “But perhaps that’s an impossible assignment, akin to asking how deep is a bottomless pit. Sometimes darkness will admit illumination. In this case, it swallows all the light the filmmaker can shine.”
Ticket to Paradise (dir. Ol Parker)
“The cultural gulf separating the gracious Balinese hosts and their cranky North American guests is well-played for laughs, Daniel Pipski’s script is edgy and sharp, and a blooper reel leads moviegoers out of the cinema on a fun note,” says Kim Hughes at Original Cin. “But it’s tough not to see Hollywood movie stars acting. Indeed, their very star-power sublimates the fundamental joy of writer-director Ol Parker’s breezy, bright film about the perils of falling in love on vacation, something the noble and wise Pamela Anderson could corroborate, having married rocker Tommy Lee on a beach after four days together in Mexico.”
“Is any of this new?” asks Andrew Parker at The Gate. “Nope. Is any of it funny? Maybe if all you want are some light chuckles. Will it be remembered fondly in the careers of its key players? Probably not as much as their biggest hits and successes will be. But ask if Ticket to Paradise accomplishes the most basic and rudimentary of genre film goals and the answer is ‘absolutely.’”
“Julia Roberts and George Clooney’s fifth film together Ticket to Paradise has landed, with a thud,” admits Anne Brodie at What She Said. “The charming, whip-smart duo from the misty past is all grown up, miserable, mean, selfish, and stealing rings from children. It’s the schtick of course, but it’s unpleasant to witness THIS couple – Hollywood royalty -as spoiled brats.”
“From its exotic locations and big-name, beautiful stars to its freeze-frame ending and end-credits blooper reel, Ticket to Paradise is an old-school rom-com from start to finish,” observes Chris Knight at the National Post. “It doesn’t reinvent the wheel or even give it particularly fresh treads but, to be fair, it’s clearly not trying to either.”
“It all comes down to the chemistry between Julia Roberts and George Clooney,” notes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “You can’t gauge combustibility: it’s either there or it isn’t. Since Ocean’s Eleven, and in three other films since, the two have been effervescent. Their confidence is extraordinary, their timing impeccable. The two are wonderfully funny together.”
“Despite the film’s faults, this sophisticated romantic comedy is totally watchable thanks to its breeze characters, lead performance and that of Kaitlyn Dever and funny comic lines dotted throughout the film,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Till (dir. Chinonye Chukwu)
“How do you deal with important images and stories that are meant to be upsetting, even obscene?” asks Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “This issue is at the heart of the matter in the new feature film Till, an intense and sincere recounting of the tragic events that overtook the Till family in the summer of 1955…Chukwu’s film refuses to show us the terrifying final day of Emmett’s life. Instead, it concentrates on his mother, Mamie, who despite of her love for her son, insists on showing what white racists did to Emmett Till.”
“Till is the kind of film that risks falling into myriad tragic-true-story tropes, yet is saved time and again by a heightened sense of directorial ambition, matched measure for measure with a powerhouse lead performance,” notes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Through it all, Deadwyler gives bright, glorious light to the darkest, most depressing reality a parent could imagine.”
“Deadwyler delivers an incredible performance that will be talked about through Oscar season and beyond” writes Chris Knight at the National Post. “It’s crafted of equal parts grief and resilience, so strong it might have been baked in a kiln. You sense that Mamie keeps her head up and her shoulders squared because to relax, even by one jot, would mean crumpling like an empty aluminum can.”
“Deadwyler is a dynamo in this career-defining and awards-beckoning role, as she evolves from a woman of caution into a fearless fighter for civil rights,” says Peter Howell at the Night Vision. Till is a story for the ages but also for the right here and now: the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, a federal statute making lynching a hate crime, became law only this past March, 67 years after Emmett’s murder.”
“There is no graphic violence shown on screen on the Blacks by white folk, but the fact does not lessen the emotions of the injustice done. If any graphic violence be shown, these might do the opposite and distract from the main matter at hand,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The film suffers from the director’s overdoing of the material and her stereotyped portrayal and every single white folk is a bad one, with not one single sympathizer. Emotional yet powerful.”
“It’s far too slickly mounted and conceived to appear raw or intimate, but Till is also a film that has pleasingly little interest in rehashing black trauma in the most depressing way possible,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
V/H/S/99 (dir. various)
“For lovers of horror anthologies in the tradition of Creepshow, V/H/S/99 is the best there is for a while,” praises Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The last two stories are the best of the lot, the second last being the funniest and the last with the best and scariest monsters.”
Biz: Don’t Fear the Theatre
At Night Vision, Peter Howell recaps the weekend box-office, where Halloween helped more horror movies paint the town red. “This is the 13th film in the Halloween franchise and there are numerous callbacks to earlier instalments,” notes Howell. “Chief among them is the Blue Öyster Cult song ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,’ which Laurie hears as a Muzak version while grocery shopping. It was heard in its original form in the first Halloween film in 1978.”
A Festival of Festival Coverage: imagineNATIVE After Dark
At Original Cin,, Jim Slotek offers some highlights from this year’s imagineNATIVE Festival, including Darlene Naponse’s Stellar: “The often trippy, experimental film, which recently played the Toronto International Film Festival, is an allegory for a lot of things, but mainly the environment. It’s nearly all played out within the confines of a Northern Ontario bar, outside which the world is apparently ending (or rebooting),” says Slotek. “Hallucinatory at times… Stellar shifts its gaze often to beautifully shot micro and macro shots of pristine nature and flowing water.”
Also at Original Cin, Thom Ernst previews the blood-soaked frenzy of Toronto After Dark: “Toronto After Dark Film Festival is 16 years old. It’s got a dedicated audience of geeks, freaks, movie stars and now me. It has a reputation (endearingly) for being disorganized. It’s a festival dedicated to triggering that absurd little switch that makes us love movies,” writes Ernst. “Sixteen years and this is my first After Dark. I have no explanation. I knew of the festival; I read the flyers. For whatever reason, the festival felt out of my reach, just far enough off the path to making me wonder if it was safe.
TV Talk/Series Scribbles
At What She Said, Anne Brodie binges the dystopian series The Peripheral, which she calls “a chilling look at a bright future.” From Scratch, meanwhile, follows a couple starting over and the challenges that brings: “Obstacles, obstacles, and then a real obstacle, can they get any support from their families?” asks Brodie. Doc series The Booze, Bets, and Sex that Made America begins with a depressing reminder: “Alas, women appear in the first episode mainly as prostitutes but they will figure in Parts Two and Three,” notes Brodie.
At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen checks out the nature series Island of the Sea Wolves and finds plenty of adorable animals: “Sea otter Sky and her son Rocky arguably steal the show,” writes Mullen. “While young viewers might find themselves rapt with suspense as Rocky floats defenselessly, there is no sight to be found in the series quite like this mother-son duo scarfing down clams.”