TFCA Friday: Week of Oct. 23

October 23, 2020

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

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


In Release this Week

American Selfie: One Nation Shoots Itself (dir. Alexandra Pelosi)

“[A] wide-ranging, freewheeling, alarmist look at just about every hot button US issue today,” observes Anne Brodie at What She Said.


Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

(dir. Jason Woliner)

“Something good comes out of Borat’s cage,” notes Peter Howell at Night Vision. “It’s this film’s secret weapon: Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, who plays Borat’s 15-year-old daughter Tutar, a rebellious stowaway on her father’s return voyage to America.”

“A couple of heroes stand out in the journey, but mostly it’s a jaw-dropping portrait of a rabid America,” says Anne Brodie at What She Said.

“[I]n the 14 years since his last visit, America’s a different place,” writes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto. “Its worst people no longer feel the need to hide themselves, and the targets the new film wants to hit are painfully obvious.”

“[T]he new film is an essential piece of 2020 culture, distilling the mania of this cursed year into a compact 95 minutes of jaw-dropping cringe comedy,” says Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.

“There are plenty of shock-laughs of the I-can’t-believe-I-just-saw-that variety, and people, who may or may not be playing along, saying things that could get them in plenty of trouble in the real world,” writes Jim Slotek at Original Cin.

Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm has been made to ensure that people who genuinely get the joke will love and understand it, while slobbering “fans” who only enjoy saying ‘mah wife’ or ‘very nice’ unironically are told to get on board with the new tone or be further alienated by Cohen’s evolution as a performer and unlikely social activist.” – Andrew Parker, The Gate.

“A reminder of the poison that was forgotten in the first film,” says Jason Gorber at That Shelf.

“This year and this film deserve one another,” declares Chris Knight at the National Post. “I almost threw up in my mask.”


Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You (dir. Thom Zimny)

Letter to You still feels like supplementary material for his latest album, but The Boss is such a naturally gifted storyteller, raconteur, and thinker that spending time with him is a pleasure,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate.

“[T]he best thing about the doc is the performance of his songs, the live recordings of him and his band and the hard effort that goes into getting out a hit song,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Letter to You is old school rock ’n’ roll, pure and simple, and there is something bittersweet to the nostalgia factor that underscores the recordings,” notes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine.
“With the words, the coffee-table monochrome images of the aged troubadours hard at joyful labour, and the moody drone shots of the snow-covered New Jersey woods, Letter To You is an opportunity to listen to the new album at a bargain:  The Apple Plus subscription, cancellable at any time, costs $5.99 a month – about half the price of downloading the album.” – Liam Lacey, Original Cin.
At NOW Toronto, Norm Wilner concludes, “[T]his casual Springsteen fan was disappointed by the strangely corporate feel: while the Western Stars movie felt like a genuine artistic venture, the Letter To You doc is marketing material, massaged and planed down to be as inoffensive as possible.”

Bullets of Justice (dir. Valeri Milev)

Bullets of Justice is unmistakably crass and vulgar, full of body bits and fluids—a movie to answer those who claim to have seen everything by responding that everything was just the beginning. ” – Thom Ernst, Original Cin.

Fishbowl (dir. Stephen Kinigopoulos, Alexa Kinigopoulos)

A “superior and chilling character study of a family in mourning,” advises Anne Brodie at What She Said.
It “stands out as an indie mystery thriller,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.

The Haunting of Mary Celeste (dir. Alex Ruger)

“It’s kind of entertaining in its own alarmist way,” says Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Hey, it’s Hallowe’en, anything goes.”

Herb Alpert Is… (dir. John Scheinfeld)

“Scheinfled boasts a prolific résumé with oodles of docs about music icons—in some years, he cranks out anywhere from three to eight rockumentaries—and Herb Alpert Is…, for better or for worse, plays like a well-rehearsed recipe,”  sighs Pat Mullen at POV Magazine.

His Master’s Voice (dir. György Pálfi)

“Mesmerizing, spectacular, confusing and frustrating are words that can be used to describe His Master’s Voice.  But the film is an unforgettable experience regardless.” – Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto.


Memories of Murder (dir. Bong Joon-ho; re-release)

“[A]second viewing reveals a film just as good if not better than Parasite,” raves Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto in a five-star review.

“Bong Joon-ho’s 2003 crime thriller Memories of Murder is one of the best procedural epics ever made, ranking firmly alongside the likes of David Fincher’s Zodiac and Michael Mann’s Manhunter.” – Andrew Parker, The Gate.

“The film is more playful and energetic than the elegant Parasite but suggests the future film in innovative, groundbreaking direction and cinematography and plays on nature and human fragility,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said.

“The ensemble is truly believable in their roles, as are the minor characters of the hard-drinking chief, and the mostly ignored female officer Kwon, whose habit of listening to the radio in the evenings may yet provide the break they need.” – Chris Knight, National Post.

“As with Parasite, the film is powerfully cinematic,” says Linda Barnard at Original Cin. “Bong skilfully manages significant shifts in mood and tone.”


Oliver Sacks: His Own Life (dir. Ric Burns)

“He was notoriously shy, and yet the orange Jell-O story he tells on camera is breathtakingly, hilariously honest,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post.

“Above all, the film is affecting, not so much for what you learn, but because it’s a pleasure to share Sack’s company,” says Liam Lacey in a grade-A review at Original Cin.

“Burns’ inspirational doc, encompassing enormous sadness and happiness simultaneously is both a love story and a study of the miracle the human condition warts and all,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.

“Burns’ reflexive, understanding approach is a refreshingly humane and self-critical way of handling a well known and highly regarded documentary subject,” says Andrew Parker at The Gate. “It’s a perfect tone for memorializing an author who attempted to eschew hagiography whenever possible.”


Once Upon a Snowman (dir. Dan Abraham, Trent Correy)

“Delightful and charming as expected!” – Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto.


Over the Moon (dir. Glen Keane, John Kahrs)

“There is a genuine passion and respect for Chinese culture and history on display in almost every frame of the film, which if often visually stunning,” observes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “But in the place of an actual cultural understanding, there is only a spirit of appreciation.”

“[V]isually it’s a stunner, giving Fei Fei’s Earthbound environment a tactile reality and the fantastical world of Lunaria a brilliant, bouncy Day-Glo texture that turns the more rubbery qualities of CG into a proper aesthetic,” says Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.

Over the Moon, looking like a complete Disney product, is sappy-charming and part musical with embarrassing though catchy songs, a death element and cutesy animal creatures,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.

“While not much here is particularly inspired outside of its overall perspective and elaborate animation, Over the Moon still charms because there isn’t an ill fitting or misplaced bone in its body,” notes Andrew Parker at The Gate.

Over the Moon is a delightful tale sure to appeal to a younger audience without too much fear of chasing away the rest of the family,” advises Thom Ernst at Original Cin.


The Place of No Words (dir. Marc Webber)

“The structure is interesting and creates its own adventure, and a world of emotions in part due to the structure.” – Anne Brodie, What She Said.


Radium Girls (dir. Lydia Dean Pilcher)

“It’s engaging and interesting, a learning experience and a legal thriller worth the watch,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said ,who also interviews director Lydia Dean Pilcher and writer Ginny Mohler.

Rebecca (dir. Ben Wheatley)

“The metaphor is kind of exquisite, really, daring viewers to be the new Mrs. Danvers, expecting to be disappointed by this younger, fresher model,” writes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.

“My takeaway is how utterly stony, and rigid is Scott Thomas’ performance; she seethes hatred,” says Anne Brodie on the new Mrs. Danvers.

“Wheatley gets lost in the rooms of his own re-creation, favouring One Perfect Shot-ready images over such apparently trivial elements as character and performance,” notes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.

“Wheatley says in an interview in November’s Sight & Sound that his film is an adaptation of the book and not a remake of the Hitchcock film.  ‘Why would anyone want to remake a film that won so many Oscars?’ he says.  An excuse to make a sub-standard movie?” -Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto.

“The production is much closer to a Masterpiece Theatre golden-lit romantic fantasy, with lots of pricey real-estate, costume changes, and antique opulence as the backdrop for a pair of leads who always look great but never seem to break a sweat,” writes Liam Lacey at Original Cin.

“Kristin Scott Thomas is a nearly perfect Mrs. Danvers: chilly, disdainfully polite with a huge streak of menace that she can reach with merely a flicker of her eyebrows,” says Marc Glassman at Classical 96.

“I  daresay I enjoyed this Rebecca even more than Hitchcock’s, which is not to say I think it’s Oscar-worthy, if that even means anything in these topsy-turvy times,” admits Chris Knight at the National Post.

“If one approaches Wheatley’s Rebecca like a literary adaptation or an old school melodrama and not as a straight cinematic remake, they’ll be in for a lavishly designed, intriguing, well performed, and wholly pleasant surprise,” observes Andrew Parker at The Gate.

Rebuilding Paradise (dir. Ron Howard)

“There’s an awkward sense though that Howard’s laudable desire to celebrate love of community and resilience gives us a partial picture of reality, or, at best, a first act,” says Liam Lacey at Original Cin.
“The opening shots of fire that begin Ron Howard’s Rebuilding Paradise are almost as harrowing as the beach landing in Saving Private Ryan,” writes Jason Gorber at POV Magazine.

Festember – a month of film festivals!

At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz previews the Toronto Jewish Film Festival and chats with founder/artistic director Helen Zukerman.

At What She Said, Anne Brodie highlights a master class about the history of Jewish film directors.

Linda Barnard previews TJFF at Original Cin with highlights including SubletShiva Baby, and Breaking Bread.

Pat Mullen, Marc Glassman, and Jason Gorber juggle festival coverage at POV Magazine with reviews for Shadow of DumontLove and Fury, The Viewing Booth, Les heures heureuses, and Army of Lovers screening at imagineNATIVE, Planet in Focus, Rendezvous with Madness, and TJFF.

TV and Schitt

“It doesn’t quite stick the landing at the end, but The Queen’s Gambit remains one of the most compulsively watchable and narratively and emotionally complex series of the year,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate.

At What She Said, Anne Brodie checks out the latest season of David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction and calls The Queen’s Gambit “stylish, eerie and uneven.”

In a new episode of The Filmmakers, Johanna Schneller Zooms with director Andrew Cividino about the landmark final season of Schitt’s Creek and his journey with the series.

Kevin Ritchie at NOW looks at the Nicole Kidman/Hugh Grant mini-series The Undoing, which “ratchets up tension, ending each instalment in a tantalizing cliffhanger.”