Reviews include My Salinger Year, Stray, and Coming 2 America.
TFCA Friday: Week of Oct. 30
October 30, 2020
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA critics
In Release this Week
Come Play (dir. Jason Chase)
“I have no trouble admitting that there were more than a few moments throughout Come Play where I was jumpy or on the edge of my seat, even when I knew that I’d seen most of this stuff before and better,” admits Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“[T]he more we understand of the scary thing, the less scary it seems, and the dumber Come Play becomes,” sighs Norm Wilner at Georgia Straight.
“Come Play is so ridiculously stupid that one cannot help but watch it to its end,” laughs Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Come Play‘s themes, characters, and story are too strong to lump the film in with the wave of sub-tier horror flooding the market this month,” observes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
“The lesson: Monitor your kids’ screentime, and beware of SpongeBob SquarePants,” advises Jim Slotek at Original Cin.
The Craft: Legacy (dir. Zoe Lister-Jones)
“Lister-Jones improves on the original’s two-dimensionality in almost every way, from the inclusion of a trans character (and a wider spectrum of sexuality in general) to a very clever reworking of the first film’s love-spell gag,” writes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
The Curve (dir. Adam Benzine) 🇨🇦
At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen speaks with director Adam Benzine about tackling Canada’s first feature-length COVID doc and delivering the disaster film of 2020.
“Benzine’s film is a fantastic primer on recent events, though its short running time leaves several key issues – the long-term lack of pandemic preparedness over multiple administrations, the link between COVID-19 deaths and poor, Black communities – feeling underexplored,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post.
“[W]hile Benzine borrows the structure and aesthetic of a disaster movie for his documentary – the better to hold a casual viewer’s attention, I suppose – he never resorts to sensationalism or exaggeration; that’s entirely Trump’s thing,” says Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
The Empty Man (dir. David Prior)
“If you’ve never heard of the movie until this very moment, don’t be too upset,” cautions Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Because The Empty Man is indeed a disposable, ultimately best-forgotten movie.”
Happy Place (dir. Helen Shaver) 🇨🇦
“It’s a complete universe, a world of women where ‘when you laugh here no one thinks you’re feeling better’,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. She also has an interview with director Helen Shaver and star Clark Backo.
His House (dir. Remi Weekes)
“Unlike many horror movies built around ghosts, spirits, and witches, His House feels frighteningly like a story that could be unfolding in places all over the world in some form or another at this very moment,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“Racism, both overt and covert, plays a role in the story as well,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post. “Sometimes it’s subtle, like the mall security guy who decides to follow Bol around the store where he’s looking at polo shirts beneath a giant poster of a happy (white) family wearing them.”
“Ultimately, Weekes’s story, which pivots on a minor-key twist that doesn’t quite earn its intended gasps, falls just short of justifying its feature-film length,” says Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
“[J]ust when it seems like things are getting predictable, Weekes complicates the third act with a genuinely surprising twist,” argues Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
“Where the film is lacking is in tone,” writes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “While the characters’ trauma and backstory may be unusual territory for horror, Weekes’ storytelling leans on a lot of conventional horror movie tropes.”
The Holidate (dir. John Whitesell)
Wary of the film as a Netflix “vom com” with a post-Little Italy Emma Roberts, Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail admits “the movie surprises on almost every level, breaking a number of contemporary rom-com rules along the way.”
Also name-checking Little Italy, Chris Knight at the National Post calls it “horriflix,” noting, “Holidate is trying to be several different films at once.”
“A few very hilarious moments are not enough to save this cliched romantic comedy,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President (dir. Mary Wharton)
“Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song ‘A Simple Man’ is about him and there’s more to learn and enjoy in this uplifting and fun film, a treat and reminder that good folks are out there in the world of politics,” says Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Don’t give up yet.”
“Mixing contemporary interviews with decades worth of archival footage, Wharton crafts a portrait of a curious, complex politician with eclectic musical tastes and an open heart, who never allowed himself to be stunted by his circumstances,” observes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
“Nothing against Jimmy Carter – the 96-year-old former U.S. President is a powerful force for humanitarianism in the world and, by all accounts, a decent human being,” writes Chris Knight at the National Post. “But this rather slight documentary from director Mary Wharton tells us little beyond those facts.”
“Carter’s rock ‘n’ roll persona provides an image of greatness to which America should once again aspire,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine.
At The Gate, Andrew Parker says, “Carter, despite his rolodex of famous people and his current rebirth as one of the country’s foremost philanthropists, isn’t an exciting person to be around or talk about.”
Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto calls it a “breezy, light and entertaining while insightful look at the man, his life and his policies.”
Love Child (dir. Eva Mulvad)
“Mulvad’s great strength here is the reliance on a cinema verité fly-on-the-wall technique, watching the couple through moments of angry frustration, bitter quarrels, and moments of lightness and joy, all seamlessly edited by Adam Nielsen, in one looping narrative that could be called from Scenes from a Refugee Marriage.” – Liam Lacey, Original Cin.
“Eva Mulvad’s Love Child is a classic verité film, with intimate footage abounding.” – Marc Glassman, POV Magazine.
The Mole Agent (dir. Maite Alberdi)
“[W]riter-director Maite Alberdi’s documentary The Mole Agent takes us on an unexpectedly emotional ride,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“Whether The Mole Agent provides a journalistically true insight into the situation, or is completely staged, or is, perhaps, a combination of both, may be beside the point,” suggests Jason Gorber at POV Magazine.
Monkey Beach (dir. Loretta Todd) 🇨🇦
“One never enjoys panning passion projects, but this years-in-the-making adaptation of Eden Robinson’s novel pales in comparison to its source,” sobs Pat Mullen at That Shelf.
My Name Is Pedro (dir. Lillian Lasalle)
Ravers (dir. Bernhard Pucher)
Sarah Cooper: Everything’s Fine (dir. Natascha Lyonne)
Spell (dir. Mark Tonderai)
Festember – a month of film festivals!
At Franco-Toronto, Gilbert Seah previews this year’s Blood in the Snow Festival with special shout-outs to Bleed with Me and Anything for Jackson.
Anne Brodie also checks out some of the Blood in the Snow titles at What She Said.
Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto previews Korean Film Festival Canada and Blood in the Snow with shout-outs to Hall and Come True at the latter fest.
Hallowe’en Tricks and Treats
At What She Said, Anne Brodie recommends checking out/revisiting Nosferatu for a good scare: “Haunted Hallowe’en films must go a long way today to be fresh and exciting and new. They surpass the thousands of such films already in existence, a tall order. Look to the past.”
Funny Boy is Canada’s Oscar pick
⚠️Spoiler: this might make you smile. A lot. pic.twitter.com/KWn36muJou
— Telefilm Canada (@Telefilm_Canada) October 29, 2020