Reviews include My Salinger Year, Stray, and Coming 2 America.
TFCA Friday: Week of October 16
October 16, 2020
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA critics.
*Note: Although theatres in Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel are closed for the next few weeks, TFCA members are publishing reviews nationally where applicable. Please check your local showtimes for film availability, as some theatres in the GTA are still operating. Follow the TFCA on Twitter and check back here for updates on Toronto releases when theatres re-open. Stay safe and support your local cinema!
On the COVID front, Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail looks at how movie theatres were forced to closed even though not a single transmission (worldwide) has been traced to a cinema. What can government do to improve the situation and ensure the industry’s survival?
In Release this Week
2 Hearts (dir. Lance Hool)
“2 Hearts, so overwhelmingly saccharine it plays like a mockery of a parody of a Hallmark movie, features not one, not two, but four lead characters, each with an extreme (possibly terminal?) case of puppy love,” barks Chris Knight at the National Post. “That’s a litter of puppy love!”
Belly of the Beast (dir. Erika Cohn)
“If the title Belly of the Beast sounds like a horror flick, this powerful expose of human right abuses on women in the Criminal Justice System is indeed a horror story.” – Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto.
Body & Bones (dir. Melanie Oates) 🇨🇦
“Body & Bones is the kind of quiet, poetic film that draws polite applause at festivals but doesn’t become a big success,” writes Marc Glassman at Classical FM.
Clouds (dir. Justin Baldoni)
“In the grand tragic love-story tradition of The Fault in Our Stars, Sweet November and, well, Love Story, Clouds arrives practically bearing a box of Disney+-branded Kleenex,” weeps Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
David Byrne’s American Utopia (dir. Spike Lee)
“It’s well in line with previous cinematic efforts from Byrne, falling somewhere between the stripped down tricks of light found in Jonathan Demme’s seminal Stop Making Sense and stopping just shy of the rigorous and raucous stadium packing theatricality of Contemporary Color,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“The film joins a rarefied pantheon of great musical performance films, which is fitting given that a previous Byrne project, Stop Making Sense, already occupied one of those prime slots,” raves Jason Gorber at POV Magazine.
“Lee’s version of American Utopia is thoughtful pop performance art captured with the propulsive power of cinema,” exclaims Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
“Barefoot and brainy, this infectious, percussive and joyous meditation on life by ex-Talking Head frontman Byrne lets the cerebral become the physical,” sings Peter Howell at the Toronto Star.
Evil Eye (dir. Elan Dassani and Rajeev Dassani)
“In terms of visuals and direction, Evil Eye is pretty bad, but the performers and script elevate the film into something compulsively watchable and engaging,” suggests Andrew Parker at The Gate.
I Am Greta (dir. Nathan Grossman)
“I Am Greta is a wonderful, rich documentary and at points it moved me to tears,” exclaims Karen Gordon in an A-grade review at Original Cin.
“Grossman’s profile of Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg nicely illustrates both his subject’s passion and the psychological toll visibility often takes on those who stand out in front for their advocacy,” writes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“A doc is often as interesting as its subject,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Greta Thunberg a 15-year old Swede child climate change activities could not be a better find.”
“Greta thought nothing of scolding world leaders with strong words and we applauded her clear sightedness,” says Anne Brodie at What She Said.
“A remarkable young woman; a fascinating film snapshot,” writes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star.
“[T]he longer I Am Greta goes on, the more clear it becomes that Grossman is content to just tag along for the ride, adding little cinematic depth or insight to the environmentalist’s trajectory,” observes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
“I Am Greta is a portrait of a person rather than an environmental documentary,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post.
“Even this environmentally friendly viewer lost confidence in Thunberg as a direct result of watching the film,” admits Pat Mullen at POV Magazine.
In Case of Emergency (dir. Carolyn Jones)
It “might not be the best doc of the year, but this feel-good doc is just what the doctor ordered during the difficult times of Covid-19,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Making Monsters (dir. Justin Harding, Rib Brunner)
“Though not entirely original, the film is aided with bits of violence that should make audiences sit up from their seats periodically throughout the film,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Although something of an untidy mash-up of weathered horror themes and premises, there is enough macabre glee in Making Monsters to make it a worthy addition to your Halloween watch list,” says Thom Ernst at Original Cin.
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 Mortuary Collection (dir. Ryan Spindell)
“Director Spindell keeps his horror stories smart and funny – with the best for the last.” – Gilbert Seah, Afro Toronto.
Nocturne (dir. Zu Quirke)
“It’s basically a Tales from the Crypt episode writ large and with a modernist sheen, but far more established filmmakers have attempted such things with far lesser results in recent years,” observes Andrew Parker at The Gate.
Rebecca (dir. Ben Wheatley; Oct. 21)
“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 Secrets We Keep (dir. Yuval Adler)
“Anyone who has seen a film where a protagonist is trying to work up the courage to murder someone that did them wrong in the past will know exactly where every scene in The Secrets We Keep will be heading, with precious little deviation or mystery,” says Andrew Parker at The Gate.
“Memories come flooding back as she and her husband mete out punishment in her primal thirst for vengeance, she believes will heal her broken soul, but we all know how that goes,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz calls it “a solid, well-acted, and slightly predictable drama of morals whose novelty evaporates once you realize that the general beats of the story itself have been presented before, to more haunting effect.”
“[The] big secret kept here is the blatant plagiarism of Dorfman/Polanski’s Death and the Maiden,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “Everything else that transpires then matters to nought.”
Sh*thouse (dir. Cooper Raiff)
At What She Said, Anne Brodie advises to ignore the film’s title because it’s really a “sweet coming-of-age story about a guy and a gal meeting at a college frat house bearing that name.”
Time (dir. Garrett Bradley)
“Not only is Garrett Bradley’s revolutionary documentary Time one of the best films ever made about the need for prison reform and the racist underpinnings of the American judicial system, but it’s also a work of profound introspection and boundless love,” praises Andrew Parker at The Gate.
Totally Under Control (dir. Alex Gibney)
“[O]ne of the year’s most powerful documentaries,” proclaims Anne Brodie at What She Said. “I strenuously suggest you watch this, especially our American friends and voters.”
“The doc doesn’t say much new, yet one can barely watch it without feeling overcome by anger, sadness, and grief,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “It didn’t have to be this way.”
“The film may be of more use to the history books…than aid to those of us still aboard the mad voyage of Captain Contagious,” reports Liam Lacey at Original Cin.
“It’s an impassioned work meant to hold those in power accountable in the moment, rather than after the fact,” says Andrew Parker at The Gate.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (dir. Aaron Sorkin)
“A crackerjack ensemble cast, sure to be remembered at awards time, competes for our attention but there’s nary a bad casting choice among the players,” writes Peter Howell at Night Vision.
“Aaron Sorkin has created a true piece of political theatre and another epic courtroom drama,” argues Marc Glassman at Classical FM.
“Given The Trial of the Chicago 7’s snapshot of an era of an almost hopelessly divided America, and Kafka-esque and monstrous misuse of power by a bullying President, the timing for its release couldn’t be better,” observes Jim Slotek at Original Cin.
“Sorkin avoids his usual verbal density for an elegance, persuasive and mature film that hits all the right notes,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
Barry Hertz’s verdict at The Globe and Mail: “It is one thing to bask in the supreme confidence of someone who is convinced they are unimpeachable, another to withstand Sorkin at his most cheesily, naively idealistic.” Hertz also interviews director Aaron Sorkin.
“It’s all arguing all the time, which plays to Sorkin’s strengths as a writer, though his directorial chops are still undeveloped,” notes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto.
At The Gate, Andrew Parker says, “It bridges the past to the present without being too obvious or coy about its goals, and that might be Sorkin’s greatest achievement with his latest.”
Festember – A Month of Festivals!
At Original Cin, Liam Lacey looks at some highlights at Toronto’s Rendezvous with Madness Festival, which kicked off with Mike Hoolboom’s Judy Versus Capitalism.
Speaking of Judy Versus Capitalism, Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto chats with Hoolboom and subject Judy Rebick.
Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto checks out 10 titles at Montreal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, with Oasis and Night Has Come among the highlights.