Reviews include Dune, The French Dispatch, and The Electrical Life of Louis Wain.
TFCA Friday: Week of Sept. 3
September 3, 2021
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
Dogs (dir. Bogdan Mirica; Sept. 10)
“The Romanian Dogs is one of the slowest police mystery noirs but one that is so impressive for the director’s attention to detail and unique style of story-telling,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Karen (dir. Coke Daniels)
Calling it “a tabloidy exploitation thriller,” Anne Brodie at What She Said adds, “how on earth did they get Taryn Manning or any actor to play that vile character? Yikes.”
The Madness Inside Me (dir. Matthew Berkowitz)
“[The] film ends with a logical conclusion but one wishes the film would delve deeper into the controversial issues brought up,” admits Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Memory House (dir. Joao Paolo Miranda Maria)
“[The] story of a man pushed to the limits with disastrous results not only for him but for the community – cinematography by Benjamin Echazarreta is magnificent as is the soundtrack by Nicolas Becker,” observes Gilber Seah at Afro Toronto.
Mogul Mowgli (dir. Bassam Tariq)
“[S]trong, heartfelt and sincere performances, especially by Ahmed and Kahn draw us in,” writes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “Ahmed – who earned a Best Actor nom for Sound of Metal – is one of the best and most versatile actors out there. He is drawn to complicated characters, and seems to be able to convey as much without dialogue, as with it.”
“Clocking in at a trim 89 minutes, Mogul Mowgli expertly explores twin crises in the life of its protagonist. On the one hand is his medical condition, and the pain of losing control of one’s body – something we also saw in The Sound of Metal,” notes Chris Knight at the National Post.
“It’s tough to watch this young man wrestling with everything that he is, knowing the outcome no matter how hard he tries to deny it,” admits Anne Brodie at What She Said. “It’s a highly personal film for Ahmed.”
Powder Keg (dir. Ole Christian Madsen)
“Tensions rise as what’s about to transpire becomes clearer. Madsen builds the case through each characters’ experience, and draws it out slowly, methodically, surely,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “a story that needs to be told, the best thing about the film being the message which is up to the audience to figure out.”
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (dir. Destin Daniel Crettin)
“Liu, a former stuntman, has an easy way about him as both slacker Shaun and fleet-footed Shang-Chi,” notes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “He looks like the kind of guy who could wrestle with super villains and joust with dragons. It bodes well for further Marvel adventures hinted at in the obligatory end credit teases.”
“Once again with Shang-Chi, the villain nearly steals the show,” writes Eli Glasner at CBC. “Legendary Hong Kong film star Tony Leung opens the film as Wenwu, the power-hungry general and keeper of the ten rings, mysterious weapons of devastating power he’s used in the shadows for centuries. Wenwu doesn’t have Killmonger’s visceral sense of rage but instead, Leung gives us an antagonist that’s more magnetic than monstrous.”
“Apart from the overlong climatic fight between good and evil monsters at the end, this new Marvel Superhero action movie is a clear winner,” proclaims Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Liu, also a stuntman and athlete is nimble and fearless, gracefully, effortlessly lifting the fight choreography. Liu’s character Shang / Sean has daddy issues, part of an emotional life that’s key to who he is, that’s more developed than most superheroes,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Way to go, Simu Liu!”
“Liu and Awkwafina have a delicate, delicious chemistry that raises this picture above the pack,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “Maybe you go to Marvel movies for the muscle – there’s a wicked fight scene in the early going that mixes elements of Bullitt, Speed and Iron Man 2 – but you stay for the heart.”
“If you’ve been watching Liu on Kim’s Convenience, you may have noticed that this version of Shang-Chi is not terribly far removed from the role of Jung Kim, another twentysomething who was content to let his potential go unrealized and just sort of glide through his days,” observes Norm Wilner at NOW Toronto. “But there’s a crucial difference: Shaun doesn’t want to realize his potential, because he’s the son of a thousand-year-old warrior who trained him from childhood to be an assassin. There’s a lot of baggage.”
“Toronto sports heroes may have underperformed lately. But we do now have a bona fide movie super hero,” cheers Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “Local hero Simu Liu proves his mettle in the Marvel universe as the title character in the action-packed Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
At That Shelf, Jason Gorber chats with Simu Liu about ascending to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, more excitingly, working with Tony Leung.
Superhost (dir. Brandon Christensen)
“Despite the current relevance of its subject, Superhost turns out to be a clichéd minor horror flick that is just mildly scary and entertaining,” sighs Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman (dir. Daniel Farrands)
“Plain awful,” declares Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
We Need to Do Something (dir. Sean King O’Grady)
“An interesting film with an interesting scenario, when the family is trapped in their house due a storm and all emotions run loose,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Wild Indian (dir. Lyle Mitchell Corbine, Jr.)
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls in “a moody slow burn but effective thriller covering timely issues like bullying and minorities. Well worth a look.”
“Wild Indian has the classic good versus evil structure of a Greek myth in which people become other in suffering. A fascinating emotional thriller, informed by the laws of nature and what happens when they are broken,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said.
Yakuza Princess (dir. Vicente Amorium)
“Yakuza Princess is a passable actioner with a few memorable scenes, the highlight of which is a fight in a karaoke bar (yes, MASUMI gets the chance to sing),” sighs Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “But it’s unable to get beyond a level of mediocrity, and MASUMI’s performance fails to resonate with the sufficient conviction required of her role.”
“[A] slightly above average action thriller and rip-roaring action flick,” declares Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Zone 414 (dir. Andrew Baird)
“[A] strange and fascinating sci-fi thriller that stands above the film in the genre for its weirdness and creepiness,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
A Festival of Festival Coverage: Here Comes TIFF!
Peter Howell assembles the hive for his annual Chasing the Buzz poll at the Toronto Star. Howell surveyed 30 film critics, industry peers, and devoted cinephiles to see which films have Toronto buzzing. “There’s a runaway winner this year, a movie that’s as unsettling as a nightmare and as urgent as a headline: Night Raiders, a dystopian sci-fi thriller by Toronto’s Danis Goulet, a Cree-Métis filmmaker,” writes Howell. “Set in a military-run North America following a ruinous future war, the film stars Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers as a Cree mother seeking to save her daughter (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart) from a forced education camp that recalls the horrors of residential schools.”
Marc Glassman navigates the annual minefield of embargoes to deliver a TIFF 2021 pre-fest report at Classical 96. “I can admit to seeing the films in Celebrating Alanis [the Alanis Obomsawin retrospective] and recommend them strongly,” writes Glassman. “If you have to see just one, please look at Kanehsatake, a TIFF award-winner—and deservedly so. It chronicles the shocking Oka Crisis, a significant moment in the relationship between Indigenous people and the Canadian majority. One hopes that true progress has been made since then.”
At NOW Toronto, Norm, Rad, and Glenn pick ten buzz-worthy bets beyond the obvious choices. (Cough, cough, Dune.) On the list? The Humans, Spencer, The Power of the Dog, Ben Platt’s Dear Evan Hansen wig, and more!
At The Globe and Mail, Johanna Schneller, Barry Hertz, and Kate Taylor combine forces for a list of 15 films they’re eager to see at the fest. On tap? The Hill Where Lionnesses Roar, Official Competition, and Last Night in Soho.
At What She Said, Anne Brodie previews some TIFF picks, including Mad Woman’s Ball (“Brilliant and gorgeous to look at with stunning historical detail”).
At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen revisits the 2000 RuPaul-narrated documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye ahead of the dramatic adaptation’s debut at the fest. “The documentary is a tale of love and puppets with its irreverently funny, but always compassionate, take on Messner’s story,” writes Mullen. “The filmmakers don’t hide their viewpoint: they’re clearly on Tammy Faye’s side and want to do their part to help the record straight.”
TV Talk – Murders! Crime!
Serial might have to answer for a sea of derivative true crime podcasts, but at NOW Toronto, Norm Wilner thanks the serialised staple for inspiring Only Murders in the Building: “The show borrows the structure of a serialized podcast, with the mystery doubling back on itself as new evidence surfaces, existing clues gain shocking new context and the lives of the hosts become tangled up in their own investigation. Formally, it’s a delight, with every episode introduced by a different narrator, and storytelling elements laid out methodically and inventively to encourage repeat viewings…Everyone’s having a ball, the filmmaking is inventive and even innovative, and for those of us who’ve missed Martin’s impeccable screwball timing, it’s just a pleasure to see him back on screen in a role specifically tailored to his strengths.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie digs into one of the most scandalous stories in politics with the Clinton-Lewinsky affair inspired Impeachment. “Margo Martindale’s icily fab as dialled in publisher and tastemaker Lucianne Goldberg looking for a gossipy book that [Linda] Tripp wants to offload. It’s pretty heady stuff, this decay and mistrust in D.C. and the people it transforms,” writes Brodie. Meanwhile, Cinderella offers a new ’do on the old fairy tale: “Plenty of humour and nutty zingers, wonderfully diverse characters, stadium hits for the soundtrack and pizzaz on every level. It feels like it’s trying too hard, but at least it tries.”