THE SUBJECT – Review by Liz Braun

Every serious film-goer knows that a movie with a weak start rarely improves. This makes The Subject a huge exception to the rule, as this debut feature from director Lanie Zipoy and writer Chisa Hutchinson has a lacklustre beginning and an unexpectedly powerful second half. The Subject concerns a documentary filmmaker with a guilty conscience. He has become well known and has won awards for a documentary about a Harlem teenager, but it’s a film that includes the death of its subject.

Read more

THE GIG IS UP – Review by Liz Braun

What’s it like to be “your own boss” in the global gig economy? Much like being rats in a maze, according to The Gig Is Up, an engaging documentary about the driver behind your Lyft ride, the Uber Eats kid who delivered dinner and the TaskRabbit guy doing your yard work. The people who are the invisible machinery behind all this ‘convenience’ are the focus of director Shannon Walsh’s film, a picture one hopes will shame the Ubers and Amazons of the world. But that doesn’t seem likely.

Read more

NO TIME TO DIE – Review by Liz Braun

No Time To Die is more of an event than a movie, but that’s the territory with James Bond. Fans waited 18 months to see the film and everyone knows it’s Daniel Craig’s last time at bat as the famed British spy, so the film came freighted with massive expectations. Luckily, it’s hugely entertaining — with explosive action, wild car chases, fascinating spy gadgets, beautiful women, evil villains, somewhat incomprehensible plotting and many narrow escapes — but this time out with a whole new level of emotional engagement. Writing about women and film is what we do around here, so it’s important to note that Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) reshaped the story with the blessing of all concerned, including Daniel Craig, who described her as a “fucking great writer” to the Financial Times.

Read more

THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE (TIFF2021)- Review by Liz Braun

Even at the height of their influence, Jim and Tammy Bakker were difficult to take seriously. The notorious TV evangelists got famous selling that specific American Christianity that is equal parts mammon, myth and messianic misdirection. The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a new film based on an eponymous documentary, attempts to capture this particular moment and these people. Directed by Michael Showalter and starring Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield, it is short on script and long on latex.

Read more

CINDERELLA – Review by Liz Braun

Happily ever after? That’s for losers. “You’re going to know my name!” is Cinderella’s new rallying cry, according to the latest interpretation of the fable available on Amazon Prime. The overall experience of this all-singing, all-dancing version of Cinderella is a bit like an extended episode of American Idol, with some High School Musical and a bit of Hamilton thrown in for good measure.

Read more

WORTH – Review by Liz Braun

What is a human life worth? That’s something lawyer Ken Feinberg has spent his career figuring out. Feinberg was Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. His job was to put a dollar value to every 9/11 victim to determine how much money each family would receive; it was a complex, unpleasant job that saw Feinberg work three years pro bono.

Read more

NO MAN OF GOD – Review by Liz Braun

Knowing these are actual conversations between Bill Hagmaier and Ted Bundy adds an edge to the proceedings, but watching the men talk in isolation with no reference to any other part of their lives makes this a sort of intellectual exercise that remains unconnected to the emotional. Except for revulsion. Any student of psychopathy can explain that serial killers are generally a dull bunch, distinguished only by the mad-dog impulses that eventually get them put down. Bundy had smartest-guy-in-the-room syndrome but was otherwise not remotely interesting enough to warrant the 20 or so movies, series and podcasts about his life.

Read more

MISHA AND THE WOLVES – Review by Liz Braun

A Belgian immigrant named Misha Defonseca told a particularly harrowing story about her childhood experiences during World War II. Separated from her beloved parents, Fonseca determined at age 7 to run away from her adoptive family and walk to Germany to find her transported mother and father. She lived out the war in the woods, moving constantly, foraging for food and living adjacent to a wolf pack that protected her. Or did she? Misha and The Wolves is a masterpiece of misdirection and yarn-spinning

Read more

ENEMIES OF THE STATE – Review by Liz Braun

The beauty of documentarian Sonia Kennebeck’s Enemies of The State is watching all the intricate details of espionage suspect Matt DeHart’s story being both created and then dismantled. Someone says in the film, “There’s no way of knowing where the truth lies,” but in the latter half of the documentary, you get pretty close. As Matt DeHart would tell you, disinformation is a powerful tool in the world of espionage. Turns out it’s useful in filmmaking too.

Read more

COUSINS – Review by Liz Braun

The criminal mistreatment of indigenous populations is not limited to North America. Cousins is a superb New Zealand drama about three Maori women and their paths in life, from childhood to late middle age. Mata, Missy and Makareta are girl cousins, close in age. One of them gets completely cut off from Maori culture, one is immersed in it and one moves between Maori and white settler cultures. No coincidence that this deeply affecting film is of, for and by women, of course.

Read more