NO TIME TO DIE – Review by Pam Grady

Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond that began 15 years ago with the elegant Casino Royale, ushering in a tough, charismatic 007 ends five films later on more of a whimper than a bang. Entertaining, if overlong, a weak villain and a third act that could have used a rewrite that put some thought into where you might go when you’ve written yourself into a corner betrays Craig’s swan song. He deserves better than this; so, does Bond.

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HOLD YOUR FIRE (TIFF2021) – Review by Pam Grady

Taking place only months after the bank robbery/hostage situation that inspired Dog Day Afternoon, the January 1973 incident at John and Al’s Sporting Goods in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, went on far longer – lasting nearly four days – and resulted in the death of a cop. It is also the event credited with ushering in the modern age of hostage negotiation. And it is has been pretty much lost to history – until now with the Toronto International Film Festival world premiere of Stefan Forbes’ Hold Your Fire, a riveting documentary on the subject.

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THE GUILTY (TIFF 2021) – Review by Pam Grady

Twenty years after his breakthrough film, Training Day, Antoine Fuqua returns to the environs of the Los Angeles Police Department to deliver a very different, more subdued drama. A remake of a 2018 Danish thriller of the same name and shot under COVID protocols, it is a film where interest never flags but one that is hampered by its shaky night-in-the-life-of scenario, delivering a too shallow portrayal of the life of a troubled man.

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SILENT NIGHT (TIFF2021) – Review by Pam Grady

Apocalyptic stories are no strangers at the Toronto International Film Festival, my favorite of all time (granted one that predates my time at the festival) being Don McKellar’s TIFF award-winning Last Night, in which the Toronto native imagines how a group of city residents count down humanity’s final hours and emerges with a drama that is captivating and oddly, beautifully romantic. This year, the festival chose writer/director Camille Griffin’s Silent Night, another end-of-the-world story that like McKellar’s film tries to strike a tone beyond pure horror, but one doesn’t quite work with pieces that don’t quite fit. Griffin deserves credit for taking the risk, but it is one in which pay off proves elusive.

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THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE (TIFF 2021) – Review by Pam Grady

Jessica Chastain might be hoping that the sheer amount of makeup on her face will be good enough at awards time to garner her some nominations. In becoming The Eyes of Tammy Faye‘s Tammy Faye Bakker, there is so much coverage on the actor’s visage (really, so much that it is practically spackle) – which makes her resemble a John Wayne Gacy clown painting and which she blames for possibly forever altering her skin – that it is practically a character unto itself and certainly more animated than anything else in this needless dramatic regurgitation of the 2000 documentary of the same name. Whether all that paint will be good enough for an Oscar nod in a movie that misfires remains to be seen.

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ENEMIES OF THE STATE – Review by Pam Grady

Enemies of the State is the strange saga of Matt DeHart, whose tale of government persecution is narrative quicksand. Wisely, the filmmakers stage this odd story in all of its intricate confusion as a kind of documentary thriller, complete with reenactments, that leave the viewer to try to tease out the truth of the matter.

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RESPECT – Review by Pam Grady

The recreation of some of Aretha Franklin’s hits is brilliant, scenes sublimely directed by Liesl Tommy, with vocal performances from Jennifer Hudson living up to the faith Aretha Franklin had in her (even if she is not quite in Franklin’s league – but then, no one is or will be, the woman was peerless) and reflecting what the excitement must have been like when those songs were fresh and new. It is a shame that the screenplay isn’t sharper. Aretha Franklin deserves better than the banality that deflates this otherwise excellent effort.

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BLACK WIDOW -Review by Pam Grady

Aussie director Cate Shortland (Lore, Berlin Syndrome) proves a capable hand at the rock-em-sock-em action; explosive; outsized violence; and huge dollops of humor that mark the Marvel universe as she brings Black Widow‘s saga to a satisfying close and introduces a new bad-ass superheroine in Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova.

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CRUELLA – Review by Pam Grady

You’ve got to hand it to the Mouse. Disney can make a princess out of anyone, even one of its legendary villains, Cruella De Ville, a kind of hard-hearted Snow White whose Evil Queen is her designer boss, the Baroness. For those of us who grew up loathing that simpering, eventually sleeping princess, this is more like it: a princess who gives as good as she gets.

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WHEN HITLER STOLE PINK RABBIT – Review by Pam Grady

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is one of those rare family films that really is as appealing to adults as to children. It is an involving story, one that is clear enough for a child to understand with a heroine with whom it is easy to identify. For grownups who understand the full historical implications of the tale, it is a moving story of one family’s survival as the world is on the cusp of going mad.

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