SILENT NIGHT (TIFF2021) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Can you remember the first time you really knew you were going to die? You know, when you learned that every human and living being on the planet has an expiration date, including you? What if that date was Christmas, and everyone else was going to die, too? That’s the premise for writer/director Camille Griffin’s film Silent Night. The film is terrifying and as dark as a starless sky, not because of the premise itself, but because of how the story unfolds. Absolutely not for children, and not even for adults who avoid movies with children in peril, this is decidedly not a Christmas movie.

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CRY MACHO – Review by Susan Granger

At 91, Clint Eastwood is still throwing punches, riding horses and directing movies. Amazing! In this contemporary Western, set in 1980, Eastwood plays Mike Milo, a former horse trainer/rodeo rider, on a mission to cross the Rio Grande, rescue and kidnap his boss’s estranged 13 year-old son, Raphael (Eduardo Minett), who was abandoned by his Texan father (Dwight Yoakum) and abused by his alcoholic Mexican mother (Fernanda Urrejola).

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STOP AND GO – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

It takes some mega moxie to put the pedal to the metal for a road-trip comedy set during the scary early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. But somehow Stop and Go, whose unfortunate too-on-the nose original title was Recovery, delivers just enough relatable amusement and zesty fun thanks to its leading ladies and screenwriters, Whitney Call and Mallory Everton, who co-directs with Stephen Meek.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 24, 2021: EL PLANETA

Part Grey Gardens, part Kajillionaire, and part Paper Moon, writer/director Amalia Ulman’s feature directorial debut, El Planeta, is also wholly its own beast. The film is a naturalistic, observational dramedy about a mother and daughter in Gijon, Spain, who find themselves facing impending eviction and doing whatever they need to in order to get by. Filmed in expressive black and white, El Planeta is a thoughtful, slice-of-life character study.

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AWARE: GLIMPSES OF CONSCIOUSNESS – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The documentary Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness is a heady experience – dare I say spiritual? – that stirs feelings of awe and wonder, humility and connection. In exploring how six people examine and probe just what consciousness is, the film creates a contemplative openness that words alone might find hard to describe. It’s a remarkable film.

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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.

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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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WHERE IS ANNE FRANK (TIFF2021) – Review by Ulkar Alakbarova

Anne Frank’s diary has been told, filmed, and has many documentaries about it. It seems there is nothing more left to be said until you watch Ari Folman’s Where is Anne Frank. This time, it takes a novel approach and revolves around Anne’s imaginary friend, Kitty, who finds herself in Frank’s house in Amsterdam. Getting a physical form, she steals Anne’s diary and begins the journey of her dearest friend, as she, with deep sadness, learns about Anne’s tragic fate.

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THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BOY IN THE WORLD – Review by Diane Carson

Directors Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri’s documentary tantalizingly titled The Most Beautiful Boy in the World prompts several questions. First and most specifically, who played the alluring Tadzio, that boy, in Italian director Luchino Visconti’s 1971 adaptation of Thomas Mann’s 1912 novel Death in Venice? Second, given the global idolizing he activated, what career followed and who is he today?

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SALOUM (TIFF 21) – Review by Maitland McDonagh

The genre-warping Saloum starts out as an action-heavy thriller and glides seamlessly into a supernatural horror tale with intense psychological underpinnings. Congolese filmmakers Jean Luc Herbulot Herbulot and Pamela Diop draw on both real-life horrors and fairytale darkness, and combined with intense performances across the board the result is genuinely disturbing. Suffice it to say that the film’s most disturbing images have nothing to do with bogeymen.

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