THE WHALE – Review by Susan Granger

Brendan Fraser delivers a remarkable performance in the title role of Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, adapted from his play by Samuel D. Hunter. Before we even glimpse his gigantic, 600-pound frame, we hear his gentle voice, teaching an English literature class on-line. Encased in a latex suit with digital prosthetics, designed by Adrien Morot, Fraser’s portrayal is inevitably minimalist, a choice that exudes pathos, even when he’s gobbling greasy pizza or devouring a bucket of fried chicken.

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EMPIRE OF LIGHT (TIFF 2022) – Review by Cate Marquis

Empire of Light takes place in a grand old movie theater that is now slowly fading away in early 1980s, with a loyal movie-loving staff still selling tickets and popcorn to dwindling audiences. You would expect such a movie to be a love letter to the movies, or at least old movie theaters, fondly recalling the glory days of actual film on reels and the magic of movies. Writer/director Sam Mendes’ nostalgic drama does start out that way, but then it drifts off into something else, a plot touching on mental illness and racial tensions in the 1980s, and involving a May-October romance.

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THE LOST KING (TIFF 2022) – Review by Cate Marquis

Stephen Frears’ true story-inspired comedy-drama The Lost King is a charmer with a thoughtful underdog theme, starring the wonderful Sally Hawkins as an amateur historian who locates the long-lost grave of King Richard III, the last Plantagenet king. The grave’s location had eluded professionals for centuries. The discovery made headlines around the world, but even better, was that the person who pulled off this discovery, Philippa Langley (Sally Hawkins), was an ordinary middle-aged woman who turned amateur historian – or maybe history detective is more apt – after seeing a production of Shakespeare’s play.

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THE BLUE CAFTAN (TIFF 2022) – Review by Cate Marquis

Saleh Bakri and Lubna Azabal deliver moving performances as a traditional tailor and his wife struggling to make a living in one of the oldest medinas in Morocco, in writer/director Maryam Touzani’s moving, thought-provoking human drama The Blue Caftan. Although the drama features a traditional craftsman practicing a fading art, at its heart, The Blue Caftan is really about love in its various forms, romantic love, a love of a craft, and more. It is also a showcase for some striking performances, particularly from Lubna Azabal, in the story that takes surprising twists, and is by turns powerfully dramatic, funny, touching, or heart-wrenching, as this excellent French Moroccan, Arabic-language film unfolds

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My TIFF 2022 Diary: Highlighting Day-to-Day ‘IRL’ – Johanna Schneller reports (Exclusive)

After two minutes, I realize I’m levitating an inch from my seat with happiness. This movie is everything I’d hoped and more. There is not one wasted syllable. I keep swatting away tears of anger (on behalf of the characters, and their real-life counterparts). I can feel the emotion rolling up and down the rows, that feeling you can only get in a theatre full of people who are having a collective experience. I won’t know this until a few days later, but Women Talking sets the tone for my whole TIFF: brilliant women directors, squaring their sites on the patriarchy. And experiencing their work in public again, finally.

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MURU (TIFF 2022) – Review by Ulkar Alakbarova

Muru is a solid thriller inspired by true events of police raids that took place in 1961 and 2007 in New Zealand. It follows a local police Sergeant “Taffy” Tawharau (Cliff Curtis) who must make a tough decision to assist the Government with a police raid or stand by his community and prevent possible bloodshed. When the government launches an armed raid on Taffy’s community called Ruatoki on a school day, things go terribly wrong. What starts as a mission to find and arrest a possible local terrorist who threatened to attack the Prime Minister turns into a violent altercation with casualties that could have been prevented.

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Tearepa Kahi and Cliff Curtis on MURU (TIFF 2022) – Ulkar Alakbarova interviews

Racism, corruption, discrimination, greed and power. They all go hand-in-hand. We hope that at some point the world we live in will change for the better. But it does not happen. Are we just naïve to hope and still believe in miracles? The story told in Muru, directed by Tearepa Kahi happened not too long ago. But when you look at it, you begin to ask yourself – how is it even possible for something like this to occur in our modern times? Not revealing much, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with director Tearepa Kahi and actor Cliff Curtis, who provided insights into the film much better than I could.

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THE WOMAN KING – Review by Susan Granger

One of the many benefits of inclusion is the ability to learn about historical events that have never before been chronicled on the big screen. Set in 1823, this story follows Nawi (Thuso Mbebu), a rebellious Dahomey teenager who refuses an arranged marriage; infuriated, her father forces her to join warrior force known as the Agojie, commanded by General Nanisca (Viola Davis). Working from a jumbled, often overly melodramatic script by Maria Bello and Dana Stevens, director Gina Prince-Blythewood delivers a rousing, action-packed adventure.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 23, 2022: THE WOMAN KING

In the African kingdom of Dahomey, now a part of Benin, an elite all-female military regiment of warriors called the Agojie guarded the king and his subjects from the 1600s through the 1800s. By the mid-19th century, they accounted for a third of the entire Dahomey army. That’s history, and the inspiration for director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s historical epic The Woman King, starring Viola Davis, one of the few studio films releasing in 2022 directed by a female filmmaker.

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PRISONER’S DAUGHTER (TIFF 2022) – Review by Ulkar Alakbarova

When you read the synopsis about a man who is being released from prison on grounds of compassion, you think it’s going to be another action film in which an elderly man must fight his past enemies. It is the first thing that comes to a mind once you hear about Prisoner’s Daughter. However, the moment the film starts, it takes a different turn, a surprising one. With screenplay by Mark Bacci and directed by Catherine Hardwicke, Prisoner’s Daughter is a feel good story.

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