Reviews

Review by David Baldwin

I have been kicking myself for missing In Fabric when it screened during TIFF well over a year ago. I had scheduled it in for the second day of the festival and lined up diligently 40 minutes prior to showtime. It was my first year being a serious member of the press and I had quickly discovered that to maintain my schedule, it would involve a lot of running around between theatres and screens. Having already sat through 8 films by that point, I thought I had it all figured out. But I had not factored in the size of the screen and the number of seats for that particular screening, and stupidly thought that I would not have any issues entering despite the obscene number of people in line. My confidence took a bit of a hit when they cut off the line with ten people ahead of me. Somehow I held out hope that eleven magical seats would show up if I waited around, missing other potential screenings I could have ran into instead. But it was not to be for me, the few people ahead and the 100+ behind me.

TIFF made up for this by scheduling multiple additional screenings of the film to meet the audience demand. As it would turn out, I had other much more pressing movies to see literally every single time they showed it. I was disappointed I missed out, but the consolation was seeing literally everything else. A24 picked up the film for release in the US soon after the festival (Mongrel Media picked it up for Canada), so I assumed I would not have to wait all that long to see it. That was September 2018.

Cut to December 2019. It is very cold outside, Christmas is coming, a whole other TIFF has come and gone, and I am just now finally seeing In Fabric. Some would call it a Christmas movie, so thematically the timing makes sense. But to say my expectations were super high would be an understatement.

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Review by David Baldwin

I have been trying to write a review for Riley Stearns’ The Art of Self-Defense for over a week now. I am at the point in my life where free time is slowly dwindling down, and adulthood and the responsibilities that come with it keep amping up. I do chores in and around the house, and by the time I get to writing, I just end up staring at a blank Word document and falling asleep. But in all of that time, I have not stopped thinking about Stearns’ film. It has lingered at the back of my mind, popping up when I least expect it and bringing me snide joy more times than I can count.

And I would like to think that would make Sensei proud. But I also think that he would consider me less of a man for feeling this way. Probably even less than that for using the words “snide joy” in a sentence.

If reading that sounds a bit toxic, offensive and more than slightly emasculating, than The Art of Self-Defense may not be for you. The tale of Casey (Jesse Eisenberg), his desire to learn how to defend himself, and his admiration and later obsession with the local dojo run by Sensei (Alessandro Nivola) starts off innocuously and humourously enough. But around the halfway mark, it jumps the rails and morphs into the bleakest, darkest satire imaginable – something that practically wrecks of toxic fumes. And it happens to be one of the funniest comedies of the year thus far.

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Review by David Baldwin

Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) and Mont (Jonathan Majors) are friends who do everything together. Jimmie lives at Mont’s house, but dreams of moving back into the home his Grandfather built in the Bay Area back in the 1940’s. Despite another couple living there, Jimmie tends to the gardens and paints the windows and trim outside. When he finds out they are divorcing, he tries to buy the house. And despite finding out he does not have nearly enough money to pay for it, Jimmie is determined to make it his own.

In a strictly visual sense, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a sumptuous feast for the eyes and easily one of the most gorgeous films of the year thus far. Every single shot from the opening frame right up until the closing credits is captured and composed beautifully. The colour palette used here is stunning and makes for a truly miraculous work of art. There was a lot of hype and excitement for the film coming out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it is very easy to see why. I was practically mesmerized by Adam Newport-Berra’s breathtaking cinematography so often that I forgot what was actually going on within the story.

And in a way, I think that might be intentional.

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Review by David Baldwin

Charlotte (Allison Williams) was a teenage cello prodigy on her way to being a star. But she had to leave her illustrious school when her mother fell ill. Flash to ten years later, where her mother has passed away and Charlotte is not sure what to do next. She decides to take a trip to Shanghai and there she encounters Elizabeth (Logan Browning), the school’s new rising star. They have an instant rapport and comradery, but it does not last for long.

If you are squeamish, or prefer the movies you watch to feature less bugs, blood, and vomit, than this might not be the film for you.

I have already said far too much for my own good. Saying any more would rob you of the deliriously twisted pleasure in seeing how The Perfection plays out for the remainder of its 90-minute running time. The film was a huge hit at last year’s Fantastic Fest – and after watching, it is plainly obvious to see why.

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Review by David Baldwin

Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are about to finish high school. They are at the top of their class in academics, and both have extensive plans for the fall and beyond. But on the eve of graduation, they realize how much of the high school experience they missed out on by spending all of their time studying. So they set out to party and change the impressions their classmates have of them – that is, if they can find the right address for the biggest party of the year.

I saw Booksmart just over two weeks ago and I am still laughing just thinking about some of the jokes and wild moments packed into it. I was afraid going in that the buzz out of the SXSW Film Festival would overhype and overtake the movie for me. But rather delightfully, Booksmart met and surpassed every single one of my expectations. It truly is the real deal. And while it is easy to read the plot description and believe it is like any number of other teenage coming-of-age comedies (or specifically assume it is a gender swapped Superbad clone), it is actually something much greater than that.

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Review by David Baldwin

For as far back as I can remember, I have had Sundance Film Festival FOMO. Going to Cannes will likely remain a pipe dream for the foreseeable future, but the prospect of going to Sundance is much more attainable — just a matter of the stars lining up in just the right pattern (and my wife granting me permission to skip her birthday to spend a week in Utah). Until both of those things happen or Hell freezes over, I will continue to sit by idly paying attention to all of the buzz coming out of the festival every January and make a mental list of all my must-see films.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile was one of those films and was one I assumed I would have to wait until the Fall to see at TIFF. Thankfully, the film showed up a whole lot earlier. The buzz has remained high ever since the January premiere and I have heard and read the word “Oscar” being thrown around in a completely serious way. And when that happens, it can go one of two ways: it can be warranted or absolutely preposterous. And despite the lengthy and obnoxious title, I hoped it was the former and not the latter on this one.

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Review by David Baldwin

The premise of The Last Summer revolves around that small window of time for high school grads just before they go to college and continue their march towards jobs, adulthood and the real world. It is a magical time because you are on the precipice of a new adventure and are literally about to turn your back on who and what you were in the past. I do not really remember my own “last summer” much — I think I went to a few parties, hung out with my now ex-girlfriend, went on one small trip and definitely watched a ton of movies. I spend more time thinking nostalgically about that entire school year, what a wild adventure that was, all the friends I made (and the few I still remain in contact with) and all the memories I made that continue to bring me great joy.

I think that is why I was really cautiously optimistic about checking out The Last Summer when I saw the trailer a few weeks back. I was hoping it would evoke nostalgic memories for me and think about those friendships and adventures. And having Riverdale‘s K.J. Apa as the lead of a fairly recognizable ensemble didn’t hurt either.

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Review by David Baldwin

Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) and Nate (LaKeith Stanfield) have just broken up. They were dating for 9 years in New York City, but decided to end their relationship when Jenny gets her dream job at Rolling Stone magazine in San Francisco. With one week until the big move, she looks to her friends Erin (DeWanda Rise) and Blair (Brittany Snow) to help cheer her up and go on one last adventure.

It took me two tries to watch Someone Great. Admittedly, I was extremely tired the first time I watched first-time director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s film and fell asleep after about 20 minutes. But I watched it again from the start the next day, and immediately realized what a terrible mistake I made. Robinson has created a raw, emotional, and charming film that speaks to what friendship means in the face of becoming an adult — and the maturity on display here may catch you off guard.

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Review by David Baldwin

What I have always found fascinating about movies is the fact that once they are finished and released into the world, they rarely change. Sure there have been Director’s, Extended and Unrated Cuts released after the film’s initial release (Ridley Scott is the KING of tinkering with his movies and never being satisfied with any of his final cuts) but they rarely alter the original content or message. They merely add to and/or enrich and/or destroy the viewing experience. What does change, almost every single time, is how we as individuals feel about the movie we are watching. It’s not unheard of to watch a movie you liked for the second or third time and have absolutely no idea why you ever enjoyed it in the first place, or vice versa. And I find that this ideal happens substantially more often for films I see at festivals, specifically the Toronto International Film Festival.

I mention and namedrop TIFF because the first time I saw Unicorn Store was at its World Premiere screening during the festival back in September of 2017. It was Day 5 of the festival and my first movie of the day. I had slept in that day not just due to exhaustion from the previous four days, but I was also still reeling from seeing mother! the night before (I went into that movie completely blind as my fifth movie of the day and was not okay afterwards). I was excited to see Unicorn Store that day for multiple reasons: it was Oscar-winner Brie Larson’s directorial debut; it was playing at my favourite venue, the Ryerson; and it was not an obscenely priced Premium ticket to pick up. I sat down in my seat, took not-all-that subtle photos of the celebrity sitting behind me (the team flanking him was less than thrilled), and waited for the film to start.

Looking back at my Twitter feed from that day, it looks like I enjoyed the film for the most part. But as days and weeks turned into months, I forgot about it and it quickly became one of four movies I saw during that festival that never officially saw the light of day again. Flash forward over a year and a half later, and Unicorn Store is finally being released on Netflix. But a lot can change in that amount of time, even if the movie itself has not done much changing.

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Review by David Baldwin

I was a Disney kid growing up. The numerous VHS tapes gaining dust in my Mom’s basement can attest to that fact. My all-time favourite was Aladdin, but I’m told I was a big fan of The Jungle Book, The Sword and the Stone and Robin Hood when I was much younger. And while we ended up buying and watching a lot of other random Disney movies (and some sequels), we never bought Dumbo. And the more I think about it, I do not even think I watched Dumbo in it’s entirety until I bought the Blu-ray myself nearly ten years ago. I knew who he was, but the fondest memory of the character I have was his brief appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.

Which made this weekend’s release of the live action remake/reimagining/rewhateverweshouldcallit all the more interesting. Unlike Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin remake I’m destined to be much too critical of, my nostalgia for Dumbo does not run nearly that deep. Having recently re-watched the original film, I was genuinely shocked how little I remembered about it. And sure, I am not the biggest proponent of Disney remaking every single one of their animated classics, but I was willing to give this one a chance because of its stellar cast and because I still have a soft spot for Tim Burton.

I should have known better.

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