Abraham Lincoln

RVIFF Reviews: War Between Actors, Grounded Martial Arts Comedy and Hired Killer Meta-Narrative

September 19th, 2022 | Robin


A Ken and Robin Consume Media Special Feature


At the end of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, my wife Valerie and I decided to break up with it, after decades of attendance. We have replaced it with RVIFF, the Robin and Valerie International Film Festival. It’s the festival you can play along with at home, with a curated roster of streaming titles I’m excited to see. Daily capsule reviews roll out throughout the festival, with a complete list in order of preference dropping a day or two afterwards. Review ratings are out of 5.


The last day of RVIFF went off as scheduled yesterday. I hear that the Toronto International Film Festival wrapped up too, handing its coveted and Oscar-portending Peoples Choice Award to a scrappy newcomer named Steven Spielberg.

When attending actual TIFF I would always start with the final day in hopes of loading it up with lighter and more energetic fare. Sometimes this would be possible, ending with a midnight Gamera flick, for example. Other years the scheduling gods showed less consideration to movie-addled brains and the best choice to end on would be a solid but downbeat drama or something disturbing.

As RVIFF programmer finishing with fun was suddenly an easier matter.

Peace by Chocolate (Canada, Jonathan Keijser, 2021, 4) Syrian refugee relocated to the snowy small town of Antigonish Nova Scotia is torn between his desire to attend medical school and his father’s wish to rebuild the chocolate business that was destroyed back home. Thoughtfully crafted script does a good job of maintaining conflict the context of a light and affirming docudrama.

This is the RVIFF title you can take your mom to. Based on a true and celebrated story, with prominent tips of the hat to the Sobey’s grocery chain and Justin Trudeau. The best of its Canada jokes occurs when the protagonist is immediately issued a toque on arrival at the airport.

We meant to lay in a supply of Peace by Chocolate to eat during the film but somehow failed that logistical challenge. A strong word with festival organizers is called for.

Snowflake (Germany, Adolfo J. Kolmerer, 2017, 4) In a dystopian near future Berlin, bantering killers (Reza Brojerdi, Erkan Acar) discover that their actions are dictated by a screenplay written by a dentist. Meta cult hitman movie about vengeance and narrative inevitability.

The Paper Tigers (US, Quoc Bao Tran, 2020, 4) Insurance man struggling to keep up as a divorced dad (Alain Uy) reluctantly reunites with former fellow martial arts students (Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Ron Yuan) to investigate the death of their sifu. Mix of grounded, observational comedy and martial arts flick kept aloft by the winning leads.

Official Competition (Spain, Mariano Cohn & Gastón Duprat, 2021, 4) Eccentric director (Penelope Crus) presides over a clash of egos when she rehearses her next film with a pretentious theater actor (Oscar Martinez) and a temperamental movie star (Antonio Banderas.) Monumental wide shots in an empty modernist building counterpoint a hilarious satire of actorly insecurities.

And that’s a wrap. Unlike TIFF, we did not have to end it by walking down an escalator that has broken down for the second time this week, walk to the subway, and then stumble home bleary. Instead we are already at home, bleary.

Tomorrow I’ll post the roundup of all capsule reviews in rough order of preference.

Due to moderate demand, the RVIFF shirts I made for the two of us are now available in the Ken and Robin merch store.



If you enjoy this special text feature of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff podcast and don’t already support our Patreon, consider tossing a few bucks in the tip jar. Or check out my book on action films and their roleplaying applications, Blowing Up the Movies. Or the roleplaying game inspired by the Hong Kong films I first encountered at TIFF, Feng Shui 2.

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