Sunday 15 December 2019
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler

A Superior Sci-Fi, Naughty Nuns, Funny Failure to Thrive, and …Bake!

War for the Planet of the Apes the final chapter in the trilogy seems a psychological and spiritual meditation on war than an action adventure film.  Matt Reeves has co-written and directs a rich emotional drama that left me awestruck.  Combining elements of Shakespearean tragedy, grand opera, and noir film with an achingly powerful sense of intimacy it achieves great heights, genre notwithstanding.  A newly evolved “bad” ape joins Cesar’s pack as they battle humans in a world that resembles the worst corners of Putin’s Russia, the lowest ebb of Trump’s political imagination and Kim Jung Yu’s North Korea, a malevolent totalitarian place where nothing good exists.  Bad ape’s presence complicates an already volatile situation and then a child joins them, a refugee and symbol of innocence. The film’s impact comes from the apes’ intelligence and will to survive and their resistance to carrying out any defensive act that would lead to their corruption.  They inhabit a higher level than the humans who believe that inflicting pain and limiting freedoms is the way to fulfilment.  Andy Serkis’ Cesar is incredibly spot on, the strong core of this morality play versus Woody Harrelson’s Colonel, the embodiment of human evil.  He is Mr. Kurtz the symbol everything bad about mankind, especially his desire to annihilate any perceived “other” even a child.  It may be the end of the trilogy but it leaves us wanting more. It’s so good that I offer two trailers!

Writer director Jeff Baena’s The Little Hours is an extraordinary tale of cloistered nuns who suddenly find a man in their midst, a medieval Beguiled with a intriguingly twisted and raunchy sense of wit.  Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza and Kate Micucci play nuns starving for food, sensual pleasure and joy itself in a rundown convent in Tuscany circa 1400. Life is a daily grind of prayer, hard labour, swearing, thin gruel and more prayer, spiced up by gossip, competition, sex games, drinking and feuding.  A handsome handyman (Dave Franco) replaces the old man the nuns drove away and he is a feast on a platter for these starved souls.  And so begins the same thing that happened in The Beguiled, the girls sexually assault him, as jealousy and hostility mounts between them.  It’s a hell of a convent ride with substance abuse, shocking sexcapades and whatnot and let’s not forget, its 1400.  When the nuns drink they don’t belt out AC/DC – they belt out plainsong.  They get around on donkeys.  Instead of iPhones, there’s lacemaking.  When a suitable man shows up, and chances are extraordinarily slim, he’s fair game for all. This highly entertaining tapestry of sins is based on one of the 100 stories of Boccaccio’s Decameron, so there’s that too.  A word of warning – it is Red Band all the way!  John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Nick Offerman and Jemima Kirke co-star.

Two sisters seek out the truth of their fathers past in Avi Nesher’s Holocaust drama Past Life. Are sins paid for by succeeding generations? It would seem so in this fact-based story of a young Israeli singer (Joy Rieger) confronted by an outraged German woman in Berlin. The woman recognises the girl’s last name on the concert playbill and claims her father murdered her son during WWII.  The girl thinks back to the violence she’s experienced at her father’s hands and wonders if it can be true, that he would capable of murder.  Her sister, a fearless tabloid journalist (Nelly Tagar) is determined to discover the truth but she’s laid low with cancer. She claims its God punishing her for their father’s sins as she quotes an old saying “Parents eat sour grapes, their kids’ teeth fall out.”  The sisters confront their father and he claims innocence, that he accidentally killed a three year old boy who may have been his own son.  But it was a different time and he was a different man.  Tagar and Rieger ably carry the film that asks what truth is and finds the answer is “fluid”.

Citizen Jane: Battle For the City a documentary about author and neighbourhood activist Jane Jacobs premieres on HBO Canada Monday, a timely reminder that cities must be shaped for health, happiness and sense of community and cannot be compromised.  Jacobs, the late New York native and Toronto resident, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, looked on in horror as enormous slab apartment buildings mushroomed all around the world fifty years ago, believing they made us sick and limited our organic well-being by cutting us off from one another and from nature. Jacobs rallied and won battles to stop and even destroy existing buildings that have since been proven to harm us socially and psychologically.  Problem is, these buildings have risen again as condos and office towers that lack any sense of community and isolate us.  This doc is required viewing.

Netflix’ Friends from College is my new crush. It’s a limited original series of eight episodes about a group of college friends who find themselves in their forties still each other’s best friend and barely more mature than they were at Harvard.  The totally talented Keegan-Michael Key leads the cast of Cobie Smulders, Annie Parisse, Nat Faxon, Fred Savage and Jae Suh Park as these pals navigate twenty years long affairs while married to others, old hurts that arise again and again, comforting memories of a shared history and the dreams they once had.  It’s hard being an adult, so why not stay 27 forever? The writing is smart, hilariously funny and what do you know, uses a rich vocabulary!  There are clever references to TV’s Black Mirror, charges of public fornication and the timeless, if untrue line “We all know Raffi sucks!”

Netflix scores again with To the Bone starring Lily Collins, Alex Sharp, Keanu Reeves and Carrie Preston focussing on Ellen is 20-year-old anorexic and veteran of treatment programmes who keeps losing weight.  She a rebel at heart girl and won’t eat the cake her stepmother baked which reads “Eat Up Ellen!”  She agrees to so to yet another treatment programme, this one under non trad doctor Keanu Reeves where she finds a second chance to turn things around.  IN no way does this movie glamourise anorexia or thinness; it is clear about Ellen’s struggles, and also shows how an eating disorder can change a family dynamic and disrupt lives of the patient and those around her. Still, it’s funny, sly and moving.

Do you wait all week for the Great British Baking Show too? Television’s guiltiest pleasure is getting a Canadian make and model! The CBC has announced that Daniel Levy (Schitt’s Creek) and Julia Chan (Saving Hope) will host a Canadian version of the baking competition we all adore, set to debut in November. The show began production in Toronto and promises loads of images of cakes, cookies, speciality bakes, people handling chocolate and whipping up butter, sigh! The Great Canadian Baking Show will feature our country’s best home bakers vying for the win with that essential Canadian spirit. Pastry chefs Bruno Feldeisen, former executive pastry chef for the Four Seasons in New York and Vancouver and a multiple James Beard Award nominee; and Rochelle Adonis, the Quebec-raised, European-trained creator of a flagship tea shop and confectionary brand in Australia will judge.  Says Levy “The first time I watched The Great British Baking Show, my heart grew three sizes. It’s the most joyful, inspiring competition-based reality show on TV and I’m so excited to be a part of the Canadian series”.

by @annebrodie

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