Gifted actress Elizabeth Olson, the twins’ exceptionally talented sister, is the rock solid core of Wind River a compelling murder mystery set in the wintery wilds of a Utah Indian Reservation. The body of a barefoot young girl has been found in a remote spot hours from the nearest road buried under snow. Help is sent from Los Angeles to bolster the local sheriff’s investigation in the form of Olson who arrives in a blizzard in high heels undeterred by what she finds and ready to knock heads together. She proves her acuity and genius gut instincts and with the help of a ranger played by Jeremy Renner goes to dangerous lengths for answers. Locals don’t trust her and she doesn’t try to ingratiate herself, as her eyes are firmly on getting this tragic murder solved. Criminal elements in the community need attention and there is something else. Wind River is smart and riveting, a snowy noir, that’s edgy and nerve-shattering. The wonderful Canadian actor Graham Greene plays the patient local police chief. Taylor Sheridan wrote and directs.
Step is awards fodder documentary about senior year inner city girls dance group created to build discipline and add enjoyment to their lives. Step dancing also offers them a great way to express themselves while staying safe from the influences of the mean streets of Baltimore. It’s Broadway producer Amanda Lipitz’s heartwarming feature film directorial debut; she helped found the all-female Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women and documented their first year of dance for the film. What she captured is a heart tugging, deeply inspirational story of drive, passion, vision and heart. You’ll cry and cheer and fall in love with these girls.
Destin Daniel Cretton’s The Glass Castle is the story of the family of Jeannette Walls, the former national news network gossip reporter now an author, who came forward with a secret she’d been hiding for decades. She grew up on the run and poor, removed from mainstream society. Her father, played by Woody Harrelson, was an alcoholic and dreamer and pitched his kids fabulous stories to distract them from their situation; they avoided living in populated areas, squatted or skipped out on rent and went without food. Jeannette played by Brie Larsen was ashamed of her roots and reinvented herself as a high powered TV and online journalist and finally wrote about it in her 2005 memoir.
Annabelle: Creation a standard horror film based on the Stephen King novel: “Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a doll maker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the doll maker’s possessed creation, Annabelle”. Go if you want. I’m staying home.
If you like strong, empowered, ground breaking artists don’t miss TIFF Cinematheque’s retrospective Ida Lupino, Filmmaker on now at Lightbox. Born into an English theatre family Lupino became a successful young stage actress, but as soon as she was able, she relocated to Hollywood. There she launched a career that spanned 150 films as an actor and 41 as a director, many of those in the tough noir genre. Lupino was a miniature Elizabeth Taylor in appearance, dainty and tiny but her ambition and drive were big and her talent bigger. Her reputation grew as the years went by and she was rarely without work. Later in life she made a phenomenally successful switch to an exciting new medium – television – and once again owned it. Check out Lupino’s films screening at Lightbox at http://www.tiff.net/the-review/ida-lupino-filmmaker. And how about all those tough titles? Outrage!, Hard, Fast and Beautiful, Woman in Hiding, Escape Me Never, The Big Knife!
Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece Eugene Onegin with Anna Netrebko and Peter Mattei is on. Netrebko is Tatiana, the naïve heroine of Tchaikovsky’s opera, adapted from Pushkin’s classic verse novel. Peter Mattei stars as the title character, a bored, spoiled aristocrat who brutally rejects Tatiana’s love advising her to control her emotions. Years of unhappiness later, he makes a play for her, a married women and … Tchaikovsky’s tender, grand, melancholy and romanticism gain new life in this opera based on Pushkin’s iconic novel. It’s on PBS Sunday night. You can check Great Performances online at www.pbs.org/gperf
Acorn’s Hunting the KGB Killers is incredibly timely these days, reminding us how dangerous and unpredictable the Russian government can be and has been. The doc follows the years along investigation into the polonium poisoning death of writer Edwin Carter in a London sushi bar in 2006. His real name was Alexander Litvinenko and he was a former KGB agent turned traitor who had written books on terrorism and gangsterism inside the Kremlin and planned but never carried out an assassination. He was disillusioned by Russian corruption and their target so he fled to London. We follow his finals days, the painstaking investigations by police, Scotland Yard, forensic scientists and medical experts, as they were guided by microscopic chemical traces found in odd places and knowledge of human psychology. What a story!
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