Avengers: Infinity War – Disney / Marvel – This is action packed, ultraviolent, funny at times especially in sequences starring Chris Pratt as Peter Quill and Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, with whimsical, eager beaver gems from Tom Holland as Spider Man. Thanos, played by Josh Brolin and Loki, Tom Hiddleston, are on a deadly mission to recover five gems for Thanos’ magical glove – if he succeeds he will have the power to end the universe. First on the job trot to foil his evil plan are Dr. Strange and Iron Man followed by Black Panther, The Hulk, Captain America, Spider Man, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Thor, that is, the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy the Wakanda wizards (my name) Cute meets galore as the bros vie for top dog spot with humour, sarcasm, and duels. The women don’t get this rich action, oddly. Thanos’ escalation is quick and painful and destruction is nigh. At times it’s “Marvel”-ous at other times, panic -inducing and deeply sad. No spoilers here but you’ll be gasping. Directed by the Russo Brothers.
The Rider is one of the most powerful, hypnotic films I’ve seen, and that’s saying a lot. Chloe Zhao follows an indigenous cowboy, Brady Jandreau playing himself, as he goes through a season in the Badlands of Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He lives in poverty, dedicated to his horse and those he trains in the area. Zhao documents a profound, unforgettable moment in real time as Jandreau breaks a wild horse, creating a bond that has its precedent millennia ago and here it is, played out before us. It is enchanting, primeval and provocative. But the starting point for the film is the concussion Jandreau suffered falling from a horse and the way it limits him. He won’t talk about for fear of being perceived as less-than in the macho world of rodeo cowboys, so he deals with it alone and often unwisely. He fronts tough but we see inside his soul to the vulnerability and his capacity for love for family and his horses. Zhao’s precision and intuition help make this the stunning work that celebrates Jandreau and a way of life the defined the country in so many ways.
Halle Berry returns to features starring as a single foster mother of eight in the gripping fact-based drama Kings opposite Daniel Craig. They are neighbours in the tough hood of South Central Los Angeles in 1992 during the Rodney King trial and verdict. LAPD officers went free after being tried for the vicious, baseless beating of African American Rodney King that was caught on tape. In rioting over the next five days, sixty people were killed, ten by law enforcement, as racial tensions boiled over. Berry tries to keep her family together in one piece but some of the older ones leave to protest. Her surly neighbour, played by Craig joins her in looking for them and protects them putting himself at grave risk. Meanwhile her eldest is stopped by police. Sometime it takes an outsider to take a good look at what goes on in any given world, and this is director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s first feature in English. It premiered at TIFF but made a lacklustre showing.
Astrophysicists, philosophers, botanists, musicians, and academics state their case for our planet in the documentary Earth: Seen From the Heart by Iolande Cadrin-Rossignol. And they all deliver the same news. Earth is in trouble and we have to act fast to preserve it and our future existence. It’s believed we are at a tipping point requiring action and attention, but corporations and governments with huge resources are determined to use up the planet for profit. Are we heading to the Sixth Extinction? Not if the growing international grass roots movement has its way. That means protesting, speaking to politicians, demanding change and participating in education. The film is at Cineplex Yonge and Dundas April 29th with other openings to follow.
Science but this time, from man’s unfettered literary imagination on AMC’s Visionaries: James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, an origins exploration of the über popular genre that figures in popular culture dating back millennia and which thrives today. In six hour long episodes science fiction movie king Cameron shares ideas with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Guillermo del Toro, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith and Sigourney Weaver, a few of the one hundred participants in the project. Premieres April 30. Here’s Cameron fanboying with his idol who says true science fiction must be cautionary.
Which female has more recognition that the Queen? Clocking in at 98% is none other than 59 year old Barbie and now the iconic character doll falls under the microscope in Andrea Nevins’ doc Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie. Before Barbie, dolls were babies or toddlers, then she came along with sex appeal and career opportunities and the world stopped in its tracks. She could do whatever she wanted, go into space, play in a rock band, even keep house for Ken. This unblinking doc looks at Barbie’s social, political and sexual status and the nearly universal love/ nostalgia girls have for the doll, and why she needed to make a change. Newly discovered footage and unprecedented access to the Mattel’s Barbie offices fill in the details about falling out of favour recently and her reinvention. New Barbie launched at Paris’ Musée des Arts Decoratif, no less and the results were encouraging. The rail thin 11” doll has been the target of feminists who say she sexualised the childhood toy, that she is hopelessly last century and an impossible physical ideal for girls. Some have even accused Barbie of being the doll of white supremacy and sexism. But no longer, find out how Barbie got her mojo back with a new state of body and mind through interviews with Gloria Steinem, Roxane Gay, Peggy Orenstein, Mattel insiders and cultural historians. Premieres on Hulu April 27th.
The 26th annual Toronto Jewish Film Festival kicks off May 3 with a promising lineup with titles Heaven is a Traffic Jam, Frank Steifel’s Academy Award-winning doc profiling a brilliant artist who finds serenity while stuck in traffic; The N°5 War, an exposé on the life of Coco Chanel including her affair with a high ranking Nazi intelligence officer and Wonder and Amazement – Rita Briansky On Her Life in Art, a short doc about a Canadian icon in its World Premiere, and much more. https://www.tjff.com
Closing the festival May 13th is Barbra Streisand: Becoming an Icon 1942 – 1984 a German documentary portrait of the enduring singer actress and producer, featuring vintage photos, film and video footage. She grew up poor in Brooklyn with no father and no discipline, the family never ate together and she was a self-proclaimed wild child of the streets. That self-determination helped her become one of the greatest artists, unafraid to try new vocal styles, arrangement, looks and material. It helped that she was phenom, larger than life, fearless. Find out why Yentl, her pet project fifteen years in the making and a total flop, meant so much to her and what made her capable of winning 2 Oscars, 2 Emmys, 4 Grammys and one Tony, a record unbeaten today. Included in interviews is feminist commentator and author Camille Paglia. Here’s Babs in a recent Netflix doc:
You may be watching FX’s excellent Trust, a limited series on the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty’s grandson and the billionaire’s refusal to pay ransom.
Last Fall, Sony’s All the Money in the World told the same story and is now available on DVD and digital download. Christopher Plummer won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Getty, digitally inserted after Kevin Spacey’s #MeToo related firing. It happens once in a while that films on the same subject matter come out at more or less the same time, thinking back to the early 90’s and the trifecta of Robin Hood films. It’s fascinating to see how they differ and are similar in story variations, treatment, tone, actors and directors. One thing is unchanged in this scenario. The Getty family had a lot of problems. A lot.
Want to see just how weird Mother Nature can be? Next Wednesday, May 2 PBS offers a fascinating new episode of Natural Born Rebels: A Nature Miniseries. The second entry shows in vivid detail the lengths some animals will go to defend themselves. Check it – Cockatoos turn to vandalism, boxer crabs hold anemones hostage, sloths become filthy, puff adders have an ‘invisibility cloak’ to hide themselves, and chimps use violence to stay in power. Wow.
And The Handmaid’s Tale fans, on your marks. The show returns April 29th, that’s this Sunday on Bravo. Meanwhile Crave TV is airing a Catch-Up Marathon as we speak until April 27, with episodes airing back to back every night at 10 pm PT / 11 pm MT / 1 am ET.
by @annebrodie, BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI