Zacharias Kunuk one of Canada’s greatest filmmakers and one of my favourites anywhere, re-envisions the John Wayne classic western The Searchers in Igloolik, Nunavut in harsh winter. Maliglutit opens as an argument breaks out in an igloo between a family of nomads and ruffians who have demanded hospitality. The interlopers are ordered to leave. They do so but when the family men are out hunting, they return, destroy the igloo, murder three adults and children and kidnap a woman and female child. They’re tied like old rugs to the sled and taken miles away. The hunter comes home discovers what has happened, takes his son and looks for the killers’ trail with a gun and three bullets. Thus begins a long, arduous nightmare search, with starvation closing in and numb with anger. It’s an epic revenge story, set against the vast whiteness of the Arctic in all its glory and harshness. Kunuk uses long shots to show tiny figures against the vast white backdrop to highlight the huge task they’ve taken and the relentless power of nature, human and otherwise. The Inuit dialogue is subtitled but much of the film is silent. Kunuk’s 2001 film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner won a stunning 26 international awards No. 1 on the Best Canadian Films list as surveyed by critics last year. This is an artist whose films feel eternal.
The Founder is a scathing comedy drama about the man who stole McDonalds. Okay he developed the McDonalds chain from a single family-run diner to a dominant international brand, but knowingly ruined lives to do it. Roy Kroc, played with wicked abandon by Michael Keaton ingratiated himself into the lives and business of the McDonald brothers and stole their cutting edge ideas for fast food production. They wouldn’t listen to his plans to create a chain and franchise but his hubris and greed wouldn’t let him sit. He forced them out of their own company with tragic consequences. He rationalised his actions saying it was “just business”. Talk about the American dream! He pulled off this coup with nothing, no money, no partners, and no bankers – just talk. It suggests an earlier Trump in an era that was more innocent, gullible and sheltered than today. Kroc’s methods are despicable but you have to admire his moxy and creative solutions to any obstacles between him and his target. Naturally, you’ll be desperate for a hamburger after the movie, and a shower.
Vin Diesel’s back in his action franchise xXx: Return of Xander Cage– Paramount – which promises “stunts like you’ve never seen on the screen before”. Xander, presumed dead, reappears and takes on world governments about to unleash holy hell in purist of collective evil agendas. No Oscars.
Split Remember writer director M. Night Shyamalan who made The Sixth Sense, Signs and Unbreakable? Big hits but he followed them up with a string of underperforming films and lost his brainy horror groove. The film follows three girls kidnapped from the mall parking lot by a man with apparent multiple personality disorder. He reveals 24 of them allowing the girls the chance to entice a “good” one to free them. It’s a solid play by Shyamalan but the film has sparked backlash via #EndtheStigma and #StigmaWatch asking for compassion for those suffering from mental illness. The character is not “split”, an old term for Borderline Personality Disorder. He has a Dissociative Disorder which is a different ailment altogether. James McAvoy and The Witch’ Anya Taylor-Joy star.
Jamie Kastner’s latest documentary The Skyjacker tells the troubling story of Ishmael Muslim Ali (formerly LaBeet), today a Cuban pimp and a convicted hijacker and suspected mass murderer. The brutal massacre of white members of a private golf club in the American territory of St. Croix in 1972 was blamed on LaBeet and his cronies, some speculated to launch a race war between white and blacks in the economically divided island. Ali served 12 years in a US mainland prison and enroute to the Virgin Islands to carry out the rest of his sentence, hijacked his plane to Cuba, where he hoped to avoid further American interference. IN Cuba, he lived free, married and had a son figuring he was out of reach of the US. His “partners” in the massacre have remained in prison for 40 years. The mystery posed at the beginning of the film is to discover if he did it, given all the evidence damning him or if he didn’t do it, given all the evidence that suggests he couldn’t have done it. Told in extensive interviews with Ali, police, lawyers and friends it is exceedingly difficult to tell if he’s guilty. Even superstar lawyer William Kunstler jumped on his bandwagon when the story came to a head. Ironically, the looming US presence over Cuba now puts him in jeopardy. Kastner’s doc is maddening – we’re none the wiser if he did the deadly deed.
The newly launched UMC (Urban Movie Channel) is now streaming an original film Like Cotton Twines about an American volunteer who teaches in Ghana and holds high expectations for his mother’s homeland. He’s eager to help his students reach their full potential, especially a bright 13-year-old. But fate intervenes when her family has to pay for damages in an accident forcing her to give us school and become a slave. The idealistic American takes on the tribe, its culture and the religious customs of Ghana at great personal risk to get her back.
Coming January 30th streaming on Acorn.tv is a dark, sexy adaptation of the Agatha Christie mystery The Witness for the Prosecution starring Kim Cattrall, Toby Jones and Andrea Riseborough. If you saw the movie with Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton and Tyrone Power, this new version leaves it in the dust. It’s ripe with illicit sex, dark dreams, and bloody paws and comes with a gob-smacking conclusion. It’s London in the 1920 and life is good for a well-heeled ageing beauty; she’s found a cure for boredom in a handsome young man. He’s married but accepts her money and gifts. She is discovered one night brutally murdered and all fingers point at her boy toy that was seen leaving her house. The lesbian maid in love with Kim Cattrall’s character, her boy toy prostitute, his enigmatic “wife” and poor Toby Jones as the boy’s lawyer, physically unwell and arguing the case of his life – this adaptation is really out there, beautifully written, directed and acted, with wonderful aesthetic values. It is voyeuristic and chilling and I’ll bet Agatha Christie would be alarmed. I’m entertained!
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