The romcom is alive and well and living in coastal England! Juliet, Naked based on Nick Hornby’s novel, stars Rose Byrne as Annie, a woman locked in a dull relationship with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd) who is obsessed with retired American rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). She’s at the end of her rope with his Croweisms, and savages his “latest release” Juliet, Naked on Duncan’s Crowe website. The apparently clear-sighted man himself replies to her saying she nailed it, and thus begins a trans-Atlantic emotional affair. Before long, he’s in Jolly Old. Crowe has small crowd of children by different wives hinting at a Jagger-esque life, which add complication, frustration and yes, jealousy. Rose is drawn to his easy naturalism and lack of airs. It’s an old-fashioned romantic comedy with the adorable Kid, judgy friend, bar dancing, will-he-won’t-she tropes and it does feel good. It’s a breath of fresh air in the extremely dark, twitchy unhappy universe of movies these days.
John Cho and Debra Messing star in the supple and surprisingly effective crime thriller Searching that manages to make keying on electronic devices not dull. That’s an achievement. There’s a cautionary note illustrating that we habitually fail to communicate with one another, and that’s the underlying tragedy of the story. Cho grieves the death of his wife from cancer and his behaviour changes. He’s stern and unforgiving with his teen daughter (Michelle La), and one night she goes missing. He hectors her with aggressive texts and calls and eventually the penny drops – she’s not playing. A local detective (Messing) takes an interest in the case and together they dive into the devices she didn’t take with their universes of secrets. It becomes clear he didn’t know his own daughter; he can’t name a single friend. First time feature writer director Aneesh Chaganty has crafted a hypnotic mystery that feels authentic and points to deeper truths about human behaviour, connection and wilful blindness. He clearly learned lessons watching films driven by typing fingers, glowing staring faces and endless screens that didn’t understand the cinematic problem of making a dull undertaking move along.
Cardinals from Aidan Shipley and Grayson Moore stars Sheila McCarthy, Katie Boland and Grace Glowicki and if you like your Canadiana noir, this is for you. McCarthy is a wife and mother who just arrived home from serving a lengthy prison term that no one mentions. Her daughters, Katie Boland and Grace Glowicki radiate hobbling tension; the neighbourhood isn’t exactly delighted to see Mom. The house is vandalised, and a neighbour (Noah Reid from Schitt’s Creek) shows up asking her to describe what happened that night she killed his father while driving drunk. His mother committed suicide shortly after. He’s loaded for bear, and she’s not giving an inch. Did she swerve and hit the man to avoid a dog? Was she drunk or did she murder him? The story takes a wild ride – Mom’s controlled rage, the daughter’s oddly different reactions to the situation and the unbearable tension make for a gripping ride with a heck of a reveal. Cardinal is the film equivalent of the Southern Ontario Gothic literary genre with its moral decay and realism and the introduction of evil in context of the setting. The film was shot in and around Stratford, Ontario, renamed “Strasburg” and features the city’s annual parade of live swans. Available on iTunes on August 31st and VOD September 4th.
Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson are reunited in Amazon Prime Video’s Shakespearean tragedy King Lear. Set in the modern world of London royals, starting with interiors of the Tower of London and with a gorgeously dramatic score, Richard Eyre’s adaptation is seductive but sour. The Trump-like narcissism of King Lear is infamous and Hopkins goes further, channelling Hannibal Lecter. He demands to know how much each of his daughters loves him. Goneril (Thompson), Regan (Emily Watson) and Cordelia (Lady Macbeth’s Florence Pugh) are in an impossible situation; he’s pondering abdication and is parcelling his properties for them, to be divided according to how much each loves him. The eldest two deliver embarrassingly heady praises through gritted teeth, but Cordelia says “Nothing”, that she loves him according to her bond, no more and no less. Hopkins hisses Hannibal style, at her and tells her it would have been better if she had not been born; he disinherits and tries to marry her off but no one will have a penniless, decommissioned Princess. The Duke of Kent (Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter) protests his abuse and is beaten and banished. Goneril and Regan admit to one another they were lying to their father and go to war against one another. The place is in an uproar. Lear will learn of his eldest daughters’ betrayals and begin his descent down that dark, paranoid path to collapse. What a story! Well done, Will. Fantastic imagery and art direction, but a little heavy and a tad wearing, the film’s chock-a-block with interesting British actors including Jim Broadbent, Tobias Menzies, Andrew Scott and Anthony Calf.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime Original stars John Krasinski revealing the Harrison Ford/Jack Ryan origins story. Krasinski is a smart young intelligence finance officer whose insights earn him a reputation as a valuable asset and an idealistic troublemaker. His boss, a disgruntled Wendell Pierce, demoted from the frontlines in Pakistan to a DC desk job, sends him to Yemen on a classified mission. Ryan interrogates his first terrorist subject; he’s a finance guy, following the money to discover who is funding recent international terrorist strikes. However, during the interrogation, an enemy attack on the site occurs; a high ranking terrorist officially declared dead and body-bagged, rises up and shoots Ryan and takes the prisoner away. Ryan must now interpret what he’s learned to establish a pattern of terrorist communication to put an end to the threat. What he doesn’t know is that the enemy he’s fighting grew up under attack by US missiles in Lebanon and has a long memory. Nice to see Krasinski back on the small screen.
Ozark Season 2 is here! Netflix’ addictive southern soap about drug cartels operating out of the backwoods of redneck USA is smart, endlessly eye opening and beautifully made. Jason Bateman’s mini masterpiece follows the Byrde family as Marty attempts to safeguard his family and solidify his financial endeavours on the wrong side of the law. The crime syndicate’s lawyer Helen Pierce arrives on the scene and she’s got him in her sights just as the Byrds begin to feel relatively secure. The kids know what’s going on and their own peer relationships are coloured by the family business. Cade Langmore’s out of prison and that’s nothing but trouble, as his daughter Ruth grows in skill, power and profile. Dig in! Will the Byrdes – and their children – ever breathe freely again?
Also available on Netflix is the sci-fi mystery The Innocents concerning an English teen (Sorcha Groundsell) and her boyfriend (Percell Ascott) who run away from home together. They’re in love and can no longer stomach their families. The girl’s controlling father wants to keep her locked up because her mum “got away”, and the boy’s father has severe dementia. Is leaving him alone murder? Her disabled brother sympathises and helps them leave and suffers the consequences. A truck stop ramps up the action as they’re kidnapped by shape shifters. Sci fi, see? And they kill one. Meanwhile he kills his son with pills and the girl shape shifts into an enormous man. She is a hereditary shape shifter whose parents left her in the dark regarding her abilities. If this is your cup of tea, then have at it.
Hidden from Acorn is a Welsh production about a police detective (Sian Reese Williams) who has returns to her rural home to care for her ailing father and finds herself investigating the discovery of girl’s body in the woods. The coroner says the girl was shackled for weeks before drowning and bears cutting marks similar to those on another village girl who was attacked by an unknown assailant. We see the perpetrator living his life in the decrepit family home, under the thumb of his disturbed mother in law who whips him on the slightest provocation. She forces him to sleep in the barn with the dogs and apparently this is why he abuses girls. That and the storied east wind. Relentlessly grim stuff that could use some leavening.
Ok, let’s finish this off on a positive note!!! Book Club is available on disc and online Tuesday! Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen hold their own, and then some with Craig T. Nelson, Andy Garcia and Don Johnson. Four women gather for wine and books, gossip and observations on life and begin to discuss their hopes, dreams and sex lives and realise they want more – of everything! Bergen’s character is a Judge and hasn’t had a date in decades, Fonda’s sexually adventurous and fearful of falling in love, Keaton’s ruled by her grown, bossy kids and Steenburgen’s marriage has gone stale. That sounds like a job for Fifty Shades of Grey! Bergen is a riot!
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