George Clooney directs Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac, a real gathering of acting titans, with a script co-written by Joel and Ethan Cohen, Grant Heslov and Clooney and the result is the dark suburban comedy Suburbicon. Vaguely echoing Moore and Todd’s dark dream, Far From Heaven with its blackened mid-century nostalgia, it’s a nice showcase for the actress, who plays two roles, sisters, one a psychopath, the other a helpless wheelchair bound innocent. A home invasion upsets the balance of life for a quiet suburban couple and Damon’s character takes full advantage of it in a criminal moral lapse. Moore goes for the gusto in her characters’ outrageous situations but it’s not enough to salvage the central weaknesses of the film. An important story line appears crammed into the picture, but it’s underdeveloped and breaks the narrative and should be its own film. Suburbicon is less than the thriller it wants to be, and more mean spirited satire and despair. Too bad.
Double Julianne Moore again this time as a self-involved silent film star and a sympathetic and somehow magical grandmother in Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck.It’s a dual story, set forty years apart, in 1927 and 1977, of adolescents, a girl and a boy, running away from their respective homes out of fear and curiosity, and setting sail for New York. Both find life alone on the streets tough with no material support, but neither considers heading back home. They experience the city in all new ways from typical YA films, finding the city’s art and poetry and their own engagement in its intellectual, artistic and humanistic life. Haynes treasures the past and the young stars bring it to life yet nothing is dated. Its heady stuff and will challenge young viewers. It’s also unusual as it avoids the cynicism often associated with New York YA stories. Carter Burwell’s soundtrack is sensational and the art direction matches the rich emotion. Some narrative details niggle but overall, a welcome distraction from the digital age. Co-stars Michelle Williams, Oakes Fegley and Millicent Simmons join Moore in her fourth film with Haynes.
CBC Docs POV airs Indictment: The Crimes of Shelly Chartier tomorrow night and it’s a shocker. Fresh from the ImagiNATIVE Film Festival, the doc paints a harrowing depiction of a woman living in northern Manitoba who caused tremendous grief to NBA superstar Chris “Birdman” Anderson and a model living in LA. Chartier “catfished” them online, meaning she lured them into a fake relationship in a three-pronged strategy and orchestrated what they thought was a private affair. The case blew open in 2013 when Birdman was charged with having sex with a minor and Chartier was found and imprisoned. The story made international headlines. But who is Chartier? At the time, she was a reclusive teen living in a remote First Nations reservation in northern Manitoba who rarely set foot out of her house but had the wherewithal to pull off this incredible and complex scam. Indigenous filmmakers Lisa Jackson and Shane Belcourt attempt to crack the mystery as to what made Chartier do it while raising serious social and political issues. The doc won The Alanis Obomsawin Award for Best Documentary Work (Long-Form)
Fearless is a pretty damn good British murder limited series about a human rights lawyer played by Helen McCrory who defends a man who confessed to burying a girl alive fourteen years prior. She is determined to get him out of jail thinking he is not capable of such a heinous act; she does get him out with new evidence and that’s when the rap sheet hits the fan. Her house is raided, she’s put under massive surveillance by police and intelligence organisations, and her Syrian houseguest may be running a chapter of ISIS from her home. Cut to – Washington D.C. where a woman cooking in her kitchen threatens by phone a high ranking British official, played so well by Michael Gambon. He appears to owe an uncomfortable debt to American intelligence. There are many threads to bring together and time is ticking on. The series pulls them apart and crosses them together in dizzying fashion. It’s far reaching and pulse pounding series and extraordinary, just the way the Brits make murder mysteries. Amazon.
PBS’ America Masters presents a biographical feature on one of the most celebrated and imitated authors and poets in American history. Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive premieres Monday at 9 p.m. perfect viewing for the night before Hallowe’en. Poe famously wrote The Tell-Tale Heart, Annabelle Lee, The Conqueror Worm, The Murders in the Rue Morgue and other grisly, over the top horror classics, but had a tough life as a writer, scraping by to support his wife and children. Eventually he found success with the international hit The Raven. Eventually he turned modern literature on its head with his canny horror stories.
The doc begins in the 1830s when the world heaving with change, becoming modern. He had years of bad luck including the death of his beloved wife. One day he just disappeared and showed up dead two weeks later wearing someone else’ clothes. Then came the final insult. A rival writer, Rufus Griswold wrote his obituary and based on the horror stories, recrafted Poe’s character and professional image as “mentally deranged, a drunk and a drug addict and scoundrel”. Sadly that wasn’t who Poe, a family man, was but it stuck. His disappearance and death remain mysteries. Dennis O’Hare plays Poe, Kathleen Turner narrates with readings by Chris Sarandon and commentary by Roger Corman who filmed many of Poe’s stories. Learn more here.
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