Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the second in the hilarious and fun superhero satire starring Chris Pratt, Kurt Russell, Zoe Saldana, Sylvester Stallone, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper a raccoon continues its winning ways. Set to the Awesome Mix Tape #2, a vintage music dream come true, these second bananas have a certain something and that’s plenty of heart. They will find a way to squash the enemy, welcome a surprising new Guardian and discover the truth of Quill’s origins. Plotwise, ok, fun wise, super sensational, toe tapping hilarity carries through driven by Pratt’s remarkably outsized onscreen comic magnetism. The franchise is not only blockbuster fodder it appeals to non-blockbuster fans because it’s smart and funny and well, Pratt. He’s well-paired with Russell who has that same irresistible warmth plus incredible veteran chops that make acting look so easy and so much fun.
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The Dinner, directed by Oren Moverman takes place in a dark, anxious and occasionally horrifying family bubble. Richard Gere and Steve Coogan are brothers at opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum and their wives, Rebecca Hall and Laura Linney, are respectively a gold-digger and a long suffering but loving wife. Coogan’s character suffers from a severe personality disorder and has been estranged from Gere, his wealthy Congressman brother for decades. He’s barely functioning but must get it together to discuss an urgent family matter. Their sons have done something terrible, a threat to Gere’s run at Governorship and their own futures. They meet at an outrageously lavish restaurant that immediately gets Coogan’s goat. Negative emotions and dysfunction spill over into loud, angry, open warfare. It’s not often we see family members onscreen who appear to have zero love for one another. It’s pretty brutal but trainwreck riveting.
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Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake won the Palme D’or at Cannes last year for its no nonsense look at a 59 year old man (played comedianDave Johns) and his epic battle with the UK welfare system. He’s worked hard all his life but is now eligible for benefits because of a recent heart attack. He attempts to navigate an endless gauntlet of red tape and uncaring, dismissive officials under government austerity rules. He’s told he has to find a job in order to qualify for but he’s too fragile to work. And he doesn’t understand the tech he’s advised to use to find work. Blake finds an ally in a welfare mother who can’t access her benefits and demeans herself in a desperate job. Together they take on the system. It’s a sad and chilling portrait of people dehumanised by government people who were robust members of society now reduced to helplessness. Eighty-year old Loach is renowned for his beautifully observed and socially conscious films.
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Jeremiah Tower, one of the most controversial and influential figures in the history of American cuisine changed the course of dining and you’ve probably never heard of him. Tower grew up mostly alone as his wealthy parents traveled. He ordered his own meals at age six, ate alone and formed bonds with kitchen staff, became fascinated by food and the dining experience. Kitchens were his home, cooks his family. He taught himself to cook based on the memories of those meals, and with Alice Waters of Berkeley’s hugely important restaurant Chez Panisse, launched the California Cuisine movement of the 70s. They fell out and he founded Stars in San Fran which achieved legendary status. But then – Tower simply disappeared. Fifteen years later he shocked the foodie world by surfacing to run Tavern on the Green in NYC. And then he disappeared again. The filmmakers catch up with him in Mexico, as he follows his heart, delves into art, philosophy, religion and of course, cooking. He seems happy. Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, Ruth Reichl and Martha Stewart and other celebrity chefs are also interviewed.
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Canadian indie auteur Brendan Prost’s friendship drama Sensitive Parts available on multiple VOD platforms is the happy result of an intensive 12 day shoot on a miniscule budget of $8k and big ideas. Carolyn Yonge plays a neurotic twenty something entering a new romance when she learns her man had a fling with her best friend six years earlier. Now that may not bother some of us more experienced types, but our heroine is thrown for a loop as her trust in others is weak at best. Her best friend, her longtime imaginary friend and her beau do try to bring her out of her funk but she has to do the real work. Prost’s amusing, lighthearted nod to friendship is adorably quirky. Prost is a graduate of the Directors’ Lab at Toronto’s Canadian Film Centre.
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PBS’ limited series Dickensian re-imagines Charles Dickens, bringing together his best known characters into one district in London circa 1850’s. Their lives and stories intersect and take on increased colour. The two central events around which the plots merge are the murder of accountant Jacob Marley and the subsequent police investigation and the engagement of heiress Miss Havisham. It’s a leap of imagination that and from start to finish a brilliant idea, a social concatenation. Watch for Scrooge, Little Nell, Fagin, the Barberrys, the Bumbles, the Cratchits and many more iconic figures played by some of Britain’s greatest character actors. Its attention to period detail is outstanding. Saturdays PBS WNED Buffalo / Toronto.
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