Friday 22 November 2019
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler

Historical Exoticism, Cruise Again, Even Donkeys, Plus Fall Premieres to Die For

Victoria and Abdul is the second film in as many months to look at the true story of Queen Victoria and her BFF Abdul Karim and how he became her “man”, starring Dame Judi Dench and Ali Fazal. She’s 81 and her loving dependence on this twenty-something raises eyebrows across the land but she cares little and names him her footman, then her teacher and finally her only friend.  It’s based on Shrabani Basu’s book Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant. Sartinder Sartaaj starred in another version of the story The Black Prince released just a couple of months ago.

Tom Cruise and an Americanised Domhnall Gleeson star American Made, a fact based, and action packed caper about a commercial pilot who is coerced into drug running and money laundering with South American drug cartels. Barry Seals worked for the CIA, DEA and Pablo Escobar and what’s this about the US government dabbling in the political process of other countries???

I have a soft spot in my heart for Canadian filmmaker and actor Pat Mills whose wildly funny film Guidance set the low standard for high school counsellors who like to drink and prank with his students and whose warm heart and wit make it aspirational! Mills’ latest, filmed in The Hammer Talk to Irene, follows an overweight girl and her “loser” friends who are forced to work after school at a nursing home where they find their voices – literally and figuratively and put on a show! Dynamic young star Michelle McLeod who hails from Peterborough is a sensation and Geena Davis is her spirit animal.

Do Donkeys Act? The humble donkey is the heart and soul of this “donkeymentary” shot in sanctuaries around the world including one in Puslinch, Ontario. Willem Dafoe narrates oddly ironic romantic poetry and o’er weening hyped up prose as we follow these curious creatures through their daily lives. Most are victims of abuse being nursed to health via deeply committed and caring humans who groom, massage, treat and love them. They are not dumb, thoughtless beasts; they have an incredibly large and diverse “language” for communicating with one another and know more than they are letting on. It tugs at your heart and mind.

They screened the remake of Flatliners with Ellen Page and Diego Luna during TIFF ensuring no one would see it.  Here is the official line “A group of medical students experiment with “near death” experiences in an effort to discover what happens after death. Each student is revived after “flatlining” for one minute, then brought back to tell what they saw. They each have different experiences and begin to be haunted by hallucinations related to what they saw while flatlining.” Keifer Sutherland makes a return appearance and Grantchester’s James Norton is on board.  Stupid then and stupid now, but…James Norton!!

Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, episode one of eight premiered this week on Global starring Edie Falco as  Leslie Abramson as the lawyers for brothers Lyle and Eric Menendez who killed their parents in LA in 1989.  After a bracing first episode this week, I have high hopes for the series, the latest from the Law & Order and look forward to a riveting run.  The boys claimed they were mentally, physically and sexually abused they were attempting to lay ground for a self defense plea but things did not go according to their plan. Witness the crime, aftermath, arrests, trial and conclusion and of course the American public and media response to the tabloid-esque case.

Will and Grace is back, as if you didn’t know! Sure it had a good run and won 16 Emmys and promises the same level of quality writing, and they have a blast taking the mickey out of Trump but it has been eleven years. The pals returned this week on Global with stalwarts Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes, and Megan Mullally picking up nearly where they left off.  It’s fun being “up to date” politically and culturally but must we discuss Brangelina? Why are they in the same apartment?  And must we discuss the Kardashians?  One mention of Kim K and I’m out.

Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 premieres on HBO tomorrow night, starring that hilariously acid everyman Larry David (co-creator of Seinfeld) with new troubles.  Returning cast includes Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman, J.B. Smoove and Cheryl Hines as Cheryl, with Richard Lewis, Bob Einstein, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen. Guest appearances by Katie Aselton, Elizabeth Banks, Ed Begley, Jr., Bryan Cranston, Lauren Graham, Jimmy Kimmel, Damon Wayans, Jr., Steven Weber and Casey Wilson.

Margaret Atwood / Sarah Polley’s Alias Grace has landed after decades of speculation, directed by Mary Harron and starring Canada’s hottest young actor Sara Gadon and so far it’s a worthy adaptation form the wonderful book. A servant girl employed by farmers in the Richmond Hill area – based on a true story – allegedly kills them but refuses to speak about it claiming amnesia. However, Grace bonds with an “alienist” during jailhouse interviews.  She tells her life story in vivid and minute detail, the horrors she experienced but always treads around the crime. I recommend the series as required viewing followed by reading of Atwood’s stunning, landmark book, an example of Southern Ontario Gothic literature. Monday nights on CBC and later on Netflix.

CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries’ 11th season premiered this week, and it’s a scorcher. At the end of last season, we left Murdoch in prison on a murder beef and Brackenreid, Crabtree and Julia presumed dead. But there’s a new boss in town and she’s a woman! New Tricks star Tamzin Outhwaite is the new chief who won’t stand for any sexist nonsense. The series’ great writing, characters and spirit are alive and well.

Get ready for Thanksgiving Star Wars Madness. Global presents the esteemed franchise films next weekend… Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.  Holy light sabre!

by @annebrodie

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