Wes Anderson’s enchanting Isle of Dogs is an extraordinary fable of love and fortitude that brims with artistic invention. Our relationship with dogs appears to be in our DNA – unless you’re a cat person – and Anderson’s imagination gives that connection visceral love and moral depth. He addresses politics, corruption, idealism and working to correct things in the story of a Japanese boy whose beloved dog has been sent to a concentration camp for dogs established by the cat loving dictator. The island’s a gauntlet of perils in and around centuries of garbage and rot. The dogs, still wearing their collars, create communities for support and bouncing around ideas about escape and food. Anderson’s exquisite sense of colour and design in the difficult visual world of a garbage dump is magic. This is superb dark comedy with an equally sublime cast – Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Greta Gerwig, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Scarlett Johansson and even F. Murray Abraham plus Anjelica Huston as “Mute Poodle”. Courtney Vance narrates with relish and Anderson gives himself away as a gaga dog lover.
Zoey Deutch stars in Flower, a quirky comic tale of a high schooler who uses sex to unmask and destroy pedophiles, with the help of her all girl posse. She’s annoyed when her new stepbrother to be moves in, he’s distant, suicidal and immune to her, but they find common ground in the sexual predator he says abused him at school. He joins her posse and they set out to unmask abusers, they find his and plot vengeance that goes horribly wrong. Kathryn Hahn, Adam Scott and Deutch, the daughter of Lea Thompson co-star. She’s an engaging and spirited actress whose appeal sweetens this disturbing story. Max Winkler gives Deutch full sway to the character we judge, then admire and finally love. Good thing a woman played the role!
Madame features an American couple played by Toni Collette and Harvey Keitel (he’s everywhere) live in style in a Paris apartment. They’re out of love but are kept together to uphold their carefully crafted image of a wealthy and artistic power couple. The day they’re throwing a très chic party for international guests, Madame learns one can’t attend and blows a gasket. She will NOT have thirteen people at her table so forces the maid played by the intriguingly gorgeous Rossy De Palma to pose as a Spanish aristocrat. Maria gets drunk and enchants a British art dealer falls; her confusion has turned into total confidence, like Cinderella when she put on the glass slippers and went to the ball. Madame’s furious that she’s stolen the limelight and the affection of the Brit, and devotes herself to destroying their romance. It’s a fun feel good farce about the least expected things that change our lives and the nitwits who try to wreck ‘em. Collette’s never been more horribly funny.
I have to call B.S. on the steady diet of crap fed to kids raised on the high stimuli, major CGI artifice and low brow video games. Take Pacific Rim Uprising the latest Guillermo Del Toro clone directed by Steven S. DeKnight. It concerns “The globe-spanning conflict between otherworldly monsters of mass destruction and the human-piloted super-machines built to vanquish them was only a prelude to the all-out assault on humanity.” Gimme a break. OK the fabulous John Boyega stars but please.
FX‘s gripping limited series in Danny Boyle’s Trust, tells a story behind the headlines of one of the most famous kidnappings in America. The immensely wealthy Getty family refuses to pay ransom when oil fortune heir John Paul Getty III, played by Harris Dickinson, is kidnapped. Donald Sutherland plays his grandfather the richest man in the world whose life of excess blinds him to normal human compassion. He claims he can’t afford to pay for this grandsons return and doesn’t want to encourage crime, but he simply doesn’t care. The boy’s father is drugged out and unreachable leaving his cashless mother (Hilary Swank) to fight for his return. The series differs from last fall’s film by getting into the nitty gritty of family relations, history and legacy over ten episodes. Trust offers a detailed look into the family’s dirty laundry, as the darkness settles in. Another crime limited series triumph for FX.
I’m crazy for the new AMC thriller series The Terror premiering Monday night. It follows the ill-fated British Royal Navy’s search for the Northwest Passage in 1845, based on the actual voyage and Dan Simmons’ novel. What begins as a great and patriotic journey for King and Country to find a way to China soon devolves into uncontrolled chaos. The ships are frozen into the ice in a vast and completely unknown and unmapped landscape. Supplies are scarce, the men are understandably fearful and desperate, and illness and mutinous action follow. And there seems to be an unwelcome predator out there. The cinematography is stunning, and performances by Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies and Ciarán Hinds as Sir John Franklin reveal the men’s sense of duty and inner terror, their will to survive against unimaginable odds. One hundred and twenty crew members disappeared in the real expedition. Footnote, the ships were discovered by Arctic research groups in 2014 and 2016 nearly 175 years later. Must-see viewing.
Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit is a shocker. Watch in dismay as competitive cat mother Kim Langille (“If you’re not number one, you’re the first loser”) promotes Bobby her White Turkish Angora and bad mouths Shirley McCollow and her Red Persian Oh La La and everyone else. Cat competitors are all business; they’re as dramatic, self-absorbed and ambitious as any dance mom. Cameras catch the eye rolls, sideways glances, the glee when a competitor loses and the nerve shredding lead up to the shows. Husband and wife judging team Bob and Elaine Gleason, know what and who they’re dealing with but maintain a good sense of fun. This is SO inside. It’s on at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema and CBC Docs POV April 1.
Paradox now on Netflix is one strange long trip from Neil Young, written and directed by Darryl Hannah and starring Young and Willie Nelson and a band of costumed gypsy backup musicians. Part road trip, part hallucination, part period piece and ultra-modern fable/poem, Paradox centers on this “bandit” crew of musical dress up cowboys waiting in the mountains for the full moon to throw a concert. A variety of wild animals drop by to watch and listen to rehearsals and in a sexist fail, a busload of women show up with food then go on their way. There’s new music from Young + Promise of the Real and co-stars Lukas Nelson, Micah Nelson, Corey McCormick, Anthony LoGerfo, Tato Melgar, Charris Ford and Dulcie Clarkson Ford. Bernard Shakey, Neil Young’s alter ego, produced.
TIFF Bell Lightbox launches Radical Empathy: The Films of Agnès Varda the Varda retrospective in town in fifteen years. Kiva Reardon founder of feminist film journal cléo, named after Varda’s film Cléo de cinq à sept, put together 32 films screening March 22 – April 17 with the cléo editorial board. Eighty nine year old Varda tops off sixty years as an artist this year touring the world with her beloved doc Faces Places.
Special guests presenting the films include actor Sarah Gadon, writer Amil Niazi, programmer Sarah-Tai Black, filmmaker Ella Cooper, directors Sofia Bohdanowicz and Lina Rodriguez. Here’s a taste:
La Pointe Courte 1955 Varda’s debut feature follows a young couple (Silvia Montfort and Philippe Noiret) who travel to the husband’s seaside hometown Seté, to reassess the state of their marriage after an infidelity. Varda provides us with a semi-anthropological study of the town’s working-class citizens. March 22
Cléo de 5 a 7 1961 is the only film by a female filmmaker recognized as part of the nouvelle vague canon. We follow Cléo (Corinne Marchand), a coquettish cabaret singer, as she wanders the streets of Paris while awaiting the possibly dire results of a medical test. Varda traces her transformation over an afternoon. March 23
Le Bonheur 1965. Varda’s first colour feature is a celebration of happiness and eros with a carpenter François and his seamstress wife Thérèse (Jean-Claude and Claire Drouot). They live an ideal life with their children. He has an affair and tells his wife “there is more than enough happiness to go around” but she’s not having it. March 24
The documentary Mur Murs 1967 focuses on Los Angeles murals with Varda as narrator, tour guide, and historian. She became fascinated by them during a visit to LA. It is preceded by a short in which Varda looks for a relative she never met in California. March 29
More info here.
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