Sunday 17 November 2019
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Incredible! Bao, Beast, Billy Bob, Boys and Mrs. Bates

Can it really be fourteen years since The Incredibles introduced us to the Parrs? Pixar writer director Brad Bird knew he’d revisit the suburban superheroes when the time was right and he had the right story. Ta-da!  Incredibles 2 picks up almost at the moment the original left off, and here’s a timely twist – Holly Hunters Helen Parr, a.k.a. Elastigirl takes the lead.  Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) turns househusband when Helen dashes off to save the world from Underminer, Screenslaver and various other henchmen.  The government has closed its superhero relocation programme so tech moguls Evelyn and Winton Deavor (Catherine Keener and Bob Odenkirk) take them … much to their later chagrin  Linda Hunt and Samuel Jackson reprise their roles as Edna and Frozone, Jack Jack’s back and newbie Isabella Rossellini voices The Ambassador. Got it?  Bob Parr the new harried husband looks good in aprons up to the elbows in dish soap.  Sidebar:  You’ll drool over the Parr’s exquisite mid-century home and retro outfittings. Problem: too long.

The delightful short Bao opens Incredibles 2 and it’s a blast. Pixar filmmaker Domee Shi was raised in Toronto’s Chinatown where Bao is set. Look, there’s the CN Tower, watch the TTC streetcars clang by and see those familiar storefronts.  It feels like being there. Shi’s clever play on the word Bao, which means variously, dumpling, youngest child and small gift, is tied up in a marvellously surreal yet deeply emotional human way.  A mother suffering from empty nest blues passes the time cooking for her husband, but never feels joy.  Astoundingly, a dumpling comes to life as a little boy.  She falls in love and raises him as her son; he grows quickly and is soon ready to leave home. That’s when she does something impulsive and unimaginable that expresses her anxiety and love.  There’s a lot of heart and soul packed into seven and a half minutes, and its loving  message will make the staunchest observer tear up.  And now Shi has a feature contract with Pixar!

Now for something completely different, the chilling Irish noir thriller Beast. Twenty seven year old Moll still lives at home under the repressive thumb of her mother, in an island community where everyone knows everyone’s business.  A wrong step and her mother lays into her and rebellion is impossible. One day Moll is saved from sexual assault by a rugged stranger armed with a rifle for game hunting.  He’s caring and considerate, if a bit odd, and seduces her. They fall in love and she’s spurred to stand up to her mother. In fact, she becomes the opposite of what she was – brutally honest, sexual and fearless.  Meanwhile the islanders are on high alert as a serial killer knocks off one islander after another. Moll moves in with Pascal just before he is arrested.  The beauty of the film is that it shows the world from this suggestible girl’s point of view; she suspects others of the crime, seemingly with good reason, rather than believe Pascal is guilty. Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn play the young lovers and Geraldine James who plays Marilla in CBC’s Anne with an E is positively menacing as Mother.

Vanessa Redgrave alert! PBS Masterpiece celebrates Pride Month with the debut Sunday of The Man in the Orange Shirt, the dramatic love story of two men who meet as soldiers during World War II and fall in love.  The film played in the UK last year to mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality and stars Oliver Jackson-Cohen and James McArdle. They pledge to spend the rest of their lives together, but at the time of the oath, one was about to be married. Both were in danger of imprisonment if they were discovered. The marriage goes ahead, there’s a baby boy and the lover is sent to prison.  Two generations later, a man played by Julian Morris, active in the London gay scene lives with his grandmother (Vanessa Redgrave!!)  who despairs of his homosexuality and wont address it.  The story that knits the generations together is harrowing at times but ultimately hope and love are possible. It’s beautifully executed and heartfelt and Redgrave’s self-imposed silence -breaking is miraculous.

One Last Thing now on VOD stars Joanne Froggatt, best known as Lady Mary’s maid in Downton Abbey as a dental assistant in Florida, if you can imagine. Her drawly American accent is  flawless. Her boss, the dentist, played by the elegant Wendell Pierce is the apple of her eye, but he doesn’t know it.  Twenty years earlier he hired a private investigator to find a daughter who may or may not exist. The PI shows up with news that a daughter does indeed exist.  He leaves at once for Brooklyn to find her (talented newcomer Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and introduce himself.  Their relationship builds after initial mistrust. His detective work revealed that she has terminal kidney cancer and needs a donor and he offers one of his own.  However, in the course of medical testing they discover they are not related. How to go forward? Froggatt’s character supports them as more difficulties present themselves.  Courageous stuff and worth a watch.

Season Two of Amazon Prime Video’s Goliath starring Billy Bob Thornton as Billy McBride finds the alcoholic lawyer hiding out for some R & R after winning the unwinnable Borns Tech case. A friend comes to him to fight for his teenaged son who is charged with murder and Billy refuses.  Personal and business complications ensue and he decides to take on the case, but little does he know a powerful development company hopes to “discourage” him by any means possible.  He looks to the FBI for help and when he thinks he has things under control, he doesn’t.  It’s a humid, noir world in which the vivid Florida colours are toned down and movement is slow and deliberate. Mark Duplass and Morris Chestnut co-star in the series, created by David E. Kelly.

Season Two of American Gods premieres on Superchannel on the 20th with an interesting premise. It opens with pre-Viking explorers discovering America and that life is brutish and unsafe there and believe their gods have abandoned them. It brings out the worst– gore alert! – flash forward to contemporary prison.  Inmate Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is suddenly released early because his wife has been killed in a car crash.  He tastes freedom and it is none too pleasant, and he’s dogged by a mystery man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) who knows a lot about him.  Mr. Wednesday is a god, gathering followers to launch a war on other less deserving gods and the sins of modern life.  The series aims for maximum shock, and has a Twin Peaks vibe, its blood soaked, and florid, and pulls every trick in the book for melodramatic effect. Fantasy sure, but our anti-hero makes errors in judgement a fourth grader wouldn’t . It’s based on Neil Gaiman’s bestselling contemporary fantasy novel. And how about this cast? –  Crispin Glover, Gillian Anderson, Sonja Smits, Cloris Leachman, Dane Cook and Kristin Chenoweth. Yowzer.

Tickling Giants releases Call to Action to draw attention to abuses of power in the US, featuring appearances by Colin Kaeppernick, Michelle Wolf, Emma Gonzalez, Tarana Burke and Bassem Youssef.  Sara Taskler’s film encourages the expression of protest through nonviolent, creative responses particularly humour. Bassem Youssef, the “Jon Stewart of Egypt” uses his wit to protect free speech in America; he is banned in his native Egypt for telling political jokes, but he’s found plenty to skewer south of the border.  The Call to Action is an inspiring idea especially at a time when comedians are under fire for criticising the man in the White House. On Amazon, iTunes and at

ICFF Contemporary Film Festival shows the best in Italian film to Torontonians, and celebrates the bond between our countries. This year’s festival, running June 14 – 22 in Toronto, Vaughan, Hamilton, Niagara, Ottawa, Montreal, Québec City and Vancouver, features a record number of Italian Canadian co-productions including The Shape of WaterThe Music of Silence, a biography of Andrea Bocelli, Road to the Lemon GroveAmmore eMalavita / Love and BulletA casa tutti bene / NeverlandThe PlaceGli sdraiati / Couch Potatoes and Contromano / Against the Flow are just a few of the 180 titles scheduled to screen, which also includes an appearance by internet sensation, Italian rapper, singer and actor Fabio Rovazzi in his first film Il Vegetale / The Vegetable. The ICFF opens with un gatto in tangential / Like a Cat on a Highway June 14 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

by @annebrodie

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