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At fifty six, Tom Cruise continues to amaze and inspire with his high flying, death defying stunt work in Mission: Impossible – Fallout. He still insists on doing his own action sequences; you may recall he broke an ankle jumping from roof to roof in Paris while shooting the film. That’s one thing. Then there’s the free falling fight scene, the hanging from a cargo plane while it takes off scene, the fighting while hanging from the helicopter fight scene – and the taking control of the copter scene – then continuing to battle full throttle for the next 20 onscreen minutes. Ethan and his IMF crew (Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames) are assigned to secure three radioactive plutonium bombs that would otherwise be used by Solomon Lane (the astoundingly talented Sean Harris) and the Apostles to wreak worldwide havoc. Ethan and Co bungle their chance but redouble efforts because they refuse to fail. Identities aren’t reliable as face changing technology is an IMF’s weapon of choice and of course, souls aren’t reliable either. The capacity for pure evil lives powerfully in their enemies, one of whom is revealed to be a team member. The story’s rock solid and the thrills ramp up so relentlessly in the final chapter that you may swoon. For my money Christopher McQuarrie’s Fallout is the most exciting entry in the entire MI oeuvre and its Cruise’s knockout punch to ageism. And like all MI’s we get to see corners of the world we may never otherwise see. Rebecca Ferguson, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby, Alec Baldwin and certain special someone co-star.
So what happens to the frequency/energy of our consciousness when we die? The nifty horror Our House, shot in Port Hope and Toronto by Anthony Scott Burns, attempts to answer the question. Thomas Mann is a university student headed for MIT who rarely see his parents, younger brother or little sister and they call him on it. He’s obsessed with a machine he’s building to create wireless energy. It’s a noble pursuit as a success would contribute to universal betterment, but little does he know what else it can do. As he tests it, his parents are killed in a car accident. He’s now the man of the house, fells guilt and must abandon MIT to care for his siblings. His brother blames him and the machine and its powerful walls of energy for his parents’ death and he’s not far off. Bad things happen each time he tests the machine but he can’t stop. Ghosts of previous residents of the house appear; his sister develops bonds with them and describes who they are but soon her life is in danger. Things devolve and the children must defend themselves from the hounds of hell. Nicola Peltz, Percy Hynes White and Kate Moyer co-star. As far-fetched as it is, Mann’s performance gives it grounding realism.
Carlos López Estrada’s Blindspotting paints a vivid picture of what it’s like for African American males to go about their daily business, walk down a street and merely be present when arrest, injury, and even murder by police is a provable norm. Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal Collin co-wrote, directed and star in a passion project that took ten years to get off the ground and the timing of its release is ideal. They are Collin and Miles longtime friends in Oakland, Ca. Its three days until Collins’s probation ends. It’s a familiar trope, as in Lethal Weapon – things go haywire for a cop who is mere moments from retirement. It’s a good one because there is so much at stake and so little time to fix things. Miles the white provocateur is unstable; his recklessness could land Collin back in prison, while Collin is measured and thoughtful and looking forward to a new start. He’s driving home from a moving job late at night when a man runs to him for safety and is shot dead by a lone white cop. He’s haunted and fearful, knowing that black men often die that way, at the hands of corrupt cops. The film’s entertaining and illuminating and a top notch first feature. It balances humour and despair, energy and idealism with gritty realism, while it shines a loving light on the city. The track features original raps, spoken word and provocative dialogue. Blindspotting co-stars Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Ethan Embry, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Wayne Knight.
The thing about the wealthy nouvelle riche folk who appear in Lauren Greenfield’s documentary Generation Wealth is that they tend to share exhibitionist traits. They want to be seen and to be seen to be rich. Who else would have their dog’s looks enhanced by plastic surgery? Greenfield grew up next to the rich kids of Hollywood and revisits some of the richest, decades later, to find out what became of them. Florian Homm worth $900 M at one time didn’t get to spend what’s left as he’s been in prison. Kate Hudson bragged to her high school pals that her dad’s a big star, the biggest star. Well, close, for a while. There’s a guy who wears 33 pounds of gold on his person. The rocker’s son raised by servants who went as far away from the spotlight as he could, the pretty girl accepted into the In Crowd for her looks who feels scarred by those days. There’s’ a woman with a frightfully expensive Birkin bag in every colour, a couple in China whose home is a massive repro of the White House, a woman addicted to facial surgery, the rappers who live large until chaos strikes. The doc swerves into other lanes, like the filmmaker’s work obsession, porn and tabloid sensationalism, folks who had it all but live in cars now, infertility, empty malls, dream homes and Donald Trump. Its whiplash city, sprawling, ambitious but lacking a single strong focus. The common thread seems to be societal numbness and dissatisfaction. As the porn star says “Be careful what you wish for”. Overall, it’s discouraging, scattered, and trades on the worst of the worst.
Rob Reiner’s Shock and Awe, a political drama feature in which he stars as a crusty veteran editor of the Knight-Ridder news service, is based on fact, concerning the role of media and transparency in government. Reporters are under attack now as never before, labelled foes by the president. It happened before. Its 2003, two years after 9/11 and two political reporters, played by Woody Harrelson and James Marsden investigate President George W. Bush’s plan to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power. They reach the conclusion that his intelligence was faulty and Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. But getting the story out is a tougher sell. Great ideas, echoing the classic reporter film All the Presidents Men, but it’s over ambitious and casts too wide a net. Tommy Lee Jones, Jessica Biel and Milla Jovovich co-star.
People of a certain age will remember the southern boy turned 80’s and 90’s makeup superstar at the heart of Larger Than Life: the Kevyn Aucoin Story. Next to Way Bandy, Aucoin was the most influential celebrity makeup artist in the New York universe, known for creating the contouring trend so enthusiastically revived by the Kardashians. Aucoin changed the face of fashion with draftsman like precision use to recreate nature. But growing up in Louisiana was tough; he was beaten and punished for being effeminate. It didn’t hold him back. He was ambitious, inspired by photos of models on album covers and in Vogue magazine. He’d make his family sit and be made up, particularly his five year old sister who became his lifelong muse. He moved to New York and quickly became the most desirable artist in town. He was crazy about Barbra Streisand whose makeup he did years later along with some of the biggest names of the era. He set out to meet his birth parents but that turned sour. His former lovers speak out about Kevin’s drug use to fight depression, cancer and a genetic disorder that caused him to keep growing. Aucoin’s sad end belied a life that was at times joyous, influential and that fulfilled a childhood dream of belonging to New York’s cultural elite. Christy Turlington Burns, Isabella Rossellini, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Brooke Shields, Liza Minelli, Tori Amos, Kate Moss, Isaac Mizrahi, Paulina Porizkova and Cher talk in loving terms about their friend. On Digital and On Demand July 31st.
Catherine Deneuve’s portrayal of a bored housewife turned prostitute in Luis Buñuel’s Belle De Jour was a game changer not just for Deneuve but for cinema at large. The story of Séverine, a newly wed who finds her husband cant satisfy her, looks for fulfillment at a Paris brothel scandalized North American audiences not used to seeing a beautiful and intelligent upper class woman in such a role. Séverine dreams of sado-masochistic sex following waking episodes of sexual abuse. Her husband is rarely at home and doesn’t show much interest. She’s accosted by men wherever she goes and it’s all a turn off. But at work, she comes to life, finds a lover and it gives her meaning. A client abuses her, and threatens to tell her husband, but she feels in charge. How much of what we see is real and what is her fantasy? One thing is sure. Deneuve’s wardrobe – a black dress with a white collar, a beige sport dress and patent leather trench – is iconic and symbolic and screams Belle De Jour, 1967. Films We Like and TIFF Bell Lightbox present Belle de Jour in a new 4-K cut.
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