Manchester-by-the-Sea, one of the most admired films at TIFF is a quiet stunner, starring Casey Affleck in a career-defining performance that may well earn him a Best Actor nomination/win. He plays a janitor named guardian to his teenaged nephew (Lucas Hedges) when his brother (Kyle Chandler) dies. He doesn’t want any part of it. To find out why, Kenneth Lonergan’s achingly resonant story goes back to his tragic past and the reasons he doesn’t believe he can do it, let alone that he doesn’t want to. Lonergan takes us to the heart of being human with the guilt, tragedy, joys and hope of redemption we crave. Tears are guaranteed and so is a hard-earned full heart. Michelle Williams has a small role but she makes significant impact in those few moments. Manchester-by-the-Sea gives us reason to think about the quality of our own lives and the possibility of breaking through emotions pushed to the back recesses of our minds. It’s funny at times, and appropriate given the dire circumstances. It’s a soul cleansing and authentic; a beautiful story with superior performances.
(Watch my interview with Kyle Chandler and Lucas Hedges on What She Said YouTube channel Friday.)
One of the rock-em, sock-em animated films of the year offers a family friendly alternative to reaching into the soul. Disney’s joyous Moana, celebrates life, love, family, diversity and the value of striving. Young Hawaiian actress Auli’i Cravalho provides the voice for Moana, a spirited, resourceful girl who happens to be the Chieftain’s daughter – i.e. a Disney Princess – who undertakes a mission to save her village by finding a connection to her community’s spiritual foundations. She’s aided by a parrot and Maui, voiced by People Magazine’s newly crowned Sexiest Man Alive Dwayne Johnson and off they go, sailing from one Polynesian island to another in search of relics and instruction. The mythology stories are based on real pan – Pacific Islanders’ belief system. Not only is the story highly engaging, the visuals are outstanding, reflecting colourful, sundrenched tropical life and being at one with nature. Moana is top notch holiday fare and a wonderful musical antidote to the headlines of late, another winner and an instant classic leaving Disney with an embarrassment of riches this year – remember Zootopia?
(Watch my interview with Auli’i Cravalho on What She Said YouTube channel Wednesday)
Inner Workings, the short preceding Moana is an hilarious animated look inside ourselves, through ourselves if you will, combining our physical makeup – yup, all of it – and our psychology. The inner journeys we take every day are under the microscope and biology has never been funnier, what happens when we go to work, have a coffee, express ourselves and attend our own burial –in a sensationally funny bit. Inner Workings is seriously laugh out loud funny and you’ll find yourself rooting for your favourite body part. How’s that for a creative lesson? It’s outrageously fabulous, sly, musical and inspired bit of animation. It’s so good it made me giddy.
(Watch my interview with the filmmakers on What She Said Talk YouTube channel now)
Allied starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard is the infamous film that sparked rumours of Pitt cheating on Angie. The French actress denies any such thing occurred and that she’s friends with both Jolie and Pitt. So to the film – Cotillard and Pitt play a married couple and serving in North Africa during World War II. He’s an intelligence officer and she’s a French resistance fighter, who falls under suspicion of being a spy. As the war effort increases and paranoia grows, he is ordered to kill her. Don’t bet the farm on it, even you, TMZ voyeurs.
Rules Don’t Apply is Warren Beatty’s decades’ long passion project, a biopic on the industrialist, inventor, filmmaker and serial monogamist Howard Hughes. Annette Bening, Lilly Collins, Candace Bergen and Martin Sheen star in what amounts to a breezy misfire, a side story at best story about one of Hughes’ drivers and his romance with one of Hughes contract “movie stars” and their obsession with him, that sheds zero light on the man. Hughes comes off as a superficial blowhard who loves breasts and the idea of women but is trapped in growing imbalance. He lurks in the shadows but he’s a jokester, a melancholic and megalomaniac, an eccentric fighting off rumours that he has full blown dementia even when it’s clear he’s heading that way. Aside from some fun period nostalgia and a wobbly earnestness, Beatty’s passion project is scattered, clumsy and unfunny. Its oddly laboured perhaps too many rewrites, when its meant to be easygoing. But really, how many films about Howard Hughes do we actually need? Definitely a fond if flabby post card to the past.
Fleabag on Amazon is a bold bit of TV comedy from the UK starring and written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge as an eccentric London singleton. Just six episodes for now, it focuses on a woman completely lacking in self-confidence but blessed with infinite wit and sarcasm – used without mercy on her over achieving sister, bad-choice boyfriends, the job she loathes and the rigours of “making it” . It’s pretty raw sexually speaking and we find in the first few minutes that there is not much she doesn’t do. It’s her strength and her weakness. Her choices of men are uniformly terrible and her wars with family members are awkward and needle us about our own behaviour. It’s more complex than all of that and it’s hugely entertaining even if it’s not everyone’s kettle of fish. Waller-Bridges’ family’s nickname for her was Fleabag hence the title, although her character’s name is unknown.
Incorporated – series on Showcase, executive produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, shot in Toronto. Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Showcase. The series is set in 2087 where companies have seemingly unlimited power. Strangely the styles are exactly the same and computers have advanced – a tiny bit. But anyhow Canada is building a wall to keep out American illegal immigrants, terrorist groups flourish, markets are weak, resources are running out, corporations own 90% of the world including the great artworks that they no longer show publically and wage covert wars for little is left. Executive Ben risks everything to infiltrate the all-controlling corporate world and save the woman he loves, to confront the rigged system. It stars Dennis Haysbert, Julia Ormond, and Kate, David Hewlett. Many of the ideas about the future are mildly interesting but overall it’s a must-miss with a side of bad writing, superficial ideas and blown opportunities.
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