Patti Cake$ is a sleeper, a fierce ensemble piece about three women and the men who respect them, a story about a blue collar girl aspiring to make it in rap. It’s a dramatic coming of age gem with heart, humour and reward. Relative newcomer, Australian dynamo Danielle Macdonald is intensely charismatic as Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$. She’s gifted, determined and smart and she’s looking for meaning in limited circumstances. Patti is a big girl who hears no a lot, but now she’s ready to take what she wants. Cathy Moriarty and Bridget Everett, also forces of nature, support her in an intimate and touching family story that challenges our thinking about social / economic / class issues. Guaranteed you’ll enjoy a well-earned cry and swelling of the heart that will last for hours. Strong male characters bring richness but this is female driven dynamite!
Penelope Cruz, Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin star in the head scratching motion picture making satire The Queen Of Spain with leading Spanish co-stars Neus Asensi, Chino Darín, Gemma Cuervo and Antonio Resines. Cruz plays famous movie star Macarena Granada, who leaves Hollywood for Spain to play Queen Isabella in an epic historical drama in her homeland. The film’s crammed with stereotypes, the Hollywood studio moguls, a smarmy American leading man, a nepotistic studio and amoral dealmakers. The standard diva behaviour, money troubles and deceit enlivened by the sudden appearance of a legendary director thought to be long dead puts the future of the production in peril. A French farce in Spanish and broken English yes, but the laughs are few and far between. It’s the sequel to Trueba’s 1998 drama The Girl of Your Dreams, with Cruz, in which Jospeh Goebbels falls in love with Granada. The Queen of Spain is meant as a tribute to classic comedy and the glam film world of the 50’s but it tackles too much, the script is awkward and direction tentative at best.
Sensational young actor Callum Turner leads a strong cast -Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon, Kiersey Clemons and Jeff Bridges in Marc Webb’s Manhattan romance The Only Living Boy in New York. He’s not having any luck with the girl he likes and his mood takes a deeper dive when he spies his father in an intimate moment with a beautiful woman, not his wife. He leaves his parents’ posh place on the Upper West Side for the Lower East Side for more authenticity and meets a mysterious writer who gets up in his business. The girl he likes is starting to take notice but he’s seized with the idea of sleeping his father’s mistress. And he’s about to learn some life changing truths. It’s great to enjoy the filmmaker’s love and respect for rare books, vinyl music, actual verbal communication, poetry readings, non-fancy hoods and witty dialogue. This is pleasant and challenging stuff from the guy who directed The Amazing Spider-Man and the sequel.
The Sinner on Showcase is a limited series about a woman who appears to be living a happy, ordinary life. She’s on a crowded beach with her husband and baby boy when she swims away, returns and in a sudden rush, stabs a nearby man in the neck. She claims never to have seen him before and can’t explain her actions. That’s the starting point for this psychological thriller and there are plenty of interesting undercurrents. Did she unconsciously recognise him? Did she snap? Was it really random? Jessica Biel is heartbreakingly authentic as a woman on the knife edge; confused and terrified and whose past is about to be exposed, reduced to matted hair and a puffy face. Bill Pullman plays a dogged forensic psychiatrist determined to find answers to the puzzle she presents, even as he fights his own dysfunction. The first episode is good, looks promising.
Following its premiere at Hot Docs this spring and streaming now on Crave TV is Can I Be Me? Nick Broomfield, the veteran doc maker whose unflinching eye has taken us down many interesting paths looks at the life, music, success and death of one of Whitney Houston, one of the leading female singers in modern times. His intimate portrait of the legendary star remembers her beauty, talent and struggles and triumphs in never-before-seen behind-the-scenes footage, candid interviews, and gripping performance clips.
PBS’ Secrets of the Dead series features an encore presentation of the fascinating Resurrecting Richard III on August 29. Scholars studied the bones of the last Yorkist king and were able to learn much about him, including his fitness for battle due to a badly misshapen spine. Richard III assumed the throne in 1483, and was brutally slain in 1485 at age 32. He was the last King of England to die in battle and his death closed out the medieval period in England. You’ll remember that his skeleton was discovered in a Leicester parking lot in 2013, missing its feet, and he was reinterred at Leicester Cathedral in 2015. Fascinating!
Disneynature’s Born in China is on DVD and Blu-Ray and it’s a must see. The painstakingly made doc made in the interior wilderness of China follows three animal families over the course of a year. There’s a panda bear mother and baby, a two-year-old golden monkey dealing with the arrival of a new baby sister and a mother snow leopard struggling to raise her two young cubs in a harsh climate. A herd of chiru appears from afar during the spring birthing season, separate from the males. It’s a marvel watching nature up close via a system of hidden cameras and mics, doing what they do. Eventually the monkeys find the filmmakers and stick around creating an hilarious distraction. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry. I did.
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