Four of the most admired actresses alive today go all-in together for Book Club. Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen meet for chinwags, gossip et beaucoup de vin under the guise of book discussion in Bill Holdermans middle aged crazy comedy. Fonda’s sex positive character suggests they read Fifty Shades and the others poo poo the idea until they fall under the S&M romance’ erotic power. It kick starts their predictable lives and its look out Tinder, younger men, older men, men, men, and a husband. Bergen gets the best comic moments like struggling to get into a Spanx for her big date, getting caught by her assistant on a dating app – she’s a federal judge. Fonda is outré, Steenburgen is lonely in her stale marriage and Keaton allows her children to squelch her budding romance with a pilot (Andy Garcia). The film’s predictability is balanced by a few memorable zingers, great art direction and wardrobe and the pleasure of seeing these titans from TV hard at work. I didn’t read the books, but I’m told they give the story comic context.
Ryan Reynolds pushes his Canadian-ness as he thrill kills and deadpans his way through the Marvel superhero anti-epic Deadpool 2. He’s the mutant assassin who reveals his soft heart in obvious ways, most notably by taking a superhero student – played by a very cool kid from Australia called Julian Dennison – under his wing. The kid can throw fire and the big guns want him for their nefarious purposes. But the real v draw is Reynold’s sassy mouth, burning insults, murderous glee and naturally, praise of Canada, the land of his birth. Trump doesn’t get away Scott-free. Witness the budding of the X-Force. Josh Brolin brings real gravitas to this free for all. But when it’s said and done, way too violent for this delicate flower. Warning: this trailer says the words.
Rachel Weisz produced and stars in Disobedience, a skillfully made but troubling portrait of woman who dares to be true to herself despite her strict Orthodox upbringing in London. She escaped her husband and the claustrophobic, tight knit community where women have little power, to become an artist in New York. She returns to London for her father’s funeral and she is shunned by the community. Her ex married an unhappy character played by Rachel McAdams. Both women are outsiders in their own ways so they are drawn to one another. They become lovers and put themselves at risk of retaliation. It comes fast and hard, rising questions about compassion and the meaning of religious life. Her father who was a respected rabbi left everything to the synagogue and nothing to her, making it painfully clear that she is persona non grata. Disobedience hits hard, throwing light on issues rarely addressed in film. It is mournful and difficult but offers hope for people looking to make new starts. This is the first English-language feature from Chilean director Sebastián Lelio, (Gloria and A Fantastic Woman) who says he wanted to get out of his comfort zone and tackle something foreign.
Pat Kiely’s Another Kind of Wedding offers a comic take on family on the eve of the wedding of an eldest son. Lo and behold, Kathleen Turner stars as the outré matriarch of this family of colourful characters; she brings a date, played by Wallace Shawn because her longtime lover (Frances Fisher) and co-parent of their children has taken up with a younger woman. Kevin Zegers is the youngest son who loves his stepbrother’s bride to be so he gets and stays drunk. Jessica Pare guides us through three days of fun and fracture as relationships build and fall apart and rise up in new ways. It’s silly but fun and a treat seeing Turner onscreen again. Also starring are Jacob Tierney and Luke Kirby.
RBG opens with fire breathing venom from among others Donald Trump and other men, describing US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a witch, disgrace, vile, wicked and a zombie, highlighting the misogyny she’s experienced on the job. The brilliant, uniquely gifted 85 year old’s mantra is “All I ask our brethren to do is take their feet off our necks” and she means it. An though here entire career, the old male WASP establishment has nursed grudges against her as a woman, a Jew, intelligent and well-spoken and that she got as far as she did. RBG was able to create “a legal landscape” of fairness and support for minorities, a calling to which she devotes her life. Ginsburg is highly quotable; she doesn’t do small talk, can’t cook and doesn’t sleep, preferring to work until 5 or 6 in the morning and be in the office by 9 am, amazingly, she was treated for cancer twice and never missed a day’s work. Plus she works out like a demon, inspiring Gloria Steinem to call her “the closest thing to a superhero”. RBG is embraced by young people who have taken her as their own, and given her memes as Notorious RBG. Her liberalism, savvy and results resonate with young idealists in the Trump era, so she continues to inspire and influence policy for tomorrow’s voters. Co-directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West have crafted a highly entertaining, moving and illuminating portrait of someone we can admire.
The horror thriller The Child Remains recalls a true life crime that spanned decades in a Nova Scotia home for unwed mothers. The Butterbox Babies case made international headlines when the couple running the home were accused of routinely murdering and aborting babies of vulnerable girls, and taking extreme measures to keep them quiet, from the 1920s to the 1950s. The films opens as an expectant couple Suzanne Clément and Allan Hawco arrive at a bucolic country inn; she is sensitive and claims there are ghosts and begin to dream living nightmares. She knows something awful happened but refuses to leave because she wants answers for a crime news article. The intrusive landlady is strangely powerful and he is frightened of her and begins to lose his grip. Meanwhile, she discovers a workman in the garden building a coffin and stumbles across a graveyard. It’s on, kids! East Coaster Michael Melski wrote and directs the film – it’s hokey but given the true story it’s based on, well, it’s horrifying too.
Another documentary on an artist on a sharp upward rise years after his death in Boom for Real: the Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michael Basquiat. Sara Driver explores the pre-fame years of the Brooklyn artist who broke all the barriers during the rapidly changing arts and culture world in New York in the 1970’s. Basquiat is credited with originating the art of graffiti and became the darling of pop society through a heady combination of artistry, charisma and good looks. Driver interviews Nan Goldin, Jim Jarmusch, James Nares, Fab Five Freddy, Lee Quinones, Luc Santé and others to find a true portrait of the artist. New York was in decay when Basquiat arrived, and the creatives were on a roll. The Lower East Side, a dangerous abandoned place was the new centre of the universe and he was painting it. He helped popularise industrial music, and became a walking work of art via costuming and attitude. The problem is that drugs became the new social connector and artists died left and right including Basquiat. This doc approaches hagiography and his heroin problem is barely addressed.
Mark Strong leads a multinational cast in the intense new spy series Deep State and it’s as intriguing as the title suggests. Strong is ex MI6 intelligence who’s finally found peace with his young family in the Pyrenees; he was a master spy who saw and experienced too much. MI6 sends troublesome signs that he’s to report to work again; he complies against his will and is ordered to find and eliminate a pair of terrorists. An American and a Brit bomb a bus street in Beirut and flee. Strong’s wife is increasingly concerned that he is in danger and soon it comes home to them. In London meets a woman to tell her their son Harry is dead. Confused? Multiple interconnected stories take place simultaneously within the span of three days in Europe, Africa and the Middle East so pay attention. The question is who is in charge when boots hit the ground? These days it might not to be hard to guess. It’s a compelling cat-and-mouse eight-parter and might be your next binge. Premieres on Super Channel May 20.
A scathingly hilarious new comedy premièring May 21 on Acorn is that’s worth your attention. The Australian series Sando stars Sacha Holder as the title character, an insanely self-absorbed CEO of a furniture warehouse chain who tries to make amends with her family ten years after she made the worst kind of social faux pas. While listening to her daughter and fiancé exchange wedding vows she blurts out that she’s pregnant by the groom. He declares his love for her, she’s thrown out the family and he’s thrown through the massive church door and beaten. Ten years later her estranged daughter’s giving out birthday loot bags of celery sticks at her daughter’s birthday when Sando shows up uninvited on horseback, and then there’s a Taser standoff and mistresses coming out of the woodwork. Outrageous fun from down under.
Also on Acorn is an ironically sunlit Nordic noir from Sweden called Rebecka Martinsson starring Ida Engvoll, a gripping eight part series about a Stockholm lawyer who returns to the hometown she wanted never to see again when her best friend, a pastor is found dead. The pastor’s home had recently been torched and Martinsson sees red flags. She finds a file of hate mail that police never investigated. She fell, they say but Rebecka thinks otherwise. The pastor was a gay feminist and had issues with the local hunting group, but there is more in play. Meanwhile Rebecka is being followed. The series is warmer in tone than most noirs but as engrossing as any. The series is based on Asa Larsson’s best-selling crime series.
There are more documentaries, tell-alls and news stories about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle than you can shake a stick at but W Network is running the first feature film on them, Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance. The “fairy-tale romance” is pie-in-the-sky fluff aimed at those who believe fairy tale wedding exist. Murray Fraser and Parisa Fitz-Henley star in the story that starts at H&M’s set-up meeting, through the last couple of years, the ways they kept their romance secret, the fact that she is divorced (gasp) and American (gasp), the speculation around her, their united front and leading to the Big Day. No warts, all lollipops.
The 28th Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival, running May 24 – June 3 offers features and shorts films made by or focusing on international LGBTQ filmmakers. Choose from 49 films with five world premieres, seven international premieres and 27 Canadian premieres. “This year’s program offers up an impressive lineup of some of the year’s most anticipated LGBTQ+ films, with world premieres alongside award winners from the world’s top festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, and SXSW,” said Andrew Murphy, Inside Out’s Director of Programming. “As industry and distribution models continue to evolve, so too must Inside Out as we strive to offer thoughtful, interactive, and meaningful film and networking opportunities to our queer film communities and allies.” Twenty-eight narrative and 21 documentary features will debut over eleven days with six Galas and Special Presentations, ten Premieres, six Icons, four Spotlights on Canada and 23 International Showcases. Also screening are 84 Shorts. Go to www.insideout.ca or call 416-599-8433 for tickets.
Feel like a little dress up and role playing? Well, come the Long Weekend, The Princess Bride – The Movie Experience invites all fans, and we know you are legion, to come to Redwood Theatre at 1300 Gerrard St E, in your costumes to celebrate the best loved adult fairy tale film ever made. Back in 1987 we were charmed by Robin Wright and Carey Elwes in the tongue-in-cheeky spoof on oft-told tales that apparently lives forever. Actors will reinterpret scenes and moviegoers are invited to participate in a movie re-creation experience and dress up in Fairy Tale and Medieval garb, or Princesses, Pirates and ‘Man in Black’. That’s Friday May 24th – 26th and May 31 – June 2 at 2 and 7, the 2 p.m. showing for families.
by @annebrodie, BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI