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Sunday 17 November 2019
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler
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Jillian Bell’s Star’s Rising – See Her Run Here, Boisterous Comedies, a River Runs Through China, Carnival Row’s Alt-Victorian Universe, a Murder and a Real Estate Deal. Plus a Fun Adoption Web series

Comedian Jillian Bell takes a journey to wellness as an actor and a woman in Brittany Runs a Marathon, a dramedy about a woman who identifies as fat and decides to do something about it. Her doctor says lose 45-55 pounds, quit smoking, drinking, junk food and inactivity, and she complies. As the weight drops, her roommate, an Instagram queen, feels threatened and tears her down. As Brittany’s confidence grows, she’s finally able to be honest with herself and others. Her friends don’t take it well when she decides to focus on the marathon, read: self-improvement. There are many unanticipated roadblocks but now with her eye on the goal, she’s found purpose, discipline and their rewards, a new experience. She also finds a fella who gets her, also a new experience. Its uplifting, funny, and brutally honest. Bell lost forty pounds along with her character and her next project is playing the Tom Hanks role in a reboot of Splash with Channing Tatum as the merman!

Burt Young, Nick Mancuso, Charly Chiarelli, Rossella Brescia, and Loreena McKennitt, as God star in the raucous comedy Road to the Lemon Grove. A Toronto Italian man’s father has died, but his spirit lingers around to coax his reluctant son to fulfill his dream – to scatter his ashes in his home village in Sicily. Dead dad also attempts to heal rifts in his brawling family. The son delves into various philosophies of life, speaking directly into the camera and to his invisible and really mouthy father. There’s shameless stereotyping – as they endlessly deride “mangia cakes”, slap women on the backside, and yell!  It’s a mixed bag, the tone is all over the place, and, again, all that shouting. Nope.

French iconoclast Agnès Varda, photographer, installation artist and pioneer of the Nouvelle Vague will be fondly remembered at TIFF this year with a special presentation of her last documentary Varda par Agnès. It will screen at TIFF Bell Lightbox September 6th and fans will be able to walk through her artistic life with her as our guide. Varda’s imagination, openness and love of life is apparent in all her work, ideas tumbling out of her that she made real – a life affirming legacy of fifty-five films and art projects. Varda visited Toronto and left her mark and stole our hearts. About her new doc, she said “In 1994, with a retro at the French Cinémathèque, I published a book entitled VARDA BY AGNÈS. 25 years later, the same title is given to my film made of moving images and words, with the same project: give keys about my body of work. I give my own keys, my thoughts, nothing pretentious, just keys.” This is the distillation of a truly unique career. Varda died in March at age 90.

Mark Lee Ping-Bing’s Crosscurrent is a poetic journey up the Yangtze River in China and a harsh reminder that life is changeable and uncertain. The multi-award-winner combines elements of mystery, culture, the history of the China and the arts. Gao Chun is a boatman carrying cargo to its destination, from a rusting and industrialised Shanghai, past a pagoda where he hears Buddha’s voice, to a town that was flooded and reappears in a different place, and on to the Tibetan mountains. He’s in love with An Lu a woman / wraith who appears in every port, looking younger each time. All magical events he can’t translate; maybe he’s moving backwards through time with her.  This is one moody, and dark-hearted, then joyous journey, set against incredible landscapes.  It’s an unusual experience but be warned that it moves at a snail’s pace and it’s hard to penetrate.

Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne star in a new sci-fi series on Amazon Prime VideoCarnival Row is a Victorian/Goth/timeless fantasy world – a poverty row marketplace inhabited by refugees from other galaxies. Humans are waging war against creatures across the universe as Detective Rycroft Philostrate investigates a series of murders, and fairy Vignette Stonemoss, his onetime lover, shows up to ruin him.   Much dread, violence, tribalism and corruption set against otherworldly Goth beauty. Corrupt politicians murder the opposition in this police state.  Doom, defeat and despair, but oh so pretty. Heavy going sure, but a wee bit enchanting. The leads are pretty darn good, Bloom has allowed himself to age a bit and Delevingne puts in a solid performance.

Acorn’s original drama series, Keeping Faith, series two makes its North American premiere tonight. The Welsh phenom called “Big Little Lies crossed with Broadchurch” follows Eve Myles as Faith Howells, a lawyer, wife and mother of three young kids whose husband disappeared last season, and she was the prime suspect. He’s played by Myles’ real-life husband Bradley Freegard. Now home, things are not going well between them. Meanwhile a farmer is found murdered and his wife is under suspicion, but her boss tells her not to represent the woman because the firm will be shunned. She jumps in even harder. Meanwhile her homelife suffers as she is transfixed by the case. Also complicating matters is the revelation that an energy corporation has an interest in the farmer’s land.  Faith puts herself in harm’s way to untangle the situation and discovers a bottom pit less of deception. And it turns out someone close to her may be informing on her.

CBC Gem’s original web series How to Buy a Baby from Wendy Litner is all kinds of edgy, squirmy fun. The second season, streaming now, picks up after a couple (Meghan Heffern and Marc Bendavid) learn they are infertile. They’re now looking into the option of adoption and it’s no picnic; an agency rep comes to look them over as potential parents and things get excruciatingly awkward.  “Two dads are very popular these days with birth mothers!”, he says after a series of loaded interactions. The series is written with acid humour and a slightly dark heart, its brutally honest and painfully zany, well worth following.

by @annebrodie
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