Isn’t It Romantic starring Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine and Priyanka Chopra opened Wednesday purporting to take all the romcom clichés and kick ‘em to the curb. Wilson, the appealing Aussie comedienne produced the story about a woman who has no luck with men. She hits her head and passes out, and awakens in a fantasy version of New York in which she’s the romcom heroine. Suddenly, hordes of casting central romcom hunks appear wanting her desperately but she doesn’t trust any of it. This is the chance to throw in all the clichés – the zoom out from the bridge to the rousing pop song, the seeming perfection of, well, everything. But they forgot the heart. It’s as deep as a hearty shaped pancake and as airy, but it’s a tad bitter and the aftertaste is metallic. Does it turn the romantic comedy clichés upside down? It lists them. Is it entertaining? Mildly. Is it romantic? It’s the opposite.
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Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem star as former lovers in Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi’s gripping Spanish film Everybody Knows. She comes from Argentina to Spain for a family wedding with her children leaving her husband behind. Family and guests pour in for the celebrations; family ties are renewed, and joy is in the air. The party begins to winds down when Cruz realises her teenage daughter is missing. Suspicions run amok within the family before focusing on outsiders, villagers and farmworkers. Everyone has something to hide and someone to accuse. Gossip, financial strains, suspicious real estate deals and speculation take tensions to the breaking point. Farhadi explores the problems of privilege and need, the realities of resentment and tribalism and how they poison what appears to be a happy family.
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Cara Gee is Raven, an indigenous eco-warrior in Roz Owen’s family drama Trouble in The Garden and she’s as strong willed as it gets.She’s jailed for protesting the sale of treaty lands to a real estate developer and out of the blue, her long estranged adoptive white brother shows up to bail her out. Her mistrust is well placed, he’s a real estate agent working the disputed territory. Her adoptive white parents who disowned her also suddenly show up to get in on the real estate opportunity.
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We learn that Raven was taken as a child, from her family during the infamous Sixties Scoop and adopted out to a white family; her first betrayal with many more to come. This is a devastating defense of those stolen children and a well-crafted, beautifully acted, heartbreaking film. Raven Sinclair a Scoop survivor, academic and activist who consulted on the film spoke with us.
Amazon Prime Video’s Lorena opens with the deathless phrase “it had grass on it”. “It” being the penis that was once attached to John, the hapless husband of Lorena Bobbit. She made international headlines and every man squirm in 1993 when she pulled John Bobbitt’s appendage from him. She sped away and tossed it out the car window into the tall grass and claimed he’d repeatedly raped and abused her. He said she was the abuser and attacked him after consensual sex. They were both arrested and tried in what became inadvertent comedy gold. There’s an insane amount of humour in this documentary. John Bobbitt, police, friends and neighbours crack wise in interviews; the doctor who reattached Bobbitt is particularly merry in his observations. The media was all over the Bobbitts for years to come. And that’s about the size of it. Lowbrow soap opera trash sadly stretched out way too long.
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The excellent Dutch limited series The Oldenheim Twelve makes its North American première on Acorn.TV and it’s a corker. Peggy’s a journalist who returns from Iraq to her village home to find she’s persona non grata. The same day, 16-year-old Nine disappears after a late-night rendezvous with her boyfriend. Within a few hours, a woman mourning the death of her little girl in a traffic accident disappears from a public pool. Peggy’s germophobe sister disappears next on her way to meet her shrink for sex. Over a few weeks, twelve souls vanish and the village is wracked with fear and helplessness. Great writing, directing and pacing and its dark swirling undertow make it a must-see TV. Nice noirish touches.
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Netflix’s ambitious sci-fi series The Umbrella Academy based on the Dark Horse comics and graphic novels is somber, profound and highly entertaining as well as gorgeous to look at. Forty-three babies were born to women who were not pregnant thirty years earlier. An alien posing as billionaire industrialist Sir Reginald Hargreeves (an icy and imposing Colm Feore) adopted the most gifted; he trained them to save the future world. (see invtu with Colm Feore) Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus and Vanya, now in their 30’s, reunite to investigate dark doings but find they have little in common and don’t look now but the apocalypse is coming. From the Gothic beauty of their home (Toronto’s Massey Mansion) they hone their skills, when the youngest, Number Five returns from the future bringing dire warnings. Big things in store! Prediction: major hit. Also stars Mary J. Blige, Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, Emmy Raver-Lampman, David Castaneda, Robert Sheehan and Cameron Britton.
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The 7th annual Toronto Black Film Festival is underway now until February 18 – and Saturday night – An Intimate Evening with Tarana Burke at Isabel Bader Theatre.Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement and longtime feminist and equality advocate and activist will appear at the Isabel Bader Theatre.
Black Film Festival Founder Fabienne Colas the “queen of festivals”, created seven festivals in Canada, the USA & Haiti and has attracted the support of artists including Harry Belafonte, Stedman Graham, Danny Glover, Spike Lee, Martin Luther King III, Dany Laferrière, Wyclef Jean, Alfre Woodard and Arcade Fire. The festival focuses on films on the experiences of black people from a diverse group of communities and “recognises the differences that make us unique while celebrating the shared values that bring us together.” www.torontoblackfilm.com
And its TIFF’s Next Wave weekend celebrating young filmmakers and film lovers, the next generation of artist and creatives.There’s a Battle of the Scores with six U25 bands competing and performing their original soundtracks live for a short film scene, to be judged by the audience and a jury. The Big Mood Movie Marathon features youth angst comedies like 10 Things I Hate About You and But I’m a Cheerleader.
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And the Young Creators Co-Lab offers a day of programming for young people interested in film and filmmaking. The new Young Creators Showcase presents films made by young people for young people. All official festival selection screenings are FREE for anyone under 25! At TIFF Bell Lightbox. https://www.tiff.net/nextwave
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