Todd Miller’s Apollo 11, a “cinematic event 50 years in the making”, celebrates the space flight that put man on the moon and a reminds of America’s former dream of space dominance, fueled in part by the success of this 1969 mission. Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed “the eagle”, an event televised around the world and declared “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. They explored for two hours, gathered samples from the lunar surface, and brought them to earth as invaluable tools for study. Unimaginable. It offers an intimate look at the launch, flight, landing and return featuring never before seen footage. The moon walk was a landmark event that changed everything from the US position in the world order to inspiring space travel even further afield. Apollo 11 is now on in select IMAX theatres and starts everywhere March 8th.
Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego’s Birds of Passage is the spellbinding true story of the birth of a Colombian drug cartel from 1960 – 1980. It digs into indigenous tribal wars, complex and immoveable superstitions and generational hierarchies in a perfectly crafted two hours. A young Wayuu man in an isolated desert peninsula hasn’t money for his intended wife, so he convinces his cousin to grow a small patch of marijuana on his farm. He builds the weed business thanks to American customers, friendly local police and greedy family. Raffa is soon wealthy; his white fortress home looks insane in the middle of the desert and attracts attention. Spats with neighbouring families lead to murder and all-out war with subtle inevitability and an Old Testament eye-for-an-eye -culture. This is a western, a crime thriller and devastating look at familial ruin, all under the gaze of watchful birds.
Milorad Krstić’s eye-popping Ruben Brandt, Collector animated noir thriller is original in its style and delivery; content-wise, it depends heavily on references to other films and artworks. Minute details revealed with repeated viewings (it’s fast) are taken directly from Hitchcock, Coppola, the noir US films of the 40s and ’50s, and from major artists of the last two centuries and earlier. It moves at breakneck speed and it’s vivid – those with photosensitivity should avoid. Brandt is a therapist under physical attack by figures in artworks and evens the score by buying the worst offenders, Picasso, Van Gogh and Warhol. I’m struck by Krstić’s flat-out obsession with American pop culture. I admire the film intensely, but it’s hard to connect because it is entirely superficial – art thrice removed. This is Krstić’s feature debut – at age 66.
HBO is apparently set to broadcast its stunning two-part documentary Leaving Neverland March 3 and 4 but we shall see, considering a $100-M lawsuit filed by Michael Jackson’s family, citing “a breach of a 1992 deal that contained a non-disparagement clause.” The doc follows two men, James “Jimmy” Safechuck and Wade Robson who were boys of ten and seven when they were allegedly taken under Jackson’s wing for his romantic and sexual pleasure. They were given everything a boy could want – a theatre, zoo, circus with animals, and carefree lifestyle and free of parental supervision. Interviews with the men, their families and friends reveal the sexual slavery of two innocents that was left unchecked for many reasons, including Jackson’s alleged psychological grooming. He allegedly isolated the boys from their families and warned them never to tell what they did for fear of going to jail “for the rest of our lives” – not “his” life. The men finally break their silence and they say, live in truth. His family says Jackson is innocent.
Amazon Prime Video’s getting into the Agatha Christies business and that’s a big deal. Adaptations of Christie’s murder mysteries are so plentiful and popular that they amount to their own genre. Hundreds of films are based on her books and her life including that mysterious disappearance at the height of her fame. Ordeal by Innocence, on Prime now, stars Bill Nighy, Matthew Goode, Morven Christie and Alice Eve; it’s Christmas 1954 in the rural estate of philanthropists Leo and Rachel Argyll and their brood of adopted children. Rachel’s found murdered and one of their children is arrested. Typically, Christie offers complex, interwoven threads and clues and it’s pretty much impossible to guess whodunnit. We have the class-jumping new wife, morphine addiction, jealousy and resentment and the deathless phrase “they’re all in on it”. But are they? Ordeal by Innocence begins on the CBC March 6.
Amazon Prime Video also offers Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders a grim, three-part serial killer mystery revolving around an older, broken Hercule Poirot. John Malkovich plays the Belgian sleuth living post-fame and plagued by anonymous threatening letters that arrive daily, signed ABC. It is London 1933 and Poirot faces discrimination as a “foreigner”; Scotland Yard refuses to help him with the letters and his old colleagues have retired or died. He learns helplessly of more murders carried out letter by letter of the alphabet. Rupert Grint, all grown up now and playing a disdainful Detective Inspector ignores his warnings and humiliates him, then pays the price. Will a dispirited Poirot be able to stop the killer when no one will listen?
Newmarket’s own John Candy created a brilliant comic body of work in his short life and left an indelible legacy. There is SCTV’s Johnnie La Rue, Doctor Tongue, Yosh Shmenge and Zontar – and some of the most successful comedies of the 80-s and 90s. Candy died twenty-five years ago.
Hollywood Suite commemorates him this weekend with a retrospective of some of his best.
Candy-thon: Celebrating the Life of John Candy offers Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Only the Lonely, 1941, Armed and Dangerous, Brewster’s Millions, Summer Rental, Who’s Harry Crumb and Uncle Buck.
Street Legal redux premières Monday night on the CBC. Its 25 years later and Olivia Novak, the marvellous Cynthia Dale, is now a partner at a major Bay Street law firm. While trying to nail down a big case, circumstances of the dramatic variety intervene. Net/net she creates her own boutique law firm staffed by energized, hungry young folk. And that means a new cast however original cast members Eric Peterson and Anthony Sherwood will appear on occasion.
Emily Mortimer stars in Write When You Get Work, now On Demand. It’s a thorny romantic comedy set in modern-day New York City at a private school for girls and the world of a spoiled woman who is terribly unhappy. Finn Wittrock and Rachel Keller star as friends who grew up in poverty. They part ways and years later, she’s an admissions officer in an exclusive private school where he accidentally finds her. One of her students worries that the police are “coming for daddy” as his mother, Mortimer, hides her assets and has an affair with the young man who offers to “store” her money and jewels. This crime thriller ends naturally with a huge twist.
PBS celebrates birthdays of iconic musical legends on March 2, Great Performances –Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration and Great Performances: Andrea Bocelli @ 60. Mitchell is surrounded by friends and artists celebrating her 75th – Brandi Carlile, Glen Hansard, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Chaka Khan, Diana Krall, Kris Kristofferson, Los Lobos with La Marisoul, Cesar Castro and Xochi Flores, Graham Nash, Seal, James Taylor and Rufus Wainwright – in a gathering shot in LA in November.
Bocelli, the four-time Grammy Award-nominated tenor showcases his opera and pop repertoire shot in Italy’s ancient Arena di Verona with arias from La Bohème, La Traviata and Il Trovatore and songs from his new Si, at a sunset concert in the picturesque Italian coastal town of Porto Venere. Bocelli’s son Matteo joins him to sing the moving duet Fall on Me.
BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI