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Wednesday 17 July 2019
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler
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Spider-Man Skews High School, a Visionary Film Not to Be Missed, Toni Morrison Unfettered, Gere Hams It Up on the Small Screen, Sarnia Girl Rocks London, and Mature Women Seek Revenge!

Spider-Man: Far from Home, Marvel’s stand-alone post- Avengers: Endgame film is aimed squarely at a very young demographic so it might not turn lifetime Avengers fans’ cranks. But it may call tweens and younger to join the Avengers army that could well take them over the next twenty years or more, at this rate.  The film starts after the deadly Endgame Blip; some have returned to life, but not Iron Man, Captain America or Black Widow, nicely memorialized here. Tom Holland reprises his role as Peter Parker, the petit Spider-Man from Brooklyn who is humble and teachable and has no obvious character flaws. Those come with age, kids!  He’s learning to control his powers aided by Edith glasses and youthful enthusiasm but he’s green. Even so, his affable boss, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) sends him on a grown-up mission, to stop strange earth shattering forces from ruining the great cities of Europe. So plot, plot, plot. Jake Gyllenhaal ‘s Quentin Beck/Mysterio suddenly appears and seems like a nice guy. Rookie judgement error. Historic sites in Venice, Prague, Berlin and London flattened, but are they? Jon Watts directs a film not up to Avengers standards of recent years but at least Holland’s charm shines bright. Zendaya’s flat, monotone delivery as his gf distracts. Watch for an old friend.

Joe Talbot’s lyrical, even visionary film The Last Black Man In San Francisco is an unexpected gem, one that’s shown up off-season as an antidote to sci-fi and retreads. Starring co-writer Jimmie Fails as Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors and Danny Glover, it’s an especially touching story of a lifelong homeless man’s attempt to find meaning through heritage. A legit Greek chorus of neighourhood teens watch his every move and his obsession with a Victorian gothic house he’s visited for twelve years, despite the owners’ protests. He paints the trim, control the vines and watches over the property; he says his grandfather built it and feels responsible. When the owners move, he squats with his best friend, planning elaborate theatrical productions for their comrades on the fringes of society. This plot description in no way prepares you for the incredible visual and stylistic gorgeousness and profundity of the film, its originality with shades of Terrence Malick and Moonlight. There’s a fairy tale element, the vivid imagination of our soft-spoken hero heightened by a classical, choral, timeless score /soundscape. There is a lot of heart here and it shows in every frame. San Francisco’s Jello Biafra shows up as a tour guide and writer director Talbot’s the grandson of Hollywood actor Lyle Talbot!

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’s documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am opens with the heartbreaking story of a black girl, who believed that if she had blue eyes in the Jim Crow south of 80 years ago, she’d be ok. Morrison later told her story in The Bluest Eye. The Pulitzer, Nobel and American Book Prize winner learned the power of words as a child, the forces that shaped her literary, activist and humanist ideologies and her rebellion against the habit of writers, blacks included who assumed they were speaking to white readers, the Master Narrative. Morrison changed all that and went on to a stellar career, addressing real African American lives, like slave Margaret Garner’s whose strange story is told in Beloved.  Morrison, professor, artist, poet, editor and author is one of the most revered writers of our times and changed the black literary landscape for good.  Interviews with Oprah, Angela Davis, Fran Lebowitz Muhammed Ali.

Richard Gere comes back to TV thirty years on in the political psychological British thriller MotherFatherSon premieres Sunday on BBC Canada and Showcase.  So, what happens when a powerful political and media family goes off the rails? A General Election is coming and Gere, an American born media boss with an icy Trump-esque heart meets with the Prime Minister in secret. Then he blasts into his media empire offices where his son, a depressed cocaine addict is in charge, and instructs the crew how to place chairs in order to intimidate interview subjects. His estranged wife is homeless, suicidal and politically dangerous because she knows too much. A young woman is missing, a private investigator’s murdered, and its all interconnected. All this in the first episode. It’s fast and furious carried by Gere’s megalomania which dominates. The son’s drug-fueled encounter with a prostitute is weird in the extreme – sci-fi meets psychosis.  Here’s an interesting takeaway from this outrageously nutty offering “Why does a person make a mistake? To protest”. It’s not great by any measure, and the emotional range is tiny, but Gere’s presence demands yours.

Sarnia, ON native Katherine Ryan’s a beautiful blonde but she downplays her glamour on her Netflix special Glitter Room, shot in London, where she now lives. But that’s just to add to the shock when he opens her mouth. Out comes a whole lot of expletives, devastatingly flights of fantasy completely uncensored. Nothing is safe, not single motherhood, men, sex, Melania Trump, Sarnia or even astronaut Chris Hadfield. At 35, she doesn’t date, and refuses men. “Boyfriends are like dolphins, almost as smart as people but not to be let in the house”.  Her young daughter knows how to make mommy a drink “Day wine or night wine, Mummy?” She hits Houdini, Kardashians, Celine, Megan Markle, ginger men and viral videos with both guns blazing. The show played an “unprecedented” four-week run at London’s Garrick Theatre in the West End, not bad for a kid from Sarnia.

Acorn’s terrifically clever Swedish dramedy series A Simple Heist enters its second season following two 60-somethings who tear up the status quo and don’t look back.  Jenny and Cecilia (Lotta Teijle and Sissela Kyle) “even the score” for society’s handling of ageing women. Season one found these sweet, middle class gals robbing a bank, stealing cars and drugging people for money. Season two finds them stepping up the game in the art world, stealing and selling forgeries on the black market, eluding mobsters who want them dead from last season’s antics, and learning to pick locks and hack accounts online and spending all their ill-gotten money on clothes and fancy homes.  A misogynist scholarship group refuses to grant one of their daughters so they declare war on rich, white elite men by any means possible. Its hysterically funny, often subtly satirical and endlessly witty.  Lotte btw is dating a man who of about thirty; there’s a great sequence when she meets his mother and they’re wearing the same dress. Paging Dr. Freud! Even Stalin’s not safe from their barbed tongues.

MHz the streaming series specialising in top rated European series, limited series and features with that special je ne sais quoi – great writing, great stories and direction, characters and foreign stars offer new ways of making art – which is half the fun. From Nordic Noir to French and German, Italian and Spanish series and a couple from Downunder, the aesthetic is so different from North America’s and its refreshing and consistently great shows!   Here’s a peek at what’s in store in the next couple of months – the Summer and Fall sizzle reel.

MHZ’s Nele Neuhaus Mysteries, a German noir murder series offers a crime committed and case solved in an hour. The episode I watched “An Unpopular Woman” is set in an upwardly mobile horse racing town is surrounded by dense virgin forest in the Taunus region, which offers beauty shots and a sense of isolation and mystery.  A teacher takes her class to the woods, as a hunter sets out with his gun. Somehow the hunter is shot dead. Our detectives (Tim Bergmann, Felicitas Woll) are on the case, visiting suspects at an important horse sale nearby, and discovering the owner may be involved in human trafficking. Ill horses are being sold as top specimens, so wicked is the order of the day. A horse breeder is whipped, another is shot with a tranquiliser gun. Nefarious!  And so different from the formulaic dramas from the big US networks.

by @annebrodie
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