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Monday 9 December 2019
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler

Rocketman’s Blast from the Past Gloriously Outré, Two Huge Legal Fails, Downton Abbey Redux Prep, Angels, Devils, Designers and Keanu Reeves Alert!

Taron Egerton vigorously assumes the persona of young Elton John in the musical fantasy Rocketman. which is markedly different from straight ahead Bohemian Rhapsody. Dexter Fletcher’s supple musical fantasy more akin to a stage play than biopic uses set pieces that flow into one another, tightly and brilliantly episodic, skipping from one eye-popping paragraph to the next. Fletcher’s mastery of its unique movement is breathtaking at times revved up by incredible imagery. Egerton’s full-on broken Reggie and fierce, ballsy stage Elton persona fit together like a graph of the tormented artist’s inner turmoil. From that unhappy childhood to discovering the piano, showmanship then his true identity, to international stardom and then the drugs and welling up of trauma, its a hell of a story, role and performance. It is lavish to the max and the production numbers are phenomenal. One quibble – a tad too long, could have cut some of the many crying scenes. Co-stars Jamie Bell, Richard Madden and Bryce Dallas Howard. John’s Canadian husband David Furnish produces and so did Elton but he kept away as much as possible.

Tasha Hubbard’s award winning and stunning documentary nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up tours the country today, and begins a week long run at TIFF Bell Lighthouse until June 6th. A horrific crime occurred in Biggar, Saskatchewan, in 2016 when 22-year-old Cree teen Colten Boushie was shot from behind by farmer Gerald Stanley. Stanley’s wife yelled “That’s what you get for trespassing. An all-white jury acquitted Stanley sparking an international outcry. A young indigenous man says he was dismissed from jury pool. “As soon as I saw them, I knew what I was to them”. Its stunning to think overt racism exists in rural Saskatchewan, perpetuated by this decision. Hubbard offers proof of generations of abuse towards First Nations, a sobering litany of acts of genocide and hatred. The Boushie family would not be silenced, and met with political leaders across Canada, and eventually stated the case on the floor of the United Nations. This is an extremely powerful and important film that has taken on a life of its own.

Another egregious legal fail against young persons based on racism occurred in 1989 when a jogger was beaten and raped in Central Park, New York.  Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise, five black teens out carousing that night were arrested, illegally interviewed and convicted of her rape, a crime they did not commit.  Ava DuVernay’s four-part series When They See Us, starting May 31st on Netflix spans twenty-five years from the night of the arrests through the participants’ experiences prosecutors, played by Felicity Huffman and Vera Farmiga, driven by bias and the plight of the black community in New York. Young stars Jharrel Jerome, Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse and Marquis Rodriguez are heartbreakingly on the money as powerless victims of a corrupt system. DuVernay (Selma, A Wrinkle in Time, 13) reawakens memories of howling media mobs, unease in New York and the suffering of these young boys. Go in and watch – it’s terrific, but be strong because its grueling. Also stars John Leguizamo, Michael K. Williams, Niecy Nash and Blair Underwood.

Cute alert!Always Be My Maybe created by and starring Al Wong and Randall Park follows best friends Sasha and Marcus growing up next door to each other in San Francisco.  As teens, mixed signals explode an attempt at romance and they don’t speak for fifteen years. By then he’s still living with his father with few expectations and she’s a celebrity chef living along in an enormous empty home pushing “trans-denominational food” at her resto Saintly Fare.  Plenty of cute lines and a few big laughs, but director Nahnatchka Khan has an ace up her sleeve – a stunning appearance by Keanu Reeves as Keanu Reeves, hilariously parodying himself as the guy Sasha’s dating. He sends up Speed and John Wick as a guy who believes he’s his characters and Marcus’ song “I Punched Keanu Reeves in the Face’ jollies up closing credits. Pleasant, funny, glorying in its own middlebrow-ness and blessed with the Big Cameo, you could do worse. In theatres and on Netflix.

American designer Roy Halston, known as Halston had an unusually colourful and controversial career noted for its whiplash twists and turns; he cultivated a hard shelled, uppity persona that helped him get ahead, then fall behind. The Iowa country boy turned style arbiter was the first American fashion “superstar” rising from hat making in the 1970s to attaining international importance.  Halston filmmaker Frédéric Tcheng paints a vivid and polarising portrait of the man who reinvented himself entirely, surrounding himself with celebrities, working in in a glass studio atop Manhattan’s Olympic Tower, “looking down his nose at everyone else” according to one wag and changing the way clothes were made – zipless, bias-cut, fluid. Halston’s empire grew fast, but he began to make bad decisions, the worst of which ended his career.  This is riveting stuff, the most dramatic designer biopic of the past few years, a morality play and warning against ego and greed.  Features interviews with Joel Schumacher, Liza Minelli, Berry and Marisa Berenson, Elsa Peretti, Pat Cleveland, Bob Colacello and members of his Halstonettes entourage.

Amazon Prime’s brainy, buzzy series Good Omens stars Michael Sheen and David Tennant as angel and demon forced to work together to save Earth. Sensationally weird opening titles suggest we’re in a TV universe previously unexplored, with a zany majesty, idiotic buffoonery and a powerful, judgmental presence overseeing things.  The cast list is impressive – Benedict Cumberbatch, John Hamm, Anna Maxwell Martin, Nick Offerman and fittingly, Frances McDormand as God. There’s an 11-year old Anti-Christ and an origins story set in the Garden of Eden 11,000 years prior.  Politicians are bribed, priests are tempted and cell networks are down – is it the end?  Angel and devil are pals, they discuss their plans, philosophies and things like Kraken rising up when the sea boils, creating Bouillabaisse.  The gender-bending devil takes a job as governess over the newborn demon Adam Young, but the absence of the Hellhound tells him he’s got the wrong kid. Uh oh.  Its based on the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

FX launches a news docuseries The Weekly debuting June 2 at 10pm in partnership with The New York Times. Times journalists cover stories in a fast-paced half hour format, the first of which is The Education of T.M. Landry.  Erica Green, Katie Benner and Samantha Stark travel to a tiny rural Louisiana a prep school to determine why such a large percentage of its students make it into Ivy League universities.  Turns out, Landry was uncredited, unscrupulous and ambitious, and went to great lengths to the glory of his school. The team uncovers startling facts about the graduates who went on to Harvard and Yale, the kids who believe they can make it with Landry and those who learn the truth in the hardest way.  Its an unimaginable story told detailing physical and emotional abuse, and the owners’ sordid past.

Downton Abbey fans! Alert! PBS airs a two-hour special Sunday night at 9, hosted by Jim Carter (Mr. Carson) to review the series in preparation for the big theatrical movie coming this fall. Downton Abbey Returns! 

Keeping with the aristocrat theme,Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal airs tonight on W Network. a sequel to the 2018 movie, continuing the tale of Prince Harry (Charlie Field) and Meghan Markle (Tiffany Smith) behind the scenes and in public. No one really knows what goes on inside their circle but I suppose it’s fun to make it up! Smith really looks like Mrs. Windsor.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are digitally bound together for all time. A Star Is Born Encore Blu-ray and Digital releases June 4 with twelve minutes of never before seen footage and performance.  There’s an “intimate” jam session with Jackson and Ally, extended performances of Black Eyes and Alibi and Gaga’s impromptu a cappella performance of the Oscar winning song Shallow. The Blu-ray disc features a Dolby Atmos® soundtrack remixed specifically for the home theater environment. Find digital copies on Amazon, FandangoNOW, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, Xbox and other services.

by @annebrodie
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