Friday 22 November 2019
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler

It’s a Fem-tastic Week on the Screens as We Present Some of Cinema’s Bravest Women – Plus Our Beloved Margaret Atwood! Also, Talking Synonyms, Pilgrim Horror and Jenn and Reece Navigating Life in the Fraught World of Morning News. Ker-pow! 

Tim Miller’s Terminator: Dark Fate the direct sequel to 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Dayreunites Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a real kick for the T2’s many fans. Skynet, now known as Legion has sent a new superpowered Terminator (Gabriel Luna) from the future to kill Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) for the contributions she’ll make in the future in the human war against the Terminators. Dani’s joined by human-cyborg hybrid Grace (Canadian Mackenzie Davis) and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton!) the toughest woman in the wide world of movies to evade or fight. There’s a new threat to mankind a new generation of Ts are on the prowl seeking human extinction and chances are, they’ll succeed because they are endlessly powerful. Connor’s massive guns and common sense are locked and loaded, she’s as fit as she was when we met her nearly thirty years ago and she makes a deal with her own personal devil, showing once again how awesome she is. Honestly, it’s so much fun to spend time with Hamilton and Schwarzenegger once again in James Cameron’s unique cyborg world. The film isn’t perfect – it’s tough to rival the total supremacy of T2 but it’s engaging, entertaining and hella nostalgic.  I love watching Arnie in another subtle performance like his groundbreaker in Maggie.

British born Broadway star Cynthia Erivo brings dynamism and a steely determination to the role of Harriet Tubman, one of the most important figures in the Underground Railroad movement, in Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet.  Five-foot nothing of pure power, Erivo radiates strength as the Civil War heroine, a scout, spy, nurse, suffragist, civil rights activist and slave emancipator. Tubman was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the War and led a raid that freed hundreds of slaves, and made countless trips by foot running slaves in secret from the South to the abolitionist North and into Canada. The film avoids hagiography and could easily have gone there, but aside from a few missteps, its a solid enough and what a story! The star’s performance and subject matter resonate so we can forgive a few clichés here and there.

Feras Fayyad’s The Cave will break your heart. Fayyad, an Oscar-winning documentarian, returns to his homeland of Syria for this project on the underground hospital in the city of Eastern Al Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus. It is under equipped and underfunded, run by medical students, volunteers and community workers under constant shelling by the Syrian regime and Russia. Dr. Amani Ballour’s commitment to the patients is clear, she suffers her own shocks but is already ready for the next victims. A heartbreakingly common ailment is babies choking on gravel the bombs send flying into their throats as the constant stream of bloody, dying and dead are brought into The Cave, the constant roar of bomber jets approaching and dropping death is horrific. A male patient tells Ballour women shouldn’t work and she lets him have it. A widow stays at home as she has been conditioned, unable to get food for her many starving children. Outside toddlers are covered in blood and bomb dust.  A looming chemical attack forces evacuation, then what? The Cave shows real life in Syria with special mention to the filmmakers and medical staff that put their lives on the line every day.

Writer-director Nadav Lapid used his own experiences as a Jewish Israeli expat attempting to settle in Paris for his powerful but overlong Synonyms. Yoav played by Tom Mercier has a rough landing, after fleeing his “nasty” racist homeland. He’s passed out and in dire need when a wealthy couple discovers him and takes him in. He entertains them with stories of his experiences as a soldier which may be a pack of lies; he claims to have shot an Arabic terrorist to pieces when in flashback we see its not a person but a practice cut-out. He is painfully aware of nationalist, anti-Semitic and racist divisions in Paris, and remembers those in Israel. Hatred simmers in the city, as in a sequence with a security guard friend who provokes and threatens commuters on the subway while humming a Jewish song. Synonyms refers to Yoav’s constant practising of French, providing an insistent thrum of wordplay. This drama is unsettling, ugly, joyous, realistic, cinematically creative and way too long. Its disturbing and sometimes tedious, but star Mercier is a revelation.

Apple TV+ streaming service is off and running with an intense and timely ten-part drama series The Morning Show. Jennifer Aniston plays Karen, a national TV morning show host whose 15-year co-host  (Steve Carrell) has been fired for sexual misconduct with show staff. She’s devastated that he has “left her” but on-air claims she didn’t really know him and throws her support behind his victims. Eerie. Many of us saw a similar scenario play out in real life on the Today Show as Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb announced that Matt Lauer was gone – poof – just like that in November of 2017.

Karen deals with her loss by breaking into her former co-host’s home and confronting him, and demanding to know what will become of them. Negotiations are coming up and she doesn’t realise she’s widely disliked. Meanwhile down in West Virginia, a headstrong female reporter Bradley (Reese Witherspoon) seemingly channeling Meghan McCain, launches a shrieking expletive-laced but rather brilliant – attack on an uninformed protester at a coal mine and lets fly with a rant that goes viral. A Morning Show staffer invites her to Manhattan for an interview to be conducted by an emotionally fragile and perhaps professionally threatened Karen. Sparks fly.  This is a strong outing for the new streaming service because it’s timely and super brave, and Aniston and Witherspoon aren’t the sweet and friendly romcom types we know, they are women on fire. And this is just the first episode. The great supporting cast includes Martin Short in a savage turn.

by @annebrodie

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