Friday 6 December 2019
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler

Matt Damon and Christian Bale Take the Wheel and the Heat in a Breathtaking Racing Film, Nature Is Just as Exciting for One Small Creature, Alicia Vikander’s Tokyo Noir, A Chinese Noir, Season Three of The Crown – at Last! And Who’s on First? What a Time to Be Alive.

Two and a half heart-pounding hours fly by as fast as the race cars in James Mangold’s fact-based drama, Ford v Ferrari. Titans of the automotive history come to life in a tale of talent, steel nerves, corporate greed versus the individual and the early evils of advertising.  Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca consider making their staid line of autos sexier by entering the world of racing. To that end, they hire Carroll Shelby, played by Matt Damon a leading designer of fine roadsters, to create a car that will make the world pay attention by beating long-time champs Ferrari to the finish line at the 1966 Le Mans race in France, 24 hours of gruelling work. Christian Bale plays Ken Myles, an individualistic and uniquely talented English racer, to drive. Myles and Shelby are there for the purity of the race, as the Ford team becomes intent on manipulating a process they know nothing about. Beautifully balanced, entertaining and edge of your set nerve-wracking, this is a terrific film for all ages, bumped up by impressive performances and well-developed relationships. Damon’s naturalism is always astonishing. Also stars Josh Lucas, Jon Bernthal and Caitriona Balfe. Recommended: earplugs. Not recommended: speeding home.

The Good Liar a turgid identity thriller that pits an aged conman against a widow with a soft heart – no contest, right?  Ian McKellen’s Roy is all tea and sympathy with Helen Mirren’s Betty who is prone to “little strokes”. They begin a platonic companionship in her unremarkable suburban home. He wins her sympathy with his “gamey leg” and moves in.  His pal – and co-conspirator – played by Downtown Abbey’s Jim Carter, put the con on her to open a shared account to include his money – zero and hers – 3M pounds. She signs off and they decide to celebrate with a European getaway. Her grandson isn’t happy with the arrangement and surprises Roy by meeting them in Berlin. The game is on. There are moments of great satisfaction, moments of garish deception and a big fat surprise. And that’s all you’re getting from me.

Lapland’s stunning but hostile environments are the backdrops for a remarkable film about a reindeer that will have you gasping. From Ailo’s birth in harrowing circumstances to his maturity a year later, A Reindeer’s Journey, narrated by Donald Sutherland, pulls no punches. Ailo’s life is fraught from the beginning; his mother abandons him, but returns and takes him back to the herd that’s five days walk ahead of them. Sutherland’s soothing voice tells us “a baby reindeer has five minutes to learn to stand, five to walk and five to run and swim” and we watch this unfold as mother and son are pursued by wolves, arctic foxes and later on, deadly wolverines. Then, there are the hawks, wolves and eagles, and Mother Nature’s deep freezes and blizzards. Your heart is in your throat as Ailo escapes one disaster after another occasionally leavened by lighthearted moments. Pan European camera crews, under director Guillaume Maidatchevsky capture it all via camera blinds with spectacularly intimate results.  We learn how climate change and deforestation interfere with the reindeer’s ancient migration paths, threatening their existence.  A Reindeer’s Journey is available On Demand and Digitally November 19. This is intense, but rewarding content for the family over age eight.

The Crown Season Three lands on Netflix Sunday night.  ‘Nuff said.  It is important to know that time has flown, Claire Foy is out and Olivia Colman of Broadchurch, The Favourite and The Night Manager assumes the mantle as Queen Elizabeth in an astounding transformation in character and appearance. We pick up on Jubilee Days 1977 as a new government comes to power, yet another adjustment for the Monarch, as she becomes increasingly aware that the world is changing rapidly while still feeling post WWI pressures.  Economic woes, a Cold War with the USSR, a cultural youthquake, labour unrest and uprising are on the agenda, and free-spirited sister Princess Margaret, who loves the nightlife and is prone to scandal can be relied upon to throw spanners in the works. Uneasy is the head that wears the crown.  HM asks herself what she has achieved and knows she doesn’t have many choices in life but to do her duty. These insecurities are not confirmed!! Merely made up by screenwriters.  Co-stars Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, Tobias Menzies as The Duke of Edinburgh, Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles, Erin Doherty as Princess Anne, Ben Daniels as Lord Snowdon, Jason Watkins as Prime Minister Harold.

The Silver Jubilee Days celebrations, 1977:

Earthquake Bird is one weird noir psychodrama following Alicia Vikander’s Lucy, a Swedish woman living in Japan, and her strange psychological journey with a vaguely threatening photographer played by Naoki Kobayashi and a newly arrived American ex-pat played by Riley Keough. Wash Westmoreland’s dark thriller set in Tokyo in 1989 begins with Lucy meeting with the photographer; he invades her space but she goes home with him and they begin a passionate affair. An American woman whose openness and playfulness contrasts with everything Lucy knows, arrives on the scene and Lucy becomes consumed with the idea that she and her lover are involved. Lucy visits a sympathetic Japanese friend and witnesses a freak accident that shatters her, making her doubt herself and the world around her, and aggressively attempts to take back what’s hers. The ex-pats body’s found and Lucy is questioned, and we are left in the dark. Nothing is what it seems in this enjoyably bitter dark night of the soul.

A wild opening titles sequence in the nifty Chinese indie noir Absurd Accident advises “We read the world wrong and say it deceives us!” How true. Li Yuhe’s Fargo-esque crime thriller takes place in the countryside in and around a diner owned by a sleepless, impotent man and his fiery, bat-wielding wife – his tigress. He hires a hitman to wipe her out when he discovers she’s cheating. Thing is, he read it wrong and has to backtrack fast and it is well beyond his capabilities. The maddening minutiae of everyday life help this little gem whiz along as bizarre subplots and moments play out. It pokes fun at cliched tropes like the cop on the night shift set to retire the next day, offers profitable new uses for gum, and lets the air out of pretension and certainty. Nothing’s what it seems. Oddly the characters’ breath can be seen in most scenes, indoor and out. Make of that what you wish. Absurd Accident stars Xixu Chen, Ye Gao, Suxi Ren, Bo Dong, Yunfei Lou and a host of Fargo steals. On Amazon Prime Video and Vimeo on Demand.

Who’s on first, you say? Abbott And Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection comes to Blu-Ray Tuesday with all their 28 films from Universal. If you don’t know them, Lou and Bid were the most famous comedy duo of their time, and still are, remarkably! Collected for the first time, the set celebrates 80th years since Abbott and Costello’s first film One Night in the Tropics. The massive 15-disc set spans their career 1940-1965 with gems like Buck PrivatesWho Done It? and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, this set is filled with some of the most hilarious routines of all time including this timeless ol’ chestnut.

Super Channel’s Heart & Home Channel offers 100 Christmas themed films and television shows aimed at the holiday crowd, from the wonderful, seasonal Diane Keaton film Baby Boom, Tatiana Maslany and Jacqueline Bisset’s An Old-Fashioned Christmas and a host of holiday episodes from decades of television shows. There’s Christmas CrushA Christmas in Royal Fashion, two Christmas With a Prince films, lots of genial Santas smiling down on dewy-eyed guys and gals discovering their own true loves during holiday free time, you get the picture. It’s a sentimentalist go-to, and for others, a guilty pleasure. Its all good and it won’t last.

TIFF Cinematheque takes a walk on the wild side with an eleven-film retrospective on a Japanese New Wave filmmaker and provocateur in In the Realm of Oshima: The Best of Japanese Master Nagisa Oshima. Obsessed with sex and crime, Oshima’s films have rocked audiences since the sixties; he claimed he didn’t want his films “to be understood in 15 minutes” and he did his best to avoid that. Influenced by the atrocities of WWII as a youngster, Hiroshima, and his samurai heritage, the Cold War and his upbringing to create a unique, belligerent, aggressive body of work. He’s perhaps best known for The Realm of the Senses (1976) which sparked a riot at Cannes, was absent in Ontario and heavily censored around the world.  A man’s sex and violence infused affair with his servant devolves to its ultimate and inevitable conclusion.

Here’s the complete list of Oshima screenings at Lightbox.

by @annebrodie

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