A strong reminder that the sweeping drama and Oscar bait Roma is at TIFF Bell Lightbox this week and on Netflix Dec. 14. Alfonso Cuarón’s stunning black and white epic, which must be experienced in Lightbox’ Dolby Atmos sound takes us through a year in the life of a housemaid in Mexico City. Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) sacrifices everything for her “family” and puts herself to the test for them on a regular basis. Her value isn’t really noticed by the husband and wife, but the children adore her. They explore places; meet people and experience events that gain dramatic intensity as seen through her naïve and loving heart. Roma is a profound piece that is tough and shake off, a must see.
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He was just a 27 year old lawyer when he was named Chief Prosecutor for the U.S. Army at the Einsatzgruppen Trials at Nuremberg in Germany. Under his watch 22 Einsatzgruppen Nazis, responsible for murdering over a million Jews, were tried, sentenced and most were hanged. It remains the largest murder trial in history. Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz, details the life of one of the most important legal figures of modern times. Today at 98, Ferencz can’t talk about what he saw in the camps immediately after their liberation by the Allies without crying, it was so traumatic. Ferencz called for the establishment of an international criminal court which was established in The Hague to try future genocides, and as we know they continue today. He fled anti-Semitic Romania with his family in 1920, landing in New York with no money and no English. He pulled himself up by his own bootstraps and intelligence to graduate from Harvard Law School on scholarship and go on to a brilliant global career. He is a pacifist and humanist who believes world peace must be attained through law not war and has lived his life in accordance with that belief. The doc features insights from human and civil rights and international justice figures including Alan Dershowitz, Justice Rosalie Abella, General Wesley Clark (Ret.), David Scheffer, first U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues; Richard Dicker, Director, Human Rights Watch International Justice Program; Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court and Don Ferencz who followed his father’s footsteps to become an international justice educator.
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Toronto boxer Pardeep Singh Nagra made history when, in 1999 he fought the sporting establishment in the courts to win the right to keep his beard as a devout Sikh, a landmark case that marked the beginning of a new civil rights chapter in Canada. Prem Singh who plays Nagra co-wrote the Nagra bio-pic Tiger with Michael Pugliese who also plays Nagra’s bitter rival Brian Doyle. Nagra endured racism in his quest to launch his career, but found support in a boxing club owner who realised he was talented. He’s played by real life boxer, actor Mickey Rourke who incidentally does an amazing job as both dominant and sensitive. (Rourke won’t work on a film unless he has one of his dogs with him. He had thirteen year old Number One on the set as Lulu, whom he credits with saving his life when he felt suicidal. Sadly she passed away recently.) T heir bond adds a warm and fuzzy sweetness to this tough tale. It’s inspiring that encourages staying the course and working to uphold one’s beliefs. Directed by Alister Grierson.
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Mickey Rourke narrates Jeremy Kenyon Lockyer Corbell’s documentary BOB LAZAR: Area 51 & Flying Saucers, a behind-the –scenes look at a man who has tracked “spaceships” his entire life. Lazar, a physicist who in 1989 revealed the US government’s alleged UFO study centre called Area 51 says he worked in a government facility reverse engineering spacecraft and that he has proof of “flying saucers” and that the government has documentation of a thousand years of extra-terrestrial visitors to earth. However, Lazar’s academic claims have not been proven and he had a little trouble with the law in a prostitution ring case a while back. Because of his history, he’s lived in secrecy and this is the first time he’s shown himself. Available on Digital December 4th and On Demand December 18th.
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Nothing Like a Dame by Roger Michell features Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Eileen Atkins, and Dame Joan Plowright dishing about their professional worlds, their husbands, acting partners and rivals and offering advice on making the most of life. Dame Maggie says “If in doubt, don’t do it” while Judi admonishes us not to be “so susceptible to falling in love”. These are seasoned actors, activists, friends, rivals and ancients with a flair for storytelling and total love of their craft. Across the board, each says that “fear” is her constant companion in the job, onstage, making films, Dench adding that it’s the petrol that keeps them going. Gathered outdoors in Dame Joan’s garden for a bit of a gossip and a stroll down memory lane, they entertain each other and the crew as well as us, then the rains come, driving them inside for a wee bit more. Here’s a good one. Akins joined Vanessa Redgrave in a pro-Palestinian protest, she was arrested and jailed while Atkins bought crumpets and walked home. Redgrave was beside herself. It’s an intimate afternoon. Smith STILL hasn’t seen herself in Downton Abbey and refuses to watch. Good times!
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Dead in a Week: Or Your Money Back is a wryly amusing comedy about William (Aneurin Barnard) who hires a hit man to kill him to put an end to his depression. Comedy you say? True. Writer director Tom Edmunds has a bit of fun with the complications and potential changes of heart that can throw a spanner into the no-cancel, no refund assassination order. They meet when the hit man observes him pondering a jump off a London bridge which results in a soft landing in a party boat awning. Tom Wilkinson, the assassin who calls himself a “one man euthanasia clinic” boasts of a long and successful career. He offers helpful brochures listing the ways a client can choose to go from a tantalising Hero’s Death to poisoning, shooting, falls from cliffs, etc. The young man is instructed to send payment to the Bureau of Assassins. But when his depressive biography sells, he changes his mind about the whole thing. Those complications ensue!
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If you loved the multi-award winning comedy series The Marvelous Ms. Maisel’s debut season, you’ll feel the same about the sophomore outing launching Dec 5th on Amazon Prime Original. Rachel Brosnahan is a lively bit of genius as Midge Maisel, a wife and mother from a rich Jewish family, but moonlights as a raunchy, comedienne killing audience in late night shows in questionable Manhattan dives. She’s witty, strong and sarcastic, a joy to be around. She doesn’t take c**p from anyone as a pre-feminist. Midge usually hangs in the city but this season the family finds itself at summer camp in the Catskills where nature is tolerated and gossip is king. Back in the city, Midge dives into the art world – never a dull moment. The fifties costume design is yummy just like the art and set design. The series feels like an old fashioned musical comedy and it’s 115% irresistible. Win. Win. Win.
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And on Sunday, the adorable, star studded animated flick Elliott the Littlest Reindeer is in theatres, one day only, before it hits home entertainment on Dec. 2nd. Canadian filmmaker Jennifer Westcott , Jennifer Westcott, and stars the voices of Josh Hutcherson, Samantha Bee, Martin Short, John Cleese and many more.
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Rising star Florence Pugh of Lady Macbeth stars in the espionage thriller The Little Drummer Girl an ambitious AMC Original Series that opens in East Germany in 1979. An au pair girl arrives at a Jewish family’s home and drops off her suitcase before exiting the house and getting into a waiting car driven by a Palestinian man. The house explodes, killing a child. Israeli investigators get on the case. Meanwhile an aspiring London stage actor (Pugh) learns her company has been invited to Greece by an unknown benefactor. She meets a mysterious man (Alexander Skarsgård) on the beach who kidnaps her and she’s forcibly recruited by the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency to get into the life of the Palestinian bomber. Mossad can use her based on her acting experience and easy lies; she is asked to join their “production” as a “terrorist”. Her first assignment is to drive a car with bombs to use across Europe to “clear our agony through the world, the theatre of the real”. This is just the first episode. A little slow to star but it catches up fast, and how.
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Irish actress Amy Huberman walks away with your heart in the sly new comedy series Finding Joy on Acorn TV. She’s just so relatable, she says the wrong thing, does the wrong thing, swears like a stevedore and accidentally farts in tense situations and that’s a regular thing since she’s accidentally become a TV presenter. Amy’s newly separated from her husband and he’s found himself a new model, leaving her with her dog who occasionally narrates, and appears to be judging her. Amy learns TV the hard way, naturally as she pines for her ex and fends off the approach of an actual nice guy.
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Are you a cineaste? Do you love film festivals and superior independent films? Then we have a brand new service for you! Highball TV handpicks gems from around the world for its newly launched subscription service. To kick things off, Arturo Pérez Torres and Aviva Armour-Ostroff’s first narrative feature based on Michael Healey’s Governor General’s Literary Award winning play of the same name, The Drawer Boy. Highball.TV connects fans with unique and original films and series curated from prestigious festivals around the world and at home, including TIFF, Venice, Sundance, Raindance, After Dark, Dragon Con, Heartland, imagineNATIVE. It is ad and streams in 4K, HD and SD with closed-captioning and described video capability. Highball.TV offers monthly subscriptions with titles also available to buy or rent. Check it out, you can thank me later!
The new service heart & home is on a Christmas binge! It’s showing Hallmark Christmas movies right up to the Big Day Itself, featuring its comely leading ladies, square jawed handsome leading men in holiday themed love stories that never delve too deeply into reality or soar too high to art. But they have their place – these are cosy, nicely art directed, easy to digest sweetness, like hot chocolate with marshmallows, suitable for blustery days and crackling fire nights. And there are 59 of them! It’s a service of Super Channel and you can find out more right here. www.Superchannel.ca/Christmas
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