Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited and costly epic The Irishman, based on the life of mobster Frank Sheeran reunites dozens of stars and supporting cast from Scorsese films over the past forty years. As ever, Scorsese puts us on the razor’s edge. It’s brilliantly cinematic, star-studded and features interesting and unexpected special effects, it’s complex, fascinating, historic in its execution and spans decades, a true story told with precision. It’s a treat and a challenge. On the other hand, it turns murdering, cheating, organised criminals into glamorous, commanding figures. Scorsese’s masterpiece is the work of an artist at the peak of his power and a glorification of pure evil.
It’s lyrical, brutal, in yer face and illuminating, and his understanding of human behaviour so satisfying but you never forget these are awful people, who commit unspeakable crimes for power, stability and money. Sheeran was a WWII veteran who learned to kill in cold blood and transferred this ability in his work as an official of the Teamsters Union and confidante/bodyguard for Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa. and therein lies the nub of it all. Scorsese tells the multi-dimensional saga from Sheeran’s point of view as an old, friendless shell of a man in a nursing home looking back over his life of crime.
It’s a rich story, and Scorsese doesn’t let us take our eyes off the screen; details are important as are appearances by Steven Van Zandt as a lounge singer and Jack Huston as Robert Kennedy. The Kennedys loom large and it ain’t pretty. It’s hugely compelling, entertaining, full experience and it sure doesn’t feel like three and a half hours. The huge cast features Robert De Niro as Sheeran, Al Pacino and Jimmy Hoffa, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jack Huston, Kathrine Narducci, Jesse Plemons, Paul Herman and Gary Basaraba. The Irishman is in theatres today and on Netflix on November 27.
Also check out TIFF’s Cinémathèque Programme Scorsese: A Retrospective launching November 22nd.
Roland Emmerich’s dedication to action and adventure in original stories is clear in his body of work. The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla and Independence Day point to a taste for the dark and dangerous action thriller. But he goes down an all-new path with the fact-based WWII drama Midway. It’s a fact-based drama about one of the key Pacific Theatre battles of WWII in which American soldiers, far outgunned and outmanned by Japanese forces, won. Emmerich’s compassionate take on the bruising event lacks none of the power of his action thrillers but stands out due to the basic, decent humanity at its core. The airborne battle scenes are shattering, and a scene with Nick Jonas will rip your heart out in this unusually moving and inclusive look at men in crisis. An all-star cast features Woody Harrelson, Ed Skrein, Mandy Moore Dennis Quaid, Patrick Wilson, David Hewlett and Japan’s Etsushi Toyokawa. Midway rises so far above video game inspired war films like those egregious ones of, say, oh, I don’t know, 2001.
France’s gift to international film Isabelle Huppert makes her presence felt in Ira Sachs’ Frankie. She’s a famous French actress (a big stretch!) and matriarch who forcefully brings her three-generational family together for a last vacation together. She’s dying of cancer and its unclear for a while what she wants besides their companionship. Sachs identifies simmering hostilities, marriages in trouble, and other personal problems that have cast their nets over the “happy” bunch. Shot in the rural town of Sintra, Portugal, it uses its myriad landscapes as symbols of an idealised family vacation to contrast with the downbeat realities. Frankie seems to filter out the problematic aspects of her own life and the way family members respond to her. She’s looking for a fitting end to her journey but still, she could have made amends but doesn’t, she could tell loved ones things that they would treasure forever, but doesn’t. It’s a morning and afternoon of reflection and longing, but no one can breakthrough. Sachs has us walk with her through the forest, down a trail and ultimately up and down a big fat symbolic hill, and it becomes a visceral experience and turns the mirror on us. Kind of maddening, and kind of magic. Also stars Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei and Greg Kinnear.
Disney+ finally launches November 12, and with it, Disney’s prestige library both film and television, new content and access to Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and get this, ad-free streaming on offer. New content includes The Mandalorian, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, The World According to Jeff Goldblum, Noelle, and Encore! And a brand-new Lady and the Tramp. It is the only place to see Disney films of ’19 Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Aladdin, Toy Story 4, The Lion King, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Go to www.DisneyPlus.com
SparkShorts, Pixar Animation Studios’ short film collection presents new animators and new techniques
Pixar characters are brought to life to surprising regular Joes and Joelles on location and viewers at home.
Forky, from Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story 4, is a sentient craft project created from trash, and he’s the philosophical sort, asking the big questions. He’ll share and make understandable answers to questions like what is love and what is time? Forky stars in ten shorts.
With the launch of The Morning Show on Apple TV+ last week, starring and co-produced by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, I wondered about TV morning shows elsewhere. And lo and behold, BritBox offers ITV’s Good Morning Britain just hours after the chatfest airs live in the UK. Co-hosts Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway preside over GMB … its lean, cheery and colourful, visually clean. There’s no eye-searing riot of multiple moving news bars, weather icons and ads. Its elegant minimalism could teach some Toronto morning shows a thing or two. Trump is lambasted on his call to Nigel Farage supporting pal Boris Johnson and slamming Jeremy Corbyn. Commentators eviscerate the US Pres “Number 10 are furious!” A live interview with Beyonce’s dad on his battle with breast cancer, a report on teen allergies up 65% in Old Blighty. A polarising discussion as to whether it is useful or harmful to kids’ mental health to learn about World War II on Remembrance Day.
Dublin Murders an eight-part Irish noir detective series that really gets under your skin, is now on Crave. The psychological thriller, based on Tana French’s series of novels Dublin Murder Squad, revives memories of a crime that rattled the city decades earlier. A child is found murdered on an altar in the woods, posed like 12 and 13-year-olds who were brutally murdered back then. Two of the children who were there are now detectives assigned to the case. Memories flood in and they make a pact never to reveal what they know. He’s back from living in England with a new accent and an assumed identity and she never admitted she was there so they feel safe. Aha! Little by little new details emerge that cast a wide net over the townsfolk who know more than they let on. Killian Scott and Sarah Greene star.
We all have mixed feelings about seeing Hallowe’en decorations in the stores in late August, but somehow its different with Christmas. The post-Victorian cosy time image of a red white and green sparkly life sipping hot chocolate while wearing reading socks, hearths ablaze is deeply rooted in our society. So, to deal with this need for Christmas-like sensations, W is running nothing but Hallmark Christmas Movies Only until January 1. Thirty exclusive premieres and returning holiday films are on tap with plenty of romance, gingerbread cookies and the rest of it, with stars Candace Cameron Bure, Lacey Chabert, Kristin Chenoweth, Jodie Sweetin, Chad Michael Murray, Dolly Parton, Priscilla Presley, Scott Wolf, and more.
One of 2019’s most impressive films goes to DVD and digital next week. Rapper Awkwafina proved herself a gifted comic actor in Crazy Rich Asians and now she owns drama in The Farewell. She’s Billi, a Chinese-born, U.S.-raised New Yorker in a tenuous relationship with her parents; they go to China to spend time with her grandmother Nai-Nai who is expected to die soon. Thing is, granny doesn’t know, the family hides the reason they are there with a hastily staged wedding. Billi thinks the lie is wrongheaded but toes the family line to keep the peace and finds unexpected humour and pathos. Never sentimental, never inauthentic, writer/director Lulu Wang hits all the nerves – she should know – it’s her story. It’s more heartfelt than dour, it’s fun, sweet, provocative, and demands serious inner reflection. One of the year’s most moving films brings tears weeks after seeing it. Well done, Awkwafina, the conflicted heart of the story. And as we approach awards season, her name is being bandied about as we predicted here!
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