Sunday 15 December 2019
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler

Meryl Streep Takes no Prisoners in The Laundromat,  Joker and Roy Cohn’s Essence of Evil, Bill Nighy Charms and Heals, and A-Listers Top Amazon Prime Video’s Hot New Anthology, Watergate and Tantoo Cardinal’s Series Debuts.

Steven Soderbergh’s surreal look at the state of money in the world, and those who cheat to keep it makes for a fun time. The Laundromat based on “Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite” by Jake Bernstein, concerning an anonymous leak of millions of files from the Mossack and Fonseca law firm in Panama, that ripped the lid off international financial misdeeds and conspiracy. The film casts a wide net over a series of global episodes sharing a common thread – greed.  Meryl Streep is breathtaking, and must be seen to be believed as a retiree celebrating her 40th anniversary when the tourist boat they’re on sinks, killing 20 including her husband.  Her attempts to claim the insurance money he left her are for naught as the insurance company doesn’t really exist. Or does it? She hops a plane to Nevis, a tax evasion haven to investigate. Meanwhile, fraudsters, I mean lawyers played by Gary Oldman Antonio Banderas lead us through the illicit money maze through skits, history lessons and vivid demos, starting with the caveman to today’s corrupt international financial system and the crooks that run it. It’s wildly and abruptly episodic, but it’s also a schadenfreude hoot. Sharon Stone, Jeffrey Wright, Robert Patrick, David Schwimmer, Will Forte and Matthias Schoenaerts co-star. Limited Theatrical Release in Toronto Oct 4th and on Netflix Oct 18.

I don’t have the stomach for Joker. Theatres are on high alert, and watching a deranged character mow people down for two hours sucks. I’m told this stand-alone DC universe outing is “brilliant”, and that its “profoundly disturbing” and as one wag says, “pernicious garbage”. Joaquin Phoenix who refuses to answer questions about extreme violence plays Batman’s foe as an incel unable to deal with how society treats him triggered by a failed attempt at stand-up, no luck with the ladies, and existential issues. So, he becomes a shooter. Co-stars Robert De Niro and Zazie Beetz. Directed by Todd Miller.

Speaking of evil thugs, ever wonder why Trump is the way he is, driven by the need to get ahead at any cost, including ruining others, lying without conscience, refusing to take responsibility, and claiming victory in loss?  It may have begun with his mobbed up real estate developer father’s influence but its clear from Matt Tyrnauer’s doc Where’s My Roy Cohn? that Cohn gave Trump a roadmap. Tyrnauer persuasively reveals a character believed by many to be evil who was as close to power in the US as its possible to get without actually being President, a political huckster who helped shape the careers of some of the worst figures in modern US history including Red Scare zealot Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Fox News Rupert Murdoch, New York’s controlling mob families and Trump. Cohn was allegedly a self loathing gay man who gleefully prosecuted gay men. He burned a boat for insurance killing a crew member then denied the boat was his. Roger Stone thinks he’s vicious!  The litany of this man’s behaviours is one thing, but his proximity to power is altogether crucial. His ideas and words live on, coming out of Trump’s mouth; Cohn bragged that he didn’t care about the law, that he liked being feared, that he was “the executioner” and he knew he’d have a bad end.

The title of Carl Hunter’s family drama Sometimes Always Never refers to the buttoning of a man’s jacket, the top sometimes, the middle always and the bottom never. Bill Nighy plays Alan, a tailor who has spent the last nearly two decades searching for his missing son. Michael left the house in a huff during a family game of Scrabble and has not been heard from since. Alan’s surviving son, Peter played with tremendous sensitivity and strength by Sam Riley, has endured the years as second best, the one who stayed, no mystery. He’s pained by his father’s obsession with someone who won’t be coming home, and missing his attention and affection. One thing they do together is play Scrabble but Alan is gifted and Peter loses.  Police call to say a body had been found and they must identify it, even as someone in an online game room contacts them to say he’s Michael. This is a family in deep distress and the actors interpret the story realistically; there is no faux sentimentality, just characters driven by desperate needs for outcomes that may never happen, and the overwhelming realisation that the here and now must heal.

I’m in love with Amazon’s bold new anthology series Modern Love, inspired by the New York Times column, that expands the boundaries of the rom com and rom dram, to become something elevated, enlightened and intelligent. A listers Tina Fey, Ann Hathaway, Dev Patel, Catherine Keener, Andrew Scott and Ed Sheeran appear in the eight-episode series and I hope it lives a long life. Love is what to whom? What is it to a woman with bipolar disorder who has never told people why she acts the way she acts? What is it to someone who dreams of a certain person who crossed her path twenty years earlier and disappeared? What is love to a woman who has only her doorman to care for her?  Or the perpetual loner? The couple that breaks up every day but stays together? Each standalone 30-minute episode conceived and directed by John Carney sheds light on an idea, event or set of minds rarely encountered in the genre; they play it straight, then it’s a Broadway musical then its small and intimate and it’s a major delight.

On Wednesday October 9thHistory premieres Watergate, a 6-episode documentary series on the biggest cases of US political conspiracy and election meddling since, well, last week.  On June 17, 1972, the Democratic National Convention offices in Washington’s Watergate hotel complex were robbed by men tied to Republican President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign. The case was solved with the work of Washington Post reporters, a few Congressmen and an official with the re-election watchdog unit. It was found that the President okayed the break in and covered it and other criminal acts, okayed bugs and surveillance and got the FBI and CIA to investigate forces working against him. When it was all laid out, Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment.  Academy Award®-winning director Charles Ferguson interviews leading figures in the two-year investigation, journalists, senior Nixon Administration officials, members of Congress, and prosecutors.

CTV’s Stumptown is promising. A veteran of five tour in Afghanistan, a Portland Oregon detective (Cobie Smulders) is battling PTSD, addictions to whiskey, gambling and sex. Her bosses and friends know she’s on the razor’s edge but none of that dampens her drive to stand up for justice on the job. Her brother who has Down’s Syndrome worries that she’ll be fired and they won’t have any place to live, so add guilt to the mix of weights.  Humour appears in the oddest moments like when she’s tossed into a car trunk, somehow gets inside the car and abuses her caffeinated captors, causing an eye-popping accident that sends the car up into the air. Let’s face it, if she didn’t have troubles, she’d have nothing at all. Tantoo Cardinal, the mighty, mighty dame of Canadian arts, plays the owner of the casino who knows all and speaks the truth. As always Cardinal’s work always elevates a project. Based on the graphic novel series set in Portland

by @annebrodie

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