Note: Several major films will be opening this weekend and next Wednesday for the American Thanksgiving Long Weekend, so we’re letting you know what you can see now and then.
First up, Disney’s Ralph Breaks the Internet opening next Wednesday is a gem that addresses love, friendship, letting go and living your best life. Wreck-It-Ralph John C. Reilly and real life bestie Sarah Silverman as Vanellope are basically overgrown kids in a pickle. Vanellope loses her job in Sugar Rush no thanks to a broken joystick but finds something called a Wi-Fi router. It allows them to head to a new place called The Internet where they hear they can buy a vintage stick on eBay. They’re not exactly sure what the internet is, but navigate a huge, colourful village that’s all about social and commercial enterprise, encountering every internet trope from over aggressive auto-fill to #trending. This one has so much going for it, the real charm and chemistry between the voice leads, a beautiful visual universe, plenty sarcasm for the grownups – and kids – about the net and our shared frustrations and joys, with crazy characters on an unstoppable quest.
We have another winner in Instant Family, in theatres now, an emotional journey through the gauntlet of adoption that will open eyes and hearts. Writer and director Sean Anders (Daddy’s Home, Hot Tub Time Machine) tells his own family’s experiences adopting three siblings – an instant family – and the many and varied unforeseen consequences. Funny, poignant and sad moments about sudden change will get you in the gut and bring new awareness to those unfamiliar with the adoption process. And there are plenty of relatable laughs from those in the know. Mark Wahlberg has never been so appealing as a new dad doing his best to make everyone happy while maintaining his sanity. Rose Byrne covers the loving, but over-anxious side of the equation. There’s a moment when the three kids aren’t quite settling in and the new parents wonder if they can send them back, a horrifying line to me, but the adoptive families with whom I screened the film laughed and laughed. You’ll learn and be moved. Top marks.
The charming, poignant two-hander Green Book that will no doubt earn Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor nominations for Viggo Mortenson and Mahershala Ali opens Wednesday- just want it on your radar! It’s the true story of a world renowned black pianist, circa 1960, who lives in the upper floor of Carnegie Hall who hires a rough-hewn Bronx garbage man/ driver to ferry him across the Deep South for a two month concert tour. Today, big deal, back then, that’s toying with danger. Rampant racism was the norm in the South and stretched all the way to the Bronx. The driver finally takes the job and marvels at the musician’s elegance, talent and charm. Guess he hadn’t had much exposure to black culture, and after a rocky start, concerning behaviours in the car, they form an attachment. There is no shortage of trouble, violence and humiliation awaiting them and twists and a growing sense of love and acceptance, on both sides. This is a buddy story to end ‘em all.
Christine Bentley our What She Said Talk! co-host and my occasional film deputy, saw The Front Runner. Of course Chris anchored CFTO News for decades and covered the Gary Hart scandal. Senator Hart was a 1988 US presidential candidate whose affair with Donna Rice brought his political career to an end. Here’s Chris on The Front Runner:
I had such high hopes for the Front Runner, after reading other people’s reviews and the thought of two hours with Hugh Jackman is never a sacrifice. The movie gets off to a very slow start. In fact if you were 30 minutes late, it might have been better. That 30 minutes was a series of unending political junket bus and editorial desk and bar scenes (been there, done that!) I kept waiting for a thread of a story, which I already knew. It was like watching a protracted labour for the 4th time. The whole movie was so badly paced, that all two hours felt anti-climactic, like it never got started. What I came away with was my head shaking at the fact that anyone that naive and unsophisticated could actually have made it to a presidential race. Hugh Jackman gave a compelling performance of a not so bright man, for whom everything has come easily, a man who honestly didn’t understand why a cheating president might be a big deal. If only he could have looked forward a few decades, and seen that with a whack of bravado, in today’s world, he could have gotten away with it. Not a movie I could sit through twice.
When you want something done, leave it to the ladies. Widows is a revenge story with a difference as four women Veronica (Viola Davis), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) commit to a dangerous undertaking to secure their lives. Their husbands are killed in a deal gone wrong after having robbed a criminal enterprise, but leave behind a plan for the next heist they’d planned. The wives, just regular women in regular lives, galvanize themselves and head into brutal battle with that plan because everything depends on it. Steven McQueen breaks new genre ground for himself with this crime thriller also starring Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Jackie Weaver and a menacing Daniel Kaluuya. Besides car chases, gun slinging and violence, there’s good deal of complexity and nuance for a heist film and that’s ok by me.
The Rainbow Bridge Motel follows Dean and Darren, from Nevada who are about to be married and honeymoon in Niagara Falls. They book into a hotel that calls itself the “#1 Gay Wedding Destination.” Sadly, it’s squeezed between two chemical plants with no views except mid-century industrial. Eccentric hoteliers, guests and awkward situations ensue – uncertain wedding protocols, disapproving relatives, religious barriers, secret lives resurfacing played for laughs. Stars Cole Burdon, Chris Modrzynski, Wilson Heredia, Diane Gaidry and Ruthie Alcaide. Dean and Darren’s room is decorate a la gay Robert Reed, icon father of the Brady Bunch room, there’s a Rock Hudson room and many fun touches. However, the film’s silly as a goose and nowhere near as funny. Available on iTunes and YouTube.
The Coen Brother’s brilliantly funny, layered and pathos soaked Wild West anthology The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is coming to Netflix in December but you can catch it now in limited theatrical release. It’s occasional magic realism, painful sweetness and unique worldview makes it clearly Coen and is among their best films. Six standalone stories tell tales of life in the old West taken from a boy’s book of adventure of the same name. Buster begins, starring Tim Blake Nelson as a cowboy songbird prone to shooting folks who deserve it, until the new Songbird shows up.
James Franco stars in Near Algodones as a bank robber who finally meets the hangman’s noose – with a double twist. Meal Ticket stars Lima Neeson as an itinerant showman who makes his money in a monologist, an armless, legless boy (Harry Melling) until an unlikely better act comes along. Tom Waits is a lone prospector in All Gold Canyon to whom local wildlife is sensitive. Zoe Kazan is The Girl Who Got Rattled travelling west in a wagon train to meet her intended. Contagious coughers and lost money change her fate. The Mortal Remains finds travelers (Saul Rubin, Tyne Daly, Chelcie Ross, Brenda Gleeson and Jonjo O’Neill) stuck in a cramped stagecoach heading west, a journey of mystery, tall tales, tremulous occurrences and a dead body. Can’t stop thinking about the richness and wonder of this yarn.
Again on Netflix, The Kominsky Method a wonderfully witty limited comedy series starring Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas has the same kind of quality and connection as Grace & Frankie. Acting coach Kominsky and his agent Norm are boomers struggling to stay relevant in Hollywood and, trust me, eight half hour episodes aren’t going to be nearly enough. Mature, better stuff from Chuck Lorre. It opens in Hollywood’s historic Musso and Frank’s Grill where the guys moan about their first world problems before getting to the nitty gritty – Norm’s wife is dying of cancer and Sandy’s feeling old, his actor students are underwhelming with the exception of an older member (Nancy Travis). The lines are pure comedy gold, well-observed, succinct and real. The situations wonderfully recognisable and they humanise former Hollywood big shots with great compassion. Watch out for the most extraordinary funeral on series television.
Also, a reminder that The Great War on Film TIFF Cinematheque Retrospective is on now and continues through Dec. 6th. tiff.net/greatwar honouring the end of World War One, 100 years ago.
Finally! One of the year’s most popular films and the first all Asian Hollywood film is on DVD! Crazy Rich Asians follows the engagement and wedding adventures of a New York born and bred gal (Constance Wu) and her fiancé (Henry Golding) as they fly to China for a family wedding. Our heroine’s maybe future mother in law (Michelle Yeoh) takes exception to her knowing she is not of the elite class as is her son and that she has no defining Chinese traditions in her life. This is pure unadulterated fun with people to root for, others to jeer at and an incredible Chinese cultural experience. Awkwafina is adorably eccentric as our heroine’s confidante. Out next Tuesday.
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