The highly anticipated Crazy Rich Asians has landed featuring a 100% Asian cast led Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh and Henry Golding and it’s a crowd-pleaser. A New York economics professor heads to Singapore with her boyfriend to attend at a wedding and discovers that he’s a society superstar, heir to a massive international real estate business. But his family, their wealth and conspicuous consumption take her aback. His mother decides she’s not good enough for her son and lets her know in uncertain terms. Will he abandon his legacy to be with her or will she have to toe the line? The razzle dazzle is eye popping, and after a while a bit wearing, as money appears to be the raison d’etre of the entire Singapore crew. Her integrity helps her hang on to who she is and that’s when things get really crazy. While it’s an “all Asian” film, directed by Jon M. Chu, it is as formulaic on the American style as it gets. Still, it’s fun and distracting, an old fashioned feel-good romcom with universal appeal. Having said that, my Chinese niece Jane Taylor tells me there are misrepresentations like women taking charge of family and business life, usually it’s the father, and children not blindly obeying their parent which is strictly not done. The film’s based on the three bestselling novels, so expect at least two sequels.
Never Saw It Coming directed by Gail Harvey and based on Linwood Barclay’s novel centres on Keisha Ceylon (Emily Hampshire) a psychic. At least, that’s what she calls herself when in fact she’s a desperate single mother who sees nothing wrong with conning clients/victims eager for her to “find” missing loved ones for money. She just had a nice payday conning with a boy to stage his kidnapping and split the reward. She scans the news for potential marks and sees a father (Eric Roberts) and daughter (Kate Boland) pleading to know what became of their wife and mother. Thing is, they already know because they engineered her death and watched her car sink under the ice and listened to her muffled screams. Keisha shows up and relates her vision and it’s close to the truth; the grieving husband attacks her and she fights back the best way she can, even as the daughter confesses to the police, who are now looking at everyone with fresh eyes. This dark tale full of twists and turns is wickedly funny and fun and a tad horrifying. Harvey’s created a gem.
Skate Kitchen Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen brings Moonlight to mind with its urban pastoral vibe, even though it’s set in New York’s Lower East Side and Long Island. It offers cinematic and psychological space, space to breathe and exult in life’s richness. Skater and Instagrammer Camille (Rachelle Vinburg) is trying to put some space between herself and her controlling single mother who bans her from skating when she sustains a “credit card” injury requiring hospital care. What mother doesn’t understand is that lonely Camille has found an all-female skate club that provides community and friendship; they easily carve out skating space in male-dominated parks. There’s a sweet nostalgia and important moments, those magical, too brief weeks of summer vacation and the bliss of finally finding a place you belong. The girls explore the big things in young lives, love and sex, tampons versus pads, ice cream, in what feels like the last summer vacation in their lives. They’re 18 now and it’s time to move on. I love the film’s breezy intimacy, natural emotion and sense of actually being there, sitting on the subway with raucous pals, skating, eating and being. Skate Kitchen is glorious, the first feature to be adapted from an Instagram feed.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post stars Chloe Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane and Forrest Goodluck as three gay teens sent to sexual reorientation camp and abandoned by their families. It’s the 90’s and the camp’s run by fundamentalist Christians with zero training for what is a useless exercise anyway, whose rigid rules and rewards philosophy only decrease the teen’s sense of safety and identity. All three know there is no point in going through staff’s daily mini aggressions and find solace walking in the woods, smoking dope, dark humour and being together. Other gay residents pretend to look to the Bible, to turn straight and act “normal”. The most strident “cure” demands sex from Moretz’ character yet denies her nature. Our three are determined not to lose their minds in this hell of repression where everything is topsy turvy, cruel and pointless, so they try to come up with solutions if they can make it by the psycho head staffer. It’s a bruising study of a practice that continues today and is promoted by among others, Mike Pence.
Christa Päffgen the German born 60’s singer is the subject of Nico, 1988. Best known as the singer for The Velvet Underground and superstar muse for Andy Warhol as well as lover of some of the most famous names in music, she was also a model, actress and trend setter. Nico was famous and to some infamous and struggled with addiction for half her life but managed to leave a lasting musical and cinematic legacy including a reputation as a Nazi sympathiser. Trine Dyrholm stars as Nico in this dramatization of her final European tour as a solo artist and her rebrand as the “priestess of darkness”. The film takes us to shows in Paris, Prague, Nuremberg, Manchester, Poland and Italy and details her reconciliation with her son whom she introduced to heroin.
History Channel presents a chilling two hour special America’s Greatest Threat: Vladimir Putin Sunday night at 9. It begins thus “In 2011, Vladmir Putin boasted he could destroy America in thirty minutes” and I kind of believe him. A lot of water’s gone under the bridge since then and the threat by Russia appears to be increasing exponentially. He’s determined to rebuild the once mighty Russian Empire as the leading superpower, which means crushing the US and China. Known for poisoning spies, killing political opponents and quashing protests, Putin sends a chill down our spines. The special outlines Putin’s methodology, his information and disinformation networks, his habits and plans. The former KGB official and putative dictator knows only one way of getting what he needs, through his back channels and penchant for wiping out dissent. And the fiddling with the US election to get his alleged “asset”, Donald Trump, who apparently owes Russia billions, elected President. This is riveting and necessary viewing in this very scary time in global politics.
Betty White, how do we love thee? Let Ryan Reynolds, Valerie Bertinelli, Tina Fey, Carl Reiner, Georgia Engel, Valerie Harper, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Tom Sullivan, Alex Trebek and a big lovestruck grizzly bear count the ways. PBS Pioneers of Television’s presents Betty White: First Lady of Television August 21st.
From The Mary Tyler Moore Show to The Golden Girls, Hot in Cleveland and comedy appearances on roasts, hers is one of the most beloved and instantly recognisable faces in pop culture. But she was a star long before colour television, and now celebrates 80 years in the biz.
White was the first woman to produce and star in a national TV sitcom (Life with Elizabeth in 1952) but admits she didn’t know what she was doing was producing; she was just getting things done. Ryan Reynolds, who is clearly besotted by Betty, explains what was the tipping point that set off the latest hot phase of her career. But my favourite guest is a 900 pound Grizzly bear who is just as besotted with Betty. The special filmed over five years.
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