Thursday 14 November 2019
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Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and Ewan McGregor Go All Nostalgic, Hollywood Pre-AIDS Sex Secrets, Breathtaking McQueen and Two Movie Masterpieces on DVD

Christopher Robin and his stuffed friends Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet spent many happy times in the Hundred Acre Wood, along with Owl, Rabbit and Kanga but Robin had to leave and find his way in the world.  He found it, plus a wife and child and a big job in the city.  But Christopher (Ewan McGregor) has changed; he’s in a constant work tizzy, doesn’t spend time with the family and he’s stressed; he has lost his way.  He doesn’t give it much thought when he goes back to where he grew up on assignment but when he wanders into the Wood he discovers his old friends.  He’s not thrilled because he has a big work problem; they decide to help him even as it means leaving the Wood and following him back to London. So it’s a fish out of water story and a heart-warming love story about the importance of family and friends and the price we pay for being “too busy”. Let’s face it Christopher is in a funk and Pooh and Co are just the ones to help him remember what’s important. Marc Forster directs the film based on the stories of A.A. Milne with Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael with awesome British character actors Adrian Scarborough, Mark Gatiss and Mackenzie Crook and the voices of the legendary Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Toby Jones, Nick Mohammed, Peter Capaldi and Sophie Okonedo. The beautiful artistic direction particularly the Hundred Acre Wood and London the forties brings these places to vivid life.

Oh boy this is one of the juiciest Hollywood docs to come around in a while. If you’re squeamish or puritanical, skip this because Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood from Matt Tyrnauer will curl your hair.  It’s the true story of Scotty Bowers, Hollywood hustler who started a lucrative business pairing movie stars with sex partners, operating out of a trailer behind a gas station. He found hundreds of same sex partners for Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant and his lover, Randolph Scott, Charles Laughton, and often joined in. His stellar client list included Tom Ewell who supposedly had 20 flings in a night, Ramon Navarro, Cole Porter, Bette Davis, J. Edgar Hoover, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, William Holden, George Cukor, Joe Schlesinger, to name a few, with plenty of details of their lives and preferences. Bowers was interviewed for the Kinsey report six times and told them about gang bang parties with Hollywood’s high and mighty, his own three ways with Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, and Wallis Simpson and the former Edward VIII.  Bowers reveals that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy never slept together because they were both gay; he set up Hepburn up with 150 women over 39 years. But with the onset of AIDS, Bowers “community aid” programme ended. Candid interviews confirm Bowers’ claims, and the oft heard refrain is that the gas station days were the happiest days of their lives.

I have seen a lot of fashion documentaries in my day and particularly this spring and summer, but Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s McQueen puts them all in the shade. This is deeply moving and extraordinarily beautiful, in its storytelling, cutting, cinematography with McQueen’s unquenchable imagination and originality.  Alexander McQueen came from the suburbs of London but made his way to the top of the high fashion world in record time with exquisite, mind bending designs that married the classics, the Old Masters, street art with a touch of the macabre.  McQueen says he wanted people to walk out of his shows repulsed or exhilarated, and he accomplished that.  He was a shooting star in the crowded universe of fashion design, and headed three design houses; but while most designers did two or three collections a year he did twelve.  Life was intense but he said his small town roots and beloved family kept him grounded.  Sadly, he hung himself in 2010, at age 40.  The doc features stunning art work, extensive archival footage of McQueen and interviews with family, friends and fashion insiders.  His collections are staggering, overall, the film’s a breathtaking experience.

Acorn has an exciting woman dominant police dramedy starting Monday.  No Offence, Series 2 is a seven parter set in a police station on the outer fringes of Manchester.  This is a press release quote which is brilliant “the dizzyingly capable but unquestionably unhinged DI Vivienne Deering” is in charge of a group of foul mouthed, ironic and dedicated law enforcement agents have put a man in witness protection, complete with facial plastic surgery, but his wife, upset that he doesn’t want the baby she’s carrying, blows his cover on Twitter.  And that’s an instant death sentence, so what do they do?  Make him a cop.  The team’s also “facing” true manipulative power for evil in a Nigerian crime matriarch and is sorely tested.  Gallows humour pulls them through.  In a word, it’s outrageous.  Writers brilliantly mix humour and the worst of the worst criminals in an entertaining package – but be warned, it moves so fast, you may have to pause and rewind.  No Offence stars Joanna Scanlan, Elaine Cassidy, and more great British character actors.

Season Four of AMC’s acclaimed series Better Call Saul is set for August 6th followed by newbie Lodge 49 a comedy series starring Kurt and Goldie’s son Wyatt Russell.  Better Call Saul finds Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill assuming the persona of Saul Goodman, following the death of Chucky.  As a former lawyer he should know better than to toy with the criminal world, but hey that never stopped him before, plus Howard and Kim go up against the Brothers McGill.

Wyatt is Dud, a likeable Long Beach, California surfer dude who’s trying to make something of himself after the death of his father, and to that end, companionship and wisdom; he joins the fraternal Lodge 49.  Friends question why he wants to be with a bunch of old men and he has a brilliant answer.  He’s so adorably lost; it’s hard not to love him. This is smart funny and an ideal vehicle for Wyatt whom you may remember from Goons 2.  He also grew up summers on Lake Rosseau so give him a little support.

Paul Schrader’s greatest film, the masterful First Reformed is available Tuesday on digital download and Wednesday on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray. Ethan Hawke’s formidable performance as a priest grappling with doubt is also a career-best, and worthy of your attention.  Tragedy in his small town = despair and he’s further set on edge by a growing megachurch nearby that holds his fate in its hands.  Amanda Seyfried is a widow that comes to him for answers he no longer has.  Hawke has put in superior work in recent years, and I know I severely underestimated him.  From Maudie’s triumph to his latest, this extraordinary turn as a priest, he is a great actor. Father Toller dons a false front to hide his true nature.  He begins an experimental diary and notes everything he feels without editing as a form of prayer, because he can’t pray.  Parishioner Seyfried asks for help for her husband, a radical activist who can’t face an imperfect future; he wants her to abort their child because of the “un-liveabilty” of the planet. Toller looks at his climate change research and is horrified and haunted and begins down a self destructive path. It is captivating  emotionally and intellectually as Toller tries to live out his own advice – “life is holding hope and despair in our heads all the time.” Cedric the Entertainer is credibly terrifying and comforting as the pastor who takes him under his wing.

And another jewel now available on DVD and digital download, The Rider is one of the most powerful, hypnotic films in recent memory. Chloe Zhao follows an indigenous cowboy, Brady Jandreau playing himself, as he goes through a season in the Badlands of Pine Ridge, South Dakota training horses while recovering from a severe concussion. Brady fronts tough but we see inside his soul to the vulnerability and his capacity for love for family and his horses and his temptation to compete in the rodeo and put his life at risk. Zhao documents a profound, unforgettable moment in real time as Jandreau breaks a wild horse, re-enacting a bond that had its precedent millennia ago and here it is, played out before us.  This is enchanting, emotional, primeval and provocative. Zhao’s precision and intuition make this a celebration of  Jandreau and a way of life the defined the Americas for so long.

by @annebrodie

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