By Anne Brodie
Disappearance at Clifton Hill based on a childhood experience of writer-director Albert Shin has a deliciously noir vibe, set in the height of Niagara Falls’ neon grotesquerie, the strip joints, diners, seedy motels with barely a glimpse of the natural wonder that made it famous. Abby played by British vet Tuppence Middleton comes home when her mother dies. She’s inherited the family motel, but she and her sister Laure played by Paul’s daughter Hannah Gross don’t get along. The visit sparks the memory of a kidnapping she witnessed as a child, down by the speeding Niagara River. The family was picnicking when she wandered into the woods and saw an act of violence against a child. Always a tale-teller, Abby was ignored; now she’s determined to find out what happened. Each night across the river on the American side, a man and woman and a tiger perform a circus act for tourists. The woman played by Marie-Josée Croze in a singularly brave performance seems to have the tiger – and life itself under control but that presumption couldn’t be further from the truth. So, what happened that day so many years ago and what has it to do with the tiger act? Shin’s haunting Niagara Noir delivers the chills and a dripping wet David Cronenberg as a grinning Botticelli Venus.
Anya Taylor-Joy stars as the titular heroine of Autumn de Wilde’s adaptation of the Jane Austen novel Emma -you’ll remember Taylor-Joy from her devastating performance in The Witch, this role is night and day. She is Emma, a spoiled manipulator born to privilege. She plays matchmaker to local women of all classes. She controls at least one young woman, and we know there are more, in orchestrating a complicated ruse to pre-test the men for herself. Emma’s having trouble finding a suitable beau, smart and tough enough to put up with her. This frou-frou satire on classism is beautiful to look at – extraordinary costumes, manor homes and gardens, but as a pastry, I’d say it was pretty, bright, colourful, looks delicious but in fact, is a thin flavourless macaron that someone forgot to fill. The best part is Bill Nighy as her fancy, befuddled, beautifully dressed father who enjoys sitting by the fire fenced in on all sides by decorative screens.
Michael Winterbottom’s fast fashion dramedy Greed shines a harsh light on the international imbalance of wealth, what it takes to be rich and the wages of sin. But just because it stars Steve Coogan, don’t expect a laff riot. It’s a heavy load, a Winterbottom specialty couched inside a fast-fashion industry takedown. Coogan is merely the face of corporate ignorance; he’s not funny, he is mortifyingly sadistic and cruel; his bad behaviours made him billions. His many bankruptcies have feathered his nest, he finds no harm in the manufacturing sweatshops in Sri Lanka or in “getting rid” of Syrian refugees stranded on the beach where he’s about to have a massive 60th birthday party. He is so narcissistic and clueless that he arranges for a lion to appear in his gladiator-themed follies. Co-stars Isla Fisher, Asa Butterfield and the divine Shirley Henderson as his vicious mother who will never forget how rough she had it as an Irish immigrant to England. And he will never understand that refugees are human beings. Winterbottom regularly addresses social-political issues, and although this isn’t his best effort, it’s worth seeing. You’ll love hating Coogan’s character.
Iowa native Jean Seberg was just 18 when she starred as the heroine in Saint Joan for Otto Preminger. The film flopped, but Seberg was a sensation. She moved to France and became a leading light in the New Wave film movement for her work in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless. Seberg, directed by Benedict Andrews stars Kristen Stewart looks at a painful chapter in her life that may have ended it when she returned to the US for work. She began an affair with Black Panther Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie) and donated money to the “radical” cause putting herself in the FBI’s sights. The agency surveilled her and launched an aggressive defamation campaign wiretapping her home, having her followed and letting her know she was targeted. They planted demeaning articles in gossip magazines to “cheapen” her image. Seberg went into a decline due to the pressure and sadly, died at age forty, alone under mysterious circumstances. Seberg isn’t meant to be a comprehensive biography but instead focuses on the agency’s abuse of a citizen and its shameful efforts to ruin her. Stewart is well suited to the role that requires a questioning mind, hints of paranoia, courage and sensitivity. Her supple, measured performance is spot on. It’s a bitter pill, this look at US government’s anti-radical policies and the madness that surrounds a tall poppy.
APTN’s Tribal is the first television series to feature a strong, female, indigenous woman as a Police Chief, a cultural landmark. Creator and director Ron E. Scott’s concept was to tell First Nations stories based on real-life issues including the pipeline controversy, murdered and missing women and men, healing lodges as justice, tobacco trade, guns, government trust and other timely subjects from a powerful woman’s perspective. Jessica Matten plays Chief Sam Woodburn who stands her ground in an unfriendly, primarily white, male universe rife with racism and sexism, like her new partner (Brian Markinson). She’s replacing a reserve police chief who ran a corrupt force, no easy starting point; as one officer puts it she has jurisdiction on “anything that smells Indian” so she’s up against deep systemic bias. The first case is a shooting in the city – a native teen is arrested for firing a gun at his ex’s house, inadvertently killing her 12-year-old sister. The landmark series has tremendous potential for provocative storylines, and education, not just for this season, but the next. Its already renewed. Airs Thursdays on APTN and on APTN lumi streaming service.
Martin Freeman’s starring in a new UK comedy series Breeders, you know, the straights who multiply, follows a sleep-deprived professional couple torn in seventeen different directions ‘cos they have two children under seven. FX and FX on Hulu debut the wickedly funny, honest ten-part half-hour series March 2 and it will set tongues a waggin’. They live in a contemporary glass London townhouse, live contemporary lives and struggle with contemporary vexations especially sleep deprivation. Freeman the master of self-destructive angry hilarity openly admits to being fed up. He sez “I’d die for (the kids), but I’d wonder which duvet to use to smother them, which would be thickest” Lots of f-bombs, the juiciest ones aimed at the kids. A friend offers them 800K Euros for the pair and he thinks about it. His son is afraid of everything, Safety Man, fires, burglars, floods. His garbage men look in on him because of the massive number of wine bottles in his recycling. Her father (Michael McKean) shows up, a homeless con artist who may never leave. Hospital staff chide them for the number of times they’ve admitted their children for broken this and that’s. Breeders is not Father Knows Best but its a million times funnier. And there but for the grace of God.
Speaking of marriage, The Split stars the brilliant Nicola Walker as a lawyer who has just vacated her all-female family law firm to take a more prestigious job with a male-run firm across the hall. So, trouble. We’re flies on the wall watching her at work with couples negotiate brutal divorce demands; a woman who learns she’s being dumped in the meeting and another who uses her son as a battering ram. A comic is forced to dump his best material on his soon to be ex, who is dating his sworn comedy rival. A dumped wife notices her best friend has midlife breast implants, but why? Well written and acted, and soapy but you’ll appreciate the words of wisdom “Don’t write, talk or tweet about an ex because your child will see it later and hate you”. Then her father who abandoned the family thirty years ago shows up and wants back in.
Amazon Prime Video’s limited drama series ZeroZeroZero takes us inside the deepest recesses of the international drug trade, filmed in Mexico, Italy, Senegal, Morocco, and the U.S. It concerns the criminal network of buyers, sellers, brokers and users, and enough trade to prop up the international economy. The action starts in Calabria around the buyers; mob families soak up the drug for their personal use and business and become responsible for violent crime that ‘s deeply embedded into the culture. Warning, gory violence. The Dealmakers, here a married couple played by Gabriel Byrne and Andrea Riseborough and their son (Dane DeHaan) – he wants to keep him out of the family business, she wants him in. The Dealmakers concerns meetings of the Italians and Americans in New Orleans then Monterrey, Mexico. Guns, guns, guns. Back in Italy, an ageing and vulnerable former boss reads an alarming newspaper headline. It’s addictive and fast, the pace will get you, to be sure.
Inside Out, Canada’s largest LGBTQ film festival and the single largest promoter and distributor of LGBTQ content in Canada launches a new film series Queerly Beloved at the newly restored Paradise Theatre in Toronto on now until March 31. Eighteen queer films detail the history and development of gay cinema. Screenings will be supported by curated Q&As and live events, and you can order table service in the balcony! For full listings and tickets go here.