By Anne Brodie
The Capture on Amazon Prime Video A British soldier played by Callum Turner comes home from war to fight the biggest fight of his life – against his own government. He’s imprisoned for the controversial kill of a Taliban fighter and released early. He and his barrister share a celebratory kiss when his case is struck down and she tells him she’s going home and leaves. He’s arrested for her murder, based on CCTV footage of them kissing and him brutally attacking her. Except it never happened. He fights to clear his name aided by a dogged detective played by Holiday Grainger. Little do they know how deep and dangerous is this rabbit hole of surveillance and manipulation. Ben Chanan’s excellent six-parter is set in London, the most surveilled city in the world. You will whip through it in a sitting because it’s that thrilling but you won’t sleep well after watching this because you’ll know things.
The story of Catherine the Great, the foreign wife of Russia’s Emperor Pete who becomes Empress on the death of her husband has had a few revivals of late. But The Great on Amazon Prime Video starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult is surely the raunchiest. Fanning plays Russia’s longest-reigning female ruler (1762 until 1796) whose level head and compassion helped her transit from outlier to “great”. This series is outrageously sexual, especially Hoult’s Emperor whose antics would make Larry Flynt blush. Meanwhile, Catherine dreams of doing good, her Godly purpose, but is constantly thwarted by him. It’s satire without relief, the constant ironic tone “grates”, but it’s amusing at times and crammed with rich period detail, like the Emperor’s late mother stuffed, dressed to the nines and displayed in a glass cabinet. You’ve been warned.
Speaking of dead things Acorn’s hilarious clever new series Dead Still set in 1880s Ireland during the era of “post-mortem photography” is something altogether new. Michael Smiley plays memorial photographer Brock Blennerhasset. Back then, families had photos of their dead made, the body propped up in lifelike position, to be sentimentalized. The gravedigger and BB’s estranged and very lively niece (Conall Molloy and Eileen O’Higgins) become his business partners. The city’s beset by murders of late and the police investigate, as does our little crew because BB made a big mistake. Still, they attend social functions and do the job by day and scout around the graveyard at night. Grim and depressing this is not– it’s a breath of fresh air, extraordinarily witty and good fun, and jolly. Six episodes and highly recommended!
Mark Ruffalo exec produces and stars in a series adaptation of Wally Lamb’s bestseller I Know This Much Is True now on HBO on Crave. The setting is the poor side of the town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, and the local sanitarium. Twin brothers played by Ruffalo live in these places. Dominick is a house painter who cares for Thomas who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia that causes extreme beliefs and behaviours. He cuts off his hand as a “religious act” in the crowded library and is sent to the hospital. Melissa Leo is frighteningly lost as Ma and Rosie O’Donnell is Thomas’ social worker. When he was little Thomas was suspected of killing a little girl. Michael Greyeyes plays her grown-up brother who works at the sanatorium and confirms Dom’s suspicions that Thomas is being abused in the facility. This is endlessly dark, hard and gritty, so take heed.
Bill Farmer, the voice for thirty years behind the beloved Disney characters and today, he launches a 110% adorable show on Disney+. Farmer travels the globe to introduce us to interesting dogs, some with jobs, some with strange pals, and all darling. Bill Farmer’s It’s a Dog’s Life is ten episodes of pure unadulterated fun with a little learning and conservation. First up, the Cincinnati Zoo, where Remus the dog spends quality time with his best friend, Donny the Cheetah. See Cheetah run! Then on to Reno to meet Logan, an aspiring voice artist who’s companion dog Lark, does his heavy lifting. Farmer’s “rescued” from under the snow by a yellow lab in the Swiss mountains and another dog hunts whale poop for cutting edge scientific research. There are dogs who sniff out cancer, COVID 19, and other diseases; their human and animal partnerships are inspiring, and the dogs are irresistible.
Florence Nightingale was a valiant nurse way back when, right? I had no idea the impact she had on the world of nursing and medicine or that she was an early feminist. BritBox offers a biopic on her remarkable life to illuminate and celebrate all dedicated frontline workers this Nurse’s Week. Florence Nightingale stars Laura Fraser as a well-born woman who shocked her family by refusing to marry well and have children to do God’s bidding and help ease suffering in the world. Nightingale witnessed horrors serving soldiers during the Crimean War, inspiring transform care. She became a writer and noted statistician, icon and heroine.
Band Ladies on Highball TV Season 1 of a new series of six shows – a Canadian female-driven six-parter following five middle-aged friends who meet for Book Club. One of the women performs a punk set in the bar and the idea strikes – form a punk band. Lots of familiar Toronto comedy scene faces appear including Tricia Black, or Jane the Lottery Big Dreamer plus the core cast of Kate Fenton, Dana Puddicombe, Lisa Michelle Cornelius, Vicki Kim, and Kirsten Rasmussen. They are a diverse lot, with fresh, sassy takes on life’s challenges and if you like louder-than-hell punk music this is for you. Molly Flood directs.
Snowpiercer on TNT continues the story of the last of humanity ever encircling the globe in a train long after earth’s expiry date has come and gone. The train is the symbol of class warfare that threatens to break out at any time. The very wealthy are in the front living in unimaginable luxury, while the end houses human cast-offs, the poor, starving and disenfranchised poised on the edge of violence. Jennifer Connelly is upfront, Daveed Diggs way back but they are drawn together through circumstances as revolt simmers. Based on Parasite’s Bong Joon-ho’s film and the graphic novel, highly stylized and tense. It opens with the chilling statement “First the weather changed” indicating they’re in uncharted waters – or rather ice and snow – for good, or ill.
He casts an eye on everyday life issues he’s faced in the Netflix comedy special, Patton Oswalt: I Love Everything. Among his recent eye-openers, turning 50, missing the chance to board a full-scale Millennium Falcon to attend his daughter’s second-grade art show and the pains of buying a house. Relatable, uniting and funny!
Hot Docs’ popular Curious Minds Speaker Series spring edition is digital this year on Hot Docs at Home, in partnership with Hollywood Suite. Here’s a look at the programme.:
The Age of Upheaval: The 1920s and 30s In Berlin, Paris, and New York City The period between the wars yielded great strides in art and culture, perhaps fanned by the flames of unrest and political uncertainty. Peter Harris discusses arts hotspots Berlin, Paris, and New York.
Famous Last Meals: Six Feasts That Changed The World King Tutankhamen and John F. Kennedy are parsed through their final foods, meals shaped by technological, political, religious, and art and culture, as presented by Dr. Laura Carlson.
The Folk Music Revival Pete Seeger and The Weavers made it mainstream, in the 50s, but its roots go back to 19th and early 20th century, the field recordings of Alan Lomax, protest songs of the 1930s up to the 60’s folk heroes Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Ian and Sylvia, Peter, Paul and Mary, and more. Led by music historian Dr. Mike Daley.
The Royal Family Shinan Govani, an avowed Royal watcher casts a knowing eye on the House of Windsor, its personalities, opulent traditions, and, of course, its juiciest scandals.
Registration for a six-week series is $49 ($33, $27, Free for Hot Docs Members; $33 for Hollywood Suite subscribers and is available to purchase and stream here. Begins May 18th.