Ben Stiller is a middle aged, successful husband and father suddenly seized with the dreaded idea that he is a loser in Mike White’s scathingly funny Brad’s Status. His best uni friends are big shots in film, tech and media and all he has to show is a big house, a loving wife and super smart son. He takes his son on a college tour even as he grapples with existential limitations, and when his son seems headed to success, Brad becomes jealous of him. The writing is superb – acid, satirical, poetic and bold and the film’s central argument that we can’t looks to others to assess ourselves speaks to all. Having said this, Brad himself is insufferable which makes his progress that much more interesting. Check out our interview with the fascinating Mike White!
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Battle of the Sexes stars Emma Stone and Steve Carell as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, two top tennis players who in 1973 devised a publicity scheme like no other. They will duke it out on the court in a bizarre display of p.r. and tennis. King is reluctant but uses the show as a platform to raise political and sexual equality issues, like why women are paid ten times less than male players and showmanship versus actual talent. Riggs’ proudly calls himself a chauvinist pig as he attempts to steal the whole ball of wax.
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Jake Gyllenhaal plays real life survivor Jeff Bauman whose legs were blown off during the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. Stronger tells his story, from his engagement to his girlfriend played by Tatiana Maslany, to the terrorist attack as he cheered her on in the race, his emotional state and development and recovery. Stronger looks at his parents and family coped, how his close friends responded to their now disabled friend and how he coped with powerful suicidal thoughts. It’s jarring, often unpleasant and rough but speaks to the struggles we face in life brought on by things beyond our control. I think the filmmakers are overdoing the dysfunctional, uneducated lower class shtick and I’ll bet the Bauman’s find it offensive.
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Kingsmen: The Golden Circle finds Mark Strong and newly hatched spy Taron Edgerton embarking on an emergency mission to discover who or what is behind a deadly virus tainting recreational drugs around the world. Their investigation takes them to a Kentucky distillery where they encounter a kindred spirit in cowboy Channing Tatum and their missing boss Colin Firth under lock and key in a state of deep regression. Bold, inventive stunts enliven the project and the characters are lots of fun and the music is triple awesome. Julianne Moore turns the tables on her film image as the world’s most successful drug cartel leader, ensconced in an Italian mountain hideaway reminiscent of main Street America. This is the sassy James Bond and ignores the naysayers – its good fun. Elton John’s performance will live on in bemused infamy.
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The Collinses on Tour! Joan and Pauline are polar opposites in Time of Their Lives, as frustrated women of a certain age intent on raising their fun factor by running away to France for a funeral. The shy one can’t get her husband to pay attention to her and the brassy one has a million reasons to run away, no money, no friends. The pair forms an alliance and as much as they mistrust one another, they soon get into a groove, make the journey and come face to face with why they had to start over. It’s a coming of age story for grown-ups and there’s romance! You’ll never guess which one gets the billionaire hunk played by Franco Nero. Nero is the real life step father of Joely Richardson whose character may have a closer connection to Collins’ than either realised. It’s fun, very Britcom and we get to see Joan Collins wipe off her makeup and remove her wig!
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Angelina’s Jolie directs a project close to her heart and the heart of her son Maddox, based on the memoirs of Cambodian Khymer Rouge survivor Loung Ung. First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers on Netflix recounts her devastating story as a child when her family was forced to leave Phnom Penh and sent into a warzone where they were forced to worship the Communist ideal through fear, slavery and murder. Jolie’s son, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, adopted from Cambodia, is listed as Executive Producer. Jolie did a good job with great attention to detail, a beautiful visual style, a great script and a hell of a story. It’s unimaginable that these things happened in the world in the not so distant past and the film pays tribute to those who died and to the people of Cambodia who endured and moved forward.
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Beach Rats won the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award at Sundance for filmmaker Eliza Hittman. It’s a character study of a teenage boy pondering his sexuality. The film was inspired by a shirtless Facebook image that struck the filmmakers as pansexual and provocative.
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Netflix has Gaga: Five Foot Two globally following the film’s world premiere screening at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. The documentary goes behind the scenes with pop provocateur Lady Gaga as she releases a bold new album and prepares for her Super Bowl halftime show. Sadly Gaga’s health issues – chronic pains from fibromyalgia – forced the cancellation of the remainder of her current world tour.
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Tim Roth stars in Tin Star, a new series from Amazon in which Canada plays Canada. Roth is a British ex-pat and the new sheriff of a town in rugged Alberta territory which is about to be overrun by the oil industry. The normally bucolic and quiet quiet area is turned upside down and then a series of grisly murders take place. And soon, some unknown person or thing is stalking the sheriff. But is he who he claims to be, a happily married family man, and father simply seeking a quiet life or is there something dark afoot? Who is that deathly figure he sees when he looks in the mirror? Migrant workers in the oil sands get a bad rap as the menacing villains of the piece, in this chilling and complex tale set in the gorgeous landscapes of the Canadian west.
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The Nature of Things — The Wild Canadian Year is a five-part series premiering Sunday on CBC that features never-before-filmed wild animal behaviors and events ever shot in Canada, all through the lens of its four distinct seasons. In Episode One — Spring, life is on the move as the whole country begins stirring after the long cold days of winter. Arctic fox pups take their first steps and black bear cubs learn to climb trees while female caribou make the dangerous trek to reach their calving grounds. Watch for cool, 360 Virtual Reality time-lapse sequences.
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Lana Šlezić’s Bee Nation is a delightful doc about the first ever provincial First Nations Spelling Bee in Saskatchewan. The children and their families prepare, compete and gather together before making the move to the national Canadian Spelling Bee. It’s lovely, warmly emotional and kinda suspenseful. This Sunday on the CBC at 9 p.m.
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