Bladerunner 2049, directed by Canada’s own Denis Villeneuve is a masterful space noir, audacious and sophisticated and it looks spectacular – the thinking person’s space sci-fi, prone to introspection and anxiety. It’s set in a complete universe of unforgettable bleak vastness. Unlike most space outings, this hotly anticipated and long awaited sequel starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford unfolds deceptively, brilliantly and achingly slowly. And that’s a good thing – bear with me. Gosling is an LA police detective forty years hence, living in in a bleak, concrete covered universe on a mission to destroy outdated replicants. He stumbles across a box of human remains buried deep under a tree in a farmyard where his latest now deceased mark lived. His discovery takes him down a rabbit hole, disturbing something sleeping inside him. Harrison Ford’s as tough now as he ever was and even tougher are the women of the piece. Darkness and foreboding permeate this blasted environment, so a rogue daisy becomes an object of wonder and awe. It’s violent, poetic and risky unfolding in a meditative pace, allowing us to think and that’s a radical choice. It’s contemporary but as edgy and beautiful as the original. Just one wee complaint about the third act that stretches the runtime to 2 hours and 43 minutes.
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Harry Dean Stanton played the defining role of his career just a year before his death in September. He’s the titular character in John Carroll Lynch’s wonderful spiritual comedy Lucky at TIFF Bell Light Box. Stanton plays an irascible 90 year old with a rebel streak and a whimsical bent much like himself, according to Lynch. He’s “lucky” enough to have a lot of devoted friends who are immune to his stinging rebuttals. Still he prefers to be alone to kick a plastic toy down the street, or walk through the desert or stare into space. He has a problem, he wants to know what to expect when the end comes. Lucky’s search for spiritual connection partly through nature and in conversation with his bar and diner buddies including David Lynch, Tom Skerritt, Ron Livingston and, still hunky after all these years, James Darren. The conversations are pure gold. Surely enlightenment can’t be far off. This is Stanton’s last leading role and shockingly, his second lead in a 60 year career. Lucky also co-stars Ed Begley Jr., Barry Shabaka Henley, Yvonne Huff Lee and President Roosevelt. I LOVE this film.
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The Polish/UK co pro Loving Vincent is a remarkable achievement in filmmaking. Every frame is hand painted in oils, and many of Van Gogh’s canvases are reproduced in context of the story of the last days of his life. His was a tragic life, stuck in poverty and failure. Of the 800 paintings he produced, only sold one while he was alive. The colours, visual sense and reflections of Van Gogh’s mental state flow from event to event, conversation to conversation from details of daily life in to psychological speculation and on who he was. The mystery of Van Gogh’s death by self-inflicted gunshot wound is the focal point of the film as it asks why, who knew he was in trouble and what could have precipitated it? Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman and 123 professional artists spent six years making the film, first in live action with stars Douglas Booth, Saoirse Ronan and as Vincent and Theo, Robert Gulaczyk and Cezary Lukaszewicz, and then reproducing each frame in meticulous detail.
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An artist of another sort is under the microscope in Danny Strong’s Rebel in the Rye. J. D. Salinger, played by Nicholas Hoult wrote the seminal novel The Catcher in the Rye, and changed writing profoundly, using visceral and emotional rather than narrative landscapes. The book is considered one of the greatest in the twentieth century and opened the door to the new. We follow Salinger, born into a Jewish business family posing as Gentiles; he’s irritated by life. He has a deep well of anger and sarcasm which works against him for the but he meets the right person at the right time and the novel is published and the rest is history. So why Salinger did heads to the hills of New Hampshire at the height of his popularity and why did he refuse to publish again? It’s as intriguing as his beloved novels that celebrate youthful questioning, isolation and beautifully phrased disgust with the world.
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The Mountain Between Us – Fox It screened when we recorded last Wednesday morning. However – Idris Elba and Kate Winslet are strangers taking a small plane over snowy mountains. He’s a doctor on a mission; she’s on her way to be married the following day. Their plane crashes and they must rely on one another when it becomes clear no help is coming. Shot in B.C.
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Great Great Great is Adam Garnet Jones’ award winning second feature co-written and starring Sarah Kolasky, the story of a big city couple on different economic and confidence levels at a crossroads. Instead of dealing with the issues, they get engaged; she proposes to cheer him up when he loses out on a big job, their sex life suffers and she has an affair with an old beau. Plus she’s looking for an apartment and she may be pregnant. Some interesting insights and Kolasky is a revelation who pulls off charming and wicked and uncertain at the same time.
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Reunited and it feels so good! Jane Fonda and Robert Redford star in Ritesh Batra’s Our Souls at Night on Netflix based on the best-selling novel by Kent Haruf. They play neighbours, both widowers who have politely ignored one another for decades until she reaches out to him. It’s an act of faith. He is open to her and they begin a relationship; both realise that living in isolation in big houses isn’t what they want for the time they have left. There is something wonderful about watching these experienced actors who happen to be friends in real life work their magic with conversation and art. No explosions, no shocks, just comfy, well-earned human contact. Co-stars Bruce Dern, Matthias Schoenaerts, Judy Greer and Iain Armitage.
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Acorn has released three of its best series, including original content on DVD. Line of DutySeason 4 features Thandie Newton is deadly as a chief detective in a Northern English constabulary, the same in which the previous series were set. What makes this series so unique is that it focuses on corruption within the station. Newton’s actions provoke a secret investigation into her connection to a murder of a fellow officer. She is a sociopath and brilliant however, realises what’s happening and redoubles her faultless doublespeak to divert attention from herself. And more bodies start to fall. This is genuinely fabulous – episodes, ending drops jaw. DVDs Line of Duty Season 4.
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The smart Australian legal drama Janet King Season 3 features Marta Dusseldorp as a high ranking lawyer who faces one of her most difficult tests to date, investigating a major sports team and its advertisers for murder, and discovering a bag or hornets. It’s provocative and dramatic and the writing is superb.
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The Lost City Of Cecil B. DeMille is a story that took 30 years to create. Peter Brosnan was intrigued by a story he heard in 1982 about an “Ancient Egyptian City Buried in the California Desert”. It was the massive set built for DeMille’s 1923 blockbuster The Ten Commandments and it seemed to have disappeared somewhere in the sand dunes on the Santa Barbara, California coast. The City of the Pharaoh featured 20 sphinxes and four 35-ton statues of Ramses and it had vanished. Brosnan relied on storytellers who worked on the film and still lived in the area around Guadalupe and studio documentation. But his battles were fierce, against city hall which attempted to stop him repeatedly, the vast dunes his team had to go through with brushes while international news media watched and team frustration with the time it was taking. Brosnan explains why DeMille destroyed the set, which meant if any relics were found they would have to be pieced together. It’s a Hollywood / archeological thriller! Available now on Digital & VOD.
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Guillermo del Toro, who made such a splash at TIFF with The Shape of Water …
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….is the subject not only of an art installation at the AGO, has created a highly personal retrospective at TIFF Bell Lightbox. The Mexican iconoclast, now a resident of Toronto, picked films that helped him shape his body of work. Screenings: TIFF Presents Guillermo del Toro: Influences is on now until Dec 13. And here they are:
October 7 Beauty and the Beast Jean Cocteau 1946 35mm France
October 13 The Spirit of the Beehive Victor Erice 1973 35mm Spain
November 4 Jason and the Argonauts Don Chaffey 1963 UK/USA
November 18 Onibaba Kaneto Shindo 1964 Japan
November 22 Great Expectations David Lean 1946 UK
November 24 Beauty and the Beast (encore) Jean Cocteau 1946 35mm France
December 1 Heat Michael Mann 1995 4k Restoration USA
December 13 Spirits of the Dead Various 1968 Italy/France
BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI