Winchester stars Helen Mirren stars as Sara, widow of the founder of the Winchester Gun company who, following his death was overcome by guilt and fear, connected to the souls of the people who died at the business end of the famed repeating Winchester rifle. In 1884, she moved from Connecticut to San Jose California and remodelled a stately Victorian Queen Anne style home, a project that lasted all day, every day except weekends for 38 years. Why? Well, Winchester was allegedly creating a prison of sorts for the spirits of those vengeful dead. She added rooms ceaselessly and played with the storeys and layout on the advice of a spiritualist who said she would live as long as she kept building. The sprawling, chaotic house is a beautiful mishmash of dozens of wings, hundreds of rooms, 47 fireplaces, hundreds of doors, ten thousand windows, many interior, and staircases that lead nowhere, all meant to confuse the spirits. Just one working toilet, oddly.
The Winchester Board had concerns about Sara’s wellbeing and insisted that she be examined by a doctor. She chose Dr. Eric Price, played by Jason Clarke. He witnesses her peculiar lifestyle and paranoid eccentricities and is soon caught up in the malevolence of her nightmares. Now known as the Winchester Mystery House, it’s open for public tours … if you dare! VVS
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Golden Globe winner The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a hoot and a half! Rachel Brosnahan who you may remember from House of Cards plays an upper class Manhattanite with a mind of her own. She is Mrs. Maisel, who accidentally becomes a top stand-up comedienne. She’s “just a housewife” albeit one that’s privileged, went to a smart school and doesn’t need to worry about money. She’s a Joan Rivers / Phyllis Diller type, a Jewish princess with incredible grit; she has this thing – an outsize personality. She’s a big presence, blessed with a natural sense of humour and joie de vivre. Sadly, she’s funneling all her energies into making her talentless husband a stand up, but given all her gifts, she’s wasting her time grooming him when she’s the one with the gifts. Fortunately (you’ll see what I mean) he leaves her, and circumstances conspire to land her on the stage half-drunk and half-dressed, she lets it spill, and a career seed is sown. Not only that, the series’ bright colours, gorgeous fifties wardrobe and art direction and the era’s peppiest pop tunes make The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel irresistible. The team behind The Gilmour Girls is back once again with their finger on the female perspective, lots of humour, tenderness and snappy dialogue. Amazon Prime
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What could be timelier today than the story behind American Experience: The Gilded Age? Thirty years after the Civil War, America was an industrial, economic and financial giant, and class lines were never clearer; 1% of the US population owned 98% of the country’s wealth. The Carnegies, the J.P. Morgans and the Vanderbilts kept the poor classes poor while enriching themselves and enslaved their workers. Labour movements sprang up and were crushed; the wealthy 4000 families built monstrously extravagant homes, boats, cars, companies and monuments to themselves even as they reduced wages. America, the so-called land of opportunity was anything but; the “gilding” wasn’t able to hide the rot underneath. Cities were bursting with immigrants and former slaves looking for work that wasn’t there. Early feminist and activist Mary Elizabeth Lease claimed, “It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street and for Wall Street.” Labour and People’s movements followed, and when sixteen striking workers were killed by Carnegie security guards the government supported Carnegie. And that’s just the beginning. Honestly fiction doesn’t get any better than this. You can’t make this stuff up. PBS’ stunning documentary airs Feb 6th.
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David Oyelowo and Arsher Ali star in Complicit, a gripping 2013 espionage TV movie now available on Sundance Canada. Oyelowo is an MI6 agent, an international spy working on the case of a London Yemenite whom he believes is a terrorist. He lays out his case and his bosses don’t buy it, but eventually he is sent to Cairo to tail the man. He believes he was in Egypt by way of Yemen, to set up a relationship with a castor bean farmer to manufacture the deadly biological agent ricin. English agents in Cairo don’t seem in any hurry to help convict the man; in fact they seem to be gas lighting the agent. He never doubts his gut feeling and pursues the matter. He is referred to a notorious local Egyptian agent known to use torture. Our agent looks the other way when the inevitable takes place but the prisoner confesses to making ricin and says its enroute to England. A blogger gets hold of the story with photos and outs him, he loses his job, the Yemenite walks and we wonder if the public good is ever served through torture. Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall, Bridge of Spies and Dunkirk) appears in a tiny role.
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Its time Acorn fans to pack your woollies and fanny packs! The Best of Acorn TV: A 7-Day Tour of England is booking now for the next tours September 3-9 and September 10-16. Experience historic England to the actual locations where some of the best shows the UK ever made, were made. The Acorn TV and Transcendent team will be with you every step of the way as you travel between Windsor, Bath, Cornwall, Sidmouth, Bristol, Oxfordshire, and Dorchester for visits to the places where Downton Abbey, Doc Martin, Midsomer Murders, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Agatha Raisin and more shows shoot. Enjoy the scenery, behind-the-scenes moments, and visits with cast members and of course jolly good fun. Tour highlights include a tour of the State Apartments at Windsor Castle | Weekend Home of the Royal Family, Highclere Castle or Bampton, settings for Downton Abbey.
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Visits to Bath, an historic and picturesque English Town, Ashton Court Estate in Bristol where Agatha Raisin shoots, a tour of Port Isaac, the site of Doc Martin.
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You’ll visit the Greenway Estate, the home of Agatha Christie and Dorchester-on-Thames in Oxfordshire where Midsomer Murders shoots.
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How many Schitt$ Creek fans out there? Season four is underway and the Roses are still holed up in a dreary motel somewhere over by Schitt’s Creek, actually Toronto’s Pinewood Studios, Orangeville, Unionville and Goodwood, an “armpit” town they bought when they were still video stores multimillionaires. They still carry the airs and graces of the privileged even though they share rooms and mop out the guest potties, buoyed by a zany worldview. Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara are Mater and Pater, and Eugene’s boy Dan plays their son when he’s not co-hosting The Great Canadian Baking Show. It took awhile for me to get onboard as the humour was so broad and over-the-top but I finally got it and I won’t stop watching, late to the party as I am. Here’s a cute bit Vanity Fair shot with them. And how about the time Dan visited What She Said?
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The CBC premières the documentary Sweet Dreams for Chiyo on Sunday night. It follows the Ehara family of Hamilton whose two year old daughter Chiyo suffers from Type 1 Diabetes, as do 300,000 other Canadians. Her parents Kaz and Rhiana are filmmakers so they put their story to film documenting her progress, and theirs, emotional, medical and personal. Heartbreaking, hopeful and powerful, the doc addresses the family’s struggles and triumphs and offers support for anyone suffering with a chronic, life-threatening illness.
TIFF Cinematheque has begun a retrospective of rarely seen films In the Shadow of Love: The Cinema of Philippe Garrel running until the end of February. Garrel made his first feature in 1948 and continues to work today, focusing on love and relationships. He was the longtime artistic and personal partner of Nico, the German born model and artist. They shared an addiction to heroin and she died in 1988; his 70’s films are so much of the times it’s eerie. He continues his New Wave sensibilities today and rarely strays from his original subjects of love, sex and fidelity. First, here’s a look at Nico and Garrel in La Cicatrice Interieure – 1970.
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Some highlights from the retrospective:
J’entends plus la guitare (I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar) France 1991 .35mm. A semi-autobiographical portrait of Garrel’s ill-fated, decade-long relationship with Nico, about “surviving youth, surviving in an age where everything you stood for, believed in, dreamed of, has been crushed,” (Olivier Assayas). A couple descends into heroin addiction but then he finds a stable life with another woman. Re-enter Marianne.
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Le Lit de la vierge (The Virgin’s Bed) France 1970 .35mm. B&W Garrel calls this “a non-violent parable … a denunciation of the police repression of 1968,” set within the framework of the Christ story, starring Pierre Clémenti as Jesus and Zouzou as both the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. It explores the failure of revolution and addiction and false leaders claiming to offer utopia.
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Les Baisers de secours (Emergency Kisses) France 1989 .35mm. Garrel appears as a filmmaker who refuses to cast his wife in a film about their love story. Jeanne believes he’s cheating with his leading lady and pf course, he is. Garrel’s father Maurice and his then five-year-old son Louis appear.
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La Jalousie (Jealousy) France 2013 is inspired by his father’s life and the power balance in his relationships. Garrel’s son Louie plays a man who leaves his wife and child for an aspiring actress, who falls into depression. When they’re apart, they test each other by seeking out lovers, resulting in jealousy. Funny how that works.
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L’Ombre des Femmes (In the Shadow of Women) France 2015 A married couple works on a documentary about a war veteran when he begins an affair with an intern. His wife follows suit; they separate and she finds another man, leaving her husband jealous and unable to fix his life.
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