Saoirse Ronan outdoes herself in a brilliantly taut, yet delicate performance in difficult material in the 50’s period piece On Chesil Beach. The three-time Oscar nominee displays a high level of artistry as a newlywed in distress opposite Billy Howle as her husband. During the first afternoon of their seaside honeymoon, they attempt to have sex but stop trying when it becomes clear each carries unresolved issues. He is confused and humiliated and she seems startled by her own antipathy that came on so suddenly. The afternoon unfolds with ruthless self-examination and accusations as they battle it out. Like the windswept beach where the third act plays out, the tone is austere and at its heart, cold, but it rings true for this unlucky couple. Such painful subject matter is rarely addressed in film but it’s handled with bruising honesty. Romantics will be made uncomfortable by its intellectual approach to love and sex, but it’s a refreshing even challenging change of pace a week after the “fairy tale” wedding of Harry and Meghan.
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Solo: a Star Wars Story, the Han Solo origins movie is two for the price of one, the first dim, grim, shadowy, murky, deadening, heavy and flat, the second, sunshiny, galvanizing, exciting, even thrilling. The former takes up two thirds of the films, so IMO it’s not the retro warm, majestic experience we’ve come to know since 1977. Young Alden Ehrenreich channels Harrison Ford with mixed results, coming off as a one note smarty pants. Ford’s smile never seemed forced nor did his sarcasm mean, and Ford had that one-in-a-million screen magnetism. It’s hard work filling Ford’s shoes at the very least. So anyhow, Solo meets Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) as he is being fed to him, a circumstance neither wants. Solo has a knack for annoying dangerous enemies but this friendship redeems him and saves his life innumerable times. Plotline is they fight, they fight and they fight various and sundry enemies and meet allies along the way. Then they promise to keep fighting, an unending high tech schoolyard brawl. And somehow our pals survive unrepentantly two-faced “entrepreneur” Beckett, (Woody Harrelson), frenemy Lando Calrission (Danny Glover) before facing the ultra-evil blonde Dryden Vo (Paul Bettany). And there’s a romance brewing with Games of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke My declaring this to be least majestic of the mighty Star Wars canon isn’t going to deter audiences from throwing money at it, so there you have it. Ron Howard took over direction when the original directing duo fell out.
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Sarah Rotella’s sly black comedy Nobody Famous reveals what goes on when a small group of actor friends head north for a cottage weekend and discover three of them auditioned for the same lead role in the A-list superhero film Legends of the Spring. Silence, agony, shock and jealousy ensue followed by attacks, subtle at first and increasingly vicious as the self-absorbed characters bring many an old Hollywood backstage melodrama to mind. The men get overinvolved; considering it’s not their fight and things ramp way the heck up. One of the women reveals she got a call-back, read with Zac Efron and wasn’t even trying. She should have kept her mouth shut. Soon the fellow actors are given the chance to use their skills in a real life situation – it’s beyond the pale but remains funny and entertaining. Nobody Famous was shot on Lake Joseph in the Muskoka Lakes District. It’s in limited release and is available on digital platforms on May 29th.
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Canadian Heiltsuk/Mohawk filmmaker Zoe Hopkins looks at a young girl’s efforts to retain traditional and personal customs in Kayak to Klemtu, when everything seems to be working against her. Her dear Uncle Bear has died and asked her to speak for him at an upcoming government hearing to stop a pipeline and the water traffic it would bring to their pristine lands. Ella played with real passion by Ta’Kaiya Blaney, hopes to bury his ashes at the meeting place which happens to be in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest a 500 km kayak ride up the coast from her home in Vancouver. Her widowed aunt, cousin and uncle, played to great comic effect by Lorne Cardinal, join her in what proves to be a treacherous journey. Bad weather, scary hunters, stolen food and arguments that rupture and repair are somewhat offset by the natural beauty of the ocean and shores, the whales, otters and seals and the once-in-a-lifetime experience. The natural world which we so often take for granted is under threat by corporate interests on the B.C. coast and Ella gets firsthand looks at the effect on communities like Klemtu where she was born. In real life, Blaney is an activist who addressed the United Nations at age 14. Sadly, days after the film wrapped, an oil barge spilled 200,000 litres of diesel near Bella Bella, destroying the Heiltsuk fishery.
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If you don’t know the name Andre Leon Tally, meet a giant of a man, a legendary self-taught style writer and bon vivant, a magnetic and influential personality who has loomed large over the fashion world for forty years, time you did. The Gospel According to Andre paints a vivid portrait of a southern boy who taught himself French, developed impeccable manners and a definite style of his own and living in the Jim Crow south found escape reading Vogue magazine. He left home for New York and found his bliss eventually working with the editors, models and designers making waves in fashion from Diana Vreeland, Grace Mirabella, Anna Wintour, Andy Warhol, Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and Marc Jacobs, as well as Naomi Campbell, Pat Cleveland, Isabella Rossellini, Tom Ford, John Galliano and on and on. He worked for Women’s’ War Daily, Vogue, Interview, and experienced ha. He’s glamourous, opinionated, merry and deeply versed in the history and meaning of style. He’s a fascinating man to watch and the doc captures him in a larger than life manner, as he is. Tonnes of bold name interviews and plenty of musings by the man himself. “Mix navy and black! Most women don’t have the courage”, “I don’t live for fashion, I live for style and beauty” and “Dressing well is a moral code”. Bold names galore include Wintour, Yves St Laurent, Tom Ford, Diane von Furstenberg, Whoopi Goldberg, Valentino, Manolo Blahnik, Maureen Dowd, Fran Lebowitz, Eboni Marshall Turman and Will.i.am. Tally admits the flaw is his life is that he never had love because he was too busy in his career. Watch him weep as a tree on his rural New York estate is cut down.
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AMC’s new darkly satirical series Dietland launches June 4 starring Joy Nash and Julianna Margulies poking fun and unearthing mayhem at the heart of the beauty industry. Based non Sarai Walkers bestselling book, the series is timely tackling patriarchy, misogyny, rape culture and unrealistic beauty standards. Over ten episodes Plum Kettle, ghost-writer for the editor for a major New York fashion magazines deals with her own limitations and anxieties. At the same time men accused of abuse against woman are meeting violent deaths, one body over a balcony after another. It’s a powerful salvo on the war between the sexes in these #MeToo #NeverAgain times and is bound to polarise viewers as well as entertain.
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My sense is that people are seriously jonesing for the return – again – of Arrested Development’s happening May 29th on Netflix. Canceled in 2006 on Fox and 2013 on Netflix, Jason Bateman and the entire family reunites for a third stab at it. Where is Lucille Two (Liza Minelli) is the big question facing the Bluths as Lindsay begins her campaign for Congress. Can you believe they’re up for Family of Year? Welcome back, Justin. We’re also waiting for a new season of Ozark!
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