Kelvin Harrison Jr. is Luce a child soldier adopted from Eritrea by an American couple played by Naomi Watts and Tom Roth. As they will tell anyone who’ll listen, they’ve handed their lives over to help him make the transition and it’s paid off – he’s an A student, athlete, good guy and school leader. So why doesn’t History and Government teacher (Octavia Spencer) like him? The relationships are heavily telegraphed from the get go, so there’s not that much to figure out, but the psychological implications are interesting. Mum’s blind to any flaws in him; Dad is easily influenced by her even when disturbing events take place that cast doubt on Luce’ good character. Handed irrefutable evidence of his intention to harm, she circles the wagons including his complicit girlfriend (Kim Convenience’ Andrea Bang). At this point it’s all about her ego and savior complex, his success is hers. It’s another twist on the familiar Bad Seed story that telegraphs and drags, served with cheese.
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Andrea Berloff’s The Kitchen, based on the comic book dares to go female for a serious mob fable. Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss have lived their lives in a grimy, garbage-strewn, dangerous and oh so bleak New York, i.e. IRL Hell’s Kitchen 1978. They’re intimately involved in the Irish mob life; their husbands are murderous foot soldiers and they’re all creeps. Early on the men are yanked and sent to the big house. The mob gives the wives allowances too small to live on so they decide to pick up their husbands’ accounts. Taking protection payments and doing what has to be done suits them and they become powerful; Brooklyn’s not happy. The ladies grab the Jewish area and take aim at Midtown. It’s remarkably exhilarating watching three women grow in rank and power and bring mobsters to their knees. The pace changes often, there are story gaps and ideas suggested and not explored. Seems like a rush job, and as it’s a rarity, a female mob film, it’s something that would have benefitted as a streaming series, done properly with greater depth and detail.
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Avi Belkin’s excellent documentary Mike Wallace is Here reminding us that there once was a journalist bold enough to stand in the face of injustice and tell the truth, damn the torpedoes. And boy do we miss him today. Wallace had zero patience for prevaricators, liars, users, egomaniacs and systemic greed. This bristling, seismic portrait of a man himself deeply troubled, is composed mainly of Wallace own work, with a few contemporary interviews, allowing him to paint his own picture. He was 40 years on CBS’ 60 Minutes, at the time the most watched programme on television, interviewing Trump, Putin, Klansmen, the Ayatollah Khomeini, tobacco execs, leading stars, heroes, villains, dictators and he took no prisoners. He didn’t suffer fools, or accept anything less than total transparency. He was considered rude/fearless – asking mobster Mickey Cohen how many people he’s killed and Barbra Streisand if she’s difficult. His drive was perhaps distraction from his clinical depression and an unthinkable personal tragedy. As Bette Davis told him work is the only relationship that will never let you down. Belkin starts at the beginning with the abused child who felt ugly and ends with the legend who took on the world and changed the delivery of news. Superior doc on a man we desperately need today.
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When does the abuse in the US justice system end? Amazon Prime Video’s jaw dropping five-part docuseries on Meek Mill’s troubles in the Philadelphia court system may explode heads – the man was wrongfully arrested, sentenced to prison and ten years’ probation, then more, in a bizarre case of systematic judicial wrongdoing. The internationally known rapper, born Robert Rihmeek Williams’ long frustrating road is detailed in Free Meek, from his arrest on a host of charges, most of which were later proven to be false, to endless technical violations and incarcerations under Judge Genece Brinkley. While on ten years’ probation, Meek was sentenced to extra time plus 2 – 4 years in prison for popping a wheelie on a bicycle. Then he was arrested for moving the location of a video shoot. And then there was that time Brinley asked him, behind closed doors, to give her a shout out on an album. Brinkley isn’t the only fly in the ointment; African-Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites in the US. The probation system is devastating underprivileged communities and trapping over 4.5 million people in cycles of successive prison terms. Meek tells his story plainly and without exaggeration; one of his friends said it was sad to see him become comfortable in this personal hell. In brief times out of jail, he seems distracted and broken. It’s a beautifully produced gem of a doc that’s important to see, and may change some minds along the way. And Drake? Yes, they go there.
For the Canadian perspective on this case, see below…
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I went on an exploratory mission on a Roku stick and what I found has me scared. Scared I’ll fritter away more time watching its diverse content – news, cooking series, documentaries, lifestyle, old movies, new movies, cult classics, classic TV, sports…arrggh. We are a spoiled people, having all of Roku and its varied and interesting content and other streaming services at our fingertips. But I was overjoyed to find Katharine Hepburn: The Great Kate on Roku, a 2014 German documentary on the incredible Connecticut Yankee actress whose legacy is as much personal as it is professional.
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It was a lucky find as I’m on my fourth Hepburn biography. What an individual, her progressive upbringing by a suffragette mother and leftist surgeon father who let her speak her mind and do what she pleased gave her enormous confidence; it later allowed her to pick her own scripts in the 30’s when actors were tightly controlled by the studios.
She was paid a whopping $1000 a week, a princely sum for any actor, and she wore pants! Of course, “Kate” went on to an unequalled career. Thanks Roku. www.roku.com
Let’s end this with a bang. Remember how exciting Avengers: Endgame was when you saw it last April? The top grossing film of all time starring all the myriad Marvel superheroes has earned almost $3B can now be held in your hand. Yup – its available on DVD Tuesday. Let us remind you Disney/Marvel’s Avengers Endgame is the last in this series and what an exit! You may remember the Avengers: Infinity War massacre – Thanos destroyed the planet, wiped out half the superheroes and its inhabitants. Endgame’s aftermath is somber indeed. The surviving heroes are in mourning and at their weakest. And Thanos is returning to finish the job. If this sounds like grand opera, it is. Swelling emotions, an epic scale and gob smacking immensity of Endgame elevate the entire superhero genre in a masterfully constructed three hours and one minute that honours the stories of almost thirty Avengers, allies and friends. It’s a mind-bending task accomplished with skill and obvious deep love and respect for the Marvel universe remembering the ten year – or decades long – history of the ongoing battle between good and evil. Faithful to its core, dense and rich, nostalgic and yet new, it reaches far and succeeds with all the elements the fans will love.
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Robert Downey Jr. delivers Shakespearean level tragedy, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is a drunken wreck who no longer cares or cares too much (long story) bringing shades of meaning to the character. Chris Evans’ Captain America’s going through an existential crisis, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is trying to keep the faith. They must buck up and save the world. As cliched as it sounds, Anthony Russo and Joe Russo knit together all the required notes and bring in unexpected ones to a hard-hitting climax that may leave you in tears. On any scale, this is a superior film. Prepare for major shocks. There will be more but it’s a while off. Check this out:
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We spoke with a former Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services employee who outlines the ways the Meek Mill case may have played out in Canada:
Could a person in Canada become trapped in the kind of probation cycle that Meek Mill faced? Or are our probation laws different from those in the US.
My response would really require me to identify and expand on the racial, economic and systemic combination that complicates true justice in the US. for young black men. The fact that the judge is black speaks to the systemic nature of the justice system that appears to over penalize offenders. However, their laws regarding offences and sentences are different from Canada.
My understanding of the Meek Mill case is that there appears to have been some question regarding the veracity of the commission of the offense, the quality of the defense, the sentence, and the continuous series of probation that spans up to 10 years or more. Complicating the matter is that the conditions within the probation order appear to inhibit Meek Mills employment. From my Canadian perspective, conditions of a probation order need to make sense from a rehabilitative perspective.
America has a complicated justice system that appears to continuously penalize the offender. For clarity I am not totally familiar with the American system.
In Canada probation may be given up to a maximum of 36 months for offences. Judges, based upon certain parameters, will typically start at the lower end.
Typically, a first offender could see a period of 6 months to a year., sometimes 24 months depending on the severity of the offense. Other offences committed while on probation could see an escalation of up to 36 months. However, the period of probation will run concurrent as of the date of the new sentence until the probation is served.
Probation in Canada is seen as rehabilitative, so there is an expectation that conditions are to help the offender deal with issues that brought them into the criminal justice system (CJS), while also protecting the community. Where there is a probation condition that complicates the offender’s, employment, for example, then there can be a submission to the judge to change the condition to meet the needs of the offender while also taking into consideration the community.
The idea is to get the offender through probation without complicating matters. It is long held that, the longer a probation order, and the more stringent the conditions, the more chances there are of the offender violating them and being brought back into a circle of the CJS.
Probation can be a reporting order to a Probation officer or non-reporting order. In addition, a probation officer can determine if reporting should be stopped administratively.
Would a Canadian arrested in the US be subject to the same treatment?
Unfortunately, it is possible. When a person commits an offence in any country, they are subject to the laws and sentences of that country. It is important to remember that the issue in the US and with the Meek Mill case is that people from underprivileged backgrounds do not get the ability to have good lawyers to argue their cases, and as a result, due to finances will quickly accept plea deals. The consequences of this decision can be detrimental.
Your thoughts on the series?
From my perspective this series illustrates the need for Justice Reform in the US.
BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI