Sean Baker’s joyous, exasperating and provocative film The Florida Project takes us through a few days in the life of a welfare motel just outside the gates of Disneyworld. Privileged children inside the park and children on the fringes of society aren’t so dissimilar, they share endless curious, find joy and wonder but in that welfare hotel, everything can be lost in a minute. Willem Dafoe is the motel manager who patiently navigates the head-spinning world of marginalized residents, addicts, hookers, families, and the poor elderly living their ordinary, extraordinary daily lives. A little girl, played with warm vitality by little Brooklynn Prince has little structure in her life, preferring absolute freedom to run through the concrete jungle, burn down an abandoned building project, and mess around with her pals. Her mother doesn’t mind. She doesn’t do much but mouth off and sell stolen perfume on the street, but it’s clear she loves her child. Dafoe’s manager keeps his cool despite the wear and tear on his heart and wallet; he’s all that stands between his residents and destitution. It’s upsetting knowing these beautiful kids will likely grow up poor and pass it along, but this summer; they’re loving life. It’s charming, soulful and moving with authentic performances by Prince and first timer Bria Vinaite as the feckless mother who will do anything to put food on the table. The film inspires tremendous social guilt but it’s also a full hearted celebration of unfettered childhood.
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Liam Neeson plays Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House otherwise known as Deep Throat, the Watergate leaker whose identity as FBI Associate Director was only revealed in 2005, decades after the 1972 Watergate Republican break-in of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) at the Watergate Hotel that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. It’s a timely drama as Felt, a high ranking FBI man, acts on his conscience and at great personal risk, to let the world know what kind of a man Nixon was and the level of corruption of his inner circle, including G. Gordon Liddy. Josh Lucas and Tony Goldwyn co-star as Felt’s staff that realise he knows more than he’s letting on. Not the greatest Washington film ever made, but interesting. I’d suggest re-watching All The President’s Men to bone up on this unsettling time in American political history that feels oh-so-familiar today.
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Simon Curtis directs Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie and Kelly Macdonald in Goodbye Christopher Robin a grown up look inside the world of author A. A. Milne and his son whose toys inspired the magical world of Winnie-the-Pooh. Winnie and the books Milne authored become international sensations and they wouldn’t have existed with Canada! Christopher Milne named his stuffed bear after Winnie, a Canadian black bear he saw at the London Zoo and Pooh, after a swan they met on holiday. The stories warmed the hearts of war-torn Brits but brought unimagined challenges to the Milnes. Stars Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie and Will Tilston.
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The Limehouse Golem by Juan Carlos Medina and based on the novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem by Peter Ackroyd is a chiller in the Victorian Gothic manner with shades of Grand Guignol. At its heart, it’s about the after effects of childhood trauma, set in a forbidden world. An 1880’s London music hall troupe is spooked by a series of murders in their seedy underbelly of the city. The wicked, morality-busting amusements in the hall make locals forget the gruesome events of the day, but the spectre of murder hangs over them. Bill Nighy is the dedicated detective who won’t rest till he has the monster behind bars. He’s willing to risk his life and reputation and use untested techniques to get to capture the perpetrator. The company carries on entertaining as the bloody messages appear and the bodies pile up. Shocking twists and plenty of ol’ tyme atmosphere make this a blood-curdling delight. Douglas Booth is a magnificent eyeful as the cross-dressing star attraction and Olivia Cooke is adorably Little Nell-ish as the newcomer who’s seen too much.
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Alexandre O. Philippe’s 78/52 goes straight to the heart of the 1960 movie murder that changed movies for all time. It’s a “90 minute film about a 2 minute scene” an academic, passionate and illuminating exercise dissecting Alfred Hitchcock’s notorious shower scene in which a major movie star, his leading lady, Janet Leigh, was slaughtered just 30 minutes in. Unheard of! Radical! Seventy eight shots, 52 cuts. Hitchcock historians, horror aficionados, filmmakers, critics and actor/directors including Eli Roth, Guillermo Del Toro, Peter Bogdanovich and Elijah Wood offer their views on how the scene changed cinema, made murder “part of entertainment” and going to the movies “dangerous”. There are strong currents of sexuality and obsession. Was that Leigh’s naked body being hacked by a blurry assailant? What about the water circling down the drain followed by the blood? How many moviegoers fainted or worse? How did Hitch create the awful sound of stabbing human flesh? At times it’s a tad stomach-churning, but its rebellious, subversive and unsettling as well as a brainy trip inside Hitchcock’s imagination. He considered the scene a “joke” when he made it but some interviewees believe it was his personal attack on women and on Hollywood. 78/52 is utterly spell-binding.
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The award winning short No Reservations is a political satire short film that challenges its viewers from the perspective of First Nations and Caucasian cultures, as part of the Reelworld Film Festival. It presents a hypothetical look at what life would be like if the roles in Standing Rock were reversed. Protests erupt as the Indigenous Corporation attempts to build a pipeline under an upper-middle class Caucasian neighbourhood. Lorne Cardinal of Corner Gas fame plays the slick developer; the blunty-named Whitemans are the shocked, dismayed and marginalised homeowners. Award-winning director Trevor Carroll, an Indigenous artist of Ojibway descent from Northern Ontario says it shows “what happens when that middle class neighbourhood is directly impacted”. Oct 15 at Canada Square.
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Sheesh, Netflix, a Dynasty reboot? New episodes are releasing each Thursday taking us back into the bosom of the Carrington and the Colby clans, places I’m not sure I want to be. The series stars Grant Show, Sam Adegoke, Alan Dale and Elizabeth Gillies. Who? Right. How can they hope to replace Joan Collins, Larry Hagman and Linda Evans. Here are Evans and Collins in that classic catfight.
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How can you beat that? More soap and sass in the wealthy elite classes, lacking in taste and grace? Let me know how it goes. I’m sticking with Our Souls at Night.
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National Geographic expands The Story of God with Morgan Freeman with The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman premièring tomorrow night. Freeman leads us on a journey of discovery of different cultures and how they navigate the forces that life brings us, love, belief, power, war and peace, rebellion and freedom. Each of the six, hour-long episodes deals with a single theme and how certain forces shape us and all of mankind.
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BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI