By Anne Brodie
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a witty and provocative portrait of an uptight former school teacher Nancy played with vulnerability by Emma Thompson who has never had an orgasm, experienced oral sex, or much pleasure at all in her 31-year marriage. She’s a bundle of anxieties but following her husband’s death, takes a brave step, hiring an “expensive” male escort (Daryl McCormack) called Leo. She has a checklist of five sexual activities she’d like, all firsts, aided by other attractive and encouraging Leo. He knows what he’s doing, he has perfect manners, knows just what to say and do, and follows her speed but he’s up against a woman whose limited life has rendered her terrified and she seems made of iron. She asks him tough questions about his job and treads a bit too closely into his private life. Amidst mutual confessions and awkward attempts at sex, she keeps booking him. She nearly faints when she feels the first rush of desire and backs off, and may prove the toughest assignment he’s had in years of doing the job. Their intellectual and emotional journey set in a single room over two hours is a masterclass of acting, writing, and directing (Kate Brand), flawless, realistic and challenging. Thompson lays low the idea of perfection and youthful sexuality in this honest journey of discovery, featuring full-frontal nudity, and sensitive sequences, unexpected from Britain’s queen of comedy and period pieces. She goes there, she’s awesome and strikes a blow for feminism and we see a bright future for McCormack! on Prime Video now.
Craig Roberts’ feel-good film The Phantom of the Open is the true story of a rascal we love. Maurice Flitcroft believed the world was his oyster and dreamed big dreams. Flitcroft (Mark Rylance), a generational shipyard worker in Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria had a loving wife (Sally Hawkins) and three sons ( Jake Davies and twins Jonah and Christian Lee who look like they’d be the children of Rylance and Hawkins). He’d had a narrow upbringing until he was sent away to Scotland where his carers encouraged him to think big. Back in the shipyards, he was restless then he saw a golf game on TV and was transfixed. He entered the 1976 British Open calling claiming to be a professional and played his first round of golf ever there, hitting 121. Looked down upon by the golfing elite he became an overnight folk hero, invited here and there and everywhere to play golf, and he never improved and was known as the worst golfer in the history of the game. Meanwhile, his twin sons dreamed big as he told them to and became International prize-winning disco dancers. His elder son, now a manager at the shipyard was deeply embarrassed by his father. Flitcroft’s new status opened many doors when he was fired from the yard, and he became a savvy self-marketer. And then someone sent him and the family tickets to America! The film lapses pretty hard into sentimentality but it’s also charming and well cast and tells a whale of a tale. In theatres.
It sounded so outrageous I thought Wild Men really was a “high-concept comedy” as pitched. But in truth, it’s much more than that. Its whimsy and humour are soon overshadowed by dark mysteries, a chilling chase through the Icelandic mountains, a settling of scores and a character study of a man on the outs with society. Wrapped in animal skins and carrying a bow and arrows and three axes. Martin (Rasmus Bjerg) emerges from the woods to a gas station in search of food. He has no wallet – soon to be explained – hunger overcomes him, weapons are drawn and he runs. He comes across a crashed truck with two dead inside, a dead moose through the front windshield, and a severely wounded Musa (Zaki Youssef), clutching a bag. He takes him to his encampment to hide from police and a canny, determined Chief. Martin explains he has a family but he just couldn’t stand his “nice” life anymore. Musa’s a drug smuggler and his bag’s full of cash. But his cronies aren’t dead after all, and they are after him, as are the police and Martin’s wife, all hunting for him. It’s good jolly fun for a long while and we root for our wild man. The police chief’s backstory tugs at our hearts too, and we are treated to an epic third chapter that reveals things aren’t always complicated, they are most often very simple indeed. A brainy and highly entertaining adventure. In select theatres now and TVOD later this summer.
So pleased that Netflix‘s The Umbrella Academy is back for a third season. . Crammed with dance numbers, great music, the Swedes, Colm Feore plus a new enemy, and all the usual familiar faces trying to stop the end of the world, what could be better casual summertime viewing? OK so the team saved the world last time but apparently the danger wasn’t entirely put to rest and again, the apocalypse is six days away. It opens with Dad (Colm Feore) overseeing the manipulation of Pogo the monkey to use tech and fly spacecraft. His adopted family gathers to sort this news doomsday bringing all their concerns and quirks and to learn that Dad has erased them from his mind and has a new family and so many children. But what was his role in the assassination of JFK? Why was he standing on the grassy knoll on Nov. 22, 1963? Why won’t he acknowledge them? Meanwhile, Vanya / Viktor convinces Sissy to leave her controlling husband and run away with her, but that spells danger. The series’ rhythm and joyous moments set against the brute realities they face are beautifully composed and balanced. It’s peppered with its signature brand exuberance – the Swedes sweeping up mountains of cat hair, Klaus coming clean to his cult and it backfiring, Ben ghosting Klaus, not in the way you think, Luther developing digestive problems, and Allison settling their hash at an all-white racist diner – just glimpses of the series wonderfully imaginative suppleness. A joy. June 22.
Sometimes a series is so breathtaking and complex and smart that it blows your mind. FX’S The Old Man is one of them. Jeff Bridges is Dan Chase, a man on the edge living in isolation with his devoted dogs Dave and Carol. He knows a lot about personal security and weaponry and lays traps around his home. He’s plagued by nightmares of his late wife falling into dementia that killed her and by something that happened to him in the past. An intruder awakens him one night; he fires two shots into the man without hesitation, and expertly stages the scene to look like he was defending himself against a burglar. He calls the police who allow him to leave to “stay with family”. He drives off, phones his daughter Em and tells her he’s disappearing and never to call him again. The FBI’s Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Harold Harper (John Lithgow) his longstanding frenemy goes back decades when they were working on an operation against Russia out of the Middle East. Chase left the CIA and went off the grid but the intruder indicates he’s in their sights. He’s right, special forces operatives, intelligence, international powers. He’s driven to the ground but encounters enemies; at his advanced age is able to outthink, outfight and outrun them. Harold watches him from a drone, following him, to forcibly reunite Dan with warlord Faraz Hamzad and answer for his actions. Dan rents a cottage from a woman (Amy Brenneman) but now she’s in the same danger he is so he tosses her in his trunk and speeds off, then shoots down a CIA drone following him. And who is Brenneman’s character, a romantic interest? Danger? Just the start of the deep intrigue in Chase’s… if that is his name … life. Strap yourselves in for a mind-boggling adventure that respects its audience’ intelligence. Based on the bestselling novel of the same name.
Actor, writer, and one of Variety’s 10 Directors Cooper Raiff is just 25 and he’s released his second film, following the success of his award-winning debut Sh*thouse. Another unique coming-of-age comedy-drama Cha Cha Real Smooth and it’s a winner. Raiff is 22-year-old Andrew, college-educated but stuck working at Meat Sticks and living at home, casting about for motivation. By chance, he raises the party spirit at a Bar mitzvah and becomes a professional “party starter” like the dream girl he crushed on ten years prior and who told him she was too old for him. He’s struck by Domino (Dakota Johnson), one of the moms, and her autistic daughter Lola (Vanessa Burghardt); they become friends and he’s with Domino when she miscarries during a celebration. He babysits Lola who has trust issues but feels safe with him and his love for both grows. The thing is she’s engaged and about to move to Chicago, and she’s significantly older. She never misleads him and sets clear boundaries but he keeps chipping away. Backstabbing local mothers begin a whisper campaign against them which eventually gets to his mother and her partner (Leslie Mann and Brad Garrett). There’s a lot of emotional power packed into this good-natured story, that’s thankfully unsentimental. Cooper did well to steer clear of saccharin in this story of family and community in which the main characters all cry. Cooper’s gift for writing is abundantly clear and he has that je ne sais quoi onscreen, as an ally, friend, son and brother and a person who always chooses to do good to others. Apple TV+
Prime Video‘s The Summer I Turned Pretty is a YA soap opera with the usual coming-of-age, love, and feelings!!! It is also meant to appeal to teens’ mothers – a multigenerational drama about two families staying together in a luxurious beachfront estate on Long Island. The rich ones with Susannah, the matriarch (Rachel Blanchard) of a boy brood and the poor invited ones, mother Laurel, son Steven, and daughter Belly (Jackie Chung, Sean Kaufman, and Lola Tung) so there are some fun social and economic tensions. But the heat comes from the younger set, led by Belly who has prior chemistry with Susannah’s sons Conrad and Jeremiah (Christopher Briney, Gavin Casalegno) because she’s come to their “cottage” every summer of her life. This summer, though, romantic feelings surface, and Belly can’t decide between the two fellas. She’s pushed into the local Debutante Ball by Susannah, to her progressive mother’s chagrin; country clubs and lavish living contrast with Laurel and Belly’s comfort zones, there are issues of teen drinking and drug use, and making friendships lasting and rich. And of course teen lust. Based on Jenny Han’s popular YA novel series which have been adapted to streamers – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before on Netflix and The Summer I Turned Pretty on Prime Video. The usual tropes of YA romance are all here, familiar and predictable. And it’ll be a hit.
And now to Canadian shores and the summer experience in The Lake on Prime Video. It will feel familiar to many Ontarians who spend their summers “up at the lake”. Looks like it was shot in Muskoka or Georgian Bay with its rough craggy heavily forested landscape but was actually made in North Bay, the Hollywood North hotspot for film and TV production. It’s utterly Canadian down to its toes, jumping into the ways of life up north when cottagers outnumber locals times ten. It begins with a cottage reunion at where the family’s summered for generations. Julia Stiles )who is married to a Canadian filmmaker) stars as Maisy-May, the late patriarch’s stepdaughter, who has just inherited the place, sending biological family members reeling. Justin (Jordan Gavaris ), a gay man who’s just ended a long-term relationship is visiting with his biological daughter Billie (Madison Shamoun), the result of a high school romance, in hopes of getting to know her. The peace and beauty of nature and all that water are nearly ruined by the family’s fractured relationships but there is plenty of humour to be found in their chaos. Some turn to day drinking, flirting with local store clerks, gossiping, fighting with neighbours, the usual. One family member yells out to Maise-May “You stole my family cottage. I challenge you to trial by tilt”. Tilt is a strategic game using rather large dangerous props. The Boomers are on their third gins, while Billie laments she is the only black person on the lake. And they’re all plotting to get rid of Maisy-May who happens to be running for election to oversee local development. And when they discover her plans – to ruin the original wood cabin, by rubberstamping her application, all bets are off. The Lake is Amazon Studios Canada’s first Original Comedy Scripted Series and co-stars Terry Chen, Jon Dore, Carolyn Scott, Natalie Lisinka, Travis Nelson, Jared Scott, and Declan Whaley.
Apple TV+ launches Season 2 of its glossy docuseries Home on June 17th, offering unique lifestyles based on home designs from around the world. The revolutionary ideas put in play by creators are stunning, inspirational, rooted in ecology, common sense, and our natural impulse to build a suitable and beautiful nest. Among this season’s highlights, are Sag Harbour, Long Island, a Black oceanfront summer community going back generations, a tight-knit place where people could escape racism, feel comfortable and enjoy beach summers. The homes are old, and many were part of the Underground Railroad system. Most on Liberty Street have trapdoors. The community is protected from developers by village, state, and federal bodies that will keep the area’s history and legacy alive, hopefully. Another home near the French Pyrenees, Hourre House, was built with people front of mind. Its ancient ruins were preserved completely as part of a reno by a family of four including a wheelchair-bound daughter – they put in low floors big enough for her chair, to give her agency, there are no expensive windows, just giant doors on all sides that slide into invisibility, bringing stunning views right inside the rooms. There are complete outdoor bathrooms, no walls, no formal gardens, just colourful, sustainable wildness, and my favourite, massive nets on the top floors open to the ground, for sleeping, playing, and relaxing. Take this trip around the world and come away inspired and open to newness.