The Electrical Life of Louis Wain
By Anne Brodie
Denis Villeneuve, the pride of Trois Rivieres, Quebec, helms the second filmed adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 sci-fi masterpiece, the “unfilmable” Dune. An all-star cast takes us through the spice desert battlefields where House Atreides, House Harkonnen, Fremen and other clans tear each other apart to control the precious spice deserts that encircle their world. Villeneuve’s Dune is hyper imaginative – massive galaxies, unthinkably futuristic innovation and tech against which seethes a world of humans at war for territory – and spice. Wars to shut down kingdoms and build new ones, against relentless catastrophes. The esthetics are out of this world so to speak, gorgeous and outlandish. There’s so much to see, you’ll look hard and long and want more. Oscar Isaac’s Duke Leto Atreides has power over this universe but it runs out and transfers to his young and fragile son Paul (Timothée Chalamet). Paul’s widowed mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) pushes him forward, like Lady Macbeth, to claim his legacy, to rule the spice deserts and lead the clan to a bright future. But first, a world of pain. Emotional elements are overwhelmed by the spectacle and stoic characters remain at arm’s length, but it’s a beautiful, seductive spectacle. Also stars Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem, Charlotte Rampling. Dune Part 2 is on its way plus a TV series. In theatres.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s other TIFF film, besides Oscar hopeful The Power of the Dog concerns cats. A delightfully bizarre and warmhearted biopic, the true story of a celebrated British illustrator. The Electrical Life Of Louis Wain directed by Will Sharpe follows an aimless, sensitive artist who finally finds someone to love (Claire Foy). He marries Emily, against the will of his perpetually outraged sisters, and she encourages him to be himself and follow his passion – studying life’s electricity. In Sharpe’s hands, the story of a schizophrenic, an artistic soul navigating life and love and art feels like a fairy tale with rich, surreal imagination, boosted by Cumberbatch’s electric energy. Constant movement calms him. One bright day Louis and Emily find a kitten and take him home, dubbing him Peter; all is well. But in the midst of their happiness, Emily is diagnosed with terminal cancer. He distracts her by painting amusing portraits of Peter, and another obsession is born. He paints using both hands at the same time! His boss at the Illustrated London News, played by Toby Jones, shepherds him through difficulties over the years, not really understanding but accepting Wain’s eccentricity. Cats are not considered cute nor pets in 1900’s London, but Wain’s endearing caricatures of them in their many moods help change that and soon, he – and cats – become the darlings of New York. Utterly charming and optimistic, with a dose of antic realism, the film delights and feeds the soul. Once again Cumberbatch gives his Oscar-worthy all. Theatres.
Horror master Kiyoshi Kurosawa turns his attentions to a different canvas in Wife of a Spy set in Kobe, Japan in 1940, the days leading up to World War II. Yusaku (Issey Takahashi) and his wife Satoko (Yû Aoi) are comfortably off thanks to his work as a merchant; he’s an amateur filmmaker, camera ever at hand. He shows his short masterpieces to a small circle of friends including a mysterious British silk merchant. On a business trip to Manchuria, he secretly films atrocities carried out against citizens by the Japanese army. He plans to release the photos for the world to see when he gets home. He will have to convince his wife to leave with him for America, now an enemy country. His British silk connection dies and an old friend of Satoko’s, now an army officer tells her that her husband is a traitor and unfaithful. She confronts Yusaku, he acts suspiciously, then tells all. Mixed ideologies threaten to tear them apart – a piece of ice in a drink bursts the dam, so to speak. The game keeps changing as dangers/stakes mount in this noirish espionage adventure. Even so, its warm colour palette reminds us these are people, not pawns. Peek-a-boo camerawork enhances the spirit of a cobweb, visually beautiful and sensual, and dangerous – shot in 8K. Director Kurosawa makes this statement – “This film is not about the war. It serves as the backdrop for this story and acknowledges the acts of ruthless violence Japan has committed on foreign soil. The two protagonists battle with their emotions as they cry over this revelation, which leads them to make a life-changing decision.” Theatres.
Apple TV+’s arresting, larger-than-life series Invasion, a sci-fi rejig of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds will hook you fast. Five people grapple with an approaching alien invasion of earth, as events unfold in real-time in Long Island, Yemen, Oklahoma and Tokyo, Japan; imagine suddenly knowing global death is imminent. Solshifteh Farahani, Sam Neill, Firas Nassar, Shioli Kutsuna, and Toronto’s own Shamier Anderson star. He’s a US soldier stationed in the Yemen desert when unusual winds and a giant sandworm rise up; camels run off in confusion, all power’s lost, and aircraft fall from the sky. Cut to Neill’s ageing sheriff in a crime-ridden rural Oklahoma town. It’s his last day on the job (of course) little does he know what’s in store. A Long Island wife and mother tries to keep her family in order, but suddenly neighbours’ homes explode and catch fire, all but hers. A Japanese astronaut gazes out her window and realises she’ll miss the sunrise when later that day she and a crew rocket into space. As in nature, animals and birds predict disaster – birds circle madly in an Oklahoma farmer’s field, injuring the sheriff, monkeys are on the loose and chaos reigns. Invasion is exciting, well written and of the times, with a beautifully unusual score deserves its own column – this is a full meal.
Four women are the heart of The Pact, a six-part dramatic thriller series launching Sunday on Super Channel Fuse. Laura Fraser is Anna, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Nancy, Eiry Thomas is Louie, and Heledd Gwynn is Cat. They work at a brewery in Wales, under a rude and aggressive boss, Jack, who inherited his position and has zero experience and a drug problem. His anger and abrasiveness have poisoned the factory and a night out to celebrate the brewery’s centenary turns against him. He’s treated the four, one his aunt, terribly. They find him outside attempting to sexually assault a woman when he collapses drunk onto the pavement. The four decide to prank him, throw him in the boot, drive to the forest, strip him, take pictures and leave him. Two return an hour later and find him dead. The four circle the wagons as police investigate; Anna’s husband is the lead detective. They’re mystified when they learn he died of strangulation. Jack’s father, played with great evil glee by Eddie Marsan reacts in an unexpected manner, and someone texts the women “I know what you did and I want money”. This is a terrific series that deserves bingeing. Amazing what humans are capable of doing to one another.
Locke & Key, Season 2 is here! Things are heating up in Lovecraft, Massachusetts (actually, Toronto and the GTA and Kingston, Ontario) as the Locke children face new dangers in their mission to save the world and each other. The family’s ancestral home where they moved on the mysterious death of their father, is wonderfully spooky (actually built by Netflix and “practical” meaning everything works) and yields the Lockes keys to new universes. The keys may be connected to their father’s death and besides showing them powers and visions of the past and future, the keys may help stave off invasion. The Locke kids discover a cave beneath the house where Revolutionary soldiers wage war against an alien threat, as they look for answers in the present day. Meanwhile, the community awaits the completion and release of the kids’ horror film The Splattering, while the memorable characters – real and demonic – threaten to rupture the fabric of family life in Lovecraft, and let’s face it, the world. Put on your seatbelts – it’s going to be a wild things-that-go-bump-in-the-night ride.
Ron’s Gone Wrong is a freewheeling new animated comedy that examines the role of tech in kids’ lives, with sometimes satirical and occasional cautionary notes. Barney, an “awkward high schooler” finally gets his very own electronic Best Friend Out of the Box. He calls his B-bot Ron and together they hope to forge a “friendship”. The kids at school are obsessed with social media, they don’t play outside or connect with each other much; they’re busy counting likes and posting selfies. Ron’s not programmed to laugh. As dark as all of this sounds, the film’s wonderfully upbeat animation subtly deals with this great disconnect some kids are experiencing. Don’t want to give away too much but Barney eventually finds himself in the woods, discovering nature and having non-electronic adventures, so there is hope and joy. and the film’s bright funny vibe candy coats the message but lands it. Watch for Barney’s wonderfully entertaining old Eastern European granny who makes him take old school cuisine to school! Featuring the voices of Zach Galifianakis, Jack Dylan Grazer, Olivia Colman and Ed Helms. In theatres.
OK, it’s not even Hallowe’en yet but W Network leashed its annual Countdown To Christmas today! Forty-one Hallmark films with the holiday spirit, love, decor, perfect hair and all the usual trimmings, set in snowy small towns, mountain villages, the annual parade of pap to be watched from the couch with hot chocolate, easy to digest. Fan favourites Candace Cameron Bure, Lacey Chabert, Holly Robinson Peete, Danica McKellar, Tamera Mowry-Housley, Janel Parrish, Robert Buckley, Jonathan Bennett, Ryan Paevey and the rest are lined up and ready to cocoa with you. Also available on STACK TV and the Global TV App. Here are a few of the titles.
You, Me & The Christmas Trees, starring Danica McKellar
Boyfriends of Christmas Past, starring Catherine Haena Kim, Raymond Ablack Kim’s Convenience’Paul Sun-Hyung Lee
The Santa Stakeout, starring Tamera Mowry-Housley, Paul Campbell and Joe Pantoliano (really?)
Christmas in Harmony, starring Ashleigh Murray, Loretta Devine and Michelle Williams.
Coyote Creek Christmas, starring Janel Parrish and Ryan Paevey
Christmas Sail, starring Katee Sackhoff, Patrick Sabongui and Terry O’Quinn
Open by Christmas, starring Alison Sweeney, Erica Durance and Brennan
Next Stop, Christmas, starring Lyndsy Fonseca, Chandler Massey and Christopher Lloyd (really?)
A Christmas Treasure, starring Jordin Sparks and Michael Xavier.
Christmas at Castle Hart, starring Lacey Chabert
The Christmas Contest starring Candace Cameron Bure and John Brotherton
The Nine Kittens of Christmas, starring Brandon Routh, Kimberley Sustad and Gregory Harrison
For a full schedule, go to www.wnetwork.com. W Network is available on National Free Preview from November 1 to December 13.
Global presents Adele One Night Only, a new primetime special airing Sunday, Nov. 14 special from global superstar will preview new album release, with premiere performances of new music, classic hits and an exclusive interview by Oprah Winfrey. Also streaming live and on-demand with STACKTV and the Global TV App