By Anne Brodie
Steve Coogan has written a fact-based, non-tongue-in-cheek film. If you can imagine. Director Stephen Frears’ The Lost King stars Sally Hawkins as amateur historian Philippa Langley whose instincts and apparently ghostly bond with “son of York, last Plantagenet King of England Richard III” who reigned until his death in 1485, inspired a monumental discovery. Richard has been painted as a misshapen, cruel, homely ruler who murdered his nephews in the Tower of London. Langley believed he’d been wrongly maligned as the victim of a political, character, and real assassination by his enemies, the House of Tudor, distant relatives who laid claim to the Throne. The Tudor campaign worked and history accepted Richard was an evil king. In truth, he’d established freedoms and reasonable living conditions for his subjects. Langley determined to restore his image by finding his burial site. His remains were believed to have been scattered, in a river, etc.. but the story gets even better. With the help of the ghost, powerful instincts, and sheer grit in the face of patriarchal dismissal she set about her task. It’s satisfying to see an ordinary person stand up to bureaucracy and achieve something great that rewrites history and brings it to life six centuries on. You could look up what happened but I recommend you catch Lost King in select theatres.
Kiefer Sutherland executive produces and stars in a gripping new series that is smack dab in his wheelhouse. It’s set in the cutthroat world of corporate espionage and the action never ends. Rabbit Hole, filmed in Toronto last summer pits agent and outlier John Weir (Sutherland) against warring factions with wildly creative plots to cause chaos and reap major profits. The crafty, soulless influence of the parties involved affects us all, through media and real-world manipulation. Weir is a lone wolf with few allegiances and is deeply wary of people. He’s divorced but has an amiable relationship with his ex-wife who knows what he does for a living, and he adores his young son. Everyone else is fair game. The exciting ways the layers of this particular onion peel back are well timed and the truths revealed are staggering. We’re never sure where we stand. Haunted by the gunshot suicide of his father as a youngster, the off-the-grid, anti-establishment attitudes of his parents made spying a natural path. He’s in a bar having a drink and asks the barkeep to put on a sports channel. A harried man on his cell rudely demands a change of channel – seems the erectile dysfunction drug he reps is tanking, revealed to be linked to cancer. Weir meets Hailey (Meta Golding ) and they spend the night together. Next morning we’re let in on just what transpired the night before, a complex intelligence operation he’d put in place. the intricately plotted adventure rockets us out of the gate as he comes up against the FBI’s Financial Crimes Unit, sees his employer leap to his death after a mysterious text, locks Hailey in his trunk, and heads to his remote, decrepit, childhood home and the secrets its walls carry. Each episode ramps up the stakes in exciting ways, and I am hooked. Premieres Sunday, on Paramount+.
Gabriel Basso plays Pete a “low-level” FBI agent delegated to a White House basement room (“windowless!”) in Netflix‘ new espionage/ action series The Night Agent. directed by Seth Gordon. He is given paperwork to pass the long hours manning an emergency line that no one calls; he’s backed by Chief of Staff Diane Farr (Hong Chau) and demeaned by the head of the FBI, his titular boss. Pete’s on a crowded Washington subway one night when he notices a hooded man hiding a bulging bag under a seat. He stops the car, orders everyone off, and is injured in the explosion but manages to chase and fight the bomber. He notices the man’s massive snake tattoo and is then hit by a car. The scene changes to Rose (Luciane Buchanan) moving into her aunt and uncle’s remote country home following her bankruptcy. They notice armed men approaching the house and she’s told to go to the house down the hill and phone a number, she runs, they’re shot dead and she calls – it is Pete. He rallies police and Federal agents and thus begins a far-reaching, deadly race and battle pitting Eastern European forces, the Crown Prince of Yugoslavia, the White House, the president, and the pair on the run. What is the connection to the stashed subway bag? Good, gripping, and aided by solid character development and relationships.
Director Jean-Christophe Klotz’s thrilling history of Hollywood’s part in bringing Nazi war criminals to justice in Filmmakers for the Prosecution, an adaptation of Sandra Schulberg’s Monograph and an urgently important documentary. Hollywood writer and producer Budd Schulberg, who wrote among other novels, screenplays and stage plays, the dark showbusiness tale What Makes Sammy Run? undertook an extraordinary mission in July 1945. He and his brother Stuart were sent to Bavaria and southern Germany by filmmaker and OSS (US Field Photo Unit) Chief Commander John Huston, to find films and photos for presentation as evidence of Nazi atrocities at the Nuremberg Trial. The opening scenes shock us into remembering Ford’s footage of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps detailing the horrors of Nazi racist sadism. The Schulbergs were creating the official record of Hitler’s genocide of Jews, homosexuals, and “other” Germans in his furtherance of a pure Aryan country. The Schulbergs’ indisputable film footage would cancel out the defendants’ false testimony, pretenses of amnesia, and other stalling tactics. Their finds were invaluable – from footage of Gestapo founder Hermann Göring announcing the extermination of the Jews to viz of a cameraman casually walking inside a mass burial site where dead, naked, emaciated victims were being shoved down a funnel, to Hitler’s home movie, rallies, etc. where those who claimed they didn’t do anything were identified for investigation. The team travelled to two “secret” caches of Top Secret, including a salt mine where damning films were tossed, 2000 feet below the surface, and even found film cans in actual haystacks. A Russian soldier gladly handed over a cache they’d discovered, enthralled to be speaking with a team connected to John Ford. He was a Ford expert and had written two books on him. The mission to bring the guilty to justice, the trial, and all doubt erased, but the growing Cold War put a kibosh on the Schulbergs’ film; it was never seen in the US. Now it is widely available entitled Nuremberg Its Lesson for Today. It details growing pre-WWII German nationalism, racism, blind allegiance to a leader, and civil and economic unrest that gave rise to Hitler. Filmmakers for the Prosecution is an astounding achievement and a global warning about that time and our times. Available on Kino Lorber digital now followed by a TVOD release.
Katie Couric Media’s Refuge in select theatres and on TVOD looks at hate in the US and how two men from vastly different backgrounds navigated dangerous territory. Chris, a Georgia Army veteran, husband, and father signed up to fight in Afghanistan immediately after 9/11. He suffered 11 concussions, gunshots and trauma and developed a hatred for Muslims. Once home he was recruited into the Ku lx Klan and became a leader. He brought his toddler son to cross burnings, in their KKK regalia, carrying torches. His wife left him, after that final straw. Meanwhile, Heval, a Syrian Kurdish family doctor working in Clarkston, Georgia, America’s most diverse square mile with 40 nationalities, is a reluctant hero, treating and helping unite everyone, homeowners and refugees. Chris, addicted and hate-filled, was arrested, treated, and given an ultimatum by his wife, change or she’s gone. He reaches out to Erno, an extremist interventionist out to help shed his hatred of Muslims. Erno introduces him to Heval and Chris trepidatiously move forward. He visibly shakes and refuses to respond to Heval’s first text, but carries on, remembering what’s at stake. When they finally meet, Chris’ fear is palpable and he sees Heval’s status and wealth, thinking he was somehow robbed of an opportunity. Follow Chris’ journey, baby step by baby step to reach his stunning conclusion.
Apple TV+ 10-part series The Big Door Prize March 29 puts a small town under the microscope with originality, verve, and a pinch of despair. Listed as a comedy, it runs the gamut from terror to laughs and pulls while ripping off carefully constructed masks. Deerfield’s a quiet, close rural community. It’s small enough that everyone knows everyone and no one minds. One night Morpho, a butterfly-shaped arcade-like booth inexplicably appears in the local grocery store. Jacob’s there early stocking shelves when he sees it and it’s an invitation to learn his future potential if he’ll drop in some coins. Chris O’Dowd is Dusty, a happy fella, a beloved high school teacher whose self-proclaimed greatest talent is whistling. Happy in his marriage to Cass (Gabrielle Dennis) and dealing gently with his daughter Trina’s (Djouliet Amara) loss of her boyfriend. They’re a strong family unit. All is well. Jacob isn’t doing so well. His twin brother, Trina’s late boyfriend, is gone and his deadbeat father is on a downward spiral. Jolly school Principal Pat’s (Cocoa Brown) glowing personality lifts everyone. The Pastor (Damon Gupton) is always there for the townsfolk, but his demeanour signals turmoil. These folks and more avoid Morpho as long as they can but it gets the better of them- they read their life potential cards with disbelief, horror, joy, and the rest of it. Everything changes. Wonderfully sly, and bold, I’m no psychologist, but it rings true as cardholders ponder where they are and where they could be. The Big Door Prize is a revelation. Each eppy is just around a half hour, so a full-on binge is a snap.