By Anne Brodie
Missing travel? Can’t get away fast enough? You’re almost there enjoying the glorious sights, sounds and flavours of the Italian coastline in Pixar Disney+’ Luca. Besides pasta and gelato you can almost taste, Italian pop songs and that trademark Italian lust for life are all over this disarming story of a little boy sea monster whose curiosity changes his life. Luca((voiced by Jacob Tremblay) lives with his extended family beneath the sea along the coast; it’s a brightly coloured, sun-dappled world with plenty of fish and sea monsters to play with. He’s warned never to go above the water because you don’t know what’s up there … and those humans! Up above, tales of sea monsters haven’t kept fishers out of their waters, tossing their nets and taking away schools of fish. One day Luca goes to the surface and meets Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) they do fun things like riding Vespas and Alberto teaching Luca to walk. Is Luca compromising his true identity? He keeps his visits secret but his parents begin to suspect something’s fishy. Witty asides, photos of Marcello Mastroianni, the bustling multicoloured Italian village bathed in its yellowy gold light, all add to the magic of this lovely film. A real mood lifter with important themes!
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard continues the bromance between sensitive bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) and hard-arse assassin Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) as they try to save Darius’ wife Sonia (Salma Hayek). Don’t expect an Oscar or Pulitzer Prize to be given, this is just fun between best buds, gunfire, and peril and but it’s mostly occasional zippy oneliners and a showcase for the characters’ undeniably entertaining interplay. Bryce is on the no-fly zone, he’s lost his bodyguard license, he’s plagued by nightmares of Darius mocking him; his therapist can’t stand him. The EU has imposed sanctions on Greece and super thug oligarch Aristotle Papadopolous (Antonio Banderas) is ticked and its open warfare against all of Europe. The trio is captured in Athens then begin a violent yet amusing odyssey to Capri, Zagreb, Terracina, Trieste, and other fab locales, where I’m sure the cast and crew ate and played well! You will too, vicariously. Sonia’s having problems getting pregnant (oh and her mother was eaten by a shark) and has a mouth that “needs an exorcism’. Darius is kidnapped – again – by Mafia, so Sonia’s rather excitable. This contrasts well with Reynold’s signature breathy state of constant disbelief as Darius launches his take-no-prisoners gong show. It’s fast, silly and fun. A summer no-brainer! TVOD.
Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation from filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland is an absolute must-see for fans of great American literature. Truman Capote’s up there for me with Willa Cather and Theodore Dreiser, and I was able to re-read all of Capote in the first stages of the pandemic. If you don’t know his work it will shake you to your core with its lyricism, observational genius and wit. Capote was forty years a frenemy to rival gay Southern writer and playwright Tennessee Williams, who could be every bit as bitchy and as cunningly sweet. Vreeland’s well-structured doc utilizes their appearances on talk TV with Dick Cavett and David Frost, clips of major films based on their works, interviews with contemporaries and their own exchanges, powerfully voiced by Jim Parsons as Capote and Zachary Quinto as Williams. Their fractious relationship, travelling the world together, separations and reunifications were the way of things. They were not lovers, but devoted friends and died within 18 months of one another. This very tender eloquent and insightful biography is a luxurious treat. On Hot Docs Ted Rogers’ virtual cinema.
And now to gloomy Wales and the story of mild-mannered, conservative Enid (Niamh Algar) who works for the government in Prano Bailey-Bond’s multi-award-winning Censor. It’s set back when “video nasties” that, according to Margaret Thatcher, inspired evil deeds, were popular. Enid’s dark workspace’s soundscape is screams, the video victims always female. Her job is to cut offensive content before they hit the market, and while meant to be anonymous the media blames her personally when a crime is blamed on her because she didn’t make certain cuts in an especially egregious film. She says “I do my job to protect people”. Enid lives at home with her parents where they mourn the disappearance of her sister years prior. One dark night, watching the nasties, Enid notices the leading lady (and victim) bears a striking resemblance to her sister. She sets off on a secret mission to find out if it is her sister and if she is still alive. She confronts the filmmaker and from there, commits fully to the hunt. Censor is an eerie, moody step back in time that seems timeless; it’s always threatening and beautiful, imbued with Enid’s goodness that powerfully contrasts the darkness she inhabits. The cinematography, stillness, lighting and pace are evocative, and with Algar’s performance, it gets well under the skin. Also stars Michael Smiley, Nicholas Burns and Adrian Schiller. Now on TVOD.
Another odyssey in Jimmy Giannopoulos’ The Birthday Cake, in select theatres and TVOD now. On the 10th anniversary of his father’s mysterious death, Gio (Shiloh Fernandez) leaves home, taking a cake his mother (Lorraine Bracco) sends to her late husband’s all-male, all-gangster memorial. Gio hopes to find out what happened to his gangster father but he’s had little luck. Uncle Angelo (Val Kilmer), a Brooklyn mafia boss is charming and funny until he’s crossed. Gio’s priest (Ewan McGregor) is helping him avoid the gang life into which he was born, he’s seen enough violence. Gio’s walking through the streets of Italian Brooklyn, cake under his arm for most of the film. His cousin, an apparent psychopathic thug comes to church with him to light candles and pray, before going out and bashing heads. Russian, Black, Jewish gangs war over territory and heroin; someones flipped to the FBI, it falls into place as he walks. He meets friends (including Trump ex Marla Maples) and pals around with them for a while before resuming his journey to Angelo’s. Gio then hops in a cab and forgets the cake, but returns just as the cabbie (Luis Guzman) is about to chow down. All moments big and small in a journey that will change the fabric of life for everyone. Liked it a lot. Also stars Paul Sorvino, William Fitcher, Vincent Pastore and Penn Badgley.
Jeanne Leblanc’s provocative Les Notres / Our Own is a “social suspense” drama set in a small Quebec town as the mayor (Paul Doucet) unveils a monument to honour those who were killed in a disaster five years earlier. Thirteen-year-old Magalie (Emilie Bierre) lost her father who was crushed under rubble; since his death she’s uncommunicative and preoccupied, straining home and school life. One thing she loves is cheerleading and dancing but collapses during rehearsal. The school nurse assumes she and her mother know she is pregnant, but they did not. Word gets out and Magalie’s classmates bully and mock her. Her mother presses her to find out who is the father but no dice, however, she finds exchanges between Magalie and “Taz”. Shockingly, we discover early who the father is, in a case of exploitation, using his social standing and easy opportunity. It’s shot like CCTV footage, as though Magalie is under surveillance, and she is, in the schoolyard, with her mother and with her abuser. This is a fascinating but disturbing take on family dynamics and the wolf that’s ever been close by. Also stars Emilie Bierre, Marianne Farley, and Judith Baribeau. TVOD.
Another young person in pain in Phil Sheerin’s effectively claustrophobic debut feature The Winter Lake, starring Emma Mackey, Anson Boon, Michael McElhatton, Charlie Murphy and Mark McKenna. Tom (Boon) and his mother (Charlie Murphy) have been forced to relocate to his late grandfather’s ancient crumbling farmhouse in rural Ireland because of something Tom did. We meet him scraping animal skulls clean to add to his macabre collection. He’s a loner and says little. He’s isolated in rainy Sligo; it’s beautiful in a spare, natural way and Tom is attracted to the small seasonal lake. One day the water is low, he finds a box and is horrified to discover the skeletal remains of a baby, a hole in the head. He keeps it under his bed. The neighbour girl Holly (Emma Mackey) pushes him out of his comfort as they spend time together sharing a genuine friendship. It’s tested at every turn, by her violent beau, her temperamental father and his exasperated but loving mother. Tom discovers the truth about Holly and sticks by her as she prepares to leave home and he thinks his time has come too. Such a mess for these poor youngsters. The beautiful haunted setting with its muted greyed colours allows us to focus on the emotional dynamite in these troubled souls. On TVOD June 22
French Exit is available on TVOD now, a droll comedy about family and persistence. Lucas Hedges is a gifted young actor who has stood his ground with Frances McDormand, Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen, Carrie Coon, and Michelle Williams and thrived. That’s a lot of presence and talent. Now in French Exit, he holds his half of the screen with Michelle Pfieffer; they are Malcolm and Frances Price, son and mother and they’re in a serious pickle. Frances, a force of nature, a once-wealthy widow, is broke due to Frances Logic. She thought she’d die before the money was spent. Her lack of consideration for her son is the norm. Her beauty, charm and poise have prevented people from actually murdering her. I exaggerate but Pfeiffer’s so good at being bad. Malcolm adores her but keeps his distance in their sprawling Montreal apartment. Bills are piling up so they make a French exit to Paris where they build a new family of strangers. Crammed into a simple flat with interesting folks helps Frances see the world differently, as a place she just might fit. Pfieffer and Hedges and Valerie Mahaffy who plays their eccentric American neighbour are highly entertaining. Pfieffer is rock solid, and what a wardrobe! Yum.
Juneteenth celebrates the effective end to slavery in the United States. It marks the day when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached the last remaining enslaved persons in Galveston, Texas – two and a half years after its signing – on June 19, 1865. Juneteenth is recognised by FX, FXX and FXM Saturday, June 19 with FX’s Juneteenth Movie Marathon, from 7 am to 4 am.
The Hate U Give