By Anne Brodie
HBO’s Original Documentary The Princess on Crave just shy of the 25th anniversary of Princess Diana’s tragic death is the dark depressed version of the sad saga of Lady Diana Spencer’s entry and exit from the British Royal Family. This is the one with the telegraphing, the downcast gaze and funereal vibe. Ed Perkins has skillfully crafted a visual dirge, cherry-picking tell-tale looks, glances, hate arrows, and the bitter, fallen-to-pieces trajectory of her marriage to Prince Charles that now in retrospect was apparent not long after it began. Charles hadn’t let go of his mistress of twenty years, Camilla Parker-Bowles, his current wife when he married Lady Di and welcomed two princes into the world. Visual proof is presented that Parker-Bowles and Charles were seeing each other as Diana cared for her newborns, in fact, her face lurks about the doc. The disconnect between the media’s gushing grasp of the “fairytale wedding” and the reality there, on film, is laughable if it weren’t so dishonest. Charles and Diana ran the media gauntlet for twenty years and presented visuals that make her pain heartbreakingly visible. And Charles was increasingly jealous that the media was infatuated with his beard wife. Her picture was worth a fortune but “you can’t give him away” one photog explains. At one outdoor event, the two walk in opposite directions and he appears to purposely brush against her hard, showing her she was invisible to him. Footage of prey being felled by Charles and his pals for sport seems on the nose; he knew she loathed blood sports. Kudos to the filmmakers for leaving long sequences silent – we can easily fill the space with our horror and outrageous betrayal. The gut punch this doc delivers really hurts.
Fall will make your hair stand on end. Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) is an avid climber but while scaling a dangerously steep and difficult rock face, her husband (Mason Gooding ) falls to his death. A year later she’s still a mess, drinking, she’s inactive, and neither her friends nor her father (The Fall, Grace Caroline Currey, Mason Gooding, Virginia Gardner, Jeffrey Dean Morgan) can pull her out of it. But one day her bestie Hunter (Virginia Gardner) insists that they get out and climb a 609.6 metre /2000 foot radio tower in the desert. Get her out of her self-pity. They have tech and a drone for Becky’s social media followers, water food, the works. The abandoned remote B67 TV tower’s deteriorating but up they go, as vultures circle – not a good sign. The bag falls. They carry on to reach the top when the ladder beneath them falls away and they are stranded, baking in the desert sun with no provisions but the drone and a phone. Their formidable hack skills – they can charge them via the signal light at the top but watch helplessly as two men who see them and don’t help steal their truck. And the unthinkable – Becky learns the truth about Hunter. Tense moments from on high force us to look away as we wonder why anyone would attempt the stunt in such an unforgiving isolated place. But a goosebumpy actioner and character study is worth the phobia. And kudos to the actors who actually climbed the thing. In theatres.
A gut-wrenching disaster thriller in theatres now stars Song Kang-ho who you know from Parasite, Lee Byung-hun from Squid Game as well as Jeon Do-yeon, Kim Nam-gil, Yim Si-wan, PARK Hae-joon, and pop star Kim So-jin star in Emergency Declaration. As if air travel wasn’t tough enough in real life, we present a new complication. We’re told off the top that in aviation if a plane is unable to continue due to lack of fuel, it is given emergency status to land at the nearest airport. Passengers are are heading from Seoul to Honolulu. A young man (Kim) abuses a random father and his young daughter for no reason, he then berates and insults an airline staff member because she asked why he wants to fly on a full plane. He refuses to answer, she sends out an alert but he’s onboard. Soon after takeoff, a passenger collapses, blood vessels exploding and blisters covering his skin. Passengers send videos which go viral and officials are on it. The detective (Song) leading the investigation’s wife is on the flight. hey learn the young man’s identity and search his home, finding vials of a biological virus and a dead body. He’d been fired by a biotech company and expresses the wish to kill as many people as possible – for fun. He dies of the virus. . Political leaders gather to negotiate a landing port, but no country will allow them in. The pilot dies, a passenger takes over as fuel levels drop. It’s intense and completely berserk in a lifelike way, a great premise for a thriller but the length and fury of the film is problematic. It’s hard to sustain the level of anxiety it creates and you just want it to end but it keeps going with new life-threatening obstacles piling on. In theatres.
Diane Keaton pays tribute to her beloved Grammy Hall in the fantasy comedy Mack & Rita. Thirty-year-old author Mack (Elizabeth Lail) confesses that she’s always been an old lady at heart. She’s bored with the social media generation to which she belongs and longs for authenticity and the chance to be her real self, as her beloved and eccentric by social standards Grammy Martin taught her. To wear whatever she wants, lie down whenever and wherever she wants, for instance. On a bachelorette weekend in Palm Springs for her bestie Carla (Taylour Paige) Mack visits a past life regression “guru” rather than see a band play in a refrigerator with the others. She admits that she’s old and trapped in a 30-year-old body and whoosh, she comes out Diane Keaton, her older self with flowing white hair and glasses and freaked out. She’ll pose as Mack’s Aunt Rita and life as an old isn’t so bad. She joins a wine club for 70+s (Wendie Malick, Loretta Devine, Lois Smith, and Amy Hill). They have a blast – “we have less time and fewer flips to give!” Carla knows what happened and suggests Mack find the guru who has suddenly disappeared. Lots happens as an old, Rita becomes an Instagram sensation and an influencer and begins a sort of, kind of romance with Mack’s next-door neighbour Jack (Schitt’s Creek’s Dustin Milligan), and we’re rooting for her. But she will go back, reinvigorated and ready to be young for real. Martin Short provides the voice of her dog Cheese(voice of her dog) during a self-awareness ‘shroom-induced trip. It’s a fantasy wrapped in Keaton’s distinctive style, personality and charm that feels like a children’s fairy tale. It’s not deep or probing and it doesn’t ask a lot of us but Keaton is always a draw because she is one-of-a-kind, a star, and a treat. In theatres.
Aubrey Plaza is Emily an underemployed woman with crippling student debt of $70K plus interest. She’s an artist but works part-time in a food delivery company and things are tight. A co-worker gives her a number to call – she can earn $200 in an hour. It’s a sales pitch for ‘dummy shoppers” – she knows it’s illegal and dangerous but that’s when she becomes Emily The Criminal egged on by Youcef (Theo Rossi) a charismatic gangster. He creates fake credit cards with her identity and sends her to buy big box electronics. The first time she gets $200, the second time, a luxury car, $2000, then a beating in an intense exchange with a dealer. Lured by the need for money, the thrill of the get and a budding romance with Youcef, she’s nearly killed when a man comes to rob her of her earnings. She kills him. Police come around and one terrifying encounter after another with the law and the lawless drive her to make a huge decision. But will she live long enough to see it through? The film raises the spectre of student debt, an historic and persistent problem, a disability for millions of people. Well-executed and an interesting portrayal of a morally ambiguous woman facing test after test. Gina Gershon makes a memorable cameo. In theatres.
Girl Picture at TIFF Bell Lightbox and expanding across Canada is a Finnish (Tytöt tytöt tytöt /Girls Girls Girls) story of twenty-somethings on the verge of big things from Alli Haapasalo. Mimmi, Emma, and Rönkkö, (Aamu Milonoff, Linnea Leino, and Eleonora Kauhanen) take their first steps into romantic and sexual journeys on three consecutive Fridays. Emma’s a skater training for the European Championships, while Mimmi and Rönkkö while away their off-school hours manning a mall juice bar. They’re best friends who share dreams, troubles, clothes and intimate details of what’s going on in their lives. Rönkkö attempts sex with several guys but never feels an emotional connection and can’t experience pleasure. Quite the opposite with Emma and Mimmi, who begin a lusty affair, but out with a man at a party and Emma runs away, straight to the rink where she works off her anger. That’s when she realises she has no life, she’s trapped in skating and school. After a tiff with her coach, Emma quits and embarks on a lost weekend with Mimmi. Their brave first steps into autonomy are fraught, and as young, as they are, find it hard to process what’s happening but see that life is unpredictable. So they do their best. A charming and frank story told with tenderness and a dose of reality.
If you love British actor Jim Broadbent the way we do here at What She Said! then run, don’t walk to your device to catch The Duke, a true story, on Prime Video. Broadbent plays disabled pensioner and working-class family man Kempton Bunton who in 1960 stole Goya’s 1812 portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London! He’d meticulously planned the heist, not for his own enrichment, but to protest the government’s license fees on television, and demand better care for the elderly. Investigators believed it was a sophisticated, well-funded heist, backed by powerful unknown entities. Goya and the Duke of Wellington are labelled racist, greedy, and cruel drunks. The theft was the talk of the town, and a media sensation, especially when Bunton’s anonymous ransom notes demanding Free Television for Old Age Pensioners were reported. A petition garnered lots of signatures crossing the class system. All the while, the portrait was hidden in the back of his son’s wardrobe; the son found out as did his disapproving wife (Helen Mirren) but they kept mum. A government writing expert analysed his note and speculated correctly his age, location, and lack of education. That’s all I’ll say, just don’t go to Wikipedia because it has no hope of being as entertaining, gloriously witty, and comic as the late Roger Michell’s wonderful film. Also stars Fionn Whitehead, Anna Maxwell Martin, Matthew Goode, Jake Bandeira, Aimée Kelly, and Charlotte Spencer.
Mother Nature’s sent warnings for decades; back in 2005, she played a vicious trick in New Orleans, sending climate haymaker Hurricane Katrina and its flooding aftermath. The Category 5 Atlantic hurricane was coming at New Orleans and then took a path to the east, missing it. However, rains broke the levees and water overtook the coastal city, strangely built below sea level. Relive the trauma in Apple TV+ utterly chilling new series Five Days at Memorial, filmed in Toronto, set inside a hospital under tremendous strain. Caring for the sick, those left with no homes after the floods, plus an additional full Care Unit was ruinous. The eventual failure of power and AC, in wet, humid, and sweltering conditions, a steady influx of people seeking fresh water, food, and shelter, seemed beyond comprehension. It’s the story of what occurred in the hospital over five days, much of which was not or underreported. Vera Farmiga and Cherry Jones are a doctor and the Situation Commander strategising their ways through the event. All levels of government worked to control the situation outside but promised rafts, helicopters, food water, and physical help didn’t come. Bodies piled up, including mercy-killing victims. Staff kept true to their medical and ethical foundations and some didn’t. The series is so well made and the performances are suitably intense so it is a challenge to the nervous system. What I like to take away is that the world didn’t end, people are basically well-intentioned, and everyone has a story. The huge cast also features Sharron Matthews, Darrin Baker, and Ted Atherton. Adapted from the book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sheri Fink.
A mind-boggling true-life crime story, this time out of the UK, as master manipulator Robert Freegard (James Norton) ruins the lives of women he dominates in Rogue Agent. His personality which we’re told is not about to change demands fresh blood, that is control and money from a string of vulnerable women. He scopes out Trent Hamilton Agri College and kidnaps gullible “recruits” to train as spies. Sophie joins him and disappears. Her parents have no luck with the police, who say she is old enough to make her own decisions. Nine years later, from his luxury car dealership window, Freegard notices a well-dressed and bejewelled woman walking to work each morning, nobdy’s fool lawyer Alice Archer (Gemma Arterton) He introduces himself but she rejects him – she’s a snob and he’s a bartender/car salesman, but he love bombs her and wins her over. Following bizarre incidents, Alice gets the firm’s detective to investigate. Rob is a “ghost”, there are no records of his existence, and she’s warned against further involvement. She confronts him and he says he is MI5, a spy recruited by the government as part to investigate IRA bombings in England. But when he tells her to be wary of falsehoods the government will tell her about and convinces her to hand over big money, she reports him to the police. Meanwhile, he has put Sophie in a bad situation, that could lead to her death, Alice gets wind and the hunt is on and now includes the FBI because a tourist from Connecticut is missing after asking her parents to spend big money. Two hours fly by in this tense outing, and as lovely as Norton was in Grantchester, he’s nuthin’ but a nightmare here. Prepare for a stunning, unexpected conclusion! Select theaters and TVOD.
A fresh new take on A League of Their Own now on Prime Video – takes place during WWII when the absence of men – off fighting around the world – gave women the rare chance to become professional baseball players to entertain and distract war-weary folks. A tryout for a new female league brings floods of players including Carson (Abbi Jacobson) and Max (Chanté Adams). Carson a farm girl whose husband is fighting, and Max who battles unthinkable racism, are determined to make the team. Their competitors are pretty sharp and baseball plays a secondary role in their evolution as women, as they experience being away from home, high expectations, and clarification of who they are. Nick Offerman with enough charm to make us forget Tom Hanks coaches them while Dale Dickey plays their stringent but caring matron. Cringeworthy scenes in which men in the bleachers yell out disturbing misogynistic remarks at the players and no one stops them and when Max and her family try to live their lives, facing systemic segregation and abuse. But the spirit’s bright as these women overcome barriers and build a team to be reckoned with and it gets spicy as the girls explore their sexual identities. The period art direction and costumes are sensational and raise a warm and welcoming nostalgic backdrop to the sprawling stories. Not a single cell phone.
The Paradise Theatre on Bloor St., West in Toronto launches a trio of music history films on August 15, opening with a double bill – Nightclubbing: The Birth Of Punk Rock In NYC
and Sid: The Final Curtain.
And on August 16th, Paradise presents Rolling Stone: Life And Death Of Brian Jones, a deep dive into his life and mystery-shrouded death. Jones was a troubled individual who made waves, upsetting the status quo both in his middle-class, well-to-do home and as a music explorer who singlehandedly changed the face of British pop music through his love and respect for American R & Bof Jones. His repertoire contained southern blues, Chicago blues, tribal African music, and traditional Indian. He introduced these new sounds into the Stone’s earliest work and inspired and refreshed the staid pop music scene. He formed the Rolling Stones and dominated them, onstage and off. Danny Garcia documents Jones’ talent, his deep dark side, shaky relations with his bandmembers, drug and alcohol use, the 6 illegitimate children he fathered and his astounding musical legacy. And he raises new questions about Jones’ death at age 27, drowned and found at the bottom of his rural estate pool. Police called it a “misadventure” and Garcia’s interview subjects (what a group!) build a strong case for conspiracy. Jones was often set up for drug arrests, a group of builders took advantage of him in his weakened state while working on his country home and the Stones fired and abandoned him. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Absolutely riveting. Tickets here @Rotatethis, Circus Books, Take A Walk On The Wildside and Ticketweb.
Kylik Kisoun Taylor, who owns Tundra North Tours in Inuvik, and his great idea are the subjects of an inspiring CBC Gem doc Okpik: Little Village in the Arctic. Taylor, an Inuit/Gwich’in hunter, lived in the south but returned home to the Mackenzie / Beaufort Delta in NWT and found his calling. He and his family set out to build a traditional Inuvialuit log cabin with a sod roof, an innovative and ancient way to offer housing security. The garden, forage, hunt and fish, ensuring food security. Provisions to make the cabin come from the forest, shore, and local garbage dump (tossed government documents provide good compost) and from crafts by locals. Elders provide wisdom and methodology dating back millennia, a resource he wants to pass along to succeeding generations. His teenage daughter Indigo is an experienced fisher, she loves hip hop and listening to stories and fables from the elders. She was part of the building team, a curious and proactive essential part of the process. The community gathers to open the centre, the ingenious example he set, as climate change and growing populations make life harder and more expensive. and there is another benefit says, Taylor. “There is deep intergenerational trauma in the High Arctic as a continued legacy of residential schools, forced relocation, cultural genocide, loss of language, culture, and racism. Through the building of the culture village, we were able to find pride and autonomy by living powerfully on the land in a way that has existed for millennia,” Filmmaker Tiffany Ayalik releases the doc in English and Inuvialuktun; an endangered language, that is also taught there. Extraordinarily inspiring. Streaming now.