Gabriel Byrne’s dark, romantic vibe is well used in Death of a Ladies’ Man, a Canada / Ireland copro inspired by Leonard Cohen and his songs. Byrne is Samuel O’Shea, a solitary, poetic, gloomy Gus whose good looks and sweet nature help him land many a lady. None stay, though, in writer-director Matthew Bissonnette’s bristling story of a man facing himself. He discovers his much younger wife is cheating on him, interesting because that’s how they got together in the first place. They decide to divorce, to the tune of Cohen’s Worm on a Hook and he ups his alcohol consumption from 13 drinks a day for forty years to 39 drinks (or he’s in a fog, how do you survive that?) and he’s having intense hallucinations, notably the ghost of his father (Brian Gleeson) and a bodybuilder with a tiger’s head that won’t leave the bar. Sam’s seductive charm belies the underlying reality of his brokenness and he can no longer trust himself. Then he’s diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. Cohen’s songs Bird on a Wire, One of Us Cannot Be Wrong and more describe Sam’s sorrowful, lovesick, life-sick state of mind. The aching mood of the piece, Byrne’s perceived persona and heartbreaking performance, all refer to the music. This is a deeply felt love letter to Cohen and a death knell to those old romantic notions of what a manly man is. The death of the ladies’ man. TVOD.
Nine Canadian musicians will celebrate the release of Death of a Ladies’ Man with performances of their favourite Leonard Cohen‘s songs. Cohen okayed the use of his music before his passing. They will be available on the performers’ pages, Apple TV app/iTunes and other TVOD streaming platforms, as follows:
Ron Sexsmith – March 12
Whitehorse – March 13
Karelle Tremblay – who also stars in the film – March 14
Dan Mangan – March 15
Jenn Grant – March 16
Chad VanGaalen – March 17
Mo Kenney – March 18
Hayden Desser – March 19
Leif Vollebekk – March 20
Night of the Kings, the Ivory Coast’s Oscar entry for Best International Feature from director Philippe Lacôte is a stunning achievement, a folk tale told via poetry, dance and drama, set inside the country’s notorious La Maca prison, the “only prison in the world run by an inmate”. Lord Blackbeard (Steve Tientcheu) runs a tight ship. He’s dying and tradition states that he must find a new Storyteller, then die one way or the other. A new inmate, a pickpocket shows up (Bakary Koné) and becomes the new Roman. He must tell a story the night of the full Red Moon and impress; he begins tentatively, but onlookers begin to dance and sing in accompaniment. Pressure mounts as the only white man (Denis Lavant – Holy Motors) a mute, indicates that he must continue the story till dawn to avoid death. Prison wardens look on from their well-guarded room with a view of the prisoners’ kingdom, watching the mesmerising ebb and flow of the story, which serves its artistic innovation and narrative. It appears the prisoners are played by dancers, drag performers and singers who bring the story and subtext to vivid life. A must-see. Co-stars Rasmané Ouedraogo, Issaka Sawadogo, Digbeu Jean Cyrille, Abdoul Karim Konate, Anzian Marcel and Ivorian artist Laetitia Ky. In select theatres in Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver and on DVD and TVOD digital.tiff.net.
Above Suspicion from director Phillip Noyce, is a fact-based southern Gothic crime drama. An FBI agent is transferred from Danbury, Connecticut to Pikeville, Kentucky so we know right away it’s going to be a lesson in culture. British actors play the lead roles, Emilia Clarke is the stereotypical hillbilly drug-addicted white trash sexpot, Jack Huston the aforementioned FBI agent, and Sophie Lowe is his wife, the third person in a peculiar emotion/power triangle. Susan’s skeletal remains are found in a wooded area, and she informs us that the worst thing about death is that there is too much time to think. Flashback to how she came to be there in that state. She’s living with an abusive ex (Johnny Knoxville) her children and a boarder whose lover robs a bank and says the whole town wants her dead. Mark the agent meets the sly and seductive Susan, helps her out of a pickle, makes her an official informant, pays her with money and drugs and they begin an affair. Dangerous move. Says she was “running with the Devil and taking his paychecks”. Susan’s behaviour, intelligence, disruptive nature and intimate knowledge of the area’s criminal underworld put a target on her back. Mark dumps her and she digs up new tips to make him stay and that’s when things really go Pete Tong. I wonder if southerners are offended by these frequent portrayals as trailer poverty cases, murderous goons and drug addicts? Watch in daylight. TVOD.
Own the Room an edge-of-your-seat documentary from National Geographic on Disney+ is well worth a look. Five young people from around the world are showcased as they prepare for the 2019 Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (EO GSEA), a gripping, high-stakes journey. They’re from diverse, mostly poor communities – Santosh a happiness provider in rural Nepal, Puerto Rican bakery worker Alondra, programmer Henry from Nairobi, Jason the marketing whiz from Greece and Daniela who fled the dire political situation in Venezuela for New York. The entrepreneur with the best idea for a business wins a life-changing $100K. Learn what inspires their unique journeys, their hopes to improve the future through innovation and the nerve-jangling reality of the final event in Macau, China. They’re pushing synthetic nylon that’s planet-friendly, apps to interpret babies’ cries, for the deaf to communicate with doctors, for student housing and more. Henry’s denied entry into China on questionable grounds and the kids suffer panic attacks. Fast-moving, with hope for them and future inventors competing with ideas meant to improve our lot as well as theirs.
A new Discovery+ Original Attack of the Murder Hornets is a battle cry to save life as we know it. Remember Murder Hornets, aka Giant Asian Hornets? The beekeeper in Washington state who lost 60k bees one night, his entire colony, each one beheaded by giant-jawed murder hornets? Filmmaker Michael Paul Stephenson’s doc follows a team of scientists on a mad rush to locate a nest “near conifers and water” and destroy it. A man in Nanaimo, BC found and destroyed a nest, but this was the first in the US. The race is on, as the swarm is capable of tremendous damage, ten stings can kill a man, and their favourite prey, bees, are responsible for life on earth. Bees pollinate crops that feed us, and forests that give us oxygen. There is no agriculture, no food without them. Built as a true-life thriller, a genre romp and quasi–Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it also puts human nature under the microscope. Attack of the Murder Hornets has a sense of humour to balance the panic, the hornet hunters are a colourful lot and determined to throw everything they have into the fight. They locate one, tie a tracker on it and absolute failure, then another try and … well, I’m not going to ruin it for you, but you’ll be on the edge of your couch. Just wow. Wait till you hear the possible way they got across the water from Japan.
Another cross-border action thriller, based on a real case stars Gary Oldman, Armie Hammer, Evangeline Lilly, Greg Kinnear, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans, Lily-Rose Depp, and Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi. The fentanyl crisis is the heart of Crisis, in one corner, a multi-cartel Fentanyl smuggling operation looks to take over the Montreal gang, a university professor (Oldman) raises the alarm about a new “non-addictive” painkiller he knows is anything but, as big business attempts to shut him down, while an addicted mother (Lilly) investigates the disappearance of her son. writer/director Nicholas Jarecki. It begins as a young skier moving drugs over the border is captured by a surveillance team. A DEA agent (Hammer) hopes to bust the Canadian operation with an Armenian connection. Meanwhile, the university chief (Kinnear) advises the professor to “walk away” from his report that the new “non-addictive” drug is three times worse than the current opioid array. And this is the state of things as murder, threats, coercion and overdoses and morally challenged administrators follow the almighty buck. The takeaway is that new opioid drugs come to market every year, 100K die from opioids every year, and use grows 20% every year. An ugly truth, based on a real story. TVOD March 16.
Mel Gibson, Ken Jeong, Michelle Yeoh, Naomi Watts and Frank Grillo star in Joe Carnahan’s tongue in cheek testosterone actioner Boss Level which has a retired Special Forces officer (Grillo) stuck in a time loop in the day he died, Greek / Roman mythology and black humour. He has no idea why but he dies every single day and comes back to die again, either in a hail of bullets from a helicopter hovering outside his apartment window, falling off a building, beheading, so many ways to go. Is there a terrorist plot to poison the American alcohol supply, what does it taste like when you’re shot in the face, a laughing snake with a two-foot jaw span, and jumps to edgy unexpected places minute to minute? The film’s oddly fascinating, and although I realize it’s not Poet’s Corner, it’s rough around the edges and it’s a dude’s universe, and Watts is there to wear a tight lab uniform, it’s really funny, funny peculiar if you will. The time and space continuum is off-kilter and Grillo’s retiree is seriously ticked and bored by the repetition, but he can’t get out. Mel Gibson’s his sworn enemy but not around a lot. It’s a lollapalooza of an edgy videogame-turned-film that’s inventive and crazy enough to weather. Grillo’s narration makes me laugh, it’s so tough. Fun asides as when he points out the owner of a comic book video game store that he is forty years old and Gibson calls him a “f…ing liberal”. Spit take! TVOD.
Netflix‘ original series Behind Her Eyes follows Louise (Simona Brown), a Scottish single mum with a part-time job as a receptionist in a psychiatrist’s office. One night at the pub, she spills a drink on a handsome guy (Tom Bateman), sparks fly and they share a kiss in the street. He dashes off saying he can’t do this and to please forgive him. The next day she’s at work looking forward to meeting her new boss David and lo and behold, it’s him. He’s married with kids, and he’s wary. After a sleep interrupted by nightmares, Louise goes to work and meets his wife Adele (Eve Hewson). They strike up a friendship. At home with the doctor, it’s clear he doesn’t much care for his wife, she’s on a lot of pills, she too has nightmares, she’s over attached and dependent on him for her every need. Her history comes out, she set a fire that killed her parents and her husband bears the scars of that night. Their unhappiness is visible in their decor, which looks like it was done by a prison warden. Meanwhile, Louise and Adele start coffee dates and she develops a friendship with David which isn’t such a hot idea. whiplash twists and turns make this a worthy watch as this uncomfortable trio enters new territory.
A man who bakes bread, courgette jam, gobbles it up, carries cookies and drinks soda pop is as fit as a fiddle. That’s the real mystery in Acorn‘s Balthazar, S3. How does he look so good? Raphaël Balthazar (Tomer Sisley) is a French police forensic doctor in this series about what goes on in the upper echelons of Paris’ police force during investigations into the city’s most disturbing crimes. Balthazar and his partner the new chief Hélène Bach (Hélène de Fougerolles) tackle the murder of a renowned medical coroner in an ermine lined coat, killed sitting at a table, blindfolded. His wife is gone. Balthazar discovers their little girl who may have witnessed the murder, but Chloe is catatonic, in psychological trauma called “resignation syndrome”, incommunicado. But there is another unsolved crime – the ten-year-old murder of Balthazar’s wife, Lise (Pauline Cheviller). Her spirit visits him to assure and comfort him. He drives dangerously and eats the way he eats, maybe he wants to join her. A tattoo artist is murdered and evidence points to the same person who killed his wife. Terrific series, with its psychological angles, great writing and cases.
Mary Walsh and Cathy Jones’ outrageous sketch comedy series Broad Appeal Season 2 is now streaming on CBC Gem along with Season 1. Six new and longer episodes on the adventures of smart-mouth seniors Mrs. Eulalia and Mrs. Enid will have you gasping for air. They’re touring Canada offering mostly unsolicited “pre-posthumous lifestyle advice from a couple of brassy bits of ageing crumpet who have very definitely been there, and no doubt, done that”. Celebs along the way include Margaret Atwood (“Stop writing such dark stories. Do a Golden Book on puppies!”) and David Suzuki who come out of E and E’s grilling more or less unscathed. The gals go for speed- friending, slamming modern contemporary design, deconstructing flatulence, and the fact that the older you get, the older you want to get. and what is Happiness anyway? Good times, my son.
The weather has been warm this past week and my thoughts turned to gardening. And to my delight, this weekend’s Great Canadian Baking Show is in on it with Botanical Week. Six remaining bakers create artful cakes and tarts using fruits, herbs and flowers. Fruit Tarts, Herb Garden Dumplings and two-tiered Floral Cakes using botanical-inspired flavours. Widespread use of hibiscus seems to be a secondary theme in what may be the most beautiful episode to date. Don’t take my word for it, tune in on CBC and CBC Gem at 8 p.m. Sunday.