By Anne Brodie
Let’s start with my favourite summer blockbusters! They don’t make ’em like they used to, and that’s a pity, so why not locate these masterpieces of boredom-busting? Check your streaming homes, pour some cool lemonade and get into the best of the best:
Steven Spielberg’s Jaws – The greatest summer blockbuster of them all. Intelligent, thrilling, made with an eye for beauty and style, and the slowest slow burn, starring Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, two men waging war against nature in the form of a giant rogue shark. And that beach tracking shot! Gave sharks an undeserved bad name though.
James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day – Arnold you made action history with this classic gem, the second in the Terminator series and the best. Linda Hamilton is a worthy opponent, fighting in fit mode for women and the other oppresseds in this thrilling escapist treat.
M. Night Shyamalan’s shining star The Sixth Sense introducesd young Haley Joel Osment as Cole, the empath who can see dead people and comfort the living. Getting chills remembering this unusual summer hit.
And John Landi’s National Lampoon’s Animal House, the frativerse in which we see John Belushi at his comedy finest, Kevin Bacon, Tim Matheson, Donald Sutherland and dreaded wet blanket John Vernon as Dean Vernon Wormer.
Strap yourselves in for the sexiest, whip-smartest, most flagrantly fabulous film ever to emanate from Disney – Cruella! in limited theatres and on Disney+ now. It’s the gobsmacking origins story of the classic Disney character, the wicked Cruella de Vil who kidnaps Dalmatian puppies to skin them for fur in the 1961 animated film, based on Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. What a devil! Emma Stone plays Cruella in a bold rethink, with fire and brimstone lapping coming out of her eyes. But she didn’t start that way. Estella simply an unfortunate street thief who lost her mother in tragic circumstances when she was young; she’s lived on street smarts, a nice girl who shares a hovel with two fellow thieves. Her dream is to become a fashion designer, and via the force of her personality and resourcefulness, she’s hired by the much-feared designer Baroness (Emma Thompson), a real piece of work. Baroness inspires deep resentment and rebellion in Estella and sparks a total personality change. She is now Cruella, a woman capable of great wickedness – she builds a dress embedded with actual danger – taking the idea of female empowerment to comic, bizarre, bracing heights. A scene from Hitchcocks’ Lifeboat tells us Cruella will be the last one standing. She’s a dangerous foe. The art direction, insane 70’s soundtrack, art is war vibe, and intricate detailing are hypnotic; it’s arresting, fast, an eyeful and a dangerous dream. Stone’s 47 costume changes alone are worth the price of a ticket! Just wow. Waiting for the next one. Thanks, Disney and Stone for carrying this ambitious project so lightly.
A Quiet Place Part II opens in Montreal only at the moment and will roll out across Canada as local restrictions lift. The thriller follows the Abbotts (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe) entering a new world as they tippy-toe to survival, lest they wake the sleeping beast. Father, writer-director John Krasinski is in a place where the silence rules don’t apply but don’t ask me what happens. I don’t know. It hasn’t screened for critics outside Quebec. Co-stars Cillian Murphy, Djimon Hounsou, Wayne Duvall, and Lauren-Ashley Cristiano. The trailer’s great and I am waiting (im-)patiently.
There was an American woman the US wants to forget. The true story American Traitor: the Trial of Axis Sally revives the story of Portland Maine born Mildred Gillars. In 1941, she was living in Berlin and performing in nightclubs when she got the call from the Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft radio network to become an announcer. Her job, as Midge at the Mike and Axis Sally, was to propagate Nazi propaganda and convince Americans to stay out of WWII. “No need to get involved in the British mess”. Germany assumed London would fall and they’d be the victors unless the US intervened. Germany Calling was broadcast internationally and a hit in the US. Sally would speak directly to the families of wounded soldiers she met in hospitals and punctuate her warm concern with asides like “You could never beat Germany” and make pro-Hitler, anti-Semitic declarations. She was Goebbels’ pet project; together they dreamed about how the war should go. Gillars was captured, arrested and returned to the US for trial. Her reasons for becoming a traitor are beyond the pale. Directed by Michael Polish, and starring Meadow Williams, Al Pacino as her lawyer, Mitch Pileggi, Thomas Kretschmann and Lala Kent. TVOD.
Do you know Ziwe, the one named comedy multitasker – writer, comedian and internet sensation? I suggest you get up to speed with Showtime / Crave TV‘s sensation from Brooklyn aka Ziwerekoru Fumudohnew whose sharp, stinging and satirical comedy series about race, politics and culture is delightfully unhinged and on point. She’ll say anything in her monologues, song and dance numbers (wow). I’ve never seen the ultra-confident Fran Liebowitz as uncharacteristically nonplussed. Ziwe welcomes in her own way Gloria Steinem Jane Krakowski and Cristin Miliotti with impressive self-confidence and frankly, gall. Hey, I’m down with it, it’s shockingly, bracingly funny. Ziwe introduces American Dolls – the Imperial Wives Collection, asks re the Race War, whose side or you one, black or white? calls guest Eboni K. Willaims a feminist Black Elle Woods, and more things I cannot repeat here. This is cleansing stuff, but remember to duck when she fires. Must-see TV.
Whitstable Pearl, based on the mystery novels by Julie Wassmer is a fun fish-out-of-water story/ murder mystery now on Acorn TV. It takes a fresh angle on the new wave of the British murder series. Deeply urban police inspector Mike (Howard Charles) is assigned to sleepy seaside Barnstable on England’s east coast. Hates small towns. They’re boring. Resents the town and everyone in it. And then, what, ho! He finds a kindred spirit in forthright Pearl (Kerry Godliman) who runs the local bistro. And two murders take place within days, so, problem solved? Pearl discovers the body of her dead friend floating in the Channel, not far from his abandoned fishing boat. Mike says it was an accident, but Pearl’s marine knowledge disabuses him of the notion, which he also resents. It was murder. Pearl studied policing years earlier and runs her own private investigations firm inside the bistro, and reckons Vinnie’s widow has something to hide. It’s confirmed when mutual friend Tina (Cathy Tyson) comes calling on Pearl at home and outlines her suspicions, before going missing. Was Vinnie killed for his life insurance, or did a local realtor wish to silence protests? Maybe the realtor’s son with the drug issues did it. Then a second murder by force-feeding a diabetic marmalade. Bored now, Mike? It’s a surprising, original story and the stormy seaside setting is beautiful. Also, the magnificent Frances Barber stars as Pearl’s equally forthright mother.