By Anne Brodie
Ladies and gentlemen and Swifties of all stripes – Taylor Swift: the Eras Tour – in theatres now.
Fan alert! The Crown launches its final season on Netflix as a double helping, Part 1 with four episodes launching on November 16th and Part 2 with six eppies, on December 14th. The cast returns with additions of Princess Diana’s sons, Rufus Kampa as Prince William and Fflyn Edwards as Prince Harry, through the years 1997 to 2005, the beginning of Diana’s relationship with Dodi Fayed, the tragedy in Paris and beyond. Part 2 adds Ed McVey and Luther Ford as Prince William and Prince Harry with Meg Bellamy as Kate Middleton. The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles and the young New Royals, and the following emotional rollercoasters felt around the world. Fascinator at the ready!
Just back from vacation and want to share my thoughts on last week’s opening The Royal Hotel, a thriller and second collaboration between filmmaker Kitty Green and Julia Garner after The Assistant, further explores, to a devastating climax, the same kind of female on the high-alert tale – as a woman must fend off chauvinists who will stop at nothing to prove power and dominance. The patriarchal world is a trap; it’s their job to survive and thrive. Garner plays Hannah, and Jessica Henwick is Liv, two Canadians on a globe-trotting adventure, who run out of money on a party cruise and must leave and take work. All that is available to them is barmaid jobs in a remote desert hotel/pub in South Australia where they’re told to expect “male attention”. Their hands are tied and they take it and find they were told the truth. New girls at the bar are advertised outside as “Fresh Meat” and that’s exactly how they’re treated. They’re disgusted by the local patrons, male and female, who drink a lot, act out, strip, dance on the bar, and harass the Canadians. The girls keep their cool and begin to relax, as we do for them, smiling and fitting in when, like whack-a-mole, one after another male with boundary issues gets a notion. Things take a scary, then very bad turn in this survival thriller. In theatres now.
A documentary about periods! Aunt Flo! and is about time. Menstruation has always carried stigmas and people rarely talked about them. All that has changed as a new generation of “menstruators” in the US actively campaign for menstrual awareness and an end to taxation on menstrual products. No tax here in Canada, and free products in the workplace. Lina Plioplyte’s upbeat, positive doc Periodical featuring Naomi Watts, soccer champion Megan Rapinoe, Gloria Steinem, and young activists Anna Konkle, Madeleine Morales, and Anusha Singh is a breath of fresh air into the bodily function arena, an informative, relatable and fun portrait of the period and its impact on women. Each subject talks about her experiences, the physical and emotional impact and the positives to be shared. Menstrual blood’s rich nutrient makeup of stem cells and its potential uses in healthcare, the origins of the negative image of bleeding – including witches, Greek philosopher Pliny claimed periods could kill dogs and crops for heaven’s sake. The US government claims not to have the money to address menstrual poverty, i.e. the inability to access tampons, cups, and pads or pay for medical services in what seems like a sexist patriarchal stance. Some girls must miss school because of period pain. That too is investigated with an answer that makes sense. Men were tested with a period pain simulator and literally fell to the floor. There is so much great information, such as hope, and openness about the cycle that affects all women including menstruation and menopause. Must see for male and female audiences. Executive produced by Rashida Jones. Select Theaters Oct 14 then MSNBC Nov. 19 and Peacock Nov 20.
Jed Mercurio does it again! His latest crime thriller series Payback is brilliantly crafted, pitting a widow against a powerful Edinburgh organised crime outfit intent on recovering 28M pounds they say her husband stole from them. Morven Christie is Lexi and she’s in a very dark and dangerous place. She was happily married to Jared and the mother to two kids with assistance from an au pair. One day, Lexi happens to see Jared brutally murdered on the streets of Edinburgh. Her house of cards falls, and she is alone and thrown into an intense battle to save herself and her children from Cal (fearsome perf from Peter Mullan), the crime boss who orders her to repay the money or die. Jared was the gang’s accountant and turns out he remortgaged their home and spent all her savings and she’s forced to do the gang’s bidding. She searches their home for evidence, finds a cache of money, and believes her husband isn’t who he seemed to be. She is now accompanied by one of the thugs at all times except at home, held hostage and cruelly toyed with psychologically speaking. And horrors, she comes home one night to find Cal playing with her children. Edinburgh police know something’s up and surveil Lexi as part of their scheme to bring the gang down. Four hour-long pulse-pounders are as taut as it gets (thank you Jed!) taking Lexi on a terrifying journey that defies preconceptions, and calls on everything she has to survive with secret help from a detective she’s never met, ending with a major twist. Absolutely riveting. Britbox.
And the Britbox hits keep coming! The gripping series The Sixth Commandment is a cautionary tale and a true story that happened not that long ago in the village of Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire, UK, a picturesque retirement community mostly of retirees who live in their own homes. Timothy Spall is Peter Farquar, a widely respected academic on the eve of retirement, never married and supported by his local church community, longtime neighbours, and his loving brother and sister-in-law. New student Ben Feild (Éanna Hardwicke), a handsome young man, unemployed but volunteering as a churchwarden approaches him for help with his poetry. They become hiking pals and one day Field confesses his love. Very sudden, but Farquar is overjoyed that he may have a partner, at long last. Field moves in, and they explore his poetry and music but remain celibate. A short time later he proposes, Farquar changes his will in Feild’s favour but the 60-something suddenly becomes ill. Farquar’s brother is taken aback and suspects Feild’s loving kindness is somehow tainted but there is no proof. Farquar dies, and Feild begins an amorous, sexual relationship with an elderly woman down the street. Her niece Ann-Marie (Annabel Scholey) is immediately on high alert when her aunt becomes ill, and calls in the police. This four-parter doesn’t spare the tension, and with an artful script, pacing, and that it leaves us to use our imagination, it is both disturbing and challenging. Feild’s total lack of human empathy and ease in manipulating the vulnerable is terrifying. Well made but I suggest you watch in daylight. Streaming now.
Laura Waters Hinson shows us a way to radically improve lives around the world in a permanent, cheap, sustainable, and doable way in her informative documentary Project Home: 3D Printing The Future. It’s hard to imagine what it means to 3D print a home so Hinson lays it out with hypnotic footage of cement being squeezed like toothpaste along a programmed pattern, one row upon another, up and up. The monster printer can build the walls of a solid and practical domicile in a day or two. These days following the pandemic and financial downturn, homelessness is at an all-time high – a 300% rise in LA’s tent cities and elsewhere globally, especially given the natural disasters that have occurred these past couple of years. US Navy engineers helped the concept grow and become within reach of people who need homing. ICON, Habitat for Humanity, and other outfits partner candidates with printed homes, here two single mothers, one in a Mexican slum, the other in the US. Within a couple of years of their partnership, the women realised their dream of home ownership and can say they helped build it, each putting in the required 200 hours of sweat equity. The homes resist flooding, winds, and other cataclysmic weather events and there is no construction waste. It is a story that keeps getting better. We follow the women through the ups and downs of the dream; it’s not an easy couple of years for them, but they stay the course. It’s a deeply inspirational and important look at how we can live more humanely, from now on. A must-see. On TVOD now.
Kristi Jacobson’s chilling documentary concerning the Unite the Right white supremacist march on Charlottesville in 2017 brings to light more details about the secret national network that devolved into hatred, anti-semitic, violent racist ideology resulting in death, trauma, and four years later, the courts of law. No Accident profiles nine victims of the atrocity who brought a major civil suit against the perpetrators and the hate leaders who made it happen. No Accident dives into the white supremacist movement’s growth and names names, the social media platforms on which they plotted the event to the most violent to mundane detail, and the potential threat to safety and democracy such groups continue to represent. Leaders Richard Spencer and podcaster Christopher Cantwell show no remorse or guilt, only fury at being questioned in trial footage. The lawyers countered with far more than enough proof of their guilt from their social media, email, and text messages to one another and their followers. One of the plans was to drive a truck at top speed into a crowd of counter-protesters to do mass damage. Heather Heyer died when James Alex Fields Jr. ran over her; he was found guilty of 30 federal hate crimes and was sentenced to life plus 419 years. The overarching takeaway is that groups like this are increasing across the US, fueled in part by far-right politicians and the proven underlying fear that they and whites would be replaced by minorities. There is much to unpack here, and thanks to attorneys Roberta “Robbie” Kaplan and Karen Dunn we learn the where, what why, who, and when of this awful landmark event. HBO Crave.