By Anne Brodie The Father has 20 wins and 119 nominations and finally, Canadian audiences can see this masterclass in acting. Anthony Hopkins and Oliva Colman lead a small tight-knit ensemble, as Hopkin’s character, Anthony, in the grips of Alzheimer’s struggles to keep control. His daughter Anne watches helplessly as he deteriorates, now fully aware of the extent of his disease. Anthony is strong-willed and increasingly disruptive, as he tries to hold on. It’s a battle he can’t win and his shock and frustration turn to rage at the slightest change in circumstances or his interpretation of them. He imagines Anne’s home is his, he accuses carers and family members of stealing, A crisis is upon them when Anne relays news that she’s found a man and she is moving to France and selling the home she had for 30 years. Anthony proclaims his love for his other unseen and long-dead “favourite” daughter. People arriving in his flat, Mark Gatiss, Imogene Poots and Rufus Sewell confound him. He says he’ll outlive all of them and tells them to leave and cries. Anne imagines strangling him and tells him he must stop or she will put him in a home. What can he stop? The Father is a deep and painful dive; he cries and calls for his mummy. As we live longer, dementia is likely to affect us all in some way, so it’s an uncomfortable reminder of fragility, mortality and how our last days will be lived. Superior performances span realism, imagination, disarray and stabbing pain as the floor falls out from under them. They’re locked in a couple of rooms, in a battle of wills and emotions, and the element of madness. Gorgeous operatic score. Directed by Florian Zeller, based on his play. In limited theatres now and TVOD next week including digital.tiff.net.
The wounds from Avengers: Infinity still feel fresh almost four years later. Endgame allowed us to re-imagine a broken world as surviving members tackled Thanos and his plan for utter annihilation. Well, the good guys are back in Disney+ new series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier April 2. Marvel‘s latest featuring Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson aka The Falcon, and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier, is an emotional experience. The tragedies of the past linger as these vastly different figures commit to saving the world. The LAF confronts The Falcon in an eye-popping battle sequence over Tunisia, a pulse pounder and Sam is the victor. Back in DC, he donates Captain America’s red, white and blue shield to the Smithsonian Institution to pay tribute to the heroes that died for peace. Meanwhile, Bucky, the Winter Soldier is in therapy for PTSD dogged by nightmares (an attack on the Capitol Building!), friendless (“I’ve been fighting for 90 years”) and won’t open up. Even so, he’s begun to make amends. Sam returns home to the family fishing business to find his sister struggling. In one stinging scene, a bank manager knows he’s The Falcon, a hero, but refuses to loan them money. The six-parter is heavily emotional, with the losses of the past, the mess of things and the toll on the heroes. Time to buck up because there is a new enemy coming – Baron Helmut Zemo, (Daniel Brühl) a Sokovian colonel-turned-terrorist who is obsessed with defeating the Avengers. That wonderful score, as familiar and comforting as ever, reminds us that good overcomes evil in the Marvel world if heroes can just endure.
Three Danish women of a certain age are at the end of their respective ropes during the Christmas holidays. Marie (Kirsten Olesen) follows her husband when he goes out on Christmas Eve and discovers him in flagrante with another woman. The youth-obsessed and promiscuous Berling (Stina Ekblad) is coming to realise that stilettos and behaving like a twenty-something isn’t her best look these days. Vanja (Kirsten Lehfeldt) still mourns the long-ago death of her partner to avoid social interaction. Marie’s situation inspires them shake off their torpor and have fun, so it’s off to Puglia for a cooking course. Barbara Topsøe-Rothenborg’s Food Club looks at their crises with kindness and gentle humour with the stern reminder to stop navel-gazing and live. Marie, for instance, thinks she can lure her husband back or seduce the guy who’s gravitated to Vanja, Berling bewails her children who resent that she served sushi not traditional family dinner Christmas Eve and cut her off. The three are fronting having a swell time, weep and fret in private, moan and complain but when they start to let go of their limitations, things get better. A good lesson for all of us. Food Club’s often charming, eye-opening and honest look at growing older, the meaning of friendship and striving to better our lives. Cute. TVOD.
The past comes back to haunt a contemporary police unit in Northern Ireland in the gripping series Bloodlands now on Acorn TV. The always interesting James Nesbitt, of the haunted look, plays detective Tom Brannick. A car’s discovered dumped in the sea but there’s no body; it’s registered to the notorious Pat Keenan, a senior member of the paramilitary IRA twenty years earlier during the bloodiest days before the peace agreement, now a businessman and possible crime lord. Brannick connects the discovery to the disappearance of his wife, an intelligence officer, and he’s thrown into the emotional deep end. Hers was one of many disappearances at that time, the work of a serial killer who knew police business, nicknamed “Goliath” who appears to be back. His chief tells him to “…leave it in the past. You’ll start a war”. Brannick can’t, he believes he might find his wife. First stop, a once-powerful IRA figure who says he gave a statement about the killings to the police 20 years ago but was rebuffed, the file is empty. Bannick’s new love interest may be tied to the case. to the Goliath case, the series is explosive, starts with a bang and holds its fire, a smart, solid and unnerving procedural stranger than fiction. And set in a place with three decades of religious, political and social upheaval, The Troubles, the ghosts of which apparently linger today.
Apple TV+‘s innovative thriller series Calls from director Fede Álvarez will chill you for days. Nine short stories are told via electronic devices, cell phones, CCTV and black boxes, without any person appearing. The visual element is electronic artwork designed to amplify and telegraph our emotional response to what is being said. It sounds odd, but its effective because we are watching on a new level, putting together signals not generally used for watching entertainment. It’s haunting and hung on me for days, and I dreamed about it, or in it or something. One episode that really struck me concerned a man driving to Phoenix from his home leaving behind his wife, he just had to clear his mind after a fight with his wife, he never wanted to have children and she is pregnant. He drives to the desert to clear his head but calls home. That day, she calls to ask why he’s been gone three days. Then his mother calls to say his wife is four months pregnant, he needs to come home. He calls back to say he’s returning but it’s the wrong number, his wife hasn’t lived there in a long time. A friend calls to say his wife divorced him years ago, and his baby boy is 12 years old. How can this be as it’s just a day or two since he left home? The anxiety, so high and the events, extraordinary. Hope that whenever I’m flying next, I can forget the one in the plane, for which the black box provides clues as to what caused the inevitable crash. A real twist on the comfy old mystery genre, a mind-expanding journey into new ways of experiencing entertainment. Stars, among others, Nic Braun, Lily Collins, Karen Gillan, Riley Keough, Ben Schwartz, Jennifer Tilley, Johnny Sneed, Aubrey Plaza, Clancy Brown, Rosario Dawson, Judy Greer, Danny Huston, Nic Jonas and Joey King.
The Stand available on Amazon Prime now, that’s the limited event series based on Stephen King’s vision of a man-made plague that envelops the world, a Biblical struggle of good versus evil and a small group of travellers who show us what happens. Remember Whoopi Goldberg’s white dreads on The View last year while she was shooting? Whoopi plays 108-year-old Mother Abigail, a religious leader tasked with keeping safe the world in its struggle to exist under that double whammy. Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård), the Dark Man is the wicked personification of the evil laying into humanity. Hamish Linklater is a compromised scientist who races against time to identify and eradicate the worldwide virus, which he realises is unlikely. Residents in a small town in Maine are wiped out, but two high schoolers race away to drive to a monastery they saw in their dreams, through Mother Abigail. They see a lot on the way, lost children, bodies, mass pits, signs of Satan, rising hysteria. Somehow this isn’t really what I want to watch in the throes of COVID 19, especially as it’s not a great adaptation. The cast includes Heather Graham, Greg Kinnear, Irene Bedard, James Marsden, Olivia Cheng and Ezra Miller. Shot in Vancouver.
Doors, an intriguing sci-fi feature about another kind of virus, seems not altogether unfamiliar, because of our experiences with the worldwide COVID pandemic. Here, a deadly disaster has befallen Earth. Millions of alien objects appear suddenly, big, lava-like but upstanding structures; they are portals out of the world. We don’t know where they go because we don’t see their victims after they’re Doored. Co-writer and director Jeff Desom sets them as puzzling, fearsome entities, enemies capable of great harm. A naked man walks into the woods at night. A school in lockdown is decimated when pupils are swallowed up, and helicopters, sirens, emergency measures can’t help. the botanical objects seduce or grab their victims and some rush into them. Scientists enter a home that appears to be holding Doors, that play tricks. Rooms are loops, odd images appear, a “metaphysical girl” may be a brain aberration. A scientist is in the woods, preparing to “meet” the aliens his calm manner draws them to him, but he’s not hurt. colleagues come by who aren’t so lucky. Jamal’s disarming curiosity wins the Doors’ over. They relay that they aren’t there to kill, they are “arbiters for existence” and they’ve been misunderstood, then come the missiles. Doors is one freaky and exhilarating experience, the three chapters set the stage for understanding but as usual, the humans stomp all over things they don’t understand. This is a movie about compassion if you ask me. Stars Kyp Malone, Jordan Rock, Lina Esco, Wilson Bethel and Josh Peck. TVOD.
The dark British family comedy Breeders returns for a second season on FX, and it’s five years on. Paul (Martin Freeman also the show creator)and Alley (Daisy Haggard) are undergoing in-vitro fertilisation (Paul has “super strong sperm”) in hopes of a third child, considering moving to a bigger home and dealing with the revelation that Ally had a physical connection with a man. Their son is in the age bracket of rebellion and refusal, quitting school because of an embarrassing panic attack while their young daughter maintains her equanimity while silently judging everyone. Piling onto their problems is that his parents are being forced out of their home of 45 years (since Bobby Darin died) to make way for development, and her mum announces she’s marrying a man she’s only just met. The dark undertone of this crisis is ever-present, Paul’s increasingly angry, Ally’s guilty and sad, but there’s still much to laugh about. And much to recognise. Paul’s shouting and swearing is the series’ new soundtrack and he adds it’s about loving one’s children but also wanting to kill them.
A sun-saturated, tropical island paradise is the setting for a family-friendly film about a girl, her dolphin and her grandpa. Dolphin Island, shot in the Bahamas finds 14-year-old Annabelle (Tyler Jade Nixon) and her doting grandfather Jonah (Peter Woodward, Edward’s son!) living on a fishing boat in the conservation area her parents built. They were killed in a freak accident 10 years earlier, and Jonah left his position at Cambridge University to care for her. Their lives are peaceful and fun, with hard work harvesting and selling seafood, school, friends, play, sun and a loving community. There’s a fella Annabelle likes (Aaron Borrow) and grandpa also has a potential romance in the air. The idyll is shattered when a shark-like, morally bankrupt lawyer shows up, determined to win her custody for his New York clients, her other grandparents, or ruin Jonah. High drama and tension abound, as the Manhattanites close in waving money in all directions. Is it down to Mitzy the Dolphin save the day? Directed by Mike Disa, who co-wrote with Shaked Berenson, and starring Bob Bledsoe, Aaron Burrows and Annette Lovrien Duncan. It’s an eyeful and appropriate for older kids and teens. TVOD Apple and DVD. Or watch here: https://dolphinislandmovie.com/watch-now/
I haven’t seen it yet but want to direct your attention to a documentary now on Netflix, Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal, an investigation into the case that sent Hollywood stars Lori Lochlin and Felicity Huffman to prison along with other insiders and wealthy white scofflaws. They paid for their underachieving children to get into prestigious universities calling their bribes “donations”. Middle man Rick Singer directed wealthy, anxious parents through the process using what he called “side doors” which involved university staff and made a bundle. The “side door” practice was proven to be widespread, Synder boasting he helped more than 700 families in a single year. FBI wiretaps, archival footage, interviews and some re-enactments are used.
If you’re a big fan of British police procedurals, New Tricks is at the top of your list near MI5. BritBox now has Series 7 – 12. The beauty of this series is that greybeards, veteran detectives, are called back to work on cold cases, some of which they covered. The characters, three men (Dennis Waterman, Alun Armstrong, Dennis Lawson, James Bolan depending on which year) and their female boss (Amanda Redman) are distinct and unique and have histories; they are some of the best-developed, richest characters on TV; we know how they’ll respond to things based on their experiences and status. It’s a new era in London policing, politically correct and “touchy-feely” to use a character’s words, which brings out new responsibilities to each day’s work. They are as interesting as the cold cases they examine. Top-notch!! BritBox is also available on Amazon Prime Video.