By Anne Brodie
Can you believe it’s 36 years later? Top Gun: Maverick finds Tom Cruise as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, older, wiser, and jobless, a washed-up star jet fighter test pilot. Out of the blue, he’s called back to service, to the annoyance of Jon Hamm’s Admiral Simpson, saved by “Ice” his old friend (Val Kilmer) who still has faith in Maverick’s usefulness to the flying Navy. Maverick’s tasked with training elite young pilots to destroy a uranium cache hidden in a mountainous region of some snowy place, unnamed enemy territory. Shot in Lake Tahoe, California, looks like Canada, It’s a treacherous mission; they must fly below radar through a long narrow, twisting canyon, bomb the stockpile, pull up and scale a sheer cliff face and fly off, artillery aimed at them the whole time and in excruciating pain due to the physiological problems of flying Mach 10 or 7,673 miles per hour. And just two weeks to prepare. Personnel problems, the brass breathing down Maverick’s neck complicate as they train. Alarming scenes of flying so fast it beggars the imagination, pilot faces contorted and lungs collapsing, fires, and an actual F-18 “fight” between ‘Rooster’ (Miles Teller) and Maverick. Big memories as we gaze on faces from the past on the bar walls as 80’s music takes us immediately to the fun shock of Top Gun 1986. Maverick is similarly subtle as a hammer, deep as nickel, a portrait of a certain kind of masculinity, crammed with fun “thrill rides” and finally grounded by Cruise’ solid, mature performance. It’s familiar territory and really fun to revisit without saccharin and come away heart warmed. Oh, and Maverick has new shot at an old love (Jennifer Connelly). Ok so why the nicknames? Is it a military thing? Rooster, Hondo, Warlock, Cyclone, Coyote, Phoenix, Payback, Fanboy, Hangman, Warlock and many more. Prepare for thrilling earth and eardrum-shattering sound! In theatres, obvs.
What fans appreciate about Ricky Gervais is that he just doesn’t care. He’d word it differently but he has a lot to say, he DOES care – and he’ll parse his concerns down to their truest essence and have at it, damn the torpedos. Ricky Gervais: SuperNature is his second special for Netflix we will get to that, but first, his acid pre-pandemic special Humanity is also on the service. He hits nails on the head, post- his landmark, righteous Golden Globes slam as host, slamming kids, (doesn’t have, doesn’t want), dead babies, relating to “ordinary scum”, flying private, his own poverty and wealth, his dislike to people with food allergies, the state of his testicles, you get the drift. He’s so mean, so wrong, so hilarious, and doesn’t care if he offends speaking his truths. And now, Ricky Gervais: SuperNature. Four years later and he’s wearing the same outfit. I didn’t know Gervais’ roots are in southwest Ontario. His father Lawrence Raymond “Jerry” Gervais was a Franco-Ontarian of French Canadian and Iroquois heritage who settled in Reading England with his British wife and had four sons. Gervais, the mighty Teflon comic, is experiencing major backlash for trans jokes in Supernature. He begins with the message that we laugh at the wrong thing because we know the right thing, hits old-fashioned sexual tropes, dead baby in its tiny coffin, cancel culture, can’t say ought, beating down metaphorically or in reality, what’s the difference? pronouns, and unfortunate remarks I won’t repeat. He still makes light of his status as wealthy “I’m a multisexual millionaire” and where Rosa Parks fought for the right to sit on a bus, he fights for the right never to have to take a seat on a bus. “I’m rich”. This second special will inflame but it’s not new. Gervais made his reputation by saying the things that can’t be said. Supernature is because “nature is super. There are gems- “The chances of you existing now are 400 trillion to one. Life is a holiday. We didn’t exist for trillions of years and we are given these few decades then disappear forever”. He takes on Tweeters, his atheism, how we waste life worrying, cats as psychopaths, generously peppered with words we can’t say. He’s funny, if you grant that he will say the things that can’t be said. Gervais’ response to the backlash “Humour gets us over the bad stuff. That’s why I laugh about terrifying bad things. You know, that’s why comedians are obsessed with death because, you know, it gets us through . . . it’s an inoculation to the real things that are going to happen.” Netflix will release Gervais’ next special Armageddon.
Benediction, Terence Davies’ elegant biography of World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon, starring Jack Lowden as a young man and soldier, and Peter Capaldi as the embittered old man weaves the story of his life in classic style. Beginning with archival war footage, underlining Sassoon’s severe PTSD, his poetry, and expressing and defining his awful experiences and lifelong effects, it takes him through radical personal choices he made throughout his remarkable life. Gay but married to a woman he barely knew, an atheist who converted to Roman Catholicism in old age, he was a man whose later life bore no resemblance to its start, a pacifist defeated by memories and participation in the war. Davies tells the tale at his leisure, providing space for thought and poetry, in a dour and tragic tale. Fascinating poets and artists’ circle of the early days of the last century include Wilfred Owen, Stephen Tennant, Edith Sitwell, Lady Ottoline, Rex Whistler, and Hollywood star Ivor Novello. TIFF Bell Lightbox
Range Roads is a dour tale of an actress and her brother who live in two vastly different worlds grudgingly reunited when their parents are killed in a crash. It wasn’t made for your comfort. It’s biting, bitter and it takes its sweet time following Frankie King (Alana Hawley Purvis) as she’s pulled from a film set to return to rural Alberta for the funeral. She’s been estranged from her family for twenty years; it’s serious. She packs her bags in her white angular glass condo, just like the fishbowl in which her fish lives a lonely life. Frankie doesn’t tell her brother Grayson she’s coming and is surprised to see her on the street, he tells her she’s getting old and her eggs are probably all gone; she keeps her peace. He’s religious, observant, conservative, a family man, and a farmer like the rest of the community. Frankie’s an actor and free thinker and doesn’t belong here and she’s annoyed when fans recognise her. They go to the reading of the will and everything goes to Grayson. Frankie keeps her cool. After all, she hasn’t been in touch with them in two decades. Frankie makes an earth-shattering discovery about her family, and their uneasy alliance in clearing the house, arranging the funeral, and simply together beginning to warm those frozen emotions. It’s an unusual and mostly interior journey about redemption that is well-acted and finally offers hope. TVOD May 31.
If you were in LA in the 80s and nineties, chances are you saw Angelyne posing seductively on billboards and on high-rise walls across the city. Drenched in pinkness, in dark sunglasses and impossibly full curly Barbie-esque hair, she was all there to be seen, yet unknown. Emmy Rossum dons an enormous prosthetic chest and that hair and ages from 20 something to 60 something in Angelyne, a surreal limited series debuting June 1 on Showcase and on STACKTV. Despite her sexualized image, Angelyne was sure of herself, manipulative in relations and business, (one and the same to her), a dark feminist and possible sociopath who appears to feel nothing for those who made her career, the band Baby Blue that gave her that first showcase, the man (Martin Freeman) who paid for hundreds of billboards for her over the years, and the fact that she had no female friends. She wanted a pink classic Corvette, she wheedled until she got one and left the gifter in the dust. Angelyne described herself – “I’m a Rorschach test in pink, an innocent little doll or whore or porn star. People see what they see” and of course, she’s right – and her image crafted accordingly. Bad reviews didn’t bother her – if people were talking about her. She dabbled in blood rituals, had an altar to Marilyn Monroe, and never smoked, drank or used drugs. She was wily, outrageous, and never asked permission, and lived out the life she envisioned as good. Fabulously inventive flights of fancy show different sides; she and Freeman’s benefactor drive her pink Caddy through pink clouds high above Los Angeles at night, and more, which kind of removes the bad taste of her choices, at least temporarily. The “actor, model, and singer” had dreams like the rest of us, and through cunning, fast talk, and no-touch sexuality as a business tool, she pursued them. Rossum is full-on Angelyne through the decades, physically unrecognizable, spirited, precise, mimicking that high-pitched baby talk that distracts from her steely true self.
Danny Boyle’s FX limited series Pistol on Disney+ (let that sink in) is a treat for anyone who lived through the punk era. The Sex Pistols, a band of anarchists in London shocked and thrilled Brits with its never before seen celebration of music and chaos. Steve Jones (Toby Wallace), a charismatic, out-of-control guitarist (who learned to play in five days under pressure when he bombed as a singer) was the brains of the operation and a lifelong criminal thanks to extreme abuse by his mother and stepfather. Jones comes across as heroic- the series is based on his memoir Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol and the band’s driving force, even though replacement singer Johnny Rotten (Anson Boon )is the face of the Pistols. The band lept to notoriety under the mentorship of iconoclast Malcolm McLaren (Thomas Brodie-Sangster )and Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley ), gained global fans with their angry anti-social sentiments but flamed out a little more than two years later. And what a story. The Bromley names appear – Jordan, Nancy Spungeon, Paul Cook, Glenn Matlock, Siouxsie Sioux, Chrissie Hynde, Billy Idol, Berlin Bromley, and the music movers and shakers who tried to catch their lighting. This highly entertaining 6-parter is messy, fun, outrageous, crammed with great music, and boasts veteran actors as the band. May 31.
Canadian director Kevin Hegge’s doc Tramps! makes its North American premiere at Inside Out on May 31st and will then be available for streaming on the dedicated website. London’s post-punk era took the opposite direction and the kids went for a highly decorative, fun, sexualized lifestyle and became known as the New Romantics. The short-lived punk movement gave way to club kids in fancy dress, dance that married ballet, electronica, runway style and abstract movement, big dramatic sound, and art as major influences. London in the 80s was a hotbed of artistic expression, with a strong queer vibe, artworks as dress, and more than its fair share of colourful characters. Hegge interviews surviving members of the scene whose names aren’t well known here except for John Maybury and Derek Jarman, on the movement that inspired Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Marilyn, and Boy George. He appears in the doc as a young performance artist, model, and aspiring singer who worked in cloakrooms in order to steal from purses. The New Romantics loved a bit of makeup, extravagant gender-fluid presentation, and outfits with holes to expose the rear end and breasts, made from new-fangled lycra, it was no holds barred, larger than life and eminently youthful. Sadly the New Romantic era was cut short by overdoses and AIDS, ending a social era unique to London.
Niv Sultan, who returns as Mossad hacker-agent Tamar Rabinyan in Season 2 of Apple TV+‘s intense espionage series Tehran is the definition of heroism. Her lightning-quick, strategic thinking, and incredible ability to lead multiple lives have made her a star in Israeli intelligence and defence. At the end of Season One, Tamar infiltrated an Iranian nuclear plant in Tehran – where she was born – to destroy its reactor. It didn’t work and she was forced to retain her cover life even as she plans her escape to Vancouver with her lover, Iranian pro-democracy activist Milad (Shervin Alenabi). Shaun Toub returns as Faraz Kamali, a fascinating character, a frenemy, a veteran spy and devious as it comes. One of her trusted colleagues is imprisoned and she delivers clothes to him with a cyanide pill and a coded message sewn into the hem. He’s rushed to hospital but somehow, en route, he’s switched out for another person. And what mysterious figure shows up after the public hanging of six enemies of the state? Glenn Close! as Marjan Montazeri, a shadowy (if kind of glossy) figure to help Tamar, who has serious doubts about her line of work despite her success and stats within the Mossad. Gripping and complex, it requires full attention and perhaps a Venn chart to keep track of the characters, assumed identities, politics, loyalties, and trickery. What a ride!
Strawberry Mansion from Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney is a trip – an acid trip. James, a tax auditor in a worn business suit and cap collapses in pain in an all-pink kitchen, only to revive when his friend shows up with a branded bucket of chicken and a giant branded cola bottle. He appears at the door of Bella (Penny Fuller), who’s 110% off-grid, to audit her possessions. There are no tax files on her and it’s 2035 – she owes money on regular taxes and dreams, which are also taxed and come with commercials. She also owns thousands of illegal VHS tapes; Bella’s all analog and made a product placement and commercial blocker from odds and ends to be worn on the head at night, to sleep and trip up the taxman. James must complete the audit despite distractions, Bella’s seductiveness, a frog waiter, wolfmen, rat sailors (Marcus and Richard), men made of grass, a horned monster who kneels to say his prayers at night, dolphins in the sky, and plenty of wonderful whimsies. “I turned myself into a caterpillar and crossed the ocean then crawled over the desert for decades and the snowstorm that lasted centuries. Then my body started coming back to me”. I mean, come on, that’s entertaining! But harsh reality intrudes with the arrival of Bella’s abusive grown son (Reed Birney), James’ impossible love for young Bella (Grace Glowicki) who he met in his dreams. Strawberry Mansion is the wacked-out entertainment we all need now. TVOD, DVD and Blu-ray May 31 **