By Anne Brodie
Tom Hanks says he’s bitterly disappointed that his new filmthe WWII thriller Greyhound, isn’t being held for release on the big screen. No wonder. Hanks, who wrote the screenplay, based on The Good Shepherd by C S Forester, stars as Captain Ernest Krause, in charge of a fleet of 37 international ships heading across the Atlantic to deliver supplies and manpower to Allied forces. The convoy is protected by air cover on both sides of the Atlantic but for a period, alone in the Black Pit. In that 50-hour space comes danger from Nazi submarines and U Boats and their torpedoes. Krause’ crisp, thoughtful manner belies his steel spine; he’s built trust with the soldiers, mostly just out of short pants, and keep his fears to himself; he’s haunted by blood in the water his missiles create, he’s working without food or sleep, his feet ache, his heart aches and he keeps going, inspiring his men. This is a role made for Hanks, a real-life hero cloaked in dignity and compassion. The action and effects as the soldiers fight to survive heavy German artillery in a stormy, roiling sea are shockingly realistic, but obviously diminished on a small screen, same with the music. It was made for a suitable big screen, not home. That pleasure lies in the future, I hope. Apple TV+
Charlize Theron leads an-ages old army of unkillable warriors battling through the centuries to right wrongs in The Old Guard now availableon Netflix. It’s surprisingly engaging and solid given the hokey storyline, bringing in the world history of war, government and corporate evil, and strong women who lead. Theron’s Andy is the eldest warrior, weary of the burdens of the past millennia but there is much left to do. She’s fought the Mongols, the Crusades, all wars and uprisings up to the US Civil War, then WWI, WWII and modern wars so justice prevails. She’s just returned from a year’s break to rejoin her team – Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli and a hungry young recruit played by Kiki Layne – and fight their next battles. But they are the prey as an evil big pharma magnate has discovered their identities and secret. He’s out to capture, test and monetise their genetic code to sell to create “a better world”. The action’s great, Theron is perfection and the historical backdrop is fascinating. But the main draws are its moments of reflection and the team’s steadfast adherence to doing the right thing – and of course, formidable female warriors.
Acorn TV’s excellent psychological thriller THE NEST gives surrogacy a badname.Awealthy couple, (Martin Compston and Sophie Rundle) live in luxury in a stunning glass lakeside home outside Glasgow, with everything except a baby. 18 years of trying and nothing so they look to find a mother to grow their last remaining embryo. A destitute teenager (Mirren Mack) offers to carry a child for them, moves in and enters a life that’s a far cry from her insecure world. All seems fine until they nearly suffocate her by their constant temperature taking and fussing. She’s dislikes the husband and his domineering ways, who’s charitable works seem to be compensating for something. Kaya promises not to keep the baby, but the husband and his father investigate her unsavory past and prepare for the worst. Small rifts appear in the seemingly perfect marriage over trust issues. Kaya’s former neighbour and lover is found dead, drowned in the River Clyde. Meanwhile, an ambitious newspaper reporter’s researching the husband’s finances and background and Kaya’s estranged mother (Shirley Henderson) shows up. There is plenty going on in this sophisticated melodrama and its complexity is delicious. Surrogates are not legal in the UKL so there is that too. Absolutely riveting stuff and Mack is on fire.
I hadn’t had the pleasure of reading or watching any adaptation of J. B. Priestley’s play, the thriller An Inspector Calls but BritBox has launched an excellent new film. The classic play first performed in the Soviet Union in 1945, is set in 1912 in the drawing room of a wealthy English Midlands factory owner. He and his wife (Ken Stott and Miranda Richardson) are outrageous snobs, classist and entitled, keen to maintain their control over the village and every other thing. They’re celebrating the daughter’s engagement to another snob, but during their polite “merriment”, an Inspector calls (David Thewlis). He asks about a woman who died of suicide that day (Sophie Rundle The Nest), believing members of the family know her. All say they don’t. But over the course of a shattering evening of revelations and accusations, the story shifts. Hypocrisy is laid bare and the crimes of pettiness, abuse and criminal neglect are committed, knowing one’s class is protection. It has much to tell us about our contemporary world, abusing power to deflect blame, the male patriarchy, and the curse of being rich – and poor. This story is thrilling under the direction of Aisling Walsh (Maudie), who brings cinematic quality akin to Downton Abbey and a sharp eye for human behaviour.
The life and times of Academy Award-winning actress Olympia Dukakis are highlighted in a new doc by Harry Mavromichalis simply called Olympia. The flamboyant, expressive and 110% outspoken Greek actor has enjoyed a rich life and career in theatre and film, but admits she’s struggled with age and ageism, depression, drug addiction and suicide. Now 80, her signature sunny spirit thrives; her outgoing personality has served her well, she began her own theater company as a working-class actor, explored the classics and the new, then added film and television to her palette. Her disarming candour and abundant energy drive the documentary, travelling to her mother’s home town in Greece and schools us in Greek mythology, gives TIFF bosses a tongue lashing for not showing her film Cloudburst, and tells us she was raised to think women were less but learned early she wasn’t. Friends Laura Linney, Diane Ladd, Whoopi Goldberg, and Austin Pendleton cite her spirit and talent. On VOD.
Relic from first time writer/director Natalie Erika James is an eerie psychological slow burn about three Australian women trapped in a shadowy house. Police call a woman (Emily Mortimer) to say her mother (Robyn Nevin) who lives alone in an isolated house in the woods, is missing. She and her daughter (Bella Heathcote) take the long journey from the city to find the house in an advanced state of decay. There’s a note advising “don’t follow it”, the boy next door won’t enter the house, which breathes and shakes. Mother is found, covered in bruises, and rejects their help. Sounds lead the younger women into the house’ walls, and they become aware of an evil presence lurking, enveloping them. And grandma’s flesh appears to be decaying right before their eyes. Are they next? An original story is welcome in the haunted house genre, the cinematic and storytelling qualities are cool, very much rooted to the ground and rising dampness as they battle for their lives. On VOD.
So, where’s Joey Pants? Well he may be in Italy is his film From the Vine is any indication. The Soprano’s Joey Pantoliano plays a Toronto law CEO who’s canned when he defies the status quo to push a green initiative, and runs away to Acerenza, a 2000-year-old village in Italy. He dumps his wife (Wendy Crewson), job and life because everything is out of balance. Sean Cisterna directs this whimsical, colourful and upbeat story of a man and his dream, with classic Italian comedic touches, like talking grape leaves advising him on things. His wife and daughter (Paula Brancati) are furious with him, for leaving but it’s no wonder the way they treat him and take him for granted. And Acerenza is a stunning place, lush and sunlit. He endeavors to reup his grandfather’s winery, the wife and daughter show up, ready to drag him back home. It’s a turning point, as their toxic selfishness finally becomes clear. He stands his ground and says he’s staying and invites them to exhale and stay too. No masterpiece but an ok light travelogue.
StudioCanal the world’s third-largest international film group is about to offer for streaming, 450 titles from its catalogue on all major transactional VOD platforms. The StudioCanal Collection owns 6,000 titles from 60 countries, spanning 100 years. The initial offering features popular classics Elephant Man, the Rambo trilogy, Basic Instinct, Bridget Jones and the latest 4K restored version of Apocalypse Now.
Also 300 French films will be available in Canada, including The Perfect Nanny, Someone Somewhere, Beauty of the Day, Blazing Sun, La Grande Vadrouille with films by François Ozon, Claude Sautet, Jacques Tati and Cédric Klapisch. More familiar titles include Terminator 2, Breathless, Mulholland Drive, The Pianist and Belle de jour, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Paddington 1 and 2, The Commuter and Shaun The Sheep Movie.