Movies at a Glance & New DVDs



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2040 (1hr 32min) *** ½  A strong contender for Best Documentary at all future Award ceremonies, the Australian documentary compares 2019 with what could happen in 2040 with climate change if we reverse the effects of today’s rapidly deteriorating environment. Brilliantly produced, directed, written and starring former actor, Damon Gameau, the film follows his highly optimistic imagining of the future for 4 year old daughter Velvet, comparing what effects of today can be reversed by the time she is 25. At present, predictions are almost entirely negative. “My plan is to go out and find solutions and then create a vision of a different future.” The technologies are actually all available now, like solar energy. In Bangladesh, villagers in shacks are transforming their daily lives, sharing solar energy by donating or selling excessive solar output in micro-grids of electricity linking home to home, thus making large-scale government power infrastructure unnecessary and expensive. The documentary includes fascinating interviews with ecologically minded international experts while innumerable schoolchildren express future wishes for their generation long after we’ve gone. (VOD / Digital)
AFTER LIFE  Season 2  limited series *** ½  Multi Award winning English writer, director, actor and producer Ricky Gervais became successful by co-creating, the BBC mock-documentary 2001 sitcom The Office.  He is now the creator, executive producer, director, and writer for the British black comedy-drama series After Life, where he plays Tony Johnson, the dour, depressed, suicidal head of “Feature Stories” at the failing local newspaper The Tambury Gazette. In the two seasons of 6 half-hour episodes, mourning Tony tries to adapt to a normal life on the death from breast cancer of his beloved wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman). Tony doesn’t care whether he lives or dies and so he says and does anything he wants while everyone around him accepts that and attempts to make him a happier person. A variety of strange characters intermingle in his daily life and they are brilliant. It’s a funny oh-so-British dramady with entertaining oddball characters and sharp, clever, controversial dialogue which is typically Gervais (he hosted last year’s Oscars). It’s a must-see. Give it a try. (Netflix)  Confirmation: There will be a 3rd Season.
AMERICAN WOMAN (1hr 25min) ** “This is a work of fiction inspired by actual events.” Remember the Patty Hearst kidnapping in 1974 by the left-wing urban guerrilla group Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA)?  After two months she apparently adopted the ideology of her kidnappers and joined their revolutionary cell.  This film takes place after the kidnapping as told by Asian American radical Jenny Shimada (Hong Chau), a fictionalized Wendy Yoshimura. Anti-Vietnam war protester Jenny was offered a book deal to write about the final three radicals in hiding from the FBI following the bank robbery in which Hearst participated.  Jenny’s job was to take care of the three revolutionaries: violent, domineering Juan (John Gallagher), his partner Yvonne (Lola Kirk) – based on Bill and Emily Harris - and indoctrinated Pauline (Sarah Gadon) – Hearst .The 18 months seen here involve a lot of sitting and talking in a secluded home in upstate New York. The low-key story and the under-developed characters become monotonous, although the performances are strong and the script actionless.  (EST/VOD).  
BECOMING (1hr 29min) ** ½ The well-meaning documentary is partially based on the bestselling memoir of former First Lady, Michelle Obama, by director Nadira Hallgren based on the 36-city book tour with footage from her talk shows and behind the scenes life before and after the White House. Over photos and video clips, Michelle introduces her family and her early days including high school where her guidance counselor didn’t think she was smart enough to go to Princeton U, which she did and on to Harvard Law School and as a lawyer for the law firm of Sidley Austin. On her first date with Barack, she describes the amusing (“he was late!”), and I wish there had been similar revealing stories.  That led to their 8 years in the White House with their two daughters, and now to her passion of talking with young people and women of colour “This is totally me, unplugged for the first time.” These are the weakest sequences in an otherwise vastly entertaining mini-biography of “the most popular woman in the world.”  (Netflix)
BEN PLATT: LIVE FROM RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL (1hr 25 min) ***  Ben Platt is an American actor, singer, songwriter who started his theatrical career when a child and has since appeared on Broadway in The Music Man, The Book of Mormon and Dear Evan Hansen for which Platt won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.  Last year his debut album Sing to Me Instead was released and now the Radio City event, the last on his tour, was sold out. Platt has an enthusiastic fan base, judging by the loud singalongs, standing ovations and tumultuous applause.  The Special is a must see for anyone with an ear for contemporary ballads. Charismatic Platt is forth-coming and candid with very personal stories starting with his Jewish childhood and the anxiety of coming out at 12, being rejected by a boy in Tel Aviv and, since then, other men. “This year is the first time I’ve gotten to come up on stage as myself, and be myself.” (Netflix)
DA 5 BLOODS (2hrs 36min) ** ½  Producer/director Spike Lee’s latest is a for the moment film with its rallying cry Black Lives Matter, and its appeal for black audiences. Four 60 year-plus, argumentative African American army veterans, Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr) and Eddie (Norm Lewis), calling themselves Da Bloods, return to Vietnam on a personal mission to discover what happened to their beloved squad leader Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman), killed in 1971, and to retrieve a secret cache of US gold bars they found in a burnt out plane and buried in the jungle (“We repossess this gold for every single black boot that never made it home”). Tagging along on their trip is widower Paul’s estranged adult son David (Jonathan Majors). Lee has added subtitles of the dialogue which may otherwise be difficult for some moviegoers, and when he goes backwards and forwards in time, the lead performers remain at their present age. Historical clips of speeches by Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Mohanned Ali and other human rights activists are included. Although it has interesting sequences, it is uneven and stretched too thinly. I had high expectations and overall was disappointed. (Netflix) 
EXIT PLAN  formerly SUICIDE TOURIST (1hr 25min)  * ½ This will be a disappointment for Nickolaj Coster-Waldau fans who know him as Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones.  Here he plays insurance claims investigator Max who has a brain tumour which cannot be surgically removed and anyway it would be too dangerous. His wife Laerke (Tuva Novotny) has noticed his depression, a speech disorder and that he has been shutting her out. He has contemplated suicide by hanging and drowning but failed in both attempts while having second thoughts. He hasn’t been able to inform his wife of the diagnosis. In his research for a client who claims her husband informed her that he was at the remote mountain facility of the Hotel Aurora which specializes in elaborate planned and supervised assisted suicide of troubled people, she can’t collect insurance till he is proved dead, Max decides to check it out by feigning a desire to commit suicide. Once his request is approved though, there is no turning back and “you’ll be shot if you try to escape.” He agrees but will he have second thoughts as before? (VOD / DIGITAL)
FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS (1hr 52min) *** This is based on the true story of 10 fishermen friends from Port Isaac in Cornwall who sang sea shanties as an amateur group, and eventually were signed to a major label to record an album which surprisingly made the UK Top 10 and has become UK’s biggest traditional folk album of all time!. Record executive yuppies from London duped gullible Danny (Daniel Mays) into believing record company boss Troy (Noel Clarke) was interested in him contracting the “buoy band with a combined age of 653” to a one million pound album contract. In the process Danny meets single mom Alwyn (Tuppence Middleton), working in the pub for her father Jim (James Purefoy) The feel-good, often corny but heartfelt, old fashioned movie has a lot of warmth and down-to-earth humour as Danny became accustomed to the fisherfolk in their tight-knit community pub, but that’s up for sale and Danny mistakenly became involved Then Danny discovered his buddies were joking about a recording contract and how can he break that to his newly found loyal friends?  This should please lovers of low-key British humour. (VOD)      
GARTH BROOKS: THE ROAD I’M ON.**** Recommended.  Parts 1 & 2  Biography.  His personal life story is told by Garth in close-ups on camera, interspersed with photos and videos, and comments from celebrities, business partners and family.  In 1986 Garth married his high school sweetheart Sandy Mahl with whom he had three daughters before their divorce. In 2000 he gave up his lucrative career in order to share responsibilities bringing up their children. His band played in local clubs and saloons and lived penniless in one house which contained five guys, two women, one infant, a dog and cat. A chance fill-in at a 1988 concert attended by record officials landed him a contract with Capitol records and performance at the Grand Ole Opry. Garth’s explosive, energetic stage performances were influenced by pop stars like Mick Jagger. “I don’t want to be a human jukebox. I want to entertain.” He is the Best Selling Singles Artist in the US, outselling Elvis and Michael Jackson, and, with.album sales of over 148 million, he is second only to the Beatles, and he has received every accolade the music industry can bestow on an artist. (Netflix)
HAMMER (1hr 21min) ** ½  I don’t know why this was the title but I do know that this is a modest Canadian thriller from writer-director Christian Sparkes involving a father and eldest son, involved in a botched drug deal. Set in Ontario, retired teacher Stephen Davis (always reliable Will Patton) and wife Karen (Vickie Papavs) live a quiet, simple life in the countryside with their younger son Jeremy (Connor Price). Their estranged older son Chris (Mark Obrien) was told to live by family rules or get out, which he did. When Will sees Chris speed through a red light, he follows him and discovers blooded Chris is on the run following a botched drug deal, having left his seriously wounded girlfriend Lori (Dayle McLeod) with two duffel bags of cash in a cornfield. His former partner Adams (Ben Cotton) was wounded by Lori and so he has takes Jimmy as a hostage, demanding the return of the money. In a chance to reconcile with Chris, how far will a desperate father go to protect his sons and does he take the blame for their estrangement on himself?   (Available digitally). .
HOLLYWOOD  Limited Series (7 episodes, each 45 minutes) ***  What an interesting concept on 1940s Golden Age of Hollywood, blending fact and fiction and spotlighting specific personalities in each episode. Most characters are fictional while others are real-life, such as Rock Hudson, Chinese star Anna May Wong, renowned agent Henry Willson, director George Cukor, GWTW star Vivien Leigh, Production Head Dick Samuels, and first black Oscar winner, Hattie McDaniel. A group of non-professionals dream to make it big in their chosen fields of performing, screenwriting and direction,  At the Golden Tip Gas Service Station, the congenial owner hired attractive young men to work for him, using his business also as a high end brothel especially for wealthy straights and gays, the latter including Rock Hudson. Main fictional characters are handsome Jack (David Corenswwet) and black Camille (laura Harrier), wannabe movie stars, black gay writer Archie (Jeremy Pope), and half-Asian budding director Chris (Raymond Ainsley). Predatory gay agent Willson (superb Jim Parsons) is naïve Rock Hudson’s (Jake Picking) cruel Svengali. Fascinating especially for those who remember the 40s! (Netflix)
INHERITANCE (1hr 51min) *** What an engrossing little thriller this is and it builds towards a justified and satisfactory ending.  Opening in NYC in 2008, the ultra wealthy Monroe family lived in a luxurious mansion and had powerful political clout. When patriarch Archer Monroe (Patrick Warburton) died in a car accident, and in his will he  bequeathed to his wife Catherine (Connie Neilson) sole control of the family estate, to congressman son William (Chase Crawford) $20 million and to Lauren (Lily Collins) $1 million. In addition his personal lawyer Harold (Michael Beach) gave Lauren a a key to a concealed bunker in the woods and a thumb drive with further information.  On opening the bunker, a long passageway led to a dark room and a dishevelld man (unrecognizable Simon Pegg) who had been kidnapped, chained and manacled by Archer for 30 years. On each visit to him, Lauren is shocked to discover he knows all the darkest secrets of the Monroe family, including Archer’s mistress (Christine DeRosa) who acknowledges his relationship. But is this man who he says he is and what would happen if she freed him?   (EST and VOD, DVD and Blu-ray)
IT MUST BE HEAVEN (1hr 37min) ** ½ Palestinian-Israeli Film Producer, Director, Writer, Narrator and Actor Elia Suleiman’s cinematic style is full of visual gags, comparable to Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati and Charlie Chaplin.  In this almost silent comedy, he plays himself, be-speckled hat-wearing ES, leaving Palestine to find somewhere new, only to find that, be it Paris or New York, he is reminded of Palestine. As he states: “If my previous films tried to present Palestine as a microcosm of the world, my new film…tries to show the world as if it were a microcosm of Palestine.” Although he is in every scene, he speaks only four words and that is when he is asked by a New York taxi driver where he is from. “Nazareth,” ….“I am Palestinian.” Otherwise throughout the film we observe from his doleful eyes life as it passes by.  The photography by Sofian El Fani is gorgeous, truly picture perfect. There are numerous small vignettes, highly reminiscent of the Keaton silent film era. Absurdist vignettes are implemented with long takes. The appeal is to Art house audiences.  (VOD)  
JEFFREY EPSTEIN: FILTHY RICH  *** Limited Series.. Documentary. The core of these four episodes is the testimony of several of Epstein’s survivors who as teenagers were paid $200 to “massage” him, leading to fondling and rape. Recommending other girls would bring a further $200 per person.. Intelligent and ambitious, he impressed Alan Greenburg of Bear Stearns, who made him an assistant to a floor trader, progressing to options trader, advising the bank’s wealthiest clients on tax strategies, and then a limited partner. He founded his own consulting firm assisting clients in recovering stolen money from fraudulent brokers and lawyers, and his wealth increased immensely. He owned luxurious homes in Palm Beach in Florida, New York, New Mexico, Paris and his own private orgy island, Little St. James in the US Virgin Islands where he based his company on St. Thomas, reducing federal income taxes by 90%!  In 2008 he was convicted of procuring for prostitution an underage girl, sentenced to 18 months in prison, but with his influence made a sweet deal.  On July 6, 2019, Epstein was arrested again on sex trafficking charges and his Manhattan townhouse revealed evidence of trafficking and thousands of underage photos. This time death would be the only escape. (Netflix)
JERRY SEINFELD: 23 HOURS TO KILL (1hr) *** (Stand Up Special) This is the show every Seinfeld fan has been waiting for and from the reaction of his audience to every single word of his observational stand-up comedy special and his take on everyday life, it is perfect … and without the use of profanity and Trump jokes!  Opening with a James Bond plunge from a helicopter into the Hudson River to get to the theatre, for an hour he effortlessly covers a multitude of subjects starting with this ”Hyped up not necessary special event put together so we could kill some time,” and our addiction to texting; our reliance on cell phones; “sucks” and “great” are closely related (e.g. ice cream falls off a cone onto the ground and that sucks, but you say “Great!”); gluttony in buffets, especially from those struggling with “portion control;” gaps under toilet cubicle doors; hotdogs at baseball games; ending with relationships between husbands and wives and arguments about “the tone of my voice, I thought it was a marriage, apparently it’s a musical!” and  “What else is annoying in the world except everything?” For all Seinfeld fans, this is a must see. (Netflix)
JUDY AND PUNCH (1hr 45min) *** ½  Guilty pleasure! I really enjoyed this unusual black comedy drama from Australia, set in a fictitious countryside village in medieval England. Judy (Mia Wasikowska) and husband Punch (Damon Herriman) were puppeteers performing for the dim-witted locals. They lived in a cottage with their baby daughter and a simple-minded elderly couple, babysitters when they were performing. Judy was aware that Punch was an alcoholic and that their comedy show was becoming excessively “punchy and smashy.” When Judy was out, Punch accidentally threw the crying child out of the window. Judy was heartbroken and Punch retaliated by beating her savagely and, fearing he had killed her, hid her body in the woods.  She was found and nursed back to health by a band of “outcasts.” Punch blamed the deaths on the elderly couple, insisting they should be hanged immediately. On that day, Judy and the outcasts took revenge on Punch and his career forever … and it is chillingly brilliant.  (VOD / EST) 
MR. JONES (1hr 59min) ***  This is the biography of idealistic Gareth Jones (1905-1935), legendary Welsh journalist who, despite existence in Britain and Russia, would not be dissuaded from revealing the truth about Joseph Stalin’s Holodomer, the genocidal famine in 1932-33 imposed by Soviet Russia on Ukraine which resulting in the starvation of millions which Soviet minister Litvinov referred to as “food difficulties.”
Jones (James Norton) was the Foreign Affairs advisor to Prime Minister Lloyd George (Kenneth Cranham) and had approved permission to travel to Russia. Reporting in Moscow to New York Times writer Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard), Jones, having previously interviewed Adolf Hitler, wanted to meet Stalin to discuss his economic expansion and development plan.  Followed everywhere, he managed to escape from the train into frozen Ukraine where he witnessed, wrote and photographed the systematic starvation to death of the population. In Moscow, the Soviets held hostage 6 British engineers for espionage and allowed Jones to return home only if he reported “There is no man made famine.”  George Orwell’s Animal Farm is based on Jones’ findings. (EST / VOD)      
NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS. (1hr 35min) *** ½ What an absolute gem from screenwriter, producer and director Eliza Hittman this is!  It’s the simple uncomplicated story of two teenage close cousins, journeying from Pennsylvania to New York City for an abortion. The dialogue is sparse but the outstanding debut performances of Sidney Flanagan as moody loner Autumn and Talia Ryder as supportive Skylar, speak volumes. At a small town high school’s talent show, teenager Autumn is singing when a boy yells out “slut!” In her bedroom she checks out the bump on her stomach and is distraught. Being in Pennsylvania, Autumn would require parental permission for an abortion, so she has to book an operation secretly in New York City. They steal enough money to cover the abortion and transportation and catch a bus where friendly Jasper (Theodore Pellerin) chats them up, giving Skylar his phone number. At the Brooklyn clinic, their planned brief stay is lengthened by the pregnancy being further along than anticipated, which meant staying two days without money for accommodation and food.  Although bleak, this is an extraordinarily honest and emotional film with wonderfully natural performances. (VOD)
THE OLD GUARD  (2hrs 4min) ** The dull, boring and weak offering from Netflix has DC Comics writer Greg Rucka responsible for the clunky soap-opera dialogue. A band of four Immortal warriors have lived and fought through centuries of history:  Charliize Theron plays Andy who, 6000 years ago, was Andromache of Scythia, Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), surprise lovers Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli). Sadistic pharmaceutical company CEO Merrick (Harry Melling) persuades ex-CIA agent Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to entice the four into a trap in South Sudan, when he wants  to take the DNA from each of the immortals for his own personal purpose. The 5th and newest Immortal is Nile (KiKi Layne), an American combat marine in Afghanistan, who gets killed by an insurgent but miraculously recovers. The characters all get a chance to explain their long history, but do we care?  There is nothing here to recommend it.  Certainly miscast Theron deserves better than this! (Netflix)  
THE OUTPOST (2hrs 3min) *** CNN Reporter Jake Tapper’s 2012 non-fiction book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor is the story of 2009’s Battle of Kamdesh when 300 Taliban attacked the American Combat Outpost Keating, 20 miles from Kamdesh in eastern Afghanistan, where 8 Americans were killed and 27 wounded out of 53, while about 150 Taliban died.  Keating was overrun and nearly destroyed by the heavily armed Taliban when the choppers arrived just in time. The base was located in a valley surrounded by a mountain range from where the Taliban fired down on the Americans. The wall to wall action is well choreographed and filmed, and the film conveys the bravery of the besieged men and the chaos and carnage they experienced.  The film's main problem is the lack of development of the characters (Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry, Orlando Bloom, Milo Gibson, Daniel Rodriguez), all heroes who we never get to know: Bravo Troop 3-61 Cavalry became the most decorated unit of the Afghanistan War. The tale of survival would have benefited from a large screen and a more involving script. (EST/VOD) 
THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF (1hr 42min) *** Documentary. On April 20th 2015, two of struggling Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova’s large canvasses were stolen off their wooden frames from a group show at Galeri Nobel in Oslo, Norway. Two thieves were caught on surveillance cameras and identified, and one of them, heavily tattooed career criminal and heroin addict Karl-Bertil Nordland, with a passion for art, appeared in the court in November. “I stole it because it was beautiful.” Desperate for answers about the theft, Barbora sought out and befriended the thief. He was so drugged up, he didn’t know what became of the paintings!  At the court house she oddly requested him to sit for a portrait to which he agreed and the two formed an improbable intricate relationship and an inextricable platonic bond that would forever link these two lonely souls. After their fourth meeting, Norwegian documentary filmmaker Benjamin Ree followed Bertil’s and Barbora’s lives and their unusual story with a camera. (EST/VOD) 
PRIMAL (1hr 37min) ** Once you accept the fact that a movie is B grade, expectations should not be very high.  After all, the budget is much smaller, which means lesser “star” performers and production team (producers, directors, camera crew, design, editors, etc.) That generally means a merely adequate screenplay, cheaper effects and there is no chance of it winning anything but a Razzie.  And then you must consider its target audience and for B grade films that means younger, less discerning viewers without critical eyes. Under  those circumstances, Primal is a passable movie which borrows extensively from numerous other similar action thriller films.  Nicolas Cage and Dutch actress Famke Janssen are really the only recognized names, the former having won an Academy.Award, a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for Leaving Las Vegas in an otherwise varying film career. Incidentally there is zero chemistry between the two leads. Cage plays Frank Walsh, a cranky big game hunter who collects exotic wild animals, venomous snakes and colourful birds, selling them to USA zoos.  In the dense rain forests in Brazil, Walsh manages to capture a unique, rare white jaguar (“I’ve hit the motherlode!”) which he expects to sell for a million dollars. (Unfortunately the CGI of the animals is appallingly bad, the worst being the 400lb jaguar, appearing thankfully in very few scenes.)  On the same Greek freighter containing the animals and bound for Puerto Rico, the United States government is transporting Ex-Special Ops, psychopathic mercenary killer Richard Loffler (Kevin Durand). accompanied by a heavy guard team of federal agents and a US Attorney, Paul Freed (Michael Imperioli). Among them is Navy Lieutenant psychologist Dr. Ellen Taylor (Janssen), monitoring Loffler who is chained in a specially built cage. For “medical reasons” he could not be transported by plane. Oh yes, there’s also a kid side-kick (Jeremy Nazario). Half hour in and as we expected, Loffler feigns a seizure, the two guards rush in to check and the killing spree starts. What’s more, Loffler then opened the animal cages, and there is chaos. He also sabotages the ship’s navigation controls, re-setting its route, all the while killing off one by one those on board.  Walsh and Loffler trade off a couple of brutal beating scenes, with the former getting the worst of them.  You know how it will end and I expect your enjoyment of it will be determined by your age. Wisely, it’s just 90 minutes long. (On DVD and Blu-ray August 11) 
RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE (1hr 20 min) ** ½  Now for something completely different in the way of my film-going – a gory horror story which starts off innocently enough.  Based on 2010 Image comic horror book story of the same name by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams) is a comic book writer and artist who has turned real gruesome Slasherman murders in the town of McBain which occurred between 1987 and 1991 (with 6 vicious murders and over a dozen disappearances) into a hugely successful fictionalized graphic book series, told from the killer’s perspective. That’s now come to an abrupt halt as he hasn’t found his ending yet. Slasherman disappeared before he was captured.  Todd desperately needs a special ending. With writer’s block, Todd decided to go on a combined publicity road trip and book promotion tour to see if he can get inspiration. Along with him will be his partner Kathy (Jordana Brewster) who is interested in talking to families affected by the 1-90 murders, his partner Ezra (Jay Barachel, the film’s director and co-writer with Jesse Shabot), owner of Hard Calibre Comics, and Todd’s personal assistant and Ezra’s girlfriend, Aurora (Niamh Wilson), publisher and book illustrator of the inventive macabre murders. Kathy takes with her a binder detailing the murders, including photographs of the living and dead, and Barachel cuts between the happy photos and Aurora’s hand-drawn Slasherman victims. A sudden slash on Todd’s hand is identical to the one in the book but how he got it isn’t revealed.  On a press stop at the town’s radio station, Todd admits that he hasn’t found an ending yet, when a listener calls in, and, you guessed it, it’s Slasherman himself, and he’ll give Todd a perfect ending.  He then gives numerical details of who the next set of victims will be. “We should go to the cops” is suggested, but they don’t. And the macabre killings and mutilated bodies keep piling up. What is Todd’s culpability in the latest gory murders since he made it known he was looking for inspiration? I still don’t understand the interest in movies such as this, and I fully expect those who have an insatiable appetite for horror films will deem it “good,” and so I’ll give it a passing grade on their behalf. (VOD).
THE REST OF US (1hr 20min) ** ½  The Canadian film’s story is about two Toronto women and their two daughters and the man who was their husband and father, Craig, died suddenly from a heart attack. Divorced wife, children’s author and illustrator Cami (Heather Graham) lives in a comfortable home with her insufferable, combative teenage daughter Aster (Sophie Nelisse), back home for the summer break after an unhappy first year at college. At the funeral reception, Cami meets Craig’s latest younger, naïve wife, Rachel (Jodi Balfor) and her curious, prepubescent daughter Talulah (Abigail Pniowsky). Craig died penniless, deep in debt with the house repossessed. His life insurance policy ran out, leaving them destitute.  Cam generously offered Rachel the use of their mobile home and the run of the house, and the film follows the tense relationship between the two wives and their daughters. Each of the wives bonds with their rival’s daughter, leading to some jealousy and admission turning to appreciation, with eventually everyone forgiving and forgetting.  (VOD / EST)
NEW: THE SECRET GARDEN (1hr 46min) ***  I doubt there are there any youngsters who don’t know this story. It was first published in 1911 by Victorian author Frances Hodgson Burnett and has become a favourite with children worldwide. It was serialized in the American Magazine between 1910 -11 and has been adapted for film three times in the past, in 1911, 1949 and 1993.  And there have been stage and television productions as well.  In 1947 India, spoiled 10 year old Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx) discovered her parents’ palatial home had been vandalized during the partition between India and Pakistan, resulting in widespread unrest as thousands of families fled conflict and disease. She is discovered alone and unkempt by a British soldier. Her mother had died of cholera and her father likewise the following day. It is suggested the orphan should be returned to England to her reclusive disciplinarian hunchbacked uncle Lord Archibald Craven (Colin Firth) who she has never met, living in isolation in vast, dismal Misselthwaite Manor on the bleak Yorkshire moors. She is greeted by strict housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock (Julie Walters), who states the rules of what is allowed and not allowed, and where she is forbidden to go exploring. Used to having her way with Indian servants, Mary is rude, obnoxious and demanding of the only servant, kindly Martha (Isis Davis), who brings meals to her room and helps her dress. She gradually learns of the tragedies of the house, that Craven is a widower whose wife Grace (Gemma Powell) died in an accident some time ago. Grace would spend hours in a walled secret garden and, when she died, Craven locked the door and hid the key. Mary gradually learned of the tragedies of the house, and that in a hidden room lay sickly bedridden son, Colin (Edan Hayhurst), with a spinal problem making him unable to walk although he had a wheelchair standing by. When Craven is away from the house, Mary explores the nearby woods, befriends a stray dog, a friendly chirping robin red-breast and meets Martha’s good natured brother, twelve year old  Dickson (Amir Wilson). In the house, Mary uncovers secret letters and a key, and, sure enough, that unlocks the door to the magical secret garden. Meanwhile Mary has talked with doubting Colin and persuades him that, with initial support, he really can walk and isn’t hunchbacked. But what will happen when Craven discovers they have found the key to the forbidden garden? The basic story varies slightly with each telling, but, irrespective, is an delightful and entertaining fantasy tale.  (VOD).    
SELF MADE: INSPIRED BY THE LIFE OF MADAM C.J.WALKER  (Limited mini-series) ** ½  Based on the biography On Her Own Ground by A’Leila Bundles, the great-great granddaughter of Madam C J Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, an American entrepreneur, philanthropist, political and social activist. She is the first female self-made millionaire in America, making her fortune by developing and marketing a line of cosmetics and hair-care products for black women. In Louisiana, Sarah (Octavia Spencer) was a washerwoman who earned a pittance doing laundry. Traumatized, she was losing her hair when an acquaintance, wealthy light-skinned antithesis Addie (Carmen Ejogo) used her magical hair-grower formula and miraculously restored her hair, but didn’t want Sarah’s help in selling the product. “Even in your Sunday best you still look like you just stepped off the plantation.” Married tentatively happily to Charles James.Walker (Blair Underwood), ambitious Sarah with her own formula goes into competition, moves into heavily black populated Indianapolis and, even with back-stabbing Adele in competition, her rags to riches story sees her eventually opening salons and even a factory, but not without heartbreaks and political upsets along the way. Spenser’s feisty performance makes this soapy melodrama worth seeing, but for ladies only. (Netflix)
THE SHOW MUST GO ON: THE QUEEN + ADAM LAMBERT STORY (1hr 24min) *** ½  Documentary. For fans of rockers Queen, this is a “must see” as it continues the story of the iconic band following singer Freddie Mercury’s sudden death in 1991, and includes the story of phenomenal singer Adam Lambert and his rise to fame as lead singer for Queen. Adam describes himself as “the strange kid … kind of ashamed of his body and in the closet.” Fast forward to “American Idol” and Adam impressed all with his powerful voice range, except initially for panelist Simon Cowell.  Queen’s guitarist Brian May and drummer John Taylor backed him at the Idols finals where he sang We Are the Champions, and in 2012 Adam was invited to join them for a live telecast performance in Kiev before a crowd of 350,000!!! Adam was sensational and Queen knew he was a natural and the right choice as lead.  Queen’s story is told from their legendary performance at Live Aid’s concert in 1985. Included are numerous performance clips, comments from actor Rami Malek, Oscar winner as Freddie in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” interviews with Freddie, recognizing his health deterioration, and so much more. Fantastic!  (Netflix)
TAINTED (1hr 30min) ***  Here’s an intriguing grim and gritty Canadian crime drama if you’re into John Wick action. Hardened Neo-Nazi loner Lance (Alan Van Sprang) served 15 years behind bars, following a botched job for the Russian drug syndicate resulting in three deaths and a crippling. An enforcer for the Russian mob, he joined the Aryan Brotherhood and now wants out of both. Living in a bleak rundown apartment block, his neighbour Anna (Sarra Weisglass) is an aspiring singer-songwriter. Lance’s Finnish crime lord and handler Gregor (John Ralston), co-owns a pastry shop with wife Adalina (Lina Roessler).  Drug kingpin Vladimir (John Rhys-Davies) offers him a final deal with a new passport and cash and the Russians will forgive and forget. The deal is to kill all the Ayrans. A 10 year old boy witnesses the bloodbath, saw Lance and reported him to the police. The Russians think Anna is his partner. Vladimir insists they are killed but Gregor knows what the end result will be. Brent Cote gets my thumbs up for his direction and writing. (VOD/DIGITAL)
TIGER KING: MURDER, MAYHEM AND MADNESS (True-crime mini-series of 7 – each approx 45min: Season 1 plus an additional #8 The Tiger King and I) ** 1/2 What a bizarre but strangely compelling documentary!  It’s a fascinating look at wild animals like tigers and lions being petted like household animals by their volatile “colourful” owners. The owners are gay, polygamist Joe Exotic (Joseph Maldonado-Passage) of the private Greater Wynnewood Animal Park, Oklahoma, and his deadly rival, animal activist Carol Baskin of the Big Cat Rescue in Florida, whose millionaire husband “disappeared” under mysterious circumstances. Joe is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for 17 counts of animal cruelty and for conspiring to murder Baskin. Other eccentric characters include former cocaine drug lord Jeff Lowe; animal trainer for films Tim Stark with the Wildlife in Need zoo; and “Doc” Antle, booking young women as tiger trainers in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Filmmakers Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin took 5 years to create this riveting, weird and complex docu-series which is far more than just breeding wild animals from birth. Each of these outlandish eccentric characters has been involved and continues to be in illegal, bad, messy things. Curious?  Try binge viewing. (Netflix)
NEW: TRAIN TO BUSAN PRESENTS: PENINSULA (1 hr 54 min) *** ... that’s the title in North America, elsewhere it’s Peninsula. Train to Busan was a 2016 South Korean horror/thriller about a divorced manager, his young daughter and others trapped on a speeding train from Seoul during a zombie outbreak. They were traveling to Busan to see her mother when an infected woman boarded, became a zombie, attacked a train attendant, and the plague, started at a bio-factory, spread fast.  The flesh-eating zombie outbreak continues in this sequel with South Korea continuing to experience sheer pandemonium.  Marine captain Jung Seok (Gang Don-won) is driving his elder sister, her husband Chul-min (Kim Doo-yon), and young nephew to a ship leaving South Korea when their car is stopped en route by a family begging for transportation, but he ignored them and drove on. The ship, containing civilian refugees, has been re-routed to Hong Kong. One person is found afflicted on the lower deck before the infection spread fast to everyone.  Four years later, only guilt-ridden Jung-seok and Chul-Min had survived and are broke, living in Hong Kong. They are informed by their crime boss that in the quarantined peninsula of Incheon is an abandoned truck with $20 million in US currency, and, if they return with the truck to Hong Kong, they and two other Koreans will receive $2.5 million each. They have 3 days to retrieve the truck after which the rescue boat will leave. They travel at night since that is when the zombies are blind. They eventually find the truck with sacks of cash but as the moon comes out so will the zombies. They are ambushed by swarming rebel militia mercenaries called Unit 631, countless heavily armed, uninfected human scavengers, led by Sgt Hwang (Kim Min-Jae) and Capt. Seo (Koo Kyo-Hwan).  Jung Seok and Chul-min are captured but the former escapes with the assistance of two young girls (Lee Re & Lee Ye-Won) in their car who take him to their mother Min-jung (Lee Jung-hyun).  Jung Seok recognizes her as the mother begging them in the car to take her child to safety. Meanwhile Chul-min is tortured for entertainment by their maniacal captors, along with other prisoners.  Min-jung and Jung Seok now must save Chul-min and regain the truck. If you can turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to some mediocre performances and atrocious dialogue, this fast paced bloodied zombie thriller, ambitious visually with strong action sequences, will keep you on the edge of your seat. That's guaranteed!  (Now playing in selected Cineplex theatres)
THE TRIP TO GREECE (1hr 52min) ** ½ We followed popular British comic performers and co-writers Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as fictionalized versions of themselves through the Lake District in England (2010), Italy (2014) and Spain (2017) on their culinary tours, stopping at luxurious hotels for fancy meals while arguing about democracy and history, movies and personalities, tragedy and comedy, bickering and mocking each other while continually interspersing their conversation with impressions of celebrities, by now excessively repetitive. The scenery and photography are breathtakingly beautiful including Delphi’s Temple of Apollo, the Ancient Agora of Athens, the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, the Island of Hydra, the Caves of Diros, Nestor's Palace, Niokastro Fortress in Pylos, and Ancient Stagira. This 6 day trip, starting in Turkey and continuing through modern Macedonia and Greece, was commissioned for an article in which they retraced the steps of Odysseus, a legendary hero in Greek mythology. The constant petty arguing is exhausting for viewers but Brits will understand the one-upmanship game being played non-stop by these two blokes. (VOD)
UNCUT GEMS (2hrs 15min)  ** ½  Adam Sandler gives the performance of his career as he yells his way throughout two hours, with the fu word in virtually every sentence.. In 2012 New York City, Howard Ratner (Sandler), a jeweler and a sporting events gambling addict, struggles to pay massive debts, including $100,000 owed his loan shark brother-in-law Amo (Eric Bogosian), always accompanied by henchman Phil (Keith Williams Richards)  Howard owns a Gems and Jewelry store that includes his young mistress Julie (Julia Fox) who he intends to marry after Passover following a divorce from Dinah (Idina Menzel).  Howard receives an uncut black opal embalmed in a rock from Ethiopia, and wants to sell it for a million to solve his debt problems. Basketball superstar Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics wants to borrow it for luck to that night’s game and in return leaves Howard his Celtics championship ring as collateral. Howard sneakily pawns the ring and places a bet on Garnett to win. He does, and the gang comes after Ratner for the money owed. Frankly I found it monotonous and overly long. (Netflix)
WHITE LIE (1hr 36min)  *** ½  Rarely does a film come along with no fanfare or star performers and you’re totally captivated by the story, the script and the performances. And this brilliant little gem is Canadian with screenplay and direction by 30-somethings Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas. Katie (Kacey Rohl) is a young student who fakes she has terminal cancer, even to her generous partner Jennifer (Amber Anderson). To create the impression the cancer is incurable, she shaves her head and takes diet pills.. She raises money with fraudulent requests for donations, charity fundraising and borrowing money for a “very expensive operation in Seattle.” She wants a university bursary but she must provide proof of her illness with medical records by her doctor before the week is up. To forge documents would cost thousands, so she turns to her estranged father (Martin Donovan) and gets the response “I don’t believe you. I don’t think you have cancer,” pleading her to be honest and forthcoming. It’s a compelling fascinating character study of a pathological liar, winning awards for its production team. (VOD)  
THE WILLOUGHBYS (1hr 32min) *** Animation. A sarcastic talking stray blue tabby Cat (voice Ricky Gervais) is the narrator of this inventive computer animated comedy about the family of selfish spindly Father and heartless Mother Willoughby (Martin Short, Jane Krakowski) who are so obsessed and engrossed with each other that they resent their four clever children, Tim (Will Forte), Jane (Alessia Cara) and the creepy twin boys Barnaby A and B (Sean Cullen) who stay out of their neglectful parents’ way. An abandoned baby is left outside their home and the parents refuse the children’s re-entry till they find a home for her. They leave her with a kindly candy factory’s owner, Commander Melanoff (Terry Crews) and scheme to orphan themselves, presenting enticing world-wide travel brochure of perilous exotic locations for the parents. They succeed but first hire an eccentric, unconventional Nanny (Maya Rudolph). When the travel money runs out, the house is sold and demolished and the kids sent to foster homes. What can Nanny do? It would be a spoiler for me to go any further.(Netflix)
THE WRONG MISSY (1hr 30 min) ** Following a break-up, bland likeable banking exec Tim Morris (David Spade) his a blind date with plain Jane Missy (comedienne Lauren Lapkus), and he soon realizes that this Missy is not for him. She is obnoxious, loud, vulgar and crude, and in an effort to escape, he gets stuck climbing out of a toilet window. Three months later at the Airport he meets former beauty pageant winner Melissa, also called Missy (Molly Sims). They mistakenly switch identical bags, and discover they have everything in common. His loan company office is headed for a luxurious corporate retreat in Hawaii and he texts Missy suggesting she joins him on the flight for fun in the sun. Problem is he texts the wrong Missy and has to spend the week with aggressive party-animal Missy botching up everything, embarrassing Tim in front of his boss and office staff. It’s tediously annoying and the sequences are endless, but Lapkus shows promise. (Netflix)
YOU DON’T NOMI (1hr 32min) ** Documentary. 1995's biggest film flop was undoubtedly Paul Verhoeven's sex and nudity epic Showgirls which bombed with the critics, the audience and at the box office (total $37 million), and, hard to believe, it has now reached Cult Classic status!  In Showgirls, Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkeley) was a young drifter hitch-hiking to Las Vegas, aspiring to be a showgirl but starting as a lap-dancing stripper at a topless club. Gay director / editor Jeffrey McHale’s. directorial debut is a disjointed mish-mash of movie clips from Showgirls and some of Verhoeven’s more successful films (eg Robo Cop, Basic Instinct, Total Recall). The Dutch director is known for his films which invariably depict erotic abuse of women, graphic violence, rape, abundant special effects, and over-the-top acting and dialogue. There was an unofficial spin-off sequel, Showgirls 2: Pennies from Heaven, which focused on a minor character Penny, but that went straight to video. Doubtless, this documentary will be popular in the gay community. Still, I have to admit I do like the clever title! (VOD / EST)

                                                              NEW DVDs....

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday July 28
GUNDALA Abimana Aryasatya, Tara Basro, Bront Palarae, Ario Bayu, Lukman Sardi, Paula Pearce, Rio Dewanto
LES MISERABLES Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djibril Zonga, Issa Perica, Al Hassan Ly, Steve Tientcheu
THE OUTSIDER  Ben Mendelsohn,  Jason Bateman, Julianne Nicholson, Mare Winningham, Paddy Considine
STRANGE BUT TRUE   Amy Ryan, Nick Robinson, Margaret Qualley, Blythe Danner, Brian Cox, Greg Kinnear
YOU SHOULD HAVE LEFT  Kevin Bacon, Amanda Seyfried, Geoff Bell, Avery Tiu Essex, Colin Blumenau

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday August 4
RIDE YOUR WAVE  (animation)   Ryôta Katayose, Rina Kawaei, Honoka Matsumoto, Kentaro Ito
SWALLOW  Haley Bennett, Austin Stowell, Elizabeth Marvel, David Rasche, Denis O'Hare, Lauren Velez
TOM CLANCY'S JACK RYAN (season 2) John Krasinski, Wendell Pierce, Abbie Cornish, Noomi Rapace, Ali Suliman

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday August 11
ARCHIVE. Theo James, Stacy Martin, Rhona Mitra, Peter Ferdinando, Richard Glover, Lia Williams,Toby Jones
THE HIGH NOTE  Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ice Cube, Eddie Izzard, Bill Pullman Diplo
HOW TO BUILD A GIRL Beanie Feldstein, Alfie Allen, Paddy Consindine, Chris O'Dowd, Emma Thompson.
PRIMAL  Nicolas Cage, Famke Janssen, Kevin Durand, Michael Imperioli, LaMonica Garrett, Ray Hernandez
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VALLEY OF THE GODS Josh Hartnett, Bérénice Marlohe, John Malkovich, Keir Dullea, John Rhys-Davies

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday August 18
I AM VENGEANCE: RETALIATION.  Stu Bennett, Vinnie Jones, Katrina Durden, Sam Benjamin, Jessica-Jane Stafford
MILITARY WIVES.  Kristin Scott Thomas, Rachel Tunnard, Rosanne Flynn. Sharon Horgan, Amy James-Kelly
THE OUTPOST  Orlando Bloom, Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Milo Gibson, Bobby Lockwood, Jacob Scipio
PREVENGE  Alice Lowe, Kate Dickie, Kayvan Novak, Jo Hartley, Gemma Whelan, Tom Davis, Dan Renton Skinner

NEW DVDs ... stating Tuesday August 25
INFAMOUS  Bella Thorne, Jake Manley, Amber Riley, Marisa Coughlan, Michael Sirow, Marisa Couglin
THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND  Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow, Steve Buscemi
THE TRIP TO GREECE. Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Kareem Alkabbani, Marta Barrio, Rebecca Johnson
AVA  Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, John Malkovich, Common , Geena Davis, Ioan Gruffudd, Joan Chen

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday September 1
IRRESISTIBLE  Steve Carell, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace, Natasha Lyonne
ROGUE Megan Fox, Philip Winchester, Jessica Sutton, Calli Taylor, Brandon Auret, Adam Deacon, Sisanda Henna