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Movies at a Glance & New DVDs



 

  

 MOVIES AT A GLANCE
     New Reviews every
WEEKEND!

 

For NEW DVDs click HERE          

THERE ARE 3 NEW MOVIE REVIEWS THIS WEEKTHE COURIER; THE GOOD TRAITOR; THE VIOLENT HEART.

6 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT (1hr 39min) ** ½  On August 15th 1939, bilingual undercover intelligence agent, Thomas Miller (Eddie Izzard), applied at the ladies’ finishing boarding school in Bexhill-on-Sea, to teach English to 20 German schoolgirls after previous English teacher.Wheatley (Nigel Lindsay) suddenly ‘disappeared’ and was later found drowned. Headmistress Miss Rocholl (Judi Dench), hires Anglo/German Miller on a trial basis. She refers to the students as “my girls,” promoting the school as a place of understanding between the British and German people, although the girls are daughters of influential Nazi High Command families, anxious for them to learn English for future service. The physical education teacher is secretly devout Nazi Ilse Ketter (Carla Juri). Miller discovers a hidden list of names of German spies working undercover in Britain, passing the information on to British Secret Service Colonel Smith (David Schofield). Miller overhears Ilse talking to a guest about a secret mission 'to fly the girls back to Germany the next day!' Smith is killed, Miller is arrested and British agent Captain Drey (James D’Arcy) arrives to bail him out and to be taken to where the Nazi collaboration evidence is hidden. But can Miller trust Drey? The mildly entertaining piece of history has generally solid performances, especially from Dench. (VOD) 
ABOVE SUSPICION (1hr 44min) ** ½  “You know what’s the worst part about being dead? You get too much time to think,” so relates real-life murder victim and troubled character Susan Smith, In reality the FBI informant was strangled by her handler and lover, Agent Mark Putnam in 1989. At 15, Susan (Emilia Clarke - Daenerys in Game of Thrones) married 22 year old ex-convict cocaine dealer Cash (Johnny Knoxville). They, with two children, sold pills and powders and were involved in a welfare fraud.  They divorced but continued to live under the same roof. In 1987 FBI agent Mark Putnam (Jack Huston), wife Kathy (Sophie Lowe) and a child arrived into economically devastated Pikeville, Kentucky. Ambitious Putnam was committed to arresting a renowned ex-convict/bank robber. It was suggested that knowledgeable Susan could assist him, while earning extra dollars. They contacted frequently and it was obvious she was infatuated, leading to an active sexual relationship. When she befriended Kathy, Cash assaulted her and locked her out of the house. Putnam was concerned that their affair would damage his FBI career and marriage, and he got a transfer to Florida, leaving without telling Susan. When he returned to Pikeville, beaten and ostracized Susan informed Kathy of her husband’s infidelity. The results were fatal. (EST, VOD, DVD, blu-ray)
ANOTHER ROUND. (DRUK) (1hr 55min) ** ½  In Danish with sub-titles. The film won at the San Sebastian Film Awards for Best Actor - shared by the four stars: Mads Mickelsen as history teacher Martin, Thomas Bo Larsen as soccer coach Tommy, Lars Ranthe as Peter and Magnus Millang as Nikolaj, all middle-aged teachers in Copenhagen, dealing with unmotivated students and feeling that even their personal lives have become dull and stale. While celebrating Nikolaj’s 40th birthday, they discuss psychiatrist Finn Skårderud’s theory that you are more relaxed, creative and likeable if you have a blood alcohol content of 0.050. Peter has marriage problems, and he drinks even at work. The others try Skårderud’s theory to better their daily lives at home and at work. With a breathalyzer, the BAC should not be above 0.05 and the friends found life improved with vodka, and  Peter reconciled with his family. Does alcohol open up and stimulates the mind?  They try binge drinking (druk) to see if it affected their bodies and minds, and that proves disastrous. (VOD)
AUDREY (1hr 30min) *** The documentary covers the life and career of British actress, fashion icon and humanitarian, Audrey Hepburn, crammed with archival film and photos. Born in Brussels, she was the daughter of Baroness Ella Heemstra.and Joseph Rushton, who before WW11 collected donations for the British Union of Fascists. The family spent the war years in Arnhem in the Netherlands where Audrey trained to be a dancer but when told in England she was too frail to be a ballerina, she turned to acting in British films. Those led to her Hollywood debut opposite Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday and and for that she won Best Actress at the Academy Awards, BAFTA and Golden Globes. Then followed a long list including War and Peace where she met her future husband Mel Ferrer; and as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. When told the wistful song she sang, Moon River, was to be cut, she replied “Over my dead body!” My Fair Lady followed in 1964 where she played Eliza Doolittle instead of Broadway originator Julie Andrews. Following her divorce from Ferrer, she spent more time with her family and turned to a humanitarian career with UNICEF (1988 to 1992) with an emphasis on starving children. (Netflix) 
BOSS LEVEL (1hr 40min) *** ½  Hilarious!  Kudos to screenwriters Chris and Eddie Borey and co-writer/director Joe Carnahan for their superlative script and for casting Frank Grillo as Roy Pulver, a retired Special Forces soldier, attempting to escape a time loop involving a procession of assassins wanting to kill him in a variety of ways, and yes he is killed daily since May 9th countless times and then he starts reliving the nightmare again, A woman in bed with him screams as she flees, confronted by a machete wielding killer. A military helicopter sprays the apartment and the killer is mistakenly shot instead of Roy who throws a combat knife at the gunner who accidentally shoots the pilot, and the out of control helicopter slams through Roy’s balcony windows where it explodes. Roy has leapt out of the window and into a rust-orange Dodge Charger where he disposes of the driver, just as two women assassins appear on his tail. A church bus slams into Roy’s car and he ends up on the floor of the bus and dies. He keeps reliving the violent day, although the obstacles and characters vary, as does the amusing ways of his death, like beheading! Enjoy! (EST/VOD. DVD, Blu-ray )
CALM WITH HORSES (1hr 41min) ** ½  The Irish crime drama was released in the US as The Shadow of Violence. It takes place in the backwater coastal town near Cork and is centred on muscle-bound, former boxer Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong (Cosmo Jarvis), the feared enforcer of the drug-dealing Devers family headed by psychopathic Paudi (Ned Dennehy) and relative Hector (David Wilmot). The mobsters have taken Arm into their family and he travels to his “jobs” with outwardly aggressive but physically smaller Dymhpna Devers (Barry Keoghan) who keeps Arm supplied with booze and drugs, encouraging him to beat his victims viciously. On occasions, a far gentler Arm visits former girlfriend Ursula (Niamh Algar) and their five month old autistic son Jack (Kiljan Tyr Moroney). They attend the local horse-riding therapy program which has a calming effect on Jack (hence the title). Ursula wants to move to Cork where Jack would benefit from a costly special-needs school. The Devers’ old family friend, Fannigan (Liam Carney), during a drunken party, attempted to bed their youngest teenage daughter. Pauli insisted that Fannigan must be exterminated in order to save the family’s honour, but Arm has never killed before. Can he do it? (Netflix))
CONCRETE COWBOY (1hr 51min) ** The slow paced film is about “The Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club,” a non-profit organization devoted to inner-city horsemanship in north Philadelphia, a century-long tradition of black urban cowboys and horsemanship in the city where local horsemen maintain and care for horses and teach neighbourhood youth to do likewise. Idris Elba leads a basically all black cast, and I was glad for the  subtitles or I would not have screened the whole movie. Harp (Elba) is the estranged father of 15 year old trouble maker Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) and in frustration his mother packs his belongings and tells him to go and find his father. Harp grudgingly takes him in but Cole is shocked that he is sharing the large room in the house with a horse! Cole renews friendship with good kid gone bad former schoolmate Smush (Jharrel Jerome) with fatal results. On dad’s instructions, Cole tales on a job of cleaning stables and eventually moves up to “breaking” horses while winning the respect of his father. The real life setting is unique but the coming of age story is predictable. (Netflix) 
CRISIS (1hr 58min) ** ½  This is an overcrowded drama diluted by subplots about the current worldwide opioid crisis. Over 100,000 people die from opioid overdose each year, a figure that grows over 20% annually. Director/writer Nicholas Jarecki’s story is inspired by true events about a fictional drug, Klaralon, one of many new opioid products marketed every year and diverted to the street. On the U.S,/Canadian border near Montreal, David (Billy Bryk), carrying a large bag, is chased by the RCMP. He falls and the bag spills out hundreds of opioids. There are three plots which converge into one. College professor Tyrone Bower (Gary Oldman) is hired by a pharmaceutical company’s executive (Luke Evans) to test their opioid Klaralon, considered as effective but less addictive. It is three times as addictive as Oxycotin and the FDA had approved of legal but potentially lethal Oxycotin!  Secondly undercover agent Jake Kelly (Armie Hammer) has a working relationship with Armenian-American drug lords specializing in fentanyl. When recovering addict Claire Reimann (Evangeline Lilly) learns of son David’s supposed death from an overdose, she is suspicious as he wasn’t into drugs, and she is determined to learn the truth. In spite of an impressive cast, the film strangely isn’t particularly exciting. (VOD) 
NEW: THE COURIER (1hr 51min) *** ½ Based on historical events, by 1960 the nuclear arms race had intensified. The United States and Soviet Union now possessed weapons capable of wiping out humanity. As Khrushchev and his American counterparts traded threats, many feared that the world was on the verge of imminent destruction, their nuclear arsenal getting bigger daily. This included the Cuban Missile Crisis. M16 had received a note from the American Embassy in Moscow that a high ranking Soviet military intelligence officer Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), code name Ironbark, had information about Russia’s nuclear program to pass on. Rather than recruiting a trained agent to be his contact, the CIA’s unconventional plan was to conscript a businessman who was intelligent although so bland that no one would suspect him of being a spy and he could come and go without raising any suspicion. An agent named Franks (Angus Wright) knew just the guy and he mentioned him to CIA officer Emily Donovan (Rachael Brosnahan) and supervisor Bertrand (Anton Lesser). His suggestion was an ordinary English international salesman of industrial equipment, Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch), happily married to Sheila (Jessie Buckley) and with a young son Andrew (Keir Hills). Wynne would be in Moscow regularly to “open a door to the top manufacturers in the west.” Since Penkovsky’s official Soviet job was to steal Western technology secrets, the KGB would not suspect him of doing the opposite. Initially disdainful of the suggestion, CIA realized its importance and agreed, but Wynne’s wife was never to know. Wynne and Penkovsky met in Moscow and the former arranged a trade mission to London with copious drinks in nightclubs and also in Moscow where they dined and attended the ballet while secret unopened packages were being passed on. Sheila couldn’t understand why suddenly her husband had become short tempered with their son and was doing daily rigorous push-ups before heading off again to Moscow. Over time he and Penkovsky became very close friends with unusual loyalty to one another and Wynne was introduced to the Russian’s wife and child. The Brits had promised Wynne that Penkovsky and his family would be assisted if defection was required. If you don’t know what followed, you really need to see the factual unexpected  outcome. Needless to say, this is another Cumberbatch triumph. It’s vastly different from the James Bond-like fictitious action-packed spy thrillers we see regularly, resulting in a few unusually slow sequences. Still, it’s compelling viewing. (VOD)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJZPMFenkT4     
DEATH OF A LADIES MAN (1hr 40min) *** ½  Inspired by Leonard Cohen’s words and music, Gabriel Byrne gives an outstanding performance in this hilarious quirky but serious drama, as a professor of poetry at McGill who has been drunk and a womanizer for 40 years. Samuel O’Shea (Byrne) has had two divorces and loves his neglected adult children, foul-mouthed Genevieve (Suzanne Clement) and gay Layton (Antoine Olivier Pilon). Sam has vivid hallucinations caused by “one of the largest (brain) tumors I’ve ever seen” described by his doctor (Pascale Bussieres), leading to death “in a couple of months or a year.” The realistic hallucinations include a waitress with a large tiger’s head, Frankenstein at the bar, and his father Ben (Brian Gleeson) who died middle aged when Samuel was a child, and therefore is younger than Samuel, now in his 60s.  Dad joins Samuel in an impromptu trip home to Ireland and they have lengthy conversations and Samuel inquires why mum left dad but he is never given a satisfactory answer. The line between fact and fiction is blurred.  He starts writing a novel which he has always wanted to do. At a corner store, Samuel meets Charlotte (Jessica Pare) which led to them being romantically involved. By now we really wonder what is real and what is not. Intriguing!  (VOD/VIFF connect)
THE DIG (1hr 52min) *** ½   A Dig is an archaeological process of carefully removing soil and objects from an area of historical interest. Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, England is the site of early medieval cemeteries from the 7th century, excavated in 1938 with a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artifacts. The site was first excavated by archaeologist / astronomer Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes), hired by widowed landowner Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) to discover whar lay beneath the mounds on her property. Brown unearthed the remains of a large burial site, containing a 7th-century Saxon ship, "one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time." He had a few assistants working on the most promising mound including Edith’s curious young son Robert (Archie Barnes) who bonded with Brown over astronomy. With World War 11 looming, the pressure was to get more help before conscription started, and while Edith hired her nephew Rory (Johnny Flynn), arrogant archaeologist Charles Phillips (Ken Stott) arrived, declaring the site of national importance by order of the Office of Works. Others arrived including archaeologist Peggy (Lily James) and husband Stuart (Ben Chaplin). Health failing, Edith reinstated Brown after Phillips demoted him. Part-historical, part-fictional, it’s engrossing and well worth seeing. (Netflix)
FALLING  (1hr 52min)  *** Viggo Mortensen’s commendable debut as director/co-writer of this devastating drama features an outstanding performance by veteran Lance Henricksen. It won Best Film at the San Sebastian Film Festival and tells the story of a father/son’s deteriorating relationship over time. At 5, John (Grady McKenzie) was close to father Willis (Sverrir Gudnason) and mother (Hannah Gross). Decades later, cantankerous, foul-mouthed, Willis (Henricksen), suffering from dementia, is abusive towards gay airline pilot John (Martensen) and his husband Eric (Terry Chen) who have an adopted daughter (Gabby Velis). John wants to move Willis from his isolated dilapidated farm in the north-east to a house in Los Angeles, closer to John and his sister Sarah (Laura Linney) and her son and daughter. Meanwhile John has to contend with Willis’ insulting homophobic dialogue which is repetitious and continuous (“Did they know you were a fag in the army?”) as well as to Sarah and her kids (“That ring in your nose looks like shit. Now you’ll have to marry a circus freak”). It’s a tough film to watch with the emphasis on Henricksen, but I wish there was more on Mortensen as a counter balance. (VOD))
THE FATHER (1hr 37min) ****  Recommended.  Stupendous and easily the best performance by an Actor this year is from Anthony Hopkins. This is a devastating portrayal of dementia which some of us may be experiencing.  Based on the 2012 award winning play, 80 year old feisty, cantankerous Anthony (Hopkins) in London is gradually losing his grip on reality but is totally unaware of his short comings.  He is in denial of his condition. His devoted daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) is having problems finding a carer for him as she is planning on moving to Paris, having fallen in love.  She will visit dad at weekends and for special events, but she must find someone with the patience to look after this obstinate, fastidious old man. (“I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone.”)  We know he should be in a care home. The brilliant adapted screenplay by French novelist Florian Zeller, also director, tells the story from Anthony’s muddled point of view as characters appear and change as do locations, and we, as well as Anne, become as confused and frustrated as him.  In his mind, Anne is someone else (Olivia Williams) and a guy he sees and talks to could or could not be her husband (Mark Gatiss, Rufus Sewell) and then there’s the apartment, they claim it’s theirs and he is insistent it’s his. It is deservedly nominated for 6 Academy Awards. (VOD)
NEW: THE GOOD TRAITOR (1hr 50min) *** What an absolutely fascinating story which is inspired by true events.  On June 5th 1963 a man in a hospitalized bed has his throat slashed repeatedly by a woman. This is the story of Henrik Kauffmann (Ulrich Thomsen), the Danish ambassador to Washington, whose American wife Charlotte MacDougall (Denise Gouff) is the daughter of a Rear Admiral and they had two young daughters. It’s 1939 and in the White House Franklin D. Roosevelt (Henry Goodman) is President. Europe is on the verge of war with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime. In Washington the Danish embassy is wondering “what will happen if the Germans cross our borders.” Kauffman had previously served as the Danish envoy in Peking and then in Oslo till 1932 when he was transferred to Washington where the Kauffmann family lived a luxurious life and were personal friends of Roosevelt. With war looming, Denmark decided to adopt a neutralist policy and both the King and the Government agreed to negotiate with the Germans.  Actually they were given an ultimatum to surrender or Copenhagen would be wiped out. The Danes started co-operating, resulting in the German navy and army now responsible for Denmark’s “safety.”  Kauffman was working in Washington in 1939 when World War II broke out and on April 9th he declared himself to be the only true representative of a “free Denmark” in opposition to the Nazis. The film includes too many short sequences of Kaufmann’s attraction to and reciprocated by Charlotte’s younger sister Zilla (Zoe Tapper), duly noted by jealous alcoholic Charlotte. Kauffman was assisted in his mission by enthusiastic high-minded, younger colleague Povl Bang-Jensen (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard).  They decided they would no longer take orders from Denmark and their decision had the backing of 9 out of 24 worldwide Embassies. Kauffmann came up with a crafty agreement authorizing the United States to defend the Danish colonies on Greenland from German aggression and that treaty was signed and approved by the President on 7 June 1941. Furious, Danish Foreign Affairs charged Kauffmann with high treason and issued a warrant for his deportation and imprisonment. Interested?  For more, you’ll have to see the fascinating film and then stay for the closing credits where final details of the story are given. Negatives?  Only the casting of two actors who never sounded nor looked anything like Roosevelt and Winston Churchill! Otherwise the acting, direction by Christina Rosendahl and cinematography are excellent. (VOD)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzalLohvKks       
IRON MASK (2hrs 10min) ** Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan are back briefly in a lavish Russian/Chinese CGI blockbuster aimed for the vast Asian market. In the 18th century in the Tower of London, James Hook (Schwarzenegger) is warden of the prison which contains Russian Tzar Peter (Yuriy Kolokolnkiov) and China’s White Wizard Master (Chan). Opening with a prologue and impenetrable information drowned in loud music introduces a massive ancient Great Dragon lying underground, chained and trapped in an entanglement of its own eyelashes which went deep into the ground and came up as plants that were made into tea (I’m not kidding). The action fantasy has a cast of thousands, including a pioneering British explorer and cartographer Jonathon Green (Jason Flemyng) who travels to China accompanied by exiled Princess Cheng (Yao Xingtong) masquerading as a boy and who has a magical flying monkey companion, bound to save her people from the clutches of face-swapping evil witch (Ma Li) and her Black Wizards. Green’s mistress Emma (Anna Churina), daughter of Lord Dudley (Charles Dance), frees Peter and together they head to Russia and China with a magical pendant. What an overstuffed, convoluted, confusing epic this is!  Forgive the acting, ignore the story, turn a deaf ear to the overdubbed dialogue and a blind eye to Oleg Stepchenko's direction, and you just might enjoy the well choreographed battles and continuous visual spectacles. (EST, VOD, DVD, Blu-ray (French & English)
THE LAST VERMEER (1hr 57min) *** Based on the Jonathan Lopez 2008 book The Man Who Made Vermeers, this is the true story of Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce), a flamboyant eccentric Dutch painter, who swindled millions of dollars from the Nazis by selling them forgeries of Johannes Vermeer paintings and to Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann Göring a very large painting of Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus. Actually he swapped the fake Vermeer in exchange for more than 100 Dutch paintings that Göring had confiscated. The unique WW11 story is considered to be one of the 20th century’s biggest and most dramatic spy adventures. Jewish Dutch officer Joseph Piller (Claes Bang) had the job of recovering lost and bought art for the Nazi regime and seeks to redistribute them back to previous owners. Dutch artist Vermeer had painted only 30 in his lifetime. The film builds to van Meegeren’s fascinating 1947 trial when he was brought out of prison and Piller was there to prove that the paintings were not real but forgeries, painted by van Meegeren himself! (DVD)
MANK (2hrs 11min) ** That’s Herman J. Mankiewicz, legendary screenwriter who, with Orson Welles, wrote the screenplay for 1941’s Best Original Screenplay “Citizen Kane” aka Charles Foster Kane. It’s a disappointing, bloated tale of Old Hollywood. Following a car crash in 1940, self-destructive cynical alcoholic Mank (Gary Oldman) with a leg in plaster, was taken to a secluded ranch in the Mojave Desert to work with his secretary Rita (Lily Collins) on the directorial debut for 25 year old Orson Welles (Tom Burke) who sought sole writer’s credit. In flashbacks to the 30s, Manx, known for his conversational prowess and wisecracks, bantered with the show biz elite. He particularly amused publishing magnate Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), his inspiration for Kane’s anti-hero, and attended parties at San Simeon, Kane’s “Xanadu,” where movie-star mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) hosted celebrity parties. The overrated film is emotionally not involving, the dialogue stilted and on occasions even boring.  (Netflix)
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM (1hr 35min) *** ½  Based on the 1982 play by August Wilson, the 2020 drama is directed by George C. Wolf. The setting is ‘20s Chicago and an afternoon recording session of songs for an album, where black musicians and white producers await the arrival of imperious, legendary Ma Rainey (Viola Davis). The band, pianist Toledo (Glynn Turman), guitar/trombonist Cutler (Coleman Domingo), double bass player Slow Drag (Michael Potts) and edgy, innovative trumpeter Levee (Globes winner Chadwick Boseman), arrived early to set up and tell stories. Ma arrives late with young girlfriend Dussie Mae (Taylor Paige), manager Irvin (Jeremy Shamos) and Ma’s stuttering nephew Sylvester (Disan Brown). Ma is furious with Levee’s persistent arguing and fires him. Following the recording, Levee confronts and physically attacks Toledo. Stand outs are two marvelous monologues by probable Oscar nominees Boseman and Davis, who offers her philosophy about power. She knows black characters are demeaned and exploited by whites, and ends her monologue with, “They don’t care nothing about me. All they want is my voice.” Unfortunately there isn’t enough music. (Netflix)
THE MAURITANIAN (2hrs 9min) *** ½ The true story is based on the 2015 best selling memoir of Mohamedou Ould Slahi who the US held without charge for 14 years and 2 months.. He had been charged as the chief recruiter for the 9/11 terrorists, but without any proof.  In 2001, 2 months after 9/11, intelligence agents at a Mauritanian wedding arrested Slahi (Tahar Rahim). That was the last time he would see his mother alive. He found himself in Guantanamo Military Prison, Cuba where indefinite detention without trial and inhumane torture was considered a breach of human rights by Amnesty International. Keeping the identity of the detainees secret (Slahi was #241), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized “enhanced interrogation techniques” for the ‘dangerous people’ When learning of his predicament, Human Rights lawyer Nancy Hollander (Golden Globes winner Jodie Foster), assisted by Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley), became his defense council. The military pushed for the death penalty, enlisting prosecutor Lt. Col. Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch). 70 uninterrupted days of horrendous torture followed, leaving nothing to the imagination.. His journals, which he sent regularly to Hollander, would become his book. (VOD)
MOFFIE (1hr 39min) *** ½ In Afrikaans (with subtitles) and English.  Based on the autobiographical novel by Andre Carl van der Merwe, in South Africa to be a ‘moffie’ is to be a faggot. In 1981.the white minority governed the country through legislated racial segregation – Apartheid.  All white boys over 16 were conscripted for 2 year compulsive military service with the South African Defence Force in preparation for a border war with Soviet-backed Angola to stop the spread of Communism   18 year old introverted Nicholas van der Swart (Kai Luke Brummer), struggling with his sexuality,  boarded the train with recruits, including Nick’s compartment companion Michael Sachs (Matthew Vey). Homosexuality was a punishable crime, men deemed gay were submitted to a medical torture program titled Ward 22 to cure them or, failing that, a sex change operation. The verbal humiliation and bullying viciousness of the conscripts by the army is shown in several hard to watch early sequences, including psychological torment. "Do whatever you can to stay invisible." Be prepared for an onslaught of crude language by psychotic training commander Afrikaner Sergeant Brand (Hilton Pelser). Black writer/director Oliver Hermanus’ compelling coming of age drama then moves ahead 8 months and deals with being on border patrol, dodging land mines and snipers, The powerful, deeply personal and highly acclaimed film, based in a racist country that considered homosexuality as an irritant and an illness, is well worth seeing. (Available to rent on AppleTV, and will be available this summer on IFC Films)
MY SALINGER YEAR  (1hr 41min) ** ½  Most will know J.D.Salinger is renowned for his 1951 popular and controversial novel The Catcher in the Rye, his depiction of adolescent alienation in the fictional protagonist Holden Caulfield, an icon for teenage rebellion and angst. Based on Joanna Rakoff’s memoir set in 1966, a naïve young woman, Joanna (Margaret Qualley), worked at New York’s top literary agency as assistant for powerful, imperious Margaret (Sigourney Weaver), Salinger’s agent and personal friend.  Joanna’s task is attending to reclusive Salinger’s large volume of fan letters, and, on reading them, she sends a generic typewritten response  Margaret gave her a chance to read articles and scripts and to coach a small independent publisher in advance of a secret meeting Salinger in Georgetown University When she eventually sells her first book for the agency, Margaret offers her promotion. However Joanna announces she is ready to become a fully fledged writer and must leave the agency. Shades of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ Verdict: Good but not great. (VOD)
OUR FRIEND  (2hrs 4min) ** ½  How does a father break the news to his young kids that their mother is dying of cancer?  The original true story by journalist Matthew Teague was published as ‘The Friend: Love Is Not A Big Enough Word.'  We meet Nicole (Dakota Johnson), husband Matthew (Casey Affleck), their two children and family friend Dane (Jason Segal). Each chapter has a caption such as ‘Spring 2013: one year since diagnosis' and the film goes back over15 years and forward to now. Nicole and Dane worked with a theatre group when she introduced Dane to Matthew. Matt was contracted by NY Times as war correspondent in Lahore and Libya. With Matt away, disaster struck when Nicole discovered she had cancer and needed treatment. Dane flew in to help Nicole by looking after the kids and other chores but the cancer got worse and she couldn’t cope without help and he moved into the spare bedroom. Back home Dane lost his job and girlfriend. On Matt’s return, they were told Nicole had six months to live. How to tell the kids?  Mini subplots stretch the film unnecessarily. Have your tissues ready for the last 20 minutes. (VOD).
PANDEMIC - In US ALONE (1hr 32min)  * ½ How about a zombie apocalypse drama to add some excitement to our current pandemic situation?   This one has seen success in Asian markets as its South Korean counterpart #Alive but, according to reviewers Pandemic in the US is not in the same league  The film opens up on a 30 heavily tattooed man Aidan (Tyler Posey) about to hang himself in his Los Angeles.apartment. Cue the titles.  Aidan wakes up with a woman having shared his bed but she has disappeared. He wanders to his balcony and sees a helicopter crashing into a nearby building. Below people are running out of buildings. Aidan learns there’s a virus outbreak and a worldwide state of emergency.  He decides to hang himself but as he is doing so he notices across the courtyard Eva (Summer Spiro) and she notices him. They make attempts to get together. Donald Sutherland appears in the final thirty minutes. Aidan explored the various apartments looking for food when he came across a well kept one, occupied by Edward (Sutherland) who is charming and generous with offers of food. But in reality, is he?  And how will Aidan and Eva get together?  (EST/VOD.DVD, Blu-ray)
PIECES OF A WOMAN  (2 hrs 6 min) *** Brit Vanessa Kirby (Princess Margaret in The Crown Season 2) at the Venice Film Festival won as Best Actress. The first half hour is an extraordinarily grueling sequence of a real-time birth in one unbroken shot, making this worthwhile seeing. In Boston, pregnant Martha (Kirby) and partner Sean (Shia LaBeouf) are home when Martha’s water breaks and she has early contractions. Sean phoned their mid-wife only to find her in the midst of another birth.  She recommended as backup Eve Woodward (Molly Parker) who reassuringly guided Martha through the birthing process. The couple wanted a home birth, with the hospital only in emergency. Unfortunately what follows doesn’t match up to the opener. In hospital, the baby turned blue and died. Depression and tension set in, changing the couple’s feelings, and not helped by Martha’s bossy wealthy mother Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn) who disapproved of Sean and insisted Eve was to blame, leading to a lawsuit. This is Kirby’s deserved entry into the big time. (Netflix) 
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (1hr 53min) **** Recommended. This black comedy thriller superbly directed by Emerald Fennell is my Sleeper Hit of 2020, featuring a stunning performance by Carey Mulligan (An Education) as “Cassie” Thomas, determined to right the wrongs from the past. At a popular bar, former med student Cassie, provocatively dressed and acting drunk, attracts the attention of a group of young studs, and Jerry (Adam Brody),offers to buy her a drink and to drive her home with a stop at his place. When she suddenly snaps out of her facade, she has a shock for him,. Weekly she’ll dress up alluringly and go clubbing, attracting horny “nice guys” who have one thing in mind. Leading each on, she’ll eventually turn cold stone sober and berate them with a devastating message. She is wholly consumed by her need for revenge as her close fiend Nina’s life and career were destroyed by this group who got away with gang rape (it was taped) and her accusations fell on deaf ears, from which she never recovered. Enter Med School classmate now a pediatric surgeon, Ryan (Bo Burnham), disarmingly goofy and charming, and they start a relationship. But was he part of the destructive group she has targeted for revenge? Be forewarned of an unexpected clever but shocking climax.
THE SECRETS WE KEEP (1hr 37min) ** ½  In the late ‘50s, former Romanian Maya (Noomi Rapace), physician Lewis (Chris Messina) and son Patrick (Jackson Dean Vincent) live happily in the suburbs. One day Maya was startled to see a familiar face from 15 years ago, and she followed the stranger to identify him, eventually to the Refinery where he, Thomas (Joel Kinnarman), worked. She persuaded him to stop and look at her broken down car and bashed him unconscious, bundling him into the trunk of her car,  She identified him as sadistic SS Nazi officer Karl who caught up with Roma gypsies fleeing a concentration camp, raping them. And murdering Maya’s sister, while Maya was raped by Karl, now her unconscious prisoner. Maya asked shocked Lewis to help move the bound and gagged man to their basement to interrogate him. He insisted he was Thomas (Joel Kennerman) from Switzerland and had a wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and two young children. Maya befriends Rachel, questioning their past. She promised to free Thomas if he admitted to being Karl, and if not, she will shoot him. (DVD)
THE SEVENTH DAY (1hr 27min)  * ½  Anyone expecting the calibre of The Exorcist  or The Exorcism of Emily Rose will be disappointed with this slow paced, predictable thriller from writer/director Justin P. Lange. On October 8th 1995, the Pope visited Baltimore, Maryland.  Simultaneously in New Orleans, unconventional renowned exorcist Father Peter Costello (Guy Pearce) assisted his mentor Father Louis (Keith David) in an exorcism during which a flying crucifix fatally stabbed Louis in the neck while Peter’s young boy victim burst into flames and died. The Vatican had long adopted a negative attitude towards the practice of exorcism.  Based in present day, new recruit Father Daniel Garcia (Vadhir Derbez) is introduced by the local archbishop (Stephen Lang) to veteran Peter, an old hand at exorcisms having done it for 25 years. A boy named Charlie (Brady Jenness) murdered his entire family with an axe while under the influence of sinister demons. Peter encourages Daniel to take over the case and they visit the house where the gruesome violence took place. Daniel is convinced Satan took possession of Charlie, now imprisoned. There is a surprise twist during the climatic exorcism which is obvious before it is exposed.  (VOD.  May 11: DVD & Blu Ray)
STRAY (1hr 12min) *** Documentary. In Turkish w sub-titles, Director/ cinematographer/ writer Elizabeth Lo has already won her debut feature film Best International Documentary at Hot Docs and deservedly so.. Over past years, Turkey has had a huge problem with stray dogs and in the early 20th century it was common practice to capture and exterminate them.  But the policy has been reversed, thanks to massive protests, and dogs now roam the streets, more often than not in packs. Over 100,000 dogs call the streets of Istanbul home. But the dogs aren’t the only strays in the city. Asylum-seeking youth from Syria love the dogs and together they share their homelessness. The boys beg and sell tissue packets during the day and seek shelter for the nights, often huddling in a construction site sniffing glue. Dogs are generally treated better than human beings.  With dialogue at a minimum, Lo’s ingenious and touching film is a must see for all dog lovers .. And, to think of it, who isn’t?  (VOD/VIFF connect) 
SUPERNOVA (1hr 48min)  **** Recommended. This a gem of a movie features nuanced, sensitive performances by Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci, superbly written and directed by Harry MacQueen. Sam (Firth) is a pianist and Tusker (Tucci) a novelist and they’ve been together for 20 years. They are off to the Lake District in northwest England where Sam is to give a recital. Tusker is suffering from early dementia, forgetting words and wandering off if not watched.. They stop at the house where Sam grew up, now occupied by Sam’s sister Lilly (Pippa Hayward) and husband Clive (Peter MacQueen) The following night there is a surprise party with a gathering of old friends, Back home, Sam finds Tusker’s hidden pills and a suicide note. When confronted, Tusker responds “I told you that whatever happens, I didn’t want to lose control of my life. I’m losing control now. I want to be remembered for who I was and not for who I’m about to become. Very soon I’m going to look at your face and I won’t know who’s looking back at me.” Close ups are plentiful and sometimes just that and silence speak volumes. Absolutely superb! (VOD/VIFF connect) 
THUNDER FORCE (1hr 47min) * Here’s an embarrassment for performers Jason Bateman, Octavia Spenser and Melissa McCarthy, co-writer with director/actor husband Ben Falcone of this disaster. Lydia and Emily were high school best friends but broke up when Emily had extremely high ambitions and the other had none. In 1983, cosmic rays struck Earth and caused a genetic mutation in sociopaths, transforming them into superhumans called “Miscreants,” a menace too the nation. Lydia (McCarthy) and Emily (Spencer) reconciled years later when Lydia visited scientist Emily, a high tech geneticist and CEO, owning an entire Chicago office building,. Bumbling Lydia accidentally sat in a medical chair, was strapped in and injected with a serum, turning her into a high powered superhero. With Lydia having super strength, Emily had the power of invisibility and they formed the crime-fighting Thunder Force.” Supporting them were Emily’s 15 year old daughter Tracy (Taylor Mosby) and assistant Allie (Melissa Leo). The Miscreants were the sinister mayoral candidate nicknamed “The King” (William Cannavale), his maniacal killing machine Laser (Pam Klamentieff), and reluctant ally The Crab (Bateman), bitten in the genitals by a radioactive crab.  Funny?  (Netflix) 
THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7  (2hrs 9min) **** Recommended. Here’s one of the best films of the year with Screenplay by brilliant writer/director Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing). The story of 8 anti-Vietnam War protesters, Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins), John Froines (Daniel Flaherty), and Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen 11) who set out to protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and ended in a six month courtroom trial for “the transportation of violence across state lines.” Nixon’s Attorney-General John N. Mitchell (John Doman) appointed Tom Foran (J.C. MacKenzie) and Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as the Federal Prosecutors. 7 of the defendants were represented by William Kunstler (Mark Rylance) and Leonard Weinglass (Ben Shenkman). The biased authoritarian presiding judge was Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella) and there are some amusing barbs between the two Hoffmans, Abbie antagonizing Julius and receiving the first of several Contempt of Court citations.  The casting and performances are superb and Sorkin can chalk up another winner. (Netflix)
TWO OF US  -  (DEUX)  (1hr 35min) *** ½  English sub-titles.  From early childhood Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) were lovers. Now retired, they live opposite each other in a French apartment block, and go between apartments enjoying each others’ company. They live separately deliberately as Mado’s family, daughter Anne (Lea Drucker) and son Frederic (Jerome Varanfrain0 with Anne’s young son Theo (Augustine Reynes), have no idea of Mado’s decades long lesbian affair. She is contemplating selling her apartment and they will move to Rome to be themselves. But Mado is reluctant to tell her family and that annoys Nina .”Always the same old excuses. Do you have a problem with old dykes?” Mado has a severe stroke and is unable to move or speak and Nina is devastated as she can’t visit Mado once she has a live-in caretaker Muriel (Muriel Benazeraf). Nina is prepared to pay Muriel (“Let me look after her and you’ll be paid for the job you didn’t do.”)  Mado comes alive when Nina is in the room and her eyes tell us she is aware of what is happening. Is there any hope for her recovery? French director / co-writer Filippo Meneghetti’s début Oscar-contender feature is a must-see. (VOD)
NEW: THE VIOLENT HEART (1hr 42min) ** ½  This is a story of two families, one black and the other white. In the former Harris family, 9 year old Daniel (Jordan Preston Carter) loves his 17 year old sister Wendy (Rayven Symone Ferrell) dearly, tickling him with a feather in bed to get him up.  He spends much of his time tinkering in the basement’s workshop. Late one night he hears her sneaking out of the house and into a car driven by an unidentified man, and, curious, he jumps on his dirt bike and follows them into the dark woods. There are two shots and the film goes to opening credits. It’s now 15 years later and the Harris family goes to the cemetery with flowers. No suspects have been identified. Now 24, Daniel (Jovan Adepo), with a violent temper, works in a auto services shop following a stint behind bars with a juvenile criminal conviction while in High School. His ambition is to join the Marines in the footsteps of Jahi Di'Allo Winston his decorated dad Lee (Cress Williams), recently in Afghanistan. Daniel now has a kid brother Aaron (Jahi Di'Allo Winston) believing mother Nina (Mary J Blige) prefers troubled Daniel. In the white family, 18 year old blond talkative high school senior Cassie (Grace Van Patten) stops in at the autobody shop to get an oil change for her father’s car, notices 25 year old mechanic Daniel (Jovan Adepo) and requests a ride home in his car, and that’s the start of a star crossed romance which he initially is hesitant, possibly because he is black. Cassie is a pupil in the class of her English teacher father Joseph (Lukas Haas). She is starting to drift away from Joseph and her mother Helen (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and gets a ride into Nashville with Daniel who is hoping but fails to be accepted into the Marines. She consoles him and they couple. Cassie is shocked to see her father acting suspiciously with another contemporary, having blocked entry with a desk. The convoluted film has an annoying habit of occasionally going back and forwards in time, such as the early murder being repeated.  Written and directed by Kerem Sanga, you may have guessed how the story will end and, although not unexpected, it’s a totally satisfactory one. (VOD)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=732otJLe45k                     
WILD MOUNTAIN THYME (1hr 42min) ***  “Outside Mulingar” was a 2014 Broadway play by John Patrick Stanley (Moonstruck) which had a limited run. Stanley, on reaching 60, decided to write about his family farm. He adapted and directed it with the title Wild Mountain Thyme, a beautiful Irish/Scottish ballad. Set in scenic Co. Mayo, Ireland, two farmers live side by side, separated by a gate. Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt) has been interested in neighbor shy Anthony Riley (Jamie Dornan) her entire life, but he is totally unaware. He doesn’t like farming and his father, Tony (Christopher Walken), decided to leave the farm to his brother's son, New Yorker Adam Kelly (John Hamm) who expressed interest in becoming a gentleman farmer. The stilted dialogue appears to be taken directly from the play and to foreign ears it sounds unnatural, the accents mixed. In an unusually tender sequence, Tony stops criticizing his son and expresses his pride and love for him. Rosemary flies to New York for a day and asks amorous Adam to take her to the ballet Swan Lake. Will he propose? In a delightful pub scene Rosemary sings “Will ye go, lassie, go.”  By that time every negative thought I had about the charming film had evaporated. And yes, the performances are flawless. (DVD)
WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS (1hr 51min) *** ½ Adam (Charlie Plummer) is a high school senior diagnosed with schizophrenia and with an ambition to become a master chef. With his father gone, Adam lived with supportive mother Beth (Molly Parker) and her boyfriend Paul (Walton Goggins). “At first I thought there was something wrong with my eyes, and a year after, I started hearing voices. Cooking was the only thing that could make me shut up and I got really good at it,”  But then he experienced a violent psychotic breakdown at school and was diagnosed with devastating schizophrenia and went into treatment. He had visions of three talkative companions, Rebecca (AnnaSophia Robb), Joquim (Devon Bostick) and The Bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian), and a dark threatening negative voice in a black cloud. He met valedictorian Maya (Taylor Russell) when he was enrolled in St Agatha’s Catholic School, and they formed a bond without her knowing his mental illness. To free himself from hallucinations, he took a new experimental pill but side effects included muscles twitching. Don’t be put off by the title, this film will have you going through all your emotions, from laughing to crying, thanks to a marvellous script by Nick Naveda and a brilliant performance by Plummer. (DVD)     
THE WORLD TO COME (1hr 38min) *** The first thing you’ll notice is the consistently stunningly exquisite photography by Andre Chemetoff, initially of the rural landscape from the first frame (actually filed in Romania) but then throughout the production, including the interiors. The sensitive lesbian period romance with screenplay by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepherd from his short story will have immense appeal for the LGBTQ community and, interestingly, it is well directed by straight filmmaker Mona Fastvold. In January 1856 heavy snow blankets the landscape which contains a few secluded farms. “Ice in our bedroom this morning for the first time all winter” writes dutiful Abigail (Katherine Waterston) in her daily diary about their bland lives. She lives with her broody farmer husband Dyer (Casey Affleck) and 5 year old daughter who tragically dies of diphtheria. A new couple, vivacious Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) and her abusive hog farmer husband, Finney (Christopher Abbott), have rented a neighbouring farm,. A distant glance between the two women speaks volumes. There are marital issues in both bedrooms. Brief visits by Tallie to Abigail while Dyer is away are extended but the obvious attraction takes an eternity before their first kiss. The cast is first rate, the dialogue is austere and sparse, and there are too few moments of passion till the end’s flashback montage. (VOD/DIGITAL)      

                                                   

                                                       NEW DVDs....


+ INDICATES REVIEW AVAILABLE ABOVE



NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday April 20
BROTHERS BY BLOOD Matthias Schoenaerts, Joel Kinnaman, Maika Monroe, Paul Schneider,  Ryan Phillippe
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXZ_4l_NOCg
CRISIS Gary Oldman, Armie Hammer, Evangeline Lilly, Greg Kinnear, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb7J8_OmqzU
THE MORTUARY COLLECTION Clancy Brown, Caitlin Fisher, Christine Kilmer, Jacob Elordi, Ema Horvath
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZHg9xcK83s
THE VIOLENT HEART Jovan Adepo, Grace Van Patten, Lukas Haas, Mary J. Blige, Kimberly Williams-Paisley
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=732otJLe45k

NEW DVDs... starting Tuesday April 27 
NOMADLAND  Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Charlene Swankie, Gay De Forest
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ4o4jwSaHk

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday May 4
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH. Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Martin Sheen, Jesse Plemons
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ivHf4ODMi4
THE LITTLE THINGS Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Natalie Morales, Terry Kinney, Chris Bauer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDEgBF-rQ_Q

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday May 11
EARWIG AND THE WITCH  Richard E. Grant, Kacey Musgraves, Dan Stevens, Vanessa Marshall, JB Blanc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhL7VMhxOEo
LAND   Robin Wright, Demián Bichir, Kim Dickens, Sarah Dawn Pledge, Warren Christie, Brad Leland
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w6su9dXSqw
THE MARKSMAN  Liam Neeson, Katheryn Winnick, Juan Pablo Raba, Teresa Ruiz, Jacob Perez, Alex Knight
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etnhFMbT4qE
THE MAURITANIAN. Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zachary Levi
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N00DwEsSSYU
PIXIE  Olivia Cooke, Alec Baldwin, Ben Hardy, Daryl McCormack, Colm Meaney, Sebastian de Souza
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA5jLSK4vi0
THE SEVENTH DAY Guy Pearce, Vadhir Derbez, Brady Jenness, Chris Galust, Robin Bartlett,  Keith David
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKW1TYC8_y0

NEW DVDs ...starting Tuesday May 18
COSMIC SIN  Frank Grillo, Bruce Willis, Brandon Thomas Lee, Corey Large, Lochlyn Munro, Costas Mandylor
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HTWDnKs6hA
MINARI. Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Scott Haze, Yuh-Jung Youn, Will Patton
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KcEVLcGvH0
THE NEST  Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Charlie Shotwell, Oona Roche, Adeel Akhtar, Michael Culkin
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svq5OzzT7s4
RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON  Animation. Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Sandra Oh
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UFWsEY8Hdc
SON Andi Matichak, Emile Hirsch, Luke David Blumm, Cranston Johnson, Blaine Maye, J. Robert Spencer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6n-kFcy00k
SUPERNOVA  Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, Peter MacQueen, Nina Marlin, Ian Drysdale, James Dreyfus
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqA1VmsNJPs
WILLY'S WONDERLAND Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Ric Reitz, Chris Warner, Kai Kadlec, Christian Del Grosso
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmdtZyqwzLY

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday June 1
EMBATTLED  Donald Faison, Saïd Taghmaoui, Stephen Dorff, Elizabeth Reaser, Colin McKenna, Drew Starkey
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KZNbKeT2hQ
ENDANGERED SPECIES. Rebecca Romijn, Philip Winchester, Michael Johnston, Isabel Bassett, Chris Fisher
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLw87Kc46kU
THE LOVEBIRDS Issa Rae, Kumail Nanjiani, Anna Camp, Paul Sparks, Kyle Bornheimer, Catherine Cohen
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWQpX9sjVHI
THE WORLD TO COME   Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Christopher Abbott, Casey Affleck, Andreea Vasil
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkS4AVmWAeo

NEW DVDs ... starting Tuesday June 8
ZEROVILLE.. James Franco, Seth Rogen, Megan Fox, Jackie Weaver, Will Farrell, Danny McBride, Dave Franco
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiR7Bb_9tiw