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By Anne Brodie

Dianne Whelan’s riveting documentary 500 Days in the Wild follows her journey, by foot, canoe, and riding a 40-year-old Wizard bike across 4,634 kilometers of this land and our three oceans. She started in Newfoundland with a phone, GPS, a lighter, a big bag of necessities, and a major need to get away from it all. By the end of her mostly solitary journey of six years – not the 500 days she initially envisioned – Whelan was profoundly changed. Off the top she says she’s not an extreme athlete; she makes extreme films. She is, however, an extreme risk-taker. Would you sleep alone outdoors in the wild for six years in tents? Step by step any fears she had fell away. She co-existed with Mother Nature in gratitude and gained the grace to face whatever came, the definition of bravery. Fortunately, some stalwart friends and lovers joined her from time to time, friends of friends cut away wood blocking a portage, and strangers fed her and checked her safety. Extraordinary moments come – face to face with wild horses, love notes found in tree fungus, not being eaten alive by bugs and a roaming bear, escaping massive forest fires, enduring deep freezes and an undercurrent of panic in the Lake Superior chapters – I’d be terrified on that deep cold ship’s graveyard too. Whelan’s five cameras and a drone captured it all as she reached deep inside for the guts to accomplish her goal. What a film! What a woman! In select theatres and the Kingston Canadian Film Festival.

The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin stars Noel Fielding, our sweet-natured guide on The Great British Bake-Off who changes horses to lead a comedy ensemble in a 6-parter inspired by the real 18th-century highwayman. His gang Nell (Ellie White), Moose Pleck (Marc Wootton), and Honesty Courage (Duayne Boachie) hold low status as the Essex Gang and are desperate to climb the list of gang popularity as determined by drinkers at the local pub. Their sworn enemies are the Syndicate boss Jonathan Wilde (Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville) a bloodthirsty aristo-gangsta who drags his little boy along to executions and Nell’s evil mother Lady Helen Gwinear (Tamsin Greig). Turpin and his charming ne’er-do-wells escape his life as a vegan butcher for the highways and byways. They don’t have the heart to rob anyone but really want to fulfill their dreams and win a little respect. Turpin is aware his charm, panache, and great hair and cheeks work to the gang’s advantage, so that’s the framework. Within it, a riot of hilarity, bon mots, comic misunderstandings, physical humor, highly unlikely and yet somehow very Turpin twists and turns. A team bonding day in Olde London, vanquishing the fearsome fiery Reddlehag (“witches get stitches”) is a success but the fun is ruined by the arrival of talented, narcissistic, and seductive Tommy Silversides who threatens to erase all their progress on the popularity chart. Just extraordinarily funny stuff, mini musical-esque, fulsome silliness. Join the gang! Apple TV+

While the grammar of the title leaves something to be desired, the content of Work Different is invaluable to business owners and workers. Some are still weighing decisions on requiring /requesting working onsite work, hybrid, or at home. Following the practice created by the pandemic. Well, guess what? Julien Capraro’s NFB doc now on lays out a pretty irrefutable case for worker choice. Henry Ford invented the 9-5 workday in 1920 to man his factories, but people began to work at home in the 1960s using “microcomputers” and the telephone. Work has evolved from farms to factories to information and that requires a tech hookup and keying. LA-based Jack Nilles, considered the “father of telework” says commuting not only harms the environment, it can take a brutal toll on commuters, and costs money that companies won’t refund. Nilles says it’s dumb to do that when you can pick up a phone or a mouse and get the job done. Home workers tend to work longer hours, gaining time previously used sitting in traffic. They are more productive and happier and if folks are conscientious at work they will be conscientious at home. Younger workers tend to like the hybrid method for regular interactions with coworkers and to find friendships and mates. Video conferencing connects efficiently; participants tend to be polite and cooperative on these platforms. Those forced to work in the office were found to be less productive. Just a few of the fascinating findings of a truly landmark change in the way we live. Update: The NFB tells me the title is a reference to this ungrammatical ad from the 90s.

UPDATE! Hot off the presses from the National Film Board:

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is ushering in spring with great free programming on through the month of March. The NFB website offers 9 online premieres this month, with powerful new documentaries, dazzling auteur animated shorts, and a mind-expanding mobile game. With Nisha Pahuja’s To Kill a Tiger nominated for the Academy Award for Documentary Feature Film, will take a special look at the NFB at the Oscars. As the NFB prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of the creation of Studio D, its pioneering women’s studio, dozens of films from the archives are now available online for the very first time. Featured online channels at will also pay tribute to International Women’s Day, International Francophonie Day and more.”

Agatha Christie’s Murder is Easy, set in the 50s UK introduces Luke Fitzwilliam (David Jonsson) a Nigerian private detective who happens to sit with the elderly Miss Lavinia Pinkerton (Penelope Wilton)on a train to London. They chat, and she gives him fudge and a whale of a story. She’s racing to Scotland Yard to report a murder, a boy drowned, and possibly three more related murders, saying the killer “has a point to make”. Seems her suspect is “respectable” and the police refuse to investigate. Lavinia tells Luke she’s glad someone else knows what she’s about to report, and gives him a horse race tip. They arrive in London, he wins big at a station betting shop and Miss Pinkerton is shot dead. Scotland Yard turns him away so he heads to Wychwood Under Ash to investigate for himself. And what a hornet’s nest! He must bribe an innkeeper to get a room because he’s Black, Lord Whitfield somehow knows he’s there and wants to meet, and he’s haunted by local white men, a crooked doctor, a land developer who pushes the idea of race cleansing, and other dubious characters. And he’s carrying a big wad of cash. Sure enough, key villagers start dropping dead but Luke remains committed to stopping the serial killer. Based on Christie’s 1939 crime whodunnit. Easy comfort viewing as Christie’s murder books are strangely cozy. Also stars Tamzin Outhwaite, Douglas Henshall, and Morfydd Clark. On BritBox.

Speaking of The Kingston Canadian Film Festival things are underway on the shores of Lake Ontario! The spotlight shines on some of Canada’s best current films, many reviewed on What She Said, shown in theatres in Kingston’s historic downtown. Now 23, it’s “the largest festival in the world dedicated exclusively to Canadian film” with new and old films, and treasures to discover and remember. KCFF hosts post-screening Q+As, parties, workshops, networking and industry events, and live music from Georgia Harmer, The Sadies, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, comedy from Bruce McCulloch, and exhibitions celebrating the talent and vision of Canadian filmmakers. A great dynamic way to mingle with fellow film fans and expand cinematic horizons. Running now through Sunday night, many screenings are sold out so act fast. Kingston’s amenities, its community of artists and fans, and the uniquely Canadian films make KCFF a treasure. Check out the lineup, the schedule

Kinmont, Ontario’s Keith Stata runs a unique independent cinema in his hometown of 300 souls. From above it looks like a monster mansion plonked down in dense forest. It is Stata’s home cum theatre with five cinemas he built and expanded over the last 44 years. The Highlands holds 550 seats and around 55k visitors each season, from May to Thanksgiving. Documentarian Matt Finlin’s endearing, maddening, sympathetic, and intimate portrait of a visionary, The Movie Man, his 48 cats, and seasonal staff catches us off guard in the best way. What drives him to dedicate himself to showing movies? A maze of a museum of movie props, particularly horror and kitsch, books, magazines, archival materials, and oddball items spellbind guests before they sit to enjoy a first run or important prior release, and he gets a cheer after introducing the night’s film. Strata’s 77 years old and runs the place alone in the off-season to shovel snow, care for his domestic and wildlife zoos, fix mould, wetness, and more wetness, and run the business. COVID gave him time to think and I suspect clarify his life, realising there may be no one to take on his business and passion when he can’t manage. He frets about the collections (including countless antique film projectors) but mostly his animals. We feel his visceral love of film, cats, and people. Stata’s infectiously funny, wry spirit is hugely entertaining and his longing for order is relatable and somehow in opposition to his nature. What a pleasure. Fair warning, the end sequences will give you great goosebumps of joy. The Movie Man makes its Canadian premiere this weekend at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival.

Two big talents on full display in Mother of All Shows, an eccentric, comic psychological satire, shot in Stirling, Ontario. Writer-director and triple threat star Melissa D’Agostino taps dances, plays piano, sings, and creates a remarkable character, Liza with a Z. The other big talent is the evergreen Wendie Malick (Hot in Cleveland) who is Rosa, her deeply self-absorbed, angry, and narcissistic mother. Liza visits with trepidation born of a lifetime of Rose’s judgemental disdain and vicious tongue. They’re estranged, but Lisa steels herself by embracing a fantasy that they will watch old variety shows together as in the old days. But the fantasy goes further. It’s the final night of her mother’s long-running late-night variety show. The studio is dressed like those tacky seventies game shows but becomes a brightly lit, verbal boxing ring with mother and daughter in a kind of brutal honesty session. Rosa’s glamourous and in charge; she decides to share her disappointments with Liza with the audience while Liza performs and asks why she treated her so badly. It’s a madhouse of interesting acts, and side characters, including Ann Pornel as the floor manager, watching and judging. It’s odd at first but once we know the parameters of the psychological cage match, we’re in the groove. It’s hysterically funny, at times, painfully funny at others, surreal and takes risks as the pair throw punches and feel the feelings. Kingston Canadian Film Festival on March 2, Toronto March 5, and other regions to follow.

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