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By Anne Brodie

Michael Keaton directs himself in Knox Goes Away an intense crime drama about an assassin’s lapse into dementia. military and got into a murder-for-hire and cleanup racket headhunted for his skills by Al Pacino’s boss. Knox’s diagnosis of rapid spiralling means he has to set things right, gather his assets, and figure out his relationship with his son Miles (James Marsden) who has suddenly shown up at his door after years of estrangement. Miles needs help from his father’s skill set – he has just murdered an older man who lured and impregnated his 16-year-old daughter. He asks John to help clean up and deal. The great bitterness between them is very much two-sided. Knox acts alone, retrieving his assets to be divided between Miles, his ex-wife (Marcia Gay Hardin in a brief but memorable role), and his Ukranian mistress (Joanna Kulig). What follows is a chaotic, high-drama psychological study of a man losing it and willing himself to fix problems as the clock ticks even as an LA Detective (Suzy Nakamura) is hot on his trail. The body count is high, and the palette dark but the experience we’re having is unique and overstuffed with surprises, characters that challenge our disbelief, and a central depraved character we will wrestle with and yet somehow understand. In theatres.

One Life stars Anthony Hopkins as Sir Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Winton, an English broker who as a young idealist travelled to Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1938 to rescue Jewish children from Holocaust atrocities. He was naive but soon recognised that there was a major role for him – finding British foster homes for countless children left orphaned or separated from their parents. He quickly learned ways and means along with other young adults and turned their plans into action; and fortuitously, he thought to photograph each child for a scrapbook. Wiinton’s staunch efforts paid off; he saved 669 children in an astounding example of heroism; he’d had great luck securing donations internationally (except U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt who never answered his appeals) and his timing was fortunate. Winton was with 250 Jewish children on the last train out of Prague the day Hitler invaded Poland and instituted his Final Solution against Jews. Cut to 1987 – Winton’s well-off, and lives in an ultra-modern home with his wife (Leno Olin) but he’s haunted by the idea that he could have done much more to save more children; fifty years of soul-destroying guilt. A series of events leads to him appearing on a British chat show where he experiences a life-altering event. One Life’s incredible and moving story brings tears, even if the film’s execution doesn’t live up to it as it’s sentimentalised by swelling violins. It’s well worth learning about this man among men. In theatres.

Wonder what it would be like to spend a 25th reunion weekend on an island with your best friends from college? Sweet, eh? Well, yes and no, according to The Re: Uniting, a tight ensemble piece with Jesse L Martin, Michelle Harrison, Roger Cross, David James Lewis, Carmen Moore, and Bronwen Smith as they gather on Bowen Island B.C. in all its natural beauty. They drink, smoke weed, talk, and bring up the old days and liaisons, rivalries, successes, and failures. A TV morning talk show host, his assistant, a renowned neurosurgeon, an unhappy wife and mother, a lawyer, and his wife, the hosts. It’s all about relaxing and remembering but as time goes on, deep tensions arise. A weekend of fun quickly becomes difficult, if funny, sweet, and sour, with false faces and truth-telling. The answer is more wine and dope, which heightens the drama. Mood switches follow the human habits of gut-spilling, fights, and fellowship. Then the host drops a major bombshell. Writer-director Laura Adkin’s take on people in enclosed spaces tugs at the heart, upsets and settles, with great naturalism and nature’s backdrop. Theatres.

Lindsay Lohan was a hard-working child star, known for her natural talent and energy. I first interviewed her in 1998 for the remake of the Hayley Mills – another hardworking child star – vehicle The Parent Trap. Lohan was talented and more importantly, reliable enough to play twins. Aside from a handful of hits, Lohan didn’t follow up on her early promise. Since then she’s done around 70 projects, mostly small, in special appearances but branched out as a producer. There were plenty of headlines grabbing missteps but she’s back, healthy and happy in Irish Wish, an undemanding, family-friendly romantic comedy with special sentimental resonance for her; it was shot in and around her father’s home county in Ireland. Lohan is Maddie, a Chicago book editor working on famed author Paul Kennedy’s (Alexander Vlahos) best seller. She’s in love with him but he falls for her best friend. So it’s off to his family’s stately home in Ireland for the wedding. Maddie gracefully accepts defeat but keeps dreaming. She meets a fellow on a local bus and they spar a bit; he sniffs at Kennedy’s book but there’s a spark. And Paul’s brother seems soft on her. Still, she retreats to a flowering meadow to think things through and makes a wish just as a kind of fairy godmother lights next to her. She’s suddenly preparing for her wedding. That’s the fantasy driving Maddie’s imagination and apparent reality. Irish Wish is easy-going, friendly comfort viewing, with its pretty, vibrant spring colour palette against her romantic ups and downs. It’s also a travelogue of Ireland’s landscapes from barren, raw, cliffs to its green pastures. A mini vacation from the daily hurly-burly, with Lohan’s renewed energy and spark. Netflix

So you think 150-year-old history is dull? Think again. Apple TV+‘s dense seven-parter Manhunt, based on James L. Swanson’s conspiracy thriller will shake you to the core. So many chilling parallels to events around the assassination of US President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, and today’s poisonous political environment in the battle between The Democrats and Republicans. The Confederate State, the South, has lost the Civil War and must accept the end of slavery. Great wealth was built on the backs of abused stolen Africans. President Abraham Lincoln (Hamish Linklater) enacted the Proclamation of Emancipation and set them free. Four hundred years of free labour – gone. Leading Confederate loyalists vowed their state and slavery would rise again whatever it took and set up secret spy networks leading across the east and up into Montreal to plot a coup. Lincoln’s Secretary of State is murdered in his bed. Death threats against Lincoln pile up, filling cases. Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union forces on April 9th. On the 14th, Lincoln was dead, shot while watching a performance of Our American Cousin at Washington’s Ford Theatre. Actor Edwin Booth ( Anthony Boyle) was almost immediately ID’d as the assailant but made good his getaway. Methodical and deeply loyal Secretary of War Stanton (Tobias Menzies) sets out to avenge Lincoln’s assassination with the military, his network of spies, with heightened haste to extinguish the flame of Southern fury. He discovers a vast conspiracy plotting a Confederate coup and the re-upping of slavery. And that ain’t all. Shocking, riveting, and true. And so many questions remain unanswered today.

PBS Masterpiece launches a new miniseries Sunday night called Nolly starring Helena Bonham-Carter as one of Britain’s iconic TV soap stars, Noele Gordon. The central figure of the popular series Crossroads, a kind of Coronation street set in a motel, “Nolly” ran the production as a diva queen, whose demands were usually spot on and added to the show’s longevity. Beloved by her co-stars but feared by her producers, the series and Nolly were at the heights of Crossroads’ twenty-year fame when she was fired and given no reason. The network was inundated with complaints and demands that they reconsider. Over three episodes we follow Nolly’s fame, influence, firing, and last chapters. Nolly’s inimitable use of language and sharp wit is delightfully evident in a heightened, camp retelling of the infamous story. Nolly refused to beg for a return and set out to begin a new life with a singular perspective and sense of purpose. She and her friends, particularly co-star and gay bf and confidant Tony (Augustus Prew ) encourage her as she begins a stage career, then a global dinner theatre tour before. She’s still tortured not knowing why she was fired, and then runs into a lawyer in Hong Kong who happened to hear the boss’ entire conversation when the decision was made! If you need a lift, this is the one for you. Bonham-Carter’s vivacious appeal, the costumes, sets, and dialogue are wonderful and this is one diva we truly care about.

The Canadian Film Fest running March 18 – 23 at Cineplex’s Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto presents 56 films and 35 shorts. It’s an inclusive event including 35 (63%) BIPOC filmmakers, 33 (59%) Female/Non-Binary Filmmakers. Check mini-reviews below and here’s the link to tickets and information:

Place of Bones is an edgy western from Audrey Cummings led by two strong female characters – mother and daughter Pandora and Hester (Heather Graham and Brielle Robillard). It’s 1876 and they’re fending for themselves in a desert gully, 95 miles from the nearest town. Pandora’s murdered husband is buried on the property. They have nothing but their wits for survival and pray that the Lord provide for them. One day Calhoun (Corin Nemec ) a thief rides in with a bag full of cash; he’s robbed a bank, and there’s a gang of four on his tail. He’s badly injured and can’t walk so they take him in and his bag of cash. Pandora lays down the rules. The gang shows up – each member has a specific skill, solving forensic problems, tracking, predicting behaviours, and plotting movements. Bear John (Tom Hopper) a classic western outlaw, is ruthless but he doesn’t know what he’s up against with the fearless, canny Hester and Pandora. Calhoun’s mightily impressed, and works while wounded to keep them safe. From this point comes the showdown, the incredible mother and daughter’s bravery and cunning that mystifies Calhoun. The battle begins and a prize winner of unforgettable twists. It’s not a great film but it’s a jolts-per-minute shocker of a plotting masterclass.

Redlights, a short film from writer-director Eva Thomas stars Kaniehtiio Horn, Ellyn Jade, and Jennifer Podemski and offers a chilling look at recent abuses of indigenous people by law enforcement. Two women decide to leave a bar rather than become embroiled in a situation; they are uneasy. Once outside, one returns for her purse and witnesses her friend being abducted by a police officer. She follows him to a remote field where in harsh winter weather, he lets the woman out to walk home alone and likely freeze to death. But he sees the friend tailing him, and things take a turn. Meanwhile, the woman’s mother has heard it all on the phone. This is based on multiple true cases.

When you know you…know? Another powerful short about the ruinous effect social media can have from Katie Uhlmann. What could be a satire on the influencer world if it weren’t so dark, raises significant alarms. Alana Pancyr plays an affected influencer on the beauty beat who coos at her followers, calls them her darlings, and ignores her husband. Offline, she’s glum and anxious; he’s distancing himself from her, preferring to spend his time on a VR app. With a certain woman. His wife decides to see what he’s watching.



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