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By Anne Brodie

Canadian-Pakistani filmmaker Zarrar Kahn’s eerie winner of multiple international awards In Flames is an unusual and intriguing family drama with strong thriller elements, biting social and cultural commentary and an astounding ending. Mariam (Ramesha Nawal) and her mother Farhia (Bakhtawar Mazhar) live in a small apartment in Karachi with Marian’s little brother Bilal (Jibran Khan). Uncle Nasir drops by often – they seem to be a happy family. His brother, Mariam’s grandfather dies leaving no instructions regarding the apartment he owns. Nasir has been grooming the family to do what he asks, and he wants the apartment and will do what it takes to get it. Farhia follows the cultural line and prepares to give it up and face homelessness. Mariam loses respect for her gullible mother; meanwhile, she’s dealing with vivid nightmares and hallucinations, lost in what seems to be a mental collapse. A man shows up, her cousin just returned from Canada and he offers her some companionship. One night on a remote road at night, their motorcycle collapses, she staggers away without checking his condition, assuming he’s dead, and finds her way home; he repeatedly appears to her, bloodied, with warnings.  Peculiar things happen to Mariam and then Farhia, unhinged by Nasir’s betrayal and looming homelessness – supernatural visions, vivid nightmares and strange interactions with random people, one of which Mariam reports to the police.  There’s a small shack on the shore of the Arabian Sea where she goes for peace but finds none, haunted by her visions, and where she is attacked by a “kindly” cab driver. There is much at stake on psychological, economic, emotional and other levels, an unbearable burden. Kahn’s mastery of the genre blend and his artistic expression is extraordinary.  In theatres.

From Death in Paradise to Beyond Paradise, ID Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall) begins a new life back home in the UK, in Devon’s coast village Shifton Abbott, as he takes charge of the local constabulary. He’s an odd duck, idiosyncratic and goofy funny, and rubs the staff the wrong way. And they soon recognise his apparent genius for the job and warm, quirky personality, even as they roll their eyes at his anything goes methods. He lives with patient, and appreciative fiancée Martha (Sally Bretton). His first case concerns a woman changing a high-ceiling light bulb who falls from the second-story gallery to the ground floor; she survives the “accident” but informs investigators she was pushed by a 16th C burned witch who allegedly haunts the town, Mother Wheaton.  Security cameras offer no evidence of anyone else being on the grounds or in the house but a broom is found and may crack the case. Another episode finds the team investigating the stabbing of a man in a moving train; he’s not dead, but he’s not saying much either. Meanwhile, an awkward lunch at Martha’s mother finds the old gal on a dating site, an experience he says is like imagining Donald Trump skating. The series is appealingly out there, and a solid investigative procedural loaded with charm.  And those idyllic English villages still have a higher per capita murder rate vs anywhere else but Cabot Cove. Seasons 1 and 2 on BritBox.

The Greatest Hits on Disney+ April 12th is a well-constructed study of grief that borders on the metaphysical. Lucy Boynton is Harriet, who can see into the future, not always a comfortable thing but she can’t ignore it. Her boyfriend Max chooses to ignore her plea to drive off the road, she knows there will be an accident ahead and he will die. She mourns him deeply playing the songs with meaning and connection to moments they shared. She travels back to that reality and relives their time; songs become triggers for changes in consciousness., that remembered/real universe with him, holding the extraordinary and mundane moments they shared.  But the trigger effect becomes constant; she’s forced to escape or violently block certain songs, but is unable to change the torturous pattern or share her pain in her grief group.  David (Justin H. Min) joins the group, following the death of both his parents; there’s a spark of attraction but they tread carefully. Harriet eventually shares her story with him and he asks to take him back in time with her so he can see his parents.  Sounds hokey but it stirs emotions; the ideas are familiar to us and strangely comforting.  We all mourn in different ways, and if you have supernatural abilities, this is your story! One important ingredient missing from The Greatest Hits is humour, which is often how we get by. But otherwise a thoughtful piece.

Tyler Cameron, aka reality TV star and former Bachelorette heartthrob, returns to his hometown of Jupiter, Florida to begin a new phase of life as a home renovator, in Going Home with Tyler Cameron on Prime Video and it’s an eyeful. I’m not just talking about the “after” visuals of homes renovated for anxious couples with bucks to spare. Tyler Cameron is a good-looking young man with abs he’s not afraid to show, demolishing walls shirtless mostly. Use what you have, I guess. His amiable manner and drive to succeed are appealing. We start with him on day one, job one as he launches Image One with house-flipping expert, Robb Ritch, and interior designer, Jessica Quintero.  He’s just suddenly lost his beloved mother, but his dad is by his side, encouraging and critiquing his work.  Bachelor Nation stars Matt James, Rachael Kirkconnell, Jason Tartick, and The Bachelorette he loved and lost Hannah Brown appear to reassure him in his new venture. He has doubts and anxieties like the rest of us, but his optimism shines through time and time again. With each new job, he gathers steam and confidence and the stars seem to align for him.  What makes this renovation reality show different is that Image One is a brand new business, and could fail or thrive, in front of us.  And he takes time to renovate his late mother’s home – that was why he came back to Jupiter – to help her out.  Now the work will be a tribute to her.  Going Home with Tyler Cameron streams April 18.

I like a good morning news show for its timely information and entertainment. American and Canadian newsnets and thanks to BritBox its possible to watch  Good Morning Britain, ITV’s offering, same day for British and European news. What fun. I’m a big consumer of morning news shows, and noticed differences. Hosts Kate Garraway and Ed Balls talked eclipse, the reactions in Niagara Falls and other spots along its totality path in North America and the disappointing non-show in London.  Just last week I reviewed Mr. Bates Versus the Post Office, the story of a tragic, years-long scandal in which UK sub-postmasters suffered bankruptcy, illness, death, wrongful imprisonment and suicides following “shortfalls” in their books. Turns out it was a faulty IT system, denied by the Post Office and Horizon IT. Ten years later it continues. The big GMB story Alan Bates about to testify in a public inquiry into wrongdoing by the IT provider and the government.  The entertainment story was the glitzy London premiere of the Amy Winehouse biopic Back to Black, starring Marisa Abela. And then supporting transgender children, and tax dodgers featuring a live, endless shouting match between two guests that was brutal and rude, wagging fingers, talking over one another – the hosts did nothing to bring back a little civility. That doesn’t happen here, thank goodness, it was ugly.  They were followed by local British celebrities so the show’s tonally and culturally different from ours.



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