Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based actor, and filmmaker Michael Zelniker traversed Canada’s massive boreal forest to shine a light on an urgent environmental problem. Our boreal forest, the biggest in the world and the “lungs of the planet”, below the Arctic, is home to countless species of flora and fauna. It absorbs CO2 and keeps healthy the oldest living things on earth. The Issue with Tissue – a boreal love story examines the urgent importance of our thousands of miles of unbroken forest that teems with biodiversity is key to human survival. The threat against its survival in the form of industrial clear-cutting of ancient trees for toilet paper is too real. Not only does it cut its life of it away, but unwanted timber is also tossed on the ground, compacting the soil and preventing future growth, and poisoning the waters. Once an ancient tree is gone, it’s not coming back. The litany of logging’s harmful effects is not just shocking – it’s deadly. Species are becoming extinct due to the loss of habitat, and accelerating climate change. Zelniker gathers information and traditional wisdom from indigenous leaders and learns of the destructive effects we may not have considered of colonisation – the theft of lands to clear-cut without regulation. We learn that the provinces are mandated to protect forests but they aren’t, particularly Ontario. Doug Ford has opened the north to logging and is building on the greenbelt. Horrifying. Canada can do better. The Issue with Tissue is in select theatres.
Guy Ritchie sticks to his snazzy macho action formula in the heist actioner Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre but adds the incredibly versatile Aubrey Plaza as Sarah, the tech and strategy brains behind their operation, equal to Jason Staham’s brawn. Ritchie perennial Dexter Fletcher shows up and Corry fans, the late abuser Geoff (Ian Bartholomew) has a brief but memorable walk-on. Hugh Grant is the ultimate baddie, billionaire terrorist entrepreneur Greg whose downmarket accent and overall repugnance offer a new showcase for Grant’s comedic gifts, entertaining in a class-conscious kind of way. British intelligence boss Nathan (Cary Elwes) hires central figure Orson Fortune (Jason Statham) and his team to pull off a dangerous mission to stop the sale of a deadly new weapons technology. It was created by two rather young bespectacled tech billionaires who knew it would plunge the world into chaos, and make them rich and powerful beyond measure. Orson enlists the help of Hollywood superstar Danny (Josh Hartnett) whose fame opens otherwise impenetrable doors; Greg has a man crush on him and showers him with gifts and lets his guard down. All the action takes place under Sarah’s watchful eye who is digitally connected to seemingly every corner of every country they rush to. And Greg gets a crush on her too which she uses to her team’s advantage. A breakneck pace, and endless sequences of people typing and texting, overlong, deadening fight sequences seem regressive, but Plaza’s energy and brightness raise Ritchie’s retro effort. Theatres.
Tiny Beautiful Things now on (April 7) on Disney+ based on Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling collection follows Clare (Kathryn Hahn) in a sure-fire feel-bad situation. Hahn plays a woman whose husband has just tossed her out of her marital home. She has nowhere to stay so kips in her car, in the nursing home where she works casually, and just devolves; she drinks and drugs, endlessly talks, curses a blue streak and yells with her mouth full of food. If you want me not to watch something, have the character do these things. There is nothing sympathetic about Clare, who is unable to go through life without disrupting it. There is nothing to grab onto, so just imagine what lies ahead when a friend asks her, nay, insists, she takes over his advice column. As a failed writer, she thinks she’s not up to it, but gives in. And now she comes face to face with herself, her past, and the sources of the troubles that landed her where she is. The journey may well change everything – I don’t know because I was so put off my feed by this feral character.
My favourite TV sleuth is back for a twelfth season at long last! Brenda Blethyn has created an unforgettable, iconic character in Vera Stanhope based on Ann Cleeves’ unorthodox detective. Vera runs the Northumberland police unit with an iron fist, sass and an occasional glimpse of warmth. Set on the rocky shores of the English Channel, the extensive wetlands and ocean geography are deeply ingrained in the series’ signature, the rough, wind-whipped, and dangerous landscape reflects the incomprehensible rolling tides of humanity, ordinary people who are never ordinary – driven by whatever forces power them – to murder. Her favourite detective, the insightful DS Aiden Healy (Kenny Doughty) accompanies her on her investigations, respectfully putting on her protective shoe covers at crime scenes, and using his keen instincts to help. It’s a tight connection between them not unnoticed by staffers who’d like to do more in the field with her, but Vera does have her pets. She has a difficult relationship with the coroner and openly disdains veteran investigator Kenny. Vera knows how to speak with survivors, grieving families, and suspects in ways never seen on American police procedurals. She has many gifts and this season of four feature-length episodes will only add to fans’ admiration. Blethyn confirmed on Twitter recently that there will be another season :). BritBox.
Em Johnson’s multi-award-winning Balloon Animal is now available on Prime Video. Ever wanted to run away and join the circus? or wondered what kind of lives circus people lead? See it all through the eyes of magician and balloon animal maker Poppy (actress/producer Katherine Waddell) as her father’s travelling show wraps up another season. Veteran actor Ilia Volok as her demanding, perfectionist father who has had Poppy work since she was ten years old. He says he’s getting too old to run it and pins his hopes on Poppy to take over. It’s not that she’s overworked, which she is, she’s been overworked for fourteen years and never had the chance to follow her own path. She meets a guy at the local gas station and they tentatively begin to bond. She’s leaving in two days to put the circus to bed till next year and her father’s promoted her to do even more work. She and two co-workers venture into town where she once again encounters Drew (Michale David Wilson). The events of the last couple of days make her question everything, family, tradition, love and dreams. Johnson’s work is transcendent; flawless and revealing, sombre and reflective of the way life can suddenly stand up and slap us. It’s transforming and emotional, quiet and yet packs a helluva punch.
Jury Duty on Amazon Freevee April 7th is a comedy/documentary (?) series with a twist. Non-actor, twenty-year-old Ronald Gladden, a regular guy, has been called for jury duty. He’s apparently consented to be followed in the courtroom and jury room by documentary cameras ( would NEVER happen! but he’s twenty so …) and he’s super pumped to see how trials and juries and the legal system operate from the inside. The courtroom is filled with oddball potential jurors including actor James Marsden who he doesn’t immediately recognise. The juror winnowing process begins. Some folks wriggle out of duty, saying they’re full-time caretakers, one guy’s planned a romantic trip with his girlfriend so he proclaims he’s a racist, and Marsden says he has meetings with producers. He’s asked if he’s served on a jury before and says yes, Cannes. Gladden and Marsden are chosen for duty. Marsden arranges for paparazzi to rush the courtroom to get out of service, and this is just one of the weird things Gladden witnesses – also a totally incompetent lawyer for Trevor the defendant, a thieving anarchist juror, no phones, sequestering and bad acts across the board. And Gladden doesn’t catch on. That’s the amazing thing.