Summer might be over but that means there’s lots of exciting new Television for you to get acquainted with! See some of our recommendations.
THE BOYS SEASON 2 (Amazon Prime)
The second season of this highly-anticipated Toronto-made superhero series is back! We pick-up right where with the successful first season as we see the Vought International-controlled superheroes The Seven, feuding against vigilantes The Boys. Homelander (Antony Starr) is as deliciously-evil as ever as The Seven‘s leader witholding The Boys’ leader Butcher’s (Karl Urban) wife and son from him, giving us plenty of fuel to go on in their feud because let’s face it – it’s always about a girl. We see Deep (Chace Crawford) estranged by The Seven, attempting to make his way back in with struggle after suffering an emotional breakdown. Stormfront (Aya Cash) gets introduced and she is the perfect pairing to Homelander‘s sinister. Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) is vulnerable as a feral member of The Boys and we see her storyline develop with her brother. We also see Hughie (Jack Quaid) and Annie (Erin Moriarty)‘s Romeo & Juliet-like romance progress made further complicated by their allegiances to each of their causes, hence meeting secretly. What makes The Boys‘ brand so unique is its way of combining brute violence, with comical references of our today – yes “Diva Cups” make an appearance. This, plus a whimsical retro soundtrack. This is all tied-in on a deeper level to race relations and the fight against the power, mirroring much of what’s been on the forefront of discussion of Racism today. Fans will be delighted by what looks like is here to stay for a while! Stay tuned for some exciting guest roles to come including the likes of Patton Oswalt.
First three episodes stream September 4, 2020 on Amazon Prime, with new episodes to come weekly.
STAGE MOTHER (Momentum Pictures)
We all could use a little something uplifting and what makes us smile more than Drag Queens? Thom Fitzgerald‘s STAGE MOTHER takes us on a journey with estranged Maybelline (Jacki Weaver), who learns of her son Ricky‘s (Eldon Thiele) death. We learn a bit of history of their rift after his “coming out” causes an issue. Travelling to Nova Scotia-masking-as-San Francisco from the conservative South, Maybelline meets his partner Nathan (Adrian Grenier) who holds a bit of resentment towards her; his best friend Sienna (Lucy Liu); and the Drag Queens at the struggling bar he owned, which she inherits. In her time in San Francisco, she discovers her son’s world, finding it a bit tougher every day to leave as she becomes more invested in those who were around him, including helping the drag queens shape-up their act with her expertise as a Choir Director. This Comedy is filled with heartfelt moments and while it’s got a couple too many ballads which somewhat lag the energy of the Film a bit, it is proof that at any age, one can go on a growth journey. Weaver is fantastic and highly-likable, many even a bit too likable that it becomes maybe unbelievable that her son would’ve had an issue coming out to her. Some entertaining performances from its Support Cast include Liu balancing new motherhood and dating life, Toronto-based Allister MacDonald as one of the bar’s stars and a seen-too-little Drag Queen Jackie Beat as Dusty. STAGE MOTHER is available digitally Friday, August 21, 2020.
Once again we visit the sordid world of Ryan Murphy in RATCHED, which is an origins story behind the main antagonist in Classic ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. This first season consists of nine episodes, starring Sarah Paulson in the titular role. The battleaxe head nurse is depicted as cold, heartless and scheming but this Series exposes how she became the way she is known. Like many of other of Murphy‘s productions, the build-up of the story is hyper-sexualized, many pondering sexuality a bit more than needed between its characters. True to form, the story takes flight as we progress throughout the season and we really go inside the mind of our central character as she is forced to confront her dark past, while also coming to terms with her sexuality and her love interest, Gwendolyn Briggs. (Cynthia Nixon).Murphy as expected, allows his Ensemble a chance to shine and this Series boasts some familiar collaborators including Finn Wittrock as convicted murderer Edmund Tolleson, whom we learn is Ratched‘s childhood adopted brother, plus also Jon Jon Briones who shone in The Assassination of Gianni Versace, playing Andrew Cunanan‘s father. The latter plays Dr. Richard Hanover, who oversees operations at the mental hospital, himself on-the-run from a dark secret. Judy Davis compels and mortifies as Ratched‘s arch-nemesis at the hospital, Nurse Bucket. Charlotte Wells, a patient with Multiple Personality Disorder comes to life in all her personas via the brilliant Sophie Okonedo. The talented Alice Englert whom we haven’t seen in a while surfaces as a Dolly, a young nurse on-the-verge, falling for Tolleson. The deliciously-twisted Ratched streams on Netflix Friday, September 18, 2020.
THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN (Disney+)
Review by David Baldwin
Ivan (Sam Rockwell) is the star of the show at an animal attraction housed inside a suburban mall. The giant Silverback gorilla is happy in captivity and does his best acting for the paying guests. But when young elephant Ruby (Brooklynn Prince who you might remember from The Florida Project) arrives and starts asking questions about Ivan’s past, he realizes that he longs to be free and in the wild.
There is something about the simplicity of The One and Only Ivan that makes me smile. There is no doubt that it is typical surface level Disney fluff, but it knows just when to make you laugh, when to cry and when to warm your heart. The hybrid-live action/CGI animation style is well done, with the design of Ivan standing tall above the rest. The voice cast – which also includes Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito, Helen Mirren and Ron Funches (who slays just as hard here as he does as King Shark on the animated Harley Quinn series) – is terrific, and the human cast lead by Bryan Cranston and Ramón Rodríguez elevate the material. Some of the motivations could be a bit stronger and the Film could do with a few less montages, but families will still end up being delighted.
THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN is streaming on Disney+ now!
By David Baldwin
Punk band DUH has just scored their first tour. The only problem is, they are low on cash and do not have any way to get to their venues. By chance, they meet Peckerhead (David Littleton). He offers to help drive them around in his van and act as their roadie – but forgets to mention that he becomes a flesh-eating demon at midnight every night.
Uncle Peckerhead is light on story and heavy on viciously-violent fun. It never seems to take itself seriously, and delights in being as outrageous as possible. Writer/Director Matthew John Lawrence sets the tongue-in-cheek tone from the start, having just as much fun shooting scenes of the band rocking out as he does watching Peckerhead rip people to pieces. The gore and makeup effects are used sparingly and effectively, initially hinting at the carnage in the first half and then on full disgusting display throughout the second half. The dialogue could have been more fine-tuned, but the Cast makes the best of it and seems very in on the silly tone. Littleton’s Peckerhead shines above the rest however, landing in a sympathetic sweet spot between ally and monster. I just wish it did not end so abruptly.
levelFILM release UNCLE PECKERHEAD on Digital and On-Demand on Tuesday August 25, 2020.
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS(Netflix)
Charlie Kaufman holds a dear place in our hearts having written Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and he’s back again after 2015’s directorial effort Anomalisa. He adapts Canadian Author Iain Reid’s acclaimed Novel, I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS, a Psychological Thriller.
The Film centers on a young woman (Jesse Buckley) whom after dating her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) for a few months, realizes she wants to end the relationship with him. That being said, she still goes along with him on a trip to visit his parents, played by David Thewlis and Toni Collette. As the unpleasant night progresses and she comes across several haunting peculiarities, including oddly-framed questions including why she would date Jake, they head off on a long-drive home in the dead of winter where we see how incompatible the two actually are as they engaged in discussions about life. Finally, they arrive at a deserted school and the story unravels where we meet the janitor (Guy Boyd) and gain an awareness of who the couple might actually be.
While craftily-written, I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS reads much like a play. It is rather heavy on the dialogue and slow to progress, it is a watch which very much relies on your patience and investment. That being said, Buckley rises to the challenge and excels in her role as the unnamed woman and Kaufman carefully tells this story in a way that suggests something is horribly wrong, having us guessing the entire way which direction the story is heading.
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS arrives on Netflix Friday, September 4, 2020.
BOYS STATE(Apple TV+)
By David Baldwin
This year’s winner of the US Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival chronicles the week long journey of a group of teenage boys selected to be part of Boys State – a leadership program in Texas where 1000 boys come together to build a representative government from the ground up.
Few Documentaries are as captivating, emotional, chaotic, hilarious and downright sinister as Boys State. The Film runs through a whole gamut of feels over the course of its 109-minute running time. It initially seems rather mundane and trivial, but once these teenage boys start debating, gerrymandering and digging-up dirt to slander their opponents, it becomes an eye-opening experience that will both educate and frustrate the living hell out of you; mostly because you just know that grown adults are using these tactics and acting the exact same way for real. There is an extensive portion of the Film devoted to debating gun control laws, and it is just as horrifying as you expect. While I wish some of the specific interview subjects were not dropped mid-film in favour of others, I think the real misstep is not showing what is going on at the neighbouring Girls State. Would have made for quite the compare and contrast.
BOYS STATE is streaming on Apple TV+ now!
HIGH SCORE (Netflix)
This six-episode Docu-Series is a fascinating, in-depth look at the evolution of Video Games, tracing back to the ’70s when they were text-only games played on your computer to the ultra-realism putting players right inside the game and a Gaming culture. We see the impact of Atari before its popularity faded, to Nintendo‘s battle against new kid on the block Sega which stole a chunk of their market share, all the way to how computers no longer were just for work after the internet came into our lives. We meet several deeply-involved interview subjects who give us insight in the process of the evolution. A common thread often seen is how these people found themselves in their Gaming, which at once gave them an escape from their lives. A fascinating watch which surely couldn’t have covered all key essential games in a few episodes, opening room for perhaps more exploration.
LOVE, GUARANTEED (Netflix)
It’s been so long since we’ve watched a good old-fashioned Rom-Com and we admit LOVE, GUARANTEED brought us pleasure. Susan is a struggling lawyer just trying to keep her operations afloat when in walks Nick (Damon Wayans Jr.). He is looking to sue the dating website he uses, “Love, Guaranteed“, owned by lifestyle guru Tamara Taylor (Heather Graham), because it failed its namesake promise to him. He is nearing 1,000 dates and still no signs of love. Susan meanwhile never has used a dating site before and isn’t looking for love. She also is skeptical of Nick‘s intentions thinking he’s only out to get money. Before they know it, Susan and Nick just might be each other’s perfect match which might hinder their chances of winning their case. It’s cute and simplistic which is a refreshing break from all the drama of the world right now. It streams Friday, September 4, 2020 on Netflix. Case adjourned.
MISBEHAVIOUR (Shout! Studios)
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
This funny, bewitching Film follows the true story of the feminist protesters who disrupted the 1970 Miss World beauty competition in London.
What makes this Film great is its meticulous Script, written by Rebecca Frayn and Gaby Chiappe. They examine two sides of the story with humour and heart. One side being the feminist protesters, the other the pageant contestants. Frayn and Chiappe put more focus on one character in each group, Londoner Sally (Keira Knightley) and Miss Grenada Jennifer Hosten (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). By focusing on these characters, the Film examines the Miss World pageant through a feminist lens and through intersectionality. The Miss World competition majorly lacked representation among women of colour, and before 1970, no people of colour had ever won. The Script integrates this lack of representation within Hosten’s storyline, who won the competition in 1970.
Hosten’s experience and desire is the heart of the Film and Mbatha-Raw gives a strong performance. Jessie Buckley is a delight as passionate protester Jo, so much so, she should have been given more screen time. Other notable performances come from Leslie Manville as Dolores Hope, who’s worried about her husband hosting another Miss World after his infidelity the previous time. And Greg Kinnear turns in an impressive performance as Bob Hope. He shines during a pinnacle scene where the protesters invade the live competition and target him on stage.
Shout! Studios release MISBEHAVIOUR on Digital and On-Demand Friday, September 25, 2020.
(Photo/video credit: Netflix/Momentum Pictures/levelFILM/Amazon Prime Video/Shout! Studios)