Christos Nikou makes his English feature directorial debut in Toronto-filmed FINGERNAILS. It’s quirky, cute and will make you squeamish. All of that in one sitting.
Though the Film dons a nostalgia to it, it is set in the future. Couples now have the ability to test if in fact their love is true at an institute specializing in finger nail tests, putting couples through intimacy-enhancing activities. Anna (Jessie Buckley) lands a job at the institute after testing “positive” for true love with her partner Ryan (Jeremy Allen White). Something doesn’t sit right still. She takes on this job secretly, telling Ryan she’s teaching at an elementary school. Anna works with Amir and while working with the institute’s clientele, they form a bond that has Anna questioning if her true “positive” with Ryan is in fact real.
Nikou tells an age old love triangle story through a new lens, opting for 35mm which together with the styling and soundtrack of the Film, make us feel we’re in the past, even though we’re in the future. His commentary on society’s dependence on technology doing the thinking for us makes this a biting satire, but with a unique mixture of grotesque (yes, these fingernail pulling will have you covering your eyes!), yet charming at once.
Buckley and Ahmed have a believable chemistry, while White isn’t given quite as much to work with, painting the mundane backdrop whereby Anna‘s life is set against. Nikou crafts something thought-provoking though it takes a different route to get there.
FINGERNAILS screens at TIFF ’23 as follows:
Tuesday, September 12 Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre Premium, Descriptive Sound
Wednesday, September 13 TIFF Bell Lightbox Closed Captioning
Decorated Marine Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed) has been living off the grid, studying a parasitic threat that could put all of humanity in danger. Fearing for their safety, Khan kidnaps his two children from the home of his ex-wife and takes them on a road trip to find the cure. With the authorities in hot pursuit and general skepticism abounding, Khan must stay a step ahead in order to save his children’s lives.
ENCOUNTER is emotionally resonant and poignant in its exploration of the lengths a parent will go to in order to keep their children safe while adding emphasis to the plight of veterans suffering from mental illness and PTSD from their time at war. The Film moves at a consistent clip, knowing just when to flip the switch between an intimate Character Drama and an anxiety-ridden Thriller. Sometimes it jumps between both styles in a matter of seconds. Though I never imagined Ahmed in a fatherly role before, he soars here and really builds on his previous work depicting the ticks and peculiarities of a man facing a crisis. His chemistry with both children, especially Lucian-River Chauhan, is rich and feels lived-in. He knows he is making up for lost time and really hones-in on that heroism that all young children believe their fathers imbue. Above all else, Ahmed’s work here is intensely captivating and suggests this past year’s Oscar nomination will not be his last.
Where ENCOUNTER falters for me is how Director Michael Pearce (last at TIFF with Beast in 2017) reveals his cards explaining what is going on. It comes far too early in the picture, and genuinely throws off the rhythm and enigmatic nature of everything that follows. What was initially riveting and mysterious becomes stale all too quickly. The power of the reveal would have landed substantially stronger had it been unveiled much later on. Spelling it all out so quickly does a disservice to Ahmed’s performance, as well as the supporting turns from the likes of Oscar winner Octavia Spencer and Rory Cochrane. While I would not call the Film disappointing by any stretch, I feel like ENCOUNTER might be a bit of a letdown for anyone expecting a very different kind of movie.
ENCOUNTER screens at TIFF ’21:
Fri, Sep 10 Princess of Wales 8:45 PM
Sat, Sep 11 digital TIFF Bell Lightbox 7:00 PM
Sat, Sep 11 West Island Open Air Cinema at Ontario Place 9:00 PM
Additional titles have been announced at TIFF ’21 today in the Platform, Special Events and Short Cuts Programmes, with Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) being named President of the Jury for the Platform Competition this year! The Competition seeks to reward films of high artistic merit that also demonstrate a strong directorial vision. Ahmed also will be at TIFF ’21 with the film ENCOUNTER, about two brothers embarking on a journey with their father to protect the world from an alien threat.
Pablo Larrain‘s SPENCER which stars Kristen Stewart as Diana also will be coming to the Festival in the Special Events Programme.
The Festival is set to take place September 9-18, 2021.
Arthur Rambo Laurent Cantet | France World Premiere
Drunken Birds (Les oiseaux ivres) Ivan Grbovic | Canada World Premiere
Earwig Lucile Hadžihalilović | United Kingdom/France/Belgium World Premiere
Huda’s Salon Hany Abu-Assad | Palestine/Egypt/Netherlands/Qatar World Premiere
Mlungu Wam(Good Madam)(Mlungu Wam) Jenna Cato Bass | South Africa World Premiere
Montana Story Scott McGehee, David Siegel | USA World Premiere
Silent Land(Cicha Ziemia) Aga Woszczyńska | Poland/Italy/Czech Republic World Premiere
Yuni Kamila Andini | Singapore/France/Indonesia/Australia World Premiere
TIFF SHORT CUTS PROGRAMME
A Few Miles South Ben Pearce | United Kingdom World Premiere
Angakusajaujuq – The Shaman’s Apprentice(Angakusajaujuq) Zacharias Kunuk | Canada North American Premiere
Anxious Body Yoriko Mizushiri | France/Japan North American Premiere
ASTEL Ramata-Toulaye Sy | France/Senegal World Premiere
Beity Isabelle Mecattaf | Lebanon/United States of America International Premiere
Bhai Hamza Bangash | United Kingdom/Canada/Pakistan World Premiere
Boobs Marie Valade | Canada North American Premiere
Charlotte Zach Dorn | United States of America World Premiere
DEFUND Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah, Araya Mengesha | Canada World Premiere
Displaced (Pa Vend) Samir Karahoda | Kosovo North American Premiere
DUST BATH Seth A Smith | Canada World Premiere
Egúngún(Masquerade) Olive Nwosu | United Kingdom/Nigeria World Premiere
Fanmi Sandrine Brodeur-Desrosiers, Carmine Pierre-Dufour | Canada World Premiere
Hanging On Alfie Barker | United Kingdom International Premiere
I Gotta Look Good for the Apocalypse Ayçe Kartal | France North American Premiere
I Would Never Kiran Deol | United States of America World Premiere
Little Bird Tim Myles | Canada World Premiere
Love, Dad (Milý tati) Diana Cam Van Nguyen | Czech Republic/Slovakia Canadian Premiere
Meneath: The Hidden Island of Ethics Terril Calder | Canada World Premiere
Motorcyclist’s Happiness Won’t Fit Into His Suit (Al motociclista no le cabe la felicidad en el traje) Gabriel Herrera | Mexico Canadian Premiere
NuisanceBear Jack Weisman, Gabriela Osio Vanden | Canada World Premiere
Ousmane Jorge Camarotti | Canada World Premiere
Saturday Night Rosana Matecki | Canada World Premiere
Shark Nash Edgerton | Australia World Premiere
Soft Animals Renee Zhan | United Kingdom North American Premiere
Some Still Search (Algunos Siguen Buscando) Nesaru Tchaas | United States of America World Premiere
Srikandi Andrea Nirmala Widjajanto | Indonesia/Canada World Premiere
Successful Thawing of Mr. Moro (Lyckad upptining av herr Moro) Jerry Carlsson | Sweden International Premiere
Sycorax (Sycorax)Lois Patiño, Matías Piñeiro | Portugal/Spain North American Premiere
The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be Adeyemi Michael | United Kingdom Canadian Premiere
The Infantas (Las Infantas) Andrea Herrera Catalá | Spain World Premiere
The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night Fawzia Mirza | United States of America/Canada World Premiere
Together (Ham-Gye) Albert Shin | Canada/South Korea World Premiere
Trumpets in the Sky Rakan Mayasi | Palestine/Lebanon/France/Belgium World Premiere
Twelve Hours Paul Shkordoff | Canada World Premiere
White Devil Mariama Diallo, Benjamin Dickinson | United States of America World Premiere
You and Me, Before and After Madeleine Gottlieb | Australia International Premiere
Zero (Nula) Lee Filipovski | Canada/Serbia World Premiere
Special IMAX Screenings of Dune
The film, based on Frank Herbert’s classic novel, will screen at the Cinespherein Toronto on the following dates:
· Saturday, September 11 – World Exclusive IMAX Special Event · Sunday, September 12 – Repeat IMAX Screening · Saturday, September 18 – Public IMAX Screening
TIFF is also delighted to announce an additional Special IMAX screening of Dune in Montreal presented by Bell at Cinéma Banque Scotia Montréal on Sunday, September 12.
This screening is made possible in venue partnership with Cineplex as part of TIFF’s Canadian Satellite Screening programme. An additional screening of Dune will take place in Toronto at Scotiabank Theatre on September 13.
NBA Films For Fans created with OLG
On November 1, 1946, the NBA’s first-ever game was held at Maple Leaf Gardens, where the hometown Toronto Huskies played the New York Knickerbockers. Seventy-five years later, as part of the league’s anniversary celebrations, the NBA honours its Canadian roots at TIFF 2021.
TIFF is proud to announce the launch of NBA Films For Fans created with OLG. This can’t-miss Special Event will feature five short films from Canadian filmmakers and basketball fans: Thyrone Tommy — also at this year’s Festival with his debut feature, Learn to Swim — and fellow Torontonians and TIFF talent development alumni Romeo Candido, Shawn Gerrard, and S.M. Turrell, as well as Vancouverite Kat Jayme, also a Talent Alumni as the 2019 Pitch This winner. Learn more about the Special Event and register for updates at NBAFilmsForFans.com.
NOMADLAND continues its early Awards Season dominance, being named Best Picture today by the Toronto Film Critics Association. In addition to being named People’s Choice Award winner at TIFF ’20, the Film by Chloé Zhao has been a winner among Critic Circles around the continent, scoring in San Diego, Chicago, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and more. It also won the Golden Lion in Venice, and was named Best Feature at the Gotham Awards.
The TFCA Gala took place this evening virtually with a livestream on YouTube, hosted by Elaine “Lainey” Lui and Kathleen Newman-Bremang and winners giving their speeches on video.
The evening’s biggest prize, the $100k Rogers Best Canadian Film Award was awarded to ANNE AT 13,000 FT directed by Kazik Radwanski. Radwanski stated “It’s meant so much for the Film to still have a life, to connect, and be written about. It’s a huge honour coming from the TFCA.”.
Other winners include:
Best Picture: NOMADLAND
Best Director: Chloé Zhao, NOMADLAND Runners-up, Best Director: Kelly Reichardt – FIRST COW; Lee Isaac Chung – MINARI
Best Screenplay: MINARI Runners-up, Best Screenplay: NOMADLAND, SOUND OF METAL
Best Actor: Riz Ahmed, SOUND OF METAL Runners-up for Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman, MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM; Mads Mikkelsen, ANOTHER ROUND
Best Actress: Frances McDormand, NOMADLAND Runners-up, Best Actress: Viola Davis, MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM; Sidney Flanigan, NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS
Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah Runners-up, Best Actor: Paul Raci, Sound of Metal; Leslie Odom, Jr. One Night in Miami
Best Supporting Actress: Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm Runners-up, Best Supporting Actress: Yuh-jung Youn, Minari; Olivia Colman, The Father
Best First Feature: THE FORTY-YEAR-OLD VERSION Runners-up, Best First Feature: THE FATHER, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Best Animated Feature: WOLFWALKERS Runners-up, Best Animated Feature: SOUL and THE WILLOUGHBYS
Allan King Documentary Award: COLLECTIVE Runners-up: CRIP CAMP, DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA and TIME
Best Foreign Language Film: BACURAU Runners-up, Best Foreign Language Film: ANOTHER ROUND, BEANPOLE
Cineplex Emerging Critic Award: Mark Hanson (In the Seats) and Rose-Coloured Ray-Bans
Clyde Gilmour Award: Jason Ryle
Jay Scott Prize for Emerging Artist: Kelly Fyffe-Marshall
$100k Rogers Best Canadian Film Award Finalists: AND THE BIRDS RAINED DOWN, ANNE AT 13,000 FT and WHITE LIE
This engrossing Documentary tells the story of an Afghan refugees, known as the pseudonym Amin, journey from Kabul to Copenhagen.
Director Jonas Poher Rasmussen creates filmmaking ingenuity by mixing animation and archive footage. The animation is used, along with pseudonyms, to keep the identity of Amin protected. Additionally, the animation puts audiences into the experience of being an adolescent fleeing multiple countries in search of safety. The archive footage amplifies the risks Amin and his family encountered staying in Kabul and on their multiple passages.
Rasmussen’s personal relationship to Amin aids this Documentary. Amin opens up about his family, his frightening journey, his identity and more. Through one man’s honest and heartbreaking story we learn about the sacrifices refugees make in the search for a safer home. Further, it explores the PTSD refugees experience decades following their harrowing passages. Such as the psychological impact of how one loves and trusts within their relationships.
Flee screens at Sundance:
Live Premiere: January 28 at 10 PM (EST)
On-Demand (available for 24 hours): January 30 at 10 AM (EST)
With both the Holidays and Awards Season approaching, December can be a joyous time indeed for us with a big slate of new releases to surface. Here’s some of our recommendations across various screening platforms, including some theatrical releases!
HAPPIEST SEASON (EONE FILMS/AMAZON PRIME VIDEO)
Clea Duvall co-writes and directs this Holiday Rom-Com with a fresh take on expanding the idea the type of relationships the genre includes. Kristen Stewart stars as Abby, who is ready to propose to her live-in girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) as they get ready to spend the Holidays at the latter’s home for the first time. There is one hitch, Harper still hasn’t officially come out to them yet despite telling Abby she did, and that it went well. The daughter of a politician, image is everything for her family and this keeps holding her back from being her true self and matters get confused as former flames resurface in the visit which make the couple question their commitment to one another.
While ultimately meant to be heartwarming, tonally Duvall goes to heavier places as the couple gets pulled apart and its message is something the world needs a bit more of, hence its release is timely. Stewart has a knack for bringing her characters a ton of history and her Abby feels truly lived-in, while Davis spends much of the Film embattled in Harper‘s fears and in the shadow of her rival sister Sloane (Alison Brie). Canada’s Dan Levy delivers some much-needed comedic relief as Abby‘s confidante John and we wish the Film had even more of that. That being said, this is a Holiday story which many will identify with and feel seen by. And who knows, Stewart just might win over even more new fans here!
eOne Films release HAPPIEST SEASON Digitally and On-Demand Friday, November 26, 2020. It arrives on Amazon Prime VideoThursday, December 10, 2020.
We knew very little until only recently about this latest effort from Sharon Maguire (Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget Jones’s Baby) and now we can’t imagine life before it. Right in time for the Holidays comes this whimsical and fantastical Comedy which centers on Eleanor (Jillian Bell) who is out to prove to the world that Fairy Godmothers are needed. She finds a letter written by Mackenzie (Isla Fisher) when she was 10-years-old, only to realize now that she has grown into a widowed, 40-year-old single mother of two, stuck in a job at a newsroom with a miserable boss. Needless to say, she’s given-up a little on the “happily ever after” she dreamed of as a girl. Eleanor, whether Mackenzie wants it or not, is here to grant her wish but we wonder if Eleanor ever be more than just a Tooth Fairy with this challenging task ahead!
Bell is an absolute joy, hitting what is a sweet spot in her career after last year’s acclaimed Brittany Runs a Marathon. She brings a Will Ferrell-Elf-esque enthusiasm and curiosity to the world which is infectious. Fisher also is a pleasure to watch as she channels Mackenzie‘s cynicism in a way many of us see the world right now. Maguire manages to craft a magical experience which lifts the spirits, yet balancing what it means to expand our definition of what happily ever after means and who it involves in our lives and we’re here for this.
GODMOTHERED arrives on Disney+ Friday, December 4, 2020.
Prior to his passing, Screenwriter and father of David, Jack Fincher, had completed a Script for MANK, based the life of Herman J. Mankiewicz, also a Screenwriter.After many years in incubation as a passion project, the Film finally got made by the younger Fincher. The Film recounts its titular character’s well-documented fight to get credit for co-writing what would go on to be one of the greatest films ever made, CITIZEN KANE.Mank (Gary Oldman), who prior had been brought aboard to help as a Script Doctor on The Wizard of Oz – without credit – isn’t particularly a likable type. He’s an alcoholic, a gambling addict and in fact, others call his wife “Poor Sarah” (Tuppence Middleton). Mank’s outspoken in his political beliefs and his support of Democrat Upton Sinclair, who is viewed by powerful Hollywood types as a Socialist. This puts him at odds with the powers that be. He’s tasked with helping co-write CITIZEN KANE, which Orson Welles (Tom Burke) produced, starred, directed and co-wrote. From here, we see a heated battle between Welles and the unpopular Mank as the latter fights to secure himself a credit on the eventual masterpiece. More so, we see how the battles within his own life found their place in CITIZEN KANE – his alcoholism, going against the machine and career sabotage. Mank had nothing to left to lose, refusing to go down without a fight. And we’re here for it.
While the Film might not be for everyone, it is a must-watch for true Cinephiles and those obsessed with the history of Cinema. Fincher‘s direction and some of the performances are meticulously-faithful to the period. Carrying almost all of the weight is Oldman who transforms completely and he mesmerizes in the manner of passersby staring at a car crash on a highway. We are concerned for and empathetic of the driver in the wreckage. Amanda Seyfried plays actress Marion Davies, whom Mank befriends. She is the mistress of William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), a media mogul and backer of MGM who inspires the character Susan Alexander, albeit an untalented entertainer and second wife of the titular character in CITIZEN KANE. Seyfried is so committed, poised and sweet that what Mank does feels like a huge betrayal.
This certainly is a Film which Awards Season was made for and just may replicate the Oscars success which CITIZEN KANE achieved. MANK arrives on Netflix Friday, December 4, 2020.
SHAWN MENDES: IN WONDER (NETFLIX)
Fan of Pickering’s Shawn Mendes will revel in delight at this Documentary by veteran Music Video Director Grant Singer. The Singer-Songwriter rapidly has shot to stardom and makes his first foray into the world of Film with recent collaborations with TIFF and now this companion to his upcoming fourth Disc, WONDER coming early December. The Film gives us an intimate (literally we go right into the shower with him) look at his daily life, which really presents him as someone who is level-headed and taking his fame into stride. In one scene he is driving around downtown and a man asks him roll-down his window to give his daughter a video shoutout. We learn about Mendes‘ creative process writing material for the new Album and he goes back to older, soulful influences this time around and one thing I found particularly interesting is to protect his voice from the rigours of touring, he takes vocal rests finding alternate ways to communicate on rest days. While nothing earth-shattering is revealed here really, it is an essential watch for fans or those who appreciate his Music and believe me, there are many! SHAWN MENDES: IN WONDER arrives on Netflix Tuesday, November 24, 2020.
SOUND OF METAL (PACIFIC NORTHWEST PICTURES/AMAZON PRIME)
Riz Ahmed delivers a career-best performance in Darius Marder‘s SOUND OF METAL,which after a run on the Festival circuit, including TIFF ’19 gets its debut at long last. Ahmed plays Drummer Ruben Stone whose hearing rapidly is deteriorating and after battling heroine addiction for years, he now is sober. While resisting help from the Deaf Community, the Film centers itself on his humbling journey accepting help, with the urging of his bandmate girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). Ruben is his own enemy in many regards and at the core of SOUND OF METAL which while being set in the chaotic world of screamy Death Growls, is something heartfelt and a meaningful coming-of-age.
Ahmed and Cooke disappear completely into Ruben and Lou and their transformations are sympathetic and affecting. A bit of a slow-burn but a rewarding watch.
Pacific Northwest Pictures release SOUND OF METAL in theatres Friday, November 20, 2020 and it arrives on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S. and it is available digitally and on-demand in Canada Friday, December 4, 2020.
Anna Sewell’s BLACK BEAUTY is a love story that captures the bond between human and animal so beautifully that it should come as no surprise that it still stands the test of time some 143 years after it was written. Ashley Avis, formerly a competitive Equestrian, takes the reins on Disney+‘s adaptation of the story for a new audience. Along with this heartfelt timeless tale, we get updated messaging and more inclusion in casting.
This version centers on Jo Green (Mackenzie Foy), who is sent to live with her Uncle John (Iain Glen). While she is reluctant to warm-up to him, she does strike a bond with his filly (narrated by Kate Winslet) a wild Mustang who is acquired to be broken-in and sold. The horse changes Jo‘s life forever, helping her find herself but circumstances separate the two and we wonder if they ever will reunite again as she is treated like a commodity, changing hands multiple times.
Foy as always is great and she is fascinating to see develop into a dramatic actress and while we appreciate how the Film treats animal rights with the right delicateness and sympathy it deserves, ultimately it is paced in a way where things happen a couple beats too quickly, without fleshing-out key characters and their involvement with the Plot. And at times, the dialogue feels perhaps too simplistic even though we appreciate that the Film caters to a young audience. That being said, Winslet’s narration tugs on all the right heartstrings and you do feel something for her and her beloved friend, Jo.
BLACK BEAUTY arrives on Disney+ Friday, November 27, 2020.
THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES: PART TWO (NETFLIX)
If there’s anyone who knows the spirit of nostalgia, it’s Director Chris Columbus who has brought us classics like Adventures in Babysitting, Home Alone (1 and 2), Mrs. Doubtfire and a litany of others. He directs and co-writes the sequel to 2018’s popular The Christmas Chronicles and while the first Film was very enjoyable, this installment has a wondrous, fantastical element to it that truly captures the joy of the Holidays.
Back again are Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy (Judah Lewis) as they find themselves spending Christmas on a resort with their mom Claire (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), her new boyfriend Bob (Tyrese) and his son Jack (Jahzir Bruno).Kate is faced with the fear of her deceased father being forgotten and wishes to escape and together with Jack, they find themselves transported off to the North Pole with Santa (Kurt Russell) and Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn), where the elves have gone out of control. One elf gone rogue, Belsnickel (Julian Dennison) threatens to ruin Christmas forever with the potential of a world without a Santa Claus. It is up to Kate and Jack to help save Christmas and also, will Kate get her long-awaited wish of finally getting to see her father?
THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES: PART TWO is none short of the boisterous, sparkly fun we’re totally here for. The Film belongs entirely to Camp and Russell who both are fantastic and Hawn is a welcome addition to the Franchise, a perfect warm and nurturing Mrs. Claus. Hijinx aside, the Film hits all the right notes emotionally, feeling exactly like a Holiday film should! We wouldn’t be surprised if this got several viewings this Holiday season. Streaming now on Netflix.
SMALL AXE (AMAZON PRIME VIDEO)
It’s been a minute since we’ve heard from Academy Award-winning Director Steven McQueen (12 Years a Slave, Shame, Widows), but he’s back with an innovating new Mini-Series of five Films centering on the West Indian-immigrant experience in London in the ’60s and ’70s. While the subject matter is timely, with #BlackLivesMatter being at the forefront of discussion this past year, McQueen’s storytelling is timeless as we are transported right into the era.
The first Film in the Series, Mangrove, is about nine black activists arrest for inciting a riot after police had targeted a restaurant of the same name in Notting Hill. In a fight for their rights and the rights of the future generation, the group choose to represent themselves in court. What plays out is an intense court battle featuring some truly compelling performances from Shaun Parkes (Doctor Who), Malachi Kirby (Black Mirror) and Letitia Wright (Black Panther). McQueen masterfully examines racial hatred from both sides of the argument and this is a fantastic start to the Series.
The second Film, Lovers Rock is a sensual Romance set within a party where we meet Martha (Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) who sneaks out of her bedroom at night, and Franklyn (Michael Ward). The lighting is gorgeous and we are swept away into their looming love affair. McQueen has a masterful way of transporting us into the moment through music and the scenes just breathe beautifully as the songs play. While most of the story is set within the party itself, he paints a picture of the world these characters are living in at the time when we get brief glimpses of how unsafe things can get just stepping away from that safety net.
The remainder of the films arrive December 4, 2020 on Amazon Prime Video.
SELENA: THE SERIES (NETFLIX)
Throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s, Selena became the queen of Tejano music. Managed by her father and supported by her siblings in her band, this tight-knit family went from performing at weddings, while living on the road to Selena becoming one of the most successful Latin artists of all time. That is, before she was murdered in 1995 at the age of 23, by the manager of her boutiques. This happened tragically, just as she was set to launch internationally with her debut English album.
The detail-obsessed Series is crafted heavily with the input of the Quintanilla family so what we get here are ten quick-moving episodes that recount the family’s struggles from having very little, but were ignited by an undying commitment and belief in themselves. Rather than being entirely focused on Selena, we get the story from all sides of the family and we truly feel the tension between them in how tightly-knit they were. Fantastic performances from our lead Christian Serratos (The Walking Dead) and Ricardo Chavira (Desperate Housewives). Even at the end of the ten episodes the complete story isn’t told, cleverly leaving room for a second season. A must-watch for fans and intriguing enough to win over new fans who aren’t familiar with Selena‘s legacy.
SELENA: THE SERIES streams Friday, December 4, 2020 on Netflix.
ALL MY LIFE (UNIVERSAL PICTURES CANADA)
Based on a true story that happened right here in Toronto, ALL MY LIFE recounts the tale of a young couple, Solomon (Harry Shum Jr.) and Jennifer (Jessica Rothe). The couple whom after receiving tragic news, still forge ahead with plans to have a fairy tale wedding with the help of their friends who help them raise the funds to make it happen.
Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer) directs this tale which at times tugs on the heartstrings, but in moving along rapidly, misses the opportunity to delve deep into the couple’s love and their struggles during Solomon’s health battles which could’ve made this a bit more impactful, giving us more to root for. A solid performance from Rothe (Happy Death Day) in the lead role, though we wish a bit more room was given for the talented Supporting Cast which includes Jay Pharaoh (Saturday Night Live), Keala Settle (The Greatest Showman) and Mario Cantone (Sex and the City). There is definitely an audience for a Film like this.
ALL MY LIFE opens in theatres Friday, December 4, 2020. Please ensure you observe COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in theatres.
MARIAH CAREY’S MAGICAL CHRISTMAS SPECIAL (APPLE TV+)
Based on the premise that 2020 has been… not so great, the Queen of Christmas, Mariah Carey is here to help save Christmas. Joining her on this 45-minute adventure is an understandably starstruck Billy Eichner as Santa‘s Assistant, with a story narrated by Tiffany Haddish. Several famous friends join Carey including Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson on a new rendition of Oh Santa!, which stands a chance at being a successor to modern classic All I Want for Christmas is You! The Peanuts Gang also make an appearance as do the likes of Snoop Dogg and long-time collaborator Jermaine Dupri. While festive and well-being including a touching rendition of Silent Night, the Special’s emotional high note is its Encore, where Carey delivers an extra festive Aspen-set performance of her biggest Holiday smash and her twins Moroccan and Monroe even come on out to support their Mom! We live for this and even if another Carey Holiday Special doesn’t come for a while, this one will do on-rotation! Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special streams now on Apple TV+.
EUPHORIA: TROUBLE DON’T LAST ALWAYS (HBO/CRAVE)
While it’ll be a while till we see Season Two of HBO‘s Euphoria, two special Holiday episodes of the acclaimed Series are amidst us, to tie us over. Director/Writer Sam Levinson goes deep as we ponder the Holidays with Rue (a recent Emmy-winning Zendaya) and her friend Ali (Colman Domingo) where they question their existence and what it means to cope with addiction, sobriety and some of the destructive things they had done in their lives to the ones who love them. Rue is coping with Jules (Hunter Schafer) leaving her, which leads her on a downward spiral again. Phenomenal, intimate performances in what feels like it could’ve been a stage production. A reminder that the Holidays aren’t a happy time for everyone. The first special episode is available to stream now on Crave with the HBO add-on, with the second arriving January 2021.
SUGAR RUSH CHRISTMAS SEASON 2 (NETFLIX)
You know how much we love our baking shows and we’re so delighted SUGAR RUSH is back for a second season with its Christmas edition. Lots of exciting and exhilarating baking challenges here in this second season where contestants are challenged with tasks like making creations inspired by Christmas Carols, the North Pole, Advent Calendars, Peanuts and more. The finished products as always look to-die-for and we wish we could taste everything too! Celebrity guests include Chris Bosh, Abigail Breslin, Jordin Sparks, among others! Adore this. Season 2 is streaming now.
FABULOUS LIVES OF BOLLYWOOD WIVES (NETFLIX)
We’re told Bollywood is different from Hollywood in that Bollywood stars maintain much more mystique than many of those stars those in Hollywood who have embraced oversharing on Social Media. This new Series comprised of eight episodes, takes us right inside the worlds of Neelam Kothari Soni, Maheep Kapoor, Seema Khan and Bhavana Pandey, whom are longtime best friends and among Bollywood’s elite. With a Kardashians-like view, we get a glimpse into their glamorous, although they consider it mundane, lives. All isn’t always rosy as passions too flare at times as these friends too have unresolved issues that get brought to the table. Don’t know much about the world of Bollywood? Don’t worry, they explain these relationships well and drama knows no cultural boundaries. Maheep is the loud, assertive one. Neelam is a former Actress pondering relaunching her career. Seema is all about protecting her family even though we understand her husband isn’t always around. Bhavna plays Devil’s Advocate which can be problematic when a friend wants her support. Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Lives is streaming now on Netflix.
THE UNDOING (HBO/CRAVE)
This six-part Mini-Series directed by Susanne Bier and and written by David E. Kelley, is adapted from the Novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz.The Undoing centers on a privileged family, Jonathan (Hugh Grant), Grace (Nicole Kidman) and their son Henry (Noah Jupe) who are impacted in the aftermath of a woman’s death. With Jonathan standing accused of murder, Grace is left to put together the pieces how her husband could have been done this. The story masterfully twists and turns as we no longer know what to believe and who is reliable right up to the gripping conclusion.
Phenomenal work as expected from Kidman who is forced to dig deep and find the truth, leaning on her father Franklin (a strong performance by Donald Sutherland) for guidance. Jupe is coming into his own as a fine Actor with a goodheartedness that makes it all the more unbelievable that such a grounded family could be dealing with something so awful. Grant is the biggest surprise here and while we’re used to seeing him in Holiday movies around this time of year. Looking back, it all makes perfect sense.
THE UNDOING streams now on Crave with the HBO add-on.
STYLISH WITH JENNA LYONS (HBO MAX/CRAVE)
Better known as “The Woman Who Dressed America” at the height of J.Crew‘s popularity, the retailer’s former President Jenna Lyons is a fashion icon in her own right. Since her time with J.Crew had ended, she’s been a bit more on the quiet side, but she’s back as she makes her foray into Home Design and Beauty. She’s looking to add to her Team and goes on a search for the next Associate as fresh new talent have a chance to prove they have what it takes to work with her on this eight-episode Series. What is interesting is that the finalists must work against unconventional conditions as the competition is halted amidst the Pandemic and picks-up again, forcing Lyons to alter her course. We love the assured way in which she speaks and mentors, which comes with a gentle grace and assuredness. The Series gets intimate as was also learn about her life and her own challenges. STYLISH WITH JENNA LYONS is available to stream now on Crave with the HBO add-on.
THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT (HBO MAX/CRAVE)
Cassie (Kaley Cuoco) is a flight attendant coping with Alcoholism, living her life recklessly between stop-offs. On a flight to Bangkok, she meets a handsome stranger in Alex (Michiel Huisman) and after an enchanting, alcohol-fueled night out, she wakes-up to find him dead in the bed beside her. As she runs away from the situation, trying to stay under the radar, she must confront her past, her addiction and relationships, and gets to know Alex better as he surfaces as an apparition to her. The Series has a chaotic energy to it which keeps things fun and lively, and Cuoco is a perfect casting choice. Also Girls’ Zosia Mamet surfaces as Cassie‘s delightfully-funny lawyer/best friend Annie. THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT streams on Crave with HBO add-on, new episodes weekly.
It is a sunny Saturday afternoon in September and Day 3 of TIFF. The traffic is loud, planes are flying overhead, people are drinking at the bar and chatting poolside at a rooftop patio in downtown Toronto. I am a bit winded from hustling over after a press screening at the Scotiabank Theatre – thankfully the escalator was working that day. I take a few sips of water, and chat with some out-of-town journalists about our favourite festival films thus far. This happened 14 months ago, but it feels like a lifetime ago.
Shortly afterwards, we are introduced to Riz Ahmed, the Emmy-winning, multi-hyphenate Actor. He shakes all of our hands graciously (remember when that was a thing?), and sits down, ready to discuss his Film, SOUND OF METAL. The Film had its World Premiere at TIFF the evening before and you can tell he is still buzzing from the early reactions it is receiving. In the Film, Ahmed plays Reuben, a heavy metal drummer and former addict whose hearing is deteriorating rapidly. As Reuben is plunged into the world of Deaf Culture, he must re-learn everything he knows and come to terms with the irrevocably-altered future path ahead of him. Ahmed prepared for the role extensively: he played drums for two and half hours per day and practiced sign language for 90 minutes every day for seven months. The result? A visceral, riveting, soul bearing, “life changing” performance unlike anything you will see this or any other year.
Here are a few of the things we learned in our group chat with Ahmed.
What drew you to the character of Reuben?
AHMED: “It was scary, you know? It was just really scary. I was like…this is going to be a fucking challenge man. I don’t know anything about drums. I don’t know anything about being deaf. But actually before I even thought about the preparation and what it would entail, I think what drew me to it was Darius [Marder] as a Director. I think people think of directing as pointing a camera and getting out of the way. It’s not…This is his world. He put so much of himself into the character of Reuben. I’d say the character of Reuben is almost an amalgam of me and Darius in a way. We have a similar kind of front footed energy [where we are] often taking care of people, but we have this fire in us that sometimes can threaten to really destroy us, you know? And [we are] always looking for a way to channel it. So I think that was a big part of it…If someone sets the tone of ‘You’re safe here, there’s no such thing as failure, and I’m going to follow you wherever you go,’ then you’re free. Let’s go. And then wonderful things can happen.”.
What took more time to become comfortable with, drumming or sign language?
AHMED: “I think they were both challenging in different ways. The key to both of them is the same thing, which is letting your body take over. You can’t think your way to expressing yourself through drums and in sign language, you have to let your body take over. But of course, in order to get to that point you have to drill all those pathways into your brain so that you can go into autopilot so your body takes you to the right place. I think what was difficult for both of them for a long time was going to that period of conscious incompetence. That was tough. But overall the process was just so enriching.”.
“You know the deaf community often have this trope about ‘hearing people’. Jeremy [Stone, Ahmed’s sign teacher and a key figure in the New York Deaf Community] told me that ‘hearing people’ are emotionally repressed. That’s what deaf people think of us as ‘hearing people’, and I think they’re right because we hide behind words. I remember the first time I started talking to Jeremy about my character in ASL…I just was so emotional, I almost couldn’t control it and he said ‘Yeah man that’s what it is. Welcome to the Deaf Community where you’re forced to inhabit your body, where you’re forced to listen in a way with your whole body.’”.
What is it like jumping between a movie like SOUND OF METAL and a blockbuster film?
AHMED: “It is different. I think everything is a product of its process right? I think that working on those bigger movies, they often don’t have scripts locked down. So the scripts are constantly evolving and being rewritten as you go. So they have a lot of reshoots. Whereas with these smaller films, you have to decide everything months or even years in advance and make sure it’s all locked down so you can execute it in a way that’s time efficient and budget efficient. And so what that means is you have a different process. In the bigger films, it’s much more thinking on your feet. The scene or the story is changed that morning and you’re not enemies [anymore], you’re brothers now. Let’s try it that way. So there’s an element of almost improvisational spontaneity that you have to bring to that process and a kind of lightness and flow so you’re able to pivot and adapt and cover a lot of different ground and options. Whereas I think on these more independent films, you make your choice. You’re not going to cover all this ground. And then because of that you spend all your energy going a little deeper.”.
Is there a pattern or process you take for choosing your roles?
AHMED: “They say restrictions force innovation and I think part of why I’ve been lucky in being able to take on some interesting and varied roles is because of the obstacles faced by a person of colour or someone of my background, someone of my class. All of those things. Which meant that you [have to] adapt to be more adaptive…[It’s] forced me to be more of a chameleon and I think growing up actually did that to me as well, being forced to inhabit different versions of myself: working class Pakistani, educated at Oxford, skipping class to hang out with my friends in the kind of Asian world and in the streets. When you’re told you don’t belong somewhere, you’re forced to become a chameleon. That happened to me socially growing up and I think that’s happened to me similarly as an actor.”
“And after you’ve done that for awhile…[where] you realize you’re a good contortionist and you have a flexible spine, you start wondering ‘Well, can I actually stand up straight? Will the world make room for me if I just stand up tall?’ And I think that, you know I’m thirty-six now, maybe I’m just coming to a different point in my life where I’m experimenting with just standing up straight and not wearing the masks that may have been required of me as a character actor at different times. I don’t know if there’s a pattern but I’m certainly excited about actually bringing more of myself to my work. You know the thing that doesn’t exist in culture and in art is a Cameron Bailey [TIFF’s Artistic Director]. Is there a Cameron Bailey character you can think of in film and TV? Or a time you see a character like me, or a Dev Patel? And I realized that perhaps the way for me to stretch culture going forward, which is and always has been my guiding mission…perhaps the way to do that isn’t to bend and contort and stretch myself into the different spaces allocated for me. But it’s actually for me to be my full self. So I think maybe what’s in SOUND OF METAL is a real decision to go and just…get naked. Let’s start off with something intellectual and end up with nudity. That’s really the arc of my career, haha.”.
We also were given time for a group chat with the Film’s Co-Writer/Director Darius Marder and Actress Olivia Cooke, who plays Lou, Ahmed’s girlfriend and bandmate.
How difficult was the shooting and editing of the Film?
MARDER: “It’s such a fine line of what can we tolerate. What is watchable versus too uncomfortable but not too comfortable. So much trial and error. The Sound Design on this thing is massive. I was working with this Mixer who had done huge movies and there’s as many tracks as there would be on a Batman movie. It’s huge and it’s a really intense process to create that kind of language, but really fun too. I mean we beat the shit out of each other throughout the process just kind of like “No, that’s not it” or you know, [we’d be] pushing the boundaries and constantly questioning how you feel within because deafness is all low-frequency. You can’t hear any high frequency, but that limits your scope so much.”.
“So it’s just a question of how do we feel the depth of that sound without ruining the language because if you ruin it, you’re not in [Reuben’s] head anymore. So we [did] all sorts of things. We had mics down throats, we miked the inside of skulls and created this muffled landscape through various layers that you felt within and you could get sucked into that experience. That for me is really exciting, but only as exciting as the story is good. I think that’s always the thing. It’s not enough that you have a sound experience in the movie, it has to serve a larger objective.”.
How different is this role versus other films you’ve worked on?
COOKE: “It feels like a bit of a departure…It’s funny because I’m at that age now where I’m not really playing teenagers anymore. This felt like my first proper adult role, with all the complexities that come with having your first adult relationship. It doesn’t feel as frivolous or recyclable as other relationships when you’re younger. There’s a genuine commitment for each other and I think with taking on those things, you’re trying to do it justice and also trying to be sensitive to addiction and self-harm. [That] was something that really elevated it for Riz and I, and we create this vulnerability and this open valve that I don’t think I’ve been able to do before.”.
What are your hopes for the Film?
MARDER: “Well I think it would be a crime against humanity if Riz isn’t nominated for that role. You tell me any one role that exceeds the commitment and dedication and pure talent. I would love for him to be honoured in that way. I would love to see the Film seen as much as humanly possible. I would like to have it seen in theatres. It’s a film that should be seen cinematically and it’s shot on 35. It’s a movie, and that’s a big wish in this day and age…So I think it’s worthy of that and then some.”
Pacific Northwest Pictures release SOUND OF METAL in select theatres Friday, November 20, 2020.
The Film’s release pattern is as follows:
ONTARIO Toronto, ON – Digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (digital.tiff.net) Kingston, ON – The Screening Room Windsor, ON – SilverCity Windsor Cinemas Windsor, ON – Lakeshore Cinemas Sudbury, ON – Imagine Cinemas Downtown Movie Lounge London, ON – Imagine Cinemas Citi Plaza
ALBERTA Edmonton, AB – Metro Cinemas Calgary, AB – Cineplex Odeon Eau Claire
BRITISH COLUMBIA Vancouver, BC – International Village Chilliwack, BC – Cottonwood 4 Cinemas Whistler, BC – Village 8 Cinemas Nelson, BC – Nelson Civic Theatre Williams Lake, BC – Paradise Cinemas Victoria, BC – Capitol 6 Theatres Kelowna, BC – Landmark Cinemas Grand 10 Kelowna
SASKATCHEWAN Saskatoon, SK – Roxy Theatre Regina, SK – Rainbow Cinema Golden Mile
NOVA SCOTIA Halifax, NS – Cineplex Cinemas Park Lane
NEW BRUNSWICK Bathurst, NB – Apollo Cinemas
November 27, 2020 Ottawa, ON – Bytowne Cinema
December 5th: Vancouver, BC – Rio Theatre
Available On Demand and Digital across Canada on Friday December 4th, 2020.
Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre.
Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and Lou (Olivia Cooke) are a metal band touring and driving around the US in their RV. As he preps for a show, Ruben gets a loud ringing in his ears. He thinks nothing of it, but finds out soon after that he is losing his hearing rapidly and will soon become deaf.
This is the set-up for Co-Writer/Director Darius Marder’s harrowing journey Sound of Metal. The Film is loud, intense, and is a genuine test of endurance for audiences. It pulls no punches, plunging us right into the mind of Ruben as he learns how to communicate as a newly deaf person. Special attention was paid to the sound design, with Marder and his team creating an impeccable mix that is authentic to the experiences deaf people go through each and every day. And it switches from a normal mix to this authentic mix so often that it is almost impossible to prepare for it. Cooke is great in her small number of scenes, but the whole Film is held together by career best work from Ahmed. He digs-in deep, allowing us to feel every moment of triumph and tragedy. Ahmed’s visceral level of commitment here cannot simply be described; it demands to be seen.
SOUND OF METAL screens during TIFF at the following times:
Friday September 6, 9:00pm @ Winter Garden Theatre [World Premiere]
Saturday September 7, 10:00am @ Elgin Theatre
Saturday September 14, 9:00pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Also a joy chatting again with CP24‘s Kelly Linehan this morning! Thanks for tuning-in!
Informative and fun segment Will!! We’re on Festival Street tonight and off to a film tomorrow. Hope to see you around town Handsome! You’re always in the heart of all the media excitement. pic.twitter.com/SIZEnlLlxL