The Skyjacker’s Tale

The Skyjacker’s Tale

The Skyjacker’s Tale Jamie Kastner, director and script Feature documentary starring: Ishamael Muslim Ali (formerly LaBeet) Jamie Kastner has caught a tiger by the tail in his new doc feature, which premiered at TIFF and is playing at the Ted Rogers Hot Docs Bloor Cinema this week. The Skyjacker’s Tale, the story of Ishmael Muslim Ali, is so vivid and complex that you could make a Hollywood feature out of it. Imagine: a Vietnam vet, dishonourably discharged, takes up with the Black Panthers and starts shouting out radical rhetoric in New York before heading home to the Virgin Islands. It’s the early ‘70s and Ali, then still known as Ishmael Labeet, becomes a local drug dealer and thief before—perhaps—getting involved in a far worse criminal activity. In 1972, the “Fountain Valley Massacre” takes place, leaving eight people dead on a golf course owned by the Rockefellers, in a robbery that apparently went wrong. Or was it a revolutionary act? Labeet and several of his associates are quickly convicted in a trial that looks to have been fixed against the defendants. OK. That’s part one. Twelve years later, Labeet has put together a habeas corpus appeal that puts him on an American Airlines flight to St. Croix for further examination. On the flight, Labeet pulls out a gun and hijacks the plane to Cuba, where it lands on New Years Eve, 1984. Initially imprisoned by the Cubans, Ali/Labeet is eventually set free. Kastner has incredible access to Ali, who is a happily married man and relishes telling stories about his crazy past, from childhood to the present. Besides regaling Kastner...
The Founder

The Founder

The Founder John Lee Hancock, director Robert Siegel, script Starring: Michael Keaton (Ray Kroc), Nick Offerman (Dick McDonald), John Carroll Lynch (“Mac” McDonald), Linda Cardellini (Joan Smith Kroc), Laura Dern (Ethel Fleming Kroc), Patrick Wilson (Rollie Smith) The spectacular rise of McDonald’s as a fast-food chain in the ‘50s and ‘60s is an American success story, filled with extraordinary ambition, efficiency and greed. I was a teenager when I first heard that someone named Ray Kroc was the charismatic owner of the billion-dollar franchise and I recall being surprised that someone named McDonald didn’t own the company. In The Founder, we find out what kind of a man Kroc was and what happened to the McDonalds. It isn’t a pretty story but it’s a fascinating one. Kroc was a glorified salesman hawking milkshake makers when he received an order for over a half-dozen of them from a burger joint in California. Curious, he headed out to investigate the original McDonald’s and was startled to see the reason for its success: stunning organizational prowess. When Kroc, played in the film by the brilliantly cast Michael Keaton, orders a burger with fries—the only items on the menu besides drinks—he gets it within a minute. Bingo! Kroc, like most of the people in the area around San Bernardino, California, was an instant lover of McDonald’s. Invited to inspect the operation by the friendly gregarious  “Mac” McDonald, Kroc sees right away that he’s met the Henry Ford of the burger world when he meets Dick, the quiet intense genius of the duo. It’s Dick who came up with all of the streamed line...
Bugs

Bugs

Bugs A Gastronomic Adventure with Nordic Food Lab Andreas Johnsen, director of this feature documentary Starring: Chef Ben Reade, Josh Evans & Roberto Flore How many of you would consider eating the following for dinner: stingless bees, earthworms, black soldier flies, June beetles, silkworms, mopane caterpillars, cheese fly larva, waxworms, cockroaches, locusts, wasps, termites, crickets, grasshoppers, Asian giant hornets, palm weevils, giant water bugs and red wood ants? Welcome to the future. In Bugs, a funny and thought provoking Danish documentary, we follow chef Ben Reade, food researcher Josh Evans and producer (and now culinary expert) Roberto Flore as they travel around the world finding the best new insects for us to eat. That’s right. Insects—the last frontier. Billed as “A Gastronomic Adventure with Nordic Food Lab,” Bugs comes out of the forward-thinking chef behind the famous Danish restaurant Noma, Rene Redzepi. It’s the profits from Noma that fund the lab, which is billed as matching food with science. Over the course of the film, the trio of Reade, Evans and Flore go from Kenya and Uganda to Italy, Mexico, Japan and Australia in their quest to find the tastiest and most nutritious insects. Part of the fun of the film is watching the three young men try to out-do each other in their search for the perfect insect. They dig through a hill covered with termites to find the delicious queen, a delicacy. In Uganda, they devour honey from very odd-looking stingless bees. The trio shout out their love for insects, going on about the exquisite tastes of the strange food they’re eating. Behind the humour is the...
20th Century Women

20th Century Women

20th Century Women Mike Mills, director & script Starring: Annette Bening (Dorothea), Greta Gerwig (Abbie), Elle Fanning (Julie), Billy Crudup (William), Lucas Jade Zumann (Jamie) Mike Mills, the writer-director of 20th Century Women grew up in the late 1970s and early ‘80s—the time when punk and new wave overtook country styled rock–in a home dominated by his mother. Auteurs always tell their own stories and Mills is still mining his past for ones that can inspire his films. For his last, Beginners, Mills told the story of his dad, a gay man, who came out late in life. Christopher Plummer won the Academy Award for playing that role so compellingly. Now, it’s time for his mom. Annette Bening is brilliant as Dorothea, a tough, compassionate and funny woman, who is trying to raise her teenage boy to be loving and respectful towards women and become a “real man,” not a macho one. She turns to the women who are in their lives: Julie (Elle Fanning), who has always been Jamie’s best friend, and Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a feminist artist, who rents a room in their ramshackle old house in Santa Barbara, California. The young women are appropriate but hardly perfect choices. At first reluctant to help, Abbie suddenly decides to take Jamie to a punk club, dances around a room with him spouting anarchist rhetoric and gives him a copy of the radical feminist anthology Sisterhood is Powerful.  She demolishes a typically gregarious hippie-ish dinner party by explaining in detail how she feels when she’s menstruating. Julie shares with Jamie why she has sex with boys. For her, it’s about emotion...
Fences

Fences

Fences Denzel Washington, director August Wilson, script Starring: Denzel Washington(Troy), Viola Davis (Rose), Stephen McKinley Henderson (Jim Bono), Jovan Adepo (Cory), Russell Hornsby (Lyons), Mykelti Williamson (Gabriel), Saniyya Sidney (Raynell) Prejudice can take many forms. In the case of Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington), waste collector in 1950s Pittsburgh, his story isn’t even impacted directly by white people. They’re just there, behind the scenes, while Troy tries to make a living for his wife Rose (Viola Davis), their son Cory (Jovan Adepo)  and, to some extent, his older son from a previous marriage, Lyons (Russell Hornsby) and mentally impaired brother Gabriel (Mykelti Wiliamson). But his life—and their very existences—are utterly affected by the racial boundaries that affect them. Fences, August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play about the Maxson family set  in his hometown of Pittsburgh, is all about the enclosures that affect lives. Troy was a star baseball player in the Negro Leagues before Major League baseball became integrated. Instead of being a wealthy retired star, he’s a has-been, a garbage collector who was great in a league even black people want to forget. Troy is a bitter man, who can’t accept his successes and is haunted by the failures that held him back. He has a house, a wonderful wife, a great friend (Stephen McKinley Henderson’s Jim Bono) and a couple of sons who love him. But it’s not enough—and he can’t accept their love. Troy spends his time drinking and reminiscing and building a fence in his backyard. He’s angry and tough, filled with rules that keep him apart from the people who respect and love him. Fences...
Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures Theodore Melfi, director and co-script w/Alison Schroeder based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly Starring: Taraji P. Henson (Katherine Johnson), Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughan), Janelle Monae (Mary Jackson), Kevin Costner (Al Jackson), Kirsten Dunst (Vivian Mitchell), Jim Parsons (Paul Stafford), Mahershala Ali (Jim Johnson) The sentence “Based on a real life story,” often makes the difference in a Hollywood film. Knowing that the African-American women depicted in Hidden Figures actually had a major impact on the U.S-Soviet Union “space race” in the 1950s and ‘60s adds to the appreciation audiences will feel when watching this “black lives matter” film. Yet another entry in the rapidly increasing genre of films extolling mathematicians—think The Infinity Game, Good Will Hunting, Proof, A Beautiful Mind, Pi—Theodore Melfi’s docu-drama is pro-nerd as well as pro-Civil Rights. It shows that even when prejudice in the U.S. was still at its awful height, being smart could break down barriers. Set in that heroic era when the civil rights movement was making an impact on America, Hidden Figures concentrates on three women who made genuine contributions to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). It was a time when the U.S. was desperately trying to catch the Russians in the attempt to put men on orbit around the Earth—and eventually, on the Moon. The three women who are profiled in the film—math genius Katherine Johnson; pioneer computer programmer and recruiter Dorothy Vaughan and aerospace engineer Mary Jackson—were significant players in NASA’s successful race for space. Director Theodore Melfi co-scripted an adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s non-fiction account of how these three women and more than...