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...
Passengers

Passengers

Passengers Morten Tyldum, director Jon Spaihts, script Starring: Jennifer Lawrence (Aurora), Chris Pratt (Jim), Michael Sheen (Arthur), Laurence Fishburne (Gus) With the appearance of Passengers and Arrival, we’re seeing Hollywood’s response to the success of Gravity. As a science fiction geek when I was an adolescent, it’s nice to see intelligent sci-fi films show up as a potential blockbusters. Arrival has exceeded expectations, garnering favourable reviews and excellent box-office results, which I feared would not happen. How will Passengers do? On the plus side, just as Gravity starred Sandra Bullock and Arrival, Amy Adams, Passengers has box office queen Jennifer Lawrence as the lead. (Or at least nominal lead—it’s actually Chris Pratt’s movie for the first half of the film.) There’s a unique premise, which has made the film far more problematic than the filmmakers probably intended. And there’s action galore but only at the ending, which mirrors Gravity and Arrival to some extent. If you’re getting that Passengers, despite some pluses, including a great supporting acting turn by Michael Sheen as an android named Arthur, has insurmountable problems, that is correct. Let’s go back to the premise because that’s where the difficulty lies. And—watch out—here’s a spoiler alert because you can’t write about Passengers without discussing its major plot device and consequences. In Passengers, Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are two of 5000 “sleepers” on a massive rocket ship, which will deliver them to Homestead Two, a Garden of Eden planet 130 years away from the overly populated, overly expensive Earth. (Think—Toronto today). A meteor shower and a collision actually dents the ship, awakening one of the sleepers...
Julieta

Julieta

Julieta Pedro Almodovar, director & script based on short stories by Alice Munro from her book Runaway Starring: Emma Suarez (Julieta), Adriana Ugarte (Julieta when she’s young), Daniel Grao (Xoan), Inma Cuesta (Ava), Michelle Jenner (Beatriz), Rossy de Palma (Marian), Dario Grandinetti (Lorenzo), Bianca Pares (Antia at 18), Priscilla Delgado (Antia as an adolescent) There was a time when a new film by the brilliantly subversive gay Spanish director Pedro Almodovar was a big event. That makes the news this week especially bleak. With Julieta, Almodovar’s 20th feature just opening in North America, it has to be devastating for the iconic director and his distributors to deal with the fact that the Oscar foreign film selectors have not included his film in the final nine candidates for the award. This is Almodovar after all, the winner of the best foreign film Oscar for All About My Mother (1999) and recipient of the best screenplay Academy Award for Talk to Her (2002). You have to ask: what happened? In some ways, Julieta is a return to form for the director after the disastrous over-the-top comedy I’m so excited (2013). Once again, he’s in familiar territory, offering up a well paced melodrama with an abundance of women as the leading actors. For Canadians and lovers of literature, Almodovar’s choice for his source material is exemplary: it’s Alice Munro, with short stories from her book Runaway. The story is a strong but very complicated one. It involves the life of Julieta as a school teacher, lover, wife and mother over nearly 30 years. The young romantic Julieta leaves the city to be...