VOD REVIEW: ‘Working Man’ Is Employee of the Week

It’s an interesting time for independent cinema. With most blockbusters benched for the season (if not the year), indies are getting more looks: When else a new Kelly Reichardt movie could get as much press as your average rom-com?

The market fragmentation also means there are many low-budget films fighting for attention. Working Man is a particularly low-key one, but there’s strength in its simplicity.

Forced by a bad economy to continue working well into his seventies, Allery (character actor Peter Gerety) goes through the motions day after day. Much to his chagrin, the factory he works at is shutting down. What is a brutish man with one skill, few words and no friends to do? Continue reading “VOD REVIEW: ‘Working Man’ Is Employee of the Week”

COVID-19: Trump Administration Continues To Flounder In Pandemic Response

“Hopes & Prayers” is even more insipid than the “Thoughts & Prayers” bromide that Republican politicians typically tweet out after the latest mass shooting, but five months into the pandemic that’s ravaging the U.S. that’s about all the Trump White House has to offer Americans.

As I noted in a June 21 post, after plateauing in the 150,000 range for several weeks, the U.S. case count increased sharply in the June 14-21 period to 181,010. That trend continued last week, with the case load jumping to 277,801 from June 21-28.

Daily case counts now exceed 50,000, and with infection rates soaring in heavily populated southern and western states such as Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned on June 30 that if the U.S. doesn’t get its shit together they could soon see 100,000 cases a day.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Trump Administration Continues To Flounder In Pandemic Response”

COVID-19: Denial Continues To Drive U.S. Response To Pandemic

As of noon today, the case total and death toll in the United States stood at 2,344,023 and 122,127. And where are the numbers going? Well, if statistical trends are any indication, they are set to grow dramatically.

Going back to May 24, the U.S. has had week-to-week increases in case totals of 153,150 (May 24-31), 155,420 (May 31-June 7), 155,564 (June 7-14) and 181,010 (June 14-21).

On a state-by-state basis, California (4363 new cases on Saturday), Texas (4250), Florida (4049), Arizona (3109), Georgia (1800), North Carolina (1773), Louisiana (1231) and South Carolina (1155) are the current hotspots.  But they are far from the only states where day-to-day case totals are climbing, with the largest increases being seen in the south and western parts of the country.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Denial Continues To Drive U.S. Response To Pandemic”

VOD REVIEW: ‘You Should Have Left’ Is More Inviting than Expected

Airbnbs are like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get. Last year, mine got burglarized. In You Should Have Left, Kevin Bacon lands in a creepy one that may be driving him mad. But I’m sure others are great (insert side-eye emoji).

I’m getting ahead of myself. A Blumhouse production that in any normal year would have hit theatres, You Should Have Left gets a lot of mileage from a classic horror troupe (nuclear family stranded in a haunted residence), one The Shining already perfected. Credit to writer/director David Koepp (Premium Rush) to keep things interesting by fleshing out the characters and writing sturdy dialogue.

The plot: May-December couple —Theo (Kevin Bacon) and Susanna (Amanda Seyfried)— takes the proverbial “break from it all” ahead of a busy time. They find an ultramodern home in the middle of nowhere in Wales (the newest horror cliché), seemingly ideal for them and their precocious daughter. Continue reading “VOD REVIEW: ‘You Should Have Left’ Is More Inviting than Expected”

COVID-19: Is The First Wave Set To Become A Tidal Wave In The U.S.?

Since the pandemic hit North America in mid-March, scientists have warned that even if physical distancing and other slow-down measures succeeded in curbing the virus’s first wave, as summer drew to a close and colder temperatures started to force people back indoors again, we would likely face a second wave.

Many countries around the world, including Canada, have weathered the first wave reasonably well, and are now taking steps to loosen restrictions on large gatherings and “re-open” their economies.

The United States is on that path too. The big difference there is that the first wave of the pandemic has never really been contained. Sure, some of the initial hotspots such as Seattle and New York have managed after a months-long struggle to rein in the virus. But as had been forecast, the virus is now beginning to spread to other areas of the country — many of which lack the capacity (and often the political will) to protect public health.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Is The First Wave Set To Become A Tidal Wave In The U.S.?”

COVID-19: Global Infection Total Approaching Seven Million

On April 2, I did a post to mark the impending milestone of one million COVID-19 infections worldwide.  Now, two months later, the global infection total is set to pass seven million.

If you click the first link, you’ll see that the top ten countries in terms of infections in early April were the United States, Italy, Spain, Germany, China, France, Iran, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Turkey.

As of today at 11 a.m. CST,  the top ten consists of the United States, Brazil, Russia, Spain, United Kingdom, India, Italy, Peru, Germany and Iran.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Global Infection Total Approaching Seven Million”

REVIEW: ‘The High Note’ Falls Somewhere in the Middle

In days as convoluted as these, harmless movies about well-intentioned people overcoming difficulties and coming out empowered are a welcome respite. The High Note is one of those films. Clearly destined for the big screen (nice production values, a combination of up-and-comers and vets), The High Note is a nice movie that doesn’t break new ground or ruffles any feathers.

Freed from the 50 Shades burden, Dakota Johnson is delightful as Maggie, the assistant of an R&B diva. Maggie has designs beyond her less than fulfilling job: She wants to become a music producer, preferably for her boss. But there’s no clear path to go from her lowly job to behind the sound desk.

In turn, her employer, Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish), is struggling with a transition of her own. A decade after her last successful record, she’s been offered a residency in Vegas, the musical equivalent of a farm upstate. Davis believes she still has fresh material to offer, but for industry standards, she’s old news. Continue reading “REVIEW: ‘The High Note’ Falls Somewhere in the Middle”

COVID-19: U.S. Decision To Defund World Health Organization Is Hypocritical

With the U.S. case load and death toll from the pandemic having exceeded 1.8 million and 105,000, president Donald Trump announced yesterday that the U.S. would be severing ties with the World Health Organization (WHO).

As you can see in this CBC report, the decision was criticized by the president of the American Medical Association, who said it served “no logical purpose”. No surprise there, as logic isn’t exactly a core value of the MAGA Republican movement led by Trump. Instead, the president is engaged in a desperate/craven effort to resurrect his political fortunes in light of his administration’s failed response to the pandemic.

While WHO might make for a convenient scapegoat (in the minds of Trump supporters, anyway) the organization, as it is currently constituted, is in pretty much a no-win situation.

Continue reading “COVID-19: U.S. Decision To Defund World Health Organization Is Hypocritical”

REVIEW: ‘Dreamland’ Expand the ‘Pontypool’ Universe… Sort of

Stephen McHattie and Lise Houle in Bruce McDonald’s Dreamland.

Twelve years ago, Pontypool pulled the rarest of feats. It was original for a zombie movie and intrinsically Canadian (the disease was transmitted via language). Something you may not have noticed is that there was a post-credit scene, featuring the leads as different characters: Johnny Deadeyes and Lisa the Killer, two shady types looking for adventure. I completely missed that until re-watching it for this review.

The promise of the little-seen sequence is fulfilled in Dreamland. Director Bruce McDonald reassembles the Pontypool crew (actors Stephen McHattie and Lisa Houle, scriptwriter Tony Burgess) plus a couple of ringers (Henry Rollins and Juliette Lewis) for a surrealistic noir. Not Twin Peaks-bonkers levels, but pleasantly weird. Continue reading “REVIEW: ‘Dreamland’ Expand the ‘Pontypool’ Universe… Sort of”

REVIEW: ‘Jeune Juliette’ Comes of Edge

With a batting average higher than most of her French-Canadian counterparts (including the likes of Dolan, Arcand and Falardeau), supporters of Canadian cinema would be well served by paying more attention to Anne Emond.

The writer/director has delivered three searing dives into the female psyche (Nuit # 1, Our Loved Ones, Nelly). Her newest film, Jeune Juliette, has a much lighter tone, but the lead is just as complex as the previous ones. OK, maybe not Nelly Arcan, but she’s on a league of her own.

The Juliette of the title (Alexane Jamieson) is a teenager enduring the worst high school has to offer: Loneliness, bullying and the petty behavior from others students who perceive her as overweight. Even though their casual nastiness leaves a mark, Juliette is also aware that she’s smarter than her classmates and it’s a matter of time until she leaves them behind. She also has a sturdy support net: Her doting dad, a sympathetic brother and her best mate, Leanne. Continue reading “REVIEW: ‘Jeune Juliette’ Comes of Edge”