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#InsideOut2023 Review: Supporting Our Selves

May 29, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2023 Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival runs from May 25th to June 4th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

In the documentary Supporting Our Selves, director Lulu Wei looks at the history of Community One, a Toronto organization that was founded in 1980 as the Gay Community Appeal. The film charts how the group has evolved over the years as the city’s queer community has become more diverse, showing the important work that they continue to do with organizations like The 519 community centre and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Wei’s film takes us through the history of the group, which was started out of necessity by those within the queer community to help each other through Toronto’s bar and bathhouse raids, as well as the AIDS crisis. They raised money by holding private “Saving Our Selves” fundraisers that were held in people’s homes, and held annual “Fruit Cocktails,” which were popular fundraising performances with the emcees dressed as fruit (I remember seeing some Community One representatives march in these costumes at Pride last year, so it’s nice to get the backstory).

Wei interviews founders of the group including Harvey Hamburg and Rosemary Barnes, and shows how they transformed into Community One, mainly to meet the needs of the city’s LGBTQ+ community as it continued to grow and include more identity groups. This push for more diversity came from figures like leZlie Lee Kam, a queer activist from Trinidad who has long fought to make the city’s queer community more inclusive for people of colour, and is now focusing on finding support for queer seniors.

Wei balances this with the perspectives of younger folks like Jay Baldwin, who runs the Facebook group Disabled Queer and Fabulous and is advocating for more accessibility in queer spaces, and Christopher Nkambwe, a Ugandan refugee who came to Canada to live openly as a transwoman and is working to help other African refugees.

In her previous documentary There’s No Place Like This Place Anyplace, Wei focused on the history of the now-shuttered store Honest Ed’s, and explored Toronto’s increasing gentrification. While exploring a different subject, Supporting Our Selves serves as an interesting companion piece of sorts, with Wei already establishing herself as a needed historian of forgotten aspects of our city’s history.

Wei also touches on different flashpoints in Toronto, such as when BLM activists shut down the Pride Parade in 2016 to protest against the involvement of uniformed police officers, actions that are still hotly debated within the LGBTQ+ community (including by Hamburg and Barnes in the film). Told through an engaging collection of personal stories (full disclosure, there are a lot of familiar faces of people I’ve crossed paths with), Supporting Our Selves is an important document of Toronto’s queer history.

Screenings: Tuesday, May 30th, 6:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 (Centrepiece Gala); May 31st to June 4th at 11:59 PM – Virtual (across Ontario). Tickets can be purchased here.

#InsideOut2023 Review: Commitment to Life

May 27, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2023 Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival runs from May 25th to June 4th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

In his informative documentary Commitment to Life, filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz (I Am Devine, Tab Hunter Confidential), explores the history of the organization AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), which was started as a way to raise money and provide support to those with AIDS, while battling social stigmas and a lack of government funding.

Through its mix of talking head interviews with those who lived through this era, as well as archival footage, Schwarz’s film offers an engaging oral history of this group (APLA Health helped produce the project), shown through the larger context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic during the 1980s and ’90s. The filmmaker takes us through the heartbreaking early days of the epidemic when it claimed the lives of so many gay men, with rampant misinformation causing people to be shunned and denied care, to the huge breakthroughs in treatment that have allowed people to live with the illness.

The film looks at how it took the involvement of celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, to help sway public opinion and gain vital support for people, at a time when lawmakers from the “moral majority” stoked fear and gave in to bigotry (including pushing for “mandatory quarantines”). Schwarz shows how pop culture events such as Rock Hudson revealing that he had AIDS, televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker’s famous interview with Rev. Steve Pieters (one of the film’s subjects) who had AIDS, and Tom Hanks’s Oscar-winning performance in Philadelphia, were key turning points in shifting public awareness around the disease.

AIDS Project Los Angeles became famous for their annual Commitment to Life galas, which attracted the involvement of wealthy donors and celebrity guests, such as Taylor and David Geffen. But Schwarz’s film also acknowledges some blindspots of APLA in meeting the needs of the Black, Asian, Latino and transgender communities who were disproportionately impacted by the epidemic, with more stigmas and even less support. This is where figures such as Jewel Thais-Williams, owner of the first Black disco club Catch One, and trans activist Bamby Salcedo, came in.

The documentary is perhaps most valuable as a testament to community action in response to government inadequacy, with a number of compelling stories revealing how it took the grassroots work of those in the queer community to support each other through this time. The film is densely packed at nearly two hours, but plays with a number of small emotional payoffs that cumulatively add up to something that is both educational and emotionally powerful.

Screenings: Saturday, May 27th, 2:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2; May 28th to June 4th at 11:59 PM – Virtual (across Ontario). Tickets can be purchased here.

New This Week (05/26/2023): The Little Mermaid, You Hurt My Feelings, Mission Kandahar, & More!

May 26, 2023

By John Corrado

New releases for the week of May 26th, 2023.

(L-R): Halle Bailey as Ariel and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Theatrical Releases:

The Little Mermaid (Wide Release): Disney’s live action remake of their 1989 animated classic is the biggest of this week’s new releases. As I wrote in my review, “it coasts by on enough nostalgia for the original that it will work for some, and it is enjoyable to watch in places, but I mostly found it overlong and uneven.” It’s not the worst of Disney’s live action remakes, Halle Bailey does make the role of Ariel her own, but the animated film still reigns supreme. (Full Review)

Mission Kandahar (Wide Release): Gerard Butler stars as a covert CIA operative who is forced to escape through Afghanistan with his translator (Navid Negahban) in Mission Kandahar. But, as I wrote in my review, the film “never quite decides if it wants to be just another B-grade Gerard Butler action movie, or a deeper statement on US involvement in foreign conflicts, and the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban.” It’s somewhat effective in places, and there are some interesting themes, but too many of them go unexplored, with several characters and story strands that feel underdeveloped. (Full Review)

You Hurt My Feelings (Limited Release): This latest dramedy from writer-director Nicole Holofcener stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Beth, a writer who is sent into a tailspin of self-doubt when she accidentally overhears her husband (Tobias Menzies) giving his honest opinion on her new book. Louis-Dreyfus is near or at the peak of her career in the leading role, as Holofcener uses this premise to explore pretty much universally relatable topics, once again proving herself to be an excellent observer of human nature and character interactions. (Full Review)

More Releases: All About My Father (Wide), The Machine (Wide), L’immensità (Limited), It Ain’t Over (Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema)

Streaming Releases:

American Born Chinese: Season 1 (Disney+), FUBAR (Netflix), Bystanders (VOD/Digital)

Review: You Hurt My Feelings

May 26, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

What do you do when you accidentally overhear a loved one giving their honest opinion about something you’ve done? This is the basic setup for You Hurt My Feelings, the latest film from writer-director Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said).

The main character is Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a writer in New York who is coming off the release of her modestly successful memoir. But she is struggling to get her first novel published, while teaching a writing class of young adults. Beth’s husband Don (Tobias Menzies) is a therapist, who is starting to doubt his own abilities in dealing with difficult patients.

They have settled into the natural routines together that are a part of any longtime marriage. But this peace is accidentally broken when Beth overhears Don talking to her sister Sarah’s (Michaela Watkins) husband Mark (Arian Moayed), and giving his honest opinion about her new book; in short, he doesn’t think it’s very good, but doesn’t know how to tell his wife, and has been saying that he likes it just to be nice. Which sends Beth into a tailspin of self-doubt.

Don never would have said these things if he knew Beth could hear him, but does this make it ok? And does the fact that he even lied about her work in the first place make it somehow worse, no matter how well-intentioned he was being? Holofcener takes this premise and spins it into a story about the little white lies people tell each other, the gaslighting that happens when others find out the truth, and how being encouraging just to be kind can have a damaging effect.

These are pretty much universally relatable topics, and Holofcener explores them in a way that feels effortless, crafting a delightful dramedy around these uncomfortable truths. She is such a good observer of human nature and character interactions, and with You Hurt My Feelings, she proves herself a master at taking this sort of setup and fashioning it into something indelible.

Holofcener also does a good job of exploring how these revelations tie in to other characters in the story, including Beth and Don’s young adult son Eliot (Owen Teague), a chronic underachiever who is stuck working in a pot shop. As a screenwriter, Holofcener’s dialogue is sharp and astute, while still sounding believable and natural.

Backed up by the small but mighty ensemble cast, who all believably flesh out their characters, Louis-Dreyfus is near or at the peak of her career in the leading role. She nails the comedic beats, but also the deeper neuroses and genuine pain that Beth is feeling around having her self-esteem shattered. There’s an inherent pain that comes with the laughs, which is a balance that Holofcener does so well, and You Hurt My Feelings will leave you thinking about the questions at its centre for days afterwards.

You Hurt My Feelings opens exclusively in theatres on May 26th. It’s being distributed in Canada by Elevation Pictures.

The 2023 Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival starts tonight!

May 25, 2023

By John Corrado

The 2023 edition of the Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival starts tonight, and runs until June 4th, with a mix of in-person screenings at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto and some online viewing options. I will be publishing reviews throughout the festival, and below is a preview of some films I’m looking forward to, as well as a few highlights of ones I’ve already seen at other festivals.

The festival kicks off this evening with the Opening Night Gala screening of romantic drama Passages (dir. Ira Sachs), which is making its Canadian premiere after debuting at Sundance in January, and stars Franz Rogowski, Ben Whishaw and Adèle Exarchopoulos in a love triangle of sorts. I’m pretty excited for it. The Closing Gala on June 4th is the world premiere of musical Glitter & Doom (dir. Tom Gustafson), with the Toronto documentary Supporting Our Selves (dir. Lulu Wei) premiering as the festival’s Centrepiece Gala on May 30th.

The Canadian flick I Used to Be Funny (dir. Ally Pankiw), which stars Shiva Baby’s Rachel Sennott, is also having its hometown premiere after playing at SXSW in March. Some other highlights from the programme include AIDS documentary Commitment to Life (dir. Jeffrey Schwarz); the Spanish coming of age drama 20,000 Species of Bees (dir. Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren), which won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival; the New York drama Mutt (dir. Vuk Lungulov-Klotz), which drew positive reactions out of Sundance; and the UK period piece Blue Jean (dir. Georgia Oakley), which premiered at Venice last year.

Inside Out is also screening a few favourites from other Toronto festivals, including the empowering documentary Is There Anybody Out There? (dir. Ella Glendining), which is fresh off a showing at Hot Docs where it was one of my favourites of the festival. It’s got a relaxed screening on Saturday, and I would highly recommend it. The very good Canadian drama Something You Said Last Night (dir. Luis De Filippis) is also playing again in the city after premiering at TIFF last year.

The schedule also includes a 20th anniversary screening of Richard Linklater’s childhood favourite School of Rock on June 2nd, with special guest Rivkah Reyes (who played Katie) in attendance, which should be a fun night.

More information on tickets and showtimes can be found on the festival’s website right here.

Review: Mission Kandahar

May 24, 2023

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

In Mission Kandahar (which is being released as Kandahar south of the border), Gerard Butler stars as Tom Harris, a covert CIA operative who must travel through Afghanistan with his translator Mo (Navid Negahban), towards an escape point in Kandahar.

The film opens with Butler’s Harris on an undercover mission to infiltrate and destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. But the mission is compromised and his identity is revealed when their actions are exposed by a Pentagon whistleblower, who leaks them to an idealistic young journalist (Elenaaz Noruouzi). This puts Harris on the run, with his only option to escape involving getting to the Kandahar airport, while being actively pursued.

Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, who also directed Butler in Greenland and Angel Has Fallen, the main issue with Mission Kandahar is that it never quite decides if it wants to be just another B-grade Gerard Butler action movie, or a deeper statement on US involvement in foreign conflicts, and the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. There are some interesting themes, but too many of them go unexplored, with several characters and story strands that feel underdeveloped. This is especially true of Noruouzi’s journalist character, who is sidelined for much of the film.

If Mission Kandahar is somewhat effective in places, and Waugh does stage some decent desert chase sequences (including a helicopter chase involving night-vision goggles), it’s held back by uneven pacing and a muddled story. The film gets off to an overly sluggish start, and the characters aren’t developed well enough for the more dramatic scenes to land as well as they could have in the context of the larger movie. Butler is a dependable presence in the leading role, but his absentee dad trying to get home to his teenage daughter arc feels somewhat tired and predictable.

“Ancient wars were fought for spoils, modern wars aren’t meant to be won,” Butler’s Harris intones at one point. It’s flashes of insight such as this, or a nicely performed heart-to-heart between Butler’s Harris and Negahban’s Mo that shows their shared humanity across cultural differences, that make us wish Mission Kandahar delivered something a bit deeper overall. But this just makes the generic, paint-by-numbers nature of the film as a whole all the more frustrating, considering the potential of the core story to offer something more genuinely thrilling and thought-provoking.

Mission Kandahar opens exclusively in theatres on May 26th. It’s being distributed in Canada by VVS Films.

DVD Review: Bonanza: The Official Complete Series

May 23, 2023

By John Corrado

The Western series Bonanza has long been one of the crown jewels in NBC’s roster, and Paramount Home Entertainment is now releasing the entire series on DVD in a massive box set that contains all 431 episodes of the show from across its fourteen seasons, which ran from 1959 to 1973.

The show follows the day-to-day lives of the Cartwright family living on their Ponderosa Ranch near Virginia City, Nevada in the 1860s. There’s father Ben (Lorne Green) and three adult sons Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker) and Little Joe (Michael Landon), from Ben’s three different wives who have all passed on.

The first Western TV series in colour (and second-longest running only to CBS’s Gunsmoke), Bonanza has certainly taken its place in TV history, and it continues to air in syndication. The press release boasts that the series is presented with original music and that each full-length episode has been restored and remastered from the original 35mm camera negatives, and I have to say that the show looks great, allowing us to appreciate the gorgeous frontier vistas.

The set also includes other elements as well. For example, you have the option of watching the original Pilot episode (A Rose for Lotta) as it initially aired with the original NBC logo and RCA promos, which adds to the nostalgic viewing experience. As someone who has always enjoyed Old Westerns (despite being born a couple decades after Bonanza ended its run), this makes the set a treat to go through, and the show still offers solid entertainment value with its mix of family dynamics and dramatic storylines, often build around moral predicaments related to the time period.

This is quite a hefty set (the entire thing weighs in at 6.5 pounds), with the discs held in four separate plastic cases (Seasons 1-4, Seasons 5-8, Seasons 9-11, Seasons 12-14) that slip inside a cardboard case, with artwork on all sides and each of the four main characters adorning the covers of the individual cases. It’s an attractive collection for fans of the show, or classic TV completists.

Bonus Features (DVD):

There are a variety of bonus materials across the dozens of discs, including photo galleries, archival footage, and commentary tracks on certain episodes.

The press release also boasts that the set includes “an exclusive Bonus Disc containing nearly 2 ½ hours of content, with rare performances, photos, personal appearances and interviews with cast members, and footage from “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “Sesame Street,” plus a never-before-seen blooper reel.” Per the release, bonus material is listed below.

  • Michael Landon Visits Sweden – Interview (1962)
  • “Lorne Greene’s Bonanza” — episode of the CBC series, Telescope, chronicling “a day in the life” of the beloved actor, including rare behind-the-scenes BONANZA set footage (1963)
  • Lorne Greene Interview — episode of the CBC series, Take 30 (1966)
  • All-American Soap Box Derby Featurettes
  • “The Long, Happy Race” – Narrated by Lorne Greene (1962)
  • “Sideline …? Or Starting Line?” – Narrated by Dan Blocker (1964)
  • The Cartwrights Visit Sesame Street (1970)
  • The Last Party (“wake” gathering of the BONANZA company days after the series’ abrupt cancellation in November 1972; audio with slide show)
  • Bonanza Blooper/Gag Reel
  • Michael Landon: Question & Answer session with Vikki Carr and The Tonight Show audience (audio with slide show; 1973)
  • Lorne Greene: Comedy Routine (1981)
  • New Featurette: Mariette Hartley’s Memories
  • Public Service Announcement (P.S.A.): Endangered Wildlife – with Lorne Greene (1975)
  • U.S. Savings Bonds P.S.A.s with Lorne Greene and Dan Blocker (1968)
  • Salute to BONANZA (Narrated by Orson Welles; 1976)
  • Michael Landon: The Last Interview (slide show with audio; March 1991)
  • BONANZA Episode Trailers with rare on-camera introductions
  • “Mighty Is The Word” (Introduced by Lorne Greene; 1965)
  • “The Prince” (Introduced by Dan Blocker; 1967)
  • “Dark Enough to See the Stars” (Introduced by Michael Landon; 1967)
  • 1959 NBC Fall Preview promo – announcing BONANZA’s premiere
  • 1961 NBC on-air promo narrated by Lorne Greene
  • 1967 NBC Fall Preview promo – BONANZA (designed by Bill Feigenbaum)
  • 1972 Chevrolet Billboard Intro.
  • The Ed Sullivan Show — Pernell Roberts Sings (1965)
  • The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson – Lorne Greene Interview (1972)
  • Gallery of rare publicity, episodic, “behind-the-scenes” and portrait photos

Bonanza: The Official Complete Series is a Paramount Home Entertainment release.

Street Date: May 23rd, 2023

Blu-ray Review: Cocaine Bear

May 23, 2023

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

In Cocaine Bear, director Elizabeth Banks takes the inspired by a true story premise of a bear in the 1980s who consumed copious amounts of cocaine that had been dumped from a drug runner’s plane, and fashions it into an absurdly gory and intentionally cheesy B-movie creature feature about a bear on a coke-fuelled rampage.

The film, which very much falls into the horror comedy camp, is set in the Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest, where the packs of cocaine land after being dropped from the plane in the opening scene. The powder is consumed by a female black bear who gets hooked on the stuff, and starts devouring anyone who gets in the path of her next fix.

The film brings together a large of cast of human characters who all converge in the woods, which are patrolled by Ranger Liz (Margo Martindale). There’s Sari (Keri Russell), a nurse and single mother who ventures out to find her adolescent daughter Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince), who has run off to the woods with her best friend Henry (Christian Convery). Meanwhile, Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) are sent to retrieve the missing stash for their boss Syd (the late Ray Liotta in one of his final roles), but are being trailed by Detective Bob (Isiah Whitlock Jr.).

The film does get off to a bit of a choppy start as it rushes through these character introductions, and the players themselves are never really developed beyond being one-note figures to serve the carnage, with a barely held together plot that has a bit of a sketch comedy feel to it at times. But Cocaine Bear hits its stride once the action kicks in, with Banks staging some absurdly entertaining set-pieces (including a creative ambulance chase) and high shock-value kills.

Banks also presents the titular bear (a fully CG creation) as a somewhat sympathetic character, despite the carnage that she leaves in her wake, which ups the absurd enjoyability of the film and makes it a bit different from other animal attack movies. It’s a sort of what you see is what you get film, delivering pretty much exactly what you expect from something called Cocaine Bear. It’s messy in places, but entertaining enough for what it is, offering an intentionally over-the-top movie that mixes some dumb laughs with a lot of gore.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The “Maximum Rampage Edition” Blu-ray includes a handful of bonus features. A regular DVD is also included in the package, which ships with an embossed slipcover.

Alternate Ending (48 seconds)

Gag Reel (1 minute, 54 seconds)

Deleted & Extended Scenes (4 minutes, 33 seconds): Three deleted/extended sequences from the film, presented as a set.

All Roads Lead to Cokey: The Making of Cocaine Bear (9 minutes, 14 seconds): Banks talks about nailing the right tone for the movie, while cast members recount about how much fun they had on set, and the unique experience of acting alongside stunt performer Allan Henry, who performed “Cokey” the bear’s movements.

Unbearable Bloodbath: Dissecting the Kills (8 minutes, 16 seconds): A closer look at how they pulled off some of the gnarly kills in the film, using a mix of makeup, prosthetics and complicated blood rigs.

Doing Lines (4 minutes): The actors do fake dramatic line readings from the script.

Feature Commentary with Director/Producer Elizabeth Banks and Producer Max Handelman

Cocaine Bear is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 95 minutes and rated 18A.

Street Date: May 23rd, 2023

Review: The Little Mermaid

May 22, 2023

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Disney’s 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid is credited with kicking off the studio’s fabled Renaissance period, paving the way for a number of animated classics released throughout the 1990s.

This makes it an obvious choice for a live action remake in the current IP-driven climate, considering that the studio has already given us “updated” versions of other Disney Renaissance hits like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King.

Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods, Mary Poppins Returns), The Little Mermaid is similar to these other remakes in that it basically follows the same beats as its animated predecessor, while being much longer and adding some mostly needless tweaks and updates to it.

The result is a film that coasts by on enough nostalgia for the original that it will work for some, and it is enjoyable to watch in places, but I mostly found it overlong and uneven. In short, The Little Mermaid is not the worst of Disney’s live action remakes (last year’s direct-to-streaming live action Pinocchio was a more soulless affair), but the animated film still reigns supreme.

Halle Bailey takes over the role of Ariel, the mermaid who longs for the human world above the water, and her performance is one of the best things about the movie. She captures the essence of Ariel, whose obsession with humans puts her at odds with her father King Triton (Javier Bardem), who doesn’t approve of her longing to be on land. As the story goes, Ariel becomes even more enchanted by the surface world when she meets Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King), and she is given the chance to go there by Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), a sea witch who gives her legs in exchange for her voice, a bargain that will only last three days unless she can get true love’s kiss.

The few changes that screenwriter David Magee makes to the story are meant to give it a more modern sensibility, but are hit and miss in this regard (for example, Ursula now gives Ariel amnesia as part of the curse, which ironically actually takes away more of her agency). The underwater visual effects are also somewhat spotty, with an overly fake look to them at times (the film also suffers in this regard from the unfortunate timing of being released in the wake of the visually stunning Avatar: The Way of Water).

The more photorealistic renderings of Ariel’s animal sidekicks – young fish Flounder (Jacob Tremblay), ditzy seabird Scuttle (Awkwafina), and worrisome crab Sebastian (an energetic Daveed Diggs) – are also less expressive and less appealing than their traditionally animated counterparts. This is an issue that has plagued the other remakes as well, with what worked in animation not always translating as well to a live action world.

The film also feels somewhat long at 135 minutes, when the original told virtually the same story in a tight 83 minutes. This does allow for more scenes showing the relationship between Ariel and Prince Eric developing, but a lot of this added run time feels like padding. This includes three new songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda that are not only needless but also aren’t good (with the worst offender being a cringe-inducing rap number by Awkwafina’s Scuttle named, what else, “The Scuttlebutt”).

There is some satisfaction to be had in hearing the iconic Alan Menken and Howard Ashman songs like “Part of That World” be belted out by Bailey’s Ariel, and Marshall’s staging of “Under the Sea” allows for a colourful Busby Berkley-inspired musical number with fish. But this has less to do with the live action execution, and more to do with the songs themselves already being such classics (which makes the few minor lyrical changes feel pointless).

Bailey does make the role of Ariel her own, and she can really sing. McCarthy also makes a convincing Ursula, drawing upon similar drag influences as the original version to deliver a campy villainess (she eats up the “Poor Unfortunate Souls” number, sans the disappointing omission of her line about “body language”). But The Little Mermaid still feels a bit like watching a cover band perform some of your favourite songs. It’s a film that hits enough satisfying notes to keep us fairly entertained, but also feels somewhat needless when a better version of this movie already exists.

Halle Bailey as Ariel in Disney’s live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Little Mermaid opens exclusively in theatres on May 26th.

New This Week (05/19/2023): Fast X, Master Gardener, White Men Can’t Jump, & More!

May 19, 2023

By John Corrado

New releases for the week of May 19th, 2023.

Vin Diesel in Fast X

Theatrical Releases:

Fast X (Wide Release): The family is back in this tenth film in the Fast and the Furious saga, which is the biggest of this week’s new releases. I’ve never really gotten into these films (and have only even seen maybe a couple of them), but it should satisfy fans looking for more goofy fun starring Vin Diesel and friends, even if it does sound from the mixed reviews like this one sort of jumps the shark. And there are at least two more of these to go.

Master Gardener (Limited Release): The latest from Paul Schrader follows a horticulturist (Joel Edgerton) with a dark past, becoming involved with his boss’s (Sigourney Weaver) mixed-race grand-niece (Quintessa Swindel). It’s a bit of a minor work from Schrader, but still gives us plenty of stuff to chew on. The film unfolds at a deliberate pace and has enough intrigue to keep us watching, guided by Edgerton’s focused and quietly intense performance. (Full Review)

The Starling Girl (Limited Release): Eliza Scanlen gives an excellent performance as a repressed teenager in a fundamentalist Christian community embarking on an inappropriate relationship with her youth pastor (Lewis Pullman) in this Sundance drama. It’s a confident debut from writer-director Laurel Parmet, that nimbly handles its challenging subject matter, as it captivatingly explores themes of religion and sexuality. (Full Review)

Retrograde (Limited Release): This small-scale Toronto dramedy from writer-director Adrian Murray follows a young woman (Molly Reisman) who gets a traffic ticket and becomes driven mad by trying to get out of paying it, believing that she did nothing wrong. And it’s surprisingly compelling to watch. As I wrote in my review, Retrograde “serves as both a glimpse into the banal frustrations of dealing with bureaucracy, as well as an almost shockingly engaging portrait of a very specific type of neuroses.” It’s heightened by Murray’s unique framing choices and use of long takes, as well as Reisman’s completely believable performance. (Canadian Film Fest Review)

More Releases: What’s Love Got to Do With It? (TIFF Bell Lightbox), The Eight Mountains (Limited), Insanity (Limited), Dark Nature (Limited)

Streaming Releases:

White Men Can’t Jump (Disney+): This remake of the 1992 sports comedy that starred Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, offers a bland update of the story. Sinqua Walls and rapper Jack Harlow take over in the leads, playing a pair of basketball players who start hustling for cash on the Los Angeles courts. It’s a toothless made-for-streaming retelling that strips away a lot of grit from the original, and is pretty forgettable as a result. (Full Review)

More Releases: Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania (Disney+), XO, Kitty (Netflix)

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