The Grand Seduction
Oh, Canada. You had me at hello... eh?
Cozy as a weatherbeaten sweater, The Grand Seduction is that summer trip to Newfoundland that you never thought you wantedbut trust me, you'll want this.
The Grand Seduction has a long line of relatives: an American cousin (1991's Doc Hollywood), a French nephew (2003's Seducing Doctor Lewis) and an eccentric Scottish uncle (1983's Local Hero); so yes, it comes from good stock.
Here, the setting is Tickle Head, Newfoundlandand before you scoff, I should tell you that there really are towns in Newfoundland called Tickles, Tickle Cove and Tickle Harbor. And a word of caution: This is not the Canadian Maritimes of Anne of Green Gables. The Grand Seduction's Tickle Head instead represents the high unemployment that defines so much of Labrador. In its opening scene, the film's unlikely hero Murray (played by the roliest of roly-polies Brendan Gleeson) laments that his fishing village has "been left behind," with many of its citizens marking their time by picking up and cashing welfare checks. The film, ably directed by Canadian filmmaker Don McKellar (Last Night), has a lovely but edgy feel, not unlike Billy Elliott, The Full Monty and Waking Ned Devine. "Hear ye, goddammit, hear ye!" precedes each town meeting.
As Murray, Gleeson plots to lure a petroleum company to his village, but the deal is hinged on also luring a full-time doctor. Through a trumped-up immigration kerfuffle, Murray finagles a Los Angeles-based physician (Taylor Kitsch) to be sentenced to spend a month in Canada. Making matters a bit more interesting is that the young doctor is crazy about cricket. And when a few dozen Newfoundlanders who think God only intended men to play hockey have to dress up in cricket whites, it's a sight to behold.
The Grand Seduction is far from the best movie of the year; but it's certainly worth the price of full admission, and that's saying something... eh?- George Prentice
Thundershorts from Snag Films
In the 21st century world of alternative entertainment, many new "shows" are made up of an exclusive bailiwick, like those on Snag Films' new website, Thundershorts.
Since its founding in 2008, Snag Films' advertising-supported library of independent and documentary films, which viewers can stream free, has grown to around 10,000. Thundershorts is Snag Films' new venture into original comedy programming, and though there are fewer than 10 shows currently up--most of which have only one or two episodes available--each one clearly has the potential to thrive. Shows are character driven and, at least in the inaugural episodes, take advantage of themes familiar to a 21st century audience, such as the pitfalls of communicating via text in Augie, Alone; dealing with online fame in American Viral (starring Michael Showalter); and accidental racism in Teachers Lounge.
Teachers Lounge is set in a New York City elementary school and was created by comedians Ted Alexandro and Hollis James, who star as a music teacher and janitor, respectively, and best friends. Each episode takes place in the teachers' lounge and stars a well-known comedian like Lewis Black, Judy Gold or Judah Friedlander as a faculty member. Episode No. 1 features comedian Jim Gaffigan as Jim Gaffigan, an elementary school nutritionist whose hobby is making specialty wines like "pinotriesling" and "chardogrigio," which he gives the unfortunate name Whites Only, saying things like,"You like reds? Well, whites are superior ... Whites Only is a big seller in Westchester and they love Whites Only down South. D.C. isn't really into Whites Only." James and Gaffigan are oblivious to the double meaning, but Alexandro is incredibly uncomfortable, especially when an African-American teacher comes into the lounge.
Teachers Lounge and other Thundershorts offerings are well-shot, well-scripted and laugh-out-loud funny as characters try to navigate through a tech-savvy, politically correct world--in 6- to 10-minute installments.- Amy Atkins
Obvious Child is groundbreaking. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a great movie, but it is a landmark.
You may have already heard this film has been shackled with the label of being the "abortion movie." And while it's estimated that 30 percent of American women will undergo an abortion procedure by the age of 45, Hollywood's treatment of the matter has been rather embarrassing. True, movies in the 1960s and '70s mentioned abortion more often, but the procedure usually followed excessive melodrama. And successful contemporary movies that briefly considered abortion, such as Juno or Knocked Up, resulted in lead characters shunning abortion.
Which brings us to Donna. She's not a victim of sexual assault and there isn't some cute plot device about a broken condom. She had sex with a young man in an alcohol-fueled hook-up, and now, she's considering an abortion. That's it. Oh, and by the way: Donna is hilarious. Portrayed by Jenny Slate (Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation), Donna is a 20-something stand-up comic who uses her sex life as a foil for much of her comedy routines (think Sarah Silverman). But one night, Donna gets dumped, drinks too much, meets a guy and has unprotected sex.
Writer-director Gillian Robespierre told The New York Times that she sent a draft of her screenplay to Planned Parenthood, looking for feedback. So, kudos to her for not allowing the film to fall into the trap of mystifying abortion.
However, the movie isn't consistently funny, and just because it's fresh doesn't mean it's fresh enough to sustain 85 minutes.
And as could be expected, Obvious Child has generated a bit of controversy when NBC Universal caught the ire of Planned Parenthood after initially refusing an ad for the film because it included the word abortion. NBC quickly backpedaled, insisting that it had no such restriction over such ads.
Someone once opined that there's no such thing as bad publicity. We'll see.- George Prentice