NOW Magazine - 2021-06-10


BlockBuster Backlog


By Norman Wilner, Radheyan Simonpillai & Kevin Ritchie

We would usually open this section by singing the praises of air conditioned matinees, crowd-pleasing blockbusters and oversized fountain drinks. But that’s not going to be possible just yet. With indoor cinemas unlikely to reopen until late July or early August – though drive-in theatres might be back in business sooner – movies are still very much an at-home thing this summer. And most distributors have accepted that, meaning we’ll be able to premiere the biggest releases in our living rooms, subject to regional availability and ISP speeds. Akilla’s Escape — Charles Officer’s first dramatic feature in 12 years stars Saul Williams as a mid-level drug runner trying to reclaim some stolen merchandise after a robbery goes sideways, and maybe save a kid (Thamela Mpumlwana) from going down the same path that’s swallowed his own future. Urgently paced and beautifully photographed – Maya Bankovic’s cinematography won one of the film’s four Canadian Screen Awards last month – this complex, artful thriller was a surprise knockout at TIFF last year. ■ digital TIFF Bell Lightbox June 11; wider digital release June 15. Zola — “Based on a Twitter thread” is a thing now. Janicza Bravo’s adaptation of Aziah “Zola” Wells’s hilarious and horrifying viral tweets stars Taylour Paige as the titular exotic dancer who goes on a wild and dangerous trip to Florida with a manipulative fellow dancer (Riley Keough). There’s pimps, hustlers and Succession’s lovable Nicholas Braun finding himself oafishly caught in between. ■ June 30 The Tomorrow War — So here’s the deal: soldiers from the year 2051 arrive in the present day to warn us that aliens invade Earth, and only we can stop them by... travelling to the future and joining the battle. Chris Pratt and Sam Richardson are among the recruits in what looks to be a pretty straightforward sci-fi actioner – except that The Tomorrow War also marks the live-action debut of veteran animator Chris McKay, who made The LEGO Batman Movie. So we have no idea what to expect, really. ■ Amazon Prime Video, July 2. Summer Of Soul (... Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) — The Roots main man Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s debut film uncovers never-beforeseen footage of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival for a doc that finds the perfect equilibrium between stunning performance footage and insightful musical and social analysis. You can tell Thompson is an audio commentary guy – Summer Of Soul mixes deep-dive anecdotes, socio-cultural analysis and emotional first-person interviews to capture a pivotal but unsung moment in Black American music, politics and history while giving thrilling performance footage of Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Mahlia Jackson, Sly and the Family Stone (and many others) room to express what words cannot. ■ Disney+ Star, July 2. Black Widow — Natasha Romanoff simply cannot catch a break. Scarlett Johansson’s Russian dark-ops specialist was the first Marvel character to have her movie delayed by the pandemic, adding insult to (fatal) injury over the whole Avengers: Endgame thing. But after several delays, it’s finally locked in for a hybrid release in theatres where possible and on Disney+ as a premium purchase, and fans can finally find out who Florence Pugh and David Harbour are playing, and what Australian minimalist Cate Shortland brought to this project as a director. ■ Drive-in theatres and Disney+ Premium Access, July 9. Beans — Tracey Deer’s debut feature restages the Oka Crisis of 1990 through the eyes of a 12-year-old Mohawk girl (Kiawentiio, of Anne With An E and Rutherford Falls) forced to confront racism head-on when her entire world collapses into chaos and rage. And even though the story takes place more than 30 years ago, the themes are sadly very contemporary. Beans was named best first feature and best picture at last month’s Canadian Screen Awards – and yes, it really is that good. ■ Digital release, July 30. The Green Knight — Dev Patel trades Charles Dickens for Arthurian legend in this lavish tale of a knight of Camelot who accepts a supernatural challenge from a mystical warrior. Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton and Sean Harris costar; writer/director/editor David Lowery demonstrated a knack for otherworldly narratives with Pete’s Dragon and A Ghost Story. If there’s one movie we hope we get to see in a theatre, it’s this one; it looks positively rapturous. ■ In theatres, July 30. The Suicide Squad — Other than casting Margot Robbie as DC supervillain Harley Quinn, the previous Suicide Squad movie was a grey, joyless grind. So why get excited about the sequel? Because Warner gave it to Guardians Of The Galaxy writer/director James Gunn and let him do whatever the hell he wanted. Which means Robbie’s Harley now fights alongside a much wilder cast of weirdos – including Idris Elba’s Bloodsport, John Cena’s homicidal Peacemaker and Sylvester Stallone’s King Shark, who is a shark – to save the world, or something. At least we’ll get some jokes this time. ■ In theatres, August 6 Annette — Imagine La La Land by Leos Carax. Nine years after his intoxicating toast to cinema Holy Motors, the French director returns with a grim, noirish musical written by The Sparks Brothers. Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard star as the seismic push-pull forces in this mysterious and operatic Hollywood love story. ■ On Amazon Prime Video Canada, August 20 Candyman — Nia DaCosta’s “spiritual sequel” to the classic Clive Barker adaptation – about a researcher of urban legends who inadvertently summons a vengeful but deeply romantic ghost – has been circling release for more than a year, but we have the sense that a horror movie rooted in America’s ugly history of racism and class war is always going to arrive at the right time. And Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris and Colman Domingo have only become bigger stars in the interim. ■ In theatres August 27 · @nowtoronto



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