Randall King

Randall King

Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

He was steeped in an arts-and-entertainment environment from birth. His dad was Winnipeg musician Jimmy King, a one-time columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. One of his older brothers, David, is a playwright-singer-songwriter. Another, Bob, is a singer-songwriter whose songs have been covered by the likes of Al Simmons, Fred Penner and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. (Bob sung his Olsen twins hit Brother for Sale at Randall’s wedding reception.)

He spent some of his youth wandering the halls of the old CJAY TV station at Polo Park, where Jimmy auditioned contestants for The Amateur Show (and Randall developed a lifelong aversion to hearing the song Spanish Eyes played on the accordion).

He also haunted Winnipeg movie theatres, from horror double-bills at the drive-in to Ingmar Bergman retrospectives at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. His fondest childhood memories include watching Chiller movies on TV on Saturday nights and making fun of them, innocently unaware this could be the basis for a viable career down the road.

He moved to Toronto as a young man, seduced in part by the sheer number of excellent repertory cinemas in that town. He eventually studied English and film at York University, supporting himself by working part-time at a video wholesaler.

Returning to Winnipeg, Randall has been content to cover the entertainment beat in one capacity or another since 1990.

On the film beat at the Free Press, the job has placed him in the same room as diverse talents, from Martin Scorsese to Martin Short, from Julie Christie to Julia Roberts. He has met  three James Bonds (four if you count Woody Allen.)

In a phone interview, director Russ Meyer once told him: “I like your style.”

Randall really likes his job.

Recent articles of Randall King

Season’s beatings galore in yuletide bust-up

Randall King 4 minute read Preview

Season’s beatings galore in yuletide bust-up

Randall King 4 minute read Friday, Dec. 2, 2022

Take Home Alone. Ratchet up the violence, so that booby traps can kill.

Now layer in another plot lifted from Miracle on 34th Street, in which a man claiming to be Santa Claus goes to bat — quite literally — for a little girl whose faith in Christmas is shaken by family issues: her newly separated parents.

That’s Violent Night in a nutcrackered nutshell. It’s a Christmas movie for John Wick fans, produced by 87North, a company founded by Wick co-director David Leitch and Kelly McCormick. (Specializing in state-of-the-art fight films, 87North shot both this film and the Bob Odenkirk vehicle Nobody right here in Winnipeg.)

Scripted by Pat Casey and Josh Miller (Sonic the Hedgehog), this seasonal horror/action/comedy layers in lots of other filmic references, especially to the Die Hard franchise, to the extent that it damn near qualifies as a parody.

Friday, Dec. 2, 2022

Allen Fraser / Universal Pictures via The Associated Press

From left, Alex Hassell, Edi Patterson, Alexis Louder, Leah Brady and David Harbour in Violent Night.

Cold comfort, creative fire on Winnipeg winter set

Randall King 4 minute read Preview

Cold comfort, creative fire on Winnipeg winter set

Randall King 4 minute read Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022

When the movie production team for the Universal Studios release Violent Night showed up in Winnipeg around this time last winter, it brought 42-year-old Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola to the project, and it must be said, rarely has a director been so seemingly perfect for this kind of movie.

Violent Night is the story of Santa Claus (David Harbour) — yes, the actual Santa Claus — obliged to turn action hero when a gang of very naughty thieves break into the compound of a very wealthy family to pull off a bloody heist.

While Winnipeg has gained a reputation as a helpful host to offshore filmmakers, the city’s climate made the shoot especially difficult given record-breaking snowfall and particularly harsh temperatures, cold enough that outdoor shoots scheduled for January had to be moved to March.

Fortunately, Wirkola had significant experience handling winter shoots. Indeed, in his native Norway, he got himself on the filmmaking map with 2009 Nazi zombie thriller, Dead Snow, set in the frozen mountains of Norway.

Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022

Universal Studios (from left) Director Tommy Wirkola and David Harbour on the set of Violent Night.

Peeling back the layers of this whodunit fun, indulgent

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Peeling back the layers of this whodunit fun, indulgent

Randall King 4 minute read Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022

In the 2017 remake of Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh attempted to revive the locked-room ensemble mystery by injecting lots of technical razzle-dazzle to the genre, the master thespian weirdly ignoring the genre’s drawing power has always been a careful assembly of stars striking sparks off each other in an enclosed setting.

It was the release of Rian Johnson’s Knives Out in late 2019 that truly refreshed the mystery movie template wherein a homicide requires a brilliant detective to assemble all the suspects in a fixed space to suss out a killer.

Johnson’s most successful strategy was to allow post-Trump topicality into the mix. His household of plutocrat suspects pitted rich liberals against rich conservatives, with the fate of Ana de Armas’s immigrant nurse held in the balance, an elegant summation of American Jenga power dynamics on the brink of a tumble.

The sequel remains topical, in a different way. For starters, we, along with the plummy master detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, clearly enjoying the new franchise character more than he did Bond) are smack in the middle of the COVID epidemic.

Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022

NETFLIX

A still from the Daniel Craig starrer Glass Onion.

Winnipeg-shot caper flick — opening today — was itself the victim of a heist of $250K worth of movie gear

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Winnipeg-shot caper flick — opening today — was itself the victim of a heist of $250K worth of movie gear

Randall King 4 minute read Friday, Nov. 4, 2022

It is a bitter irony that a movie titled Vandits — a comedy about four would-be thieves taking out a bingo hall on Christmas Eve — would itself be the victim of a heist of some $250,000 worth of movie equipment on the day production was supposed to start last November.

But for better and worse, that’s what happened, and co-writer/director Stu Stone admits: “It was the most anxiety I’ve ever had. It was crazy.”

Stone is speaking on the phone from Florida (in a van, as it happens) driving from Miami to Tampa for his next film project, even as Vandits is preparing to open on screens across Canada on Friday. (It’s playing at Scotiabank Theatre at Polo Park.)

“It’s pretty remarkable that a year later, here we are, with the movie actually coming out, and being the biggest release we’ve ever had,” he says, referring to his professional partnership with producer and co-writer Adam Rodness.

Friday, Nov. 4, 2022

SUPPLIED

'Vandits' Jesse Camacho.

Homegrown films deliver chills and horror

Randall King 5 minute read Preview

Homegrown films deliver chills and horror

Randall King 5 minute read Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022

Given that much of Manitoba’s film product ends up in the horror sections of your various streaming services, it’s a good time to consider supporting your local film industry when choosing a scary movie for Halloween weekend.

As it happens, two movies are available this year, both shot in Manitoba, and both on the cheaper side of the genre. (As any horror aficionado will tell you, a low budget is never a dealbreaker for a horror movie. Some of the most influential shockers — say Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead — were shot on a dime.)

 

● Bring It On: Cheer or Die was filmed in Winnipeg just last year, shooting from late September through October. Premiering on SyFy last month (it’s currently available on DVD and for rental on sites such as Cineplex), the film is based on the Bring It On franchise, which began in 2000 starring Kirsten Dunst as a hyper-competitive poppom shaker.

Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022

NBC/Universal

Kerri Medders (right) in pre-psycho times in Bring It On: Cheer or Die.

Locally shot film focuses on whistleblower’s origin story

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Locally shot film focuses on whistleblower’s origin story

Randall King 4 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022

When it comes to picking a first project to executive produce, local filmmaker Myron John Tataryn literally picked a Winner.

Winner is a biopic about Reality Winner, the whistleblower who exposed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The film, already in production, stars Emilia Jones in the title role, with Connie Britton and Zach Galifianakis as her parents. Directed by Susanna Fogel, it will continue shooting throughout Manitoba until mid-November.

Tataryn, who graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a major in film studies in 2018, is taking the role of executive producer under the shingle of the company Thundersnow Pictures, which he formed with producer partner Terry Dougas.

It’s a very exciting project to be a part of,” he says in a phone interview. “I got incredibly lucky with this.”

Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022

Connie Britton plays whistleblower Reality Winner’s mother. (Rich Fury / Invision files)

Director/writer of locally shot films a cheerleader for horror genre

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Director/writer of locally shot films a cheerleader for horror genre

Randall King 5 minute read Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022

Buffalo Gal Pictures producer Liz Jarvis recalls a preliminary meeting with crew members of the recently wrapped horror movie The Elevator Game when she announced the film would be helmed by an up-and-coming director named Rebekah McKendry and was met with this reaction: “Oh, do you mean Dr. Rebekah McKendry?”

If it’s possible to have a doctorate in horror, McKendry has one, technically a doctorate in media studies from Virginia Commonwealth University, which she earned while working for the horror publication Fangoria from 2005 to 2015.

It will probably be about a year before you’ll be able to see her work on The Elevator Game, which features a generous number of Winnipeg actors among its cast, including Gino Anania as a teenager seeking answers about the disappearance of his sister while playing the titular supernatural game. Anania stars alongside Alec Carlos, Megan Best, Nazariy Demkowicz, Verity Marks, Madison MacIsaac and Samantha Halas.

But you don’t have to wait at all to see her work as a screenwriter (alongside Dana Schwartz) in the SyFy TV movie Bring It On: Cheer or Die, which launches on the American genre cable network Saturday night. The film, which was also shot in Winnipeg with a major contingent of local actors, is already available on DVD and for rent online via sites such as YouTube and Google Play.

Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022

Shudder

Horror screenwriter-director Rebekah McKendry got her start working at Fangoria magazine.

The rom-com reborn

Randall King 3 minute read Preview

The rom-com reborn

Randall King 3 minute read Friday, Sep. 30, 2022

“Do you guys remember straight people?”

“Yeah. They had a nice run.”

This exchange between a lesbian and a trans woman — board members of a New York LGBTQ museum in the movie Bros — sticks its landing nicely, especially in the context of the Hollywood romantic comedy.

Let’s face it: the rom-com has been a moribund genre for a long stretch of time. The conventions have been played out so much, the last significant studio entry — the Rebel Wilson vehicle Isn’t It Romantic (2019) — was largely about how mortifyingly cliché-ridden the genre has become.

Friday, Sep. 30, 2022

Universal Pictures

The movie Bros, starring Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane, shakes up the rom-com genre in exactly the right way.

Laugh and learn

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Laugh and learn

Randall King 4 minute read Friday, Sep. 30, 2022

Observing the spirit of Orange Shirt Day — the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation — presents a challenge as we are compelled to look at the issues that arise in facing the often tragic and brutal nexus where Indigenous people and settlers meet.

A serious question: Must we be deadly serious in our consideration?

Answering that question, the two-hour documentary True Story purposely adds a deliberate touch of impertinence to the subject, thanks in large part to Winnipeg writer-director Dinae Robinson.

Creating the film under the banner of local production company Eagle Vision, the 36-year-old Anishinaabekwe filmmaker says humour was a very intentional feature of the project, which premières tonight on the History Channel.

Friday, Sep. 30, 2022

History Channel

Winnipeg writer-director Dinae Robinson says humour was a very intentional feature of the project.

Locally shot and produced films going to Toronto International Film Festival

Randall King 11 minute read Preview

Locally shot and produced films going to Toronto International Film Festival

Randall King 11 minute read Wednesday, Sep. 7, 2022

Winnipeg-based director Sean Garrity says it best when it comes to getting an invitation to screen your film at the Toronto International Film Festival:

“I think we take it for granted that we have one the top five film festivals on planet that takes place in Canada,” Garrity says. “We have this space to play our films, and it’s a huge privilege. I’m always very honoured whenever TIFF programs my work.

Garrity will be making his fifth trip to TIFF with The End of Sex, which he directed based on the script of fellow Winnipeg homeboy Jonas Chernick. He is not alone.

After a two-year pandemic gap in which the festival was largely reduced to online-screenings with a mix of cautious in-person events, TIFF roars back to something resembling the usual orgiastic cinematic affair in 2022. And local film companies or local talents are well represented with entries including a suitably celebratory opening night film.

Wednesday, Sep. 7, 2022

Supplied

Buffy Sainte-Marie says she bonded with Winnipeg-based director Madison Thomas and writer Andrea Warner during production of Carry It On, a film about her life that will be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Orphan star’s return to creepy role proved challenging

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Orphan star’s return to creepy role proved challenging

Randall King 5 minute read Friday, Aug. 19, 2022

If you haven’t seen the 2009 film Orphan, you may not be aware of the plot twist that drives the story of an apparently psychotic child who threatens the lives of her adoptive family.

Hence, this spoiler alert: Little Esther is really an adult woman suffering from a medical condition that keeps her in the body of a child.

That past is prologue in the sequel, actually a prequel, Orphan: First Kill, which was filmed in and around Winnipeg in late 2020. We see how Esther violently escapes from an Estonian psychiatric facility and manages to pass herself off as the long-lost daughter of American artist Allen Albright (Rossif Sutherland) and his wife Tricia (Julia Stiles).

It’s a twisted tale, enhanced by a twisted bit of casting. Esther is once again played by Isabelle Fuhrman, who really was a child of 10 when she first took on the role. For First Kill, she returns to the role as a grown woman, playing the role of a grown woman in the body of a child.

Friday, Aug. 19, 2022

Paramount Players

Isabelle Fuhrman on returning to the role of Esther in Orphan: First Kill: ‘I had to discover something new, while also paying homage to what I had created before.’

Theatre performers dish on restarting their fringe engines after a long hiatus

Randall King 9 minute read Preview

Theatre performers dish on restarting their fringe engines after a long hiatus

Randall King 9 minute read Tuesday, Jul. 12, 2022

It only feels like it’s been forever.

In fact, we’ve just missed out on two live, in-person editions of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. As we return to something that looks like a normal fringe, consider the artists who were deprived of their main source of work: performing at fringe festivals here and around the world.

We reached out to a number of veterans — and some relative newbies — to answer some questions about what it’s been like for artists to cool their creative jets for two years and then return to live performance.

The cast list includes:

Tuesday, Jul. 12, 2022

Medical drama puts local actor in perilous position

Randall King 3 minute read Preview

Medical drama puts local actor in perilous position

Randall King 3 minute read Saturday, Jul. 9, 2022

Befitting the star of the new made-in-Manitoba drama series SkyMed, Winnipeg-born actress Morgan Holmstrom is taking flight.

Literally. Our phone interview precedes a trip to Glasgow where she is taking on her latest gig.

But we’re here to talk SkyMed, a medical drama set mostly in northern Manitoba, and which was shot mostly in southern Manitoba through much of 2021-22. The series premières Sunday evening on CBC at 9 p.m. and streams on CBC Gem.

“Our show’s creator, Julie (Puckrin), says it’s Top Gun meets Grey’s Anatomy,” Holmstrom says by way of describing the series, which follows a group of young nurses and pilots flying air ambulances in the remote North, where help is thousands of kilometres away.

Saturday, Jul. 9, 2022

Pief Weyman / Paramount+
Crystal Highway (Winnipeg’s Morgan Holmstrom) is a Métis/Cree first responder in SkyMed.

Rainbow Stage scores with classic Canadian tale

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Rainbow Stage scores with classic Canadian tale

Randall King 4 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2022

It was some kind of ghastly benchmark in Canadian culture when, in 2010, someone made a movie titled Score: A Hockey Musical, a silly effort with a dead-end ambition: to make a film for that tiny Venn diagram demographic that loves both hockey and movie musicals.

As we can see this month at Rainbow Stage, someone discovered a better way to two-prong those communities utilizing a property hiding in plain sight.

Roch Carrier’s short story The Hockey Sweater was already a choice piece of Canadiana courtesy of Sheldon Cohen’s classic 1980 short animated film The Sweater, adapted from Carrier’s gently humorous short memoir. It recalls Carrier’s youth, playing on the local junior hockey team until his mother mistakenly orders him a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, when all his other teammates dress exclusively in the No. 9 Habs jersey worn by Maurice (Rocket) Richard.

This adaptation by Emil Sher (book and lyrics) and Jonathan Monro (music and lyrics), which premiered in 2017 in Montreal, hews close to the source material. But with a somewhat overlong running time of two hours and 20 minutes (including intermission), it embellishes Carrier’s gently sardonic story with a dollop of romance, deeper characterization, and a fleshed-out view of life in small-town Francophone Quebec after the Second World War.

Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2022

ROBERT TINKER PHOTO
Lead Nathan Malolos (centre) plays the younger self of narrator and author Roch Carrier (played by Harry Nelken), whose skill at hockey doesn’t quite match his passion for the game.

Girl power crushes shame and alien-infected polar bears

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Girl power crushes shame and alien-infected polar bears

Randall King 4 minute read Friday, Jun. 24, 2022

The new Canadian horror film Slash/Back may recall a certain horror classic from 1982 in which a remote polar outpost finds itself under attack by a shape-shifting alien of evil intent.

But rest assured, Inuk director Nyla Innuksuk was not aiming for anything like John Carpenter’s gory/slimy classic, The Thing. If any movies from the ’80s inspired her, it was more like Steven Spielberg’s more benign alien invasion movie from that same year, ET: The Extraterrestrial, or perhaps Richard Donner’s The Goonies (1985), both movies featuring kids riding around on bicycles and encountering outsize adventure.

“I grew up obsessed with movies as a kid and as a teenager,” says the Toronto-based Innuksuk, 35, in a Zoom interview with the Free Press from her parents’ home in rural Ontario. “Movies like ET and The Goonies, where these kids what kind of go off on adventures that was something that I always really loved,” she says, copping to the fact that, when she went on her own childhood adventures with her brothers and friends, she was “humming that ET theme song in your head.”

But what those movies failed to reflect was Innuksuk’s own childhood in Iqaluit, the capital city on Nunavut. Hence Slash/Back centres on a clique of young girls in another Arctic town, the Baffin Island community of Pangnirtung. Their adventure takes them into the path of a dangerous, strangely gnarly polar bear, which turns out to be even more deadly than usual, as its body has been taken over by serpentine alien parasites capable of invading other bodies.

Friday, Jun. 24, 2022

Mixtape SB Productions Inc.
In Slash/Back, the girls (from left, Nalajoss Ellsworth, Chelsea Prusky, Sadie Vincent-Wolfe and Tasiana Shirley) rescue their Pangnirtung community from an invasion force.

Jewish love story painted in bittersweet strokes

Randall King 3 minute read Preview

Jewish love story painted in bittersweet strokes

Randall King 3 minute read Thursday, Jun. 16, 2022

At one point in Daniel Jamieson’s play The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, artist Marc Chagall (Daniel Greenberg) is seen rebelling against the stodgy artists in his native Russian community of Vitebsk, saying that if he wants to paint green cows, he will paint green cows. (Chagall indeed took the green cow as his personal emblem.)

Directed by Ari Weinberg, Jamieson‘s play proceeds with the same kind of counter-intuitive insistence. The play does not project Chagall’s expressionist paintings onto the stage, as we might expect. (For that experience, head off to Beyond Van Gogh at the RBC Convention Centre in July.) Instead, this work, examining Chagall’s love affair with his wife Bella, emulates Chagall’s style through other means, his elegant curves and circles made manifest by a theatre-in-the-round presentation, or in the balletic dance moves between Marc and Bella (Isidora Kecman).

So, yes, the play assumes audience familiarity with the works of Chagall. At the same time, it follows its own rules when it comes to its obligations to convention. For example, this is a musical with only one substantial song over its 75-minute running time (without intermission). But a beautiful song it is, sung in English and Yiddish, written by English composer Ian Ross (not to be confused with the Winnipeg playwright of the same name).

Bittersweet music permeates throughout, courtesy of music director Michael Doherty on keyboards and cellist Tayah Plett. And bittersweet is the proper tone for a story of Jewish lovers living through the early 20th century, encompassing the Russian Revolution and the Holocaust, with Marc and Bella on the move constantly. It is no wonder suitcases are an important design motif here, pressed into service as a cradle or a phone table or a dance floor.

Thursday, Jun. 16, 2022

photos by KEITH LEVIT
Artist Marc Chagall would approve of the arresting beauty of the performers.

New play explores meaning of theatre

Randall King 3 minute read Preview

New play explores meaning of theatre

Randall King 3 minute read Saturday, Jun. 11, 2022

Since fringe festivals have been rife with one-man Hamlet productions over the past few years, it may be necessary to clarify that The Player King, a new play by Ron Pederson, is not that.

Mind you, the premise lends itself to it. A panicked actor (Rodrigo Beilfuss), searching for his absent castmates, comes upon an audience and tries to work through how he got there. His only stagemate is an ominously spectral musician (Cuinn Joseph) who limits himself to a running musical commentary to the nameless actor’s story.

A show must go on, if not the intended Hamlet show. So the actor tells his own story, interlaced with lines from the Bard to illustrate when appropriate, that is: frequently.

It emerges that the actor comes from a background that may not be rogue but certainly qualifies as peasant slave, a young 19th century farm worker electrified by witnessing a performance by a ragtag itinerant troupe. He quickly becomes obsessed, even after finding that the author of these works is long gone. (“The same week I learn about Shakespeare, I learn he’s dead,” he laments.) Nevertheless, he finds his own way to the stage courtesy of a failed actor named Roger, found in a pub doing recitations for drinks.

Saturday, Jun. 11, 2022

LEIF NORMAN PHOTO
The Player King, written by Ron Pederson, runs until July 2.

Dolce Vita-inspired production of Much Ado in the St. Norbert ruins keeps actors and audience hopping

Randall King 3 minute read Preview

Dolce Vita-inspired production of Much Ado in the St. Norbert ruins keeps actors and audience hopping

Randall King 3 minute read Friday, Jun. 3, 2022

Federico Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita is the stylistic touchstone for director Ann Hodges’ robust interpretation of the Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing, produced live (at last!) in the Trappist Monastery Provincial Heritage Park in St. Norbert.

Fun fact: “paparazzi,” the term for predatory celebrity photographers, was inspired by a photographer named Paparazzo in the film.

That explains why the very opening scene in this production sees paparazzi chasing down the prestigious family of Leonata (Melanie Whyte) as news comes of a post-battle visit by the prince Don Pedro (Omar Alex Khan), and a few of his fellow soldiers, including Benedick (Cory Wojcik) and the lovelorn Claudio (Ritchie Diggs), who carries a torch for Leonata’s daughter Hero (Hera Nalem).

There is no such romance for Benedick, who conducts an ongoing “merry war” of words with Hero’s feisty cousin Beatrice (Sarah Constible). To outward appearances, the two loathe each other.

Friday, Jun. 3, 2022

Cory Wojcik and Sarah Constible star in Much Ado about Nothing. (Ethan Cairns / Winnipeg Free Press)

Crimes takes the Future to a weird new place

Randall King 4 minute read Preview

Crimes takes the Future to a weird new place

Randall King 4 minute read Friday, Jun. 3, 2022

Bless his twisted heart, David Cronenberg is back… with his “Future.”

Apart from the title, his new film has little to do with the notorious Canadian director’s 1970 film of the same name, aside from being set in a world beset by a plague of mutation. (Alas, there is no character here named “Adrian Tripod.”)

Crimes 2022 also distinguishes itself with star power attached, most notably Viggo Mortensen as Saul Tenser, a man whose penchant for creating strange new internal organs has made him a performance artist star, in collaboration with his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux), who shares Saul’s enthusiasm for sensual surgery.

Yes, you read that right. The movie shares a queasy fascination with medical erotica, recalling Cronenberg’s 1988 feature Dead Ringers, about mad gynecologist Beverly and his twin brother Elliot, both played by Jeremy Irons. “I’ve often thought there should be beauty contests for the insides of bodies,” Elliot says in the film, a sentiment that pretty much comes to fruition in this movie.

Friday, Jun. 3, 2022

Léa Seydoux and Viggo Mortensen star in Crimes of the Future. (Neon / The Associated Press)

Top Gun: Maverick: the Tom Cruise-starring followup to the Tom Cruise-starring 36-year-old blockbuster

Randall King 3 minute read Preview

Top Gun: Maverick: the Tom Cruise-starring followup to the Tom Cruise-starring 36-year-old blockbuster

Randall King 3 minute read Thursday, May. 26, 2022

Top Gun: Maverick absolutely lives up to its predecessor, Tony Scott’s streamlined blockbuster/machine from 1986. That film purveyed the very ’80s notion of war as a sleek spectator event, with keening jet engines, a glamorous hero and not a little homoerotic subtext, notwithstanding Kelly McGillis’s gratuitous love interest.

This 36-years-later followup sees Tom Cruise’s Captain Pete Mitchell, a.k.a. Maverick, is still a thorn in the side of the brass as he is dismissed from his gig as a test pilot by a rear admiral (Ed Harris, doing his rote gruff commander shtick) who sees unmanned drones as the way of future warfare.

“Your kind is headed for extinction,” Harris says in the script-o-mat allegedly written by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie. (If you’ve seen the trailer for Cruise/McQuarrie’s new Mission: Impossible movie, Cruise gets an identical lecture from Henry Czerny — “Your days of fighting for the so-called ‘greater good’ are over” — proving The Usual Suspects’ screenwriter McQuarrie seems to be filling in the blanks of an iron-clad template these days.)

Anyway, Mitchell is sent back to the place where he proved his mettle, the Top Gun flight facility where he is assigned to train the latest crop of the very best fighter pilots in the country. Much to his consternation, these pilots include Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of the late Goose Bradshaw, whose death made Maverick feel stirrings of manly guilt the first time out.

Thursday, May. 26, 2022

This 36-years-later followup sees Tom Cruise’s Captain Pete Mitchell, a.k.a. Maverick, is still a thorn in the side of the brass. (Paramount Pictures)

Kids in the Hall back to push the envelope

Randall King 5 minute read Preview

Kids in the Hall back to push the envelope

Randall King 5 minute read Thursday, May. 12, 2022

It has been nearly 27 years since the five-man Canadian comedy troupe Kids in the Hall challenged comedy norms with their landmark sketch comedy series, which ran on CBC and HBO from 1989 to 1995.

The trailer for the new Prime Video series demonstrates the same biting-the-hand-that-feeds-them ethos — a bit between Mark McKinney and Dave Foley suggesting the Amazon corporation may be in league with Satan — that marked the quintet’s initial foray into comedy.

That sense also comes through in a Zoom interview with the group’s other three members, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch and Scott Thompson, conducted after the show wrapped production last year.

This show follows in the original’s template, says the Montreal-born McDonald, 60, who now resides in Winnipeg.

Thursday, May. 12, 2022

Jackie Brown/Amazon Studios
Shot in Toronto in the summer of 2021, the show also put the five troupe members back into a harmonious groove.

The doctor is in… and in… and in

Randall King 4 minute read Preview

The doctor is in… and in… and in

Randall King 4 minute read Saturday, May. 7, 2022

Director Richard Donner is credited with making the modern superhero movie a viable blockbuster with Superman back in 1978. But Sam Raimi was arguably the filmmaker most responsible for setting the current template, first with his wild, expressionist fantasy Darkman (1990) and then with his Spider-Man trilogy (2002, 2004, 2007), which artfully blended elaborate action with heartfelt emotion.

Raimi rejoins the Marvel Universe, taking up a character most in need of an infusion of human soul, the chilly, cerebral Dr. Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange (2016) and any number of subsequent Avengers movies/tie-ins.

The movie kicks off with a dream sequence wherein a weird, not entirely heroic Steven Strange variant attempts to save the life of a young woman (Xochitl Gomez) apparently being hunted by a hostile Lovecraftian entity.

Here in our world, it turns out Strange’s “dream” is a subconscious window into a different universe, which he discovers while attending the wedding of his former love interest Christine (Rachel McAdams). The nuptials are interrupted by the appearance of a tentacled kaiju, which Strange neutralizes with the help of his partner/mentor Wong (Benedict Wong). Along the way, he meets the girl from his dreams, and determines the spunky lass — named America — possesses the singular talent of being able to access any parallel universe, but only when she is in the grip of fear.

Saturday, May. 7, 2022

Winnipeg-shot comedy looking for Indigenous extras

Randall King 4 minute read Preview

Winnipeg-shot comedy looking for Indigenous extras

Randall King 4 minute read Saturday, Apr. 30, 2022

The CTV comedy series Acting Good, starring Anishinaabe standup comedian Paul Rabliauskas, has put out the call for “hundreds” of Indigenous extras — male and female ages 16-90 years old — to play in various scenes throughout the shoot.

The 10-episode series has already begun filming in Winnipeg and surrounding areas and is expected to continue into June.

Rabliauskas plays Paul, a comic who returns home to the fictional remote fly-in community of Grouse Lake First Nation after a botched attempt to move to the big city. Grouse Lake was inspired by Rabliauskas’s own home community of Poplar River First Nation.

Also in the cast is actor, comedian, and series co-showrunner Pat Thornton (of the under-appreciated shot-in-Manitoba series Sunnyside), who stars as Brady, the “only white guy on the rez.”

Saturday, Apr. 30, 2022

CTV
Acting Good, which stars comedian Paul Rabliauskas (centre, grey hat), is set in the fictional community of Grouse Lake First Nation.

Searing one-person drama antidote to playwright’s rage

Randall King 5 minute read Preview

Searing one-person drama antidote to playwright’s rage

Randall King 5 minute read Tuesday, Apr. 19, 2022

Notwithstanding its at-home viewing availability, Tara Beagan’s Deer Woman is a play far removed from the usual night out at the theatre. The digital production, shot by Calgary’s Downstage Theatre (the first Canadian theatre to showcase it) has the impact of a depth charge.

The play begins out in the bush, where Lila (Cherish Violet Blood) is seen unpacking a beat-up pickup truck with a grim resolve.

Over the next hour or so, Lila will unpack much more, recording details of a troubled life on her cellphone, encompassing early abuse, an alcoholic mother, a hunter father and a younger sister brutally taken from her in an endless cycle of murdered and missing Indigenous women. The show’s final minutes includes material that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror movie.

In a phone interview from her home in Calgary, Beagan, 46, a Ntlakapamux and Irish Canadian theatre artist, acknowledges the play emerged from a place of rage.

Tuesday, Apr. 19, 2022

Article 11 photo
Cherish Violet Blood in Deer Woman