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Natasha Henstridge gets to play the bad guy in Ice Girls, available on DVD October 4, 2016. Real-life skating stars Micheala du Toit, Elvis Stojko, Taylor Hunsley, and Tessa Virtue appear in the film, the story of a young figure skater trying to come back after an injury, and her competitor, pushed by a demanding mother, played by Henstridge. In an interview, Henstridge talked about working as a model when she was a teenager and the classic Disney villain that inspired her performance.

You are a Canadian so you must have grown up knowing how to ice skate.

I kind of did, actually. I got to do none of it in this movie, unfortunately, but I do know how to ice skate pretty well.

Did you give the girls in the movie any tips?

When you’re working with the likes of Michaela Du Toit who is a big champion in South Africa, and Taylor Hunsley, honestly not so much. Not so much. They are such incredible skaters. It was so much fun to watch them work and it was beautiful, it was really beautiful. I’ve always loved watching figure skating anyway. My mom and I used to make a habit of doing that when I was a kid growing up. That was our girls’ time. And to see it up close like that it’s just incredible how much work these girls put in their craft.

How did writer/director Damien Lee prepare you for the role of the demanding mother?

Damien was so funny because he kept describing the character as Cruella de Vil. That’s just how horrible this woman is, but like every character you have to have a arc and of course she learns a few things. My character is just very, very caught up in her child being a reflection of who she is. Like these women that from “Toddlers and Tiaras” and “Dance Moms,” when they put an immense amount of pressure on their child and they think it’s for the child but somewhere inside it’s obviously nurturing some issues that they have within themselves. And so I got to play that and I mean there were moments honestly that I did that I just creeped out myself.

We’ve all seen it. We’ve all seen people behave badly and we’ve all seen people who didn’t recognize even see or understand how they are coming across. It’s not like it’s easy to do but I’ve seen the competitive world where parents get overly involved. I had children in sports. I have been to plenty of games with my son and seen some of the parents there that are just busting the kids’ butt, trying to get them to live up to the parent’s expectation. So it’s not so far-fetched. But what was interesting is there were times actually when I actually said, “This scene is a little far-fetched, I mean of course we heighten things for films,” and Taylor’s mom said, “Absolutely not, it’s much, much worse than how you are playing this.”

So you began working professionally very, very young. Does that help you relate to the girls in the film?

Yes, because in the industry that I went into when I was young, it was a highly competitive world as well and there were expectations on things like your weight and a lot of pressure in terms of how you look. Taylor I know left her family so that she could be near her trainer in a difference place kind of early on, she left home quite early, so we definitely related to following your dreams, and following your path of being younger than most people when they leave home but being hungry and wanting to take chances. So we certainly understood each other on that level for sure.

When you were moving from modeling to acting, what was the best advice that you got?

When I was modeling a lot of people used to say, “Gosh, you have so much personality, you need to be in front of the camera, you need to be doing films and stuff.” I had done a lot of TV commercials and for me the idea was always to act, that’s what I wanted to do from an from an early age. At that time people didn’t do a lot of crossovers so you’re either a model or an actress. If you wanted to be an actress and if you wanted to focus on that you sort of had to cut off the modeling thing. I don’t know if that was the best advice but at the time I think that was the best advice.

I see that you’ve got social media accounts, you’ve twitter and Instagram. How do you enjoy that?

I think I probably missed the boat on being super excited about that and had I done it earlier I probably would’ve been a lot more successful at it but I was definitely late to the party on some level. I think it’s a fun way to burn a few moments of your day and check-in and stay somewhat connected. I can’t say it comes particularly naturally nor do I have that sensibility that some people have were there making these beautiful pages, they are like art directors.

My favorite picture on your Instagram was the one with of parents where you said “no filters.”

No filters, figuratively or literally.

So what did you learn from your parents that you tried to incorporate into your own parenting?

I take a lot of things from them now that I’m a parent myself. I used to judge them so, so harshly because I was a kid. You never know what they’re talking about until you go through the fire yourself. You just never know, and suddenly you get older and they have suddenly have become much wiser than you ever thought they were and that’s the biggest thing I would say. That’s the biggie.

The LA Times reports that there are a number of movies on the fall release schedule that will make you cry, with a dying mother (“A Monster Calls”), a lost child (“Lion”), and a mourning mother (“Arrival”). I’d add “Loving,” based on the true story of the couple whose inter-racial marriage challenged miscegenation laws, “The Dressmaker” (sad deaths), slavery (“Birth of a Nation”) and a documentary about veterans (“Thank You for Your Service”). That means: get ready to be moved.

“Crisis in Six Scenes” is a new six-part series from Netflix set in the 1960’s. Writer/director/star Woody Allen plays a television writer married to a therapist (Elaine May), and Miley Cyrus is their daughter, who is caught up in the protests of the era. It will be available for streaming on September 30.


Copyright Disney 2016

An illiterate girl from the slums of Uganda became an internationally ranked chess champion. So of course there is a Disney movie. But director Mira Nair has not made the usual feel-good underdog story. It is a wonderfully rich depiction of a family and a culture, as complex in its way as a master-level chess game with intricate moves by many pieces with different strengths and vulnerabilities.

At the center of the story is Harriet (Lupita Nyong’o of “12 Years a Slave”), a young widow with five children living in dire poverty. She cannot afford to send her children to school, and so they sell maize in the street and at an open market. Her oldest daughter, Night (Taryn Kyaze) is a young teenager already attracting the attention of a man. The youngest is a baby. When Harriet’s daughter Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) and her brother are lured into a chess class with cups of porridge, Harriet is scared and angry. She needs the children to bring in money, and she believes that the chess teacher, Robert Katende (David Oyelowo of “Selma”) is using them for some sort of gambling operation. But Katende, who is waiting for a job as an engineer, persuades her that he just wants her children to learn.

Nair (“Monsoon Wedding,” “The Namesake”) has a great eye, and a great gift for creating vibrant, layered, wonderfully inviting communities on screen. As Harriet tries to protect her family, despite eviction, a sexual predator, a terrible injury, she recognizes that she has to do more than keep her children safe. She has to open the world to them. Phiona cannot read or count, but somehow she can see eight moves ahead on a chess board as only a very few masters of the game can do. Robert knows that poverty is only the beginning of the problem the children face. The snobbery and bigotry of the middle class Ugandans is the real obstacle. They will not even allow the children from the slum to compete. Robert tricks the official into agreeing to let them in if they can raise the entry fee. And then he raises the money himself, by playing soccer.

Newcomer Nalwanga, from a community much like Phiona’s, has a winning screen presence, and we can see that she has inherited her ability to think through chess problems from her mother’s canny navigation of the challenges to the family’s most basic survival. Nyong’o shows a grace and courage, even in the direst moments, that echo Phiona’s resilience.

Parents should know that this movie includes themes of poverty and deprivation, child is hurt in an accident with scenes of painful medical treatment, there are also some references to sexual predators and there is an out of wedlock teen pregnancy.

Family discussion: Why did Robert change his mind? Why did Phiona get cranky after she returned home?

If you like this, try: “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” “Brooklyn Castle,” and “Endgame”

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