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Update January 30th, 2019:

I have added a Search Window on the Sidebar (=========> ) to allow for previous Reviews to be found.   It took a while to figure out how to add this feature which to me is necessary for anyone looking to see what any thoughts have been for something that they wish to watch.    You will note that there are multiple entries for many movies.

I hope this makes the reviews more accessible and available for those visiting.   Happy movie watching!

Original Posting:

Thanks for joining me!  For many years I have been sharing movie reviews with my good friend Alison.   What started out as Monday water cooler discussions on what films we saw (we seemed to see movies often) then turned into emails.   She moved from her job.   I moved from mine, but we still kept in contact.

The reviews have been been shared with others over time, but the beginnings remain the same.   When I review, the email was addressed to Alison, and then others were added.

So here I am.   After much thought, the idea of sharing the movie reviews over time has finally taken shape.

I must early on make a shout out to the late, great, Pulitzer prize winning reviewer Roger Ebert, from the Chicago Sun Times.    I depended on Roger and his reviews, and his TV show At The Movies with Gene Siskel.  Now I didn’t always agree with Roger and his reviews, but I would read and enjoy how he viewed these films.   It is not unusual for me to refer to him, or wonder what he would think about a particular film.

I am adding present reviews as some historical reviews as I find them.   You will also see some more lengthy discussions about films as well (like discussions about Alien Covenant or Star Wars The Last Jedi).

These of course are all one man’s opinion.   Nothing more, and nothing less.   If it can save you from spending $13.99 on the latest film in the theatre, by avoiding a bad film (in my opinion) then great!    If it opens up a level of discourse on a film and a debate – I have always enjoyed debating films (and other things).

 

Maggie G TIFF 2018

Maggie Gyllenhaal at TIFF premiere of The Kindergarten Teacher

 

July 15th, 2019

There are times when making the mental commitment to myself to write a review each and every week can be more challenging than other times.   This week was such a time.   First it has been glorious out, and I feel as though I should soak up every bit of the sun and warmth while it lasts.   Also, there has been so very little to watch or even to be excited about.   So it has been Netflix and Crave watching instead of going to the theatre.   For all the price increases with Netflix lately, one can lament that having paid just $9.99 not that long ago, and now $13.99 it seems like a cash grab.  Yet it’s still cheaper than the price of a full-priced ticket at the theatre, especially if you partake in 3D or other add-ons!     But having said that there is some reviews to pass along.

This weekend I saw The Happytime Murders with Melissa McCarthy.   Maya Rudolph also stars (a common co-star for McCarthy) along with Elizabeth Banks.   This is a police caper with McCarthy playing a human cop, and her former puppet partner (voiced by Bill Baretta).  There is a back story there.   This is an adult caper in a similar vein as Team America,  although not quite as cutting (nor profane) as Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s work.    There are some funny moments, I did laugh out loud in a couple of places.  There are some good quips and one liners.   McCarthy has very good comedic timing.   She also delivers an insult as well as anyone.   The scene in question that had my attention takes place in the office where Rudolph (as Bubbles) fends off some inspectors.   You’ll know the scene when you see it.   But beyond that and a couple other laughs it is pretty standard fare.   Yes, the graphic scenes of puppets having their stuffed heads blown away are funny to start but then there is more and more.  It isn’t John Wick, but there is enough cotton carnage to go around.     In the end this was able to fill some time, and provided a few laughs on a warm, comfortable cottage evening.   By the way, McCarthy has shown a great deal of range in the last few pictures I have seen in, like Can You Ever Forgive Me?   This strikes more of a mailed in performance for the pay cheque or a film commitment to a studio.

While Happytime trying hard to make us laugh and smile, the Margret Attwood tale The Handmaid’s Tale that I spoke about earlier continues into Season 2 as I watch to be filled with tears and dreariness.   It is damn depressing.   That is the point of course.  A dystopian society as a subset of the United States, where women have no rights and are kept (or those who are fertile) as human incubators with the affluent and powerful men deciding their fates and taking their babies to give to their barren wives.   There are some episodes that are decidedly slow moving, the the episode where Elizabeth Moss is looking to escape.   That plane epsiode could have been done in 15 mins and not a whole hour.   Mid-way through the Second season a couple things happen that are more interesting and show some elements of change are brewing but it is still plodding along.   It’s okay.   It still does not approach the best of the series TV that has been on lately.    Not sure where the accolades and awards come from but maybe there is something I am missing.   Likely.

So another week goes by and I am hopeful at some point to see something worth writing about.   Enjoy the sun!!

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July 9th, 2019 – Alison input

Here is a bonus posting this week from Alison.  I will add that I have liked and respected Matthias Schoenarts work in films like Kursk, The Danish Girl, Disorder and others (high praise here from Alison to compare with Daniel Day-Lewis (DDL)) :

Tis the season of nary a good movie to watch while we eagerly await festival season and the Oscar bevy of films.  Some one asked me recently what the last good film I saw was and I was stumped.  Sometimes I wake up the next morning and I can’t remember the movie I watched the previous  night.  Maybe its…what do they call that thing again when you start forgetting??  Ya that. Or maybe it’s because most have been forgettable.

This weekend I watched The Mustang with Matthias Schoenaerts.  The story takes place in a prison and features an inmate that is completely shut down but through his enrolment in taking care of and breaking wild mustangs, finds his redemption.  Not a new story but this time an engaging adaption of it.  The parallels between the lead character and the horse that chooses him are blatantly obvious and formulaic but still it works because of Schoenaerts performance.  He does the silent / brooding bloke so well along with his strong screen presence. I am starting to see the makings of an heir apparent to DDL in this guy.
 The horse gets a nomination for best animal in a movie. Kudos also to Bruce Dern for his crusty cowboy character which is sure to be one of his few remaining performances.  Worth checking out.
The other movie I’ll mention is Photograph.   Much like the Lunchbox, this is an Indian film that is based on the premise of a magical connection between people.  The male lead is of a lower class and dark cast and makes his living taking pictures of passers by in front of the Taj Mahal. One day he convinces a young middle class lighter cast woman to allow him to take her picture. As circumstance would have it, she bolts without paying and thus her imprint is left on him.  Grandma has been on his case to marry so he decides to send her the woman’s picture claiming her to be his betrothed. Of course grandma hops the next train and as fate would have it he and the girl commence their ruse (she’s always wanted to be an actor). It’s predictable enough for you to figure how this goes but the movie is not conventional in that regard. This is one of those movies that is engaging and nearly flawless in its execution; nearly.  Some would say the movie’s ending was perfect and some, like me, kinda felt like I was walked down the garden path and then left there. Either way, the Photograph is captivating.

July 8th, 2019

This past week I watched a few things streaming (either Crave or Netflix).   First up was watching Fifty Shades Darker and then Fifty Shades Freed.   These are the sequels to Fifty Shades of Grey which I saw years ago, and just as quickly forgot.   This was the book sensation and there was a funny lampoon of it on Saturday Night Live.

But never mind.   The movies were critically panned and I won’t spend too much time piling on as it were.    I saw Jamie Dornan, the Irish actor, in The Fall with Gillian Anderson, and I thought he, and the show were both quite good.  In this instance, it’s he material to work with that is so bad.   The lines to be delivered, and the plot that keeps it moving ahead, one tortuous step after another.    How so much can be written  about so little is an ongoing question.    I had plenty of questions about the book, like why does he have to have all this bling-bling?   Why the glider, and yacht, the houses, and this completely strange affinity for Audi products – while she was almost never described in the stories.   But anyway, the sex scenes and BDSM is mild by any standard and but for Dakota Johnson’s willingness to go topless would be pretty much PG fare.   No need to watch.   If you read all the books I will recommend you find other ways to spend your time.

The Wizard of Lies is a 2017 movie about Bernie Madoff and his fraudulent Ponzi scheme, the largest in history perpetrated over 20 years.   Madoff is portrayed by Robert DeNiro, and his Wife played by Michelle Pfieffer.   It is directed by Barry Levinson, he of Rain Man, Diner, Good Morning Vietnam, The Natural fame.  He can be good.   Madoff was arrested in December 2008 after he confessed to his two sons, who worked at his firm in Manhattan (although in a different unrelated business) that he was in charge of an illegal investment scheme.  The two sons called the authorities.   He turned himself in the next day.   The movie tries to show the life that was being led, and how Madoff kept his business to himself.   The two adult boys were kept to the side, as was his wife of 50+ years.   Others refuse to believe that they didn’t and couldn’t know, especially sons with extensive trading experience.    It is an interesting story and stays with me.   He is a man who preyed on others and seemingly didn’t have a problem with it.   The victims were many, like corporations and charities but also individuals.  Mostly Jewish within his own community but many as his notoriety grew from all over.   He was the man who guaranteed results, in an ever shifting economy with unpredictable shifts.   He looked upon as not stealing from orphans and single Moms, but rather wealthy people trying to get wealthier.   What’s the harm in that?   There are other things at work too, with the SEC playing a rather prominent role in their inactivity and even when told of the fraud years before how it was ignored.   Can their be self-regulation on Wall Street?   But when you see how his family is directly torn apart by his actions it really makes you wonder if there is a beating heart in that chest.   I won’t give away much more.   If you follow the news you know more about the history than I did when I watched.  I will leave you to find out some more of the facts as they reveal themselves.   Worth a watch if you can find it.

Mary Shelley was the author of one of the best monster stories ever told.   It has been retold countless times from early film with Boris Karloff playing the beast to more recently when a younger Robert DeNiro played him.   Mary, the author, had an interesting tale in her own right.   She a female writer in an age when women weren’t allowed nor thought to be capable of being or thinking independently.   Born in 1797, she wrote the story when she was a teenager.   It took a Preface by her male lover to get it published.   She was born Mary Godwin.   The man was Percy Shelley.  The movie stars Elle Fanning in the primary role.   Those with Game of Thrones backgrounds will recognize many players in the cast including Arya Stark (Maissie Williams) and Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane).    However much she led a tragic life, and an interesting one I just couldn’t gain any momentum in the telling of it.   I didn’t find the chemistry with Percy was all that palpable, and would have liked to have thought that her treatment by her father would have been better.   Maybe that is looking upon early 1800s actions with the eyes of someone in 2019?    Unsure.   Family reputation would mean much, and having a scandal with a child with a married man isn’t what would have helped anyone’s business nor reputation.   In the end, it was gloomy and not overly positive which is kind of the point.   Frankenstein was a lonely being looking for love and acceptance.   Maybe Elle Fanning has a great role in her somewhere rather than pretty young women who are the princesses to be saved.   But this was not a great role.    She seemingly continues to get work so we will see more of her.   I cannot recommend this one.

Canada Day – July 1st, 2019

There is a part of me that wishes I had more Canadian content for my Canada Day posting for 2019.   I should have held back Maudie, but I wasn’t looking that far ahead at that point.

This week I re-visited an old friend, and a movie I hadn’t seen in a very long time.  I am at the point where I want to re-visit movies that I enjoyed in my youth, and yet ones I haven’r reviewed in this blog now or in recent past.   Sid & Nancy fits the bill nicely as a film I saw as a teenager and it stars a very young Gary Oldman as the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious.   It also stars Chloe Webb, who has played other supporting roles but this was her moment to shine.   Gary Oldman is another method actor (like a Christian Bale, Robert De Niro or Daniel Day Lewis) where he embodies the roles that he takes on.  He finally was given Oscar recognition for his role in Darkest Hour as Churchill, but the foundations for his skills are seen in an earlier role like this.   Having said that, his Sid Vicious is a fairly quiet guy unless he is drugged out or on stage.   He meets and has the enabling relationship with Nancy, who initially rips him off and leaves him hanging, but later reconnects with him and introduces him to the world of heroin.   Oldman apparently at first didn’t want the role, but eventually bought in and went full out.   He lost so much weight he was hospitalized for malnutrition.   Nancy is a druggie, groupie, an American living in Europe basically day to day.   She has massive mood swings and can push Sid to work and get things done, but the next moment drain him of any energy by railing on him and lashing out.   It’s a textbook toxic relationship.  They enable each other and their addictions.   The viewer can see how she impacts him and directs his actions and attitudes.   Think Yoko with John Lennon, but on a way more destructive scale.  And the fact that Sid had a modicum of the talent that John Lennon did.   This movie is a lot closer to Trainspotting than it is to Imagine.   The Sex Pistols were the anti-establishment band that came around at the right time for Britain and its youth (late 1970 and early 80s).  They music with an edge in the trailing days of disco and more middle of the road popular music.   They found a voice and an audience.   The structure of this film is setting near the end and then going back to the backstory on the first meeting of Nancy.   Other more recent movies on the allure of drugs, like Ben is Back and Beautiful Boy, show what the user perspective is.   This also shows how tragic it can be being in a cycle of dependency.   If you like music and its history this can be a stop, but really it is more about seeing one of the great and versatile current actors of today (Oldman) seeing where he was as a younger man.   This is the best performance of Chloe Webb’s career and worth seeing.

I also watched on Netflix, The Catcher Was A Spy.    The interest was sparked with it being a WWII piece where the OSS (precursor to the US CIA) is looking to prevent a rumoured atomic bomb program by the Nazis.   The solution is to track down the Head of the Program (played by Mark Stone, as Werner Heisenberg).    Based on a true story, the US decides on utilizing the skills of an average major league catcher, and scholar, Moe Berg played by Paul Rudd.    I have admit that I am not a huge Paul Rudd fan.   He can play a role in This Is 40, and other more cheesey comedies with guys like Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill, and maybe Ant Man (not seen by me) but not a more dramatic role.   This role didn’t convince me otherwise.   This movie has an impressive supporting cast too.  Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti, Guy Peirce, Connie Nielson, Jeff Daniels are all good and not given enough to do.   The end I have to admit was disappointing despite what the credits go to to show as history.   We all have seen enough Mission Impossible and Bourne movies to know what happens things don’t go as expected.   Anyway, my reaction at the end of it all was that this impressive cast just didn’t have enough to do, and the espionage story was more compelling and interesting than the tangents, like the baseball story and playing stickball at the front.    So I can’t recommend this.

June 24, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum is the latest sequel from the surprise hit from back in 2014 starring Keanu Reeves.  This is the kind of  movie where either you like the format, or don’t and there is very little in between.   In many ways I liken this to the Kill Bill movies with Uma Thurman.  Both have extreme violence, in quality and quantity, with increased complexity, moves, variations and number of bad guys.   In both movies the main character is human, seeking revenge, and does sustain significant (and one would think) paralyzing injuries but manages to venture (and fight) on!   John Wick likes the ensure his foes are actually dead by instituting the double head shot.    I wish I had a dollar for every head shot that I saw within this movie.   For me, that becomes the challenge.   Eventually I am de-sensitized from it all.   It’s too much, and more of the same.   There are a couple striking and remarkable sequences, notably the one where there are numerous display cases filled with various historical knives and other such sharp weapons.    Wick is attacked by I can’t remember how many people and it is an intense battle, where more than once I audibly cried out (like “Oooooh!” or “Owwwwww!”).   I laugh at the graphic nature of it all, but it is uncomfortable.

All this action over three movies takes place because in the first movie his dog was killed.   The ongoing joke is repeated here as well.   But it is the truth.   The movies are taking place almost in real time where one ends, then the next begins.   Basically, because of what John Wick did in the second film, then he becomes a high priced target for all other assassins.   There is a good supporting cast, now adding Halle Berry, to already strong Laurence Fishburne,  and Ian McShane.   A new intriguing character here is the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) who eventually you just want to see get punched in the face.   That might be the aim, and clearly there will be more John Wick movies to come, but I am not sure if it is a really good thing to have that feeling.    In this day and age, where one thinks that a gathering spot (like the NBA Championship Parade in the streets of Toronto) can be a dangerous place since terrorists and other freaks can see a million people in one place and salivate, perhaps we should be thinking about other means of issue resolution.   I know some may say, “but Robbie, this is just entertainment, so just relax on that”, and I am sympathetic with the concept.   Hell I have been a purveyor of the concept for years, especially in the context of 60s era cartoons like Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn and Road Runner, where I argued kids today should be able to see these cartoons which were very violent (Daffy Duck’s bill rotated around his head when he was shot numerous times) but we as kids were able to distinguish between cartoon and real life.   Or entertainment versus reality.   I may have become desensitized to the violence when I was in grade school by seeing Elmer Fudd end the Rabbit Season/Duck Season debate with a shotgun shell — but I still get squeamish and uncomfortable of seeing endless, senseless, graphic violence and kills because of one dog.

Back in 1976, Sylvester Stallone put on screen an unlikely hit about an over-the-hill down and out boxer who gets his shot for the heavyweight championship of the world, by a Champion (Apollo Creed) who wants to put on a bicentennial show in Philadelphia.   He likes the poetry of having an Italian Stallion fighting against him in what is a showcase, charity match.    Rocky went on to win Best Picture, as well as a Directing and Film Editing Oscar.   Notably the film beat out Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver, which most would argue is the film that should have won that year (incidentally Peter Finch won for Network and NOT Robert De Niro too).   But I digress.    This film has spawned 6 Rocky films and then now tangentially Creed, and the latest Creed II.    Rocky was greatly helped by fine supporting performances by Burgess Meredith (nominated for a Supporting Actor Award), Clarence Weathers as Creed,  Burt Young as drunken friend Paulie and Talia Shire as Adrian.   Meredith as Mickey was 71 years old back in 1976 and he looked every year of it, with his grey hair (what he had left of it) and his overall appearance.    He looked frail, although he had a fiery spirit.   Fast forward to 2019 and Creed II, where the son of Apollo Creed who just won the Heavyweight title himself is challenged by unknown Russian fighter Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago who killed Apollo Creed in the ring in Rocky III.   Michael B Jordan (Black Panther) plays Adonis Johnson, Creed’s son who is getting his life together.   He has the title, a girlfriend and his life is moving forward when the challenge comes through.   Rocky is his trainer.   He doesn’t believe that taking on a fighter with nothing to lose is a good match.   All of this is reminiscent of what Apollo’s team said to him in the original Rocky.   Rocky now is 73yo, and yet is still all buff, and has the hair weave going to still show how virile he is.   Damn if he doesn’t look ready to throw a punch at Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago when they meet up.   How trainers have changed and how trainers will look in their 70s!!   I wonder if Stallon himself sees the irony in all of this?   He actually has his former wife Brigitte Nielson show up as Drago’s former wife in the film to watch her son fight in Russia.   In the end the question becomes, does the film work?   And it does.   The theme of fathers and sons is a strong one.  From Stallone and Rocky acting as a father figure to Adonis, to Drago pushing his son ever forward to reclaim his own glory and status through him, to Rocky being estranged from his own son and grandson now that Adrian has since passed.   It’s emotional.   Rocky has always been that way.   The ring provides a backdrop for what happens to these characters around them.   Like Rocky, one cheers for Adonis, and wants him to do well (and not get killed).   Michael B Jordan was the villian in Black Panther and you cheered to see him overthrown.    He plays the hero now, and is good at making you sympathize with him and encourage him to get up when he gets knocked down by the much larger man Viktor Drago, who is a beast.   I liked this better than I thought I would. Although the formula has remained much the same for all Rocky related pictures, this one is measured again in the characters and how well you care about them.   They have motivations, and backstories and they are not just good and evil.    So this is a story that is more uplifting than a John Wick as sequels go.

Finally on Crave I watched a film version of the Shakespearian play As You Like It, from back in 2006.  It is directed by Kenneth Branaugh, and has an impressive list of stars including Alfred Molina, Kevin Kline, David Oyelowo, and Bryce Dallas Howard.   Howard is likely one of the weaker elements to it.   The UK cast members are seasoned and solid including Brian Blessed.   I don’t recall the play being staged in Japan during trading times, but this is set there.   I have always been drawn to Shakespeare and I wanted to seek out a more of those I have not seen.   It was decent.   It follows a familiar trail with an Uncle taking over a throne (or a family dynasty) and then there is a mixture of people not acting and behaving as themselves (women dressing and acting as men – however unbelievable it seems on screen) and various characters falling for one another.   I had always thought that this was more of a comedy, but it really wasn’t all that funny.   In the end, I am glad that I saw it, but I wouldn’t suggest that it needs to be sought out.    I like other plays better from Shakespeare.

June 17, 2019

Back in 1990, Handmaid’s Tale was a movie with a good cast, including the late Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall.   It was 1:48 long and unseen by me.  It was a film adaptation from the Canadian Margaret Atwood’s book (also unreal by me).   Then Elizabeth Moss of Mad Men fame came along and she decided to produce a new version of this book, in a mini series format.   Season 3 has just been released, and I have only finished watching Season 1 this past week.   Now while I am not sure about why an initial less than 2 hour movie had to become 10 episodes (Season 1), 13 episodes (Seasons 2 and now 3).   In total, 36 episodes and close to 36 hours of viewing.   Oh my goodness!   This is a long time to spend in an otherwise dreary dystopian future where women have their right’s stripped away and become incubaters for the rich and wealthy with generally barren wives.   Apparently the Future has a problem with fertility, and the solution in the greater Boston area (but really Cambridge Ontario and other areas around Southwester Ontario) is to take women’s money and displace them from their jobs and imprison them to be raped and carry the children of the privileged.  In short, that is the story and we follow Moss, and those like her, in this disturbing place.   Margaret Atwood points out that nothing portrayed in her Future is something new that hasn’t been done before in human history.   It is well acted.  Moss is good.  Her fellows actors are also good.   Do I like it?   Not sure.  Not really sure that I am supposed to like it.   It should be disturbing to see anyone’s rights taken away without recourse, and have them subjected to abhorrent treatment and in this case all in the name of The Lord!   Yikes!   Funny how The Lord’s will and judgement can be interpreted so directly by those who wish to justify their (very human) actions.   Canada also comes out smelling like a rose as the country to the North who offers asylum, food, clothes, money and freedom to make choices to women who were slaves.   In the end this is another series that I cannot put on the same level as Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones or Mad Men.  I suppose I should really do a review for worthwhile, binge-worthy series and mini-series that can be viewed on various streaming services.   I’ll think about it.   Suffice it to say that if you look for something new to view and spend a good amount of time on, you can try here.   Just know that you won’t come out of it with a smile on your face or feeling any better about the human condition (now or in The Future).

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was out last summer.  It isn’t a remake of the original campy board game starring Robin Williams as a game comes to life, and puts a family in danger in 1995.   But rather more of a reboot, where a video game (console looks like an old Atari vintage game) creates a new world that pops players into it.   It also transforms them into characters in the game, which has the one ongoing joke of a female live character turning into a Jack Black character in the game.   Oh, I was trying to control my laughter on that one!   Not really.   The Rock is a game character channeling a real life character who isn’t that way in real life.   And then Karen Gillian of Guardians of the Galaxy fame, have to admit I needed to look that one up since she is not recognizable as the robot-sister of the Zoe Saldana character at all, but she does fill out a tank top and shorts well enough to keep it interesting.   And that really is where the positiveness ends.   And that really isn’t very much.   In short what was the board game, became Breakfast Club meets weird version of Tropic Thunder.   Four kids on detention come across this ancient video game console and take a journey into this game where they have three lives, and spawn by falling from the sky.    Kevin Hart plays Kevin Hart and I don’t need to talk further about him.   So buyer beware, this wasn’t for me, and I cannot recommend.

Finally, from one bad film film re-make to another completely bad film looking to profit off a mildly successful original product.   Let me say, I am a sucker for shark movies, and most anything to deal with sharks.   I think they are fascinating.   I alos think that their slaughter for soup makes zero sense and is a punch to the balance on the planet.   Jaws remains one of my favourite movies of all time.   So movies like The Meg, or even The Shallows capture my attention.   It even happened back in 1999 with Deep Blue Sea with a decent cast in Samuel L Jackson, Stellen Skarsgard and LL Cool J as a group trying to survive in an ocean lab looking to build brain size by in sharks so that it the brain fluid can be harvested to cure Alzheimer’s disease for humans.   The challenge of course is altering sharks by adding more brains and they becoming the apex predator on the planet (well at least the oceans, so 2/3 of the planet).   Obviously all goes wrong, and the humans have to find ways to survive.   The CGI was decent, but really it is still very obvious that it is CGI.   Deep Blue Sea 2 takes it a notch lower, and uses bull sharks and poor CGI to tell a story.   No reference is made to the original film, and the actors are not in any way A-listers.   Nor are the sets and production value.   So the story is weak, focusing on a somewhat deranged scientist thinking he can boost the human brain by making smart sharks and that he will “just kill them” later on once he has shown the power of the human mind.  You see, he is worried about A.I. (computers) taking over the world and eliminating the humans.  He wants to avoid Skynet and the end of the world by making people smarter, instead of going all Sarah Connor on the computers and blowing them up before they get a chance to wipe us out.   Utilizing sharks, and inviting a busty shark preservationist for really no reason out to his little lab just sets the stage for a movie that doesn’t cut it on any level.   It borrows cliches and stereotypes and overall doesn’t add anything to our knowledge of sharks or the world.   I cannot recommend this either.    I feel pained at the lack of decent films in the theatre but my son suggested Booksmart and also John Wick 3 and so I should get out at some point.

June 10th, 2019

This past week I finished watching the gripping and educational 5-part drama Chernobyl, based upon the book by Svetlana Alexievich titled “Voices from Chernobyl”.   It stars Jared Harris, who was previously in Mad Men and also played King George VI in The Crown as Elizabeth’s chain-smoking and stuttering father (of The King’s Speech fame played memorably by Colin Firth).  It also stars Stellan Skarsgard and Emily Watson.   Harris plays real-life person and nuclear physicist Valery Legasov, who along with many others was part of the clean up project that became the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl in April 1986.   In a few ways I see parallels with the story of Kursk, the Russian nuclear sub that had an accident and the seamen were put in a perilous position with their lives at stake due to no fault of their own.   It poses the question, what would you do if your government denies the level of severity of an accident to keep up appearances, while putting others as risk while looking to fix the problem.   The Kursk had the challenge of a sub being down, and the mini-sub that could connect to it to remove the trapped sailors being old and incapable of docking and locking onto it.   The UK offered to help but was denied.   In Chernobyl, there was highly radioactive materials sitting strewn about on the plant rooftop, and no capping measures of the radioactive steam could take place without that material being moved back into the core.    Robots from Germany that were ordered to remove it were sent incorrect specs on the level of radiation that the robots would be exposed to, and they subsequently (and inevitably) failed.   What results is part of the most heartbraking and painful aspects of watching what unfolds; the human toll of ordinary people who are doing their duty.  Sometimes these real life heroes knew what they were doing and went in with eyes wide open.   Others, sadly did not and they were told nothing.  They were mostly young men, doing their mandatory military service and they ended up getting the short end of the stick as far as perilous duty.    Little did they know about the risks that they were facing, that their superiors who made decisions did.    Could this happen in the West?   Absolutely.    Pride is not limited to the Russians.    Nor is human error and other everyday failings (like wanting to get a promotion and looking to push ahead with a procedure that might be called risky).   It’s disturbing moreso because it has all-to-familiar human failings, and can’t be dismissed as just a Russian problem.

The series jumps around in timeline somewhat from later in the story initially and then back to the evening itself when the accident occurred.   My heart goes out to every one of those first responders who did their duty (fire fighters, medical staff, those brave souls working inside the power plant).   Then there is the aftermath shortly thereafter with some individual stories, and others that are longer.   The political side kicks in as this issue goes up to Gorbachev and his leaders in the Kremlin.   The global impact can be felt shortly thereafter as neighbouring countries begin to notice higher than normal levels of radiation.    All the while one thinks about the people on site, doing clean up, and the impacts that are being done across the board (people, animals, environment etc).    The final episode pulls it all together as you see what was driving the humans in charge of the test.   You see the chain of events which scientifically lead to the result.   And the results are devastating as you see an area surrounding the city that is cordoned off, and uninhabitable.   The area covers 2600 square kilometres.  People were told their leaving would be a “temporary measure”, which was 33 years ago. The official Soviet death toll of the event, unchanged to this day, is 31.   In the end this series does what television and movies can do best; teach, inform, and open up communication on how things can change and be different.   It also gives a glimpse into the lives of people and places you wouldn’t have been exposed to before.   There are villains, there are many heroes and plenty of people that we can identify with.   A show worth finding and catching if you can.