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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

 

April 22nd, 2019

For this week, I was looking at what is currently in theatres and I am underwhelmed.  Nothing captures my interest, and certainly not my movie-going dollar.   So I go back to Netflix, and these days Crave.

This weekend I watched Tulip Fever, which has an impressive cast including Alicia Vikander, Christoph Walz, Dame Judy Dench and that guy from that sci-fi mistake Valerian and Thousand Planets or something or rather.   How can you spend so much money on quality talent and then hand then a rudimentary story.   All of this is framed around the famed Tulip exchange and marketplace from the 17th Century in Amsterdam.   We were all reminded of the Tulip curve as Bitcoin went on its maniacal stretch run late last year reached $22,000 a coin to back to earth nowadays.   Gordon Gecko also had a picture of the price on his office wall.   In short, a marketplace can sometimes turn inexplicable.   Anyway, that backdrop where certain characters get caught in the buying and selling frenzy of tulip bulbs is interlaced with a slow story about an older, established man (Walz) who has had a previous marriage where his children were taken and he “buys” the services of a new wife (Vikander).   All that he wants is another baby (I think there is a song kind of like that) and they are having a tough time conceiving.   He decides, out of the blue, to have a portrait painted of himself from a young local artist.  You see, nothing says virility amongst your friends and community like having a hot wife on your arm.   Seems not much changes over the ages.   So he wants a picture of him and her.    She then connects with the painter and then all stories head in various directions.   The absurdity of the Tom Hollander aspect of this mess comes to light quickly.   But maybe that is the point as the whole tulip market was an absurdity in itself.    But quality actors are wasted in this tale.   It spent very little time at the theatre, and I am pleased that I managed to see it at home.    Pass on it.

The second episode of Game of Thrones was last night, and I have to admit to being underwhelmed.   And without giving anything away, and truly there wasn’t much to actually give away in this episode, the turning point in my viewing was when a number of characters are sitting around a fire and one says “does anyone know a song?”   Really?!   I was half expecting them to look at one another and say “No” but then Ed Sheeran would peer out from a back curtain and belt out a tune!   And can I mention a word about episode one of this Season 8, where for the first time that I recall has anyone ever talked about the practicalities of feeding and providing for a sizeable army.   Sansa Stark has her Captain Obvious moment where she mentions “I have provisions for the people of Winterfell, but not all these additional people”.  Horses, people, tents, weapons, etc.   It’s a fair point, but could have been brought forward early in Season 1.   But never mind.    Episode 2 was and is the pre-cursor to next week where FINALLY we have an epic battle between the White Walkers and those in Winterfell.    It’s taken an eternity to come to this point.   But bring it!!   Instead we get this kumbaya moment of characters awaiting their fate and deciding what they wish to do with it.   It’s almost as though we have a listing of current characters for the Death Pools that have run rampant on the Net.   Who will live, and who will die in this battle?   Yawn.   This has been a series that from the beginning has just gotten on with it, and this felt like filler.    Next week should be a different story as we see dragons again, doing what dragons do!!

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April 15th, 2019 (Notre Dame burns)

It is with a heavy heart that I write today.  Today was a shocking day, and I have been more deeply impacted by it than I would have expected.   I was sent a CBC news clip about the fire and burning at Notre Dame in Paris midday.   I watched in absolute horror as the spire that had been there for 150 years fell under the bright red and orange flames, smoke billowing up thick into the deep blue Paris late afternoon sky.   As I watched the news feeds flipping between CBC and CNN I was thinking back on my visits to Notre Dame.   Each time I visited Paris.  In 2016 I made a point of going up Notre Dame because I haven’t braved the line ups before.   I am so glad that I did.  I think about history, and what we have lost today.   It’s not just wood and roof and metal.   It’s living history, not just for Paris or France or the Catholic Church, but for the world.   We all lose when iconic places are taken from us.  Whether by accident or terrorist attack or on purpose.   My favourite city anywhere is Paris.   This latest loss for this City of Light hurts.   I feel for the people of Paris and for those who love her around the world.   Perhaps we can all come together and ensure that funding is raised to allow for a complete restoration of this marvel of architecture so my children can go climb up.    Here are some of my memories and pics from this place:

image2image1Notre Dame Rose Window SeineNotre Dame

On to the movies, for this week I am reviewing older films that I chose to re-visit.  I realize that films I truly enjoy from years ago I don’t review here generally as I am watching more recent releases.   But sometimes it’s good to see some older friends again.   This week I will first bring forth is the 2000 BBC film Billy Elliot, which is loosely based on a real story.   It’s been made into a musical but the original had some great music (like T Rex and The Jam) but was a story.   In it, during the mid 1980’s in Ireland with the coal miners’ strike, Maggie Thatcher was busy breaking the unions and it dragged on and on.   A family who had two boys, had the Father and older brother both miners fighting to keep solidarity, and daily throwing eggs and profanities at those who were “scabs” and choosing to work.   The Mom in the household died at 38yo, and Grandma has moved in with these guys.  Billy, the younger son at 11yo (played in a breakout performance by Jamie Bell) is taking boxing lessons but his heart just isn’t into it.   He is intrigued by the dance school run by Julie Walters as he feels the music.   His older brother and Father can’t know about his interest as they feel all men in ballet are poofs.   So sets the stage for things to unfold.   Along comes an opportunity to try out for a spot at the National Ballet School in London.   What moves me, is the transformation in Dad as he sees what his son can do and he recognizes for a little bit the talent is there.   He does something so against his character and beliefs, but he is struggling mightily to show support for his sons.   Both older and younger.   The family is real and doing their best in an awful time.   Performances all around are really good.   Julie Walters was nominated for an Oscar.    If you are looking for a feel-good film to pass away some rainy April evening, this is a good one to try.

I also watched Christian Bale in an earlier role for him in American Psycho.  Based on the book with the same name, this story from the 1980s where a young Patrick Bateman (Bale) could be a protege of Gordon Gecko from Wall Street.  He and his virtually identical friends care about their business cards and impossible restaurant reservations they obtain more so than people and those around them.   Bateman himself professes that he has no feelings behind his perfectly manicured and freshly masqued face.   He is more and more troubled by his tendency to want to injure and kill people.   He is disturbed but is a product of his time.   He can wax on endlessly about music (which is very strong throughout the film – and was the largest expense in its production to obtain the rights) all the while putting a raincoat to avoid getting blood splatters on his white shirt.

Bale plays the role so well while supporting cast members like Jared Leto and Josh Lucas and policeman Wilem Dafoe add to the drama and those around him.   It is disturbing.   It is funny to watch so into any one person so focused on their own looks (hair, body, face, smile, everything) that while having sex they can be looking not at the woman, but at themselves in the mirror flexing their bicep.   This isn’t Bale’s best work but he is building his body of work in this role.   Between the two year 2000 films, I would choose Billy Elliot first to watch.

Finally, Game of Thrones Season 8 began Sunday rather slowly I felt.   And I was a little disappointed in the direction of the Sam Tarley.  I won’t give away any spoilers.   But I will say that there is enough conflict and squabbling amongst leaders that more wasn’t necessary.   Oh, and I don’t and have never liked the Sansa Stark character.   ‘Nuf said.

April 8th, 2019

On Netflix, I watched the New Release Switch.  In 1999, M Night Shyamalan wrote and directed the memorable and well received Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis.   He was 29yo.   Since that time he has rolled out more clunkers than Chrysler rolled out K-cars.   Among those include The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening, and The Visit.  It is amazing given the track record that people fund these projects.   Michael Cimino does Oscar-winning The Deer Hunter and then Heavens Gate and can’t get another movie made  (save Year of the Dragon).   M Night also likes to put himself into his movies in roles.   He adds nothing to these roles.  Alfred Hitchcock and Stan Lee like cameos, but they aren’t really speaking parts.  But this is all beside the point.

The movie itself belongs to James McAvoy.   He gives a performance where he plays someone with multiple personality disorder.   The story begins with a kidnapping (a random spot where three young women are taken from a mall parking lot in their Dad’s car) and they wake up isolated in a random place.   Betty Buckley (yes of Eight is Enough fame and the musical Cats) is a researcher and psychologist who is trying to show multiple personality people as being evolved and better.   Things happen.  There is an ongoing question about who is in charge of the body of the McAvoy character.    And he can switch brilliantly from a young adolescent boy, to a proper older woman to various other male characters.   It’s worth a viewing for this performance.   Now this character is getting involved with other movies to come (notably Glass).  This combines a few M Night characters into a new film.   Funny, I don’t need to see it.

I also spent some time to watch Sicario: Day of the Soldado.   This is an ill-conceived sequel to the original Sicario.   The original was an interesting story about the feds and others working to take revenge on the drug cartels.   Emily Blunt was in it (and missing from this sequel) and also starring Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin.  Brolin and Del Toro play the same characters who this time want to break up the human smuggling that was and is going on.  They live on the fringes and try to exact change in an imperfect world.    This sequel never captures the energy, nor the story of the first.   Not even the cinematography was as good.   I can’t recommend this film.

Finally I started watching Season 1 of True Detective on HBO.   This stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in a good, well written crime drama set in Louisiana.   The writing is crisp and raw and real.   It’s worth checking out.

April 1st, 2019

I was delayed in writing this segment as I was watching one of the reviewed films just last night.   I simply didn’t get an opportunity to get to the computer when it was completed.

The first film this week was on Netflix, and I know that Alison has always talked about and enjoyed a good swashbuckling adventure.   Add to the swords and period costume a fantasy aspect and there can be some good escapism.   For me, I like all of that as well, and add that I also really like the King Arthur and Excalibur story.   I own Excalibur, the 1981 film with a young Helen Mirren, Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson etc. where the focal point was Merlin (Nichol Williamson) and he manipulating people, and ultimately being manipulated himself by Morgana.  But enough about the history and why I wanted to give King Arthur: Legend of the Sword , directed by Guy Ritchie.    This is not my version of the Arthur story at all.  Likely that is the point, that they wanted to put a fresh new spin on it.  That was the intent, but the story itself falls flat.   There is an updated style, which is definitely Ritchie with his quick shots, cuts and rapid movements.   Add in the more modern music (less strings and orchestra, and more drums and beat) and it has a whole different look and feel.   It’s disjointed.   The very young Arthur, isn’t taken from his parents dramatically by Merlin, but rather escapes in a Christian fashion from a new King who kills his brother and wants to kill all the offspring.   Sinister witch-like forces, reminiscent of Macbeth, are at work for this new King (played by Jude Law) as he tries to strengthen his power.    As I watched I kept thinking, “where’s Merlin?”.   No where to be found except a young female disciple who has some power over animals (think Brandon Stark in a way).   The young street rat Arthur has no interest in wielding Excalibur and fights accepting and utilizing its considerable powers.   The story moves on in its new way, but with predictable results.   Sadly it wasn’t very satisfying.

Last night was renting (finally) If Beale Street Could Talk, and I will wait for Alison to send me a Mary Tyler Moore response of “Oooooh Rob…” and explain to me what I was missing.   Because after I finished, I wondered what all the fuss was about.   I waited for the Regina King Oscar worthy performance.   I waited for the story to move me in many ways.    Where do I start?   First there is the age old challenge of expectations, and mine were set high for this given all the hype.   From TIFF where people commented about how it should have won the People’s Choice Award as Best Film (Oscar Winner Green Book did) and how the performances were so amazing.   So I was awaiting a riveting evening of cinema.   I watched and watched as the story of this young black couple in the Bronx unfolds.   There were storylines that were begun and then fell away (like the boyfriend’s family and notably the Mother).   The attitudes of the fathers that I hope are beliefs not held by all, where “we know some schemes, and we can go out and make some money for our kids” as they begin a fencing operation.   That may be reality for some but it is a sad commentary.   Then of course, as a lawyer, the criminal justice system that gets put on trial.   There are corrupt cops, and prosecutors and judges presumably who are aiming to keep putting these young black men down.   They conspire and fix situations for reasons that are not entirely clear.   Finally my biggest challenge was following the timelines as the story jumped around from one time to the next.   A sequential plotline would have helped as the jumping back and forth was just confusing, like even the whole issue of conception.   But I won’t delve any further into that.   In the end, it was not very satisfying and I even mumbled to myself “this better not be how it ends…” and then it did.   Ugh!   Roll credits and then I roll my eyes.   I couldn’t even bother to finish the Extras on the DVD with deleted scenes, because I just didn’t need to see any more.   Some movies inform, some movies entertain, some movies enlighten — in times where it’s hard to find something positive to point to, this movie didn’t provide any feeling of being uplifted or adding to the human story.    Maybe more time for me should be spent watching the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to do that.

March 25th, 2019

This week it was one for catching up on Netflix.  Netflix and HBO Crave.

Netflix it was seeing the film Life, starring Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rebecca Ferguson.  I will admit that this movie for me was watched solely to see Rebecca Ferguson.   She who was a standout in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation (she in the yellow dress) and then came back for more in Mission Impossible Fallout.   I had looked to see what else she had been in a little while ago, and seeing the forgettable Girl On A Train and The Snowman listed, and The Greatest Showman and Florence Foster Jenkins.   Some good and some bad.     This was the latter and in spades!   Life is terrible.   Basically it is a retelling of the Alien storyline, but just not as effectively and with a creature nowhere near as terrifying.   A spacecraft returns from Mars and then studying the sand particles adds water, re-heats it and then watches it move around and grow.   It’s more like a bad recipe for an 11-year old than for a film.   There are ridiculous things that happen including the newer, badder creature (which kind of looks like a starfish) moving and floating around in space.  All the while we are told, this “creature needs air”.  Well if that’s the case, then the vacuum and cold from space might prove to be a problem!   Apparently not.   It’s laughable and silly.   I wish I could say that there was something, anything redeemable in it but I can’t.  Even some smart ass quips from Reynolds aren’t all that funny.   So pass.

Next I watched after spending the afternoon with two sons at a local rock climbing gym the documentary The Dawn Wall.   Ironically and interestingly the picture with the route maps for El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.   It’s the story of Tommy Caldwell and him making a remarkable (and unbelievable) trek which he researched and found up a sheer cliff on this 3200 foot wall.   It is a story about resilience on an elite level, where one can imagine the self-doubt and questioning of skills which must occur as you sit with your own thoughts for days at a time trying to traverse the impossible.   At least the impossible for YOU.   Having climbed up beginner climbs at the gym, you see the insane climbs in the film.   Wow.   The upper body strength, the finger strength and ability to grip and hold onto razor sharp rock was hard to believe.   There is real drama that takes place.   There are real plot twists and turns that couldn’t have been written any better.   In the end I want to see Free Solo even more with Alex Honnold.    Another World Class climber who’s film just won The Oscar.   Incidentally, Free Solo also takes place on the same cliff.

Finally I watched Leaving Neverland.  This is 4 hours of going through the young boys and Michael Jackson and the alleged abuse that took place.  Certainly the young men who are primarily retelling their stories from their days of early introduction with Michael Jackson and what happened believe.   And they tell a compelling story.   They are very similar.   The one young man gets wrapped up in the fame, the money, the opportunity and doors that can be opened as a dancer and choreographer.   The other was a Super Fan who was just brought into the inner circle for a while.    And it is really just for a short period of time.   Michael seemed to be the odd little man who was confused and a product of his celebrity and fame upbringing.   It doesn’t take away from the musical talent and his legacy in the music industry, but it does paint the man and his humanity in a different brush.   To me it is an indictment on the parents, and more specifically the mothers.   It was the Mom’s who were star struck along with the very young boys (7yo).  But there is a wake of suffering and bodies behind this story.   Does any of this surprise me?  Were there real revelations?   Not really.   I think the stories of the Moms are surprising the level of change that they introduced into their families (like moving from Australia to LA to make your little child more available to this guy).   Anyway, it takes too long to cover what in essence is a simple story.   The detail is there.   The overall message to me is that everyone is human.   No matter who they are, no matter the level of fame, and sometimes (maybe most times) you shouldn’t meet your heroes, because you might find out just how ordinary and messed up that they are.

March 18th, 2019

If you ever feel as though life isn’t really what you hoped for, and you aren’t getting a fair shake, sometimes it makes sense to experience life of someone less fortunate than yourself. In this case the movie on Netflix might just be the remedy that you need.   In 2009 the film Precious was released to much acclaim.   The Academy came calling too for Supporting Actress in the form of the Mom played by Monique.
The story is a fairly simple one.   Young 16yo black girl who is overweight and illiterate.   She lives with her Mom who sits around doing absolutely nothing except collecting fraudulent cheques from “the welfare”.   Her only other activity seems to be tormenting her young daughter with profanity and insults.  Young Precious is in school but pregnant once again.   The story unfolds as Precious finds some people to give her a modicum of care.  Mariah Carey shows her acting skills from Glitter.   She plays a government support worker.
I found the story somewhat slow early on as a familiar pattern repeats over and over.   The final 30 mins or so have some remarkable acting and dialogue.  The Academy award was well earned.   There is raw emotion of people hoping to find their way in very trying circumstances.   After credits roll, you take a deep breath and are thankful for the life that you lead.   You were shown a window for a brief time for which it can only scratch the surface.   Still.  Well worth seeing if you get the chance.

I have ordered Crave and HBO and have been catching up on Game of Thrones to re-watch Seasons 6 and 7.  Season 8 comes in April.  But also I can see Westworld Season 2.  Also Last Week Tonight with John Oliver who is excellent.   So much to see.

March 11th, 2019

Oh Disney, Disney, Disney….what are you up to these days?   How much money can you ring out of each and every property that you have is kind of what it seems like.  I have seen movies posters for this year alone for Toy Story 4, Live action Aladdin (with egad Will Smith making a fool of himself as Genie), and then Lion King, and last December’s Mary Poppins 2.   But without touching on any of those above, I am speaking about Christopher Robin, with Ewan McGregor.   I had heard the lukewarm reviews about this (somewhat) live action story about Pooh Bear and crew with an adult Christopher Robin.   Ho Hum.   Of course, what Disney story is ever complete without parental death?   Christopher Robin has a quick review of young Christopher and his connection with Pooh, and he loses a parent, and then grows up and heads to school.    He meets a young lady, has a child and takes on a War and then a job.   He’s a busy guy.  No time for dreaming and playing with bears of small brain.    Ewan works for a twit who Monty Python would be proud to take ownership of, and he tells Ewan that he must “make cuts” in the luggage factory.   Meanwhile his Wife and daughter were hoping for a holiday weekend.   Then Pooh shows up in the real world.   The rest moves predictably towards conclusion.   For me, there just isn’t enough substance in the C.R. backstory.   How many stories have we seen with the adult who needs to find their childhood innocence again (Peter Pan anyone?)   And what about backstories to famous stories like Saving Mr Banks?   It’s not satisfying here, and I almost feel like screaming “Is nothing sacred?”   I am sure somewhere in Disney offices there is a bean counter pitching a Snow White 2, where she fights off the sister of the witch that she managed to kill (wait, we have had that story before too!).   Or Pinnochio 2, Back To Donkey Island.   I cannot recommend this, and it was just no enough entertainment.   Thankfully a Netflix subscription is all it required.

 

So how about other nice little stories that wrap themselves up and into a neat little package with a bow on top?   That would be Blake Lively in The Age of Adaline from 2015.    We have seen Benjamin Button, and Time Traveller’s Wife and other time-based movies, and this one takes a woman in her late 20s and by some quirk of fate (and a ridiculous and unnecessary voiceover) she is frozen in her aging process and development.    I won’t even try to justify the science that goes along behind it.   Our poor Adaline (poor woman, looking like Blake Lively everyday) must suffer through day after day and eventually change her identity each decade for fear people realize her secret, and she gets whisked away to some government lab and treated as a specimen.   And so she goes, and meets people and runs away before she makes any real connections.  Her daughter grows up and beyond her.    She meets a nice guy, and despite reservations chooses to meet with his parents.    I won’t finish the rest.   I don’t really need to.  Those with a pulse can figure out much of the rest.   Needless to say I was shaking my head at the ultimate resolution.  You can choose if you want to go that far.   I feel like Blake Lively is a little like a female Keanu Reeves.  In the right role, with a fairly wooden character that doesn’t require a lot of depth, then she does alright.   Her turn at A Simple Favour was decent.   Her strutting around in an orange bikini for The Shallows, even better (it had to be said).   But this was weak.    I cannot recommend.

Finally this week the best of the lot was Eighth Grade.  I have a Ninth Grader in the house, my youngest son.   The film has very much a documentary feel about it almost.   When you think about it, what does the life of the average 8th grader (13yo child) consist of?   Most aren’t saving the world, like Ender’s Game, or meeting aliens in ET.   They eat, they sleep, they go to school and have some activities and see friends.   What is fascinating to me is the level of involvement with smart phones that this generation has.   Or at least the young people in this movie.   And before I spout off on, “when I was in Grade 8….I walked through 12 feet of snow..and had no internet or phone”.   Well I HAD a phone but it was plugged into the wall at home.   We all shared it.   But it is interesting to watch the players in the class, from Mean Girls, to Uber-horny boy looking for naked selfies, and other younger versions of the kids from A Breakfast Club.    Not a great deal happens, and that’s okay.  The principal female we focus on is a delight.  She is an outgoing, average young lady and she has personality and is pod-casting on YouTube.   She talks about being yourself, and having confidence in a “do as I say, and not as I do” kind of way.   Her Dad is a little too supportive and protective.   Will my Grade 9 son like this?   I am not sure.  It might be a little too close to home.  Or he may say it’s too Hollywood, but I doubt it.    So if you have a young person near you, and you wonder sometimes what happens at school these days, this may provide some insight.   I am glad that I am NOT this age again.   Maybe it would be better to be Adaline and perpetually 29yo, but it wouldn’t be fun reliving Grade 8 in this current world.    Check it out.