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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

 

June 1st, 2020 – Interesting times

These are interesting times.  Historic times of change.   The COVID-19 pandemic continues throughout the world.   Dissipating in Europe somewhat where stores and people are beginning to have their lives of quarantine rolled back  bit.  Canada has provinces like BC opening back up while Quebec and Ontario (the epicentres of the virus) are taking it more slowly.   Meanwhile in the US, they have over 1.7M people who have the virus and over 100,000 dead.   They have more dead than any other nation.   But in the US, they are opening up despite the lack of control with the virus.   It has become a political issue (Republicans don’t wear masks while Democrats do).

Last Monday, shortly after my posting on May 25th, in Minneapolis MN (the midwest) a police officer murdered ordinary black citizen George Floyd after an allegation of Floyd passing a phony $20 bill at a store.   The one white officer arrives and puts unarmed and in handcuffs Floyd on the ground and puts his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes.  All of this was captured on numerous videos.   Three other police are watching their colleague do this without reacting even as Floyd repeatedly says “I can’t breathe!”  He died tragically.   No charges laid for all four.   Since those events, for each night there have been midspread riots in cities throughout the US.   Minneapolis/St Paul to start, then Atlanta, Washington DC, LA, Seattle, and even Des Moines.    The reporting of the various cities is scary and heart-breaking all at the same time.  Fires, protests, looting, police, National Guard, State troopers are perilously taunting to each other.   Such scenes I haven’t seen unless I watch footage from back in the Rodney King riot days in LA, or from the Civil Rights movement with JFK, MLK, Bobby Kennedy etc.   It’s a new day with the outcome very much uncertain.   On Saturday the primary officer was arrested and charged with third degree murder and manslaughter.   The other three officers, although terminated, have not been arrested or charged to date.   Apparently that first officer was divorced by his Wife.   It’s not often that you get to see the fabric of a society melt away.

Finally on Saturday, we had the other historic event with the Space-X manned space flight to the International Space Station (ISS) from the US.  The first time in nine years the US had a manned rocket launch.   It was exciting amongst all the bad news throughout the US.    Sunday the Dragon vehicle docked with ISS.   Remarkable pictures.   One comes here to read about movies, but these are unprecedented times.

One film I watched was forgettable, which was the Angelina Jolie sequel to Maleficent.   In Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, this continues the story of Maleficent, the evil witch from Sleeping Beauty, who in the first story you came to realize had reasons for doing what she did.  Much in the same way that the backstory for the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, tells you in Wicked.   So in truth Maleficent was a sequel to the Disney story.   This sequel is a mess, almost from the beginning.  Aurora (Elle Fanning) gets engaged to the prince of the human castle.  The prince with his King and Queen (Michelle Pfeiffer) parents want to have Aurora and Maleficent over for dinner.    The Queen has other plans for them.   Through it all, we find out that Maleficent is part of whole race of horned flyers like her.    There is a dust up between the human, fantasy/natural/magical worlds, and the flying horned people.   There are aspects borrowed from other better movies like The Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones.  It doesn’t work.   It’s all a little too contrived.   So I would suggest passing on this fairy tale.

I haven’t seen a lot of Wes Anderson films.  You may not know of him by nae as much as his work.   His works include The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Royal Tenenbaums etc.  Collectively I can say that I haven’t sought out his movies because I found them weird.   In truth I didn’t watch them to completion.   I couldn’t get over the “weirdness”.   The 2012 film Moonrise Kingdom has a really good cast including Edward Norton (who I do seek out), Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Bruce Willis (who I don’t seek out).   The story is set in the mid 1960s in a secluded island.   There is a young scout troop, lead by Edward Norton.   The young boys have one misfit who decides to resign from the troop and mount a dramatic escape.    He leaves to meet up with a young misfit girl.   The story revolves around with this, with parents on one side, a police office (Willis) and other older scouts.   It’s funny.  It’s quirky.   It’s a somewhat strange and that’s what works.   The various characters tie in well with the story and the young kids end up teaching the adults.  I think that was the whole point.   I think Tilda Swinton in a relatively minor role is very funny.   It’s probably better to not know more than the rough skeleton of the plot outline and just experience it.   Worth a viewing if you don’t know Anderson’s work.   Maybe this is a perfect place to start.   Unknown at this point for me,  but I might just explore another film of his…

May 25th, 2020

Alison had watched and reviewed Booksmart back in October last year.  Search for her review.   I had heard good things about this movie, and this being the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde.   The movie stars a good young cast, who are playing a modern day version of Fast Times at Ridgmount High and the predecessor before that American Graffiti with a bunch of high school kids on their last day of high school and before graduation.

The primary star is the young Kaitlyn Dever, named Amy (who was also in the series Unbelievable) and closely tied with her on screen best friend Molly, the school’s valedictorian (played well by Beanie Feldstein) and their graduating class and some school personnel.   These two best friends, and school outsiders, pledged to focus entirely on studies and school government with a view to getting into good schools and avoid typical high school trappings (partying, drugs, trouble etc).  On the last day of school Molly realizes unexpectedly that some of her classmates, who didn’t seem to focus entirely on school managed to get into equally notable schools as she did (but they also had fun).   She pledges to Amy that they will party it up on their last night of high school, even though they weren’t invited to any parties.   The story moves on to their numerous adventures.    It’s a fun story, and I had a number of good laughs along the way.  Things just happen to them, and they have encounters with a number of their classmates and others along the way.   Problems arise that need to be solved and the two face a number of challenges.   The story is well told and the various side stories match up well (I thought anyway).  I like the message about high school as a stepping stone and even those who you may think have it all together, don’t necessarily do.   There is a good message about friendship.    Things don’t always turn out the way you had planned, even for a single evening of fun.   This isn’t always a bad thing.   We learn, we grow, we take next steps.   The hope is that you meet some good people along the way that you can relate to and connect with.   Some will stay with you briefly, while others may be around for a lifetime.  As one ages you can see some of these people as you look backwards at your life.    There are a lot of truths to be found.  I can hear my daughter telling me that I am being pretentious and obvious at the same time.   Some moves are fun.  Some movies have messages and others still can do both.  This is a quality first time directorial debut for Wilde.   She seems have to a very good grasp of the material and allowing her able actors to make it work.   I note that she didn’t write the screenplay.

I am continuing to work through Killing Eve Season 3, which I do enjoy as well as RUN Season 1 which seems to be getting better each episode.   It started slowly with the other adult investigator star from Unbelievable (Merritt Wever) and Domhnall Gleeson, but it gets better and more complex.   This is yet another series where Phoebe Waller Bridge has her input (and acting skills).   Waller Bridge in also involved with Killing Eve.   I am also continuing to watch Westworld Season 3.   I realize as I watch these episodes just how complex this series really is.   I am not even sure after a short time whether I had watched that episode or not.   Dolores is exploring the “real world” having escaped the adult amusement park.   She has a few friends with her.    Plenty to pay attention about.

I am missing movies.  I am missing the theatre.   This goes without saying I suppose.   I am more distressed about the delays in movie releases like James Bond, Dune, Top Gun etc.   Of course the studios don’t want to lose out on the theatre revenue at $15 a seat.   But it would seem that this virus will keep people out of theatres for quite a while – well maybe everywhere but the US, unless they start showing movies in church.    Stay safe.   Stay home.

May 18th, 2020 – Victoria Day

Disney + is showing Nature shows through their DisneyNature brand.  They made a big deal about how Elephants is being narrated by Megan Markle.  For me this was more a detractor than an incentive to watching.  It was released at the same time as Dolphin Reef.  I do marvel at the pictures that they are able to find.   As I watch more live safaris from Wild Earth, it is so difficult to predict where the animals will be, let alone getting the light and them doing something movie worthy.   Then to wrap a human story around the footage makes it even more challenging.   For me, te weakest element of these shows are the “human story”, because they are giving human emotion and motivations to animals.   Who’s to say what an elephant is thinking or how they are feeling?   I have little doubt that they do both (think and feel) but I doubt that our interpretation through the words in these pictures are accurate.    The attraction for this film was a recommendation from my eldest son, and also the fact that these elephants are filmed not far away from Kruger National Park in South Africa where Wild Earth films.    Some of the pictures are breathtaking.   I hope you have HD and a large TV screen.   The aerial shots of a large herd are amazing.   Some of the activities of the elephants which I won’t spoil by revealing are remarkable.   So to that end, these stories are worth seeing and spending some time with nature.   The story, forget about it.   The little elephant who is named (as they mostly all are) is cute, and is a youngster so they are just fun to watch anytime.   So in the end, there was no need to pay the former Prince Harry’s wife, and they could have had virtually anyone narrate this.

Much to Alison’s surprise, I revealed Saturday night that I have never seen 1998’s Coen brothers movie The Big Lebowski!   It is on Netflix, and is a good laugh and a lot of fun, in a dark comedy kind of way.   There is an impressive cast with Jeff Bridges starring as “Dude”, and his good friends John Goodman impressively playing his intense Vietnam veteran bowling buddy and Steve Buscemi who is generally told by Goodman to keep his mouth shut.   The entire premise of the film is a mistaken identity, where the unemployed Dude, a hippy pot-smoking flower child, has his hom broken into and he strong armed by two guys looking for money.   The one bad guy urinates on his front hall carpet.   Rather than just throw out the carpet and move on, Dude is convinced to confront the man who shares his last name, Lebowski, and for which all the confusion was started.   He wants money for the carpet, but is rebuffed then asked to do something that only he can do.   The story moves on from there with good writing and performances.   Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro and others are here.   I think that Goodman’s performance was really good.   He is an over-the-top guy who has anger issues, and obvious unresolved Veteran issues from his Viet Nam experience.   He creates more problems than he creates, “am I wrong”?   Bridges too is very good, and sounds less like he has marbles in his mouth, which I think his tongue is still growing in his mouth as he ages.   But it was a good laugh, at a time when we can all use a good laugh.   There are certainly dark aspects to the story, but I kept realizing that this entire story takes place because someone pissed on his rug, and it is a continuing source of laughter. (This is also the high point of the career for later forgotton Tara Reid of American Pie notoriety).   I was shocked to see her here.

Finally I did finish the second season of Narcos, with the story of Pablo Escobar.   Just wow.   It was well done.   The complexity of this cocaine cartel issue was remarkable even as the walls start coming down all around Escobar.   His focus shifts to getting his family out of Columbia so he can wage a war against the usurpers (a ruthless group of former members of the cartel and some right wing extremist mercenaries).    Much of the story is true, as the real life Steve Murphy and Pena were part of the group advising on the project.   As they say in this series “you can’t make this stuff up”.   I am glad I watched.  I know that the Murphy character doesn’t appear in Season 3, so I am less enthused to watch it.   Incidentally, the real life wife of Murphy was said to have “one small gripe” with the series as she says she would have never have left Steve in Columbia herself (and she didn’t) but it made sense to have the story go that way for dramatic purposes.   Fun to watch, and scary too.

 

 

May 11th, 2020 – Mother’s Day weekend

My eldest son has been told by numerous people that he is actor Ansel Elgort’s doppelganger.   He channeled this fully a couple years ago dressing up as the young Elgort from his movie Baby Driver.

Baby Driver Ansel Elgort Jacket | Ansel elgort, Ansel elgort baby ...

Elgort is in the new movie The Goldfinch.   His character, Theo Decker, in the movie has had a rough life, which is the understatement of the day.   Every where he turns it seems that people have disappointed him or betrayed him.   The story is rather convoluted to be precise as it jumps around in time, and as one watches it is more fantastic that all these things could happen to one person.    In summary, as a young boy Theo is at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art with his Mom, when  a bomb goes off.   His Mom and many others are among the killed.   His parents are estranged, and he has nowhere to go, and decides to stay with Nicole Kidman (a fate worse than death as far as this guy is concerned).   She is married with a few children of various ages, the eldest being an obnoxious jerk.   Another is roughly the same age as young Theo.  The Mom is kind to him.  As the young Theo gets more comfortable in his surroundings his estranged father shows up.   He is moved from NYC to Las Vegas where Dad (played by Luke Wilson) shows numerous ways that parents can betray their kids.   I won’t continue further with the plot as I said earlier, it was convoluted.   It turns back onto itself, and the theme is really one of betrayal and looking to preserve that which should last.   Finn Wolfhard is part of the cast and seems to be everywhere with Stranger Things and IT, always seeming to play similar characters.  He’s an odd looking duck.  Add a Russian accent here (poorly done) and he helps to move the story along in unexpected ways.   I haven’t mentioned it yet, but the Goldfinch is a painting which was on the wall at the museum.   For me the challenge was believing that all these things can happen to this one young man.   The last act is adding a thriller aspect to it, which flies in the face of the rest of the film, which was a family drama.  I am using the word “thriller” in its most generous form.   I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat.   On the whole a bit disjointed and disappointing.   Maybe the novel read better.    One can always hope.   Many books don’t translate well to film.  This may be just one of them.

Downton Abbey is on Crave now.  Just released.   This is the film and not the series that was available on Netflix and other streaming services.  The series began in 2010 and had 52 episodes on 6 seasons.   It is a modern retelling of the British series Upstairs, Downstairs in theme and not translating those stories here (that show is unwatched by me).  The movie is a continuation of the last story of the Crawley family starting from 1912 after the sinking of the Titanic.   This is quality UK based TV with good performances, a gorgeous chateau and people-driven drama.  I have to admit that Dame Maggie Smith steals scene after scene with her performance as the matriarch of the Crawley family.   Her son, Robert The Earl of Grantham, is the head of household at a time when things are changing dramatically in UK society.   Women’s roles are changing, young people don’t want to be confined to traditional roles and the house struggles with being able to maintain staff and a way of life.   The movie looks to have an event involve all the people in the household.   Do you need to watch all the TV series to see the movie?  It helps.   You’ll know the history of some of the characters and understand why certain events can prove to be a source of angst for them.   Notably it would help to know that young Tm Branson is part of the “upstairs” part of the house, but in the series started as a chauffeur in the “downstairs” part amongst the help where the youngest Crowley daughter Sybill fell in love with him.   He is Irish and has distinct opinions about the British occupation in Ireland.   Sybill passes away in child birth.  In this movie the drama is created by all involved by the notice of arrival of the Royal Family arriving at Downton for a dinner, parade and overnight visit.   There is an emotional component near the end that brings the story together that I won’t divulge.   Generally I found the many characters having to be dealt with in a two hour film can’t compare to 52 episodes that have come before.   Do we really need to see the story of Thomas Barrow as the now Head Butler?   It added very little for me.   The engaged Daisy story didn’t add much either for me.   In the end I enjoyed this, and brought together a few of the actors that were in Imitation Game.   That was good to see as well, like Tom Branson.

This week I finished watching season 1 of Narcos.   Set in Columbia in the early 80s, you see the beginning of the cocaine cartel shipping their product off to a voracious US customer base.   The focus is on Pablo Escobar, the kingpin and Don who heads a coalition of drug producers and dealers and drive astronomical profits along the way.   He is the ideas guy and brains of the operation.   He is ruthless.   He has no soul.   He has his ambition in mind and the idea that he should and could become the saviour for his country Columbia.   I gave some background last week.   The ending of Season 1 takes place at the luxurious castle acting as a prison for Escobar and his men.   The army has been sent in by the President, but it is unclear just how motivated that they are to finish the job.   The cliffhanger is whether or not Escobar has survived the activities at the castle.    It is interesting to watch.   Well acted.  It shows a place where no one is safe.   It is a police state where an ongoing war with heavily armed drug thugs makes every day life unimaginable.    I cannot imagine being an ordinary citizen in Columbia in those times.   Season 2 continues the story with the characters who manage to survive the ending of Season 1.    I will continue watching.

May the 4th Be with You 2020

This is worth sharing (because it just is)….

This was a trying week for viewing.   I had said a while back when I saw the original Stephen King IT that I didn’t particularly like IT.  I didn’t need to see another IT, and IT wasn’t worth spending time to trying and find another.   I will note that I didn’t pay for IT.  I am thankful for IT.  And then along comes IT Chapter 2.   If it wasn’t for Jessica Chastain, then I wouldn’t even consider this film.   I had recalled hearing a story that the Producer (or someone putting together the sequel) had specifically targeted Jessica for the starring role.  She would play the Beverly Marsh character, the only female amongst a group of self-called Losers.   They defeated the ever-so-creepy Pennywise but there were hints that he could potentially return in another 27 years.   Well, we didn’t have to wait 27 years for the sequel.   Along with Chastain, they add James McAvoy, Bill Hader and the cast of young actors.  It is a good ensemble.   Yet the story is a mess.    The older group is shown making a promise to come back together as kids should the need arise, and the need has now arisen.   Pennywise has come back to Derry Maine.  They return, and then crazy things start happening (shared hallucinations, bizarre situations etc).  It seems that these friends need to each find an artifact which then they need to bring to some native Indian ceremony.  None of this makes much sense.  But the more one ponders it, the more it becomes apparent that it doesn’t matter.   This is a movie that is mind candy, and it is meant to scare you a little, and entertain you a little.  For me, it does neither.   By the midpoint I had to ask myself why Chastain and other older cast members would sign up for this.    If they would read about the Pennywise scene when they are underground (wherever that scene is) then they must have had some second thoughts.   Maybe they are doing what Michael Caine used to when he signed on to Jaws: The Revenge, and just take the money.   Who knows?   By the end, I just shook my head and acknowledged I just spent time that I won’t ever get back.  By the way, the origin story of Pennywise, as was explained here, was bullshit.   Plain and simple.   I won’t spoil this, but frankly there isn’t a heckuva lot to spoil.   I am hopeful that there can’t be a Chapter 3.   Another 27 years to pass and it will be Pennywise terrifying the seniors home.   Ugh!

Saturday night was Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw starring Jason Statham and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.   The Fast the Furious franchise, which started back in 2001 with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, had a simple premise; our audience wants to see hot girls and guys driving hot cars.    It began with a young cop, in a Point Break scheme, try and infiltrate a local group who street races.  It worked.   Eight movies later, even despite the tragic death of Walker in 2013 in a car accident, it still rakes in the money.    The formula for me lost the cars in this latest edition, save the McLaren 720S which Staham drives through the streets of London.   Having said that, I cannot believe for a moment that Statham, Johnson and then actress Vanessa Kirby (she played Princess Margaret in The Crown very well) would fit into that car.   No way.  But it is me, once again bringing realism into fantasy and light.   This, like IT Chapter 2 is mind candy, mental bubble gum.   The measuring stick becomes, “were you entertained?”  For me, when the realism goes off the charts, then my entertainment value lessens.   If I am sitting in my chair or on the couch and mentally (or sometimes vocally) saying “Yea right!” then it begins to fall apart.  Of course there are space and time travel movies that entertain.   It doesn’t mean that I am always consistent, but I retain my right to enjoy what entertains me on a subjective basis.   For example, in Hobbs and Shaw, these two agents from the US and British Intelligence who hate one another have to try and stop a pandemic virus from wiping out the world.  Plenty of eye candy for the ladies with the aforementioned Statham, Johnson and then Idris Elba.  The two leads have some insults and banter between them.  From a male perspective, Kirby is striking but very young, as well as the Russian spy played by Eiza González.  But there isn’t much else.   As far as cars goes, the Samoa angle didn’t really work, and the linking cars attached to a helicopter driving along a cliff, didn’t work at all.   It rivals Tom Cruise in “Ending” Impossible exploding forward inside the chunnel on a helicopter onto the back of a train.   But once again, the question remains “was I entertained?”   There were a couple good laughs.   But I was thankful that I didn’t spend real money on it as it was on Crave.

Finally I have started watching Netflix series Narcos.  It shows the story of Pablo Escobar, the Columbian drug lord who ran the Cocaine Cartel.   The politics in Columbia are well on display and scary to fathom.  Imagine having a relatively poor economy with mostly poor people and civil servants (police, government etc) who then have a astoundingly rich cocaine business take over.   The power is consolidated in a few who have no value for human life.   At one point, there is an offer made by Ecobar to be allowed back into Columbia and in exchange he will “eliminate the country’s debt”!!  The Tom Cruise American Made film is a side light, and dealt with in a short while in one episode.   The main character on the US police side is a young DEA officer played by Boyd Holbrook as Steve Murphy.   He is good along with his partner.   They are trying to navigate a world where there is corruption and death at every turn.   The US government involvement remains questionable, and this all rolls into the Oliver North (Iran-Contra affair) and Nicaragua getting involved.   I am about halfway through Season 1, but it is entertaining.  It is interesting.  It does reveal some history in a part of the world that I don’t know very well.   I will continue to watch….

April 27th, 2020

I am a fan of the body of work that Willem Dafoe has put together over his career.  I think he shows a great deal of flexibility in the roles that he portrays.  He is another in a long line of actors who embodies the people he is portraying (living or fictional).   I recently saw him in The Lighthouse, which I reviewed just last week.  He has been around a long time, and at the age of 65yo, he is showing no signs of stopping.   He has played Jesus of Nazareth in the controversial (at the time) Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ.   He also played the unfortunate Sgt. Elias in Platoon.   He has been nominated four times for an Oscar including in the performance of the film At Eternity’s Gate that I have been meaning to see.   I actually ended up renting this from the Cineplex website.   It was a deal.   All that preamble about Willem Dafoe was to say that his performance in this is excellent.  This time he plays Vincent Van Gogh, the famous Dutch born painter who’s fame and recognition only came to pass after he passed away.   Van Gogh died at his own hand (which was the prevailing thought) when he was 38yo.  Young.  Too young.  Dafoe plays the tortured soul well.  But he is far too old to portray the artist.  I would have thought that a younger actor could be found.  Despite the age, it is still a well told and performed story.  This movie has an alternate idea on how Vincent met his untimely end.   It also brings forth the idea of a ledger which was given to Vincent and was later returned to the person filled with his sketches.   This ledger was only discovered in 2016.   Remarkable and not without controversy.   The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam denies its authenticity.  The film focuses on the time Van Gogh spent in Arles France after deciding to leave Paris, along with fellow artist Paul Gaugin (played by Oscar Isaac, who is also very good).    You see the loneliness of Van Gigh and his desire for love, friendship and acceptance.  He and Gaugin were friends but as they have a falling out, he suffers as Gaugin leaves.  Later Van Gogh readily acknowledges that despite his art not being well accepted, this is how he sees the world.   He is looking to have people see the world through his eyes.  He loves nature, and he paints nature because for him it is perfect.   This film is filmed interestingly too.  Plenty of tight facial shots and filters (like a yellow hue) which reflects Vincent’s focus on sunlight.   It reminds me a little of Terrence Malick, but I hesitate to mention this director in the same breath as Malick.   It was just an impression.   I am glad that I sought this out, and it brought forward some new ideas about the life of Vincent Van Gogh.   Sadly his younger brother Theo didn’t live much longer than Vincent did, and was dead within a year.   The brothers were so very close.   For a man who the people of Arles France didn’t want in their town near the end, he has left a more memorable lasting worldwide impact than any of them likely.

Article on the Van Gogh ledger:

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/nov/15/newly-discovered-van-gogh-drawings-labelled-imitations-museum

Friday night I noted that the Spanish film Pain and Glory was on Crave.  Starring the Academy nominated Antonio Banderas as an aging director looking back upon his life.   The film is at the beginning focused on the director, who has been unable to work as a director because of constant ailments (primarily back pain).   He is asked about attending the reissuance in theatres of a film made many years before.   He is asked too about bringing the principal actor who he has spoken to in 32 years, because he didn’t take direct well and his vision.   They meet.   They begin to chat more and interact.  All the while the past of this director is shown with his mother (played by Penelope Cruz) and his father and their struggles.  He was a precocious boy, who sang beautifully, and wrote and read well.   Mom always wanted the best for him.   Layers of his life come to light and you as viewer see more and more.  It takes some unexpected turns, as life can do.   Much like Vincent who feels that he can only be a painter and was meant to be a painter, this man was meant to be a director.  When he isn’t, then he is lost with no purpose.   As he reconnects, and better understands his life, he learns about himself.    This is a satisfying story well told and well acted.   It was nominated for Best Foreign Film.    Justifiably so.   As the director for Parasite Boon Joon Ho would say (I paraphrase) “some of the best films have subtitles”.

I finished Season 2 of Westworld.  This is a series where one has to pay attention.  The story jumps around a lot, between the situations and the characters.   It has some heavy hitters with Ed Harris, and Sir Anthony Hopkins.  Evan Rachel Wood plays Dolores Abernathy as a robot character in a scripted story who seeks freedom.   Thandie Newton plays another robot character, looking to find a protect a daughter in her story that she swore to save.   I do think that the most interesting character is Bernard, played by Jeffrey Wright, who is a go-between with the human outside world and the robots.   Roles flip back and forth.  Hunter becomes hunted.  Slave is made master, or at the least in a position to better control their destiny.  The series underscores the dangers of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and playing God.   It is a significant investment in time.   I am hearing that season 3 is better than season 2.   Not sure that I recommend to readers to spend that time, but maybe I can view Season 3 and see whether this is in fact the case.

And finally, from the serious and sublime to the mindless and stupid.  If you liked twenty-something relationship train wreck Love is Blind, then NetFlix’s Too Hot to Handle may be right up your alley.   In it, we have model-like twenty-somethings who are uber-sexual, and think to a person they are “at that and a bag of chips”.  They enter to a month long stay at a tropical paradise, and then find out that the $100,000 prize has money deducted for kissing, sexual touching or masturbation.   This from a group who collectively measure themselves with suntan lotion bottles and brag of having sex every day with different people (the days of AIDS have long since left and are forgotten).   Some readily admit to “not being that bright” while others just plainly show it (“I don’t even know where Australia is” from a Florida blonde).   Vancouver model Francesca shows herself not only to be vindictive, but also so confident in herself and her ability to get and keep anybody, that she just screams out to have a lesson in humility.   There is a vague interest in teaching some valuable relationship lessons to these young people, but they fall in most cases on deaf ears.    There is plenty of eye candy for male and female viewers with bikinis and body builder bodies in various forms of undress.   This is mind candy in the truest sense of the word where you can shut off your mind and picture the beaches in Mexico.   In this last week of April, thoughts of a beach, any beach is a welcome escape.

April 20th, 2020

More alone time.   More social distancing.   More voluntary self isolating (for the most part except once a week for groceries, a walk here and there) and doing more things in the condo.   Life is about balance, and being alone for me means not just watching TV, but rather puzzles, reading, music, and watching live safaris from South Africa.

If you are interested, check it out:  https://www.facebook.com/WildEarthLIVE/?__tn__=%2CdkC-R&eid=ARCZfDKlpj0AA6TJnDnIxDM7BEyRng305QBHolELUhH9c7WDCHskHJBHu7iL4Me8nUxx_OkIUgPrigia&hc_ref=ARRVOmgrqB3hXKyLUYcNlp5rFYrMYwMC0rH9JkCse3kq3A0Ya3JXbZG_hNbaIi2d91k

Now on to the movies and reviews.

The first movie was The Invisible Man, with Elizabeth Moss.   Now the Invisible Man story has been told before, more recently to my memory was with Kevin Bacon in Hollow Man.   This new addition is basically a re-telling of another similar story Sleeping With the Enemy with Julia Roberts.   It has a bit of a technological update but the basic structure remains.  A young woman, married to a narcissistic, controlling and abusive husband, seeks freedom away from him.   If you stop and think early on, the entire enterprise would be for not if she just avoids the family house pet, Zeus, but never mind.   There are bigger questions that will arise and leave the viewer pondering those instead.  But I won’t look to spoil them, but happy to discuss once viewers have seen this (if they choose to).   So the initial plan, doesn’t go as expected, and new measures need to take place.   Moss plays the fleeing wife, and choose to live with a male friend who is a cop, and his daughter.   She remains frightened.   There are little bits of other movies like The Entity and Terminator in this.  The story moves on and she must keep her sanity all the while trying to figure out the things that keep happening to her, and those she cares about.   Much like a Terminator, it is hard to explain that someone has become invisible and is a real threat, even when they begin to get mowed down like Sarah Connor’s keepers in her asylum.   By the end, it is just a mess.  There were a couple of jumps of surprise.  But I didn’t buy it, I saw where it was leading and I didn’t particularly care.   I wondered, if I had created this capability, would I be using it to try and be with a person who didn’t want to be with me?   Unlikely.   Money.  Power.  Everything likely would be possible.   But there it is.   I wouldn’t want to spend more time in this.

I followed that Moss mess with the black and white The Lighthouse with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, who has long since moved away from his role in Twilight.   Set in the US in a remote island where there is a lighthouse, surprise, surprise and these two men are relieving the previous workers.   They have a few weeks there before they are relieved.   The older Dafoe character looks and sounds like Captain Highliner.   He tells stories and bosses the younger lad around.   They eventually become closer over time as they learn about each other.  There are some surprising elements that impact the two players.   In truth this could be a play rather than a movie.   It is really a story of two men pushed to their mental and physical limits.   The real reason to watch this would be the cinematography and feel of it.  It is beautiful to look at, with realistic water, lighthouse, storms and seas.   Both actors are very good.  The story?   Meh.   It takes a long time to tell and really isn’t all that satisfying.

I finally finished the second season of Succession.   The first season was okay, as the primary thread was the health issue of the patriarch of the family (a media magnet worth billions and his children, and spouse, exes, and extended family).   Season 2 was better for me.   It had the intrigued of a corporate acquisition, as well as a government investigation.   It is remarkable to watch how dysfunctional this family is.   Each member has their own challenges.  Seeing how they interact with the father and each other is fun.   There will be a Season 3 and I will look forward to it.   The cast is good and plays their parts well.   Kieran Culkin is particularly seedy.   I wouldn’t want to have dinner with them, but I wouldn’t mind sharing the yacht and location from the last episode.

Bombshell outlines another in a line of ugly men in powerful positions, who abuse their power to extract sexual favours from female employees, typically who are ambitious and wish to get ahead or have an opportunity.  It’s not Harvey Weinstein at Miramax and film this time.  This time it is at Fox News, and there are real time anchors like Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson, played by Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman.  Roger Ailes is the real life TV news mogul who is played by John Lithgow.   Between this role and playing Winston Churchill in The Crown, Lithgow must be used to wearing fat suits.  The Ailes story has also been put on TV with Russell Crowe playing the unsavoury Ailes.  He won a Golden Globe for the performance (The Loudest Voice).   In short, Ailes is the news director for the successful Fox News where the environment is one where they are garnering viewership by putting anchors in short tight skirts behind glass tables.   The news room makes a billion dollars a year for owner Rupert Murdoch.   Incidentally, this is not a new formula and women have been objectified here and elsewhere (Entertainment Tonight famously with Mary Hart, TSN, ESPN, CITY and countless other channels).   What separates out Fox with Ailes is his looking for “loyal” team members, read ones who won’t talk about his sexual advances.  His saying “if you want to get ahead, you have to give head” tells the story really.   Ailes was able to isolate his victims, ensuring their silence but also had them move ahead.  WHat he could give, he could also take away.   A young employee played by Margot Robbie becomes the target of his affections.   She later is approached by star anchor, Kelly and they have an interesting exchange.   There is a sea of quiet in these situations and many are to blame.   The enablers, assistants, people who know year after year who don’t want to know what is happening.   They could be whistle blowers.   The women/victim themselves, even after the Kidman character (Carlson) makes the lawsuit known, were avoiding her and outright aggressive against her (the wearing of pro-Roger tee-shirts in the office was telling).   Of course it goes without saying that the men involved must know better.  The other anchors who also participated (say Bill O’Reilly) require greater character.  They all have mothers and many should have daughters.   And what about Ailes’ wife?   Roger Ailes was dismissed from his position in July 2016 at 76 years old.   He died May 2017, less than a year later.   Sadly he never had any jail time, and the settlement given ($20M to Carlson alone) was covered by Fox and not him personally.   This was a good movie and interesting with good performances.   It gets wrapped up in political bashing, but this is to be expected with the Kelly and Donald Trump feud.    But it is worth checking out.