“You should start a blog”….


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



March 27, 2023

Boston Strangler: I am a fan of crime series and investigations. I readily admit that I really liked Mindhunter on Netflix as well as Manhunt: Unabomber which I think were simply excellent. I recommedn those to people who seek my suggestions for this genre. The latter dealt with not only the capture of the Unabomber but also the legal case against him and the decision of the Court. Add to that backstory a similar newspaper investigative journalism story similar to All The President’s Men, Spotlight, Zodiac, She Said and many others then this becomes something that I would seek out. Starring Keira Knightley, Chris Cooper and Carrie Coon. Set in the mid 1960s, with society changing tremendously from the 1950s as can be seen in other shows like Mad Men, the focus is a series of murders that are taking place in Boston, and yet no one seems to be seeing any relationship between them. Enter young reporter Loretta McLaughlin, who works the Lifestyle desk but wants to get more involved in Crime, and she notices some things that are the same. Bringing her ideas to the editor Chris Cooper, he shuns her back to her work.

The story unfolds as she finds out more facts connecting the various cases. There is a Homicide Detective who is working the case too and they uncover what they can, along with her co-worker played effectively by Coon. Mindhunter despite taking place a little later than this timeline, didn’t directly address this specific case in any detail. It was Loretta who coined the label the Boston Strangler. What is uncovered, from someone not familiar with the details of the killings, was more than a little surprising. The performances were solid and I remain interested throughout. Of course as part of the intrigue surrounding the cases, is the tension at home for a married woman with three young children, and a husband who concedes that he never pressed her to stay at home because he “knows better”. She is good at her job, and puts in long hours, but then still must come home and often put together a fancy meal. Life as a woman any time, but ceretainly in those times, was never easy. There are plenty of roles to fulfill. For Loretta it also means trying to protect women from a police force that didn’t seem to be putting much effort in coordinating the information gathered so far or being cooperative with others.

I am glad that I saw this. It works on a legal level, but also as compelling story telling. I suspect that the Boston Police in particular won’t appreciate it, as they didn’t necessarily welcome to backlash from the Catholic church in Boston for Spotlight. They may not appreciate the hits, but for the viewing public we can see a story that is more complex than was initially anticipated.

Love is Blind Season 4: As much as I like quality cinema and stories, sometimes the mind just wants some banal chewing gum. One wants to sit and watch senseless interpersonal drama, for drama’s sake. With me, shows like this one can fill that whole from time to time. I know that they are a train wreck. I know that they are filled with the “beautiful people” (outwardly anyway) who want their five minutes of fame on these shows. They recognize as participants, that unless they match up they aren’t getting any more screen time. As I have explained before, this series pits singles seeking marriage with the task of selecting a mate without ever seeing them. It is a connection on every level except physical and looks. Once a proposal is made, then they lay eyes on each other for the first time and head off for a grand trip to a beach location (in this case Mexico). There is drama in the selecting, but more of the drama takes place once selected and live interactions are taking place.

The first four episodes were released this past weekend. More are to come this week. What amazes me in all this drama, is how some people are willing to accept being a Plan B. Meaning, there are multiple dates going on simultaneously with many others, and connections are made. Eventually people have to make decisions, especially if they are attracted to more than one person. Tears ensue. But those willing to accept a proposal AFTER they know the person has already focused on another person. What about the person pining for a person who rejected them, but then can seamlessly pivot to another person without skipping a beat? All in the name of TV!! There is more to come of course, and there seems to be no problem with pining for people who matched with others, despite the fact that they are already “engaged”.

Money Shot: The Porn Hub Story: Who would guess that a documentary about a Canadian porn site, would turn into an in depth rights discussion between the “talent” and their right to try and make a living away from the hollywood porn film industry (think studios), then right wing religious types who want to shut down all sites involved with any adult entertainment (including Sports Illustrated and the swim suit edition) and the owners of a platform who facilitate the payments between end users and the talent? It seems odd, but all of those things were explored in this new Netflix documentary.

Headquartered in Montreal, by a company called Mindgeek, they were at the forefront of monetizing the porn industry, talent and images, putting them with end users. Their ultimate failing was not monitoring, managing content or policing who was putting up the images. Even when the NY Times came calling, they refused to engage with them. Without any oversight, videos were put up of minors, and people who did not consent to the images being displayed from those who didn’t produce them. Even when complaints were made, they were ignored to keep advertising dollars flowing. When the Canadian Federal Government brought the executives before a Parliamentary Committee, their explanations were weak and they did far too little too late. The payments systems (VISA and Mastercard) were shut down and it meant a dramatic shift back to the age before disseminated content. Interests are explored from the perspective of those who worked at Mindgeek, as well as talent and the lawyers who eventually got involved in the case. It is safe to say that no one thinks that images of children or of rape or anyone not fully consenting should not be placed on any platform. The question becomes one of what happens with that content not like that?

March 20th, 2023

The Quiet Girl: At a time when a number of the Oscar nominees were depressing and down, like The Whale or EO, along comes this Oscar nominated entry from Ireland for Best International Picture. It is mostly in Gaelic with subtitles. It is based upon the book named “Foster” from Claire Keegan who is also a writer in the film.

Cait, is a young girl who lives in a family of modest to poor means in the early 1980s. As the movie begins, Cait is hiding from the family in the field as they search for her. You soon learn to know why. Young Mom is pregnant again, although there are already plenty of mouths to feed in the house. Dad is not exactly father of the year nor husband of the year material, if you know what I mean. Cait doesn’t say much and her actions reveal the inner turmoil that she is experiencing at home and in school. Cait’s Dad and Mom decide to send her off to spend some extended time with Mom’s cousin, who has presently no children of her own. The cousin and her husband run a dairy farm a lengthy drive away. Cait arrives and there is an awkward first meeting as she seemingly hasn’t been told what is happening. Dad absentmindedly even drives away with her suitcase. The young girl settles in and the rest of the movie is about her and her relationship with this couple.

As the title implies, much in this movie goes unsaid. Not just from the girl, but from the adults too. Everyone, as in life, has their issues to get over. Some have just had those issues longer to address. Silence can mean acceptance, but it can also be someone deep in thought or even processing how they feel at the moment. Actions say a great deal. Caring isn’t always isn’t about words, but the small acts of life. From a cookie left on a kitchen table to signify being sorry and seeking apology, to changing bedsheets or sweeping out a barn. Together it means connection. Despite what others might say or think, kindness is offering your home, your skills and resources to a virtual complete stranger, knowing that it likely won’t be welcome. I really liked this. It is a simple story well told. The ending I think is right. In a year where Best International Film is pretty much sewn up with All Quiet on the Western Front, this nevertheless is an effective story and entertaining revealing the story of this quiet, brown-haired girl.

The Last of UsSeason 1 round up: Welcome to HBO’s response to the completion of Game of Thrones with all those viewers and also those from House of the Dragon. Without repeating my introduction to the series, and how I was very reluctant to watch a series with zombies, I continue to be impressed how they overcome the zombie aspects. They are there of course, but much more of it is about human interaction, rather than humans and zombies. Our two heroes, Ellie and Joel are on a quest to find people who can help with trying to find a cure for this fungus-pandemic. What I can say is that this series builds and builds. Knowing that there will be more seasons to come, I had to wonder how they would address it.

People and their motivations stand in the way of the heroes meeting their goals. The series has nine episodes with the last one released last Sunday.

Those of you who haven’t watched so far, I would NOT recommend that you click on this back story for episode 8. I hadn’t seen these before, but I like the explanations for the episode. I have to keep reminding myself that this series is a video game with a story and scenes unto itself. Some of these are in this show, but others are not and others still are changed. In short, you don’t know what you are going to get! I am going in blind, with fresh eyes on every episode. It’s fun to watch and see where it turns. To say that the Final Episode was a surprise is an understatement. I won’t get into details here, except to say that it puts the overall story arc of being re-written or at least re-directed. I welcome it, because it means that there are many possibilities. With this series ending for a break, it is just in time for Succession to begin the last season. Kudos to HBO for keeping us entertained with good quality series back to back.

Oscars Recap: First of all, kudos for the second consecutive year for my brother to win the Oscar pool. This year he won by 1 point over Alison. Well done and really good picking. I came fourth. I think that he should be betting on his ability to predict the winners. Obviously my skills are lacking.

It wasn’t inaccurate of me to state that I felt Everything, Everywhere All At Once would have a good night at the Oscars. I just didn’t expect it to be as good as night as what eventually transpired. I had predicted Best Picture, Director and Best Supporting Actor. I called Best Supporting Actor one of the easiest calls of the night, along with All Quiet as Best International Film. I hadn’t expected Best Supporting Actress for surprised Jame Lee Curtis. Incidentally, both Best Supporting Actors gave heartfelt speeches.

There were some great outfits from people like Salma Hayek, Cara Delevigne, Jessica Chastain or Emily Blunt.

The musical performances were good generally, I missed the earlier performances by Lady Gaga gave a good live performance. She has so much talent, and dressed down decidedly for the time on stage (torn jeans and comfy top).

All Quiet on the Western Front also did very well at the Oscars. I think that the two directors from Everything, Everywhere would be fun to work with. For those of you who have actually seen the movie, we’ll see if you think it is Best Picture worthy. As I said earlier, time in my view will move on from this Best Picture which was an extravaganza for the senses, on multiple plains but hard to follow if you didn’t pay attention, and certainly not for all viewers. There were some laughs, but it is difficult to compare this type of film to others. Time will tell. I think that Jimmy Kimmel did a decent job. I always like the Matt Damon jokes.

March 13th, 2023 (Post Oscars)

Living: Starring Oscar nominated Bill Nighy this film starts in a very slow, quiet, deliberate pace. Set in London in the fifties, I will admit that I look to opening credit sequence that takes me back to films of the 50s and 60s. I had hoped that same visual effect could continue throughout the entire movie. It didn’t, but that was okay. This is a new adaptation of the 1952 Japanese movie Ikiru from acclaimed director Akira Kurasawa. I had been looking forward to seeing this, and about an hour into it I wasn’t so sure. It was slow and I found Nighy hard to understand at times because he was speaking so softly. There was very little energy with the men in the black bowler hats waiting for the train heading into the City in the morning commute. A new recruit is going the civil service in the Public Works Department. Nighy is the elder manager of the group who acknowledges his team as he enters at his stop, yet doesn’t join them. There is a very formal, unspoken protocol among the team members as they head ton work with Nighy leading the way.

As a public sector employee, I think that this would be an excellent film for each civil servant to watch. The principal story involves Nighy and his journey, but accompanying it is a story of a bureaucracy who spends their days looking to find obstacles to put before the public. In this instance a group of women would like to have a playground erected where an old bombed out building used to stand. The new recruit is asked to assist the women who have already spent days walking around the building with no resolution, or even anyone who will take up their cause in any meaningful way. What happens amongst these team members and specifically to Nighy is a cry for action for people in every place in life.

Without giving too much away, Nighy after some time of reflection and poignant discussions with those around him, decides to have a change of heart. It is at this point that the momentum of the film changes. I really enjoyed the message that he demonstrates, and that his team take away from his efforts. There is this idea that it is never too late to impose a change on one’s life. How many of us are really going to be remembered beyond a generation or two of our families and the mark that might be left on the world. We can’t all be Mozart or Shakespeare or even Elon Musk or Bill Gates. But what we can do is bring about positive change and make those around us feel a little bit better with the gifts that we each have. I think that in these times, this is a message that bears repeating time and again. I am very glad that I saw this.

EO: This Polish film is a Best Foreign Film nominee. I watched this right after finishing Living. I am sorry that I did. I say this because this movie, which Alison reminds me is another in a series of Polish Best Foreign Film nominees with the same overall theme. No spoilers but I don’t think that it says too much to reveal that the donkey is a spectator to the things that humans do to each and to animals. There are some who are kind and gentle, mindful that every living creature should be given some respect, while others are decidedly not as concerned.

2023 seems to be a popular year with donkeys, noting that the young donkey in Banshees of Inisherin plays a vital role in the relationship between the two friends in that nominated movie. Maybe it is the same donkey, I couldn’t tell you.

Our young donkey starts off in a circus, and from there his travels can take him to the countryside, to be shipped around the country. He is a very well travelled donkey and those who have him (or her) their care tend to be rather forgetful. The donkey manages to get away and see many other places near and far. Suffice it to say that there is not a positivity in this world for the donkey and in what he observes. TIFF was abuzz with this movie and I had tried to see it there, but now I am glad that I didn’t. I can watch the news and feel much the same as I did after watching this movie. Between this and Living, and I will take the message from Living every time. Movies are meant to make you feel, and sometimes it’s not always very positive, but there is an element of being entertained. I will say I think that the shots of the donkey show a well well behaved animal which is extremely comfortable in front of the camera, and many close ups. It would have been a challenging set to work on.

MH370: The Plane That Disappeared: Netflix has released a three part documentary about the mystery surrounding the disappearance in 2014 of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 239 people aboard that in the early hours just simply disappeared. Vanished. Inexplicably this enormous plane and all its passengers and crew ceased to exist.

So what can we explore in three hours of documentary? A good question! In truth the answer lies in various people putting forth their own theories without many facts to support their position. Three theories are explored: (1) the captain/pilot did it (2) the Russians did it and (3) the US government did it. I will leave it to you to decide which one is the more plausible scenario. For me, the crux of it is as a member of the travelling public who goes onto a plane as often as I can, I find it more than a little disturbing that a plane of this size can simply vanish. I feel great sympathy for all the family members of those who cannot be found. They cannot get closure even nine years later. How agonizing!! Each of the theories on what happened cannot fully how a plane goes off radar screens, both civil and militarily in a heavily travelled part of the world.

In the end what is drawn out over three episodes could very easily could have been covered in thirty minutes. You gain nothing in watching all three hours. The end result remains the same. It is either an incredible coincidence of factors or a confounding plot with so many active players that it makes your head spin. What I do know is that I don’t want to put myself in the position of being a pawn where giant players like China, the US and Russia could have a vested interest.

Oscar Night! Some preliminary thoughts

The Oscar ceremony is tonight, and I will have commentary about it, along with what I had predicted. For the record I think that Everything, Everywhere All At Once will win the Best Picture award. I will say that this is expecting what WILL happen rather than what I WANT to happen. If there was a movie that most profoundly impacted the movie industry more than any others this year it was Top Gun Maverick. At the tail end of a pandemic it put people in the theatres in record numbers. It did this because it was a KICK ASS blast of a movie. I love military aircraft, and this was jet porn in its highest. Like the original Top Gun back in 1986 where 19yo me drove home from the theatre feeling like I was in the cockpit of an F-14, this movie did the SAME thing! I saw Top Gun Maverick twice in IMAX, and it was worth every penny. I don’t ever have to see Everything, Everywhere All At Once again. That is a measure of a movie as well; staying power and how it bears repeat viewings. The best movies reveal themselves on more than one viewing and even then after time still show more things about themselves. I have to admit that I was surprised that Viola Davis was not even given a nomination for The Woman King. Same for Clare Foy in Women Talking. Note that I saw all nominees in the Best Actress category save Andrea Riseborough in To Leslie that I couldn’t find. I think the easiest pick for Oscar is All Quiet on the Western Front for Best Foreign Film, followed by the annoying kid all grown up from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Goonies, for Best Supporting Actor Ke Huy Quan. Enjoy the show!

March 6th, 2023

Women Talking: It is trite to say that “women have it hard” and always have. We men find ways, and impose structures around them, which making getting through this life very challenging. Case in point is the particular situation that the women in this isolated religious community are experiencing from the director Sarah Polley. It is based on the book by Miriam Towes, which was based upon true events. On its face it would appear to be similar to an Amish community, with horses used for transportation and seemingly no electricity. A group of women have gathered to discuss a situation where one of their group has been drugged and raped. The dilemma is that the men run the community and won’t be doing anything about the situation. To add further uncertainty, these women have been told that their doorway to everlasting life with God, is by remaining in the church and within the community. They have met to decide the merits of leaving or staying.

The assembled cast is an impressive one with Frances McDormand, Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley and Ben Whishaw who has been asked to be a scribe for the women as they cannot read nor write. The performances are all excellent, and I think notably Foy, of The Crown fame, and Mara, who was the victim in the event and pregnant as a result, provide really insightful descriptions of their conflicted feelings. Having said that, the older women in telling her horse story near the end uses the word “frenetic” for which I can’t imagine that one who isn’t educated in reading or writing would ever hear or use. As much as this is obviously a movie, it is directed and set as if it is a play. Much taking place inside the barn as they women discuss issues and options. Not many men are involved as the title suggests. In many ways I see parallels with the classic Henry Fonda film 12 Angry Men. One room with a great deal of dialog and many dissenting opinions. Women who would seemingly have the same common issue to deal with, but in practice each has their own challenges and reality to overcome.

This was the last Best Picture nominee that I needed to see. I think that some of the performances are Oscar worthy and the nominations for just Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay are not reflective of the work of Foy in particular. I am glad to have seen it. I think that it is a small screen film, addressing some overall issues with women and how they are treated. Sadly the acting did not garner any nominations. I don’t feel that this was the best film of the year. But as with each year, it is difficult to measure this film from many of the others that are nominated as Best Picture.

American Underdog: I have to admit that I was not looking to rush out and see a movie about football QB Kurt Warner. It just didn’t interest me. I am not a Rams fan, and I wasn’t particularly fond of Warner himself from very little that I knew about him. However on a late Sunday afternoon this movie came out on Crave and I decided to check it out. The movie is really a relationship movie and a story about Warner and his wife Brenda; how they met, her background, how he wooed her and his journey with her.

Having been in the hockey agency business, this is a movie too about the business of sports, and particularly football obviously. What separates football and the NFL from other sports is that in hockey and baseball there are minor leagues where players can continue to play and hone their skills. In football, there isn’t anywhere else to go, and the released football player has to go and find a job outside the sport. The NFL also allows players to be released and there is no guaranteed contract, unless stipulated in the agreement itself with that particualr team. What you see as the movie progresses is how the QB Warner who had talent was prevented from given the opportunity to show what he could do on his way up. He was at a smaller Iowa college with a coach that demanded a QB “remain in the pocket” and take the hits when an offensive line breaks down. Warner didn’t play much and he was never drafted into the NFL. So he was stocking shelves at a grocery store at one point in his life after college.

With his relationship, Brenda was a woman with two young kids from a previous failed marriage and a healthy skepticism of all men. Her trust was very low and he expected the worst from men in a relationship. However much she tried to push Kurt away, he refused to do so. His love and devotion to her at an early stage, despite her protests, is a testament to who he is. Anna Paquin plays Brenda, and I found the hairstyle on her didn’t work. I would like to have thought that she would be more supportive for this man who was showing time and again his commitment to her. But everyone has their own reasons to hesitate. Kurt played by Zachary Levi is a determined and respectful man living life on his terms and looking to comply, for the most part, with those who have power over him, even if he disagrees. His choice ultimately to pursue the arena football league was a good development strategy, which kept him playing but importantly working on a quicker release for passes.

Overall this was okay. I cannot recommend, but it provided to me some more insight into this one football player and struggles that I didn’t know were there. Any athlete in any sport can take solace that an undrafted player becomes the MVP and Superbowl MVP of that sport. Warner won the Superbowl twice. Pretty impressive for a young man who idolized Joe Montana from his days with the 49ers and winning Superbowls there.

February 27, 2023

The Last of Us: First and foremost, I am NOT a zombie movie person. I will avoid a zombie movie like the plague! I had heard some positive buzz about this HBO series, based upon the video game (!!) and starring Pedro Pascal and Game of Thrones Bella Ramsey (in GOT she was fiesty Lyanna Mormont). I had asked Alison about this series and although she conceded that there was a zombie aspect to it, that there was much more to it. I would agree with that assessment.

Episode one made me more than a little skeptical about that claim. As it moved forward there were scenes that couldn’t be more typical zombie with the odd walking gait for the zombies, and their aggressive feasting on those who weren’t zombies. I shrugged and decided to carry on into episode 2. One of the things that drew me forward was the introduction of Tess, played by Anna Torv who was the professor in the excellent series Mindhunter. As an aside, I dearly wish that they would do more Mindhunter. Pedro Pascal has a very good resume, from his role in Game of Thrones himself, to The Mandalorian, and the excellent Narcos about Pablo Escobar. I have never played the video game, and never even knew it existed. It is apparently excellent on the PS4 gaming system. I can say that one doesn’t need to know the game to appreciate the series. I will say that there are some surprises that take place along the way. Further the depth of the series, especially in episode 4 with Nick Offerman is just excellent. It tells a story unto itself, but that also contributes to the story of the main characters in a way that was unexpected. How refreshing! For a guy that doesn’t like zombies I am not being inundated like in the movie World War Z with Brad Pitt. I see similarities to The Quiet Place, also with The Mandalorian too. Is Pascal playing the same character as the Mandalorian just without the helmet, armour and space ship? There is a goal, and a quest and then challenges that are put before the primary characters to challenge them. With surprises along the way, you are interested in the main characters as they reveal themselves slow bits at a time. Early on we see what happened with Pascal’s character as what was explained in the first 10 minutes of this series could happen back in 1968 is slowly materializing. I will keep watching. John Oliver in the tenth season of Last Week Tonight reflected that his show with ratings just happens to come after successful shows like Game of Thrones and then this one. I think he is right. I have binged the first five episodes and I will continue to watch what happens with Melanie Lynskey, who first came to my attention with a young Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures.

Almost Famous: I realized once again as I rewatched this past week this movie with some time off just how good this 2000 movie really is. Remarkable that it is 23 years old. An early effort by writer and director Cameron Crowe, this is more or less autobiographical with the young Crowe, named William Miller, as a 15yo teenager, following a band, fictionally named Stillwater. I hadn’r known that Crowe himself had been married to Nancy Wilson from Heart from 1986-2010. This has an impressive cast with the 21yo Kate Hudson stealing the show, and garnering an Oscar nomination as a result as Supporting Actress. Other members of the cast include Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Frances McDormand (as William’s mom and conscience of the film), Zoey Deschanel, Anna Paquin, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jimmy Fallon among others. See if you can find a very young Jay Baruchel in this cast!

William lives at home with his opinionated Mom, played by McDormand, and his older sister who is clashing with Mom’s controlling ways. She ventures forth and leaves as soon as she is legally able to be a flight attendant. William likes music that his sister introduces him to, and is a good writer. He meets Hoffman who teaches him about being a music writer, for his magazing and then later giving tips on working for Rolling Stone. William is given an assignment by Rolling Stone to follow this up and coming band Stillwater, with lead singer Jason Lee and lead guitarist Crudup, who is recognized as the stellar talent in the band. What starts off as a road trip movie, with excellent music (including Elton John’s Tiny Dancer in a memorable bus scene), becomes more as the band, the manager, the groupies, fans of the band and others interact. Hudson plays a fan, who is in love with Crudup. For him, she is one of the ancillary benefits of being in a band and on the road.

For me this is a story about learning and redemption. Making mistakes and growing from them. Maturing and getting older. This happens to William and his immediate family, with his Mom and his sister. It happens with the members of the band Stillwater. William learns this through his work, Rolling Stone but also the members of the band and the entourage. It feels good to see these people learn from one another and grow. You care about them and hope that it goes well. I think that the ending is just excellent. If you have an opportunity, seek it out and enjoy again for the first time!

Blackberry: Variety and The Hollywood Reporter have both posted reviews of this movie. It is scheduled for release in Canada in April according to IMDB. On October 17th, I saw a pre-screening of this movie at the local theatre in Toronto. It stars the aforementioned Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton as the Blackberry principals Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie. It explores the rise and fall of the Waterloo based IT company Research in Motion. RIM’s primary product was the Blackberry phone. RIM was a Canadian success story with mobile devices/mobile phone before the days of Apple IPhones and Android devices. Called Crack-berries by some for how addictive that they were. The University of Waterloo campus size exploded with new buildings from RIM as they expanded. RIM owned the market with the Blackberry, including being used by the President of the United States (Obama) when he was first elected at its height of popularity. Much like the Apple launch for their computers, as seen in the 2015 film Steve Jobs, you saw the early days of the nerdy engineers working diligently on a device to improve upon pagers in a “fake it until you make it” kind of way. With Lazaridis as the tech-genius who slapped together the device with pieces and parts that he scrounged, he was able to sell a US phone company to purchase the devices. Lazaridis was not a business genius, nor a marketing genius and that was where Balsillie came in.

There are some good funny moments that you would expect from a Baruchel film, but also some insight into the fatal moments and the downfall. Jim had great ambitions, and these lay not just with Blackberry which we heard about in Canada as he looked to bring another NHL hockey team to the Greater Toronto area in Hamilton. Jim also had some very interesting recruiting practices to entice new talent to join the Blackberry team from Silicone Valley. But it doesn’t all fall back on Jim, because from a technology perspective Mike was married to his idea of the touch keypad. Mike and his best friend Doug (pictured above in the orange headband) was a relationship that suffered as the desire for global dominance took precedence over friendship and loyalty. When the talk was that Apple was looking to release a new device, with a virtual keyboard it was dismissed as a “toy”. Mike felt customers wanted to keys to punch and had no interest with the lack of encryption offered by the Apple product. He was satisfied with putting a track ball in the latest phones. What we take for granted now with the IPhone and annual releases, was something new for Blackberry. This is what phones USED to look like!

I enjoyed this movie when I saw it. I have a good friend who worked for Blackberry in sales back in the day and he confirmed a number of things about Jim and his personality. It isn’t really all that surprising. He was profane, business type who cared only about financial numbers, stock price and making money. Integrity took a back seat. Once again, as is often the case, the principals get drunk of their own success, in this case overnight success, and lose the ability to listen to others, see where the market is going and then adjusting. It would be a very good business school case study, as I am sure that it gets discussed frequently. I think that the actors did a good job. I hope that it can have some success but it isn’t a movie that really needs to be seen in a theatre, like the new movie 65 which deals with dinosaurs with Adam Driver coming out soon.

February 20, 2023

Empire of Light: Starring Oscar winner Olivia Colman, and Colin Firth and written by Sam Mendes, I had (I think) higher hopes for this movie. Set in the 1980s on the English coast, The Empire is a theatre from back in the day. It had seen better days from before, as once upon a time it had two levels with multiple screens. It still has an old fashioned, large projector loading the celluloid films.

Within it, there is Colman along those who are operating the theatre to the local clientele. Firth plays the manager of the theatre, and they have just recently hired a new young black man to act as a ticket-taker and host to greet guests. His colour becomes relevant as the scenes progress, and we are shown that prejudice and racism is alive and well in the 1980s Britain. The plot continues as the young man becomes more involved with his team, and there is an opportunity for the theatre to show it past glory. A premiere is coming, and there will be some money to spruce up the place.

I have to admit that I expected more from this. In some ways there is some similarity with The Majestic, with Jim Carrey, in that a theatre plays a role and is the centre of the story telling. In this, though, there is a mental illness aspect which was tepid. It is sad to see what the young man goes through, as he is just looking to move forward in life. Some of the choices he makes are questionable, but that is true of many of the characters. Firth and his talents I feel are wasted. His story feels artificially shortened. Colman for her efforts creates a character that seems stuck in the same gear, but looks to make some changes. I enjoyed the description and demonstration of using the large cameras, and flipping from reel to reel. It’s cool. Still an effort that missed the mark.

Somebody I Used To Know: This 2022 effort that is on Prime, is written by actress Alison Brie (of GLOW and Mad Men fame). I basically stumbled upon it while flipping channels when down in South Carolina. I wish I hadn’t. Brie plays Ally who is already involved in producing TV shows in LA. We learn that she was a documentary film-maker and then moved over to reality TV, because more people would be watching her. Her series is about cooking, but more viewers watch because of the cast interacting. Those details really aren’t very important. Ally decides to take a break, and spend some time at home to visit her Mom, back in Leavenworth WA which seems to have a very sizeable German population given the scenes that were shot there. Ally meets back up with ex-boyfriend Sean, who was devastated when Ally chose to pursue her goals in LA, leaving him behind. There are flashbacks showing them interacting. Things happen which are for the most part very predictable, at least by me as I was able to successfully predict a number of the twists and turns. Ally needs to think on her own behaviour as she re-examines her own choices and how she has worked with those around her.

This, like Empire of Light, is written by someone who thinks that they can write, like Mendes. Mendes a director, while Brie an actress. Dave Franco directed this, and was a co-writer with Brie. This is not to pigeon hole either one of these known Hollywood names. I can see why an executive decided to green light both of these projects. But still the results were less than stellar. I didn’t like the writing. I think that Brie is worthy of better roles, and one can hope that she writes better parts and dialog for herself. Sadly, this was an effort that was not worthy of my time. In a rare occurrence I almost turned this off midway, but decided to stick with it.

Downton Abbey: A New Era: Downton Abbey was very successful and compelling TV series from 2010-2015. It was a modern take on the Upstairs, Downstairs British series from years ago. It is a period piece, set at the turn of the century as the 1900s begin. It follows the Crawley family, in each of its generations. This movie is the second movie since the series completed. The first movie was released back in 2019, to modest success.

All the characters from the movie and original series are back, save Mary’s husband who seems to have disappeared. Much like the first movie when the Queen was to visit the estate, in this installment a movie crew wishes to spend a lot of money to rent the premises for a new movie. The movie is during the transition from silent films to talkies, in the same way that Babylon did. Also like Babylon, the actors who show up to perform have various levels of skills with one having limited speaking skills. The results are fairly predictable. Much of it seems to be an artificial plot device to engage with virtually everyone in the cast, from the butlers to the kitchen staff and the main members of the family. Maggie Smith in the original series was absolutely excellent. She steals her scenes each and every time. Some of the grandchildren from Mary to Edith and others. For me, this was a M’eh. It strings along the story but seems all too predictable. It seems every story has to be forced within a two hour timeline, versus in a series where certain characters aren’t shown for episodes at a time. So for those who just need to see the next installment with some old friends, this can be okay. But it isn’t mandatory viewing by any means. Buyer beware in knowing what you are getting into before it begins.

February 13th, 2023

Babylon: Damien Chazelle has brought forth this star-studded film with much fanfare and Oscar hype to tell a fictional story (loosely based on fact) regarding Hollywood as it transitions in the 1920s from silent films to talkies. Chazelle is known for films such as Whiplash, La La Land and First Man. As the film opens, there is an outrageous party taking place which the Margot Robbie character crashes. Attending would be the superstar actor of the time played by Brad Pitt.

There is a jazz band playing and Margot does her level best to make herself the centre of attention in the hopes of catching someone’s attention, since in her mind she is star material. She is successful as she gets a small part in a western cowboy movie where she steals the scene, set in a tavern. Told in much the same way as Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, the story follows a number of the main characters including the black trumpet player of the jazz band at that party. I mention his race because there is a critical scene for him when he is working in a sound film as he is meant to build on the success of Al Jolson.

This movie is 3 hours and 9 mins long. It should be about two and a half. It becomes overly cumbersome in its own stories. There is a cameo by Tobey McGuire which could have been removed in its entirety. I am thankful that I didn’t watch this in a theatre,and pay good money for it. Is it a big screen film, in the same way that Top Gun Maverick or Avatar is? Absolutely not. The overall theme is the shifting of skills from silent films, where facial expression and physical abilities are paramount, versus in speaking films where the voice and delivering a line becomes the primary skill. So if you had an offensive speaking voice, you could get away with it in silent films. No more. Voice coaches, accents and delivering lines that had to be memorized is crucial. Yet despite this the stories which get recycled from silent films and show these new skills are very popular, just with different stars. Hollywood is a fickle place. One day you are at the top, then someone younger or prettier or eloquent arrives to take your place. Or the local Hollywood reporter picks up stories about you and writes about you to impact the overall perception about you. No matter what the era in Hollywood there will always be the allure of sex,drugs,alcohol, gambling and other vices. That is a constant. It impacts people in different ways, and the consequences are predictable. So is this movie. The stories are not really that unique. Even though these stories aren’t “real” they can be a composite of other people from the time like the Robbie character who has some similar traits as Clara Bow. The Oscar voters also were not impressed by this rather depressing tale. It garnered three nominations for Production Design, Score and Costume Design. No acting nods.

I will admit that I not a real Margot Robbie fan. The Aussie actress seems to play very similar roles as the somewhat wacky woman looks to her sex appeal to make up for a lot of ordinary traits in her. Apparently Emma Stone was considered for the role of Robbie and ended up turning it down. I shudder to think what Stone would have done with this, since she doesn’t have the looks of a Robbie (not in my mind anyway). But Chazelle used her in La La Land and maybe he wanted to continue the relationship. Overall I found this film to be an over indulgence with scenes that were too busy, bombarding the senses visually making it difficult to concentrate. There is too much excess. I am sure that this reflects the reality, but is disturbing as you can see someone self-destructing. I cannot recommend. There were some pretty pictures and scenes but just not worth the time invested.

Pleasure: This is a 2021 movie that I stumbled upon looking at the movies available on Crave. I had never heard of it before, which makes sense because it really isn’t a mainstream film with known actors. In many ways though it mirrors some of the themes in the better hyped Babylon. Much like the Margot Robbie character, Sofia Kappel plays a young Swedish woman, called Bella Cherry, looking to make her mark and become famous. She targets being a porn actress as opposed to mainstream silent films. But the approach is the same.

Bella has ambition and is determined to make something of herself, and will do virtually anything to become known. She takes criticisms and suggestions about her current state to heart and will, to her credit, act on them to move forward towards her goal. She wants to be the top porn actress. What were boundaries which she initially had, wash away in the desire to gain notoriety, followers on social media and becoming popular with those who have the power in that industry. She takes part in scenes that are uncomfortable to watch and I am certain to perform in. If the viewer has any illusions that this industry is about pleasure, the curtains will be pulled to the side and a clear window into it will be shown.

Much like Robbie, she sells her soul for the golden chalice. She had some friends that she lived with, a couple of who had some modest success in the business, she Bella wants more. To that end she will betray those around her to get ahead. Friendship be damned, her singular mission doesn’t have time to stop and be sympathetic. To her credit, Bella is take charge and doesn’t wait for others to create opportunities for her. Robbie the same. They both make things happen, and make the best of circumstances as they present themselves in the moment. For Bella, it can be attending a convention where she is just one of many “talent” on the floor and then making herself front and centre upstaging the better known star. The underlying theme is “be careful what you ask for, you might just get it”. In the same way that Tony Montana in Scarface wanted to be a King of the World, unbridled ambition can leave the soul crumbling, with no one there to be beside you to enjoy it. Despite the uncomfortable scenes, I think Kappel has a magnetism, with a presence on screen. We’ll see what else she can be doing in the future. No matter what the industry, whether main stream films, porn or any other, when one digs deeper into the power and people involved, you can have your eyes opened to the reality of it.

Gladiator 2: Alison shared this news item with me that I wanted to share. The title of course is a little surprising since in the original Gladiator the Russell Crowe character Maximus dies on the floor of the Coliseum, along with Caesar. But apparently, the 85yo Ridley Scott is looking to have a sequel to Gladiator telling the story of young Lucius, who was the son of Lucilla, the daughter of Marcus Aurelius


The Aftersun actor Paul Mescal will play Lucius. The rest of the details are unknown except a release date scheduled for 2024. I am not sure how to feel about this. I like Gladiator, certainly the Hans Zimmer score was excellent, I hated the CGI especially of the Coliseum, but the story and Russell Crowe was really good. The film won Best Film and Best Actor for Crowe in 2001. Ridley Scott is also one of my favourite directors. So we will see what he can come up with. Like Clint Eastwood, he keeps cranking out movies and working. There is apparently no retirement age in Hollywood, and especially directors.

February 6th, 2023

M3GAN: If you are watching social media news, you realize that M3GAN has become a thing these days. People dressing up en masse as the new toy from the movie and parading around public places.

M3GAN is a thriller with unexpected twists and turns, but it isn’t a slasher film like CHUCKY in Child’s Play. CHUCKY was a possesed doll, who then went on a killing spree. M3GAN has more social commentary about the current state of society with a single, female toy executive with no children who ends up with her sister’s child. The toy executive, played by Alison Williams from Get Out, is developing a realistic doll with a thinking microchip that pairs with, and interacts with the child. In this case, her niece. Parents back in the 1970s plopped their kids in front of the TV to allow them some daily freedom, whereas now kids have their phones and gaming to keep them occupied. The niece gets attached to M3GAN, who is a prototype that the Williams character wants to roll out nationally as a campaign.

Although the plot is pretty typical, the social commentary reflects that parents are relying way too much on technology to keep their children occupied. They are spending less time with them. There can be negative consequences to that. And like a Terminator from T2 onwards, M3GAN is there to protect the pair daughter. So this movie, which I thought would be predictable and not engaging, was better than expected. The toy executive needs to re-evaluate her priorities and we as a society need to realize that occupying a child’s mind is more than just handing them a device. It sounds like there is a sequel in the works as this movie had a budget of $12M and has so far grossed $158M.

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street: Speaking of engaging with young children, back in the late 1960s there was a study that spoke about the number of hours that pre-school children were watching TV. Other than sleeping, it was the number one activity for them. The number of hours were even higher for inner city children. Some very astute TV people came up with the idea that if young children are going to watch all this TV, then perhaps they could learn something while doing it. They set about the engage with teachers, psychologists, health professionals to form what they called the Children’s Television Workshop. They would have a variety show with learning as part of the agenda. The masterstroke through all of this was engaging with puppeteer Jim Henson with his muppets. Muppets were not initially for kids, but rather they were on the slapstick comedy circuit.

This fascinating documentary, that is found on Crave for me, outlines the early days and into the more well known show that we know today. It is interesting to hear that the PBS (publicly funded) show was very popular in the north of the US, but that publicly funded stations in the South like Mississippi refused to put it on; there was too much of a mixed cast for their taste. Eventually demand for it overcame the political issues surrounding it. We see Frank Oz and Jim Henson interact as various characters like Bert and Ernie and Grover and Kermit the Frog. We learned about the music and how that was developed brilliantly. This was one of the first truly diverse shows and by simply having a varied cast (and all different colours and furs on monsters too) that a child was learning about acceptance, listening to the quality of a persons perspective and everyone wanting joy and being happy. I was a Sesame Street kid. Still love many of the skits and characters to this day. This show was the first of its kind and many followed thereafter. I hadn’t realized a number of things but a fun fact was that Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are both voiced and acted by the same man! Talk about a split personality. This is worth your time to check out.

Devotion: If you have seen Tog Gun Maverick, you have seen Glen Powell. He was the cocky, arrogant pilot with the new recruits who they called Hangman, because he would leave his fellow pilots hung out to dry. He is spending more time in the cockpit in this movie, set in the Korean War trading F-18 Super Hornets for a Corsair. Playing Tom Hudner, he is friends with the first black carrier aircraft pilot in the Navy, Jesse Brown played by Jonathan Majors.

Majors portrays Brown as a complex and talented man. He was a great, skilled pilot who also had to deal with prejudice in all phases of his training and ongoing status of being a Naval aviators. It makes you wonder how you can trust those who have your life in their hands, like a flagmen on the carrier you are looking to land on, when you know that they resent you and don’t feel that you belong in that aircraft or on that ship. Brown is shown as a loving a devoted husband, who is also a father to a little girl. He wanted very badly to be more fully involved in the Korean War conflict. He was just never given the chance. There are some quality flying sequences filmed, mostly CGI, but effectively done. The story is good and based upon the truth. There are aspects of it that I find rather hard to believe in certain combat situations but one takes those as they come. You care for the characters. You feel for the situation. One wonders how Brown could have been able to get to this position with all the barriers placed before him. He was just that good it seems, and he felt that he was born to fly. Friendship comes in all forms, and you never know who you will meet, and who will enter your life that will have a profound effect on you. I think that this story tells that very well. Worth checking out.

Cunk on Britain: Philomena Cunk is a made up British TV personality played by the brilliant actress Diane Morgan. My first introduction to Morgan was in the Ricky Gervais series After Life. Morgan played one of Ricky’s single co-workers. She is much more engaging in this role which of course is required as she is the host, rather than a supporting player.

Philomena is there to (badly) explain her version of history and historical events to various experts. Netflix has picked up the series On Earth, available now, and you can watch the episodes on Britain and on Christmas, Shakespeare and other things on YouTube. Each episode for me is one laugh after another as she puts her own spin on events with her sensibilities and will periodically throw in randon irrelevant music videos or past TV shows within a particular episode. Maybe you need to have that British dry wit to fully appreciate this, but for me it is just spot on. The looks on the faces of experts to her questions and comments can be priceless. Here below she is commenting on Romeo and Juliet.

I stumbled upon this series rather by mistake, but I am so very happy that I did. Everyone can use a laugh every once in a while. Stand up comedy is a great place for it. Shows like this too which poke fun at more traditional and staid versions of these informational programs are simply a joy to watch.

January 30th, 2023

Oscar nominations were just announced this past week on Tuesday. We learned that there are ten nominees for Best Picture. I, after this week, have seen all the nominees except for Women Talking. There were some notable stubs, as there always are for these awards. James Cameron was not nominated for Best Director. Cameron’s films use cutting edge technology and Avatar in particular was visually stunning. His ability to get these images on screen is quite remarkable. Tom Cruise was not nominated for Top Gun Maverick. Viola Davis was not nominated for Best Actress in Woman King. Everything Everywhere All At Once was nominated for the most awards with 11, and is reviewed by me below. The awards will be on March 12th!

Troll: This was released last year on Netflix. It is a Norwegian/European King Kong really if I had to do a comparison. It was actually decently done and I didn’t hate it. I watched in the original Norwegian with English subtitles. At it’s core, it is a father and daughter story with the surrounding issue of fairy tales and dealing with the unknown. It begins with a father and a young daughter, named Nora, looking at a mountain in Norway. The father implores the daughter that she “must believe” before she can see the images of the trolls in the mountain face. Nora grows and becomes a paleantologist searching for dinosaurs in the Norwegian swamp land, low country. There has been an incident at a nearby mine where they want to put a train, and they need some expert help with what has occurred. The Prime Minister requests someone with Nora’s skills.

Nora is no nonsense and provides straightforward, if unbelievable insight into the situation unfolding. Played by Ine Marie Wilmann she is effective. Part of the research into dealing with the phenomenon is for Nora to go back to her father, who is regarded as mentally challenged with his obsession with fantasy and fairy tales. They are estranged. But he explains more and they venture off together with the military and PM’s office to better understand what is taking place. Each of the actors is effective and believable in their roles. None are mainstream Hollywood, at least North American. Ultimately we see this massive troll, who is a mix between a Lord of the Rings Ent, covered in moss and rock and King Kong with a tail or Godzilla if you will. The troll seems to just get angrier at conventional weapons and the team looks then to the fairy tales about the trolls. The troll seems to be moving towards Oslo, the Capital, and the humans need to figure out what to do. The plot continues. Is this believable? Of course not. But it is escapism with a message. I enjoyed this and if you are wondering what you can watch that isn’t overly violent, and won’t tax your mental capacity too much, you can do worse than looking into this.

Everything Everywhere All At Once: If you want to tax yourself with looking to unravel a movie and its plot, look no further than this Michelle Yeoh, most Oscar nominated film of the year. Where to start? Yeoh plays a married middle aged woman, with a teenage daughter and an older father running a laundromat which is being audited by the IRS. It’s not going so well with the wonderful Jamie Lee Curtis (almost unrecognizable) playing the IRS agent.

What starts as a pretty standard story with the family and its struggles amongst its members, turns into more of an adventure on different existential plains quickly. Not too unsurprisingly, we learn that frumpy, sad, downtrodden Yeoh, is leading a variety of different lives in these different plains that she gets to morph into from time to time. She wears a headset which seems to allow her this power to flip from one to the other, while still continuing in her drab current existence. She is married to Waymond, played by Ke Huy Quan, which older viewers will be interested to hear was the annoying young Asian boy in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Yea, THAT guy!!

Without going too much further into the plot, because to explain it is to suggest that I fully understand it, it contines to tell the story of Yeoh’s character and how she is going to address her situation. I don’t fully understand all of it, and the sets that were brought forward to the viewer. What I will say that it is a very complex way of showing that this woman has issues with her family; all of them. From daughter, to husband, to father, to her IRS auditor, she has challenges with each of them. Some are funny. Some are fun. Some are more touching and others just strange (like a world consisting of people with fingers that are long floppy weiners! (Yea, I KNOW!). What layers get added on to the otherwise bland existence in the present plain include martial arts for which Yeoh has always been known and excellent, but also strange and bizarre. It all adds up to a visually stunning piece with different sets/ plains which are a wonder to someone’s imagination. I think that the acting nominations given here to all principal members of this cast are completely deserved. They each need to embody someone very different than their main character, while still remaining recognizable. They do it believably and with all the campy fun attached to it. Is this the Best Picture? Not sure. It is escapism with a message, certainly a different message than Troll above. I do think that the average movie goer, or my Mom trying to watch at home, wouldn’t have the patience for it. It demands quite a bit from the audience, and many simply don’t want to work that hard for it. We will see, as the Academy can like films like this with examples like Birdman, or The Artist.

Bardo False Chronicle and A Handful of Truths: This was another Best Picture nominee that I noted was already on Netflix. It certainly did not get a lot of fanfare in being listed there. After seeing this and Everything Everywhere, I am now down to only one movie for Best Picture that I haven’t seen which is Women Talking.

Speaking about Birdman, this movie is also from the same Director, Alejandro González Iñárritu. Set in Mexico, the Mexican director has a story that delves more deeply into the history of Mexico and its people, it’s relationship to the US, all through the story of this well-known filmmaker and his family. Daniel Gimenez Cacho, unknown to me, plays Silverio Gacho. He is a Mexican national, who makes films and lives in both Mexico and LA in the US. He has a wife and kids. He is about to get an award for his more recent film. Through all of the cast members we see and explore his experiences with being a Mexican man, who desired to leave Mexico, and who creates some satire/scathing commentary about his homeland. Some of his friends resent him for it. His family finds him focused too much on his work and not with the people who should matter most to him.

I have to admit that much like Everything Everywhere, I didn’t completely follow this plotline. It manages to jump all over the place. It is visually stunning. Some of the set design and production design is just incredible. The time and effort that would have gone in to set up these shots would have been remarkable as seen below.

What I do know is that I don’t know a lot of Mexican history. There is a sequence with a discussion with the explorer Cortez which is remarkable. Remarkable because it speaks to a country that seems to shun the person who “discovered” it, unlike Columbus in the US. Overall this is about this man’s life but deals with dreams and death and being displaced along with who can really claim to be a “native” of anywhere? What is a National? There are some confusing scenes, which seem out of place. There are dream sequences that are dropped in with different effectiveness for me. The final act was quite surprising and amazing to me. I liked this, and I say that hesitantly because I am not sure that I fully understood it. It’s hard to recommend and like what you don’t fully understand. But movies are there to entertain, but also to inform and shed light on things that the audience may not be aware. I think that this movie can do all of those things. Once again, like Everything Everywhere it demands much on its audience. It is more serious and less campy fun, but that doesn’t take away from it. Well worth watching and seeing how it can do for the Oscars.

January 23, 2023

One Pale Blue Eye: Netflix just dropped this movie in the past week or so, starring Christian Bale, who I quite like from a number of his past roles. As an aside about Bale, he seems to be getting the Marbles-in-the-Mouth affliction that has also infected Jeff Bridges long ago. Seems that their tongues are too big for their mouths. Bale has had this growing for a number of years. It can be distracting. But I digress. This movie also has an almost unrecognizable Robert Duvall and the quality of Gillian Anderson.

Set in early 1800s in the American colonies it focuses on a military academy for boys. The Academy’s second-in-command Colonel has ridden out to meet up with the Bale character, a widowed detective living alone after his daughter has left recently. He is enlisted to investigate a cadet who was found hanged on the nearby grounds. This invitation wasn’t an option, but a command. Upon arrival Bale learns that the hanged cadet also had his heart removed in a surgical manner. The plot thickens. It seems to be more of a ritualistic killing. Bale and the Colonel conduct examinations for the young deceased cadet. Enlisted to help is a young, penguin-like looking cadet named Edgar Allan Poe (picture above). Together he and Bale start putting together the clues and arrive at a motive. Then another killing takes place. Things continue at a slow pace, and ultimately there is a conclusion for which I was neither surprised nor interested.

The trouble with this is that there is a terrible waste of talent. It is a very good cast. But the story that they have to work with is weak, and has been done before. Why, for example, does the experienced detective always saddled with a vice (here drink) that is mentioned but is later ignored throughout. Why is Edgar Allan Poe involved in this at all? Why him, instead of any other random cadet? Do we get any insight into this awkward young man, who is an outcast but still a talent with words, notably poetry. In some way it takes away some of the slow building tension that the real Poe lived to be 40 years old. Finally do they manage to get the worst performance of Gillian Anderson’s professional life? I really like Anderson, and have felt that she was the real talent in X-Files. She has gone on to to do some really great work. Notably last season of the Crown she played Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher brilliant, finding sympathy for a complex woman with a hard exterior. Here, oh what a mess with her tyrade at the dinner table which adds little to her character. Add this movie to yet another made during COVID that doesn’t intrigue nor really entertain.

Nope: Jordan Peele’s Nope is a difficult film to pin down. I came into it from just seeing the movie poster and marketing that this was an alien invasion movie. From the perspective it shares some similarities with 2002’s Signs, with Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix (“swing away Merrill”), it definitely is! But it’s also quite different. On a secluded California horse farm is OJ and and his sister Emerald, who recently lost their father in a bizarre accident while he was tending to a horse. The family rents the horses to Hollywood productions. A series of strange events occur which are also reminiscent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with power going in and out, including battery operated cellphones. Lights flash, things get dark and quiet and there is a presence felt. In the distance at times they think they see a ship of some sort. Looking to investigate further, they go to the local Fry’s Electronic Store (Canadians think Best Buy) to set up some cameras to try and film these strange events. They see this as a key to fame and fortune to finally accurately document the existence of UFOs and extra-terrestrials. The young cashier is interested in their story and gets more involved than you might expect.

Together these three try to explore this strange phenomenon. There are some predictable attempts to try and shock while creating tension. It isn’t a scary movie. Nor is it a gross out, which many of these movies can be these days. It has some genuinely funny momentsin which principally OJ voices what everyone in the audience is thinking. At the same time he also acts in ways that I can’t imagine that anyone would where in a barn he takes out his phone for picture rather than run like crazy. Sister played by Keke Palmer is so very annoying in virtually every scene. Maybe that was the point, but her constant distraction takes away from the overall enjoyment. I will say that I think that there are some stunning visuals involved. One which takes place in the neighbouring amusement park provides a fascinating perspective. It informs and shocks at the same time. There are some practical realities which I won’t delve into further because it would be more of a spoiler than is merited. But it’s something that when I pondered it after viewing, it didn’t make a whole helluva sense in dealing with the vastness and vacuum of space. Of all the Jordan Peele movies, I have to admit to liking Black Klansman the most. His Get Out, also starring Daniel Kaluuya, I just didn’t quite understand all the hype that was sent its way. Kaluuya is a presence and has done some very good roles. It had some moments, but it wasn’t what I was expecting and the sci fi aspects were average overall.

George and Tammy: This series on Showtime stars the compelling Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon as the country music icons. It is six episodes long and details the turbulent relationship between the main characters, two people who fate brought together but they just couldn’t overcome the challenges that their careers and their vices brought to them. Jones was a living tornado who reeked trouble everywhere he went. His battles with drugs and alcohol were legendary along with his violent temper. He was an angry drunk. He lashed out, and the narcissist that he was, thought that everything revolved around him. It seemed that the press and those around him, even when he tried to get sober, wanted to see that drunk George and see just what he would do. How much more outrageous he could be! Sad that there weren’t some friends or handlers who could try and steer him away from those temptations. He suffered as a result.

I tried to like this. At every turn it seemed the main characters were making poor choices. George especially was just such an unlikeable man, who despite his obvious love for Tammy Wynette, he just couldn’t imagine doing something for her, or treating her as she deserved. He would profess his love, but then the demons of addiction would settle in and possess him.

This is yet another tale of how fame and fortune cannot make up for the hurt and loss from a person’s life. It can mask it, and one from the outside can think the person “has everything” but in truth they are missing peace and peace of mind. It seems here, like with many of these performers, that the stage was their refuge with everyday life being the daunting challenge. I think that both Chastain and Shannon sang their own songs here, but they aren’t George Jones nor Tammy Wynette. However much they tried. So I cannot recommend this, but certainly if you are fan of country music and wanted to see a little bit about these two interacted, I did learn a few things. Watching this and then something like the Shania Twain documentary, you see how the modern country scene is very different than it was then.