December 2nd, 2019

Netflix Has been busy financing films and putting many directly to streaming.   They stepped up most recently with the latest Martin Scorsese film, The Irishman.   I am not certain whether the reunion between Robert DeNiro, director Scorsese and Joe Pesci in another collaboration (like Raging Bull, Good Fellas and Casino beforehand) is more notable than the use of CGI to make the almost 80 year old actors younger.   The Irishman also has Al Pacino (seen on screen with DeNiro for the first time since 1995’s Heat) and Harvey Keitel.   The impressive cast is brought together to tell the story of Frank Sheeran who was the muscle and hitman for a number of powerful people in the 1950s-1960s, and was heavily involved in the Teamster’s Union Jimmy Hoffa story.   Studios balked at financing this, and Netflix decided to step in.   It had a short release in the theatres (but when you announce a short timeline when it will be streamed, you doom the box office for it).   In short the 3.5 hour time is too long.  It takes too long to develop the early introduced trip to Detroit.   These actors for me look just a little off.  And I say that now, not knowing exactly what it was, but I think it is their gait and how they move versus how their faces look outwardly and their voices.   Early on, a young DeNiro is needing assistance with his ice truck.   The dark hair and lack of lines on his face belie the body posture.   It just doesn’t fit.  DeNiro does an admirable job in the role.   He yet again plays a man without a soul (in 2017 playing Bernie Madoff who watched his family disintegrate with his Ponzi scheme, without any apparent conscience about it).   Sheeran as a person is distant and shows a remarkable lack of conscience all in the name of doing what he is told, and legalities be damned (his lawyer can manage to get him off certain crimes without consequence).   I was waiting while watching to see a Pesci rant.   It came from Pacino instead, who seemingly comes to newfound life as he rants about the people surrounding him and keep doing things that look suspicious for investigating eyes from the Federal Government.   It aggravates a man who is full of pride and feels himself worthy of more respect than some provide him.   It is a downfall according to the story.   I didn’t know a lot about the Hoffa story.   This provides a perspective.   I enjoyed it but it dragged, and it didn’t need to.   Worth checking out and it may yield some Award nominations in the New Year.

The Mandalorian (episode 1) has become the most watched streaming episode of all time at 100 million views surpassing the Netflix Stranger Things.  Although I wasn’t moved by the end of Episode 1, I have continued to watch.   The Jawa fight in episode 2 was a little silly, and the abilities of The Child when dealing with the one-horned dinosaur are skeptical (I am later to learn apparently the Child is already 50 years old).   Episode 3 for me was better as “Mando” grows a conscience and wanting to better understand what was going to happen to The Child.   He becomes an outcast from the Guild where he had been working and their poster child of success.   Episode 4 “dropped” on US Thanksgiving Friday.   A couple new characters are introduced and a new planet that could hold some sanctuary.   The story is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s Blondie or The Stranger in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly or High Plains Drifter.   He is a loner and someone who is a mercenary, but is showing signs of sympathy for those around them.   Again the production value is excellent.  It looks every bit a Star Wars film, but it should for the $100M spent on it.  Bryce Dallas Howard directed this fourth installment.   In this episode the Mandalorian is looking for a safe haven and seeking somewhere for The Child to remain and be raised.   Mando helps out an oppressed and defenseless group all the while making a few new friends.   The ending is predictable as the series moves on.   I still have to wonder how on a planet, one can’t find another place to live!!   I don’t know people in Macedonia and what they are doing.  I couldn’t find one of them by just having been given a name alone, but anyway.   I will continue to watch.  Of course the Disney marketing machine is in full on swing with the latest (and supposedly last) Skywalker trilogy film.  I have to admit that I am not optimistic.

Finally Nextflix released the latest film from Alicia Vikander, and actress who I really like.  She has some impressive roles to her credit including a Best Supporting Actress Oscar from The Danish Girl Earthquake Bird is the latest story but it was not overly compelling.   Vikander does her best to play the young woman living in Tokyo with a mysterious past.  She plays the cello in a quartet, and lives a rather simple life.   One day a complete stranger takes her picture (old school with a SLR (single lens reflex) camera).   She stops immediately and engages with the stranger.  Later she meets an American woman looking for a roommate and someone who speaks Japanese.   Along comes Vikander.   The young American is played by Riley Keough.   Soon enough the three are spending time together.  Undercutting this story is a seeming back story where Vikander is being questioned by police.  It seems there has been a murder, or at the very least a disappearance, and she is brought in for questioning.   It is slow.  It’s not overly engaging, despite the star power.   As part of the story, you unravel the backstory to the Vikander character.   She looks tired for much of the time and this is done on purpose.   The Japanese cast is pretty good, and the young photographer is a good balance of handsome and rogue.   I can’t recommend.

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