January 14th, 2019

This week I went out with youngest son to see the latest Best Animated Film from the Golden Globes, which is Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse.   It defeated Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet.   Now I preface the review with the well-known understanding that I am not a big superhero guy.   I just am not, unless it has Christian Bale acting as Batman.   Beyond that I am not really interested (okay, well maybe still Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, but in truth that has nothing to do with being a super hero).   Both son and I found the story here to be a bit confusing.   In short we have the (laughable) bad guy Kingpin.  Laughable because only in animation could a character be so unbelievably big through the shoulders and body and actually move.   Every time he came on screen I had to chuckle.  So there was that.  But he creates a machine, not really explained, that can create alternate dimensions where his own wife and son could return to him.  As part of this we see a young man with his police father who is bitten by a radioactive spider.   He then becomes another spider-man in addition to the already known Peter Parker.   The stories of the alternate dimension spider-people stand on their own (one voice was particularly interesting) and they do come together.   The animation was very good, incorporating comic book views, as well as visuals that can only be accomplished through animation.   Still.   Maybe it is just me, but the super hero overload, and especially Spider-man who seems to have a re-boot every three to five years, just wears on me.   The wrinkle is that alternate dimensions means anybody could be Spider-man, and even have some unique powers that he currently does not as Peter Parker.   But for me, I only live in one dimension, and that is the Peter Parker dimension.   Yes, I like the added flair with personalizing the individual Spidey look but in the end there isn’t a big emotional connection to the story.   For the Incredibles, I can feel for the family and hope that things go well.   I suppose this young new Spidey I hope for too, but it’s not the same.  And yes it isn’t lost on me that the Incredibles are super heroes too, but again, it’s not the same.

On Netflix they have released Chappaquiddick, starring Jason Clark and Kate Mara, and the dentist from The Hangover.  This is the Teddy Kennedy story and his car accident very late at night with a woman not his wife, off a bridge on an island in Cape Cod.   Its Senator Kennedy in 1969 as Apollo 11 has left to land on the moon, and he is on the island preparing for a potential Presidential bid.   He has gathered up some staffers who worked on brother Bobby’s campaign.   The accident takes place and you see through it all the actions and in-actions of Teddy.   The knee-jerk reaction for most people, I think, would be after the accident and miracle of escaping a car overturned in water, would be to seek help (just a short run up the way) and help the woman with you.   But Senator Kennedy is not most people.   He thinks of himself and his political career.   “There goes the White House” he says.   And after a failed attempt with his friends to assist, and being told to “get help” Teddy doesn’t.   Family patriarch is the aging Joe Kennedy, crumpled and barely able to speak, and he provides no help nor comfort.   He is played by Bruce Dern, and shows a man incapable of compassion nor love for his only remaining son.   It was an eye opening film, and makes you realize the celebrity and power of the family that has many powerful people spin-doctoring their way through a crisis.   You can youtube the actual address to the people with Teddy explaining the incident.   I am amazed at the end result and won’t spoil it here for those who don’t know it.   But suffice it to say that even though the people of Massachusetts decided to forgive and forget, I am not so sure that a man of character such as this should be representing The People.
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Monday January 7th, 2019 (New Years Edition and Golden Globes discussion)

Welcome to 2019!   The movie discourse has already begun with the Golden Globe Awards from last night.   There is clearly some controversy here, but really that is the point.   For me, I was pleasantly surprised to see Glenn Close win for Best Actress in a Drama.  She surprised most who thought Lady Gaga was going to win, including herself I think from her reaction.  I have not seen The Wife but it is on my list.   I won’t revisit the poor categories here and the films that were missed for consideration by the Globes.   Still with the choices they had, they made some surprises elsewhere.   Regina King winning for Best Supporting Actress in If Beale Street Could Talk.  Another film that I need to see.    I had thought one of Supporting women in The Favourite would been victorious.   But it was not to be.   I think that King’s performance merited this award.
Rami Malek as rock icon Freddie Mercury was the reason to see that film.  Was it the best performance for an actor in the year?   Not from what I have seen.   And many others that I have not seen.   Despite the value here, I can say without any hesitation that Bohemian Rhapsody was not the best dramatic film of the year.   It simply isn’t.   There are better stories.   Better writing.  Better everything.  A watered down version of the life of Freddie Mercury through the eyes of the surviving members of the band (who now race to head out on tour to capitalize on this new momentum).   Call yourself Queen.  Sing the words.  But the music died with Freddie.   Cristian Bale and Olivia Colman winning were solid victories.   I need to see Vice.   Not sure just how good it is.  American politics played out by actors for living people left.  So the awards are given.   Sandra Oh and Andy Sandburg were not funny and the bits they tried to use for laughs didn’t work, like trying to give flu shots to the stars.   The look of Willem Dafoe as they tried to roll up his sleeve was priceless.   Sharing needles likely is not really something to be encouraged by the media.   I really liked the Carol Burnett Award, and her speech as its first justified recipient.   She made good points about how television has changed since her days with Tim Conway, Harvey Korman and Vicki Lawrence.   She is a class act, and deserves to have others in television be recognized for their contribution to the medium.    Anyway, a strange night with strange nominees for categories that didn’t really match what was on screen.  Let’s see what Oscar chooses to do and I will remain hopeful it makes better choices all around.

For my movie I will review Tag, which was a panned and moronic film inspired by a true story.    Seems some friends (10) play a game of Tag with one another as adults and have been since being kids.   The film has Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Isla Fisher (who I really like) and the dentist from The Hangover.   Not a bad cast.   But the film goes horribly wrong by the methods employed by the Renner character to avoid getting tagged.   And there are extreme actions taken to get help on finding a character – for example, threatening waterboarding and actually tying up the person and putting a cloth over their face.   Then there is a faked pregnancy and miscarriage which is in very bad taste.  They go too far for a film concept that doesn’t merit a full length feature with the stars involved.  Needless to say I can not recommend and I wouldn’t waste your time with it.

Finally a quick thought or two about Paddington which is on Netflix.  It is a real life version with a Ted-like bear (however nowhere near as vulgar (and fun) as Ted).   The story follows what I can remember as a kid about the young bear who loves marmalade and gets into trouble just by carelessness mostly.   He has a family that takes him in from the train station.  Dad is the Dad from Downton Abbey, and his Wife is the deaf lady cleaner from Shape of Water.   It is harmless.  It is decent.   It isn’t particularly memorable as saw it and forgot almost just as quickly.

December 31st, 2018 (New Year’s Eve edition)

As I entered into the last week of 2018, I was fortunate enough to be able to see one of my favourite movies of all time on the big screen once again;  Jaws!   I had the added bonus of sharing the experience with my youngest son (14yo) who had only ever seen this film with me on the small screen at home.   He was introduced to seeing this with a live audience and with huge sound and screen, the way it was originally intended.   It was a late showing (9:45PM) but still an almost full theatre with people who collectively hadn’t all seen (or possibly remembered) the scary parts because there were audible gasps and jumps at some parts.   How refreshing!    This is a classic story for me, told in two parts.   The first part is establishing our new police chief in small island town (Amity) Roy Scheider and his family (wife and two boys).   This tourist town prepares for the summer high season and when a shark stakes a claim off its shores and injures some bathers and the town politics enters into it (the scene with Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) trying to talk about the shark tooth to the town mayor (Murray Hamilton) in front of the town billboard is priceless).   The stronger half for me is the adventure on the ocean as three men go out to find and kill this great white shark.  They are lead by Quint (Robert Shaw) who is a survivor of the USS Indianapolis, and has taken his life’s work to avenge the deaths of fellow sailors from that ill fated ship in WWII in the Pacific.  Quint, Hooper and the Chief have a terrific chemistry.    The music adds so very much to the tension and the story.  John Williams is brilliant in adding to the sense of where the shark is (and isn’t) along with the chase scenes.   In big sound, it takes on added importance.

Even after dozens of viewings, this movie still holds new things for me to see, or at least view them differently.   For me this viewing showed me more of the deep seeded impact on Quint of his war years and the ship sinking.   He takes it to a manic stage through his actions with the radio on the boat as well as driving the boat in such a way as to ensure that it is inoperable.   All of this taking place with full protest by his captive ship mates, Brody and Hooper.  He’s a colourful character and delivers the most memorable lines in the film from a Steven Spielberg perspective (USS Indianapolis speech, which Shaw himself helped to craft).   I also had not remembered the very end scene with Chief saying out loud “show me the tank”.   Finally, this was a very clear and bright print of the film, and the opening beach scenes have always been darker and hard to see more clearly.   This print allowed the viewer to see Crissy and the young man more clearly as they ran the beach to go swimming.    Adam liked seeing the two live shooting stars that are in the film too.   This is a movie that ushered in the summer blockbuster age, and I left feeling charged and excited for both me and my young son.   He finally saw one of my favourites as it was meant to be seen.   Jaws is on the big screen at TIFF Lightbox Wed Jan 2.

On Netflix, I saw the new film from Sandra Bullock Bird Box.  It has an impressive cast, adding in John Malkovich, Tom Hollander, Sarah Paulson, and Jacki Weaver.   This is a suspense-thriller in the same genre as A Quiet Place.   In fact, I feel as though without the success of A Quiet Place, that this project doesn’t get green lighted.   The structure is basically the same, but this time people around the world are seeing something and then going crazy or having mass suicides.   It begins in Russia and Europe and is reported in the US where Bullock plays an artistic woman who is pregnant.  The father has absconded and she is not really very enthusiastic about having a child.   She through flashbacks is seen before the incidents as the creatures (unseen in any meaningful way as opposed to A Quiet Place) enters and force people indoors and avoid seeing the outside world.   Things happen, both expected and unexpected.   Bullock goes on a perilous journey which is the opening scene in the film as she heads down a river in a metal rowboat, but without the ability to see where she is going.   There is a level of disbelief that one has to have here, and some aspects just didn’t make much sense.   If you want to see a suspense-thriller set with an invading species, the better movie to me remains A Quiet Place.    Still there was some interesting scenes here with some good supporting roles.

A quick word while on the topic of horror about the Canadian A Christmas Horror Story from 2015.   This stars William Shatner, as a radio personality who is broadcasting on Christmas Eve in this small town.   Strange things are happening and there are scenes with a family going on a road trip, and another group of teens looking to explore a recent killing of fellow students at a school.    Then there is the scenes of Santa Claus himself looking to deal with elves who have turned in a tragic way.   This is not classic cinema, but it held my attention.   I think that the genre of the Christmas themed horror movie could be explored much more deeply.   The Krampus character is introducing something I have not ever heard about before.   But once again it is interesting.   If it pops up the small screen somewhere, it might be worth a little light-hearted fun.

Turning the page on 2018, I look forward to Awards season and there are more films I want to see in the theatre.   It was a good year for film, although maybe not as strong as 2017.   Wishing one and all a very prosperous and fun 2019 with plenty of good movies.

December 24th, 2018 (Christmas Eve edition)

I started Adrift and having completed it, here is my review.   I was intrigued by the film and the premise given that it was a true story.   Shailene Woodley has returned, and also produced this film.   The story has been told before, notably recently with Robert Redford in All is Lost.   The difference in this film is the love story that begins it.   The film moves around in timeline starting with the opening of Shailene in the hull of the yacht that has been through a horrifying storm in the Pacific.   Flashback then occurs to see Shailene arrive in Tahiti and make a Customs declaration that shows a woman just drifting through life as it comes to her.   She meets Richard (Sam Claflin) an older more seasoned sailor who owns his own boat, and they have a whirlwind romance.   Off they sail long distance from Tahiti towards San Diego (her hometown) at the behest of an English  couple who owns a large boat and wants it taken back there.   They have known Richard from before.    He asks Shailene to join him in the crossing.   The rest is fairly predictable and shows the beauty and perils of life on the ocean.   It is a story of resilience and survival and using your wits and instincts to get through an unimaginable ordeal.   This is Woodley’s film and she carries it well.   I liked the performance, and see that much of it was filmed on the open ocean (and not in controlled sets and environments.    This makes the challenge and continuity more difficult getting this film created.   In the end, it is worth a viewing.

It’s Christmas Eve, and I have already reviewed the new Grinch film, but every year I watch my favourite Christmas film, and that’s A Christmas Story.  This classic film is set in “Indiana” although the house is located in Cleveland.

The movie, which I may wrongfully assume everyone has seen, focuses on Ralphie Parker and his life with his family; Mom (Milinda Dillon – Close Encounters), Darren McGavin (Night Stalker) and little brother Randy.    Ralphie is played by Peter Billingsley and he with the voiceover of the story’s author (Jean Shepard) capture the life and times of a young boy in the 40s.   There is no TV, just radio.   Ralphie’s greatest desire for Christmas is the official Red Rider multiple shot BB gun.   His Mother and Teacher have put obstacles in his path to success by proclaiming “you’ll shoot your eye out!”.   The story progresses from one scene to another of the family getting through until Christmas.   From buying the tree, shopping, attending school and dressing for school to dealing with the school bullies.   It has many memorable scenes and Darren McGavin is excellent as the Dad.   From his battles with the furnace, to the neighbor’s dogs.   He is priceless.   Much like Shawshank Redemption, this movie gained momentum and viewers on the small screen.   Released in 1983, it was not a great success, but later TBS made it a staple and people began to watch and appreciate.   It remains a classic for me, and scenes make me laugh each and every time.    It prepares me for the holidays and ushers in the Christmas season.

Finally I rented Rampage for laughs just to see what they have done, and the creatures that they have created.   Well suffice it to say that I am glad that I didn’t spend money to go see this.  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays an ex-military guy who eventually waged war on poachers and then became an expert with apes.    He helped raise an albino gorilla that was not killed by poachers that he rescued.  The ape is able to sign and communicate with Johnson.   Cue the corporate bad guys who are working to use CRISPR to militarize DNA editing (splicing).   They are creating super-animals that can be controlled and used for whatever reason.   Only the experiment goes wrong and a wolf, alligator and the white gorilla ar all infected and grow and become more aggressive.   They are very tough to kill, as they move towards Chicago for a reason that is muddled at best.  But there is the storyline.   There are some decent effects, but nothing ground-breaking.   The animals themselves with the genetic modifications are scary – and do things like crawl up large skyscrapers vertically that are just too much to believe.   So see this at your own discretion and peril.   There are better ways to spend your hard-earned movie dollar!

Merry Christmas to one and all, with a day filled with friends, family, laughter and smiles.   Hope those good feelings extend into the New Year for a marvelous 2019!   Hopefully a trip to the movie theatre will bring you a movie to remember and talk about and reflect upon positively.   TIFF Lightbox in Toronto is having a Steven Spielberg festival with many of his films, including Jaws, ET, Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Munich, Amistad and others.   I hope to catch a few myself.   On the big screen is where these movies belong.    Cheers!!

December 18th, 2018 – One day delayed

This is being written today, a Tuesday, but I have a good excuse, and that was I hadn’t seen a movie to write about until last night on a flight.   Now flights are not the best places to see films and mostly because most airlines are editing the films for content.   Heaven knows if you will sit next to a 6yo and they don’t need to see breasts on the screen!   So I give credit to American Airlines yesterday who make it plain that they do NOT edit the films, they are shown as shown in the theatres.   Good on them.   With that note, I was able to catch one and a half films.

Alison had sent to me the following blog list of Best Films as listed by Toronto critics.

https://www.blogto.com/film/2018/12/toronto-film-critics-best-movies-2018/

I noted on this list both The Favourite, reviewed here just recently but also First Reformed and Burning (also reviewed – https://wordpress.com/post/mondayswithrobbie.com/567).  So with that background I decided to watch First Reformed.

A reverand (played by Ethan Hawke) is the head of a small church in upper New York State which has been in existence since 1700s.  They are coming up to their 250th anniversary and there is a celebration being planned.   His parish is small and dwindling.  There is a corporate sponsored larger modern church nearby which watches over this smaller church.   The father has had some challenges in his life.   He is asked to counsel the husband of one of his more consistent parishioners.   Questions are asked which don’t have simple answers like:  “Can God forgive us to what we have done to his creation?”  ‘Can we be forgiven?”   There is further discussion about despair and hope.   Ultimately this is what I consider to be the main theme of the film.   Things unfold, and a degree of tension steadily grows.   The performance by Hawke drives this film ever forward.   He is very good.   You can see the anguish on the face of Hawke, who steadily keeps his tumultuous emotions to himself.   There are moments I will not spoil.   I will say that when the credits rolled, I paused and thought back to what I viewed and then felt it was appropriate.   I had (after seeing the trailer/preview) texted to Alison that I felt I knew what the good reverand was going to do.   I think it is fair to say that I wasn’t entirely wrong.    But then again, I wasn’t right either.   I am glad to have seen this.

I started to watch Adift with Shailene Woodley, and Sam Claflin, but this is Woodley’s picture.   I am glad to see her once again since it seemed she hasn’t worked in quite some time.   Ever since the whole Divergent debacle, where someone sold her a bill of goods on it being The Hunger Games, she has laid low.    But I like her, and think she is good here.   I have not completed the film (I got halfway through) but I have it on rent and will complete in the next day or so.    I look forward to finishing it and completing this review.

 

December 10th, 2018

In a recent conversation I had, I was told that women’s relationships are far more complex than those of men.  Having seen the new film The Favourite about UK’s Queen Anne in the early 18th century, and her entourage I can believe this.  The movie explores principally three female characters and their interactions.  All three performances have been nominated for Golden Globes.   Two supporting roles for Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, and one for Actress for the excellent Olivia Colman.  Colman is the new Queen Elizabeth in The Crown for Season 3, she has also done plenty of TV and some smaller parts (The Lobster and Iron Lady).  Here she plays Queen Anne who was as pictured an unpredictable and unstable leader.  Her most trusted consort (Weisz) is the wife of a general, but manipulates and directs the sails of the Queen through her physical and emotional connection to her.   Weisz enjoys a place of privilege and is the real power behind the Queen.   Along comes Weisz’s cousin (Stone) who was disgraced when her husband was caught doing bad things and her station has been relegated to commoner.   She has other ambitions for herself as she reconnects with her cousin and sees the position of power that she wields.    The rest unfolds beautifully as the drama and the intrigue builds between the two ladies of court and they struggle and battle to keep their positions of power.   All the while the Queen relishes all this newfound attention while she physically deteriorates.   Colman is excellent in this regard.  The film really shows and explores the dangers of having a rogue element at the top of a country directing where things will go.   The real power lies unsteadily in the hands of various people with their own agendas.   It further shows how corrupt and poor behaviour of the trusted servants can be rewarded as the leader can be swayed on a regular basis.   The parallels to today’s political climate are not lost on the audience.  This film was really good, and it has been nominated for Best Film as well.   It has funny moments, it has disturbing moments and there are three fine performances.

One further comment about the moviegoing experience.  I will state that I prefer the theatre experience to that of seeing films on my own at home.  Despite having a really good quality TV and sound system, the audience can add to the enjoyment as there can be collective laughs and shared enjoyment.   Here the film was disrupted by a buffoon who sat in the row beside me, and managed to bring in a 6-pack of beer all the while laughing outrageously loud at times when things just weren’t that funny.   It detracted from the film and robbed me of the quiet at times that was welcome.   I do not understand those who somehow believe they are still in their living rooms and feel as though the theatre is an extension of it.    Do what you want, and act as you will in the comfort of your own home, but when you are in a crowded theatre, then tone it down and be more appropriate and sympathetic to those around you.   This was similar to the Crazy Rich Asians experience I had.   Ugh!!  “It’s really snowing outside!”
A comment too about the Golden Globes, for the nominations were made this past week.  I was pleased by some nominations, surprised by others and disturbed by the snubs.   My biggest issue was the snub of Widows and more importantly the lack of a nomination for Viola Davis.   My post earlier this month explained my love for this performance and I am genuinely surprised how she was not nominated.   This is a fine film, and I don’t understand the snub across the board.   The other snub was for A Quiet Place, which also was a really good film and was a box office success story.   No performances acknowledged.   The only nomination for (blink) Best Original Score.   Weird.   On the other side I am not sure of the love for Bohemian Rhapsody.   Rami Malek was the reason to see this film, but it doesn’t go beyond that for me.   Others have disagreed with my interpretation, and that is what movie and art is for.  So I am surprised.   Clearly Vice with Christian Bale in his Musical or Comedic performance should be seen, and apparently so too should be Mary Poppins Returns.   We will see about that, even though I am a big Emily Blunt fan.   She should have been nominated for A Quiet Place, so maybe two nominations, but can two different Mary Poppins win awards?   Julie Andrews won the Oscar for Mary Poppins.   Green Book is on my list of films to see as it won People’s Choice Award at TIFF already.    For me the classifications of films are surprising, as in A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody could easily be called Musicals, and The Favourite and The Vice should be considered Dramas.   I am genuinely pleased for Lady Gaga, I am not impacted by Bradley Cooper and surprised at snub for Sam Elliott.  So let the debating begin!!

Wednesday December 5th, 2018 – Burned

Well I realized when I posted today about First Reformed that I didn’t write about Burning, which I had seen at TIFF Lightbox on December 5th.   I was caught up in writing about Intouchables (older film) than writing about what I saw in the theatre.   Maybe that says a little something about Burning and how it may not have impacted me very much.    I think, to the contrary, that I had written, or began writing, and thinking about Burning for so long long that I had thought I had already posted the review.    Alas, I had not.   So without further background, here is the review.

I had heard good things from Cannes and other film festivals about Burning.   I went to see this, and I also have Shoplifters on my list to see which Won the Palme D’Or at Cannes this past year.   Burning is the story of a young South Korean man who by happenstance meets up with a female childhood friend of his.  He is smitten and looks to spend more time with her.   She heads off and out of town and when she returns she is accompanied by another young South Korean, only this guy has more outward signs of visible wealth.   He drives a Porsche.   He has a fabulous house.    He throws fancy parties and cooks fancy meals.    The young protagonist feels a little suspect about this guy, as he keeps on showing up.   Things happen and tension grows from there.   Our young man has returned to the countryside to work on a family farm, such as it is.   There his suspicions grow and he tries to piece together a puzzle that has been put before him, but for which he never would have wanted.   The supporting actor who plays the rich acquaintance of his female friend does an excellent job of portraying his character.   There is Teflon protective glass it seems around him and his struts around like royalty around various servants (not so unlike the Queen in The Favourite).   See how he talks about what his plans are for a location not far from where our protagonist lives.  How he seems infallible and unstoppable.  Overall, there are some genuine scenes of suspense as the viewer wonders how all of this will unfold.    I note that this film was reviewed positively in the blog from December 18.   I would agree that this film was worth seeing and I was glad that I saw it.