September 28th, 2020

Capone: Crave is showing the Tom Hardy movie Capone. The story chronicles the final year in the life of the notorious Chicago gangster from the 1930s. He, as we know, was imprisoned for tax evasion which Hollywood showed in the film The Untouchables. Robert De Niro played Capone there. Capone was imprisoned at age 33. Now in this film he has been released to a mansion down in Florida. For someone who was hit with tax evasion charges, he still lives in a palace. This is changing because with no income, he is struggling and looking to auction off some of his various statues and assets on this property to keep it. I say “he” but that really is a stretch since he, at the age of 48 is suffering from dementia and the effects of syphilis, and not really very coherent. He smokes a cigar incessantly while shuffling around in pajamas and rambling a combination of English and Italian profanities. He is suspicious of those around him, even those closest to him. Tom Hardy playing him LOOKS with all the makeup to be in his late 60s or 70s, and learning that he was late forties makes me pause. He looked terrible and sounded even more so. The story is slow, and there were two paths that it took; one story about a potential $10M hidden away somewhere, for which he can’t remember and the communication with an estranged adult son. And though there are some (unintended I think) comic relief moments, like moving Capone away from cigars, in the end it seemed odd to show this very normal aspect of this well-known person’s unusual life. Capone lived more interesting days, these weren’t any of them. So it became almost as entertaining as the vault of his that Geraldo spent hours trying to find and open on live TV. With the cast involved with this project, it was a shame that there wasn’t better material to focus on.

Robert The Bruce: This new release is starring Angus Macfadyen, the same person who portrayed the role in the Mel Gibson’s 1995 Best Picture winning story about William Wallace. Macfadyen also produced this new film and helped write the screenplay. Clearly he was looking to relive the glory days of his past. It’s sad though on the choice of years that he has chosen for his famous Scottish King. At the end of Braveheart, it was a footnote that Robert the Bruce united the clans and won Scotland her freedom. This isn’t that story. Instead, we have an Unforgiven-like story of an older soldier/warrior who is uncertain about his place and looks to find a way to quietly disappear. It is explained that after Wallace’s death, Robert took arms against England initially and failed at turn after turn. It was at this moment, Robert has his moment of doubt, disbands his small group of followers and heads out alone. He ends up injured and found by a woman and three young people. They take in the King and nurse him back to health in an isolated farm house. The woman’s husband died fighting with Wallace. Two of the young people had their father die too. This describes the first 90 minutes of this slow-moving story. In the end, like Capone, Robert the Bruce lived a storied life for which movies are produced. This particular set of years for him, even if true, are not the most interesting part of his life. In fact it is a footnote, and I would have rather seen the time AFTER this movie takes place, with him uniting the clans and defeating the English to gain Scottish independence. That would be a much better movie.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (2018): I was encouraged to watch the sequel to the original Mamma Mia from 2008. Firstly, it has been 12 years since Mamma Mia – wow! The original was based on the Abba songs, of course, but also the stage play which I have seen on both NYC and Toronto. It was a fun musical, and the signature moment in it, for me, is the song “The Winner Takes It All”. In the movie, Meryl Streep stars as Donna, who has a daughter, with potentially three fathers. Donna has a place in Greece that she is fixing up. Her two friends assist. The three men are played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard. All three accomplished actors in their own right, including an Oscar for Firth (The King’s Speech). The cast has reunited to address the continuing story of the hotel in Greece. Daughter Sophie is looking to renovate and re-open the hotel after the passing of her Mom. Yes, the Meryl Streep character has passed away. Much of this movie goes back into the past with young Donna (played by Lily James) after her graduation from university and finding this place, along with introducing these three young men. The Abba songs are mixed throughout with mixed success. For me, not knowing the Abba catalog intimately, I felt as though the well known “hits” were in the first movie. So this was the “B-sides” as it were. In truth, as I noted during my viewing of the movie, that there were quite a few well known songs like “Waterloo” or “Knowing Me, Knowing You” or “SOS”. Some were repeats like “Dancing Queen” and “Mamma Mia”. Still there were others which were unknown to me, and for a reason. For whatever reason, they decided to let Brosnan sing again! Ugh! He was terrible in the original, and follows up with an equally dull rendition here. They also had notoriously hardened character Skarsgard crying/weeping. It was unusual and not typical, nor overly believable. This should be taken as intended I suppose; mind candy or some time away from everyday life. The scenes of Greece are amazing, those filmed there anyway. It can be a good travel log. Some of the songs are known and familiar. My main challenge revolves around the storyline with all the stories seemingly coming to their happy conclusion. The Andy Garcia story just seems a little too convenient. I find Lily James not really a good younger version of Meryl, and I find her a little over-the-top with her mannerisms and lip synching. It’s all just a little too “up”. Anyway, in the end, if you are an Abba fan and want to see more of their music set in Greece then this could be a sequel for you. If you want to know more about Donna and her hotel, and the parallels between her life and Sophie’s it is also something to view. For the actors, I see why these Oscar winning talents want to take part – because they get paid to spend time in Greece! Not a bad gig!! I won’t spoil the ending of this film, and leave it to those that are curious.

September 21, 2020

TIFF has completed for this rather strange year with limited films, but more accessible viewing. The list of of award recipients is here:

I have to admit to being surprised that Nomadland won the People’s Choice Award. Previous winners often go on to obtain Golden Globe and Oscar consideration. For me as I had indicated in my review last week, I found this slow and didn’t see a significant journey for the McDormand character to travel, certainly emotionally rather than physically in her case. She seems to finish the way that she has started. Maybe that was the point. But for me, I would like to think that even the disenfranchised are able to connect with other people and feel something. In the end, there were not as many movies to choose from and I really wonder whether 2020 should have an Oscar asterisk (like the Homerun asterisk for Roger Maris) to indicate a significantly smaller field of choices. But the choices have been made and I expect that if there are awards to be handed out, a number of the films highlighted will be a part of them.

On Crave there is the HBO series entitled Love Fraud. It is a four-part series that looks to uncover the activities of one Richard Scott Smith, who goes by the various names of Mickey, Scott or Richard. Smith is a convenient last name because he is able to blend in with the crowds. He is a polygamist, married 11 times, twice to two women at the same time and leaves a trail of destruction behind him. He takes money and preys upon women when they are vulnerable with grandiose stories of exotic locations, business opportunities, fancy cars and boats. His typical process starts with dating apps and moves into karaoke bars engage with these women. The series begins with a couple women scorned who engage the services of a bail bonds-person, in this case a woman. Richard has outstanding warrants for his arrest in two states. The stories of these women, and his continuing activities are the focus. I was astounded at the lack of ability for those involved to seemingly take any action. It is a cautionary tale for those who date, especially using apps where the person on the other side is largely unknown. Rather than have someone lie to you about their age, weight or size, this is exponentially more sinister than that. It also speaks to a legal system overwhelmed with cases, and there is simply no time to chase after a character like this. Once he marries these women (often in record time) then he proceeds to look to his economic motives, and can turn into a controlling and abusive person. The fourth episode by far is the most compelling of them all. I won’t give away what occurs but it is a fascinating perspective on what had transpired and how different people can view the underlying facts and circumstances over time. Throughout this I was cheering for someone to success against this guy and I had absolutely zero empathy for him at all.

This weekend I also revisited a couple old friends The Adjustment Bureau and Adrift. Both of which I enjoyed once again. I maintain that the opening sequence of Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in the hotel bathroom is one of the best examples of on screen chemistry that I have seen. Adrift was revisited to see the scenery and the nice yachts. Some of us live and work in cubicles, others take different approaches as to how to spend their time on this earth. Some of us then have an opportunity to experience what sailing through a hurricane in the middle of the Pacific Ocean would be like and floating for 41 days.

September 14th, 2020

Nomadland: TIFF 2020, such as it is, began on Thursday. There is a live component where they are showing about 50 films, rather than the traditional 300+, and they have fewer venues (a couple of drive-ins and TIFF Lightbox) and an online component. Bell has set up a digital theatre (sadly only for Canadian viewers it would seem) to stream some of the available films. For the cost of a ticket during TIFF normally ($26), I was able to stream at home the latest film of Frances McDormand entitled Nomadland. McDormand has won the Oscar twice before (once for Fargo, and the other Three Billboards…). Both of those performances are excellent. She is also producing this latest story. In it, she plays a woman in her sixties from a small mining town in Nevada in 2011 named Empire. Empire’s sheetrock plant was closed and the town, according to the movie’s open lines didn’t even have a zipcode any longer. Fern was married, but her husband passed and she is one of the last to leave Empire. She has very little and has packed up what she had from a storage locker facility into a panel van. She is living out of the panel van, and moving from job to job and place to place. The story is slow. I had half expected there to be a challenging moment, which would force some decision to be made (likely health- and safety-related) for Fern. It doesn’t really materialize. Instead you have scenes of her mingling with various people she meets along the way. Nomads, by definition, are loners generally. So groups of loners meet from time to time in various places and take up random, temporary work where they can find it. The western economy philosophy is explored about the almighty dollar with perspectives of those chained to desks, doing jobs that they don’t like, and trying to pay for things that they don’t need. This is a story of the disenfranchised. The free market has left them behind, and they likely don’t vote or can’t vote given that they have no fixed address. Do they even care? I am not sure that this is an Oscar-worthy performance, but then again, I am not sure that even having awards for 2020 makes much sense. How many films will be new and released? How many will people actually see? In an unusual year, I don’t foresee that this movie will take the honours for Frances. Without a doubt she carries this movie, but for me, it didn’t really have a lot to say. 

Knives Out: I managed to see this murder-mystery caper last week with a very good cast, including Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, and others. It was well-done and fun. It is ultimately more complicated than I had anticipated, so you have to pay close attention. Things are not as straight-forward as they at first appear. It will keep you guessing all the way until the ultimate conclusion. Christopher Plummer plays a family patriarch who is a successful murder-mystery writer. He has a family not that altogether different than the dysfunctional family seen in Succession; that is, hangers-on and screw-ups who are waiting in various degrees of patience for the old man to pass away. The setting is a gorgeous mansion in the country. Someone dies, many have legitimate motives, and fingers are pointed. Craig plays a Kentucky-based detective who was hired to oversee the whole sordid affair. This is a throwback to Agatha Christie novels with a good cast. This was worthy to check out and some fun.

Les Miserables (2019): This is NOT the movie where Russell Crowe tries to sing, and does about as good a job as Pierce Brosnan did in Mamma Mia. It is NOT the musical set to film about the French revolution. It is an Oscar-nominated film for Best Foreign Film from last year. I love Paris, it is my favourite city in the world. The history, the architecture, the museums, the wine, the cheese, and of course, the baguettes. When I wander around Paris, I can feel the history in those cobblestones. What I don’t think about while standing in line at Notre Dame or sitting on the hills near Sacre Coeur is that this is a modern city as well, with over 12 million people. Like any big city, it also has its challenges. 

This movie explores a young police officer joining an Anti-Crime Brigade in an urban part of Paris that tourists won’t be visiting anytime soon. He is a relatively new cop, and joins an existing team of two. The head white guy is introduced and almost immediately puts the rookie down with a label that is meant to make him understand who is in charge. The other colleague is a black man who has been with the other guy for quite some time. Together they drive around the neighborhood in a way reminiscent of Training Day with Denzel Washington. 

The similarities are evident, with the street smart leader in the car who takes liberties with his power and muscles his way around showing how to work the streets. There are competing factions at work, like the gypsies who are in town with a circus, and demand the return of one of their animals. The gypsies accuse one of the local black boys, who has a leadership voice of a gang leader in a soccer jersey. He hates the cops and their ways. There is a stand-off, and the cops enter the fray to try and find this circus animal and keep an uneasy peace. Things happen. The cops act like many cops these days in positions of power, and an already tense situation grows more complicated. The connection between the cops fractures somewhat too. 

The underlying theme, which ties in with the Victor Hugo title, is one of “you reap what you sow”. That was true during the French Revolution, and it remains true today. If you beat down, belittle, take advantage of, and otherwise look to assert your superiority to another, you may find out that they don’t necessarily agree with you. There may be unintended consequences. I do think that the director was effective in the story when he showed the three partners back in their home situations. It shows more of the picture of who they are, with some being surprising and others not as much. In truth we don’t know anyone and their full story unless they tell us or we find out. This insight wouldn’t be readily apparent otherwise. This was a good movie, especially in the current climate post-George Floyd and other recent examples of police brutality. This is not an easy job, but there are ways to go about it that are more fair, reflect the values of the society, and will hopefully lead to better consequences. There are of course much larger societal and political aspects at play, like social services, engaging the disenfranchised, and even higher level still providing a livable wage and more fair distribution of the wealth within a society (whether that is the more socialist-leaning French, or we in North America). The story is no less relevant for those of us on the west side of the Atlantic Ocean.

September 7th, 2020 (Labour Day)

Friday night was a Disney + evening, catching up on some older movies. One I had seen and the other I had not. I also wanted to check out what was the investment to see the streaming of the Live Action Mulan, just been released. Turns out that Disney “Premier” is a $39.99 added on that I am simply not prepared to pay. This would be for a movie that I wouldn’t have paid to see in the movie theatre. Why pay more than that for home viewing?? I haven’t even seen the original animated film from Disney. So pass. Apparently it will be released for all Disney + viewers in December. So, I likely can wait for that long.

Pixar’s Up is the 2009 delightful animated film that won Best Animated Film deservedly. It was also nominated for Best Film. Quite an achievement. It is a non-traditional storyline, where a 78yo man is the protagonist, and he has a young asian scout along for the fun and some other characters. The early parts introduce us to the very quiet Carl, and his chance meeting with Ellie who are both young fans of the adventurer Charles Muntz. Shortly after the introduction there is about an 8 minute sequence of scenes with no spoken words but just music accompaniment that shows the relationship between Carl and his now Wife Ellie. It is touching. One of the best sequences of any film I can recall. It packs some emotional clout that cartoons aren’t supposed to convey, but Pixar seems to be able to harness with ease. Carl and the young Russell set on an adventure together and they meet up with some characters to challenge and define them. They learn a few things along the way, and move into new territory. This is of course worth seeking out. I cannot recommend this more highly. Hard to imagine this was released 11 years ago already. It adds another quality film to the Pixar library.

A year later in 2010, Disney released the live action version of Alice in Wonderland, helmed by Tim Burton and his usual cast of actors he likes to work with like Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, among others. Those who are Potter-ites will see many a familiar face with the rest of the mainly UK based cast. I have to admit not to ever having seen the original animated film. I had never heard very good things about it. Walt Disney’s early animation work was the best for him before he turned his attention to theme parks. Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia were all part of their heyday. This movie I found too long. I also found that there were too many Lord of the Rings like battles that were unnecessary. Not just unnecessary but distracting to an overall theme. Is there really this epic battle between chess pieces and playing cards in the battle between the White Queen and her sister the bulbous-headed Red Queen? I incidentally would bet on the chess pieces every time. But nevermind. Depp plays the Mad Hatter and I see similarities with his character and the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. At least that is what they seem to be getting at. Other elements like Game of Thrones (and I do recognize that GOT likely borrowed the sequences rather than the other way around) but the GOT did it better. It was overly long, it did not capture my interest and I didn’t really say that I cared about what happened to Alice. I do think that the source material likely contributes to this, but still. Yes it has the Burton touch of heavy make up on characters who are more like caricatures than human-like. I cannot recommend.

August 31, 2020

Tenet:  FINALLY!  For the first time since March, I was able to attend a movie in the theatre this past week.  This is as much news as anything, and the surroundings were just as notable.   I went to a theatre in the northern part of the city on Yonge street, and the theatre was virtually empty.  See the picture below:

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I wanted to see this Nolan movie in an IMAX theatre.   The process to purchase was that the seats were all assigned, and mine was the last one for that showing.  The theatre itself is a large one, but only about 20 people were inside.  Cost of the ticket was $21.50 which is much higher than usual.   I didn’t purchase any food or drinks but I expect that they are more expensive as well (this is the primary way that the theatre makes their money).   Masks were mandatory. No one checked my actual ticket.  Now onto the movie itself.

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I like Christopher Nolan films, and I entered this film with anticipation of what he would do now.   I tried as best as I could to avoid trailers and other discussions about it.  From one of his earliest efforts Memento, with Guy Peirce in a plot that goes backwards, to Interstellar and also Inception, with multiple levels of consciousness in dreams, Nolan likes to explore time and the impact on life as we know it if it isn’t fixed and linear.   I consider myself to be a pretty savvy moviegoer and I can keep up with most plots, but I have to admit that Nolan had me stymied with this one.   This is a very complex, complicated James Bond like plot.   In short and not to spoil anything, an American agent is tasked with trying to prevent the end of humankind.   The trailer makes a large point of the bullet returning to the gun, and the science involved in that but the plot is much bigger than that.   To say more risks giving away some spoilers, although I am sympathetic in how those may assist a viewer.   There is a scene near the end when a military-like mission is being explained when I have to admit that my head was swimming.   I thought of how those soldiers about to enter that perilous mission would have felt, since they had seen all the earlier parts that I had!!  I think I would have raised my hand a time or two for a little more explanation than which colour arm band I would be wearing.   The cast is uniformly excellent.   There are some familiar Nolan favourites like Michael Caine, Kenneth Branaugh and some new faces (including the new Princess Diana from The Crown, Elizabeth Debicki)  who are very good.   Robert Pattinson is a really pleasant surprise, and he is showing his acting chops in more serious roles these days like The Lighthouse.  He’s very good.   The main lead, the self proclaimed protagonist, John David Washington is compelling and has the requisite presence to make his role work well.    Sadly the movie jumps from one busy action sequence to another all the while rarely catching its breath to allow the viewer to keep up.    You must pay very careful attention because there are aspects are shown quickly which later on are impactful.   You will be forgiven if you miss some of them.   For me, this will require a second viewing.  I find first views generally are keeping up with a plot, and this one especially requires another view.   I am sure that the continuity is there, but I need to see more of the things going on in the periphery.   I can’t suggest you don’t see this, but perhaps this is a “be prepared” review to set the expectations.  Certainly don’t go see this if you are tired or had a long day.  This will require your full attention and then some.   I welcome discussion about it later.

From the big screen back to the small screen.   I can provide a short review for the 2019 art dealer related film Velvet Buzzsaw with Renee Russo, Jake Gyllenhaal and John Malkovich.  Quite an impressive cast for a less than impressive effort.   This is a thrilled set in the art world, where Russo plays a successful art dealer in LA, Jake plays an art critic and writer and Malkovitch is an artist, who’s role isn’t very large as it goes on.   An assistance to Russo finds an old man dead in the hallway at her apartment.   She hears that he is a recluse and that the artist gave explicit instructions that all his art inside should be destroyed.   She feels the need to snoop inside, and decides to remove the art to try and make a name for herself with it.   She does.   It becomes a sensation.  Then bad things start happening to those who are involved.   It goes downhill from there.   In a word, this was stupid.  Query whether it is more stupid than the time shifting going on in Tenet?  I think it is, and I can’t recommend this.

Finally this weekend I saw the Netflix series Unorthodox, that I heard very much positive news about.  In short this four-part series explores how one woman in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg flees from an arranged marriage and the oppressive religious environment to start a new life.  For me this was insight into an interesting way of life.   I think Shira Haas, the star Esty is excellent in it, showing her struggles and turmoil, along with the cultural aspects that she needs to lose like a cocoon.  She had been married off at 18-19yo to a well intended young man with busy body parents.   She was never able to pursue her passion for music.   She departs with some help off to Berlin Germany.   The film, incidentally was shot entirely in Berlin.  So those scenes of NYC are really Berlin in disguise.   Ironic that a young Jewish women seeks her freedom in Germany.   I was cheering for her.   I abhor when people are prevented from doing what pleases them with oppressive regimes on what they can and cannot do.   In this instance I see no reason why she must be just “a good wife and mother” and aspire only to that.  She sees over time that there are so many more possibilities for her.  This is worth watching for the insight into these lives, but also the very good performances.  It is based on a true story, and the woman who wrote it was involved in the production.   Check it out.

August 24th, 2020

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation blah blah blah is a new installment in the Suicide Squad group of movies, that remarkably after this will be adding a third installment called Suicide Squad to be released next year.

Hard to describe this any more than just being a mess.  Margot Robbie is a talent and can steal scenes but she is given so little to work with in this movie.   The plot is that she has broken up with The Joker, once and for all, and she takes it hard.   She does something silly in hindsight which makes her a target for many people who avoided her when she was under the protection of said Joker.    There is police (Rosie Perez) and other villians, notably Ewan McGregor’s Roman Sionis.   The title refers to Birds of Prey which becomes the end result of all of this.   Three other women who come together in Gotham to seemingly act as vigilantes.   Not sure that I would classify them as superheroes, although when the one does her version of extreme singing, you may look upon that as a unique skill (which it most definitely is).   In the end, although Robbie can work well with the right material, and she has no lack of work these days, this string of projects isn’t the best place for her talents.

I re-watched The Imitation Game this weekend and will continue to contend that it is one of the best films of this decade.   It should have won Best Picture.   It is strange times indeed when a country and its justice system treats a war hero (Alan Turing) as a criminal, and resorts to hormone therapy against him.  What a tragedy!   Great performances by Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch.   The whole cast was well suited and showed how they all pulled off the greatest victory in the war effort, with the end explaining that it saved two years of more war and lives.  The Queen has recently pardoned Alan Turing, but it seems rather empty for a man who created the basis for modern day computing.

I also re-watched Silver Linings Playbook this weekend and think the performance of Jennifer Lawrence is spot on, and deserved the Best Actress award.   It makes me pause however, knowing that BOTH The Imitation Game and Silver Linings were Harvey Weinstein projects.  How does Jennifer Lawrence go from obscurity (Winter’s Bone in 2010) to a twice Oscar winner?   In truth I don’t really want to think about it long, since I respect and admire her talents although her recent projects haven’t been as good as her earlier choices (Red Sparrow, Mother! and Passengers were all not very good).   Yes this story is a bit schmaltzy and too perfect with the parlay and the dancing competition but it is good.  Still they are a group of people that I wouldn’t want to share a dinner.   A few too many challenges there.    These days with very little content out, re-watching some quality past films is fun to pass the time.

August 17, 2020

(Note: this was revised somewhat and I apologize for poor prose in the original) The Aftermath:  Keira Knightley, the British actress who came to my awareness from her 2002 soccer film Bend It Like Beckham, never seems to age.  After doing Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom and its sequels, she did a number of period pieces.   She seems to enjoy getting dressed up in the corsets and poofy dresses, under a repressed society for females.   Pride & Prejudice, The Duchess, Collette all clearly showed her abilities well when being transported back in time.   I think she is a very good actress, and I enjoy her performances.   I was interested to see The Aftermath, which is set immediately after WWII in Germany.   Keira’s character Rachel is heading to Hamburg to meet up with her husband during the reconstruction.    He is in charge of many soldiers as well as the clean up effort.   Husband is played by the versatile Jason Clarke who always seems to play the honest, hardworking but less romantic partner who has his spouse have a wandering eye (think of All I See is You, with Blake Lively and her choices once she gets her eyesight back).   In this case, the couple takes over a chateau with a husband (played by Alexander Skarsgard, who any woman who watches films and knows Tarzan or True Blood, will tell you emphatically is no Jason Clarke), and his daughter.   Seems both Skargard and Knightley have both suffered losses during the war, and those stories become more well developed over time. 

As an aside, relationships are difficult.  There is a balancing, compromise and mutual understanding that takes places, especially over time.   Today, people may think we are in a complicated time, and we are with no doubt, but think how it would be during war time.  Everyday stresses are compounded by an ongoing fear of tomorrow of immediate death, either on the homefront from a bombing (in the case of Britain) or in the field by enemy fire.    The stresses would be immense.  Bullets and bombs are more immediate than a virus that could impact you and perhaps take your life (roughly 5% of the time).  It is no wonder that people speak of the WWII generation as the “greatest”.  Having gone through what they did, in some instances twice if they were old enough for two World Wars, they managed to keep it together.   Some managed better than others, but it was an enormously difficult time.   

Back to the film, Clarke and Knightley have a distance between them, and it is explored slowly with glimpses into the impact the event has had on them both.  Over time grievances are voiced and things move on from there.   More things happen.   Knightley’s character has what I can best describe as being a Bridges of Madison County moment.  Those who know the film, will understand what I am talking about should they see this.    It leaves the viewer with the question on whether they would make the same choice.   This was worth watching.  Knightley herself is very watchable and her interaction with the other two.   It is a small story in a vast War time.   But it is relatable and worth some time on Crave where it can be found.        

August 10th, 2020

On Crave they have released some newer films that I need to review.   The one I stumbled upon in passing.    Endings, Beginnings is a 2019 film starring Shailene Woodley, Jamie Dornan (of Fifty Shades fame) and Sebastian Stan.   Shailene Woodley burst on the scene for me playing the eldest daughter of George Clooney in the 2011 family drama set in Hawaii The Descendants.   It is a role and a movie worth watching if you haven’t seen it.  As her star was ascending from this she took on the role as Tris in the Divergent series.   I read that she questioned whether to sign on to such a venture, but in a conversation with Jennifer Lawrence, who had just finished The Hunger Games, she had been encouraged to do it by JLaw.   Woodley was concerned more about the pigeon-holing herself like had happened with Kristen Stewart and the Twilight series.   In the end, she went forward but sadly not only did she seem to get pigeon-holed, but she also had the albatross on her neck of a failed franchise as Divergent never even finished the trilogy (and for good reason).   As a result, this talented actress didn’t work as much.  She did the movie Adift in 2018 which was a decent one-woman show about the true story of a woman surviving a hurricane on a yacht.   She had also begun work on the series Big Little Lies that was well received drama surrounding women and families in the Monterey CA area starring as well Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and others.   All this is background, but I pleased to see Woodley working once again.   In this movie, she plays a 30s woman looking for some direction in her life after a failed relationship.   She attends a party and meets two young men who both seem to intrigue her.   She makes very human choices, and the viewer watches as the consequences unfold.   The character Daphne has to make choices about stability and excitement in her primary relationship, and try and find what makes sense for her going forward in other areas.   It isn’t easy to watch her at times and the choices she makes but they are very real.   I think Woodley has always been genuine, and she is likeable even when she makes choices that aren’t so likeable.    If you like her, and you like a relationship drama then this may be something to catch for you.   I don’t think that this had much success in the theatres.   But like Kristen Stewart I think Shailene is making choices and doing movies that aren’t so mainstream but that will expand on her skillset.   Enjoy the summer weather and the NHL playoffs as they continue – it has been a busy sports calendar with NHL, MLB, NBA and then the PGA Championship in golf.   So from having very little to watch from sports, we are now overwhelmed with choice.

August 3rd, 2020 (Civic Holiday)

On Crave I caught quite by accident the sci-fi, B-movie thriller (?) entitled Upgrade.  It stars the male lead scientist from Prometheus, Logan Marshall-Green who in that better movie had the misfortune of slighting Michael Fassbender’s David.   Funny I can’t remember the last time I actually said the term “B-movie” but it is appropriate here.  This movie carries themes like other similar films like Ex Machina, where an uber-wealthy techno-geek is looking to have huge strides with tech and people, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Avatar and Alien, with a computer intelligence that is looking to expand its impact and ultimate influence.  This takes the form, typically, of a machine with a hidden agenda.  By the way, it flatters this movie greatly to be even mentioned alongside those better films.  In this tale our married protagonist is driven by a self-driving car to a bad part of town where thugs kill his wife, and leave him for dead.   He wakes up a quadriplegic, but is offered by the Wile E Coyote-like Super Genius use of his limbs once again if he only has a superchip implanted into his spine.   The computer will take care of his limbs once again.   The hero decides to move forward and wants to track down and take revenge on his attackers.   He finds that the underlying plot is more complicated than first anticipated.  The story unfolds.   There are some laughable elements for example when the hero gives up primary responsibility for his actions and there is this disjointed walking and inhuman ability to fight in hand to hand combat.   But overall it is tiresome and I cannot recommend it.    There is a reason why some movies are straight-to-video/streaming.  This is a good example of it.

I was realizing yesterday that another series of movies that I haven’t reviewed in this blog is the original 1968 Charlton Heston Planet of the Apes.  It an original set of five films (Beneath POTA, Escape from POTA, Conquest for POTA, and Battle for POTA).   Most of which starred Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter.   Heston did the first two.  It spawned a poorly conceived remake directed by Tim Burton, and then later still the very good trilogy with Andy Serkis as Caesar.    What made the original so compelling was the make up (it was cutting edge at the time with the mouthpieces allowing the apes to talk.   It had some political commentary as well with the ultimate trial of Heston’s Taylor by the powers that be, with the Minister of Science also having the title of Keeper of the Faith.    Man in this world is at the bottom rung of the food chain.    They are mute and kept in the jungles around the city.   They are hunted for sport by the gorillas on horseback.   Taylor was an astronaut who blasted off from earth with his colleages (two other men and a woman) but something goes wrong and they crash land on this planet.  The woman didn’t survive the trip.   They are captured by the apes and Taylor who was shot in the neck cannot speak, for the time being.   With the help of chimpanzee couple Zira and Cornelius, he manages to escape his captors.   The ending is legend.   It came at a time with space exploration was ongoing, but there was an undercurrent of wariness with the Russians.   The movies are based upon the book Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle.  The original movies incidentally also spawned a TV series which was just not very good.   Of the original series the first and second are the most compelling.  Although the idea for Conquest where apes had been transformed from pets (the dogs and cats had mysteriously died and humans needing pets adopted apes) into slaves.   They were shouted at constantly “No!!”  Anyway, they rise up and conquer the planet (presumably one city at a time).   For me it brings back good memories.  I had the whole POTA action figure set going on (not ALL characters but a few).   POTA was a start and then Jaws and then it just went from there.    Movies have always been there to inform an entertain.

July 27th, 2020

As a follow up to the posting from last week where I noted I had started watching the 1940s era Manhattan which was a dramatization of the creation of the atom bomb by the US authorities.  I finished the first season, and began season 2.   I read however that the characters and stories about them are fiction, except for the names of Albert Einstein and J Robert Oppenheimer.   Key characters in the story like Charlie Isaacs and his wife never existed.   Others on the two teams as well.   This was disappointing news but not altogether surprising.   The drama among the characters just seemed too outlandish.   I have little doubt that there was latent homosexuality and infidelity and other things happening given the number of people cooped up in a site for so long.   Still much of it didn’t seem very plausible.   The end of season 1 still doesn’t have a viable working bomb.  This unending debate about whether or not implosion was even possible rages on.   Interestingly as we know, two bombs were dropped and they were of each type worked on at the site.   Both worked equally well.   I won’t delve further into the merits of utilizing the atomic bombs, but suffice it to say that the desired effect of ending the war in the Pacific was accomplished.    I will continue to watch season 2 (it was cancelled after this season) but I will be a little less enthused.   Incidentally, Harry Lloyd who played spoiled Viserys Targaryen  plays the same type of weasel-like character in this series as in Game of Thrones.

A new release on Netflix was the series called Indian Matchmaker, and it getting some buzz, not all of it is positive.   The premise is pretty straightforward as we have an older East Indian woman who is assisting other East Indian people and their families to find a match/marriage partner.   Arranged marriages are not uncommon in India, and the show brings forward many examples of long term married couples and their stories.   The matchmaker in question has hundreds of families that she is working with, from all around the globe.   We see young people in places like Houston, Colorado, New York, Mumbai, etc.  She is quite the jetsetter to be seeing all of these various people.   No where do they talk about her fees.   She can’t be cheap.  Still with a divorce rate in “love marriages” hovering around 50% one would think that arranged marriages can’t be any worse.   In fact, they could be better.   As a single person, I take solace that there are many around there like me.   The struggles faced by meeting and finding the right person are real no matter where in the world you are, or your station.   I was surprised at her use of biodata forms, astrologers and facial reading people.   So much of all this for these people is fated, and in the stars/signs.  I admit that the facial reading guy who sees a number of her clients was surprisingly good at seeing traits of these people just based on a phone picture.   Now whether or not one can see someone having twins from just a picture is another story.   You have all sorts of characters in this series, for me a couple that stuck out was the female lawyer in Houston, who has a pushy Mom and her own prickly, picky personality.   She seems so set in her ways and not really willing to open herself up to almost anything new.    The other was the young man with the overbearing Mom who dictates all that happens in her household.   The young 25yo man has a younger brother who is engaged, and he is told that he MUST get engaged and be married within the year, to make Mom happy and allow the younger brother to get married himself.   He rationally asks how these two events must be tied together, but all around him side with Mom.   Such pressure on him.   He sees hundreds of profiles and you wonder whether he is just being overly difficult or that he just isn’t ready.  Maybe a little of both.   Sadly, though there are other stories that the viewer doesn’t see finish.  You would think you get to see what the results of the matches are and this dating, but it just isn’t so.   Not even a follow up at the last episode with a review of who was met and what their latest status is (married, still dating or single).   I was also somewhat surprised at the continuation of the separation of duties and attitudes about women.   Our matchmaker can through herself or her colleagues put pressure on women to be subservient to their future husband; they must take a back seat to him and his desires.   I was quite shocked at how bluntly this was put to these independent women, one in particular runs her own online clothing store and is quite successful.  The cultural pressures are substantial, and add to that the pressures of thinking that one might want to have children and for women it is a daunting task.   Never mind the later conversation if you are a single Mom in these communities!   One very pleasant was told that her chances in the Sikh community would be very limited because of her status being divorced and with a child.   There’s nothing quite like turning back the hands of time to the early 1960s for us in North America!!   Everybody in the end has a story.