July 26, 2021

My Salinger Year:  Joanna is a young woman who writes in this 2020 movie.  She is an aspiring writer anyway.  She was attending Berkeley but then on a whim mid-semester decides to move to New York City.  She wants to actually write and do what other famous writers do; sit in cafes and write while staying in dumpy apartments.   If she is going to stay in New York she must find a job.  She lands a job in a literary agents office.   Sigourney Weaver plays her old school boss reminiscent of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.  Not quite as ruthless.  Joanna takes on a secretary’s role and putting her writing aside.  She is kept busy with busy work, but nothing substantial.  One of her jobs is to dismiss with form letter all the letters to them for JD Salinger.

She juggles her job, her career aspirations, her relationship.  One of the clients in this agency, incidentally is the aforementioned JD Salinger of Catcher in the Rye fame.  Truth be told I read the book and didn’t like it.   I likely didn’t get it.   But that’s okay.  Art is personal and what some think is excellent, others disagree.   Joanna has her own struggles and these are personal and real.  The actress, Margaret Qualley, who plays her is likeable and engaging in the way that Darren Starr would likely have hoped that Lily Collins was in Emily in Paris. Joanna has a good rapport with her coworkers, she is bright, astute, and has a good rapport with the clients of the business. In the end she has choices to make and these are interesting. Some may really like Emily in Paris, but for me it seems superficial and unrealistic. Maybe that is the point but we aren’t really telling stories that feel like stories about real people. I enjoyed this and was worth the time. Certainly it was more interesting than Emily. I would rather share a drink with Joanna than Emily on a day in her life.

I watched The Command (aka Kursk) again this weekend and I am reminded just how difficult it is to watch young men sacrifice their lives for no reason. It has a good cast and there are compelling performances. Like Chernobyl it shows how individuals are treated like disposable assets, even those who dedicate their lives to protecting the people of the State with the Navy.

July 19, 2021

Apologies but I had some laptop issues this week. But I am providing a recent review.

No Sudden Move 

Steven Soderberg brings us a new film with a quality cast.   Among this cast is Don Cheadle, Ray Liotta, Matt Damon among others.   Set in the 1950s in Detroit, it is a caper where various factions are outdoing and outsmarting one another to obtain some secret.   The secret is unknown but many people seem to be clamoring for it and offering decent sums of money to acquire it.   Don Cheadle is a recently released con who is asked to “babysit” for a few hours in return for a few thousand dollars.   The audience thinks that there has got to be more to it than that.   Cheadle thinks the same.   The man who makes the request is played by no other than George of the Jungle Brendan Fraser, who looks to have eaten the cast of former movies.   
For me some stories twist and turn back on themselves too much for their own good.  The audience is left, who is double-crossing at this moment?   This is just such a situation.   Liotta is cast likely more for his reputation than for the role.  In the end, despite what appears to be a main storyline based upon history is blurred by an overlay too thick to really keep track of it.   However many your can cut down before your path, you head in a direction you don’t seem to want to go.   I cannot recommend this. 

Trigger

This is a Canadian film from 2010 which is on Crave. It stars Molly Parker and Tracy Wright. They are two musicians that were in a band ten years earlier that broke up under an acrimonious situation. Parker to me, incidentally looks so much like British actress Olivia Williams it is scary. But I digress. Being Canadian this is shot in Toronto and there are scenes from downtown and even the Etobicoke School of the Arts. These two old friends meet at a restaurant and then proceed to wander through town. Their issues are explored but not at any real depth. Certainly the issue of addiction is glossed over. They were once a well known local band that after disbanding had somewhat of a cult following in the younger crowd. Parker is trying to reconnect with Wright. It moves slowly and doesn’t seem to resolve very much. We get some insight into their lives but not as much as you would expect. In the end I watched and when finished shrugged my shoulders with a “is that it?” You gain very little by deciding to fill time with it.

July 12 2021

The Campaign: Is a silly spoof of American, southern American Republican, politics. It stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. From 2012, it doesn’t address the silliness of the Trump Presidency, but it might as well have done so. Ferrell plays an incumbent, obnoxious, ignorant and arrogant Republican senator from South Carolina. He is about to be re-elected as he was running unopposed. Enter the Koch-like brothers, reminiscent of brothers in the Eddie Murphy comedy Trading Places, who are looking to fund a candidate that they can dominate to sell a small town to interests in China (Dan Ackroyd plays one of them). They are nervous about Ferrell and decide to back another unknown candidate played by clueless Galifianakis. They are opposing one another in stand off and photo opportunities with weeks left in the campaign. It’s all very silly. There is some slap stick humour, and a few mild jokes but they really aren’t that effective. Both principals have done funnier films. I am not a huge Ferrell fan, but he can have his time with the right material. Take a pass on this if you happen to stumble upon it somewhere in the streaming ether.

A Quiet Place 2 or Part Two: The sci-fi surprise suspense thriller that was directed, starred and written in by John Krasinki from 2018, returns for a sequel/prequel in 2021. It was a thriller with a soul and heart. A young family lives after an alien invasion with creatures that are virtually impregnable; hard outer skin, very tough and lethal. The human world has been wiped out for the most part, just empty quiet streets in towns and cities. The creatures have very sensitive hearing and track down victims with sound. Thus, the young family has to sign to each other silently and be quiet wandering their immediate world. The original film was excellent with plenty of good jumps. After it was done, I feel that the viewer felt like their whole body was tense during it. This thriller with a soul, returns and one wonders whether the success can be duplicated? I was skeptical, but hopeful. I would say that this had success. It still has heart. You care about this family. You care about those in it, and we see a young, determined young lady (the daughter with hearing impairment) take charge of her life and saving the lives of those around her. We are introduced to another local resident, played by Cillian Murphy, who has his own journey and doubts. He introduces another set location where some relief from making sounds can take place. There is some more dialogue. There is a journey for the young girl, and the Mom separately as well as her older son. You also see what has happened to humankind in this dystopia. Humans turn on one another, and need to fear each other as much as the creatures. As far as production, the creatures are quite an achievement. The story is good because it keeps us engaged. You note that Krasinski has seen Jurassic Park in some of his shots. I think that the transition is good from one site (the farm) to the other (industrial plant). The world gets larger but the underlying challenge remains. Each character has their journey. You may be pleased to know that Part III will be coming. I don’t think it gives too much away to reveal that. Still, I wonder if the momentum and story can still remain strong and true to its essence. I would like to think that this will remain a young family story, and that it avoids the War of the Worlds shoot ’em up with all the military. This is better than War of the Worlds, and one of the better suspense films (and franchises) in recent memory. This is worth checking out, although I am not convinced it needs to be seen in a large theatre, scheduled in Ontario to open up this Friday. I am truly excited to get back to the theatre and see some films up where they belong.

July 5, 2021

Woman Walks Ahead: This movie was released back in 2017 and didn’t have much critical acclaim nor was it well received. It stars Jessica Chastain, a personal favourite, as well as Sam Rockwell, Cirian Hinds and Michael Greyeyes as Sitting Bull. Set in the 1890s, it is a story of a woman from New York City, who once widowed decides to venture into the West and try to use her dormant painting skills on some native Indians. In this case, she had the ambition to paint the notorious Sitting Bull, of General Custer fame. Off she goes into the wild, wild west. On her train ride she meets briefly the Sam Rockwell character who is assigned from the army. They do not get along, and this continues throughout. It seems that the locals do not want her in the small town. She is bound and determined to have an audience with Sitting Bull himself. The story moves on with a familiar refrain from Dances With Wolves. There is a political bent, where a vote is to be taken about how lands currently in the hands of the Sioux are to be addressed. This is a relevant story for Canada presently as we deal with the latest revelations about children’s bodies being dug up at various residential schools run by the church but funded by the Federal government. Neither the US nor Canada can hold their head’s high as to how we have treated the Native Indian populations. They are a black mark on our history, but a history reflective of the times where there were powerful nations looking to take over other nations. See a movie like The Mission, and how the Spanish treated the native peoples in Central and South America. It isn’t very Christian, even while looking to spread the word of God. I think that this didn’t deserve the nasty reception it had when first released. It was okay. I think the portrayal of Sitting Bull was well done, from an unknown actor to me. Jessica Chastain is more than a step up from the actual Catherine Weldon in looks, and I cannot comment on the historical accuracy of some of the claims in the movie. But in a time when I have watched some rather awful shows and movies, I didn’t hate this one. In fact I learned a little about the process (fair or otherwise) undertaken by a invading army of white people.

Another Round: Just recently released on Crave. It stars Mads Mikkelsen, in a Dutch movie from 2020. Mads you will recognize as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale (Bond) as well as the father in Star Wars: Rogue One. He plays Martin, a middle aged, married high school teacher with two kids. Life has become pretty ordinary. He teaches, but he is mailing in the classes, and he asks his wife whether he is “boring”. His wife who has been working nights doesn’t know how to respond. On the 40th birthday of a colleague, he heads out and meets for a small party of four teachers. He is the History teacher, the others teach Gym, Music and Psychology. The friends talk about a study which suggest that humans were born with .05% less alcohol in their system than they need, and it encourages people to drink daily to counteract the imbalance. They are skeptical but ultimately, Martin tries just to change up the existing pattern in his life. He is in a rut and wants to stir things up. The alcohol loosens him up, he is more relaxed and more engaging with his class. The colleagues find out about it at school, and decide they should all take this on as a research project, and they are going to write about it. The experiment commences with predictable results early on. Query whether just doing something new, anything, would improve the in-class teaching better for these men? They write about it. They decide to increase the amount of alcohol. Things move ahead. Predictably things change as the amount of alcohol increases. Things happen, and then other things happen. It goes in a few different directions, which were in some cases a surprise to me. By exploring a mid-life crisis, or at the very least an evaluation of where we are in our lives as we have finished our exciting twenties and “settled down”, it is interesting to see each individual reacts. It is trite to say that we are all unique, but in this instance there are those who likely should not explore the idea of expanding their alcohol tolerance. As one thinks back on the artists regarded as monumental, like a Mozart, or Hemingway, Van Hogh or Churchill or others we see that many had a well known relationship to alcohol or other outside stimulants (legal and illegal, as we we absynthe referred to). Of course the message is one of moderation, in much in life, but the greater message is one of staying true to yourself, and pushing yourself to get out of perceived ruts. I have always maintained that I don’t need alcohol to have fun. Others weren’t convinced and at an early age choose to partake. Life is full of choices. Although this film has subtitles, is is every bit engaging as English speaking films. It won the Best Foreign Film Oscar. I hesitate to add that as it stands on its own as an interesting story – one basically unknown to me. But this is a worthwhile investment in time. Enjoy. I did.

June 28th, 2021

Supernova: Love is love, which I think has been well established. Love comes in all forms, and partnership, companionship and a life partner is a goal that many strive to have. Life, sadly, can interrupt those plans in the most cruel of ways. In the days with superhero movies, and horror movies and science fiction movies, it is refreshing to see a movie about humans and relationships. Something that less some truths that are taken for granted. Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth, both excellent actors bring forth a story very well that has been addressed in others before. It doesn’t mean that it takes anything away from it, nor the performances. Together they play a couple who is taking a road trip in an RV to the northern part of England. There are a couple of stops along the way. You see their relationship from the banter between them in the RV. What slowly emerges is that both of these successful, creative, artistic men are connected. One of them, we learn, is suffering from dementia. It isn’t apparent at first how far along that he is. The story goes on to observe how these two men are dealing with it. Two people are impacted by an event that neither one can control. While you may think at first that the impact is mostly on the one who is sick, it isn’t true. Both of them have plans, or think that they have plans, which haven’t been well communicated to the other. It’s touching and emotional. It reminds me of Still Alice, where Julianne Moore plays an accomplished professor who slowly loses her mind, and also the movie Euphoria with Eva Green and Alicia Vikander as sisters who are coping with the one sister’s illness. This was very good and I would recommend it if you can find it. I saw on Crave. No one gets through this life unscathed, and in many ways it is all just a lottery. Sometimes that lottery misses you directly, but can impact you with the ones that you love. The message in the end is to enjoy the time that you have with the people in your life that matter, because you never know when that may end. A good message to have when we continue through a pandemic and one can bog down in thoughts of not being able to do some things or go some places.

The Little Things: I wish that I had more positive to say about this one. The cast with Denzel Washington, Remi Malik and Jared Leto is impressive. All have Oscars to their name. Yet it didn’t work me. Washington plays an aging police officer in a small town. Malik is a detective in a larger one, who I think was miscast. I think it’s really my fault for thinking that since I found him hard to understand at times, and I kept expecting to break out into singing Bohemian Rhapsody. Leto plays seemingly another one his creepy guy roles, where he looks like he hasn’t washed his hair in months, he is a smart ass, and pops up in places when you least expect him. Some women have gone missing, and the police are trying to figure it out. The movie title comes from something that Washington says to Malik about the reason why people get caught, and them messing up the details. For those of you, like me, who think that the role of the police and law enforcement is to find the truth of a situation and prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, then this movie may not work for you as well. There were aspects of it, and why they are suspecting the Leto character that just didn’t add up to me. In the end, I wasn’t all that entertained and found it somewhat disturbing, which likely was one of the messages that they wanted to deliver.

As a follow up to the HBO documentary Framing Britney, Britney herself appeared in a California court to address her conservatorship. She delivered a 25 minute speech that was rambling, profane at times (which I think is a great mistake in a courtroom) and expressed her determination to avoid jumping through any more hoops that show her mental health. She wants her life back. Plain and simple. She wants her father and family out of her life. She wants to have freedom and autonomy over her body and relationships. There was a time when her erratic behaviour cried out for some intervention. I am not clear whether this was the proper vehicle to get there. But at 40yo, and being expected to run another stay in Vegas with her successful show as well as juggling teenage kids, I think it is safe to say that she can take care of herself. She may remain eccentric, but find me other successful artists who aren’t? Elton John? Please!! Interestingly she hasn’t even made the formal application to end the conservatorship. You would think that Legal advisors would point that out. You would think she could get her own lawyer (another thing that she would like). So we will see how this plays out. The world is denied her talent, because she refuses to perform without this being removed from her life. I think that this makes a lot of sense, and it is good for her to stand up for herself and her rights in an otherwise “free” country. Let those who profit from her find other ways to make money on their own. The story evolves.

June 21, 2021 (welcome summer)

The most amount of sunshine in the year takes place as we welcome Summer. I haven’t watched anything of note so I will once again review movies that were watched long before I started having review discussions.

The Hunger: This 1983 Tony Scott film, who later did Top Gun (and is also the brother of Ridley Scott) and was known for also ending his life in 2012 by jumping off an overpass in LA – what a horrible way to die I think, was an early project for him. We lost David Bowie five years ago already in 2016. Time flies. He starred in this movie along with Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneueve. Deneuve and Bowie play a couple who early on enter a nightclub and engage with another couple. They later that evening kill the couple that they had met. Bodies are disposed, and they carry on. The Bowie character notices that he is beginning to age quite rapidly and wants to explore what is occurring and how it can be stopped. Meanwhile, Sarandon plays a doctor/researcher who is studying rapid aging in monkeys and wants to explore whether humans can control the aging process. Bowie tracks her down, and they have a frustrating meeting for his character. The story goes on to show the unique relationship that the Deneuve character has with the Bowie character. She has some unique talents, but they require her to “feed”. Those who know the stories of True Blood will have a pretty good idea about where this is going. In the 80s, this film was viewed as cutting edge, when things happened in clubs and elsewhere but they weren’t put on film. You didn’t have gay encounters filmed very often, but it is what made the casting so crucial. At the time I was an impressionable teen, and it stuck with me. Scott went on to make other notable movies as addressed earlier, and apparently executives didn’t like this film. It almost took the Top Gun directing job away from him. But history will show he worked frequently with Denzel Washington (Unstoppable, Deja Vu, Taking of Pelham 123) and others like True Romance, Crimson Tide, and Days of Thunder. I like the opening music sequence and the bar scene juxtaposed with the monkey scene.

Meatballs: Bill Murray leveraged his time on Saturday Night Live into some comedies that were more slapstick than serious comedy. Movies like Caddyshack, Stripes and Ghostbusters come to mind. In 1979, this movie was really the first for him, and it was a fun summer camp movie. It is fun to revisit and I have seen on either Crave or Netflix. Filmed in Ontario, Murray is head counsellor, Tripper Harrison, at a summer camp. There are CITs and other staff, along with Harvey Atkin as Morty who is in charge of the entire operation. It’s a teenager movie as the target audience. Tripper is the typical Murray smart ass. A young camper, played by Chris Makepeace, joins the camp as an outsider who doesn’t really fit in. There is a neighbouring camp with rich, entitled kids that has a competition with this camp. The camp itself has the typical group of misfits which would match any Revenge of the Nerds film. There is summer romance, and hijinks with various pranks and comedy with the daily announcements done by Tripper. It is silly. It is fun. I have watched more than once because it is light and brings back younger days of summer in the wilderness. Others in this series with Murray can be reviewed later. Each of them has their own merit, and built an early career for him and also director Ivan Reitman. All were summer movies that made an evening out in the theatre something to look forward to. Other camp movies followed like Little Darlings with Tatum O’Neal.

June 14, 2021

Casablanca: In all my years of movie watching, I have never sat down and watched the 1942 Best Picture and Director film of Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. I remember that in When Harry Met Sally that they would watch this movie (separate places and TVs) when it was on, and they had a debate about whether Ilsa should be with Rick or Victor. This is a classic black and white film. A timeless love story about star crossed lovers in a time of war (WWII) where there relationship starts in Paris and then they meet back up in Morrocco. She is married. She had thought that her husband was dead from his activism when she had met Rick (the bar owner) in Paris. The rest unfolds with intrigue as the husband is a wanted man, and wants passage out of Casablanca. Rick happens to be holding two permits of passage. Will he or won’t he help out. I note in some research that Ingrid Bergman died at age 67, from cancer. She was 5’10” which was tall for that time. Alfred Hitchcock was in love with her. She married and divorced three separate times. Humphrey Bogart’s wife thought that she was a threat to her marriage. Even in this day and age, the movie holds up. I was most impressed by the Chief of Police locally played by Claude Rains. He is just the right combination of smarmy, practical, funny and serious. He was nominated for his role. So like Harry and Sally, it is worthwhile to see and spend some time with actors who have long since passed. Stories remain the same and are an unbroken legacy.

The Woman in the Window: This is a recent release on Netflix. It has a good cast, including Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Tracy Letts and others. Seems Letts thinks he has some talent as a script writer since it is his in the credits. As a card-carrying member of the (generally) I Don’t Like Amy Adams Club, I was hesitant to watch this. Arrival is my exception for Miss Adams. Maybe The Fighter. Her Lois Lane is really unforgivable. Anyway, if you think you kind of know where this tale goes, you are right since Alfred Hitchcock, noted above, did it better many years ago with Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. A housebound person looking onto the windows of neighbours is a witness to a nefarious act. Stewart was in a wheel chair from an accident and broken leg and cast. Adams is housebound with agoraphobia, the fear of leaving the house. Everyone these days has some kind of anxiety, this is no different. Adams looks like a mess, to be blunt, and she lives in a palatial place in Manhattan. How the heck she managed to afford it, and keep it is never explained. Selling it would make her independently wealthy for generations to come. But I digress. She has neighbours across the way, and meets some of them, one at a time initially, and mostly from this one family who was newly moved in. Things happen. She witnesses something. Police are called. Adams is heavily drugged for most of this film, and seems to always have a bottle of red wine going. Tracy Letts plays her psychiatrist (guess why write a story without a part in it for yourself?). This was silly. In so many facets, up to and including the conclusion. I cannot recommend it and I would go further as to discourage watching it. It is a shame when talent gets wasted, notably for me Gary Oldman. A shame really.

Seaspiracy: This 2021 Netflix documentary was also recently released. It is a eco-documentary which speaks to a number of issues that deal with the challenges in the oceans. It touches upon global warming, plastics, the Cove dolphin slaughter, garbage in the oceans, the protection of whales, dolphins and sharks, shark fins and trolling and long line fishing. It is a massive scope. Each of these in many ways are movies unto themsleves. Movies like The Cove, Blackfish, Finding Coral, Shark Water etc. Those more settled and detailed films identify the problems, which for the most part haven’t been addressed, but it raises a new issue which is one of who (corporately) are involved in labels like Dolphin Safe or others that promote the concept of “sustainability”. The thesis is that sustainable fishing is non-sensical. What they don’t explore is ceasing to eat fish altogether. It doesn’t talk about eliminating or regulating the fishing ships about lines, trolling etc and finding areas of protective oceans. Nowhere is there a promotion of these crucial pieces. Rather they are focused on plastic straws!! 40% plus of the garbage found in the stomachs of whales and in the garbage fields in the ocean are all from commercial fishing. Halting or reducing fishing is NOT discussed or promoted. But surprise, surprise, the fishing owners own those labels and make money from them. There is no policing on the seas. Orders are not enforced. You cannot stop what happens on the oceans it seems. It all is very frustrating and when countries like Japan declare that they will not honour whale protection regulations and they will resume whaling. It is remarkable. The scene at the end with whaling of pilot whales outside Iceland was just sickening. I cannot agree with the ultimate resolution for the director. But this is eye opening. We as humans do need to remember that dead oceans means the end of the human species on earth. Here is yet another global political outcry for action in a time when so many other cries for immediate help are made.

June 7th, 2021

Wonder Woman 84: This is a sequel that misses the mark so badly that I think that it sets all sorts of nasty precedents. First there was the breakthrough directorial role for Patty Jenkins. There was a theory that a female director couldn’t manage a big budget super hero movie. The success of the original with Gal Gadot playing Wonder Woman (aka Diana Prince) was a quality member to the superhero genre. It tells a good origin story of the young girl on the female dominated island (Paradise Island) with Amazons. She meets in WWI, a young handsome pilot played by Chris Pine, and they go on to assist each other in dealing with a villian. One of the writers for this story was Zach Snyder, who decided not to direct it.

Sadly this sequel is a mess from the beginning. It sets the woman’s movement in the movie back half a century but also the continuing strides made by directors like Jenkins. She has a part in putting together this story. Wonder Woman in the beginning film was a confident, self assured, princess from a foreign land who doesn’t understand the male world that she gets brought into, but she takes it head on. Being on the front lines of the two fronts between the Germans and Allies, she boldly ascends the wall and charges single-handedly into the fray. Her efforts astound the surrounding onlooking soldiers and they take the battle. In the sequel set now almost 60 years later, she is unchanged (she hasn’t aged, she continues with her life and job in Washington DC). I don’t give too much away to say that the Chris (Steve Trevor) isn’t with her any longer, by his choice. The challenge is that Wonder Woman becomes a whiny teenager wanting to see her boyfriend. She openly admits that she is going through the motions in her life with the initially geeky co-worker played by Bridesmaids and SNL star Kristen Wiig. The Wiig character wishes to be more like the “together” Diana Prince. Together they come upon an amber stone antiquity which they ultimately learn is some kind of an Aladdin’s lamp.

But it gets better! There is a life loser, played by the Mandalorian, Pedro Pascal, who is disappointing his son, his customers and hasn’t really pulled his life together. He makes a wish that even The Genie wouldn’t allow to take place, but it happens anyway. He ends up having more power than one could ever anticipate and the story continues down its crash course downwards. There is a great part of me that thinks, how could ANY superhero movie ever decide to have the Villian involved be a lamp?! It boggles the mind where someone agreed to green light this. And may I say, poor Chris Pine. I actually felt pain for him in some of the lines that he had to deliver in this. I never fully understood why his presence was even required, and I finished with the same opinion. From the disconnected early sequence where very young Diana isn’t allowed to win a ridiculous competition because she “cheated” (one could argue that as she was showing creativity beyond her years but who cares?). In the end it really was much ado about nothing. Just when you thought that this movie was trending badly, it found new ways to get even more ridiculous. I cannot recommend, and would actively steer people away from watching this. It isn’t worth your time. If you really want to see a strong independent woman being a hero, then maybe look for Justice League (? maybe) or re-watch the initial film.

To finish off the movie, there is the introduction of the invisible jet in a sequence where Steve Trevor, a pilot from the early 1900s sits in a jet for the first time. Well, he shouldn’t be able to fly this jet. Why doesn’t Diana fly it? It is hers? Why does she take a back seat? Why does she remember all of a sudden that she has an ability to make things become invisible (like the cloak in Harry Potter)? I mean. What? Forget this and hope Gadot will have a better role to play in the future.

Mare of Eastown: I finished this series, and I was initially intrigued and it became better and better. It was a story set in a small Pennsylvania town. Kate Winslet plays a divorced detective in this small town, with her teenage daughter in high school, a grandson who was born to her deceased son, and her own Mom. There are many locals to keep track of who interact with her for varying degrees. A young girl is murdered and this follows from an unsolved case of a young woman who disappeared for over a year. Mare feels the pressure in a Three Billboards way of having this unsolved case where leads have gone cold. Then this young girl, with a young baby of her own ends up dead. There are plenty of suspects and the viewer has their own theories. It’s very complex and so one needs to pay attention. Things happen, unexpected things also happen and those who you may have initially were involved, suddenly are no longer as suspicious. The web weaves more, and the series continues. One of the strengths as I see it, are the twists that are unexpected but not completely off the wall that you wouldn’t have necessarily seen them coming. It is clever. Sometimes maybe too clever, but well worth the time. Winslet plays her character warts and all. She isn’t perfect. She is imperfect and still plugs along. She struggles, and she remains reticent to not have her past dictate her future by, for the most part, burying it deep inside. There are flawed people all over the place. It seems more real, and less contrived. Yes the final episode was perhaps a little more Hollywood, but for me was still effective. I recommend and think that this as a series would be a good binge.

May 31st, 2021

Tonight marked the last night of May, in this continued lock down, and also marked the end to the hockey season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. They haven’t won the Cup since 1967 (54 years ago). They haven’t won a playoff series in 17 years. They haven’t gotten out of the first round in the past six. In the end, this means that flags on cars can be lowered and we can begin thinking about golf and summer to come. Oh, and by the way, the Leafs had a 3 games to 1 lead in the series against Montreal, but then lost three in a row, including two of those three at home. Ouch. With all this hockey playoff time, there is less time for movies.

First, Mare of Easttown was really good yet again. I have enjoyed this more as it has moved along. Full review when the series is completed.

Mississippi Burning: Back in 1988, this was a multiple Oscar nominated film, with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Gene Hackman), Best Supporting Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Director and a win for Best Cinematography. Other nominees included Rain Man (winner), Dangerous Liaisons, The Accidental Tourist and Working Girl. History I think shows that the Academy got it wrong that year. This movie should have won.

The story, which remains as painfully relevant in these times now, outlines the story of two young white Jewish men and a single black man who are leaving Mississippi and never make it home. They were activists looking to make a political statement. It was 1964, shortly after JFK’s assassination. FBI agents Gene Hackman, a former Mississippi sheriff himself, and young agent (Wilem Dafoe) who is a stickler for “playing it by the book” are investigating. They interview the local police who seem to ooze arrogance and over-confidence. The system supports them from the District Attorneys to the Judges to the members of the Klan who terrorize the local black population without retribution. The agents don’t agree on methods and the younger Dafoe makes limited progress with his standard ways. Hackman is more subtle, but they are both outsiders who are not respected nor supported by the locals on either side. Frances McDormand plays a local young woman who is a hairdresser and wife of the Deputy. It is interesting to note that only after a break in the stalemate of information is made, that action begins to take place on the FBI side. It is not a stretch to say that things in the South haven’t really changed all that much. Certainly the overt racism is not evident any longer, like the opening sequence where twin water fountains labeled White and Coloured are seen being used. But, there is still no equal rights. No equal treatment under the law. No government support (generally) within the institutions and voting rights which show signs of abating. If you haven’t watched this movie, it is definitely worth your time. The performances are universally excellent. Hackman has an ability to smile at the screen but you can seen an undercurrent of vengefulness. He and Dafoe both have raised eyebrows about their colleague and their methods. People now should reach out to see this movie before they go to see Rain Man.

May 24th, 2021 (Victoria Day)

I am a little late in writing since it was a long weekend here in Canada. I have been wrapped up in watching MLB, and the NHL playoffs that I haven’t watched a lot of films. I did manage to re-watch a couple.

Booksmart: I have reviewed this before, a year ago in May 25, 2020. In seeing it once again it was a perfect change of pace to have some laughs. It is high school drama, end of year shenanigans but funny and fun. It also has a heart where all these young people, who are each lost and insecure in their own way, find some direction after a night of celebration. There are the typical kids included with the athletes, the theatre types, the brainers and those in between. Relationships are tentative and uncertain. It was fun as the end of the school year approaches.

Bull Durham: In the category of movies I have watched long ago, but didn’t review when I had started conversing with Alison is Bull Durham. This 1988 baseball flick is another movie that is just fun. It is one of the best baseball movies ever made, in my opinion, and shows the trials of career minor leaguer catcher, Crash Davis (played by Kevin Costner) mentoring a young pitcher prospect, Nuke Laloosh, played by Tim Robbins. Davis teaches the immature pitcher the ins and outs of pitching and in life (with local ladies like Susan Sarandon). Robbins and Sarandon met in this film and later married and had kids. There are some classic scenes with Nuke pitching and the chatter on the baseball diamond. As I watch a young Jays baseball team, I think about some of the scenes, like Crash teaching Nuke about baseball clichés for interviews.

And who can forget this lesson in baseball when the pitcher has to trust in his catcher. Priceless the look on Robbins’ face as he sees ball exit the field “in a hurry!!!” Funny! This movie is as relevant today as when it was first released. The actors of course have all aged and moved on but it was a memorable addition to their collective body of work.

Mare of Easttown continues to be good and I am enjoying. Hope everyone enjoyed the long weekend and the glorious weather we had in Southern Ontario.