November 5th, 2012

Been far too long since I have written to you on this topic.  Frankly
there have not been a lot of movies that I want to see out there.  The
Avengers?  No.  Hunger Games?  You mean The Running Man without
Ah-nold?!  Ah, no.  So recently I saw two films, one in the theatre
and one on the plane.

Theatre was The Vow.  And I will start this review with an Alison
classic re-telling of an opening line.  This is the story about a Saab
that in the middle of a Chicago winter after seeing a film stops at a
red light and then gets rear ended by a plow that was unable to stop.
The Saab’s passengers are injured with she (Rachel McAdams) being
thrown through the windshield and her husband driver (Channing
whatever).  Being strapped in and becoming yet another commercial for
seat belt usage.    Our Saab sadly is neither seen from again, nor
likely ever to be driven again.  Our young couple it seems are married
(a few years) and she as she awakens from her coma does not remember
him AT ALL.  Nothing.  The last 5 years of her life erased.  She still
thinks that she is to be married to the local cad, and her
overwhelming parents (Jessica Lange and Sam Neill) step in to fill in
the gaps.  There are some good twists and turns and Channing has the
patience of Jobe to be understanding and reasonable.  Throughout the
movie I am thinking that Channing really should be Ryan Gosling.   But
no never mind.  They both do an adequate job.  Scott Speedman plays
the cad very well, and the parents have some stories to tell of their
own.  It’s not as formulaic and predictable as first thought.    I
liked it.   With Speedman and McAdams, there are plenty of Canucks
here and Chicago played (for the most part, by Toronto).  Worth the
rental and/or the time – but note the sensitive heart that was
watching.

On the plane ride, I watched The Help with much anticipation.   Given
the Awards that went around for this and the nominees for Best Actress
and Supporting Actress this was really well done.  The times are
important here with the early 60s and the beginning of the movement to
eliminate segregation.  Two mindsets altered with history and the
future in the balance.  The status quo to 2012 eyes, seems so alarming
and yet there were Supreme Court rulings that equality means
“different but treated equally amongst themselves”.  There is a lovely
story here of retribution, and I am not talking about the “pie”.
Viola Davis plays a woman with a heart broken by grief in the loss of
her son.  She chooses this way to keep his memory alive.  She tells
her story.  And she convinces others to tell their story.  And in the
end, the local biatch who runs the social circle has her day – and a
fine day at that it is!   So I truly enjoyed this.  I am thankful that
there were some make characters here and wish that they were a little
more active.  I guess they are working and oblivious to the games
going on around them.  I can only imagine what things the Help heard
in those days.

So two thumbs up here for two different movies.  They are not climbing
my list of all time favs…but I was glad that I saw them, and glad to
recommend them.  I can’t recall wanting to see a woman bitch slapped more in
a movie since Lynette in An Officer and a Gentleman.   There you have
it.

Inside note that Alison had a Saab when she was in Toronto.  She
had recommended me to get one, and I ended up with one that I
regretted.   She did a review of the movie Sideways where she put the
Saab in the movie as the lead character.
Funny.

November 5th, 2012 – Prometheus, Ridley Scott

So the much anticipated and much hyped Prometheus was on the bill for
this past weekend.  I took eldest son to go see it while youngest son was at a
birthday party watching The Avengers.

I was thinking about this, and although in my Top 10 films of all time
I don’t have a Ridley Scott film, he would have quite a few
thereafter.   Very close to that Top 10 list would include Blade
Runner (early Harrison Ford and a great sci fi film visually).  Also
would be Kingdom of Heaven that I have watched repeatedly since.  He
also has done (and received Oscars for Gladiator for which Jacquin
Phoenix and the poor CGI put me off) but also A Good Year with same
Russell Crowe.   Add to this Thelma and Louise and he has an
impressive body of work.

Ridley Scott did the first Alien.  A movie who’s trailer line was “In
Space, No One Can Hear You Scream”… and this holds true today.
Scott started the Alien franchise and then James Cameron took it over
in the excellent sequel Aliens.   Then it was ruined.  Now Scott
returns to forge a new element of this storyline.  The original Alien
created a tremendous atmosphere.  No longer were space ships the clean
and antiseptic labs with white bright walls of 2001 A Space Odyssey.
Here they were functional and dark and more pragmatic.  Steam and
leaks and water and pipes and tight spaces.  You could feel and sense
the humidity.   There was a robot on board (unknown at the time for
the participants and he turned out to be interestingly programmed).
That is background, but it is good background to remember.  There is
also a very strong female character in Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) who
provides a formidable protagonist.   She survives in the first and
kicks some alien ass in the second.

Prometheus is a story that I won’t go in to tremendous detail about
with you, since I hope that you will see it with fresh eyes.  It is
worthy of a big screen.   It is worthy of 3D too, which was not
distracting and gave it some added depth, although not really
necessary in my opinion.   The basic storyline is that through ancient carvings
and drawings on walls, there is an invitation from space to go visit a
world unknown.   A rich entrepreneur takes up the challenge and sends
his team into space to seek out what is there.  The idea is to meet
with the Maker!  What is found is intriguing.   There are intense
moments throughout this film and some that are not for the squeamish.
There is also a robot named David who provides a number of intriguing
aspects himself alone.  Suffice it to say that this is a visual
experience and the creation of a world that is quite remarkable.   How
the film got made and put on film still stays with me, and the
achievement that it is.   Sound, visuals and story that come together
well.

It raises many questions too in my mind that as I think further on it,
confuses me.   For example, if the Visitors (or the Engineers) came to
Earth before (and given the distances of where things were found they
likely were there more than once unless it was simply a grand tour of
a planet) – then why go through the extravagant process of inviting us
to go there?  Why not just drop off a package?  Why wait until we have
the technology to go there?  David himself creates a number of
questions on his own, and how he interacts with and deals with the
others on board.  But nevermind.  If you think too hard on that, it
hurts the brain too much.

I enjoyed this.  Older son enjoyed this.  It was well done.  I would see it
again to pick up more than just the plot.  Happy moving going, and do
try and see this on a big screen if at all possible.   My theatre was
Collosus and the seats were shaking from the deep bass…love it!!

I bought on BluRay and re-watched Prometheus along with some of the
extras.  Having seen it a second time I like it and understand it a
lot more.  Or so I think that I do.

Here’s my take on it.  The Engineers went to Earth and had their
Sacrifice.  Killed poor buddy with the black ooze that he drank.
LONG time ago.  He is the basis for the human race.   Then the
Engineers decide (for an unknown reason) to eliminate their mutants on
Earth.  They go to an empty planet and create these WMD (Weapons of
mass destruction) to eliminate us.  They have all these silos with the
black guck that is meant to kill us and start fresh.  Something goes
horribly wrong on that planet and the Engineers are taken over and
wiped out.  We on earth are not aware of their change of heart and in
the meantime human figures had created a road map to identify where
they were coming from (this is vague for me).   Why point to a planet
that was a test facility for WMD?   I dunno?   Would they even KNOW
about it?!   But nevermind.  Stay with me.  The Engineers choose not
to kill us, but more likely were wiped out and decided we weren’t
worth the hassle.   Many years pass.  Our expedition goes forth to
seek out the Engineers.  They want to know WHY they wanted to kill us
and why they changed their minds.

David (Michael Fassbender) in this movie is brilliant.  A great performance and the scenes with him imitating Peter O’Toole as Lawrence of Arabia are great
indeed.   He plays that same 2001 Hal somewhat evil character and
keeps the tradition of the robot who has his own programming going on
(here focusing entirely on the old man and the mission to keep him
alive).   I LOVED the line as he sees her after her self-induced
abortion “I didn’t think that you had it in you….”   Priceless….!!

Still Charlize Theron dies in a silly fashion.  Still there are
elements of people acting stupidly and irrationally and
unscientifically (buddy with the snake in the water in the chamber –
are you DAFT?!!?)  Anyway, I really like it and how it makes you
think.  It is an admirable prequel to the Alien franchise.

November 26, 2012

This past week was an opportunity to see Lincoln.  I was looking
forward to this, knowing full well that I was going to see
performances and not gun fights and killing.   This movie outlines the
last few months of Lincoln’s Presidency and his desire to end slavery
(Amendment to the Constitution) as well as end the Civil War, which
seemed to be diametrically opposed goals.  If you free the slaves you
will lose the will by the South to negotiate a truce.   This is a
political story really and the haggling and bartering and flat out arm
twisting that happens in politics.  The players (all but Lincoln
really) are forgotten but the historic accomplishment is not.  There
are tremendous supporting actors here (notably Sally Field as
Lincoln’s Wife and Tommy Lee Jones and a political opponent).
Together they form the basis for much drama in passing this Amendment.

Daniel Day Lewis has easily secured a Best Actor nomination here and
he is very effective.  He is very cerebral and like anyone’s
Grandfather tells poignant and important stories to make his point.
He has some of his own people to sway the vote and in that role James
Spader is excellent.   Lincoln realizes the importance of the
Amendment of course and that he can have his cake AND eat it too.
Good story telling in a story that moves along.  Much the same length
as Skyfall, I did not feel it as much sitting in the seat.   Do you
need to see this in a big screen?  No.  Does it help?  Sure.  But it
is worth watching as we head into Oscar time.

I have seen the trailer for Life of Pi more than once and on the face
it it (without having read the book – Canadian author BTW) it looked
cheesey.  However the Ebert review was glowing and it called the movie
one of the Best of the Year.  I may have to go check it out.   I may
even have to check out and read the book.  We’ll see.  I have so many
books on the go that I need to finish a few.   I saw Lincoln on my own
in a full theatre, which surprised me a bit with Skyfall and Breaking
Dawn in adjacent theaters.  TOTALLY different crowd though!!

October 29th, 2012

Good morning and a happy Monday to you.   I am trying to think when
the last time I wrote one of these on a Monday.  The last reviews have
been mid week after last week after Tuesday ($7.50) when I saw Argo.
Anyway, this weekend (last night) I went out to see Cloud Atlas which
I had purposefully NOT read the previews to set any expectations.  I
had seen the Roger Ebert really liked it and talked about seeing it a
second time.  So I felt that it would merit the viewing.

Interestingly this was at the AMC chain and NOT Cineplex and I saw it
at Interchange.   That theatre which was enormous and help 30 screens
is downsizing by HALF!!  Not sure what they are going to do about it.
But they had closed off the northern half to access it.  We will see
what comes in there.

This movie has an impressive cast with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim
Broadbent, Hugh Grant (when did you see him last?) and Hugo Weaving.
Others too.  They have heavy make up in some cases and play various
characters in a myriad of different stories from different times.
They interact (in some cases) and stand alone in others.   This a
movie on a higher plain.  It is dealing with the human condition and
asking questions as to why we keep doing the same things to each
other.   In different times and places, but the same behaviours.   It
also talks about the nature of existence and how we all inter relate
with different people.   We are not alone and not islands.   Some
souls, some people, just manage to find one another.  And have impact
on our lives.  There are other messages as well, like not everyone is
all good or all bad.   And that in life there are the strong and the
weak, and the weak are meat and the strong always eat.   Strong and
“rich and powerful” are meant to have similar meanings here.

It is a long movie (2:38) and near the end I was feeling it.   It kept
my attention.  Can I recommend it?  Not completely.  But it was good
and I am glad that I saw it.  Grumblings as I left the theatre were
mixed.   There was this english-speak for the early section where you
had to pay attention to it to get the meaning.  There were hints at
other movies like Blade Runner, the Matrix (the Wachowski brothers
were directing part of these stories) and there was a mishmash of
other stories here that you have seen before.   I do like Hugo
Weaving.  He is a presence and a great bad guy.  Some make up changes
the skin colour and the eye shape and even sex of the principal
actors.   There is some humour but it is mostly pretty deep and
dramatic.

Not since Prometheus has a film garnered this much discussion, but
Cloud Atlas is doing much the same:

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2012/10/a_riddle_wrapped_in_a_mystery_.html

I am actually impressed by the Ebert review here because he does not
try to explain the film, he talks about experiencing it.   My goal in
NOT reading reviews before going was to see this with my own fresh
eyes and no formal opinion about the content.   I am glad that I did.
There are, indeed, moments and stories that did not work as well as
others.  But there is a thread of truth (or my perception of truth)
that makes this an engaging and interesting film.   I am not convinced
yet that I need to see it a second time.   Perhaps a viewing on the
same screen may suffice as the special effects such as they are do not
make the film.

Thurs Oct 25, 2012

Argo:  I had a chance to see this two nights ago.  $7.50 Tuesdays at
Cineplex, which is a far cry from $2.50 Tuesdays as I remember them
“back in the day” but it’s still almost half price!   So I will head
out to the movies more often on Tuesday nights!   This was one of the
films available at TIFF and I had wished to have seen it then.   But
it was full and I waited.  I am glad that I saw it.  Ben Affleck as
Director has a good way about him and the camera.  He sets the scenes
well and finds a way to create suspense in a film where you don’t
anticipate much (we know how it ends).   Still there were tense
moments as these people are looking to get removed out of a volatile
situation.

The film begins with a 3 minute overview of the politics in
Iran/Persia and how the US has impacted the situation by instilling
the Shah, who used his power to kill detractors and pillage the country.  So then
we have this crisis situation arise where the US embassy is taken over
and some of the people escaped to the Canadian Consulate.   If the
movie is to be believed, the CIA and US Intelligence created the whole
scheme.  We as Canadians were there for posterity sake and let the
Americans do the heavy lifting.   I think that the impact and
influence of the Canadian ambassador is downplayed here.   Everyone on
this team put their lives at risk to try and get these people out.
There were some overly dramatic aspects of it near the end that I am
most certain did not occur.  Still it is a compelling story and done
well.  Affleck is strong in his role along with a strong supporting
cast.   The Hollywood angle is played very well with John Goodman and
Alan Arkin.   The hostages themselves are solid too in showing the
tense situation and stresses that they must have been agonizing over
especially since there were people being hanged in the streets.

If you get a chance, try and check this out.   Not necessarily a big
screen film but good.  Could potentially have some Oscar nominations I
would guess.   Others I want to see are Looper and Arbitrage.

Sunday Sept 23, 2012

On Friday I went out to see End of Watch with Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena in a cop buddy movie set in LA, from the writer of Training Day.  It’s filmed in almost documentary form and can be jumpy and hard to follow at times in terms of the action.   Some seemingly haphazard and unrelated events occur which provide context for our officers and you see what they are doing over a stretch of time.   They work well together and it shows the more human side of this job.  You and I see a uniform.  These are guys who live and breath the mean streets on a daily basis and put themselves in harm’s way for those who show them contempt more often than not.

The actors have a great rapport and talk like young officers would.  They have some good male banter between them and share in thoughts on life while continually backing each other up.  They see and experience some unreal things.  They find themselves in a serious larger event that impacts their lives more than they would ever suspect.  Some seemingly innocuous meetings with various people have impacts later on in the film.  It is tied together well and you want these two guys to succeed.  They are likeable if not downright scary in certain circumstances.
I am glad that I saw it.   I will not disclose more in the plot than what I have shared.   This is a movie to experience with very little understanding about what’s going to take place.  It is more impactful that way for sure.

Thursday September 6th, 2012

So here was a little unexpected surprise with the TIFF starting today.

Last Winter, daughter and older son one weekend ended having to go downtown and help on some film project that a Ryerson student was doing.  Daughter was going to be an extra, and son ended up going and helping with the lighting and the cameras.  They were there for most of the weekend.
This past weekend, my daughter tells me that this short film (15 mins) is going to be part of TIFF.  It is part of a Short Films night to be seen on Saturday (in two days).
The film is called Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, and it stars Gordon Pinsent.  A good actor.    There is a trailer for it (see attached) and if you can pause it at the 36 second mark – you will see my daughter on the left with the blonde hair and wearing the red outfit.  Yes, it’s a stretch but she is there.   I am going to see the films on Saturday if I can get a ticket!!   Not everyday you get to see your daughter on screen at TIFF!!
Cool…!
[Updated as day passes – Alison asked if she saw the trailer and film]
Good morning!  Well in truth, she was watching the trailer herself and caught a glimpse of her own image.  Then she pointed it out.

As a matter of fact I had a TIFF evening on Saturday when I was unsure about seeing anything.  I had gone online and called about seeing that Shorts show for my daughter  and came up empty on tickets.  I decided to had downtown an hour before the show at 6:15PM.   I was told at Bell Lightbox to just enter the Rush line.  I did around number 45.  At 6:15 they were going up the line and I was feeling low about my chances, but then they asked me about what show I wanted and then let me in!!  I was the third LAST person to get a seat!!  I had resolved to head back on the subway but got it.
Downtown incidentally was CRAZY!!!!  Filled with people along King Street in the Theatre District.  Lines around the block to see shows.  Screaming was heard when celebrities showed up but it did not phase me.  The city was vibrant and alive.
So in the theatre they introduced the 5 films and the directors as well, all of whom were there.  Amazing.  Some of the actors too.  All Canadian with two from Ryerson, and three from Quebec.  Most of the shorts were well done.  I liked the one my daughter was in particularly.   It is about a 13yo in class being told by a friend on her birthday that if she closes an eye and can’t see her hand beyond her nose – “then your nose is too big – and you’re ugly…”  my daughter was in the early scenes at the school in a classroom (dressed as a Devil for Halloween and then in the gym).  I saw her right away!!    There was a funny film about “Asian Gangs” and another about a French Canadian kick ass woman taking on some big-mouthed roughnecks.
At the end of the film they had a question and answer session.  Very lively and excellent.  Afterwards I introduced myself to my daughter’s young director and congratulated him on a job well done.  It’s nice to have Rick Mercer as a family friend who managed to get Gordon Pinsent to act for you!!
After the show was over and walking back along King Street, three girls from Visa stop me and ask if I have a Visa Infinite card.  In fact I just got one less than a month ago.  As I say Yes, they hand me a free ticket to a screeening at the Elgin theatre and taxi chit to take me there.  So I am off.  Seeing two movies in one night when I had fully expected none.
The second movie was a French (Parisienne) film called Apres Mai (After May) or on the ticket as Something in the Air.  A tiresome and muddled story about a young man in the early 70s in Paris fighting the good fight for socialist reforms.  And how he interacts with others and learns to become an “artiste”.   It is two hours that I won’t get back.  It was over at 11, and then I headed back home.  But a fun night out and the first real TIFF experience for me.  The city was abuzz on Saturday night.   I went without food, but survived.

September 3rd, 2012

So last night I took the kids to see the family friendly Disney The Odd Life of Timothy Green.  The movie stars Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton as a likeable couple who are devastated at their inability to conceive a child.  One night they right down on paper a list of qualities and characteristics of this child they can’t have.   They put it in a box and bury it in the garden out back.  Then after a freak isolated storm, Timothy shows up and they take him as their own.  This little boy is as cute as they come and make family and friends ignore how sudden he appeared.  The rest of the story is this couple acting as parents.  And then the journey that this takes them on.

I am hard pressed to find another actress who is as likeable as Jennifer Garner.   This is not just a looks thing, but she has a sweetness, and she’s genuine.  She plays sympathetic here very well and trying hard to be a good parent saying things like “It’s okay for Timothy to have secrets from us…..so long as he tells us about them”.  Edgerton plays the father well here and they as a couple work well.  He has a domineering Dad, played by David Morse in a bit of a stretch for him, but he plays it well.  This is NOT a big screen movie but I enjoyed it.  I am glad that the kids liked it.  There are plenty of life lessons here.  Not all movies have to have explosions and killing.  This was one that suited the mood I was in and was family Disney entertainment.

August 28th, 2012

Saturday Night I went out and saw Bourne Legacy.  I liked the Bourne trilogy with Maaatt Daaamon, and generally thought that it was a good concept.  Incidentally the book (Bourne Identity since read by me) is set in the Cold War and has a different bent to it.   But I digress.   Here we have a tag line that reads “Bourne isn’t the only one”.   Apparently he’s not the only “program” being run surreptitiously within the government.  The story here starts during the second Bourne movie when the reporter gets shot in Waterloo station.   Bourne becomes the reason why this other program needs to be shut down for fear of exposure.   That would “be bad” as “everybody would go down”.   This tangential beginning where you make reference to the other story and then begin this one is distracting.
This new program uses drugs to alter the DNA of the Agents.  And it hooks them on these drugs and they become addicts.   I hadn’t expected the Bourne movie to become a chemistry experiment where you make them crave product.  Turns out though that you can end the dependency with a good flu virus.   Who knew?!    Edward Norton is here and was not pressed and his abilities were for the most part wasted.  He has a good scene with a General, but otherwise very little.   Then there’s our new hero (Jeremy Renner) who has a remarkable ability to escape stressful situations.   The fight scenes still are all shot far too close and you cannot get a sense of the action.   The camera is held a little steadier but could be more so.  There is a quality motorcycle scene.   Query whether we have pretty much come to end of the limits of motorcycle chases between Bourne and the Bond series.   New Bond comes out in the Winter and the preview made it look really good (Skyfall in November).
Overall, I was not pleased to pay to pay the $15.99 for the film with the moving and shaking seats.   Honestly I did not notice it, nor the assigned seating either.   This was okay, but I would not go and seek it out.  Hard to say that it’s a big screen movie.   I always like seeing Rachel Weisz and here she plays the role of the scientist for the pharmaceutical company well.   There are a couple moments when you are suspending your disbelief by that proverbial thread.  I have to let them pass or you start wonder about things like – how do you keep your motorcycle going fast when you release your throttle hand to grab at something?   And what do you say about the ultimate fighting weapon who does an amazing Terminator impression up until the point of his ultimate undoing.  Without spoiling it, it’s a bit of a surprise.  And I was not talking about the hero….
Worthy of a rental.  Open ended at the end to allow for more sequels.   Not sure really if they are necessary.
I rented The Artist last night and quite honestly I don’t get all the hype.  Certainly not the Best Actor award.  How do you get an acting award without saying anything?  Facial expressions are nice, and true Daniel Day Lewis said very little as Christie Brown in My Left Foot.  But this is different.  As a speaking Actor, I would be pissed!!  It was not memorable.   Nor was it the best film of the year.  Nothing further really to say on it.

August 6th, 2012

I saw Hunger Games and spent a whole $1.50 to see it in a big theatre.  I LOVE this second run movie theatre in Dallas.  I can’t RENT the movies for that amount of money.  But still, you get what you pay for apparently.   I saw John Carter there and felt the same way.  Now there’s Hunger Games that my daughter classified as “a beautiful film”.  Ummmm I told her that I simply do not see it.

And it’s been done before.  Roller Ball, The Running Man, Death Race 2000, heck Logan’s Run.  The female lead does an admirable job of keeping the story together, but what a story.  Not having read the book, I didn’t get the whole concept of the game.  Why?  Why pit these varying aged kids against one another to kill one another?   Made me scratch my head.
In the end this whole contrived thing didn’t make a whole heckuva lot of sense.  And just a minute, how exactly do you electronically create an animal that then is real in a game??!  Huh??   Why exactly did the race card need to be played, and why too do the “dogs” get the male black guy rather than our heroine?   Oh, because it’s a plot device to make her more sympathetic because she only kills people who deserve it.   Whatever!
This has raised more discussion than it deserved.  Funny that you had the similar reaction to Batman as my son.  He liked the second movie MUCH better.  I do agree though that MORE Batman would have been better (an Ebert comment).  There was too much time spent getting out of a hole.  But nevertheless a worthy conclusion.
Not sure what I want to see next.  My colleague at worked HATED Prometheus.  Hated it!!  Thought that that the people did not act like people at all.  In hindsight there is part of that there (like the whole self-abortion scene and running into the old man – and it doesn’t phase ANYONE!).   I will re-watch it again.  I already re-watched Alien.  Noticing the control center.