November 28, 2013

First was a recommendation from a woman I dated a couple of times, called Cafe de Flore.  Vanessa Paradis is in it, Johnny Depp’s Ex.  It is a Canadian film which spans two times and places.   First Montreal in present day, and then Paris back in the late 60s.   Paradis is a woman in the late 60s who has a boy who has Down Syndrome.   Her man leaves her because of it.   She makes it her mission in life to see that this boy gets a normal upbringing.   She is very dedicated.   Pop back to present day Montreal, and there is a 40yo DJ who has two daughters and a girlfriend.   He split with the Mother of the girls.   There is his story and their story together of this guy and the Mom of the daughters and how they met.  In the end the stories impact one another and I won’t say how.   But in some ways it was disturbing.  This movie stayed with me the next day but not really in a positive way.  There was negative there and a feeling that there was betrayal.   Rotten tomatoes had thoughts on this movie.  This woman I dated raved about it.   I was not so enthusiastic, but I can understand why she liked it.
Next I went to see Dallas Buyers Club Tuesday night for Cheap Tuesday.   Matthew McConaughey has done a Robert De Niro effort in losing weight and getting into character here.  Playing a womanizing, drug snorting, blue collar electrician red neck very well.   He finds out on a routine check that he has HIV.   Immediately he thinks about Rock Hudson and articles about him being gay.   Matthew’s character is homophobic and finds the news unbelievable.   The doctors give him 30 days to live.  Give him time to “get his affairs in order”.   He is a wily guy and looks to obtain the new drug AZT to fight the illness.   Ultimately he lands in Mexico and gets to know and understand more about the disease.   He looks to take vitamins and build up his immunities but also being entreprenuerial and bring this concoction back to the US (so far the FDA had not allowed these items).   They are not all drugs, in fact many are not.   Still the FDA sits by while people panic who are dying justifiably.   The story unfolds and we see the battle here, as this guy tries to beat the system but also (ultimately) to learn to help people.    There is a Best Actor award nomination here.  Could even be a Best Supporting role for Jared Leto who also lost a ton of weight!    There are moments for both of them that they are scary in colour and in body shape.   This is worthwhile seeing.   Good performances and an interesting story.    The red neck aspect of it plays out really interestingly too.
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November 3rd, 2013

12 Years A Slave – This is a powerful story, that is slow at times.   Well acted with a particular nod to the main actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who will get a Best Actor nomination here.   He is excellent, and more for what he doesn’t say than what he does.   He has such an expressive face and eyes, that he speaks volumes about what he has endured.   This is an important and necessary story to be told.   It won’t win favour in the Deep South and I wondered about any compensation that was ever considered for slaves and their families.    Hell if the Indians can get compensation from us, and the Japanese from WWII internment, surely here too.
Winter’s Bone – watched this on Netflix as I wanted to see the earlier Jennifer Lawrence Academy Award nomination.   Had not seen before.   Another slow, plodding along story that is very simple.   Family in boondocks, nowhere USA (likely West Virginia) has teen girl (Lawrence) taking care of two younger siblings and her Mom who is basically incapable of action.   She is everything on this little house and land.   Then the law shows up looking for estranged Dad and says if he misses his Court date, that the house will be lost as it was put up for bail.   Lawrence goes off to try and find Dad.
It seems to me that roles with a wide range and tremendous range of emotion do get the nods for awards.   Here Lawrence shows this. She did not win.  A resilience but also showing deep and powerful emotion.   Hanks does this as well in Captain Phillips.   Each principal role in the three movies reviewed here have it.   So it has been a good week for films.  More to come.
Captain Phillips – seen earlier in the week.   I am glad to see this.   Hanks will also likely get an awards nod for this role.   There is truly a part of me that thinks if the money spent to deal with these pirates was just given to them (or their country) then many of the problems could be solved.  Think of the money and men spent to mobilize against this situation, and the lives that were put at risk.   In truth I did not see as much of the political message here.   Yes a people who have very little are looking to survive, but being modern day pirates does not seem to be to be a sympathetic path for them in their quest.   The supporting cast was very good, especially the Ethiopian leader (Barkhad Abdi).

October 7th, 2013

Last night I went to Colossus and saw Gravity.   I saw it in 3D, big sound, assigned seating (as big as it can be!!) and this was a fascinating film.   Starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock and virtually no one else (Ed Harris’ voice) it is an Apollo 13 like movie set in space.   What happens is not going to be discussed here.
What is important, to me anyway, was the scenes and shots from space in a present day looking film with today’s technology.   No one is beaming aboard anything.  There are no hi-tech jump suits (Star Trek) but rather bulky and cumbersome space suits which protect one from the harsh elements.   We think of space as this adventurous and fantasy place when in fact it has stark realities of air and warmth and water which are crucial to human survival.   Space is filled with danger and one needs to respect that if they are going to work (and live) there.  A more realistic recognition of this helps, even though there are moments in order to making a movie This is a movie worth seeing.   I wish I saw it at TIFF.   There is a range of emotion here that was unexpected for me and provided more reason to enjoy it.   Sandra Bullock  is very good.
See this one.   I would even see it again.

September 10th, 2013 – TIFF edition

I wish that I had the gift of prose and language like the late, great Roger Ebert, especially when I have seen a remarkably bad film.   He would have a way with words that would put a film in its rightful place.

Last night was such a film with the premiere of Under the Skin with Scarlett Johansson.   It was billed as a “sci fi thriller” with the director and star attending live at the performance last night.   They gave away free McDonalds coffee in the street as we lined up waiting to go in.  It’s a good thing.   The audience would have fallen asleep from boredom during this debacle.
This is a movie where I am glad that the Director before it was viewed stated “this is a film from the perspective of an alien and how they would see us”.    Helpful because I would be unaware (virtually) without that context.    Here we have visual images that mirror 2001, and some in Tree of Life and even Prometheus of Scotland (an opening sequence shows a lake which becomes a kaleidocope).  There is distracting music throughout.   Then the basic storyline has an alien (Scarlett) who is anxious to reveal herself to the camera but then does very little.   She hunts unsuspecting locals who happen to walk around Edinburgh at the wrong time and meet the wrong woman, who is driving a van that we are uncertain how she obtained.   She chats them up and is pleasant.  This carries on for quite some time.   Then something happens and she has a change of heart, and also goes mysteriously silent.   The rest is a strange and convoluted mess of very little action and confusing situations.
I wonder how this was positioned to Scarlett by her agent?   “Do this Star.  It’ll show people you are bold and willing to be naked.   It’ll bump up your status like it helped Jeff Bridges in Starman (he got a nomination for his role)”.  She was sold a bill of goods.   Starman is an infinitely better film about an alien visiting the planet.   Bridges is infinitely better.   Damn, even Keanu Reeves (Woah) is better in The Man Who Fell to Earth.    There are just so many unanswered questions.  Why does she do what she does?   What purpose does she have here?   Where does she get the money for clothes and a van?   Why the change of heart?   What happened to the men early on and what was the purpose?   Why did I sit through until the end of this film?    Why did people clap at the end?   I can only suggest on the last question that those who clapped along to the music for the L’Oreal cosmetic commercial and clapped for that are the same ones who clapped at the end.
Young and Beautiful was a Belgian film, in French with subtitles.   It was well reviewed by Now Magazine.   It is a coming of age story about a good looking 17yo who has her first sexual encounter on vacation in the summer near her birthday.   She then returns to the city (Paris) and begins turning tricks as a prostitute.  Why again is not answered.   For a 17yo, in some ways this makes sense.   I enjoyed this film more.   It will likely not be in your local Cineplex.   The principal actress attended the film.  She was painfully shy at the microphone on the stage but on film takes her clothes off without issue.
My history with TIFF as far as quality movies goes is not very good.   I enjoy the experience and the vibe in the city – you can feel the excitement with the crowds.  It is a good crowd too.   Intelligent, good looking, patient and interesting.   There should be a TIFF Speed dating event where you get free admission if you show a film ticket.   People chat easily in line and are not all Torontonians obviously!!
Third Person.  Yesterday’s film experience was much more satisfying for me.   It was the new film from Paul Haggis (Canadian) who won the Oscar for Best Picture for Crash.   Ironically this is a much maligned choice now, like Ordinary People winning and not Raging Bull or Shakespeare in Love rather than Saving Private Ryan.   But I digress.
This movies has many stars with Liam Neeson, Kim Basinger, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Adrian Brody and Olivia Wilde.  Brody was present at the Festival as was Haggis both before and after.   This story had multiple stories running simultaneously (as with Crash) and then they come together at the end.   It is a long film (over 2 hours) and by the end I was feeling the time.  Basically it is a story about trust.   Haggis himself called it a story about love, in all of its forms, but for me I see more issues about trust in it.   That being said, the storyline has various characters and you must pay attention as to what is happening.   Neeson is a writer who is working on his next novel.  He sits in a hotel room.  Typing away.   There are various people and interactions here with a theme of trust.   There is heartache and joy.  There is pain.   I will not delve further into the plot.
I enjoyed this movie, especially given Under the Skin two nights ago.  Alison found it long and the payoff not as satisfying.   I could relate heavily to the Neeson story and that helped me with the understanding and enjoyment.  In my previous relationship with a woman from Texas, I had been lied to, and manipulated and deceived on numerous occasions and here on screen was a similar personality (played by Wilde).   So that added to the familiarity.
I do not need to rush out and see this again, but I am glad that I saw it.

September 3rd, 2013

Plenty to talk about here.  Lots of movies over the past few days.   Saw a couple with youngest son.

Two Guns – Marky Mark and Denzel.  This was a lot of fun I have to say.  I went in with few expectations and although the story gets really turned upside down, and convoluted, it was enjoyable to watch.   Marky Mark does a decent job as has some good lines.   Denzel avoids biting that bottom lip but then again, he has no really emotional scenes to deal with here.   Storyline is a robbery gone bad and you wonder who may be double crossing whom.  Worthy of a rental at least.
Gatsby – Leo plays the party-throwing young man looking to impress.  The whole deal about “modernizing” this by having Jay Zee do some songs etc is really not important to the story.  The CGI looks really CGI with the cars graphics and the house/mansion scenes.   The story (unknown to me before viewing) is fairly straightforward and I won’t spoil it here.   Suffice it to say that I could relate to what happens to the main characters and can agree with the underlying them.  You’ll know it (the theme) when you see it.   Tobey McGuire is good here and supports Leo well.   The other main male character too is also good.   This was better than I had expected.
Epic – the animated film about the forest and the Queen of the “good” forest dealing with the “rotten” part of the forest.   I avoided thinking about Beyonce as the Good Queen and was more interested in Christoph Walz playing that “rotten” guy leader.   This is not in the league with the story against Pixar and Finding Nemo, but there is some clever animation.  Nice scenes.   It did not really keep youngest son’s attention and that is a big barometer for me.   Neither did Hugo BTW.  Tried but he could not stay with it.   So worthy of a download or a cheap Red Box ($2) for me.

August 20, 2013

So on Sunday after a week with the kiddos, I went out to see Elysium at the theatre.   I have not done a full compare and contrast to Oblivion (since I have not rented that) but that is to come.

As for this movie on its own merit, it was okay.   Same director as District 9 that we both liked.   Have to say that I think the choice to use the protagonist from District 9 here as a baddy was a poor choice.   Despite the foul language and general distemper from a person ACTING as a sociopath, you don’t get that sense about him.   It’s like asking Mister Rogers to come and set your house on fire.   He likely can do it, but it is completely out of character and not what you expect.

Oh and Maaatt Daaaaamon is here.  Did you know that?   Well here he is an adult version of a small kid who is part of the proletariat.  The rich people have left earth for their palace in the sky.   Earth crumbles with crime and over-population.  So there is a class struggle.  The story then unfolds in a relatively predictable manner with an issue which forces Matt’s hand and it coincides with another event which puts it all into a nice tight little package.
There are a number of moments when in the movie I said “Well isn’t THAT fortuitous” – kind of like Superman and how Lois Lane gets invited on an alien space ship.   Answer:  it is a plot requirement to keep it rolling.
Don’t run out to see it.  It is alright.   A cheap Tuesday would make sense.  But otherwise it can be a rental.   Perhaps you can watch and tell me which accent Jodie Foster is trying to portray here.  French?  English?   English by a French person?   I dunno.

July 14, 2013

Well it has been some time that I needed to pass along thoughts:

Man of Steel – we saw this together (seems ages ago) and I have thought about this movie more.  I liked Superman.  I don’t like Lois Lane (Amy Adams).  She redeemed herself recently with me in The Fighter but we will get back to that.   And these fights scenes and action sequences that go on and on and on are tiresome.  Like sword fighting in battles (ie: Braveheart) once it has been done, there is little more that you can add to it.   So why repeat with these tights camera shots (Bourne)?  In the end, Superman to me is just a little too nice and too perfect.   It’s the story that does not capture me.  Not like Batman does or did.   There are so many questions.   So many times the level of disbelief has to rise.  And then there is that ever-present Lois Lane, for whom he has no chemistry.  None.   The woman he would give up his powers for and turn the world spinning the other way (in the Christopher Reeves versions anyway), and they couldn’t even light a flashlight with their collective electricity.
Before Midnight – the reviews of this were excellent.  You asked whether there really was any need to spend more time with these characters.  The answer is a resounding “Yes”.   Yes, you should.  They are more interesting and full of insight into the middle aged couple and their challenges.   They have real life issues like step-children, and jobs and the myriad of life happenings that impact romantic love, and continued romantic love.   Celine has plenty of insight and also some pent up aggression towards Jessie.   Jessie has some guilt issues about being away from his son during his formative years.   Questions that are posed are taken as directions to go.  Consequences ensue.   This is another film that you take away what you bring into it.  20-somethings won’t like it or get it (as much).  They haven’t crossed some of these hurdles.  It can be insightful to them.  But the 40-somethings in the crowd will get it if they have lived and experienced.   See it.  Rental perhaps but do see it.
The Fighter – this was one that I had not seen in 2011.  I managed to see it on Demand the other night.  This was another David O Russell film (Silver Linings Playbook) and this guy knows good movies and get great performances.   Christian Bale won the Best Supporting Actor here, and it is deserved.  It is a physical role (having him lose pounds and hair) but also a challenge to create sympathy for a guy who lives in the past glories.   And abuses himself.   Then there is Mom (Melissa Yeo) who also won a Best Supporting Oscar and it was a very good role.  This shows you real people again that you don’t want over for dinner, but are fun to watch.   The sisters were just priceless.   Amy Adams showed some spunk and acting chops too by butting heads with the Mom and family.   I liked all performances and the movie.   I had not realized that this fighter story was recent.   Wish I had seen the fights now.
Pacific Rim – This was Rock Em Sock Em Robots as feared.  It is deeper than that, somewhat, but the premise remains the same.   Big sound, 3D (ugh!!) plenty of things that blow up.  Add to this healthy borrowings from Independence Day with an alien invasion that seems unstoppable with the geek who is charged with figuring out the weakness.   The geek channels Bobcat Goldthwait so well that I had to think if it was a younger version (or his son!!).  Was it believable?!   Not for a second!!   Your man, Idris Elba is good here (apparently this was to be a Tom Cruise vehicle that he backed away from – too bad Tom chose Oblivion).   This is however, NOT a 4 Star movie.  it is brain candy.  Fun while it lasts but forgotten minutes after it is over.   Not memorable.  A Rah-Rah go get ’em flick with these ugly over sized monsters coming from the deep.   Better on a big screen yes.  Good for a cheap Tuesday visit!!!
Cheers!  Come to the city again sometime….
This past week I watched 42, as you likely know the Jackie Robinson story.   I felt as though the performances here were good.  There was more of a focus on the Harrison Ford character than I had expected.   The guy playing Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) was interesting and there was less baseball really than I would have thought.   This is a baseball story, but obviously much more than that.   I do think that more could have focused on the baseball.   There is AT LEAST another movies worth on that front.  He DID win a World Series.   He was a career over .300 hitter and stole many bases.   Anyway, it was worthy of the rental.
I did catch the first episode and second of Homeland Season 1.  I noted that it was again voted for an Emmy for top series.  That would be for Season 2.   I will continue to seek it out.