July 13, 2015

I finally saw on Netflix (and in chunks) over the past few days the movie The Drop that you had seen at TIFF.   Can’t say that I was overly impressed with it.    I ended up watching it more to see Tom Hardy and his portrayal.   I saw him in Mad Max, and The Warrior where he played these “strong, silent types” much like more moody Ryan Gosling played in Drive and The Place Beyond the Pines (the latter being totally forgettable).    Also of course as Bane from Batman.

Here I found Hardy hard to hear and understand.    How can he become this mumbling guy with the thicker NY accent when can also play the sharp Brit accent guy from Inception.    The story was a simple one and has been told better by others , and it was predictable.   Dog lovers won’t like the pit bull story put forward, nor am I convinced that two thugs would be so enarmoured with a dog (although it in all likelihood is just an excuse to be difficult and settle and old score!).   Anyway, I couldn’t help but think that James Gandolfini could not be any heavier, as he was still smoking away.   Not a very healthy lifestyle.


June 29th, 2015

This weekend was seeing (and debating on seeing) either Inside Out, the Pixar film being praised as their best in a number of years and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl.   Ultimately the decision was Inside Out.   There was a negative review on rogerebert.com on Dying Girl, which contradicted the Best Film prize from Sundance and the overall positive reviews on rottentomatoes (93%).   Pixar won out.

Inside Out: This was an interesting film and does with animation what would be almost impossible with real actors, and sets.  Sure we could have CGI and green screen work everywhere, but the animation gives free reign to directors and story tellers.   You know the premise, it’s a story about an 11 yo girl (Riley) but the real characters and the emotions that rule her mind Control Room.    Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust and Sadness work in her head, sometimes at odds with one another.   Riley is generally happy and has some strong core memories and relationships.   This is shaken and challenged when she moves from Minnesota to San Fran.   There is some tremendous psychological discussion here, and elements of the brain.  Abstract thought, dreams, lost memories and being forgotten are all tied in.   There is also a powerful message about happiness and joy, and how even sadness can temper and add to the overall life experience of a person.   It makes one think of your own make up.   Which character rules you?    It was worth the trip to the theatre.   It stays with you.
I re-watched The Intouchables on Saturday night and once again was moved by this movie and the friendship created between these two characters.  It is funny.   But also shows how people can have impact on others.   How getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing and leads to happiness.   One man learns responsibility and helping others, while another to find new joy and realize that he is more than an invalid in a wheelchair.
Starting watching Weeds (season 1) as a new series to catch and liked it.   Mary Louise Parker and Elizabeth Perkins give spunky performances of a widow selling pot to make ends meet.   It is a good social commentary and has some really good writing.    Watched the first three episodes.  It is 7 seasons, so there is much to watch.   I expect the arch to be similar than to Breaking Bad.   Likely just less violent.

June 22nd, 2015 – summer edition

I went and saw Jurassic World on Saturday night in a packed theatre with kids.  This was recommended by my elder son who had already seen it.   He thought that it referenced the older original well, but putting a modern spin on it.   I am thanking him for the recommendation.   I enjoyed it and so did the others who attended.

This is entertainment pure and simple.  You go to see something new and interesting while not thinking too hard.   The dinosaurs look great and the premise continues to build on the overall theme – dinosaurs are genetically designed and people try and control the situation.    Control of course is a myth, and nature “finds a way”.   Here the people try to generate new buzz about the park by introducing new “attractions”.  With corporate sponsorship, they want a bigger, badder monster with more teeth.  So the scientists create a new dinosaur species.   And it’s bad, and intelligent and dominant.   Fast forward and nature runs amok and there is a need to put the genie back in the bottle, after much carnage both on the dinosaur and human side.   This is fun.  There were some great action sequences, and a decent story.   Like Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron’s little girl) looks better as she becomes more sweaty and frazzled.   The littlest little boy has to lose the Justin Bieber haircut as it is simple distracting.   The raptors and Lego’s “most interesting person in the world” (Chris Pratt) is also good.    Worth seeing on a big screen with big sound.
I also watched Warrior with Tom Hardy, and the new Pharoah (Yul Brennar from Exodus).   It was better than expected with a story of a broken family with a recovering Father (Nick Nolte) playing his recovering alcoholic well.   The story is predictable as two brothers enter a tournament for $5 prize against the best MMA fighters.    It kept my attention and the two main characters are interesting.  You do root for them both.  Tom Hardy with Mad Max and Batman under his belt recently, he plays another guy who says very little.  He says a lot with his eyes, but I have yet to find him a role which was as appealing as in Inception.    He was good and charismatic there.  I am glad that I saw this too.  It kept me up when I should have been sleeping.

June 1st, 2015

Two reviews for this week.  The first is a movie from TIFF last year that had a good buzz around it called Nightcrawler with Jake Glyenhaal (or whatever his last name is).   Here he plays a drifter, and thief initially who is looking to find his way.  He is a character and has great charm and street smarts.   This is a movie that shows the power of negotiation and who wields the power.   Early Jake is in a poor position to negotiate and the back and forth dies quickly with the other party entrenched in their position.   Jake smiles it away but rarely lets the deal go.   Later he meets up with Bill Paxton who is roaming the streets of LA in the night and searching out accidents to film and then offer to the highest bidding TV station.   It’s a living.   Jake then gets involved and the story moves along from there.   It kept my attention and even had me cringing at times when you realize what he is doing – and to those around him.   Jake is not a people person, but uses people for his own advancement.   There is social commentary here as well, and what should be put on the news, and how news is gathered.   Like the paparazzi after Diana died, you wonder about the values and those gathering this information for mass consumption.   News is still a business, and it seems that sex and violence all still sell.

I read an interview not that long ago from Laura Dern about her career, and her explaining how her kids could see her in films but that Wild at Heart wouldn’t be one of them.   Not sure whether she is protecting herself of Grandma in this case (Diane Ladd).   Likely Grandma upon viewing.   I had realized that I had not seen this David Lynch film.   I don’t think that I can review as well as Roger himself does:
Basically he calls Lynch out as being not authentic.   I have not been much of a Lynch fan either, and this movie shows me why too.   I think it comes from the frantic and excessive Mother played by Ladd.   She makes very little sense, even when people are trying to put some sense into her.   Cage and young Dern have chemistry, but the ending falls flat and becomes cheesey.   Anyway I cannot recommend.

May 20th 2015 – Long Weekend edition

This past weekend I saw Once, the film.  Earlier in the year I had seen the live play here in Toronto and enjoyed it.   I had been exposed to Once, and the music from the Broadway cast (Tony Award winning) and Steve Kazee and his talent.   I liked the music, and looked forward to seeing both of these.    The musical theatre was alright, but I did not feel the chemistry between the two lead characters.  She was driving him and his talent, but there was not a lot of sharing.   But this is background.

The movie is what started it all.   Done in 2007, by the original artists of the songs.   In the movie, that was minimalistic if there ever has been, you have a simple story told with a handheld camera and production that is downright amateur.   But this story lives and dies with the music and the two leads were very good.   Better than I had expected anyway.   They sang beautifully together and brought these songs to life.    I know the songs well and they were performed well and the voices both very good.   Mom and step-Dad watched as well and without any background they liked the movie.   I agree.   It is worth a viewing.   Some nice scenes in Dublin.  Some thicker accents that can be hard to pick up, but songs that are good.
I have three more episodes in Mad Men.
I have watched three episodes of Turn Season 2.
I have watched episode one, second season of The Fall.
I am reading very positive reviews for Mad Max: Fury Road, and positive feedback from Cannes Film Festival.   Looks like a film to catch, as I have seen all Mad Max movies previously.    I don’t think that Mel could have pulled off this film from the previews that I have seen.
Jurassic World getting pushed quite hard in commercials, and I hope that they don’t screw it up.
The rogerebert.com review of Tomorrowland was positive although more for the spectacle than the story itself (not sure how rides get to be movies, but here is another one).   To me, it’s kind of like video games (like Mario v Luigi and Lara Croft).   Happy viewing!

May 8th 2015

Here is a review from Sietz at ebert.com   Much of this I would agree with:

I had not been to the movies in a theatre in a good long while.   There simply was nothing that I felt compelled to see.   Along came Ex Machina and the reviews being almost universally positive and I thought that I would check it out.   Bonus was that it was a Tuesday and I saw for half price.
This could be a play, as it involves three core characters and it all happens in just a few rooms in a remote house.   The challenge for any theatrical interpretation would be the machina!   The work on the female machine here is excellent, with a partially clad, and partially finished robot that has see through appendages and skull.   Remarkably,and to the film’s premise, you quickly forget that as she interacts with the other male characters.   This is a male/female driven story.   Men who wish to create and be God-like, and look for affirmation of their greatness and the women they keep subservient.   Oscar Isaac (previously discussed with Most Violent Year) looks very different with shaved head and full beard rather than shaved face and 80s hair.    He is very good here once again.   He is the eccentric billionaire inventor and also the guy with deep issues.   Add to this the sensitive everyman played by dude from About Time, and you have an interesting mix.
In the Ebert review I cannot agree with putting this in a double feature with Under the Skin.    I HATED that movie.   Better pairings to me might be Her, where human users fall in love with operating systems.   Until the humans can no longer hold the attention of those systems.   Also Blade Runner too is good with human-like robots who seek extended life, and interact with the humans on the same plain.    This was a thought-provoking film and I enjoyed the performances.   The robot here says a lot with facial gestures and subtle movement.   It’s human but not quite, and it’s acted very well (Alicia Vikander).   I was showed the NY Times listed of summer movies and there were a number of coming features that I will seek out.   Hopefully more movies in the theatre.
I finished Season 1 of Newsroom and really enjoyed it.   Into Season 2.   I caught Season 2 episode 1 of Turn (revolutionary war spy series) which still holds my attention.   Finally I am caught up with Mad Men and need to watch last few episodes.    Netflix took me to episode 6 in this season.    Now Rogers On Demand can fill in the blanks.

April 28th, 2015

This weekend was Hector and the Search for Happiness.   I wonder why it wasn’t the “pursuit” of happiness but never mind.    This was a TIFF film from last Sept which I picked up at the library.   Hector played by Simon Pegg is a psychiatrist in London with the same dreary clientele.   He has a girlfriend (Rosamund Pike) who I will speak of in more detail, but he is going through the motions.   He wants to explore happiness.   Pegg is generally very funny, but here that leaning and skill is little used.   Hector goes on a journey on his own to quite random places.   It becomes a travel log (Singapore?  Nepal?  Africa?  LA?)  There is struggles to make meaning of it all, while doodling on his pad and writing down nice sayings.

Pike had an interesting year last year with the Academy nominated Gone Girl performance where she played a manipulative psycho, and here a 180 turn as a simple and antiseptic girlfriend.   It is a bland performance, but there is not much material to work with.   It would have been better to see more of her.    As it was, she played the role of dutiful girlfriend.
This was given lukewarm reviews at TIFF and I can see why.   Glad I used my tickets on other films.
On second viewing, I am getting a lot more out of Interstellar.   Youngest son wished to watch it this weekend.   It did NOT hold his attention.  I think he was waiting for laser fights, light sabres and stormtroopers.   They did not happen.   For me, rather than trying to figure out the science, and follow the plot, I stuck to the relationship of father and daughter (both Cooper and the Doctors).   As I mentioned earlier, I am also getting much more out of the music and the church organ.  It adds so much, and much more noticeable now.   The blu-ray extra bit with Hans Zimmer was really interesting.    So I am glad that this was purchased.
I have now watched three episodes of Newsroom and have enjoyed it.  I always liked Emily Mortimer, but the star here really is Jeff Daniels, who shouldn’t ever play Dumb and Dumber again.   He is smart, intelligent, brash, bold, and makes mistakes.   The writing is excellent and the opening speech about America Not the Greatest Country and then the on-air Apology for pandering to poor news for ratings were brilliant.   I look forward to more.
Here is the speech:

April 23, 2015

A belated review, from last week I saw A Most Violent Year.

It stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain.   Isaac was a familiar face who I remember seeing first as Joseph in The Nativity Story.   In that I thought that he was very good.    Really how much is written about Joseph and how he reacted to all this?  Isaac found a way to make him live, and be human and sympathetic.    He also played the spoiled King in Ridley Scott’s failed Robin Hood experiment and the King who decides not to agree to the Magna Carta.    He was more than a little over the top there.

Here he plays the owner of a New York/New Jersey home heating oil company.   He is ambitious and street smart.  He married well, and acquired a company from his Wife’s family.   She played by Chastain is a daughter of a mobster (who is presently in jail).   The roots there are strong and her inclinations lean backwards when things don’t go her way.    Here there is a business deal that puts Isaac’s company in a vulnerable position and then bad things start to happen.   It’s 1980s NYC when there were more murders and rapes than at any other time.   It’s dangerous.   But he is trying to run a legit business.  By legit, that means “following standard business practices” which in those days meant that there were still some shady dealings and sharp practices for the consumers.    The story travels a familiar arc, and it is the performances that are good.   Isaac has real personality and presence.   He has deep and penetrating looks and stares.  He says a lot with his face (I kept thinking that there was more than a little of a young Pacino in him).    The story seems a fair bit at times like The Godfather.  It’s not on that plain or level but he is good.    As for Chastain, she plays the wife well, and she shows the closeness in the relationship.   I noted how the couple when they are meeting under stressful circumstances still ask “Are you okay?”   It’s a little thing, but shows concern and support.    There was thought around Awards time that this could be under consideration.   It likely garnered a few votes, but just not enough.   I cannot really remember it being in the theatres.

April 6th, 2015

A little belated but here it is for this past weekend.

Get On Up: Picture two studio execs sitting in an office and thinking about what they can produce in film that will be popular and make money.  They talk about recent Academy Award winners who has won based on biopics in the music industry.  They include Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line), RAY with Jamie Foxx, Marion Cottilard (La Vie en Rose) etc etc.   Now these execs think, who else could we portray?!    How about the King of Soul?   Yea, James Brown!   He is colourful!!   Indeed he is.    And so they go.   But what to leave in and what to leave out?   Chadwick Boseman does an admirable job at trying to portray James Brown.  I frankly find the speech hard to understand at times.  But I think that’s the whole point.  I couldn’t understand Ozzy Osbourne or Bob Dylan either.   Too many drugs likely.    Anyway, this story bounces around and Brown has the odd behaviour of talking into the camera often trying to make a point or bring up something.   James Brown had a hard life.  Prison early on.  Parents who abandon him and he made the best anyone ever could of a bad situation with talent and hard work.  He also lived in difficult times and yet still flourished.   We did not see his many flings with women (He fathered at least 10 kids), nor his extensive drug use nor his physical abusiveness with his wives.    In the end, as a movie, this was not as enjoyable.   I preferred Boseman in 42 as Jackie Robinson.   I cannot recommend this film.
I am working my way through Mad Men.  Season 5 was a lot of fun with many divorces and occurrences at the office.   I truly do not like the Betty Francis story at all.  She is a nasty woman and terrible mother.   Overweight, and nasty towards Don (although he obviously deserves it).    He early in Season 6 simply cannot stop himself.    He is such an above board business man (like dumping Jaguar) while personally his life is a mess.
More movies to come although there has been very little in the theatres to go and see.  More tv shows to watch too like The Fall, and Orange is the New Black among others.

March 9th, 2015

I have carried on a debate with people for some time about getting older, and whether in your old age you would rather lose your body or lose your mind?   I have seen first-hand both sides.   My Grammy, who lived into her late 90s, lost her body.  Her eyesight failed with cataracts and she had poor results from surgery late in life.  She had pain in her legs but refused pain killers because they made her “fuzzy”.   In the end she was in constant pain.   My other Grandmother, kept her body for the most part, but suffered from dementia.  In the end she did not know her family nor where she was.  She remained independent until the last moment possible, but had assisted living when she wandered the streets aimlessly from her St Clair condo.   The movie Still Alice explores the whole issue from the latter perspective, and does so very poignantly.

In it, we have a Best Actress Oscar Winner Julianne Moore, with a good supporting cast of Alec Baldwin, Kristen Strewart, and the almost unrecognizable Kate Bosworth (eat a sammich!!).   Moore plays a much awarded linguistics professor from Columbia University and just turned 50 yo!   I note fifty with an exclamation mark since this is not that far away for yours truly!    Anyway, she notices herself stumbling on words and forgetting the odd thing or appointment.   She gets lost running one day on campus.   She eventually sees her doctor, and a Neurologist who suspects early Alzheimer’s disease.    The diagnosis is confirmed with MRI evidence and noted as rare “familial Alzheimer’s” which is genetic, and passed from one generation to the next.   If you have the gene, then you are 100% to get the disease.
We see this disease from early stages right along to its rapid progression as this woman struggles.    There are many quality scenes here, but this hits home and is thought-provoking on a couple levels for me.   First there is a personal level, where one wonders in middle age whether this would strike me down.  Where in essence we are, and consist of, little more than our experiences and our memories.   And what would we be if that was slowly and steadily taken away from us?   But there is the parental aspect of this too, where you could have a sibling or a parent be diagnosed.   The movie is very early Alzheimer’s but it is more a elderly disease.   But how cruel is it, to have your mind and memories taken from you?
In the debate I have with myself, I would rather lose my body.   I would like to keep my mind.   My reasoning is that I remain sharp and I am still “there”.   I could suffer the pain of a crippled body on my own and deal with it.   This is preferable in my mind than losing one’s mind and memories.   I think that those around you suffer more, as you are blissfully unaware and somewhere else.   Like Ally in The Notebook and countless other examples, I don’t want to put my loved ones through this.    This movie explores painfully and sadly what can happen and what a devastating disease this can be.   It is thought provoking, and it has stayed with me.   I have to admit that I really am not much of a Julianne Moore fan, and I did see her outside the theatre at TIFF where this was playing (in fact I walked right by her going to see another nominated film Two Days One Night with Marion Cotillard).   But this was a very good performance.   If movies are about bringing forward issues and casting new light on them, then this issue helps in the fight against Alzheimer’s.   In the movie, Moore’s character says that she would rather have gotten cancer.   Incredibly but truthfully, the reasoning is because cancer sufferers are thought of as victims and there are rallys and runs and things that people do.   For Alzheimer’s people around you just look at you and wonder what’s happened to you, and it’s not as galvanizing a cause.   Perhaps it should be.