December 27, 2016

So we went out yesterday to see Hidden Figures.

It had been given good reviews and Octavia Spencer had yet again received a Golden Globe nomination.    Having youngest son also meant it was age appropriate.  We all enjoyed this.  It is the story of three black women principally at NASA who were friends and looking to advance at NASA during the early days of the space program (mid 1960s).  Earlier in the day we had watched Selma, and this gave this movie some context (girlfriend and youngest son had not seen it).
This is well acted, and a story that has not been told.  It follows along The Right Stuff story of the astronauts well and Freedom 7 (before the Apollo program).   Jim Parsons loses his kind geeky persona and plays a white engineer not so happy with his new computer (a person used to calculate the math for the launch and re-entry).  This is a feel good movie with quality performances and shows yet another story of how backwards it was just 50 years ago.
With the reviews of Passenger, we’re not so sure about seeing it.  But Lion is on the radar.  Hope you enjoyed your Christmas and survived the Boxing Day madness!  On to 2017!!

December 5, 2016

As the snow falls, and my first family Christmas party is complete, there are a couple movies to talk about.

First on NetFlix they had Sing Street which was a movie that I had wanted to see in the theatre.   This is a film, like the Commitments, where we have a group of Irish teens who are looking for their creative outlet.  In truth, it really is “all about the girl” as the young man who is moved to a new school due to his parents’ financial troubles sees a girl across the way and channels Duran Duran in offering her a role in his band’s upcoming video shoot.  All he needed now was the band!!   The setting is 1980s Dublin with few jobs and a country struggling.   The boy finds some talented classmates (very talented indeed as it turns out) and they write original material that reflect the influence of that moment (The Cure, The Clash, The Jam etc).   All the while our band leader changes his look and continues on.   There are effective performances throughout, and notably by the older brother (living at home and guiding his younger brother through music – both good and bad).   And there is the Dad (noted from Game of Thrones and Mom who was actually IN The Commitments).   I liked how the young people played and you saw the creative process at work.   I also liked the resolution to a number of situations in the school setting for our young band leader.   In the end a feel good story with talented kids and worth the time watching it.

Netflix also had Captain America Winter’s Soldier out and I wasted two hours of my life on this.  Captain America as a superhero I simply do not get.  He’s a dude.  Human.  Like Batman.  Just a guy.   Yet what materials is that bloody shield made from?   It stops bullets, it goes through glass panes, it can be ridden when exiting a moving vehicle on a highway.   So many times when logic must be suspended and it falls down for me.   Baddy old friend with the metal arm – he is also a dude.   Just put a bullet in his head.   Problem solved.    Captain America has a shield?  Shoot at his legs and watch him fall down.  He falls from extraordinary heights into water and survives.   So beyond going further and further into my issues, I will sum up by saying that it’s yet another superhero movie for me that I just don’t need to watch.   To borrow from the Chaos Scientist (Jeff Goldblum) in Jurassic Park – “they were so busy worrying about whether they COULD do it, they didn’t think about whether they SHOULD”…Here, they shouldn’t have made this.  Some comic books should remain as dust collectors on the shelves.

November 21, 2016 US Thanksgiving edition

First a quick update and reply on the US election.  Having had a couple of weeks (including a week in the US) to reflect upon the results I am frankly stunned at a couple of things: first, is the unexpected amount of hate that there is for Hillary.   The FBI investigation notice the week of, was a deadly attack on her, especially for the on-the-fence voters.   That and the night before the election with Trump dominating CNN with his rally speech in Pennsylvania (after dinner the night before).  Republican strategists get full marks for getting him out there at the right time; second, the number of passive-aggressive voters who say one thing and then vote another way.   Like Kathleen Wynne, no one will ever claim that they voted for her, yet she has a majority government.   Imagine that!   It will be a rocky four years, and the damage to the Supreme Court will be long lasting.    We’ll see just how much he can actually accomplish (like how much of a wall really gets built to Mexico).   I expect Obama-care to get axed straight away.

On to the movies.   I have seen two while on vacation.   First was Arrival in San Diego.   This is yet another story about alien arrival on planet Earth, and the consequences.  I liked where this started, and as a premise it has a lot of potential.   Aliens arrive in multiple places around the globe, and as humans we are looking to sort out what their intentions are.   Language is an issue.   These elephant and octopus-looking aliens don’t speak, per se, but make whale-like sounds and communicate with complex symbols of black ink.   Who can decipher that?!   Turns out that the US government turns to university professor Amy Adams.   She has her own history that is quickly examined here and she gets engaged.   There are some excellent visuals here, and tension.   There is further commentary about humans and how we interact with each other when “national security” issues arise.   The military and people in power act different than the rest of us – that’s why it was better for ET to have met and spent time with Elliot and family and also for Star Man to have met and driven around with Karen Allen.   Anyhow, this movie loses me when it starts messing with time.    It is hinted at in the beginning voiceover, but it really kicks in when tension rises and things have to happen (and also to make sense).   It fails when explanations are given for what transpires.   I just eventually had to roll my eyes.   The opportunity was lost.  Sadly.   And some quality set-up and story get overlooked.    This is a big theatre film, it just deserved better than the ultimate resolution.   I think that Adams, who I am generally not a fan of, did a decent job here and brought the emotional focal point to the story.    She has looks of wonder and you can sense her long days in knowing human kind depends on what she can figure out before the military gets too antsy.   I will take this Amy Adams character over Lois Lane, Daily Planet any day!  At least here, there is a valid reason for her to be engaging with aliens (unlike Kryptonites).

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a new tangent in the JK Rowling world of Harry Potter.   Because, you know, Rowling having more money than the Queen of England was just not enough!   But this is a prequel of sorts and builds upon the story of Gellert Grindelwald – but you need to pay close attention to gather this from the newspaper clippings in the beginning.    The film gets started with Eddie Redmayne arriving by ship to NYC in the late 20s.    He has a suitcase of creatures.   Through a common mishap, the suitcase ends up in someone else’s hands and mayhem ensues.   The creatures get out and cause mischief.  They need to be found and returned to the suitcase.   Redmayne meets up with some new characters and they stumble upon a greater issue taking place in this time (muggles, called Non-Mags in America, are afraid of magic and wizards with creatures).  So there are human and wizard factions looking to sort things out and what, if any, any co-existence can take place in the future.   There are some plot twists and turns, and the story moves along at a good pace.   There is romance, and tension and seeking out someone with some rare power that is looking to be harnessed.   Why it needs to be set in the US, the evidence was flimsy.    This is a UK story based in London.   Always has been.   Coming to NYC to buy a creature – doesn’t hold much water nor returning another creature to Arizona.   Whatever!   The cast generally is very good (notably Redmayne and Colin Ferrell), save for casting of Tina Goldstein, a US based investigator.   While the blonde-haired, mind reading sister is very good, here the frumpy and dull sister is not engaging.   Anyway, this is the beginning of a new set of films as the ending certainly suggests.   This is escapism and it suits its purpose.   I summed it up in one word and that was “charming”.   This is a new take on the wizarding world, with some real world commentary about humans in general.   Girlfriend liked this far more than I did, but she is more into Potter than I am.   The background on Grindelwald would help if you know it, but not necessary.  Most watching this won’t know it.  There are some clever creatures with good CGI.   The animals in themselves are not dangerous, but need careful handling at times.   I am glad to have seen it.   I expect there to be more.   I don’t feel the need to rush out and read the book to see what I may have missed.   Rowling scores again – we’ll see just how well it is received.   Star Wars Rogue One is coming…..

November 6, 2016

This was a week to play catch up on a few movies.   A few years back my daughter on a flight had watched The Book Thief on an airplane, and when it finished she had felt cheated.  She had felt manipulated and cheated with the voiceover.  Having seen this movie now I can concur with her assessment.   This is a simple story and it has a good cast with Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.  The newcomer is the young girl who plays Liesel (and despite my best efforts, every time I heard her name I thought The Sound of Music).    But never mind.   She incidentally is adorable, and did a fine job.    Set in 1940s Germany, a young girl and her brother are going to a foster family since Mama was found to do something bad in that time and place (like be a Communist or suchlike).   Brother dies on the way.   Brother buried and girl carries on.   She begins with new Papa and Mama (Rush and Watson).  Watson could not be more stern, and grumpy.  Midway Papa feels the need to house and hide a young Jewish boy.   He stays for a time.  Things happen and then the voiceover comes at the end.   In many ways the story ends rather abruptly and you scratch your head about ultimately what the whole point was.   Once I complete this review, I won’t think on it again.  There are other films set in this time in Germany that tell similar stories and tell then better.  Perhaps it humanizes the Germans who too often are caricatures, and we see that they had families and children and suffered loss.   It wants us to cry and feel…but it wants it all just a little too much.  So I cannot recommend.

Sunday I went with three kids and girlfriend to see Doctor Strange.  They are the superhero movie fans really, and not generally.   I finished this film and immediately asked for an explanation of what I had just watched for two + hours.   Really.   Yes, there were some very nice special effects, many borrowed from other movies like Contact, and Inception, and Interstellar.   I like Benedict Cumberbatch, and I like his films generally.  I don’t like him with an American accent.   It seems forced and unnatural.  It became a distraction.   Our baddie is the Casino Royale bad guy Le Chiffre.   Any time a movie messes with space and time and talks about alternate dimensions, it needs to be careful.    Careful because time stuff, turns back on itself so much that a fading Marty McFly trying to strum chords on the guitar shows you some of the difficulties.    Using time as a weapon (or a bargaining chip) with a Pacific Rim monster (well kind of) just sends my mind to TILT mode.    My brain fried, eyes bugging up into my forehead I simply have to ask “WTF did I just see?!”    If you can explain it, I welcome the insight.   I still will be asking about The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and why she didn’t manage to figure it out, while newbie Ben has all the answers.  Thanks Sherlock!!   It’s elementary!!   NOT!!!!

Halloween 2016 – October 31

I have not been to the theatre in some time – there has been so very little to see.  Some films that I anticipated and were excited about (like Girl on the Train, and Inferno) turned out to be less than well reviewed.   So I have been back at Netflix, along with watching Season 2 of Game of Thrones.

The movie was The Man Who Knew Infinity with Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel.   In it, there is told the story that was referred to in Good Will Hunting.  In Good Will Hunting the two professors are talking about how great Will could be and exciting math comes from unexpected places.   This is the story of the unknown self taught Indian genius, Srinivasa Ramanujan.   The era was around the First World War and the young man is married in India and it takes some time before people see his genius in Math.  They suggest sending some excerpts of his work to England.   From there his journey begins.
Irons plays a prof who is obsessed by Math, but also doing “proofs” and showing the work.   He presses the genius to show the proofs and won’t publish him (as initially promised) until he does.  
Where the movie fell down for me is the importance of a fellowship from the school, where he would become the youngest fellow and become more part of the University.   But who cares?  Why does he care?   Seems even with struggling health that there is his looking for validation from the white people.   His genius surpasses all of them, but he still wants this and yearns for it apparently.   I saw this as a movie at TIFF, but was glad to see it.   Moreso than Lady in the Van.   Worth a viewing, but no need to pay big bucks for it.  
This past weekend I did see Amadeus Live with a real orchestra and choir to play the music from the film.  It was very well done.  Hearing Mozart with the orchestra and also seeing it with an audience was a treat.   From the laughter and the moving moments, you could feel this film from the perspective of one who had not seen it before.   I was glad that I saw the advertisement for this outside the ROM a couple weeks back.   This remains one of my favourite films of all time, and is likely the best film I could think of to see with a live orchestra.   They are doing E.T. in a while but to me hearing John Williams’ score live is not the same as Mozart.

October 12th, 2016

Not sure if I wrote about the only TIFF film that I managed to see, which was the Blake Lively film, All I See Is You.  About a blind woman, who lost her eyesight in her early days and is now late 20s-early 30s and married and living with her adoring husband.   They are very much connected and in love.   She is offered the chance at an operation to try and regain her eyesight and takes it.   Her husband, played by Jason Clarke, knowing she has never seen him when she does asks “How do I look?” and her immediate response is “Different”.    From there you see that she sheds her frumpy wear that he had her in, and you see that he is very conscious of his looks and station (he obviously married above his number – borrowing from She’s Out of Your League).   He’s a 4, she’s an 8 and it can obviously never work!   So she begins to spread her wings, and he tries to hang on.   Things happen and the relationship strains and bends in ways it did not before.   He yearns for the olden days, pre-sight for her.   Then it becomes a tale of just what does the other person know, and how will it get resolved.    Lively is paid to look pretty.  She isn’t a great actor.   The premise for her is good and it is worth a look on Netflix.   I don’t see this having a long run in the theatres.

On Netflix I watched My Old Lady last night which was a TIFF film a couple years back with Kevin Kline who I had not seen in ages, along with Maggie Smith and Kristen Scott-Thomas.  A New Yorker (Kline) inherits a luxurious and stately apartment in Paris, from his departed father, and he goes to check it out for a quick flip sale.   He finds an old woman already living there and learns about the Parisian concept of paying a tenant for their life and taking ownership fully and clearly when they die.   Smith is in her 90s and they start off with a rather cold reception to one another.   Time passes and more is revealed as Kline imparts more of his failed life and troubles, and we learn more about Smith and the daughter (Thomas) who takes care of her.   There are some great scenes of Paris and Notre Dame.  There are some good observations about family and parents too.   There is interesting twists and turns that lead to a satisfying conclusion.   I am glad that I watched this, and think that Kline shows good range of emotion here.  The cast is solid and there are some good lines.    This was better than the other Maggie Smith effort set in Britain, Lady In The Van, also from TIFF, and also on Netflix.   This was slow moving to the point that I had to stop watching it.

October 3rd, 2016

I like Mark Strong.   I think he plays bad guys really well and effectively.   He plays smart and cunning people.  He was good in Stardust.   Also with The Imitation Game.    Then Netflix is showing Approaching the Unknown.   A lousy title (initially anyway) because this looked like a poor man’s The Martian.    Strong plays the astronaut who invents a way to make water from sand and makes the logical leap that he wants to go to Mars.   So on he goes with a spaceship and heads towards Mars.   Then not much happens.  Days of routine.   Something unusual happens as is inevitable and the story changes.   All in all slow.  And the ending is confusing and takes a different path.   Suffice it to say there is a metaphor that plays out.
A word has to be said about production value and CGI.   Seeing this film in comparison to The Martian or Interstellar gives you an appreciation for those films and the quality they put on film.  The realism.   The visuals.   I couldn’t help but think the production company should have borrowed the leftovers from The Martian; case in point was the space suit.   But everything.   Space ship.   Stars.  Take off just feel like a school project or idea as opposed to a professional production with a massive budget.
I like Mark Strong.  I just wish he had Ridley Scott and that production value to make for a stronger effort.

September 19th, 2016

If I could change the title of a movie, I would change the title to “Sully” to be “Birds”.  It is a more appropriate name for this film I think, and provides the funniest aspect of a film that couldn’t crack a smile if it sat on a whoopie cushion.

And to be fair, the Eastwood directed film is not all that joyous and funny of a subject, since planes landing in water (it’s not a crash) is not an everyday event.
Still this is a slow and disjointed effort.  Most puzzling to me is the overall tone and actions of the National Air Safety Board.   Here there is a pilot who just saved 155 people (every one) on a plane by landing in the Hudson River, and is a national hero going on Letterman and Katie Couric’s show and being hailed, and you decide you want to railroad him and call it “pilot error”.   Why?  For what purpose?  What, on earth, could be your motivation, unless you work for the insurance industry and don’t want to pay up for what is clearly a No Fault accident on anyone’s part.    Laura Linney’s part is poor as she frets over bills and getting Sully back up in the air.   There is a worthy short film here, but trying to stretch out a 200 second event into an almost 2 hour film just doesn’t work.
I actually took my timer out on my phone to see from the flight recorder info, just how long it took between “Birds” being heard and the decision being made to head back to LaGuardia.    43 seconds.   Birds.

Labour Day 2016 – September 5th

Pete’s Dragon – this is a real life (humans not cartoons) of the 1980s cartoon of the same name.  It is a basic story (with Disney there must always be parental death) for a little boy who lives and survives in a forest in the American northwest.    The parents die and the boy must live – and he finds help in the form of a giant dragon – who acts more like a dog mostly and has green fur instead of scales making the dog mannerisms more canine.   The story is ET-like in some ways with adults acting as hunters and also observers.   The adults work to understand the child and the existence of the dragon.    This is well told and has some predictable turns.  It also has some good performances with the young boy (Oakes Fegley – a name destined for cereal boxes everywhere!) and some of the adults.  I enjoyed this and it kept youngest son’s attention.  He liked it.   And that is a pretty big deal.   We saw this for $12 together at a small theatre in Bracebridge.   It was worthwhile.

I also finished Stranger Things.   I enjoyed this.   The performances from some were campy (like Winona Rider) but the chief, and the boys and Eleven were all good.    Where this second season goes it has many possibilities.  I would tune in and see.   I thought that they did a good job with the second dimension.   And the monster.

I also watched the short French series with the father who is terminal called Deep.  It was in black and white and well done.   There were some parallels with Breaking Bad.  Thanks for the recommendation.  Both of these series were good.

I am starting up Game of Thrones – now season 2.   I am two-thirds finished the book.   I expect the DVDs will catch up to my reading rather quickly.    TIFF begins next week and it should be fun – I just can’t justify spending $56 for movies like Arrival that will be in theatres in a few weeks later.

August 8th, 2016

You know, I really wanted to like Jason Bourne.  After the disappointing Jeremy Renner attempt at keeping the magic, the return of Maaatt Daaamon and the director (Paul Greengrass) from the previous series was promising.

But alas, like a date you wish was just more interesting than they really are – I stood by and watched getting more and more disappointed.   By the end, the “yea right” moments as a standard SWAT SUV cuts through heavy Strip traffic in Vegas like a hot knife through butter, was just a little too much to take.   And like that date, you begin to shuffle in your seat and check your watch for the time.  What did that SUV do??!!   And from a universe where Jason Bourne was a member of an elite squad of government operatives changing policy and governments throughout the world — we end up with Bourne chasing a guy around trying to prevent an assassination of a Mark Zuckerberg type.   Huh?  How the mighty fall to become so small.
The craters (read: cra-ters) on Tommy Lee Jones’ face get deeper and deeper and his agency leader is a pale comparison to a Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) who is missed.
The fighting is still shot way too tight with no one seemingly being able to hold a camera steady.  Hasn’t anyone ever heard of a tripod?   They were invented years ago.
I will also make mention of the motorcycle race with Julia Stiles on the back.  I might believe that Bourne could MAYBE do that – but NOT with her on the back.   And why do we have to get Daddy-issues with this film??  All questions that are head scratchers but in truth are excuses to set up action sequences that we have seen before.  And have been done better.   So I can’t recommend this movie – however much I wanted to like it and be entertained.
It has been a quiet summer with plenty of “Blocks” in the Blockbusters.  Sigh.  An air conditioned theatre is always a nice way to get out of the heat.