December 25th, 2017 Christmas Day

I managed to get out on back to back nights to the theatre.  This time to catch Shape of Water, and then the next day Call Me By Your Name.

Alison has previously reviewed Shape of Water.  I like Del Toro’s movies because they are original and have fabulous creatures, gory action and villains you can’t help but despise.  His unique style and vision makes me want to see his exposition at AGO here in Toronto.  I am hopeful over the next couple weeks.  Here we have a fable (written by him as well) that is beautifully shot.  The set design is excellent and creates the mood which one can almost smell.  Uniformly good performances by mute Sally Hawkins in it (and she deservedly getting recognized for this performance). But quality supporting actors like Michael Shannon (who seems to relish being the bad guy), Richard Jenkins (who is not recognized enough) and Octavia Spencer.   The creature himself resembles the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but with some significant upgrades.   The eyes, the spine, and his colouring.   This story has a good pace and you care about the characters.  There is sympathy and then a greater understanding of what is not being perceived at first.  And there is a message is understanding of those around you who you don’t fully understand.    Despite the one article that proclaims this the best film of the year, I am not so sure.  Still I am glad to have seen it.  It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who appreciate Del Toro it is another really good film from him.
Virgin Mobility offers 2 for 1 tickets to TIFF between now and early January.  We saw Call Me By Your Name for $15 combined.   A deal.   This coming of age story of a young man who summers in Italy with his professor father mother and sister, has an American student join father as he does each year.   Armie Hammer plays the student assistant who is outwardly confident and attracts attention all around for his rugged good looks.   Michael Stulberg plays the professor father who delivers a speech in the end with his son that can only be described as some of the best writing since Three Billboards.   It is a remarkable scene.   You will note he was also playing the doctor in Shape of Water (and played the CIA guy in Arrival as well).   He is in a number of quality films.  The revelation in the film is the work of Timothee Chalamet.   The 22yo NYC born actor is excellent in this performance showing a multi-talented young man (multiple languages, plays piano and other instruments, well read) and is coming into his own.  He simply as all young people are confused about who that is (see Lady Bird for further proof on the female side).  This is a simple story told very well and the leads have chemistry.  Girlfriend noticed it straight away.   This is getting plenty of award attention and justifiably so.   And even though Timothee is amongst giants like Hanks, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Denzel Washington he will hold his own I think here.   Oh, and throw in the performance of a lifetime from Gary Oldman who has been deserving for many years.   I enjoyed this film and it makes me wish for a summer in Italy to swim and read and eat apricots from the tree.
Movies still to be seen include Molly’s Game, Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread, The Post.  It is a good year for quality films, although they seem to be released in the last month.   Hope everyone has a fabulous Christmas and all the best in 2018.  Happy viewing.

December 19th 2017, Bonus Star Wars discussion

I was asked by someone how the Star Wars universe has changed since it first came out in 1977.  The iconic film from relative unknown George Lucas, whose greatest success to that time was the independent American Graffiti.  He wrote a story very broad in scope and time, which traced the beginnings of the Republic and then to the Empire and Jedi, and then beyond.  He realized that this was way too large and cut it down to a middle story about a young man seeking to find himself and defeat evil.

Star Wars was in the beginning a white male based story with a young female princess (damsel in distress) who required rescuing.   She was locked in a prison cell in an impenetrable military base.   There are the Nazi-like Imperial leaders (Grand Moff Tarkin), and the army of stormtroopers, who were for all we know robots or clones.   We were never sure of which (although our heroes later dress in their outfits while on the Death Star to save the Princess).   Virtually all are white except for the alien creatures and the positions of power are held by the white males.   The world as it was was run by the white male leaders.
The Force was held in high regard although not fully understood by many, with enough skeptics (like Han Solo) to keep it a mystery.   Elder Obi Wan Kenobi teaches the young Skywalker briefly with some basic understandings.   Young Luke is delivered the light sabre of his father.   Through the Force, and its use, you could “see” better as eyes can deceive and they should not be trusted.   Luke turns off his computer to hit the external thermal exhaust port with the missile as part of the finale for Episode IV.   The young are directed by the older, and taught the ways of the Force.   It is something to be learned, mastered.  There were tests for suitability, and the young were the focus (Luke was initially “too old” for the training according to Yoda).
Young Luke is viewed as reckless, craving adventure and never focusing on his chores and tasks on his Uncle’s farm.  He has “too much of his father in him” and this is seen as a bad thing.   He does though feel for the young princess that he sees in a recorded video message and decides that once his Uncle and Aunt are wiped out that he wants to help the rebels.   He is a deep believer in family, rushing back to see his Uncle before learning of their demise, and later his friends (Leia. Solo, Chewie and the droids).   He curtails his training with Yoda in Empire because the vision of his friends in pain in the Cloudy City dominate his mind and he can’t shake them.   He goes to save them.   Luke later in Return of the Jedi hatches a plan to get Han away from Jabba the Hut, utilizing all of his friends in the plan.  Leia, Chewie, the droids, Lando Calrisian all help out in saving Han.   A strong theme throughout Episodes IV to VI is friendship and putting your faith and trust in your friends.  The Emperor admonishes Luke for his faith in his friends.  Luke’s love for his sister and protecting her is used against him by Vader to bring him out to fight and complete his path to the Dark Side.
Now we have already seen in the Force Awakens the end to Han Solo as he tries to help his son Ben, and get him away from Snoke.   The son kills the father in order to show his connection with the Dark Side and prove he is ready to complete his grandfather’s (Darth Vader’s) goal.   One way the older white male father figure is destroyed.    Then in The Last Jedi, we have further transition over from white male dominated world, to one filled with more minorities, and more females.   The Princess, and now a General is in charge of the Rebellion, as small as it remains anyway.   Fishy Admiral Akbar plays a subservient role, whereas in Return of the Jedi he held more sway and power by leading the attack on the Death Star.   When Leia is killed and ressurrected under her own hand, a use of the Force that we have never seen before and for which, presumably, she has never had any training, we have her replacement introduced who is Laura Dern.  Another female.   But look around the smaller rebel group and you see more alien creatures and more people of colour.   There is Rey, female and now the heir apparent to the young Jedi.   She replaces Luke, and it is made clear that she is not sprung from noble blood, nor related to the Skywalker line in any way.   She is a street rat.  A no one.  Like the young boy at the races later who sweeps up.   The young former stormtrooper Fin, shows us that stormtroopers were not all robots, and not all clones, but people.   These are people who makes choices.   He is black and one of the new heroes.   In Jedi he meets a young weeping guard to an escape pod who is Asian.   Her sister has died.  Later she has escalated from a guard to a flier on one of 13 ships going to attack the First Order armada on the new Rebel base.   She then kisses Fin.   The Star Wars world has moved from a white male dominated society to one ruled (at least the Rebels) by women and visible minorities and almost all are not male.   The First Order is still very much a male dominated world, with the exception of the silver armoured lead stormtrooper.
In this latest story, you see that there is an underlying theme of out with the old, and in with the new.   Discard the old people and the old ways, and start afresh.  Han has been discarded.   Luke has been marginalized as he pouts about his station and failure to teach a new group of Jedi.   Rey takes to learning mostly on her own.   Ben Solo (Kilo Ren) has been underling to Snoke and colleague of the New Order Army General, but he sees a chance to destroy his Master and take the reins himself.   How a powerful Snoke can be so easily defeated is a mystery.  Youth know more than the aged it would seem.   Luke teaches that the Force is everywhere, and it requires no special assembly or teaching.  It simply is.   This discards the Episode I meta-chlorean counts for Anakin, and centuries of teachings by the Jedi.   The Jedi counsel, their place of prominence within society in the Republic is tossed aside and the once trusted honoured guardians of peace in the galaxy are removed.   This is a fundamental shift in the Star Wars universe.   Yoda himself comes to deal a death blow to a sacred tree with Jedi writings just to make the point.
Then we have Luke and now I better understand the underlying frustration that Mark Hamill had with this script and the treatment of his character.  Luke as a character is disrespected here, and all for a laugh.  He “fishes” when his Jedi ability could clearly retrieve a fish for a meal.  He milks a manatee-like sea creature and drinks the milk, licking his lips.  His casual behaviour and treatment is not with the reverence of a Jedi Master.   Yoda played around a bit with Luke’s materials in Empire, like a food stick, but he never was portrayed in this way.   Nor other Masters of the Jedi on the Council.  Luke may be frustrated with the Jedi ways and teachings but it quite a quantum leap to put him in this place.    Finally, Luke may have flaws but being disloyal and certainly not caring for his closest friends isn’t one of them.   The idea that Luke would in any way decide to murder his own nephew, upon him believing that there was Darkness inside Ben is unthinkable.   This flies in the face of everything that Luke is about.   He would kill Han and Leia’s son who was sent to him for training?   But it’s more than that.  Luke would remain distant and unknown to his sister and brother-in-law while Han flies to his death?    Luke can see through the Force as he did in Empire.  He went to save his friends.    Here he mopes, ashamed of his own failure.  But this isn’t what he is about.   He wouldn’t abandon his friends.   Nor his family, especially in a time of need.   Then of course, there is then the use of the Force for him to project himself, a younger version of himself even, to the new Rebel base under attack.  He creates objects (dice) that are handed to a living being (Leia) and he fights with Kilo Ren.   But he isn’t struck down in anger, like Obi Wan was by Vader in the original, he brought it on himself by the use of this all-new ability of the Force.   He commits suicide through this Act, and dies alone.   Yes he sacrifices himself, but couldn’t he, and wouldn’t he have been better served showing up himself?   Another icon of the series is discarded and removed.   Perhaps Luke becomes a ghost like Yoda and Obi Wan, but the meaning and importance of him clearly fades.   The dilemma is you have a Leia character survive, while in real life Carrie Fisher dies, and Luke dies, while the real Mark Hamill lives.   Where does that leave Episode IX to go?    I don’t know but the underpinings of the previous 7 stories is virtually wiped out.
So in summary, Star Wars has shifted and changed dramatically from 1977 until now.   Luke and the Skywalker family and blood are pushed to the side.  The white male dominated stories are replaced with a more politically correct, but welcome trend which could use some more balance.   Does it need to swing entirely the other way and have most of the male characters as bad, and the females good?   I hope not.   I will admit that I cannot fully agree on the new direction of Star Wars, and maybe that is a big part in my less than enthusiastic watching of the new film.   Yes, it was good but it was unsettling too.   It didn’t feel “right”.   I am no Star Wars geek that disappoints because I didn’t call all of the surprises in advance.   Young son and girlfriend can attest that I outwardly asked about the possibility of Luke dying in this episode and I had hoped secretly that it wasn’t true.   Part of me likes the Jedi teachings and ways.   Part of me likes the harnessing of an unknown mystical force.   It is unfortunate that Han and Luke met poor ends for me.  The old guard is truly passed and left in the hands of the youth and the young.   In forty years time, when I am long gone, will the teens of today lament the treatment of Rey and Fin if they should be treated as so cavalierly?  And die with no ceremony nor fanfare?    Only time and Disney will tell.

December 18th, 2017, spoilers included Last Jedi

We are one week away from Christmas, and this year has just flown by.

First the elephant in the room is Star Wars: The Last Jedi as it was seen by all of us here.   I am giving a spoiler alert as I plan on talking in some detail about this film, and where the plot goes.   May I first say that the hype machine and all the trailers yet again take away from the film itself.  I need to learn to avoid trailers altogether – since Blade Runner and Alien Covenant had too many.    It takes away from going into a movie with fresh eyes.

Last Jedi was a long film, and I felt that it started off slow with getting the Luke story underway.   And then there’s Luke as this whining, pouting dude who “just wants to be left alone to die”.   Well, be careful what you wish for, I would reply.    In many ways I can more fully understand the feedback and seemingly bitter soundbites that have come from Mark Hamill for this film and the arc of his character as he has talked about it.   He was a grumpy old man, and now I see why.   His only hope (pun intended) is now to become a ghost and drop some wisdom every now and then.   I did like how Yoda came back to admonish his reckless pupil one last time before dealing with the Secret Scrolls of the Jedi.    I also liked how they dealt with Rey and her storyline, and that she is not born of privilege or from some special meta-chlorean spring.   Or Luke’s daughter or half-sister of Ben Solo.

What I was not so happy with are the unknown and previously unseen abilities of the characters, or those of any character before.  For example, the ability to project and interact oneself with other characters.   The benchmark had always seemed to be for the Jedi to re-appear as a ghost and speak with the living.   Here was another whole level – think about how Luke interacts with Leia near the end.  Think about he actually creates matter in the form of the dice.   All of this before having the dust up outside with all the technology from the First Order.

I was also surprised with the treatment of Leia, and how seemingly they had given away in a trailer that she had been killed in the command ship.   And yet, there in the middle of space (SPACE!) she does something and reveals a power that no one has ever had in a Star Wars film (not even Yoda or Darth Vader).    Which then leads to a paradigm where Leia as a character is almost indestructible, but Carrie Fisher the actor has died and we are told there will be no more Leia in these films.    It is a head scratcher since she died shortly after filming ended, and they could have easily killed her off in that very spot.  Anyway, there are surprises and plot twists and then there are created U-turns.   I feel as though much of the new parts in this episode were created out of thin air.

There is some humour and some good humour which shows that the new writer has seen Robot Chicken and appreciates it.   It does beg the question on why JJ Abrams would turn over the reins on the hottest film in Hollywood to another writer and director and become just the Executive Producer.    I ask though, is JJ Abrams a great director?    Is he another Spielberg or Scorsese or Coppola?   Or does he just take existing ideas and build upon them like Star Trek and Star Wars?

There are creatures here that are created just to make them into stuffed animals I think.   From the baby-eyed penguin-like creatures, which Chewbacca in earlier times would have simply eaten without hesitation to the crystal dogs.  Ah, the crystal dogs.   On a planet that they are presumably native, why on earth are they running into the fortified bunker?    Why not just ran away?   Away from the guns and explosions?   And then, of course the reveal for having them is to show this new escape route out.   Ugh.

In the end, despite some flaws, everyone will see this film, and they will continue to make more.   Disney is getting its money out of this investment, and then some.  At $220M for the weekend (the second best weekend ever) you can be sure that there is many more to come.   Oh, and the still champion of the box office is at $248M, you guessed it – The Force Awakens.   Disney spent $4B to take it over in 2012.   Force Awakens made $2B, and Rogue One $1B.  This film will take them into the black.   All in less than 5 years!   I was asked by someone how Star Wars has changed since 1977, and I will detail that out from my perspective in another piece shortly.  Is this the best Star Wars film yet?   No.   For me Empire remains the best film of the series.   Episode I remains the Worst!

Turning back into the real world, on Thursday night I went out and saw the highest rated film at rotten tomatoes of all time; Lady Bird.  This is Greta Gerwig’s semi autobiographical coming-of-age story around a young woman as a Senior in Sacramento CA.   The young woman is played by Sairose Ronan, and she is quite simply excellent.  For me, knowing that she is Irish (well, transplanted really from NY but with a thick accent) this playing the Californian teen was very good to see.  The surrounding cast is uniformly excellent too.   Laurie Metcalf who plays her Mom shows a middle age woman struggling to keep her family together and sanity all around her.   She suffers as her family is generally in the same spot as they began 20+ years before, and her husband is struggling to keep up.   She has a son who has an unexplained history which deserves some more attention with his girlfriend.  It is an Oscar worthy performance.   Her daughter is exploring universities and has a final year to figure out ultimately that you don’t need to find yourself and your path by the time you are 18yo.   That goes for school, but also in relationships as well.   The lead here changes herself to approach and be engaged with two different guys.   Each reflects the reality that can occur in high school with cliques and students.   This is not the best film of the year.   It shouldn’t be the highest rated of all time at rotten tomatoes, but I can why it would.   It has some universal truths, and is a reflection on a time and place.   Between this and On Chesnil Beach, Ronan is making quality and varied choices for her career.   It bodes well.   Also it can be said that Timothee Chalamet has had an equally impressive year with quality choices in this film, and also the unseen by me Call Me By Your Name.   He has been nominated for Best Actor there and it remains a film I wish to see.

November 27, 2017

There was a sad barometer on the state of affairs with the moviegoing public on Friday night.  It happened at Queensway Theatre where the 9:40 showing of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri was being played.   This film has just recently been released (and was a standout at TIFF as Alison reported on).    I am saddened to say that if there were 15 people in this theatre I would be shocked.   I can only imagine how many had gone out to see Thor!    Sadly a film that is likely a Best Movie contender and well acted with a quality cast and script, is overlooked at the box office.   In the end, that is what Hollywood cares about.   And the script/screenplay is marvelous.  The generous sprinkling of profanity throughout it, even with younger members of the cast was funny.   Without repeating your review and the high level plots aspects, for me I liked that each character is shown in shades of grey.   Neither is completely good nor bad.  It shows that we all can have our moments.    Many top news stories on the tip of tongues are covered (like racial issues, the media, news, brutality, homosexuality, broken families etc) are all covered.   There are some stereotypes, like with young women and older men, but it does not play falsely.    In the end, small town America takes it on the chin while sending a message to us all.   I note that Sam Rockwell does an excellent job playing despicable characters.   He has redneck down so well, from the haircut on down.   Also I like Woody Harrelson a great deal here, as I did in War for the Planet of the Apes where he channeled Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now so very well.   He plays a character that could be a caricature with some more depth and understanding.   I really liked this film, and Karen and I spoke about it at length after it was over and the next day.    There should be more movies like this, and encouragement for them to be made.

I re-watched on Netflix Field of Dreams, and this movie holds up well.   Like Shawshank, it is a feel good movie that keeps its emotional impact.   I like the characters and even though I don’t feel that Amy Madigan is a great actress, she does a good job here playing the wife who tolerates and supports her husband’s unusual behavior (even when he is prone to hyperbole like “this may be the last opportunity I have to do something like this”) – -all at the age of 36!!

I also re-watched Star Wars Force Awakens last night to see if I have missed any tidbits and in preparation for The Last Jedi.   There is the talk about bringing Rey to the bad dude for her to have her training completed.   There is Leia and Han talking about Ben and how he isn’t all bad that “there is light in him”.   There was Rey being unwilling to touch Luke’s lightsaber after the first time where she saw the future and the past, but then uses it against Ben.   I wonder about her, and the untrained powers that she has, and how she was able to channel them.   I also wonder how the First Order recovers from yet another massive technological undertaking being blown up by a small group of individual star fighters (It makes me laugh about the Robot Chicken episode about not having fully paid for the Death Star)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3F1d3QWsyk0

November 20, 2017

I have been busy with travel the past couple of weeks.   This allowed for some airplane viewing time with Delta.  Delta has a new free wifi service on some of its planes that allows you to watch films from their own app, as well as in-plane texting (which is slick!).

I decided to watch a couple of old friends instead of the newer fare (of which there is very little that I want to seek out).

So I re-watched Gladiator, although I have to admit that it is the less intense version with less language and certainly far less graphic blood.   In the end, and upon further review, this film and its CGI still bothers me.   The Coliseum that I have stood in, in real life, comes across here as a video game.   The flags and people and all are so not real, that they are a distraction.  My other main complaint is with Joaquin Phoenix, who is such a whiny, crying baby all the time.    There is NO WAY a reigning Caesar would have a thought about squashing a difficult gladiator.   The Imp simply would disappear, never to be seen again by the fickle crowds.  Problem solved.    Hans Zimmer’s score is excellent throughout and something I can have in the background while working any time.   Brilliant.

I also re-watched The Matrix on Netflix on Sat night.   I do like that film.   From the great work of Agent Smith and his delivery, to the performances of the entire human team working in the real world.   The camera angles, the showering down of empty shell casings from the helicopter to the battle between Neo and the agents all resonate with me.  The interrogation scene with agent Smith remains a great launching point where as a viewer you realize this is not a typical film, in a typical world.

As for new films, I watched the 2016 film Frank & Lola with Michael Shannon, and Imogen Poots.  Shannon is steadily growing on me as someone who I will seek out for his roles.  He has driven past the mono-layered bad guy General Zod from Superman and become a much more full force.   He says a lot without saying much at all, and here is a really good example of it.   Here he plays a 40-something accomplished chef living in Las Vegas.   He has come across this 20-something woman who has captivated him.   “Love is blind” or so they say, and here you can see the truth of it.   The film begins with the lovers in bed overlooking the Vegas skyline.   As he gets to know more about her, he sees and questions certain things that are revealed, and then looks for concrete answers.   The journey takes him to Paris where he looks into her past, all the while working on a new opportunity for himself.   Men swirl around his lover, and he is skeptical about all of them.   His trip to Paris looks into what turns out to be recent past for her, and there he must find a way to deal with what he finds.   On the way, he must cope with his doubts and his desire to not know.   The best of Shannon shows when he is steaming and simmering inside and palpably ready to explode in a fit of rage.   You can sense it as you look at him; his posture, the facial expressions, his whole body.   Another well-known saying is that you meet people for “a season, a reason or a lifetime”.   I think that the Shannon character here could be able to sit back upon reflection and pick out which was most appropriate for him.   It’s worth a view and only takes 1.5 hours of your time.

November 13, 2017

I managed to watch Gold on Netflix as a recommendation from my friend David.  This is basically a retelling of the Bre-X fraud but without the Canadian content.   In short a down on his luck prospector with a family tradition in mining comes across an opportunity for a gold mine in a remote part of Indonesia.  He meets and later befriends a miner/project manager, who in Bre-X were two separate people (John Felderhof and Michael De Guzman).  You know the rest with the salting of samples.

This story tries to make the point that no one wanted to know about the salting and the fraud.   Matthew McConaughey plays the Walsh character who comes across as a loser and a lush.  The question remains what Walsh knew and whether he was in on the fraud.   Ultimately the movie makes its own mind up on what was the result.  Not sure why the Canadian part of this had to be now a fictional Reno outfit.   In the end it is intriguing to see how this plays out.   Also the resolution where the refusal to sell to a big shot results in government intervention and a requirement to give away the business to that government.   In truth the deal struck with Indonesia was better than the movie made it to be.

Yet another story where business and Wall Street are not shown to be positive.    McConaughey after his turn in Dallas Buyers Club where he lost so much weight shows here that he was able to regain it (and then some!!!).

November 6, 2017

The Lovers is a film that reflects upon marriage, affairs, relationships, human nature and adult children.  I watched this because it brings back to me Debra Winger in a more significant role.  She has played smaller roles (like Rachel Gets Married) but here she is the star.  With her is the familiar face guy from Homeland, Tracy Letts.  Here we have empty nest married couple both who are having respective affairs.  Son is to be arriving shortly with girlfriend in two.  The film is examines the dynamics of how they got here as well as the respective lovers.  Then the waters are muddied further.  It was well acted.  I liked seeing Winger again. In the end it was not something to run out and pay for but on Netflix there are worse ways to spend your time.  A younger reviewer may live in the black and white world of the son here and be angered at the thought of lies and deception.   We who are north of 50 will better relate and understand more – not to condone, but will have a better grey perspective.

Littlefinger from Game of Thrones is here.  After being unceremoniously removed by the Starks this guy will have more places to work.   GOT did his career a great service.

October 30, 2017

The last movie I saw at the theatre was Professor Marston, so I have been watching more on Netflix and catching up.

First was the Netlfix film the Meyerwitz Stories (New and Selected) was one of those, reviewed at RogerEbert.com and given 4 stars.   I was intrigued.   After seeing it, I cannot agree with the assessment.  Not sure what all the fuss was about.  Here a good cast is playing a family in NYC.   Dad (Dustin Hoffman) is a multiple married older sculpture/artist who never has quite made it.  Some of his contemporaries have and it is a sticking point for him.   He is focused on one thing, and one man, and that is himself.   He has three children, two from one woman (played by Adam Sandler and Elizabeth Marvel – almost not recognizable from her role in House of Cards), and then youngest with another woman Ben Stiller.    Dad’s children have not “made it” as artistic people, much to his disappointment.  The children come together as something happens and then interact with one another and their father.   The film is told in chapters with the focus being outlined by that chapter title.    For me, I found the chapters truncated, and they can end quickly and with little notice.    There is a flow and direction, but I am not sure I need nor want to follow.   I feel sympathy for the children, and recognize that this would not have been a fun childhood in those households, and later the broken homes.   We adults can shape and impact those offspring in undetermined ways in the future by the acts of selfishness at the time.  Well, I can only speak for myself but it holds true.   Anyway, despite the glowing review, mine won’t be.   I found this slow, and not engaging and not worth my time.   Sandler does a better turn once again as being a more serious actor; as opposed to the yelling and profane man-child.   Emma Thompson plays the latest wife who is drunk and forever locked in the 60s.   In the end, there were some smiles but they were too few and far between.

We began watching Stranger Things 2, and finished 4 episodes.  On the whole it started off fairly slowly in re-introducing these characters.   I found myself asking aloud, “what happened in the previous season” and once finally coming up with it, seeing where this one takes us.   Clouds and storms are the horizon and poor Will from the first season seems to be the target once again for visions and bad things.   The rest of the younger cast continues on in school and deals with some new characters.   The adults are forging some new paths it would seem, and it moves along.  While episodes 1 and 2 were slower, episode 3 starts to get things moving, and episode 4 follows.    For me, there is the plot but I almost enjoy as much the staging and homes from back in the mid-80s.   Set design people had fun finding games, and trinkets, food and commercials.   I will continue with this and see where it ends up.   It is an 80s horror film cliché that hiding the unknown from people who may help can cause serious consequences (just ask the cat!)…..

As an aside, I wanted to see what the Top Box Office so far during 2017 has been.  It is recognized that this year (and particularly this summer) has been one of the slowest and lowest revenue years in quite some time.   There have not been many films to be excited about.   When I look at the list I have a few observations.

2017 box office pic

First, like the years before it I am amazed at all the Superhero movies.   I also recognize that Star Wars will blow away the competition this Christmas season once again.   But check out some of the other titles here (Boss Baby $175M, Transformers $130M, Emoji Movie ??! $85M!!!)  Boss Baby made more than Blade Runner AND Alien Covenant COMBINED!   It makes me shake my head with the moviegoing public.  How sad when they spend money on absolute junk, and a movie like Atomic Blonde comes in at $51M.   I am still amazed at how Blade Runner has fallen off a cliff at the box office.   Beauty and the Beast was not the original, and Emma Watson cannot sing.   Dunkirk at $187M is NOT an American film so I am not surprised, but still it is in my opinion the best film of the year.   We will see if it can hold that title.   I am saddened and disappointed.   Did you know that there is a new Mary Poppins coming out and Emily Blunt is the star?   Some good films are coming, and I hope to get out again at some point.

October 16, 2017

This past weekend we ended up seeing one of the worst opening films of the entire year.  I was reading box office numbers for this past weekend and Happy Death Day made more money than Blade Runner 2049 which dropped 40+% in box office in a week.   I am astounded at that actually.  A movie that gets almost universally positive reviews is beaten out by a terrible Groundhog Day slasher film.   It says a great deal about the movie-going public, and what they seek.  It’s no wonder that Hollywood pushes out sequels and superhero movies with abandon – and can often just get it wrong with the Oscars.  Anyway, in the same Box office article it talked about Professor Marsten and the Wonder Women, and how it earned a year-long low of $700,000 or about $600 a screening for this past weekend.

We saw it!   The over/under bet before going into the theatre for the number of patrons early was 15 for me.  (I won the bet)….

Professor Marsten and the Wonder Women:  Here is the biopic backstory about the creators of Wonder Woman and the genesis of their creation.  Principally it was created by this Professor Marsten who was Harvard educated, and one of the inventors of the early lie detectors test devices (he gave away the technology without a patent, because he felt that it was something for “everyone”).   He had a Wife, who was an academic herself who early in the film is denied a Harvard Doctoral degree because she was at the sister college, Radcliffe in Cambridge.   She is smart and abrasive and to-the-point.    She is played by the female lead from The Town.  Together they as a couple teach and run across a young student who becomes a Teaching Assistant.  Then she becomes more as they begin a relationship at a time when no one was ready for it (late 20s and 30s).   They had children and lived a suburban lifestyle, but also enjoyed kink and sex play.   This translated into the Wonder Woman character who the movie is quick to point out the bondage, the lesbianism and other aspects of their lives that became Wonder Woman.   In truth, the Wonder Woman story is the back half of the tale, and it is the relationship that was the focus of the piece.  Unless I had read the review beforehand, I would not have known anything about this film.   Girlfriend went in with no knowledge of the story and it surprised her.   Even as I knew it showed another story of people who lived an unconventional life, but who loved and supported one another, yet still had social and environmental challenges that pressured them and pulled them apart.   This did not have to be a big screen film to see, like Stronger before it (and unlike Blade Runner) but it was interesting and I certainly will  not look at Wonder Woman the same after viewing it.

Upon your suggestion, I did watch a few episodes of Big Mouth.   It was funny and rude and on point from a 13 yo pubescent Grade 8 student (youngest son’s age).   The Hormone Monster is funny (especially his sensitivity at being called a Fairy)!   I will keep watching it.    Girlfriend cringed at the white shorts and the Statue of Liberty school trip.   It’s a miracle really that any of us managed to get through this time without serious therapy required!   Perhaps I can be more sympathetic for my youngest son, who turns 13 shortly, as he gets through this time in his life!

October 9th, 2017

I will write the easier review for this week, which is Netflix film Southpaw, with Jake G.

Having seen Jake recently in Stronger, I am reminded here that he is a versatile actor.  Here is a boxer at the top of his game, but growing longer in the tooth.  He is taking worse beatings and his Wife (Rachel McAdams) is concerned.  He has an entourage and all the trimmings and uses the rage inside him to fuel his athlete ability.   Then disaster strikes and he loses everything, in every way that a man can lose it all.   The story then becomes one of redemption and fighting back from your demons and yourself.   This movie I cheered for, and I was air punching right along with the fighter himself.   It is well done, like a Rocky before it, and follows along the tried path with other boxing movies.  Worth a viewing if you choose to keep Netflix.
Ah Blade Runner 2049, the new Denis Villeneuve film that is a sequel to the original first from Ridley Scott back in 1982.   This movie takes the original premise and then builds on it.   The plot is thick and you need to pay attention, and that is harder than it seems with all the scenes on the screen.  Magnificent scenes of cities and garbage dumps and inside vast buildings with cool views and cold visuals.   The rain, the snow, the environment draws you in to this futuristic world.
Mr Villenueve again is creating a film I know that I will need to re-view and re-visit.  He layers the story, and takes his time in a film over 2.5 hours long.   Parts are slow and you wish would move faster.  Still you stay with it.  We were in an IMAX film filled with people at noon today.   No one was leaving, no one was talking.   There is an Oscar for production design here.  There is some startling CGI, and on the whole a movie that did not disappoint for me.  Girlfriend disagreed and did not like it, nor feel compelled to see it again.  She had seen the original Director’s Cut, but it does not grab her.  For me there are deep themes that stay with me, and I will think on for a few days ahead, and even more so when I can read and share with others (like Prometheus) when everyone has seen the film.  I won’t be giving away any spoilers.
So a thumbs up for me who is target audience for this film (one who saw the original years ago and really liked it) and who came in with some higher expectations — I am thankful for not reading about this one too much.  Still trailers can be a bad thing, as there are points in the movie when I was anxious to see the trailer shown part already (like Gosling and Ford meeting to talk) but which the film approached from a different angle.   So see this film, and make up your own mind — and then we can talk!  I give away nothing by telling about a trailer scene, which is fair game in my opinion, and has been in the public eye for months now.