September 22, 2017 (NOT a Monday – so what of it?!)

Yea it’s not Monday but so be it.
Two movies to talk about.

First – some movies are just plain fun and entertainment for entertaining for a short while.  John Wick Chapter 2 is such a film.   This was fun.   The first was a sleeper hit when it was released as a simple revenge tale for a “retired” hired gun.  The world calls him “The Boogeyman”.   Here is a follow up where the premise means very little and our protagonist looking for some peace and solace (after the loss of his wife and dog) is more involved as the story continues.  The sets are more elaborate and the travel more extensive.  The killing is more intense and it’s just bigger with more of everything.  Keanu did Speed which is the same type of fun film.  Roger Ebert said the same about it.   Now he has John Wick.   There was a cool cameo in this film too which just felt right.   So I am glad to have watched this.

I did see the TIFF film First They Killed My Father a story about a Cambodian little girl during the early days of the battles with Vietnam and the leadership of the Khamir Rouge.   This was directed by Angelina Jolie.  She does an excellent job of setting mood and there is a good sense of here and now.  The cinematography is remarkable.  The story is a scary one about what a young family goes through and a little girl so young.   Still it was slow.  The review on it was more glowing than how I felt about it.  This isn’t a Great War movie.  I don’t think so.  But it was a good story.

On Netflix there is a fascinating story about George Harrison.  Well worth checking out.  Some revelations for me was the drug use.  But the interviews are good.   Such a talent.  Died way too young and impacted so many lives.  So many friends.  And all people in many facets of entertainment.  Racing, film (he financed Monty Python Life of Brian) and of course music.   He was ever searching for the meaning of life.  It wasn’t possessions.  He realized that early on.

TIFF edition 2017 – September 11 2017

TIFF is over for me and I saw two films plus re-visiting a friend from earlier in the year.  I have also seen a couple other films as well.

TIFF was generally a sombre affair for me with two films that address loss in different ways.   The first was On Chesil Beach which starred Saoirse Ronan who was excellent in Brooklyn a couple years back.   Here she is part of a couple that meets and decides to get married in 1962.   This is a time where the sexual revolution has not occurred and the couple are filled with angst and misinformation about the physical aspects of love.   The wedding night does not goes as planned or as expected and a decision is made.  The consequences are then felt for the rest of the film.  I liked the performances.  The discomfort and level of uncertainty is palpable.  In the end you have such sympathy for characters who are prisoners in their own time in a way.   The best part of TIFF is when the people who created the film show up to answer questions and provide clarity.  Here the writer, director, producer and main male actor were all here.  The writer was very insightful.

Next came Euphoria last night where we have the relationship of two sisters explored in detail.  Sisters are played by Alicia Vikander and Eva Green.  Vikander’s production company produced it.  The sisters are very different people.   And they have done different things in their lives and chosen different paths.  Who ever said that you had to like your siblings, just because you have common life experiences in your youth?   The story addresses a difficult subject matter well and shows some aspects of life that for me were new and thought provoking.  Alicia was there, but unfortunately Eva Green was not.  For me the Green performance was more demanding and impressive.  Charlotte Rampling has a small but important part.   Girlfriend liked this film more than On Chesnil Beach.  She felt the characters and the relationship was better established.  I preferred the first as some aspects of this film did not work for me (the the closing choice of song).  Still it was a film that stayed with me and I think about.

Alicia Vikander Euphoria TIFF 2017

Sunday as you know was the Cinesphere playing of Dunkirk where Christopher Nolan was in attendance to answer questions and talk about his use of celluloid as opposed to filming digitally.  He and James Cameron would have a fun debate.   This to me is a marvellous film and one of the best in 2017.   On 70mm film it was even better. I cannot recommend this film more highly and it is an event to be seen in IMAX.

On Netflix I have watched The Space Between Us which feels like a compilation of a bunch of better films like The Martian, Star Man, The Fault In Our Stars and even The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.  It is a teen angst movie where the two teens are separated by planets; talk about the long distance relationship!   He was born on Mars unexpectedly, and somehow managed to connect with a pretty blonde in a classroom.   It is quite formulaic and nothing is really much of a surprise.

Finally I watched Demolition with Jake Gyl.   Here he plays a guy not fully engaged with his routine life.  He goes about his routine and days and then something happens to shake that up. He finds comfort and satisfaction with destruction.  First in small appliances and then to a house that is being gutted.  It moves to his own house.   He does many unexpected things.   He meets a woman through letters he wrote to complain about losing change in a vending machine.   There are revelations made that surprised me and took this in a new direction.  There is a scene with the Customer Service person’s son in the use of a firearm that quite simply had me stunned.  This was a TIFF film I had on my list from a couple years back that I did not see.  I am glad I did.  I am thankful it didn’t cost me $25.

What attracts me to TIFF are the people you meet in lines. The choice of films.  You see things here that aren’t in Cineplex theatres.  But you get the added bonus of the stars and people that create the film.  The extra colour are live bonus materials that shape and give texture to these stories.   Sometimes they clear up questions on what was the filmmaker’s intent.  On Chesil Beach had that aspect and I appreciated the clarity.   I do like the buzz in the city that is created downtown.  It’s a fun time of year and I look forward to it next year.  Enjoy your films!

Labour Day – September 4th, 2017

This week past was catching up on some old friends.  This past weekend it was the 40th anniversary of Close Encounters of the Third Kind on the big screen.  Spielberg’s space masterpiece.  And it looks marvellous on the big screen where it belongs.   The scene of the interior of the space ship was removed (as it should be) but the Magic remains.  Girlfriend had never seen this.  I had.  Together we enjoyed this.  The last  30 mins of this movie remains incredible.  Spielberg says it was the most difficult editing sequence of his career.   It is seamless.  Between the music (Arrival borrows heavily from using the concept of alternate means of communication for aliens).  The building blocks of ET are borne here.   I can go on and on about this film but the simple recommendation is to see it on the big screen with big sound where it belongs.

I have also seen the ending to Game of Thrones.  Season 7 started slowly but when the dragons got more involved it had an energetic pace.  I await to see the Jon Snow reaction to his “news”.  From him especially.   No GOT for 2018 so this one will have to wait.

TIFF begins this week.  I have two movies on tap.  I look forward to the knowledgeable crowds, the lines and the buzz on the streets of Toronto. With any luck I will see a few stars.  Happy TIFF.   Enjoy Dunkirk at the Cinesphere.

August 23, 2017

As I am pouring over the latest TIFF schedule and listing of films for 2017, yesterday I managed to find at the library a copy of last year’s TIFF Top Pick, LaLa Land.   I had vowed that I wasn’t going to see in the theatre nor spend money on a musical on film as previously discussed.  In short I have found Hollywood’s attempts to generate a buzz about this genre to be less than successful (even when such films were awarded the top prize for a film during that year).  The Artist, Chicago and others of late have not resonated with me, even when I had seen the film on stage (Chicago was seen by me in London).

Now with Lala Land we have the story starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

I think I entered this film with an open mind.   There was the hype to be sure and all the awards, but I was looking forward to it.   The story is a simple one; aspiring actress is frustrated by the whole Hollywood scene, when she meets frustrated jazz pianist (Gosling) who wants to revive the dying jazz clubs and music.  I did like the bright and colourful costumes and sets.  They showed joy and positive energy when so much around us can be down and dark.   There are a couple cute scenes.  The music I felt was good, with some catchy songs.  Still this didn’t excite me, and I wasn’t enthralled.    I found the singing ability lacking, and in some cases hard to hear the voices of the leads.   They aren’t singers.   Not in a Russell Crowe or Peirce Brosnan horrible way, but not accomplished singers.  And perhaps that is one of the frustrations, is that there ARE triple threats out there who can sing, dance and act.   Ryan Gosling has confidence in what he is doing, it is true, but I don’t pretend that he is playing the piano.  Some of it, yes but much of it is done by others I suspect.   His dancing was competent but he wasn’t channeling Fred Astaire.   It is a bit forced.  Like the relationship between the leads.   They don’t have electric chemistry together.   Alison’s description about Emma Stone’s face is right on point.  The math just simply doesn’t add up.  She is not very attractive; she doesn’t have a killer body; she is not a singer as we have established; she is a decent actor.   Her turn in Birdman as the daughter was one of her better performances, and garnered her a Supporting Actress nomination.   She is quirky and simply just doesn’t do anything for me.  That she WON the Best Actress award for this just floors me.    If you have seen Elle, Isabelle Huppert who won the Golden Globe had a better performance.   I suspect Stone won for her song performance when she auditioned for the movie in Paris, and that song about her aunt.   Still I remain perplexed.    In the end the romantic in me was not satisfied with the ending, but then again that was a twist that was to be expected I suppose.  It made sense.   There are paths that we all choose to take and they direct our lives and have consequences.  The same holds true here.   That we have a review of a different path and how things could have been just highlights one of life’s truths.

Despite the gaffe at the actual Awards with Warren and Faye fumbling with the wrong Best Picture card – I am pleased that this did not win.   It wasn’t the Best Picture, but then again almost a year later neither was the winner Moonlight.   The movie that I will remember best, and re-watch for last year will continue to be Arrival.

July 31, 2017

Last day of July, it is hard to believe really.   But movies keep being released and Netflix keeps posting more films as well.

I saw War for the Planet of the Apes in the theatre this past week and it didn’t disappoint.  The reviews have been good all around for this third installment of the rebooted series.  The performances are good and Andy Serkis  plays Caesar very well with equal leader and parent.   A leader wishing for peace for his kind but one who has very human struggles internally and externally to contend with.  My minor quibble with this is how they are trying in their own way to connect with the original POTA from 1969.  Some is clever like an explanation for how humans become mute.   Others though like Nova and Cornelius are more troublesome since the timelines just wouldn’t sync up.   At least not from the original.   Caesar and the Lawgiver were long since dead and buried for centuries before Taylor ever crashes into their world.   But besides these minor issues this is not just a shoot em up film with endless battles. There are aspects borrowed from Apocalypse Now, channeled in many ways by Woody Harrelson.  Also The Great Escape and further Schindler’s List.  Add to that a little political commentary about building walls and there is a film that covers much territory.  This reboot was well worth viewing and the effort.

I also caught on Netflix Toni Erdmann which was a German film nominated for Best Foreign Film and was at TIFF.  It is a father and daughter film with an aging Dad and his older busy daughter.  She is working on an outsourcing deal which will cut many jobs with plenty of office politics.  He wants to get a glimpse into her life.   I heard that Hollywood wants to remake this.  It troubles me where I imagine that they would take it.   The story here is subtle and touching and you have two complex people just sorting through things.  There are some very funny moments.   And moments that at times you think are just improbable.  But I enjoyed it and wished I had seen this at TIFF.   It didn’t win the Oscar.   Worth checking out as well.

I read a glowing review of Valerian and it surprised me.   This was not on my radar.  But maybe it should be.    Not sure.

I did start Miss Sloane with Jessica Chastain last night too.  So far so good.   She plays a driven, hard hitting lobbyist.  It has the look and feel (and actors from) The Newsroom.

July 24, 2017

There was a recent be a story that a veteran from Calgary wanted to attend the film Dunkirk as he was there when it happened.  He came out praising the film and realism.  I will add my voice to many who have sung the praises of this film.   Christopher Nolan has put together an excellent war picture that builds on the previously successful stories like Saving Private Ryan.   He accomplishes this by using a story with multiple tales that in quite a few cases overlap.  You need to pay attention to ensure you stay straight on this mostly linear storyline.  He also in many cases keeps the dialogue to a minimal including the opening sequence with a young man running through the streets and onto the beach.
This is gripping, intense and emotional.  It is scary.  But scary because of the realism and randomness of war.  As German attacks begin on British and French troops lined up like bowling pins along the desolate beach (with no cover) you can sense the anxiety.  And fear.
I didn’t notice the Hans Zimmer score as much here as I did in Interstellar.  But I did notice the high pitched buzz like in Batman as things began to ramp up and tension is rising.
This is worth seeing on a big screen.  I did not see in IMAX but did in AVX.  I fully expect that there are a number of awards that this should garner.   Maybe even Best Picture.   Maybe even Best Director.   Performances are very good with Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branuagh being notable.   Few female characters at all.  Rylance is so very good once again following his Oscar performance in Bridge of Spies.

Episode 2 of Game of Thrones thankfully was better than Episode 1.  Somebody at long last has put together the idea that the dragons may be useful against the white walkers.  There are also alliances being forged that seem inevitable and necessary.   Battle lines are being drawn and it is going to get interesting.  The production value here is remarkable.

July 17, 2017

I have some commentary on a number of fronts today.  First a further comment about expectations and how they impact one’s viewing and filter on a film or show.  After much anticipation and reviewing of the previous final episode Game of Thrones returned last night.   It was in a word underwhelming.  Very little seemed to happen and it was more of a set up for the rest of this short season.   I am hopeful that it gets ramped up quickly.  Although I will say that the looking to mine dragon glass isn’t an episode I look forward to much.  My memory of the past episodes can be fuzzy and I wonder about Danny in that war room that looked like Stannis was there previously – I just don’t remember the dragon stuff everywhere.  More to come.

I saw Baby Driver in the theatre last week.  It had some positive reviews but I knew very little about it.  It had Jon Hamm (Mad Men) Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey.  Add to this a young unknown actor to me as the baby faced driver.   There are times when it becomes almost a music video with dancing and choreography.   They almost lost me with that.  But the underlying story about a young boy (Baby is his name) who keeps to himself and suffered a horrible accident when he was a child is compelling.  He “owes” Kevin Spacey’s character and drives with various crews to pull off bank heists.   He meets a girl and the story moves on from there.   I like the performances.  Some over the top a bit but it held my attention.   Unlike GoT I didn’t have anticipation or preconceived ideas on what I was about to see and how good it will be.  That helped.  It is worth a viewing but likely can be seen on Netflix or TMN with not much lost.

I found Off Camera a show that interviews various celebrities and I have watched almost four.  Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chris Pine and almost finished Lake Bell.   It talks about the movie industry and the experiences of these actors.   I was interested to hear about the commitment to the craft and unfailing belief that they would be actors.  There was no Plan B and they knew at around age 8 or earlier.   Damon and Bell both wrote screenplays to create roles for themselves.  Pine’s parents were both working actors – Dad was the sergeant from Chips Tv show.  I didn’t know that.  He is so grounded.  Damon too.  So I will continue to watch as I see others who intrigue.   There are plenty more seasons than those on Netflix.  It seems that Pine of those four had the easiest path since Star Trek came to him fairly early on and he has never looked back.   Lake Bell dominates conversation and really is a one person show all herself.  She wrote, starred in and ending up directing In A World.

July 10, 2017

Have a few movies to review with a recent trip on an airplane to California.  There were a few to choose from as well as another watched on Netflix.

Draft Day – Kevin Costner doing his thing as the GM of the Cleveland Browns.  Alison had previously reviewed this Ivan Reitman film.  Plenty of name dropping and known NFL people on this draft drama.  It is predictable and decent.
Logan – watched on the plane.  Still don’t get it.  X Men in this are basically dead.  But we have this new group of kids all “mutant” in their own way.  The little wolverine girl kills at least 50 people with razor fingers ablazin’.  So violent.  Not sure what to make of it, but I won’t kill any brain cells worrying about it either.
Beauty and the Beast – the live remake with the wrongly cast Emma Watson, who can’t really carry a tune and with a story that is supplemented with new and unremarkable songs.   There are a couple small twists but really just window dressing.   The original animation film was captivating, and deserved to be left alone.  As far as I can tell, this is just a cash grab.  I like Kevin Kline, but I don’t think he either was cast properly here.  But then again, I may be too focused again on the chubby, eccentric father figure in the original.
Suicide Squad – the most disheartening aspect of this movie is the ending where they clearly indicate that there will be a sequel.  But why?   Jared Leto, you’re no Heath Ledger.  All the shiny dental work and green hair doesn’t give you that sense of foreboding that Ledger created.   The performance is just a little too over the top.  And that holds true for the rest of this crew, who really is a modern day (and mutant style) Dirty Dozen.   But the Dirty Dozen was a better film, and the underlying story was better.   Our villain here is weak as a personality — but then again, who is possibly left who can mount any formidable attack against all the super-people flying around and destroying cities.  Damn NYC gets hit a LOT!   Their re-building and construction costs must be astronomical.  Anyone working in those office buildings better back up their files, and take their laptop home .  Just in case.

June 26, 2017

This week was a Netflix week.  I saw two films.

Vacation – minus National Lampoon is a sequel of sorts to the original Chevy Chase Vacation from long ago.  It even has unrecognizable Beverly D’Angelo in a brief appearance.   Rusty has grown up and has a wife and two kids.  He gets pushed around but as an airline pilot he is doing okay.  His wife (Christina Applegate) goes through the motions.   Rusty decides to take his kids to Wally World on a road trip.   The family goes along but barely.   Then the hijinx ensues as they befall on one piece of bad luck and another.   There is much Adam Sandler type humour here and not unlike the original.  I was never a fan of Chevy Chase and this movie doesn’t make me nostalgic.   It was mind candy.  There were a couple of guffaws but that was about it.

Moana is recently added to Netlfix and this is a Disney animated film about a Polynesian girl who is uncertain about who she is and what her destiny is.   She has an overbearing father (don’t they all) who tries to keep her focused on land and at home.  Grammy is a little more savvy and adventurous and knows the family’s roots and traditions.   She meets in time Maui, voiced by The Rock and he was just fine.   He has the smarmy cockiness required of a Demi God.  Together they have an adventure worthy of Disney and worth the time to check out.  It has emotion and some twists and turns but doesn’t stray too far from the familiar.  In the end you are glad to have met Moana and seen some of her beautiful islands.

June 18, 2017

I have to admit that during the viewing of Cars 3 that I was looking for handles on the car doors.  All of that continuing the silly but satisfying debate on whether humans inhabit the fictional world of Cars on any level.

Here is Pixar who have become the pillar of animation excellence milking a story for all the coin it can get.  All very true.  They are also milking one of the current themes touched by many movies these days (like Wonder Woman) around equality.   And more specifically gender equality.

I still don’t like Owen Wilson.  His voice grates on me and likely because every time he speaks I see that oddly shaped object in the centre of his face 👃🏻

The romantic side of this film is back burnered.  Remember the budding romance between legal baby blue Porsche and Lightning?   Anyway instead this film focuses on an aging champion racer being challenged through technology and younger competitors.

There is quality animation throughout.  The story turns a couple of times but nothing is too shocking.   In the end the boys enjoyed a visit back to Cars land.   I was entertained but the story won’t stay with me nor will I feel the need to purchase and re-watch this (I never purchased the first and best in this series).  But there are worse ways to spend time.  For a night out and getting a young boy away from the computer screen and games this is effective.