November 18th, 2019

I had mentioned on Remembrance Day that I would go out and see the re-make Midway.   This latest version is directed by Independence Day (1996) and Godzilla (1998) Roland Emmerich.   The most notable stars are Woody Harrelson as Admiral Nimitz, Dennis Quaid as Admiral Halsey.  Other real people are played by less known actors but they acquit themselves pretty well.   Deadpool baddie, Ed Skrein, plays Dick Best very well.   This story has been told many times before, and in my opinion more realistically by others.   My underlining challenge is the expansive use of CGI in virtually all of the sequences.   This, in many ways, is a requirement because the ships, the planes, the people and locations are all vastly changed since 1941.  In 1976, that version had Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda and James Coburn as leads.    It was more melo-dramatic, with Heston and his son having a strained relationship.   But they had some Japanese Zeros, which were used in-the-day TV shows like Blacksheep Squadron, with Robert “I dare you to knock off this battery” Conrad.    This version for the battle sequences, and we get into them quickly, looks like a video game.   Planes are dive bombing and making surprising moves.   Bullets and tracers are all over the place and seemed out of a Star Wars movie.   The story begins with Pearl Harbor, and then to the bombing of Tokyo, which was addressed in the film Pearl Harbor (2001) which leveraged Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett in a Titanic like struggle post-Pearl.   Then the battle of Coral Sea, unseen while the Americans show how their intelligence, who faltered so badly on December 7th, rallied to prove their value for the anticipated next move on Midway island.   There are scenes of John Ford making his film on location at Midway during the battle.   That was new.    Finally we end up with the battle at Midway.  The Americans who are outmanned and have a decidedly weaker position in ships need to catch a break and have anticipated the Japanese next move well.   Well fate would have them making the right choices.  The sea battles against the Japanese aircraft carriers are more CGI extravaganzas; more arcade game that reality.   I liked the fact that real people who actually fought (Dick Best as an aviator) and Bruno Gaido amongst others were used.    In the end, I was glad to have seen it but I can’t recommend it

For much of the enjoyable and fun Ford v Ferrari, starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, the more appropriate title would be Ford v Ford.  Damon plays American Carroll Shelby, the automaking and racing legend and Bale the English driver and mechanic Ken Miles.   Henry Ford II, played by Tracy Letts, the son of the legend American car-maker himself, is looking to turn around failing sales in the late 1950s, and wants to invigorate sales with younger people.   He is advised that he should turn to racing to find the solution.   A new generation with Second World War veteran parents are looking to have fun and not drive their parents cars.   Ford is a large corporation, with many layers of management and plenty of ideas on how to move forward.   These ideas don’t necessarily coincide with giving some unpredictable and headstrong racers the fate of the future sales of the Corporation.   I wonder how those named executives would feel about how their fathers are portrayed?    It is not flattering.   Bale and Damon do their best on the track all the while fending off the forces who work against them both.   Chances are taken, gambles are made.   Ultimately it takes them to Le Mans 24 hour race.   I did not know about the racing history in the mid 1960s.   Ferrari was the team to beat with multiple wins.   Ford has manufactured a new race car, the GT 40 MK II.  For the race car enthusiast there is a feast for the eyes and ears with the sights and sounds of these race cars.   I saw the film in IMAX, and it was seat rumbling fun.  From the close ups in the car while driving, to test drives to squeeze more speed out of this car you can almost smell the fumes and feel the oil and dirt on your face.    There are some great race sequences from preliminary races to the final race in Le Mans.   Ford v Ferrari opened at TIFF, to some good reviews.   I would echo those reviews and recommend some time to see this on the big screen.  Incidentally, this movie shows the value in learning to drive a manual transmission, as crucial moves in the races are made through effective gear shifts.   Tally ho!  Incidentally, Shelby was married seven times.   Seven!   Lee Iacocca plays a prominent role and was witness to a great many of the events which occurred.   He fairs better than Leo Beebe in the eyes of the storytelling.

Finally, Disney + has been announced and they are seducing new subscribers to their new service.   Part of the enticement is the introduction of a new eight episode Star Wars side story The Mandalorian.  Jon Favreau of Jungle Book and live Lion King direction has penned and produced this story.   The first two episodes are on Disney +.   Disney + offers a free 7 day trial.   Given these first two episodes, I can’t say that I am seeing the need to subscribe longer than the free trial.   The time is right after the fall of the Empire from Return of the Jedi, but before the rise of the First Order.  Order hasn’t been restored to the galaxy.  These shows look amazing.   The sets, the locations, the costumes are all first rate.   The lead character is a bounty hunter, and looking very much like Boba Fett and Jango Fett (certainly the mask is very similar).  This Mandalorian is a man of few words and we do not see his face.   In episode 1 at the beginning, he has gathered a few bounties and gone to collect.  Carl Weathers, the head of the Bounty Hunters Guild, offers him less than what was initially offered for those brought in and then sends him on a secret mission to find an asset.   This asset at the end of episode is shown and I have to admit to being surprised and dumbfounded.

There is part of me that thinks the new Star Wars Rise of Skywalker film will have some of its premise justified through this series.  The part that is a mystery for me is the whole aspect of the Emperor in the new Episode IX returning to play an important role.   Ugh.   For me, the Emperor died at the hands of Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi.  Full stop.   However much Obi Wan, Yoda and even Anakin can return as apparitions, I have no sense that the Sith can do the same.   But then again, all new abilities of Jedi and Sith alike I suppose can be introduced at any time, notwithstanding what the previous films have shown.   So without disclosing much more about the end of episode 1, I am torn watching this and seeing some of the scenes proposed.  You will know when you see them, should you choose to watch.   Other things that can be questioned, would be (as in Star Wars The Force Awakens), the abilities of characters to know how to make and repair older spacecraft.   Rey knew how to repair the Millennium Falcon, and pilot it.   In this series, the Mandalorian can not only fly and older space craft, but he can fully put it back together piece by piece in short order.   Can’t say I would fly into space, and go into hyperspace with a machine I was also the mechanic on.   But clearly these new characters are multi-talented!  But there are more circular stories, that seemingly all have to intertwine into tight and neat little packages.

November 11th, 2019 Remembrance Day

Rather than writing about current films that are out, and I am planning on seeing the re-make war film Midway, I wanted to write on the great war films.   I don’t think that I have done this before, but on a day of remembrance, and remembering those who have paid the ultimate price for my freedom and those all around me, I was thinking about a Top Ten List for War Films.   As an aside, this is an important day.  Having been to the Normandy beaches, and seen the US, Canadian, British and yes German cemeteries in France I am reminded of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day landings and turning the tide on the war.

*Black and white photo credit to Kim Godwin Hines

So many were lost.   So many were so young.  Tomb stones that have birthdays for dead as teenagers, and I as a parent can think about my sons, my daughter, my nieces and nephews and how we are so lucky to not live in a time of war and conflict.   I cherish my German friends too, and think how in a different time we could be across a battlefield from one another.   I compile a list, and it is not easy to do.   War brings out raw emotions and passion and creates opportunity for great performances.    Even though I list 10 films I have chosen to list alphabetically, and not in a particular order it does not identify one as the best.   It can’t be done in my opinion.   I will also note that there are many on here given Oscars, but that doesn’t necessarily add them to the list.    Here goes:

  • Apocalypse Now (1979): for many, the list alphabetically as well as for merit would begin and end here.   Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece set in the Viet Nam war with a crew, led by Martin Sheen, on a small boat looking to end the command of a rogue elite solider, played by overweight Marlon Brando.   Graphic, gory, and made more poignant to me after watching the documentary on Viet Nam by Ken Burns.   Brilliant.   It did not win the Oscar for Best Picture, which most would say now was a travesty (Kramer v Kramer won).
  • Bridge on the River Kwai (1957):   David Lean directs this fabulous film, which won seven Oscars, including Best Picture.  Excellent performances all around led by Sir Alec Guiness, who most younger people see as only older Obi Wan Kenobi.  He won Best Actor for this.  A group of British POWs forced to build a bridge by their Japanese captors also look to find a way to destroy it.
  • Das Boot (1981): Not many films can make you feel like you more fully understand of a life in which you have no experience.   The life of a German U boat sailor is shown here, and shows in dramatic fashion how challenging that would have been.  It also shows a German perspective, showing that they had thoughts and feelings and issues to contend with on all side, which many films focusing on the Allied story seem to forget.
  • Deer Hunter (1978): Another chilling story starring Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken as close friends sent to Viet Nam and their war time experiences.   From the early wedding in a small industrial town, where the guys enjoyed hunting, to their experiences and how they impacted them from the War.   A gripping and excellent achievement for Michael Cimino as director.  Awards include Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Walken and Meryl Streep, and Actor for De Niro.
  • Dunkirk (2018): The recent addition to the list for me is Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.  Filmed in IMAX and using very little CGI.   He recreates well the turning point in the Second World War, arguably, with the saving of the British and French troops trapped in France and surrounded by the German forces.   300,000 men were there, and the British army would have been wiped out had they not been rescued by a civilian armada of small watercraft.   Nolan shows the land, air and sea aspects with heroic efforts made by many.  The individual young soldier struggling just to survive in a confusing and desperate time is revealed.   The companion piece to this from political perspective is Darkest Hour with Gary Oldman playing Churchill.   The Americans at this point were not in the war, but it is a tale of British survival and resilience.
  • Patton (1970):  George C Scott famously played the controversial WWII US General in this epic film.  Another Best Picture winner, and also Best Actor for Scott.  He refused to accept the award claiming that he did not feel as though he was in a competition with other actors.   That is a sidenote to a film that shows the vanity and hubris of those who can fight in war.   Some people just live for it and thrive in that environment.   Patton was one of them it seems.   Patton famously struck one of his soldiers for being a coward.   War can shape many lives, and in this one it hardened the man who took it as his own personal campaign through Africa and Europe to defeat Rommel and the Germans.
  • Platoon (1986):  Oliver Stone, Mr Conspiracy, wrote and directed this Viet Nam film showing the dichotomy in attitude of a single platoon within this war.   The focal point is the young recruit played by Charlie Sheen, in many ways mirroring the personal journey of his father’s career in Apocalypse Now.  The young solider is shown the ropes in the wet, bug-infested jungle with various battles that take place.   His platoon is run by two different sergeant’s who are “battling for Sheen’s soul”.   Both played excellently by Tom Berenger and Wllem Dafoe.  This won Best Picture and Best Director.
  • Sink The Bismarck (1960): Maybe it’s me with a Navy bias because of my Gramps and his service, but I have always enjoyed this movie set in WWII.   The Germans had constructed a large battleship that was feared for its gun range and ability to cause destruction on the seas.   In its first real test, it destroyed the British HMCS Hood with one shot.   Hit and sunk.   The British forces realize that they need to sink the Bismarck before more destruction ensues.   There are no Oscars.   It is just a story well told of the war on the seas.
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998):  Steven Spielberg dramatically brought to life the battle on D-Day at Normandy with the landing at Omaha beach by the Americans.   This is an American story predicated ultimately on finding one solider, whose three brothers were already killed in Europe, and US Army Chief of Staff, George Marshall  decides to send a small group to go find the fourth brother and safely return him home to his family.   No parents should have to sacrifice so heavily on the altar of freedom, in the words of Abraham Lincoln which are used by Marshall to explain his decision.   The middle of this piece lags for me, but the opening beach sequence has no match anywhere.  The noise, the bullets, the graphic violence and injuries.   One feels exhausted watching it, and feels that anyone who survived that day, deserves to go home already.   But that was not the case.   Tom Hanks stars, along with a lesser known supporting cast.   If people don’t regard Apocalypse Now as the best war film, many consider this it.
  • Zero Dark Thirty (2012):  I am a Jessica Chastain fan.   I freely admit it.   This role took her career to new heights, as she showed herself as a CIA operative looking to find and kill Osama Bin Laden as a driven, smart, focused and formidable proponent of her cause.   This movie was initially to be about the unsuccessful search for Bin Laden, but then he was found and killed in May 2011.  The screenplay was then re-written and you see the operation in the last half an hour that took him down.   Chastain embodies this role and challenges her superiors and commits to ensuring that this terrorist pays for the actions that he coordinated on September 11th 2001, and for which many had given up hope of ever seeing it occur.

Other notables not on the list, because when you look into it, so many stories have been put on film about wars and war time.   These include: They Will Not Grow Old (2018), the colourized and improved WWI documentary directed by Peter Jackson.   This is simply mandatory viewing to better understand the First World War from the perspective of the soldier’s themselves in their own words; Schinder’s List (1993), epic story about holocaust;  The Hurt Locker (2008), much of the same crew as Zero Dark Thirty filmed this;  Full Metal Jacket (1987) Stanley Kubrick with memorable training sequence; Imitation Game (2014) about code breaking Enigma machine and Alan Turing; Dirty Dozen (1967) Lee Marvin leads a group of convicted prisoners on a dangerous mission to help the cause and would give them their freedom; Great Escape (1963) a great cast including Steve McQueen escapes from a German POW camp;  The Thin Red Line (1998) a Terrence Malick film showing the insanity of war on the Pacific side, Hacksaw Ridge (2016) the Mel Gibson WWII film of a conscientious objector who refuses to hold and fire a weapon, but will protect life as a medic as part of a platoon.   He ultimately is awarded a Medal of Honor, the first man to do so without firing a shot; Tora Tora Tora (1970) is the Pearl Harbor attack and also follow up with Midway which shows the Japanese forces first having an unmitigated success on December 7th, and then struggling with the follow up attack; finally Judgment at Nuremburg (1961) showing the Nazi trials which pose interesting legal issues and arguments like retroactive law making (there were no laws about war crimes or crimes against humanity before WWII), as well as making soldiers criminally responsible for following orders, and the upper level judges who allowed to have the Nazi regime decline so many rights and freedoms to ensure compliance and tolerance of atrocities.  Maximilian Schell won the Oscar for Best Actor as German defense lawyer.  One final addition:  Glory (1989) set in the US Civil War, it is the story of the first regiments of black soldiers from the Union army.   Denzel Washington won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.   Morgan Freeman also part of the excellent cast.

November 4, 2019

Terminator: Dark Fate:  So is this latest installment of the Terminator series worth your duckets at the movie theatre?   Terminator was the inspired story of James Cameron, who both wrote the story and directed the film from 1984.   According to IMDB, it cost $6.4M to make.  Cumulative worldwide gross is over $78M.   The original framed the story around time travel and future Artificial Intelligence (AI) network, called Skynet, who sends back a terminator to kill the unborn child of the human resistence from that future, named John Connor.   The futuristic humans had defeated the robots and Skynet decided to get creative.   Arnold Schwarzenegger was a Mr Universe body-builder at the time who’s previous claim to fame was Conan The Barbarian.  This new role took his career to new heights!   He was perfect in the role, even though he was the bad guy sent to kill our heroine, and mother to the future world leader.   She was played by Linda Hamilton, as a naive young woman working in a diner, and still figuring out the direction in her life.   Future John manages to send back a human body guard and protector for her, named Reese who fights back the Terminator.   It was exciting.  It had mostly car chase sequences and plenty of shooting and hand to hand combat.   It was a success by any measure, and also launched James Cameron too.  Terminator was his third film.   He went on to do the sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day, along with Aliens, True Lies, Titanic and Avatar among others.   He is now an iconic director, writer and producer.   In the sequel Judgment Day from 1991, John is a young teen and staying with foster families.   His Mom has become locked up in a psych ward for his visions of the future and the theory of a person sent to kill her.   The future tries again and sends a new, updated terminator, with new abilities like being formed out of liquid metal, and being able to take the shape of those things that it touches.   It is virtually indestructible.   The human resistance sends a protector for John this time in the form of an original terminator, played once again by Arnold.   Linda Hamilton, John and the terminator are trying to defeat Skynet and eliminate the people responsible for creating this new AI defence network.   All the while the new liquid terminator chases them.   The effects were better, the chases more intense and there was clearly more money spent on making this a memorable franchise, according to IMDB $106M.   The cutting edge CGI effects were amazing.   The story was solid and there was a good emotional tie in between young John and his terminator.   The future in the end seemed to be, for the first time for Sarah and John, a new possibility rather than nuclear destruction and pain.

James Cameron then bowed out to leave the franchise in the hands of others and it lost its way.   Terminator 3 was released in 2003, followed in 2009 with Terminator Salvatation and then Terminator Genesys in 2015.    There were some good actors involved in the projects, like Christian Bale as John Connor, and Claire Danes, Emilia Clarke and always Arnold.    But it was flat.   This is the franchise history, and because of the last three missteps I was skeptical heading into viewing Dark Fate.   What I can say is that it doesn’t suck.    This is a good thing.   James Cameron is back involved as producer, and also a writer (shared).  He isn’t directing.  Tim Miller is who directed Deadpool.   The story picks up where Judgment Day left off.   Some time has passed and a couple of new aspects to the story that arise which were not known from the previous two films.   The future once again has decided to send back warriors to try and have impact on the future.   There is an even newer version of a Terminator as well as another protector.   I have some challenges with the underpinnings here, and mostly from the capabilities of this new terminator.   There are things that it can do which simply don’t make much sense.  I won’t detail them here but this is a formidable foe, which in some emulates the Agents from The Matrix, primarily being the theme that you don’t try to fight them, but you just try to run.   I give nothing away to say that Arnold also has a role to play, he is on the postor after all as well as trailers.   Does it make sense that a robot ages?    Not really when you think about it.  The combat exoskeleton surrounded by flesh to avoid human detection wouldn’t require those robotic manufacturers to anticipate aging and grey hair and beards.   It is a practical aspect by continuing to use Arnold that you don’t try and keep him looking like he did back in 1984 at 37 years old.   Now he is 72 yo.   Also, some of the stunts and actions of the new robot terminator are also a little far fetched.   But setting aside the logic of it all, it was entertaining.   It had some humour in it, which is welcome for a genre which is pretty dark and depressing.   There is some new political reality with the new terminator starting in Mexico, and the reality of trying to cross the US border and dealing with Border Patrol.    Other present day issues also are touched upon.   In the end, it was worth seeing.

Last night I watched The King, with the young up and coming Timothee Chalamet, who seems to be getting a lot of quality work.   He will be in the upcoming Little Women, also with Sairose Ronan and others.    He was in Call Me By Your Name, Beautiful Boy and Lady Bird.   Much could be said about him, but suffice it to say that the 23 year old actor has been making a positive impression with film goers and the Academy alike.   This latest Netflix release is a quality addition to his resume.   I would venture to say that this could harness him another Best Actor nominee (he received one for Call Me By Your Name).   The story in The King, talks about the life of King Henry V, set in the early 1400s.   Henry has an uneasy relationship with his father, Henry IV, who according to this story wasn’t going to actually name Henry as his successor.   That was going to fall to his younger brother.   Henry IV wasn’t well liked and was prevented from addressing his foreign affairs ambitions because of internal country strife and squabbling.   A guy called Shakespeare wrote a play about this King before, and it pretty well known.    This story focuses on his relationship with his counsellors, his friends, and his battles with France.   Chalamet gives a very good performance, filled with emotion and tenacity.   He shows range and commands the respect you would expect he would deserve.   I found it believable, and he shows the underlying desire to not be his father in many respects.   I will leave the details as to what occurs to the viewer.   Suffice it to say that this was a worthwhile movie to watch.   The find here, in addition to the lead was The Dauphine played by Robert Pattinson.   He has distanced himself well from the days of Twilight, and has done quality roles.  I have heard good things about The Lighthouse with Willem Dafoe, filmed in black and white.   This is a quality role and he provides some fullness to it.  He is not just a bad Frenchman.

I will note that there was no epilogue to this story explaining what happens to the young Henry V.   Yes, he was well loved and strategically well versed.  He had good advisors and followed a gut instinct.  He married young to the daughter of the King of France, and had one son.   He also died at the age of 35 years old.   Some reports claim dysentery and others claim from heat stroke.   He never really got to enjoy life fully as you might have hoped or expected.    By knowing this, a line given by the French King to him late in the film may provide some ideas as to which was the filmmakers here believe that he died.   For those who like historical drama and those who especially like British monarchy stories, this is a good one.   Just note that all this intrigue and deceit all takes place 400 years before Canada even becomes a country!!

October 28th, 2019

First off this week I will note that the TIFF film Kursk that I saw two years ago, reviewed and liked here, is now available on Netflix but it’s called The Command.   It’s worth checking out and builds on the theme from Chernobyl with government pride (and I will purposely not call in Russian pride since I believe many countries and people can suffer from the same ailment) impacting their citizens negatively by choosing to not accept outside help and believing that they have a situation under control.   This is based on a true story.  No matter your politics or thoughts on Russians, this movie provides sympathy for sailors and their families, and not just sailors but submariners who I regard as extraordinary people who can go months without seeing the sun or even the sky.  It’s worth checking out.

In the theatre I went to see the well reviewed Parasite.  It is a South Korean film which won the Palme D’or at Cannes Film Festival this year (Best Picture).   This is first South Korean film ever to win.  This is no small feat.   I went in not knowing what to expect.   It is a story about a poor family of four that manages to infiltrate and become more involved with a very successful family with two young children, stay at home Mom and well known father.   It starts with the friend of the poor family’s son seeking help to fill in to tutor the older girl of the rich family.   The friend was leaving for overseas, and needed a fill in.  The younger poor son agrees, while getting a recommendation from the friend, and forging some documents with qualifications from his sister.   He gets the job.  Soon enough he invites his sister to help with the young boy and the story continues.   There are some genuine surprises that I won’t divulge.  They are worthy of a good script where a family learns some valuable lessons, and at unexpected costs.   Last year I scratched my head and didn’t understand all the love for Roma, with all the kudos and great reviews that it received.   It made me a little skeptical heading into this one.   I see this film more along the same theme of Shoplifters.   Also the really good Burning.  In the end, there are funny moments, and some surprising moments.   Worth seeing if not in the theatre but ahold it get to Netflix or other.

On Netflix I did catch Only The Brave which is based upon the true story of a firefighting brigade (troop) based in Arizona.   The group was elite in fighting outdoor raging fires.   They were highly trained and counted on to take risks.  It comes with the familiar trappings with an outsider looking to join who had challenges earlier in his life, and he wants to do the right thing with his new baby and baby Mama.   The troop is trained by a hard nosed veteran (Josh Brolin) who plays the role as expected.    There are new colleagues that have a history that they must address. Others are looking to gel into this elite fighting group.   Add to that spouses and significant others.   One is Jennifer Connolly, playing Brolin’s wife, who after master performance in A Beautiful Mind hasn’t found a role worthy of her talents.   This is no exception.   It is unfortunate that she can’t get better roles to test her and push her talents.    Back to the movie, the group shows their talent in various situations and then there is a fire in Yarnell Hill, Arizona in June 2013.    I didn’t know the story before watching this.  I followed up a bit after seeing it.   I was reading that there were challenges carried on for many involved here and that is sad to hear.   It was okay.  Not great.  But a story good to know.

October 21st, 2019, Canadian Election Day

I managed to see the charming movie Yesterday last week, and I think I was in just the right frame of mind to enjoy it.  Himesh Patel stars along with Lily James, and a little too much Ed Sheeran for my liking.   But that’s really a side show.   Patel is a young musician who has never quite made it in the music business.   James plays his manager, initially, and also someone who is romantically interested in the musician.  A solar flare occurs and the world is put into darkness and the fable aspects of this begins with almost everyone not knowing The Beatles music.   Patel does, and when he is presented with a new guitar and requested by his friends to play something, he plays Yesterday.   His friends think it’s quite good but don’t have any recollection of The Beatles.  He is incredulous, and soon realizes this to be true.   The story continues on, with some moments that are pleasantly unexpected.   I was not really convinced as much about the romance, but there was some good social commentary (like the public acceptance of certain artists and how they should appear, even if they happen to have volumes of material that is genius.   I saw this on the small screen and this was fine.    No theatre experience required, and I would recommend checking it out if you can.   I am of the first generation where The Beatles have been part of my entire existence.    It is difficult to imagine (no pun intended) life without them.

I also ventured to the theatre with my youngest son in tow to see Joker.  Like Alison, I had heard about the buzz on this film (it was all over TIFF) and there were good reviews, including hers.   I will preface this review with my underlying attitude that I am not a big superhero movie fan.   For me Christopher Nolan has created the better superhero movies, including the Batman trilogy with Christian Bale.    For me, the epic performance by Heath Ledger in 2008 as the Joker remains the pinnacle of the craft.  I can’t imagine better.  As I watched trailers for this version, I was more than a little skeptical.   Having said that, upon viewing, I will readily admit that the Phoenix performance is excellent.  I fully expect an Oscar nomination for it, as the range of emotions for him to go through would be an acting challenge unlike many others.   I can’t even imagine shooting day after day and take after take with the laughing scenes.   Then there is the physical transformation which Phoenix himself shows with the scenes where he is half-dressed or shirtless.   He is so thin.   It doesn’t rival Bale himself in The Machinist (Bale also well known to transform himself physically for a role like De Niro and Day-Lewis).   His physical appearance mirrors the darkness and depressed underlying story.   He looks every year and then some of his 45 years of age (he turns October 28th).

Joker is a backstory for this character and how he came to be the way he is.   I have no challenge about the desire to show this, but I struggle with the tight connection between the Joker story and the Bruce Wayne story.   Without giving anything away, I don’t see the need to go as far as it does.   Why can’t Joker be a guy who has had a difficult life, and has had many knocks which drive him to become an agent of chaos or anarchy?    The story explores mental illness and bullying issues too, which makes complete sense.   If you see the movie, you will understand what I am talking about.  The timeline then with The Dark Knight doesn’t really work either, so one can’t expect that there will be complete continuity.   On it’s own, Joker shows yet again that this character can be the source of truly great acting performances.    It touches on so many issues.  Incidentally having seen Ledger and Phoenix taking on this challenge, the performance by Jack Nicholson in the original Batman from 1989 (a film that I didn’t like at all) is lacking.   Jack is Jack but doesn’t show the depth or the range of emotion.   He is more cartoonish and one dimensional.   So I can echo the positive review by others and Alison, but just not as enthusiastically.

Finally I saw the trailer for The Irishman this week:

This movie along with Gemini Man with Will Smith is showing the new de-aging software that Hollywood is getting excited about.   Had this movie been made 25 years ago, then I would be all over it (De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, and Keitel) would be anybody’s dream cast, being directed by Martin Scorcese.   Keitel is 80 years old.  Pacino is 79, and the other two 76yo.   The de-aging process uses expensive technology to recreate their faces while allowing them to still act.   Clearly these superstars of acting are having their lives prolonged, but why not find new actors to fill these roles and be the NEXT De Niro or Pacino?   Why can’t they just age and play grumpy old men?    Netflix has chosen to pick up this project and it will be released in theatres in early November.   Then Netflix.   There is another aspect of this that I think about, is why aren’t they de-aging the actresses?   I would think actresses who have made movies about Hollywood not accepting actresses over 40yo, would welcome this technology to hide lines and made bodies tighter.   The age of the digital actors is coming – and we will see again in Star Wars where deceased Carrie Fisher will be on screen and fully acting in that film in December.    Not sure if I am a young and up and coming actor that this would be welcome or not.

October 16th, 2019 – Bonus Alison submission

Joker is no joke.  I’m going to resist comparing Joaquin’s performance to that of Heath Ledger because they are incomparable in that they represent a pinnacle performance for each actor.  Joaquin’s transformation into this character was complete right down to his frighteningly emaciated frame and the physical stress the projection of the Joker laugh and unnatural run took on his frail person.  Performance aside Joker is a dark, depressing and surly poetry that you can’t help but stare at.  Its engaging from start to finish and as an origins story provided both the story of Joker and the Batman – two of the more prominent ‘superhero’ characters that have no special powers other than their menacing mindsets.  The film is well directed by Todd Phillips, who I had to look up to learn he’s best known for The Hangover franchise, and his offering here is to the standard set by Christopher Nolan.  Is it worth seeing if you’re not in the comic book movie scene?  Yes, albeit on the small screen.  Fans of the genre will be best served on the big screen.
The Souvenir is a film that both Rob and I had hoped to catch at the theatre and it was in and out of town before we even knew.  The art / independent film offerings are harder to track down as the rep cinema scene has been beaten back giving way to condo developments and movie-plexes.  The Souvenir stars Honor Swinton, daughter to Tilda Swinton who herself has a smaller role in this project.  The male lead was Tom Burke who played his role of master manipulator very well.  The Souvenir is about a young woman attending film school who meets a well groomed man who impressed with his scholarly conversation and fancy clothes.  An engaging conversation led to his crashing at her place for a week and of course feelings developed and the relationship progressed quickly…worts and all.  As I watched this slow moving piece I felt myself becoming more and more frustrated with the female lead’s decided naiveté where her love affair was concerned.  The director did a great job at dropping hints about the fly in the ointment with this particular prince charming and as the clues became more and more obvious I wondered why the critics gave this work such high praise.  Ugh!  But here’s the thing, this movie stayed with me for a few days as I mulled over my annoyance with the characters and the parents of said characters.  I’m deliberately not sharing any of the details of this film; I’ll let some paid critic ruin this element for you.  I still haven’t decided if I would have been happy to shell out full price for this film but it would certainly be worth paying for coffee  and cake that the film would be discussed over.
Booksmart.  I decided to watch this film on a whim and was so glad that I did.  This is the directorial debut for House’s old assistant, Olivia Wilde and it is entertaining, funny and creative.  The plot quite simply is the end high school and the class bookworms deciding they are going to crash the big end of the year party before going off to university.  These two quirky girls headed out for a night they will never forget and a couple of the best laughs I’ve had recently at a movie.  There is one scene involving barbies that I thought was brilliant.  The characters are likeable and are representative of pretty much every stereotypical high school class from back in the day.  Check it out on the Crave or wherever its streaming while you can.

October 14, 2019 (Canadian Thanksgiving Day)

El Camino is a newly released story on Netflix that is continuing on (and a re-telling) of the Jesse Pinkman story with Breaking Bad.  Aaron Paul returns to play Jesse, along with a cast of many other familiar characters from the original series.   Mike, Skinny Pete, Badger and others are all part of this.  Some cameos from well known other characters are used in flashback.   I guess it was inevitable with the success of Breaking Bad that something would be created.   It was good to see some familiar characters.   Vince Gilligan, the original creator, writer and director creates this new story.   It jumps around a fair bit, and you see Jesse in various times, and you mostly tell which time he is in by his haircut and clothes.   In short Jesse was kept in a cage for cooking purposes and managed to get free.  He is trying to find another path for his life to go.   In some ways his former life keeps creeping back in and he needs to use the skills he has acquired since meeting Walter White.   While I don’t find this on the same level as Breaking Bad, I did enjoy it.   The original series had many cliffhanging moments, and this movie manages to create a few tense moments.   If you liked the original series, then this is a decent place to spend some time.

We Stand Alone Together:  Earlier in the week, I watched a 2001 documentary which tells (once again) the story of the 101st Airborne, Easy Company from WWII.   The story is the same as in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.   Actually the real veterans, as portrayed by various actors in the series, are the storytellers in this documentary and their aren’t any actors.   Easy Company was a well known and respected company who has earned their stripes in every battle where they have been involved.  D-Day at Normandy, to Battle of the Bulge, and onto taking The Eagle’s Nest and uncovering Holocaust atrocities.   The stories that these men recount are incredible.  They, to a man, do not regard themselves as “heroes”.  To them, those who died in the battles are the heroes.   Major Winters would say, “…I wasn’t a hero in the war, but I fought in a Company of them.”   Very true, this coming from a real hero from the war who saved countless lives, and was an excellent leader to his men.  For me, the stories need to be remembered and recounted.   It is always more impactful to me when I see grown men cry talking about their buddies, and how they through sheer luck in many cases survived all the battles that they were in.   Likely that is a source of endless nightmares and questioning for them.   Real stories of course are better than well-told stories from Hollywood.     I will also note that the American participation in the war was late in arriving on the European front.   Britain, and her allies kept the possibility open for an Allied victory.

A related story that is on Crave these days is called Pearl Harbor: The Accused.  This movie that uses actors and some archival footage, is making the case that in the aftermath of Pear Harbor that Four-Star Admiral Kimmel was railroaded and made a scapegoat.   The case is made that pertinent intelligence and other valuable information was kept out of the hands of the Admiral in charge of the safety and security for the ships and the men.   As a result of the attack, expected inquiries were made (a Supreme Court Justice led the investigation and issued the 20 page report to the President) where they found dereliction of duty.  He had two stars removed and his Command was handed over to Admiral Nimitz.   His honour was tarnished and people attached him mercilessly.   There is part of me that thinks with a hesitant American pubic to be fully engaged in a War in Europe that an act against them directly was inevitable and expected to finally bring them into the War fully.  And with the intelligence of the day, I would expect someone knew about the Japanese navy leaving port on November 25th 1941.   US intelligence would have spies in the same way that the Japanese did in Hawaii.    But it is unlikely that we will uncover this.   Presidents from first George Bush to Clinton, Bush and Obama have all been asked to reinstate the stars to disgraced Admiral Kimmel.   So far they haven’t.  Politics suggests that they won’t given the positive outcome of these decisions and a desire not to dredge up old wounds, whether true or not.