May 29th, 2023

Whitney Houston: I Want To Dance With Somebody: We lost a legendary voice this week when Tina Turner passed at the age of 83yo. She had battled a long series of illnesses including a kidney replacement. This news made me revisit the shortened life of another legendary voice, Whitney Houston. Say what you want about whether you liked her songs, there was no denying the quality of her voice. Born into a singing family, where her Aunt was Dionne Warwick and Godmother was Aretha Franklin. Sadly we all know how this ends, and we can see the steps that slowly brought this upon the pop superstar, and make no mistake that she was a superstar.

For this movie, the performance of the lead will begin and end how the audience accepts it. Naomi Ackie plays Whitney really well. According to news sources, she doesn’t do most of the singing in the movie. That was Whitney’s voice mostly. But the songs were of course well done. I imagine that the Music Director, may have done as in Amadeus, with Sir Neville Marriner at St Martin In The Fields, said I will do the music ONLY if you don’t change a single note. This must be an intimidating role for anyone to take on. Whitney Houston has a range of singing, and a story that most people know pretty well. We know about Bobbi Brown and that influence that he brought into her life. A life of excess and drugs where the money generated just seems to disappear, whether in the hands of her father or others. She battled her father according to this movie all the way to him to his grave.

Some things that were highlighted which I had no idea about included her relationship with her best friend, Robyn Crawford. I also didn’t realize that it was Kevin Costner who made the suggestion for The Bodyguard, for her to sing Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”. He made a brilliant choice as well for her to sing the acapella for the introduction of the song. Life is about choices though, and for whatever reasons that she had, Whitney made choices that weren’t always in her best interest. From smoking, to the drugs, to her relationships, it seems that being someone who isn’t your own authentic self (as you see it) tends to lead to some destructive behaviour. The world lost a great talent far too soon. Like so many before her, there was something missing, and a void that could not be filled with earthly experiences. In the end, like Jim Morrison before her she perished in a bathtub. In her system was cocaine, and she had heart disease. But add her name to artists like Prince, Tom Petty, Judy Garland, Sam Cooke, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin and the list goes on and on. Whitney died at age 48, on Feb 11, 2012 a night before the Grammy’s were to take place.

Did I need to see this movie? It didn’t suck. I learned a little and revisited some songs that she performed. It is a story of excess for someone with a talent who was undeniable. Maybe the candles that burn the brightest, burn out the soonest. I would like to think that Whitney could have matched Tina Turner and reached her 80s, and shared her gift for longer. There is no doubt that Tina would have also lived an extraordinary life, but one with all the trappings of fame and success. They are both missed. Their voices will carry on long after I am gone and most of us.

Succession The Final Season: The final episode was last night. I have to admit then when I began watching this episode I wasn’t sure which of the offspring of Logan Roy would survive. I regarded this series as a tragedy, and that with the King lacking a formal succession plan and their being a potential acquisition in play that we would see the true colours of the adult children, Kendall, Shiv and Roman.

So things, as expected are coming to a head. A board meeting is to take place where the fate of the empire, Daddy’s company, is going to be decided. The parties involved are gathering their respective teams for the big vote. On the one side you have those trying to keep the company in the hands of the family, and in the other the European team looking to acquire it. This has been the basis for the entire final season. Within that parameter, the fight lines have been drawn. As things proceed the respective family members talk, and argue and figure out what their plan of action is, sprearheaded by Ken. Shiv is a survivor and is planning her own strategy. Roman and Ken each have ideas that they should be the heir to the throne. As mentioned in an earlier post, bearded brother Con, is treated as Fredo and not actively involved in the activities. Things play out to a meeting of the board about the acquisition. The vote is extremely close. Then things change in a way that could be predicted but in a satisfying way.

Unlike Game of Thrones, this popular series is ending on a positive note. An appropriate ending for those involved. Parties who have been involved in other seasons, show up from time to time to impact the plot. It seems that a reliance on a family that is dysfunctional can be at best unreliable. Changes come from places that were expected for those involved. Those who the audience had thought were in a precarious position can have their fortunes changed quickly in meetings that take place throughout. “Those who would be last, can be first….and those who would be first, would be last”. Needless to say the Roy family Christmas gathering would be an interesting affair when all is said and done. I think that this has been an excellent series, well written and acted. It was profane. It had some great laughs and soundbites. In the end, I am glad that I watched it. Well worth your time.

Adding a Jurassic Park Easter Egg: One of the things about multiple viewings of the same movie is that rather than focusing on the plot and the big things happening that you can see more of the detail. For moviegoers many people call these Easter Eggs, and I just noticed one for a film that I have seen many times.

It is the scene where Dennis Nedry is sitting at his workstation and having a conversation with John Hammond about his doing the code for the Park and automating it for a small amount of money. Hammon says that “I don’t blame people for their mistakes, but I do ask for them to pay for them”. On the screen on Nedry’s screen there is a live stream of the movie Jaws taking place during one of the scenes where the shark is making its entrance to the men aboard the Orca. I just noticed this, and it was a nice shout out to Spielberg’s earlier blockbuster.


May 22, 2023 (Victoria Day)

Mrs. Davis: I introduced this series back a couple of weeks ago when I started watching it. Now I have completed the season. For me this was quirky fun, with a fantastical story with more religious undertones than had initial expected. That shouldn’t really be too surprising since the main picture for the series shows Betty Gilpin in full habit. Still, it goes much deeper on this front than I ever expected.

The story is just as much fable as it is anything else. It lives on a couple of plains of existence, but the producers seem to make that work. There is some very clever writing. The writing has the plot have characters introduced and scenarios which at first seem to be unimportant, and then more explanation will be provided which brings context to the earlier reference. So you have to pay attention. All of this doesn’t work of course if you don’t relate to the principal character, and her plight. You need to care and want for her to succeed. Played by Betty Gilpin she has very good comic timing and her looks reveal much when she says nothing. She comes from a complicated background in the story with her parents. Dad is a magician, while Mom was a skeptical partner forced into a life that she really didn’t want.

There are themes about family, love, religion, faith, technology and the dependence of people on it, political resistence, acceptance, mothers and daughters among others. That covers quite a broad spectrum of the human experience. I enjoyed it. I laughed out loud a number of times, and openly wondered how they were going to film one aspect of the quest for Simone/Elizabeth. It appears that there are no plans for there to be a Season 2, so this is a one-shot deal. Enjoy it for what it is.

Succession: Last night was the second last episode before the conclusion of the series. It seems odd to writing about this almost weekly, but it has been a fascinating season. The focus has become the ongoing saga of this high profile acquisition of Waystar, along with the four adult children of media mogul Logan Roy. This episode is no exception, as we see each of the siblings act and react to the emotional plot as it unfolds. In many ways, this is the first time that they are showing any real emotion, which is a bit of a surprise. I can’t reveal too much as this is something to watch and experience fresh.

For me, one of the more compelling aspects of this very watchable, and well acted series is the interaction between married couple Tom and Shiv. In the past couple of episodes there have been revealing, truthful. honest moments with real pain between the two of them. Of the four siblings, this is the most complex relationship among two more-or-less capable people. Kendall is divorced and his strained relationship with his Ex doesn’t improve. Roman has his own challenges, and finally Connor Roy has always been relegated to Fredo Corleone status from The Godfather. It is an apt description since in many ways he isn’t as strong intellectually as the others, and even his wedding was a backburner celebration that none of the principal players took seriously. In truth, there was good reason for it, and if you’re curious you have to watch the series.

I thoroughly enjoy this, and I can only expect a little bit elongated last and final episode next sunday. Like Game of Thrones, it will be sad to see this go. I admit that I liked Game of Thrones MUCH more, without a doubt, but this has been quality TV from the start.

May 15th, 2023

I was off last week enjoying some time away in Europe, my happy place with a really good biddy from Germany. We went to a bucket list place for me of Portugal. In short, it was excellent, and lived up to all expectations. I would return to Lisbon, Porto or the Algarve areas. I had the benefit of many YouTube contributtions but was indebted to Netflix for the Somebody Feed Phil series which had an entire episode on Lisbon. The highlight was the Pont Final restaurant right on a jetty on the ocean. It was a very good meal at an excellent location that was one of a kind for a sunny day in May.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: So what do you do as a movie executive if you have released a hit movie, with many sequels and spin offs possible, and then all of a sudden your star of the film in real life dies? It’s not an easy choice. So many ways that the decision can go badly for you. The executive team at Marvel dealt with this situation when the lead of the original, popular Black Panther, Chadwick Aaron Boseman, passed away at the age of 43.

He was a charismatic guy, and along with challenger Michael B Jordan made the original a very watchable superhero film. As I have said many a time, I am generally not a superhero movie guy and less-so the Marvel series. I don’t find many of them compelling, even when it was one of the early superhero movie with Spiderman.

So to answer the question, one of the choices is to accept and incorporate the death into the movie. This was done thoughtfully, respectfully and tastefully with a couple of nice collages within the movie. As for the plot, there is also an amount of time to mourn the lost hero, with the family and the community. But like all things in life, the only constant is change. People move on, and families move on. It doesn’t mean that they forget. Black Panther’s Mom played by Angela Bassett takes the crown back and acts as Queen. She has her hands full because it turns out that the rest of the known world to you and I want to get there hands on the exclusive “vibranium” (or so it was thought).

It seems someone has created a vibranium detector, and there are aggressive moves made by other countries to obtain the mineral from Wakanda by force. It fails. But then things happen which take the film in two different directions. One dealing with the maker of this detection machine and the other around a new, previously unknown mystery entity. I will leave the details to the movie itself. There is a significant threat to Wakanda and the leaders look to find a new protector for the people. Ultimately I won’t quibble with the choice made and how it proceeds forward. Of course as a superhero movie there are moments of disbelief. I think that the performances were generally good. I also think that the music helped a great deal to bring forth some of the emotion. It has a heart this film. For the guy who doesn’t like most superhero movies, I didn’t hate it.

Succession: Final Season: I am one week behind in watching Succession, meaning that the May 14th episode I didn’t see yet. I caught up on the May 7th episode which dealt with the election night. With the father gone, the adult children are showing their limitations and vulnerability. Scheming and turning on each other and the staff who remained at the top with their father. Randall and Roman deal with the potential new acquirer, Matsson. Meanwhile sister Shiv is playing both sides in her professional life and in her personal life with her husband Tom. There is some compelling TV to be seen here. I anxiously await to see how it turns out. Great writing, really good acting. My favourite line in the episode is from Matsson to Greg, who he earlier calls Gary. He says “I thought you were backwash at the bottom of the gene pool…”. Priceless!

May 1st, 2023

Air: I attended this in the theatre this past weekend having heard some positive buzz about the movie about Nike signing Michael Jordan. Directed by Ben Affleck, it is also produced by Affleck and Matt Damon. It is a very nostalgic film set in the early 1980s with plenty of flashbacks of TV, commercials, music and scenes from the times.

For someone my age, I lived through this time and remember much of it. The dominant shoe companies of the day were Converse and Adidas. NBA stars like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Dr J all wore Converse. Adidas in the middle of an ownership change was targeting players who were over 7 feet tall.

The movie has an impressive cast. Damon plays Sonny Vaccaro, the talent scout for basketball, asked to recommend newly drafted NBA players to wear their shoes. His challenge is that Nike is relatively unknown, and thought of as a “running shoe” and not a “basketball shoe”. He is dealing with Affleck as the flamboyant CEO of Nike who brought the company up from nothing. Nike is losing market share, and has a limited amount of money to sign some players. Jordan apparently had all but agreed to go to Adidas, because he liked the gym suits (iconic at the time) and was being promised a new red Mercedes.

Apparently when Affleck and Damon approached Michael Jordan about the film, he said that he would only allow it to go forward if Viola Davis would play his Mom. She did and she puts in a really good performance.

What is remarkable to the lay person is how so much money is offered to unproven draft picks to wear shoes. The endorsement is meant for brand loyalty and future sales. For Nike this was crucial in making them relevant in the basketball shoe market once again. There are business decisions to make, with the choice of an 18yo college basketball player making his decision which will impact so very many lives. The entire basketball division at Nike would be dependent on it. History of course shows us which decision that Michael made, with the remarkable red, black and white high top design that changed the industry in more ways than were initially anticipated.

Incidentally, the NBA had a rule at the time that shoes had to be 51% white or black and that the shoe proposed by Jordan would be contrary to the regulation and incur a $5000 fine per game. At the end there is some discussion about what this deal meant to both Nike and Jordan. Twenty plus years after finishing his career on the court, Michael Jordan is still benefiting (as he should) by Nike using his name and likeness. Few people knew exactly what Nike was investing in when this ground-breaking deal was signed. His Mom knew. He knew. And that Matt Damon’s character knew too. I am hopeful that the Damon character who risked much to make this happen, would have benefited financially with a substantial bonus from Nike.

Also incidentally, Sonny Vaccaro was fired by Nike in 1994, just 10 years after bringing Jordan to Nike. Quite a story. I liked this more than I thought I would and certainly with Ben Affleck who channeled the Nike CEO well. Generally I am not a fan.

Mrs. Davis: This is a new series on Crave. I have seen four episodes. It stars former GLOW and Gaslit star Betty Gilpin. I see a remarkable similarity between Gilpin and Killing Eve star Jodie Comer. I think that they are both very watchable, but also smart and funny at the same time. Each brings an element of her character still figuring things out, but also reacting quickly, sometimes not always thinking through the consequences of their actions. IMDB describes this series as Sci Fi. I am not sure that I agree. It plays on a number of levels, and because of one of these levels one has to say that it is more like fantasy or a fable. So far, this is quirky fun where the backstory between the characters is revealed over the episodes.

Gilpin is a nun named Simone, no joke, and she lives at a time where she believes that the Siri-like artifical intelligence presence, engaged by people through ear pieces, is after her to do something. She is looking to get off the grid. Her past reveals how she has been impacted and her experiences with magician’s and magic. Add to that as a child a chance meeting with a young cowboy, you see her impact on Wiley. Things unfold, and not necessarily as you would expect. There are some catchy lines, and good reaction shots from Gilpin. It is entertaining and I will keep watching to see where exactly it goes. I certainly expect that the ultimate goal/quest will not be completed in this first season.

The Citadel: Richard Madden has been making a tidy career out of playing in this political thriller, spy series genre since finshing up as Robb Stark in Game of Thrones. Back in 2018 he starred in the UK thriller Bodyguard which is definitely worth your time if you haven’t watched it. This series puts his in a role with Priyanka Chopra Jonas who open up borrowing heavily from both the Bourne and Bond franchises. It seems that many of these fight scenes recently are taking place on trains, but even that borrows from Bond long ago in From Russia With Love, among others.

So there is an initial scene which sets up the relationship between Mason Kane (Madden) and Nadia Sign (Jonas). Early on we learn that The Citadel is an organization that appears to be on a higher plain than MI6, CIA or KGB. Maybe think of them as a super-spy organization. Stanley Tucci is involved so that gives them instant credibility, as doesn’t he always? He plays the Alfred (Batman), Charlie (Charlie’s Angels), M (Bond) or Benji (Mission Impossible series) who coordinates efforts and can seemingly do anything with a laptop. Some early Bourne-like situations arise which may or not be believable. Same holds true with the potential resolution to cure the Bourne situation, where I just rolled my eyes. It has been said by me many times that movies require a level of suspension of disbelief. However there are times when it simply becomes ridiculous and you get into science fiction territory. That fails when there is this underlying plot which seems to take place in the present day with real elements surrounding them. Already I am feeling that the domestic set up for Mason is just a little too convenient. But that is just pure speculation. All that to be said that I was far more entertained and interested in Mrs Davis than The Citadel. I think that Madden is a compelling leading man.

Many could argue, of course, the other movies have similarly ridiculous unbelievable stunts. Mission Impossible early on I called “Ending Impossible” with a helicopter going into the Chunnel following a train and Ethan Hawke blowing himself forward from it onto a moving train. Yea, whatever!! That is but one of many such examples. But it doesn’t change my view of what was going on early in this series.

We have seen these types of stunts and storylines in other series. There have always been compelling female spy leads, most recently in the latest Bond with Ana De Armas or in Mission Impossible with Rebecca Ferguson as Isla Faust. There is so much content available these days that I think one must to pick and choose where to spend your valuable time. For me, I would pass on the Citadel, even though I was only two epiosdes in and focus on Succession and Mrs Davis.

April 24th, 2023

Longest Third Date: This new Netflix documentary tells a feel-good, positive story about one New York based young couple, Khani Le and Matt Robertson and their early relationship. They met on the dating App Hinge, and while in NY had two pretty successful dates. For those not dating these days that means that they enjoyed themselves enough to decide to go on another date. That is really a success! Khani is 29yo and Matt is 31yo.

All this is taking place early in 2020. Matt suggests to Khani that prices for flights are quite cheap, and if she is up for it, then they could head to somewhere warm for a long weekend. He was suggesting Costa Rica. To both of their credits, they were adventurous enough to take the leap of faith, despite some protests from family and friends. In March 2020, NYC was just on the verge of shutting down as they boarded their mostly empty flight. The date because of various COVID delays lasts 79 days.

Matt early on had an affinity for his phone and filming virtually everything. Khani was a little hesitant about that, but in hindsight, without him doing that, this show never would have appeared. It was because he had taped the early dates and days and the time in Costa Rica as things unfolded that there was enough content for this film. Imagine as you head onto this adventure that a few days in, your flights get cancelled. NYC gets put into lock down and everyone is working from home. Matt and Khani had the foresight to bring their laptops to be able to do exactly that. They show the awkward first night where they need to share a bed with a stranger. What I liked about this, especially with Matt’s behaviour is that as he feels a lull in the action, he takes action to find something new and different to do. He makes the best of a challenging situation. He arranges for a memorable day away from their resort which shows creativity and attention to detail. Then more delays occur and they are forced to move out of their resort. They find another place to live. A vacation then becomes a living arrangement, very different from a resort life. Once again they are able to explore, seeing different parts of the country and get outside. Their story is posted online and then picked up by NY newspapers. They become celebrities overnight.

This is a fun story. As a guy who has been in the dating world for quite some time, I feel someone vindicated that I am not the only one who takes trips early with a new dating partner. To me, you learn a lot about a person when spending more time with them than just a couple hour date. You knew enough about them to invite the longer time together, and it’s more than just a dinner or a movie. It can be sightseeing, a show, a game or walks through museums or being on a beach. In any event, they see you and you better understand them. This movie was a story of a time with a lot of uncertainty and misery for everyone around the globe, but for this couple it is a memorable beginning.

Chris Rock: Selective Outrage: I am a big fan of live stand up comedy. I have been to Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, I have seen George Carlin back in the day, more recently I have enjoyed Jim Jeffries as he taped his latest Netflix special from Toronto, Matt Braunger in Detroit and Daniel Tosh in Vegas back in November . I have tickets upcoming to see Jimmy Carr. Other comedians that I really enjoy would be Tom Segura, as well as his wife Chrstina P who both have specials on Netflix worth checking out. All that to say that I am up for a good laugh.

Chris Rock, the ex-SNL star, put this hour-long performance on Netflix. I went in with an open mind, and I have to say that this was pretty much a Meh for me. I think I cracked a smile a couple of times. The biggest selling feature for this special is Rock addressing “The Slap” at the Oscars with Will Smith as the aggressor, after Rock talked about Smith’s wife’s Jada’s challenge with her hair. That aspect of the set was fine, but I certainly didn’t laugh. Would I recommend this? No. Those stand up performers listed above all entertain me more than this did. If you can’t find them on Netflix, try finding them on YouTube. I love the fact that there is so much comedy available on various services these days since we all can use some laughs.

April 17th, 2023

Jurassic World Dominion: Hard to believe that the original Steven Spielberg classic film was released in 1993. Thirty years ago when Ellie Sattler and Alan Grant are invited to be expert witnesses for a new amusement park from dreamer John Hammond. Of course the amusement park fails spectacularly due mostly to human foibles, but primarily because of the human arogance that genetic engineering can be controlled. Fast forward to the present and the sixth (yes SIXTH) installment of this franchise is released. I think I was even more surprised to see that Steven Speilberg has put his name to this one as Executive Producer. Why he would want to associate himself with this jumbled mess is beyond me.

So what is possibly new and different to bring you back to this rehashing of the older tale, while combining the characters from the first and then the most recent group. So that means bringing together Ellie Sattler and Alan Grant looking much older with the more recent Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). All together they live in a new world where dinsaurs of all shapes and sizes are free, living among humans and animals alike.

All the dialog around kumbaya and everyone “just getting along” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you know that dinosaurs would have little problem making the current animals on the planet extinct. How is there possibly enough animals of any variety to feed all the large predators? There is further talk about redemption for the original confident scientist making the dinosaurs, as he tries to deal with humans who have mutated prehistoric locusts for their own gain. Blah, blah, blah. So many incredulous things take place that it all becomes more or the same. Nothing new to see here. So in short, having known that this wasn’t going to have anything new, I still watched for completeness. I didn’t need to. In the end, everything is tied up in a bow with the characters making nice and happily ever after. This would be a hard no.

Love is Blind Season 4: I guess the more newsworthy aspect of this show was that Netflix when trying to stream a LIVE Reunion utterly failed with it starting almost an hour late. Not exactly major network type of reliability or timeliness. The producers had brought together the couples who had made their decisions on whether to be married or not. The show itself finished over the weekend with predictable results. Those who seemed from all the coverage to be well connected, knowing of course that editing can be made to add drama where it doesn’t exist, did what we thought as viewers that they would.

This series has had some success. They have yet to produce a child among their couples. For those of you who enjoy relationship shows, this is mindless candy that one can fast forwadr until the end to see where they end up. It is an interesting concept to have people meet and converse to create a connection worthy of a proposal, and then see once they meet whether the connection can remain strong. For some they can embrace the experiment, while others cannot get over their preconceived ideas of their “type” of person.

Obsession: This is a four-part series on Netflix. In many ways it parallels Diane Keaton’s Looking For Mister Goodbar from 1977. It goes into detail about the destructive power of obsessive love. Is it really love? I think that the jury would reamin out on that. But there was no denying that even the most driven and successful people with a quality home life can fall for the perceived ultimate physcial connection.

Doctor Farrow, played by Richard Armitage, is married with two adult children. He has just completed a very successful siamese twin operation, and is at the top of his profession. He seems well connected with his wife, viewers will recognize from Game of Thrones, with a son and a daughter. Son has a new girlfriend, and she is older than him. Parents have heard her name before but that seems to be all we know. But as things unfold, we see that Dad has met with her before. The depth of that relationship is kept secret. Revealing itself slowly, the viewers get to see the dangerous game that is being played. It seems the woman, named Anna has some family secrets and that men seem to be very attracted to her. This a theme in her life.

By obsession, the definition being “an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind” which can paralyze someone and make them incapble of controlling themselves, even when it is clearly unhealthy. I think that it was a good choice to select Charlie Murphy as the actress in this role. She isn’t a drop dead raving beauty, but rather, for me, reminds me of Molly Ringwald, with the short hair and perky personality. So like Love is Blind, there is an obvious physical attraction but there is much more at work. The story shows not only the consequences of the actions, but also the impact on the woman involved. How does she feel? Does she recognize this behaviour and try to better understand it? Or does she give in to it and realize that she has a magic power over men for some reason. What do you do with this power? How does the obsessed man finally address all that he has done? All this gets addressed over the four episodes. I think that the performances were good. Everyone seeks love, but the degree of love that comes their way may be something more than they were expecting.

April 10th, 2023

Succession – Final Season: Episode three. In the words of Alison as she texted me late Sunday night “Succession!” I think that about sums it up. For those of you who haven’t been watching this Emmy award winning series, the writing and acting have just been excellent. It is quite profane, but that is also part of the allure. There was intrigue building as the three adult children were looking to make a bid for a third party network that was in play, and Dad (with the help of other family members) was an opposing bidder. This was also the day for eldest adult child’s Connor’s wedding (the bearded one in the back, from the guy who played Ferris Bueller’s friend Cameron, and also the bus riding tourist in Speed).

The show’s latest episode has actually even made the mainstream news. I won’t say any more than that, but I will say that this has been a quality show from the beginning. A week ago I was spitballing ideas with Alison with her on how this final season was going to end and I am pretty proud of how prophetic it actually was. Relax, enjoy, let the drama unfold before you. This show may have been based loosely on the Rupert Murdoch family but I regard it as a Shakespearean tragedy, like King Lear.

Tetris: For those of you as old as I am, as well as those who enjoyed video games from back in the day when progress was being made away from “Pong” to more graphic ready devices, this movie may provide you with some background, which is way more involved and political then you could have ever imagined. For context as you watch this movie, Tetris was extremely popular and between the original release from 1989 for Nintendo and Game Boy handheld, and then later Electronic Arts has sold 143,000,000 copies, making it one of the top selling video games ever! This movie is also an Intellectual Property Lawyer’s dream, with the intrigue revolving around the license grant from the game’s creator, who happened to be Russian. For Nintendo and Game Boy this was the flagship app, which sold the device itself.

The intrigue involves the Russian government, which at the time was crumbling with the world watching and US President making pitches for Mikhail Gorbachev to “take this wall down”, referring to the Berlin Wall, but implying that the Soviet form of communism was teetering on destruction as well. Reagan was right. What this movie does well is showing the Russian government and the KGB minions are manipulating the situation with a successful video game with many interested suitors. Taron Egerton (formerly Elton John in Rocketman) plays Henk Rogers who is an American who sees the game at a trade show in Vegas and decides to purchase what he thinks are the Japanese rights to sell it for PCs and consoles. Henk learns however that the private deal between a London based rights purchaser and the sole Russian developer for $10,000 is in jeopardy. Very powerful people get involved, including now disgraced UK billionaire media mogul Robert Maxwell, and his son Kevin. Henk has mortgaged everything with his family in Japan and works diligently behind the scenes to craft the deal to support his own interests, despite not speaking any Russian. What becomes apparent is that the existing Russian government is scrambling to protect their own interests and believes the world is trying to steal their culture from under them. In hindsight it seems irrational, because there was a deal to be made to ensure that everyone could make a lot of money on this seemingly unimportant entertaining game. But they didn’t see it that way. So things unfold in ways expected and unexpected, but we all know as mentioned above that this became one of the top games of all time, and put Game Boys in the hands of millions of people. As a viewer we want to see that the young Russian developer and his wife and family were able to profit from his invention rather than those who decide to take what isn’t theirs. For me, this was entertaining because I lived through those years of playing the game and knowing the platforms on which it was played (Nintendo console, PC and the handheld). As a lawyer I am amazed at even in this instance where words matter and that if the grant isn’t made in the license (like handheld rights) then you don’t have them. Incidentally, Maxwell and his son are played out precisely as you would expect them to be played.

April 3rd, 2023

All Quiet On The Western Front: When I was reviewing my various reviews of the Best Picture nominees for 2023, I realized that although I had watched this movie on Netflix, for whatever reason I had failed to review it here. So that needed to be remedied for the Best International film Oscar winner. It also won three other Oscars, for cinematography, musical score and production design. If you happen to watch the Making Of All Quiet feature on Netflix, I think you will appreciate even more what they have done with this film.

I think that the star of the film, the young man Edward Berger is simple excellent in being the audience’s experience of the First World War from a German perspective. As a North American we are shown early century war movies (First World War and WWII) always with the Germans as the villians. They are the faceless enemy shooting down the Allied heroes mercilessly, efficiently but always with a view to being the true enemy. This movie turns that experience on its head, with the German perspective on this war.

From the early days of being a new recruit with young enthusiasm with his friends at joining in the grand fight for the Fatherland, and early training will marches filled with song. The effective war machine sidenote with the lifecycle of a soldier’s uniform shown is dramatic in pointing out that our young man and his friends are pawns on a chess board. Dots on a map ina trench. The sets are incredible, with the trenches, the battles, the blood and the damp. Thank goodness that there isn’t smell-o-vision!!

As the war moves on, friendships are made, new characters are introduced with the German envoy looking to have peace negotiations with the French. The Germans are realizing with the new American soldiers re-enforcing Allied positions that it is just a matter of time. Our young soldiers are once again shown to have their lives subject to fate (bullets, bombs and illness hitting or missing them randomly) but also the pride of their leaders and those of their enemy. The French leaders are shown to be defiant at any suggestion of compromise, with a list of demands for any armistice which would be complete capitulation from the Germans to these arrogant French leaders. Of course leaders on both sides are human, and pride effects them too, as the weary soldiers again are put into action. They also live in luxurious rooms with fine dining and all the comforts of home as opposed to their men on the battlefields.

There are some memorable scenes in this, including one very similar to the one on one knife battle in the town in Saving Private Ryan. Killing someone with a knife is very personal. It’s not shooting from afar, but up close as you see the reaction of your enemy as the knife enters their body and takes their life in front of you. War is senseless. It is a colossal waste of men and resources from both sides. As we all know, the stage was set for WWII with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles by the Germans back in 1918. Shaming and belittling your enemy with economically catastrophic impositions against them sow the seeds of discontent. Those with nothing, have nothing to lose. I remember too that these young men were just boys, in their middle to late teens or early twenties. As a father with sons of my own, I cringe to think about them being put in harm’s way for the sake of the pride of a military focused leader. I have little doubt that Russian parents feel the same with their sons in Ukraine, no matter what their media tells them. I do think that this is an excellent film. It can be very tough to watch. War is hell. This shows this very well. No one is shown to be a hero, however heroic that their actions can be. In the end, they are struggling to survive in conditions are are just inhuman. People treat each other so badly, and we can do so much more together.

The Night Agent: This new Netflix series is very popular at the moment. The star is a young agent of the FBI, played by Gabriel Basso. I don’t think that they could have found another actor who looks more like Game of Thrones Robb Stark, and star of the similar UK’s The Bodyguard Richard Madden than him. See foe yourself:

The stories are in the early two episodes that I have seen quite similar. There is intrigue at the upper levels of the government. In The Night Agent, it is the White House, where there is apparently a mole within the Office of the President, where the young agent has been seconded from the FBI. A young women, has her family members killed dramatically and she comes to realize that they were not anywhere like she thought that they were. People have lots of secrets, and those in this plot are no different. The game of cat and mouse begins, with the woman who was in the cyber-security business, played by Luciane Buchanan, revealing more and more to the young agent who is supposed to be off this detail but manages (quite remarkably and with impeccable timing) to stay engaged. I won’t delve any further into the plot lines early on. Of course there are far-fetched stunts, and bad people who although they are paid assassins presumbly are quite horrible shots when it comes to taking out the woman and the young agent. Imagine that! Add high speed chases, plenty of shooting and polticial intrigue and you have a series to explore. I am not sure yet whether I am sold on this. I will watch a couple more episodes and see what develops. So stay tuned, and feel free to make up your own mind and comment if you like.

March 27, 2023

Boston Strangler: I am a fan of crime series and investigations. I readily admit that I really liked Mindhunter on Netflix as well as Manhunt: Unabomber which I think were simply excellent. I recommedn those to people who seek my suggestions for this genre. The latter dealt with not only the capture of the Unabomber but also the legal case against him and the decision of the Court. Add to that backstory a similar newspaper investigative journalism story similar to All The President’s Men, Spotlight, Zodiac, She Said and many others then this becomes something that I would seek out. Starring Keira Knightley, Chris Cooper and Carrie Coon. Set in the mid 1960s, with society changing tremendously from the 1950s as can be seen in other shows like Mad Men, the focus is a series of murders that are taking place in Boston, and yet no one seems to be seeing any relationship between them. Enter young reporter Loretta McLaughlin, who works the Lifestyle desk but wants to get more involved in Crime, and she notices some things that are the same. Bringing her ideas to the editor Chris Cooper, he shuns her back to her work.

The story unfolds as she finds out more facts connecting the various cases. There is a Homicide Detective who is working the case too and they uncover what they can, along with her co-worker played effectively by Coon. Mindhunter despite taking place a little later than this timeline, didn’t directly address this specific case in any detail. It was Loretta who coined the label the Boston Strangler. What is uncovered, from someone not familiar with the details of the killings, was more than a little surprising. The performances were solid and I remain interested throughout. Of course as part of the intrigue surrounding the cases, is the tension at home for a married woman with three young children, and a husband who concedes that he never pressed her to stay at home because he “knows better”. She is good at her job, and puts in long hours, but then still must come home and often put together a fancy meal. Life as a woman any time, but ceretainly in those times, was never easy. There are plenty of roles to fulfill. For Loretta it also means trying to protect women from a police force that didn’t seem to be putting much effort in coordinating the information gathered so far or being cooperative with others.

I am glad that I saw this. It works on a legal level, but also as compelling story telling. I suspect that the Boston Police in particular won’t appreciate it, as they didn’t necessarily welcome to backlash from the Catholic church in Boston for Spotlight. They may not appreciate the hits, but for the viewing public we can see a story that is more complex than was initially anticipated.

Love is Blind Season 4: As much as I like quality cinema and stories, sometimes the mind just wants some banal chewing gum. One wants to sit and watch senseless interpersonal drama, for drama’s sake. With me, shows like this one can fill that whole from time to time. I know that they are a train wreck. I know that they are filled with the “beautiful people” (outwardly anyway) who want their five minutes of fame on these shows. They recognize as participants, that unless they match up they aren’t getting any more screen time. As I have explained before, this series pits singles seeking marriage with the task of selecting a mate without ever seeing them. It is a connection on every level except physical and looks. Once a proposal is made, then they lay eyes on each other for the first time and head off for a grand trip to a beach location (in this case Mexico). There is drama in the selecting, but more of the drama takes place once selected and live interactions are taking place.

The first four episodes were released this past weekend. More are to come this week. What amazes me in all this drama, is how some people are willing to accept being a Plan B. Meaning, there are multiple dates going on simultaneously with many others, and connections are made. Eventually people have to make decisions, especially if they are attracted to more than one person. Tears ensue. But those willing to accept a proposal AFTER they know the person has already focused on another person. What about the person pining for a person who rejected them, but then can seamlessly pivot to another person without skipping a beat? All in the name of TV!! There is more to come of course, and there seems to be no problem with pining for people who matched with others, despite the fact that they are already “engaged”.

Money Shot: The Porn Hub Story: Who would guess that a documentary about a Canadian porn site, would turn into an in depth rights discussion between the “talent” and their right to try and make a living away from the hollywood porn film industry (think studios), then right wing religious types who want to shut down all sites involved with any adult entertainment (including Sports Illustrated and the swim suit edition) and the owners of a platform who facilitate the payments between end users and the talent? It seems odd, but all of those things were explored in this new Netflix documentary.

Headquartered in Montreal, by a company called Mindgeek, they were at the forefront of monetizing the porn industry, talent and images, putting them with end users. Their ultimate failing was not monitoring, managing content or policing who was putting up the images. Even when the NY Times came calling, they refused to engage with them. Without any oversight, videos were put up of minors, and people who did not consent to the images being displayed from those who didn’t produce them. Even when complaints were made, they were ignored to keep advertising dollars flowing. When the Canadian Federal Government brought the executives before a Parliamentary Committee, their explanations were weak and they did far too little too late. The payments systems (VISA and Mastercard) were shut down and it meant a dramatic shift back to the age before disseminated content. Interests are explored from the perspective of those who worked at Mindgeek, as well as talent and the lawyers who eventually got involved in the case. It is safe to say that no one thinks that images of children or of rape or anyone not fully consenting should not be placed on any platform. The question becomes one of what happens with that content not like that?

March 20th, 2023

The Quiet Girl: At a time when a number of the Oscar nominees were depressing and down, like The Whale or EO, along comes this Oscar nominated entry from Ireland for Best International Picture. It is mostly in Gaelic with subtitles. It is based upon the book named “Foster” from Claire Keegan who is also a writer in the film.

Cait, is a young girl who lives in a family of modest to poor means in the early 1980s. As the movie begins, Cait is hiding from the family in the field as they search for her. You soon learn to know why. Young Mom is pregnant again, although there are already plenty of mouths to feed in the house. Dad is not exactly father of the year nor husband of the year material, if you know what I mean. Cait doesn’t say much and her actions reveal the inner turmoil that she is experiencing at home and in school. Cait’s Dad and Mom decide to send her off to spend some extended time with Mom’s cousin, who has presently no children of her own. The cousin and her husband run a dairy farm a lengthy drive away. Cait arrives and there is an awkward first meeting as she seemingly hasn’t been told what is happening. Dad absentmindedly even drives away with her suitcase. The young girl settles in and the rest of the movie is about her and her relationship with this couple.

As the title implies, much in this movie goes unsaid. Not just from the girl, but from the adults too. Everyone, as in life, has their issues to get over. Some have just had those issues longer to address. Silence can mean acceptance, but it can also be someone deep in thought or even processing how they feel at the moment. Actions say a great deal. Caring isn’t always isn’t about words, but the small acts of life. From a cookie left on a kitchen table to signify being sorry and seeking apology, to changing bedsheets or sweeping out a barn. Together it means connection. Despite what others might say or think, kindness is offering your home, your skills and resources to a virtual complete stranger, knowing that it likely won’t be welcome. I really liked this. It is a simple story well told. The ending I think is right. In a year where Best International Film is pretty much sewn up with All Quiet on the Western Front, this nevertheless is an effective story and entertaining revealing the story of this quiet, brown-haired girl.

The Last of UsSeason 1 round up: Welcome to HBO’s response to the completion of Game of Thrones with all those viewers and also those from House of the Dragon. Without repeating my introduction to the series, and how I was very reluctant to watch a series with zombies, I continue to be impressed how they overcome the zombie aspects. They are there of course, but much more of it is about human interaction, rather than humans and zombies. Our two heroes, Ellie and Joel are on a quest to find people who can help with trying to find a cure for this fungus-pandemic. What I can say is that this series builds and builds. Knowing that there will be more seasons to come, I had to wonder how they would address it.

People and their motivations stand in the way of the heroes meeting their goals. The series has nine episodes with the last one released last Sunday.

Those of you who haven’t watched so far, I would NOT recommend that you click on this back story for episode 8. I hadn’t seen these before, but I like the explanations for the episode. I have to keep reminding myself that this series is a video game with a story and scenes unto itself. Some of these are in this show, but others are not and others still are changed. In short, you don’t know what you are going to get! I am going in blind, with fresh eyes on every episode. It’s fun to watch and see where it turns. To say that the Final Episode was a surprise is an understatement. I won’t get into details here, except to say that it puts the overall story arc of being re-written or at least re-directed. I welcome it, because it means that there are many possibilities. With this series ending for a break, it is just in time for Succession to begin the last season. Kudos to HBO for keeping us entertained with good quality series back to back.

Oscars Recap: First of all, kudos for the second consecutive year for my brother to win the Oscar pool. This year he won by 1 point over Alison. Well done and really good picking. I came fourth. I think that he should be betting on his ability to predict the winners. Obviously my skills are lacking.

It wasn’t inaccurate of me to state that I felt Everything, Everywhere All At Once would have a good night at the Oscars. I just didn’t expect it to be as good as night as what eventually transpired. I had predicted Best Picture, Director and Best Supporting Actor. I called Best Supporting Actor one of the easiest calls of the night, along with All Quiet as Best International Film. I hadn’t expected Best Supporting Actress for surprised Jame Lee Curtis. Incidentally, both Best Supporting Actors gave heartfelt speeches.

There were some great outfits from people like Salma Hayek, Cara Delevigne, Jessica Chastain or Emily Blunt.

The musical performances were good generally, I missed the earlier performances by Lady Gaga gave a good live performance. She has so much talent, and dressed down decidedly for the time on stage (torn jeans and comfy top).

All Quiet on the Western Front also did very well at the Oscars. I think that the two directors from Everything, Everywhere would be fun to work with. For those of you who have actually seen the movie, we’ll see if you think it is Best Picture worthy. As I said earlier, time in my view will move on from this Best Picture which was an extravaganza for the senses, on multiple plains but hard to follow if you didn’t pay attention, and certainly not for all viewers. There were some laughs, but it is difficult to compare this type of film to others. Time will tell. I think that Jimmy Kimmel did a decent job. I always like the Matt Damon jokes.