October 3, 2022

The Woman King: Viola Davis is a tour de force. She is always playing strong, fiercely independent women who can also show tremendous empathy for those around her. Through it all she has this skill through the simple looks on her face to reveal much about her character and what they are feeling in that moment.

Viola Davis being a bad ass

This story is based upon a true story of a tribe in the early 1800s. John Boyega plays the King of Dahomey who is forward-thinking in his views about women, as he has decided to have troop of women warriors, who are led by the formidable Nanisca (Davis). It is a time of slavery where African states are selling their people, and those that they capture in battle to the foreign white people. The Dahomey city is threatened by a larger African tribe who look to defeat them and show their (male) superiority.

As this goes on, enter a young woman, Nawi, who has refused her father’s offering for a husband, as she has wanted to become one of these female warriors. She is dropped at the door of the female warriors and taken in. Her journey of training shows her individuality, with her desire to live her life on her terms. It can put her in direct conflict with Nanisca the general looking to build a larger military force, mostly for defensive purposes.

This film has an excellent cast of surrounding characters among the female warriors. Notably there is Izogie, who brings the young Nawi under wing as well as Nanica’s most trusted friend Amenza. Together this band finds out new things about their circumstances and themselves. Some of these are predictable, with a generally predictable arch. But this doesn’t take away from the quality of product in getting there. The production value is high. The fight scenes are very well done, as well as anything we have seen in Braveheart (the higher water mark for these scenes in my mind) and then following with Gladiator, among others. It is violent. There are scenes that are uncomfortable to watch, but necessary. Interestingly there is not nudity, at least with the female warrrior cast who can seemingly jump, lung, fight and turn in a tube top without ever having a wardrobe malfunction. I will also say that the hair department would have been very busy, even from scene to scene with Viola’s charatcer. The use of shells in an African city that doesn’t seem to be beachfront is a bit surprising. There are moments when one’s logic has to stand aside but they are so aggregious in the name of entertainment. I found that Boyega’s King was the least compelling aspect within the production. His character wasn’t explored all that deeply, and he seemed to go from one ceremony and speech with his people and entourage to another. But this Viola’s movie and she makes the most of it by delivering fully. I would expect that there will be nomination or two in this movie come Oscar time.

Last Night in Soho: This 2021 psychological thriller is presently available on Crave. Set in London, it tells the story of a young woman Ellie , played by Thomasin McKenzie, who lives with her Granny in Cornwall but she has dreams of being a fashion designer. Her Mom had passed away years before. She is accepted to the London School of Design and heads off into the big city. There she is teased by her classmates for her eccentricity (like making her own clothes with a 60s flare to them). She moves out from the dorm to a nearby apartment, whose landlord is a elderly woman with plenty of rules for renting there. Ellie begins to have dreams while she sleeps taking her back in time, back to the sixties with a young woman close to her age named Sandie, who is an aspiring singer. She is played by Anya Taylor-Joy with the very widely set eyes and seemingly working everywhere these days. Sandie is introduced to Jack played by Matt Smith who seems to manage many of the local girls in a similar position. The intrigue begins with the seemingly playback on history impacting young Ellie and playing with her mind. She is fiercely protective of Sandie, while admiring her style, talent and drive. It helps too with her designs at school, because Sandie becomes her model for new designs in class which are positively accepted by the professors there. Things begin to unravel for both Ellie and Sandie, with the dreams that Sandie initially had not exactly turning out as planned. Add in Terence Stamp playing an older gentleman who is a barfly at the pub where Ellie is working, and the audience wonders who is involved. Things happen and Ellie is wondering what she can do with her updated visions. The rest I will leave for the reader to find out.

Ellie seeing Sandie in the mirror as she views the past

I thought that this was well done. They manage to keep you guessing as to what is real, what is not, what was really happening and how can someone like Ellie impact the visions she has had from the past. Questions like “why is she even having these visions?” are answered in time. The acting is good, and the production design also good. I have spent time in London but not in Soho that I recall, but I imagine that the look and feel of Soho in the sixties would be well represented. There are some graphic scenes that can make viewers squeamish. Fair warning. All in all, a good effort and I was glad to watch this.

August 9, 2021

Let Him Go: Way back in 1990, Kevin Costner was in a film called Revenge. It was with Madeleine Stowe, and she was married to much older Anthony Quinn. Stowe had relations with Costner and he had to later find a way to exact some revenge on this man who did nasty things to spite his Wife’s indiscretion. Now 31 years later, he and Diane Lane (yes, Clark Kent’s parents) are looking to deal with some North Dakota rednecks that have (in their mind anyway) held the couple’s grandson against his will. The longer story is that the Kent’s son had a wife and a son and he died in an accident on their family farm. The year is 1961 and a couple years later the widow gets re-married. Without any warning the newly wed couple leaves town. Costner is a retired cop. His wife wants to get her grandson back. Then the fun begins as they travel to deal with the redneck family. Much of this makes little sense. Certainly the efforts made by Costner’s George reflect his resolve and understanding of his Wife. There is an attempt to tie the pieces together to an earlier time but honestly I was not seeing it. There is parts where the lawyer in me thinks that there is due process which could have looked to resolved the situation more peacefully and one wonders whether more of a mess is created than was initially created. Questions like “doesn’t the young mother take any responsibility for the choices that she makes?” “Do grandparents need to really shoulder all the responsibility?” George tries to impart some sense and wisdom as things progress. One can find out whether he was able to prevail. This is new on Crave. I am pleased that I didn’t pay for this at a theatre. I like Lane. I like Costner too and then together. I just didn’t like where the story goes. The scenery in Montana and North Dakota is beautiful. I wonder why it had to be set in the early 60s. I somehow doubt that I will think longer on this movie than after posting this.

The latest episode of 100 Foot Wave shows that any elite athlete, especially those getting older have to deal with injury and decisions about whether what they are doing is really worth it. Garrett suffers a bad accident and shoulder surgery and then later another head and foot injury. The rehab is brutal and real. The struggles are real and one wonders at what cost does he (and his team of surfers) seek out the fame. Certainly you also see that sponsors demand news and results. If not, you are dropped. And all of this to seek out the rush of fleeting adrenaline from these massive waves that are eight stories tall. Imagine!!

February 8th, 2021

Mank:  The Golden Globe nominations came out last week for the Film and TV Dramas and Comedies.  On that listing came the Netflix film,Mank with an impressive cast including lead Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins (Phil’s daughter), and Tom Burke as Orson Welles.   Oldman plays Herman Mankiewicz, who was a writer in Old Hollywood.   For a lowly writer he seems to be very well connected with powerful friends, including Leo B Mayer and William Randolph Hearst among them.   He is a drunk but a well respected writer.    He is tasked with writing Welles’ Citizen Kane, which Welles at 24yo was brought in to resurrect RKO Pictures’ fortunes.   It is a black and white period piece set in the early 1940s with flashbacks.    Actually the flashbacks can be somewhat of a distraction, taking away from the direction that the story seems to be focused on.   It isn’t clear to me how the gubernatorial election in California from 1934 impacted the Kane storyline, despite having some nice tie-ins to more recent Presidential elections, and that is a criticism for me.   It’s all very fuzzy.   I would be much more interested in the making of the classic film.   The other major distraction for me is how a 62yo Gary Oldman, plays the 33yo Mank from 1940.   Why?   Add to this the backstory of his Oscar winning role of Winston Churchill and him claiming that he must have a fat suit, because he refused to add the weight that he said would be difficult to ever get back off after filming.   Well, he seems to have added the weight on himself, perhaps he swallowed the Best Actor Award?  One cannot say.    In the end, I cannot recommend this film.   It was long and slow.   It had brilliant production design for places like Hearst Castle, which in many ways one should know a little of that story (Hearst and Marion Davies) to put into context what transpires.   It looks beautiful.   The plot is a headscratcher from which Hollywood types will vote for it (like Birdman a couple years ago).  

The Flight Attendant: This Kaley Cuoco TV series is named as a Best Drama (Musical or Comedy)??, and her as a Best Actress.  Ummmm, no.   To me, the lines of Comedy get blurred when there is a murder to be investigated.   The series is all about that.   So it’s no Schitt’s Creek.   The eight episode storyline leans heavily on the pretty and drunkard young blond flight attendant and her life.    In many ways it channels the character of Amy Schumer in Trainwreck from 2016.   Schumer is funnier.  But here there are these surreal flashbacks when our constantly drinking protagonist messed up in a situation that clearly is way over her head that push this intoAmerican Werewolf in London territory.  Strange and yet an important plotline that they continue to perpetuate.    She is after all just someone who is a “party girl” and hooking up on a layover (literally and figuratively) with a handsome guy in first class.   Much of what happens is a drunken haze for her, but it comes back to her in snippets.    It all becomes a little too nice and tidy in the final episode.   You KNOW that they will be working on a sequel (season 2) so that many of the characters have to continue on.   I won’t be rushing out to see this character enter more shady situations.   I don’t think one wins awards for being pretty and acting drunk.    There is more than that. 

Tom Segura –(Netflix) I have seen now three separate comedy specials by this guy, and I like him.   I like his point of view and the stories that he tells.   It is light entertainment that is welcome in these times.   Much like Jim Jefferies he has a cutting humour, doesn’t really care about political correctness and makes interesting human observations.   Smile and enjoy!

January 18, 2021

Ammonite: Set in the early 1800s, this period piece stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. For that reason abut forgotten lone I wanted to check out this TIFF film from September. This movie follows a now more familiar pattern; it is a repressed time for women who are told that they must live their life in the service of a husband and for his benefit. She is meant to have children and be valued less. She has no ability to be herself and follow her own dreams, even in the eyes of her own father and family. I am reminded how even 140 years later, Queen Elizabeth isn’t given a proper education by her parents because she just doesn’t need one. She disagrees. Winslet here plays Mary, an accomplished but forgotten (mostly) archaeologist who studies fossils found along the shores of her English home. Single, aging, and living only with her elderly mother. She early on in her life found a fossil that is in the British Museum and which paid for life for her sizeable family. Ronan plays a deeply depressed married woman who has recently lost a child. Her husband has an avid interest in fossils, but also yearns for his wife of earlier days. He leaves for a lengthy business trip but pays Winslet to look in on his wife. Winslet gets more than bargained for as she begrudgingly accepts the task, but Ronan falls ill. Much goes unsaid. Much is assumed. Wrongly or rightly. The viewer tries to piece together what has happened to both of these women. How have they been wronged? What has lead to the rather lonely existence of Winslet and her hardness? Ronan appears to be more of an “indoor girl” to borrow the words of Jack Dawson when speaking of Rose in Titanic. Mary alternatively is more sturdy and rugged. She is more outdoorsy, with dirty nails and no appetite for traditional women’s interests. She takes good care of her Mom and the sick Ronan. Mary is though rather awkward and uncomfortable around people. Things happen. Some more surprising than others. Portrait of A Lady On Fire was a very similar story. I think that it was told better. The difference being the star power of the main characters. This film has two top A-list stars who are showing more in many ways than expected. In the end I think we can better appreciate how difficult that these times could have been. Many would have lived, loved and fit directly into society. But quite a few would have had a great deal of difficulty and feeling as though they were likely living in the wrong time. I expect in a lean year that Oscar nominations will likely be forthcoming for one or both.

Downhill: A few years back at TIFF the Swedish foreign film Force Majeure was released and it was a dark film showing the tensions in a marriage when a husband and father at a ski resort betrayed his wife and family in an unexpected way and suffers the consequences. In truth I don’t remember the comedy elements. I just remember that there were uncomfortable situations and tension. Then, presumably Wil Ferrell and Julia Louis Dreyfus saw this as a movie to remake as more of a comedy. It doesn’t work. It’s not funny, but more contrived. I didn’t laugh. I marvelled at the mountain ski resort in Austria. The views and skiing makes me wish for a year ago at Whistler. But otherwise, this dysfunctional family is not where I would want to spend time. Like many Hollywood remakes of European films, this was not a good idea.

Wanda Vision: This new series on Disney + has been advertised hard in the past few weeks. It stars Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen (the best actress in the Olsen clan). Both accomplished actors. After seeing the first episode and 10 mins in the second episode, I have to ask myself “what the hell were they thinking?!” This is bad in a way that I haven’t seen in quite some time. Episode one is a black and white Bewitched remake feel, with the robot “Vision” as Darren and Olsen playing Wanda (a woman with magical powers). I don’t know the point. I don’t the background. I don’t know the Marvel “superheroes”. Frankly, I don’t give damn.

Bridgerton: Saw the end of this. Enjoyed Season 1. I think that the ultimate resolution was satisfying if not altogether predictable. It was a good story. The characters were engaging. It was well written and well acted. Check it out.

April 1st, 2009 – April Fool

Frost/Nixon:  I watched this last night.  I liked it.  Although in some ways, the entire movie turns on whether or not Richard Nixon actually made that phonecall to Frost in his hotel room.  If, in fact, he did, then that was a colossal blunder.   Like gloating in the 7th inning when winning 11-0 it does nothing but motivate the other guy (who is already down) to put you away.   This is what happened to Frost who was not over-matched but simply did not direct his mind to the no holds barred duel that he was only watching until then.   He had to focus on the 10% of the time that Nixon did stuff that he knew was wrong and did them anyway.    I was surprised that the Nixon team did not subtract from that last taping episode the 25 minutes that Frost spent asking about burning the tapes.

Nixon was a sharp guy, no doubt, but he was also highly suspicious and had an inferiority complex.  Losing his governor’s race earlier in his career scarred him for life.   Anyway, I enjoyed this as I had studied Watergate back in University with John Dean (book Blind Ambition) and All the President’s Men.   It’s an interesting lesson in mistakes and trying to cover them up.  Both the principal actors did a fine job here, and notably the guy who played Nixon (Frank Langella).   That was good.   I loved the mental games he played with him just before going on air “So…did you fornicate last night?…”  LMAO!!

March 26th, 2009

I watched Slumdog Millionaire last night and I enjoyed it.  There are a lot of depressing images here from the slums in India , and I cannot imagine going there and seeing it first hand.   At the same time it opens your eyes as to why you have a money pouch when you travel.   It’s a feel-good story with a plot that is interesting   But it was good to watch and created some real tension.   I was most impressed by the child actors in this film as they are all very good.   They made this film what it is.  Sure, on some level I wonder how a young girl living in that kind of poverty and situation turns out to look the way that she does (and she is a striking woman).   I liked the way that they explained Dev Patel’s knowledge of seemingly independent questions with things that have happened in his life.  The relationship with the brother is an interesting one and the redemption that occurs at the end.   Was this the BEST movie of the year?   I don’t know.  But so far it is a pretty good one.

February 23rd, 2009

This weekend Ex-wife rented Blindness with what looked like a good cast (Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover and Julianne Moore). In a word it’s HORRIBLE. I am glad to only have caught the last 45 minutes of this, and thinking I utilized the other hour for better pursuits. This story is a mess. It reminds me a bit of Doomsday (a UK version of an outbreak movie with Scotland this time being isolated and rescuers going in to see who if anyone has survived). Neither movie really works that well but Doomsday was better. There is this uncertain virus in a city that makes people blind and so they are put in isolation. In truth I am not sure where Ex-wife finds these movies, but she strikes me in her selections like a kid playing with her parents’ gun. You don’t know what she’s going to pick, but in the end you know someone will get hurt. Usually it’s me having to sit through another painful selection. She usually hates my picks.

January 2nd, 2008

This weekend I saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  I am halfway through the book, and I found this story to be the least satisfying of the bunch.   It could have been summed up in a word and in 15 mins on the screen.

Open with Harry credits, show Harry at his house.  Watch as Ministry of Magic dispels the theory of the return of Voldemort, then see how they see the truth.  Ending credits.

When we finished, eldest son’s reaction was “Is that it?!”   I agree.   The characters did not advance much, and there was only a couple tidbits of juicy info.  Otherwise it was forgettable.