October 1st, 2018

This past weekend was a busy one for films.

Friday I saw Crazy Rich Asians which had quite a buzz going around the city and still was busy for being released weeks ago.  Sadly I had a challenged young man sitting in the row behind me who periodically and persistently would have noticeable outbursts like “It’s almost October, you know….” and “I think it’s getting wet outside” which had nothing to do with the film at all.   There was some film commentary as well and the Sally Soundtrack really wasn’t welcome.   The woman who sat beside him in that row was quite patient I have to admit.   This is my second film in a row with Henry Golding (Simple Favor was other).   He likes removing his shirts.  He plays the son of a very wealthy and powerful Singapore Chinese family (real estate moguls who developed the city).   He starts living in NYC and you see him with his Chinese American girlfriend who is an Economics professor at NYU.   His best friend is getting married and he wants to introduce his girlfriend Rachel around.   This means an introduction to Mother (played effectively by Michelle Yeoh).   Mom has petty and shallow friends who like to gossip.   She is mindful of an Empire, where her husband (even for a wedding) doesn’t make an appearance.   There are various family members who are around and some are definite stereotypes, but here it works.   Comic relief is found in the daughter and school chum of Rachel, and she is very good.  The story unfolds in ways that are anticipated and others not.   That is the beauty of it, and while you get a sense of the opulence around the characters (the wedding itself is a true showing of crass over-spending just because one can spend it) it still remains grounded in characters that you care about.   Will the young boyfriend and girlfriend be able to overcome all of the family and business issues around them?   Well worth seeing although it doesn’t have to be seen in a big theatre.
Colette:  on Saturday I ended up seeing this new and TIFF period piece starring Keira Knightley.  She doesn’t seem to age, and seems to be the same as when I first saw her in Bend It Like Beckham.   She is always effective in these period pieces as she seems to fit right in with the clothes, the manners and the challenging times for women and their current station.   Here she is a young woman living out in the French countryside, and is courted by a publisher from Paris (played by The Affair’s Dominic West).   He is a bit of a rogue, with questionable business acumen.  In tough times with limited content he encourages Gabrielle to write about her life, which she had shared earlier verbally with her husband.  At first he is not convinced but decides to eventually publish, under his own name “Willy”.   Willy is more of a brand than a name, and he takes credit for the work which takes off with the young female population in France.   The stories become the talk of the town, and make Willy plenty of money.  Claudine are the books, unread by me, but they are a sensation that become a brand itself for everything (combs, perfume, treats etc).   The story then unfolds in ways I won’t describe here.   I will say that I found this story a bit slow and sluggish.   Much of it was the set up for the real story which became the relationships that Gabrielle/Colette has in her life.   None of them are shocking, but for the times obviously they would have been.  Women had their place, and she was swimming upstream from that regarded path.   Knightley and supporting cast do an admirable job here, but I didn’t come away feeling euphoric.   It was okay.   Much in the same way that I walked away from Cate Blanchett in Carol.   As Gabrielle herself states at the end,  “What a wonderful life I have had, I only wish I realized it sooner.”
Wrinkle in Time:  On Netflix this came out recently and it was based on the very popular book.   It suffered greatly at the box office and with good reason I would think upon viewing.   It is a mess, and the Disney goal of being inclusive and diverse is undermined by a story that is jumbled and uncertain.   Basically Chris Pine as father has disappeared and left behind wife and two kids (older daughter and son).   He is a professor of sorts who talks about using one’s mind to travel through time and space.   School mates make fun of the kids left behind by their Dad at school.   The son manages to find unique guides (among them Oprah and Reece Witherspoon, who’s overbite couldn’t be more pronounced) and they try to assist these young people in a quest to find Dad.   Think the fairies who were assisting Cinderella, only less white and one trying too hard to be the comic relief.    There is a darkness.  There is some light.   There is a journey and some interesting visuals, but none of it really resonates and it falls flat.   I cannot recommend this.
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September 24th, 2018 – first live update

Since starting this blog, here is my first live update to it, rather than uploading past materials.   So hot off the presses and with no further adieu, here it is:

A Simple Favour: this is a film starring Blake Lively, and Anna Kendrick.  It was given 3 stars by reviewer at Ebert.com and I decided to check it out.  The premise is pretty simple with the Kendrick character a do-good, geeky single Mom who is super involved in her son’s class at school (she volunteers for everything and takes it to extreme levels) in Connecticut.   In steps the Blake Lively character who is very busy with her high powered job in NYC, and her son.  She is married to a writer, who isn’t writing much and they have financial stresses.  Lively’s character swears and has firm views, likes to drink hard and press Kendrick about her darkest secrets.   A modest “friendship” ensues between the two, with Lively not really seeming very into it.   Then things happen.  And more things happen with twists and turns that are expected and unexpected.   They story moves to a who-dun-it in somewhat of a Gone Girl way.   Kendrick can play annoying very well, and she is believable.   Lively shows some range and is a presence.   The men generally are toyed with and played to various degree.   Henry Golding as Lively’s writer husband is good.  Suffice it to say that I enjoyed it.   It’s not a big screen film, but in a time when things were slow it was a quick escape for a couple hours.   Lively is seemingly getting more confident and has been the focal point of a couple films now (Shallows and All I See Is You).

Jane:  On Netflix I saw the new documentary had been added which was at TIFF a year ago.  I had tried to seek this out in the theatre but couldn’t find it.   This is an updated documentary with never before seen footage with Jane Goodall and her experiences and findings about chimpanzees in Africa.   It is fascinating.   You are told some of the history of Jane taking a project to do first hand accounts observing chimps and it starts slowly for her.   She needs to gain the trust of the resident apes.   When they realize that she is not a threat after a time, one particular ape shows the others that she is okay.   More importantly is her work that showed that we as humans are not the only creatures on the planet that use tools.  The chimps use long grass and thin sticks to insert into any hills and eat the ants that cling to them as them pull it out.   The apes are also shown to think and feel deeply as the story of Flint and his mother Flo unfolds.   This was and is important research and change animal research methods going forward.   The pictures are fascinating and if you are an animal lover at all the cuteness factor with baby chimps is off the charts.   Jane herself claims that Flo the chimp actually made her a better mother.   There is a delicate balance of protection but also freedom to explore and try new things.   Today’s parents could learn a thing or two from an ape.   I heartily recommend this film.

Reversing Roe:  another documentary newly out on Netflix is very good too which speaks about the history and future of the landmark Supreme Court decision in the US for abortion (Roe v Wade).   The decision has been under attack by the States since the Feds insisted on access to abortion for women.   States like Kentucky (with only one existing clinic) and Texas are anxious to eradicate these clinics in their areas.   They put extreme regulations on them which have been forcing them to close their doors, regulations which are ONLY used against such clinics and not other clinics that provide other procedures (like colonoscopy services).  You see politically a filibuster in Texas.   You also see how the President and his choices for Supreme Court Justice change the balance on this issue.   Presently with the new Trump appointments, the Court is now leaning towards Pro Life.    The Pro Life movement (and Christian voters) are a powerful lobby group and sway the minds of those who want to be elected.    They also change the context for the debate by addressing late term abortions, which only account for 1.3% of all abortions performed, but they are the focus.    In the end, this is viewing to be informed, and to be able to talk intelligently about the discourse whatever political bent you may have.   If you let politicians think for you, then they may do things that impact your life (or your kids lives) down the road.   Is it just me or does the US seem to regress in these areas that other Western countries have progressed to support women and their lives (Germany, UK, Canada, Australia etc).   This is gun control, but that is a story for another day, and another movie!!

TIFF edition (Monday Sept 17, 2018)

TIFF was a really good experience this year, and I enjoyed the three movies that I saw.  I had a conflict with hockey on Sunday and missed The Elephant Queen documentary.

22 July – is a film by Paul Greengrass, who had previously done United 93, and some Bourne films.  I knew that Matt Damon liked working with him.    This film is a dramatization of the events in Norway in 2011 in Oslo (bombing at Prime Ministers Office) then at the summer camp island where teens went (politically sponsored – the current PM had gone here as a youth) where 69 people were shot.   The actual event takes up about a third of the film, but then there is the trial and the rehabilitation in one instance of a young man who was shot 5 times.   He wants to face his assaulter in Court and provide a statement of his own, to combat the hate of this calm and deliberated racist.  The film deals with the facts of the event, but the strength is with the acting (the young man and also the assailant) and playing their roles well and with respect.   There are things said by the assailant that simply are incredible to hear.  He is so matter-of-fact and calm.  This is a Netflix film and will be available likely sooner rather than later.  IMDB says it’s to be released Oct 10 in theatres.
Driven is a story about John DeLorean, the infamous GM executive (creator of the GTO) who went on his own to create the new gull-winged sports car.  He was flamboyant and larger than life, and flawed at the same time.    The story deliberately uses the focus of the film as his neighbor played by Jason Sudekis, as a liar and a screw up, who tries to do the right thing (well sometimes).  Set in southern California at the end of the 70s, it tells the story of these two men, and how they crossed paths, and how the FBI gets involved in their lives.   Ultimately DeLorean was having a cash flow problem, much like Tesla, and the solution was for DeLorean to use a cocaine deal to make up for the deficiency and ultimately keep control of his company.   There are a couple of laughs.  Judy Greer stands out here as Sudekis’ wife.  Also Lee Pace of bad guy Guardians of the Galaxy fame.   He plays the much older DeLorean well.   This was fun.  I enjoyed 22 July more as this was paced slower at times.
Finally, there was Kursk which is the dramatization of the Russian nuclear submarine (two football fields in size) that went down in August 2000 during Russian war games.   Russia at the time was suffering economic challenges and made cut backs in military and other spending.   This story covers the event and also some of the pushback made by the Russian people which was completely new for them.   Russia had gone from a northern fleet of 100+ subs in the glory days to about 40.  They were not well maintained, and they carried torpedos with equal treatment.   They used torpedos with hydrogen peroxide, which if not maintained and leak, if it contacts metal is explosive.   On the day in question, it is suspected a torpedo blew inside the Kursk and it set off even more torpedos inside which took out most of its bow.   It sank.   Of the 111 men on board, some survived in the back, moving to the stern for an air pocket.   The Russian Navy then has an ill equipped ad maintained rescue sub that would attach to the sunken Kursk, but it isn’t connecting and it fails.    The Russians refuse any assistance from Britain, US or Norway with better rescue subs.   Pride is a terrible thing in the situation and the men (and their families) pay the price.   I also enjoyed this a great deal.   Mattias Schonnerts is here, and I have seen him in a number of TIFF films.   Colin Firth has a minor role.   Well worth checking out.
TIFF People’s Choice went to Green Book, which to me is a surprise as I would have thought First Man would be there.   This award is a harbinger of good things to come though, as many get Oscar nods and a few of those have won in the past.   The story sounds good on Green Box and Mahershala Ali seems to be the strongest of the actors (Viggo Mortenson also is good too apparently).   I have not seen.   Expect a flurry of these TIFF films to get to theatres in the next few weeks and months ahead.   First Man is Oct 5.   I will see it.   Others too.    I did see Julia Roberts from afar, and Maggie Glylenthaal up close for her movie Kindergarten Teacher which is a remake of an Israeli film.   It looks good.    Fun to be on the red carpet.  Always good to see these people and all the fanfare.    Another TIFF is closed and I always enjoy these Fall time to get immersed in films.   Beautiful Boy, Beale Street, A Private War, Ben is Back, Burning, and others are all movies that I would seek out in time.

September 10, 2018

I went to the theatre and watched Tulipani at Colossus, and the only reason I knew about it was becuase I saw a NOW magazine in the subway on the way back from taking youngest son to wander around King Street Saturday.   I remember that Alison had praised this film from last year’s TIFF as her favourite.  I went Sunday after dropping son off and there were 3 people in the seats (including me).   It is sad to me that the moviegoing public just misses out.  One of the many marvelous things about TIFF is that it brings a whole new throng of films (that aren’t superhero movies) to the people at large on the big screen.  Many like this year’s First Man and Ben is Back will be in the theatres in a few weeks from now.  Some will make their way onto Netflix.  But many don’t get many second chances.   For some, it is a good thing.  But many others it is not.   They are good stories, and there are so many good stories for people to see.   But maybe some people don’t see the need for movies and really don’t care that much.  I cannot fathom that, as I am anxious to see the latest movies and stars on the screen.   But there is that seeking the lowest common denominator for the average movie goer that is troublesome.   Adam asks “will there be another Jurassic Park?”   And I say – “so long as it makes money, they will keep making them…”.   It is a business, and I get that, but there is also an art here too.   Films that were not initially box office smashes, can become beloved as Shawshank Redemption can attest.  It flopped in the theatre, but gained life on TBS in endless repeats.  As my TIFF adventure begins tonight, I look forward to my 4 movies and seeing a good couple of stories.

Tulipani I enjoyed, and it is really a fable.  It is the story of a Dutch adventurer who is a romantic, but also a dreamer to find a better place to live after flooding in his homeland in Holland.   He rides his bike to Puglia Italy and settles there after some signs of fate.  The story is told with flashbacks as modern day people (notably Ksenia Solo who I am now seeing I remember from the TV series TURN) as someone who is being questioned at the hospital by a police officer (also a police figure in Casino Royale).   The story unfolds in ways that I was not expecting and is filled with glorious scenes of Italy that will make you want to contact your travel agent.   In the end this film spoke to me and I was glad that I saw it.   I appreciate the recommendation.
The Commuter with Liam Neeson is a formulaic piece where the protagonist is being played by forces and people around them to manipulate him based upon other factors in his life.   Here Neeson is a former cop, who is let go late in life from his insurance selling job and “requested” to take part in an investigation on the train he frequents.  It breaks down for me when the train has an incident that can only be thought of as incredible (and all the CGI or mini train set that can be done) but one passenger still has a pristine white blouse after all of it!   Really?!!!   That’s not my ONLY quibble, but it underlined the point.  Maybe we need more Tulipani and LESS Commuter and Taken 1,2 and 3.  Just sayin’!!
I have re-watched some things on Netflix.  CoCo most recently and again this is most enjoyable.  Good music, and a story about family and seeking your dreams.   Others would include Elizabeth and yes, Arrival.   On to TIFF.  I will have plenty to report on next week.

Labour Day 2018 edition

Happy September as we get right into TIFF season once again starting Thursday.  My first film is 22 July on Monday.   I see Driven Tues and Kursk on Thurs.

There are some days that the thought of becoming a Roger Ebert sounds sexy and interesting.  Heading to film festivals around the world (like Cannes and Sundance etc) and seeing all the movies.  Then there are other times, like now in the theatres, where I look and there is so very little to want to see.  I heard Crazy Rich Asians at TIFF last year was a hit.  Not sure that I need to see it.   Others don’t really excite or interest me.    But there is always Netflix.   Still the idea of having to go out and see and then review on all these current films would be exhausting.   I remember Roger talk about films like Jack Frost where he felt that 2+ hours of his life had been taken from him.   That would be frustrating!
I saw two recent films on Netflix, one was Downsizing, the Matt Damon film from TIFF a year ago.  Man I am happy I didn’t see this there and pay $25 for the privilege.  It starts out okay and I liked the premise.  You find a solution to over-population by shrinking people down to size.   Then their average savings can make them live like kings in the shrunken world.   They impact the planet less, take less space and create less garbage.  The Matt Damon character decides with his wife (Kristen Wiig) to shrink down.   Only she has a change of heart and he is left alone.   The signing of the divorce papers was a funny scene as were a couple others.   But then it bogs down in this social-political discussion, and this annoying Vietnamese woman who stumbles into Damon’s life who formerly had a life in the public eye for being a protestor.  The best speech in the entire movie is one about what “type of fuck” happened between two characters (eg: friend-fuck, pity fuck, you get the idea).  But the film loses all its momentum and fades to black without really fully exploring this world.    Can’t recommend this one.
Annette Bening who is married to Warren Beatty (now 80yo and seldom seen except for Oscar goofs) has had a storied life in film.  Notable films include for me Bugsy where she was excellent and Grifters with John Cusack.   Others are out there too like American Beauty and Being Julia and The American President.   In 20th Century Women, she has a young teenage son as a single Mom, and she turns to two other female characters principally to shape and provide guidance to him (all without consulting him about whether he feels the need to do this).  The film takes place in the late 70s, and the other two are played by Greta Gerwig (of Ladybird director fame) as a new wave, artsy-type who survived cervical cancer and lives as a tenant with Mom and kid.   The other is free spirit young woman, Elle Fanning, who appears permanently damaged and pissed, but is a girl this young man loves.   The main male character here is a handyman working on the 1900 house they have, and is played by Billy Crudup.   All these characters are looking to have an impact on the son and on each other.   Mom is a standoffish parent, who lets son pretty much do what he wants and doesn’t really discipline much.   She chain smokes and helps others, and has some interesting views on life and relationships.    And that pretty much sums up each party here.   It was fun to watch and see the arc of the stories.  The young man in this is very good.   He has his own ideas, and reads plenty to form opinions.  In the end I was glad that I saw this, and I can see where the nomination was for Bening here (Golden Globe for Best Actress in Musical or Comedy).   This really isn’t a comedy but has some moments.

August 27th, 2018

After a brief hiatus at the cottage where I was relaxing on the dock, I was able to get out and see a film in the theatre this past week.

Tuesday was venture out and see The Meg.  I am a sucker for any shark movie as anyone knows about me.  I just re-watched Jaws this past weekend and it reaffirms that even with 1970s technology and no CGI, it the classic, and best shark movie ever.   There is a weight to Bruce the shark, and size that other films don’t have with computers.   Yes, there are moments when it looks more fake, but it works.   The Meg is a story where Jason Statham, who doesn’t seem to age, is asked to assist with a submarine rescue at the “new” bottom of the ocean, deeper than Mariana Trench where they think they found a false bottom.  They did.  And there are creatures there, like a giant prehistoric shark.  All of that doesn’t really matter, quite honestly.  The question becomes “is the shark stuff cool, and worth the fee at the theatre?”   There are a few good scenes, and some jumps.  Not like the jump when the fisherman’s head pops out of the bottom of the wrecked boat in Jaws, but again, one can’t compare.  I found the film a bit longer than it needed to be.   It was a fun escape for those who like seeing sharks, and very big ones.

I watched on DVD the complete film for the original Fargo.  I had seen bits and pieces of it, but watched from beginning to end, and I had noted the TV series available on Netflix that is getting accolades.   Billy Bob Thornton plays an intense gun-for-hire, who stumbles upon a small town and runs into Dr Watson/Bilbo Baggins who has a number of problems.  The TV sereies continues.   For the film, I thought that William H Macy and Frances McDormand are both excellent.   They have the campy, rural voices and attitudes shape what happens in the film.   This is the Coen Brothers at their finest.    Good dialog with incidents of intense violence amongst an environment of stark winter.  This film won 2 Oscars and deservedly so, although not Best Picture (but Actress and Writing).    It one of those movies I should have seen long ago, but hadn’t.
TIFF selections are due this week.

August 6, 2018

Mission Impossible: Fallout

Last Tuesday was seeing Tom Cruise as Tom Cruise aka Ethan Hunt – but really it’s Tom Cruise in his latest adventure.  The high bar of expectations was set when the Ebert site (rogerebert.com) said this was “one of the best movies of the year!”   High praise indeed.  I did not read the review beyond that headline, as I am learning my lesson.

The MI movies have been around since 1996, and this is the sixth installment.  And the last three have been the best of the series, and getting progressively better.  When I first saw the very first one I mentally called it “Ending Impossible” since the whole flying a helicopter into the Chunnel and exploding forward was just ridiculous!    The series ebbed into the third edition, until someone got wise and made a better film with better story (somewhat) and stunts.  It also becomes a bit a travel log as well.  Here we have great scenes of Paris, London and then Kashmir (never been myself).   The plot really doesn’t matter much but this one ties in well with Rogue Nation, where there was a choice on what to do with the really bad guy.   Here it continues.   There is some politics thrown in for good measure.    I attended with three people who all had never seen a previous film.   It didn’t matter as this one kept them all on the edges of their seats with appropriate jumps and surprises.   Mission accomplished, as all were entertained.   This was fun in the same way that the last two and even films like Speed keep you going and tense.   Yes, there were ridiculous aspects of this, but aside from the odd eye roll, I stayed focused on the task at hand and enjoyed the ride.   Rebecca Ferguson is again really good, and certainly Tom has a look for his women – Ferguson and Monaghan could be twins, or certainly sisters.   So worth seeing a worth a recommendation.   I have said to both my older kids that they should see this.  Youngest saw it last night and enjoyed.
I watched more Netflix including the end of Vietnam, the 10 part series by Ken Burns.  I learned a lot from watching it, none the least was that any third party propping up a corrupt government is going to fail.   I also hadn’t realized just how long the conflict went into 1970s (April 1975).  I was 8yo.   This film will impact the next viewing of Apocalypse Now, without question and the insanity of the leadership in the South both US and otherwise.
I also re-watched American Graffiti the George Lucas film, which was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and has Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford in it.   Talk about a movie that launched stars for the coming decades in film!!   Funny that the main leads in the film are TV icons (Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley – Ron Howard and Cindy Williams) while the other players became more movie superstars.   It is a good film to watch and a classic film for the times (the ending interestingly for the time talks about Richard Dreyfuss character being a writer in Montreal.   Obviously a conscientious objector who fled from going to Viet Nam.)