February 4th, 2019

This past week I saw a couple of Academy Award nominated films.   First was Green Book which was the TIFF People’s Choice film, and has been nominated for Best Actor (Viggo Mortensen) and Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali) as his employer.  This is very much a Driving Miss Daisy type film where there are two people from very different backgrounds who find themselves learning and appreciating about each other more.   This is based on a true story, and is set in the early 60s in the US.   Ali plays a very accomplished black pianist who wants to do a road show starting in the northern US but then heading into the deep south (Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama etc).   Viggo plays an Italian street-smart thug and bouncer required to help assist in driving but also protecting his employer.   Ali’s character is part of a trio who travels together, but in separate cars.    Ali teaches Viggo to write better and assists with letters to his Wife and two kids he leaves behind for a three month trek hat ends on Christmas Eve.   Viggo teaches his employer about current day music and more everyday eating for his uptight and secluded passenger.    Speaking of eating, Viggo basically ate his way through this movie, from an early hot dog eating contest, to spaghetti and the pizza folded in a hotel room.   He must have added 30+ pounds from his days of Aragon in Lord of the Rings.   This is a good story.  It has some predictable scenes, and an ending that ratchets up the cheese factor.   Still two very good performances, although I would suggest that Ali is more likely to win the Award.    For a movie that tries hard to break down stereotypes, and show a man courageously enlightening those in the South, it paints a stereotypical view of the Mortensen Italian character with almost every cliché you can imagine.    Funny I had never looked into actor Viggo Mortensen’s background and I had assumed it was European.   But in truth, he was born in Manhattan, to a Dutch father (Viggo Sr) and American mother.   His maternal grandfather was Canadian (Nova Scotia).    They met in Norway (everybody has a story it seems).    This was a movie well worth the time spent.   It’s not necessarily a big screen film.

Also in the theatre I saw Can You Ever Forgive Me?   This is a movie where Melissa McCarthy is nominated for Best Actress while her co-star, Richard E Grant is nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  This is another story based on true facts.   McCarthy plays Lee Israel, an author of books and magazine articles, mostly biographies.   The story begins with her on hard times in the early 1990s in NYC.   She hasn’t written anything worth publishing in quite some time and she can’t make the rent.   She has an alcohol problem, and doesn’t interact well with people.   In fact she is just nasty all around.   You wouldn’t invite Israel over for dinner.   She runs into the Grant character at a bar and they have an uneasy friendship.   By happenstance, Israel learns that there is a market for celebrity letters.   She moves from selling what she owned to eventually forgeries that she has written herself.   The story continues down this path.    The true find is the Grant character.   He is a chameleon who is a survivor.   He finds ways to scrape by and live in New York.   The actor has been in many other roles and films, but he is really good.   You have sympathy for him while you see he can also be someone with a big heart and help out with Israel and some of her challenges.     Is he better than Ali in Green Book?   Hard to say, but they are close.   This is not an uplifting story, nor a particularly happy one.   There is angst on the faces of McCarthy about what they are doing, and who they are potentially hurting – but an underlying feeling that this is just about survival.   Again not a movie one needs to see in the big theatre, but it was worth the time.

On Netflix I saw the movie The Ice Man, another true story about  Richard Kuklinski, a New York contract killer and thug who also was a strong family man.  He lived this double life, with a loving wife (played by Winona Ryder) and relationships with mobsters, like Ray Liotta acting as Roy Demeo.   These guys are around the time of the Gottis (70s and 80s).   I will make a quick first note that one of the worst miscastings I have seen in some time is David Schwimmer as a mobster.   Even with long hair, he just doesn’t look like a guy from the mob.   Not at all.     Shannon is real find in this film, as he shows a level of intensity in this character that becomes so believable.   He is scary when he gets wound up, and he takes the role to another level.   It is an intensity in his eyes and how he carries himself.   If you were working with him on set I would think that it would be intimidating.    He is a big man (6’4”) and Kuklinski himself was 6’5”.   So the simple story about how this man can lead the double life, is interesting but it has been done before.   If you want to see just how good Michael Shannon can be, then check this out.   He can be a bad guy, like last year’s Best Picture The Shape of Water.

Also on Netflix, I caught the Bruce Springsteen Concert, where more or less he played an acoustic version of a few known songs but actually just told stories on stage about his childhood.   He is a good story teller, and interestingly talks about how although his songs are mostly blue collar, that he hasn’t been that way at all in his life.   He plays piano.   Who knew?   So he is a multi-talented guy who has written many classic songs.   I was glad to have seen it, although I would still like to see him with the E Street Band in a full concert.

Also on Netflix, I watched Whitney which walked through the life of superstar singer Whitney Houston.   Taken too soon, but someone who fell into the trappings of fame, and surrounded herself by too many family who treated her as their own personal ATM.   Near the end she was sued by her father for $100M, for a contract with a record company that he said he procured.   The prevailing story about her was that Bobby Brown ruined her, and began her long road down to addiction.   This documentary hints that this is not the case.   It just seems to go with the territory, with too much money, too much fame and too many Yes-people surrounding you.   It killed Amy Winehouse.    It killed Michael Jackson, and Jim Morrison and so many other musicians and celebrities.

Finally Netflix has the Ted Bundy Tapes which is a four part series which examines the case of Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer who made the term come into the language.   I did not know much about Bundy.   He started in Washington and then moved to Colorado and onto Florida.   He was a narcissist, ego-maniac, who felt he was smarter than everyone.   He had a God complex, and was brutal with his victims.    He played the legal system to its fullest where there was no instant communication, no fax machines.   No way for police to exchange information.   Yet for all his bravado, and over-confidence, he is caught in a State (Florida) that has the death penalty.   He was executed in 1989.  The 30th anniversary of the death (January 24th) was last month.    I enjoyed Manhunt: Unabomber better than this, but this was still interesting.    There were a couple of moments where things happened which were simply unbelievable.  I won’t detail them now but they were just shocking.   Bundy played the system and self-represented himself for much of it for 10+ years.   In the end, justice was served, and people cheered when he was gone.


January 28th, 2019

I re-watched an old friend this past week with When Harry Met Sally… the 1989 romantic comedy that explores the wonders of relationships, as well is being a first rate homage to New York City (which acts as another character).   This was my first time ever watching the Featurettes as part of the Extras in the DVD.   They were added in 2008.  There are interviews with Rob Reiner (director), Nora Ephron (writer), Billy Crystal and others.   Meg Ryan was noticeably absent.

The film is a classic.   The story behind it too is interesting as Rob Reiner speaks about it being really his story as a single guy for 10 years after his divorce from Penny Marshall.  He talked with Nora Ephron, and they began an ongoing dialogue about men and women’s attitudes towards relationships.   This became various scenes within the film.   Billy Crystal, a good friend of Reiner’s, was not initially cast by the Director but came along later.   Neither Crystal nor Ryan were headline stars before this film, and so it was a chance taken to given them the roles.   Crystal incidentally was crucial for many improv bits added to the existing screenplay.   He added the line “I’ll have what she is having” after the scene in Katz’s deli which was delivered by Reiner’s Mom.  He also ad libbed the Central American voice in the Metropolitan Museum below

It is a very funny scene, and you see Meg look over to Reiner after he says “pecan pie” and he is motioning her just to go with it, and she does.

I can watch this film over and over and laugh at it each time.  The proclaimed attitude from Crystal early on about men and women never being able to be friends is an interesting one.  The film takes places over many years, from a first meeting leaving Chicago to drive to NYC, to further chance meetings at airports, book stores etc. until a final New Years Eve scene.    You get to see both the male and female perspectives, which is more unique, and really hadn’t been done until that point.   The supporting cast is uniformly excellent, and it is sad to see and note from the added features that Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia herself), high-pitched voice Bruno Kirby (many films including The Godfather Part II) and Nora Ephron are all gone now.   Gone way too soon.   This is a movie I have in my DVD collection and I thoroughly enjoy it every time I see it.

On Netflix, I have been watching a number of series, some based on Golden Globes and others just to check out what they have done.   Generally speaking I have to say that there is just an overwhelming amount of content out there.  Far too much for anyone to see that is not a professional viewer.   Perhaps I can save some of you some time if you only have limited time or desire.

Based upon the Golden Globe nomination of Michael Douglas, I watched the entire The Kaminsky Method.  Douglas won for his portrayal of an Actor and more recently an acting coach who’s best friend is his crusty agent, played by Alan Arkin.   In many ways I feel as though this series was a vehicle to get much older and unemployed actors some work.   We have in various episodes Nancy Travis (who I haven’t seen memorably since So I Married an Axe Murderer), Ann Margret (who since Grumpy Old Men has been quiet), Elliot Gould (who I think of in the original M*A*S*H movie and that’s about it), Danny Devito and musical personality Eddie Money who is just scary.   But the story is alright, with the best speech being that delivered by Arkin late in episode 2, which speaks about what I think relationships can be all about.   Beyond that, there are far too many jokes and references to peeing and prostate.   There isn’t enough new and interesting material.    So despite having maybe two or three episodes worth of material, it goes on for six.   I cannot recommend and I wonder about the wisdom of the Hollywood Writers who reward these performances.

Watership Down is a bunny series.  I read this in grade school back in the days when they handed out books to read.   It is animated and reflects accurately from what I can recall about the story of survival for these rabbits in a warren.    They live on an chunk of land that is on the verge of being developed.   There are rabbits of different skills, like fighting, digging and storytelling etc as well as does (female rabbits).   The rabbits are well drawn, and move well.   The story is told effectively as you can see the human attributes of hierarchy and also deception as the animals interact with the human world (and other animals as well).   They seem to fight amongst themselves more than they likely should given all of the real dangers that surround them.   Do you need to go seek it out?   No.   But if you like animals, and if you recall this story from your youth then you may want to check it out.   It was alright.

The Sinner is a Jessica Biel series, also produced by her, that is taking on an initial surprising event which isn’t fully explained, and then has Bill Pullman acting as a detective, trying to piece together what was occurred and why.  One learns more as he pieces things together.   Pullman was nominated for a SAG award.   He didn’t win.   I have only gotten through a couple of the episodes, but I am feeling as though I have seen this before, or at least I have seen enough films that I think I know where this is going.  Maybe it will surprise me, but I doubt it.

Finally, the Oscar nominations came out this week.  I  guess I can’t be all that surprised in the fact that I wasn’t surprised.   I thought that the Academy would be opening up some nominations to those I felt were deserving.   It was not to be.   So sadly, there wasn’t any recognition for Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place for Supporting Actress (even though she won the SAG Award for it).  No love for WidowsFirst ManBurning or Ethan Hawke (First Reformed), and altogether too much love for Roma, previously address last week.  The awards are at the end of February, and as always I will send out an email for a No Cost, Fun Only officepools contest to pick the winners.  Alison is our resident two-time champion at the picks.

Oh, and I watched yet again Arrival on Netflix.   Everytime I watch this film, I pick out something different.  Like Alison has said, it is better and better with each viewing.   For me, who I rolled my eyes when the time travel aspect reared its head, it’s nowhere near as offensive than it was at the time sitting in a movie theatre in La Jolla CA.


January 21st, 2019

Peter Jackson, Oscar winning Director from the Lord of the Rings film series said about his latest project, the remarkable WWI documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, that he wanted for people to see this and think about their own families and who participated in the Great War.    Jackson was approached in 2014 from the British Imperial War Museum to make an “original and new” film with only actual footage from the archives.    He asked to see some of the footage, and we have all seen it.  The grainy, black and white footage with soldiers marching way too quickly with herky-jerky motions was what he found and he asked about bringing this to Park Road studios in New Zealand to see what they could do.   The results were amazing.

Jackson decided to get involved with this possibility for new and improved footage.  It was cleaned up, slowed down, colourized and made part of a stunning story of actual soldiers who participated.    Trailer:


Peter Jackson on the process of restoration:


Jackson and his team poured over 100 hours of footage and 300 hours of audio recordings.  They have condensed it all into a very watchable and moving story that tells the story of an average British soldier on the front lines.   From recruiting at ages from 15yo and up to the training and then deployment to the front.   Then to battles and war conclusion it is all addressed in vivid detail.   Black and white to begin, and then moving to updated footage complete with full sounds (including live ammunition blasts and gun shot).   It is moving.   It is must-viewing for those who wish to pass along and teach the next generation.   He didn’t talk about many other tangential stories that could have been told like Women in the War and their contribution, the Battle on the Sea, etc.   This was done on purpose.

For me, these were remarkable young men who saw this as their duty as British citizens.   They wanted to push “Jerry” back into their respective Axis countries.    The living conditions were atrocious.   And 100 years later where we have so many paralyzed by fear of germs, and won’t touch anything in the public or eat anything that is “expired” – this will be eye opening.   Humans survived month after month in disgusting and deplorable conditions and managed to survive.   The soldiers also came to respect those on the other side who suffered just as badly as they did.    Together they defended their country and kept a terrible force at bay (at least for thirty years).

This film is in limited release, and there are performances at Cineplex in Toronto today (January 21st) at a few select theatres.    The performance I saw had additional footage from Peter Jackson with an introduction and then a 30 minute Making Of segment.   It was a project for him to honour his own grandfather who was injured in the War, and was never the same dying too young.  My full theatre stayed late and didn’t move.   Catch this if you can if you have any interest in history, humanity or the War.   This will be a film that can be seen for generations to come.   I want to take a quick moment to thank my friend Rhea for bringing this film to my attention.   She knows I like history and war history in particular and sent me a link about the screenings.   I am glad that this did not pass me by!   Thanks.

On Netflix I saw the BBC series, sponsored by Netflix called Bodyguard.   It stars Robb Stark actor from Game of Thrones, Richard Madden.  He won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a series.   He was excellent here, and this was a political thriller with twists and turns that kept the viewer guessing.   Also like Game of Thrones there are surprising plot turns that will make one wonder they will go next.  It is a six part series that feels a little bit like the first season of Homeland.   Well worth a watch if you crave something to binge over the next little while.

Finally a word or two about the Golden Globe Best Foreign Film and Best Director Winner Alfonso Cuaron for Roma.   Roma is currently on Netflix.   I watched this with eager anticipation as the buzz has been very high for this film.   At the completion (it took me over two days to complete) I was numb and confused as to what all the fuss was, and is, about.   Yes, this film is beautifully shot in black and white, and depicts the times in Mexico in the early 1970s.   From the old cars, to the dress, to the political climate it has been all painfully reconstructed.    I honestly cannot imagine the coordination that would have been done to get a late scene in the streets of the city from the vantage point of an office building when a demonstration turns violent.   There is a wide pan in a large window that would have been painstaking.   I respect that.   But in terms of hours spent watching this story, it didn’t grab me.   The story is plain enough as we follow a household with a doctor, wife and four children and a few of their household servants.   There is an event that changes the dynamics within the household, both for the main owners and also for the servant (one in particular).    Then the story moves forward with deeper meaning in various scenes than what I can grasp from a first viewing.   As the credits roll, I think to myself “Is that it?”   Apparently it is.

In a quick text exchange with Alison, she says “I didn’t love it.  It’s well shot but if you have to watch a movie really about nothing, I preferred Kiss of the Serpent.” (Italics added by me for emphasis).   Now I haven’t watched Kiss of the Serpent, but I am not sure that even this recommendation makes me seek it out.   Truth is for me that this was slow.   I was not engaged in it.   There are things like the dog shit that obviously have much greater meaning than I attribute to it.    And there is a kung fu scene, which just makes me scratch my head for any subtle significance, beyond what is one’s first impression at seeing it.   This film will inevitably get Oscar nominations, maybe even further Oscar wins.    Cuaron won the Best Director for his film Gravity with Sandra Bullock.    This is for the film snob to enjoy – and although I can be accused of being one myself, this doesn’t do it for me on any level.    However pretty or well shot a movie is, it still needs a good story well told.    There are some exceptions to this, Malick films come to mind that are more experiences and literally moving pictures, images and art.   But this doesn’t rise to that level.    I cannot recommend and I do this knowing that I will be in the minority.

January 14th, 2019

This week I went out with youngest son to see the latest Best Animated Film from the Golden Globes, which is Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse.   It defeated Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet.   Now I preface the review with the well-known understanding that I am not a big superhero guy.   I just am not, unless it has Christian Bale acting as Batman.   Beyond that I am not really interested (okay, well maybe still Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, but in truth that has nothing to do with being a super hero).   Both son and I found the story here to be a bit confusing.   In short we have the (laughable) bad guy Kingpin.  Laughable because only in animation could a character be so unbelievably big through the shoulders and body and actually move.   Every time he came on screen I had to chuckle.  So there was that.  But he creates a machine, not really explained, that can create alternate dimensions where his own wife and son could return to him.  As part of this we see a young man with his police father who is bitten by a radioactive spider.   He then becomes another spider-man in addition to the already known Peter Parker.   The stories of the alternate dimension spider-people stand on their own (one voice was particularly interesting) and they do come together.   The animation was very good, incorporating comic book views, as well as visuals that can only be accomplished through animation.   Still.   Maybe it is just me, but the super hero overload, and especially Spider-man who seems to have a re-boot every three to five years, just wears on me.   The wrinkle is that alternate dimensions means anybody could be Spider-man, and even have some unique powers that he currently does not as Peter Parker.   But for me, I only live in one dimension, and that is the Peter Parker dimension.   Yes, I like the added flair with personalizing the individual Spidey look but in the end there isn’t a big emotional connection to the story.   For the Incredibles, I can feel for the family and hope that things go well.   I suppose this young new Spidey I hope for too, but it’s not the same.  And yes it isn’t lost on me that the Incredibles are super heroes too, but again, it’s not the same.

On Netflix they have released Chappaquiddick, starring Jason Clark and Kate Mara, and the dentist from The Hangover.  This is the Teddy Kennedy story and his car accident very late at night with a woman not his wife, off a bridge on an island in Cape Cod.   Its Senator Kennedy in 1969 as Apollo 11 has left to land on the moon, and he is on the island preparing for a potential Presidential bid.   He has gathered up some staffers who worked on brother Bobby’s campaign.   The accident takes place and you see through it all the actions and in-actions of Teddy.   The knee-jerk reaction for most people, I think, would be after the accident and miracle of escaping a car overturned in water, would be to seek help (just a short run up the way) and help the woman with you.   But Senator Kennedy is not most people.   He thinks of himself and his political career.   “There goes the White House” he says.   And after a failed attempt with his friends to assist, and being told to “get help” Teddy doesn’t.   Family patriarch is the aging Joe Kennedy, crumpled and barely able to speak, and he provides no help nor comfort.   He is played by Bruce Dern, and shows a man incapable of compassion nor love for his only remaining son.   It was an eye opening film, and makes you realize the celebrity and power of the family that has many powerful people spin-doctoring their way through a crisis.   You can youtube the actual address to the people with Teddy explaining the incident.   I am amazed at the end result and won’t spoil it here for those who don’t know it.   But suffice it to say that even though the people of Massachusetts decided to forgive and forget, I am not so sure that a man of character such as this should be representing The People.

Monday January 7th, 2019 (New Years Edition and Golden Globes discussion)

Welcome to 2019!   The movie discourse has already begun with the Golden Globe Awards from last night.   There is clearly some controversy here, but really that is the point.   For me, I was pleasantly surprised to see Glenn Close win for Best Actress in a Drama.  She surprised most who thought Lady Gaga was going to win, including herself I think from her reaction.  I have not seen The Wife but it is on my list.   I won’t revisit the poor categories here and the films that were missed for consideration by the Globes.   Still with the choices they had, they made some surprises elsewhere.   Regina King winning for Best Supporting Actress in If Beale Street Could Talk.  Another film that I need to see.    I had thought one of Supporting women in The Favourite would been victorious.   But it was not to be.   I think that King’s performance merited this award.
Rami Malek as rock icon Freddie Mercury was the reason to see that film.  Was it the best performance for an actor in the year?   Not from what I have seen.   And many others that I have not seen.   Despite the value here, I can say without any hesitation that Bohemian Rhapsody was not the best dramatic film of the year.   It simply isn’t.   There are better stories.   Better writing.  Better everything.  A watered down version of the life of Freddie Mercury through the eyes of the surviving members of the band (who now race to head out on tour to capitalize on this new momentum).   Call yourself Queen.  Sing the words.  But the music died with Freddie.   Cristian Bale and Olivia Colman winning were solid victories.   I need to see Vice.   Not sure just how good it is.  American politics played out by actors for living people left.  So the awards are given.   Sandra Oh and Andy Sandburg were not funny and the bits they tried to use for laughs didn’t work, like trying to give flu shots to the stars.   The look of Willem Dafoe as they tried to roll up his sleeve was priceless.   Sharing needles likely is not really something to be encouraged by the media.   I really liked the Carol Burnett Award, and her speech as its first justified recipient.   She made good points about how television has changed since her days with Tim Conway, Harvey Korman and Vicki Lawrence.   She is a class act, and deserves to have others in television be recognized for their contribution to the medium.    Anyway, a strange night with strange nominees for categories that didn’t really match what was on screen.  Let’s see what Oscar chooses to do and I will remain hopeful it makes better choices all around.

For my movie I will review Tag, which was a panned and moronic film inspired by a true story.    Seems some friends (10) play a game of Tag with one another as adults and have been since being kids.   The film has Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Isla Fisher (who I really like) and the dentist from The Hangover.   Not a bad cast.   But the film goes horribly wrong by the methods employed by the Renner character to avoid getting tagged.   And there are extreme actions taken to get help on finding a character – for example, threatening waterboarding and actually tying up the person and putting a cloth over their face.   Then there is a faked pregnancy and miscarriage which is in very bad taste.  They go too far for a film concept that doesn’t merit a full length feature with the stars involved.  Needless to say I can not recommend and I wouldn’t waste your time with it.

Finally a quick thought or two about Paddington which is on Netflix.  It is a real life version with a Ted-like bear (however nowhere near as vulgar (and fun) as Ted).   The story follows what I can remember as a kid about the young bear who loves marmalade and gets into trouble just by carelessness mostly.   He has a family that takes him in from the train station.  Dad is the Dad from Downton Abbey, and his Wife is the deaf lady cleaner from Shape of Water.   It is harmless.  It is decent.   It isn’t particularly memorable as saw it and forgot almost just as quickly.

December 31st, 2018 (New Year’s Eve edition)

As I entered into the last week of 2018, I was fortunate enough to be able to see one of my favourite movies of all time on the big screen once again;  Jaws!   I had the added bonus of sharing the experience with my youngest son (14yo) who had only ever seen this film with me on the small screen at home.   He was introduced to seeing this with a live audience and with huge sound and screen, the way it was originally intended.   It was a late showing (9:45PM) but still an almost full theatre with people who collectively hadn’t all seen (or possibly remembered) the scary parts because there were audible gasps and jumps at some parts.   How refreshing!    This is a classic story for me, told in two parts.   The first part is establishing our new police chief in small island town (Amity) Roy Scheider and his family (wife and two boys).   This tourist town prepares for the summer high season and when a shark stakes a claim off its shores and injures some bathers and the town politics enters into it (the scene with Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) trying to talk about the shark tooth to the town mayor (Murray Hamilton) in front of the town billboard is priceless).   The stronger half for me is the adventure on the ocean as three men go out to find and kill this great white shark.  They are lead by Quint (Robert Shaw) who is a survivor of the USS Indianapolis, and has taken his life’s work to avenge the deaths of fellow sailors from that ill fated ship in WWII in the Pacific.  Quint, Hooper and the Chief have a terrific chemistry.    The music adds so very much to the tension and the story.  John Williams is brilliant in adding to the sense of where the shark is (and isn’t) along with the chase scenes.   In big sound, it takes on added importance.

Even after dozens of viewings, this movie still holds new things for me to see, or at least view them differently.   For me this viewing showed me more of the deep seeded impact on Quint of his war years and the ship sinking.   He takes it to a manic stage through his actions with the radio on the boat as well as driving the boat in such a way as to ensure that it is inoperable.   All of this taking place with full protest by his captive ship mates, Brody and Hooper.  He’s a colourful character and delivers the most memorable lines in the film from a Steven Spielberg perspective (USS Indianapolis speech, which Shaw himself helped to craft).   I also had not remembered the very end scene with Chief saying out loud “show me the tank”.   Finally, this was a very clear and bright print of the film, and the opening beach scenes have always been darker and hard to see more clearly.   This print allowed the viewer to see Crissy and the young man more clearly as they ran the beach to go swimming.    Adam liked seeing the two live shooting stars that are in the film too.   This is a movie that ushered in the summer blockbuster age, and I left feeling charged and excited for both me and my young son.   He finally saw one of my favourites as it was meant to be seen.   Jaws is on the big screen at TIFF Lightbox Wed Jan 2.

On Netflix, I saw the new film from Sandra Bullock Bird Box.  It has an impressive cast, adding in John Malkovich, Tom Hollander, Sarah Paulson, and Jacki Weaver.   This is a suspense-thriller in the same genre as A Quiet Place.   In fact, I feel as though without the success of A Quiet Place, that this project doesn’t get green lighted.   The structure is basically the same, but this time people around the world are seeing something and then going crazy or having mass suicides.   It begins in Russia and Europe and is reported in the US where Bullock plays an artistic woman who is pregnant.  The father has absconded and she is not really very enthusiastic about having a child.   She through flashbacks is seen before the incidents as the creatures (unseen in any meaningful way as opposed to A Quiet Place) enters and force people indoors and avoid seeing the outside world.   Things happen, both expected and unexpected.   Bullock goes on a perilous journey which is the opening scene in the film as she heads down a river in a metal rowboat, but without the ability to see where she is going.   There is a level of disbelief that one has to have here, and some aspects just didn’t make much sense.   If you want to see a suspense-thriller set with an invading species, the better movie to me remains A Quiet Place.    Still there was some interesting scenes here with some good supporting roles.

A quick word while on the topic of horror about the Canadian A Christmas Horror Story from 2015.   This stars William Shatner, as a radio personality who is broadcasting on Christmas Eve in this small town.   Strange things are happening and there are scenes with a family going on a road trip, and another group of teens looking to explore a recent killing of fellow students at a school.    Then there is the scenes of Santa Claus himself looking to deal with elves who have turned in a tragic way.   This is not classic cinema, but it held my attention.   I think that the genre of the Christmas themed horror movie could be explored much more deeply.   The Krampus character is introducing something I have not ever heard about before.   But once again it is interesting.   If it pops up the small screen somewhere, it might be worth a little light-hearted fun.

Turning the page on 2018, I look forward to Awards season and there are more films I want to see in the theatre.   It was a good year for film, although maybe not as strong as 2017.   Wishing one and all a very prosperous and fun 2019 with plenty of good movies.

December 24th, 2018 (Christmas Eve edition)

I started Adrift and having completed it, here is my review.   I was intrigued by the film and the premise given that it was a true story.   Shailene Woodley has returned, and also produced this film.   The story has been told before, notably recently with Robert Redford in All is Lost.   The difference in this film is the love story that begins it.   The film moves around in timeline starting with the opening of Shailene in the hull of the yacht that has been through a horrifying storm in the Pacific.   Flashback then occurs to see Shailene arrive in Tahiti and make a Customs declaration that shows a woman just drifting through life as it comes to her.   She meets Richard (Sam Claflin) an older more seasoned sailor who owns his own boat, and they have a whirlwind romance.   Off they sail long distance from Tahiti towards San Diego (her hometown) at the behest of an English  couple who owns a large boat and wants it taken back there.   They have known Richard from before.    He asks Shailene to join him in the crossing.   The rest is fairly predictable and shows the beauty and perils of life on the ocean.   It is a story of resilience and survival and using your wits and instincts to get through an unimaginable ordeal.   This is Woodley’s film and she carries it well.   I liked the performance, and see that much of it was filmed on the open ocean (and not in controlled sets and environments.    This makes the challenge and continuity more difficult getting this film created.   In the end, it is worth a viewing.

It’s Christmas Eve, and I have already reviewed the new Grinch film, but every year I watch my favourite Christmas film, and that’s A Christmas Story.  This classic film is set in “Indiana” although the house is located in Cleveland.

The movie, which I may wrongfully assume everyone has seen, focuses on Ralphie Parker and his life with his family; Mom (Milinda Dillon – Close Encounters), Darren McGavin (Night Stalker) and little brother Randy.    Ralphie is played by Peter Billingsley and he with the voiceover of the story’s author (Jean Shepard) capture the life and times of a young boy in the 40s.   There is no TV, just radio.   Ralphie’s greatest desire for Christmas is the official Red Rider multiple shot BB gun.   His Mother and Teacher have put obstacles in his path to success by proclaiming “you’ll shoot your eye out!”.   The story progresses from one scene to another of the family getting through until Christmas.   From buying the tree, shopping, attending school and dressing for school to dealing with the school bullies.   It has many memorable scenes and Darren McGavin is excellent as the Dad.   From his battles with the furnace, to the neighbor’s dogs.   He is priceless.   Much like Shawshank Redemption, this movie gained momentum and viewers on the small screen.   Released in 1983, it was not a great success, but later TBS made it a staple and people began to watch and appreciate.   It remains a classic for me, and scenes make me laugh each and every time.    It prepares me for the holidays and ushers in the Christmas season.

Finally I rented Rampage for laughs just to see what they have done, and the creatures that they have created.   Well suffice it to say that I am glad that I didn’t spend money to go see this.  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays an ex-military guy who eventually waged war on poachers and then became an expert with apes.    He helped raise an albino gorilla that was not killed by poachers that he rescued.  The ape is able to sign and communicate with Johnson.   Cue the corporate bad guys who are working to use CRISPR to militarize DNA editing (splicing).   They are creating super-animals that can be controlled and used for whatever reason.   Only the experiment goes wrong and a wolf, alligator and the white gorilla ar all infected and grow and become more aggressive.   They are very tough to kill, as they move towards Chicago for a reason that is muddled at best.  But there is the storyline.   There are some decent effects, but nothing ground-breaking.   The animals themselves with the genetic modifications are scary – and do things like crawl up large skyscrapers vertically that are just too much to believe.   So see this at your own discretion and peril.   There are better ways to spend your hard-earned movie dollar!

Merry Christmas to one and all, with a day filled with friends, family, laughter and smiles.   Hope those good feelings extend into the New Year for a marvelous 2019!   Hopefully a trip to the movie theatre will bring you a movie to remember and talk about and reflect upon positively.   TIFF Lightbox in Toronto is having a Steven Spielberg festival with many of his films, including Jaws, ET, Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Munich, Amistad and others.   I hope to catch a few myself.   On the big screen is where these movies belong.    Cheers!!