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.


November 21, 2016 US Thanksgiving edition

First a quick update and reply on the US election.  Having had a couple of weeks (including a week in the US) to reflect upon the results I am frankly stunned at a couple of things: first, is the unexpected amount of hate that there is for Hillary.   The FBI investigation notice the week of, was a deadly attack on her, especially for the on-the-fence voters.   That and the night before the election with Trump dominating CNN with his rally speech in Pennsylvania (after dinner the night before).  Republican strategists get full marks for getting him out there at the right time; second, the number of passive-aggressive voters who say one thing and then vote another way.   Like Kathleen Wynne, no one will ever claim that they voted for her, yet she has a majority government.   Imagine that!   It will be a rocky four years, and the damage to the Supreme Court will be long lasting.    We’ll see just how much he can actually accomplish (like how much of a wall really gets built to Mexico).   I expect Obama-care to get axed straight away.

On to the movies.   I have seen two while on vacation.   First was Arrival in San Diego.   This is yet another story about alien arrival on planet Earth, and the consequences.  I liked where this started, and as a premise it has a lot of potential.   Aliens arrive in multiple places around the globe, and as humans we are looking to sort out what their intentions are.   Language is an issue.   These elephant and octopus-looking aliens don’t speak, per se, but make whale-like sounds and communicate with complex symbols of black ink.   Who can decipher that?!   Turns out that the US government turns to university professor Amy Adams.   She has her own history that is quickly examined here and she gets engaged.   There are some excellent visuals here, and tension.   There is further commentary about humans and how we interact with each other when “national security” issues arise.   The military and people in power act different than the rest of us – that’s why it was better for ET to have met and spent time with Elliot and family and also for Star Man to have met and driven around with Karen Allen.   Anyhow, this movie loses me when it starts messing with time.    It is hinted at in the beginning voiceover, but it really kicks in when tension rises and things have to happen (and also to make sense).   It fails when explanations are given for what transpires.   I just eventually had to roll my eyes.   The opportunity was lost.  Sadly.   And some quality set-up and story get overlooked.    This is a big theatre film, it just deserved better than the ultimate resolution.   I think that Adams, who I am generally not a fan of, did a decent job here and brought the emotional focal point to the story.    She has looks of wonder and you can sense her long days in knowing human kind depends on what she can figure out before the military gets too antsy.   I will take this Amy Adams character over Lois Lane, Daily Planet any day!  At least here, there is a valid reason for her to be engaging with aliens (unlike Kryptonites).

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a new tangent in the JK Rowling world of Harry Potter.   Because, you know, Rowling having more money than the Queen of England was just not enough!   But this is a prequel of sorts and builds upon the story of Gellert Grindelwald – but you need to pay close attention to gather this from the newspaper clippings in the beginning.    The film gets started with Eddie Redmayne arriving by ship to NYC in the late 20s.    He has a suitcase of creatures.   Through a common mishap, the suitcase ends up in someone else’s hands and mayhem ensues.   The creatures get out and cause mischief.  They need to be found and returned to the suitcase.   Redmayne meets up with some new characters and they stumble upon a greater issue taking place in this time (muggles, called Non-Mags in America, are afraid of magic and wizards with creatures).  So there are human and wizard factions looking to sort things out and what, if any, any co-existence can take place in the future.   There are some plot twists and turns, and the story moves along at a good pace.   There is romance, and tension and seeking out someone with some rare power that is looking to be harnessed.   Why it needs to be set in the US, the evidence was flimsy.    This is a UK story based in London.   Always has been.   Coming to NYC to buy a creature – doesn’t hold much water nor returning another creature to Arizona.   Whatever!   The cast generally is very good (notably Redmayne and Colin Ferrell), save for casting of Tina Goldstein, a US based investigator.   While the blonde-haired, mind reading sister is very good, here the frumpy and dull sister is not engaging.   Anyway, this is the beginning of a new set of films as the ending certainly suggests.   This is escapism and it suits its purpose.   I summed it up in one word and that was “charming”.   This is a new take on the wizarding world, with some real world commentary about humans in general.   Girlfriend liked this far more than I did, but she is more into Potter than I am.   The background on Grindelwald would help if you know it, but not necessary.  Most watching this won’t know it.  There are some clever creatures with good CGI.   The animals in themselves are not dangerous, but need careful handling at times.   I am glad to have seen it.   I expect there to be more.   I don’t feel the need to rush out and read the book to see what I may have missed.   Rowling scores again – we’ll see just how well it is received.   Star Wars Rogue One is coming…..