January 4th, 2021

The Midnight Sky: George Clooney has taken on this project recently released by Netflix. He stars in, directs and produces it. He has put together a very good cast with David Oyelowo, Felicity Jones, and others. Sadly the story isn’t that compelling for me. It is a mash up of the Gravity story, adding in a few bits from Interstellar and then an apocalyptic event with some human drama. A younger Clooney character believes that there is a liveable planet out there, in a Carl Sagan way, but proposes it is on a newly found moon near Jupiter. Fast forward a few years (2049) and there has been an Event. George is up near the Arctic Circle. Alone seemingly. Then add in a exploratory spacecraft coming back from Jupiter with a crew reminiscent of The Martian. Things happen in space with the craft much like as in Gravity, and it has much the same look and feel for it. I have to admit that I don’t fully understand what the Earth “event” was, but there is obviously a political undertone to the whole thing. In the end it didn’t really add up to much, and added very little to the movies that have already addressed the theme. I can’t recommend it. It may have given George the excuse and opportunity to grow a Duck Dynasty beard for his home life.

I have watched and re-watched a number of things over the Christmas holidays. I was unable to watch Kate Winslet Ammonite through the TIFF platform since they have security issues with every browser that isn’t Edge. It is frustrating, and rather than refunding me, they just talked to me slower in the hopes that I was the problem. I am not. It remains on the list of films to be seen.

I also re-watched The Big Short which remains interesting on the perils of Wall Street, self-regulation and those in power making money with complete disregard to the general public. Scarily there was never anyone sent to jail of note for the fraud and corruption perpetrated on the public. Because of this, there is every likelihood that it could be repeated. One doesn’t need to look much further than the current stock market (DOW over 30,000) to wonder how those lofty heights are supported during a pandemic. Other interesting documentaries include The Great Hack and The Social Dilemma which focus on the fact that if you aren’t paying for a product or service, that you ARE the product or service as with Facebook and other social media platforms. The point in both is how AI and tracking of your every movement in your online existence means that you are sent targeted ads to keep you engaged. These targeted ads, as well as news, shapes your thinking and attitudes, which led to results in elections around the globe, including the US 2016 Presidential election and Brexit. More to the point, it suggests that it isn’t even all people on the web, but rather those who are viewed as changeable. They are called Persuadable. I did review it on October 26, 2020, but it was a good thing to refresh. I also re-watched Coco from Pixar the other night and it was a story very well done. Good music, a well told story and a really good story with family and meeting idols.

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.

January 1st, 2018 New Years Day

The dialogue and writing in any film is a crucial part in understanding the characters and how they interact but it shows so much more than that; intelligence, humour, sympathy etc.  I have enjoyed Aaron Sorkin’s work for some time.  From TV with The West Wing and Newsroom, his political satire and addressing news of the day was second to none.   His banter among the characters as well is first rate.  Then in movies like Money Ball,  Steve Jobs, the Social Network again he shows his strength.   His latest project is Molly’s Game with Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba.  He doesn’t disappoint.  Here is a story from the novel which I am currently working my way through.   The movie differs from the book in not naming many of the more famous people – in the book Tobey Maguire and Leo Di Caprio figure prominently early anyway.   The stories about Maguire are interesting – and I am still trying to decide if Mr X (played by Michael Cena) in the film is supposed to Maguire.  In the book he wants to charge a $200 fee for his card-shuffling machine that he insists upon using.  This from a multi-millionaire.  Back to the film, Sorkin’s directorial debut is a good one as he shifts from the early days of Bloom in an accomplished family where she is a world class mogul skier (made the US Team) despite spinal fusion surgery due to a curvature in her spine.   That career ends and before heading to law school she heads to LA for rest and warmth.   There she eventually enters into a high stakes poker game as the organizer.   This moves into a Federal indictment for organizing a game with Russian mob ties.   She seeks out Elba to act as her lawyer.   The story unfolds and you see her experiences as well as the challenges that she had along the way.  You meet certain players at the table, and it all comes together in a satisfying story.   Chastain is nominated for a Golden Globe, and Oscar should call as well.   Sorkin is nominated too for Screenplay and will likely be nominated for an Oscar.   Unsure if they win, but should be nominated.   This was yet another quality film that I have seen over the holidays.   I look forward to finishing the book.

I took youngest son to see Coco, the new animated film from Pixar.  The guys who brought us Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Incredibles, Up etc know how to tell a story and bring emotional impact to drawings (computer and hand drawn).   This is an excellent addition to their library of films.  It is set with Mexico and the Day of the Dead backdrop.   The characters are uniformly Mexican and it shows cultural aspects of the day which were unknown to me.   The story is about family, extended family and music.   There are other messages too about heroes and living your own dreams.   The songs are very good and add to the story.  Historically animated fables are about white princesses searching for a prince charming.   Here is a Mexican boy seeking an outlet for his love of music which flies in the face of his family where the great-grandmother was left with a young daughter by a man looking to play music for the world.  As a result the family banned all music.  This film has been a phenomenon in Mexico and I can see why.   Both young son and I thoroughly enjoyed this and can recommend without hesitation.
Darkest Hour to be seen soon.  Add to that The Post when it comes out.   I struggle to support any aspect of the life of Tonya Harding, despite the good reviews.  It has been a very good year for film.
The Netflix documentary called Hired Gun about play-for-hire musicians was very good.   These are players from bands that are all well known.  I liked particularly the guitar player who plays with Mandy Moore, and then also Hilary Duff but also Alice Cooper and then Five Finger Death Punch.   What a contrast!!   I am continuing through season 2 of The Crown and really enjoying this as well.  Claire Foy is excellent.   The episode where Princess Margaret gets engaged is excellent.  The quality supporting cast makes this must-watch tv.