January 17, 2022

The Worst Person in the World: This 2021 Norwegian film is a character study for a young woman searching for her direction. Played by Renate Reinsve, she is a refreshing, likeable, engaging young woman who in the role is a brilliant student who can’t seem to finish anything. She shows tremendous promise but then finds ways to justify taking an exit ramp. From looking to initially become a doctor, her thoughts and desires change. So too in her relationships. She meets an older young man, played effectively by Anders Danielsen Lie. They begin a relationship. They move in together and they start their lives, he as a comic book writer of an edgy counter culture character. But it is starting to get traction. She is working in a book store as a salesperson, nowhere reaching her potential. The story is set into twelve chapters, showing aspects of her life over a four year period. Things happen for her that given what she is shown in her character so far are not altogether unexpected. So why the title? There are moments in her where you can see from where the title comes. Not only does she act in her own self interest, she can be quite callous. I like both of the lead characters. It turns from a more light review of a young woman’s life to something much more serious than I expected. It meets this challenge head on and with quality performances, especially by Danielsen Lie.

Everyone brings different things to their viewing experience. For me, there are traits in me and that others have seen in me that are reflected in this young woman. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed this movie more than many I have seen in the past year. There aren’t many memorable films for this year, but I enjoyed this one. The Europeans I think make relationship movies that are more real. The characters aren’t caricatures looking for a simple laugh, and a predictable end game. Rather, they are more real with possible situations and exploring real feelings and emotion. I won’t get into the ending, but it wasn’t in any way what I was expecting. So if you can find this, it is worth checking out.

The Worst Person in the World - Clip 1 [ov st fr] - Cineuropa
The primary characters in the engaging Worst Person in the World

Stay Close: I finished watching this series. After finishing it I realized that I had also watched Safe, which was another Harlan Coben story. This was a who dunnit with its own twists and turns. The characters are colourful and somewhat predictable. Coben follows a fairly predictable path but it has some surprises. Although it took longer than it should in this series to reach the end, the last couple of episodes picked up speed. The ending made sense. There are moments where the main Irish detective has things happen that are laughably fortuitous. Things happen that you just have to accept. Is this memorable TV? Not really. But it was alright, and there were some good scenes.

Dune: I re-watched this movie, and as expected without having the focus on who was who and the underlying plot, I enjoyed it more. I think that the performances are very good. There are excellent scenes with remarkable visuals with these amazing spaceships. It is an epic film with bold vision. Director French Canadian Denis Villeneuve has put together a much better representation than done earlier by David Lynch. It reflects the source material well and is a great launching point for the rest of the story. This is truly a theatre film because of the visuals are so stunning. On the small screen it is effective but not to the same extent. I look forward to the Second installment and how he will show us some of the scenes that I am expecting as the worms become more important and Paul transforms into the leader of the Fremen people. This, much like Arrival which I have seen a few times since my in-theatre viewing, and Blade Runner 2049, are films that can reveal more upon multiple viewings which make it richer and deeper. So it is one that I was glad to spend some more time with.

Dune movie review & film summary (2021) | Roger Ebert

October 25th, 2021

Dune Part One: There will be inevitable comparisons between this latest version of the Frank Herbert classic sci-fi novel published in 1965 to the David Lynch film from 1984. From this reviewer’s perspective, this Denis Villeneuve version is far superior, although that really isn’t saying much nor is it a high bar to hurdle. I read the book many years ago, but I have to admit that it isn’t all that fresh with me. For the uninitiated and unfamiliar with the story, I think that Villeneuve has taken his time to explain the plot well. Note that in the opening credits it is noted that this is Part One. At 2:35 running time, this movie takes it time and keeps the audience aware of what is happening. It is a complex story about a planet in the universe that is the only source for “spice”. Spice is mined and important since it is crucial for interstellar travel, so it is very valuable. There are native people, the Fremin on the planet, but the Emperor has chosen to ignore them and placed families in charge of the spice production. The Emperor has replaced the incumbent family of Harkonnen’s with the Atreides family. There is much political jousting taking place with intrigue and suspicion among the players. The Fremen are unknown in numbers and fight against the occupying force, whatever that may be. In many ways there are themes from movies like Avatar. Within the Atreides family, there is father, played by Oscar Isaac who we discussed is everywhere these days, along with his son Paul, played by Timothee Chalamet. Paul’s mother Jessica, played by Rebecca Ferguson, isn’t married to the Duke and she was part of a female order, the Bene Gesserit, but she decided to have a child with him and left to be on his planet. The head of the Order shows up for a meeting with Jessica and her teenage son. We learn that the Bene Gesserit have been looking to genetically create a Matrix-like One, who can become a galactic leader. Paul is put to a test, as he has learned through his Mother some unique talents like speaking in a Voice, or communicating through alternate means (like sign language).

I won’t delve further into the plot because it is complex and not really necessary for a discussion. Many of Denis Villeneuve’s films are about the visual experience than the plot anyway. Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 show him to be the next Ridley Scott when it comes to ships, and visualizing new unseen worlds. The costume design is first rate and he has well selected actors who are able to show much while saying very little. He borrows images from other directors too, like Francis Ford Coppola in Apocalypse Now when we are seeing the overweight Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz. There are other camera angles and images that are borrowed too. I think these are an homage to the other great films, and they do not distract from the story. The time passes by quickly and despite having a bladder that was ready to explode, I wasn’t shifting in my seat. He had my full attention.

In comparing with the 1984 version, the Harkonnen’s are still a very unsightly bunch, but they aren’t over the top covered with boils and disgustingness. They find other ways to make you feel uneasy about them. Stellen Skarsgard looks almost unrecognizable in his role as their leader, flying around after eating and being intimidating. There is still a test for Paul which is similar with both films, and a similar introduction to the native planet’s worm population that can make mining the spice a very challenging job. They can get to be over 450 metres long and they move like whales through the sand. There are plenty of dream sequences, and I feel like there are more in this newer version. Because this is part one, there isn’t as much ground covered. This is a good thing, as we are allowed to keep up. Science fiction and fantasy films often like using similar and complicated names for the participants. Tolkien was infamous for them, and I welcome having a Paul and Jessica as primary protagonist names in this story. I have seen this once, and I fully expect to see it again. I feel as though that there is more to capture in a second viewing, much like Arrival for me, and Blade Runner 2049. That is a skill, and I greatly appreciate it. Villeneuve has said that he hasn’t committed to a Part Two until he sees that this version is a success. Releasing it during Covid-19 makes that measurement a more difficult task. I know that there has been no principal photography scheduled, and given the stars involved, it could be a challenge finding time for them. But I am hopeful that they carry on with this version to show more from the spice planet.

Foundation: Apple has released a mini series for the Isaac Asimov story from the early 1940s. This is more classic science fiction being put on display. I have watched 6 episodes. I will provide a more fullsome discussion about the series when I have completed it, but I have enjoyed it so far. It deals yet again with another Empire, and it’s royal three kings who are clones of one another at three different ages. They rule the galaxy for centuries, but their confidence has been shaken by a mathematician, played well by Jared Harris as Hari Seldon. Seldon is not a prophet, yet gets treated as one as he proves that the existing Empire has a finite lifecycle. He predicts the downfall. Then the intrigues continues. In many ways it is battling to keep knowledge, a library of sorts, alive to allow a species to grow and evolve. We as humans are around for a short while, but knowledge can carry on. I am hopeful that this doesn’t turn into Star Wars, because it isn’t. For those who pay attention, George Lucas borrowed many themes from both Dune and Foundation. I will continue to watch and see where this all leads.

February 17, 2020 Family Day

On Netflix I caught Killing Heydrich or The Man With the Iron Heart.  It is a WWII film about one of the planners of the Final Solution.  Played by Jason Clarke, he is a man that early on in his career got involved with the wrong woman (a General’s daughter) and was court martialed as result of a failed affair.   He marries another woman instead played by Rosamund Pike.   She is a confirmed Nazi supporter in the late 20s and thinks Hitler can bring back pride to the Fatherland.   The story is somewhat disjointed as it starts near the end of the story with an assassination attempt but then roams back in time to show background.    It didn’t work for me.  We shift from the life of Reinhard Heydrich to the mission of the Czech resistance to have an impact on the Nazi occupiers.   Pike is sadly underutilized which is a shame.  It reminds me that I need to see A Private War, in which she stars.   I like war films and there is real value in the production design as they didn’t scrimp on making this look authentic (the townspeople, the cars, the uniforms etc).   Still it could have used a more directed story.   I can’t recommend it.

I decided this past week to re-watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I think seeing Tolkien brought this forward, and remembering back to the Best Picture Oscar that Return of the King got.   Like the books, my main complaint about these movies then, and after seeing again is that they are too long.   There is just way too much time wasted.    There is a pre-occupation with male men kings who are in some way incapacitated by a force external to them.   Then there is the ongoing journey of Frodo and Sam.  I had forgotten just how important that Sam really was.   Smeagal was a new level of CGI at its time (Fellowship of the Ring was 2001 – almost 20 years ago now).   Andy Serkis plays him very well, but still it is never ending.  Then in the final movie itself, it is never ending.   Stories are closed out, only to come back with more.   And then more still.   There are epic battles with so much going on.  So many of them.  With the overwhelming Orc numbers you would think that more of the featured characters would fall.    This set the stage for pieces like Game of Thrones and the fantasy genre.    I admit that I much prefer The Hobbit book to these books and movie, and Peter Jackson made a mistake in elongating The Hobbit story when putting it on film.   It was a self-contained easy read with a story that moved along.   He slowed it right down to squeeze every movie-going penny out of it.  A shame.  Another epic science fiction movie is coming, Dune directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival and Blade Runner 2049).   Looks good!