December 19th, 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water: I went out to see at the IMAX 3D theatre on Friday the $350M James Cameron sequel to his ground breaking sci fi story, thirteen years in the making. Apparently the word is that this movie must make $2B before in breaks even. Recognizing that my ticket in Imax was about $25, this means that filling theatres around the globe should make this easier to attain, than what that scary number would mean before this time. It seems James Cameron is ALWAYS breaking expense records when he makes his films, as Titanic was also a record cost of $200M back in 1997. It made $3.4B from the theatre and DVD sales. The real question everyone wants to know, and my primary question going in was “Did it suck?” Followed by “is it worth the money?” In short, it didn’t suck and it was worth the money to see it in the biggest screen I could find.

I had been very careful to avoid all trailers and any preview information before seeing this. So I went in cold with only me memories of the original as a starting point. I hadn’t even recently re-watched the original in preparation so some of my memories had faded a bit. So let’s talk about the Pros and Cons of this epic.

The Pros: This movie is visually stunning from beginning to end. Pandora is a character in the film. The scenes throughout take the viewer to a new world, with all new characters accompanied by creatures that however fictional still seem very much part of this place. I give full credit too all the artists who create the characters large and small. This from both the forest to the ocean.

Then there are the people who inhabit these different worlds. Pandora believes in Darwinian adapting to one’s surrounding environment and the Sea-People are very different than the Forest-People. There is an underlying physiology that is the same but they are different.

The movie is escapism in its purist form. For 3 hours and 10 mins (yes!) it whisks you away to another world which can capitivate your imagination. It sticks with you as well. After a busy weekend I am still thinking through many aspects of it, that I don’t think is fully attributable to me looking to write about it. It likely needs a second viewing for me to have me catch more of the subtleties that it brings. Cameron has attention to detail if nothing else. So I think it is a success in hopefully attracting people back to the theatre through a busy holiday season where the lulls can be for the family to experience something together.

The Cons: For all the stunning visuals, the story isn’t anywhere near as strong as one would hope. In any science fiction/fantasy film, of course one has to check reality at the door. But beyond that, there are many aspects of the storyline that don’t make a lot of sense.

Alison had asked me to get back to her about how a human, who merges into being a Navee can father a child, let alone multiple children. A good question. Presumably sperm is sperm to put it simply, and the children are not pure Navee in that they have more fingers on their hands. It remains a good question, as the whole experiment if you think through it could go horribly wrong, from the size discrepancy alone.

The villain for me is a convoluted storyline that wasn’t necessary. It didn’t have to go that way, because in truth in the first Avatar humans ARE the villain, and we have plenty of those to go around! Even as the movie progresses (and if you choose to buy into this villain) what happens later didn’t make a lot of sense either. I will leave it at that without over-sharing too much about the plot.

The transition from the forest world to the sea is a clunky one for me. I can understand of course looking to protect one’s family. However as things unfolded, it actually delayed the inevitable, which Jake should have clearly seen and it becomes just an excuse to bring in this whole different world with challenges that Swiss Family Robinson had to take on and then some! I am not so clear too how in a manner of weeks/months that skills which have been acquired over generations can be so quickly learned. I don’t care how long I have to practise, I won’t be holding my breath while holding onto a sea creature for the length of time required (or be able to equalize my ears during that time!). But nevermind.

I struggle with the overall cost in equipment, lives and money in order for the human hoard to be seeking out one guy. One could argue I suppose that the American effort to take down Osama Bin Laden was comparable, and in many ways Jake Sully is a terrorist leader for the humans but still! Further, I am not convinced about the need to address fatherhood throughout this film, and notably with the Grace character which was a real stretch for me. Apparently beyond Dory in Finding Nemo we learn that there are other characters than can speak whale! Who knew? But it is a skillset that on first blush shouldn’t be apparent, nor needed. I see the parallels throughout to previous human history, but I am not also clear why the human hoard should be re-directing their efforts away from the mining of the Unobtainium (cool name!) into something far more offensive. So all in all there are plenty of laughable “Yea Right” moments to remind you that this is a Hollywood production.

I didn’t feel the length of the movie and wasn’t shifting in my seat. I will note that before my film even began there were 30 minutes of previews! Including a sneak peak into a stunt for the new Mission Impossible movie. Add to that the new trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, and a couple silly superhero movies that I won’t see and that makes a long movie even longer for the audience. In the end, this is a worthy sequel to Avatar. It should be filling theatres over the Christmas holiday, and if you are a movie fan, it should be you too. Updated that Avatar made $435M globally over this past weekend.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover: Netflix has released this re-telling of the D.H. Lawrence book, not read by me with Emma Corrin who starred as Lady Diana in The Crown Season 4. It is a period piece set around the time of WWI, in the English countryside. Newly married Connie is part of a wealthy, established, land-owning household, not dissimilar to Downton Abbey and the Crawleys, with her husband Clifford. He is about to head off to war. He comes back a man in a wheelchair and the challenges of life become readily apparent to the young couple. Clifford is painfully aware of his situation, as a husband and lover, but also importantly as the head of a name and household that needs an heir. He approaches his wife with a proposition that she can, without telling him any details, take on a lover and find a way to produce an heir. She had wanted children, but initially pushed back on his suggestion.

On the estate there is a gamekeeper, Oliver, who attracts her attention. The story unfolds with these two at her insistence engaging in an affair that becomes deeper than either had expected. I am sympathetic to all three involved in this triangle. None of whom had asked for this to take place and are doing what they can to maintain the current state. Certainly Clifford never wanted any of this, and he is trying to assist in keeping his bloodline. Connie has her place but wants a family and some love and affection from her husband which just isn’t happening. The most sympathetic for me is the innocent Oliver whose heart is overlooked as Connie initially looks for a transaction to take place. It never was taken into consideration that he may develop feelings for Connie. He calls this out directly. Over time, Clifford has trouble with this arrangement and acts out against it and others. He is less likeable and more cruel.

The acting was good, and Connie and Oliver have no difficulty with the nudity required in this film, which has been remade time and again in series and movies over the years. I haven’t read the book, but a part of me thinks that the resolution in it can’t be as it is here. I was thinking more along the lines of unrequited love, and money and power overcoming feelings of emotion with a woman and an employee. But watching some of these previous versions may inform that knowledge into the story a bit more. This is a rare occurence where Netflix becomes a littele more racey with nudity. If you like a period piece, then this could be for you.

Golden Globes: The nominations came out and I was surprised that Avatar was nominated for Best Picture. I don’t think that it is. Joining it is Top Gun: Maverick, Tar, The Fabelmans, and Elvis. The only one that I haven’t seen yet is The Fabelmans, which should be remedied over the holidays. It is a lean year. Much is being made about the snub of Tom Cruise as well as Will Smith. I guess they don’t need any more slapping incidents at this year’s awards ceremony. I am pleased that Ana De Armas was nominated for Blonde. I am surprised that Banshees of Inisherin gets all this love, for Best Picture Musical or Comedy, as well as acting nominations. I think those that run off to see this may have expectations set too high in what they are going to get. Either that or I missed the point entirely! Del Toro’s Pinnochio was nominated as Best Animated. The Awards take place on January 10th.

January 6th, 2020 Happy New Year

Happy New Year as we enter not only a new year, but also a new decade.  Time flies!  I think back on the decade that was, but also on the decade ahead where (should I still be around) I would finish in my sixties!  Holy crap!  That just doesn’t sound right!

The Golden Globe awards are tonight (I am writing this on sunday) and it should be an interesting awards show.   Usually the fashion is much more interesting than the awards themselves!

On Netflix, four time Golden Globe nominated The Two Popes was on my list.  It is nominated for Best Picture (Drama), as well as Best Actor for the excellent Jonathan Pryce, and Best Supporting Actor for Anthony Hopkins.   I can safely say that I learned more about the current Pope (Pope Francis) than I have ever learned about any Pope ever.  I was pleased to know it.   The movie focuses on the time after the death of the beloved Pope John Paul II.   The church has been feeling much pressure, for scandals like the priests sexually assaulting the altar boys and attendance is falling dramatically.   More and more people see the church as out of touch.   In electing a new Pope, the choice for the Catholic Church was to select German, conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict).  He was seen as a unifying vote, but there are grumblings amongst the other Priests.   Among them from Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina.  The Argentinian wishes to resign, but the Pope wouldn’t engage in a letter exchange and it forces the two to meet face to face.   What transpires is an exchange of differing philosophies on the overall direction of the church.   There are discussions about “changing” versus “compromising”.   Pope Benedict says he disagrees with virtually every attitude that the Cardinal has.   The Cardinal has a colourful past which comes to light as the two men get to know each other better, and have a growing respect for one another.   There was some humour, as it isn’t all heavy discussion.   I am glad that I watched this.  Pryce in particular was excellent, even though I am not sure that he actually speaks all the Spanish in the film.   I learned something, I was entertained, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the sets and in particular the Sistine Chapel.  Having been there, I enjoyed seeing it and remembering just how blue the room is (more than I had expected).   This movie is worth your time,

I went to the theatre on Janaury 1 to see Little Women, principally from the positive reviews and the presence of Sairose Ronan and also Timothee Chalamet, two of the most in-demand and dynamic actors working these days.   I like them both.   Greta Gerwig, who previously directed Lady Bird with Ronan, directs the classic American family tale from the 1800s.   This movie has been done before and notably in 1994 with Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder and Christian Bale.   For an actor, it is a young persons role mostly and young female talent will seek it out.  Ronan received a Golden Globe for her take on Jo.   Jo is the writer in the family, and this becomes a movie about the creation of the book that becomes this movie.   The challenge for young women of the age was to find their path when their choices were so limited.   Usually it was find a young man of means and status, and then provide heirs for the family.   Florence Pugh, who plays Amy (with a Marcia Brady like complex held by Jan Brady) takes a different turn from Midsommar earlier in the year.   She is also very good.   The weak link in the cast for me is Laura Dern as the Mom.  She isn’t very believable, and I think others in the role would be better.   Dern is 52yo.  Maybe a Jennifer Connelly, Naomi Watts or a Cate Blanchett would have been better.  Emma Watson isn’t the same caliber actress as Ronan and Pugh.   But besides that, this isn’t a movie you need to see on the big screen.   But it was still enjoyable.   Not much happens and reflects life on a farm in New England.   Louisa May Alcott who wrote the story, is encouraged to change the ending for the book to make it more romantic.   In real life she never married.  Beyond this book, she wrote two sequels that were not as well known.   Alcott is similar to Emily Bronte, also in the 1800s,  in looking for a direction in her life.   She found her voice given that 150 years later they are still making movies about her story.

Adding some Golden Globes musings from last night’s proceedings (in no particular order):

  • As talented as he might be, Jacquin Phoenix is a weird dude, and I wouldn’t want to share in whatever vegan meal that he is enjoying
  • Renee Zellwegger, see above, is about as weird as Jacquin, but has a face that still looks like a puzzle with a couple pieces put in wrong.   How does SHE win for a movie no one has seen?
  • Salma Hayek
  • Why all this love for Quentin Tarantino and his movie, while The Irishman and Martin Scorsese left out in the cold?   Shut out?
  • Was Brad Pitt really the best supporting actor?  Against The Irishman P-actors (Pacino and Pesci)?
  • How does Olivia Colman best Jodie Comer?
  • Tom Hanks acceptance speech for the Cecil B deMille award was touching and honest and everything you would expect from this actor.   Tearing up as you look upon your family sitting before you is a tremendous sign of character.
  • 1917 winning Best Picture, I can roll with that, even though most people haven’t seen it yet, including me.  Add Best Director too.  Okay.
  • Salma Hayek (you can’t say the name just once, you just can’t)
  • I need to watch Fleabag.
  • I don’t need to watch Ramy.
  • How does Jared Harris lose to Russell Crowe?
  • Ricky Gervais is profane and deserves to have his mouth washed out with soap, but he pulls no punches and doesn’t care about who he offends (especially calling out the politically inclined winners)
  • Kate McKinnon on introducing Ellen DeGeneres for the Carol Burnett Award, first rate speech.  Fist pump for that.   Heartfelt and genuine.
  • How is Jennifer Aniston nominated for anything?  I think she is there so they have a camera on her as she gazes at Brad Pitt when he wins.



December 9, 2019

The Golden Globe nominations formally kicked off the Awards season with their list of nominations today.   The list is here:

Golden Globes 2020: The Complete Nominations List

My overall assessment, shared by Alison who brought this my attention, was “M’eh” in the words of my daughter.   A couple nominations make my eyebrows raise, like “Rocketman” for anything, but Best Picture and also Best Actor?   Really?!   I would have thought that Bohemian Rhapsody shine would have worn off by now.   Apparently not.   The overly long The Irishman, picks up a Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actors (Pacino and Pesci) while notably absent was DeNiro for Best Actor.   Also in the TV category it was the first time ever that the alphabet main networks (ABC, NBC and CBS) were completely ignored.   The streaming services won out, with Netflix, Amazon, HBO and FX for cryin’ out loud got nominations but not them.   It is a changing of the guard.    Game of Thrones had one single nomination for Kit Harrington.   Well deserved for an awful final season of what was a fabulous show overall.

For my watching, I finished The White Queen, which I enjoyed a good deal.  It is the War of the Roses story, a ten episode season from back in 2013, starring Rebecca Ferguson of recent Mission Impossible as Ilsa Faust.  She is played along with Max Irons (son of Jeremy) who is King Edward.   Incidentally George R.R. Martin had inspiration for Game of Thrones from these stories.  Shakespeare wrote these times as well with Richard II (who is given less glorious treatment in this series, although he is initially far more sympathetic, but grows more tragic).   As the name suggests, this is Ferguson’s series and focuses on her from being a widow with two children as she meets a young King, to seducing and marrying him, becoming Queen.   There is internal strife and all manner of game playing going on with serious consequences.  This is England in the mid-1400s.  Whenever I think of Canada and the history here, I marvel at places like England where Kings and battles for the Crown have been going on for centuries earlier.  These pale in comparison too to places like Rome and Greece and they even more less than China.   But Ferguson is very good, and it is this role that caught the attention of Tom Cruise to select her for MI: Rogue Nation in 2015.   I am certain very little had to do with the nudity especially early on in the series.   It doesn’t factor into my positive thoughts AT ALL, about this series…..well a little, maybe.   A bit.   This is on Crave, for those who have it, and can find it.   If you like some good historical fiction with swords and fancy dresses and intrigue, then this could be for you.

I noted as I posted on the movies in this review that The Exorcist did not pop up.  How odd, but I have mentioned it a few times in any Best Of List that I would compile.  It wins Best Horror film ever each time.   I was watching The Extended Director’s Cut on Blu-Ray.  I own this.   I knew that Director and story writer William Peter Blatty did not see eye to eye on this film.  They shared first names but that is about all they shared.  William Friedkin narrates the Blu Ray extras.   The extra scenes added for me, actually take away from the effectiveness and impact of the original.   For example, adding scenes in the medical testing of Regan where she is belligerent and profane with the doctors, takes away from the shock of the language that comes out of her when she is first possessed.   And oh what language it is!  In 1973, this was shocking and disturbing.   It was breaking down barriers and a slap in the face to audiences.   I wasn’t watching in the theatres, but I can imagine.   The setup takes some time, and it is necessary for both the exorcist Father Merrin as well as Father Karras and his relationship with his Mother.   You also see Regan with her Mom, actress Ellen Burstyn.   All characters are excellent.  For me, the horror and shock comes from small little additions, like the demonic face that pops up from time to time, and you can miss it if you blink.   There is dread, and one’s heart beats faster in anticipation after some time about what you could possibly see when you open the door to young Regan’s room.    It never disappoints.    It holds your attention and interest to the very end.   This is classic movie making, and for Friedkin, between this and The French Connection in 1971, he is at the top of his game.  It doesn’t return.   Any one interested in film and film making owes it to themselves to see this.  Linda Blair talked at length about the impact on her, it made her a big star straight away, but also injured her back (you’ll know the scene when you see it).   But I would suggest seeing the original, without the additional scenes like the reverse spider walk which is creepy but out of place.   This is a far cry from slasher films and mass murderer films like Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th where a psychopath is running rampant.   It a small innocent girl turned into a demon for no reason and no explanation who transforms the lives of those all around her.   A classic.

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.