July 29, 2019

I like Emily Blunt.   Plain and simple.  I think she has grown tremendously as an actor and shows a great deal more range than just the romantic interest.   She has shown herself to be multi-talented with acting, then singing in a movie like Into the Woods, and also dancing, where she played a dancer in Adjustment Bureau.  Dramatically I think that she took a huge leap forward with Sicario, where she played an FBI agent amongst manly men and held her own.   In a world where Disney has taken upon itself to re-invent and re-release their content in endless forms to show that they have no shame, along comes Mary Poppins Returns.  I must admit to my predisposition to not wanting to catch this film, but it kept creeping me and daring me to watch.    Now it is on Netflix, and I watched it.   I think for many viewers one cannot think Mary Poppins without thinking the Julie Andrews Oscar winning performance.    However talented I think Emily Blunt is, I still do not put her in the same category as Oscar winner Andrews.   Joining Blunt in this cast is Hamilton creator himself Lin-Manuel Miranda as a chimney sweep, Julie Walters, Colin Firth and Meryl Streep.   Quite an ensemble and expense for Disney to make.   The results are okay.   Just okay.   Whereas the original had numerous sing along tunes for young and old alike, this one really doesn’t.   Perhaps spend some more on musical talent than the acting.   None of the songs approaches classics that we all sang to like “A Spoonful of Sugar”, or “Supercalifragalis-expialidocious” or “Chim Chim Cheree”.   Poppins 2 comes closest with “The Place Where Lost Things Go”.  But the magic isn’t the same.   Maybe it’s a product of expectations again, and expecting something remarkable to move you in the theatre but I am not certain.    More than one person reached out to me to encourage me to see this movie.   They felt Blunt channeled Andrews very well and she mimicked her voice and mannerisms very well.    They saw Mary Poppins in front of them.   I didn’t feel the same way.   And in saying that I will give kudos where they are due with songs performed by Miranda.  I think he was excellent and brought his considerable Broadway talents to this project.   Is he Dick Van Dyk?   Well no, but he stands on his own because he can.   He isn’t the Van Dyk character, but someone else, while Blunt had the unfortunate high jump hurdle to overcome.   So can I recommend this film?   Yes.   I find it a little too long, about 25 mins too long with a couple too many songs that didn’t ignite resonate with me.   I found the story with the foreclosure aspect a tad overblown and less believable.   Convince Londoners that someone who had owned that property in that location for that long, that they would have money troubles and you would be laughed out of the theatre.   But take a movie as a piece of entertainment and an escape for a couple of hours and there are worse places that you can spend your time.   And maybe still introduce youngsters to the talent of Julie Andrews from 50+ years ago when she was at the height of her super stardom.   Andrews was nominated an additional two times for the Oscar.   Remarkable.   To be asked to fill those shoes and float on that umbrella is an honour, and the job Blunt does here deserves some praise.

I cannot think an another US Supreme Court Justice who has had a major motion pics about her released, along with a full biography of her life as Ruth Bader Ginsberg.   Maybe it is because she is a left-leaning, liberal judge who CNN and others want to trumpet against the Trump Republicans who seemingly want to turn the clock back to 1955, and treat women (and others) as second class citizens.   In her 80s now, and still sitting on the bench, even after two cancer scares, she is a formidable woman.   She knows her place in history, as well as in the present.   The movie starred Felicity Jones in On The Basis of Sex (previously reviewed here).   The documentary was from CNN and is on Crave.   Both are worth checking out.  I enjoyed them equally.   It’s funny watching Justice Ginsberg watch herself be played on SNL.   She gets a good laugh out of it.

In the end, without delving too deeply into the politics, this is a documentary which informs and explains the stepping stones in the changes in laws (and in reflecting our changed morals) to the world around us in the Western Hemisphere.   However much we feel that this is the “right way” to think about the world and how it should be, note that many other countries and leaders don’t share in these views.   RBG has been a champion for the woman’s rights movement ever since becoming a lawyer in the 50s.   Her personal story reflects the world as it was at the time, by not being able to secure a job out of Harvard and Yale law, despite being on the Law Review and being recommended by some of the most astute legal minds.   She endured, and flourished and moved forward with cases that mattered.   If nothing else, her tenacity and impact can hopefully encourage more people to turn out and vote at the next US Presidential election.   Maybe more people that she has fought for, like women, minorities, LGBT community etc will step forward and rally to find a leader who will carry on her crusade.   Check this out if you can.   See what a difference one person can make.

I finished watching Stranger Things 3, and can report that I enjoyed this season better than Season 2.   I like the additions of the new characters, notably Ethan Hawk’s daughter Maya as Robin, and Priah Ferguson as Lucas Sinclair’s little ice cream eating sister.   They add some welcome new spice and energy into the cast who is separated for most of this series heading down and sorting through different storylines recounting the same ultimate conclusion.   Russians are involved, and a new method of utilizing people as an army.   In the end the kids and adults need to work together to identify, triage and solve the problem in their small town.   It is  more emotional than Season 2 was.   I found it much more engaging, even though there are times where the level of disbelief gets dangerously high.   I still prefer the original overall, but this was a worthy sequel.    I am not sure I will hear need to hear the theme song from The Neverending Story ever again, but that is a sideline.    Millie Bobby Brown I think keeps growing as an actor and makes this more watchable.   The other kids each have their own gifts and it’s a good ensemble cast that works well.   Do I need to see a Season 4, not really.   I certainly don’t need to see more of Winona Ryder.   I also felt as though one of the surprise moments leaned a little too far out towards 2019 rather than 1983.   You’ll likely spot what I mean, and if you don’t, then don’t worry about it too much.  Maybe it’s just me…..

I re-watched First Man on Crave the other night.   As we approached and passed the 50th anniversary of the moon landing by Neil Armstrong, and the crew of Apollo 11, it is a good reminder to remember those who worked (and some died) to bring this effort to pass.   From JFK laying down the commitment to reach the moon in a fixed time frame (“end of the decade”) to the remarkable engineers, companies, pilots, wives and families who contributed.   Here’s a simple Thanks, and acknowledging your commitment, your cooperation and sacrifice to do what no human has ever done before.   Maybe the flames of passion for this can be re-ignited to take on Mars.  Maybe not.   Maybe the symbol of world superiority will be taken over by another power as we look to the stars.   Maybe.   Neil Armstrong was a remarkable man.   I hope that he actually did what was suggested at the end of this movie.   I really do, because it would reveal a humanity in him, and be a symbol for all those who have to put a brave face on before very dangerous undertakings.   I am saddened that this didn’t get as much Oscar buzz, but it doesn’t mean I enjoy it any less.

I finished Season 2 of Handmaid’s Tale.   Damn this is depressing.  So many tears, so much crying.   Women who could have benefited from the wisdom and efforts of RBG reside in an unholy land, however much they like to trumpet their faith.   It is filmed in and around Toronto and Cambridge.   Plenty of Canadian references.   Still it isn’t an enjoyable place to visit.   I will leave it at that.


July 15th, 2019

There are times when making the mental commitment to myself to write a review each and every week can be more challenging than other times.   This week was such a time.   First it has been glorious out, and I feel as though I should soak up every bit of the sun and warmth while it lasts.   Also, there has been so very little to watch or even to be excited about.   So it has been Netflix and Crave watching instead of going to the theatre.   For all the price increases with Netflix lately, one can lament that having paid just $9.99 not that long ago, and now $13.99 it seems like a cash grab.  Yet it’s still cheaper than the price of a full-priced ticket at the theatre, especially if you partake in 3D or other add-ons!     But having said that there is some reviews to pass along.

This weekend I saw The Happytime Murders with Melissa McCarthy.   Maya Rudolph also stars (a common co-star for McCarthy) along with Elizabeth Banks.   This is a police caper with McCarthy playing a human cop, and her former puppet partner (voiced by Bill Baretta).  There is a back story there.   This is an adult caper in a similar vein as Team America,  although not quite as cutting (nor profane) as Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s work.    There are some funny moments, I did laugh out loud in a couple of places.  There are some good quips and one liners.   McCarthy has very good comedic timing.   She also delivers an insult as well as anyone.   The scene in question that had my attention takes place in the office where Rudolph (as Bubbles) fends off some inspectors.   You’ll know the scene when you see it.   But beyond that and a couple other laughs it is pretty standard fare.   Yes, the graphic scenes of puppets having their stuffed heads blown away are funny to start but then there is more and more.  It isn’t John Wick, but there is enough cotton carnage to go around.     In the end this was able to fill some time, and provided a few laughs on a warm, comfortable cottage evening.   By the way, McCarthy has shown a great deal of range in the last few pictures I have seen in, like Can You Ever Forgive Me?   This strikes more of a mailed in performance for the pay cheque or a film commitment to a studio.

While Happytime trying hard to make us laugh and smile, the Margret Attwood tale The Handmaid’s Tale that I spoke about earlier continues into Season 2 as I watch to be filled with tears and dreariness.   It is damn depressing.   That is the point of course.  A dystopian society as a subset of the United States, where women have no rights and are kept (or those who are fertile) as human incubators with the affluent and powerful men deciding their fates and taking their babies to give to their barren wives.   There are some episodes that are decidedly slow moving, the the episode where Elizabeth Moss is looking to escape.   That plane epsiode could have been done in 15 mins and not a whole hour.   Mid-way through the Second season a couple things happen that are more interesting and show some elements of change are brewing but it is still plodding along.   It’s okay.   It still does not approach the best of the series TV that has been on lately.    Not sure where the accolades and awards come from but maybe there is something I am missing.   Likely.

So another week goes by and I am hopeful at some point to see something worth writing about.   Enjoy the sun!!

June 17, 2019

Back in 1990, Handmaid’s Tale was a movie with a good cast, including the late Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall.   It was 1:48 long and unseen by me.  It was a film adaptation from the Canadian Margaret Atwood’s book (also unread by me).   Then Elizabeth Moss of Mad Men fame came along and she decided to produce a new version of this book, in a mini series format.   Season 3 has just been released, and I have only finished watching Season 1 this past week.   Now while I am not sure about why an initial less than 2 hour movie had to become 10 episodes (Season 1), 13 episodes (Seasons 2 and now 3).   In total, 36 episodes and close to 36 hours of viewing.   Oh my goodness!   This is a long time to spend in an otherwise dreary dystopian future where women have their right’s stripped away and become incubaters for the rich and wealthy with generally barren wives.   Apparently the Future has a problem with fertility, and the solution in the greater Boston area (but really Cambridge Ontario and other areas around Southwestern Ontario) is to take women’s money and displace them from their jobs and imprison them to be raped and carry the children of the privileged.  In short, that is the story and we follow Moss, and those like her, in this disturbing place.   Margaret Atwood points out that nothing portrayed in her Future is something new that hasn’t been done before in human history.   It is well acted.  Moss is good.  Her fellows actors are also good.   Do I like it?   Not sure.  Not really sure that I am supposed to like it.   It should be disturbing to see anyone’s rights taken away without recourse, and have them subjected to abhorrent treatment and in this case all in the name of The Lord!   Yikes!   Funny how The Lord’s will and judgement can be interpreted so directly by those who wish to justify their (very human) actions.   Canada also comes out smelling like a rose as the country to the North who offers asylum, food, clothes, money and freedom to make choices to women who were slaves.   In the end this is another series that I cannot put on the same level as Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones or Mad Men.  I suppose I should really do a review for worthwhile, binge-worthy series and mini-series that can be viewed on various streaming services.   I’ll think about it.   Suffice it to say that if you look for something new to view and spend a good amount of time on, you can try here.   Just know that you won’t come out of it with a smile on your face or feeling any better about the human condition (now or in The Future).

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was out last summer.  It isn’t a remake of the original campy board game starring Robin Williams as a game comes to life, and puts a family in danger in 1995.   But rather more of a reboot, where a video game (console looks like an old Atari vintage game) creates a new world that pops players into it.   It also transforms them into characters in the game, which has the one ongoing joke of a female live character turning into a Jack Black character in the game.   Oh, I was trying to control my laughter on that one!   Not really.   The Rock is a game character channeling a real life character who isn’t that way in real life.   And then Karen Gillian of Guardians of the Galaxy fame, have to admit I needed to look that one up since she is not recognizable as the robot-sister of the Zoe Saldana character at all, but she does fill out a tank top and shorts well enough to keep it interesting.   And that really is where the positiveness ends.   And that really isn’t very much.   In short what was the board game, became Breakfast Club meets weird version of Tropic Thunder.   Four kids on detention come across this ancient video game console and take a journey into this game where they have three lives, and spawn by falling from the sky.    Kevin Hart plays Kevin Hart and I don’t need to talk further about him.   So buyer beware, this wasn’t for me, and I cannot recommend.

Finally, from one bad film film re-make to another completely bad film looking to profit off a mildly successful original product.   Let me say, I am a sucker for shark movies, and most anything to deal with sharks.   I think they are fascinating.   I alos think that their slaughter for soup makes zero sense and is a punch to the balance on the planet.   Jaws remains one of my favourite movies of all time.   So movies like The Meg, or even The Shallows capture my attention.   It even happened back in 1999 with Deep Blue Sea with a decent cast in Samuel L Jackson, Stellen Skarsgard and LL Cool J as a group trying to survive in an ocean lab looking to build brain size by in sharks so that it the brain fluid can be harvested to cure Alzheimer’s disease for humans.   The challenge of course is altering sharks by adding more brains and they becoming the apex predator on the planet (well at least the oceans, so 2/3 of the planet).   Obviously all goes wrong, and the humans have to find ways to survive.   The CGI was decent, but really it is still very obvious that it is CGI.   Deep Blue Sea 2 takes it a notch lower, and uses bull sharks and poor CGI to tell a story.   No reference is made to the original film, and the actors are not in any way A-listers.   Nor are the sets and production value.   So the story is weak, focusing on a somewhat deranged scientist thinking he can boost the human brain by making smart sharks and that he will “just kill them” later on once he has shown the power of the human mind.  You see, he is worried about A.I. (computers) taking over the world and eliminating the humans.  He wants to avoid Skynet and the end of the world by making people smarter, instead of going all Sarah Connor on the computers and blowing them up before they get a chance to wipe us out.   Utilizing sharks, and inviting a busty shark preservationist for really no reason out to his little lab just sets the stage for a movie that doesn’t cut it on any level.   It borrows cliches and stereotypes and overall doesn’t add anything to our knowledge of sharks or the world.   I cannot recommend this either.    I feel pained at the lack of decent films in the theatre but my son suggested Booksmart and also John Wick 3 and so I should get out at some point.