July 4th, 2022 (Happy Independence Day)

For all my American friends and readers, happy Independence Day from the UK! Politically speaking you are in troubling times with the Supreme Court going against long settled precedent of Roe v Wade and moving abortion rights to the purview of each individual State. Clarence Thomas, the pillar of women’s rights, says that he would like to revisit decisions about same sex marriage and gay rights. At the same time, they decide to restrict NY laws meant to regulate firearms. At least they are being consistent with the Republican agenda. Sadly one would think that the Court should be neutral. Not so. Anyway, people don’t come here to read about politics. If you want political commentary may I suggest that you watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. He has spoken at length about gun control as well as the Roe v Wade decision.

And then here when the decision was rendered:

The Last Duel: I like Ridley Scott’s films generally and I will seek them out. I have mentioned this on a number of occasions before. He does historical fiction, like Gladiator or Kingdom of Heaven as well as anyone, almost as much a space movies like Alien. He teamed up Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who wrote and acted principally in this movie set in the late 1300s in France. A blond headed and gouteed Affleck isn’t a nobleman in a Province within France near Normandy. He isn’t the King, but seemingly a man who who rules over disputes in his territory. Add in combatants Matt Damon and Adam Driver. They are mainly fighting over an allegation of an injustice with Damon’s character’s Wife, played by Jodie Comer. Curiously the story is told in three versions, none of which is overly compelling. The versions address the same timeline as seen through the three people (Driver as a trusted advisor to Affleck, Damon who is at odds with the Affleck character and then Comer the Wife. Of the three boring stories, Comer is the most interesting. Of course we aren’t surprised how women were treated in the 1300s. They are property valued for their dowry and their ability to create heirs. They have no standing in a Court, and are subserviant to their husbands, warts and all. Thus the extreme remedy in this instance for a duel to take place to decide on the truth of allegations for which only God can decide based on who wins. It is a very strange time.

The Last Duel in the last sequence of the film

As for the movie it was surprisingly dull. You can see where different versions in subtle and not-so-subtle ways show the individual’s perspective of the same event. Men and different view things differently, and those who are protecting themselves and their reputation are more likely to see things in their own terms. Damon is just horribly miscast in my mind. For a movie set in France, there is very little by anyone to try and speak French. Quite the opposite there are more English accents. Damon never even tries to sound French, but remains full on American, Boston born. Affleck equally looks out of place. They just aren’t period piece guys. Driver and Comer are more cameleons and can seem at the right time almost anywhere. Comer says a lot with her looks and her face. You can see her struggles in her station well. The conviction that she has, despite the risks for her and her husband are not lost on her. Driver is the guy who seems to have had his brush with power give him an air of entitlement, where he can do whetever he wants without consequence since he is good friends with a nobleman. His conviction to this is unfaultering. So in summary, I cannot recommend this movie. It is on Crave. There are other better Scott movies to seek out.

I will further note that Scott, in his 80s now, is working on a movie about the early days of Napoleon Bonaparte, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Comer was scheduled to play Josephine but had to bow out. Vanessa Kirby will join in. It is called Kitbag. Vanessa Kirby is a good replacement. Known for her roles in Mission Impossible and The Crown.

Jodie Comer Replaced In Upcoming Joaquin Phoenix Movie

The 355: Jessica Chastain is a committed proponent to equal pay for women in roles and finding more roles for women as leads. She is so committed to this that her production company Freckles Productions, have put together a spy thriller in the same vein as James Bond and Mission Impossible. I have always been a fan. She chooses interesting projects, and she recently brought home the Oscar for her portrayal of Tammy Taye Bakker. In this project she has brought together herself, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o and Bingbing Fan. No one will ever accuse of not addressing diversity. These women, save Cruz, play spies from various spy agencies who are tasked with looking for a thumb drive (for lack of a better word) that has the capability to cause chaos. Cruz plays a psychiatrist brought into the plot. The chaos can be infiltrating any system one wants to obtain information or even circumvent airplane systems and bring the planes down. The drive was created by a Columbian drug lords son, and was looking to sell it to the highest bidder. Things happen and these disparate female spies eventually learn that they need to work together. Inexplicably the drive passes through various hands, but it is important to track down since it can “end the world as we know it”. As a viewer, I am thinking, if I ever got my hands as an officer of a peace loving nation, that my first instinct would be to simply destroy it. But then again there wouldn’t be much of a movie if that happened.

The cast heading to a party where a buy will take place.

Chastain in particular plays a women who is a loner with no loved ones. There is a romantic aspect, in the same way that James Bond has romantic interests. I was also thinking that the difference between Daniel Craig or Tom Cruise and Jessica Chastain in this role is that she is performing these stunts and fights with heels on, reminiscent of Ginger Rogers doing all of Fred Astaire dances only in reverse and with heels on! The plot moves along. Much of the same buddy movie, partners of different origins are explored without adding much to the overall commentary to it. We see that women can play these roles, which we have seen in movies like SALT , Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie and Rebecca Ferguson in Mission Impossible that they are more than capable. For me, I think that the Kruger role was the most interesting. She has her own family issues to address. All the while she has tremendous pressure to obtain the drive. She has tension with the other women, as well as her boss. Will this movie fill the movie theatre seats? It didn’t. Obviously COVID has something to do with that, so it is hard to imagine how it would do now competing against Top Gun or Elvis. I found this silly. The solution to the recurring problem would be to destroy it, or blast it upon sight. This is better than Ava where Jessica was taking on the Spy role earlier. But it isn’t in the same category of the other named film staples.

September 27, 2021

In and Of Itself: Back on Feb 1st I reviewed this movie directed by Frank Oz. I re-watched it again as it was just released on Crave. I enjoyed it thoroughly once again. It is a one man show from a guy named Derek DelGaudio. It is hard to describe it in a single word really. It is part philosophy, part illusion, part parlour trick and altogether interesting. I won’t describe it further because it bears viewing with fresh eyes. So if you haven’t seen it, check it out.

Scenes From A Marriage (Episode 3): This show is on weekly at present. Once again it stars Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac. Both are very good in it. It is slow. It can be painful. The character that Jessica plays, for me, is one that is becoming less and less admirable. That likely isn’t a desired trait, or perhaps reflects exactly what the producers had intended; not all people act admirably. So this can be a mirror to what people experience. Episodes one and two have the changes within this marriage beginning. They have been together for quite some time, and she had some news which resulted in a particular direction. Then, once again, she had in episode two after some passage of time some more news that she wanted to bring to her husband. This episode is really a continuation of that news after some time has passed. It is a tough position for the husband to play in this context. Isaac plays it very well. He has been in reactive mode, trying to adjust his life. He has also sought out to evaluate himself and his contribution to the recent happenings. After all there are always two people in any relationship and rarely it would be solely one person who is making decisions in a vacuum. There were moments here that I was actively cringing and speaking aloud for the husband to choose a different path. If you are watching this, you will know when I mean. I will continue to watch.

Last Week Tonight: This ongoing series from John Oliver is always fun for me. The host makes interesting commentary on the news of the day, then has segments of other items of interest. It is done with humour, but also a critical eye. His news item this week was addressing the refugees seeking to enter the US from Haiti and how they have been turned back. At times forcibly with border agents on horseback. His other segment was on Voting Rights and how certain States (mostly red Republican States) are putting forth legislation to limit the ability to vote or at least curtail its availability. Mail-in voting, specific ID requirements etc. are being put forth which can have a disproportionate impact on the non-white voters. There isn’t much of a surprise there, but it is an effort that President Biden isn’t really taking too seriously. Finally he did a segment on Duck Stamps, which was quite funny. These are stamps that are generally sold to hunters, but also collectors. 97% of the proceeds is used to save wildlife habitation and during its life, has raised over $1B. Each year a team selects the art to be chosen from a list of entries. John’s team entered a number of suggestions.

Here is one of them (note the dog from Nintendo’s Duck Hunt in the back):

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver "Duck Hunt" by Eric Joyner | eBay
Last Week Tonight Failed Entry for 2022 Duck Stamp now up for auction

All his entries failed to get consideration from the judges, but he is now auctioning them off with all contributions going to the charity. It was all very funny. In the same way as his purchase of Russell Crowe’s divorce movie paraphernalia or having Danbury CT name their waste management plant in his name. Enjoy!

April 13th, 2020

Another week, another week working from home and living in a fairly small world.  All in the name of social distancing and trying to “flatten the curve”.  It’s amazing how our days can be committed to a mathematical concept.   The number of cases of this dreaded disease are rising around the globe, and we here in Canada are bracing and trying to do our part.   In truth, what we are doing is helping ourselves and making sure that our health care system can not be overwhelmed.    For those who think I have drunk the Governmental Kool-Aid, I have.  I have seen the devastation in Italy and Spain and think the actions of other countries (like Germany) are those we should emulate.  Check out the German number of deaths.   Much smaller percentage than other similarly sized countries.   Anyway, John Oliver has spoken at length about it on HBO’s Last Week Tonight.  This show runs weekly, on Sunday night’s on Crave and I think it is just so funny.   He was in really good form last night (April 12th episode).   It is quality commentary as well as a few good laughs.

For movies, on Crave I watched We Were Brothers which is a documentary on the (mostly) Canadian musical group The Band.   It talks about their history mostly through the eyes of Robbie Robertson, from Toronto, who wrote most of the songs.   He didn’t, however, principally sing these songs and left that to his bandmates.  Robertson had early on performed with Ronnie Hawkins and later these other members of the band, who toured with Bob Dylan in a wildly panned tour for Dylan.   He was leaving his folksy roots, and began using more electric guitar much to his audiences chagrin and disgust.   Afterwards, the guys holed up in a shack in Woodstock NY and wrote music together.   They were different, talented and had a sound all their own.   This was an interesting watch and showed some of the creative process which I find fascinating.   Robertson was writing songs when he was 15yo for Hawkins for a record.   I like The Band, certainly their more known and popular tunes and this was a story which showed the contribution of Robertson.  More than I had expected.   Worth a viewing with the beginning, middle and end of the band as they came apart at the seams at the end.

I also watched a HBO documentary on the life of writer and director Nora Ephron.  Everything Is Copy: Nora Ephron Scripted and Unscripted, shows her life in films with family, stories and writing.   She penned some of the most iconic relationship movies like When Harry Met Sally, and directed Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.  You will note Meg Ryan in each of these.   She is present for the documentary as she talks about Nora.   So are Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep (who worked on Julie and Julia) and others.   The documentary was created by her son, Jacob Bernstein, and yes her second husband was Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post who worked with Bob Woodward to bring down President Nixon in Watergate.  That story is chronicled by book and movie All the Presidents Men.  Dustin Hoffman plays him in the movie.   She was then married to Nick Pileggi who wrote Good Fellas.  So she was well connected.   The story talks of her move from books and articles and screenplays to then directing.  Not everything she touched was gold.   Movies like Lucky Numbers, Mixed Nuts and Michael were forgettable.   Still she was a woman who worked right up until her very private death from complications from leukemia.   Hers is an interesting life.  The story alone with Rob Reiner about making When Harry Met Sally is good story telling which you can see in the extras from that DVD.   I enjoyed.

Finally, the creators of Fleabag, read Phoebe Waller-Bridge created Run which had a first episode streamed yesterday.   It stars Merrit Wever (from Unbelievable) and Domhnall Gleeson (of Star Wars, Ex Machina and many others) in the first episode anyway, as two people who have seemingly full separate lives and then they end of meeting up at a rather random spot together.   The details haven’t been fully disclosed and the viewer is expected to seemingly go with it.   I am not sure what to make of it yet, but given my enjoyment of Fleabag I will stick with it.

I have also re-watched documentaries on Top Gun (Danger Zone) as well as Disney nature documentaries on Blue Whales, Big Cats, and Dolphin Reef.   The Disney Nature stuff is amazingly shot.  I can only imagine how many hours were required to find and film a cheetah attack for example.   Or to catch up with blue whales off the coast of Costa Rica.   One can learn and watch at the same time.

Happy viewing.  Stay safe.  Stay healthy.   Keep your distance.   Stay home.

November 25, 2019

I didn’t travel to the theatre this week, and so I was watching some Crave and Netflix instead.

A word about one of my favourite ongoing talk shows, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.   To put it simply I really like this show and it was one of the reasons for me to get Crave.   John OLiver started with Jon Stewart and then has grown from there.  This is a multi-Emmy winning show for writing.   This is brilliantly written and researched, and he seems to genuinely enjoy what he does.  Segments on FIFA (as shown below) are hilarious but also bringing forth issues of the day.  He talks at length and in multiple episodes about Brexit, and if you don’t feel that you have a real grasp on the issues, check him out and his three segments on it.  For me, FIFA was outstanding as well as his piece on the Russell Crowe Divorce Auction.   Most are posted on YouTube now, but the more recent ones about Stupid Watergate II and the Ukraine fiasco you will need to wait for…

And now, this……

I had watched the previews for Doctor Sleep, which in essence is The Shining 2.   For me I was unsure about whether I wanted to spend money to see this, and I decided to re-watch the original Kubrick film from 1980 starring Jack Nicholson at his crazy best and Shelley Duvall.  It also stars the young Danny Lloyd, who does his best impression of young Anakin Skywalker and/or Eight is Enough star (??) Adam Rich who all share the distinction of having a head waaaay too big for their bodies and a bad haircut to boot that makes it look even worse.   But I digress…. The Shining is the Stephen King novel brought to life by one of the most renowned and influential directors (Stanley Kubrick).    I have to admit that I have the DVD for 2001: A Space Odyssey but there are elements of that where I still scratch my head and say “what was that about?”.   The same goes here.   The basic structure is there of a family deciding to hotel-sit for a winter in this big resort in the middle of Colorado.  Dad, Nicholson, is a writer with writer’s block and you learn early on that he should avoid the booze.    His Wife is stay-at-home and watches over their son, Danny, who has an interesting talking finger.   I know!   We learn that some bad things had happened in the hotel before, and an older black gentleman explains to Danny that he has a gift.    Things happen unexpectedly, and there are some head scratching moments about what appear to be dreams or hallucinations, but they can apparently do very real things, like leave marks on living people and move things around.   In the end it is all a wonder what happened and why.   I can’t say that I can wholeheartedly agree with the resolution.   Maybe that is the point.   When all is said and done, I don’t think that I need to spend the money to watch the sequel.   Even though it is the return of an adult Danny to the silver screen, only his second movie credit.  There are some borrowed aspects here with a little of The Omen (1976) and the little boy riding around the house on a tricycle (in this case a big wheel).  And some of the creepiness of The Exorcist (1973) which is giving it far too much credit since I regard The Exorcist as the best horror film ever.   But the visual of the petrified little boy with the “orange on a toothpick” head was cool as he watched the elevators bleed in spectacular fashion.