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.