June 7th, 2021

Wonder Woman 84: This is a sequel that misses the mark so badly that I think that it sets all sorts of nasty precedents. First there was the breakthrough directorial role for Patty Jenkins. There was a theory that a female director couldn’t manage a big budget super hero movie. The success of the original with Gal Gadot playing Wonder Woman (aka Diana Prince) was a quality member to the superhero genre. It tells a good origin story of the young girl on the female dominated island (Paradise Island) with Amazons. She meets in WWI, a young handsome pilot played by Chris Pine, and they go on to assist each other in dealing with a villian. One of the writers for this story was Zach Snyder, who decided not to direct it.

Sadly this sequel is a mess from the beginning. It sets the woman’s movement in the movie back half a century but also the continuing strides made by directors like Jenkins. She has a part in putting together this story. Wonder Woman in the beginning film was a confident, self assured, princess from a foreign land who doesn’t understand the male world that she gets brought into, but she takes it head on. Being on the front lines of the two fronts between the Germans and Allies, she boldly ascends the wall and charges single-handedly into the fray. Her efforts astound the surrounding onlooking soldiers and they take the battle. In the sequel set now almost 60 years later, she is unchanged (she hasn’t aged, she continues with her life and job in Washington DC). I don’t give too much away to say that the Chris (Steve Trevor) isn’t with her any longer, by his choice. The challenge is that Wonder Woman becomes a whiny teenager wanting to see her boyfriend. She openly admits that she is going through the motions in her life with the initially geeky co-worker played by Bridesmaids and SNL star Kristen Wiig. The Wiig character wishes to be more like the “together” Diana Prince. Together they come upon an amber stone antiquity which they ultimately learn is some kind of an Aladdin’s lamp.

But it gets better! There is a life loser, played by the Mandalorian, Pedro Pascal, who is disappointing his son, his customers and hasn’t really pulled his life together. He makes a wish that even The Genie wouldn’t allow to take place, but it happens anyway. He ends up having more power than one could ever anticipate and the story continues down its crash course downwards. There is a great part of me that thinks, how could ANY superhero movie ever decide to have the Villian involved be a lamp?! It boggles the mind where someone agreed to green light this. And may I say, poor Chris Pine. I actually felt pain for him in some of the lines that he had to deliver in this. I never fully understood why his presence was even required, and I finished with the same opinion. From the disconnected early sequence where very young Diana isn’t allowed to win a ridiculous competition because she “cheated” (one could argue that as she was showing creativity beyond her years but who cares?). In the end it really was much ado about nothing. Just when you thought that this movie was trending badly, it found new ways to get even more ridiculous. I cannot recommend, and would actively steer people away from watching this. It isn’t worth your time. If you really want to see a strong independent woman being a hero, then maybe look for Justice League (? maybe) or re-watch the initial film.

To finish off the movie, there is the introduction of the invisible jet in a sequence where Steve Trevor, a pilot from the early 1900s sits in a jet for the first time. Well, he shouldn’t be able to fly this jet. Why doesn’t Diana fly it? It is hers? Why does she take a back seat? Why does she remember all of a sudden that she has an ability to make things become invisible (like the cloak in Harry Potter)? I mean. What? Forget this and hope Gadot will have a better role to play in the future.

Mare of Eastown: I finished this series, and I was initially intrigued and it became better and better. It was a story set in a small Pennsylvania town. Kate Winslet plays a divorced detective in this small town, with her teenage daughter in high school, a grandson who was born to her deceased son, and her own Mom. There are many locals to keep track of who interact with her for varying degrees. A young girl is murdered and this follows from an unsolved case of a young woman who disappeared for over a year. Mare feels the pressure in a Three Billboards way of having this unsolved case where leads have gone cold. Then this young girl, with a young baby of her own ends up dead. There are plenty of suspects and the viewer has their own theories. It’s very complex and so one needs to pay attention. Things happen, unexpected things also happen and those who you may have initially were involved, suddenly are no longer as suspicious. The web weaves more, and the series continues. One of the strengths as I see it, are the twists that are unexpected but not completely off the wall that you wouldn’t have necessarily seen them coming. It is clever. Sometimes maybe too clever, but well worth the time. Winslet plays her character warts and all. She isn’t perfect. She is imperfect and still plugs along. She struggles, and she remains reticent to not have her past dictate her future by, for the most part, burying it deep inside. There are flawed people all over the place. It seems more real, and less contrived. Yes the final episode was perhaps a little more Hollywood, but for me was still effective. I recommend and think that this as a series would be a good binge.

May 31st, 2021

Tonight marked the last night of May, in this continued lock down, and also marked the end to the hockey season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. They haven’t won the Cup since 1967 (54 years ago). They haven’t won a playoff series in 17 years. They haven’t gotten out of the first round in the past six. In the end, this means that flags on cars can be lowered and we can begin thinking about golf and summer to come. Oh, and by the way, the Leafs had a 3 games to 1 lead in the series against Montreal, but then lost three in a row, including two of those three at home. Ouch. With all this hockey playoff time, there is less time for movies.

First, Mare of Easttown was really good yet again. I have enjoyed this more as it has moved along. Full review when the series is completed.

Mississippi Burning: Back in 1988, this was a multiple Oscar nominated film, with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Gene Hackman), Best Supporting Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Director and a win for Best Cinematography. Other nominees included Rain Man (winner), Dangerous Liaisons, The Accidental Tourist and Working Girl. History I think shows that the Academy got it wrong that year. This movie should have won.

The story, which remains as painfully relevant in these times now, outlines the story of two young white Jewish men and a single black man who are leaving Mississippi and never make it home. They were activists looking to make a political statement. It was 1964, shortly after JFK’s assassination. FBI agents Gene Hackman, a former Mississippi sheriff himself, and young agent (Wilem Dafoe) who is a stickler for “playing it by the book” are investigating. They interview the local police who seem to ooze arrogance and over-confidence. The system supports them from the District Attorneys to the Judges to the members of the Klan who terrorize the local black population without retribution. The agents don’t agree on methods and the younger Dafoe makes limited progress with his standard ways. Hackman is more subtle, but they are both outsiders who are not respected nor supported by the locals on either side. Frances McDormand plays a local young woman who is a hairdresser and wife of the Deputy. It is interesting to note that only after a break in the stalemate of information is made, that action begins to take place on the FBI side. It is not a stretch to say that things in the South haven’t really changed all that much. Certainly the overt racism is not evident any longer, like the opening sequence where twin water fountains labeled White and Coloured are seen being used. But, there is still no equal rights. No equal treatment under the law. No government support (generally) within the institutions and voting rights which show signs of abating. If you haven’t watched this movie, it is definitely worth your time. The performances are universally excellent. Hackman has an ability to smile at the screen but you can seen an undercurrent of vengefulness. He and Dafoe both have raised eyebrows about their colleague and their methods. People now should reach out to see this movie before they go to see Rain Man.

May 24th, 2021 (Victoria Day)

I am a little late in writing since it was a long weekend here in Canada. I have been wrapped up in watching MLB, and the NHL playoffs that I haven’t watched a lot of films. I did manage to re-watch a couple.

Booksmart: I have reviewed this before, a year ago in May 25, 2020. In seeing it once again it was a perfect change of pace to have some laughs. It is high school drama, end of year shenanigans but funny and fun. It also has a heart where all these young people, who are each lost and insecure in their own way, find some direction after a night of celebration. There are the typical kids included with the athletes, the theatre types, the brainers and those in between. Relationships are tentative and uncertain. It was fun as the end of the school year approaches.

Bull Durham: In the category of movies I have watched long ago, but didn’t review when I had started conversing with Alison is Bull Durham. This 1988 baseball flick is another movie that is just fun. It is one of the best baseball movies ever made, in my opinion, and shows the trials of career minor leaguer catcher, Crash Davis (played by Kevin Costner) mentoring a young pitcher prospect, Nuke Laloosh, played by Tim Robbins. Davis teaches the immature pitcher the ins and outs of pitching and in life (with local ladies like Susan Sarandon). Robbins and Sarandon met in this film and later married and had kids. There are some classic scenes with Nuke pitching and the chatter on the baseball diamond. As I watch a young Jays baseball team, I think about some of the scenes, like Crash teaching Nuke about baseball clichés for interviews.

And who can forget this lesson in baseball when the pitcher has to trust in his catcher. Priceless the look on Robbins’ face as he sees ball exit the field “in a hurry!!!” Funny! This movie is as relevant today as when it was first released. The actors of course have all aged and moved on but it was a memorable addition to their collective body of work.

Mare of Easttown continues to be good and I am enjoying. Hope everyone enjoyed the long weekend and the glorious weather we had in Southern Ontario.

May 17th, 2021

First of all, I need to have a shout out to my Mom who celebrated her 80th birthday on the weekend. I owe so very much to her, over and above the obvious. She has been providing support, encouragement and love through all of my choices in life, both good and questionable. Happy Birthday, Mom! Many more to come! I look forward to more get-togethers and good times ahead as we hopefully can put this pandemic and Stay At Home Orders behind us.

A Private War: Some people it seems are just meant to do the job that they have chosen. Even when you chose a vocation that is extremely dangerous personally. In this case, being a war correspondent is the only thing that Marie Colvin an American and writer for the UK’s The Sunday Times seemed to be born to do. Even after losing her eye in a close explosion in a war zone, she continues on. She just has to “see it for herself”. She lives life hard, and is challenged with her personal life as well as with drinking and smoking. She was awarded numerous awards including the 2012 Foreign Reporter of the Year. In the movie she is played with an edge by Rosamund PIke. Jamie Dornan plays her photographer sidekick, and Tom Hollander her boss. She suffers from the things that she sees. The truth of war, with unpredictable actions and results fills each of her days abroad. But she can make a difference like when she is specifically selected to speak with Libyan Leader, Muammar Gaddafi. She doesn’t punch a clock. She doesn’t sit behind a desk. She is bringing perspective to people comfortable in their homes and proving the lies of leaders. Pike doesn’t sugar coat her subject, and shows her with flaws and all. We as the audience understand her, even though we can’t fully comprehend what drives her. It really is an addiction for her; to be involved, to put herself in obvious danger, to provide a human story to something that seems so foreign and abstract. When this was released in 2018, Pike got some Award consideration (including a Golden Globe nomination and American Film Award for Best Actress). It was justified. This isn’t easy to watch, especially some of the things that she uncovered. But it was informative and interesting. Well worth the view if you can find it.

Dark Skies: This is a 2013 horror, thriller, sci fi thriller which deals with a young family (husband, wife and two young boys) living in the suburbs. Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton play the couple. JK Simmons is the notable actor involved in the project. The story is well-trodden horror ground, where a young couple in a house begins to encounter strange occurrences, which start out innocently enough and then escalate. Off the top of my head, films like The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, The Entity and countless others have aspects in this. The couple has some money issues with Dad out of work. There are little hints dropped through out which points to some of their past. They eventually run into Simmons who explains what he believes that these disturbances are. I won’t divulge the details, but I don’t think that it’s really surprising to anyone. The last quarter of the movie focuses on the family’s approach to do what they can to protect themselves. There are better movies in this genre. This doesn’t really add anything to me. This can be found on Netflix.

Mare of Easttown: Kate Winslet stars in this series which is on Crave HBO. It started off slowly but has progressed well and has captured my attention. So far anyway. So I will continue to watch.