December 13, 2021

The Virtuoso: this is a typical hitman movie that stars Anthony Hopkins in the periphery. It stars Anson Mount in the title role with an otherwise forgettable supporting cast. I hadn’t seen Abbie Cornish since she played along side Russell Crowe in the 2006 A Good Year. This isn’t worth your time. I can readily say that. The story is fairly formulaic with the principal assassin being asked to take on a hit from a reclusive boss (Hopkins), but without being given much more than sketchy information. The assassin needs to figure it out and report back when the job is done. In this instance he needs to head to a small town. There he is given a time and place from which he must figure it out. Let the drama begin. I won’t delve further into the plot, because I would expect that a seasoned movie watcher will anticipate more than a few of the moves that take place. What may come as a surprise to some, won’t be for others. The acting was pedestrian for the most part. Hopkins gives one speech to the principal that tries to make this better than it is. Avoid it if you can.

The Way Back: Ben Affleck stars in what purports to be a basketball movie. In some ways it can mirror quite a bit from the much better 1986 Gene Hackman movie called Hoosiers. In that earlier story the disgraced coach is invited to a small Indiana town called Hickory that found itself coachless in a basketball crazed environment. He has a small team, and he works them hard. They come together. They learn and succeed. Hackman has a really good side story with the father of one of the players, who battles alcoholism, and another with a player that had the most skills. in this 2020 movie, Affleck plays a role that hits pretty close to his real life it would seem on the surface. I say that because the early part of the movie shows Affleck’s character working on a construction project with rebar, but dealing with an obvious alcohol problem. He drinks on the job, in the car and in his life. He is separated from his wife, and yet out of the blue he is called by his old high school looking for him to coach. Hackman’s disgrace was physically assaulting an active player in a game. Affleck’s character checked out as a superstar player for reasons that are explained later. Do I believe them? Not sure. For me, being offered a full scholarship at a top university would be the ticket away from parents (eg: if you live in LA, go to Villanova in Philadelphia or to Kentucky or Kansas). But I digress. Further details are revealed about his situation which are meant (I think) to tug at the heart strings, but they aren’t as effective. It feels like manipulation. This isn’t an uplifting story, quite the contrary. You would think that the title would suggest that there is redemption and to some extent it is there, but not in the way that you might anticipate. Again, this falls flat for me. I am not a big Affleck fan. This doesn’t change that fact at all. His is a character that struggles and can’t seem to turn a corner. Was there a feel good story for one of the young players? Yes, somewhat. In the end is it worth seeking out to see all the details for yourself? I can’t recommend it. There are other movies with coaches and sports involved that are more compelling and better all around.

Succession (Season 3): Sunday night was the last episode in Season three for the well reviewed and excellent Succession. The story of an older father figure, a media mogul worth his billions, with his senior staff and his children, who have their own challenges. Season 1 he had a health crisis. Season 2 there was the challenge by his second son Kendall. This season was a continuation of the Kendall challenges but also dealing with internal Board and adult child strife. The final episode was the wedding of the children’s mom, who had been divorced long ago to the father. Everyone descends to Tuscany in Italy for the wedding, all the while trying to put together a merger with a betting, online company on the rise from their newspaper and TV media empire. It is intriguing. Fun to watch. The writing is excellent throughout and despite the excessive use of profanity, it is clever and cutting. I laugh at least a couple of times an episode with what one of the characters say, usually Roman played by Kieran Culkin. Others chip in as well as the rats collectively turn on one another in a bid to try and get a step up on another of the rats. It’s all good fun as you can see how a group of adult children that could potentially be a formidable force if they chose to utilize their strengths and build a collective front seem incapable of working together and supporting one another. Logan Roy, the father, played expertly by Brian Cox shows time and again his resilience while navigating through the larger issues that seem never-ending for him. This was one of the best series of the past season. It is worth watching and binging.


November 29, 2021

Get Back: Peter Jackson a couple of years back did some work to take World War One film coverage and colour it, add sound and make it more relatable to today’s audiences and the result was the excellent They Shall Not Grow Old. He has turned his sites from New Zealand now into unseen raw coverage of a proposed documentary film for the Beatles in their writing new songs for what became the Let It Be album and the famous outdoor office roof performance from January 30th, 1969. I have not finished the series, three episodes and the first one is over two hours long. It chronicles the days leading up to the performance in early January 1969. I am forewarning viewers that this is a sizeable investment in time, watching the four members of the Beatles interact during rehearsals and early days. A couple of early observations: Paul seems to be the driving force to try and get the material completed, and come up with new ideas. His off-the-top guitar playing with rambling lyrics in a matter of minutes to ultimately begin the song Get Back is quite simply miraculous. I marvel at the creative process, and this is an excellent example of someone creating on the spot. I think generally Paul and John would work together on their own and bounce ideas off each other in their earlier days. Having a camera there to record everything is a little forced, but over time the guys tend to just be themselves. Some of the dialogue can be hard to hear and understand with the accents. Still it is compelling. I cannot see this early what Yoko Ono does on any level. She occupies a chair near John, but says nothing, sometimes reads or looks like she does some craft. She may have been emotional support for John, but creatively in this setting she does absolutely nothing. George is frustrated by this process, and you can see what eventually builds up to his departure from the band during this time. He is creative himself and talks about songs that he has developed but they all seem to be, in his words, much quieter songs. He seems angrier with Paul and he gripes about any show, and seems uneasy in his role as third wheel with Paul and John. He will “just play whatever [Paul] wants [him] to play”. Then Ringo is adding nothing creatively but has the daunting tasks of keeping up, and adding rhythm and beat for the songs being developed. John early on is fixated on working through the song “Don’t Let Me Down” and there is time spent trying to finalize that. For Beatles fans, this is a must see. For more casual fans, you can watch a creative process taking place in two weeks for writing an album that has iconic songs like Two of Us, Across the Universe, I’ve Got a Feeling, Long and Winding Road and of course Let It Be. Utterly remarkable.

Peter Jackson talks about John and Paul relationship – “how utterly painful this was for Paul”

Succession and The Crown: Discussion about how females are treated: I was re-watching the end of Season 3 of The Crown with the episode about the disintegration of Princess Margaret’s marriage to Anthony Armstrong-Jones but also the latest episode in Succession and the treatment of the women in these series. Margaret as the younger sister of Monarch Queen Elizabeth had plenty in her life impacted by the perceptions of how it will impact the Family and the Crown. She was unable to marry her true love Peter Townsend, who was divorced (because his wife cheated on him) because of the whole abdication of the Crown by Edward VIII. She has a tumultuous marriage with Mr Armstrong-Jones who openly is having an affair before the whole world, but no one seems to care about that, including her sister although she did encourage a reconciliation. But then Armstrong-Jones amazingly attacks Margaret for an affair with a younger man who has finally brought some happiness to her world. It seems her Family and her position will just not allow her to be happy. She wanted a meaningful role, in the same way that Phillip did and it just doesn’t come. The Queen is a strong character and develops into a force politically which many acknowledge in this third season, like Edward VIII himself when he was about to die. But Margaret is left to the sidelines to deal with her unfortunate station. In the latest episode in Season 3 of Succession, at Kendall’s birthday party, we see how Shiv is being turned aside in the family as Roman becomes more of the relied upon sibling to execute Dad’s wishes. Roman begins showing his true colours as he gains in confidence while Shiv becomes increasingly frustrated with her seemingly back seat role. Her husband, Tom, who has been fixated on his pre-determined path is given really good news, but he remains unable of moving forward. That marriage is an interesting one, and Shiv has seen her position relegated to secondary status. This season is fairly slow moving but it it brilliantly written with tremendous dialogue. Part of me thinks that the underlying premise is to explore how it seems first generations of wealthy families generate the money, and then the later generations fritter it all away. The story is not unlike the Vanderbilt story with Anderson Cooper just recently reviewed. But it is these female characters that in their time, Margaret was a completely different generation, while Shiv is more or less today, reveals that not much has changed for them and how they are viewed. Both women are extremely capable. Yet when the chips are down, it seems others are relied upon more directly. To be fair about Shiv, I don’t think that she did herself any favours by the events at the Shareholders Meeting. But ultimately we will see how it plays out. There are plenty of good things to be watching these days.

November 1st, 2021

Succession, Season 3: I have begun watching the latest installment of this dysfunctional family series. Dad is a media tycoon, and his children swirl around him like bees on a hive. He in Season1 had a health issue, that sent the kids scrambling. Then Season 2 had the one son end with a press conference that sent shock waves through the company. This season continues on with that story. I think that the writing here is brilliant, with the banter among the characters as first rate. Kieran Culkin (yes MacCauley’s brother) has some of the best lines as the wise cracking, do very little middle sibling. It’s fun. There is plenty of profanity, and it seems that they know very few words that aren’t profane at times. But there are some zingers. Each character is very different and not one of them is honest or willing to deal from the top of the deck with their Dad or each other. I will continue to watch.

Body Heat: When there are more obscure lists that are created about movies, Body Heat from 1981 with William Hurt and Kathleen Turner comes near the top in the category of “sweatiest movies”. Set in small town Florida, in the middle of a heat wave, the look and feel is one of steam rising from the buildings and streets. Characters cool themselves by standing in front of the refrigerator. The plot involves a sole practicing lawyer, who is not remarkable in any way professionally and is known by his friends as a guy who gets around. He sees the Kathleen Turner character at a local event, and chats her up. She quickly notes to him that she is married. But later in the same conversation is not so subtle in her interest in him. Played by Kathleen Turner, she dresses like she has seen Faye Dunaway in Network often.

Kathleen Turner felt 'objectified' by men after first big film role in Body  Heat - The Irish News
Kathleen Turner meets and speaks to lawyer William Hurt

As he learns more, she is married, but he husband is away a lot. She lives in a massive place nearby. She begins to drop hints about how lonely she is. Hurt is happy to step right in. The two then plot to have the husband killed and solicit the assistance of a known arsonist, played by a young Mickey Rourke. Things happen and Hurt soon suspects that he is being manipulated, with indications for the slain husband’s murder that some fingers start pointing to him. His buddies, the local District Attorney (played by Ted Danson) and police detective are worried about him. Things progress and unravel for Hurt’s character, and we see just how deep it had become. This is a well acted adult story, with the intrigue in the plot of just how the end result could be reached. There are good supporting cast members and the chemistry between Turner and Hurt, crucial for a film like this, is there. This is on Crave but can likely be found in other streaming services. Well worth checking out.

Wendy: This is a 2020 film take on the classic Peter Pan story. In truth, I am not much of a follower of the Peter Pan story, and yet I can think of a bunch of movies that revolve around it that I have seen. Movies such as Pan, Hook with Robin Williams and Julia Roberts, Neverland with Johnny Depp, the Disney animated version and others. Of that listing I like Neverland the best. This one seems more fantasy based, with a intriguing use of a train that transports the children to another land.

Montserrat's St Patrick's Festival rolls out the Red Carpet for 'Wendy |  Loop Cayman Islands
Peter Pan staying young forever

This interpretation wasn’t awful. The young actors playing the roles were very good throughout. Wendy herself played by Devin France is notably good. Beginning in a small diner, Wendy and her siblings are introduced. She has a Mom working hard to keep her customers satisfied, and she speaks about the children taking on this little business in time. The one boy has no interest in it and wants to be a pirate. One day after a quarrel with the adults, he strips off his pants and jumps on a passing train and disappears. After a time, Wendy and her twin brothers decide to take such a train themselves and meet up with a young black boy in a red jacket. Peter. Their adventure begins. There is backstory to explain Hook. There is further backstory to explain the lost boys. The young Wendy keeps your attention, and she is compelling. Still, I cannot recommend for those who aren’t avid Pan fans, if such a thing exists. Given the number of Pan related films there must be, and given the quality of the actors engaged in such projects. The underlying themes of staying young at heart, keeping active and avoiding the ruts of adulthood are well explored. Is it better to stay young forever while others around you are aging? Does aging necessarily mean that there is no more fun or adventure? Do the adults have to let their children go and lead their own lives, seek out their own dreams and place in the world? Time and again we have seen answers to these questions. Truthfully, I wouldn’t want to be a little kid all my life, but maybe it’s because it has those strings of being told what to do, and not independent and able to stand on your own. Even still. I may want the ability to fly, and more than just to believe that I can do it.

April 20th, 2020

More alone time.   More social distancing.   More voluntary self isolating (for the most part except once a week for groceries, a walk here and there) and doing more things in the condo.   Life is about balance, and being alone for me means not just watching TV, but rather puzzles, reading, music, and watching live safaris from South Africa.

If you are interested, check it out:

Now on to the movies and reviews.

The first movie was The Invisible Man, with Elizabeth Moss.   Now the Invisible Man story has been told before, more recently to my memory was with Kevin Bacon in Hollow Man.   This new addition is basically a re-telling of another similar story Sleeping With the Enemy with Julia Roberts.   It has a bit of a technological update but the basic structure remains.  A young woman, married to a narcissistic, controlling and abusive husband, seeks freedom away from him.   If you stop and think early on, the entire enterprise would be for not if she just avoids the family house pet, Zeus, but never mind.   There are bigger questions that will arise and leave the viewer pondering those instead.  But I won’t look to spoil them, but happy to discuss once viewers have seen this (if they choose to).   So the initial plan, doesn’t go as expected, and new measures need to take place.   Moss plays the fleeing wife, and choose to live with a male friend who is a cop, and his daughter.   She remains frightened.   There are little bits of other movies like The Entity and Terminator in this.  The story moves on and she must keep her sanity all the while trying to figure out the things that keep happening to her, and those she cares about.   Much like a Terminator, it is hard to explain that someone has become invisible and is a real threat, even when they begin to get mowed down like Sarah Connor’s keepers in her asylum.   By the end, it is just a mess.  There were a couple of jumps of surprise.  But I didn’t buy it, I saw where it was leading and I didn’t particularly care.   I wondered, if I had created this capability, would I be using it to try and be with a person who didn’t want to be with me?   Unlikely.   Money.  Power.  Everything likely would be possible.   But there it is.   I wouldn’t want to spend more time in this.

I followed that Moss mess with the black and white The Lighthouse with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, who has long since moved away from his role in Twilight.   Set in the US in a remote island where there is a lighthouse, surprise, surprise and these two men are relieving the previous workers.   They have a few weeks there before they are relieved.   The older Dafoe character looks and sounds like Captain Highliner.   He tells stories and bosses the younger lad around.   They eventually become closer over time as they learn about each other.  There are some surprising elements that impact the two players.   In truth this could be a play rather than a movie.   It is really a story of two men pushed to their mental and physical limits.   The real reason to watch this would be the cinematography and feel of it.  It is beautiful to look at, with realistic water, lighthouse, storms and seas.   Both actors are very good.  The story?   Meh.   It takes a long time to tell and really isn’t all that satisfying.

I finally finished the second season of Succession.   The first season was okay, as the primary thread was the health issue of the patriarch of the family (a media magnet worth billions and his children, and spouse, exes, and extended family).   Season 2 was better for me.   It had the intrigued of a corporate acquisition, as well as a government investigation.   It is remarkable to watch how dysfunctional this family is.   Each member has their own challenges.  Seeing how they interact with the father and each other is fun.   There will be a Season 3 and I will look forward to it.   The cast is good and plays their parts well.   Kieran Culkin is particularly seedy.   I wouldn’t want to have dinner with them, but I wouldn’t mind sharing the yacht and location from the last episode.

Bombshell outlines another in a line of ugly men in powerful positions, who abuse their power to extract sexual favours from female employees, typically who are ambitious and wish to get ahead or have an opportunity.  It’s not Harvey Weinstein at Miramax and film this time.  This time it is at Fox News, and there are real time anchors like Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson, played by Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman.  Roger Ailes is the real life TV news mogul who is played by John Lithgow.   Between this role and playing Winston Churchill in The Crown, Lithgow must be used to wearing fat suits.  The Ailes story has also been put on TV with Russell Crowe playing the unsavoury Ailes.  He won a Golden Globe for the performance (The Loudest Voice).   In short, Ailes is the news director for the successful Fox News where the environment is one where they are garnering viewership by putting anchors in short tight skirts behind glass tables.   The news room makes a billion dollars a year for owner Rupert Murdoch.   Incidentally, this is not a new formula and women have been objectified here and elsewhere (Entertainment Tonight famously with Mary Hart, TSN, ESPN, CITY and countless other channels).   What separates out Fox with Ailes is his looking for “loyal” team members, read ones who won’t talk about his sexual advances.  His saying “if you want to get ahead, you have to give head” tells the story really.   Ailes was able to isolate his victims, ensuring their silence but also had them move ahead.  WHat he could give, he could also take away.   A young employee played by Margot Robbie becomes the target of his affections.   She later is approached by star anchor, Kelly and they have an interesting exchange.   There is a sea of quiet in these situations and many are to blame.   The enablers, assistants, people who know year after year who don’t want to know what is happening.   They could be whistle blowers.   The women/victim themselves, even after the Kidman character (Carlson) makes the lawsuit known, were avoiding her and outright aggressive against her (the wearing of pro-Roger tee-shirts in the office was telling).   Of course it goes without saying that the men involved must know better.  The other anchors who also participated (say Bill O’Reilly) require greater character.  They all have mothers and many should have daughters.   And what about Ailes’ wife?   Roger Ailes was dismissed from his position in July 2016 at 76 years old.   He died May 2017, less than a year later.   Sadly he never had any jail time, and the settlement given ($20M to Carlson alone) was covered by Fox and not him personally.   This was a good movie and interesting with good performances.   It gets wrapped up in political bashing, but this is to be expected with the Kelly and Donald Trump feud.    But it is worth checking out.

March 2, 2020

A couple of years back I went to see Gordon Lightfoot live at Massey Hall, amongst the group with me was my brother.  He is more of the music guy in the family, and he was always a fan of Gordon.  He also plays guitar too which likely gives him a better appreciation for the skill of the Canadian icon.   I watched upon suggestion the CBC documentary from 2019 Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind.  I found out a number of things; I didn’t know Gordon was from Orillia.   I also hadn’t realized how many people covered his songs, including Elvis.

Yea, I didn’t know!  This is a story of his life, and I hadn’t realized just how big he was.  He had it all.  Talent, looks, voice.   He wrote all his own music and did it in solitude.  No collaborators.    He wrote many songs that just drip Canadiana, like the Edmund Fitzgerald.   Beyond not realizing how incredibly famous he was, I also didn’t know his personal life.  The parties in his Rosedale house.   His numerous loves and failed marriages (three wives).  He has six children, and despite a couple pics of them in the show, none of them appeared to talk about their Dad.   I remember after the concert thinking, he doesn’t really have a voice anymore.  I wonder why an 80yo guy is touring, especially after he had a radio story come out a few years back that he was dead.   But why tour?    He didn’t talk about it.  Here is a guy who has played with everyone, knows everyone, written songs that many have sung, been awarded 16 Juno awards and waited until Bob Dylan himself inducted him into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.  I wish I had seen him in his heyday, but instead it remains a memorable night with good people for which I can blog about years later.

I re-watched the fun music movie The Commitments from 1991.  If you see a trend here, it is another movie set in Dublin (like Leap Year earlier in the year).   I am reminiscing about my trip last May to Ireland with great affection.   Anyway, this is a movie about a group of young people organized by an outgoing young man, who puts together a musical group to play soul.  Soul to him is the music of the common people, the blue collar.  He sees an opportunity.  He starts gathering talent and they come together, just not entirely.   They have a cast of characters including three young ladies, The Commitment-ettes!   It’s good fun, with a really good soundtrack that sold well in the 90s.   An interesting note that the one guitar playing bandmate who looks a little like the lead singer of Simply Red is the guy who wrote and starred in Once, another Dublin based musical story, well worth your time.  He has less hair, and more experienced, but still tells a compelling story.  Two quality films that he has been a part of.

Sunday I I ended up re-watching Starship Troopers from back in 1997.  It starred Denise Richards and Caspar Van Dien along with supporting cast like Neil Patrick Harris, Michael Ironside (Top Gun)  and Clancy Brown (Shawshank).  It is a group of young people set in the future who are looking to fight aliens attacking humans.  The aliens are bugs of various kinds and abilities and they are tough to kill.   It is all campy fun, with a TV News-type intro with clips no one would see at least today, or back in 1997.   There is graphic violence and some nudity all of which was meant for the target audience of teenagers back in the day.   It is pure entertainment and not meant to be taken seriously.  But it can be fun escapism for those looking for sci-fi based two hours to kill (so to speak).

Finally I watched the last episode of Season 1 for Succession.     Season 1 has 10 episodes.   It’s basic premise is a rich older media mogul, played by Brian Cox is head of a mega-corporation and he has a health issue.   The question surrounds whether he will survive and his children (and others close by) scramble trying to deal with the fallout.   There is a good cast, and you learn about the various children and how the figurehead views them.   People with money have challenges, just money isn’t one of them.  It doesn’t make them any less problematic for them.  Who is going to succeed the father?  What to do when the stock price plummets, and no direction from him?   How do adult children act around a patriarch, as well as amongst themselves.   Season Two this year won the Golden Globe.   I will continue to watch.  In a day where there is so much content out there, this is a place – now that Game of Thrones has passed – that you can see some intrigue.   No guns.   No blowing up things really, and more drama.  I can offer that the resolution wihin the final episode was a bit of a letdown.   I didn’t see the need to go there, but I guess it helped set up some of Season 2.  I will watch and find out.   I keep being told that Season 2 is better.