March 23, 2020 – Corona Strikes with Vengeance

I am in Corona/COVID-19 based 14-day self quarantine, having visited the US for March Break over the last week.   The world has been turned upside down.  The epicentre of this virus is now in Italy, with Spain quickly following.  France and Germany are next.   The US is only now realizing how ill prepared they were for all of this.  On Netflix, the movie Contagion seems to be the most popular.  Why people choose to want to watch a movie about what they are living in real time surprises me.  This is unprecedented.  On Saturday I flew through Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world.   It was a ghost town as I walked from one gate to another.   Like being in one of those zombie movies which I don’t care to watch.


I have been to O’Hare on a number of occasions, and it has never been like this.

At home, there is plenty of time to watch programs – too much time in fact, and i am limiting the screen time each day.   We are finding other things to do like puzzles and play games etc.   We will read more.   On the screen, we finished watching the new Stephen King series on HBO called The Outsider.   Finally finished I have to admit that I wasn’t as satisfied with the final few episodes.   It became all too much Stephen King-ish to borrow a phrase.   I was a King reader until I read Tommyknockers.   Then that prolonged book which accomplished nothing was a total lunchbag letdown.  Suffice it to say, as soon as aliens showed up, then I was checked out.

For The Outsider, I think that the performances were quite good all around.  The acting, the script etc was good.   It was overly long.  It didn’t need to be 10 hours.   it is more a traditional movie length which would work.   In the end, I wish this was shorter.  I also wish that the resolution wouldn’t be like the alien solution to Tommyknockers.   It seems like a cop out.   There is a moment when various characters go in to disbelief, and would echo much of how the audience is feeling.   I won’t describe it further.   But still, watch at your own risk.  You may love King and Tommyknockers.   You may feel he is at the top of his game, or you could be like me and feel that the aging King is selling out to the formats of overly long stories from streaming services desperate for content.

The other movie we saw this past weekend was the Tom Cruise classic Risky Business with Rebecca DeMornay.   My youngest had never seen this before.   I was about his age when I first saw it in the theatre.   As a high school teen, it had all that I ever wanted (action, swearing, naked girls and a Porsche).   It showed the fantasy of the teenager with parents leaving house (and Porsche) at home while he finishes up high school.   This was the star vehicle for Cruise, where he had begun in supporting roles in Taps with Timothy Hutton and then The Outsiders (ironically) with C Thomas Howell and Patrick Swayze but this was him as the star.   His scene with Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll playing and Cruise dancing in his collared shirt and underwear is famous.   The overall premise is teenage dreams, as outlined, but the acting is good and the ultimate place where it lands is fun and unexpected.   Tom flashes his winning smile and shows the angst of the time about getting into College and trying to make something of your life, as well as the general feeling that the “kids of the day” only cared about making money, and not worried about doing something for their fellow man.   There is the preppy waredrobe from Tom, complete with dock siders and bright coloured sweaters.   The 928 is a cool car.   I took a picture of one from the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart back in 2018.   This movie was 1983.   Cruise went on to do All the Right Moves, Legend and then Top Gun in 1986!!!IMG_4105



March 9th, 2020

I had forgotten that I had seen the movie, Kid Who Would Be King with youngest son two weeks ago.   We had decided just to put in on Crave.   This was in between catching The Outsider.   Now how had I missed this when it includes Rebecca Ferguson, of Mission Impossible fame and The White Queen, I just won’t know.  A silly oversight, although if you watch this movie for her you will wish for more screen time.   The story is a young man (played by Louis Ashbourne Serkis – and yes, related to Andy Serkis from LOTR, King Kong, Planet of the Apes etc).   He is good.   He is a general outcast in school.  He stumbles upon a sword which happens to be excalibur.   He manages to free the sword in modern times.  What do you do now?   The question is answered quickly as the dormant Morgana is looking to return to earth and dominate once again.  This heads down a relatively predictable path.  I have to say that I enjoyed this more than I had expected.    The age-old discussion about expectations can be inserted here.   Would I have enjoyed it less if I expected a snap bang, rousing King Arthur story?  Likely so.   Instead I got what I felt would be young teen mush, and was pleasantly surprised.   The young cast does a decent job, the effects are okay.

As for The Outsider, I will state up front that I haven’t finished Season 1 yet.   The early trailers for this season was for the Jason Bateman fans who liked Ozark.   Here he is on a baseball field as a coach and accused of murdering a young elementary aged child.    It has some twists and turns and becomes more a story about the police who are trying to figure out the killer.   There are logical steps that don’t compute, but the cast plays it straight as they must.  Ben Mendolsohn, known by me for generally being a bad guy in movies like Rogue One or Ready Player One.   He and his wife are struggling as are many of the various characters in this tale.   Things happen and there is a left turn which kind of lost me, I have to admit, but a feeling that is echoed by some of the characters.   Still, as we get to focus more on the Private Investigator, played by Cynthia Erivo, it is more compelling.  I can see a series with her in the possible future.   But we will see if that happens.   I will finish this, but for me, much like the book Tommyknockers, Stephen King can lose me when he takes these left turns (some of which you see coming at you like a car with high beams in the opposite lane on a flat backroad).   I’ll let you decide if the end is worth the journey as I watch along too.  Oh, and in looking it up, Cynthia Erivo got an Oscar nomination for Harriet this past year, and she was also in Widows.   No wonder why I am liking her.  I haven’t seen Harriet but I will need to check it out.

February 10th, 2020 – Oscars

This week I managed to get to see the final Best Picture nominated film on the listing for me.  JoJo Rabbit is on the face of it a silly title and the movie poster with the pictures of Hitler and the swastikas with more a vaudeville feel didn’t really make me want to see this.   Alison though had encouraged that this was still worth seeing.   So I ended up taking my youngest son to go see it.  We both enjoyed it.

The premise is a simple one, with a young boy living with his mother (played well by the nominated Scarlett Johansson) in Nazi Germany in the mid 1940s when the war had turned and things weren’t looking as rosy for the Third Reich.   JoJo is a 10yo boy who is a Nazi through and through.   He has a fascination with Hitler, and Hitler comes to him and speaks to him directly in his imagination.    He attends a Hitler Youth Camp, and does other things expected of young boys of his age.   He isn’t popular with few friends.   His mother seems to be quite busy, but he doesn’t seem to know with what.   She is more a free spirit and looks ahead to days when the war is over.    Things happen and I won’t delve further into the plot.   Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson play supporting roles as Nazis, and Rockwell in particular is very good.   Taika Waititi who is the writer, director also plays the flamboyant and moody Hitler.  The find in all of this is the young boy Roman Griffin Davis who is excellent.  He shows the naivete that one can expect from a 10yo, who lives in a very black and white world, filled with winners and losers.  But someone who realizes over time that there are elements of grey that creep in and shape his life.  There are moments that are funny, with a couple good laughs and others that are more serious, as it should be considering the subject matter.   The title although appropriate for me takes away from quality of the movie itself.   Like Ford v Ferrari we both enjoyed this film and would encourage others to see it.  I don’t think it will win the Best Picture but that shouldn’t take away from the enjoyment.

I finished Season 3 of The Crown on Netflix.   There were a couple episodes that were slower for me and not as engaging, however overall I liked this Season a great deal.   When I saw the nominations for Golden Globe for Tobias Menzies, playing Prince Philip, I wondered about it, as I have to admit that I wasn’t overly impressed with his character in Outlander,  for which I had only seen a few episodes.   His episode with his mother was very good, and there is a sequence in the Moon Dust episode where he speaks with priests that I found to be powerful.   He brings some sympathy to a guy who generally comes off as a pompous entitled ass.    I didn’t warm to Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret after the marvelous Vanessa Kirby played her when she was younger.    Olivia Colman too didn’t measure up as well as Claire Foy who was simply excellent.   Yet the young man who played Charles was very good.  Throughout the season you can see how the Windsor family, and principally the Queen Mother played crucial roles in shaping the lives of the younger generation, which is especially true of the young Charles.     The Queen gets somewhat of a pass in manipulating the young future King.   But the foundations are there as you see his relationship not only with Camilla (who was frowned upon by Philip and Queen Mother) but his connection with former King Edward VIII.   How much of this is accurate is unknown by me.  I suspect the Royal family may watch, and I would expect in the least the Harry and Meaghan have seen it to learn something.    It is well acted and well done overall.   Worth the time spent.

Finally I was encouraged to watch Stephen King’s The Outsider on Crave.  It is a psychological thriller and begins with a gruesome murder scene of a young boy.  A local teacher who coaches the baseball team (played by Jason Bateman) is the teacher.   It seems to be a relatively open and shut case, with witnesses and obvious camera footage.   But then cracks appear in the case, and it becomes more and more confusing.  The story moves forward.  I will let it unfold as I have only watched three episodes.   So far I am engaged.   We’ll see where this goes.

For the Oscar awards themselves, I first want to recognize and salute my brother Scott who won the Oscar pool.   In a year that was “off script” in many ways he came through and won this year.   We had 11 participants and Alison came in second, just one point behind Scott.   It’s fun to watch how it unfolds, where in a case like this year, someone rightly guessing which Animated Short wins, decides who wins the pool.   Well done.

History was made last night as Parasite dominated the big awards, with Best Director and Best Film, along with Best Foreign Film.   In total four awards.   What distinguishes this film, which I will note is NOT for everybody, from a quality film in the past couple years like Burning, or Shoplifters.   But never mind, I think it is a good idea that world cinema get acknowledged and that subtitled films do get more love.   Congrats to all those involved in Parasite and bringing it forward.

The acting categories to me were pretty much decided long ago without much debate.   Now after seeing JoJo Rabbit I think that Scarlett Johansson deserved the win, but maybe that comes from me not wanting the portrayal of a blood-sucking family lawyer getting the nod.   I think Laura Dern wins because more people can relate to that and feel that pain.   Brad Pitt was really good, and he made that movie better than it was.   The unfortunate thing for me about last night was having to listen to the Best Actors on stage deliver painful, elongated nonsense.   We heard them at the Golden Globes blather on both Jacquin Phoenix and Renee Zellwegger.   Then with an Oscar in their hands they do the same thing; Phoenix especially who if you note, thanked no one.   No one.    He spouts off about why do humans get to decide what happens on this planet and take baby cows from screaming mothers.   Oh my!!   Stop!   The short answer is, Buddy, top of the food chain.   Full stop.   But if it really is such a concern of yours, do feel free to give away all your millions to buy some cow sanctuaries.   A cow hotel and resort perhaps.   I would make it my personal mission as a member of the Academy to ensure that you never had that platform again.   Some may say, well Marlon Brando was just as eccentric.   He was.   But then he stopped showing up!    Perfect!   Zellwegger who was delivering words, but whose face never moved was at least a little more humble.   Still, I don’t want to listen to you, in a movie I have no interest in seeing.   By all accounts, it’s dreadfully dull.   Other movies like 1917, and JoJo and Ford v Ferrari all got some Oscar love.   In the end, it really wasn’t that strong a year.   No films really stand out, and I think this will be a year that will fade away into the memory banks like 1956 28th Academy Awards (I’ll let you look it up!).   You search back through the years, there is usually one or two standout films that stand the test of time (and don’t always win the awards).   But this year is done, and we can move on.    I’ll be back next year with another contest and hope we have some memorable films then to talk about.