Sunday, November 17, 2019

Movie review catchup from the end of 2017 to the end of 2018

It's again been too long since I collected my reviews together.  Unfortunately I don't have the patience to include poster images and links - sorry. I made the recommendations in larger font, and dropped the bad ones to a small font.

Paddington - lots of fun. Silliness all around - good clean family fun. 7/10.

Collateral Beauty - SPOILER - I got sucked into this one big time.  Massive star cast, clever plot, just enough mystery balanced with sentimentality and spirit.  Nice (spoiler) ending I didn't see coming.  Decent viewer rating but horrible critic rating isn't fair.  7/10

Blackkklansman - superb filmmaking - pure Spike Lee magic for the dialog, the pacing, the balance of high drama and uncomfortable? comedy. Rock solid ending and shock of the reality of 2018. Perfect Soundtrack and rich production.  Important entertainment. 9/10

Get Out - not the horror you're thinking.  Scarier on a diff level. "Sinking into the floor" was pretty disturbing - but why didn't it stick?   Watching the extras it made sense - Rosemary's Baby shit.  Had to buy it for CAD$14.99, but it was worth it.   Not even close to what I was expecting.   But so well done.  Wrong, weird and scary in many ways - very odd pseudo-plot, but it worked.   Solid, creepy acting all around.  Simple in some ways, even a little humour, but I should have seen it coming if only I'd read more about the project.  The plot development was rather odd and I couldn't tell if it was deliberate or whether I was just watching it wrong.  8/10 

A Hologram for the King - a very odd movie. But somehow it worked for me.  Maybe the exotic location, the mystery, the always charming Hanks, the beautiful romantic interest, whatever - I found it quite entertaining.   Far from a solid recommendation, but would like to know what others think of it.

Secret Life of Pets - mildly entertaining, cute and silly.  Odd animal combinations, some good voice acting choices.   Is it fair to say the plot was all over the place - kind of like if a dog wrote it.  6/10

Ender's Game - really liked it.  I remember my son seeing it at the movies years ago.  And an old friend had recommended the book once.   Relatively simple premise that has some nuance and creates some creative opportunities.  Felt young and fresh, but had some good weight enhanced by some amazing visual effects.  Very entertaining if you approach it with the wonder of a kid reading some good Sci-Fi.  7/10

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool - unsure if it was true, but a lovely story regardless. Superb, believable performance by Benning (are the ages similar?).  A simple story of love,  well set and told.  Solid production. Beautiful track from Elvis Costello for the closing credits.  

Deadpool 2 - extremely gruesome, but tons of Gosling humour with a "u".   Mid credits scene went a bit too quick to unravel the cleverness.  Poetry with vulgarity.   Decent play with room for follow on possibilities I assume.  8/10

Gaga: Five Foot Two - I can't say I'm of a fan of her music, although I did enjoy her performance in A Star is Born, but I really enjoyed this movie. The filmmaking was spot on even though the audio wasn't perfect in some scenes (maybe should have used the subtitles trick they used later on the movie).  She is no doubt a massive talent, brilliant with publicity and a solid actor - so I wondered at times whether I was being played.  But I have to give her the benefit of the doubt and commend her on her openness and vulnerability captured in the film. 8/10

Like Father - pretty bad in a filmmaking kind of way, but pretty entertaining.  Awful acting except Grammer who I really don't like (but he wasn't there, in a good way, I bought into his character, but not much else).  Shakey camera work and horrid transitions.  Exotic locales - not really, with on-board easy bits and one glamour bit, but otherwise, low budget.  So, in summary, fun, entertaining, light, cute and a solid performance by Kelsey Grammer.  7/10

The Hollars - perfect balance of serious family matters with the humour of life's moments and characters.  Great soundtrack.  Loaded with top talent.   But a simple story made entertaining. 

To All the Boys I've Loved Before - I saw a solid review and gave it a try - very good.  If you miss the John Hughes movies of the 80's you'll love it if you can tolerate a little modern teenishness.  Solid acting, interesting characters, creative camera angles and compositions, fresh soundtrack.  Very enjoyable and entertaining.  7/10

The Zookeeper's Wife - Chaston was hardly recognizable with the thick polish accent and WW2 setting - so the characterization was truly believable for a "base on" true story.  Even with IMDB help, I can't remember where I've seen Johan Heldenbergh before, but superb acting.  Very heavy WW2 Poland drama, but another amazing story of defiance in the war years.  Thought the Daniel Brühl storyline could have been better (just reminded of his role in Rush via IMDB). Loved the opening scene with the zoo animals, but hard to watch as many met a senseless end.  Enjoyable, but pretty heavy.  6/10

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - charming with an important historical thread.  Perhaps a little melodramatic at times, but thoroughly enjoyable.  Stacked with super British acting talent and luscious scenery make for a wonderful recipe of a movie.  7/10

Mission Impossible: Fallout - superb action start to finish.  Perhaps the best motorcycle -chase ever and the bathroom fight scene was out-of-this-world.  Massive save the earth plot, exotic locations, a little humour and thankfully only a little romance.  High entertainment value 8/10

Downsizing - very disappointed.  Trailer was very deceiving in many ways.  Film had some depth, but had horrible flow and felt like 3 or 4 completely separate acts.  Waltz was a scene stealer as usual and one of the very few bright spots.  5/10

Ready Player One - very, very cool adaptation of a very, very good book that lived up to the hype.  Now I have to see it on a screen bigger than the Air Canada seat back to catch more of the many, many references to gaming and pop culture. Lots of action, humour and action. It's a keeper. Oh, to be part part of the gaming and VR world - wait a second, I know someone... 7/10

Brad's Status - felt similar to other Stiller melancholy roles.  Very uncomfortable at times with extreme emotions, but enough to relate to and think about. Well structured and acted. Ending was a let down so only giving this a 6/10.  And not really any likable characters.  

Liar Liar - very silly and very funny.  Get in line for the Carey coaster you won't be disappointed.  A role obviously written for him and then some.  Lots of LOLs and even a few unexpected bits.  Thoroughly entertaining if you're in his fan club.   7/10

The Post - wow, what a ride.   But it's hard to watch in the context of what is happening today.   I'm sure there was a little stretch, but still a vital story to tell and a part of history to remember.  What is important to teach, to know and to protect ?  It connects a little with my visit to the Canadian Human Rights Museum today.   But I also couldn't help thinking of Harari's writing about the "myths" across the history of humankind and rights we have given ourselves.  Jesse Plemons brilliant again!  Triggered by The Post: Is my job important?   No.   Is it valuable?  Yes

Game Night - really silly but really funny.   McAdams and Bateman were a superb comic pairing.   Quite a few LOL moments, incl. The squeaky toy, Bastion and blood and Gary. Panic rewind/ forwardwind on dodgy Air Canada touchscreen to see post-credit cameo ?  7/10.  Jesse Plemons brilliant again!

Suburbicon - Ah, the Coen brothers - makes sense now. Shakespeare meets Norman Rockwell meets Quentin Tarantino. Very, very dark.  Wow.   Off the rails stuff. Oscar Isaac was my fave.  Was there a laugh possibly in the making ?  Baffled by the poor reviews.  I thought it was brilliant. 8/10

Danny Collins - this one came highly recommended by my Mom.  I think I can see why, but not what I was expecting.  Pretty heavy at times and pretty inappropriate on occasions, but a solid Pacino performance and a decent plot and strong supporting cast.  Couldn't really buy into the odd premise, but altogether worthy entertainment minutes.

Ibiza - Low expectations, but it was actually worse.  Really stupid, mildly humorous, fun dance music was about only good thing going for it.  Inappropriate in many ways.   4/10

Concussion - Smith was superb as usual, and it is an important story to tell, but I'm a little confused on the impact today, is there mass denial on the problem ?    Unsure of the personal subplot weight.   He must be a very interesting man to meet.

The Titan - Decent premise, but plot rather drawn out amongst limited budget sets.   Some cool fx and makeup, but another sign of Netflix maybe trying too hard.   6/10 

Manhunt: Unabomber - I recently listened to a SYSK podcast episode about the Unabomber and I became quite fascinated by the story.   I then found the Netflix mini series - Manhunt: Unabomber.   Really well done throughout the twists and turns and the two part delivery.  A multi-faceted tragedy that has its base in the controversial ideas of Ted Kaczynski not sounding crazy.  Like meaningful and high quality art from a vile monster - should insightful and perhaps valuable hypotheses from a serial killer be completely ignored or destroyed ?  Some may find the answer to that question easy, but I don't think it's easy at all.  Sometimes it takes extraordinary events and hidden figures with frightening possibilities and uncomfortable realities for us to truly understand why it matters, who we are and what is next.

Anon - decent, current premise and very stylish (even though it followed the stark, dark future setting of other imagery).   Wastefully slow at times with riddle verbiage.   Plot navigates to expected corners, but still leaves gaping holes that aren't worth the effort of thinking through.  6/10 

Fish People - Wonderfully filmed stories of people who's lives centre on the ocean.   Although I'm not a great swimmer, a failed surfer and a silly bugger in the waves, I am drown to the ocean.  And this film drew me in even further, especially the surfers and photography.   I can almost smell and taste that sea water.    7/10 

Coherence - great find on Netflix.  Must see for anyone who finds quantum theory highly entertaining.  Low budget indy film that does a tremendous job of exploring the impossibilities? of coherence and demonstrating the fun you can have thinking about Schrödinger's cat.  Solid acting, all the twists you'd expect, find-your-way bread crumbs, heavy dramatic scenes and a little nuttiness.  Brilliant.  Highly recommended for nerds.  8/10

In Search of Fellini - I don't recall exactly how I found this film just a short while ago, but it looked like a light, pleasant tale that included some beautiful Italian settings and an interesting arty plot.  I was right with the settings, but this film delivered quite the punch just as it very likely planned to align with the beauty, but also the dramatic content of Fellini's films.  I'm far from an expert on Fellini and I've only glimpsed a few scenes over the years, but I think I understand the stature of his work.  So if the emotions conjured up by this little modern gem is similar to that of the maestro, I should try have a deeper look at Fellini's work.  So, I was rather surprised and taken aback a few times with the seriousness, fear and emotional weight of some of the scenes in this film.  Many other scenes were almost pure art form and created quite the ball of confusion.  What was she really experiencing and seeing?  And how could the opening message of "Inspired by a almost true story" be true?  In IMDB, it says that the film was inspired by a real adventure taken by co-writer Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson. I'm going to rate this is solid 7 or possibly an 8 for the simple reason I think I want to watch it again.  It was beautiful, sad, sexy, scary, joyful, hopeful.  It was a real rollercoaster of a ride.  But it's not for everyone, maybe not an enjoyable ride for many people.  But I liked it, a lot.  7/10

Steve Jobs - watching this epic tech tale on the way to SFO.  I'm writing this on an iPhone. The same week I upgraded my oldest iMac and brought my even older MacBook back to life.  Wondering how many people on this flight may have met Jobs or are working for Apple today.   Painful to watch at times. Especially with his daughter and Waz. Hadn't heard about his father.  Hope he did really make it up with Lisa and maybe even Waz.  Great acting - performances that for the most part allows you to be engrossed in the story.  Perhaps Rogan couldn't quite pull it off. A must for tech historians. Entertaining for business stories on film.  7/10 

The Danish Girl - mesmerizing.  You know when you're fully invested in the characters on screen and you forget the actor - well, that was one of those.  Redmayne was brilliant and thought he should have perhaps won the oscar (Dicaprio won it for The Revenant).  Incredible portrayal of not just another person, but of another gender.  Tragic, but beautiful in many ways.  Perfect timing for an important story as more people face sexual orientation challenges.  I'm not certain if it's me, but I'm rarely tricked into seeing only a woman that is/was once a man - even pretty Eddie.   8/10
The Shape of Water - beautiful.  But also violent and gruesome and with a sinister villain. But mostly beautiful.  Requires a suspension of disbelief - but a good movie should be able to do that for a willing audience.   Mesmerizing sets and production values, natural portrayals in world of fantasy just works beautifully.   Did I say it was beautiful.  Well, not in a traditional sense at all, but in a way that shouldn't work.  Only Del Toro could envision such a story, bring it to life and not make appear comical - genius. But you're got to believe.   You need the desire to be out in a spell for 150 minutes. 9/10

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - this was a same-day; just-in-time for the Oscars decision.   Wow, wonderful film with so much to enjoy.  The movie making was simply superb, top draw acting, substantive plot, perfectly set music, dark comedic bits and really complex characters.   9/10.  Now on to the second bill. 

The Trip to Spain - gorgeous scenery and food cinematography once again.  Some repeat imitations, but lots of superb and oftentimes hilarious new ones.  A little edgy at times and a heavy portion of melancholy.  Thoroughly entertaining. 7/10

American Made - spoiler ahead.  I'm sure there were some embellishments, but still an incredible story of a gung-ho American man caught in the middle of US meddling in Central America with the contras and drug lords.   Cruise seemed perfect for the role - I could almost believe how he survived as long as he did.   Very entertaining story of Barry Seal.  8/10. Re-watched more recently with my mom and dad and they loved it too.

The Cloverfield Paradox - a very messy plot with tons of holes, but kind of entertaining for the fx and the tickle of the sci-fi premise.   Trying hard to connect the 2 previous movies, but it's quite a stretch.   A mess really. 5/10   

Bright - Very odd everything.  Way too much violence completed obscured the nutty plot.  However, Smith somehow held it together with his Ork sidekick.  Buddy movie meets MIB ? crossed with gangs of NY !  Mildly entertaining. 6/10

Jumanji - Welcome to the Jungle - Enjoyed watching it with my kids - fun in an Indiana Jones kind of way.   Great cast delivered some pretty fun lines and worked well together.  Liked the game premise and talking to my son about game elements.   Entertaining. 7/10  

Wind River - I didn't realize that the US has similar problems with missing indigenous woman like we have in Canada (MNW...).   This came highly recommended by the brother and it didn't disappoint.  Solid performance by Renner and the supporting cast.   It's perhaps too easy to think stories like this are exaggerated and rare - a tragic tale like many that should be told, but sad to think our modern world can be so horrible.   Lovely bits of emotion and scenery with too real bloodshed.   9/10   

Atomic Blonde - viewed over 2 AC flights a few weeks apart - consequently I can't say much about the plot - but I 
don't think that's a big loss.   Stylish action, a little bit of a historical setting, superb 80's soundtrack and incredible stunt fuelled action.   7/10

Life - mission accomplished.   Incredibly intense and scary alien monster and survival adventure.  Sweaty palms throughout, a few science plot questionables; but FX won out.   Thorough adrenaline ride.  9/10 

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Take a Breath

If we were to time travel, what would we learn?

Simple. From a trip to the past, we’d probably realize how great life is now. From a trip to the future, we wouldn’t have all we love today.

So choose to be happy right here right now. And share that happiness. Or do we always need to empathize with those having more challenges than us. Is it their own doing or are they truly victims of the bad things life throws at us?

Take a breath. Look around. Enjoy the taste and aromas. The touch of material matters. And the sound of music or laughter (or the witty dance of clever dialog).

How much is distracting us? Can it be ignored? A lot and not easily.

That's perhaps why we seek to create perfection around us. We want the purest of views, the most luxurious of fibres, deliciousness in every sip and bite and fragrances that relax or conjure memories. And of course an audio soundtrack that matches our new delight in the new everyday.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Movie review catchup from somewhere in 2016 to the end of 2017

It's been way, way too long since I collected my reviews together, but unfortunately I don't have the patience to include poster images and links - sorry. I made the recommendations in larger font, and dropped the bad ones to a small font.

Logan - Very, very bloody but a simple plot and decent acting made for a good ride even for non-superhero fans.

The Circle - Much better than I expected, but pretty weak ending. I read the book a while ago and I don'k think the movie ending matched the book. Solid premise, but screenplay lacked real depth. But still, quite entertaining.

Gerald's Game - Wow, not what I expected, but I should have paid attention to the most important credit - based on a Stephen King book. Brought back uneasy memories of Misery. Simple, but disturbing plot with a few easy twists, but there's much more to this one. Superb acting and tension throughout, very effective and creative mind game scenes. 8/10

Cure for Wellness - Great visuals, good doses of tension, but an uneasy plot. Very creepy in a predictable manner. Some pretty disturbing bits were well crafted, but overall I didn't buy it. 6/10.

The Founder - Enjoyed the McDonalds business story, and Keaton was superb in his role as "the founder". First half was nice and light with some good bits of humour, but the second half showed the uglier side of business and Kroc especially.

Other Life - Stumbled on this one while browsing Netflix. I did a quick review drive-by over on IMDB and liked what I saw, especially the reference to Black Mirror. Not as low budget as mentioned in reviews, and it came with quite the punch. Solid concept, decent acting and action, but most importantly, sci-fi content that makes you think.. A few predictable gimics, but very entertaining. 8/10

Bladerunner 2049 - Wonderful continuation of the original with many moody scene similarities. Stunning visuals and FX. Plot took some nice turns and left lots for afterthought. Superb casting - loved Mackenzie Davis and that overlay love scene as well as Barkhad Abdi's cameo.  Strong connections with books I'm reading from Yuval Noah Harari and perhaps even Brown's new book Origin - lots to think about with AI, losing humanity and evolution.

What We Do in the Shadows - Cross between Flight of the Conchords and Interview with a Vampire. Very clever and funny as only Clement and co. can pull off. Some really good bits that work well. Great to see Rhys Darby as the werewolf alpha male.

The Prestige - Liked it very much except the magic trick. Did Nolan really have to go that far ? I think it could have been left with perhaps one less out-of-place twist. Liked the combative passions and recreation of this magical time. But ultimately felt a little cheated. 7/10.

How Do You Know - As I said to the person who selected this "gem" - a shoe string of a plot held together by superstars. The soliquay by the new dad Al was a highlight. Very weird scenes and writing with a few laughs. But overall, I'm glad my wife liked it. Weird music choices too. Bad enough to be almost good. 6/10.

Spy Game - Started out kinda typical smart Alec Redford, got built really nicely with some decent intrigue and drama. Rock star casting helped but I liked the storyline. Was even looking for a photography angle during my search.

Doctor Strange - Strange indeed. Silly at times and even funny on occasion. Very cool FX. Cumerbatch brought it up to a 7/10. Follow on note: also another slide into references to the multiverse (re: Dark Matter).

Dunkirk - Exceeded expectations - superb filmmaking that brought home the horrible precarious nature of fighting for your country and how dire events can become. Perhaps more comparable to Apocalypse Now than Saving Private Ryan - gobs of dramatic acting with minimal dialogue. Stunt work, digital effects and engrossing cinematography were spot on. Storytelling thru synchronized Tarantino like scenes was brilliant. Emotional without a doubt, but a top draw work of art. 9/10.

Innsaei - Wow, lots to ingest and let my right side hemisphere chew on. Why did Stoll think Left Side was a good idea - or was it about the good idea ? Beautifully filmed with a very amiable pace. Hypnotic at times and emotional at other times. Definitely adding to my list of my new education. Does alcohol impede or enhance intuition. I think I know that one. Mediation. What was that mind website again ? Love that word innsaei. 9/10.

Oasis: Supersonic - As my wife said - authentic. A great rock & roll story with the battling siblings to spice things up and smash it to pieces. Lots of swearing, but you kind of get used to it. Funny at times, peels a few layers off their brilliance and shows a lot of behind the scenes and gigs I'd never seen. Brilliant. 8/10.

Snowden- Good compliment to the Citizen Four doc. Liked seeing his background played out with expected flourishes. Gorden-Livet's portrayal was pretty close to the real Mr Snowden. I think there was a stretch or two, but the story remains a very important one that we're kind of still in the middle of. Will we hear of him again.

Food Inc. - Very well made doc on the business of food in America. I understand that Canada may be a little better and European nations, better still, but I imagine no one is immune to the challenges with healthy food and environmental issues. Very disturbing film that takes us into some very dark places in the secretive food business. Really strong selection of interviewees and many an emotional moment. This film was made in 2008. I can't imagine things have got much better and likely could be much worse, but it would be nice to see an update. Important filmmaking 8/10.

Killswitch - Not exactly what I expected, but found another good doc on important factors impacting the freedom of the internet. Covers net neutrality, Aaron Swartz and overlaps Snowden story that I saw in citizen four. A lot is at stake and it needs to be understood.

The Spectacular Now - Well portrayed complex teenage characters that tells a more thoughtful story of growing up than the dime-a-dozen coming of age movie. Subtle, beautiful and melancholy moments help create a rich, meaningful film.

Baby Driver - Superb balance of action, storytelling and comedy. Perfect timing and editing set to wicked soundtrack. Super stylin' throughout that doesn't miss a beat. Solid performances by vets and the youngsters. Lines galore, memorable moments and a really fun ride. Did I mention the car chases - wow. High octane entertainment.

War Machine - Seemed to unravel and lose direction as it went on, but overall I liked it. Pitt perhaps borrowed a little from 5 Monkeys for his McMahon. Careful balance of the comedic and the dramatic worked, but I was hoping for a little more closure (how naive). 7/10.

Fences - Definitely an adaptation from the stage - superb dialogue and life. I lost the essence of Troy's character about half way through and struggled a little with the end. Wonderful performances and a sub plot of the struggles of African American life - connection to the 13th perhaps ?

Keeping up with the Joneses - Part 1 on Qantas flight to Melbourne. Instantly hooked on G comedic brilliance. Lots of funny bits already. Great cast. Got better in the second part. Should have known by the cast - funny stuff and writes itself.

Edge of Seventeen - Another great recommendation from by brother. Great film. Great acting from young and old from solid cast. Simple story with substance and heart that's mostly missing from this genre today. Loved it. Thx bro.

Girl on the Train - I think it was actually better than the book. Followed plot well, but weight of the message seemed stronger (maybe because it wasn't a page turner for me). Well acted, probably kept the unknowing viewer guessing.

Inferno - Not as substantial as Brown's other movie adaptations, but ok in-flight entertainment. Lots of chasing around famous places riddled with ancient clues. Decent twists and turns. Good cast and production value.

Allied - Very well done; top draw star power, beautiful sets and location shots and a strong plot made it very entertaining.

Hacksaw Ridge - Amazing true story well played out as a classic war movie but with today's extremely graphic details of its violence. Well acted and cast. Religious motivations aside, refusing to have a weapon and a truly peaceful disposition is so very relevant in today's knife-edge world.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - A potter fan would probably get more out of it than I, but it was pretty entertaining, a little magical perhaps. Some great casting and wonderful creature creativity.

The Discovery - Convincing characters and well produced. Decent plot, but lagged at times. But why do they accelerate the unveiling when you have so many questions. Maybe they don't have the answers, the writer hasn't thought it all the way through. Maybe a cheat to a perceived good ending. Kept me engaged, but lost me at the wrong time.

Passengers - First, thanks for Evan (Nerdwriter) who recently posted a blog about the movie. I didn't want to see spoilers but I heard enough to suggest this movie was better than the reviews suggested. I was not disappointed. Actually, very pleasantly surprised - I loved it. Simplish plot, but an underlying flawed human element that says a lot. Superb tech and fx, but the human story I really liked. Highly entertaining for a hopeless romantic with a techie heart.

A Light Between Oceans - A classic tale of the hard decisions, family, allegiances and ultimately right and wrong. A kind of film you sadly are trying to predict the next and final turn. Or two or three more. Life can be so cruel (even in fiction). Such a simple tale with such heavy consequences. Tidy end but maybe it was too much.

How to be Single - partial AC viewing. Very rude, but pretty funny (especially ...). Light, fun, with expected moral bits to come.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

2018, Best of... (music)

An annual tradition, shared various ways, not all new releases of 2018, but stuff I found in the year and kept rattling around my ears and playlists.  The YouTube playlist has some great finds of the video versions, some didn't have videos, so there's a cover photo stand-in and I also chose some live ones as a preference.  There's a pretty broad variety in this year's list - I hope something for everyone.  I'm definitely more into the beats and hooks, rather than the deeper lyrical content, so apologies if some of these are on the edges of appropriateness for today's times.  Enjoy.