Saturday, February 10, 2018

Seen in… January 

Harold Lloyd doing what he does best - creating an iconic movie moment. Image via The Movie DB.

Britain's darkest hour may have been in the spring of 1940 but for Canadians it is deep in the heart of winter. Winter can be a wonderful and magical time of year – if you are between the ages of five to ten years old. Unfortunately the rest of us have to shovel and plow our way to work and back. You wake in the bleak darkness and arrive at your place of work with what can be best described as a brightening greyness. In Toronto, winter is a time when the sky is an even and unbreakable grey. It's time to go home when you glance at the window only to see your own face staring back from the blackened glass. You wake and go home in the same unforgiving dark. It's a surprise I left the house at all, but between volunteer engagements, meetings and advocacy bike rides I did manage to get to the theatre and see a few films at home.

Gary Oldman poisoning himself.Image via The Movie DB.

Darkest Hour

This film is about the dark days of May 1940 when Nazi forces had advanced so quickly through Europe they simply shocked their foes and the majority of Britain’s army were trapped on a beach in France without any way out. Within the British government Winston Churchill had just been appointed prime minister and was being pressured to negotiate with Hitler via Italy. Churchill sees no way of winning as he rightly argues you can’t “negotiate with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.” When the near miraculous evacuation of Dunkirk offers a spark of hope Churchill delivers his famously rousing speech in the House of Commons: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender” which led one parliamentarian to quip that Churchill had weaponized the English language. The speech led to support of Churchill and a turning point that led to the Battle of Britain. The thing about this film is, that not for one second do you think, “Wow Gary Oldman is really a lot like Winston Churchill”. You simply forget there is a Gary Oldman at all as he so completely inhabits the makeup and mannerisms of someone so iconic and renders him full of doubts, resolve and humanity. If this performance doesn’t win Oldman the Academy Award then nothing will. The film is surprisingly gripping despite being a war movie set almost entirely in smoky rooms of government offices and war rooms. Having seen Christopher Nolan’s taut rendition of the Dunkirk evacuation only heightened the urgency playing out behind large dark oak doors of the British establishment.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Season 2

Despite bingeing through this series like a starving man at an all you can eat Mandarin buffet, it really wasn’t as profoundly quirky or holistic as season one. In a strange way it seemed almost too fantastical. I think this series works best when Dirk and the gang fall into the weird little coincidences that are too weird to be just a coincidence but at the same time might just be the only way to explain what’s going on.

I don’t feel at home in this world anymore

I watched this Netflix original about a woman who takes vigilante justice to the next level after her home was robbed, mostly because Elijah Wood appeared to be playing the same lost loner as he plays in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. He was so similar that I briefly thought this movie was a cross-over with the other show, also a Netflix original. Melanie Lynskey is Ruth who reaches a type of tepid simmer and tired of being knocked about by life sets out to take back a single iota of control. Her neighbour, Tony, played by Wood is so purposeless that he jumps at the opportunity to do anything at all. What seems at first to be perhaps a quirky mystery or buddy movie morphs into something less funny and more dangerous which is what makes the movie interesting. Beneath the humour is a menace and yet the fact that the people who are so menacing are also so pedestrian is what makes it all the more creepy. So this movie is quirky, funny and creepy… if that helps at all.
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Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Hibernator's Handbook 

This is exactly the kind of thing I want to avoid

2017 didn’t end well for me. In fact, I began the holiday season looking up from my belly and ended the year looking down at it. Less than a week before Christmas, I was riding hard, standing on the pedals, when one of my bike’s crank arms gave way beneath me. Luckily, my ribs broke my fall. I spent the entirety of Christmas trying not to move, but now more than anything I have to try to move which is a tricky business when I’ve decided under no circumstances should I go outside.

Having no bike to ride as transport and with the temperatures well in the crispy -20 to -30s I began to feel a hibernation coming on. If bears and other beasties can do it, why can’t I? I’m old enough to not be drawn out by any kind “cold shaming” that accuses you of not being Canadian if you can’t face the cold. I have nothing to prove. I recently rode a bike 30 minutes across town in -23°C just to go skating for another 30 minutes then ride another 30 minutes back again. Did I mention the temperature? Did I mention the blistering wind as violent as any shark attack? Did I mention the difficulty tying my skates after all my fingers had frozen then broken off? I ride throughout the winter devising stratagems and tactics such as doubling of socks and gloves while employing a variety of balaclavas, scarves and hats in such a combination that not even I know where my face begins or ends. No, I have nothing to prove and it now seems appropriate to withdraw from the world and enter a prolonged state of torpor.
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Friday, January 12, 2018

Seen in… December 

This is not The Last Jedi. See what I did there? Image via The Movie DB

Finally, a month where staying in and watching TV or going to the movies was not only recommended but commendable. If it had been only slightly warmer I probably would’ve seen more films in the theatre. As it was so cold, I found it easier to burrow beneath a blanket and hit the play button. Cinemas have big screens and big sound but home has pyjamas and cocktails.

Fargo Season 1
This television adaptation of the Coen Brothers crime thriller/dark comedy delivers the same unusual twists and eccentric characters as the feature film. It does not disappoint as we follow a crime spree from one small Minnesotan city to another. The menace of Billy Bob Thornton’s character gets the ball rolling but it’s the very human foibles of the story’s many characters that keep the momentum up.

Creed. Image via The Movie DB

I have to admit that this is a good movie and is expertly sliced into the canon of “Rocky” pictures. Michael B. Jordan is great as Apollo Creed’s namesake and only son with a chip on his shoulder who seeks out an aging Rocky Balboa as a trainer when everyone else has rejected him. It’s Creed’s name that gets him his big fight but it’s his relationship with his father’s greatest opponent that makes him the man he aspires to be. Jordan is clearly a big talent and could cruise through a film on presence alone but whenever his character seems predictable he gives us some real emotion. Likewise, Sly Stallone’s latest reprisal as Balboa is probably his best work since the original Rocky (or Copland perhaps). This isn’t Raging Bull by any stretch but it is much better than the over-the-top melodramas of the Rocky series of films.

Office Christmas Party
I was very desperate to get into the holiday spirit - but not this desperate. Not even a barefooted, one-liner spouting, machine gun touting John McLane could’ve saved this Christmas movie, but it would have been fun to see. I guess this film fits into an overplayed genre of out-of-control parties where the meek become mighty fuelled by alcohol or worse and some purpose comes out of it in the end. The technical solution they peddle as the company’s saviour is ridiculously and badly explained by writers who clearly couldn’t tell a LAN connection from a landline (internet connectivity delivered over electrical cables has been possible for a very long time but you couldn’t… oh why bother).

Lady Bird. Image via The Movie DB

Lady Bird
Another “coming-of-age” film just like all the other coming-of-age films but unlike any coming-of-age films you’ve ever seen before. This is the story of an ambitious young woman, Lady Bird, who wants to study at a school beyond her family’s means but it takes time for her to realize their sacrifices and that despite how it seems, she shouldn’t be embarrassed by their rung on the American class ladder but take pride in their ability to overcome it. Lady Bird represents many teens who want nothing more than to leave home but once they have, then want nothing more than to return. This film is smartly written and directed by a talented young woman, Greta Gerwig and is smartly delivered by her celluloid counterpart, Saoirse Ronan. Laurie Metcalfe, so recognizable from years of television work is a stand out as the frustrated mother who wants her daughter to strive but not get hurt while doing it. Tracy Letts is also quietly great as the father who while struggles with his own issues is the life boat for both mother and daughter.
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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Save Travels 

Monday, December 11, 2017


I'll be home for Christmas…