Thursday, April 02, 2020

Seen in March 

Parasite. Image via The Movie Db

What has been roughly 30 days of isolation already feels like one hundred years of solitude and this list of what I watched in March is the proof.


A poor unemployed family living in a cramped apartment find a way to exploit nepotism in their favour by finding work with an affluent family. What first appears an obvious case of “entitled haves” versus “ingenious have-nots” becomes more complicated when one night a harrowing discovery throws the family’s schemes and perceptions in disarray. That’s pretty much all I can say without ruining the whole thing but just know that this film deserves its many accolades as does the director Bong Joon-ho whose previous films include Mother, The Host and Snow Piercer.

Satanic lawn art. Image via The Movie Db

Hail Satan?

This documentary about Satan worshippers isn’t as evil as you think. This is really the story of a group of outsiders who are so galled by American state level governments mixing Christianity with the American constitution that they form a Satanic temple to demand equal representation. The absurdity of Christians inserting their faith into state law, is met with equal vigour by Satanists who expose the hypocrisy of Ten Commandment monuments by demanding a Satanic statue be placed alongside the Christian monument to remind citizens of their freedom of religion and keeping the church out of the state. One interesting bit of information is that the trend of placing ten commandment monuments in public places was originally a publicity stunt for the Hollywood sandal epic, The Ten Commandments. This is eerily similar to the fact that many civil war monuments were installed in public places not directly after the Civil War but in the early part of the 20th century which coincided with Jim Crow laws. This is a funny, scary and thoughtful film.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix

I have no idea what this was about or why it was so badly received at the box office. This is the popular comic book storyline of mutant Jean Grey’s encounter with a cosmic force that builds her abilities to a point where no one can control her, including herself. It’s also a bit out of control as a story and a bit of a mess of special effects and high wire action.

Hugh Laurie is great in this rudderless comedy, Avenue 5. Image via The Movie Db

Avenue 5

The creator of In the Loop and Veep has made a TV show about a cruise liner gone off course, except the cruise liner is a space ship. It’s funny but I have no idea why it exists or what the point is.

A typewriter in situ. Image via The Movie Db

California Typewriters

This is a light and delightful documentary about manual typewriters and its devotees. The film centres around a modest typewriter repair shop and its distinguished repairmen and family owners. Peppered with celebrities like Tom Hanks, Sam Shepard and John Mayer the discussion of the authenticity of the typed page is genuine without being airy. A reverent collector is a window to the history of the typewriter and its place in history in offering women a profession outside of the home, of modern journalism and the importance of this machine’s role in American manufacturing and the future of computing which of course would be a cause of its obsolescence. Extra points for spotting the beauties such as the Smith-Corona my father used and the Olivetti that belonged to my grandfather (which I used in university and still have, though the two-colour ribbon dried out long ago).

Late Night

Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling in a comedy about an aging female late night television personality finding new vitality through her diversity hire. The problem with movies about stand-up comedians is the fake stand-up comics are never that funny or real. This is a pretty lightweight diversion if you find yourself up having a late night.

Long Shot

Amazon Prime
Seth Rogen is a journalist who reconnects with his childhood crush and baby sitter who, played by Charlize Theron, has become the Secretary of State and plans to run for president. Theron’s character hires Rogen to “punch up” her speeches. After weeks working closely together they find themselves in a life threatening situation that leads to an intense hook-up and a romantic affair. Yup. It’s practically sci-fi.

One pope, two popes, here a pope, there a pope…. Image via The Movie Db

The New Pope

This show, set in the Vatican from Paolo Sorrentino, is as mysterious as the Church itself, or as weird as John Malkovich’s bizarrely bad British accent. This is the follow-up season of The Young Pope which finds Pope Pius, played by Jude Law in a coma with little hope for recovery. The machinations of Cardinal Voiello finds a new pope in the form of Sir John Brannox, played by John Malkovich, who as a British cardinal has led the largest conversion of Anglicans to Catholicism in history with his progressive message known as the middle way. One crisis follows another leading us down deeper into this stylish and modern exploration of the relationship of faith and religion.

Little America. Image via The Movie Db

Little America

Apple +
From the creators of The Big Sick comes a series of immigrant vignettes. Each episode tells the story of an immigrant who found their way through many trials to their own version of the American Dream. One pattern is that the original idea of the American Dream is quickly dashed to be followed with something much more meaningful. These short episodes are funny and dramatic and often tug at the old heart strings.

Star Trek: Picard

This latest instalment of the Star Trek franchise presents an aging Admiral Jean-Luc Picard spending his retirement years at his beautiful family vineyard, resting yet restless. Fear not an adventure is never far from the door. The series fills us in to how Picard resigned in disgust after failing to save Romulans from their doomed home world. Yet remnants of an old Romulan secret society exists and is set to kill an offspring of an old friend (so to speak). An odd thing about this series is it is trying to be more grown up (the dropping of plenty of “F-bombs”, slightly more gory fight scenes etc) but it all feels like it never gets going. Though it was fun to see Picard walk into the Federation and demand a ship and crew only to hear the reply, “The f***ing hubris!” which leaves him calling in favours from old friends. Despite the very high quality effects and the good continuation from previous series this feels like it’s not really enough to get anyone other than die hard fans off the couch, or to stay on the couch if you know what I mean.

Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette. Image via The Movie Db

Marie Antoinette

The stylish interpretation of Marie Antoinette’s time at French court from Sophia Coppola may marvel with its sets and costumes but falls short of really giving us much of a heroine to cheer for.

Iggy Pop looking for a coffee fix with a side of brains. The Dead Don't Die. Image via The Movie Db

The Dead Don’t Die

I had high expectations for a Jim Jarmusch zombie film starring Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver and many others - especially Iggy Pop as a coffee seeking zombie but alas the idea is better than the execution. There are a few good lines and fun made of zombie tropes of a small town being over run by animated corpses and the undead returning to what they desired in life, like Iggy Pop wandering the Earth seeking coffee, while Carol Kane arises demanding Chardonnay. But Jarmusch doesn’t know where to take his folly and the last third of the film grinds to a halt.

Mythic Quest

Apple +
From the makers of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia have made a show set in the office of a video game company. Sort of like what Silicon Valley is to software, this show is to the gaming sector. Maybe?

The Wandering Earth

This was China’s biggest box office bonanza and has been compared to The Avengers Infinity Wars for its epic nature. Yet it is a chaotic yelling frenzy of melodrama and ridiculously oversized effects. Pass before reaching Jupiter.

Found clip from Dawson City: Frozen Time. Image via The Movie Db

Dawson City: Frozen Time

In the 1970s, during the demolition of an aging building a Pentecostal minister who was also a town alderman was operating a backhoe when he noticed boxes of film reels in the disturbed dirt. He climbed down from the digger and made a few phone calls. What they had discovered were over 500 films from the 1910s and 1920s that had been left as land fill in an abandoned steel lined swimming pool buried in the Yukon’s permafrost. These reels revealed not only lost films but also told the history of Dawson City’s incredible past. This thoughtful and wonderfully crafted documentary weaves still images and the found film clips into a beautifully considered meditation using skillful editing, sound design and a wonderful score to tell a touching and intimate vision of the vital history of Dawson City. It's a stirring moving collage of found images.

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