Monday, August 23, 2021

Seen in July

No Sudden Move, image via The Movie Db

Here we are, the second summer of our troubles, with theatres nearly empty and mostly void of summer movies. The streaming services, or "streamers" to some, may seem like bottomless content wells but I've been finding the pickings slim or perhaps I'm finding comfort in rewatching old favourites rather than exploring something new. There have been some surprises and summer's end is still a month away. In the meantime, I spent July hiding in a cool air-conditioned home, enjoying the Olympics (despite my claim to do otherwise) so here is what I saw. A short list for the long, lazy days of summer.

No Sudden Move
I'm not sure if this film was intended to have a theatrical release or not but this Steven Soderbergh crime drama has a pretty amazing cast for a movie with such a low profile. Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Ray Liotta, Jon Hamm, Brendan Fraser (almost unrecognizable after a huge weight gain for another role), Kieran Culkin, and a Matt Damon cameo make up the cast. The story is set in late 1950s Detroit and a hot piece of auto industry tech is the central mulligan of the plot. Bank and insurance workers are blackmailed or threatened by thugs and gangsters as auto intel, bags of money, and a bookie's code book are all in play as some of the players look for a bargaining chip to pay a debt or escape retribution. It's a story of the moral versus the immoral but in the end it's the amoral that wins out.

An Almost Ordinary Summer
An odd Italian comedy finds two very different families brought together under the premise of a shared vacation property. The vacation turns out to be a ruse by two lovers planning to marry and introduce their families to each other. The twist? The couple in love are two mature, previously heterosexual, dads. One is an art dealer while the other is fisherman who owns his own fishmonger shop. Two of their adult children agree on a plan to scuttle the wedding plans but the idea only opens other divisions. The movie sort of feels like something from the late 90s rather than being current but gives a peek into the social mores of contemporary Italian society.

Another Round, image via The Movie Db.

Another Round
Four middle-aged men are friends who embark on an experiment to maintain a certain level of inebriation as an attempt to regain some youthful vitality. What begins as a bit of fun with comedic side effects grows increasingly serious. On the surface, what may appear as men and their hubris is, on closer inspection, really about how we should fight against our habits, our comforts or our everyday nuisances to remember why we love those we love, why we do the things we do and how to keep a passion for living and loving, no matter what our age. There's a terrific Danish cast, led by Mads Mikkelsen, who probably seems familiar if you've seen any film about Vikings in the last 10 years. This film also won the Oscar for foreign language film, if that interests you at all.

Salt Fat Acid Heat
Respected chef and food writer, Samin Nosrat takes us on a trip around the world to discuss these four basic yet crucial elements of cuisine. This may seem like a familiar formula of combining travel and cooking yet the show really doesn't impart many recipes you could follow but hopes to impress upon the viewer the important principles that make the titles of the four episodes. I'm not sure it's successful in that regard. Sometimes while watching I did think, this woman lives in a world where her local grocery store has about 40 different kinds of salt, which is kind of insane. I'm not sure I've ever even seen more than three brands of salt in my life. While Nosrat is trying to share knowledge, she is at the same time, showing you that chefs live in a different reality. It's a reality where you can buy short ribs the size of your forearm or use more salt in a dish than Toronto uses in a heavy snowfall. She does dispel some myths in cooking, and explains how a variety of flavours make a meal special, yet I don't see myself buying special pots to make only one kind of meal or flying to Italy to get a leg of cured ham (trust me, I would if I could).

Seth Meyers Lobby Baby
The popular late night talk show host finally gets his very own comedy special which is anchored by jokes about his marriage and the unusual but true story of his wife giving birth in the lobby of their New York apartment building. One unique part of the stand-up is where he decides to retell select bits from his wife's point of view. If you enjoy his program, then you'll like this.

Mercury 13, image via The Movie Db.
Mercury 13
The strange but true story of the physician who, in the early 60s, developed NASA's medical training and astronaut assessment program and how he enlisted 13 qualified female pilots to take the same tests. Every woman tested, passed, and in some cases performed better than their male counterparts. None of them were part of the Apollo program however as none of the women had military or engineering experience. So while the Soviet Union put a woman cosmonaut into orbit, the Mercury 13, as they became known, had to watch from terra firma. Several of the women are still alive today and one, Wally Funk, at the age of 82, recently flew into space as part of Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin flight.

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