Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Seen in April 

The Green Knight. Image via The Movie DB.

When my only post in May is what I saw a month ago, it's a pretty clear indicator that I've been busy. If you're busy and don't know what to watch maybe this list of what I saw will help you.

Apple TV+

This award winning film is an English-language remake of a Belgian film. The language aspect of this movie is an important one. CODA stands for Child Of Deaf Adults and this is story of teenager Ruby, who is the only hearing member of her family. Her brother and father need Ruby to act as their translator between themselves and their fishing business, often negotiating prices on the pier for their catch. Yet, at school she sees her crush join the choir and decides to join up too. This is the beginning of her "journey of self-discovery" as they say. As Ruby considers her future studying music, she also has to weigh her responsibilities to her family. It's a tale as old as time but with the added complexity of Ruby's brother fighting (sometimes literally) to prove he can compete in business as a deaf man or her mother's admission of her fear of losing her daughter to the hearing world.

Beth Harmon considers her next move. Image via The Movie DB.

The Queen's Gambit

I'm late to this popular series that follows the success and struggles of chess prodigy Beth Harmon, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. The limited series is everything fans have said. We see a child left at an orphanage after her mother's (presumed) suicide, watch her become enthralled with a janitor playing chess, see her learn that game and go on to successes and failings mostly of her own making. Her intelligence and drive to succeed are even more intriguing being set in the 1960s when little was expected of women other than finding a husband and settling down.

Dev Patel as Sir Gawain. Image via The Movie DB.

The Green Knight
Amazon Prime

A retelling of a 15th century Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain, played by Dev Patel. Gawain is a young knight without a story of his own and so commits to a quest that may have been created by his own mother (who may have been a witch). The quest takes him on an adventure that leads him through an abandoned battlefield, and deep into an unknown forest to find the chapel of the Green Knight. On the way he's protected by an enchanted belt, tempted by beauty and robbed. Unlike a contemporary super-hero movie, The Green Knight is much more evocative of the 1980's film, Excalibur, featuring wonder, magic, and beautiful cinematography that highlights the dark, lush, green dampness of medieval England.

Take the leap and enjoy this fun flick. Image via The Movie DB.

Spider-man: No Way Home
This continuation of the "Tom Holland" Spider-man from Marvel and Sony collaboration was wildly popular yet it would be almost impossible to explain without referencing a dozen other films stretching over 20 years. The basis of the plot is that Spider-man's secret identity as Peter Parker has been revealed and he's sought help from the master of the mystic arts, Dr. Strange, to cast a spell to help him (see, I've already had to refer to another character from another film in the franchise to explain the basic storyline, which was set up by the previous Spider-man film). When the spell goes awry the complications begin and so does the most servile "fan service" I can remember from any movie ever. Having said all that, I have seen all those films and as such, am the beneficiary of that fan service. It's a fine film with spectacular action and effects, and some surprisingly emotional moments.

Zoë Kravitz and Robert Pattinson bring the heat in the rainy nights of Gotham. Image via The Movie DB.

The Batman

Another reset of the popular DC Comics hero, The Batman, played convincingly by Robert Pattinson, focuses on a younger Batman, before he had it all figured out (spoiler: Bruce Wayne never really figures it all out). It also focuses much more on Batman's reputation as "The World's Greatest Detective", and leans much more into the crime story angle of this character. There is a serial killer causing havoc in Gotham and leaving clues intended specifically for Batman. This is a return to form for the franchise for me. It's dark, brooding, and complex. While James Gordon fights corruption on the force, Bruce Wayne struggles caring about anything other than vengeance and The Riddler wants the city's elites to suffer. It helps that the cast is excellent with Jeffrey Wright as Lt. James Gordon, Paul Dano as The Riddler, Colin Farrell completely hidden under prosthetics as The Penguin (portrayed here as an OG gangster), and probably one of the best Cat Women on film, Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle, who points out to Bruce Wayne the difference between privilege and not having agency. I haven't even mentioned the smaller supporting roles played by Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard and John Turturro. Sometimes the realism of the film clashes with the fact there's a man wearing a hooded mask with pointed ears and a full length cloak but it's generally refreshing to forgo the spandex and silly accoutrements of a typical comic book movie.

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