Disney now owns Star Wars for better or for worse and they have done better and worse. The first spin off from the original 6 movies was Rogue One which many argue is the second best Star Wars movie ever after The Empire Strikes Back and I would have to agree. If I could list the second best Disney spin off it would be Solo. The writers had a ball working on this film. They have played with Harrison Ford’s lines from the original films and had fun with explaining lots of things. Like we find out how Solo hooked up with Chewy, how he got involved with Lando, Jabba the Hutt and how he acquired the Millennium Falcon. If you are not sure what all that is about you do need to see the first three films. Also we learn what on earth he meant when he tells Obi Wan and Luke that he made the Kessel (not bloody Phil Kessell) run in under 12 parsecs which makes no sense until you see this film since he is apparently talking how fast the Falcon is but parsecs are a measure of distance not speed. No worries. Once you see this film you will understand all. What I loved about this movie was its respect for the story and its decision not to take itself too seriously. Despite my praise all this movie get is a nod for visual effects. It certainly deserves this but I think so much more. Oh, a final note. Han’s love interest in the movie is played by Emilia Clarke….that’s right, Daenerys Targaryen!
Why doesn’t the academy have a category for Great Trash?
Although Black Panther is one of the best Marvel super hero movies, I confess to being surprised at the nominations it has received. Normally the Academy does not give attention to the blockbusters particularly those released in the dark days of February. In its favour Black Panther is well acted, has the expected superb special effects has a story line that rises well above the usual super hero plot. Furthermore It asks questions about the human condition and the responsibilities we have to one another and what often causes us to not meet those responsibilities. I really liked this movie but then I am a fan of Marvel and have yet to see one of their productions I didn’t like. Mostly I just liked some more than others, but I liked them all. But this film is about the director Ryan Coogler as well. He is behind the Rocky spinoffs Creed and Creed II as well as a darker but important film Fruitvale Station. The latter won critical praise but not as well known as his later films. I know not everyone is into blockbuster/super hero films but trust me this one has more to offer than special effects and will leave you with things to think about. Also if you have not seen Coogler’s other films I recommend you follow them up.
Netflix is becoming one of the better producers of film and television and have worked with the Coen brothers to produce a fascinating film that is really a tribute to the American tradition of Westerns. In a series of short films it looks at the Western with humour and respect. Whether or not you are a fan of Westerns you will be hooked by the first episode in the film called The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. It is a brilliant take off of the singing cowboy. It hooked me and while the following episodes are up and down in quality and are all very different from one another and I have already re-watched it a few times. The other good thing about the film is that it can be watched in doses since each episode stands on its own. The film is also all about the script which is excellent and the acting is good but not the reason to see this movie. So the final word from me is that this movie is a refreshing distraction and worth seeing – especially part one. It has received critical praise (8/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) but because of its format I think many were not sure about how to rank it. Its too bad some of the segments could not be nominated in the category of Live Action Shorts. However, it has received a nomination for Best Song, Screenplay and Costumes. You can find “When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K91etXNIkaY
Have a listen but remember that this song is the conclusion of the first episode and needs context so take the time to watch Part 1: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
I love my documentaries and this one I recommend to everyone who at one time thought you could not trust anyone over 30. Although it is somewhat self-indulgent, Michael Caine narrates a trip through the 60’s. I am a sucker for Caine’s accent and delivery, so I was hooked from the start. There are interviews with Roger Daltry, Paul McCartney, Marianne Faithful, Mary Quant and Twiggy among others. We don’t see them as they are today but there is all kinds of archival footage of them from the time. If you can’t guess from the list of names this movie focusses on London of the 60’s which in many ways was the centre of popular culture of the time and avoids for the most part the nasty sides of things like Vietnam, the civil rights movement, and student and youth unrest but it does have a totally awesome soundtrack and great scenes from the time including a very very young Mick Jagger and the Stones, scenes of the Beatles at the Cavern nightclub and the wonderful street scenes all accompanied by Caine’s cockney accent. We also get some great scenes from his movies of the time including Alfie, The Ipcress File, Zulu and such. I learned some very interesting things, like how Michael Caine chose his screen name (He was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite), and that Mary Quant invented the mini-skirt. If you are up for a nostalgia trip this is all for you and there is some coherence. As a review in Variety puts it the film has three parts: the rise of the 60’s revolt against the mores of the previous decade, its flourishing and its decline as the 70’s close in. Still this is a movie about Michael Caine’s experience of the time in which he was a player but one very much connected to times and the people. Do not look for deep insight or critical analysis but have fun.
I really like Marvel Comics movies and of all those I love the Thor movies. With Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston as Loki it’s a no miss buddy God franchise. What can I say. Instead of saving the Earth this time Thor saves Asgard from his sister – the evil Hela played but Cate Blanchett. The special effects are great, the supporting cast of Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbach, Anthony Hopkins, Karl Urban, Idris Erlba and especially Jeff Goldblum you really can’t miss. Goldblum is classic in a totally comic role and a new comer – Tessa Thompson also provides great comic relief. I have to admit that comic relief from a script that is totally tongue in cheek is not really necessary, but it is really fun anyway. Not Oscar stuff but truly Great Trash!! I promise. If you like super heroes you will love this movie. Oh by the way, the director Taiki Waititi is a New Zealander and plays a cameo role. You won’t recognize him except by his broad New Zealand accent since he plays a rock creature. The movie is up there with Guardians of the Galaxy in my opinion and I really like Stan Lee taking such delight in having fun with his characters. Oh yeah, Stan Lee also has a cameo. Look for him when you go to see it.
This is a movie just for fun. Based on a graphic novel set at the time of the Cold War, the story is about a literally kick-ass British MI-5 agent who is sent to Berlin to recover and bring back a double agent who holds secrets both sides want. The times in Berlin are complicated and agents from both sides have become self interested in the isolated world of West Berlin. No one can be trusted as it turns out even the people who sent Charlize to Berlin. This movie has no redeeming social importance whatsoever. It is not in the category of John Le Carre or Len Deighton in terms of accuracy about the Cold War or Berlin or secret agents but it is hugely entertaining. Charlize is supported by an superb cast including David McAvoy, Toby Jones and John Goodman and Sofia Boutella. The latter might be best known as Jaylah in Star Trek Beyond. You know… the alien with the great white and black makeup. I was inspired to buy the graphic novel and the film is totally true to it. Great trash.
Okay… I guess many think “oh my God not another King Kong movie! Its been done to death”. There is some truth to this and I also thought this when I first heard about it but… It’s awesome. What changed my mind was the cast that includes Tom Hiddleston (the Night Manager), John Goodman (Argo, Trumbo and many others) Brie Larson (Room), Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes on a Plane) and John C. Reilly (The Lobster). Then a review from Eli Glasner who described it as a B-movie on steroids and others who called it Apocalypse Now meets Kong. I was sold and when I went I was not disappointed. Glasner was absolutely right and as soon as you suspend disbelief and get into the fun you will enjoy this movie. Hiddleston is great in the lead role and everyone in the cast is clearly having a great time. The special effects are also excellent. Set in the early 1970’s the story is about an expedition of scientists with an army escort heading off to a mysterious island in the remote Pacific. Once they arrive it is not long before they encounter Kong and not only Kong but a whole island of monsters from which they must escape. Brie Larson is a great Fay Wray, John C. Reilly adds comic relief as a World War II US pilot who crash landed on the island and has been there for more than 30 years. All in total fun and adventure. Enjoy.
The only martial arts film of the festival this year. The film a really fun, very typical martial arts film about a match between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man in the early 60’s. Lee had come to San Francisco to bring the ancient Chinese art of Kung Fu to North America much to the resistance of the traditional Chinese. The story is that Kung Fu Master Wong Jack Man was sent to shut him down. That is the legend. The movie however takes a somewhat different tack and is just based on this historic and mythic match but has a more complex story of a blossoming friendship between the two as they fight evil Chinese criminal gangs in San Francisco. It was totally fun and while martial arts purists are critical of the film they just really lack any sense of fun. If you like martial arts and like the films you will really enjoy this movie. For those of you who are purists I suggest you avoid it or be prepared to suspend disbelief and just relax. Totally fun, totally without redeeming social importance and some great fight scenes. Which is what its all about anyway. Right!? Yeah!
Yes I know the picture looks like a traditional American Western but this is really anything but. Instead it’s an Australian police drama set today in the desert of the Australian outback. It is the second film from Aussie director Ivan Sen about a indigenous federal detective who arrives in the desert and woe begotten town of Goldstone. He is there to track down a missing Chinese girl that he suspects of being a victim of human trafficking. Goldstone harbours a very private and protective mining operation that is causing pollution and local violence by its miners. The company also imports indebted Chinese girls to serve as prostitutes and has bought off the town’s mayor and many of the local indigenous population. Besides our hero (who is himself a deeply flawed individual) there is a local cop who has been keeping his eyes closed but who is essentially a good cop. A murder and finding of the missing girl’s body gets the story rolling ending in a bloody gun fight between the good and bad guys. The indigenous detective appears in an earlier film – Mystery Road – which I fully intend to watch next week. The story is exciting and while not really Oscar worthy is definitely worth seeing. I have become a big fan of Australia cinema and this film did not let me down. If there is an award worthy aspect to this film that puts it in a class by itself, it’s the cinematography which is absolutely stunning. The shots of the desert taken with drone mounted cameras take your breath away. Seriously.
There are some things that you can only experience at TIFF and this was one of them. Matt Johnson and Jay McCarrol made their names if we can call it that with a web tv show called “nirvanna the band the show” that you can all find on YouTube if you like. The views for the web tv show are in the 1K to 4K level so it was not an international hit by any means. The guys are high school buddies who may have been the class clowns and the episodes on YouTube are funny in the high school humour kind of way but the fans are super fans. They were lucky however and managed to get the attention of more polished producers and have managed to snag a series on CTV this fall called: nirvanna the band the show. (By the way nirvanna is spelled with 2 “n’s”) Then to promote the show they managed to get three episodes strung together at TIFF. I saw this at Hot Docs and from what I can tell all the fans of the web tv show were there. Enthusiastic would not be sufficient to describe their love. They cheered the introduction, the pre-screening commercials and then laughed continuously all through the show. And… to be fair it was pretty funny. The guys have upped their game and are in the Kids in the Hall category now. The premise of the show is two guys with a band who want to get a gig at The Rivoli in Toronto. To get attention they try several different strategies not connected to music at all. The three episodes that were screened were very funny but production quality is not the greatest. The guys are funny and may well improve with experience. There is some real talent here although polishing will be needed. Nonetheless the fans are clearly there.. or at least the few hundred at Hot Docs. I will watch the series this fall although the real fun today was the audience. Oh right – I should mention, I felt very old since the average age of the audience had to be under 30.