Thursday, May 9, 2019

Tolkien [2019]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  RogerEbert.com ()  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com () review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review


Tolkien [2019] (directed by Dome Karukoski, written by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford) is a LOVELY, superbly crafted -- the writing (surprise? ;-), direction, cinematography, and acting are all honestly of the highest quality -- YOUTH ORIENTED film about the formative years of famed mid-20th century medieval fantasy (The Hobbit, LOTR) writer J.R.R. Tolkien [wikip] (played by Harry Gilby as a 12-15 year old, and Nicholas Hoult as an older teen / 20+ year-old young adult), his friends, with whom, yes, he forms "a fellowship" ;-), and his love-interest, fellow _orphan_ and later life-long wife Edith Bratt (played by Lily Collins).  Indeed, the story runs like an early 20th century set Dead Poets' Society [1989] [wikip] [IMDb], a film about a group of young boys at a New England prep school in the mid-20th century, only in the case with Tolkien, IT WAS BASICALLY TRUE.

I can not help but stress the beauty of the message of this film directed toward YOUNG PEOPLE.  I say this because Tolkien was portrayed as someone, again, an orphan from the age of about twelve, who could have easily been bitter, complaining that life gave him "a bad hand," first through losing his family when he was young, then _losing most of his friends_ in World War I. 

Instead, both he and his wife used the gifts that he was given, first from his mother (played briefly but in a lovely fashion at the beginning of the film by Laura Donnelly) an enduring love and talent for languages and , of course, storytelling, and then the gift of having had some _very good friends_ in his youth, whom AS THE SOLE SURVIVOR OF THEIR (sort of) "SECRET SOCIETY" the simultaneously quaint and (as an invention of young, teenage minds) appropriately pretentious T.C.B.S., he spent the rest of his life redeeming. 

Midway through the story, Tolkien comes across some old Gothic word for "Dying without Valor," and the four swear that they will never go down that way.  Spending the rest of his life speaking and more to the point LIVING for friends who were ripped apart anonymously by German artillery and machine-gun fire in the senseless 1916 Battle of the SommeTolkien proved that even one man can lift an entire generation to glory when otherwise they would have been taken senselessly from this world in methodical, giant-like bursts of flaming, swirling, unspeakable and mechanical horror. 

As teens, Tolkien and his friends had promised to change the world through their art / creation. Thanks to Tolkien, they still did.

Excellent story / film.


<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Friday, April 26, 2019

Avengers: Endgame [2019]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  RogerEbert.com (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times () review
RogerEbert.com (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review


Avengers: Endgame [2019] (directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely based on the Marvel comics by Stan Lee [wikip] [IMDb] and Jack Kirby [wikip] [IMDb] and the comic book by Jim Starlin [wikip] [IMDb]) brings to a safe and satisfying end this spectacularly successful incarnation of Marvel Comic's Avenger franchise.  At twenty plus constituent movies, call this the War and Peace of Blockbuster film series and in its own way it offers a similar level of emotional drama.  Yes, there were more than a few times that tears welled-up in my eyes.

Endgame begins where Avengers: Infinity War [2018] ended, with the Universe in tatters as a result of an extraterrestrial giant named Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) having collected all six of the Universe's "Infinity Stones" and then proceeded to use their power to ERASE (make disappear) half of all life in the Universe to "bring balance to it."

Yes, this was an insanely arrogant "project" but there have been similarly insanely arrogant projects proposed by perhaps well-meaning but certainly utterly-convinced-of-their-righteousness fanatics during the century past (when Stan Lee / Jack Kirby were inventing their Marvel characters and writing their Avenger comic).  One need only think of the Khmer Rouge who in the aftermath of the Vietnam/Indochina Wars of mid-1940s-mid-1970s set out to _kill_ every single one of their Cambodian countrymen who wore glasses (which indicated that they could read, hence had some knowledge of the past) so as to "begin the creation" of "a whole new society" from "tabula rasa" (from scratch / a clean slate).  Any number of radical ideologies of the last century have sought to accomplish similar feats making use of similar horrors.

So the near the beginning of the film, the surviving Avenger characters find the self-satisfied / "fulfilled" Thanos and yet ... even killing him did not seem to approach doing justice for his Crimes (against all Life across the Universe).  What to do?

Well it turns out that the stories surrounding "Ant-Man" (played in this incarnation of the Avenger franchise by Paul Rudd) revolved around playing with "size" (shrinking a man to the size of an ant, or sometimes blowing him up to the size of a giant).  Well, take this oscillation of size to a radical degree, one can enter into "the quantum realm" where the laws of physics become ... strange.  And so while Scott Lang aka "Ant Man" himself is not capable of doing much with the possibilities offered here -- of, in the crudest, sense "going back into time" -- two other Avenger scientists Bruce Banner/the Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr) take up Scott Lang's/Ant Man's idea and figure out a way to ... fix all this.  To be sure, they make a point of saying that it's NOT really "time travel" (events still happen sequentially, just that in the quantum realm, one could, conceivably "bounce back" to a different place in the time-space continuum, sort of "looping back" to "what once was").  And ... much then ensues.

It's a fun and, as I've already mentioned above, at times a remarkably moving story, as the various characters are able to "be brave," "meet their destinies" and yes, at times, "fix loose ends."

It's just extremely good popular story-telling that honestly will be around, certainly in the English speaking world, for generations to come.  Great, great job!


<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Friday, April 12, 2019

Mary Magdalene [2018]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB ()  RogerEbert.com (4 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (Nick Allen) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review


Mary Magdalene [2018] (directed by Garth Davis, screenplay by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett), following long standing tradition here in the United States, is coming out in limited release as Holy Week approaches.  Last year, the film Paul: Apostle for Christ [2018] was released at approximately the same time as well. 

Like Paul of last year, Mary Magdalene here is a high quality product that will relieve many Viewers who may reluctantly come (or even decline coming at all) to see a film such as this, fearing that that the film would somehow seek to be needlessly provocative in its presentation of this extremely important Gospel figure. 

Indeed, I wish to assure Readers here that Mary Magdalene (played in the film by Rooney Mara) is portrayed in the film, not unlike the manner in which she is portrayed in the Roma Downey produced Christ centered film Son of God [2014].  That is, Mary Magdalene is portrayed as simply a good, competent, devoted disciple of Christ, JUST LIKE ANY NUMBER OF GOOD, COMPETENT, DEVOTED CHRISTIAN WOMEN IN ANY PARISH THAT I HAVE EVER SERVED.

I find Roma Downey now Rooney Mara portrayals of Mary Magdalene a welcome step forward, as I do believe that past portrayals of her have tended to overly sexualize her as either "a former prostitute" or more recently as in the Da Vinci Code as "Jesus' wife."  Did Mary Magdalene "have to be" Jesus' wife?   Of course not.  To say so would misunderstand countless women in parishes and churches across the world and across time, who like Mary Magdalene have been simply and above all faithful and thoroughly competent "Disciples of Christ."

So honestly a great job and _thoroughly intelligent_ portrayal of this key Gospel figure.


NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The 2019 Academy Awards - Review: The year of the "Hollywood Spring"


Previous Years' Reviews
IMDb listing

It would seem that The Revolution or at least "Spring" came early to Hollywood this year.  After years of #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo hashtags, and even an Oscar Host, Kevin Hart, thrown to the side (for anti-homosexual comments in his past) a new day, even for this particular year, arrived.

And I do have to say that as an upper middle aged white guy it has been has not been without its mostly mild surprises / sadnesses.

Like many have already commented, I too had expected the documentary Won't You be My Neighbor? [2018], about the lovely PBS children's program hosted by mild-mannered Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers [wikip] [IMDb] in the time of my youth, to be a shoe-in for a  best Documentary Feature nomination and quite possibly / probably win.  Instead, not only did it not get a nomination but the youth oriented, adrenaline pumping documentary Free Solo [2018], about a young man, Alex Honnold, climbing without rope or gear Yosemite Nat'l Park's 3000 ft El Capitan rock face won.  Yea! or "Yea!"   But let's face it, had he fallen, it would have been a stupid / pointless way to die... (Folks, I am a Catholic priest after all, and we ought to value our lives more than to risk them in needlessly stupid ways).  Of the nominees, I found RBG [2018] much more constructive ...

Then I did find it somewhat disappointing (though here, sigh, in an "it's the end of an era" understandable) that Clint Eastwood's The Mule [2018] about "an old man with family issues," didn't get nominated _for anything_ ;-).

Finally, even Olivia Coleman, winner of the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role (for her role in The Favorite [2018]), seemed apologetic for beating Glenn Close (nominated for her role in The Wife [2018]).  But alas, The Fav had a spicier story line than the "justice finally, at the end of a long, seemingly endless life / marriage" plot of The W

But at least, in the absence of a host, the Academy didn't bring back a hologram of Bob Hope again ;-).

And I am happy that Rami Malek, won the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in Bohemian Rhapsody [2018] for his portrayal of  Farroch Bulsara who became Freddy Mercury, the lead singer of the rock group Queen. (The Oscars began this year with the surviving members of Queen singing the anthems We Will Rock You / We Are the Champions).  I'm also happy that three African Americans won awards -- Regina King for Best Supporting Actress in If Beale Street Could Talk [2018], Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor in The Green Book [2018] and Spike Lee, et al Adapted Screenplay in BlacKKKlansman [2018] -- as well as Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón won, count 'em, four Academy Awards (Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film) for b&w cinema verité art piece Roma [2018].

A bone may have been thrown to the old by giving the Best Picture award to The Green Book [2018] reminding us all of "how it was" and that we _have gotten better_ in the decades since.  Still, this year seems to have been a celebration of the young and of the new.

Good on you ;-).


NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>




Friday, February 22, 2019

91st Academy Awards: My 2019 Oscar Picks

IMDb listing
Official Website

Dear Readers,

It's been for various reasons a busy last several months at the Parish (my day job ;-).  I've seen more movies than I've had a chance to write about of late.  However, these then would be my Oscar picks for this year.

BEST PICTURE
Will Win -- Roma, The Favorite
Should Win -- Bohemian Rhapsody
Should Have Gotten Consideration -- On Basis of Sex, The Mule

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Will Win -- Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Should Win -- Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), William De Foe (At Eternity's Gate), Christian Bale (Vice), Clint Eastwood (The Mule)
Should Have Gotten Consideration -- Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Starwars Story), Clint Eastwood (The Mule)

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Will Win -- Glenn Close (The Wife)
Should Win -- Glenn Close (The Wife), Lady Gaga (A Star is Born), Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)
Should Have Gotten Consideration -- Felicity Jones (On the Basis of Sex), Saoirse Ronan (Mary Queen of Scots)

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Will Win -- Sam Elliot (A Star is Born), Richard A. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Should Win -- Sam Elliot (A Star is Born), Richard A. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Should Have Gotten Consideration -- 

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Will Win -- Emma Stone or Rachel Weitz (The Favorite)
Should Win -- Emma Stone or Rachel Weitz (The Favorite), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Should Have Gotten Consideration -- Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots), Emilia Clarke (Solo: A Starwars Story)

BEST DIRECTING
Will Win -- Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favorite) or Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)
Should Win -- Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favorite), Alfonso Cuarón (Roma), Bryan Singer (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Should Have Gotten Consideration -- Bryan Singer (Bohemian Rhapsody), Clint Eastwood (The Mule), Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born), Berry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk), Ron Howard (Solo: A Star Wars Story)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Will Win -- Alfonso Cuarón (Roma), Łukasz Żal (Cold War)
Should Win -- Alfonso Cuarón (Roma), Łukasz Żal (Cold War), Matthew Libatique (A Star is Born)
Should Have Gotten Consideration -- Benoît Delhomme (At Eternity's Gate), Bradford Young (Solo: A Star Wars Story)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Will Win -- Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara (The Favorite), Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)
Should Win -- Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara (The Favorite), Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)
Should Have Gotten Consideration -- 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Will Win -- Berry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk),
Should Win -- Berry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk), Bradley Cooper and Erik Roth (A Star is Born)
Should Have Gotten Consideration -- Nick Schenk (The Mule)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Will Win -- Mira, Isle of Dogs, Spiderman into the Spiderverse
Should Win -- Mira, Isle of Dogs
Should Have Gotten Consideration -- 

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Will Win -- Roma, Cold War
Should Win -- Roma, Cold War, Capernaum




NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >

Saturday, January 5, 2019

On the Basis of Sex [2018]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB ()  RogerEbert.com (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (N. Minow) review
AVClub (C. Siede) review


On the Basis of Sex [2018] (directed by Mimi Leder, written by Daniel Steipleman) is a well-worth-the-view biopic about the early career of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (played in the film by Felicity Jones) who part of the first generation of women to be graduating from Ivy League law schools (she started law school at Harvard, graduated from Colombia) had co-founded the ACLU's Women's Rights Project.

Among the indignities that she faced was being asked at a dinner hosted by the Dean of Harvard Law School (played by Sam Waterston) to stand-up at the dinner table (along with the eight other invited women law students) and "explain" to him and to the other guests why she was at Harvard studying law when her spot could have been given to a male.  Then despite having graduated tied for first in her class (at Colombia, after being first in her class at Harvard, prior to her transfer on account of her husband Martin Ginsburg - played in the film by Armie Hammer - one year ahead of her at Harvard Law who had gotten a job in New York) SHE was UNABLE TO GET A JOB in New York except in academia at Rudgers University (despite having graduated tied for #1 in her class she wasn't taken seriously).

All this serves as an excellent reminder of what it was like to be a woman in the United States in the 1950s-60s, and why a fair number of the changes that have taken place in society since then took place.

And yes, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had simply "stayed at home cooking dinner" the whole world would have lost a brilliant mind.

Excellent film.

NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >

Welcome to Marwen [2018]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB ()  RogerEbert.com (1 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (D+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

NY Times (P. Green) article about Mark Hogancamp


Welcome to Marwen [2018] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Robert Zemeckis along with Caroline Thompson) continues a career by Steve Carell of playing characters who often were marginalized, even considered wierdos or freaks, even as they were often simply soft-spoken and nice.

The current story tells the true story of  Mark Hogancamp (played by Steve Carell) from small-town upstate New York whose previous life was largely destroyed in 2000 when he was beaten-up / kicked in the head within inches of his life by five men after, drunk at a bar, he admitted to them that he was a cross-dresser.  After he woke up from his coma nine days later, he set about "healing" from this disaster by creating (and photographing) an entire miniature town called Marwencol out of barbie dolls and WW II action figures that symbolically told the story of what had happened to him.  The five men who had nearly killed him were portrayed, unsurprisingly, as Nazis, the women who had helped him heal, dressed in various 1940s era pinup costumes, would fight the attacking Nazis back, but they'd always return ... to try to ambush him again.

It makes for one heck of a story even if perhaps not for the average crowd.  It asks us the question: why can't we sometimes just leave nice / quiet people alone.


NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >

Second Act [2018]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  RogerEbert.com (2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
Los Angeles Times (M. Olsen) review
RogerEbert.com (N. Minow) review
AVClub (C. Siede) review


Second Act [2018] (directed by Peter Segal, written by Justin Zackham and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas) may break little new ground for Jennifer Lopez, who plays the lead character Maya, a hard working forty-something New Yorker who finds her advancement at work blocked by her lack of a college degree.  Still more than a few Viewers will relate to Maya's plight.

In the film, her Stanford attending "fairy God son" (not God-mother) invents a resume for her as well as a whole online virtual life to support it ... and ... "barrier overcome" ... but, of course, it's based on a lie ...

Some of the reviewers above are correct.  There is material stuffed into this film that could be unpacked legitimately across 2-3 movies -- Maya had a daughter in her teenage years who she gave up for adoption, who she now runs into (played by Vanessa Hudgens) as a result of her being magically "bumped up" the socio-economic ladder as a result of her "fairy God-son's" action.  And there's also the whole question of how to relate now with her previous friends, including lifelong-BFF Joan (played by Leah Rimini) and more recent, though 5 years running Significant Other, Trey (played by Milo Ventimiglia).  Yet, transporting anyone from one life into another would produce at least some unforeseen consequences.

All in all it's a nice film that reminds us that we are all much more than simply our job title.


NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Favourite [2018]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB ()  RogerEbert.com (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (T. Laffly) review
AVClub (K. Rife) review


The Favourite [2018] (directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara), set in a fictionalized early 18th century England (hence a "period piece" / "costume drama"), the story, appropriately R-rated, runs, so that Readers here know, like a Lesbian-oriented Harlequin Romance:

An aging "Queen Anne" (played by Olivia Colman) frankly _relieved_ to be finally widowed after SEVENTEEN MISCARRIAGES "finds comfort" in her childhood BFF Lady Sarah (played by Rachel Weisz), who also helps her run the dang country, until ... a YOUNGER, once lesser somebody (lower nobility), now thanks also to the whims of early-unfortunate widowhood, one step from truly becoming a sexualized-nobody turning tricks at some mud-covered road-side brothel somewhere, lucky to use the last of her connections to at least have clawed her way to becoming a chamber-maid in the Queen's Court, Abigail (played by Emma Stone), comes onto the scene ... and much ensues ... :-) or :-|.

And the story asks us, the Viewers, the question if it really would have been _any more edifying_ if good ole Queen Anne had "found comfort" with some sweaty stable-hand or perhaps a strapping young red-coated officer with a big tall bushy hat and a sabre in hand.

And actually, it's not an altogether bad question to ask:

I've often joked that if one put one's characters in period clothes and placed them in some exotic locale then one could have those characters do just about _anything_.  As but one (though IMHO excellent) example: In the English Patient [1996], darling of the Academy Awards that year, set in colonial Egypt/Libya just as World War II was about to break out, the lead characters "finally" consummated highly scandalous / adulterous affair (and then in _bed-board banging fashion_) while the entire British garrison was assembled in the Plaza below singing ... "Silent Night" :-). 

So while I do think that it's fair for Readers to know what they're going to be seeing here -- a lesbian oriented Harlequin Romance type story -- after that, I'd say that its "morality" (or amorality) is no different than if Queen Anne would have come to share her bed with some early-18th century Scots-Irish Rasputin.


NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >