A movie review – Call of the Wild

It’s always a pleasure to go and see a movie with Harrison Ford in it, whether beating off a hoard of crooked treasure hunters or just being a grumpy old man.

In this, he was playing his grumpy old man.

But it’s the dog, Buck, a cross between a St Bernard and a Scotch Collie that steals the show.

And rightly so.

Everyone else came to see Harrison Ford, who comes in and out of the picture until the end.  I came to see the dog, whom I think might well be nicknamed ‘the great galuka’ though I have no idea where that name originated.

Certainly, for sheer size and energy he bounds his way across the countryside, from his home in California to the wilds of the Yukon and Alaska, from being a spoilt household pet, then a sled dog and part of a group of other dogs, delivering mail, then a sled dog for a cruel gold seeker, to finally becoming a companion for an old man, yes, Harrison Ford, who saved him from a certain death, who seeks to get away from everyone and everything.

The end is sad in one sense but uplifting in another, nor did I find any part of it slow-moving or boring.

Solid performances all round.

I give it four stars out of five.

A Movie Review – Emma

This is not the first time I have seen a movie about Jane Austen’s Emma. The last one starred Gwyneth Paltrow who did a reasonable job of being the self-appointed matchmaker. In this new edition, the role of Emma went to Anya Taylor-Joy whom I thought was the better of the two.

In every one of these period pieces, it is always a treat to see who’s been roped into an acting role from a long list of old and new British television and film stars.

I was particularly pleased with Bill Nighy’s rendition of Mr. Woodhouse’s role, the running gag of searching for those invisible draughts, and strategic use of the fireside panels.

Rupert Graves, as Mr. Weston, the recipient of Emma’s matchmaking prowess (or otherwise) was also a welcome addition to what was an almost flawless selection of cast members.

But, other than the familiar plotline that included attempted matchmaking and the exercise of privilege, two things stood out. Johnny Flynn’s rendition of Mr. Knightley didn’t sit well with me as I kept going back to previous actors who filled the role, and who were in my opinion, better, and the other, the treatment of the clergy.

It seems to me that Jane Austen didn’t have much time for them because both in this and in Pride and Prejudice, the role seemed to require a buffoon rather than someone sensible. Perhaps it was best portrayed as such as it added some comic light relief from some of the more stodgy moments.

I give it a three out of five stars.

Phryne Fisher and the Crypt of Tears: A review of sorts

So, what has all the adventure of an Indiana Jones movie, takes you through the back alleys of a Persian city, and gives you good old fashioned entertainment?

Yes, at one point I felt I had just been transplanted in Aladdin.

But this only served as the starting point of a daring prison break, a very Indiana motorbike ride, and a do or die jump onto a moving train.

Never have so many waited so long for…

Phryne the pilot, the swordswoman, the one woman rescue squad, who dabbles in a spot of investigating on the side.

Just how did she find Detective Inspector Jack Robinson in that seedy lodging-house?

Some of the reviews haven’t been quite as nice as they might be, but I think they missed the point.

No one in this movie takes themselves or their characters seriously, which, in a way, makes them more interesting.

Loved John Stanton’s creepy portrayal of Crippins, the butler, just the sort of man you could use around a mansion, always there insidiously insinuating himself.

And loved the ending where we finally get to see what was missing in three whole series of episodes. What is it, you’ll have to go and see it to find out.

For me, 5 stars, 101 minutes of pure Phryne joy!

Oh, what a war! A review of 1917

It is hard to comprehend the scale and the effect the war to end all wars had on the men and women who fought in it.

Certainly, in the European sector, it was a nightmare in the trenches.

We Australians are no strangers to wars and have answered the call, first from the mother country, England, from the Boar war, through to world war two, and latterly the USA as a post-war ally.

But this is not about us.

This is about two ordinary men, two soldiers who are given a job, some think impossible.

They have to go over the top, through no man’s land, through enemy-held territory, ie, behind enemy lines, to warn another group of soldiers not to attack the front line in their sector, as it is a well-disguised trap the Germans have set.  What was it called, a strategic withdrawal by the Germans?

From the moment they went over the top, and out into the bleakest of landscapes, we spend all of the time waiting for something bad to happen.

And it does.

And your heart is literally in your mouth the whole time, just waiting for the next setback.

There are moments where the unrelenting suspense is broken by poignancy, revealing the depth of comradeship needed just to survive, and in an instant, how quickly that can disappear.

Then there is the scenes of a French town in ruins, and some who are barely existing there.  How could they with endless bombardment by a merciless enemy?  It shows the difference between the British and the Germans, one merciful, but often paying a very dear price for being so, and the other merciless in the extreme.

And then we reach an almost surreal end, where it felt like I’d been holding my breath for nearly two hours, and, at the same time, it didn’t feel all that long since it started.

It was an uplifting end after fighting against insurmountable odds.  If only half of what we saw was true then it’s surprising any man or woman came back from that war sane.

I give it a well deserved 5 stars.

 

The movie Dolittle

Never have so many waited so long for so …

I was going to say little, but that would do the movie injustice.

Dolittle, the umpteenth variation on the theme of talking to the animals is not all that bad, but my problem I think was that I couldn’t hear what Robert Downey Jr was saying most of the time.

It may have been the attempt to use a Welsh accent if there is such a thing, but perhaps his dialogue delivered with Iron Man force may have resolved that problem.

Perhaps it may have been the start that was the let down for me because it seemed slow and tedious without context.  We do learn why he was that way, later on, but the start needed something extra to drag us in.

Certainly, I liked all the animals, particularly the gorilla and the squirrel who took on the persona of a starship captain without the stardate.  These animals were also the children’s favorites too.

But we needed a bit more humor.

And whilst I realize this film is more for children, all in all, it was three stars out of five.

Come on Robert, you can do better than this.

Going to the movies – not the apocalypse

What do you call going to the movies where the power goes out?

A complete disaster.

For starters, the first problem is living in a cashless society where not very many people carry cash.  When you fo to the movies, your mind is on the movie or elsewhere, so when they get to the box office and see the sign Cash Only. panic sets in.

Ugh. Now they have to go to the ATM and then get back in the queue.

By the way, this is the first time I’ve ever seen the box office open.

Of course, no power means the pre-purchased ticket dispenser is out of action, all those people who pre-purchased tickets now have to join the long queue that’s getting longer by the minute, at the box office.

Those people who got their tickets ahead of time on the internet, namely us, have to join that long since there are no instructions to do anything else, that long queue only to discover they just had to show the e-receipt to the attendant at the entrance to the cinemas.

Ugh again.  Thanks for not telling us earlier.  We could have been in the snack bar queue.

As for snacks, the queue there is ten times longer than the box office, apparently without cash registers, so everything ordered has to be written down and manually added.

Let’s hip the juniors they employ can actually add up numbers in their heads. It’s a miracle these days to find anyone under the age of 18 able to do any mental arithmetic because it seems no schools teach it because everything is electronic.

Hello.

What do we do when there no power to drive the electronic devices.

Ugh yet again.

Ok, what’s the lesson here?

We’re in big trouble if or when the power goes down.

Electricity is one of those commodities we all take for granted because it’s one of those everyday essentials that drives every aspect of our lives.  We might endlessly complain about how much it costs us, but what would we do if there weren’t any at all?

Could we live without it?

No. Emphatically.

I suppose the bigger question is how long before society falls into anarchy?

I hope someone somewhere is working on the problem.

Waiting, perhaps, for the robots to come to life – maybe?

It seems that we spend nearly as much time waiting as some of us do sleeping.  In fact, I’ve been known to be sleeping while waiting.

What is it in this era of mechanization and computerization that we still have to wait.  Is it the human element that is still holding us back?

But, hang on, isn’t it the human element that creates the mechanization and computerization?  Perhaps we are building in redundancy so that we are not replaced by the very things we are creating to make our lives easier?

We don’t have robots who can perform the same tasks as a GP doctor because we still need the human factor, and since one size does not fit all, no consultation can ever be fit into a specific time frame so there will always be waiting especially as the day wears on.

We cannot completely automate phone call answering except for the part where you are put in a queue and told your call is important and then you sit there listening to some awful music, seemingly forgotten

There will always be hundreds of calls in a queue for the most important services. or when you need an answer in a hurry, because only a few people are available to answer the phone.  Robots will not be able to answer calls either, because once again, only a real person can respond to the randomness of callers questions.

Artificial intelligence only works in science fiction.

Then there is the time we spend waiting at traffic lights, and then, even when the lights are with us, in traffic jams.  We are still stumped by trying to find an all-conquering answer to moving masses of people, either by the roads or by public transport.

The latter is all too frequently suffering delays and congestion due to the number of services needed and decaying networks and infrastructure, all of which is only going to get worse, with, of course, longer delays and more waiting.

Maybe the answer is to work from home but sadly the internet, that so-called answer to all our off-site networking, is not going to cope, and in fact, in this country, our latest update is a retrograde step on speed and availability, ie more waiting and less work.

Waiting, it seems, we are stuck with it whether we like it or not.  Good thing then our lives are longer.  But, if we delve into the mystery of longer lives now against what they were back when there was less waiting, maybe we still have the same amount of life, and the fact we’re living longer is negated by all the waiting.

I’m sure we didn’t have to wait very long for anything a hundred years ago.

Just saying.

And yet another Star Wars

Yes, we succumbed and went to the cinema to see the final chapter.

But, Disney on a winner, will it be?

However…

What was I expecting?

A mega weapon in the hands of the bad guys that can destroy planets.  Tick.

The bad guys amassing to destroy the resistance.  Tick.

The last of the resistance amassing to take on the bad guys in a battle they can’t win.  Tick.

The fate of everything put on the shoulders of the Last Jedi.  Tick.

A bad Jedi versus a good Jedi.  Tick.

And, of course, the bad Jedi trying to turn the good Jedi to the dark side.  Tick.

It doesn’t matter what we call the bad guys, whether it’s the Empire, the First Order or the Last Order.  They’re all going to lose; we know that before we stepped into the cinema.  It’s what we came to see.

The internal struggle within those who are the Jedi provides some deep thought-provoking moments along the way, but this ever-pervasive sense of doom and gloom is overshadowed, and sometimes counter-balanced by the comic light relief that the robots, sorry droids, provide.

And the fact no one really dies.  The physical version might disappear, but they always come back, glowing, and with all of their powers somehow still intact.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one.

Along with the fact that only the magic of the movies could bring back someone who had died years before, and appear so lifelike.

There were surprised, and a few of my assumptions were dashed, but it was worth it, despite some of the negatives I’ve read about it.  Could it be longer and flesh out some of the disjointed plot lines, maybe, but 140 minutes was long enough for me.

Long enough to prove that good will always triumph over evil.

But I do have one question; going back to the days of old westerns where you could always tell the bad guys because they always wore black; why were the empire/first/last order stormtroopers always in white?

Back to the movies…again

It’s not as if we have nothing better to do but …

Who’s not a sucker for a kick-ass CIA movie, well sort of …

To be honest the premise that a 9-year-old could blackmail a battle-hardened soldier used to taking out bad guys, sounded a little silly.

But..

Hang on, it is a kids movie after all, and it surprised me how many people had come to see it. And it wasn’t all young children, but quite a few teenagers as well.

Was it worth the nearly two hours viewing time?

Yes.

There could be less ads at the start before the movie started but I guess they keep the movies affordable. And allow you to run up to a half-hour late.

So, back to the movie.

It had everything you’d expect, unexpurgated violence, schmaltz, and the inevitable rescue of the 9-year-old and her mother from the bad guys at the end. It might have been predictable, but it was a gentle, and sometimes humorous, journey to get there.

I’m not sure I could write a story along those lines, but I might give it a try. I’m beginning to realize that sometimes there are different ways to tell the same stories.

And for once in what could be called a high action movie, it was a relief to find the dialogue not riddled with endless expletives.

All it takes is a cast who make it reasonably believable, and are not there just to collect a paycheck, or being cardboard cutouts with CGI going off all around them.

I’ll certainly be seeing it again when it hits the DVD stores in which no doubt I’ll get to see the nuances I missed the first time around.

Star Wars, Star Wars, and more Star Wars

To get ourselves into the mood to go and see the final episode of Star Wars, the rise of Skywalker, we sat down and watched all of the previous eight episodes.

Despite the fact our viewing of Star Wars, like everyone else, started with Episode Four, many, many years ago, this time around we started with Episode One.

Now, when this second set of three episodes started, we didn’t go to the cinema to see them. I think at the time, we’d heard a lot of negative comments about them, centered around a character called Jar Jar Binks, and that was enough.

I did hear sometime later some fans had created a version of the movie with that character completely edited out. I’m still yet to find it.

But, this time we started with One, and it didn’t take long to get tired of Binks, and his appearances were a perfect time to get coffee, drinks or a snack.

It was also interesting to see the origins of ObiOne Kenobi, who had been an older version called Ben Kenobi in Four. And we got to see the Clone Wars, another myth in Four brought to reality in Two and Three.

Lets hope, in reality, we never come to see the likes of robots fighting wars on the scale these movies present.

Additionally, we got to see, in the first three, the birth of Leia and Luke, how they came to be separated, and how they finished up where they were at the start of Four. It was just a shame Padme never lived to see them.

The first three episodes were hard work in the viewing, but they filled in the back story for the next three, how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, and how the Senate Leader, who was secretly a Sith, became the charred looking, gravelly-voiced Emperor.

But after seeing the first two of the third series, something became obvious. Jedi were not born Jedi, they were just ordinary people who had that life force that gave them their powers running strong in their being. Annikin was one. Rae is another. I’m not sure about Ben Solo who had one Jedi parent. That was never fully explained.

That should mean, despite all this rambling by the Emperor and others that the Jedi are extinct, that’s completely and utterly wrong. It’s a large universe and there have to be many, many candidates.

This means that Star Wars could run forever.

A bit like Yoda, really. Interesting that he can still move mountains even after death. I guess a Jedi doesn’t die, well not in the sense that we do. But, then, how could you kill off a cute character like Yoda?

So, eight down, we have only one to go. It should run to the formula. The good Jedi faces off against the bad Jedi and good triumphs over evil. Planets are destroyed by Deathstars, Deathstars are destroyed by single fighters, and we have the awards ceremony at the end with much singing and dancing.

I’ll let you know once I’ve seen it. I will not be reading a recap of the movie before going.