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Rat Film (2016)
Where were the rats?
15 March 2018
Only about half of this film was about rats. Other parts were just rambling with long stretches using Google street views and aerial views of Baltimore. It was like it wanted to transport the viewer into some kind of video arcade or game. Statistics were cited over and over that had little correlation with rats. There was little in the way of relating these stats to rats.

This film was so annoying because it would have some segments on rats - and then veer completely off topic. It even showed what looked to be NASCAR racing!!

Even though this was hardly over an hour it just dragged on. Not very illuminating.
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28 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This is the cliché drama of the inhibited woman who discovers the pleasures of love - supposedly.

It starts off with some originality. The dream sequences of deer in the forest were intriguing. But I don't feel much was made of this, and that the director ever succeeded in using this as a tie-in with our purported lovers.

As the film progressed several things went out of wack.

> Her lover looked old enough to be her Dad (the endless fantasy of the beautiful young woman going for the grizzled old folkie)

> What's with these interviews with the crazy psychologist who asks each worker intimate sexual questions - as if this would happen in the workplace environment?!

> The last ten minutes are a baffling transition. Our heroine goes from suicidal, then having sex with the older guy, and it seems after sex -settling into a long-term cozy relationship. No explanation needed; it just all magically happens.

> And really what was the point of having this work setting in a slaughter-house, perhaps to provide arty shots of cows on there way to oblivion
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Jane (II) (2017)
2 January 2018
It's always a nice feeling when you come out of a movie with a "Now that was GOOD!!"

I remember Jane Goodall from those National Geographic documentaries and reading articles about her in the same magazine - years and years ago. But I never knew much about her. This film fills in those gaps - about who she is as an individual. And you learn about Chimpanzees too. I was surprised that she had absolutely no university training and background. She was a nature and animal lover - and brought a fresh perspective.

The only quibble I have was that she states a few times that "she was on her own and alone". There were photographers with her and she had a base camp. Also the musical accompaniment was overdone.

This is really a wonderful documentary on a now legendary and marvelous person.
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Six Feet Under (2001–2005)
31 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
When I first checked this out, I thought how interesting could a series be on a funeral home? Well it was indeed interesting! And more than that – innovative, funny (often in a dark way), and with very real life characters. Seldom have I watched a series where I became so immersed in each character, who are all so different and genuine.

This series is not for everyone. If you want action, car chases, and explosions look elsewhere. If you want an arc of personality change and development this will definitely appeal – everyone felt so very real. Sure I got tired of the on-again and off- again relationships of Nat and Brenda, and of David and Keith – but still each episode kept me so captivated. The dialogue is witty and way above average. Its' a gigantic soap opera that enraptured me with its brilliant assortment of personalities.

The writers, producers, directors and especially the actors pulled me beyond expectation into the universe of this story!
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Funny - NAUGHT
26 October 2017
Who said this is funny??

This is boring with long tedious dialogue stretches that go absolutely nowhere.

The characters are completely uninteresting, un-engaging, self- absorbed, conceited and are constantly babbling dribble.

The perfect film to hit the fast-forward over and over and over. Or better still watch an old Woody Allen movie.
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Monumental Documentary
14 October 2017
This is overwhelming. This documentary had me riveted through all 10 episodes.

I recorded it, but could never proceed directly to the next episode because so much emotion was packed into each one. I had to give at least a day between each viewing. After viewing an episode I would shut the TV off. Watching anything after would have been anti-climatic compared to the intensity of what I had just absorbed.

Among many excellent passages from the documentary, this is one of my favourite commentaries: "It is very, very difficult to dispel ignorance if you retain arrogance".

We are provided with the full panoply of the Vietnam War, with many different viewpoints and opinions. From start to finish this is visually engrossing. Full congratulations go to the makers of this unforgettable documentary.
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The Sopranos (1999–2007)
1 and 1/2 seasons
27 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this for the first season and about half of the second. And then gave up. I gave it 7/10 because I got that far, but 70 percent was not enough to continue. I have watched other TV series – and the inevitable comparisons must be made. "Breaking Bad" is far and away the very best I have seen – far superior to "The Sopranos".

The Good: Tony Soprano's relationship with his wife, children and mother was always interesting. These were the best parts of the series and the most convincing. Overall the women in this series were real and three dimensional.

The Bad: All of Tonys' Mafioso friends were caricatures and stereotypes. The script for them was comic book. I got irritated by the boring Godfather imitations and the frequent misogyny.

Really, the story-line, script and dialogue were pretty weak. Not much was going on and not much of a plot in all this. There was never an episode where I felt I had to move immediately onto the next. In fact several times the opposite – hit the fast-forward.

The Ugly: I became really, really tired of Christopher and his girlfriend, Adriana. The whole sub-plot of them desiring to be music-producers, then wannabe actors, directors was boring and unconvincing. Speaking of "unconvincing" the character of Christopher was just that.

Compared to "Breaking Bad" the story-line was plodding, one- dimensional, with no plot twists. Compared to "The Wire" there was little intensity, nothing was gripping. Compared to "Dexter" the characterizations were not enthralling. Compared to "Wentworth" no new characters were introduced to add vitality. And in general, there was not much of an atmosphere of any type to give depth and continuation to this series.
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The Big Sick (2017)
It Works!
23 July 2017
An excellent romantic comedy.

This could have slipped so easily into something sappy and syrupy - particularly when our main actress enters the hospital, but it doesn't. The actors – all of them – give genuine and natural performances. Nothing is overdone. It never falls into the category of just another romance and comedy with the standard clichés.

An engaging and original script from the get-go. Definitely way above average!
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Goes off the rails
13 July 2017
This is a wanna be Quentin Tarantino flic. It doesn't succeed. At least with Tarantino there is a story-line and the dialogue can be slick and comical. This hardly exists in this film despite a cast of interesting characters. Its' misogynistic, which is curiously stated by one of the actors at the half-way point.

The first half precedes well-enough, but then evaporates into a mish- mash. The film-makers are almost pleading with the audience to provide an ending solution to their troubled movie. How to end, when to end, where to end... It just dissolves into dribble.
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The Keepers (II) (2017)
21 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is an excellent human drama series. It is touching and heartfelt.

It's on many topics. It's about the murder of a nun who was going to be a whistle blower on sexual abuse in the school she was teaching in. It's about the women who survived this abuse in high school and came forward years after to try and reconcile themselves – and to find the killer of the nun they so admired during their school years. It's about them futilely trying to find justice from the Roman Catholic Church. It's about a web of corruption that extends from the Church to the Police Departments.

Most impressively it demonstrates the power that a group of self- motivated and courageous women can put onto their communities to attempt to find justice and accountability from those who commit horrendous crimes. It was obscene the pressure the Roman Catholic Church put on the victims. Their obfuscation to deny their responsibility shows how experienced the Roman Catholic Church has become through the ages at denial of their sins.
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Their Finest (2016)
16 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
For the most part I thought that Gemma Aterton and Sam Claflin carried this film along – which it really needed sometimes.

It's about the making of B-grade film during the London Blitz to rouse the people of England – and also to appeal to the U.S. audience. This brings to mind - how good can a film be that is about the making of a grade B film? I just felt this film sagged at times – it lacked energy and enthusiasm, it needed a jolt. One kind of occurred when the film- makers met with Anthony Eden who emphasized the requirement for this film to also be made for a U.S. audience.

Considering that I am interested in this time period, but have reservations about the film – it won't be around for years hence – I don't feel it has much interest for a general audience.
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Human Trafficking (2014 Video)
Harrowing documentary on sex slavery
11 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This 90 minute Canadian documentary has interviews with those who underwent enforced prostitution. There are also accounts by police officers in different areas of Canada who made investigations into this insidious sex trade trafficking.

The victims and police officers explain how these young girls and women were lured and then forced into prostitution. There is even an interview with an ex-trafficker. For many of these young girls the only exit from this is death. They feel so forlorn and abandoned they see no hope. So the subject matter of this film is harrowing and sobering.

This film was put together by Joy Smith, a former Member of the Canadian Parliament. She was instrumental in putting together legislation that now treats prostitutes, both male and female, as victims who need to be rescued and helped. The crime is now on their owners (pimps) and their customers.

Sadly this film is marred by a Parliamentary aide who spoke glowingly of the years he worked alongside Joy Smith. Unfortunately his monologue went on for an unendurable amount of time towards the end of the film. It was needlessly distracting and took away from the message of the film. This portion should be removed.
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Good for a quiet evening
10 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is amusing and has a few moments, but no laugh out loud moments during this film.

The story is of a comedy cast trying to make it in the competitive New York market.

It does digress and veers off track – sometimes becoming overly melodramatic. There's a love relationship, one of the cast has a dying father, another meets up with a high school sweet-heart who is pregnant. If it would have stuck to the nightly comedy routine and the tensions within the group it would have been more unified. So after awhile what exactly are we left watching? Never felt very engaged by any of the characters.

The ending is overly schmaltzy with all participating in a group hug, but in the prior scenes there were fierce and combative arguments...

Good for a quiet weekday evening.
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Campo de Jogo (2015)
After twenty minutes...
10 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Although this film is clocked at an hour ten minutes – it seemed much longer. Yes it is exquisitely filmed, but that only goes so far. After the first twenty minutes all else becomes redundant.

Its fine to have no explanations and minimal dialogue – and in most cases very repetitious dialogue from the films' participants. But this film begs for some background, even interviews with the audience could have been beneficial. We are shown excerpts from other games – which begs the question why?

Maybe I wasn't a good target audience – but would this only appeal to the citizens of Rio?
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Entertaining, but light
22 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This was definitely entertaining. It's a group of Arab men - from Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan... who are conversing in a barber shop in Edmonton. Canada comes off very well as a country that offers them peace and a live- and-let-live way of life. These men come from a region of the world where, in their words, tribal affiliations can range from family threats to life or death. Canada offers an alternative.

They also discuss aspects of terrorism – and the stereotypes they face. Some put the blame for ISIS or Daesh on Islam. One said that we have to look inside ourselves. There was also some mention of the ghettoization of immigrants versus immersion into Western society.

Be that as it may, this film of less than an hour comes off as somewhat lightweight. It's probably due to the structure of the presentation – a group of guys chatting in a barber-shop - with no probing whatsoever. I did come away with a sense of a chauvinistic, patriarchal point-of-view. With comments like "my daughter wears the hijab". What does this mean? The father seemed proud of this. How would he feel if his daughter discarded the hijab? Another spoke of his son having a Jewish male friend come to the house. That's very nice – but his son lives in a pluralistic society – when he enters a university or the workforce he will be exposed to many nationalities, different political orientations, females in authority, straight, gays ... What if his son dates a Jewish girl – what then?

I got the feeling this film was skimming the surface throughout. The gender roles of women and men are a constant problem in the Muslim world – and are now affecting us here in the West (for example women wearing the niqab, arranged marriages ...). For more thought provoking issues, see the NFB film "Me and the Mosque" or Google Mona Eltahawy.
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Almost Famous (2000)
Disney Rock'n'Roll
1 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I go against the stream here. This movie was eye candy. It was a piece of disposal fluff. The Disney version of Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'Roll.

The dialogue is superficial. Kate Hudson is always smiling and very annoying. Billy Crudup has a constant vacuous look about him - as if he had just been beamed into the scene. There is no emotion in this. There is no intensity. It just drones on and on. The journalism theme, I suppose, was meant to convey an intellectual message. I didn't buy it. The groupie girls were boring too – like they were on some kind of high school weekend excursion. Give me a break.

Some good songs alleviated the monotony. And I liked Philip Seymour Hoffman's role.
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Aquarius (2016)
beyond tedious
24 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Overly long, tedious scenes that just drag on, with no meaning, that add nothing to the film and plot; family scenes that have long drawn out conversations; scenes of parties full of people that have no role in the movie; also pretentious , particularly the musical interludes (as in "ladies and gentlemen you are now listening to a fine song selected especially for this film" ); meanders endlessly like that long walk on the beach; didn't care for the characters and had no emotional connection to them; a simple story of a woman who refuses to be evicted from her apartment which is stretched to infinity (2 hours and 22 minutes) – fortunately watched this on Netflix where I was able to hit fast forward
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Jackie (V) (2016)
24 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Natalie Portman is mesmerizing in the role of Jackie. We feel her presence and she encompasses the mystic and the aura of Jacqueline Kennedy. Also the tremendous tragedy of this era – namely the unresolved assassination of a world leader at the apex of world power – is at the forefront of this film. The impact of those bullets on the motorcade is felt throughout this film.

Natalie Portman simply overpowers all the scenes she is in. She tosses out zingers – a la Jacqueline Kennedy – that are only noticed after – as in I think she just insulted the interviewer, the state senator...

As an additional caveat - if one is not familiar with this time period –if you are under 30 years of age this film may not affect you emotionally. Also the film somewhat slows towards the ending – I felt the conversations with her priest (Played by William Hurt) to be tedious and overly theological/philosophical sagging the overall impact.
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Moonlight (I) (2016)
2 out of 3
13 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
There are three parts to this movie of a young man growing up in a poor black area of Florida.

The first is when he is about eight years old(it would seem) where he is befriended and protected by an older man who is also a drug dealer. The second part is when he is an adolescent – and being bullied and ostracized in high school. He is also coming to realize that he is gay.

The first two parts are the harrowing story of a young person growing up who is different. He is sensitive and self-aware beyond his years. This is all convincingly done. Along with the filming technique you are emotionally drawn into this story.

Sadly I felt the last part, of him being a twenty-something person, had all this emotion withdrawn. It was like a balloon that had suddenly had the air let out. The film wilted and became ordinary.
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2 January 2017
A must see for any James Brown fan. And a great introduction to anyone wanting to know more of him.

It well illustrates the drive and originality of this musician. Certainly one of the greats of the 20th century. An innovator whose influence can be directly seen on Prince and Michael Jackson. And as the documentary well shows – an unbelievable tyrant to his band- members.

A lot of interesting interviews and revelations - and WOW performances in this documentary. Fasten your seat belts – the man could move!! Also some very worthwhile special features.
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17 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Yes this is realistic and, yes it's based on a true story. But this just didn't work.

We get an introduction to our characters with a lot of troop dialogue, some of it incomprehensible due to the accents. Anyway, after we see the settings and the stark mountainous scenery our soldiers go out on a patrol.

They step into a minefield. One fellow lies screaming in agony, as we would expect. Then after an interlude another soldier steps on mine. At this stage, we know war is hell and soldiers fall into dire and hopeless situations. But it really becomes excruciating and repetitive – and it drags on for at least an hour. I started fast- forwarding and it was almost like the same scenes kept being repeated. It just became too much – the screaming, the blood, the gushing limbs, the tourniquets applied...
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3 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"The Book Thief" has good intentions but over-all I found it muddled. There were too many things going on – Liesel's relationship with her surrogate parents and with Rudy. Then there was hiding a Jewish person in the family household – and then Liesel's relationship with him. One could add other themes like the growing Nazism of the towns-folk, the Allied bombings, Liesel stealing books...

The film just tries too hard when making any emotional statement. Aside from our central character I never felt any emotional connection to the others. Liesel's surrogate mother was a caricature.

Although well-filmed and colourful cinematically it was bothersome to hear German accents and words popping up constantly (Ja, Nien...). The bodies of Liesel's surrogate parents and Rudy after the bombing raid look so pristine beside the ruined homes – giving additional phoniness to this film.

Also that over-narration of Dr. Death added to the cloyingness.

Overall the story held some interest, but I never felt much of a main focal point.
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Maggie's Plan (2015)
1 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
There are fun things in this film – and not so fun things

The Positive: I thought Greta Gerwig in the role of Maggie was wonderful – a natural. The other characters are not bad too – although Ethan Hawke did grate on me at times.

There are twists and turns in the story-line so one does not quite know where we are being led, making the film unpredictable (as opposed to boring predictable).

And that was quite a story- jump from Maggie meeting our professor and then abruptly being a mother of a three year old.

The Negative: Yet another movie about an aspiring novelist-professor of esoteric study areas; in this case anthropological mumble-jumble.

And related to the above the film gets too wordy, too talkie...

But Overall – quirky and enjoyable
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Soul Power
24 November 2016
Really a Fun movie to watch.

Its got energy, its got laughs – and Soul!

Character interactions are Great. There's plenty of rivalry. It's a band that's starting out and trying to put itself together. The lead manager played by Robert Arkins holds the film together and is the centerpiece. Nothing ever goes smoothly with plenty of cussin' and shoving and pushing. Great dialogue but the sub-titles helped me in the understanding.

The music is superb – once they get their act together.

There is not a dull moment from beginning to end.
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The Witness (I) (2015)
24 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A most moving documentary that explores many facets of the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City (Queens) in 1964. At the time it was portrayed as a murder witnessed by 38 people who did nothing.

Over the years this was exposed as a manufactured myth, for example most of the witnesses heard but did not see the crime. There were also calls to the police and a friend of Kitty's came to her assistance. The New York Times comes under criticism for fabrication of these "38 witnesses" – as a ploy for "crime sells" and propagating a myth of "urban indifference".

We also come to know who Kitty was – and how a family never recovers from this trauma. An excellent documentary, at a very human level, where the principal narrator, the brother of Kitty, never draws undue attention to himself.
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