A forum for comments on FASD, sharing, life challenges, politics and other things that bother us. By GrampaBrian, FASD Advocate (AKA Brian Philcox)

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

A Goody Bag of Movies

When the radio and the TV bombards you with a surfeit of information, most of which is unsettling, annoying or both, its always good to get out to a show for a little suspension of disbelief. So I looked through a list of contemporary movies online but gave up searching after going past the 450 mark and only finding half a dozen that appealed to me. I truly wonder where all the money comes from to finance so much dreck. However, Bonnie and I were glad to see the following well-made movies:

Lady Bird You’ve probably encountered lots of comments about this coming of age piece already and seen many accolades for the actor who plays the lead role. For me, this was a showcase for female talent, starting with the unglamorous lead played by Saoirse Ronan. I had seen her before as the elegantly charming star of Brooklyn and was amazed to see her here playing an even younger woman. Her foil was the brilliant Laurie Metcalf who may be remembered as the ditzy buddy of Roseanne Barr in the eponymous Roseanne sitcom or the evangelical mother of Sheldon on Big Bang Theory. Metcalf was totally believable as a contemporary mother and was the linchpin for the plot. Realistically satisfying: ♦♦♦♦

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri I will go to any movie with Frances McDormand and she is superbly supported by Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell here. McDormand always plays herself yet always seems different. Her strength is in the way she becomes the character while still letting her spirit radiate through the part. Harrelson reveals his own skill set by maintaining a controlled yet powerful performance level. The writing was skillful and spare – I never knew which way the script was going and that was a nice surprise. I hate it when I discover that I’m anticipating the next plot point that inevitably happens. And Peter Dinklage was his amazingly droll self: ♦♦♦♦

The Leisure Seeker Ever since Bonnie and I saw Two for the Road with Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn we have seen many parallels as our own life together has evolved. So a road trip movie with a couple who matched our ages seemed like a natural for us. The newspaper ad quoted one critic who said it was “A crushingly funny road trip comedy”. Other critics claimed that it was a waste of the talents of Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland. Actually, I think all the critics missed the boat (or, in this case, the RV) on this one. The movie is not a comedy — it is a heart-wrenching glimpse of two elders,  deeply in love, coping with the vicissitudes of life. The script is taut and the there is little art direction padding. A gripping tale, well-told by the protagonists: ♦♦♦♦

Something Completely Different – Movie Reviews

My wife Bonnie is a writer of magazine articles, newspaper columns, books, TV shows and film scripts. So, when we go to the movies at a big screen theatre, we allow our suspension of disbelief to take over and revel in the sound and screen blast that is better than any drug I know of. The diet cola and giant bag of popcorn doesn’t hurt either.

These are my comments about the films we saw this year that we both really liked.

Going in Style: This is  a typical caper yarn carried out by a trio of disgruntled, charming, but barely competent novice criminals played by Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin. The plot, while well-worn, doesn’t really matter as much as the script and finesse of these three players. It’s a calorie-free super treat that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.

The Big Sick: This is a true story about a comedian we first saw on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Kumail Nanjiiani teamed up with his writer wife to create a brilliant report of a life-threatening incident, that actually happened to them. The story could have become a saccharine soap opera, but the deftness of the script and the skilled performances of Zoe Kazan as the wife, along with solid role-playing by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano made us hope for more productions from this couple. Solid all around with a very positive outlook for the future.

Dunkirk: I wasn’t interested in seeing yet another movie glorifying war, but Bonnie wondered if this was the action in World War II when a cousin of hers was wounded. This was a movie that would have baffled viewers in the days before TV ads with their quick jump cuts and non-sequential time leaps. It took me a little time before I realized that each of the various sub-plots were operating in their own time frames, and we weren’t seeing the action in a continuous flow. Some of the better-known players included Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and Harry Styles. This wasn’t a movie about individual heroes. It was the story of Everyman as epitomized by the grit and determination of ordinary citizens who, along with the warriors, were willing to use every iota of their abilities to save the nucleus of the British Army. This is not a war-mongering movie, it touched the heart of the matter!

Victoria and Abdul: That’s right: Victoria and Abdul — not Victoria and Albert. This is a fictionalized story of a platonic relationship between the monarch and a servant. The script is somewhat fanciful – and Judi Dench as Victoria got all the best lines – with the result that many British reviewers went bonkers over the storyline. I think they missed the point. V&A is a movie about a love story. If it isn’t absolutely historically accurate, why should we care? It is a splendid interplay between two people who cared for one another in the midst of the arcane snobbery to found among upper class British twittery. This film is worthy of every bit of the pomp and circumstance employed. Along with Dench, you can enjoy the performances of Tim Pigott-Smith, Ali Fazal (as Abdul), Eddie Izzard, Michael Gambon, Adeel Akhtar; directed by Stephen Frears and written by Lee Hall.

Movies you probably missed…

Bonnie and I love going to the movies… so how come we get out so seldom? Now that the Doodads are living with their mother we are pretty flexible for time. To complicate matters, our favourite Blockbuster video store has closed and our preferred movie theatre has shut down as well. Part of the problem is the fact there are few new movies that appeal to us. However, there has been some recent joy in discovering movies we’d never heard of. Here’s the secret. Every day I scour the listings on each of the channels that feature movies and look for the offbeat or well-regarded that we have missed — who cares if they weren’t produced this year, they’re brand new to us. Also, the refurbished Cedarbrae Library near our house has a wonderful selection of movie and TV show DVDs that always surprise us. Here are a few of our latest happy finds.

Hula Girls: Sounds like it could be a cheap sexploitation flick, especially because it was aired in the wee hours of the morning. In fact, it is a Japanese film about the plight of some young girls whose lack of a future is wrapped up in a failing mining town. It’s a low key, heartwarming piece that is reminiscent of Hollywood in the 30s, but done with grit and style that makes it a very contemporary work. We found it touching and uplifting, richly textured and appropriately sentimental for our old sensibilities.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: This DVD was spotted at the library because the star,Frances McDormand,is one of our favourites. Listed as a comedy, it had us in tears of laughter throughout. Outrageously corny, silly and sharply caustic, it is a madcap farce set in that surreal moment just before the onset of WWII. McDormand is at her comedic best and is ably supported by a sexy Amy Adams. It’s pure escapism that will leave you smiling for days.

Sabah: When we borrow DVDs from the library we always pick more than we know we’ll get through in a week (bring ’em back on time or it’s a buck a day fine!) because some of our picks are real duds that we turn off within 10 minutes of starting. Sabah turned out to be one of those little treasures that kept us enthralled to the very last scene. It had been added to the pile because the star was Arsinee Khanjian and the plot looked like an exotic love story. In fact, the story takes place in Toronto with Toronto playing itself. It’s a coming of age story for a 40 year old woman who has been enveloped by the Moslem  traditions of her Syrian family, all trying to reconcile their genuine faith and customs with contemporary Canada. Neither a put-down of Islam nor a glorification of today’s mores, it’s a touching tale of two gentle souls who find a way to reach out to find common ground. Will they live happily ever after? Who knows, but the movie makes a good start for all of us.

I give all three of these 4 stars and I hope you will enjoy them too. Let me know if you find them and what you think of them.