What Are We Watching on TV in March?

KeskusteluMovie Lovers Plus 2

Liity LibraryThingin jäseneksi, niin voit kirjoittaa viestin.

What Are We Watching on TV in March?

maaliskuu 1, 10:22 am

"I brought the treats...could someone turn that thing on please?

maaliskuu 1, 12:59 pm

My Xfinity (Comcast) cable service is doing a freebie week for the Acorn subscription service, still another home of Commonwealth police procedurals. I had a subscription to Acorn long ago & did have a fondness for the New Zealand series Brokenwood Mysterieswith Neil Rhea, mostly cause I like the accents, both the "Kiwi" stuff & Gina the Russian pathologist. Nowadays I binge a season whenever Xfinity does a free week. Season 8, this time. Uses a limited cast but recycles many of the supporting ones (e.g. Frodo the coffee monger) in different situations, which lends variety. The killers seems to be rather sympathetic, the scenery is striking. Frequently married chief detective Shepherd's new girlfriend is introduced, and the show finally has a Maori detective sergeant, though Fern Sutherland continues as Shepherd's foil, whose character trait seems to be to conceal all character traits; all the other Brokenwood police personnel seem to exist only to hand documents to the leads.

Acorn also keeps up with Midsomer Murders. Both it & Brokenwood clock in at ca. 90 min. per episode, & I sometimes have a hard time staying awake in their soothing presences. There was a wonderful reference to Midsomer in this week's TLS letters section: Regarding the translation of W.G. Sebald's writings, biographer Grant Gee "compares ::the Sebald translations:: with French translations of the television series Midsomer Murders, which, he tells us, is very popular in France. The translation to French, though, gives this quintessentially English village production an “existential gloss”, “much moodier” and even “weirder” than the original. Elsewhere, the lead actor in the series, John Nettles, has described how the man who voiced him, Hervé Jolly, though still sounding like an English policeman, made the character appear “a deep thinker and great intellectual”.

maaliskuu 1, 1:41 pm


Over here in the Uk I have been enjoying 'The Gold' on BBC TV which tells the story of a famous Bank Robbery over here in the 80's known as the Brink-Mat raid. Thousands of gold bars were stolen by a team of thieves. The police officer trying to chase the thieves down is played wonderfully by Hugh Bonneville of 'Downton' fame and up and coming movie star Jack Lowden plays the chief villain. Definitely worth a watch if it comes your way. Please ignore touchstone. I tried it out and it came up with something unrelated.

maaliskuu 1, 4:38 pm

>2 featherbear: I say I don't watch TV but I did watch every episode of Midsomer Murders and Brokenwood. I have all the Midsomer Murders on DVD and some of The Brokenwood.

maaliskuu 3, 1:24 am

Watched one of The Series "The First Ladies" Eleanor Roosevelt was just so interesting. What a wonderful woman. Fascinating footage also.

maaliskuu 4, 6:09 pm

M3gan (2022) 1 hr 42 min. Via Peacock streaming. Director Gerard Johnstone. Screenplay Akela Cooper (story James Wan). Robotics engineer (Alison Williams) creates an AI doll for her recently orphaned niece (Violet McGraw). Bad idea, of course. Doll & niece imprint on each other. Some of the niece’s lack of social skills I suspect has something to do with her homeschooling, where her parents have already left the parenting to an Ipad. Roger Corman level Frankenstein movie. For something more interesting I recommend Steven Spielberg’s AI Artificial Intelligence (2001).

Continuing the freebie week on Xfinity’s Acorn channel & binged Acorn’s Dalgliesh series, based on the P.D. James novels featuring the poet-widower-detective, taking place in the late 70s; good historical scene deco by the way. Each novel got 2 episodes, and Acorn did: Shroud for a Nightingale, The Black Tower, and A Taste for Death. Bertie Carvel does look & act like my impression of the inspector from the book. Much darker than Brokenwood or Midsomer. The medical procedure at the beginning of Shroud requires a strong stomach, so to speak. The first 2 weren’t “spoiled” for me since I read the novels when they came out & they’ve been in storage for years, but I just read the latter, written by James after a long hiatus. James wanted to give a sense of the architectural and financial value of the murdered ex-peer’s house, but too much of the book read like a docent guide. That part the series avoids, but it simplifies the motives to its detriment. Jeremy Irvine as Sgt. Masterman seems a new character representing the uber-male toxicity of the time, & has some uncomfortable interactions with DS Kate Miskin, a James series regular introduced in the Acorn series in Black Tower, with a different arc, since she’s mixed race in the Acorn series. No idea whether Acorn is planning to continue the series.

On HBOMax caught the last 2 episodes of C.B. Strike Season 4, based on Troubled Blood. Background has Strike (Tom Burke) coping with the dying & death of his foster mother & Robin Ellacott (Holliday Granger) trying to finalize her divorce. The main narrative is the investigation into the death of a missing parent, which means dealing with the possible killer in Broadmoor & with an elusive suspect who keeps changing his names. The killer reveal is some really cold stuff. Quite satisfying conclusion. BBC origin, not sure whether they’re closing up shop on the series.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 16, 12:06 am

Watching a lot of Criterion Channel in the past week. CC dumped a lot of classic films at the end of February, including a Lubitsch I didn’t get to finish. However, March has a new Precode Hollywood collection with more Lubitsch. However, CC is showcasing Michelle Yeoh this month, because of the Oscars & Everything Everywhere All At Once. CC has a collection of her movies starting with Yes Madam (1985) & ending with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). I binged on films in the collection, starting with Yes Madam, where martial arts maven Cynthia Rothrock probably is featured, though Yeoh gets in her licks as well – in the opening action sequence she foils a bank robbery climaxed with a bad guy reaching for a pistol while she recaps the Dirty Harry “do you feel lucky punk” trope (though in this case her gun is loaded). Relies too much on the secondary characters’ clowning, which didn’t translate well for me.

Speaking of translation, Yeoh was born & brought up in Malaysia, of ethnic Chinese heritage but her childhood languages were English & Malaysian & her schooling was in England. She had to learn Cantonese for her role in Yes, Madam!, and had to learn her lines phonetically for the Mandarin speaking role in Crouching Tiger (per Wikipedia); recall that she plays an ethnic Chinese mom in Crazy Rich Asians, where the setting is in Malaysia.

Back to the CC collection though: much better was Police Story 3: Supercop (1992) where Jackie Chan is featured, & Yeoh is the Interpol agent tasked to keep an eye on him. Kind of a Hong Kong James Bond type movie – she broke into the international scene with the Bond flick Tomorrow Never Knows -- with the awesome final sequence (back to Supercop) back home in Malaysia, where a gang tries to free the leader’s wife, with car chase, then Jackie Chan dangling from a rope ladder connected to a helicopter, then with the ladder (still connected to the helicopter) caught on a train, with Chan fighting bad guys atop said train while Yeoh comes to his aid ramping a motorbike onto the speeding train.

Favorite though was The Stuntwoman aka A Jin de gu shi (1996). Unfortunately muddy cinematography, but good, sympathetic direction by Anna Mui. Yeoh plays Ah Kam, a poor immigrant from China who uses her last minute role as a martial arts stand-in to gain the respect of the action director Master Tung (martial arts great Sammo Hung) & becomes part of the action-stunt company, a group constantly on the brink of bankruptcy & reckless with money & health. The health of the company is jeopardized not just by the stunts, but by the criminal underworld that seems to be the unavoidable environment of 90’s Hong Kong cinema. Ah Kam opts for a less dangerous life by becoming the girlfriend of a wealthy entrepreneur & runs a karaoke bar for him, though the combination of gang extortion, her husband’s cheating, and a partner’s disappearance causes her to return to the movie-stunt company after Master Tung is murdered by a gang member. (As a biographical aside, Yeoh married the producer of Yes, Madam! and retired after a couple of films until she divorced him & returned to action movies.) Tung’s bratty son gets in the gang’s bad graces after a fireworks prank when the murderer skates; Ah Kam rescues him and, as a final act of respect for her mentor, she takes the son back to China to reunite with what remains of his family. Ironically, Yeoh was badly injured in one of the stunts in the film, where she performs the stunt of jumping from a bridge to the padded back of a speeding truck. She did many of her own stunts in her early Hong Kong films, before she became an international star. One of the features of the Hong Kong action movies of the time was to play flubs in the background while running the end credits. The Supercop flubs are quite funny, while The Stuntwoman is of course about the flubs in the background; the flub reel for the credits has Yeoh being immobilized after her unfortunate fall in preparation for the ambulance.

Also on CC, I caught King Hu’s Raining in the Mountain aka Kong shan ling yu (1979) partly because it was scheduled to cycle off CC at the end of the month. This is a caper film taking place in a Buddhist monastery during the Ming Dynasty. The abbot of the monastery is planning to name his successor & retire, and 2 benefactors, a rich man and a general, are backing different candidates, each hoping to gain control of a priceless scroll held in the monastery’s library. The film I found to be rather a slow starter, with quite a bit of what seems like pointless running around by the rich man’s concubine & his valet. Things get more interesting when a convict arrives who has purchased a permit to become a monk rather than be sentenced to the military. Turns out the general’s bodyguard has framed the convict & murdered the convict’s brother. In addition, the bodyguard has recognized the “concubine” as The White Fox, a notorious thief. Turns out the rich guy (Esquire Wen) has hired the White Fox as a backup in case his candidate is unable to deliver the goods.

I would say that for me the real discovery on CC was the documentary My Architect by Nathaniel Kahn, the son of Louis Kahn. Two of the architect Louis Kahn’s buildings are situated about 2 blocks from my apartment in New Haven, The Yale University Art Gallery & The Yale Center for British Art. These fine buildings aren’t featured, but it was so nice to see Kahn’s other great buildings in their settings – he was not at all prolific -- : the Salk Institute in La Jolla Calif., the Exeter Library, the Kimbell Art Museum, & the Bangladesh National Assembly building in Dhakka. Also, amusingly, a boat cum sound stage for a wind symphony. Unfortunately, if understandably, the focus is on the son’s self-discovery & the mysteries of Lou Kahn’s family life (he lived a polygamous life, never divorcing or separating from his first wife, but with another wife and daughter from his practice, and Nathaniel’s mother). Also a “mystery” involving Louis Kahn’s death though it didn’t seem all that mysterious to me. He died aged 73, having worked himself to death in the 10 years when he became a celebrated architect in his 60s. Live fast, die of a heart attack in a rail station rest room after returning from the site of his last major creation in India (not completed until long after his death). If nothing else, it inspires me to pull out a book residing in my Kindle by Wendy Lesser, You say to brick: the life of Louis Kahn where I assume there will be more focus on the architecture.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 11, 1:37 pm

Amazon prime is making Women Talking available for five days to subscribers. Oscar nominated for best adapted screenplay. Based on the novel by Miriam Toews, in turn based on an actual event in a Bolivian Mennonite community, where the men immobilized the women with animal tranquilizers & raped them, victims ranging from toddlers to grandmothers. Screenwriter/director Sarah Polley follows Toews and transfers the setting to Manitoba (Polley is Canadian & I remember her from an excellent film from 1997, The Sweet Hereafter which was also my introduction to Ian Holm’s acting mastery; she is also screenwriter for a recent Netflix series, Alias Grace). An ensemble film with among others Rooney Mara (Ona), Claire Foy (Salome), Judith Ivey (Agata), Frances McDormand (almost unrecognizable as Scarface Janz), and the title is accurate. Though the perps have been jailed, the men have traveled to town to bail them out, and the women of the community need to decide whether to forgive, fight, or leave while the men are away. The women are illiterate, but vote on the 3 choices based on pictures; forgive is off the table, and fight or leave is a tie. Some of the most affected women are selected as representatives to make the final decision, and the bulk of the film is those women in a hayloft making the case for one or the other option. It should be noted that in their world view, leaving the community means to be permanently excluded from the heavenly kingdom. Because the women are illiterate, author Toews had the community schoolteacher (August, played by Ben Whishaw) take minutes, and the novel, which I haven’t read, is, if I understand correctly, the (male) schoolteacher’s notes, female talk filtered through a presumably sympathetic male writer. Polley modifies this with one of the participants narrating what happens some time later. The screenplay is a little stagey, a little gender-studies seminar, but (filter again) via a fundamentalist worldview (here Protestant, but one could imagine something similar in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community, or possibly a secular utopian community), with the (I suppose liberal) assumption that agreement is possible through dialog. Whishaw struck me as a bit over the top snowflakey. Still interesting as an attempt, exercise, maybe, in how to come to terms with outrageous behavior and social structures created by the real a-holes.

maaliskuu 9, 9:53 pm

Just finished viewing an hour long three part series on SBS TV
Looking For Rembrandt great viewing. A new series starting up next is on SBS
Being Beethoven should be good, at the moment I hooked on Docos.
Although I have recorded one of favorite movies last evening The Piano

maaliskuu 11, 1:37 pm

Robert Eggers’ historical “trilogy” on various streaming services.

The Northman (2022). Via Amazon Prime; was also streamed on Peacock. 2 hr 17 m. Directed by Eggers; screenplay by Eggers & Sjon. I’ve seen it some months ago & it was this movie that caused me to look up Eggers’ other historical films. Northman seems even more intriguing having recently read Egils Saga in The Sagas of Icelanders collection. Eggers does seem to get the atmosphere right, though he likes to conclude with more cinematic bombast than was the case with the Egil saga. A revenge story. Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard) is the son of King Aurvandill & Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman). The King is overthrown by his brother Fjolnir. Amleth escapes & is brought up as a Viking raider, where most of the looting takes place in the Medieval Baltic region. Eventually he catches up with Fjolnir in Iceland, where Gudrun has willingly become the usurper’s wife. He follows the destiny described by seeress Bjork and, in alliance with Russian slave Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) takes revenge by first eliminating Fjolnir’s son, then his queen (his mother, you recall), and then has a duel to the death with Fjolnir under the shadow of an Icelandic volcano.

Via HBO (or HBOMax), The Witch (2015), 1 hr. 32 min. Written & directed by Eggers. Nice score by Mark Korven. Though filmed in Canada, I assume this one takes place in recently settled New England, with a family kicked out of the City on a Hill because the father’s Puritanical views are too extreme even for his own community. The family homestead on the edge of the woods. St. Augustine has much to answer for, since in early introductions we learn from individual prayers that all members are suffused with a sense of sin that can only be redeemed through the grace of Christ. Thomasina (Anya Taylor-Joy) is the eldest, a teen, and the focus of the film. The farmstead seems to be cursed: the maize crop is ravaged by plague & the twins Mercy & Jonas (Ellie Grainger & Lucas Dawson) seem to be babbling suspicious ditties about their black goat, second oldest child Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw; good performance) is lured deep into the forest by a witch & is done in by a poisoned apple. The whole family blames poor Thomasina, who is clearly innocent. Father William (Ralph Ineson) nails up Thomasina & the twins in the goat pen to keep the evil confined, but he gets up the next morning with the goat pen destroyed with all the livestock dead except for the black goat, which gores him to death. Blaming Thomasina as usual, mother Katherine (Kate Dickey) tries to strangle her daughter, who stabs Katherine to death in self- defense. Sick of it all, Thomasina goes with the flow & submits to the black goat & becomes a witch. Sort of a New England reenactment of Carl Dreyer’s Day of Wrath (1943), which takes place during roughly the same time period. Would be interesting to see him do a reboot of Dreyer’s Ordet, where the mad son who thinks he’s Jesus brings a woman back from the dead – dramas of Christianity redone as horror.

Via Showtime: The Lighthouse (2019). 1 hr 49 min. Director R. Eggers, screenplay by R. Eggers & Max Eggers. Cinematography, Jarin Blaschke; score by Mark Korven. Unlike Eggers’ other 2 films, this was in black and white, with 4:3 aspect ratio; visually a treat to watch (and hear – turn up your TV speakers). Eggers appears to like situations where the protagonists are placed in isolated situations: remote Icelandic village, remote New England farm, and the ultimate, a lighthouse completely isolated during months of bad weather – and then lets ‘em rip & roar. Allows for histrionic acting in this case, which seems appropriate under the circumstances. Old Salt longtime lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) & new hire Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) -- or is that his real name/identity? -- get to know each other & drink way too much whiskey. There’s a mermaid & masturbation. The end titles claim that some of the dialog was borrowed from Herman Melville, though there are mythic overtones: the end cut of gulls pecking at Ephraim’s guts suggests Prometheus stealing fire/light from the god of the Titans (i.e. keeper of the light-house lens), though intertwined with Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I do sense that Eggers tends to use animals as baleful portents.

maaliskuu 11, 1:54 pm

The Duke
Delightful movie based on a true story in 1961 about an English gentleman who stole a price portrait from London's National Gallery. Jim Broadbent starred in it and he gave a great performance in this film. Highly recommended!

maaliskuu 11, 2:53 pm

As something of a relief from Eggers claustrophobia, binged my way through Poker Face on Peacock. I’d caught the first couple earlier, but went through the remainder of the 10 episode season last night. Liked it a lot better than Glass Onion which I found pretty thin; P F, on the other hand, came off as a series of Canterbury Tales seen through the eyes of The Pardoner (his tale: the Men Who Sought to Kill Death, but instead find a hoard of gold, though eventually Death finds them in the end), or in this case, Charley Kale (Natasha Lyonne), who has seen too much sausage making at a gambling casino & is being pursued by Cliff Legrand (Benjamin Bratt).

Unlike Glass Onion, greed & murderousness is not limited to the top 1% & its parasites, and Charley is forced to take on a different lowly temp job in each episode, a little like Barbara Ehrenreich in Nickeled and Dimed. Allows for many a guest-star turn. My favorite was the penultimate episode 9, with Joseph Gordon-Lewitt, with Charley trapped in a Colorado motel during a blizzard after escaping from a hit and run & premature burial (#1 as it turns out). (Eggers PTSD) Or perhaps life in a senior citizen home with two anarcho-terrorists (S. Epatha Merkerson & Judith Light) to make things interesting. Unlike the British procedurals I’ve been following on Acorn & Britbox, the criminals aren’t particularly sympathetic, not because of a reactionary law & order perspective, but more because, probably, Rian Johnson’s generally low opinion of The Humanity, perhaps from hanging around in Hollywood – reference the Cherry Jones monster mash-up episode; his creation Charlie has the ability to invariably see through bullshit, for which he probably prides himself. Two interesting technical narrative strategies throughout: the story first as it appears, then the sausage making behind the scenes that Charlie eventually susses out; also, since Charlie isn’t The Man, how to bring the just deserts to the criminals without recourse to the courts in different ways.

Back in time to an earlier pre-code Hollywood from the Criterion Channel’s Pre-code Collection with Josef von Sternberg’s Shanghai Express (1932). Haven’t seen this one since college days in the late 60s; the print seems to have been spruced up quite a bit. Couldn’t help wondering whether Sternberg’s long moving takes of the train departing Peking were a means of compensating for lack of wide screen technology, when the whole teeming world couldn’t be encompassed in one static shot. Some of the Shanghai Lily (Marlene Dietrich) framings I had always assumed were glamour stills are actually from the movie, cinematography by Lee Garmes, glamour photographer to the stars in what I assume became his day job. Most of the drama takes place when the train is taken over by undercover warlord/rebel Henry Chang’s men to obtain hostages in exchange for his second in command, earlier arrested by the Nationalist government troops. Pre-code I suspect because Chang has a hypochondriac German national branded off screen & threatens to gouge out hero surgeon Captain Harvey’s (Clive Brook) eyes, or perhaps because he rapes Anna May Wong (symbolized by her disheveled hair). Meanwhile Captain Harvey’s interrupted affair of five years previous (much regretted by Shanghai Lily) is in danger of being permanently ruptured when she agrees to stay with Henry Chang (she is too noble to declare she has committed this sacrifice to spare the Captain’s eyeballs). All seems to work out for the best in the end, and the sausage making analysis must be left to the scrutiny of academic analysts of colonialism, racism, & sexual roles.

maaliskuu 11, 3:08 pm

After very much enjoying the US version of The Traitors last month, I zipped through the UK version this month (and am about to begin the Australian edition). Both are wildly entertaining, and they are a fascinating study in how much difference the host makes in setting the tone for a show.

The US version is hosted by Alan Cumming, camping it up with an exaggerated Scottish accent and a neverending series of brightly colored tartan accessories. UK host Claudia Winkleman is much more somber, usually dressed in black and wearing eerily long goth bangs. Her tone tells the players that this is going to be a serious emotional journey; Cumming tells his contestants to expect a merry romp. And while both sets of players get very emotionally invested in the game, that happens a lot faster and more intensely in the UK edition.

I'm about midway through a series watch of White Collar, which I missed the first time around, not realizing that lurking beneath what appeared to be a routine FBI procedural was a jaunty con man series (and I am a sucker for a good con story). Like most USA shows of its era, it occasionally gets a little too caught up in season-long story arcs, which are never as interesting as the case of the week.

And after years of ignoring it, I've finally started making my way through The Great British Baking Show (as it's known in the US). I could do without all of the historical interludes, but the actual competition is charming in its quiet politeness.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 16, 12:01 am

Britbox via Amazon Prime. Beyond Paradise (2023). Death in Paradise (BBC, Britbox) tends to have a different chief inspector every season or two; one of the more charming arcs featured Kris Marshall as Humphrey (allegorically-named:) Goodman – who comes across as a friendly Frankenstein monster doing a Hugh Grant imitation. The awkward inspector meets his soulmate vacationing in Ste. Marie & follows her back to London, returning to the Metropolitan Police after a year on a tight little Caribbean island.

In the spinoff, he and fiancée Martha Lloyd (Sally Bretton) are trying to have a child & have relocated to a small seaside town in the south of England (“fictional Devon” sez IMDB). The couple have moved from London so Martha can open a cozy café in a former garage, be closer to her widowed mom, and have a family. Eventually they live on a houseboat Humphrey buys on impulse, exhausting their savings. There is an animal familiar like the gecko, here a pigeon Humphrey has named Selwyn after his former boss in Ste. Marie. The café is saved from bankruptcy when Martha gets a junior partner Archie Hughes (Jamie Bamber) who looks like one of the guys on the cover of a $1.99 Kindle bargain romance novel to whom – awkward – she was once engaged. Is Martha’s miscarriage (she’s been struggling to conceive) a symbolic payment to the screenwriting gods for her financial savior?

The first* mystery in the series involves a Mary Celeste type mystery: a family of 4 disappears, meal unfinished, TV still on, unbaked pie on still warming oven. Possibly an alternative or potential Humphrey-Martha alternative reenactment? Beyond Paradise retains the Death in model of the quirky rural minuscule police station personnel, with a buttoned-down single mom DS Esther Williams (Zahra Ahmadi) – no jokes about the name so far – a grumpy office administrator Margo (Felicity Montagu) & klutzy PC Kelby (Dylan Llewellyn). Fewer people of color than in other BBC rural procedurals such as Vera & Shetland, though Humphrey’s foreword-thinking analytics boss is (and the missing family is mixed) -- & Humphrey immediately clashes with her (politely) defending his intuitive style of police work; urban progressive vs rural conservatism might be a forthcoming theme. According to IMDB, 6 episodes in the season, though Britbox has only released 3 so far; weekly updates I assume. Death in Paradise I’ve found soothing, though the title of Beyond Paradise perhaps is a sly reference to Death’s overreliance on “confirmed bachelors,” for which I find the couple in the new series to be refreshing.

*Correction: 2nd episode. 1st epi: attempted murder by witch; Goodman introduced in a tree after ejecting from a hang glider; 3rd epi: the stolen picture of the horse's behind.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 16, 4:07 pm

Guy Maddin's 2002 film Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary is a filmed version of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet production of Mark Godden's ballet adaptation of Bram Stoker, with music excerpted from Mahler's first and second symphonies.

This is no traditional dance film, though. Like many of Maddin's movies, it's made to look like a silent film from a century ago, filmed in grainy black-and-white (with pops of color at a few crucial moments), with all of the thing we associate with silents -- intertitles, soft framing, extreme closeup on expressive faces.

Those closeups sometimes keep Maddin from focusing on the actual dance as much as ballet fans would probably want, though there is plenty of dance in the movie, and the exaggerated emotional gestures of ballet make that dance feel right at home in the silent style.

Godden and Maddin zip through the plot fairly quickly -- the movie's only 75 minutes long -- reducing some long passages to brief flashbacks, and the rapid leaps from event to event give this telling of the story a free-associative dreamlike quality that is very effective.

The xenophobia of Stoker's original -- Dracula was from Transylvania at a time when immigrants from eastern Europe were the scapegoat of the day -- gets an update in the casting of Chinese-Canadian actor/dancer Zhang Wei-Qiang as Dracula.

Maddin's a director with a very specific style of hyper-emotionality, tinged with a hint of camp, and his films are very hit-or-miss for me. I know virtually nothing about ballet, and I've never read Dracula, so I can't speak to whether this will please or annoy fans of either, but I was entertained.

(Streaming at the Criterion Channel through the end of the month.)

maaliskuu 23, 11:57 am

Netflix. Luther: the fallen sun (2023) 2 hr 9 min. Worked better as an extended series. The peril & escape in the villain’s fortress of solitude in Norway seemed contrived. Andy Serkis ok as a mad, theatrical, sadistic … teeth-grinding (??) international web-savvy villain, but no acting evidence that he could convince his victims that he was a fellow-sufferer; you have only to look at him & know he’s a goblin. Luther (Idris Elba) survives many puncture wounds, though his prison stint wasn’t as good as the beat down in Amazon’s Reacher. Luther’s relationship with nemesis/ally lead detective Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo) seemed rather routine; Erivo’s a good actor but not really challenged in a (that word again) routine mother/child in peril situation.

Netflix. Recommend this one! The Elephant Whisperers 40 min. Director, Kartiki Gonsalves; writers Kartiki & Priscilla Gonsalves. IMDB doesn’t provide more detailed credits on this one; it got an Oscar for documentary short, fyi. Only negative for me was the music seemed a bit too much, or maybe that's why it got the Oscar votes. Photography excellent. About a couple bringing up 2 orphaned baby elephants in a forest reserve in Tamil Nadu. Focus is on the conservation success; according to the doc., these were the only 2 elephant calves that survived; rather vaguely stated that most (how many?) don’t survive. In this documentary all the characters are the villagers; no English spoken (subtitles) & no celebrity guests. Insofar as elephants are Ganesh avatars, the involvement & commitment makes cultural sense.

maaliskuu 24, 3:15 pm

Peacock streaming. Knock at the Cabin (2023) Director, M. Night Shyamalan. Screenplay Shyamalan & Steve Desmond, based on the novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse call on a gay couple & their adopted Chinese daughter vacationing in a remote cabin in the woods. In this case, the “horsemen” are a quartet of Q wackos led by Dave Bautista (a schoolteacher w/those tats?!), 2 women, & Rupert Grint, carrying rather medieval looking homemade weapons. According to the quartet’s shared “visions,” they must convince one of the trio to “sacrifice” one member of their family to rescue humanity from the Apocalypse, which apparently is being televised. In order to convince the skeptical adults, one of the horsemeat quartet is chopped up using the medieval instruments (not too graphic on screen) for each delay/rejection by the chosen “deciders.” In the Abraham & Isaac scenario, Jehovah substitutes a lamb for the patriarch’s son. In the Revelation scenario, it appears Jesus isn’t so merciful (& what’s one gay man or one of 3 billion Chinese tots more or less? Makes you think, if you’re a lunatic). Will the planes stop falling from the sky? Will the tsunamis continue to devalue west coast real estate? On a positive note, I thought Kristen Cui was charming as the little girl.

maaliskuu 24, 7:22 pm

Finished watching Netflix's Kaleidoscope last night. Eight-episode heist series, with the gimmick that the first seven episodes are served to the viewer in random order; only the final episode has a fixed position. Solid cast including Giancarlo Esposito as the leader of the gang of thieves, Jai Courtney as his hotheaded safecracker, and Rufus Sewell as the corporate guy whose ultrasecure vault is the gang's target.

Special kudos to the music supervisor for a marvelous assortment of smartly chosen needle drops, both familiar and obscure. I was happily surprised, for instance, to hear Bob Luman's 1960 semi-novelty "Let's Think About Living" pop up as the soundtrack to one crucial action sequence.

Writer Eric Garcia does a smart job of assembling the jigsaw puzzle so that every episode gives you enough information to orient yourself if it happens to be your entry point without feeling too repetitious, and including in every episode questions to be answered elsewhere, and answer to questions from other episodes. And the final shot of the final episode (built around the actual heist) is a lovely way of tying up loose ends and connecting several of the show's plot threads.

But once you get past the structural gimmick, you're left with a competently made, overly familiar heist caper. You'll recognize the elements -- the gang struggles to cope with its own intrapersonal rivalries and hostilities, everyone's got a secret motive, nobody is exactly who they appear to be. If the novelty of the storytelling is enough to hold your interest, you'll have great fun, but if you're more interesting in the story than in the technique, this may be a little too "been there, done that."

maaliskuu 29, 1:28 pm

Amazon Prime. Island (2022) Season 1, 12 episodes, ca. 55 min. each. Korean fantasy drama; very high production values. Dash of Exorcist here, Harry Potter there, Stephen King here, Buddhist demon slayers w/long life spans & long held grudges there. Madcap syncretic theology, w/Roman Catholicism (Kpop priest though), pagan woodland gods, Buddhist monks & magicians. Chaebo heiress Won Mi Ho (Lee Da Hee; worth a look just for her fashionable costumes) exiled to Jeju Island where she is constantly being pursued by Lust Demons when she isn’t working as a guidance counselor (chaebo heiress is a people’s princess) at the local high school. Demons don’t display a great deal of what I associate with lust; they’re focused on varieties of violence toward Won Mi or people close to her. Flashbacks indicate Miss Ho is a reincarnation of Buddhist saint Wonjeong who was killed before completing a mystical barrier that would prevent said lust demons from emerging from the depths of Buddhist hell eons ago. Wonjeong was the playmate of 2 demon slayers, orphan boys who were infected with lust demon blood by monks to give them superpowers (the monks generally ignore the Kantian injunction against using others as instruments even for worthwhile ends). Before her favorite demon slayer kills her accidentally, Wonjeong sends all the demons back to their domain along with Gungtan (Sung Jun, with Harry Styles hair) the more cynical & vengeful demon slayer. The other demon slayer, Van (Nam-gil Kim, Man in Black with a runic demon slicing knife) is doomed to live on indefinitely, but the dying Wonjeong promises to reunite with him after an eon or so when she reincarnates. Now in 2022, fashion forward Won Mi Ho hires Van as her bodyguard after he saves her from her secretary & driver, who turns into a lust demon in the middle of a desolate forest. She also has mortal protectors, her butler Mister Chang (Oh Kwang-rok), a priest who uses a 12 gauge w/holy water bullets & his exorcist “nephew,” boy band-ish Johan/Giovanni (Cha Eun-Woo) a Korean orphan separated from his twin back in the day & brought up by Jesuits in the Vatican (he learned Korean watching Korean TV & listening to Kpop). Meanwhile, Gungtan has managed to be resurrected, turning all the pagan woodland gods into lust demons, while Van dines with another long lived restaurateur Granny Geum Baek Ju (older even than Van or Guntang) who will help Won Mi Ho recover her memories & reincarnate Wonjeong in her “shell” – the dilemma being that this will be the end of Won Mi Ho as an identity. Addictive enough that I semi-binged 12 episodes over 3 days.

Freevee via Amazon Prime. (Freevee is sort of Amazon Prime but with commercials, which can be streamed without the Prime subscription fee) Still-Life: a Three Pines Mystery (2013). In 2022 Amazon Prime did a Three Pines series with Alfred Molina. The Freevee movie is a Quebecois precursor also based on Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache mystery series. In the movie Nathaniel Parker is (miscast, I think) as Gamache, as is American-accented Anthony Lemke as his chief assistant Jean-Guy. Parker explains his “By Jove” accent by his education at Oxford. C’mon Quebec production company casting! I did like Susanna Fournier as Agent Nichol, the annoying asst detective everyone dumps on, much better than the rather clownish character in the Molina version. There are times when Parker lectures her that one wants to punch him in the nose. No First Nations characters in this version, interestingly.

Join to post