Category Archives: Kick-ass!

Hail Satan?

I didn’t realize I would identify so much with the satanists, that’s for sure.

Not that I’d looked into it much. I don’t care much about what people believe, I mostly care when people form exclusionary clubs (which they often call church) that seek to divide people, shame people, judge people, and persecute those who don’t share their beliefs.

Turns out, satanists don’t worship satan. Most are atheists who don’t believe in a literal devil any more than they believe in a literal christ. But since atheism is just a term for what you aren’t, they’ve chosen satanism to represent their feelings, which are not so much anti-christ as post-christ. The satanic temple’s 7 tenets include compassion, empathy, respect, accountability, and science, all of which I find easier to endorse than an overemphasis on not coveting your neighbour’s crap and putting murder and swearing on equal footing in terms of badness.

Practically, the satanic temple chapters exist mostly in opposition to the christians encroaching on the American way of life. Logically we all know the importance of the separation of church and state. America was founded on the freedom of religion as people who were persecuted fled to build a country on their own terms. Colonial founders and founding fathers baked freedom of religion right into the constitution – in fact, it’s in the first amendment. And yet there are references to a christian god on American currency, in the country’s motto, even in the pledge of allegiance. And that’s particularly interesting because as mentioned, separation of church and state was pretty important to the founding fathers. Of course, there was no mention of god in the first version of the pledge, in 1892, and none in the next 3 revisions over the course of 60 odd years. It was only in 1954 that god suddenly popped up where god does not belong, in a time of increasing evangelicism.

So yeah. That’s how Netflix turned me on to satanism. They’re not trying to convert christians and they’re certainly not devil worshipers. If church and state cannot be separated, all they’re asking is that everyone be treated equally. If a school or courtroom or city hall has christian iconography, it needs to consider all other religions too – and there are BUNCHES of them represented in the American population. The first amendment forbids Congress from promoting one region over others. That’s a basic American value. Apparently. America, what have you come to when the satanists are the level-headed ones?

The Terminal

During a transatlantic flight, Viktor Navorski’s eastern European country suffers a coup and simply (bureaucratically and practically) ceases to exist. Unaware, Viktor (Tom Hanks) lands at JFK eagerly awaiting an NYC vacation filled with Broadway shows and Nike shoes. Instead he finds that his passport has been revoked. He is presently not the citizen of anywhere. Airport official Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) cannot allow him to step onto U.S. soil but nor can they board him on a plane home. There is no home. No passport, no visa, no valid currency, and a very tenuous grasp on the English language.

Days later, Frank is very surprised to see that Viktor is still inhabiting the airport. He’d assumed Viktor would just disappear through the cracks and be somebody else’s problem. Turns out Viktor is kind of a stickler for rules.

I’d seen this movie before, of course. I don’t often miss an offering from Hanks or from director Steven Spielberg. I remembered the gist: a man trapped by circumstance in an airport. Indefinitely. Broad strokes, but I didn’t remember the fine brushstrokes delivered by a masterful performance by Hanks (is there any other kind?). I hadn’t remembered the heartache and devastation of a man learning that his country is in violent turmoil. We don’t know much of what he’s left behind: a mother or brother who worry? A home that’s being repossessed? A dog that needs to be fed? A job from which he’d be summarily dismissed, not having shown up? Instead Spielberg focuses on the life he’s building in an empty terminal of the airport: what he’s eating, where he’s sleeping, how he’s passing the time. And the friends he makes!

First it’s beautiful flight attendant Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who he often sees dashing from one flight to another. Then it’s Enrique from food services (Diego Luna), who feeds Viktor in exchange for information about Dolores (Zoe Saldana) in customer service. [And who, for extra credit, reveals that she’s a trekkie, 5 years before she’d go on to play Uhura.]

You may know that The Terminal is actually inspired by the real life events of Merhan Nasseri, an Iranian refugee. In 1988, he landed at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, after being barred from entry into England, because his passport and United Nations refugee certificate had been stolen. French authorities wouldn’t let him leave the airport. He remained in Terminal One, a stateless person with nowhere else to go. He was eventually granted permission to either enter France or return to Iran but chose to continue living in the terminal and telling his story to those who would listen. He lived there until 2006. 2006! Eighteen years! He only left in 2006 because they hospitalized him (I’m not sure for what, but his mental state had certainly deteriorated). He has since lived in a Paris homeless shelter. DreamWorks paid $250K for his story though in the end they chose not to use it.

Hanks and Spielberg have collaborated what, five times now? Perhaps The Terminal is not their best, but it’s not to be discounted either. Viktor is too pure and perhaps a little too slapsticky to seem like an authentic human, but Hanks is all charm and Spielberg’s interpretation of the American dream is something to behold.

 

 

Which Hanks-Spielberg collab is your favourite?

 

 

 

A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Shaun is a sheepdog’s worst nightmare. He’s kicking up plenty of mischief on his farm, prompting the poor, overtaxed sheepdog to post signs like: no sheep hot air ballooning, no sheep archery, and definitely no sheep tractor hijacking. But this farm has more alarming things going on than harmless sheep pizza pranks. Shaun has made a new friend, an alien who has special powers. And one of those special powers is for making Shaun’s mischief even more mischievous.

While the rest of the sheep rather obligingly cover for his absence, Shaun goes on an epic journey to get his alien friend back home, all the while evading capture by a certain government agency. Meanwhile, back at the farm, the farmer has had the bright and hopefully lucrative idea to capitalize on the town’s UFO fervor and turn his farm into a Farmageddon theme park – with the poor dog in charge of construction. The film clearly positions the dog as Shaun’s nemesis but you can’t help but feel the dog is given the worst jobs and takes all of the blame. I, for one, feel sorry for him.

Shaun The Sheep is very simple story telling, very charmingly told. There isn’t a shred of dialogue and yet the story is easily communicated. All the gags are visual, and most are aimed at children, but some references to the genre (to XFiles, for example, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind), are clearly meant for the adults in the audience.

Shaun and friends provide everything you’d hope for in a sequel, plus a far wider world to explore and enjoy. And as we expect from Aardman productions, the stop motion animation is not only sweet but filled with beautiful detail, a film clearly made with love. The character work is great and the film is gratifyingly simple. What else can you ask for?

Crazy Stupid Love

Poor Cal. He thinks he’s moments away from a creme brulee when his wife Emily hits him with a wallop: she wants a divorce. And that’s not all. On the tense car ride home, Emily (Julianne Moore) confesses that she slept with someone. Cal (Steve Carell) pulls a LadyBird out the car but it’s not going to save his marriage.

At a local bar, a very despondent Cal is attracting the wrong kind of attention. Crying in public will tend to do that. Resident lady’s man Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes pity on him, and takes him under his wing to dress him up and teach him how to flirt. Best wing man ever? Suddenly Cal, who’s only ever been with his wife, is putting serious notches into his new, single guy Ikea bedpost. Which doesn’t sit well with Emily, but who is she to complain. Right?

Meanwhile, Jacob’s love life is going in the opposite direction. He’s met a woman he actually wants to not just sleep with, but wake up with. Hannah (Emma Stone) is the right mix of neurotic-quirky-cute and for the first time, Jacob’s falling in love.

Sure it’s a little too sweet sometimes, but Crazy Stupid Love is a legitimately funny rom-com with effervescent dialogue delivered by an A-list cast. Carell is likable as ever, making a convincing transformation both inside and out. For his part, Gosling is game for poking a little fun at his own image, punctuating some of the absurd if not ever quite crazy idiosyncrasies of dating, whether it’s the first or second time around. There’s a maturity (perhaps a pre-Tinder maturity) to it that gives it universal appeal.

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

Lara Jean and Peter are officially girlfriend and boyfriend.

You may recall in the first film, Lara Jean’s little sister sent out a bunch of love letters that she’d been writing to her crushes to release some of your tortured young passion. The love letters were personal and confessional and never meant to be read by anyone, but most of all not by the people to whom they were addressed. And yet they were.

Which brought Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo) together, superficially at first. They pretended to date because they each had certain needs their high school hearts could justify but you might guess that they eventually found themselves falling in love. Cue the sequel!

Everything is right with the world, except for the fact that Lara Jean can’t quite forget Peter’s ex and jealousy doesn’t exactly become her. But there are worse things to come. One of the other love letter recipients finally resurfaces: John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher) and man is he cute. In fact, he and Lara Jean end up volunteering together and circumstances are perfect for dying embers to reignite.

There’s a sweet innocence to these movies that holds some sort of universal appeal – perhaps because we’ve all had a first love and not only can we relate, but it’s sort of fun to revisit. But we also get wrapped up in Lara Jean and Peter’s romance because it’s a lived fairy tale. How does Peter have money to take dates to 5-star restaurants and why does Lara Jean have a series of cocktail dresses? They’re babies. They should be going on awkward group dates to the movies, getting dropped off by whomever’s mom had the biggest mini van, or hanging out in each other’s living rooms with their siblings not only watching but actively trying to humiliate.

Anyway, I’m finding it impossible not to be charmed by this franchise. The leads are exceedingly likable and the whole thing goes down as easily as a box of chocolates on Valentine’s day, so why resist? To All The Boys is one indulgence I’m not going to feel guilty about.

 

 

Top 5 Netflix movies to watch on Valentine’s Day.

15 quirky romance movies that don’t suck.

Valentine’s movies for single people.

 

Luce

Luce is an athlete and a star student, respected by faculty and friends. He’s soon to be valedictorian of his class. His success is particularly celebrated because Luce was adopted from Eritrea at the age of 10. He seems to have made a miraculous transition, overcome his tragic past.

So it’s a little jarring to his adoptive parents Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter (Tim Roth) when his teacher calls them in with some news. Ms. Wilson (Octavia Spencer) shows them an essay he wrote supporting violence as a necessary means for freeing colonized people. Considering his background (child soldier?), Ms. Wilson thinks it’s prudent to search his locker, and presents them with her findings: illegal fireworks. With school security being such a high priority, Ms. Wilson knows that if anyone else were to find these, Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) would be in hot water. She hopes his parents can intervene at home. However, Amy and Peter are loathe to bring it up, wanting to preserve the trusting relationship that was built with such difficulty. This seems like a relatively small blip in an otherwise unblemished record. But Luce finds the evidence and isn’t happy about the doubt or the suspicions of either his parents or his teacher.

Things escalate from there of course. Ms. Wilson’s accusations accumulate, and their repercussions amplify. Ms. Wilson is unrelenting but other authority figures are unwilling to compromise Luce’s stellar reputation. It’s her world against his, Luce’s parents trapped somewhere in between, wanting to protect their son but also wondering if he’s truly escaped his past. What is the right move? And to whom are they obligated?

The film is disorienting and Harrison’s performance is sufficiently nuanced to leave us guessing: is he being profiled or is he capable of some very exacting vengeance? The film plays with stereotypes and symbols in a way that’s deliciously tangled, addressing racism in a way that reflects its complexity and inextricability. Luce excels at sustained tension and menace, leaving the audience without its footing.

This chilling drama will have you weighing the costs of conformity, considering the limits of parental responsibility, subverting the notion of assimilation. Luce is uncomfortable but essential.

TIFF19: Ford v Ferrari

Full disclosure: I saw Ford v. Ferrari at last September’s Toronto International Film Festival. I enjoyed it. It was probably in my top three movies there. But you know what? I never got around to writing a review for it. I just wasn’t inspired. I still haven’t figured out why.

Ford+V+Ferrari+Movie+PosterI loved the cars. I remember chasing after the Ford GT40 in Gran Turismo and/or Forza (driving games from the late 90s or early 2000s) and it being totally worth the “work”. And like those games, Ford v. Ferrari puts the viewer in the driver’s seat at the legendary 24 Hours of LeMans (which, coincidentally, was one of the races I had to win in my video game quest, with lots of pauses).

I love the story. It’s based on true events as designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) team up with the Ford Motor Company to build a car that is able to compete with Ferrari’s racers. It’s a classic underdog tale twice over, as Ford had no racing pedigree at the time, and Ford wanted no part of Miles. But as often happens in movies and in real life that becomes movies, these spare parts were thrown together and triumphed against all odds – sort of. Ford got its trophy, Miles got the short end of the stick, and Shelby made a whole lot more classic cars, many of which you’ve seen in other movies (Bad Boys’ Shelby 427 Cobra and Gone in 60 Seconds’ Shelby GT500).

I liked the film. Damon and Bale have a nice chemistry. The script is clever and funny. The story translates well to the big screen. The effects are great.

And yet, Ford v. Ferrari would never have been in my list of best picture nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. It makes sense; it is a deserving nominee. I guess there were just a number of other movies this year that appealed to me and connected with me more than Ford v. Ferrari. Us, The Farewell, Knives Out, Ad AstraBombshell and Honey Boy, to name a few. But there are only so many spots. Ford v. Ferrari is really good, so I guess just make sure to see the others too!