Tag Archives: Apple TV

Greyhound

When the Americans were finally self-interested enough to join WW2, they needed a lot of boots on the ground, and some in the air, and a few if by sea.

Captain Krause (Tom Hanks) is in command of an escort force protecting an Atlantic convoy consisting of 37 Allied ships on their way to Liverpool. They’re passing through the Mid-Atlantic gap, so called because no antisubmarine aircraft are able to reach them. They’re on their own. Still three days out of range from protective air cover, they intercept German transmissions. It is likely U-boats are near. This is merely the start of 13 back to back covers (or 52 hours) on the Greyhound’s bridge as Krause fights to save his ship, protect those in his convoy, and rescue those who succumb.

As a war movie, director Aaron Schneider makes very effective use of his 90 minute runtime, keeping the focus on a very intense combat. It’s basically a race against time, a fight for survival until they reach precious, essential air cover once again.

But the reason Greyhound really shines, as did its source material, The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester, is in its fascinating and intricate character study of the man behind the wheel. Captain Krause has been a career Navy officer for many years. His seniority is unquestionable, but in truth, this is his first wartime mission. The other captains are younger and junior to him in rank, but they’ve been at war for two years already. Although we see him act in competent and level-headed ways, we are also privy to his self-doubt. The combat is relentless as the minutes and hours tick by, Krause unwilling to leave his post, and only the kindness of a mess attendant (Rob Morgan) ensures he doesn’t go hungry.

Hanks adapted the material himself, and though we never see the guy make an acting misstep, he is clearly suited to this character, slipping on the captain’s skin as if it were a comfortable, monogrammed slipper. You feel his fatigue, and inklings of inferiority, but with the weight and fate of an entire fleet on his shoulders, he never gives less than his best. The constant danger is exhausting, the many snap judgments that must be made while in command are overwhelming, and above all, we see Krause struggle with his conscience – muttered prayers for the souls on board, but also a refusal to celebrate enemy kills, a necessary part of war perhaps, but one with which Krause is not entirely comfortable. It’s a facet rarely explored in war movies and Hanks is up for its portrayal, but cleverly, the points are merely plotted, the lines themselves drawn by the audience.

I expect nothing less that complete satisfaction from the material Hanks is choosing, and he’s so unvaryingly good it’d be almost tedious if it wasn’t so wonderful. And this, too, is wonderful, and not even annoyingly so. Hanks truly is a master and Forester’s carefully observed novel cannot be over-rated.

TIFF20 Wolfwalkers

In a version of 1650 Ireland probably not too different from the one our history reports, Robyn (voiced by Honor Kneafsey) and her widowed father Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean) are sent by colonizer extraordinaire, the Lord Protector (Simon McBurney), to a remote outpost of a town that’s growing past its own humble borders into the woods beyond it. The town has suffered wolf attacks as it creeps into their territory and Bill, a wolf hunter, is tasked with their destruction. Young daughter Robyn wants nothing more than to be just like her father, and to hunt by his side, but Lord Protector has a narrower, more traditional belief about a woman’s place. To prove her worth and bravery, Robyn takes on the woods alone and almost becomes prey herself when a pack of wolves circles around her, but she is saved at the last minute by Mebh (Eva Whittaker).

The legends are true: Mebh is a wolfwalker, a girl who has an independent life as a wolf while her human self sleeps. Luckily she also has healing powers, relieving Robyn of the nasty bite on her arm, but not before it transforms Robyn into a wolfwalker too. Robyn loves to run with her new friends at night, wild and free unlike any other female in 17th century Ireland, but she has now become the very thing her father must exterminate, the very embodiment of the village’s superstitions, both the colonizer and the colonized.

The movie’s style begs you to notice it is lovingly hand-drawn; while some images are deliberately rustic, there are so many saturated colours and levels of detail the overall effect is simply gorgeous, like looking at stained glass. It has myth in its heart and magic running through its veins. The script is good but the animation itself is enough to communicate the disparate worlds of human and beast. The lush and vibrant art is alone worth the watch, but the ethereal nature of the woods’ inhabitants makes for a captivating story reminiscent of the kind of lyrical folk and fairy tales that just don’t get told much anymore. Wolfwalkers is certainly among the best animated films of the year and I’m confident that we will see its name on the Oscar ballot this year.

Wolfwalkers is in select theatres now and will be available to stream on Apple TV December 11 2020.

On The Rocks

Laura (Rashida Jones) has what looks like a perfect life: beautiful New York apartment, sweet little girls, a room of her own in which to write, a handsome and successful husband…and yet. And yet, something’s a little lacking. The early days of their marriage were of course full of passion and excitement but things have cooled off, perhaps in part due to kids, Laura’s waning self-confidence, and Dean’s (Marlon Wayans) busy work schedule and frequent travel. In fact, some recent events have Laura wondering whether Dean is perhaps seeing someone else. Luckily Laura’s got another thing going for her: a father with a sense of adventure and a propensity for romantic advice he has no real qualification to dispense.

Felix (Bill Murray) was a philanderer himself while married to Laura’s mom, so maybe he does have some valuable insight here. But he’s also just so happy to be spending time with his daughter, not to mention helping her out. They zip around the city in a cherry red convertible, playing spy, snacking on caviar, bonding and reminiscing, trying not to have too much fun over the extinction of Laura’s marriage.

Rashida Jones and Bill Murray are the father-daughter duo of our dreams, a pairing that will prove nearly impossible to beat. Jones is a natural sparkler, glowing and effervescent in everything she does, and yet she ably gives up some of her spotlight to the man playing her larger than life, playboy father. Felix is at the stage in his life where he’s indulging in his every whim, and it doesn’t exactly sound like he was ever a man who denied himself much. Murray, it seems, is getting better with age, so effortlessly charming, so completely endearing even while blemished with a hint of selfishness, tinged with a tendency toward flippancy.

Writer-director Sofia Coppola sets the stage with a gorgeous setting and a warm relationship, and then peppers On The Rocks with some profoundly entertaining navel-gazing. Felix is a fount of wisdom, not all of it equal in worth or sincerity, but every third or fourth quip, offered with Felix’s trademark insouciance, will disarm you with its bare naked authenticity. The premise seems to be about catching Dean’s infidelity red-handed, but it’s actually about an older man whose contemporaries are dying and he’s finding himself increasingly alone. After hurting her mother and leaving his family, Felix’s relationship with Laura is as much on the rocks as Dean’s is, and if he needs an excuse to spend quality time with her, he’s not afraid to use the end of her marriage to do it. Coppola’s script expertly stays away from saccharine expressions and simply allows us (and Laura) to see a love and deep affection sheepishly, self-consciously offered but genuinely felt.