Tag Archives: Brendan Gleeson

Paddington 2

I’m not sure what happened, really. I saw Paddington 2 all by lonesome in a cozy dark theatre on a snowy afternoon and then promptly forgot to tell you all about it, apparently. I think it got swept up by the Black Panther press screening we attended later (is that right? I don’t even know anymore!).

Anyway, the bear. The bear is cute and cuddly and everything that is right with movies generally and family movies in particular. It does not particularly pander to adults (aside from that nostalgia factor) but its earnestness and whimsical panache will reel you in like a bear to marmalade.

Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville are back and Mary and Henry Brown, the big-hearted couple who adopted sweet Paddington in the first movie. He’s well ensconced in the Brown family, but gets into a bit of a scrape when his plan to earn money doing odd jobs (VERY odd jobs) for his aunt Lucy’s birthday present goes Brody-Paddington-2awry. Basically he’s chosen too good a gift, and someone beats him to it – a thief! But it’s poor Paddy who gets the blame, and somehow he gets thrown into gen pop prison, even though a) he’s a bear and b) he’s really just a cub. It says terrible things about Britain’s criminal justice system, when you think about it. Anyway, while in prison he falls in with rather a rough crowd, as tends to happen, and soon he’s Knuckles’ bitch. I mean, it’s decidedly less vulgar than I’m implying. He and Brendan Gleeson basically make sandwiches together until until either they escape or the Brown family gets their shit together.

Hugh Grant joins the cast as a rather seedy actor, a part he seems quite qualified to play. In fact, a whole Boaty McBoatload of famous British actors line up to do these movies so you can basically play a rousing round of who’s who Bingo and never come up short.

Paddington 2 still enjoys a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and I’m certainly not going to be the difference maker. It’d charm the pants right off you, if only Paddington was the sort of bear who wears pants (he’s not; he thinks a coat and hat suffice). It’s awfully sweet but not tooth-decayingly, and it’ll warm up your hibernating heart.

 

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Assassin’s Creed

assassins-creed-movie-FassbenderThis is probably the most super serious movie that a video game franchise has ever birthed. We are quickly briefed on the thousand-year old struggle between Templars and Assassins, with the two sides warring for control over a magic apple, the Apple of Eden that contains the seeds of mankind’s deceit, yadda yadda, genetic code, yadda yadda, free will, yadda yadda, fate of the world at stake. So Michael Fassbender has to travel back in time, sort of, and find out where that apple is hiding.

Except those stakes are then lowered for no apparent reason because right from the outset Fassbender and the audience are told that nothing can be changed in the past – he’s just observing what’s already happened to one of his ancestors. Which is a bizarre choice for a movie based on a video game that put the player in control of an assassin’s kung fu fighting ancestor, as it leaves the movie’s audience passively watching Fassbender experience a “memory” from the distant past and kind of act it out with the help of a big mechanical harness.

Or, when Fassbender’s recovering from doing his mechanical harness work, we get to watch him fight ghosts (not real, we are assured, just glitches in the Matrix) and also guards (real but gentle because they need Fassbender alive since he’s the last ancestor of some guy, yadda yadda, never mind that this group also is holding Fassbender’s father at the same location [Edit: I just remembered that the ancestry was on his mom’s side but that opens up a whole other set of criticisms]). Admittedly, there are hints of danger, like Fassbender suffering a seizure caused by the harness and then being confined to a wheelchair, but 30 seconds later he is practicing karate moves again so it seems like it’s no worse than a little VR motion sickness.

There is some kind of 1%/mind control through consumerism/uprising by noble freemen underlying all this but don’t even try to find a worthwhile message because the premise of the film’s logic is that violence and free will are tied together, so only murderers and assassins can stand between the 1% and total domination.

That should have been the most insulting part of Assassin’s Creed, but it’s not. The most insulting part is that a decent cast (including Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling) is totally wasted in a blockbuster that lacks any semblance of blockbusting.  My ancestors would be ashamed I ever watched this trash, and I’m right there with them.

Live By Night

It’s possible that Live By Night will give hope to mopey gangsters everywhere by raising awareness of their difficult, stressful lives. It can’t be easy making money hand over fist by preying on the working class, especially when other bad guys are constantly trying to pick fights with you. In that small way, Ben Affleck (a.k.a. the director of Argo and the Town) has done those poor souls a great service by finally addressing this important topic and bringing their suffering to light.  screen_shot_2016-09-08_at_4-54-03_pm

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It’s clearly long past time for Matt Damon to stage an intervention. Affleck has lost his way and next on his list of mopey outlaws is the Batman. There can now be no doubt that Affleck will use that movie like he used this one, to share his people’s plight by bringing more one-percenter depression to the silver screen.  I can neither tolerate another bad Batman movie nor refrain from seeing whatever schlock is put onscreen starring a comic book character (I am so far gone I thought the Logan trailer looked good). Help me, Matt Damon, you’re my only hope!

Putting aside my Batman-related angst and focusing on Live By Night, Affleck is the core of what is wrong with the movie, which I suppose is inevitable since he directs, stars and wrote the screenplay. I suspect he’s even disappointed in himself. He should be, becauslead_960e if nothing else the role he has created for himself is a terrible one. The lead character is remarkably unsympathetic and no amount of teary-eyed inner conflict or monotone monologuing in voiceover form (because this character doesn’t like to express feelings aloud) can change that. On top of that, his hats make him look ridiculous, and there are so many hats.

Affleck the writer/director also does himself no favours by all but omitting action scenes from this gangster tale. Worse, the film’s few action scenes are as a jumble of tommy-gun-wielding m_8e517450-d96c-11e6-a260-7aa04c68bc63aniacs shooting at each other that leave the viewer unclear as to who’s on whose side (spoiler alert: the guys doing the killing are the ones on Affleck’s character’s side). Affleck also completely wastes Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Elle Fanning, and most egregiously Agent Coulson (though Jay took Chris Messina’s bad teeth and pot belly hardest but at least Messina got a decent amount of screen time).

In case you can’t tell by now, Live By Night is not a good movie, not by a long shot.  I should have seen Patriots Day instead. Did you hear that, Affleck? I should have seen a Mark Wahlberg-Peter Berg joint rather than this mess. You’re an Oscar winning writer, dammit! Go think about what you’ve done and get your shit together before you ruin Batman too.

Trespass Against Us

Colby Cutler (Brendan Gleeson) is the king of the travelers – he reigns over a small trailer enclave and the thieves who live there. They’re constantly suspected by the local police, who are usually right to suspect them. That doesn’t stop them from pulling stupid shit – they are bold and brave and not too smart. And they mostly get away with what they do, except that Colby’s got one son in prison and he seems ready to lose another to the system as well.

trespassagainstus2Chad Cutler (Michael Fassbender) is not as pleased with his father’s way of life. He sends his kids to school, a luxury he was never afforded. But as long as he’s living among his father’s little gang (and his father’s enormous shadow), he’s stuck. Saving his own son from a similar fate would mean trespassing against his father and the clan, and they’re not about to let him go easily.

Michael Fassbender is excellent. We see him pulled in so many directions – husband, father, son – all seemingly opposing. And as an uneducated man, he is in fact most skilled at being a thief. What kind of life lies for him beyond that? Brendan Gleeson, on the other hand, manages to straddle the paternal with the more menacing. He’s also got a religious streak that seems to elevate him within the clan to Father status with a big F. It’s an awful lot of fun to see these two share screen time together, even if I could have used some subtitles to make sense of their strong accents and impermeable slang.

In his directorial debut, Adam Smith doesn’t rely much on plot. The tensions between father and son escalate but don’t necessarily drive the film forward, because the feeling of Chad’s being paralyzed for lack of options is pervasive. His father’s expectations feel heavy. The movie comes up a little light in terms of this drama, but the action is loaded with fun at full-tilt.

 

Suffragette

Just a few weeks ago, Canadians voted for “change” and for “sunny ways.” We elected a young Prime Minister with a famous last name and idealism still twinkling in his eyes. He was sworn in last week and presented us a cabinet that among other things, had gender parrity.

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That’s right. Half men, half women. So of course the very first question journalists needed answered about this tall list of accomplished people was why “he went with gender equality” in his cabinet. Why? Why did he “go” with “gender equality.” Is that really a question you can still ask this day in age? Okay, you know what – it is. Because sadly, this is the first cabinet to achieve this status. But Trudeau seemed to agree in spirit, answering simply “Because it’s 2015” – a mic-drop response that was heard around the world.

But the fact remains that if a Prime Minister chooses a cabinet that has a representative amount of women in it, he’ll have to answer as to why.

Isn’t that incredible? And incredibly sad?

As you know, the boys were dragging me off to see Spectre this weekend, and James Bond is probably the human embodiment of the antithesis of gender equality. To correct the imbalance, Sean agreed to hit up Suffragette with me first, because he’s a 2015 kind of gentleman, even if his movie idols aren’t.

Suffragette focuses on some of the lesser known but pivotal “foot soldiers” of the early feminist movement in Britain. After 50 years of peaceful protest, the women have amped up their right-to-vote rhetoric and are ready to engage in civil disobedience for the cause.

suffCarey Mulligan plays a young woman who was born in a laundry facility and has worked there all her life, working herself raw and having her boss force himself on her just to earn a third what the men take home. And then it goes directly into the pocket of her husband to do with as he sees fit. Not a naturally political woman, she gets dragged into the movement almost unwillingly but once she’s there, you can bet that neither her boss nor her husband are pleased. But it’s the vitriol from her fellow women that’s most upsetting. She doesn’t know her place, and this upsets everyone.

And it’s also enough to have her freedom taken away, and her child too if she’s not careful, so AAantithese are pretty high stakes. The laws are against her – but that’s the point. She is subject to laws she’s not allowed to influence let alone make. Women were property or commodities and laws existed to keep them that way.

Helena Bonham Carter plays a semi-educated pharmacist who is not only a pillar of her community, but an agitator and grass-roots activist. She’s recruiting and planning things when it’s time to start smashing windows and bombing letter boxes. HBC played her part well, suffragetteinjecting a little back bone into the character while still ultimately being subject to her husband’s whims. Helena Bonham Carter is the real-life great-granddaughter of H.H. Asquith, who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916, during the height of the suffrage movement. He was of course a staunch opponent of votes for women.

Mulligan is the perfect choice for a young mother who goes through quite the character arc, from wife and labourer to militant feminist – of course, you might find that the first two under such terrible conditions would inspire desperate reactions from anyone. Brendan Gleeson and Meryl Streep also having juicy roles, though Streep’s there in little more than a cameo, she’s nevertheless the perfect choice for theimg095 down with man movement’s heroine, Mrs. Pankhurst (this is the little detail that got to me – that all of these brave, notable women were known only by their husband’s names, ie, Mrs. Pankhurst. It killed me). Streep is strong and steady as ever. All of this capable acting smooths over some of the flaws in film making. It’s not a perfect piece of art, but it is an important one, and it’s hard not to be stirred by it.

Women in Canada got the vote in 1916, for the most part. It was not granted in the province I layout.inddlive in until 1940. American women got the vote in 1920. Some women in the UK were granted the vote by 1918 but it wasn’t unconditionally granted until 1928. That’s less than 100 years ago: way too close for comfort. Is there a woman alive today who hasn’t wondered what it would have been like to live through that? To still be all that we are and yet to be so diminished in the eyes of the law – and society? It’s boggling. And yet, in 2015, when a Prime Minister hires women to work in his government at an equal rate that he hires men, he is still asked why.

 

 

Song of the Sea

I was angry and disappointed when The Lego Movie failed to get even a nomination from The Academy Awards this past year, because it deserved to take home the trophy. In its place were a couple of movies no one had heard of, much less seen – Song of the Sea, and The Tale of the Box OfficePrincess Kaguya (alongside Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, and How To Train Your Dragon 2). Of those, I was glad that Big Hero got the Oscar, but this was an unusual category for me, in that I hadn’t actually seen all of the nominees. Those two unknowns were impossible to see in theatres (at least here in Ottawa – and I did try, combed VOD, the works). A while ago I noticed that Song of the Sea was available through Google Play, and I meant to get around to it, but wasn’t in much of a rush since I’d been harbouring festering resentment toward it since January.

The truth is, this is not the movie that took a slot away from our beloved Legos. This movie deserved to be there.

song-of-the-sea-2Now, before we get started, let me warn you, this isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s rated PG, for some mild peril, and pipe smoking images. Do you think you can handle that? If not, better go call your mother right now, get some guidance, talk it out, see if she thinks you’re up to it.

Once upon a time, a little boy is soothed by the stories told to him by his mother. She’s expecting a baby and he can’t wait to be its big brother. But then a baby appears but mama disappears. Through the magic of movies, a few years elapse, and big brother is quite resentful of his little sister, subconsciously blaming her for his mother’s death. Their father is deep in his grief and unable to care of his children, so his mother takes them away, against their wishes, with only mom’s conch shell to remind them of safe_imagehome. Turns out, that conch shell can summon magic when it’s blown by little sister, who is a selkie like her mama (a selkie being a girl who can turn into a seal when she wears her special coat). I’m making this sound more complicated than it is, because it’s actually a very simply told little Irish myth.

The animation is hand-drawn and absolutely stunning. I was impressed from word go and it never stopped, was never less than amazing. I’ve never seen a traffic circle look so ethereal. It Song_of_the_Sea_Embedmay lack the thousand digitally produced hairs, or 57 moving facial muscles, but their little faces remain quite expressive. Attention has been paid. The glowy, magical imagery makes you feel like you’re inside a Klimt painting, and there’s a timelessness about it that’s both comforting and inspired. There are no singing snowmen, or talking cars, or yellow sidekicks; this movie is pure, and heartfelt, and embodies a mastery that we haven’t seen in a long time (maybe since The Secret of Kells). It looks the way a warm blanket feels, totally enveloping, which I suppose is appropriate: curl up, and hear a fine tale.

Albert Nobbs

Downton Abbey ain’t got nothin on Mr. Nobbs. He’s a servant extraordinaire – no one’s better at anticipating his customer’s needs and the restaurant hums because of his competence. Every night he goes back to his little room, counts his tips fastidiously, and hides them under the floorboards after totting them up in his ledger. So when he’s assigned a new roommate, he’s paranoid his secret will be revealed. No, not the cash. His boobs. Albert Nobbs is not a mister after all.

Albert (Glenn Close) started passing as a man after a traumatic incident at the age of 14. Realistically, it was a way to live safely and an opportunity to earn more money. But he has lived in isolation and constant fear of discovery ever since. Now all he wants is those few extra bucks so he can buy a little shop and live independently. The only thing stopping him is the lack of a wife – which, as you can imagine, is a bit of a roadbump. Luckily he meets someone to inspire him (Janet McTeer), and he soon turns his eye upon a lovely young kitchen staffer (Mia Wiakowska) who hardly knows what to do with the attention of a creepy little old man. Plus her lust bucket is filled with thoughts of the new mechanic (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who is handsome and manly and also, it turns out, a drunken bully.

Both Glenn Close and Janet McTeer received Oscar nominations for their respective roles in the film, pretty much a given considering the depth of their perfomances. There’s an ache to watching them – to Close in particular because we are so aware of Albert’s constant pain and discomfort. She never makes a single misstep. And to its credit, the film resists moralizing, or false contextualizing to make it more relevant to today’s social and political climate. It just is. Which is fine, indeed excellent, when it comes to watching stunning performances but the film itself does suffer from being a little too close, a little too one-note.