The Last Duel

New movies are finally gracing the big screens again, and the cast and director of this film looked impressive. With all the hype about medieval television shows and movies, and the action-packed trailer, we went for it. Our first disappointment was with the uncomfortable old-style seats – how spoiled we’ve become with the more comfy recliners.

The Last Duel is set in France (although you’d never know it by the dialogue presented) in the 12th century, where armor-clad knights on horseback fought for king and country. The story is about two squires, Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), who become friends but then drift apart when one is favored by the king’s cousin (Ben Affleck), more than the other.

Things get worse when Le Gris allegedly rapes Carrouges’ wife (Jodie Comer) and she makes the decision to speak out. The movie goes above and beyond in explaining the repercussions of such a choice in chaotic medieval times. As a result of the allegation, Carrouges challenges Le Gris to a duel to death.

The movie is split into three chapters, each told by one of the main characters. This is where the film gets disjointed and a bit boring, forcing viewers to watch the same scenes over, and then over again. Although the trailer leads one to believe this is a Ridley Scott action-packed thriller, it is not the case. The movie opens and finishes with plenty of bloody battling but everything in between is quite slow.

Although Cathryn and I felt the acting was superb and the cinematography was excellent in this flick, we thought it fell short of being a blockbuster. She gave it a 7 and I a 6 out of 10.

No Time to Die

After over a year of pandemic-related delays, the latest installment in the James Bond 007series has finally hit the big screens. This movie is Daniel Craig’s last fling as the British Agent who’s licensed to kill. The movie starts with Bond living out his retirement in Jamaica, but he’s soon drawn back into service by his old friend Felix Leiter, of the CIA.

The explosive action starts within the first ten minutes, with Bond almost blown up, and then getting into the type of wild and crazy chase scene that 007 fans have come to love. And the action never really stops after that, with lots of fights, more chase scenes and explosions, and a new villain.

James has grown older and a bit tired of saving the world, but as usual he stops at nothing to complete his mission. He only beds one woman in this story, the same one he tried to settle down with, but left behind after he felt betrayed by her. She shows up later in the story with a little surprise.

Ernst Blofeld and Spectre are still a formidable force for evil, but Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer Safin has his own plans for taking over the world. The movie runs 2hours and 43 minutes and may have you fidgeting in your seat, but there’s no time to fall asleep.

The cinematography, film locations, and action scenes were second to none, as per usual in a 007 movie. Although I guessed what was coming at the end, the music and actors played heavy on my emotions. All I can say is that the conclusion was a surprise, and a shock to some viewers around us.

Cathryn hated the ending and refused to rate the movie, but I know she enjoyed the majority of it. I thought it was excellent, and a must-see to any James Bond fan. 10 out of 10 from me. Having said that, I can’t say I agree with those who want the next 007 to be a female.

RESPECT – The Aretha Franklin Story

Find out what RESPECT really means to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. The movie tells her life story from the time she was a little girl singing in her father’s church, until she becomes an international star. If you’re a music lover or a fan of Aretha you won’t want to miss this movie. My first surprise in the flick was learning the extent of talent in her family, from her mother to her sisters.

Her over-bearing father, a Baptist Minister, plays a huge role in Aretha’s life, and is socially connected to important people like Doctor Martin Luther King. Franklin comes of age in an era when blacks have taken to the streets in a quest for equality. Many of Aretha’s singing engagements were in church or to raise money for the movement.

As with many other celebrities, Miss Franklin is haunted by demons from her childhood and continual conflict with her father. Her choice in men only exacerbates her problems, to the point where it all becomes too much and she breaks down. The church and gospel music re-inspire her and she becomes the music icon we all know.

Jennifer Hudson plays Aretha in the movie and delivers one of the best performances of her career. Respect is not a movie you really need to see on the big screen, but the soundtrack is awesome and will surely have you tapping your foot. Cathryn even got up and danced in the isle to one song. We were the only ones in the theater.

We both enjoyed the movie. I gave it a 9 and she a 10 out of 10.

Stillwater

Wow, two trips to the movie theater in less than a week – I almost feel normal again. My wakeup to the new normal was at the candy counter where I paid $9 for a small bag of popcorn. It seems recovering from the pandemic means adding dollars to the cost of everything except the movie.

Stillwater is the name of an American town where an out of work Roughneck turned construction worker (Matt Damon) lives. It’s also the pendant on a necklace that he gives his daughter before she goes off to university in Marseilles, France, where she is convicted of murder and sent to prison for the death of her girlfriend.

The story drags like a tractor pull, led by a baseball-capped redneck version of Jason Bourne in slow motion. Damon visits his daughter in prison but their communication skills are about as far apart as France and the U.S. on a world map. Cultural differences are brought to light in this flick, pointing out the bullying image of Americans and how France has nearly lost their identity to the mass influx of immigrants.

With the exception of a few scenery shots along the rocky shore of the Mediterranean Sea, this is not a movie you need to rush out and see on the big screen. If fact, it’s our opinion you don’t need to rush out and see this flick for any reason. Cathryn and I both give it a 6 out of 10.

Jungle Cruise

I can’t remember the last movie I rated or the last time Cathryn and I were able to get out and watch one at a real live movie theater. We are happy that Lakeshore Cinemas didn’t fold, like so many other businesses during the global pandemic. The theaters are close to us and not as busy at the larger venues.

A quick note for those who like to buy tickets at the door – there is no ticket booth anymore. You either buy them online and reserve your seat at the same time or take your chances at one of the kiosks inside the building. Staff is now limited to the popcorn counter, and they also act as ticket checkers or ushers.

It was nice that we had a choice of two decent-looking movies, Stillwater with Matt Damon or Jungle Cruise with Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson. We chose to latter for something light and hopefully fun. We chose correctly; the movie was great.

I compare the Disney movie to an Indiana Jones instalment, with Blunt and the Rock sharing the Amazon River adventure. As with Indy, the river runners are in search of an ancient item, this one something that can save mankind. There’s a good mix of action, adventure and humor in a movie that relies heavily on CGI.

This is the type of movie you’ll want to see on the big screen and I even found myself laughing out loud on a few occasions. We both enjoyed the movie and Cathryn rated it 10 out of 10. I gave it a 9, mostly because I’m an action junkie and don’t want to be dubbed a Disney Duck.

Les Miserables

Having seen the live stage version at least twice, and the previous movie musical with Russel Crowe and Hugh Jackman, I have to say that I enjoyed the latest BBC production of Les Miserables the best. The new version, which we were able to stream on CBC Gem, is not a musical. And it’s cast is not made up of A-listers, but you should recognize names like Dominic West (the Wire), David Oyelowo (Selma), and Olivia Colman (The Crown).

I found a new appreciation for this latest installment of the timeless classic because I got a better understanding of the story. Perhaps the music and lack of backstory in the stage versions left me with more questions than answers as to the overall plot. For the unaware, Les Miserables takes place in France after Napoleon and the French Revolution.

It’s a sad rags to riches to rags tale that is shown in eight parts, currently available for streaming or downloading. Cathryn and I loved the story and both give it a 9 out of 10.

News of the World – the Movie

For movie buffs like Cathryn and I, the year 2020 was painful. And because of of the worldwide pandemic with Covid 19, 2021 isn’t shaping up to be much better. Old movies in our DVD collection and streaming companies like Netflix and Crave have been our only saving grace. Even the producers of television shows had to take a hiatus in the name of safety.

After exhausting the list of decent movies to stream, and for a change from binge-watching our favorite TV shows, we’ve taken to searching for decent movies that have to be rented. Major motion picture studios seem to have caught on to our dilemma, and since they can’t release their new movies in theaters, they are making them available to rent.

Last night we rented the latest movie by Tom Hanks, News of the World. We were shocked that we had to pay $25 to watch the new release, but took into consideration that it would have cost us more to see it in a theater. And since we’re not allowed out of our house, what choice did we have. We were able to rent and download the movie through Apple TV.

News of the World is a western with a completely different story line that’s never been done before. It takes place after the American Civil war, when the country is trying to heal, and the south has suffered the most. Tom Hanks’ character travels from town to town, reading from the latest newspaper articles, apprising folk of what’s happening in their part of the world.

I found the movie a bit slow at times, typical of some westerns, but there was enough action and a great story line that kept me interested. We both loved the movie, with Cathryn giving it a big 10. I can’t say there was anything wrong with the flick but I’m giving it a conservative 8, just because I can.

Totally Under Control

Totally Under Control is a new documentary and not fake news that follows the Trump administration’s response to the Covid – 19 pandemic in the United States. I don’t usually get too involved in politics, especially those south of the Canadian border, but in considering current world events I’m posting my review of this film.

Having recently finished the book, ‘The Fifth Risk“, about the undoing of democracy in the U.S., I wasn’t too surprised by the Trump administration’s political mishandling of a pandemic, that had they had been warned about and planned for in advance.

We are all aware of Trump’s bold-faced lies and how he bullies his way through every conversation, on or off-camera. Like the book (written separately from the documentary and by a different author), Totally Under Control points out Trump’s basic flaw – that he doesn’t believe in science.

Case in point is global warming, but I won’t go there. When he took over for the Obama administration, he pretended he was back on his television show, and fired all kinds of scientists and experts who were in charge unimportant things like their nuclear arsenal and disease control. Then, for reasons only known to him, he replaced them with family members and rich buddies.

This documentary was secretly made while the pandemic was spreading around the world, and it includes interviews with disease experts and even some of Trump’s own staff. I think it was very well presented, and probably strategically released just before the election. Judge it for yourself.

I watched it on Prime and there are clips on YouTube.

Honest Thief

Do you remember the days, long ago, when you could go to a special place to see movies on a big screen? I’m not talking about your living room to watch Netflix on your sixty inch TV. I mean a real movie theatre with a screen as wide as your house, sound that vibrates your love handles, and freshly buttered popcorn that costs as much as your monthly cable bill.

Well, guess what? If you look up your local theatre you might just find they’ve dusted off their projectors and are actually playing some newly released films. Cathryn and I went to Lakeshore Cinemas last night to see Honest Thief, with Liam Neeson.

The movie is about what the title suggests…a bank robber who’s never hurt anyone, and decides to go straight when he meets a woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. It’s an action movie but not like many of Neeson’s other flicks where the body count is higher than Covid.

Turning himself into the FBI doesn’t go exactly as planned and the retired bank robber has to fall back on his military skills to keep a couple of bad agents from cashing in on his windfall. It’s a thriller kind of love story that both Cathryn and I enjoyed. We both rate it 10 out of 10.

Our only complaint was with Lakeshore Cinemas who obviously didn’t clean or sanitize our seats before the show, popcorn and refuse left behind were big clues. Cathryn also complained the back of her recliner smelled of dirty hair. She complained to one of only two staff working, who did nothing. We will say more later in a written complaint to the company.

Rants, Raves, and Reviews – Ford v Ferrari

ford-v-ferrari-onesheet-1-1559568904First off, let me make it clear that I’m not a motorhead or even a car buff. I rarely watch car racing events on television. Having said that I have to admit I’ve enjoyed some movies that have covered the sport in the past. Leery of the mixed reviews for the Mr. Rogers movie, Cathryn and I took a chance on Ford v Ferrari. I say that because the trailers made the movie look goofy.

They say not to judge a book by it’s cover and the same holds true for movie titles. “They” were definitely right in this case. The story was easy to fall into with catchy tunes and upbeat music that brought more to life than roaring engines and squealing tires. The characters did seem a bit odd, but they were real people that had a profound impact on the production and racing of automobiles.

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