Rodents of Unusual Size (2018) (documentary)
Starring: large “cast” of real people but main focus is on the family of Thomas Gonzales
Directors: Chris Metzler, Jeff Springer, Quinn Costello, who came to my attention as directors of “Plagues and Pleasures of The Salton Sea” which I saw at a local film festival then bought.
Synopsis: The title of the doc comes from the comedy film, “The Princess Bride.” Remember those giant rats Wesley fights in the swamp? Nutria are very similar to those giant rats in size, although not nearly as aggressive. The giant rats (nutria) were intentionally brought from South America to Louisiana in the 1930’s in hopes of interbreeding them with muskrats to make a “super-muskrat” with a giant fur that could be skinned off of them for mega-profits. What a dumbassed thing to do, folks. For awhile it was a great profit-making venture after they escaped/were released? Into the wild to breed like, well, giant rats (4 litters per year, and mama nutria’s nipples are on her back, so she can continue to swim and eat at-will while the babies feed.) Hunters/trappers kept them in check while the pelts were worth something. When the bottom fell out of the fur trade, there was no resulting altruistic motivation to fill the vacuum. The documentary shows how devastating the swarms are to land and trees with their extensive tunneling; when the roots are chomped the trees can’t hold the soil along the water in place. As if the long-time residents of the surrounding area didn’t have enough to contend with with hurricanes! It’s a fascinating and important issue, as a map was shown that the range of the nutria is expanding to many states and countries.
Etc. killing the nutria goes on throughout the film, which may be offputting to some. I pitched in some Kickstarter funds for this movie, and my name is listed in the credits!
The Hidden Fortress (1958)
Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari Fujiwara, Susumu Fujita, Misa Uehara, Takashi Shimura, Eiko Miyoshi, Toshiko Higuchi
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Synopsis: This film is about as close to a comedy as I’ve seen for Kurosawa. It tells the tale of two opportunistic scroungers who unwittingly fall into a plot in place to smuggle the gold and the princess of a defeated kingdom across a heavily guarded and patrolled border. The scroungers, played brilliantly by Kamatari Fujiwara at Matashichi and Minoru Chiaki as Tahei, remind me of Laurel and Hardy with the roles interchangeable. I laughed out loud watching these two play off of each other. Toshirô Mifune takes the lead role as the stern, but wry at times, General Rokurota Makabe, who has the biggest challenge of making the plot successful. The gorgeous, spirited Princess Yuki is played by Misa Uehara. The supporting cast is fabulous, and the scenery is worth watching the film for by itself.
Etc. Japanese movie with English subtitles; this film has been linked to at least one of the Star Wars movies.
Virgin River Season 1 (2011) Netflix
Starring: Colin Lawrence, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Grayson Maxwell Gurnsey, Tim Matheson
Creator: Sue Tenney
Synopsis: A nurse practitioner/midwife/L.A. ER nurse decides to change location and move to the redwood forests of northern CA. The aging doctor whose practice she is joining opposes the mayor’s hiring of her and does his best to run her off. Besides these three (nurse, doctor, and mayor) the bar and grill owner, a veteran of active duty who suffers from flashbacks and keeps a flask in his pocket at-the-ready are the main characters. These 4 are a good ensemble; when you add the supporting cast and the gorgeous location – lots of river and mountain and forest shots – you’ve got yourself a decent series. The nurse and the bar owner have baggage that needs to be dealt with, but at the same time the chemistry between them is undeniable. This show isn’t superficial, but it isn’t unbearably deep either, which is a decent middle ground. Grade: 7
Etc. Netflix posted they are moving forward with a S2.
Sorry it’s a short list this week. I’ve also been watching S1 of The Waltons and reading a really good book.