Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! This is the last one before the new year. 2020 was a terrible year generally but I think many of us have watched more movies and series this year than any other. Happy New Year and hopes for less movies and more living in 2021.
Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame) (2019) S1, netflix series 8 episodes
Starring: Yôsuke Kubozuka, Kelly Macdonald, Aoi Okuyama, Takehiro Hira, and Will Sharpe
Writer: Joe Barton
Genres: crime, drama, mystery
Synopsis: Two Japanese brothers: Older one’s a detective and younger one’s a mobster. Younger brother commits gang offense and runs from his boss to London. Older brother is sent by his boss to London to bring him back. In between a lot of life happens in both places. An interesting cast of characters is introduced along the way. After awhile it becomes difficult to separate the good guys from the bad guys.
Impressions: Understated yet stylish. Half soap opera, half action, it’s a balanced offering, giving an insider’s look on Japanese culture in regards to family, honor, shame, and bondedness. Yakuza operations and their relationships with law enforcement are looked at. Gangs are gangs and their interactions with the police are fairly universal from what I can see — at least in the movies!
Etc.: UK made; set in London and Tokyo; LGBTQI+ friendly; in English and Japanese language
Awards: 2 wins and 8 nominations
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Clémence Poésy, Félix Moati, Vica Kerekes, Matthias Schweighöfer, Géza Röhrig, Bella Ramsey, Martha Issová, Karl Markovics
Director and Writer: Jonathan Jakubowicz
Genres: biography, drama, WWII
Synopsis: How much do you know about Marcel Marceau? Did you know he worked with the French Resistance to save 10,000 children’s lives during World War II? Neither did I. The film tells the incredible story of how Marcel, born Marcel Mangel, the son of a kosher butcher, started out as an artist and a performance artist but decided to fight against the Nazi invasion and occupation by joining the French Resistance when his family runs to escape death.
Impressions: Eisenberg does a good job as Marceau. A depressing movie even with so many who were saved over time, as what isn’t said is how many didn’t get saved. Let us never forget.
Etc.: Learn about Marcel here. Unbelievably, the real life Klaus Barbie was recruited by the US after the war and lived as a free man for more than 30 years. After seeing the movie, you will be haunted by this fact.
Awards: 1 nomination
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Famke Janssen, Kevin Durand, Jeremy Nazario, LaMonica Garrett
Director: Nick Powell
Genres: action, adventure
Synopsis: Cage plays a heavy drinking poacher of exotic wildlife. He and his many cages of animals end up on the same ship as a group of CIA-type agents bringing a psychotic mercenary back to face “justice” after he can’t be controlled anymore. Things get interesting when the big cat and the psycho both get loose on the ship.
Impressions: It’s a “b” movie yet provides some entertainment. They try to get a meaningful story about the main characters’ pasts going but it fizzles. I know something went amiss with the plot when I started rooting for the psychotic killer. Janssen is a beautiful woman but she can’t act her way out of a paper bag. Cage is a lovable demented rascal no matter who/what he’s playing.
Etc.: filmed in Puerto Rico; Nicolas Cage, Kevin Durand, and Famke Janssen have all played Marvel comics characters. However, none are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Red Army (2014)
Starring: Viacheslav “Slava” Fetisov, Vladislav Tretiak, Scotty Bowman, Vladimir Pozner, Anatoli Karpov, Alexei Kasatonov, Anatoli Karpov
Director and Writer: Gabe Polsky
Genres: biography, documentary, hockey
Synopsis: tells the history of the Russian push for athletic elitism during the cold war; designed to be a reflection of their political system’s world superiority. The focus then narrows on men’s hockey and the special coach and training their players went through, which makes their 5-man “red army” the best hockey team that ever existed. When the team plays against Canada and whomps them, it confirms it. The main player being interviewed is Fetisov, who was the captain of the team. It shows the beginning of when Russian players are allowed to play on other country’s teams and the challenges involved. It also shows where some of the players are at now.
Impressions: lots of good archival photos and video footage. Interesting to hear the story from the perspective of Fetisov (and Scotty Bowman, former coach of the Detroit Red Wings.) My stepdad, who played minor league hockey as a young man, adored and worshiped Fetisov. Anyone who is a fan of hockey will appreciate this movie.
Etc.: American-Russian film in English and Russian language
Awards: 5 wins and 10 nominations
The Assistant (2019)
Starring: Julia Garner, Owen Holland, Jon Orsini, Rory Kulz, Migs Govea, Daoud Heidami, Ben Maters, Noah Robbins, Tony Torn, Dagmara Dominczyk
Director and Writer: Kitty Green
Synopsis: A personal assistant who works downtown for a very powerful person in the film industry but lives in a meager working class neighborhood gets up very early to get to the office way before everyone to turn everything on and have everything ready to go for the office full of people who treat her as a spineless slave who should feel lucky to have the position she does. She sees and hears damning information, especially “Weinstein-like” abuses. When she attempts to report them, she quickly understands if she wants to keep her job she had better keep her mouth shut.
Impressions: I found this movie excruciatingly boring, which was a big disappointment. The only thing that kept me going was the idea she was going to find a way to fight back effectively. No such luck. It’s a flat-line movie with not much going for it. The ways of abuse of her as a slave doormat are very familiar for anyone who works in an office environment, so if the filmmaker expected shock at her shabby treatment, nope; it’s not enough to make a movie about. The lack of morals of the big boss who uses his power and influence to exploit beautiful, naive, willing females also isn’t enough. There needs to be conflict and there wasn’t any, unless you consider the assistant’s silent screams. “Bombshell” is the defining film for exposing this kind of egregious behavior.
Etc.: The film was shot in 18 days
Awards: 3 wins and 8 nominations
Starring: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth, Pip Carter, Andy Apollo, Paul Tinto, and many more
Director: Sam Mendes
Genres: war, action
Synopsis: Two soldiers are sent to warn their side against moving forward with their planned attack against the Germans as they now know it’s a trap. The rest of the film shows them trying to get there in time. It shows the ugliness of their enemies by what is left behind by them and the ugliness of war in general. So many dead bodies everywhere.
Impressions: Excellent cinematography. The anguish of the main two characters is palpable as they attempt to meet their extremely dangerous and daunting challenge to get there in time to save the lives of 1600 of their compatriots who will die if they don’t.
Etc.: filmed in England and Scotland; almost a mile of trenches were dug for the film
Trivia from imdb: Sam Mendes (director) and Lee Smith (editor) stated that despite the apparently continuous shot (broken only by one interval of unconsciousness), there were actually dozens of “invisible” edits, concealed by transitions through black, moves behind objects, and so on. According to Mendes, the shortest unbroken shot was 39 seconds long, while the longest single continuous shot was 8 1/2 minutes long.
Awards: 114 wins and 171 nominations
Starring: Vin Diesel, Guy Pearce, Eiza González, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, Talulah Riley, Lamorne Morris
Director: Dave Wilson
Genres: action, sci-fi
Synopsis: good soldiers don’t die; they are sent to the lab and reanimated using nano-blood that turns them virtually indestructible. Their animators also wipe their memories and implant fake ones that motivate the blood lust in them for their targets. Vin (Bloodshot) begins to remember his life before becoming a killing machine.
Impressions: Good to see and hear Vin again. He’s more serious in this than in his other movies. Gonzalez is gorgeous. Lots of good CGI. Tired plot that can’t compete with the zillions of other superhero movies out there in the past few years.
Etc.: filmed in South Africa; Budapest, Hungary; Chicago, IL, US; and Quebec, Canada;
Bloodshot is one of the most popular characters in the 80 million comics selling Valiant Universe. Bloodshot has sold over 7 million comics in all languages.
Awards: 4 nominations