Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! The first four offerings are available on netflix, so if you have netflix, get to watching! Also, four of them are from 2021, which is pretty current.
Don’t Look Up (2021) netflix
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Rob Morgan
Director: Adam McKay
Genres: comedy, drama
Synopsis: Randall (DiCaprio) and Kate (Lawrence) are astronomers studying space and become aware of a giant comet headed towards earth. If not intervened with, the comet will destroy the planet. The movie focuses on the astronomers’ attempts at getting the White House aware and motivated to put a plan in action to interrupt its trajectory. When that fails they try to get the media interested in spreading the word so the public can put pressure on the White House. Instead they become celebrities who are eccentric guests on talk shows. A sub-plot has these two asking themselves what is really important in life when you are facing imminent death.
Impressions: The format is satire and it works well. At the same time it eerily feels like what would actually transpire should humanity face such a threat. This thing runs like a well-oiled machine. It reminds me a lot of “Mars Attacks!” but without the murderous sci-fi ETs.
Etc.: per imdb:
To convincingly play his character, Leonardo DiCaprio spoke with real-life astronomer and film consultant Amy Mainzer. According to Adam McKay, DiCaprio had long conversations about the real mathematics behind it and really did get about six months of quality education on orbital dynamics.
Awards: 10 wins and 80 nominations
The Lost Daughter (2021) netflix
Starring: Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard
Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Synopsis: excellent summary of the plot from imdb:
Leda (Colman) is a middle-aged divorcee devoted to her work as an English teacher and to her two children. When her daughters leave home to be with their father in Canada, Leda anticipates a period of loneliness and longing. Instead, slightly embarrassed by the sensation, she feels liberated, as if her life has become lighter, easier. She decides to take a holiday by the sea, in a small coastal town in Greece. But after a few days of calm and quiet, things take a menacing turn. Leda encounters a family whose brash presence proves unsettling, at times even threatening. When a small, seemingly meaningless event occurs, Leda is overwhelmed by memories of the difficult, unconventional choices she made as a mother and their consequences for herself and her family. The seemingly serene tale of a woman’s pleasant rediscovery of herself soon becomes the story of a ferocious confrontation with an unsettled past.
Colman plays the older Leda and Buckley plays the young mother Leda.
Impressions: Whether by design or via my psyche, the entire film borders on surreal. Perhaps it is a form of dissociation because the reality of what is playing out is too negative-emotion laden to take in. I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a movie where every one of the female characters are completely unlikable. Each one feels encased in their own self-absorbed world. Even Nina (Johnson,) the mother of the little girl, who is close with her lively family at almost all times, feels like a treacherous island. Again, whether by design or not, a pervasive atmosphere of dread cannot be shaken. I stuck with watching this to the end even though I reached for the remote more than once. I needed to see how this unbearable tension would release itself. If I had to do it over again, would I watch it? Not sure. Despite that, I think Gyllenhaal has created a fine piece of cinema and look forward to seeing more of her work. Who says cinema has to be easy?
Etc.: per imdb: Maggie Gyllenhaal said Elena Ferrante (the author of the source novel) only approved of the film’s adaptation if it would be directed by a woman.
Awards: 27 wins and 105 nominations
Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017) netflix
Starring: Joan Didion, Griffin Dunne, John Gregory Dunne, Tony Dunne, Harrison Ford
Director: Griffin Dunne
Genres: documentary, biography
Synopsis: Brief blurb by imdb:
Literary icon Joan Didion reflects on her remarkable career and personal struggles in this intimate documentary directed by her nephew, Griffin Dunne.
I didn’t know much about Joan when I started watching this doc. For others who don’t know who she is, here is a blurb from wiki:
Joan Didion (b. 12/5/34 – d. 12/23/21) was an American writer. Her career began in the 1950s after she won an essay contest sponsored by Vogue magazine. Her writing during the 1960s through the late 1970s engaged audiences in the realities of the counterculture of the 1960s and the Hollywood lifestyle. Her political writing often concentrated on the subtext of political and social rhetoric. In 1991, she wrote the earliest mainstream media article to suggest the Central Park Five had been wrongfully convicted. In 2005, she won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for The Year of Magical Thinking. She later adapted the book into a play, which premiered on Broadway in 2007. In 2013, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.
They cover all of the above in the 94-minutes and more. It also covers her lifelong love affair with her also-novelist husband, John, as well as the adoption of and later loss of their daughter, Quintana. There is a wealth of archival photos and video footage. Best of all Joan was still alive when this was made and so you can hear her wisdom and perspectives on life right from her own mouth.
Impressions: Her nephew, Griffin, who put this documentary together, is to be commended. His love shines through and I don’t think anyone who wasn’t that close to her could have done it nearly as well. Highly recommended and it has convinced me to read some of her work.
Etc.: A link to her published works is here.
Awards: 4 nominations
Zone 414 (2021) netflix
Starring: Guy Pearce, Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Travis Fimmel, Jonathan Aris, Colin Salmon, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouéré
Director: Andrew Baird
Genres: Sci-Fi, Thriller
Synopsis: Set in the near future, David Carmichael (Pearce) is a former police detective down on his luck that takes on tough cases. He is interviewed by Joseph Veidt (Aris) who is the HR Director and also the brother of Marlon Veidt (Fimmel) who is the CEO of the company that creates immensely successful android “next generation” models who are being “beta-tested” in Zone 414, a region where the government allows Veidt to test them out to make sure they will be safe for release into mainstream society. Marlon’s daughter has run away from her opulent lifestyle and to Zone 414. The company decides to hire Carmichael to find her and extract her from it. Of course things don’t run as smoothly as any of them hoped for…
Impressions: I came across this while netflix banner surfing. Guy Pearce is one of my favorite actors who always chooses quirky and otherwise good roles for himself (he’s only had a few duds, the rest are great.) I really like the premise of the film. Jane (Lutz) the female android, is gorgeous. Fimmel has notable stage presence and you’ll probably be seeing more of him in bigger movies soon. There is a recognizable support cast in this. Warning: some disturbing scenes of violence.
Etc.: good foley effects; filmed in Belfast, Ireland and Belgrade, Serbia
Principal photography was supposed to start in December 2019. Travis Fimmel was attached to play the lead role, but due to scheduling conflicts with Die in a Gunfight (2021), who was shooting in November and December, he dropped out, Guy Pearce replacing him. When the shootings for Zone 414 were postponed to January 2020, Fimmel rejoined the project taking a supporting role.
12 Mighty Orphans (2021)
Starring: Luke Wilson, Vinessa Shaw, Wayne Knight, Martin Sheen, Jake Austin Walker
Director: Ty Roberts
Genres: history, sport
Synopsis: During the Great Depression in the USA, many children were left without parents and/or homes. Orphanages were built to house them. This story focuses on one orphanage. Very talented football coach, Rusty Russell (Wilson) and his wife, Juanita (Shaw) decide to move to Texas so Rusty can coach boys’ football and Juanita can help shape young females’ lives in a positive way at the orphanage. Rusty meets resistance from Mr. Wynn (Knight) who has been working the boys like slaves in the print shop for jobs where he gets the money. Rusty also has a great supporter in old Doc Hall (Sheen) who donates all of his medical care to the home free and also makes a great assistant coach.
Impressions: I’m not usually one to go for sports movies or for this major pull on the heartstrings kind of plot, but I loved this movie. I like how the boys were each given distinctive personalities. I loved seeing Rusty, Juanita, Doc Hall, and others protecting the orphans and supporting their hard work as a football team and as human beings. During the end credits it shows where each player went on to great success in their lives.
Etc.: filmed in 4 locations in Texas. About the true story from imdb:
In the 1930s and 1940s, there was nothing bigger in Texas high school football than the Masonic Home Mighty Mites a group of orphans bound together by hardship and death. These youngsters, in spite of being outweighed by at least thirty pounds per man, were the toughest football team around. They began with nothing not even a football yet in a few years were playing for the state championship on the highest level of Texas football.
Awards: 2 nominations