No Time to Die directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. 2021.

The filmmaker is very protective of Daniel Craig’s body–not showing it in its 50s state of beginning to sag and bulge. In contrast, the women, who are twenty or thirty years younger, display their assets proudly. The brunette (played by Ana de Armas), with swells of cleavage, is the most pleasant character to watch. Mid picture, she trades quips with Bond as they dispatch the villains all around them with steady marksmanship.

No Time to Die: Officially the Longest Bond and a Major Pain for Venom |  IndieWire
Ana De Armas and Daniel Craig have great chemistry

The body count is high. I remember, at the beginning of the Terminator franchise, trying to keep up with how many so called humans were killed by Scharzenegger and eventually becoming bored. I was watching the movie with my father in his house on TV, so it was easy to walk away. Portions of the Bond movie had body counts way too high, as if we were watching a World War II movie when what we paid for was the cleverness of a spy thriller.

The Terminator: The Many Performances of Arnold Schwarzenegger - Den of Geek
Remember him? How many did he kill?

I had paid $20 to secure my reserved seat at Cinepolis– where the food and drink seemed to matter more than the movie– but still– I did not want to dismiss the picture too soon. Bond, James Bond, 007, a most familiar name in English speaking countries, was about to go away. I wanted to see how the screenwriters managed it.

The plot centers on a boy whose family is assassinated, leaving him alone to find a way to avenge them. This character, named Lyutsider Safin, almost an anagram of Lucifer Satan, is played by Rami Malek. Malek shows little range, just a slow smolder, as he carries out his villainous mission.

Can Rami Malek act? How the No Time to Die baddie became the most  polarising actor in Hollywood | The Independent
 Lyutsifer Safin: Rami Malek

The movie pays lip service to science and DNA based weapons. But the filmmakers do not trust us to understand how it works, until quite late in the game, when it is clear that this new method of killing people has just as much power as nuclear bombs to annihilate the human race. Those to whom evil is done do evil in return as Auden so aptly put it.

Most interesting in this overlong movie is the new 007 who is neither white nor male. If the franchise is to continue, it depends on its coming up to date with the zeitgeist. Fifty something white guys in tuxes, driving fancy cars, just won’t cut it any more.

No Time To Die review: Daniel Craig bids farewell to James Bond in style -  CNET
Lashana Lynch, the new 007

Other things to like: the characters and acting. Ben Whishaw as Q brings his singular charm and intelligence to the screen, Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter convinces us that Bond is capable of friendship, and Lea Seydoux does some heavy lifting to twist a conventional spy thriller into a romance. The Aston Martin that Bond drives has starred in the movies since 1964. It is one of my favorite characters. When it was being attacked, I felt much worse than when most of the humans bit the dust. The settings, especially Matera, Italy, where Vesper Lynd, Bond’s first female spy partner, is buried, answer the need for glorious cinematography.

My only problem with No Time to Die is with its length, and the editing, which clocks the film at almost three hours.

No Time to Die's Ben Whishaw returns as Q in new photo

Ben Whishaw plays Q
No Time to Die (2021)
Jeffrey Wright is Felix Leiter, bond’s friend
Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux kiss during No Time To Die scenes | Metro News
Lea Seydoux plays Madeleine Swann, Bond’s girlfriend

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Rebecca directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1940

with Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, Judith Anderson

Presented by the Big Eddy Film Festival, September 2021

Rebecca (1940) - Turner Classic Movies

They have tried to remake this movie, but none can stand up to the comparison / perfection of the original adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier’s haunted tale. A girl, never named, of a lower class background, while serving as a paid companion to a vulgar American in Monte Carlo on holiday, meets an aristocratic widower still haunted by the death of his wife one year earlier. They fall in love and marry and move back to the house called Manderley, an estate so famous and grand it is visited by tourists once a week. The household staff numbers in the dozens, headed by a creepy mistress named Mrs. Danvers.

In REBECCA (1941), Alfred Hitchcock tells a Gothic ghost story… without any  ghosts | by Eric Langberg | Everything's Interesting | Medium
Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson

The girl (Joan Fontaine) is a timid little thing as her sister in law describes her, with scant talent for the drawing she keeps attempting in her spare time. It is strange that no one tells her what happened to the Rebecca of the title, the first wife of Maxim (Laurence Olivier), her husband, who keeps things close to the vest, except when he is losing his temper.

As a teacher of media literacy, I loved to screen this movie to sixth graders over the course of three periods, so that they would be exposed to the early fashions of movies: the black and white photography, the impeccable costuming, the carefully arranged sets, and in Hitchcock’s case, the pre-edited feel for each transition so that little film was wasted. Every scene stands alone as carefully crafted. The dialogue moves the story along, and includes witty exchanges as well as telling asides.

Rebecca (1997 - )
1997 with Charles Dance, Emiliar Fox, and Diana Ring as Mrs. Danvers

Movie: 'Rebecca' - The Central Minnesota Catholic
2020 with Armie Hammer, Lily James, and Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs. Danvers

How could any remake compare? Notice how the big names in the remakes are for the actresses who play Mrs. Danvers? That’s because you cannot replace the late 1930s/early 1940s tone of a girl with no name becoming Mrs. somebody.

I am grateful to the Big Eddy Film Festival for showing the movie on a big screen, outdoors, after hearing a talk by Patricia White, author of a BFI Film Classics monograph on the film.

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Ted Lasso (TV series) with

Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein

(First season, 2020) Second season is now available on AppleTV

Ted Lasso: Season 1 (Apple TV+ Original Series Soundtrack) by Marcus  Mumford & Tom Howe on Amazon Music - Amazon.com

I came to this series late, in need of a pick me up. It delivered. However, if you are on the team that says comedy is over, and nice guys finish last, stay away.

An American football coach is hired to coach a soccer team in England. The owner of the team, Rebecca, wants to get back at her husband for divorcing her. He still is co-owner of the team, and it is the one thing she knows will hurt him, to have it do badly, as she is sure it will if an ignorant American is calling the shots.

Humor in the form of niceness, is a feature of the snappy dialogue. The direction keeps a necessary tension between mawkish cuteness and genuine goodness by demonstrating ethical behavior not preaching it, at least, not the first few episodes. Because the show’s main character is so undeniably nice, I was drawn to the less sterling tough guy players, whose acting is dead on. The surprising supporting characters and overall tone are just right, thanks to crisp editing. The camera does not linger too long on any one character, but fills in their complexity with quick strokes.

Ted Lasso: Hannah Waddingham Discusses Rebecca's Backstory
Hannah Waddingham as the owner, Rebecca, is one of the tough guy players even though she is not on the team

There are some missed opportunities. For instance, an ignorant sports fan like me hoped to learn a little bit about soccer, but did not. And the references to British culture are stereotyped. I don’t get the function of the assistant coach at all.

But the pleasures far outweigh the weaknesses in this series, and it is just the ticket for anyone needing a cheering up.

Phil Dunster Shirtless, Underwear, Gay, Girlfriend | Famewatcher
Phil Dunster is Jamie, who is sure of his magnificence
Ted Lasso's Brett Goldstein “Plotted” All of Roy Kent's Season 1 Smiles |  Vanity Fair
Brett Goldstein plays an aging captain of the team

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Summer of Soul, directed by Questlove, 2021

documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival in summer of 1969

Starting with an electrifying performance on drums by Stevie Wonder, and an interview with a concertgoer who is so happy to have been there, as a child, to moon over his crush on one of the singers in the Fifth Dimension, this movie projects the joy in the event, and a feeling of community, which includes young, middle aged, and old people, all gathered tightly together in Mount Morris Park in Harlem.

Summer of Soul Trailer Celebrates Black Music and Culture at the 1969  Harlem Cultural Festival – /Film
Stevie Wonder on drums

How relevant it is to today’s politics that this movie would tap into the need for community, the need for music to be balm on our troubled souls as we face dire crimes, split politics, devastating pandemic.

Summer of Soul' Review: In 1969 Harlem, a Music Festival Stuns - The New  York Times
The Fifth Dimension

Hearing the attendees interviewed about their pleasure on being there was a tonic. It made me smile, and made me learn so many things.

Summer of Soul' documentary is a big step forward for untold Black stories  | The Blender | stltoday.com

Gladys Knight and the Pips, how great to watch the back up dancers be men backing up sterling Gladys. I had only ever heard I Heard It Through the Grapevine performed by Marvin Gaye.

The choreography of the Motown singers is explained. The styles of black folk, ranging from the suit and tie, to Sly and the Family Stone hippie style are all on display. And the range of style and ages is matched by the breadth of performers: David Ruffin, the singer who quit the Temptations, Herbie Hancock, Mahalia Jackson, B. B. King, The Staples, Moms Mabley. Everyone fits in, except perhaps Jesse Jackson who insists on preaching to us. He comes off as infatuated with his own voice. Nina Simone is especially bitter about the racism this country is known for. 1969 was only one year after Martin Luther King was assassinated. Bitterness is understandable.

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople, directed by Taika Waititi, 2016.

with Julian Dannison, Sam Neill.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople.png

Ricky Baker, a foster child, feels trapped in the New Zealand home of his adoptive parents. When the kindly mother dies, he and his “uncle” find themselves escaping into the bush in order to evade an aggressive social worker determined to bring the boy to a different family.

Movie review: The Hunt for the Wilderpeople - NZ Herald
Rachel House as the social worker acts like Rambo after her victim

The tone is light, even when there is danger. Soundtrack mirrors the mood, alternating Nina Simone with Bob Marley as the two heroes wander the beautiful landscape of New Zealand. Not that all of it is beautiful. When Ricky drives a pick up truck recklessly and lands upside down in a car dump, the land does not look so good.

Waititi knows how to work with child actors. The first time I saw one of his films was Jo Jo Rabbit, where a ten or twelve year old, convinced he was best friends with an imaginary Adolph Hitler, ruled the screen. In this movie, Julian Dennison plays a completely charming slightly deranged but perfectly understandable boy who has lost his way, and wants to continue being lost, if only he can have a willing adult at his side.

Julian Dennison, left, and Sam Neill in Taika Waititi’s “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.”

That willing adult, Sam Neill, playing Hec, is a complicated character. At first he does not want to have anything to do with the scheme of running away, but once he has been mistaken for a criminal, he latches on to the young Ricky. The two of them are not exactly Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but they have some escapades that are endearing. This buddy movie crosses age, race, and style lines in ways that prove Waititi to be a master director of hybrid genres, crossing dramatic adventure with coming of age, and comedy. It ends not with grace and happiness but with hope for the future. I would like to check in on Ricky and Hec around five years from now to see how things are going.

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Another Round directed by Thomas Vinterberg, 2020.

in Danish. With Mads Mikkelson, Lars Ranthe

Another Round (2020) - IMDb

Four men, teachers in Denmark, decide to test a theory that humans are born with a deficit of alcohol by drinking to make up for it. What begins as an experiment veers out of control.

Another Round': the power, and pain, of positive drinking - The Boston Globe

The movie opens with exhilaration and joy, as we watch the hedonistic pleasure of youthful drinking experienced by a bunch of graduating high school seniors. Soon we shift gears, and watch Martin, a middle aged history teacher in an enormous funk. His ennui does not just make his teacher bland and unintelligible, his marriage has fallen apart. What is left is the camaraderie he share with his fellow teachers.

The ensemble cast convinces us that they know and love each other. Acting as Martin, Mads Mikkelsen anchors the group. Every thought is registered in subtle movements of his face.

Film Review: "Another Round" - Not Drowning but Waving - The Arts Fuse

Women play little part except Martin’s wife, Annika, whose disaffection creates more psychological anguish. Music buoys the mood especially the Danish anthem sung sweetly by the students. I found it hard to believe that four intelligent adults in their right mind would subject themselves to such n experiment, and as a result as the movie took its downward dive, I became disengaged.

What saved it for me was the relationship between the teachers and their students. It isn’t just dedication to their profession that keeps teachers going, it’s outright love for young people who hold such promise. Scenes between the PE teacher and his shy bullied student, and between the music teacher and his soulful singers, keep the movie from being maudlin. Still, at the end, as another graduating class class participates in drinking games, I had to wonder if Denmark has a genuine drinking problem.

Another Round" Review: A Beautiful Look at the Bottom of the Bottle

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Eurovison: the Story of the Fire Saga, directed by David Dobkin, 2020.

with Rachel McAdams, Will Ferrell, Dan Stevens, Pierce Brosnan

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga - Wikipedia

Husavik is a song about an Icelandic town that is home to Lars and Sigrit, who think they may be related due to Lars’ father’s philandering. The song has emotional power and depth, breaking out into the Icelandic language to the delight of Icelanders watching on TV. The song is a triumph, bursting with pride of place. Rachel McAdams as Sigrit gives it her all, even if she is dubbed by a singer capable of maintaining a high G for what seems like a full minute.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga' review: like Glee on ket

You really have to forgive Will Ferrell as Lars his corniness to get through the rest of the movie. He plays Lars so earnestly that he almost forgets to milk the laughs which I wish were more plentiful.

Most entertaining is the role of Alexander Lemtov, a Russian pop star, played perfectly by Dan Stevens. Stevens struts on stage in an over the top production number featuring lions and four bare chested pretty boys opening their legs for him. It is pleasantly ridiculous.

Dan Stevens on Eurovision, Lion of Love and Working With Will Ferrell -  Variety

The plot is about the two would be siblings accidentally qualifying for the semi finals of the Eurovision song contest, which is a real event with such an exaggerated appeal it barely needs satirizing. Sigrit and Lars work out their sets dutifully until Alexander flirts his way in to Sigrit’s head and Lars feels jilted.

The soapy bits suds the humor out, no matter how much I enjoy Stevens’ campy performance. If only he had been the main character it would have been much funnier. Or am I just admitting to my preference for watching Dan Stevens over Will Ferrell?

As it stands, the final number, along with most of the musical numbers, serve the movie best, playing sly homage to a valiant musical tradition.

The Story of Fire Saga Review: Netflix Eurovision Comedy Is Too Pitchy |  IndieWire
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Minari directed by Lee Isaac Chung, 2020.

with Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Noel Cho, Alan S. Kim

When you see the beauty of the land that Jacob wants to farm, when you know he has a plan, and the skill to put it into action, you get the feeling that this movie is about a man trying to succeed. It is a struggle for a Korean immigrant not to be ripped off by connivers. He does not trust the man with the divining rod to be honest about how to find water. Instead, he trusts his own instincts, and digs a well, turns over the soil, and plants his crops, meant to be sold to Korean Americans in nearby towns of rural Arkansas.

This does not mean that Jacob and his wife Monica can stop working in the chicken factory, where their job is to determine the sex of the animal — males not so lucky, females survive. The parents of two young children, they lack child care, so bring their son David, around aged five, and daughter, Anne, a bit older, to work with them where they witness their father’s extreme skill at determining the gender of the animals. He is so fast, he can take breaks while others frantically try to meet their quotas. When David asks what smoke is, his dad answers male chickens don’t taste good, they have no use, they go to be smoked (killed). We’d better be useful he warns his son.

Alan S. Kim: Meet 'Minari's' Young Breakout Star - Variety
Alan S. Kim anchors the movie and is the one who should be nominated for the Oscar

This warning pretty much informs the movie’s soul. How useful is a man whose crop depends on a well that runs dry? Seeking child care, Monica summons her mother from Korea. Grandma is a pistol. She teaches the children to gamble, she swears, she gets David to run even though he has a heart murmur and is generally treated with kid gloves when it comes to physical activity. The relationship between five year old David and Grandma, who moves into David’s room, develops and is complex. They start out having not particularly good chemistry, and David is quite naughty at times with her. But it is clear that she loves him, and wants to teach him things he cannot learn from other Americans. Most important to her is not the farm that Jacob is creating, but the minari that she plants and grows on the riverbank. Frequent visits to this site give the movie a timeless feeling.

Minari' earning worldwide acclaim, accolades in US : Korea.net : The  official website of the Republic of Korea

The second half of the film, where Jacob is ready to sell his crop, and Grandma suffers a health emergency, begin to wear one down. The only native Arkansas character is a born again Christian so extreme, he carries a cross on his back to walk to town. Music wears one down as well. Every time he began talking about God as a savior, I cringed. I began to question inconsistent decisions being made by the characters who up until the second half made sense. Marital tensions create melodrama and add to the feeling of exhaustion on the part of the audience.

Still, the children’s acting, especially Allan S. Kim as David, the photography of the landscape, and the struggle of outsiders in an unforgiving culture, ring true.

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The Prom, directed by Ryan Murphy, 2020.

with Meryl Streep, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, Keegan Michael Key, Jo Ellen Pellman

The Prom (film) - Wikipedia

This website focuses on movies and tv shows of high quality. There should be successful casting, performances, production values, costumes. Most importantly, if it is a musical, the music should be good, it should match the mood trying to be set.

The Prom’s music made me want to leave the room. The premise of the play is worthy, important even, to let a lesbian take her date to the prom. But having a bunch of washed up celebrities played by A List celebrities, ostensibly coming to her aid as a kind of publicity stunt, just feels pathetic. All of them do their level best to bring the material to life, but can’t. The choreography– don’t get me started

The Prom | Movie review – The Upcoming

I still will watch just about anything with James Corden and Meryl Streep but let them find better material next time. Jo Ellen Pellman plays the lead looking slightly older than a teen — I wish her luck in her career.

The Prom' loses its momentum, but still accept this musical Netflix dance  from Ryan Murphy | Movie review | Movie-reviews | news-herald.com
Jo Ellen Pellman plays Emma, Arianna DeBose plays Alyssa, her cheerleader girlfriend

One big redeeming grace note:

The Prom's Andrew Rannells & Keegan-Michael Key Reveal Their First  Celebrity Crush

Keegan Michael Key. He almost saves it in his performance as the high school principal with a deep crush on Meryl Streep’s character. He just couldn’t be on the screen long enough to do so.

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Nomadland directed by Chloe Zhao, 2020.

with Frances MacDormand, David Strathairn.

Nomadland poster.jpeg

Fern is an itinerant worker, a widow, an ex substitute teacher. She seems to have lived in the southwest, in Arizona, and since her husband died, she has gone from place to place, making enough money to survive. Along the way, she runs into other nomads she has met before. Swankie has cancer, and is ready to die. Fern gives her a hair cut.

NOMADLAND”: On the road again…and again…and again | Butler's Cinema Scene

When Fern arrives at a major national park, she recognizes David Strathairn, a fellow nomad, giving tours. They might actually have enough in common to strike up a long lasting relationship. But this movie is not about that. It is about how uncomfortable Fern is, and the people she has this trait in common with, staying in any one place. Everyone she becomes attached to leaves, every job is temporary. The laborers might be right out of Thomas Hardy novels, but instead of walking, they ride in vans to harvest the beetroots in the midwest.

Nomadland': Read The Screenplay For Chloe Zhao's Latest Meditation On The  American West – Deadline

In the beginning of the movie, Amazon is one of the employers of these nomads. I thought the movie would focus more on how that company has changed not only the way retail works, but the whole consumer economy, and how people have grown used to receiving everything they buy by mail, and the employees are forced to work through difficult conditions. But that would take away from the personal odyssey that Fern makes, her inner life, her connection to the people on the road.

Nomadland,” Reviewed: Chloé Zhao's Nostalgic Portrait of Itinerant America  | The New Yorker

Locations are important. New Mexico, Arizona, Nebraska, California. Where does her sister live? In a conventional house in a suburb. Fern is not comfortable sleeping in a nice bed with fresh sheets. She depends on her van, and when it breaks down, it becomes a minor crisis until she can rustle up the money to fix it. There are haunting images of factories closed down where Americans used to make things. Now we only sell things, and ship things made in China.

Not a single cell phone appears. All of the people talk face to face. In this way, the movie is an abstraction, and does not feel real. Later, I learned that the only actors in the movie were Strathairn and McDormand. The rest of the cast were actually who they appeared to be, nomads who live the life of migrant workers.

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