Mrs Wilson

mrswilsonThis three-part historical drama is set in Britain during and after WW2 (in the ‘50s & ’60s). When her husband dies, in the early sixties, Alison Wilson is already distraught. They lived comfortably in their little cottage. She’s a typist and Alexander is a spy novelists (and retired MI6 officer). They have two sons, Gordon and Nigel, and they were happy. However, as she tries to come around organizing her husband funerals, she receives the visit of a woman, Mrs Gladys Wilson, who claim to be Alec’s widow! Her happy world quickly crumbles as she struggles with one question: was her husband really the man he claimed to be? Was it just a lie? 

She knew Alex/Alec was a spy because they met at the Secret Intelligence Service headquarters where they were both working during the war. She starts her own investigation, questioning Alex’s handler at MI6, some colleagues in the Intelligence Service, Gladys’ son. She becomes obsessed with this quest to discover who the man she thought she knew for twenty-two years really was. The deeper she digs in his past the more secrets she discovers! Through flashbacks, she relives their history together until she understands who he really was. When she comes to term with the truth, she becomes a nun, but she never could tell her sons about their father until after she died—she had written everything down. 

It is a beautiful and compelling story told in the manner of a spy or mystery novel. The most interesting part is that it is a true story — and the cool twist is that Alison Wilson is played by actress Ruth Wilson, he own grand-daughter! Alexander ‘Alec’ Wilson wrote twenty-four novels, mostly inspired by his career in the secret service and his huge imagination. He was a bigamist who had seven children with several wives. Many aspects of his life are still a mystery as, even today, the Foreign Office still consider his files as ‘sensitive’.

Mrs Wilson is a very interesting historical drama, beautifully filmed and cleverly told. I enjoyed it greatly and recommend it warmly. It was well received by the critics (with rating of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and 7.4 on IMDb). It aired on BBC One in late November / early December and will premieres on PBS Masterpiece Sunday, March 31, 2019, 9/8c (and will subsequently be available on Dvd, iTunes Store and Prime Video). Don’t miss it! stars-3-5

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Tomb Raider

tomb_raider_(2018_film)This reboot of the video game adaptation is neither better nor worse than the previous one with Angelina Jolie. Unfortunately, the story is not very inspiring, but it offers good action (despite the impossible stunts typical of Lara Croft), as well as very nice acting from Alicia Vikander and Daniel Wu. I was quite annoyed by the fact that all the aspects of the supposedly Japanese ancient culture presented in the story is completely bogus and actually looks more Chinese than Japanese. (WTF!?) However, [SPOILER ALERT] I like that the ancient curse turned out to be a disease [SPOILER END]. It offers a nice breath of realism in the movie. Unfortunately, to make it cinematically palatable they had to make the disease’s symptoms completely, absurdly improbable. 

It is safe to say that Alicia Vikander comfortably slips into the Lara Croft character (despite not having her exaggerated physical attributes which she thankfully compensate with great stamina and charm) and delivers a performance that saves the movie from a complete wreck. The movie received mixed reviews (6.3 on IMDb, 51%/56% on Rotten Tomatoes). All in all, it’s an average action movie that offers brainless entertainment. It’s worth watching, whether you are a fan or not, but only if you have time to spare. stars-2-5

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Damn! The trailer is showing all the best scenes of the movie!

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Z Nation


Season 5

“A group of survivors must cross the country with a possible cure for the zombie apocalypse. The holder of the cure, a zombie-human hybrid named Murphy, may not be so cooperative.”

That’s the premise of this 5-season series. At first I thought, “Not another zombie show!” but it grew on me because of its humour, its clever ideas and the fact that it was able to reinvent itself season after season. Hell, it tackled every zombie cliché, and sometimes it was boring or stupid, often repetitive, but the producers had the sense to give it mercy before it becomes worse.

The fact that the series is a gross comedy doesn’t prevent it from touching serious subjects. It is particularly the case in the fifth and last season which is more political. The series talks about Native American rights and the zombies (who have evolved an intermediary stage where they still have cognitive and language abilities before becoming murderous brutes) are an allegory pleading against prejudice and discrimination (racial, sexual, religious, etc.). We must accept the difference in other people, whatever they are.

The series was relatively well received (rating of 6.7 on IMDb and if the first season was dislike by critics on Rotten Tomatoes with a rating of 45%, the over-all audience score is nevertheless 77%). It aired on SyFy in the U.S. and on Space in Canada, but can still be viewed on Dvds and on Netflix. A prequel, titled Black Summer, will be airing on Netflix in early 2019. Over all it is a nice, funny entertainment, that changes us from The Walking Dead. I have always been partial to post-apocalyptic stories, so I guess it is binge-watching worthy. stars-3-0

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Pacific Rim Uprising

pacificrim2-posterAs bad as this movie is you cannot but love it if you are a mecha (or giant robots) and a kaiju fan — which I am. There’s plenty of action (although not very realistic and playing loose with the laws of physics), not much story, a hint of human drama, and a bit of humour. There’s not much originality either, but let’s call it an “hommage.” The term Jaeger reminds me a little of Heavy Gear (although it could come from so many other sources: it means hunter in German, could refers to infantry troops, a bird, a car, or several anime or manga), some designs seems inspired by many giant robots anime (Giant Robo, Mazinger, The Big O) and, of course, the kaiju part if inspired by Ultraman, Godzilla and Gamera, but the biggest “influence” is without contest Neon Genesis Evangelion — and this is probably the closest we’ll ever get to an Evangelion live-action movie. The alien monster attacking Earth, using alien technology to develop weapon against them, the synchronization part, the tall slender design similar to the rogue jaeger Obsidian Fury (damn! I love that design!): that’s seems all “inspired” by Evangelion. Although they’ve gutted all the really interesting stuff (mystical bits and human drama) it is still pretty entertaining.

There is plenty of cool stuff in this movie. No transforming robot but instead a combining kaiju. Not a bad idea. And I’ve certainly LOL when the pilots of Bracer Phoenix have to eject and land at the feet of a statue of a… Gundam! Beautiful and really funny. I couldn’t fail to notice the heavy Chinese presence in the cast and crew (not surprising since producer Legendary was bought by the Chinese Wanda Group and some of the shooting was done in a studio in China). It did relatively well at the box office but was not particularly liked (rating of 5.6 on IMDb and 44% / 41% on Rotten Tomatoes !).

All in all, it offers brainless sci-fi action and lots of mecha & kaiju nostalgia. If you are a fan. stars-3-0

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The Bill Murray Stories

billmurraystoryApparently there are lots of stories on the internet about Bill Murray doing some crazy spontaneous things where he crashes a party or a wedding picture session, comes behind someone in a public toilet and puts his hands on the person eyes saying “No one will ever believe you”, or ends up doing the dishes in some kid’s apartment. He just shows up out of the blue, acts like he is just a normal guy (not a celebrity) but in a way that touches people’s life. Could those stories be true? That’s the question which Tommy Avallone asked himself and decided to make a documentary about it. 

The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man is a documentary that retells those stories and interviews the people who experienced them. It really seems that most stories — at least those told in the documentary — are true and there is pictorial or video evidences to prove it. Avallone then goes on asking himself: why? Why someone like Bill Murray would do such things? To goof around? As a publicity stunt? Not at all. It is just who Bill Murray is. It is part of an improv thing and part of a life philosophy (something like taoism or zen). He just like to live in the moment and make people happy.

Personally, I am just wondering what makes people wake up in the morning and decides to make a documentary about Bill Murray. You are in movie school and need to do one as an assignment? Or really want answers to those questions and decide to just films everything and try to make money out of it? Or you just have the “reporter” gene in your blood? I guess someone should make a documentary about that.

It’s not a very good documentary (it’s clumsy, particularly toward the end, and I dislike when someone makes a documentary about themselves looking for something) but I enjoyed it because I not only learned a lot about who is Bill Murray, but it was also quite entertaining (lots of funny anecdotes and movie excerpts). It reminds me of this book that I once saw in the library: The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment, and Party Crashing, by Gavin Edwards and R. Sikoryak, which was basically asking the same questions. [ Amazon / Goodreads / Library ]

Apparently, Bill Murray is quite an interesting person. But whether you are interested or not, whether you like documentaries or not, it doesn’t matter: if you just take the moment to watch this sixty-seven minutes movies you will certainly enjoy it. And maybe, maybe, you’ll take something out if it and wonder, like me, could I ever be that spontaneous and really live in the moment? stars-3-0

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Watership Down

watershipdownWhen I told one of my colleagues that I was watching a TV mini-series about a bunch of rabbits, she laugh at me saying “You’re watching a kid’s show on Netflix?” I replied that it was far from being a kid show. “Sure, it is about rabbits, but it is a very dark tale of survival”. 

This 2018 four-part TV mini-series tells the story of a group of rabbits who flee their warren and seek a new home. They are led by Hazel after his brother Fiver had a vision of destruction. Indeed, the sandy hill that was their home was invaded by bulldozers and backhoe excavators to create a new neighbourhood for humans. The journey is full of danger as rabbits in an open field can become prey to numerous predators (birds of prey, cats, dogs, foxes and… humans!). Before finding the ideal down (a gently rolling hill) to start anew, they will encounter two other rabbit communities which — having somehow lost their natural ways and surrendered their freedom in two opposite manners — will bring unimaginable perils to the group.

watership_down-movieposterI never read Richard Adams’ novel, but from what I’ve seen by browsing through it, the animated mini-series is a faithful adaptation. However, what I have seen, many years ago, it’s the 1978 animated movie adaptation by Martin Rosen (with John Hurt voicing Hazel). For the time it was a stunningly beautiful animation that was characterized by it’s strong graphic violence that made it clearly aimed at an adult audience. It became for me a sort of cult movie, proving that animation could be taken seriously by adults. Therefore, I was quite curious to see how this new TV series would fare in comparison and I was a little sceptical that it could be as good. In fact, after viewing the first episode of the mini-series, I was rather disappointed that none of the characters had died yet! However, after viewing the whole series, I am happy to see that it compares well with the movie. It even manages to update the adaptation for the twenty-first century (replacing traditional animation with 3D CGI and putting more emphasis on the ecological theme) while making the story more accessible to all audience by giving a more gentle version of it (with far less graphical violence).

watership-down-posterIf it is far from being perfect, the 3D animation is nonetheless excellent. The animation of the rabbits, of the landscapes and the movements is all nearly perfect. However, the animation of the humans and of other animals (cats & dogs notably) really needed more work and is quite disappointing.

The voice-acting is excellent and includes many great actors like James McAvoy (Hazel), Nicholas Hoult (Fiver), John Boyega (Bigwig), Ben Kingsley (General Woundwort), Tom Wilkinson (Threarah), Gemma Arterton (Clover), Peter Capaldi (Kehaar), Olivia Colman (Strawberry), Anne-Marie Duff (Hyzenthlay), Freddie Fox (Captain Holly), Miles Jupp (Blackberry), Daniel Kaluuya (Bluebell), Rosamund Pike (Black Rabbit), Daniel Rigby (Dandelion). However, it is not perfect. For example, as far as I remember, the voice of Kehaar (the seagull) sounded rather German in the movie whilst it was supposed to be Scandinavian. This time, it sounds Scottish (Capaldi)! It also feels strange that all rabbits from the same warren have different accents — but I guess it helps giving them different “personality”.

What I found interesting is that Adams created a culture for the rabbits, a mythology (or at least a creation myth, based around the Sun-god Frith, the folk hero El-ahrairah [the Prince with a Thousand Enemies], and the Black Rabbit as death-figure), and almost a language (the Lapine, or at least a vocabulary that sounds foreign). It is fascinating as it grounds the story in reality, but also gives it the mystical aura of legends.

Beside the very obvious ecological message (the Elils [rabbits’ natural enemies] kill by nature, by necessity and never more than needed, while men kill by pleasure, or simply because they can and will never stop “till they’ve spoil the earth”), to me Watership Down’s story feels like an allegory about the danger of totalitarianism (the later ’30s German fascism for example). However, Adams said that it was rather based on the theme of the classical hero inspired by the epics of Homer (Odyssey) or Virgil (Aeneid).

All in all, it is beautiful, rich, riveting and intelligent. Well worth watching and highly recommended. stars-4-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ GoogleIMDbOfficialWikipediaYoutube ]

The mini-series’ trailer:

Now, compare with the 1978 movie trailer:

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Mujirushi: Le Signe des rêves 1

signe-des-reves-1-futuropolisKamoda Takashi est un japonais crédule et malchanceux qui se fait constamment embarquer dans des magouilles où il se fait exploiter financièrement. Acculé à la faillite, sa femme le quitte. Mais un corbeau lui apporte un message d’espoir… mais ce n’est que pour se faire embarquer dans une autre magouille par un japonais francophile et mystérieux. Il se retrouve à Paris en compagnie de sa fille Kasumi avec mission de voler La Dentellière de Vermeer au Louvre! Kasumi raconte tout à Michel, un pompier parisien qui parle japonais et qui semble lié à leur mission par un mystérieux destin…

planchea_341960Le dessin d’Urasawa, sans être désagréable, est tout de même assez ordinaire. Par contre son récit — souvent empreint de fantastique — est toujours captivant. Si ses personnages sont peu crédible (l’éternel “looser” pathétique et l’amateur d’art manipulateur aux dents géantes), sa description des salles du Louvre est plutôt charmante. Dans l’ensemble c’est un très bon manga mais la première partie se termine abruptement sur un suspense. La suite au deuxième volume!

Cette série est intéressante pour deux raisons: d’abord il s’agit d’une oeuvre de Naoki Urasawa qui a produit de très bon manga sur une base très consistante (Yawara!, Master Keaton, Monster, 20th Century Boys, Pluto, Billy Bat). Deuxièmement, elle fait partie de la série de BD sur le Louvre publié conjointement par Futuropolis et Louvre Éditions (dont nous avons déjà commenté Les Gardiens du Louvre et  Les chats du Louvre). Le Signe des rêves vaut donc la peine d’être lu — mais je réserve mon jugement définitif en attendant d’avoir lu la suite.

Mujirushi: Le Signe des rêves 1, par Naoki Urasawa. Paris: Futuropolis / Louvre Éditions, août 2018. 144 pages, 19.5 x 26.5 cm, 20,00 €  / $39.95 Can. ISBN 978-2-7548-2577-1. Pour lectorat adolescent (14+). stars-3-5

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© 2018 Futuropolis / Urasawa Naoki.

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