CSUN 2024 – The Movies

I didn’t seem to be able to get to sleep on either my 14 hour flight to Vancouver or the return flight, so I indulged in a couple of movie marathons.



Oppenheimer2023, dir Christopher Nolan

Very well made biopic starring Cillian Murphy as J. Rober Oppenheimer, “father of the atomic bomb”. Fully engaging, highly dramatic, and deeply thoughtful account of the political and military pressures on a scientist and his team. Murphy deserved his Best Actor Oscar, as did Robert Downey Jr his Best Supporting Actor win. Beautifully shot, written, and directed, a deeply impactful film.


Barbie2023, dir Greta Gerwig

I appreciated the intent of this comedy about the doll, played with complete commitment by Margot Robbie with Ryan Gosling as her boyfriend Ken. The interplay of the dolls with the real world was clever, and the production design was, um, bright, to say the least. On the whole, though, I thought it was disappointingly thin – a one-line joke stretched out to movie length, with forgettable songs.


Ferrari2023, dir Michael Mann

Really interesting movie, with Adam Driver as car maker Enzo Ferrari. Set in 1957, it has a convincing and appropriate look and feel of a European film of the period. Set in the highly competitive world of motor racing, it features glorious footage of cars racing through the Italian countryside, as well a graphic and shocking lethal crash. Driver is superb as the stylish, arrogant and (yes) driven title character.

The Holdovers

The Holdovers2023, dir Alexander Payne

Paul Giamatti stars as a mean and grumpy teacher at a New England boarding school in 1970/71, lumbered with looking after a single teenaged student, played by Dominic Sessa, who can’t go home during the Christmas holidays. Da’Vine Joy Randolph won Best Supporting Actress as the school cafeteria manager resides at the school. It’s a beautifully judged (and filmed) comedy drama that rises above a bonding exercise to become genuinely touching.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs2015, dir Danny Boyle

Michael Fassbender stars as the visionary, near maniacal tech genius in a biopic structured around the lead-up to various Apple product launches over 14 years – with some flashbacks thrown in. Brilliantly written by Aaron Sorkin, it co-stars Kate Winslet as his long suffering colleague and Seth Rogen as a belittled Steve Wozniak, both of who are great. Fassbender captures well the nature of a world-changing, thoroughly unlikeable man.



Wonka2023, dir Paul King

Timothée Chalamet stars in the musical fantasy about the early life of Willy Wonka, focusing on his determination to become a chocolate maker despite wicked competitors, corrupt police and an evil landlady (Olivia Colman). Everyone hams it up to great effect, the sets and songs are delightful and the bonus is that the star does his own, ethereally beautiful singing. Thoroughly charming.

The Marvels

The Marvels2023, dir Nia DaCosta

The latest MCU effort is both a sequel to Captain Marvel and an extension of the Ms Marvel TV miniseries. Brie Larson stars as Carol Danvers, joined by two other Marvels to battle Kree leader Dar-Benn. Some clever plot twists, exciting fight scenes, a bit of feminist revision, and Samuel L Jackson as over-the-top as ever as Nick Fury add up to a very enjoyable comic superhero romp.

The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli2010, dir the Hughes Brothers

Denzel Washington stars as the title character in a post-apocalyptic USA, using his superior warrior skills to survive. He becomes the target of a menacing warlord played by Gary Oldman, who wants the book Eli carries with him, which we soon realise is a bible. Mila Kunis co-stars as a young woman who attaches herself to Eli, as he fights off to try to reach the west coast. Gripping, dramatic, with plot twists almost as elaborate as the fight scenes.

The Bucket List

The Bucket List2007, dir Rob Reiner

Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play an elderly, terminally ill odd couple who set out to achieve a wish list of things to do before they kick the bucket. In the hands of a lesser director and actors, this would be schmaltzy rubbish, but it turned out to be funny and tender and genuinely moving. The supporting cast is good, too, with Sean Hayes and Rob Morrow standing out.


Yesterday2019, dir Danny Boyle

Written by Richard Curtis, this stars Hamish Patel as a struggling English/Pakistani muso who, after being hit by a bus during a global blackout, realises he now lives in a world in which The Beatles never existed. He becomes a star by claiming their best songs as his own work, becoming adopted by (a surprisingly charming) Ed Sheeran as himself. There’s an intersecting love story and, on the whole, it’s a very likable confection.

Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending2015, dir the Wachowskis

Science fiction fantasy of a very high quality, this stars Mila Kunis as the titular Jupiter Jones, who to achieve her destiny as empress heir of Earth, must battle intergalactic baddies with the help of Channing Tatum as a genetically engineered half human/half canine interplanetary soldier. Way over the top in design and execution, from writing to cast to production, this totally works.

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