Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello film fans! Welcome to Friday Flix. This week the films that debut are not the heavy hitters, many of those are coming out during the Holidays. But there are some good ones vying for the top box office spots.
In 6 Degrees Magazine, there’s a piece from Director David Fincher on Modern Cinema that’s worth a look. And the film reviews featured include reviews for Marshall, the courtroom drama surrounding one of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s early civil-rights cases; and the LA Times gives The Florida Project with Willem Dafoe rave reviews: “probably the best movie you’ll see this year”….can’t get much better than that!
Blade Runner 2049 is reviewed in Movie Waffler. I reviewed it in 6 Degrees of Film and wasn’t impressed. For one thing, the movie was over-hyped. It wasn’t nearly as good as it was promoted as being, which was this game-changing thematic experience. In addition, it was overly long for the material that was explored.
It was reminiscent of the follow up sequel to Chinatown in several ways. Both revolve around a quest or a search that moves the action along, but in the case of The Two Jakes, Jack Nicholson was the big draw that the sequel used to carry the weight of a weaker plot. It’s hard to compete with classic films that introduce new and innovative techniques and original thought. Chinatown and Blade Runner were two such films.
Harrison Ford doesn’t carry this film. This film is almost exclusively Ryan Gosling’s vehicle, and he is not up to snuff. There isn’t one interesting element or nuance of character that is memorable in this version (The review is on 6 Degrees).
The film has been characterized as a dud or a bomb. It’s not terrible, but I can’t recommend it to see at the theatres. It’s for the small screen. There’s another article that makes the case that the soundtrack for Blade Runner 2049 is the star. I can’t agree with that either, especially in the wake of listening to the music of Vangelis and that masterly score for the original. Director Ridley Scott put so much attention to detail into the 1982 film, showing us a glimpse of a futuristic, yet dark and decidedly dystopian landscape that matched the theme from which the material sprang: the dark visions of writer Philip K Dick. This film just isn’t capable of continuing the thread needed to pull us into that same future void where we found ourselves at the end of BladeRunner.

There are lots of Oscar contenders opening in November. After seeing a trailer for the Benedict Cumberbatch film, The Current War, made by the Weinstein Group, I noticed they’ve pulled it from the schedule. It’s unfortunate that the politics must interfere with the artistic merit of a film, but that’s the way of the world. Weinstein has infected the conversation in Hollywood, as well as throughout the country. And women should be silent no more.
Some of the other films opening in November (see the Fall Newsletter link); are: Murder on the Orient Express & The Florida Project. The latter is about a six year old girl who lives with her mother in a motel in the Sunshine State. Willem Dafoe also stars in this Indie film, and as mentioned above, it’s been getting lots of good advance press.
There’s also a  listing this week of actor Gary Oldman’s best performances (Oldman is starring as Churchill currently in Darkest Hour.) Can’t say that I agree with the list. Here’s mine: True Romance; Tinker,Tailor,Soldier,Spy. Harry Potter films; Child 44; Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead are some of Oldman’s best films, and I’d recommend any of those to fans who would like to see more of Gary Oldman in action.
There’s also an article about Films that may be contenders for Oscars including Dunkirk; The Post and The Shape of Water. Haven’t seen the latter two, but I would agree there is great interest and buzz with these films, particularly surrounding The Shape of Water.
That’s a wrap for this week. Stay tuned in coming weeks for the Holiday Films Newsletter and other 6 Degrees offers for you. Till then, hope you find some movies that you not just like but love, and see you at the movies!

 

 

 

 

Blade Runner 2049-Nothing to see here

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The best place to start to review this film would be to recommend another viewing of Blade Runner, the vastly superior original from 1982. That film had the aura of a mystery. The Ridley Scott film had so many small details, the film noir elements as well as the sci-fi ones, that it kept you thinking and wondering as you watched it unfold. Ironically, at the time, it wasn’t considered a ‘hit’. Based on the Philip K Dick short story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the central question that permeated the film’s progression was the nature of what it means to be human.
It dealt with the issues surrounding what it means to have a soul, and how we know what the nature of our humanity is. It was a subtle message that was interspersed with a foreshadowing of doom and an apocalyptic pall that worked as a thread pulling us through each scene.
In this film, the dull and plodding nature of the plot line, where we find not an interesting protagonist, but a rather dull hero in Ryan Gosling, who is a pale stand-in for Harrison Ford, leaves us yearning for more in the end. The film clobbers the audience at times, hitting us over the head with the blare of the theme that is begging us to ask what it takes to be human, and what constitutes a soul.
The mystery of the film, the search for the mysterious child that is the central figure looming over the plot plods slowly along, It is a point that is neither cunning or strange. The story is one where we have an expectation of waiting for Godot, with the audience expecting something to happen, and the film always ends up holding back any type of cathartic release.
The villain, or villainess in this case, is about as interesting and predictable as a bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. She is much less interesting than the girlfriend of Ryan Gosling, who turns out to be a hologram, and the hologram is the only one who is multi-layered in this dull affair. And even that sub-plot is done with much more subtlety and charm in the superior “Her” which this film emulates in some manner.

 

 

 
The futuristic nature of the landscape, and the apocalyptic message for the audience is pretty much wasted in this version. Harrison Ford’s entrance, late in the action, is anti-climactic and even he looks bored and really past the point of even trying to make sense of the plot. There is little humor in this film, and although Gosling is competent in his execution, his character has strict limits as to how far you might want to go to be able to emote with the nature of the beast that is his straight-jacket of a role.
Robin Wright also looks slightly bored, as she valiantly tries to bring some interest to this slow moving affair. This film didn’t need to be almost three hours. It needed editing, as mentioned a few weeks back by a noted director who seemed to be itching to cut about one half hour or more from most of the feature films that boast the need to tell the story for almost three hours.
The story here is not a mystic tale or a fantasy romp, there is no CGI miracle or even a continuation of the Ridley Scott attention to detail which made the 80’s film so relevant and cutting-edge. The music was a large part of the allure in the original, and this one has almost no soundtrack other than a running commentary of rain and smoggy mist. In short, this one is only for die-hard Blade Runner devotees, of which I am one. No one is going to appreciate the origami figures, the memory implants, the futuristic ads and landscape of CGI unless they have specific memories of the superior version.

I would recommend waiting for the small screen to watch this film. It’s not unwatchable, and there are certainly good actors and a continuation of the themes that were explored in the original film. But there’s no need to rush to the theatres to see this film. And in some ways, that’s a shame. Bladerunner was worth the trip to see it on the big screen. If you get a chance, go see the original. Leave this one for home viewing.

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Hello Film Fans! Some recommended reviews for the week include reviews from the Ebert.com site: Marshall; the film bio that is ostensibly about Thurgood Marshall, but is a courtroom drama from a particular time period in Marshall’s life in 1940’s America. One of the critiques I’ve heard raised is that the movie is good, but it’s not really a bio-pic of Marshall’s life. So there’s that…

Other film reviews on Ebert: The Mountain Between Us, which has received generally good reviews; Blade Runner 2049 is reviewed-my review is going to be published next week, and generally, I’ll just say that I would only recommend this film to those who are fans of the first film and sci-fi buffs. It runs a bit too long, but there are some other problems I’ve got with this one. The Ebert site didn’t really trash this film, and most critics seem to be kinder to this film than it probably warrants.

The Indie film, the Florida Project, with Willem Dafoe has generated lots of good buzz. It is reviewed favorably on the Ebert site as well. Also featured in 6 Degrees Magazine are a run-down of the best films of Willem Dafoe, as well as an article with the top Harrison Ford films. The Chicago International Film Festival is also featured on the Ebert site, along with an interview with the star of Marshall, Chadwick Boseman.

Finally, some of the classic films shown on Turner Classic this week are reviewed in 6 Degrees. Gaslight, which has become synonymous with the newly coined term, to “Gaslight’ someone, or to try and drive them insane…. The film from 1944 starred Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman as the wife who was “gaslighted.” Another film from TCM that is recommended if you have never seen it is  Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore directed by Martin Scorsese and released in 1974. Ellen Burstyn won an Oscar for her lead in this great little gem of a film that really was a pioneering story centering around the trials of a woman who finds herself widowed and if follows her struggles for independence in a man’s world. This film, along with Judy Davis’ groundbreaking My Brilliant Career in 1979 really opened up the idea that women could carry a film about what it means to be an independent and single woman living in a world basically ordered by men!

Those are just a few of the recommended films for October. Lots of good films are opening soon, so stay tuned in the coming weeks for upcoming reviews in the magazine, including my reviews of Bladerunner 2049 and Victoria and Abdul. Till then, see you at the movies!-ML

 

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

 

Hello Film Fans! This week in 6 Degrees some of the best movies of the Season are starting to roll out. The Florida Project with Willam Dafoe has received great reviews, and Blade Runner 2049 has received ridiculously good reviews. I recall the first film didn’t get such a great reception at the time of its release. If you have never seen the original, please do so before seeing the new Bladerunner. There’s a review in 6 Degrees Magazine of the original film starring Harrison Ford.

Other movies out this week include The Mountain Between Us with Idris Elba and Kate Winslet and Una, with Rooney Mara, which is adapted from a stage play Blackbird.

Other projects of note include the Variety review of the documentary on Steven Spielberg. There’s a trailer for the new Woody Allen film Wonder Wheel  with Kate Winslet. The children’s film My Little Pony is reviewed on SF Gate, which recommends the film “only for established fans” (5 and under, we presume!)

One interesting Oscars note: Foreign Language film submissions hit a record high this year, which is good and speaks well for the nature of the Global Village in which we live.

One of my newly discovered favorite film sites is awesomebmovies.com. This week, they have an interesting piece called The Modern Day Western vs The Classic Western Movie. It’s a very interesting concept, and considering that modern day westerns come few and far between, we need to grasp that the entire genre was one that dominated early Silent film and extended well into the fifties and sixties with Clint Eastwood being the last major star to draw huge crowds to see Westerns. There’s an argument that Star Wars films are a reboot of the Western theme, but for this piece, the original concept of Western films sticks to the films of the Old West.

Speaking of Westerns: If anyone would like to see a great Western that is rarely shown, set your box to record The Westerner on Turner Classic Movies this weekend with Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan. It’s one of Cooper’s great performances as the Western hero, a drifter named Cole Harden, and Brennan shines as Judge Roy Bean, the epitome of good and evil rolled into one in his character. There’s a great scene where Cooper casually lets the Judge know that he has a lock of hair from Bean’s goddess, Lillie Langtry, and the comic undertones are almost as good as classic Jack Benny. Catch it if you can!

Here’s the link to our Fall Film Newsletter, featuring all the films released in October. There are lots of good movies being released this fall, (in contrast to a slow summer), so hope you can get out there and catch a good flick this week. See you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Hello out there to all the film fans from Six Degrees of Film. Here’s some of the films that were reviewed this week. Victoria & Abdul has been getting good reviews, particularly surrounding Judi Dench’s portrayal of an aging Queen Victoria. And Battle of the Sexes with Emma Stone and Steve Carrell has also received highly favorable reviews

From the Vaults: Apocalypse Now is reviewed on The MacGuffin site. And from Turner Classics, there’s a piece featuring Martin Scorcese’s Age of Innocence with Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day Lewis.

The New York Film Festival is celebrating its 55th year, and this is a nostalgic look back at the choices made in 1967. The piece is in Film Comment and available in 6 Degrees of Film magazine. Speaking of film festivals, Director Wim Wenders was also honored at the Toronto Film Festival this year. Wenders clarifies his role: “I’m not an artist, I’m a craftsman, and the craft is life.” One of his best known films may be “Wings of Desire” and he also directed “Paris, Texas” and won a BAFTA for it. Wenders article is online at Ebert.com and is featured in the magazine.

Speaking about film festivals, Author Mark Brooks writes eloquently about the choices that Susan Sontag made when opening the festival in New York in 1967. Brooks writes, “It is difficult, in the era of DVD and Blu-ray streaming, and one-touch availability, to imagine that if you didn’t see a movie at a festival, you might have missed your only chance. But 50 years ago, that sense of urgency fueled cinephile culture.”

 

Books on Film: There’s a piece on Ebert.com about a book called Cinematic Overtures: How to Read Opening Scenes by a film professor at Columbia. There is something to be said for the idea of an artistic approach to immersing oneself in the Cinematic Experience, as opposed to flopping down and just screaming inwardly, “Entertain me Please!”

Some of the contenders for this seasons film awards will be among the films released in the next few months. Some of the early leads go to Frances McDormand for the indie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Oscars love the quirky types, and this one delivers. Holly Hunter, always in the running, has been mentioned for her take as the mother in The Big Sick.

Speaking of Quirky: The very unconventional and immensely talented Sci-Fi writer Harlan Ellison is featured in a piece on Ebert.com. Here’s a small exchange that is priceless and SO Harlan!

Ellison: I just saw, “Back to the Future.”
Writer Goldberg: “Great movie, isn’t it?”
Ellison: “Piece of shit”
Goldberg: “You didn’t like it?!”

Ellison: “It is one of the most ridiculous, stupid pieces of shit I have ever seen in my life. It’s a rip-off, a steal from Bob Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, to begin with. It is absolutely mindless, empty-headed, manipulative, and it’s a sitcom.”

(Tell us what your really think, Harlan!) I can relate to this as I recently watched Seth McFarlane’s opening stint on The Orville, where they are transported to a zoo on a planet in which humans are put on display. Such a blatant rip-off of the classic Twilight Zone with Roddy McDowall starring in “People are alike all over” written by Rod Serling is almost too much to bear. S***t happens, Harlan! There are still blatant rip-offs of old Twilight Zone plots.

There’s lots of good buzz surrounding the sequel to Bladerunner. And the films that continue to draw some measure of controversy are Mother!, for it’s blatant badness, and American Made, which has some mixed reviews, but is still considered a marginal success.

One more thing: There’s a quiz floating around online from Buzzfeed that lists many of the comedies of the past two d

 

ecades with the deciding factor declaring if you have seen many of them, you are funny. The thing is, lots of these films really aren’t very good. Sadly, if you do think, as Harlan Ellison would about many of these films, they are mindless, empty-headed, manipulative and should really just have been made as sit-coms.

I think the take-away here is to always think for yourself and work hard to avoid becoming part of the Group Think & Herd Mentality mindset that tells you unless you think certain things are funny or popular or whatever, then you are somehow not relevant. Sometimes, it’s better to hear the different drum a drummin. Keep on Beating the drum and till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film

Greetings Film Fans: The Fall Film Newsletter is still available on this 6 Degrees of Film website, so click the link and check out the upcoming films. Some of the big stories happening now in Hollywood include the terrible reviews for Jennifer Lawrence’s Mother! My brother warned me about how terrible this movie was,(which of course, intrigues me even more!), and the audience response has been overwhelmingly negative.
The Stephen King horror film, IT is still the dominant box office winner. And some of the films rolling out this month are featured in the Six Degrees Magazine. The Battle of the Sexes has had some mixed reviews, but not terrible ones. There’s a new trailer for the all-star cast featured in the Murder on the Orient Express remake coming in November.
Each week, I go thru the online film sites and look for interesting and intriguing reviews and articles that don’t simply repeat the main headlines over and over….Some are reviews of classic films, and others are about movies that people may have missed-those that go Under the Radar.
Entertainment Weekly is arguing that The Assassination of Jesse James with Brad Pitt is a “mistreated masterpiece”. I beg to differ, but it’s worth reading the arguments supporting this one. And there’s a good piece on the great Stephen King, who doesn’t need a new Renaissance Revival. If there are people who don’t know of his work, besides the horror field, know that he also penned The Shawshank Redemption as well as notable treatises about the craft of writing.
Film Reviews: Kingsman: Golden Circle has a controversial sex scene supposedly, but I can’t say it’s something that keeps me awake at night! And director Wes Anderson, another controversial filmmaker, has released a trailer for his stop motion feature, Isle of Dogs. There’s a review for Judi Dench’s latest film, Victoria and Abdul, from NPR, which is a favorable one.
And for Hitchcock fans, there is an analysis of supposedly the ‘weakest’ scene in the classic “Psycho”. Some people have told me that “The Princess Bride” is one of their favorite films of all time. For Princess fans, there’s a post from Moviefone with fun facts on the film!
And some of my favorites that have gone unnoticed include the follow-up of  Jack Nicholson’s Chinatown character which he revived in The Two Jakes. And the great ensemble piece from Director Curtis Hanson that was Russell Crowe’s breakout performance, L.A. Confidential, is also reviewed. The other Under the Radar film featured this week is from 2005- a review of the Nicholas Cage film, Lord of War. Cage plays an illegal arms smuggler and the topic is sadly prescient in our current political climate. And finally, the Indie Black comedy starring Don Johnson, before he made it big with Miami Vice is reviewed- A Boy and His Dog.
In the last few months, we’ve lost some of the great avante-garde actors and artists of the last few decades. One is the playwright and actor Sam Shephard, known best most likely for his iconic role in The Right Stuff. The other is the character actor, Harry Dean Stanton, who was a contemporary and sometimes collaborator with Shephard.  Stanton starred in one of Shephard’s adaptations to the screen, Paris, Texas. There’s an article with the three best selected obits on Stanton featured in our magazine.
Recommended Reads: The book Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940’s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling is reviewed on the David Bordwell film site. The 6 Degrees Fall Film Newsletter will  also give you short blurbs for each recommended movie released in the coming weeks.
Next week will feature some of the Turner Classic Movies for the month of October, as well as the upcoming films we’re excited to see debuting in film festivals and touted for Oscars and other notable awards. Looking forward to some of the new crop-till then, see you at the Movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Greetings Film Buffs! Here are the notes from the Hurricane Evacuation last weekend here in Tampa. My Friday Flix notes were not published, but were just a few random thoughts I wrote up in anticipation of the big blow. We were lucky here in Tampa, but Irma didn’t spare many regions, and we’ve been without power in so many places around town, but especially the hard-hit areas in South Florida and the Keys, and in the Caribbean and the US Virgin Islands. Thoughts are with those folks.

Notes from Last week-Notes from Hurricane Irma: We are planning for a big blow here in Tampa from Hurricane Irma. How I long for the carefree days of yore when we treated Hurricanes much like the Addams Family members, planning Hurricane Parties and just having fun in a macabre and sick kind of way! Now, things are serious with evacuations and the forecast models where we track the storms to the point where there is no point in doing anything but, as John Belushi suggested in Animal House, “Start drinking heavily!” With that in mind, I’m offering the Fall Film Newsletter from last week for the Friday Flix Fans.

Back to the Present:  For this week,  6 Degrees Magazine has reviews of many of the new films listed in the newsletter. There’s also an interesting web page from the American Film Institute where you can check off how many films you’ve seen in the top 100 Films List (I saw 89 of them).
There’s another link to the interesting site: Does the Dog Die? Found on Facebook. And the National Film Registry Listing is also featured, which works to nominate and preserve films from the past 100 years of movie making history. All of these sites are recommended so check them out.
Also featured, a post from The Macguffin site: The Legacy of Star Wars. And the latest films you find featured in the Fall Film Newsletter are reviewed in 6 Degrees magazine. The Florida Project with Willem Dafoe, Mother! with Jennifer Lawrence and Michelle Pfeiffer (Pfeiffer steals the show according to Ebert.com); IT from Stephen King; the Indie film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with Frances McDormand– (“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it”-great quote from Flannery O’Connor featured in the Ebert review)’ and Suburbicon- which, by the way, wasn’t recommended.
There’s a post about the Golden Age of Hollywood director Otto Preminger, who directed one of my favorite Film Noir movies- Laura. And another piece about the original version of what was dubbed a “modern screwball comedy”, the film The In-Laws from 1979 with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin.
There are two film festivals featured, both the Toronto Film Festival and Telluride. And one of the films I’m looking forward to seeing: The Shape of Water from director Guillermo del Toro is also reviewed. The only running controversy for this week has been the debate about the effects that the Rotten Tomatoes site has on film sales. The research says!….No, there’s no discernable correlation between the scores either good or bad and the sale of tickets to films reviewed on Rotten Tomatoes.

So glad to be home and to be online and to be with friends and family and all the film fans out there – till next time when I’ll see you at the movies!-ML