6 Degrees: Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film

Hello from my writing conference in Orlando, dear readers, so the Friday Flix is going to post on Saturday this week-in keeping with the topsy turvy nature of the “biz” that we write about!

There has been a lot of “buzz” about the failure of Tom Cruise’s The Mummy and the success of Gal Gadot/Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman. There was talk of the fact that Gadot had made much less for her appearance in Wonder Woman than the Superman actor (Henry Cavill) did, which has been partially debunked.

There’s a new trailer for the upcoming Blade Runner 2049 which looks good. Another tidbit from Hollywood was that Ron Howard has taken over the reins and is directing the Hans Solo Star Wars film, after the directors unexpectedly left the project.

Here’s a short list from our online magazine, 6 Degrees, featuring reviews from some classics being shown on Turner Classic this month, with a couple of articles that list the best of Hitchcock, which is hard to do.

Reviews for Hitchcock….TCM has featured several Hitchcock classics, including Rear Window. There’s a review on 6 Degrees, and a piece with some interesting facts about the movie. And if you have never seen this list, go to the National Film Registry-the link on our site will give you the full list. The important work they do is vital to preserve the films of the early 20th Century that have been fading over time. The list grows each year as more and more films are added and acknowledged to be classics decades after their release. A must see for all movie buffs!

As the month draws to a close, there’s a post reviewing Audrey Hepburn’s Funny Face. She is a movie star that cannot be replicated, and her films are still extraordinarily fun to watch. This one is a period piece, and although it’s kind of a “chick flick”, the colors and vibrancy of the cinematography make it not only a great fashion film, but a good old-fashioned date night movie, if only to be seen at the art houses or on the small screen.

What’s Playing: Transformers: Didn’t get universally good reviews, and in fact they were decidedly mixed. The Beguiled: 6 Degrees features an interview from Film Comment with Sofia Coppola, the director of the film. The Beguiled is not only a remake of an earlier Clint Eastwood film, it’s also adapted from a novel by Thomas P Cullinan. Film Comment also has reviews for Beatriz at Dinner, Baby Driver and Rough Night with Scarlett Johansson. The Rough Night review starts with “Dying is easy, comedy is hard”…so I’d say there’s been some mixed reaction to this comedy, also. Finally, there’s favorable reviews for the dark comedy,  The Big Sick.

There is an interesting interview with Bernard Tavernier on French cinema: A quote from Tavernier: “If by ‘auterist’ you mean that the director is the author of the film, I agree. If it means that you have to forget the importance of screenwriters, D.P’s, composers, I’m not an auterist” (I agree-there’s been a debate raging for decades on the importance of the director as “auteur” within the film critics community).

A new book is out that looks good: It’s about the wonderfully weird world of drive-in movies from a bygone era. The subject is explored in “Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You” So many film books of late have focused on the new “Golden Age” of cinema that was from the late sixties and into the seventies. This book takes a look at the type of “Bad-B’ cinema that was usually featured at a drive-in. Those of us “of a certain age” will remember the very fifties practice of going to the drive-in movie and watching films with our parents, and later with friends and with dates as we sat beneath a canopy of stars in cars with open windows. It really is a by-gone era.

We are now in a different era, as my book, 6 Degrees of Film noted in the quarter century of Star Wars that has dominated the culture and our movies for the last decades of the 20th Century and into the 21st.

Other reviews from RogerEbert.com online are for Maudie; Once Upon a Time in Venice with Bruce Willis and The Book of Henry. Incidentally, the latter has been dubbed by some critics as one of the worst movies of the decade.

We are now steaming into the Summer Blockbuster Season as we gear up for the rollouts of the big July 4th weekend. Several critics have released the “Best of” for 2017, and it seems a bit premature to speak of as there hasn’t really been a stellar movie season in quite a while.

However, Will Ferrell is touting his new comedy, The House and Christopher Nolan’s big feature, Dunkirk are coming soon, so we will see what the next few weeks will bring. Have fun on your summer vacations, and see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film

Lots to discuss this week in the film world. 6 Degrees has picked up some interesting comments in the past week regarding the hit movie Wonder Woman and the star power of Tom Cruise, among other things. Here’s some of the highlights from our 6 Degrees Magazine.


Critics Corner: Reviews are in for…Rough Night with Scarlett Johansson. The verdict-no surprise is…it doesn’t look funny. My Cousin Rachel has received mixed reviews, but this adaptation from Daphne du Maurier’s novel is favorably reviewed in the post at thecriticalcritics.com site. Churchill is reviewed at the Movie Waffler site, and this film also has received mixed reviews, and although the lead (Brian Cox) is praised, they also conclude that the small screen would easily carry this production (I’m not the only one who has started using this small screen/large screen marker to review films!)

Interesting Reads: The Supreme Court case Loving v Virginia came up 50 years ago this month. One of the films from the sixties, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” dealt with an inter-racial couple. But we don’t seem to have moved very far in telling the story that was told with veterans Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier. Fifty years later, we are still stuck in the time warp, and this piece from NPR in 6 Degrees Magazine talks about reasons why that has been the case.

Hollywood News: Avatar is the Number One film of all time in terms of Box Office Hits. There is no date set for the planned sequel, but since it’s made more money than any other film in history, there is no doubt there will be another one coming round the bend.

One of the more complex issues is Net Neutrality. There’s a good article on Indiewire.com entitled: “Netflix Cares about Net Neutrality Again, and Here’s Why You Should Too” that attempts to explain the complexity of the arguments for and against, and basically lets the audience know that Big Corporate entities in general are not on the side of the average consumer.

In our magazine, there’s also an interview from Daily Actor with Geoffrey Rush, a consummate character actor. Speaking as one who has seen more than her fair share of films, the character actors usually tend to be the most interesting ones that carry the big films, that share the most intimate dialogue and give us the biggest laughs and the truest tears. It’s the actors that we know by their faces, but probably not by their names. They are not huge stars, but they are hugely talented and almost always have the most interesting and complicated characters to play onscreen and onstage. Geoffrey Rush is one of these characters.

What’s Coming: Here’s a point of personal privilege for those enraged readers who found my assessment of Doctor Strange in comparison to the Wonder Woman character completely idiotic. This is from a site that thoroughly covers the comic book genre (Fittingly titled: “We Got this Covered”)For many, the involvement of Doctor Strange is one of the most intriguing things about the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. After being brought to life in wonderful fashion by Benedict Cumberbatch in November, the hero has quickly become a firm fan-favorite, with audiences eager to see him on screen again.”

Ok, that was my small vindication after trodding on some vehemently PRO-Wonder Woman fan’s toes who didn’t agree with my assessment. But for all that feel, as I do, that Cumberbatch is the superior actor and the film he played in was the better of the two, you’ll be glad to know that Benedict’s role in the upcoming aforementioned Infinity times….whatever has been greatly expanded.

The controversy is usually simply one of taste. And perhaps, as I suggested, some men may prefer seeing the beautiful and scantily clad figure of Gal Gadot as she races to the rescue from the trenches of World War I. However, one unforeseen lapse on my part was the political implications that would make Wonder Woman a hotbed of controversy.
Here’s a quote from someone: “I think the Zionist/Israeli lobby are behind Wonder Woman’s success. Let’s not forget that the movie heroine is an Israeli citizen”….Well, where to begin. Films are not reviewed with the political implications that are suggested here. Films are reviewed, hopefully, in terms of craft. The film is a statement of the entire production’s input, including the Director, the Producer, the Studio, and the artists who create the characters and in these modern times, the Computer Graphics and the cinematography surrounding the story

We are not going there, meaning into the politically charged motivations for someone who has a certain mind-set. However, the film that has been reviewed is part of a series of long-standing support; a genre emerging in Hollywood known as the comic-book genre complete with Origin tales of super-heroes. Hollywood’s intent, let there be no mistake-is to make money and make more movies. That has been the intent of the studios since they were filming in the back lots in New Jersey and at Edison Studios before they hit the sunny streets of Hollywood, California (Reference: 6 Degrees of Film: The future of film in the global village).

But the auteurs, the directors, the actors and the producers are also creating art. Some people may scoff at the comic book genre, but we know that Shakespeare created art and he worked pulling his plots from lots of dog eared material that had been floating around for ages. My point is that art can be created from any source material, including a comic book. And art is, as beauty, in the eye of the beholder.

I believe that Ms. Gadot is a beautiful woman who has created a memorable character in the person of Wonder Woman. The myths and the artistic license may at some point create a film that can be truly seen as a work of art. I never particularly cared for the original “Star Wars”, which is heresy for a film critic. However, I thought The Empire Strikes Back was a darn good film. As I’ve written before, I’m waiting for some creative genius to take hold of the material found in comic book form and create something wholly other, a masterpiece that will make the entire industry stand on its head to see where this new form of artistic expression is coming. It may not be that far down the road!

Films have somehow become as political as the rest of our society, with folks on both sides seeing and reading events into the creation of the films that aren’t supposed to be there. I heard some other feedback this week also. Here’s one general comment: “Hollywood is a big, “incest-fest” anyway…the same ten actors and actresses get cast in every movie.” Now, this one I do agree with to a certain extent.

But again, being an old person, I remember a time when it seemed John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart or Clint Eastwood got cast in almost every film-certainly every Western film. So that critique has been around for a while. But the critics are always going to take issue with famous actors and their privileged lives.
To that point, I also thought Tom Cruise was a good actor, at one time. But he has certainly been lambasted recently, especially with the awful reviews coming in for The Mummy  (which somehow has managed to make money regardless of the bad reviews.) This comment comes from a harsh critic of Mr. Cruise: “It’s been 15 years since he’s been relevant!” Cruel. I think that there’s a ring of truth, but nevertheless, that was a cruel comment.

So, we find that the harshest critics, as with restaurant and hotel reviews of late, come from the movie fans simply reading the articles and agreeing and disagreeing, as is their wont. Keep up the good work, movie fans, and know that it gives us something to write about! I’ll keep working to get it right and till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

The Wonder of the Praise of Wonder Woman

W Woman 2017

The final verdict: It was okay, but Dr. Strange was a better movie. It’s hard to say if this was one of the top tier comic genre films, as they are coming at us so fast and furious-couldn’t help that one!…And, there seems to be such a dearth of fairly good Hollywood Blockbusters at this juncture, that any movie that follows a fairly cohesive plot line is heaped with immense praise.

There were some good moments in Wonder Woman, but the wonder of it all was why there was so much praise heaped upon this one film? Perhaps the bar has been lowered to the point that simply being able to tie the plot points together and end the film with a plug for the rest of the DC Comic Universe (as opposed to DC!) makes for what passes today as decent film-making.

The films of the comic-book era that stand out include Batman, the original and the Dark Knight series, the first Thor film, and Dr. Strange, with Benedict Cumberbatch mainly supplying the added zip to the series. But, this film has been notable in that a female director was chosen, Patty Jenkins,to film a story that included the Amazonian women of Paradise Island along with the beautiful ingénue, Gal Gadot, playing the lead of Wonder Woman.

The suspicion is that many of the males seeing this were perhaps overawed by the female power knitted into the fabric of the super-hero genre that produced the ultimate fantasy woman-Wonder Woman. However, the film’s rise and fall really wasn’t with the acting chops of  Gadot, or any one stand-out performer. It touched on the naivete and simplistic dedication to the cause of justice that overrides all the knit-picking realities that crop up with the super-heroes who are intertwined into the actual history of the world.(In this case, the history of World War I).

Lending the film some mystery was the dark cinematography of the second half of the film; it seemed to be in stark contrast with the bright and beautiful landscapes from the fantastic world where Wonder Woman originated. That, and the CGI that dominates all comic films was the journey and the medium’s message for the extent of this film.

So, the verdict is to see this or not, depending on your radar for the love of comic characters, or CGI, or simply good-looking and athletic Amazonian women who dedicate themselves to the causes of justice and freedom. You may want to wait for the small screen, or go for it, depending on your own dedication and predilections. In any case, make sure to catch Dr. Strange if you haven’t seen it. That one remains the better film of the two.

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

We are now officially in the Summer Season for films and there are a few I’m looking for over the next few months. Lady Macbeth and Dunkirk are two, and Will Ferrell’s new comedy is another that may pass muster.

Of course, the super hero season never ends, and the latest is Wonder Woman. My review is posting soon, and the recommendation is: You can wait for the small screen and rent Dr. Strange if you haven’t seen it yet. Of course, the ingenue who debuts as Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, is very pretty, and the supporting cast is fairly decent. But it has been hyped as something it is not, which is a really good movie. It’s just an okay movie, but it’s nothing to write home about (in my humble opinion-which is that of a film critic!).

What else is happening? Turner Classic has a great lineup of Audrey Hepburn movies this month. She really is something to write home about. If you have not seen some of her best work, then set your DVR to record: Roman Holiday; The Nun’s Story and How to Steal a Million.

TCM also has a new blog, Streamline, and one of the interesting pieces is Revisiting Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet. Branagh is also going to appear in director Chris Nolan’s Dunkirk in July. Another post is about the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. As I’ve stated many times, if you are trying to choose between the documentary work and the feature film, nine times out of ten choose the documentary. This one is far superior to the film that Sean Penn did about Harvey Milk.

In Film Comment, writer Mark Harris has an excerpt from his book, Pictures at a Revolution, about the films from 1967. The sixties marked a big turning point in cinema, with the old Hollywood dying out and the studio system gone, the new breed of filmmakers were trying to find different ways to tell the story. And there was a lot of innovative thinking as well as actual re-tooling of the entire process of film-making. And the newest type of filmmaker, the independent film producer and director evolved and came into their own in this era.

Harris talks about the James Bond films, and in particular You Only Live Twice and Casino Royale. Also this week, 6 Degrees magazine features an interview with one of the prize-winning past winners of Cannes, Lauren Cantet, who won for The Class in 2008. The full list of winners at Cannes is discussed and the roundtable of critics, including Chaz Ebert, talk about their craft in 2017.

One recently released horror movie that has been receiving lots of praise is It Comes At Night: As defined by what the meaning of the word “IT” is! There’s a good discussion about the beautiful women featured in Wonder Woman that are….of a certain age. It’s good to see older women in films, but the problem has always been that there are only a few choice parts for women over 40, while men…of a certain age-from John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart through Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt all get to work in romantic and leading men parts where their female counterparts are usually relegated to roles for mothers and small supporting parts. It hasn’t changed that much in Hollywood yet!

There’s a review for The Exception on rogerebert.com. It didn’t get a good one-and neither did Churchill. There’s a review of the kids movie, Captain Underpants, on the Macguffin website. And Tom Cruise’s The Mummy has opened with decidedly mixed reviews. There’s one piece reminding us that the 90’s film of the same name was actually pretty good.

There are remakes, and then there’s the concept of the “shared universe” as discussed by Mike Ryan on Uproxx in the post: “Enough, Already, with this Shared Universe Trend.” Apparently, the Marvel comic universe has competition from the rival “Dark Universe”, which may just be a way to garner interest for a bunch of comic-book movies that the studios are desperate to plug. At any rate, the film critic universe still stands by the silly and old-fashioned notion that a good movie is hard to find. And not all of the comic flotsam floating around in these mixed universes contain good movies. As I am wont to say when someone is waxing lyrical about this film or that: “I’ll be the judge of that.”
We all will as we keep going back for more! See you at the movies-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix


Welcome to June, and we are officially starting to see the summer roll-outs for the Hollywood Summer Film Season. Starting with Wonder Woman, which has had some great reviews so far, we are seeing some of the early winners and losers. As we started listing them last week in the Summer Film Newsletter from 6 Degrees, it seems that King Arthur was an early casualty.

And at Cannes, the list of winners is included in this week’s 6 Degrees magazine. Sofia Coppola was awarded Best Director for her remake of the Clint Eastwood vehicle that is starring Nicole Kidman, The Beguiled. And the top prize went to a Swedish film, an art-world satire called  The Square.

 Some other surprises or break-out performances at Cannes included great reviews for Adam Sandler and Robert Pattinson (of Twilight fame). And one of the former darlings of European cinema, Fugitive Director Roman Polanski’s film, Based on a True Story, was said to be sadly flat. You never can tell…

 So…after Cannes, and before July 4th drops, there are some other note-worthy articles this past week. The number of LGBT characters in films, as with women and women directors, is still far short from where they could be as represented on film and in the film world. Jessica Chastain also discussed the way females are portrayed in films and describes it as “disturbing” during an interview at Cannes. There are some who are working to change the way things have always been done in Hollywood, but the entrenched attitudes have been around for over 100 years (as depicted in my book, 6 Degrees of Film).

 One of the trends that is encouraging surrounds the opening of  Wonder Woman and how much positive feedback the female director and some of the reviews have garnered. There’s a good article in Vanity Fair about tracing Wonder Woman’s Cinematic Origins also.

 One amusing piece from earlier this week was about Johnny Depp and his predilection for having his lines fed to him through a microphone. And honestly, if I was Depp and had to literally walk through the performances he has given for basically the same movie over and over, I might be tempted…

 There’s a good piece in The Guardian from director John Boorman talking frankly about some of the problems and challenges as he filmed the classic Deliverance, with Ned Beatty and Jon Voight. There’s also in the Guardian, an article discussing some of the pitfalls in trying to remake another classic, the Al Pacino gangster film Scarface, directed by Brian de Palma. And for those who are looking for something a little different in their film viewing, Rolling Stone has a list of “Alternate-Summer Movies” to preview.

 Some of the films with positive reviews, besides Wonder Woman, include the new drama about Winston Churchill, and the kids movie based on the best-seller, “The Adventures of Captain Underpants.”

 For film buffs like me, there’s an article talking about the classic Marx Brothers film, Duck Soup, from 1933, directed by Leo McCarey. At times, the Marx Brothers could be a bit irritating to me, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Duck Soup and the plot surrounding the mythical Freedonia.

 And in that vein, the newest books about film are recommended in the Out of the Past Blog. The original film, The Beguiled which was mentioned above as being remade by Sofia Coppola and starring Nicole Kidman, was a vehicle for Clint Eastwood back in 1971. He was playing another anti-hero, but this one was not as commercially successful as his other major hits in the day, so this is an interesting choice for a remake. The original is reviewed in 6 Degrees magazine.

 There’s a review of the upcoming  Lady Macbeth and also a list of the top ten movies from 1947! So check out the 6 Degrees magazine, and the Summer Film Newsletter that we released last week. Hope you are enjoying the summer days and look forward to seeing you at the movies!-ML