Happy post-Fourth of July week, readers and moviegoers! We are seeing lots of films debut this month, and I’ve included some of the summaries up front so you can judge for yourself. One of the things that I’m excited about is the line-up on Turner Classic this month, which is showing so many of the great Hitchcock classics in July. Make sure, especially if you haven’t seen them, to set the DVR to record some of the top films: Psycho, Rear Window, The Birds, Notorious, and many more.
Armchair Film Fest: The Hitchcock list of films on TCM is phenomenal. They start with his early silent work and run through his classics all month long. This is definite fodder for the Armchair Film Festival devotee. The Armchair Film Fest is my favorite kind of film festival personally! One thing has always stuck with me in the biography and studies of Hitchcock-Hitchcock was asked about his penchant for horror films, and what his idea of something that was really funny would be. He said that a party where the food was all dyed blue was something that struck him as hilarious. There are some people that are originals. Hitchcock was a one of a kind, unique character in films-one who will never be replicated.
Also on TCM this Saturday, one of the films that is certainly unique, is the comedy with Eleanor Parker, who is remembered as the Baroness in The Sound of Music. She stars with Robert Taylor in Many Rivers to Cross. The film is light and at times a “fluff piece”, but the portrayal of a strong pioneer woman by Parker remains one of the highlights of the era.
Most of the fifties women were at times even sycophantic in their deference to men. Parker plays this role with a gusto and a physical presence that makes it memorable for most women of the 21st Century to relate to the character.
Some of the political films playing this month will also seem tailor made to this era in our political life. They are showing the original The Manchurian Candidate which was thought to have been banned at the time due to the controversial content. It turns out, that wasn’t accurate, but the film wasn’t seen for many years, due to contractual agreements. It is a very gripping 1962 Cold War thriller about a U.S soldier who is captured and brainwashed to be used as a political assassin.
The other film for Armchair Film Fest is Inherit the Wind with Spencer Tracy. I would invite anyone, on the left or right, to watch this great classic with the memorable opening soundtrack pulling the camera back with the folk spiritual “Old Time Religion” playing solemnly as the shot pans to small town, USA . In this case, it’s a small town where the famous Scopes Monkey Trial was held in Dayton, Tennessee, and Tracy delivers one of his best performances as the distinguished lawyer Henry Drummond, who is defending a high school science teacher, (played by Dick York), who was teaching the theory of evolution in his class. The film is powerful, as is the message which is derived from the play of the same name. We are still debating the Evolutionary theory with the creationists defending their viewpoint well into the 21st Century.
What’s Playing: Here’s a quote about the film, Okja, which says a lot. The film has generated a lot of good buzz, but ….”somewhere in here lies a great film wanting to come out” This review and more are featured in this week’s 6 Degrees magazine. Here’s a recap of the plot.
The Plot of Okja: A CEO-played by Tilda Swinton, announces that a new breed of super-pig has been developed. A cross between a pig and a hippotamus has been created with the animal having the disposition of a puppy. The purpose of breeding them is to solve the world’s food shortage, and to create an eco-friendly food source. Twenty-six super pigs are to be grown over a period of ten years as the corporation has a competition. At the end, they will be taken back to America to be hailed as a success.
Okja is the name of the pig raised in South Korea by a young girl, who bonds with the animal. In the end, the film is a cross between Animal Farm, Charlotte’s Web, The Yearling, and a slew of films that come to mind about kids and their pets.
The Big Sick has been getting lots of good reviews. It’s an updated modern-day version of a romantic comedy. The two lovers are star-crossed, with their life situations updated for the modern era. He is a comedian and a Muslim, and she is a WASP. They break up and are reunited when he learns she is sick and going to be placed into a medically-induced coma. At this point, he must confront his deeper feelings for her and reconcile his hostility to commitment with his love for her. And there is comedy! Holly Hunter plays the mother and Ray Romano is the father of the sick girl. So there are laughs to be had along the way. We haven’t seen too many good rom-com’s since When Harry met Sally, so this is a re-fashioned kind of plot for the new age.
Spider-Man:Homecoming has also debuted over the holiday weekend. And Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled is reviewed on the Macguffin site, as well as the afore-mentioned films.
Film Comment has a post on The Dirty Dozen, released in 1967. It was a landmark war movie, but not really in the same class as Saving Private Ryan or even The Longest Day. The Stranger, also from 1967, is reviewed and it’s another 1967 release, starring Marcello Mastroianni. Based on The Stranger by Albert Camus, it has rarely been seen since its release, due to distribution rights disputes. It is faithful to the book by Camus, and is generally regarded favorably by critics who’ve seen it.
Baby Driver is still making waves with critics this week. And the independent The Little Hours is reviewed favorably on rogerebert.com. Will Ferrell’s The House has bombed badly, with a quote in a review reading: “movies require scripts.” Ouch.
Critically Speaking: There’s a podcast from Vanity Fair titled: “How Hollywood Ruined Zombies, According to George A Romero”. And there’s an interesting post from Barron’s: “Is Hollywood Finally Desperate Enough to Give up on Theaters?” The thinking here is that since there is a massive wave of talent and energy moving to the small screen, in the form of Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and others, that eventually it will make more financial sense to release them to the cable pay-tv audience format. To have on-demand movies simultaneously available for the home viewing audience. I hate to tell these people, but we are just about there now. There simply isn’t a lot of lag time from the debut at the theater to the home screen.
Vox has released a list of 50 films that we are supposed to be excited about yet to be released this year. One of my big beefs is with the titles that list this incredible number of films that are supposed to be: the best of the year, the century, the top 50 films in Sci-fi, the top 100 action films, etc. I have a top 100 list of best films in my book, 6 Degrees, but that is from all films-starting at the turn of theth Century. I cannot believe that there are 50 really good films lurking out there waiting to be released this year, but there are a few that I did agree on regarding 2017 releases.
A Ghost Story has been getting good buzz from the Sundance debut. It stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. Dunkirk is coming soon, with Tom Hardy, and directed by Christopher Nolan.
The Dark Tower is the Stephen King adaptation that has been long awaited by fans of the serial novels. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey star in the horror/fantasy/action/adventure…and oh yes, Western! Epic. Ingrid goes West was another popular Sundance Film Fest release, said to be dark and funny, with Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen. Another Stephen King adaptation is It, releasing on September 8th. The sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle is coming this fall and Colin Firth returns along with Taron Egerton.
Blade Runner 2049 is coming in October, with Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. Much anticipated, this one is set 30 years after the first film debuted. Also in October, a biopic of the Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, in a courtroom drama depicting one of his biggest cases, defending a black chauffeur accused of sexual assault and attempted murder.
The Holiday Season is anticipated to begin early with Murder on the Orient Express dropping on November 10th. Kenneth Branagh directs the Agatha Christie remake with an all-star cast. Also in November, the indie film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri looks interesting, with a cast including the great Frances McDormand, of Fargo fame.
Pixar has Coco debuting in November, a children’s movie with a cast of Hispanic and Latino actors. But nothing will matter after December 15th, because as everyone knows, Star Wars sucks all the oxygen out of the room! Star Wars: The Last Jedi debuts and that is almost all she wrote. Still….Steven Spielberg is directing a film about the Pentagon Papers, a timely subject for this era where we hear lots of rumbling about the days of Watergate and the sixties. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep star in this one. Opening on Christmas Day: The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman, about the life of P.T. Barnum.
And also at Christmas, the soon to be retiring Daniel Day Lewis is reunited with director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) in a film called Phantom Thread, set in the world of fashion during the fifties.
That’s a wrap for this week, folks! I’m looking forward to some of these big screen releases, as well as the Hitchcock Armchair Film Fest all this month on TCM. Stay tuned later this week as we offer a complimentary download of my Hitchcock chapter on my 6 Degrees blog site. See you at the movies!