6 Degrees: Armchair Film Fest

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Some of the best action for film fans this week is going to come from the small screen. This week on Turner Classic: 6 Degrees Magazine has reviews for the upcoming films recommended for 6 Degrees Armchair Film Fest followers to record: The Graduate; An American in Paris; Death of a Salesman (the film from 1985) with Dustin Hoffman playing Willy Loman; Attack of the 50 Foot Woman with an excerpt of the original Variety review from the 50’s; Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind; The Academy award winning film The Bridge on the River Kwai and an article from Film Comment featuring Man in the Wilderness with Richard Harris.
There’s a piece from Ebert.com about one of the early feminist role models-Ida Lupino-who directed many of her own films and took control of her career from an early age. There is also an article on Ebert.com about diversity in film criticism. Or more accurately the lack thereof.  The article, entitled Where are Our Diverse Voices in Film Criticism, points to the fact that of the top 100 movies in 2017, the male critics reviewed three quarters of the films, while females critiqued only about a quarter of them. But feminists may take heart from a look at 20 rising female filmmakers listed this week in an Indiewire.com post.
Check out the article on Won’t you be my Neighbor?, the documentary about children’s television pioneer Fred Rodgers. Here’s a link to a piece I wrote about Mr Rodgers, talking about the documentary recently shown on PBS of his work on public television.
Other recommended reads for this week include this from Indiewire on the best Black American films of the 21st Century; and a Forbes post arguing that Solo and Justice League’s failures killed the Cinematic Universe.  Writer Scott Mendelson reasons that “...A Star Wars Episode is an EVENT…A Star Wars STORY is Not. When audiences crave only event fare, the cinematic universe is an act of glorified financial suicide” Perhaps that is the case, and we will see Mendelson’s theory put to the test later with John Wick and other franchise films that are looking for box office gold.

Film Reviews for Incredibles 2 prove the film is as funny as the trailers depicted,  And for the science geeks among us, syfy.com features a look at the physics behind the power of the Incredibles. There’s a movie trailer for the upcoming Aquaman which is out this December; and a trailer for the live-action film remake of Dumbo from Tim Burton. There’s good reviews for Ocean’s 8, the female version of the Ocean’s Eleven heist theme which opened this week.
For the Armchair Film Fest, I recommend Jeremiah Johnson and The Graduate. If you love musicals, there’s Singing in the Rain and  An American in Paris this week. Plus Sinatra fans will have a choice of some of his best screen work. I’d recommend Pal Joey over almost all other films for Sinatra fans to record and savor.
At the movies I recommend documentaries for those who may have tired of some of the super-hero fare at the box office. I’m going to see the Mr Rodgers film, Won’t You be my Neighbor and will set the idiot box to tape some of the aforementioned classics on Turner Classic this week. Till next time, have fun and be safe this summer and I’ll see you at the movies!-ML

Friday Flix: Thoughts on Solo

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First my thoughts on my obligatory viewing of Solo: A Star Wars Story. In summary, the film left me with an overall feeling that the critics were largely correct. The film is fairly pedantic, with some interesting pieces of Han Solo’s life coming together and one appearance by a major Star Wars villain who was thought to be dead. (One Star Wars fan from 6 Degrees magazine was incensed at the spoiler listed in the title of an article which listed the name of the villain-so we’ll just leave it there!)
Overall, the film was like one of those old ‘movie of the week’ made for TV films. It was ok, but I can’t recommend it to anyone but the most devout Star Wars fans. And I know there are a lot of you out there. The thing is, Star Wars has become something of a cottage industry, with cartoons and books and a multi-verse of characters and sub-plots making their way under the umbrella of “Star Wars” stories. This Solo story features some major characters, Hans Solo and Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca, who were all major players in the original Star Wars cast. So that is why this film has any significance. I thought the last Star Wars feature, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, lacked a lot of depth in the overall story, too, by the way.
I suppose, not being someone who has simply leapt into the Star Wars universe enthusiastically, this is somewhat predictable in my critical eyes. I thought The Empire Strikes Back was the best of the Star Wars series, and also, that the other stand-out was the one that everyone tends to pan, the 1999 feature with Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor, Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace. So who am I to judge the wrath of a Star Wars fan who is serious about their Star Wars connections?

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I do realize the significance of Star Wars in connection with our culture and the history of filmmaking in general. My book has an entire section devoted to George Lucas’ quest to establish CGI and his Industrial Light and Magic Studio. Here is the link to the excerpt for all Star Wars followers to see: From Star Wars to Sin City. There’s more on this later, but I urge everyone to read the link from all of Roger Ebert’s Star Wars reviews.
I also urge all of you to visit the 6 Degrees Magazine and follow the link to the Village Voice piece about some of the restoration work that has been done recently for Republic Studio pictures. Republic Studios was a significant player in the Golden Age of Film, with hits like The Quiet Man and cult films like Johnny Guitar among their credits.

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Also featured in 6 Degrees:

• Reviews of the films out this week. From the Ebert.com site; How to talk to Girls at Parties and Book Club have good reviews. It’s been a ho-hum launch to the Summer Film Season, so there are no standouts to tell you about. Mary Shelley and Adrift were not given great reviews, but you can read them for yourself in the magazine. Here’s the line-up featured in our Summer Film News:
• An interesting piece on rogerebert.com from a master cinematographer talks about the craft of shooting films. Edward Lachman talks of his start in the business looking at photos by Robert Frank. Lachman also spoke of the changes in film because of ‘digital cinematography’, in ways that change not only how the movie is shot, but how it is perceived. “They always say the digital world should look like film, but I never hear the film world should look digital.’ Keep an eye out as you look at modern films in the theatre after reading this. Lachman thinks that digital cameras make everything darker. According to Lachman, “if the whole film’ is in this darkness, your eye tires.” Something to look out for the next time you’re at the movies…
• There’s a video roundtable discussion of critics at Cannes: Ben Kenigsberg, Jason Gorber and Lisa Nesselson discuss movies. Check it out here

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In closing, there are a few interesting elements in the latest Solo film foray venturing forth into the Star Wars Universe. There’s always a promise of more to come, and the films all open with the same fairy tale of Once upon a time implicit in the crawl: “A Long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’ which gives us leave right there to suspend all disbelief. We can be the judges of whether the films live up to our high expectations, and of course, they seldom do. But the idea is that the universe will continue.
I do like what I read from a New Yorker piece,  entitled “The Growing Emptiness of the Star Wars Universe”, that talks about the dilution of the brand. As it is with the idea of making a copy of a copy of a copy, the ‘simulacra’ is defined as a ‘diluted tincture’ and as with fashion and the example is the brand of Tommy Hilfiger. Of it, the writer says of Hilfiger: ‘it is impossible to be more derivative, more removed from the source, more devoid of soul.’ This, in application to the viewing of Solo: A Star Wars story does not augur well for the overall dilution of the brand. There is a disturbance in the force, as they say. And that ain’t good….Till next week, see you at the movies-ML

6 Degrees: Memorial Weekend

 

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Greetings to all our new 6 Degrees moviegoers…In each post, 6 Degrees rounds up the best of the weekly film reviews along with other articles linked to film to share with our readers. We look for unusual pieces as well as topical information to pass along. Upcoming trailers and news from Hollywood as well as film news from around the world, festivals like Cannes, which has just wrapped up, to news from the states where theaters are competing for their market share of the changing box office haul.

 

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If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Summer Film News, here’s the link to see what’s coming in June. For the last week before Memorial Day, Deadpool 2 won the box office and the Avengers: Infinity War has now made $1.85 Billion worldwide. So that is good news for all the superhero fans out there.

 

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Solo: A Star Wars Story officially opens this weekend, and the reviews for this film are generally positive. We have Solo reviewed in 6 Degrees Magazine this week, as well as Chekhov’s The Seagull,  along with the Mary Shelley biopic, and an NPR review of Book Club.

 

 

 

At Cannes, the winner of the Palme d’Or was a Japanese film called Shoplifters. Notably, although Cannes has worked to try and keep up with the #MeToo moment we are at in our society, the only female director to win at Cannes was Jane Campion for The Piano, and that was 25 years ago. I think this means we can’t just call out the Academy without mentioning that European filmmakers need to “up their game” in terms of gender equality.

 

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*What’s new in 6 Degrees Magazine: This week we have rounded up: Roger Ebert’s collection of Star Wars movie reviews, for those of  you who may have missed the first go-round of the Force, starting way back in 1976. And in Film Inquiry, there’s a discussion of the continuing debate-Book v Film- and a look at which films pass muster. There’s also a great piece listing some of the classic films from 1968 that are celebrating their 50th Anniversary this year. Some of the best include 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is widely considered one of the best science-fiction films ever made. Others from 1968 are The Lion in Winter, The Producers, Planet of the Apes, Bullitt and Funny Girl. These are all recommended to record if they ever show on the small screen, preferably on Turner Classic to drown out the commercial interruptions!

 

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Hollywood Redux: Another interesting discussion surrounds the question of how much of the newly-released: Solo: A Star Wars story was actually directed by Ron Howard? We know he was brought on to the project much later in the production, after the original director was fired. And in another unusual move for Hollywood, the family friendly Show Dogs has been forced to recut the already-released move after allegations of Sexual abuse occurred surrounding a scene in the film.

 

 

 

About the Guns: One article that caught my eye this week talked about guns in entertainment. I must say that the level of violence doesn’t necessarily correlate with the amount or presence of guns in any particular film. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood were heroes of a different world, where there were no mass shootings or school shootings to wring our hands and lament about the existence of violence in films and in the video world. I am a staunch advocate of gun safety measures, but also a huge action film fan as well as a Clint Eastwood fan. I do not see a correlation directly to violence in films, but instead, I see a way to glean an understanding of the gun culture we have inculcated in our society and to a large extent, in our own psyches as Americans. It is ‘who we are.’ But that doesn’t mean we cannot make needed changes. As for the existence of guns in movies, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The guns in reality are a problem, therefore removing guns in the fantasy realm of cinema would not offer a solution.

 

 

Film anniversaries include Scarface returning to the theatres. I have never made it through the scene where they use a chainsaw in a bathroom. It was memorable in terms of violence in films as anything I have ever seen, and this speaks to the previous subject, where guns were specific to the reasons we have violent episodes in American life. Is it a depiction of the reality of the culture that we have become, or a leading influence in creating and spreading violent behavior? To my mind, it’s the former and not the latter. Films are a form of art, and that has been my contention from the time I wrote 6 Degrees of Film in 2013 till today. We are depicting the reality of our lives, not organically creating a new type of reality. Again, it is ‘who we are.’ And at times, the picture isn’t a pretty one! Scarface turns 35 years old, so let that sink in.

 

That’s it for now, film fans. There’s a lot of great films debuting, so check out the Summer Film News to plot your next trip to the theater, and have a great, safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

 

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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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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Hello to all Film Fans & Friends! The good news, surprising to some of us, is that Dunkirk has opened to really good reviews. It’s short-107 minutes -Thank God! (Spare me from the overly long Summer serial movies recently that have begged for good editing!). So that’s a pleasant surprise… And the Planet of the Apes film has also gotten surprisingly good reviews. There is always hope that we’ll salvage a fairly blah summer film season.

 
Wonder Woman has continued to rake in the money. But there comes a point in the summer film season when we start to desperately look around for some good films on the horizon. And there are usually these great little hidden gems of cinema that are a big reason why many of us continue to watch movies.

 

6 Degrees Magazine: This week, check out these articles online. There’s an article about Director Werner Herzog’s masterpiece of a documentary Burden of Dreams, which is about the making of the film Fitzcarraldo in 1982.

 
Critically Speaking: As mentioned, the reviews for Dunkirk and War for the Planet of the Apes have been good. Also, there’s The Big Sick, with a supporting cast that includes Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, so that has garnered interest and hope that the Rom-Com’s are not dead (simply in need of a 21st Century upgrade!).

 
The Indie Film: The Little Hours is reviewed on the macguffin film site as well as the sci-fi film from director Luc Besson, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Film Comment also has a post on the Valerian film, which is based on a popular French graphic novel series entitled Valerian and Laureline by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres. Film Comment calls the series of books a “travesty of storytelling”, and says the film itself is “bereft of narrative tension” but instead functions “strictly as spectacle.” Valerian reviews as a whole have been mixed, so this explains it as good as any other reason I’ve heard. Rolling Stone has a film review of Valerian with the lead: “Luc Besson makes a Sci-Fi Mess.”

 
We’ve already mentioned War for the Planet of the Apes, which has garnered good reviews after suffering through a few stumbles in the past with some duds in the continuing “ape” series. There’s a film out called Endless Poetry, from an 88 year old Chilean-French filmmaker which has been getting good reviews.

 
And finally, Lady Macbeth is reviewed on Ebert.com, and focuses on the performance from the 21- year old lead Florence Pugh. It’s worthy to note that Lady Macbeth is NOT based on the Shakespearean character, but instead comes from a Russian novella by Nikolai Leskov titled “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk”, a book centering on ways women were suppressed and stifled in the 19th century. (It makes a difference!)

 
Notable Deaths: There’s an interview from Film Comment featured in our magazine done recently with the late Martin Landau, who won an Oscar for his supporting role in Ed Wood. And the other recent passing was of the much-admired Horror Director George Romero, famous for the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead film, as well as the many spawns of that classic: Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead and many others, including the TV series from 1983, Tales from the Darkside.

 
Well, till we meet again film goers. I’m excited about the films coming soon (Stephen King’s The Dark Tower is one) and the great Armchair Film Festival offerings from Turner Classic. Hitchcock lovers have had a fantastic month in July if they tuned in and recorded the entire catalog of Hitchcock classics. One of my favorite lines will always be from Notorious, when Madame Sebastian learns her son has married a spy. She quietly lights a cigarette and tells him, “We are saved by the enormity of your stupidity.” I have truly come to adore that line, and try to apply it to my own life whenever possible. See you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

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!

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

168816805 FOR 6 DEGREES COVER PHOTO SHOTHappy Fourth of July to all who are going to be celebrating this weekend! 6 Degrees Magazine has some reviews of the big Blockbuster movies out over the holiday weekend.

Critically Speaking: Despicable Me 3 has had mixed reviews, as has the Sofia Coppola remake of The Beguiled with Nicole Kidman. The Netflix film Okja, has garnered some good reviews, as has the action flick Baby Driver with Ansel Elgort and Lily James. The dark comedy about randy nuns, The Little Hours, an adaptation of a 14th century collection of novellas known as “The Decameron”, hasn’t fared well with critics.

Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are starring in The House, a comedy about a suburban couple who start a casino to raise money for their daughter’s college tuition. Wonder Woman is still a dominating force at the box office, and we are seeing some trailers for the upcoming releases…

Trailers are out for the Jumanji remake, as well as Dunkirk, the war drama set for release July 21st. There’s one for Emily Blunt’s  My Little Pony: The Movie with lots of pastel ponies floating around…making a colorful splash. The multi-talented Hugh Jackman is starring in a musical biopic of P. T. Barnum, and the trailer looks promising.

About Bond: One of the things that bring in the most comments of all film articles in the magazine are pieces about the hunt for the new James Bond actor, and the ongoing discussion of some of the greatest portrayals of Bond on film. I must say, it sometimes gets surprisingly intense I’ll have to admit to being a fan of Timothy Dalton’s Bond, which is apparently sacrilegious. The pecking order, as always, begins with Sean Connery, and the most widely accepted list goes from Connery to Moore to Brosnan to Craig, with few giving even passing remarks to Dalton in  The Livng Daylights  and his follow-up (much weaker film) License to Kill.

Coming Soon: Some of the buzz in Hollywood openings is for the new Spider-Man: Homecoming, with Tom Holland in the starring role. War for the Planet of the Apes is continuing the series; and Dunkirk, as mentioned above, will be much anticipated with director Christopher Nolan and starring Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Harry Styles of One Direction fame.

Catherine Deneuve returns to the screen in The Midwife. The Big Sick has been garnering good reviews, being hailed as one of the best rom-coms (romantic comedies) of 2017. The release is set for July 14th. And for something completely different, there’s a documentary about Syria that has been garnering lots of praise tackling one of the tragedies of our modern world, the ongoing war in Syria. The film is called City of Ghosts, and it’s set for release on July 7th.

In Hollywood, there has been some progress made in swelling the ranks of the Academy members to include a more diverse group of judges for the future. 800 new members were issued invitations, but the march of progress is interminably slow.

Due out in July, 6 Degrees has an article about an upcoming book on the noted film critic James Agee. The collected writings of Agee have been compiled by Charles Maland, the film historian. Agee also wrote screenplays, most notably The African Queen and The Night of the Hunter.Agee died in 1955, and many of his Time magazine reviews were compiled in the book, Agee on Film. This book will be a more comprehensive look at his body of work as a film critic from the thirties until his death in the fifties. The book, “James Agee: Complete Film Criticism: Reviews, Essays and Manuscripts” should be an interesting read. Another book on film, ‘Showman of the Screen: Joseph E. Levine and His Revolutions in Film” is also recently released. Levine was a legendary producer and promoter in the 20th Century, producing films as diverse as Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 1956 to The Graduate in 1967. That’s Hollywood for you! Speaking of The Graduate, 6 Degrees features an article on Dustin Hoffman’s greatest performances. The Graduate, his big debut as a major star, can never be overlooked.

Of note: Carl Reiner will appear in a new HBO documentary If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast, with Reiner looking for stories of people who are not just getting by but are thriving in their advanced years. Reiner is funny in everything, so this should be good for some laughs as well as making a statement about how we sometimes tend to overlook people in their Golden Years and what they might still be able to achieve.

One last thought: This is about some of the articles that I have had the privilege of editing and reading to present in the weekly newsletter and in the magazine. Some of the writing leaves much to be desired, particularly when the titles contain grammatical errors and again when some of the titles are contrived to be dubbed “click-worthy”-known as click-bait.
It’s hard to write something off the cuff, and that’s true for bloggers as well as for news writers and opinion writers…all of us who write on deadline on a weekly basis. But one of my personal “beefs” is the ever-present Search Engine rules that are always looking for the correct formula to achieve the approval of the internet overlords, but fail to factor in rational thinking or critical writing.

Many of these stories are passed over by the editor of 6 Degrees on a weekly, if not daily basis. That editor is, of course, myself, and if my own writing doesn’t hold itself up to a higher standard, then I would ask other bloggers and writers to also have some hard and fast rules to follow when writing and reviewing other articles about film and writing in the ever-increasing blogosphere.

If there are interesting stories out there on film, I certainly do want to hear about them and read about them. However, there is no amount of money that will compel me to become beholden to those who are simply looking to exploit certain algorithms or data-driven polls to include the worst of banal claptrap that passes for film criticism or blogging about anything, for that matter.

Having stated all that, I invite everyone to have a wonderful Fourth of July Holiday weekend, having fun at barbeques and picnics on the beach, and of course, at the movies! We will be back next week, with a review of “House” with Will Ferrell. Until then, readers, see you at the movies!