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 Summer Newsletter

 

Happy Summer to all our Readers and followers! This is the Summer Film Newsletter from 6 Degrees…At this writing, the Cannes Film Festival is in full swing. Here’s hoping that the Festival will bring to light some new, standout performances and notable films.

Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, the Summer Premieres are starting earlier each year. One of the first fatalities of the early openers has occurred with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword from director Guy Ritchie. One of my favorite review titles came from Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers: Welcome to to a King-Sized Pile of Crap.”

One of the most anticipated openings as far as the Summer Blockbuster category has been Wonder Woman, which opens in early June to kick off what is also known as the Summer Comic Book Hero Season. The other notables have been the Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, which made a lot of money-no surprise. And the Alien: Covenant film is one of the continuing prequels in the Alien series, which has done well.  

Some of the anticipated kids movies are the fun sounding Captain Underpants, also opening in June. Also for kids, there is Cars 3, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which opened in May, and another Despicable Me movie with Steve Carell.

There’s the serial brigade: with Transformers: The Last Knight. There’s the remakes: The Mummy with Tom Cruise, My Cousin Rachel with Rachel Weisz and The Beguiled with Nicole Kidman.

There’s sci fi  flick: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as well as War for the Planet of the Apes (another sequel/remake/rehash?).  For the documentary enthusiasts, there’s Letters from Baghdad in June and An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power in August….

I’m looking for Dunkirk slated for July 21st and starring Tom Hardy. Lady Macbeth with Florence Pugh is set for July 14th. And Charlize Theron is in Atomic Blonde, an action pic opening July 28t

Other notable actors and openings are Once Upon a Time in Venice with Bruce Willis-June 16th; Baby Driver on  June 28th; Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 7th; and another Charlize Theron film The Last Face on July 28th.

All in all it’s not a bad lineup. There are a few good films that are most likely watchable, and that’s sometimes hard to find when so many films are remakes or sequels/serials that don’t break new ground. Which is why Cannes and other film festivals are so important, as they often bring into prominence the smaller films with low budgets that are more interesting and have new faces and talent lurking under the radar.

There isn’t any one type of film that tells us that Hollywood is on the way out, but the handwriting has been on the wall for at least a decade or more. There are so many choices out there, with Indies and Bollywood vying for the same audiences, and the double-edged sword is that there’s a lot of talented directors and actors who are working in films with small budgets and are on the cusp of making it. But there’s also a higher than ever demand to keep cranking out the same stale formulaic versions of yesterday’s hits because they still make money for the studios! So that’s not going to change anytime soon.

But, there are a few art house movies that make us sit up and take notice. And I almost forgot….Will Ferrell is making a comedy, The House, set to open on June 30th, so let’s hope there are a few laughs along the way as we prepare for a long hot summer in the U.S.

Be on the lookout for the 6 Degrees Friday Flix posts and the latest installments in our 6 Degrees of Film magazine that will highlight some of the week’s top film news and news of note from Hollywood. Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

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6 Degrees: Notes from the Global Village

168816805 FOR 6 DEGREES COVER PHOTO SHOT
6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village

 

Here’s a round-up of some of the leading stories found in the 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies magazine on Flipboard. The last two summers have proven to be relatively slow for finding little gems of movies or seeing big Hollywood blockbusters. The Cinematic Comic-Book Universe keeps churning them out, and we see lots of films coming out of China and overseas. The latest hit has an unusual looking “radish” monster baby (see the picture on Flipboard) and it’s breaking all kinds of box-office records in the all-important Chinese movie market. Here’s what we found in July:

Voted Number One American Film in BBC poll
Voted Number One American Film in BBC poll

*Citizen Kane: No 1 in BBC Poll: Greatest American film….? My book has a list of top 100 and Citizen Kane is not included. It’s a great film, and like so many great films, it’s an acquired taste. It’s not just me….many man on the street interviews have yielded this opinion of Citizen Kane. Insiders and critics like it. I do agree with most of the top 10 picks which are as follows:

1. Citizen Kane

2. The Godfather

3 Vertigo

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey

5 The Searchers

6. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans-Murnau,

7. Singing in the Rain

8. Psycho

9 Casablanca

10 The Godfather Part II
As lists go, it’s not a bad one. Five out of ten isn’t bad, just no cigar! And it’s not inclusive if you are talking about strictly American films. The Wizard of Oz should be in any respectable top 10 List.
Hitchcock & Kubrick are problematic if you are speaking about American films. Hitchcock was born in England and Kubrick worked exclusively in England…To Kill a Mockingbird is a uniquely American film also and one would have to put it in the top ten rankings if you are going to parse the definition at all.
Probably you would include An American in Paris and It’s a Wonderful Life if you are talking about Americana. I would put Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Stagecoach or The Westerner with Gary Cooper over The Searchers.
It’s a very subjective thing to pick a list of strictly American films, and even harder for the Brits to decide!

 

The Avengers
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe

 

**Primer to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe: In this informative article, the first 25 pages recap and address the history of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Rail against it if you are a critic or purist, but the comic book genre is here to stay. This is a good look at the continuing saga of the Cinematic Universe.

Starting in 2008, Phase One included: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers from 2012.

Beginning in 2013 with Iron Man 3, Phase Two includes Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers, Age of Ultron and the current 2015 Ant-Man.

In 2016, Phase Three continues with Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in 2017. Spider-Man and Thor: Ragnarok, also slated for release in 2017, and Avengers: Infinity War-Part I, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel in 2018. In 2019, Avengers: Infinity War-Part 2 and Inhumans will conclude Phase Three.

 

*Add as a caveat George Martin-creator of Game of Thrones- critique of the superhero genre, saying, “I am tired of this trope where the bad guy has the same powers as the hero. The Hulk fought the Abomination, who is just a bad Hulk. Spider-Man fights Venom, who is just a bad Spider-Man. Iron Man fights Ironmonger, a bad Iron Man.Yawn. I want more films where the hero and the villain have wildly different powers. That makes the action much more interesting.” Martin praised Ant-Man, as one of the best he’d seen since 2004’s Spider-Man 2.

**Ranking the “origin stories” of the Marvel Universe may provide background if you don’t really want to sit through 10 or 15 comic book movies. Read the moviefone article here….avclub.com

 

Mr Holmes

**Reviews: Southpaw, the boxing movie with Jake Gylenhall, has received mixed reviews; as had Paper Towns; Pixels from Adam Sandler was not received well (officially declared a dud!); Mr Holmes, the new Sherlock Holmes film with Ian MacKellan has generally garnered good reviews. Woody Allen’s new film, Irrational Man with Joacquin Phoenix and Emma Stone is receiving mixed reviews. Not surprising as those who are familiar with Woody’s work may see him going back to familiar ground over and over again.

*Global Box Office: Monster Hunt, out of China, is one of the highest grossing films made there. The Shrek 3 Director was at the helm. China’s state administraion of Print, Publishing, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT-SARFT) had imposed an annual blackout period of 6-8 weeks when imported quotas of films are barred from mainland in order to boost Chinese movies. The family fantasy epic, Monster Hunt may surpass Transformers 4 and become PRC/s (People’s Republic of China) 2nd biggest release in history.
Jurassic World moves into the 3rd highest grossing film of all time-Passing Avengers.  The sequel to Jurassic is already set for 2018. If you are wondering…
Avatar is #2; Titanic still No 1 and still the oldest film on the list.

*From the Fem Flicks File: A new list of 50 Films from Female Directors (how’s that for Alliteration 101?) A list I can’t agree with (Ishtar…? – I love Elaine May, but please!). On the list, I spotted eight worth mentioning

The Hitch-hiker- Ida Lupino-1953

Seven Beauties– Lina Wertmuller- 1975

Desperately Seeking Susan– Susan Seidelman-1984

Big– Penny Marshall-1988

Wayne’s World-Penelope Spheeris-1992

My Brilliant Career– Joan Tewkesbury-1994

Billy Madison-Tamra Davis-1995

Clueless- Amy Heckerling- 1995.
Sophia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow are two stand-outs, with Sophia Coppola not even on the list?! Bigelow is cited for her Strange Days in 1995. She became the first female director to win an Academy Award for Best Director with her Hurt Locker in 2008.

 

Mockingbird

*Must read for all of those like me who love Mockingbird: A typed letter to Director Alan Pakula from the art director Henry Bumstead from To Kill a Mockingbird. His impressions of Monroeville and Harper Lee (Nell’s) extremely useful suggestions as to how the look and feel of the place should be portrayed onscreen. Most amusing when he recounts he’d never seen a collard green before!

 

S Kubrick

*Good read on Kubrick:  It spells out the reasons for his greatness as a director and an auteur. He was a photographer first and foremost-the look and the feel of his pictures is through the eyes of an artist framing a shot-as Hitchcock, as Wes Anderson, and so many artistic creators working in film today. The author of the piece, Mark Krasselt, is a Kubrick devotee, and some of the article goes long into the weeds discussing the genius and merits of the man, but to summarize, some of his trademarks such as Kubrick’s use of the Narrator are discussed in detail.  Kubrick’s actors are stilted and styled as was Hitchcock’s. The character is seen as metaphor-remember Hitchcock’s famous statement-actors are cattle? Kubrick’s career is detailed at length. The arc of his development and how he came to be an independent auteur after the disappointment of Paths of Glory is one of the highlights. Plus he had an important backer at Warner Bros in Terry Semel-and he never made films again in the US! Always he worked out of his London studio, where he had more artistic control over the project as a whole. Stanley Kubrick is shown as a true auteur as we glean some insight into the “Kubrick experience”.  From Mark Krasselt-tasteofcinema.com

 

Man from uncle
*Coming in August: The Man from UNCLE; Ricki and the Flash with Meryl Streep; Best of Enemies, a documentary about the very real rivalry between pundits William F. Buckley and the liberal Gore Vidal, is recommended; American Ultra with Jesse Eisenberg looks funny and quirky-the plot is about a stoner, played by Eisenberg, turned government agent in a twist that hasn’t been done to death-opening August 21. The Revenant trailer looks interesting-two great actors in Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy are starring in this backwoods mountain movie about a man seeking revenge.

Movie Trends: 3-D….Is it just an annoying fad…? Or is it part of the movie-going experience. We are going to see many specialized “gimmicks” to drive audiences into the movies. A wave of nostalgia for the good old days of movie palaces has already descended upon us.

 

Tampa Theatre
The League of Historic Theatres is a national organization dedicated to preserving the memory of old buildings housing defunct movie theatres. The League extends to old theatres and auditoriums, and includes drive-in movies too, a big part of the culture of the fifties and sixties.

 

Sound of Music

Those of you from my Linked in Movie Group may remember my past history with unusual movie “experiences”. As a child I attended the Planet of the Apes “Ape-a-rama” where you got in free if you wore a Gorilla suit and the first 100 patrons got a free banana. It was an all day Planet of the Apes Marathon.
And my beloved Tampa Theatre screened William Castle’s “Thirteen Ghosts” on Halloween many years ago with the original introduction by Castle explaining the 3-D Ghost glasses (one side you could see the ghosts-the other was for non-believers!).

Tomorrow, I wander into the valley of the shadow with the Sing-a-long version of The Sound of Music. The movie means so much to me as it was the first real film experience I remember as a child. We went to the Palace theatre downtown, long defunct, and even got the program (which I scribbled on) and the little orange drinks shaped like oranges with the straws in the middle!

I digress. But the film means so much to so many people, there is one woman in the Guinness book who saw it every day for years when it ran in theatres, and this is truly something any self-respecting film buff should experience.

I’m looking forward to seeing you on the other side! Till then, dear readers. I’ll see you at the movies!

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The Highest Grossing Film of all time…adjusted for inflation is…

Gone with the wind

 

6 Degrees of Film recently listed the 100 highest grossing films of all time. But the highest grossing film, adjusted for inflation, would be Gone with the Wind.  Just to confuse the issue, the top grossing film of all time, as it stands today, is disputed. It was Titanic when we last reported on the numbers some months ago, although current lists name Avatar. But in the 60 years since Gone with the Wind was made, it held the record of biggest grossing box office film for the longest period of time.

The most successful US films of all time according to their box office receipts would be:

1. Gone with the Wind
2. Star Wars
3. The Sound of Music
4. ET The Extra-Terrestrial
5. The Ten Commandments
6. Titanic
7. Jaws
8. Doctor Zhivago
9. The Exorcist
10.  Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

At the time of its premiere, Gone with the Wind was a big deal. It had seen lots of publicity surrounding the making of the film. Director David O Selznick was the consummate showman, and the casting of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler were the equivalent of the modern casting of the beloved characters from Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Everyone had an opinion, but Clark Gable was universally approved to play Rhett Butler.

The English actress cast as Scarlett, Vivien Leigh, was a relative newcomer to US audiences and her casting was considered controversial in its day. But the premiere and the subsequent release proved to be a universal success and the rest, as they say, is history.

There are some controversies swirling now about the Political Correctness, or In-Correctness, of some of the sequences and the stereotyped characters of the plantation slaves in the Old South. But compared to a film with true racist overtones like “The Birth of a Nation”, the pushback has been relatively mild for Gone with the Wind.

The film is beautifully shot and definitely worth seeing if you have never experienced it. Gone with the Wind is being shown this Sunday at Tampa Theatre as part of their Summer Film Series.

Mad Max….again?

Mad Max Fury Road

Mad Max…again? No soup for you! That means no back story or character development is allowed. It’s just too bad if you don’t already know the story behind Max’s descent into madness as there’s just no time to waste for such silly details. There’s no time to stop and take a breather at all. This frenetically paced action yarn spins a fantastic tale with non-stop car chase sequence and some beautiful cinematography thrown in along the way.

The post- apocalyptic landscape is re-imagined yet again in this re-boot of Mad Max. The question comes to mind: why would you need actors the caliber of Tom Hardy & Charlize Theron in this fast-paced action series that comprises Mad Max? It may have something to do with the small sections of dialogue squeezed in to almost never-ending car chase sequences.

The spare and unyielding character rarely seen in the character of Max has to take shape literally in the blink of an eye. That is the time we are given for character development in this film. Tom Hardy does his best to provide some window into the soul of the haunted man that is Max. But given the few opportunities we have, there is little in the way of humor and too much time spent simply surviving.

The best of the series, The Road Warrior, did include some comic relief. The character of the pilot of the whirly bird, the dog and the small child all gave Max some reason to react. That extra layer is sorely missing in this outing. There isn’t enough down time to really assess the whys and wherefores amounting to a reason that most of the action occurs. What little we are given is completely overshadowed in the face of the admittedly spectacular car chase scenes. And that includes one of the most beautiful feats of cinematography I’ve ever seen with the desert landscape and an enormous cloud of dust covering the heavens.

I’ll have to admit that the fight between Charlize Theron’s character, Furiosa, and Max is one of the best I’ve ever seen staged between a man and a woman. There’s no girly punches and no quarter given because she’s a woman. It’s a fight to the death and it’s done extremely well. But it doesn’t really substitute for understanding the characters or what makes them tick.

There is a plot of sorts amounting to an absurd and completely illogical motif of survival given all the ridiculous actions thrown at the small band of escaping women and Max. The women are escaping servitude and bondage from a place called the Citadel. (The girls actually look as if they escaped from a Victoria’s Secret photo shoot.)

The plot seems merely incidental, and as with most apocalyptic settings, we must suspend disbelief and simply watch the events unfold. There is no down time really, and that’s one of the problems that I take away from this film. Even Max needs to take a break once in a while

The Top Ten Highest Grossing Films of all time

It looks like all Avengers all the time when scrolling through the 6 Degree Magazine on Flipboard. We have listed all the recent articles and they seem to be completely fascinated with the huge box office numbers that the Avengers movie is racking up. So to appease those who may have an interest in box office totals, (Box Office Mojo keeps a running count at www.boxofficemojo.com), we are going to list some of the current film box office champs in the Global race to the top.

Avatar movie

Number One: Avatar. From 2009, James Cameron’s Avatar, the one he had worked for over a decade to bring to the screen, still holds the Number One spot. Special effects and CGI are still the big draws for bringing people in to the movies. (2.78 Billion)

TItanic 1997

Number Two: Titanic and James Cameron again. This is the oldest film on the list, from 1997, and it tells us that some movies contain drawing power with something other than special effects. Of course, the effects of the sinking ship are spectacular, but a young Leonardo DiCaprio and the love story also were a powerful draw. (2.18 Billion)

The Avengers

Number Three: The Avengers. Still. This film from 2012 gives us an idea of the drawing (and staying) power of the Marvel Cinematic Comic Book Universe. The troubling news? 25 films are planned in the next four years. When will the public reach saturation point, I wonder? (Or begin to care about the Infinity Stones?) (1.5 Billion)

H Potter & Deathly Hallows

Number Four: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. from 2011, this film embodies the enduring popularity of the Harry Potter series. The good news is that literary minded people will agree that JK Rowling’s books were the catalyst for this explosion of movie madness. (1.34 Billion)

Frozen pix

Number Five: Frozen.  Girls rule! This film exploded onto the scene in 2013 and quickly overtook many of the classic Disney characters and animated films. Women and young girls are hungry for the role model provided by the Disney character of Queen Elsa of Arendelle. (1.2 Billion)

Iron Man 3

Number Six: Iron Man 3. This comic book series stands apart with the help of a gifted actor in Robert Downey Jr. This film was from 2013. (1.2 Billion)

F & F 7

Number Seven: Fast & Furious 7. The latest installment, released in 2015, has overtaken the competition and landed in the top ten moneymakers of all time. Predictably, F & F 8 is in the works. (1.1 Billion)

Trans Dk of the moon

Number Eight: Transformers: Dark of the Moon from 2011. Another popular series of films that keeps cranking out sequels and will continue to do so as long as they make money! (1.1 Billion)

Lord of rings return of king

Number Nine: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. This 2003 film is relatively older in the scheme of things. Another book to film series that has kept audiences coming back for more. (1.1 Billion)

Skyfall movie

Number Ten: A Surprise! …at least to me it was. Skyfall, the James Bond movie from 2012 and one of the oldest continuing series of films-over 50 years-that is still incredibly successful thanks to a new lease on life in the form of Daniel Craig. (1.1 Billion)

Next, we’ll look at some of the surprising movies on the list of the top 100 current films making money for Hollywood markets…

What would you guess is the oldest film currently in the top 100 list?
*Hint: May the Force be with you.

The latest Exodus: Review

 

 

Exodus pixThis film was so much better than the previous attempt at big box-office Biblical fare-Noah. The elements of the story, for the most part, have been left intact. One question I do have for the marketers of this production…why release it at Christmas?

This film is about Passover, as we all remember. It should really be an Easter release, but since I’m not involved in marketing for the film, I can only shrug and wonder why?

Director Ridley Scott attempts to recreate ancient Egypt as he did ancient Rome in Gladiator and the futuristic city of Los Angeles in Bladerunner. He does a credible job in portraying the building of the pyramids, complete with oppression and cruelty to the enslaved Jews. There are some slight remnants of the great and overblown The Ten Commandments (1956) found in the first part of this movie. But the pomp and spectacle never threaten to distract from the focus of the film, which is not true of the fifties VistaVision version directed by Cecil B. DeMille.

 

Moses is portrayed as a general and a master tactitian, a skilled negotiator who is admired by his troops and his adopted royal family. The plot then moves Moses into the desert thus setting up his initial encounter with God. His subsequent dialogue with the God of Abraham shows the Lord depicted in the guise of a young and extremely self-possessed (other critics have used the term petulant) boy. This depiction works for me, however, some may be offended with God shown in any kind of human form.

One complaint that is justified is the running time. The film runs two and ½ hours, a long time, but the film is not so terribly edited that the action seems padded or plodding and it’s not dragged down with lots of unnecessary plot points or detail.

The parting of the Red Sea is always the big highlight of any  Exodus story. In this film, it’s handled extremely well. Although Moses has been depicted on screen for over one hundred years now, this version allows for the imagination of a creative director, Ridley Scott, plus the combined assets of historical and religious sources added to the creation of CGI effects all brought together to weave a narrative that mellows the histrionics found in DeMille’s spectacle and grounds the story to a semblance of reality.

To be sure, there is spectacle of sorts in this version. But the story focuses on the dialogue between Moses and God and the dynamic leadership embodied in the character of Moses. Christian Bale was a good choice, though not without controversy, as witnessed by the critics crying foul in casting a white man (again) in the role of Moses

To sum it up, this was a satisfactory depiction of a story with so many variations and fascinating elements, it would never be enough to simply tell it once. This is the first CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) depiction in a new era of expanded Biblical and historical enlightenment. I doubt this is the last retelling of the Exodus, but for now, it’ll do.