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

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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

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: The Cinco de Mayo Edition

 

6 Degrees of Film

The Cinco de Mayo Edition: Happy Cinco de Mayo to one and all…I am still pleasantly surprised, as mentioned in the past week, at the response that most have to any mention of James Bond. Bond has made a huge impact, not only in the movies themselves, but in the global interest in who plays Bond onscreen and the continued interest in the screen legacy of the Bond franchise.

*The Death of Cinema? Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott have both been quoted in recent interviews lamenting the death of cinema as we know it. Both have blamed the comic book genre, a likely target for those of us old enough to remember the debut of The Godfather and Raging Bull, Blade Runner and Jaws as they became huge hits at the movies. The award-winning directors talked about the millennials ability to watch big-screen features on any device; the advent of CGI; the comic book genres and the difficulty of getting a project “green-lit” when so many sequels and comic book series are in the works. Conversely, Scorsese also acknowledged the “revolution in filmmaking” that has allowed so many young people to make films on a very small budget. And the directors Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson all drew praise from Scorsese. So…all is not lost!

*What They’re Saying About: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is on track to break records and pull it into the top moneymakers lists. It Comes at Night has debuted as a first rate horror film for 2017

***Star Wars Day: There is such a holiday now, honoring the impact Star Wars has on our culture. One article in 6 Degrees magazine highlights the top Star wars Movie Moments. We all know the lines:… “Luke I am your Father, give in to the Dark Side of the Force; I love you…I know” and “Help me,Obi Wan Kenobi- You’re my only hope.”

The way Yoda speaks Pig Latin of a sort, the power of the Force to create magic and the quest for Luke to find his father are all deeply entrenched in our lexicon and our culture. The myth begins with…Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…and the myth continues to build into the 21st Century.

Such is the power of imagination. As J. K Rawlings created the mythical realm of Hogwarts, so did George Lucas create the universe of Star Wars. There may be a universal acceptance of Star Wars Day, but as it stands now, the Force is honored mostly with costume parades and toy sales.

In my book, 6 Degrees of Film, there is an acknowledgment that the last quarter of the 20th Century belonged to Star Wars. Not only through the film and the story-telling lens, but the myth and the persistent allure of the stories of the Force and the nature of the Dark Side permeate our culture. There doesn’t seem to be any signs of waning interest in the universe of Star Wars, particularly since Disney has bought the rights and promotes it through theme parks and characters. In short, the first two decades of the 21st Century have also been steeped with the mythos of the Star Wars Universe. 

**Films to be excited about in the Summer of 17: Some of the summer releases include: The HouseWill Ferrell returns to his comic roots; Wonder Woman-with a nod to GirlPower world wide, the tale of the invincible Amazonian warrior is hopefully spun to interest women who need a dose of empowerment in the current climate. And finally Dunkirk; with director Christopher Nolan giving us his take on the true story of the “Miracle of Dunkirk”; along with Tom Hardy, Harry Styles and Kenneth Branagh.

About The Godfather: They didn’t want Pacino or Brando; Pacino thought it would flop; they couldn’t use the word Mafia in the film; but the movie somehow managed to come together and catapulted Al Pacino and James Caan to fame. The film also reignited Brando’s faltering career, and promoted Francis Ford Coppola into the pantheon of great directors of all time.

*Coming on TCM: There are lots of Bogart films and war films featured on TCM during the month of May. Pulled from the vaults at Turner Classic, some of Bogart’s greatest films, The Big Sleep and To Have and to Have not are being shown. One of his lesser known films, Across the Pacific with Mary Astor, is also shown in May. It’s highly recommended for all who may be interested in the continued allure of the great character that was Humphrey Bogart.

*Godzilla v King Kong: coming in 2020, there is already “buzz” about the upcoming clash of the two major Hollywood film monsters. The latest film Kong: Skull Island was a tepid entry in the listing of monster movies. But the classic originals are both being shown this month on TCM: Godzilla (with Raymond Burr) and King Kong-the one with Fay Wray and the Empire State Building. Both are must see’s for those who are at all interested in the litany of monster movie classics.

*About Film Noir: If you do get a chance to watch The Big Sleep, or another classic Film Noir, remember some of the rules to identify this genre: The scenes are lit for night; there are lots of scenes with rain, which tends to accelerate the dramatic events; the narrator is crucial; and usually sets the tone for the type of dark and ominous moods that beset the characters and the subsequent events. There is often a passionate attachment to the past, followed by a fear of the future; and the overall movie themes almost always encompass loss, nostalgia, mysterious attachments to objects or people from the past and insecurity in all of its forms.

*50th Anniversary of The Graduate: Groundbreaking films were rampant during the period when The Graduate debuted in the sixties. Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde, Cool Hand Luke and Hud broke all the rules of filmmaking to date. Mike Nichols made this comedy with a relative unknown star named Dustin Hoffman in the lead role. The rest, as they say, is history.

*Question: What makes a comic book movie “artful”? Or what makes any movie artful for that matter? My favorite Batman film remains Tim Burton’s Batman and also the original Superman starring Christopher Reeve…not so much for the artful nature, but for the fact that these films as a whole  were treated as comic book entities as well as major Hollywood films.

The Batman series with Christian Bale was probably more artistic in the treatment of the dark side of the character. But the artful nature of any film is shown in nuanced vignettes and superior story-telling, and that is something missing in most of the comic book genre.

The great actors playing the villains always make the most interesting parts of the whole. Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger were undoubtedly the best parts of the Batman series. But there is no comparison with the aforementioned classics, The Graduate and The Godfather.

The comic book genre lends itself to the Hollywood treatment and the characters and nature of the beast will never be transformed into an art piece. The latest films stand on their graphic comic elements, not on the ideals and nuanced character portraits that are buried within the central themes.

Finally, once again here’s wishing everyone a happy celebration for the 5th of May known as Cinco de Mayo. A big shout out to my friend and colleague and fellow critic Jason King, who supplies us with some of his reviews from “Salty Popcorn” including The Zookeeper’s Wife and other delights. Until next week, as we gear up for more Summer Film releases-See you at the movies!_ML

6 Degrees Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film

The Friday Flix is basically a list of the threads that tie together to become part of the 6 Degrees of Film. For those who may not find the connections in older films, and the notion that everything old is new again, we’ve decided to keep the 6 Degrees theme for our Friday Flix weekly film review. And naturally, that applies to our online magazine, 6 Degrees, as well.

For this week in film, there’s a good piece that ranks all the James Bond films. On Flipboard, (Favorite Things for Writers), the Bond blog takes it to extremes with the question of Bond’s salary, which seems to be stretching it a bit far. But Bond movies are in the news as companies are salivating over the bids by studios to take over the successful franchise.

There is one article that lists recommended search engines for films. With the recognition that many sites are offering free streaming movies to view, and so many types of either “niche” postings for horror or comedy or comics, there are way too many places to list. But the ones that we all know: Netflix, IMDb, and Rotten Tomatoes are certainly on there, and then there’s the newer and –I hate to use this word- “hipper” ones which are Criticker-which finds movies to watch; Clerkdogs-which uses a film you like to find similar types; and the highest recommendation went to Jinni. You can search films or find new films and reviews on this site. So check it out….?

Recommendations are included for two big film festivals- Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, opening this week, and Cannes Film Festival in France. Classic films and films stars will be honored, as well as premieres of art films and other major productions. One retrospective will feature Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” documentary (hard to believe Moore’s films are old enough to start doing retrospectives of them!)

The Summer Film rollout seems to come earlier each year. It used to be the end of May, but now we see the films rolled out the week after Easter (which this is!). The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise is big (no surprise), and Guy Ritchie’s re-tool of the King Arthur legend is opening soon with Jude Law and Charlie Hunnam as Arthur.

Goldie Hawn is back in a comedy with Amy Schumer, Snatched, opening Mother’s Day weekend. Another comedy that features a female cast is Rough Night with Scarlett Johannson, about a bachelorette party in Miami gone wrong. A female styling of The Hangover perhaps?

For those awaiting the return of Will Ferrell to comic form, he is starring in The House, with Amy Poehler, about a couple who try to convert their basement into a casino.

The prequel for Alien-Alien: Covenant opens in May. Pirates of the Caribbean has another entry with a returning Johnny Depp. Baywatch has been widely publicized, and stars Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. Wonder Woman kicks off the Summer Season in June with Gal Gadot in the title role.

For kids, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is also in June, based on the popular book series. Also for kids, Cars 3 from Pixar with Owen Wilson as the voice of Lightning McQueen. And Despicable Me 3 opens June 30th with Steve Carell returning in the third installment.

For adults who are still Tom Cruise fans, Tom is re-booting The Mummy franchise. For young adults, there’s The Book of Henry, about an 11 year old who discovers a secret about the family next door.Transformers is back in June, titled: Transformers: The Last Knight.

And the sequels and comic book series keep on coming with Spider-Man: Homecoming, starring Tom Holland. Then there’s War for the Planet of the Apes.

One that looks good is from director Christopher Nolan, and features Tom Hardy and the acting debut of Harry Styles-it’s the WW II drama Dunkirk, coming in July.( There’s a trailer on our site for this one). We’ll have more in the next week with a full list of the Summer Movies opening. But there are a few here that look pretty good, amidst the sturm and drang of the sequels and prequels.

One film that has an anniversary and therefore, is getting some renewed attention features Jack Nicholson’s masterful performance in “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, based on the book by Ken Kesey. The book is great, and the film is recommended viewing for anyone who has never seen it. Check out the review on 6 Degrees.

One funny post was a list of actors who “sell out” to make movies. My friend and I used to talk about, in particular Michael Caine, who seemed to always be in these parts where he was just walking through and picking up a paycheck. We always called these actors “whores” for money (as a joke!). But it is easy to spot the talented actors who are seen from time to time in films where there is not much story, little need for a range of emotions, just lots of money and wasted talent on display as the veteran actors trudge through, sometimes gamely, as guns for hire in these plotless wonders.

One interesting development over at Turner Classics has veteran Alec Baldwin stepping in as host for The Essentials on TCM. Should be good!

The films that are reviewed this week, besides Rear Window from Ebert, are The Handmaiden, Colossal with Anne Hathaway, The Promise with Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, Unforgettable with Katherine Heigl-which has mixed reviews, The Lost City of Z from the McGuffin site and Free Fire, also on McGuffin.

There’s also a biopic of Emile Zola and Paul Cezanne called Cezanne et Moi, a review of director David Lynch’s masterpiece, Mulholland Drive, and a review of Their Finest from our friends at Salty Popcorn. There’s also a review from Time magazine in 1977 of the Academy Award winner, Annie Hall, from Woody Allen.

Other film news is an adaptation in the works of Fahrenheit 451, done by HBO Films. And there’s a piece on the classic Mike Nichol’s film of the sixties, ‘The Graduate” starring Dustin Hoffman. Sofia Coppola is remaking “The Beguiled” with Nicole Kidman starring in the remake of the Clint Eastwood film from the seventies.

There’s a blog post making the case against the genre of Film Noir. That may be true for some aspects of a defunct genre, with the very few films even being made in black and white, but there is a very real and distinct place in the annals of cinema history for the Film Noir genre. In my book, 6 Degrees of Film,there’s a chapter devoted to The Rise of Film Noir.

Noir brought us the antihero, and with it, the rise of actors like Humphrey Bogart, who really found his footing playing these cynical characters always with a touch of gallows humor. There is such a thing as New Noir also, and if you’ve ever seen a film made in Noir style and shot in stark black and white, you usually remember it. My final thoughts from 6 Degrees were that although it’s out of vogue at the moment in Hollywood, if it’s done right the genre can produce great cinema; done poorly, it becomes camp.

Also of note: a post on Filmmaking in the Age of Social Media. It is a good discussion as the way we view films and perceive reality is at times different after we have lived with Social Media and the age of the Internet.

And along these lines, there’s an article on Film Inquiry about favorite opening credits. That’s a good one to mull over, as some of the most innovative and interesting film ideas reveal themselves as we watch the opening credits of movies and see how a director or a filmmaker can portray something that we may have watched dozens of times, but with a new twist or a different visual perspective, we see things with fresh eyes. That’s part of the beauty of film and it’s what keeps us going back for more. Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees Friday Flix

 

6 Degrees of Film

Happy Friday to all! This week, there was a good piece in our 6 Degrees magazine about director David Cronenberg, director of Dead Ringers, A History of Violence, and many other hits and misses along the way. And one of the more exciting developments was the advent of Women Directors Week-on Ebert.com they are showcasing films exclusively directed by women. Why is that a big deal? Because we have the sad statistics showing that women directors last year directed only 7% of the top grossing films in the states. And that number is down from 2015, where 9% were directed by women. So the problem is not going away, but awareness and also proactive promotion by the studios and independent companies will help to reverse these trends.

Hollywood Buzz: There are predictions out there for which films will make it to the Cannes Film Festival this year. Cannes runs May 17th through the 28th. Ghost in the Shell is doing well in Japan despite its miserable showing in the Western world; Trailers are out for Wonder Woman and for Thor: Ragnorak plus Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde

Coming Soon: There is a Dirty Dancing remake in the works, as well as a Coming to America sequel. And director Guy Ritchie is reviving the Arthurian tales with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword -coming in May. Then there’s Alien: Covenant, which is the prequel to the Alien series and the sequel to Prometheus. Got it?

The ones I’m looking for include Wonder Woman (not so much for the non-existent plot, but the emphasis now on GirlPower and how Hollywood tiptoes delicately around the subject of women’s empowerment and will eventually ham-handedly plow through the notion that women can be strong role models). Also coming this summer: The adaptation of the true story of Dunkirk from director Christopher Nolan with Tom Hardy in the cast.

Recommended: Personal Shopper: Kristen Stewart’s latest film is getting good reviews. The Golfing movie: Tommy’s Honour is reviewed as well as The Lost City of Z and Life, both from the MacGuffin site.

This week there’s a piece talking about the making of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and an interview with Morgan Freeman, who thinks that “The Shawshank Redemption” was a bomb at the box office because the film’s title wasn’t catchy enough…Maybe. But it may just have been a film before it’s time.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” were not huge hits either, and yet they’re beloved must-see viewing for millions. Some films don’t click when they are released, yet they become true classic over the course of time.

And then there’s the “Bad Movies” list that has become an art form thanks to the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 crew. My love for bad movies is well documented .(My personal favorite is not Plan 9 from Outer Space, but it is from the same director. It’s Ed Wood’s 1953 masterpiece of schlock & awe: Glen or Glenda.

From the vaults: Master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick remarked that politics was nothing more than “a channel for releasing pent-up sexual aggression”. A fitting segueway into my list of recommended political films for our times. The list includes Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove; Inherit the Wind; The Manchurian Candidate from 1962; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Ugly American; The Candidate, All the President’s Men and Bulworth. I’ve been thinking a lot about the political discourse in these United States and how much of our life is centered around politics and the election cycle in our fast-paced media world where news is disseminated by the moment. So it’s important to look back now and then and see what America was thinking and learning about candidates and about our government in decades past. More on this in the coming week.

Finally, for our Easter weekend, there’s a showing on TCM of Jimmy Stewart’s signature role in Harvey, where Stewart is accompanied by a 6 foot invisible talking Rabbit named Harvey. And for something completely different, there’s Ben Hur from 1959 starring Charlton Heston. The remake this past year was notably lame, but the original talking version (there was a Silent film also made in 1925), is still the best.

Happy Holiday weekend to all, and till next time-see you at the movies!ML

6 Degrees Friday Flix

 

6 Degrees of Film

So…is the movie Good or Bad? That is the question coming from one spot-on commentator in our 6 Degrees magazine from this past week asking about the reviews for the film “Ghost in the Shell” with Scarlett Johansson. There are plenty of mixed reviews for this one, and the consensus was that they used the term “whitewash” to the extent that the film was buried somewhere in the lead….

But the bottom line is that all that may be overcome if the film has good “buzz”. And this film did not. There are plenty of reviews out there that are mixed for most of the films. It’s always a question of the audience preferences, and there have been several films in recent years that have bombed in the U.S. and done quite well overseas

Some examples are: John Carter; The Golden Compass; After Earth; Poseidon; Water World; The Wolverine and Pacific Rim. Some films don’t hold up well, some are big hits but fade fast from memory. The dirty little secret we all must concede is that film reviews are highly subjective, and with the amount of film blogs and posts out there, you can usually find even the worst reviewed film with at least one critic who actually likes it!

The other comment comes from Sir Smoke regarding the posit from an article stating that New Horror films are better than ever….Sir Smoke simply said, “No. New Horror Sucks”. I couldn’t agree more. As someone who was raised on Hitchcock…and with the idea that the best elements of horror are found in the simplest of details, some of the latest horror films don’t seem to rely on the simple ingredients that made Hitchcock the master of suspense. These details, the things that make for the best components that create horror in the mind and on the screen are somehow lacking in most of the new age horror films.

Simple elements of suspense are found in all of Hitchcock and in films like The Portrait of Dorian Gray, The Tingler, Carnival of Souls or George C.Scott’s 1980 film, The Changeling. In this latter one, the simple act of rolling a small red ball down a flight of stairs is listed in ‘The Horror Digest” blog as one of the scariest moments on film. Such a simple act and yet…the horror!

On Critical Thinking: There’s a piece called, “Just review the Damn movie” this month that speaks to a lot of the political correctness surrounding recent films with issues such as diversity and whitewashing. Some of the films that are striving to portray women and people of color or those in the LGBT community with dignity and accuracy are at odds with most of the history of film. And for that matter, the history of the United States and the rest of the planet as well!

There are some big problems facing Hollywood these days. These are addressed in a piece from 6 Degrees Magazine written by Bill Mechanic, the CEO of Pandemonium Films and featured on Deadline.com. The problems surrounding what has become the Hollywood machine includes top executives leaving the major studios like Paramount and Sony. The “Tent-Pole Films” (Defined as films that are big expensive draws for global audiences and are designed to spawn multiple sequels) are not producing the results in many cases that were expected. Big, expensive movies that flop after huge amounts, hundreds of millions of dollars are poured into the making of them, mean that somebody’s head will roll when the bottom line looks bleak.

The phrase for some of these less than promising films is the “get-around-to it” movies-meaning you’ll get around to seeing them on Netflix or the small screen. We’ve all seen plenty of films in that category…

The changing nature of the business is part of the entire work force that has to adapt to change. Disney has proven to be a major Disruptor by taking much of the market share. They have bet on big brands, Pixar and Star Wars plus Marvel Studios, and it has become harder for other studios to compete. It’s become in essence the Wal-Mart effect for the Movie Industry.

Is the movie business in denial, as one writer from The Verge posted recently? Some six of the seven major Hollywood studios are negotiating to release their films on home video barely three weeks after the theatrical release date. Virtual Reality is another focus for the business, with major theaters touting the VR experience as a way to counter slumping ticket sales. This is part of the aforementioned long-term trending. The idea that most brick and mortar buildings now housing movie theaters may become akin to the arcades of old, with other entertainment options featured along with films, is now taking hold. This may be the wave of the future…

The Armchair Film Fest: For the month of April, there are some great films to set your designated machine to record: Recommended are The Miracle Worker, Hannah and her sisters, Ivanhoe, Harvey, The Set Up, A Hard Day’s Night, Funny Girl, Please Don’t eat the Daisies and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Watch the 6 Degrees magazine for reviews on these films if you’ve never seen them…

All of these films are on Turner Classic, which is great because there’s no commercial interruptions. One other noticeable difference on the Turner Classic site is that they’ve finally said goodbye to Movie Morlocks and have an upgraded blog site: Streamline, which has a much cleaner look and some interesting reviews- the short films of Harold Lloyd and Wuthering Heights vs Jane Eyre-all featured on our 6 Degrees Magazine site this week.

Two master film makers are mentioned in a post about the most difficult scenes to film Director Stanley Kubrick did one small scene in “The Shining” over 148 takes. But Chaplin was most notorious for his perfectionist style-one scene in “City Lights”, just a short time on the screen, took him an astonishing 340 times for the girl to say the line, “Flower, sir?” to Chaplin. Food for thought the next time the boss demands your attention to detail!

Finally, the magazine features reviews of Barbarella with Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola’s first major picture, Finian’s Rainbow, The Zookeeper’s Wife and Going in Style (the latter didn’t get great reviews).

There’s a post listing the best films of Al Pacino, and one piece on the many plot holes found in Marvel pictures. Those who read me regularly can see me smiling, as we all know that the main reason for Marvel pictures isn’t to tie up loose endings and create logical plot points!

There’s also a post that lists the best films about World War I, in honor of America’s 100th Anniversary of our entrance into WWI. The one thing I do take issue with is the inclusion of one of my favorite films: Lawrence of Arabia. Although it’s true that the film does depict war scenes and occurs during WWI, this film isn’t really part of the European war that was fought on the continent. So technically, it may be included, but it’s not one that immediately springs to mind when I think about the Great War. Galipoli, Sergeant York, and Paths of Glory yes-but not Lawrence!

I’m thinking about the Summer Movies a bit early this year. Some look very promising, and we’ll talk more about them in the coming weeks. Also recommended is a good book on film- Talking Pictures-by the Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday.

I’ll be back next time with more of the latest from the La La Land of filmdom. Till then, see you at the movies!-ML