6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello Film Fans! Ant Man and the Wasp opened this week to good reviews. There’s Skyscraper, Incredibles 2, Hotel Transylvania 3 and for Indie film lovers there’s good buzz about Sorry to Bother You.

From 6 Degrees Magazine: There’s a good article on High Society, the remake of The Philadelphia Story. High Society is the musical version with Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby, but I wouldn’t bother unless you’ve seen the far superior Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn original The Philadelphia Story. There’s also a piece talking about the late Tab Hunter, a heartthrob of the fifties who finally came out of the closet in his later years.

There are some retrospectives from Film Comment on Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, talking about their amazing run as a film dancing duo. I wasn’t as fond of their dance pictures, as I don’t believe they hold up as well as Fred Astaire’s many dance films later in his career, long after Fred & Ginger had parted ways. But it’s worth catching one just to say you’ve seen them in action.

An interesting read is one that lists the Marvel Cinematic Universe release schedule, from the next pictures out in 2019 and listing them through the next Avengers film, the new Doctor Strange as well as Black Widow and Black Panther 2. So if you are a superhero fan, there’s plenty in store for the next decade it seems, for the pantheon of players in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But it’s summer and this is always a good time to watch some of the Bad B’s of Summer. Here’s the link to the Bad B Recommended Movie list from 6 Degrees. Hope everyone is having a great summer with a chance to catch up on reading or watching some of the films shown on Turner Classic. This month, Steve McQueen is the featured star, and as we mentioned last week, it’s always a good time to rev up the DVR and have an Armchair Film Fest with all of his greatest hits. You can never go wrong with Steve McQueen (hardly ever!) Till next week, see you at the movies!-ML

*What does the Future Hold for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Greetings Film Fans! Hope everyone had a happy fourth of July. The films of July are here beginning with Ant Man and the Wasp, which has had some good early reviews and a clever trailer to kick off the super-hero film of the month. Here’s a short clip of some other openings from our July/August list:
Mamma Mia! Here we go again is on July 20th...here we go again… This may not be worth revisiting, but I’m a huge Meryl Streep and Colin Firth fan, and this premise does (not) seem interesting enough to hold our attention….
Mission: Impossible-Fallout on July 27th.… And I ask without snark….will Tom Cruise ever make a film that is anything other than an exercise of gymnastics and stunts? He was a good actor in another life…

Papillon 2018
Papillon is coming at the end of the summer cycle, it’s set for release late in August. This would be hard to beat. The original with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman was a great action-adventure film that was an intense drama and is one of McQueen’s great screen triumphs. Charlie Hunnam (King Arthur) plays the lead, based on the real life story of a Frenchman who is desperate to escape from a life sentence in a French Guiana penal colony.

2001 a Space Odyssey

From 6 Degrees Magazine: Here’s an interesting quote that was unearthed from the late great Stanley Kubrick regarding the very mysterious ending scene in the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick talks of the ending:
Kubrick: “The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film…When they get finished with him, …he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made into some sort of superman (alluding to the star baby.) “We have to only guess what happens when he goes back. It is the pattern of a great deal of mythology, and that is what we were trying to suggest.”

This is fascinating as so much has been written and speculated about regarding the fate of the astronaut and the entire ending sequence. The most important thing I pulled from this was in line with what I’d always heard when people talk of this film. 2001 allows anyone, the average man on the street, an intellectual or a science-fiction fan, to imagine the ending in their own way. We can ‘guess what happens’ when he returns to Earth as the fantasy star child. And the mythology is added to give it a special element of interest. (Much the same is said about the mythology that George Lucas attached to his Star Wars characters to give rise to an entire new mythology!)

At the Movies: The indie film getting a lot of good buzz is Sorry to Bother you. It’s about race and is a satire and send up of the gig economy and was directed by Boots Riley, who is a musician by trade.

Movies about America: The fourth brings out a spate of articles on which films are considered “American.” The essence of what America is can be found in many classic Hollywood films; and it means so many things to many different people, It can only be a subjective idea, and for me, my personal picks would include The Right Stuff; Apollo 13, American Graffiti; An American in Paris, North by Northwest; Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid & The Godfather. One film that is on my list and is showing this month on TCM is On the Waterfront with Brando, and I see this film as essentially American with Brando in the lead role in many ways, it’s a deeper and more pivotal role than Brando’s signature role from A Streetcar Named Desire, and it deals with the idea that anyone can be anything which is the essence of the standard ideal of the American Dream.

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Recommended for Armchair Film Fest: Continuing the theme of great American films, this is a great month for classic American actors with Steve McQueen as the featured actor on Turner Classic. One of my favorite things is to discover and recommend lesser seen films from famous actors where most people recognize them from their more popular work. With McQueen, some of his great performers are in some of his lesser known films. Those films would be The Getaway, Soldier in the Rain, and Nevada Smith, which are seen less than McQueen’s big debut film, The Great Escape. Another film to watch out for starring Steve McQueen is Papillon, which has been remade and will release, as we mentioned above, this August.

Armchair Film Fans to watch for in July on Turner Classic:
• Classic Comedy duos: Turner Classic is showing two of my all time favorite from two great comic teams, Abbott & Costello & Laurel & Hardy. Time of their Lives is a departure for Abbott & Costello in that they didn’t work together on film as they had in the past. The plot called for Lou to be a ghost who haunts the grounds where Abbott is just one of a group of people working to solve a mystery surrounding the death of the two ghosts. And Sons of the Desert is a comic masterpiece that no one who has ever loved Laurel & Hardy should miss.
Steve McQueen Film Festival: Some must-see’s to recommend are Soldier in the Rain, The Sand Pebbles-McQueen’s only Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Bullitt-his greatest performance,  and Papillon, One of the reasons that McQueen was a great actor was the fact that like Gary Cooper in another era, he made it seem effortless. In a time of ‘angst’ where acting studios and method actors produced Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, McQueen was a tough guy who drifted onto the screen and not only oozed charisma and masculine charm from every pore, but also had a kind of vulnerability not seen before in many actors. Like Cooper, he was a natural.
That’s it for now. Have a great week and till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Greetings Film Fans and hope everyone is having a good summer so far. We are approaching the last few days in June, and in the summer movie season there have been some surprises. I had thought the documentaries would be big this summer, and that has proven to be true. They are extending Won’t you be my Neighbor? the Mr. Rogers documentary at our local art house-Tampa Theatre. I would recommend anyone to see it or catch the PBS documentary that proves to be timely in its understanding of the era in which we live.

At the Movies: Sicario, Day of the Soldado is out and is reviewed in 6 Degrees Magazine. Film Comment does an in-depth look at it. The film overall has received some mixed reviews

Other News of Note:  6 Degrees marks the passing of Harlan Ellison, the famous and darkly comic sci-fi writer who died in his sleep at the age of 84. He wrote one of the best original Star Trek episodes of all time, City on the Edge of Forever, as well as the black comedy with Don Johnson, A Boy and his Dog. Ellison also wrote the book about television entitled, The Glass Teat of which I own a dog-eared copy. He also wrote one of my favorite Outer Limits episodes with Robert Culp entitled “Demon with a Glass Hand.” Most of his work has been re-worked and rehashed in recognizable forms in one way or another in today’s CGI Science-fiction era of remakes and sequels. They do say there isn’t anything original under the sun anymore, but in many ways, Harlan Ellison was an original who paved the way for lots of inferior remakes, and a few good spin-offs of his work.

Here’s a list of movies opening in July: Solo was a disappointment to many, but Black Panther did live up to the hype earlier this year. Next up in July is the Ant Man and the Wasp, and the previews look good (Not always the best indicator, we know!). Here’s a list of films through the rest of the summer:

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Mamma Mia! Here we go again is on July 20th…here we go again…
Mission: Impossible-Fallout on July 27th
Christopher Robin opens August 3th- and is a live action version of the well-known children’s story
The Spy Who Dumped Me on August 3rd stars Mila Kunis in an ‘international espionage comedy’
The Meg on August 10th stars Jason Statham in an action version of “Jaws” with a megalodon monster that measures 70 feet
Slender Man is a horror flick debuting August 24th

There’s also a good piece in 6 Degrees Magazine about Rom-Com’s that asks the question: Can this genre be saved? The answer is almost always yes, but the old genres usually come back either rehashed or re-booted in some new chrysalis that has morphed into a recognizable facsimile of the old. A good example is the Western genre and the serial films of the thirties and forties that somehow morphed into a new genre called the Star Wars Cinematic Universe. So in some way, shape or form, the Rom-Com will survive.

Hope everyone has a happy, healthy, and safe Fourth of July holiday! Until then, have fun and see you at the movies!-ML

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

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Greetings Film Fans! Hope your summer is going well. There are a few releases this week in the summer mix, but nothing that jumps off the page in terms of excitement. For those of you who are Armchair Film Followers– don’t forget to record Duck and Cover this weekend on Turner Classic Movies. If you have never seen it, it’s the short film made as a cartoon to inform the population about what to do in case of a nuclear attack. No, I’m not kidding. For those of you who saw the tweet this week of the man posting the kindergarten song “Twinkle, Twinkle little star” re-written with the words of “Lockdown, Lockdown, Lock the Door,” it’s a stark reminder that we haven’t come all that far from the fifties, folks!
Other films you might want to record this week include one of Doris Day’s best called Please Don’t eat the Daisies; a look at a silent comedy master, (one of my favorites)-Harold Lloyd. Some of Lloyd’s shorts are being shown on TCM throughout the month, so check the listings. I recommend Why Worry for Lloyd fans. And for millennials who have never seen Lucille Ball or Desi Arnaz in “I Love Lucy,” they are showing one of the few times they made a feature film together. It’s The Long, Long Trailer and it has some funny bits that make it worth a viewing.
Leslie Howard is the featured actor this month on Turner Classic. He was so much better as an actor than what is usually seen on screen with his nebbish portrayal of Ashley, the man who is Scarlett O’ Hara’s unrequited love interest in Gone with the Wind. Howard is featured this month in The Petrified Forest with Humphrey Bogart and in the original Pygmalion film version adapted from George Bernard Shaw. Howard was the original Henry Higgins, before Rex Harrison dominated the role on Broadway in My Fair Lady. And Leslie Howard also stars in the classic The Scarlet Pimpernel, which isn’t widely shown and is an interesting film as Howard portrays a rather foppish aristocrat who is secretly a spy. It was the original “origin” character before Zorro or Clark Kent and other super heroes adapted the idea of a dual character with a meek side that conceals their heroic natures.
From 6 Degrees Magazine, there are several interesting articles this week. There are two pieces on the debut of Won’t You Be My Neighbor, about Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood fame. Speaking of dual natures, the documentary reveals Rogers as much more than simply the kind hearted and dorky guy who donned a sweater in each episode. Rogers had a message and an agenda to convey, and he was a dynamic activist and advocate for children’s programming in his own right.
Ocean’s 8 premiers this week, and there are several reviews of a decidedly mixed nature on this female heist version of the long-running series. But the one stand-out article recommended is What if Star Wars never happened? Which is a great ‘what if’ for those of us who like to write or just to ponder these variables of life. The entire premise of my book- Six Degrees of Film- tells the story of Hollywood and the arc of the past quarter-century which has been dependent on Star Wars as the culture phenomenon that it was. Star Wars was a leader in CGI and for promotion of special effects in film-which had been a dying art before the first 1976 Star Wars, as well as the arbiter of all things Star Wars found in the known universe. It included the science-fiction realm and the Hollywood Blockbuster business model, complete with the concept of serial films and a plot that was simple enough to appeal to all ages. So that is an interesting concept: What if Star Wars never happened?

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Next week we will have more film recommendations to record classic films shown on TCM. And in the meantime, stay cool and 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.

 

 Avengers Infinity 2018

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.

 

 2001 a Space Odyssey

 

*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