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

Capsule Review: Ben-Hur-Rated JPB for Just Plain Boring

Ben Hur 2016

This film is Rated JPB = Just Plain Boring. How could it be this boring, I wondered? The plot of Ben Hur was well-known, and the actors were for the most part, unknowns-it turns out for good reason. The one known actor, Morgan Freeman, did the walk-through of his life to pick up a paycheck. He put more emotion into the commercials I’ve seen him in than what was on display in this film.

The story line leads Judah Ben-Hur to a slave galley and then back to his hometown of Jerusalem, where he miraculously feels compelled to produce this special sword which was given to him by his nemesis, Messala, who is also his adopted brother. The problem with this is that Judah has been a slave for the past five years, with no sign of that sword tucked away. One cannot help but wonder if these small details escaped the notice of the writers and producers of this production?

The problem, I would put forth, is mostly with the shoddy writing. But it doesn’t stop there. Not only is the screenplay badly written, but the film is also sloppily edited and poorly acted to boot. Even the CGI (Computer Graphic Imaging) and Special Effects during the Climactic Chariot Race come across as looking stilted and phony.

In short, give this updated version of Ben-Hur a miss and rent the fifties classic with Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd. That one may be corny but it’s imminently more watchable than this boring thing.

6 Degrees Summer Film Newsletter

6 Degrees of Film
6 Degrees of Film

Where does the time go? It’s already Summer and the list of summer films has been rolled out for the past month. Are there any good ones out there? Here are a few that caught my eye…

Last Days in the Desert: Ewan McGregor is Jesus & the Devil in this version of Christ’s 40 days in the Desert.

The Lobster made some noise at Film festivals: An absurdist comedy about single people given 45 days to find a mate-or else they will be turned into an animal.

Coming In June:

Genius 2016

Genius: Jude Law plays Thomas Wolfe, with Colin Firth as his editor.

Free state of jones

Free State of Jones: Matthew McConaughey stars in the true story of the Mississippi farmer, and ardent abolitionist who leads an uprising against the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Coming in July:

Tarzan 2016

The Legend of Tarzan: Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) has married Jane and moved to England to take up the duties and entitlements due him as Lord Greystoke. But he’s lured back to the jungle and the plot thickens.

Star Trek Beyond is released on July 22nd, with Idris Elba as the villain Krall, and Chris Pine back as the durable James T Kirk.


FLo jenkins streep

Florence Foster Jenkins: Meryl Streep returns to the screen in the very intriguing (at least on paper) true tale of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York socialite who wanted desperately to be an opera singer, minus small details such as talent and pitch.

Cafe soc 2016

Café Society: Woody Allen directs Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in a romantic comedy set in 1930’s Hollywood.

The Founder: Michael Keaton stars as the McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc in this story about the early years in the fifties where he began to amass his empire.

Ben Hur 2016

Ben-Hur returns to the screen with Jack Huston in the title role of the Jewish prince who is condemned to slavery and culminates in a deadly chariot race.

War Dogs is the true story of two amateur arms-dealers who talk their way into a deal to equip the Afghan military with weapons. Starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as the two intrepid war dogs.

6degreesLogogif (2)

I have written many times about the lamentations of critics with endless remakes. However, just as in theatre where the play’s the thing, so it is with film, where the story, a good story, is the thing that matters. So if there is an interesting story, there just may be a good film lurking underneath.

It depends on the director, the cast, the screenwriter, the film editor, and sometimes more obscure things such as timing and marketing and distribution, but of late, it’s been hit or miss when I see big screen summer movies premiere. There really is no there there.

This batch looks rather promising. Woody Allen directs a comedy, Meryl Streep and Michael Keaton and Matthew McConaughey all headline interesting stories. And we haven’t seen as many Ben-Hur’s as Batman’s in the past few decades. Tarzan has had a slight rest.

It’s nice to see some films without CGI leading the way with flying costumed men and an apocalyptic background with huge monsters or truck monsters looming large against a sea of flying saucers. You get the drift. There really isn’t too much that is new under the sun, so if you have a half-way decent story and a great cast and crew, then you might have a little gem of a movie hit. That’s the only reason to keep me, or any of us, going back to the movies.