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 HeroSeason. 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 theApes (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; BabyDriver onJune 28th; Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 7th; and another Charlize Theron film The LastFace 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….WillFerrell 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 Flixposts and the latest installments in our 6 Degrees of Filmmagazine 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
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 House–Will 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 FordCoppola 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, Bonnieand 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
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. OnFlipboard, (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 RoughNight 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 TheHouse, 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 SteveCarell 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 dramaDunkirk, 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 HumphreyBogart, 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 openingcredits. 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