6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Greetings to all movie buffs out there! This week there have been some good movies I’ve heard about, and a few reviews are posted on the Macguffin site. Detroit has good reviews, but is not as uplifting as some might like. Wind River, with Jeremy Renner, garnered some good reviews, but the MacGuffin review wasn’t as gushing. The review ends with: “Wind River is a compelling story, but with Taylor Sheridan’s script, it turned into a crime drama that borders on hokey” So…
Logan Lucky has garnered good reviews. Steven Soderbergh directs this film described as “The Hillbilly Version of Ocean’s Eleven”. The Big Sick, the new version of a Rom-Com, is still out there, and there’s an interview in 6 Degrees magazine this week with the director and the actors from the film.
The Dark Tower has continued to disappoint. But the upcoming Stephen King adaptation, It, has generated some good buzz. Some of the other films playing this month are The Glass Castle and War for the Planet of the Apes.
From the Film Comment site: I’ve often discussed the book and reviews from Mark Harris, who wrote “Pictures at a Revolution” in 2008-about the 1960’s film culture and the changes in our society that were interwoven with the films produced then. This week, one of the funnier ironies is the discussion Harris has, reminding us there was no “Summer Film Season” in those pre-Blockbuster days. And some of the films about youth were made by a 66 year old producer and a 72 year old director.
Some discussions and articles on this front have appeared in the magazine about the anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde. 50 years ago, it was a cutting edge film with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. The counter-culture had really just begun to emerge and this film was the articulation of many a young person’s angst and frustration with the prevailing establishment. The same is true with James Dean’s Rebel without a Cause in the 50’s. These films were then seen as so outside the norm for the at times cookie-cutter productions that passed for films about youth, that they appeared as breaths of fresh air much in the tradition of Juno & The Social Network- to use some recent 21st Century examples. The legacy of Bonnie and Clyde is another good read featured from the rogerebert site.
Speaking of Ebert: Roger Ebert is to be inducted posthumously into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame this weekend, on August 19th. As I’ve stated many times, the fusion that Ebert was able to create between the old world of film criticism and the post tech world of the internet has not been replicated since his passing. But his film website remains one of the best sites to go for reviews of films past and present. Also on Ebert: A review of The Glass Castle and the historical action drama Pilgrimage.
This week in Hollywood: The Best paid actresses list saw Emma Stone knocking off Jennifer Lawrence to become the highest paid leading lady in Hollywood. See the entire list in 6 Degrees magazine. Another headline that could have been posted under: We saw this coming. After AMC has had quite a run as the top dog in the Theatrical film distribution industry, there is a post: “AMC Theaters is not Happy about the new Super Cheap MoviePass Service” Boo-Hoo. There have been lots of blows to the movie industry over the past 100 years, and cinema has had to roll with the punches. But somehow, the moguls and corporate gurus have always found a way to make a buck….Seems likely that will continue! MoviePass is a $10.00 a month service. See the article in Business Insider in our magazine.
An interesting post for the 6 Degrees of Film folk: A post from the Quartz website has listed some movies that may have influenced the Game of Thrones recent dramatic offerings. The films listed? The Lord of the Rings; The Magnificent Seven and The Avengers all seemed to make perfect sense. Out of place: The Mighty Ducks? Well, there is always something known as “Comic Relief”
Finally, in the latest Bond James Bond news, there’s a sigh of collective relief as the stories are rolling out this week that Daniel Craig is indeed returning in the role he has embraced so well.
Coming Soon: Fall and the Fall Movie News: Films like the aforementioned  It from Stephen King, Jennifer Lawrence in Mother, The sequel to Kingsman: The Golden Circle; Battle of the Sexes with Steve Carrell and Emma Stone; American made with Tom Cruise; Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049 (same director as Arrival!); The Foreigner with Jackie Chan; a Bio -pic of Thurgood MarshallMarshall; and Michael Fassbender in The Snowman.
Many more are coming around the bend. Fasten your seat belts, and till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Greetings moviegoers! As I’ve described several times in the past few months, nothing excites readers more than talk of the next James Bond. And the odds are that Daniel Craig is going to be back for the next two outings. That news has been met with some relief and some kerfuffling, because anything good or bad about James Bond movies causes a kerfuffle.
There is a review of Al Gore’s sequel to the Inconvenient Truth movie. It doesn’t really proclaim the film to be good or bad, but simply, as noted by one ardent environmentalist, it’s hard to keep announcing to the media: Well, the climate is still warming! In other words, nothing has changed, and the trends are moving faster than they predicted in the first documentary. So, there’s that.
One review of Atomic Blonde notes the success of John Wick, which may have led to the advent of the Atomic Blonde model. In fact, the prediction was made that without beautiful and photogenic Charlize Theron in the title role, the film would have been a failure. And then there is Wonder Woman. Some had a fit when it was dare suggested (by me) that without the beautiful and statuesque Amazonian model, (Gadot), there is no plot for Wonder Woman.
New Releases: Wind River with Jeremy Renner has been favorably reviewed on the Macguffin film site. Also, Ghost Story with Casey Affleck has gotten good reviews. Both movies are reviewed in 6 Degrees of Film magazine.

Good Idea: If you want to keep a list of good horror flicks for the coming Fall and Halloween season loaded  with plenty of ghouls and dark nights, there’s a nice film site that has some good suggestions. It’s awesomebmovies.com, which is a darn good idea for a film blog site. I’ve always been partial to the good and bad B Movie rolls.
The David Bordwell film site has some books on movies that look really good. The books recommended include: “When Movies were Theater” by William Paul. The book looks at the actual architecture of the old art movie theaters that played a key role in developing an idea of what passes as American Films. “Two Cheers for Hollywood” from writer Joseph McBride runs the gamut with reviews on the Coen Brothers and other iconic filmmakers, as well as interviews with famous filmmakers and screenwriters like George Cukor and Billy Wilder.  “Awake in the Dark” is a book containing the best reviews of Roger Ebert. We still don’t have great film critics that rival Ebert. There are good film critics working today, but film critiques are becoming something of a lost art. This collection provides a roadmap and a glimpse into our own past, as we see what we are missing. The fourth book was mentioned last week: “Color and Empathy: Essays on Two Aspects of Film”, with essays about the treatment of color in silent films as well as 1950’s Hollywood and Experimental films. If you have an interest in cinema beyond the casual Saturday matinee (an outdated term, to be sure!), you will want to read at least one or all of these books to glean some of the defining elements of a classic movie.
There’s a two part review of Dunkirk in 6 Degrees Magazine from the David Bordwell site. Dunkirk is still one of the best films out there at the moment, so it’s worth the read. The reviews for The Dark Tower have revealed it to be mostly a disappointment bordering on a bomb. This from a review in SF Gate: “Though this movie is based on up to eight novels, there’s enough story here for only a very good one-hour, one-off TV drama…Everything that takes place between is filler, and what’s worse…is that it actually feels like filler” Not so good.

Other films, other reviews: The Glass Castle is reviewed on NPR. There’s an interesting piece, also on NPR, that features several reviewers trying to expand on the best works from Stephen King. King is known for horror, but he also wrote The Shawshank Redemption, and some of his essays and work about writing is mandatory for all who know and love the craft of writing.

Sadly, there’s a timely piece from filmschoolrejects.com on Cinema and the Spectacle of Nuclear War…or as they flippantly add: how the movies taught us to stop worrying and love the fire and fury.
The Best Of: Category that includes the work of Dustin Hoffman. Rolling Stone has an article with 20 of his greatest performances. And in that vein, there’s a post in the magazine with the top 20 greatest movie music moments in film.
In general, the predictions are holding true about what has been summarized and speculated upon for weeks. The Summer of 2017 has been the Summer from Hell for Box Office. The industry is reeling, with AMC suffering huge losses. King Arthur started the summer as a big flop, and films like Baywatch predictably tanked. Ticket sales are down 10%. One analyst, speaking of predictable, said the poor box office was attributable to: “the overreliance on sequels catching up to Hollywood. Everyone save for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 disappointed.” Really?

There are other disappointments. Valerian tanked, and the acclaimed Kathryn Bigelow film Detroit has struggled to break even. And this is without mentioning the threat that China brings to the American film industry. There is panic reported across the studio lots.
There are two schools of thought, with some believing that it’s simply a bump, and that by next summer, people will return to the theater for the Star Wars films and other successful franchises and sequels. But this type of magical thinking has never been correct, as the films have evolved from silent to talkies to glamorous Golden Age to the age of television and blockbusters and independents and on and on into the 21st Century. Where it stops, who knows? But the odds are that the film industry is evolving quickly, and it’s safe to bet on change for the foreseeable future. Read the article in Variety on 6 Degrees: “Time to Panic: Inside the Movie Business’ Summer of Hell” In Esquire, this article is also cited with the final analysis being: “It is tempting to think that this summer will teach Hollywood a lesson, but of course it will not” I agree.
The constant evolving nature of film is something that I wrote about in my book, 6 Degrees of Film. And that has continued as we move from one blockbuster season into another with almost no break in between. We are now gearing up for the Fall Film Season with some releases held out for the Holidays and those that are touted for the major Awards, Oscars and the like. So stay tuned. Winter is Coming! See you at the movies-ML

 

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

168816805 FOR 6 DEGREES COVER PHOTO SHOTHappy Fourth of July to all who are going to be celebrating this weekend! 6 Degrees Magazine has some reviews of the big Blockbuster movies out over the holiday weekend.

Critically Speaking: Despicable Me 3 has had mixed reviews, as has the Sofia Coppola remake of The Beguiled with Nicole Kidman. The Netflix film Okja, has garnered some good reviews, as has the action flick Baby Driver with Ansel Elgort and Lily James. The dark comedy about randy nuns, The Little Hours, an adaptation of a 14th century collection of novellas known as “The Decameron”, hasn’t fared well with critics.

Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are starring in The House, a comedy about a suburban couple who start a casino to raise money for their daughter’s college tuition. Wonder Woman is still a dominating force at the box office, and we are seeing some trailers for the upcoming releases…

Trailers are out for the Jumanji remake, as well as Dunkirk, the war drama set for release July 21st. There’s one for Emily Blunt’s  My Little Pony: The Movie with lots of pastel ponies floating around…making a colorful splash. The multi-talented Hugh Jackman is starring in a musical biopic of P. T. Barnum, and the trailer looks promising.

About Bond: One of the things that bring in the most comments of all film articles in the magazine are pieces about the hunt for the new James Bond actor, and the ongoing discussion of some of the greatest portrayals of Bond on film. I must say, it sometimes gets surprisingly intense I’ll have to admit to being a fan of Timothy Dalton’s Bond, which is apparently sacrilegious. The pecking order, as always, begins with Sean Connery, and the most widely accepted list goes from Connery to Moore to Brosnan to Craig, with few giving even passing remarks to Dalton in  The Livng Daylights  and his follow-up (much weaker film) License to Kill.

Coming Soon: Some of the buzz in Hollywood openings is for the new Spider-Man: Homecoming, with Tom Holland in the starring role. War for the Planet of the Apes is continuing the series; and Dunkirk, as mentioned above, will be much anticipated with director Christopher Nolan and starring Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Harry Styles of One Direction fame.

Catherine Deneuve returns to the screen in The Midwife. The Big Sick has been garnering good reviews, being hailed as one of the best rom-coms (romantic comedies) of 2017. The release is set for July 14th. And for something completely different, there’s a documentary about Syria that has been garnering lots of praise tackling one of the tragedies of our modern world, the ongoing war in Syria. The film is called City of Ghosts, and it’s set for release on July 7th.

In Hollywood, there has been some progress made in swelling the ranks of the Academy members to include a more diverse group of judges for the future. 800 new members were issued invitations, but the march of progress is interminably slow.

Due out in July, 6 Degrees has an article about an upcoming book on the noted film critic James Agee. The collected writings of Agee have been compiled by Charles Maland, the film historian. Agee also wrote screenplays, most notably The African Queen and The Night of the Hunter.Agee died in 1955, and many of his Time magazine reviews were compiled in the book, Agee on Film. This book will be a more comprehensive look at his body of work as a film critic from the thirties until his death in the fifties. The book, “James Agee: Complete Film Criticism: Reviews, Essays and Manuscripts” should be an interesting read. Another book on film, ‘Showman of the Screen: Joseph E. Levine and His Revolutions in Film” is also recently released. Levine was a legendary producer and promoter in the 20th Century, producing films as diverse as Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 1956 to The Graduate in 1967. That’s Hollywood for you! Speaking of The Graduate, 6 Degrees features an article on Dustin Hoffman’s greatest performances. The Graduate, his big debut as a major star, can never be overlooked.

Of note: Carl Reiner will appear in a new HBO documentary If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast, with Reiner looking for stories of people who are not just getting by but are thriving in their advanced years. Reiner is funny in everything, so this should be good for some laughs as well as making a statement about how we sometimes tend to overlook people in their Golden Years and what they might still be able to achieve.

One last thought: This is about some of the articles that I have had the privilege of editing and reading to present in the weekly newsletter and in the magazine. Some of the writing leaves much to be desired, particularly when the titles contain grammatical errors and again when some of the titles are contrived to be dubbed “click-worthy”-known as click-bait.
It’s hard to write something off the cuff, and that’s true for bloggers as well as for news writers and opinion writers…all of us who write on deadline on a weekly basis. But one of my personal “beefs” is the ever-present Search Engine rules that are always looking for the correct formula to achieve the approval of the internet overlords, but fail to factor in rational thinking or critical writing.

Many of these stories are passed over by the editor of 6 Degrees on a weekly, if not daily basis. That editor is, of course, myself, and if my own writing doesn’t hold itself up to a higher standard, then I would ask other bloggers and writers to also have some hard and fast rules to follow when writing and reviewing other articles about film and writing in the ever-increasing blogosphere.

If there are interesting stories out there on film, I certainly do want to hear about them and read about them. However, there is no amount of money that will compel me to become beholden to those who are simply looking to exploit certain algorithms or data-driven polls to include the worst of banal claptrap that passes for film criticism or blogging about anything, for that matter.

Having stated all that, I invite everyone to have a wonderful Fourth of July Holiday weekend, having fun at barbeques and picnics on the beach, and of course, at the movies! We will be back next week, with a review of “House” with Will Ferrell. Until then, readers, see you at the movies!

 

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