The Fall Film Newsletter is here! Predictably, there are the expected comic book heroes, Aquaman and the anti-hero Venom, there are the historical films about Mary Queen of Scots, Lizzie Borden, Robert the Bruce and astronaut Neil Armstrong; we preview sequels and serial films including a new Halloween, the Fantastic Beasts, and even a new version of the Nutcracker in time for the holidays. Check out this list of films highlighted for the Fall Film Season:
• Lizzie with Chloe Sevigny is the adaptation of the true story of the accused axe murderess Lizzie Borden. This film is described as a ‘speculative lesbian love story’ that is spun to explain the real-life murders of which Borden was accused in 1892.
• Colette with Keira Knightley is a period piece that follows the writer Colette from her youth through marriage and touches on her private life that included numerous affairs with women.
• The House with a Clock in its Walls featuring Cate Blanchett and Jack Black in this fantasy adapted from John Bellairs’ book about an orphan who, with his uncle, explores a magical manor that holds a mystical clock.
• The Sisters Brothers is a Western with John C Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix cast as the two brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters. The film is an adaptation of a novel about the Sisters Brothers, contract killers who worked at the height of the Gold Rush in the 1850’s.
• Robert Redford is starring in what he has announced will be his last film: The Old Man & the Gun; a movie billed as a mix of ‘drama, comedy and romance’ and is loosely based on the true story of a career criminal, Forrest Tucker. Redford says of Tucker: “He robbed 17 banks, and he got caught 17 times. But he also escaped 17 times.”
• Smallfoot is a children’s animated film starring Channing Tatum. It’s about an abominable bigfoot who discovers proof there are humans-A.K.A…Smallfoots.
*The Great Buster: A Celebration is a documentary film on the life of comedian and silent film star Buster Keaton.
Venom stars Tom Hardy in the comic book genre tale about a journalist (Hardy) who finds that his body is invaded by an alien-Venom. The two become one as anti-heroes with journalist Eddie (Hardy) still managing to investigate stories. Hardy says: “They bring out the very best and the very worst in each other.”
The Happy Prince starring Rupert Everett depicts the life of famed writer Oscar Wilde. Everett wrote, directed and stars in this film about the final years of the writer’s life in exile, and begins with Wilde’s spiral downward after being imprisoned for ‘gross indecency’; depicting Wilde battling Victorian conventions as a homosexual who shocked the existing norms of the day.
Apostle with Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame, is another period film, set in 1905, with Stevens attempting to save his kidnapped sister from a mysterious religious cult led by a charismatic leader.
First Man is the bio-pic story of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, as portrayed by Ryan Gosling.. The film goes for authenticity for the times in which it was made. Director Damien Chazelle, reteaming with Gosling after La La Land, said First Man was made to feel like a documentary, “just like we’re a fly on the wall grabbing moments in these families’ households.”
Halloween returns in a new sequel to the original starring Jamie Lee Curtis. The film has Curtis reprising her role of Laurie Strode and is billed as a direct sequel to the 1978 movie, with the interesting concept of simply ignoring the scores of films that have been made previously in this franchise-shades of Dallas! The plot has Curtis as a woman on a mission, having waited four decades to track down and end the menace of masked killer Michael Myers.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is another offering in a series of films that tell the classic story of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, who based his famous ballet on an 1816 story by E.T.A Hoffman. The fantasy film is a big-budget number, with designs and sets that adhered to ‘a strict historical cutoff from the year 1879”.
Benedict Cumberbatch will put up his Sherlock Holmes cap to play another classic character, the Grinch, in Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch.
The Outlaw King is a period piece about Robert the Bruce, the legendary Scottish king who united his people in their fight for independence from British rule. Chris Pine stars as King Robert.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is in the Harry Potter sub sequel of a prequel category, introducing fans to a new cast of adorable characters from the Wizarding World. In this film, we meet baby Nifflers, a Kelpie (a Scottish underwater monster) and a Leucrotta-described as a large, moose-like creature.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is another children’s film with some grown up proclivities, including the star John C Reilly who is also breaking the internet with multiple films out this year. This film is the sequel to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph from Disney, where arcade heroes Ralph (With Reilly’s voice), and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), go on the internet in search of a replacement game part and adventures ensue accordingly.
Robin Hood returns to the screen with Taron Egerton starring as the overworked man of the forest in this action adventure film that someone must have clamored for…?
Mary Queen of Scots is yet another period piece with Saoirse Ronan (of Brooklyn and Lady Bird fame) starring as the doomed queen. This film is based on a 2004 biography of Mary by John Guy. Historically, the famous Queen of Scots and the Virgin Queen Elizabeth never met, but there are several noteworthy plays and films that have these two women interacting and emoting together. Margot Robbie co-stars as Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen of England.
Mary Poppins Returns in an original story, not a remake of the original, with Emily Blunt playing that Poppins woman. This film is set 25 years after the initial action in the Banks’ family home, and a tragic death leaves Jane, Michael, and Michael’s three children adrift. Enter Poppins.
Aquaman debuts with Jason Momoa as the king of the sea. The film is directed by James Wan, and centers around Aquaman’s quest to regain the Trident of Neptune and battle Aquaman’s menacing brother, King Orm (played by Patrick Wilson.)
Holmes & Watson is a comic offering of the familiar Sherlock Holmes story with Will Ferrell as Holmes and his ubiquitous sidekick John C Reilly starring as Watson in this comic rendering of the classic story.
There are a few other films of note that include Bumblebee (Hailee Steinfeld); Green Book (Viggo Mortenson); The Girl in the Spider’s Web with Claire Foy; Johnny English Strikes Again with Rowan Atkinson; The Ballad of Buster Scruggs with Tim Blake Nelson and The Other Side of the Wind, a documentary on the unfinished work of Orson Welles
One never knows when reviewing all the myriad number of choices that Hollywood lays before us as critics. There seem to be a smattering of superhero dusted with old familiar story tropes sprinkled with a light layer of sequels and old favorites thrown in for good measure. The originality is often found in children’s films, as I’ve noted for several years. The Harry Potter themed movies always do well, with the imagination of CGI and set designers running wild. The Nutcracker film may be another Fantasia type experience, we shall see. I’m hoping that the Mary Poppins film puts a nice spin on the original, which was so clever and cutting-edge when it was released in the early 60’s. So, too, the idea of the superhero genre, with the acting chops of Tom Hardy, may add another layer in the rather tired superhero film mold. Stay tuned!
We seem to be coming out on the other side of the #MeToo era with a renewed interest in women filmmakers and screenplays and stories told from the female perspective. Let’s just hope that this too doesn’t become overused in the predictable fashion of Hollywood and their method of overkill in all things. The idea of a “Taken” style film with Jennifer Garner(Peppermint) as the vigilante pursuing the bad guys admittedly made me wince. It’s so predictictable and so “YOU” Hollywood!?
As noted, stay tuned, film fans. We shall see which films are the big breakout classics of 2018. The summer has given us a big hit with Mission Impossible times …..100 Plus?! So one never knows, but it seems what’s old is new again- again, in Hollywood. Till next time, stay classy and see you at the movies!-ML
Hello there Film Fans: This week we are gearing up for the Fall Film Newsletter coming soon. The films coming out this fall total well over 100, there were about 126 on the intial list, and there are about 22 that made the cut for our final list. There seems to be a nice mix of historical drama and some original storylines mixed with the usual suspects of remakes and superhero sequels. Stay tuned!
Some very good buzz surround the new film Crazy Rich Asians, for what is described as a charming and original romantic comedy. And don’t miss the video clip in 6 Degrees Magazine that shows the late, great Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin in her one iconic film role, singing RESPECT in The Blues Brothers.
Last week, we heard that Robert Redford was set to retire from acting after his next film. The Old Man & the Gun, out this fall. And that last film is the good news for all of us diehard Redford fans. Redford, like Brad Pitt and Paul Newman, had been categorized as just another pretty face, although his face has been weathered and lined for many years now. The appeal of Robert Redford has long been his steady and deliberate gaze, ‘the male gaze’ as opposed to the much vaunted FEMALE gaze that has been studied for years by film critics. Redford could open comedies and dramas, and was not just a romantic lead, but one who carried some of the best action thrillers as well as Westerns. In short, he has been a versatile lead for decades, with various credits in small parts, after getting his start in television in the early sixties.
Redford was also in one of the greatest Westerns with the greatest screenplay of all time, one that tops most critics top ten lists, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. For all who may not be familiar with some of his lesser known work, here’s a list of some of his best films. As most regular readers know, I tend to give more space to the films and performances that may have gone ‘under the radar’, and for that reason, movies like All the President’s Men and The Way we Were are not on this list.
*Barefoot in the Park with Jane Fonda was “pre-Sundance” before Redford became a big star. He is funny and charming in this Neil Simon play turned into a movie, and the two leads are so energetic and enthusiastic with the light comic fare, it makes the film watchable.
The Electric Horseman: Redford teamed up with Jane Fonda many years later, and though the plot is forgettable, the two lead actors have some chemistry together, and the film holds up fairly well.
This Property is Condemned is a knock-off of the Tennessee Williams-esque type melodramas that were popular in the fifties and sixties. But the pairing of Natalie Wood with Redford, the direction of Sydney Pollack, and the supporting cast that included a young Charles Bronson, Robert Blake, and an unusually effective performance from Mary Badham, who was the memorable child lead in To Kill a Mockingbird, makes this film worth watching.
Jeremiah Johnson, is one of the first, before There Will be Blood or the recent horror film A Quiet Place that makes maximum use of silence as a major part of the entire performance. Redford is almost as mum as Clint Eastwood in a Spaghetti Western, but this film is a cut above the B-movie fare that launched Eastwood to fame.
The Natural is taken from the 1952 book about baseball by Bernard Malamud, and also has some notable performances by a supporting cast that includes Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, and an older but wiser version of Robert Redford.
The Sting is a wonderful blend of nostalgia and a light and effectively fast paced heist movie with a great musical score from Marvin Hamlisch, direction by George Roy Hill and this film also used a large and talented cast, including one of the most memorable best supporting roles ever seen from Robert Shaw.
Brubaker, made in 1980, was a cut above most of the Cagney-esque type prison films of the thirties. Almost all of Redford’s films have been bolstered by great supporting casts, and in this case, there is a memorable supporting role from Yaphet Kotto, one of the inmates in the prison that Brubaker runs who helps him expose scandal and abuse within the prison.
A Bridge Too Far was a film that didn’t fare well at its debut on the big screen. It had too many sub-plots and it bombed badly at the box office. But on the small screen, I would recommend two stand-out performances: one is from James Caan as a soldier who is determined to save his commanding officer on the battlefield, to the point of holding a superior officer, a doctor, at gunpoint in the perfect illustration of the phrase: “Desperate times call for desperate measures.’
The other standout performance was from Redford himself, in a highly publicized bit part where Redford took home millions to play a soldier who is part of the desperate and ill-advised assault on the German bridge in World War II.
The other performance that I would recommend on the small screen is the part of Mr. Death that Robert Redford played in a classic Twilight Zone episode “Nothing in the Dark“, which debuted long before he became a household name. These are just a small slice of the many memorable performances in an illustrious career, but they highlight and emphasize the reason why Redford has endured for decades as an iconic figure in the history of Hollywood.
Hope everyone has a great week, with lots of movies lined up as we head into fall. Till next time, have fun and see you at the movies!
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of the greatest westerns of all time, and it was made at a time when westerns were definitely on the decline. This is actually a funny movie. Most of the film is a comedy, with Paul Newman delivering one of the best comic performances of his career as the amiable outlaw Butch Cassidy. Robert Redford’s breakout performance as the Sundance Kid, plus the very real onscreen chemistry of the two leads, resulted in a generation of “buddy” films where two guys were paired together in various action roles.
But the unexpected bonus of this classic is the masterful direction by George Roy Hill. He had a flawless script by William Goldman, and two A-list actors to work with, but the film could easily have been forgettable in a less talented directors’ hands. Hill used a classic old-time musical score, arranged by composer Burt Bacharach, which permeated the entire film with an essence of nostalgia for a time long past. And his ability to weave the storyline through various scenes of the gorgeous Old West landscape interwoven with tight close ups of the gorgeous actors and their often hilarious dialogue was pure genius.
In my book, 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village, I wrote of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”:
“Considered by many Hollywood insiders to be the best screenplay ever written, this film originally included some scenes that were reportedly scrubbed because Paul Newman couldn’t say the lines without laughing. Yet this is a poignant film at times that focuses on two real-life outlaws on the run for their crimes. The parts we remember most vividly are those that give the movie the aura of a “buddy” picture, than an action-adventure comedy, and finally a western very much of the sixties.
Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid airs Sunday, January 17th & Wednesday, January 20th. The film is playing at select theatres in collaboration with Turner Classic Movies.