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?
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.
• 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
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
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.
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.
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.
*What’s new in 6 Degrees Magazine: This week we have rounded up: Roger Ebert’s collection of Star Wars movie reviews, for those ofyou 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 SpaceOdyssey, 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!
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
Hello Film fans! In this edition of Summer Film News, we are looking at the movies opening in the summer of 2018. From the films we have seen, here’s a list with some that look interesting enough to recommend making a trip to the movies.
At the Movies Now: Avengers: Infinity War has already opened. This one is already setting records…. so we can safely say that this is a hit movie that will do well, as did the two similar films which are in the top ten box office hits of all time.
The Classics: The Seagull with Annette Bening is a remake of Chekhov’s classic play. And an artsy Chekhov film is something you don’t see too often, at least not with A-list stars. This one is billed as a story of ‘unrequited love and artistic jealousy.” Annette Bening is one of only a handful of actresses with enough clout and acting chops to pull this dramatic adaptation off. Brian Dennehy co-stars.
The Baby Boomer Movies: Book Club and Mamma Mia! Here we Go Again; Mission Impossible- Fallout and Life of the Party with Melissa McCarthy, are all baby boomer fanfare. Most of these are films that people of a certain age will gravitate towards.
The Documentaries: Out now is RBG, a documentary about the life of the notorious Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and a documentary on the life of Hedy Lamarr called Bombshell: The HedyLamarr Story. Both are must see films in an era where we are striving to teach our girls about how to be brave and courageous, and to stand up for what we believe in. Coming soon is a doc on Pope Francis; Pope Francis- A Man of his word, from director Wim Wenders, plus an upcoming look at the life of Fred Rogers, the man who was known as Mr Rogers entitled Won’t You be my Neighbor? Rogers life may surprise some who have pigeonholed him as simply the nice man in the sweater who taught kids on public television.
Solo: A Star Wars Story opens May 25th, and is directed by Ron Howard. This is the highly anticipated prequel that is debuting at Cannes Film Festival. Some of the advance previews have gotten good reviews, so it looks promising. It is also an interesting prospect to watch an award-winning director such as Howard, one who is so obvious a fan of the genre and yet isn’t part of the original Star Wars clique, show us with fresh eyes their ‘take’ on this classic tale.
The Remakes and Sequel Season: Ocean’s 8 is out June 8th; this is the female version of the franchise and stars Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts. They will have to convince me the very original poster for this film contains something that has not been done and redone many times over….
• Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens June 22nd
• Sicario: Day of Soldado opens June 29 plus the aforementioned Mamma Mia sequel plus Denzel Washington returns in his sequel offering as The Equalizer 2
Mamma Mia! Here we go again hits theatres 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 starts July 27th…. And I ask without snark….but in the tradition of all good soap opera openings: 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 is coming at the end of the summer cycle, it’s set for release late in August. The original would be hard to beat. The original film from 1973 with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman was a great action-adventure film that was also an intense drama and remains one of McQueen’s great screen triumphs. Charlie Hunnam (King Arthur) plays the lead in the remake. The film is based on the real life story of a Frenchman who is desperate to escape from a life sentence in a French Guiana penal colony.
The Kids Films are Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation and Incredibles 2; plus Teen Titans Go! To the Movies…. I have often said that some of the most innovative work in film is done by Pixar (Incredibles 2) and is found in children’s movies. Therefore, let’s hope the imaginative sparks will fly into main stream films some day!
The Comedies of Summer include the Melissa McCarthy offering called Life of the Party, and Mamma Mia! Here we Go Again, plus Dog Days, opening in August, and a film with Mila Kunis billed as an “International espionage comedy’ also in August, called The Spy Who Dumped Me.
Regarding Life of the Party, I have found that some of McCarthy’s comedies have been hit and miss. Spy was funny but the one with Sandra Bullock- The Heat (2013)- was deadly dull. So who knows?…The story line for this outing has McCarthy going back to school with her daughter. This is one of our 6 Degrees reworks. Rodney Dangerfield, as Thornton Melon, went Back to School back in 1986 and it’s hard to find a comedy to top that particular subject. (Watch it just for the Triple Lindy!)
Dog Days looks light and fairly benign, and the film with Kunis-The SpyWho Dumped Me– could be something different, but we’ll have to wait for some early reviews. Although with SNL’s Kate McKinnon co-starring, this one could be a sleeper hit. Stay tuned
Something Completely Different: Christopher Robin opens August 3th- and is a live action version of the well-known children’s story. This version, with Ewan McGregor, is billed as a fantasy and it could be one of those films where the previews show us one type of film, and we see a completely different version when we get to the theatre. McGregor sums up the plot of the grown up version of Christopher Robin as one where he is ‘finding his relationship with his younger self again.’
The Meg on August 10th stars Jason Statham in an updated action version of Jaws with a megalodon monster that measures 70 feet Ordinarily I would not include this type of rehash, but it seems intriguing enough as they are trying to mesh Jaws with Jurassic Park to create another box office bonanza. Slender Man is a horror flick debuting in August. Horror is big, and many of the most original plots with the best reviews have come out of the horror genre. It and Jordan Peele’s Get Out come to mind. Horror used to be for the bad B set only, and the films in recent years have shown the genre to be making a comeback
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society starring Lily James opens in August in the states, with James playing a writer in 1946 who exchanges letters with German occupied residents of Guernsey during World War II.
This is the end of what we have seen that is coming this summer. And you can start adding to some of those lists we’ve been talking about. I’ve noticed that when you see film reviews and film blog sites, we are always looking at lists. And a few of these lists have films that I may have missed. But most of them seem fairly pedantic and uninspired. I have encouraged everyone to make up, besides the Netflix list you may keep or films that you have missed at the theatre, a running Personal list of films to record and to watch. In the same way we have book lists for those titles you want to read at some later date, these are films which are ‘must see’ for the course of your lifetime and that you don’t want to miss.
From6 Degrees of Film; the Future of Film in the global village, there are several lists, including a list of top 100 films, that can be found in the back of the book. The book has an overview of the history of film, as well as some insights into where we are going with movie making in the twenty-first century.
In the coming months, 6 Degrees and Friday Flix will highlight some excerpts from the book that will apply to the current state of moviemaking in Hollywood. We have been talking about the diversity issues, and the MeToo movement which sprang from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and the forerunner of this, the old Hollywood casting couch cliché where women were notoriously exploited by older, rich, powerful executive men who used young girls and got away with it for over a hundred years.
The Future of Film in the Global Village
Talking about the future of film. I see a lot of art houses showing revivalist work and Film Festivals featuring favorite actors as well as genres and directors. I see the neighborhood movie theatres being converted into multi-use platforms. Some are mega-churches, or meeting venues.
And I see a lot of films being made for the small screen. You can bet there will be more series with six or eight episodes, (Benedict Cumberbatch as Patrick Melrose) to be sold as a feature in a ‘boxed set.’ And hopefully, we can create our own “Armchair FilmFestivals” as we can begin to personalize our smart sets to view and download our favorite films, customized in a digital system for our own personal use. (You can make good use of the ‘must-see’ list of films!)
There are good and bad arguments in seeing our own tastes in cinema displayed before us. Of course, Netflix and Amazon will still be able to suggest films that we like, based on our settings. So that is not going away in the future world of film. But as we get older, our tastes in music and film will change along with everything else. We will see this is an evolving list to grow and to revise through the years.
Critics will perhaps move to categories and genres that encompass older films and films of the past….like the 6 Degrees of film critic! The inevitable comparisons in film styles and categories will make it necessary, after seeing many films with similar plots and story lines, to have film guides for the styles and genres of the past that reemerge in different formats.
And we will always have Paris. What do I mean by that? I don’t know, but it always sounds good, and I recommend every film goer to watch Casablanca at least once in your lifetime.
Speaking of Casablanca, here’s a line up of some films for Millennials to watch and record…
• Bogart Film Fest: Some of his best work is seen this month on TCM, including the aforementioned Casablanca and a less well known but equally entertaining film, Across the Pacific.
• The Thin Man Series: Coming on TCM this month, the original was one of the “Screwball Comedies” that Hollywood churned out during the depression era thirties. The witty repartee and the film chemistry between William Powell and Myrna Loy make these light comedies classic and timeless. Highly recommended as part of anyone’s must-see film series, and part of the Armchair Film Fest to record this month.
* The Great Escape with Steve McQueen. One of my favorite lines about the actor was from a critic who said, “He could act with only the back of his head on screen’ By that, I think the critic meant that Steve McQueen was a natural, and that he didn’t have to reach for anything. One of his early successes was in this film from 1963 featuring a great ensemble cast about a real-life prison break from a prisoner of war camp in Nazi Germany.
• The Lion in Winter: In contrast to the coolest of cool actors, here are two that blew hot most of the time: Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn. They worked together in the film adaptation of the play; “The Lion in Winter.” The wonderful thing about this story is that it really is part of our historical record. There was a Henry II who ruled England with his powerfully political wife, Eleanor of Acquitaine. And he really did lock her up after she rebelled against him with their oldest son, Richard the Lionhearted. And he did trot her out only for royal events such as Christmas holidays. And that is where the story picks up, with Eleanor coming home for the holidays. The playwright took the challenge of “What if…?” and wrote this funny, bizarre and poignant script which results in a bonanza of emotional scenes for great actors. This is a clever and moving film at times, and there really are no two better actors to play these over the top characters than Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn. They worked well together but were only on screen as a duo in this one film, (By the way, Hepburn’s nickname for O’Toole in real life was “Pig.”)
• Capracorn: This is the name given to all of the work of Frank Capra, who is somewhat unfairly labeled with the title of schmaltzy director of heart-tugging films. He did indulge in this tugging of heartstrings at times, as did many, (Spielberg is guilty of this too). But Capra’s films are classics, and some of them are seen less than the one shown almost on a loop at Christmas time, Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. Before Jimmy Stewart became George Bailey, he starred in You can’t take itwith you with his acting partner from It’s a Wonderful life– Lionel Barrymore. Barrymore was a member of one of the first of Hollywood elite acting dynasties, the Barrymore Family. John, Ethel and Lionel were all consummate actors of stage and screen, and they would be the first ones to tell people how good they were.
• Barrymore portrays a laid-back character in this film, a complete turn-around from his mean Mr. Potter role in the Christmas classic. You Can’t Take it with you is also based on a Pulitzer prize winning play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The theme centers around the idea that we need to stop worrying about tomorrow, about making money, and concentrate on the things that matter and on what makes us happy. This was apparently a problem even when we supposedly lived in a much slower paced society. But this film came out during the Depression, (1938), and the themes of working for what really matters and looking for more in life than just getting ahead and making money were already huge issues for middle class America
I could go on about films for a long, long time. This will have to be the end of the Summer Film News and we hope you are as excited to see some of these films, on the big screen and the small one, as we have been in compiling the list and writing about them. Till next week, have fun, get those must-see lists of movies going, and see you at the movies!-ML