6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello and welcome to October, Film Fans! This week, 6 Degrees magazine has reviews of the top films at the movies now. A Star is Born has opened to generally good reviews, both for Lady Gaga’s acting and this particular retelling of a story that has been told and retold countless times. The Old Man and the Gun, Robert Redford’s crime caper, has been well received and is reviewed on Ebert.com. Smallfoot, the animated children’s movie, opened to mixed reviews; and Venom was widely anticipated as it features Tom Hardy, an A-list actor. But this movie, so far, seems to have received less than glowing reviews.
Since it’s October, there’s always a run on posts written about horror films, and the biggest horror film debuting in October will be the remake of Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the fold. 6 Degrees has several posts featuring the best horror films of 2018.
And then there are the small screen films in October, including films for the Armchair Film Fest connoisseur. On Turner Classic this month, I was excited to see the 1940 film Night Train to Munich with Rex Harrison in the lineup, as this movie is not widely shown. Hitchcock fans can record The Lady Vanishes and Strangers on a Train, both showing in October. TCM also is showing A Star is Born with Judy Garland from 1954, directed by George Cukor, which received good reviews. Probably all of the “Star is Born” films were received well, with the possible exception of Barbra Streisand’s remake, which seemed to most to be a tad self-indulgent.
Another 6 Degrees classic remake on TCM is The Front Page from 1931, which was remade with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as His Girl Friday in 1940. Both are worth watching, but I always recommend any film that stars Cary Grant. He somehow managed to throw in his real name, Archie Leach, if you can catch it through the fast-paced dialogue in this one.
That’s all for now, friends, so set your VCR’s to record and till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello 6 Degrees Friends: This week we are beginning to look at the films debuting in October. Tom Hardy stars in Venom, and Robert Redford is in The Old Man & the Gun. The movies that have done well the past few weeks at the box office include Crazy Rich Asians and the children’s film starring Jack Black, The House with a Clock in Its Walls.
The films of October were previewed in our Fall Film News. Here’s a look at the movies that will premier next month:

October

*The Great Buster: A Celebration is a documentary film on the life of comedian and silent film star Buster Keaton.

Venom Tom Hardy 2018
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 2018
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.

Until next month, have fun and stay well and we’ll see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Fall Film News

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6 Degrees of Film

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:

September:

 

Lizzie 2018 Film

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 2018 K Knightley

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.

SIsters Brothers 2018 Western

• 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.

Old Man Robert Redford 2018
• 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.

October

*The Great Buster: A Celebration is a documentary film on the life of comedian and silent film star Buster Keaton.

Venom Tom Hardy 2018
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 2018
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.

November

 

Nutcracker 2018

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.

Outlaw King 2018
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
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…?

December

Mary queen of scots 2018

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 2018
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 2018

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 2018

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

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Welcome Film Fans! Check out the 6 Degrees of Film Magazine to read:
The Review round up of: Featured reviews this week include the Murder on the Orient Express review from Variety; Goodbye Christopher Robin is reviewed on SF Gate and The Florida Project has seen excellent reviews
There are two actor Profiles in Film Inquiry; one for Brad Pitt and one for Tom Hardy. Willem Dafoe of The Florida Project is interviewed at the Daily Actor site.
Classic reviews: If you are a fan of Jack Nicholson, there are two of his greatest films reviewed here: The Shining and The Two Jakes. And for Kubrick fans, there’s a review of 2001: A Space Odyssey along with The Shining piece.
A look at the blog posts weekly: After reading through some of the film blogs and looking for interesting items, I can’t help but notice the ads and the distractions on the pages that prevent a “clean read” for the review or the article. That’s why some of these pieces aren’t included. The film sites that are interesting and recommended include: Film Inquiry, Roger Ebert and Film Comment, Indiewire and The MacGuffin; She Blogged by Night and Immortal Ephemera, David Bordwell’s site and Film School Rejects site (great name!). I like the site, A Potpourri of Vestiges written by my friend, Murtaza Khan, but as stated, there are some distracting ads that prevent the site from giving you what I consider a “clean read.” Oh, and of course, 6 Degrees of Film will give you Quarterly Newsletters, weekly readouts for the best film blogs and articles, and coming soon, excerpts from the 2013 book, “Six Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village.”
Coming Soon: The dreaded end of year “Best of” lists for awards, for the best films of the year, the decade, etc…Some of these are helpful and interesting, and as I go through them, some of them are fairly worthless. So we’ll try and cull out some of the best of the best of lists! Stay tuned for the Holiday Film News coming soon from 6 Degrees. Till then, stay classy film fans, and see you at the movies!-ML

Capsule Review: Dunkirk

Dunkirk 2017

As period war films go, this film hits all the right notes. The three stories that are juggled throughout meld together well. It seems most of the action-and we know how this story ends-is played to be heard solely through the mood-inducing soundtrack accompanying the action. The mood of the period piece, the drama inherent in the telling of a compelling story, and all the combined components therein conspire to be in sync with the masterly musical overtures heard throughout the film.

The stories include one depicting a couple of young men struggling to stay alive when faced with the enormity of the situation on the beach at Dunkirk. The second storyline is the Mark Rylance plot, the most compelling of the three. He is a local boatman with a son and his helper who brave the channel when the call comes out for rescue. The third story, which is probably the most disappointing and plebian of all, involves Tom Hardy’s flying spitfire squadron group who are tasked with protecting the evacuation from the sky. The dogfights and the tight shots of Hardy’s face are really the only dramatic plot points carried forward in these unremarkable segments.

The story of ordinary men braving the war is held together by Rylance’s performance, subtle, nuanced and most effective-as was the case in Bridge of Spies which earned him an Oscar nomination. The pop star status of Harry Styles is almost taken to parody, as you see Styles as just one of a vast sea of young men with similar faces all waiting for their fates to be decided in the theater of war. The struggle and the miracle of Dunkirk is only as compelling as the belief that ordinary men can do extraordinary things.

Tom Hardy, so movingly effective in the subtle nuance department ranging from The Drop to his role in Lawless, is here almost obliterated literally with a mask and what amounts to a cameo walk-on as a flyer who is seen in a series of cliched Top Gun-nish style shots from the cockpit. There is one reviewer pointing out that the director deliberately challenged Hardy by covering his features and giving him little to work with, but somehow that doesn’t make a lot of sense when you are watching the film.

The plots for all three stories do sync at some point, with the level of action ebbing and flowing accordingly. Kenneth Branagh is decently served as one of the English commanders who oversees the operation and tries to narrate the action in the finally satisfying denouement that is the culmination of the stories blended together. The point, as mentioned, of the miracle of Dunkirk is only realized if you can convey the scope and breadth of the undertaking that led these small boat owners and ordinary citizens to deliver a victory of sorts to the allies. Although very little time is spent on the actual logistics involved in this operation, the visuals are brought home in stark relief with gloriously monochromatic landscapes that fit the theme.

This film would probably not have worked as well with a lesser director, editor, cinematographer and musical score. That means in the final analysis- the film works well for what it is- a period drama that tells a compelling story with gifted actors, a masterful director, and all the other big-budget elements needed to advance the movie.

It is a moving story in many ways, and has much to lend to the short-range projects we often see projected in lights with CGI, with special effects and with space-age fantasy and plot elements. This is one for the ages-meaning the ages past and those with an appreciation of history. As movie making goes in the modern era, in Christopher Nolan’s case, one might say this was his Finest Hour.

The Revenant: A Capsule Review

The Revenant

Forget about the bear…This film is Jack London on steroids. There are several heart-stopping moments in this tale of survival in its most basic form. Two of our greatest actors are working to make this a believable plot, and that is a stretch at times. The bear attack comes early in the film, and unlike “Saving Private Ryan” where the landing at Normandy is balanced with periods of relative calm, there’s little peace to be found in this unrelenting tale of survival.

The harsh elements and the question of what makes a man have the will to survive when Mother Nature’s harshest elements are working against you is one of the many points that pin this plot together. It is at heart a very simplistic tale of Man vs the Elements and Man vs Man.

But Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio deserve shared praise for their physical performances and nuanced shadings to at times one-dimensional characters. DiCaprio by far has the most physically difficult role playing Glass, the man who is left for dead in the wilderness after being mauled by a Mother bear protecting her cubs.

Hardy has, in a way, a more difficult acting task in his portrayal of a man who, although innately evil, has some elements of humanity that mark him as more than just a cardboard caricature of the “bad guy.” In these roles, there are shadings of Stephen Crane’s questions of survival voiced in “The Open Boat”. What gives our life and our very will to survive meaning? And in some subtler way, there are underpinnings of Conrad’s anti-hero found in “Lord Jim”. What makes a man a hero? And what makes him a coward? And do we have elements of both within each of us, where time and place may combine to make either heroes or cowards of us all?

But in this film, as with Jack London’s portrayals of Man vs. Nature in “The Call of the Wild”, we see some kinship with the elemental nature of what it takes for a human to survive when others would give up hope. There has to be something within a man that furthers the struggle, an inward spark that is seen faintly.

One of the unquestionable stars of the show is the cinematography, where Nature’s unyielding essence is on display throughout most of the movie. This is a long, and slightly drawn-out story of survival and revenge. But although we’ve seen it done before, in Jeremiah Johnson and in some respects, in Apocalypse Now, this is DiCaprio’s signature role and perhaps, the one that brings him a well-deserved Oscar for an impressive career full of stellar performances.