6 Degrees Summer Film Newsletter

6 Degrees of Film
6 Degrees of Film

Where does the time go? It’s already Summer and the list of summer films has been rolled out for the past month. Are there any good ones out there? Here are a few that caught my eye…

Last Days in the Desert: Ewan McGregor is Jesus & the Devil in this version of Christ’s 40 days in the Desert.

The Lobster made some noise at Film festivals: An absurdist comedy about single people given 45 days to find a mate-or else they will be turned into an animal.

Coming In June:

Genius 2016

Genius: Jude Law plays Thomas Wolfe, with Colin Firth as his editor.

Free state of jones

Free State of Jones: Matthew McConaughey stars in the true story of the Mississippi farmer, and ardent abolitionist who leads an uprising against the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Coming in July:

Tarzan 2016

The Legend of Tarzan: Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) has married Jane and moved to England to take up the duties and entitlements due him as Lord Greystoke. But he’s lured back to the jungle and the plot thickens.

Star Trek Beyond is released on July 22nd, with Idris Elba as the villain Krall, and Chris Pine back as the durable James T Kirk.


FLo jenkins streep

Florence Foster Jenkins: Meryl Streep returns to the screen in the very intriguing (at least on paper) true tale of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York socialite who wanted desperately to be an opera singer, minus small details such as talent and pitch.

Cafe soc 2016

Café Society: Woody Allen directs Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in a romantic comedy set in 1930’s Hollywood.

The Founder: Michael Keaton stars as the McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc in this story about the early years in the fifties where he began to amass his empire.

Ben Hur 2016

Ben-Hur returns to the screen with Jack Huston in the title role of the Jewish prince who is condemned to slavery and culminates in a deadly chariot race.

War Dogs is the true story of two amateur arms-dealers who talk their way into a deal to equip the Afghan military with weapons. Starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as the two intrepid war dogs.

6degreesLogogif (2)

I have written many times about the lamentations of critics with endless remakes. However, just as in theatre where the play’s the thing, so it is with film, where the story, a good story, is the thing that matters. So if there is an interesting story, there just may be a good film lurking underneath.

It depends on the director, the cast, the screenwriter, the film editor, and sometimes more obscure things such as timing and marketing and distribution, but of late, it’s been hit or miss when I see big screen summer movies premiere. There really is no there there.

This batch looks rather promising. Woody Allen directs a comedy, Meryl Streep and Michael Keaton and Matthew McConaughey all headline interesting stories. And we haven’t seen as many Ben-Hur’s as Batman’s in the past few decades. Tarzan has had a slight rest.

It’s nice to see some films without CGI leading the way with flying costumed men and an apocalyptic background with huge monsters or truck monsters looming large against a sea of flying saucers. You get the drift. There really isn’t too much that is new under the sun, so if you have a half-way decent story and a great cast and crew, then you might have a little gem of a movie hit. That’s the only reason to keep me, or any of us, going back to the movies.

6 Degrees: Summer Newsletter

maggie gyllenhall

Women in Hollywood: Sexism & Age Discrimination. Now there’s Maggie Gylenhall to add to the list of women speaking out about some of the unfair and discriminatory practices Hollywood has been engaged in for decades. In her case, she was told that at age 37, she was too old to be the love interest for a 55 year old man!

angelina jolie


Top 10 Highest Paid Actresses: No big surprises, but some small ones. I would have thought Scarlett Johannsen or Drew Barrymore would be on this list. Maybe Kate Hudson? Other than that, it’s fairly predictable. Some of the older females, all still relatively young mind you, but not by Hollywood standards!

1. Angelina Jolie
2. Jennifer Lawrence
3. Kristen Stewart
4. Jennifer Aniston
5. Emma Stone
6. Charlize Theron
7. Sandra Bullock
8. Natalie Portman
9. Mila Kunis
10. Julia Roberts

Selma 2

Top 10 Spiritual Films-2014 from Dr. Edward McNulty
1. Selma
2. Calvary
3. Ida
4. Cesar Chavez
5. The Good Lie
6. The theory of everything
7. The Railway Man
8. St Vincent
9. Unbroken
10. Son of God

Another film list that caught my eye was a list of Spiritual Films of 2014. The list found in Presbyterian Today includes some of my favorite films from last year. Selma, St. Vincent, Calvary, Cesar Chavez, The Theory of Everything, Unbroken, Ida & The Railway Man are some of the films on the list.
I would add The Drop, with Tom Hardy and the late James Garolfini., plus The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch. These are films that had meaningful messages and all featured characters who, at their core, had some spiritual depth and beliefs that made these films resonate.
There should be some point to reviewing films other than relating the obvious such as whether you recommend it to others. If movies are simply mass entertainment, then word-of-mouth or box office results should be enough to send people to see them. But some films have, at their core, a statement to make or a deeper meaning which is meant to be conveyed to the viewing audience. And in this day and age, it’s becoming harder and harder to find the films with deeper meanings and values.
It’s pointless to reach the end of a year and simply decide, based on box office or one or two critics opinions, which films have staying power. Of course, the reason for award shows like the Oscars or Cannes is to bring to light many obscure and fine works of art. But sometimes that’s not enough.
Many of the films lauded by Hollywood don’t really leave lasting impressions. They may simply reflect a mood of a particular time or era. And there are other films that do leave lasting impressions. Over the past decade in film, the films that have lasting power are few and far between.

Next month I’m featuring a list of films from the past decade that have some kind of lasting impact in our culture. Here’s a list of upcoming Summer Films.

Coming in June


June 5th: Spy with Melissa McCarthy: Hopefully funnier than some of her latest outings. McCarthy is a talented comedienne with a deft touch given the right material. She was wonderful in St Vincent with Bill Murray.

Entourage: The hit series with Jeremy Piven comes to the big screen.

Jurassic World

June 12th: Jurassic World-Coming again to a theatre near you! Jurassic World takes off from the end of the first outing. Jurassic Park is one of the films listed in the top 100 Highest Grossing Films list. Hence, the inevitable rework!


Inside out

Inside Out: Pixar’s latest offering. As I’ve said many times, some of the most imaginative and creative work in films is done by Pixar. The film is about five emotions-Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear & Sadness-that exist in the mind of a young girl.

A little chaos

June 19th: A Little Chaos has received mixed reviews. The plot revolves around Kate Winslet as one of the gardeners who helped design the gardens of Versailles  during the reign of King Louis XIV.

Max dog movie 2015

June 26th: Max-This one is not Mad. This is about a service dog from the war and is billed as an ” American family adventure film.” Max is a service dog who must help the family of his fallen handler heal as they recover from his loss.

Coming in July

Terminator Genisys-Another outing with the Terminator. Arnold Schwarzenegger is starring and this one is billed as ” a sequel and a reboot’ of the series. After reading the synopsis, suffice it to say that John and Sarah Connor will try to unravel the time travel screw ups that occur as the writers struggle to make sense of it all.

Mr Holmes

July 10: Mr. Holmes-has received critical acclaim. Ian McKellen stars as an aging Sherlock Holmes.

Ant man

Ant-Man-The ever affable Paul Rudd stars as the super-hero Ant-Man. The plot surrounds Rudd as con-man Scott Lang, who has the ability to shrink and gain astonishing strength when wearing the incredible super-suit.

Irrational man

July 17: Irrational Man-Woody Allen directs Emma Stone and Joacquin Phoenix in this film that debuted at Cannes. Billed as a “mystery drama”, the plot revolves around Phoenix as a college philosophy professor who is experiencing an existential crisis, but finds meaning to his life when he begins a new relationship with one of his students, played by Emma Stone.

Pan 2015

July 24: Pan-Another tale of Peter Pan, this is the background story for the traditional tale of Peter and his journey to Neverland.  Hugh Jackman stars as Blackbeard and Rooney Mara is cast as Tiger Lily.

Vacation 2015

July 29: Vacation-The remake of the original Vacation, this one stars Ed Helms with a cameo from Chevy Chase. Rusty Griswold (Helms) decides to re-connect with his family and take them to see “Wally World”, the mythical theme park that is soon to be closed.


RIcki and teh flash

Ricki and the Flash-This is one of those Fem Flicks. Meryl Streep stars and Jonathon Demme directs in this musical comedy/drama. Streep plays a musician who “gave up everything” for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom. Now she is returning to her home to try and make peace with her family.

Opening in August

Man from uncle

August 7: The Man from U.N. C. L. E.- This looks promising, although it is recycled material from the hit series from the sixties. The characters are set in the 1960’s again, as CIA agent Napoleon Solo works with KGB operative Illya Kuryakin to foil a mysterious criminal organization working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

Straight out compton

Straight Outta Compton-This also shows promise to be a timely entry with a story about the hip-hop group NWA as they emerge from Compton, California in the mid-eighties and change the music industry and pop culture forever with their unique brand of music and tales from life in the hood.


Masterminds-Something on the lighter side, with Kristen Wiig and Zach Galifianakis starring in this comedy based on a true story of one of the biggest bank heists in American history.  Kristen Wiig is another talented comedienne who suffers when she’s not given the right script. Hopefully, this one will hit the high notes. Owen Wilson and fellow SNL veteran Jason Sudeikis also star.

Other films of note opening this summer are:  Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise  and  another Fantastic Four remake.


black mass

September 2: Black Mass with Johnny Depp starring as gangster Whitey Bulger. Depp has been getting rave reviews for his portrayal of Bulger.

Magic in the Moonlight-Capsule Review

Magic in moonlight pix 2014Magic in the Moonlight is Woody Allen’s newest film. His choice of leading man, Colin Firth, is an inspired one. Firth’s ability to channel the cynicism and power of the rant that Allen perfected is shown in the opening sequence. But the film is paced rather too slowly, and it seems to fizzle in the second half. However the cinematography is gorgeous, with scenes from the South of France and Provence region overtaking most of the thin gruel of a plot.
Allen has been fascinated with magic in film in some of his more successful screenplays-Shadows & Fog comes to mind. In Magic, the central plot deals with a magician attempting to defraud and expose a medium. The idea that a character, Colin Firth’s magician, is attempting to expose this young medium, played by Emma Stone, is not enough to carry the 100-minute film. In the past, Allen has used various sub-plots in the same way that Shakespeare would weave his complex plots together to create artistic masterpieces. The interest of the main characters was always supported by the props of colorful characters surrounding even the thinnest of plots. In this case, the action is carried by the one story line of the medium and Firth’s attempt to expose her.
The sets and characters are gorgeously presented, and like a banquet laid out before us, we expect to dine on one of Woody Allen’s classic comedies. In this case, to those of us who have followed his career, it’s painfully obvious that Woody Allen’s bag of cinematic tricks is definitely on the decline. This is not his best work, yet there are some glimpses of his former glory within the film. Firth’s Aunt Vanessa, played by Eileen Atkins, is one delightful surprise.
Go and see Magic in the Moonlight only if you love Woody Allen comedies. Or better still, rent Shadows & Fog to see Allen working at the top of his game