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Wednesday - December 1, 2021

Articles Written By TimBrennan

 

Entitled

November 30th, 2021

How do you pick the movie you’re going to watch? Some viewers are well-versed in cinema, and when they step up to the ticket booth, they will declare in a clear and confident tone, “One for Fast and the Furious 14: The Spawning, please,” thereby earning the admiration of their peers. My wife and I undergo a complicated dance, not unlike a hostage negotiation. A few dozen titles will be proposed, rejected, re-examined, and eventually, a winner staggers out of the carnage, just in time for us to look at each other and say, “Is it too late to even watch a movie?” It all depends on a desire... Read More

Crossing The Streams

November 23rd, 2021

Ghostbusters shouldn’t have worked. To be sure, it’s become a beloved film, but it’s a beloved film almost in spite of itself. Dan Aykroyd’s original script was reportedly several hundred pages, involving pandimensional travel and bonkers science fiction concepts. Had it been shot, it would have cost over $200 million — in 1980s money. Ivan Reitman got involved next, convincing Aykroyd that a rewrite was necessary and that the script required a more grounded approach. The plan was for Aykroyd to star alongside John Belushi and Eddie Murphy, and as the director of Meatballs and Stripes,... Read More

Supergods

November 15th, 2021

According to the official count by Marvel Studios and Disney, there are more than eight thousand characters in the Marvel Universe. This number doesn’t necessarily count supporting characters and one-offs. If it did, we’d be somewhere in the neighborhood of over seventy-two thousand. With numbers like that, it only makes sense that most characters will remain somewhat anonymous. The general public hasn’t the foggiest idea who Jack of Hearts or Dr. Druid happens to be. Not every Marvel character is destined to be an icon, and even when the best is in the business of creation, sometimes their... Read More

The Discreet Charm of the Undead

November 8th, 2021

Do you know how much a billion dollars is? I mean, it’s a staggeringly large number, so much so that even when the term is tossed around willy-nilly, most of us don’t understand the enormity of it. Seconds of research taught me that a billion is a thousand million. To think of it in physical terms, one million dollars can fit comfortably into a backpack. One hundred million can be stuffed into a crate, and you might be able to wedge it into your closet.  If you physically had a billion dollars, you would have about ten of those crates packed full of hundred-dollar bills. The idea of a single... Read More

Red Light District

November 1st, 2021

Watch movies long enough, and you’ll start to learn the individual traits that directors have. I think it would be physically impossible for Quentin Tarantino to make a movie with no dialogue.* If J.J. Abrams made a movie set in a lightless cave, he’d figure out a way to sneak a lens flare in somewhere. Some for-hire filmmakers are able to sneak under the radar by tailoring their style to the project, perhaps in a desire to let the story be the star. For the most part, you can eventually spot their tics. One of those tics for Edgar Wright is music. With the exception of Martin Scorsese, I’m... Read More

A Regular Dude

October 25th, 2021

There have been eleven movies made with the title Vengeance is Mine. The first of those films was made way back in 1912, proving that even in those sepia-hued days of the Titanic, massive dinner parties, and the birth of the Oreo, people also wanted to see movies where somebody who’s gotten screwed over achieves satisfaction. I’m perfectly fine with revenge movies. One of the greatest ever made is John Wick, where a thoughtless act of cruelty unleashes a storm of violence on a truly Biblical scale. For a revenge movie to work, three elements need to be firmly in place. They are: An interesting... Read More

Michael’s Game

October 18th, 2021

He was close. He thought he was ready, but at the last moment, he stepped away. Wait — let me back up and I’ll explain. To set the stage, last weekend I knew my upcoming review would be Halloween Kills, the latest entry in the extremely venerable franchise. The film picks up moments after the end of the 2018 Halloween, and as I had a little free time, rewatching Halloween felt like a good move. As my son Liam has gotten older, he’s been developing his own tastes when it comes to film. He has directors he likes* and films he’s been curious about.** The only genre he hasn’t leapt into is... Read More

Antisocial Worker

October 11th, 2021

Movie stars are good. Serious Actors are better. Best of all are That Guys.* Even if you’re a casual film viewer, you likely have a favorite That Guy. In blockbusters, they’ll show up in supporting roles, often playing the same 2-3 kinds of roles. Michael Biehn, for example, is an excellent That Guy, and he carved out a pretty good niche playing steely-eyed military types and psychopaths.  Better yet is when That Guys get a chance in the spotlight. This almost always happens in smaller films, and to my mind, that’s a good thing. Those smaller films tend to be more interesting, riskier, more... Read More

The Bond Craigslist

October 4th, 2021

I once read that a person’s preferred 007 can be determined by when their father showed them their first Bond movie. This is not a concept that’s supported by any kind of rigorous scientific method, and I know that because of my own experiences. My father was a product of World War II and the Cold War. The exploits of a gentleman spy were right up his alley, and to the best of my knowledge, he never missed a Bond movie either theatrically or on television.* He loved Bond, and Roger Moore was his Bond. My first full Bond experience was us trooping to the theater to see A View to a Kill.** Dad... Read More

A Vulgar Business

September 28th, 2021

We say that all lives have value. Do they? If so, what exactly is that value? To ponder a question like that is, at best, distasteful. At worst, it’s a monstrous concept that’s so big, it almost can’t be grappled with. But someone has to. Someone has to take the decisions and idiosyncrasies that live in each of our lives and break it all down into some kind of hard data. Consider the lives and deaths of two people on September 11, 2001. One of them worked in Windows on the World*, the restaurant that dwelled on the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Directly... Read More

Swallowing the Elephant

September 20th, 2021

At the end of the day, all movies are the same, a collection of images and sounds edited together to elicit an emotional response. But there’s a world’s worth of difference between Top Gun and The Elephant Man, between Predator and Salaam Bombay, between Thor and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom. There’s cinema, and then there’s cinema.  To grossly simplify things, I think there are three levels of film viewing. The first level is strictly about entertainment, and there’s not a thing in the world wrong with that. The second level is a willingness to view films that aren’t simply fun.... Read More

Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu

September 14th, 2021

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a trend-setter, and it’s kind of amazing considering the risks taken. Consider the lead of Iron Man was a troubled actor with a notable drug problem. Consider that the vast majority of people had no earthly idea who Iron Man even was. Consider that the idea of an interconnected multi-film franchise was looked at as, to be charitable, raging insanity. The irony is that, despite the huge chances taken by the MCU, Marvel Comics originally followed numerous trends instead of inspiring them. The creation of the Fantastic Four was a response to DC Comics’ creation... Read More

Bruja

September 6th, 2021

I’m a genre nerd. While a thoughtful documentary or smart drama will capture my attention, nothing gets my nerd radar pinging faster than a film that Wikipedia defines as, “a stylistic or thematic category for motion pictures based on similarities either in the narrative elements, aesthetic approach, or the emotional response to the film.” Luckily, there’s an awful lot of room for filmmakers to operate in when it comes to genre. A war movie only has to feature…well, war. A vampire movie simply needs to have something within it that can be recognized as some sort of vampire. Science... Read More

Uncaged

August 30th, 2021

Is it fair to call Nicolas Cage a film icon? Not in the religious sense of the word, but more the idea that an icon represents a concept.  Take a look at his filmography for a moment. You’ll first notice a fairly astonishing amount of good to great films he’s made. Red Rock West. Leaving Las Vegas. Lord of War. The Rock. Mandy. If any other actor had done just one of those films, they’d be looked at as an all-timer. The other thing you’ll notice on said filmography? A titanic amount of crap. Some of it was due to simply picking the wrong projects. Some of it was due to fallout from a high-profile... Read More

Signs and Portents

August 24th, 2021

The past is a distant country. The further away we travel from it, the more strange the customs feel and the more unlike our own times it becomes. Consider the life you lead right now, the things you take for granted and consider to be normal. Now consider how jarring it would be to time travel back to, say, 1951. The clothing, technology, standards, everything would feel odd, and 1951 was only 70 years ago. Take that sense of disconnectedness and multiply it. You probably have something close to the chasm between how we think about the Middle Ages and the lived experience of Europeans. From the... Read More

The Do-Over

August 17th, 2021

Once upon a time, there was a director who got royally screwed. His name was (and continues to be) David Ayer, and his upbringing in South Central Los Angeles informed him well. There are likely two reasons you’re familiar with Ayer. The first is his work as the talented screenwriter of Training Day and the director of very good films such as End of Watch and Fury. The second reason is that he’s the guy who made 2016’s Suicide Squad. Despite making nearly $750 million and winning the Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyle, Suicide Squad was critically reviled. I read over my review*... Read More

Everything’s Fine

July 19th, 2021

I adore crime movies, though some flavors more than others. About half of Quentin Tarantino’s filmography focuses on crime, and Pulp Fiction alone birthed legions of imitators. For years, there were scores of films involving loquacious scumbags holding forth on pop culture and committing unexpected (but completely expected) acts of violence. Some of these movies were even good. Tarantino’s crime movies are like a cheeseburger ordered at the trendiest restaurant you can imagine, cooked by the biggest celebrity chef out there. You’ll enjoy that burger, I promise you, but while you’re eating... Read More

Budapest With An S.H.

July 12th, 2021

Prequels are terrible. That is, until they aren’t. It used to be that the idea of checking out the earlier adventures of beloved characters was nothing more than a craven cash grab. You had the tomfoolery of Butch and Sundance: The Early Years, the nonsense of Hannibal Rising, and the blatant idiocy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Done well, a prequel can add texture and character to a franchise. It can fill in the blanks and even recontextualize the original work. Despite the clunky execution, mostly poor acting, and thunderingly obvious storytelling, George Lucas deserves credit. His Prequel trilogy... Read More

Mommy Brain

July 6th, 2021

False Positive is streaming on Hulu In 2016, the World Health Organization estimated that around 830 women die on a daily basis due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. If you read that number and were floored by the lethal math on display, it’s probably because you’re a man. The fact of the matter is, the process of pregnancy has always been tied up with risk. Three hundred years ago, along with the distressingly normal dangers associated with birth, a pregnant woman had to contend with barbaric practices that barely met the definition of medical, as well as an insanely misogynistic... Read More

Young Reeds

June 28th, 2021

Mainstream American movies aren’t usually designed to take risks. No big surprise there. The last several decades have given us action movies where we’re never too worried about the hero. Dramas where some degree of justice is usually reached.* Comedies that only ever make us uncomfortable due to gross-out jokes. First of all, I’m here to tell you…that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with watching Keanu Reeves shoot people in the face, nothing wrong with a nice drama about a White guy and a Black guy becoming friends, and nothing wrong with Will Ferrell screaming about being stuck... Read More