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Monday - August 8, 2022

Archive for the ‘ Movies ’ Category

 

Background Noise

July 25th, 2022

Not every film actor is a chameleon. Sure, the Meryl Streeps and Daniel Day-Lewises of the world can vanish into roles and become a hundred different people with protean speed. They tend to be the exception to the rule. When we go to the movies, most of the names up on the screen tend to play the same kinds of roles over and over. Is it fair? Are myopic filmmakers, rapacious executives, and cowardly producers robbing actors of the chance to flex their creative muscles? Maybe, but them’s the breaks. If I’m being fair, there are more reasons than that. Sometimes an actor is less interested in... Read More

One Thing, Then Another

July 18th, 2022

If you had to break it down, and we’re going to do just that, there are really two kinds of spy movies. The first are action movies with spies.* If you were in the mood to see Matt Damon whip seventeen kinds of ass, Colin Firth slaughter an entire church, or Charlize Theron kick a guy down a flight of stairs, movies like The Bourne Identity, Kingsman, and Atomic Blonde would fit the bill nicely. Perhaps you’re in the mood for something more cerebral. That brings us to the second kind of spy movie, which are the films that take the craft of espionage seriously. Movies like Spy Game or Tinker,... Read More

The Big Ka-Boom

July 11th, 2022

One of my favorite ways to while away a few minutes is to read one-star product reviews. But not just for anything, oh, no. The only ones that will do are the classics, the unimpeachable works that virtually everybody adores. I like to find those works, then look up the people that hate them. For the most part, it’s like seeing who’s going for the gold in the Bad Take Olympics. A negative review for Schindler’s List was one of my favorites, which sadly seems to have been removed. The writer acknowledged the importance of memorializing the Holocaust. Their objection, however, was all the... Read More

The (Telephone) Ring

July 4th, 2022

A good premise is powerful. It’s the kind of thing that Hollywood executives fantasize over, and the kind of thing producers worry about screwing up. It can be a license to print money and a way for a movie to guarantee immortality. You know it because as soon as you’re introduced to the premise, you think, “I have to see that.” I’m not talking about sequels, though. Top Gun: Maverick has made all the money, and deservedly so. But nobody saw it based on the concept, “An over-the-hill fighter pilot must train a group of rookies to undertake a dangerous bombing run.” Instead, audiences... Read More

To Capitalism and Beyond!

June 27th, 2022

Is Pixar the greatest animation studio in the history of film? Possibly. It can certainly compete with Disney, its quasi-parent, along with the mighty Studio Ghibli of Japan. For my money, Pixar slightly edges out Studio Ghibli and comes out on top due to two factors — the quality of animation and innovative storytelling. From 1995 to 2010, nearly every Pixar release could be considered a classic. I’ll grant you that Monsters, Inc. is well-meaning fluff, and I recognize that Cars is less geared toward families and more aimed at young children. But Wall-E, Up, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille... Read More

The Sun on Her Face

June 20th, 2022

In his book Adventures in the Screen Trade, William Goldman famously wrote about the film industry that, “Nobody knows anything.” In large part, that’s true. Everybody knew Mel Gibson would always be one of the biggest movie stars until he wasn’t. Everybody knew the DCEU would be able to compete effectively with the MCU until it couldn’t. For that matter, everybody knows that the MCU remains the eight hundred-pound gorilla until they have a couple of flops. One thing that’s been mostly true for a long time is that if you want to break in, make or write a horror movie. Why not a comedy?... Read More

Running and Screaming

June 13th, 2022

There’s an old belief that all little boys go dino-mad for a minute. I have no idea if that’s accurate, but I do know I was no exception. Back then, I recall a zoo of molded plastic critters, everything from the T-rex to the Stegosaurus. I remember junior paleontology books and a bemused father* taking me over and over and over to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science so that I could gawk at the fossils.  I love dinosaurs. I always have. Even now. I recently finished the very good book The Last Days of the Dinosaurs by Riley Black.** Odds are I’ll stop loving them right around the time... Read More

The Only Counted Blessing

June 6th, 2022

Modern filmgoers are not known for their patience. That patience doesn’t have much to do with the length of a movie, considering that it feels like films these days are getting progressively longer. Does a Batman movie absolutely need to be three hours? I remember seeing relieved chatter online that Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness only had a runtime of two hours and six minutes. Where folks tend to get antsy is in their desire for a movie to get to the point — fast. For instance, a movie like the beloved by me and many others RRR features a bladder-battering three-hour and seven-minute... Read More

Rise, Roar, Revolt

May 30th, 2022

RRR is streaming on Netflix  It would not be an understatement to say that Indian cinema is a big deal. A little research teaches me that, on average, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,800 films are produced in India annually. In 2019, before reliable reporting got blown up by the pandemic, the Indian film industry grossed about $2.7 billion, making it the third-highest in the world. Here’s the thing…if Indian cinema is such a cultural juggernaut, why haven’t I reviewed more Indian films? That’s because I screwed up! It’s not easy to strike a balance between American blockbusters and... Read More

Epilepticon

May 23rd, 2022

There are films that tell you a story. Could be a love story about a guy planning to drink himself to death and unexpectedly falling in love. Could be a thriller about a woman trying to find her place in the FBI while tracking down a very unsavory individual. Those kinds of films primarily concern themselves with narrative, and that’s great because as social animals, we figure out the world through stories. Then, there are films that are more of a ride. You know those times where you want to see two pretty people kiss, or John Wick shooting fifteen people in the face? Your week has been absolute... Read More

Flyboy

May 16th, 2022

The first time I saw Top Gun, I hated it. As a wee lad, I remember seeing it in a packed theater in 1986. I remember the whooshing of the jets, the omnipresent soundtrack, and the unnerving intensity of Tom Cruise. I remember the buzz of the audience walking out. People adored it, and I remember looking around and thinking, “What movie did you guys just see because that sucked.” Is it still that bad, though?* Of course not, and it’s yet another example where the movie isn’t the problem; I’m the problem. I should like it. Consider that, despite what you might think of his personal life,... Read More

Strange Tales

May 9th, 2022

Within stories, the idea of continuity is powerful. It’s like the lure of history, the pull to understand events or character through the study of a chain of events. That’s why we dive into literary series, why we’ll binge-watch a show on Netflix, and why we’ll carry around decades of plot points regarding comic books.  Author Douglas Wolk recently released his book All of the Marvels. He wrote about his experience reading every comic book published by Marvel Comics.* When I say “every comic book,” I mean that Wolk read over twenty-seven thousand published works, attempted to make... Read More

A Pretty Good Neighbor

May 2nd, 2022

What makes the ideal family movie? First, let’s define what I’m not talking about. I don’t mean an animated feature that’s geared toward kids but has a few pop-cultural references thrown in for the olds. I don’t mean an entry in the MCU, as older viewers might be turned off by the comic-booky violence and the serialized nature of each installment. I also don’t mean a treacly drama with an inspirational message.* An ideal family movie (IFM) should ideally feature the following aspects: Jokes, but not too many Likable characters Emotion, but nothing too intense Violence that’s not... Read More

Ambulance Chaser

April 25th, 2022

For a while there, Michael Bay was arguably the biggest action director in the world. In the mid-90s, he directed Bad Boys, The Rock, and Armageddon. All three films made money — a lot of money. His style could be described as a kind of “golden hour on more than a little cocaine” kind of feel. It was kinetic. Brash. Kinda sleazy. For a while there, most people loved what he was doing. Things change. Bay got deep into the Transformers franchise. They made money but were never beloved. He made the mean little crime satire Pain & Gain, and the Benghazi quasi-hagiography 13 Hours. Bay’s... Read More

Berserker

April 18th, 2022

It’s days like this that remind me of just how little I really know about movies. You see, I’m here to talk about The Northman, the gore-drenched film directed by Robert Eggers concerning the revenge of a Viking prince. As I was turning the movie over in my head, I began wondering, “Are Viking films numerous enough to be considered a genre?” As it turns out, they kind of are! We don’t quite have a time in cinema where Viking films reigned supreme at the box office. While gangster movies were very much a thing in the 1930s to 1940s, and westerns were the dominant genre for close to three... Read More

Fangs for the Memories

April 11th, 2022

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the greatest television shows in the history of the medium. Despite being the brainchild of a known abuser, it’s a series that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and The Wire. Buffy used humor, drama, horror, and so, so much more to tell a story about how high school is hell and how adulthood is worse. Despite some issues that would earn it a couple of side-eyed glances,* Buffy continues to have an enormous amount to say and to inspire new viewers. Along similar lines, Let the Right One In is one of the greatest vampire... Read More

Synchronicity

April 4th, 2022

From the moment you started reading this sentence, you’ve already made a number of decisions. Did you skip breakfast? Check your email first? Call out sick even though you feel fine? For every choice you made, there might be another universe where you made the opposite choice.* How does that choice change what you do, where you go, and who you are? We’re living in a time of multiverses now, a science-fiction concept that might have been too mindbendingly weird for the masses only a few years ago. If you’re not familiar with it, the idea is there are an infinite number of universes existing... Read More

Echoes

March 28th, 2022

In specificity comes universality. I know that’s pretentious, but if you take away the pointlessly flowery prose, the point still stands. When someone makes a piece of art and does so with a focused perspective, it acts as an open door for the audience. Theoretically, it allows anyone from any walk of life to view a place, a time, or a way of life that might be utterly foreign to them and engender empathy. “Theoretically” is the key word, however. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last six years or so, it’s by and large, we suck at empathy. Why is that? While there is a myriad... Read More

The Over-Overstuffed Sandwich

March 21st, 2022

Like criminals, screenwriters can be a superstitious and cowardly lot. Can you blame them? They’re trying to break into an industry that has very few clear guidelines on how to do so, constantly shifting professional requirements, and an almost sociopathic sense of entitlement. It is, and I am not exaggerating, easier to get into the NFL than it is to become a professional screenwriter. Let’s say, against all odds, a screenwriter makes it. They a) sell a script and b) the check clears. It’s all peaches and cream from there, no? No, because the indignities just get worse. They can be forced... Read More

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

March 14th, 2022

As a college kid, even more so than now, I was deeply unlikable. That’s normal and it’s always been normal. After getting booted out of high school, we all take our first trembling steps toward adulthood. We all make stupid mistakes that, in retrospect, were easily avoided. We all want the adults around us to be very aware that we, too, are adults. To some degree or another, at that time of life, we’re all kind of annoying. That’s also the time when we figure out who we are and try on personas the way that others try on shoes. My persona for a moment was the cynical artiste, the one who’s... Read More