“I Hate To Disappoint, But I’m Not Really Feeling It” — A Rallying Cry For Discerning Viewers of Captain America: Civil War

There’s one thing that everyone who sees Captain America: Civil War will absolutely agree upon, and that is the fact that it peaks with the Berlin airport brawl (BAB), which arrives around the 85-minute mark. Yes, I’ve mentioned this before but the entire world seems to be saying it now.

From A.O. Scott’s N.Y. Times review: “The best part of the movie is a six-on-six rumble at an airport, in which two teams of costumed co-workers, with a few ringers in the mix, face off to work out their issues. The battle is entertaining precisely because the stakes are relatively low. No planets, cities or galaxies are in peril, and you can enjoy the spectacle without any of the usual action-movie queasiness about invisible and extensive civilian casualties. And there is a solid, satisfying physicality to the effects.”

Here’s my 4.13.16 review.

Cake and Candles

This couldn’t be less important in the grand scheme of things, but to my knowledge this photo of a 1969 gathering for John Wayne‘s 62nd birthday contains the only color image ever printed or posted of Fred Macmurray without his rug. I remember seeing a b & w photo of an un-toupeed Macmurray many years ago, but this is the first color snap I’ve seen in my entire life. I’m sorry if it sounds inane, but I pay attention to this stuff.

(l. to r.) Clint Eastwood, Rock Hudson, Fred Macmurray, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Ernest Borgnine, Michael Caine.


This Too Shall Pass

I’ve always regarded indie-realm publicist Mickey Cottrell as a crafty and diligent hombre who knows the right people, always manages to push the right buttons, has excellent taste as far as the films and filmmakers he represents, and is a mensch on top of all that. And he’s a fairly decent actor besides.

Mickey Cottrell

In any event poor Mickey has been hit with a debilitating stroke, and I’m told his insurance won’t quite cover the 24-hour care that he’ll be needing. On top of which he also needs help with living expenses as he won’t be able to earn while he’s recovering. Cottrell’s friends have set up a compassionate GoFundMe campaign, and are asking all who know and love the guy (he’s been around forever) to throw in whatever they can afford.

The last time I threw in dough for a colleague was when journalist-critic Ed Douglas was having difficulty two or three years ago. Tough times happen to the best of us. Good friends and fellows rally round on such occasions. (more…)

If You Insist on Remaking Death Wish

There’s a plan, I’m told, to possibly remake Death Wish with Bruce Willis as Charles Bronson‘s Paul Kersey. Or something like that. Right away I wondered why with Chuck Russell‘s I Am Wrath (Saban, 5.13), about an unemployed engineer (John Travolta) going vigilante when the cops fail to bring his wife’s murderers to justice, sounding like a fairly close remake of Michael Winner’s 1974 film.

I’m not saying the alleged Willis project will happen, but if it does it would be processed, along with the Travolta flick, as yet another entry in the grizzled-action-star-urban-whupass genre. Which began eight years ago, of course, with Taken and the launching of the more specific grizzled-dad-looking-to-save-imperiled-daughter genre. Liam “paycheck” Neeson pretty much owned the turf until the first Expendables flick popped in 2010.

All to say that I’m sensing a fatigue factor over the grizzled bad-ass white guy thing. It seems that the only way to inject fresh energy into a Death Wish remake, if that’s what you really want to do, is go with a grizzled black guy.

The new Death Wish needs to have a serious 2016 cultural context. What real-deal situation or attitude or trend will it reflect? The Bronson version drew on an early ’70s Manhattan that really did have a crime/urban decay problem — not so much now. Bernhard Goetz obviously redefined vigilantism in the ’80s, and not in a heroic way. So what’s the best angle for a newbie? (more…)

In A Sense, Batman v Superman & New Captain America Flick Are Fourth-Wall Breakers

Kenneth Turan‘s 5.5 L.A. Times review of Captain America: Civil War contends that the film will play much better for hardcore Marvel devotees than for the less fanatical or the uninitiated. The underlying suggestion is that perhaps Turan himself struggled to recall all the backstory connections when he saw it, but we’ll let that go.

While reading this a related thought came to mind, which is basically that there may be a current of personal expression in CA:CW as well as Batman v Superman that hardcore fans might be missing. Okay, so it’s not related.

Both are about responses to blowback over mass urban destruction caused by battles between superheroes and supervillains. Batman is hugely pissed at Superman for the destruction caused by his battle with General Zod in Man of Steel, and the Avengers have been told by governmental authorities that vast wreckage and public trauma caused by previous slugfests requires them to agree to U.N. supervision.

You could theoretically use the following as either a subtitle or copy line on the ads for both films: Out of control, gone too far — now it’s time for consequences.

But all this chaos and charred rubble (which has also been abundant in the last couple of Transformer films not to mention San Andreas and a few Roland Emmerich films I could mention) is not really character-driven. Yes, Superman and the Avengers had to do battle because it was the right or necessary thing, but the vast, cacophonous scale of the destruction was created by the filmmakers — by Zack Snyder and the Russo brothers because big-ass buildings toppling over and whole sections of cities being drowned or falling into huge earthquake pits and transformed into 9/11 ash heaps looks cool. (more…)

Shark vs. Surfer Girl

So Blake Lively doesn’t care…is that it? Surely she knows that starring in low-rent exploitation shite like The Shallows doesn’t enhance her stock value. She must be aware that the director, Jaume Collet-Serra, is a factory hack who has ground out horror flicks and Liam Neeson actioners in a way that is far, far below the level of, say, Roman Polanski. Surely she understands that a super-sized great white wouldn’t just nibble at her leg, and that sharks never leap out of the water like Orcas when feeding. Surely she understands that sharks don’t hunt for personal reasons (“I want you for lunch!”), and that they don’t commit to prolonged strategic vendettas. Pic is obviously dishonest, manipulative, jerry-rigged — no respect for reality. Give me a re-viewing of Open Water instead.

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon


Highest Expectations (in order of confidence or expectation): 1. Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester-by-the-Sea [locked Best Actor nomination for Casey Affleck]; 2. Martin Scorsese‘s Silence; 3. Steven Gaghan's Gold (Matthew McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramírez); 4. Ang Lee's Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk; 5. Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals; 6. David Frankel's Collateral Beauty (Will Smith, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton); 7. Clint Eastwood's Sully (Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney); 8. Denzel Washington's Fences (Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby). (8)

War-Related Brad Pitt Flicks -- WWII Romantic-Dramatic, 21st Century Satiric: Robert Zemeckis' http://www.thewrap.com/brad-pitt-marion-cotillard-to-play-spies-and-lovers-in-robert-zemeckis-wwii-movie/">Allied w/ Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard (began shooting in March '16) and David Michod's War Machine (Netflix) w/ Pitt as Gen. Stanley McChrystal + Ben Kingsley, Emory Cohen, Topher Grace, John Magaro, Scoot McNairy, Will Poulter. (2)

Probably Solid/Decent/Interesting/Approvable, etc.: 1. Morten Tyldum and John Spaihts' Passengers; 2. Damien Chazelle's La La Land; 3. John Cameron Mitchell's How To Talk To Girls at Parties, 4. Ron Howard's Inferno; 5. Peter Berg's Patriot's Day (Mark Wahlberg, J.K. Simmons); 6. Niki Caro's The Zookeeper's Wife; 7. Justin Kurzel's Assassin's Creed; 8. Ben Wheatley's Free Fire; 9. Tate Taylor's The Girl On The Train; 10. Ben Younger's Bleed For This (Miles Teller, Katey Sagal, Amanda Clayton, Aaron Eckhart). (10)

Hoo-hah!: Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon. (1)

Very Interesting, Slight Hedging of Bets (random order): 1. Charlie McDowell's The Discovery w/ Rooney Mara, Nicholas Hoult (a love story set one year after the existence of the afterlife is scientifically verified, or a more thoughtful version of The Leftovers); 2. Wim Wenders' Submergence (Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy); 3. Woody Allen's Cafe Society (Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively); 4. James Ponsoldt's The Circle (Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega), 5. Pablo Larrain's Jackie (Natalie Portman, Greta Gerwig, Peter Sarsgaard); 6. Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman (Sahahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti); 7. Pedro Almodovar's Julieta (the life of the titular woman, told between two time periods, 2015 and 1985). (7)

Dumped Into Early August Release: John Hancock's The Founder (biopic of McDonald's kingpin Ray Kroc, opening on 8.5.16). (1)

Overly Obvious: Juan Antonio Bayona's A Monster Calls. (1)

Overpraised at Sundance: Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation.

Overpraised at South by Southwest: Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some.

Delicious, High-Style Italian Island Perversity with Rolling Stones Soundtrack: A Bigger Splash.

Duelling Interracial-Marriage Period Dramas: Jeff Nichols' Loving (Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Michael Shannon, Marton Csokas); Amma Asante's A United Kingdom (David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike).

Feels Fringe-y: Barry Jenkins' Moonlight (based on Tarell McCraney's play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" -- a Plan B/A24 project about black queer youth amid the temptations of the Miami drug trade). (1)

Worrisome: Jodie Foster's Money Monster (political situation thriller). (1)

This Year's Animated Pixar Wonder-Package for the Whole Family: Andrew Stanton's Finding Dory. (1)

Spare Me: 1. Zack Snyder's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice; 2. Terrence Malick's Weightless; 3. Derek Cianfrance's The Light Between Oceans; 4. Gary Ross's Free State of Jones; 5. Benedict Andrews' Una (Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn). (5)

Genres Have Their Rules: 1. Paul Greengrass's Jason Bourne w/ Matt Damon (political action thriller); 2. Shane Black's The Nice Guys (darkly humorous thriller); 3. Peter Berg's Deepwater Horizon (real-life disaster action-thriller); 4. Antoine Fuqua's The Magnificent Seven (western remake); 5. Gavin O'Connor's The Accountant (action thriller); 6. Ed Zwick's Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (thriller); 7. Matthew Vaughn's I Am Pilgrim (murder thriller); 8. Michael Grandage's Genius (biopic about esteemed book editor Maxwell Perkins); 9. Todd Phillips' War Dogs. (9)

A Little Worried But Maybe: 1. Oliver Stone's Snowden; 2. Warren Beatty's still-untitled Howard Hughes film; 3. James Gray's The Lost City of Z; 4. The Secret Scripture w/ Jessica Chastain, Vanessa Redgrave, Eric Bana; 5. Greg McLean's The Belko Experiment; 6. Werner Herzog's Salt And Fire (Michael Shannon, Gael García Bernal, Werner Herzog, Veronica Ferres); 7. Ewan MacGregor's American Pastoral (MacGregor, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Connelly, David Strathairn); 8. Garth Davis's Lion (Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman -- released by Weinstein Co.); 9. Denis Villeneuve's Story of Your Life (Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg -- Paramount). (9)

Who Knows?: Alex Garland's Annhiliation. (1)

Seen, Praised, Genre Classic: Robert Eggers' The Witch.

Seen, Lowered Expectations, Written Down: Demolition; John Hillcoat's Triple Nine; Jeff Nichols; Ariel Vroman's Criminal; Midnight Special. (5)


Calm Down, Sasha Stone

Source: N.Y. Times.

From Nate Cohn’s post-Indiana primary summary piece, dated 5.3: “What raises the possibility of a more decisive defeat for Mr. Trump is that he is struggling to reunite the voters who supported Mr. Romney — especially white women and white college-educated voters.

“A recent ABC/Washington Post poll showed Mr. Trump with just a 29 percent favorability rating among white women and 23 percent among white college graduates, while 68 percent and 74 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

“Mr. Trump is faring worse than Mr. Romney among white voters in all of the presidential battleground states. Polls even show Mr. Trump losing white voters in states where Mr. Romney won them, like Colorado, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It’s enough to put him at a big disadvantage in early surveys of diverse battleground states like Florida and Virginia — as well as North Carolina and Arizona, two states Mr. Romney won in 2012.

“Mr. Trump has even trailed in a poll in strongly Republican Utah, which is one of the best-educated states in the country. It’s unlikely that Mrs. Clinton could win Utah in the end, but it’s nonetheless telling that Mr. Trump trails in a survey of a state where Democrats have not reached 35 percent of the vote in the last 11 presidential elections.”

Cut Lobster A Break

Friend: “Going to 10 am press screening of The Lobster (A24, 5.13) — is it any good?” Me: “The Lobster is a dry, darkish, art-fart conceptual comedy with a touch of levitation by way of Rachel Weisz. It’s diverting for the first 45 minutes or so, then it runs out of gas. If you’re Guy Lodge, you’ll love it start to finish.” Here’s a version of my original Cannes review.

Rarified, Fetishized Euro-Lifestyle Porn

HE review, posted on 4.11.16: “Luca Guadagnino‘s A Bigger Splash (Fox Searchlight, 5.6) is a noirish Mediterranean hothouse thing — a not-especially-sordid sex and betrayal story that builds so slowly and languidly it feels like there’s nothing going on except for the vibe, and honestly? It’s so lulling and flavorful and swoony and sun-baked that you just give in to it.”

N.Y. Times review by Manohla Dargis, posted on 5.3: “The cinema of seduction doesn’t get much more overheated than A Bigger Splash, an Italian come-on that doesn’t just want to amuse you, but also to pour you a Negroni before taking you for a midnight spin with the top down.”

HE: “The undercurrent is gently mesmerizing, and that was enough for me. I can’t wait to see it again, or more precisely go there again. I felt like I was savoring a brief vacation. I’m not saying the dramatic ingredients are secondary, but they almost are.”

N.Y. Times: “Set on an Italian island slithering with snakes and beautiful people, the movie is something of a reluctant thriller about a rock star, her current lover, her former lover and a pretty young thing. Bad things happen, because, you know, life is pain — in the meantime, though, do enjoy the magnificent digs, the designer threads and the frolicking nude stars. (more…)

Trump Life Forms

Look at those Trump supporters with their shades and belligerence. Where in this video is the civility — the hope for humanity — apart from the witnesses? I felt for Ted Cruz in this instance. I did.

What’s My Interest In Seeing Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time? No More Than Slight.

On 4.21 an IMAX quarterly earnings press release divulged that Terrence Malick‘s Voyage of Time, perhaps the most comically over-delayed film in the history of motion pictures, will pop in IMAX on 10.7.16. (Exact IMAX wording: “In addition, the Company will be releasing…a documentary film, Voyage of Time, on October 7, 2016.”) I might get around to seeing it…maybe. Okay, I probably will. But only out of habit because Malick was such a big deal between the early to late ’70s, and then a big deal again between The Thin Red Line and Tree of Life. But he’s more or less over now — To The Wonder and Knight of Cups have all but seen to that. Weightless, which I’m very reluctant to see, is probably superfluous at this stage. Nobody much cares. I certainly don’t. His brand has certainly waned across the board.

Suburban Female Hangover Meets Bridesmaids Meets Neighbors

Obviously a wallow of some kind, but I have to admit that the dialogue doesn’t sound half-bad here — it has a sharp, well-sculpted rimshot quality. And you can sense a certain confidence from costars Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn. But none of this matters because you can’t trust a trailer. Directed and written by Hangover screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who co-directed 21 and Over.

Noteworthy: Bad Moms only began shooting on January 11th, or a little less than four months ago. The STX release opens on 7.29. Six months between the start of production and opening day is definitely unusual. What other super-quickies have happened this century? As far as I know no mainstream film was ever slapped together faster than Otto Preminger‘s Anatomy of a Murder — began shooting on 3.23.59, wrapped on 5.15.59 and opened on 7.2.59.

Baahing Over At Home Theatre Forum

The spirit of submission and acquiesence lives in a Home Theatre Forum thread about the restored One-Eyed Jacks. Some of the commenters seem to recognize that the decision by Universal and the Film Foundation to slice off the tops and bottoms of Marlon Brando and Charles Lang‘s 1961 classic in order to render a 1.85 aspect ratio wasn’t necessary, and yet their attitude is more or less “whatever…we don’t mind!” A couple of commenters seem to believe that my opposition to this decision is based upon delusion or ignorance. In fact they’re the ones wearing blinders.

Let’s try again. One-Eyed Jacks was shot in the “flexible and compatible” VistaVision process and therefore could have easily been cropped at 1.66, 1.75 or 1.78. But no. In order to conform to a currently meaningless and completely political, consensus-driven suggestion contained in a Paramount memo back in the late ’50s (or whenever) that Jacks should be projected at 1.85, Uni/FF decided to follow suit.

This is not a tragedy — Jacks will look beautiful at almost any a.r. — but it’s certainly cause for lamenting. As I noted on 4.26, archivist Bob Furmanek is probably a chief culprit in this affair. By submitting and endorsing the Paramount suggestion, he relieved Uni/FF of any creative responsibility in determining the aspect ratio of the One-Eyed Jacks Bluray. (more…)

Denzel’s Drunk Has It Over Sully

I cheered along with everyone else when Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed that US Airways jet on the Hudson on the opening day of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and saved all those passengers from horrible death. I’ll therefore be cranked when I catch Clint Eastwood‘s Sully (Warner Bros., 9.9.16) four months hence. But are you gonna tell me Sully’s feat was even close to what Denzel Washington‘s William “Whip” Whitaker managed to do when things went wrong in Flight? Okay, so he’d had a few that day but he saved 96 out of 102 passengers. What a scene! And that co-pilot (Brian Geraghty)? A pathetic candy-ass.

Duran Duran

Jonathan Jakubowicz‘s Hands of Stone (Weinstein Co., 8.26), a boxing + relationship period drama about the legendary Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) and manager-coach Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro), will have a special non-competitive Cannes screening on Monday, 5.16. Pic costars Ellen Barkin, Rubén Blades, Ana de Armas and John Turturro. In prepared statements DeNiro and producer Harvey Weinstein indicated that the film, which completed shooting in March 2014, is more in the realm of Rocky than Raging Bull. Weinstein described it as “fun”; De Niro as a “good time.” Boilerplate: “The film is about the common history of Duran and Arcel, and about Duran’s successes of the ring in the ’70s and ’80s, including legendary fights against Sugar Ray Leonard.” Jakubowicz (Secuesto Express) directed and wrote.

(l. to r.) Ramirez, De Niro, Blades.

Smart, Gifted, Devotional

If I’m fully absorbing Larry Gross‘s riff, the best thing a director can be is (a) very bright, (b) profoundly talented and (c) possessed of a devotional attitude in terms of learning from the work of great directors. Some directors are instinctually gifted without being all that brainy or well-read but who’ve studied the greats (i.e., Steven Spielberg). Others are quite smart but with only modest talent (Woody Allen in Gross’s view). Or are modestly gifted but have learned everything they could from the best (Clint Eastwood in Gross’s view). And some are so in the grip of crackling intelligence that they seem to create more by design or scheme or deliberation than instinct. Which reputable directors appear (or have appeared) to possess all three attributes? Stanley Kubrick, for one. I know there’s a framed quote on a wall in Guillermo del Toro‘s Bleak House that references Albert Einstein, to wit: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”