Sunday, July 24, 2016
So I've maintained some consistency through three years. I watched a total of 79 feature films in the first six months of 2016. 77 of those were unique features, meaning there were two movies that I repeat viewed within the six month period. That’s right on par with the last two years. Additionally, 61 of those movies were first time viewings for me. Once again, that’s almost identical with January – June the previous two years.
Now, where I’ve fallen off is going to the cinema. I saw only fifteen feature films at the movie theater in the first half of this year. That’s down from eighteen last year and twenty-two the year before. And when you consider that I go to the movies a lot in January and February to catch up with the last of the best from the previous year, that basically means I’ve seen almost nothing new in the cinema this year. In fact, I’ve seen only five 2016 releases in the cinema through June. My focus has been much more on watching things at home, saving the time and money it takes to go out, and catching up on old favorites.
In this era of reboots, sequels, re-imaginings, and reinventions, one thing has consistently escaped the Hollywood executives who greenlight this stuff. They continue to make blockbuster cinema a boys club, catering to and casting men in most major action and comedy films. But leave it to Paul Feig, the director of the hysterically funny female response to the male gross-out comedy – Bridesmaids – to bring us the female Ghostbusters. A second sequel in the franchise was part of Hollywood lore for years with talk of Chris Farley being involved shortly before his death in 1997. But now we finally, at long last, even though almost no one was demanding it, have a new Ghostbusters with the all-lady cast of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate MacKinnon.
So as my son gets older I find myself wanting to introduce him to the films I found to be magical experiences when I was a boy. And so he’s seen the Star Wars trilogy and E.T. and The Wizard of Oz. But there’s one that I loved that was perhaps less well-known, certainly less popular compared to those blockbuster classics. Disney’s live action adventure Swiss Family Robinson won’t be making anyone’s list of the greatest films, but boy is it fun!
This movie has everything: a shipwreck; exotic locations; a menagerie of incredible animals; pirates; guns; coconut bombs; and the coolest fucking treehouse you’ve ever seen. That treehouse is so awesome, so wondrous that it became a beloved attraction at both Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom theme parks.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
The enticement of big studio backing, larger budgets, and wider distribution must be great to successful indie filmmakers. Jeff Nichols had a string of well-received films that did well on the festival circuit and then got a lot more money for his fourth feature, Midnight Special. Unlike what often happens with directors who display talent on the small scale, Nichols didn’t move on to the latest superhero movie or some other blockbuster. Instead he took the money to make his own story and make it without the limitations he surely faced in the past due to budget constraints.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is one hell of an impressive machine. It has churned out three Iron Man movies, two Thor movies, a dedicated Hulk movie, two Avengers movies, Ant Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and now a third Captain America movie (or Avengers depending on how you look at it). Through all of it, the stories have toyed with more important themes and topicality. They have often remained a notch above just popcorn and candy, explosions and mayhem. Now, after lots and lots of catastrophic destruction in the name of heroism and the self-anointed good trying to stymie evil, Captain America: Civil War aims to dive deep on the divide between those who would allow for an unchecked team of independent heroes (or vigilantes, call them what you will) and those who would seek to control them, track them, and direct them in order to minimize collateral damage and tamp down the public belief that these “enhanced individuals” are running roughshod over the globe.
Labels: 2016, action, Anthony Mackie, Anthony Russo, based-on-comic, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Evans, Daniel Brühl, Don Cheadle, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Joe Russo, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd, review, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, sequel, superhero, Tom Holland
Saturday, May 28, 2016
It’s sort of improbable that Michael Mann was able to make Heat the way he wanted to at the length of nearly three hours. How did a studio greenlight that decision? Mann was not a known director like a Scorsese or a Spielberg. Crime drama was not exactly a genre that typically lent itself to epic scope and length. I can only surmise that it was on the strength of having Robert De Niro and Al Pacino as the two leads that made executives believe that people would come to this movie. It didn’t hurt, I’m sure, that the movie is exceptionally well-made.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
As a first time feature film maker, Robert Egger demonstrates a skilled and assured hand at how to handle material that is delicate on several fronts. The Witch, which he wrote and directed, deals with puritanical religious dogma of the seventeenth century, witchcraft, and also the conventions of horror and psychological thrillers. So much could have gone wrong in setting a tone and a pace, but Eggers gets most of it right.
For starters, he set his film nearly four centuries ago in New England. As such the dialogue, much of which is taken from contemporaneous transcripts and texts, contains a style that, to the ears of a 21st century American, sounds like something out of a restoration village where actors pretend they know nothing about modern technology. Also the family at the center of the movie, who have been banished from the village for “prideful conceit”, exercise such deep religious conviction that we might feel uncomfortable laughter coming on. But the events that transpire are no laughing matter.