Category Archives: Musical

Fall 2017 Movie Preview: Drama Part 1

This is going to be a great season. The awards are going to be very crowded. We’ve already seen several powerful films that could be in awards consideration. I’m specifically thinking of Detroit, Dunkirk, Baby Driver, and even Logan and Wonder Woman. However, they are going to have to compete with a slew of biopics and powerful narrative dramas and character studies. These movies are like candy for me so excuse me if I tend to go on and on, but part of the joy of cinema is its ability to move us, and that is exactly what these aim to do.

Please let me know which of these you would see if you could only choose one or two. This is only half of the Dramatic movies coming out this season. I’ll be following up to this post with the dramatic movies from November and December soon. Also, make sure you take a look at the others to watch section because there are far too many to talk about all of them at length.

September

Rebel in the Rye – 9/15

The life of celebrated but reclusive author, J.D. Salinger, who gained worldwide fame with the publication of his novel, The Catcher in the Rye.

How many of you have actually read Catcher in the Rye? I think it is one of those books that people buy to look smart but never actually read. If you want to watch an interesting retelling of the Holden Caulfield story, you can watch Perks of Being a Wallflower. Honestly, It is a great work of literature and it will be interesting to see the story behind what inspired the author. It will be starring Nicholas Hoult as J.D. Salinger and will feature Kevin Spacey as a teacher and source of inspiration. Also, I hope you like biopics because this is the first of about a dozen by my count.

Battle of the Sexes – 9/22

The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.

I love both of these actors. I heard that after La La Land, now Emma Stone is the hottest thing since sliced bread and is making oodles of money. That’s good for her. She has a fantastic comedic sense and is able to sink her teeth into more meaty dramatic roles so this biopic should be great for her. Steve Carell has been one of my favorite comedic actors since his turn as Brick in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. It will be fantastic to watch these two play off of each other in a story of liberation, misogyny, and tennis.

Loving Vincent – 9/22

A feature film about the life and mysterious death of Vincent Van Gogh.

Just watching the trailer for this I am surprised that so much time and care has gone into the preparation of the film. If you haven’t heard anything about it, watch the trailer and be floored by the visuals as you realize that every single frame in this film about the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh was hand painted in oils meant to mimic his style. It looks stunning and innovative. I love to see films that do something that no one else has ever done and this will certainly do just that. Not only have I never heard the story of Van Gogh’s tortured creative process but I have certainly never seen a movie that is put together in this way. It should be very rewarding to watch.

Lucky – 9/29

The spiritual journey of a ninety-year-old atheist.

I really hope that Harry Dean Stanton gets an Oscar nomination for this. The film looks quirky and funny and contemplative and it is all centered around the tremendous skill of an actor that generally stays out of the limelight. You might probably best know Harry Dean Stanton as the janitor in The Green Mile that the guards use to practice for the execution. That is one of hundreds of roles he has had in his storied career. This also serves as the Directorial debut for that guy that everyone thinks is the Zodiac killer in Zodiac (John Carroll Lynch). I can imagine that I will probably be quoting lines from this for months after watching.

October

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – 10/13

After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.

I’ve been ready for this one since I saw the trailer in front of something back in June or July. It is a combination of a number of things that I love. Frances McDormond is an amazing actress that doesn’t get nearly the number of roles she deserves. Much of that is probably because she only takes roles that are good. Sam Rockwell takes everything he is in up a couple of notches. And Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) is one of my favorite screenwriter/directors in the business today.

Marshall – 10/13

About a young Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, as he battles through one of his career-defining cases.

I’m a bit embarrassed that I know next to nothing about Thurgood Marshall except for the fact that he served on the Supreme court from 1967-1991 (I even had to look those dates up). Chadwick Boseman has been Mr. Biopic as of late. Before landing his role as Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (including his own stand-alone movie coming in 2018) he starred in 42 as Jackie Robinson and most recently in Get on Up as James Brown. So, he is no stranger to taking on another’s mannerisms and portraying their lives. This is clearly a story of Thurgood Marshall’s young life before he became part of the US Supreme court. Is this a film that interests you?

Same Kind of Different as Me – 10/20

International art dealer Ron Hall must befriend a dangerous homeless man in order to save his struggling marriage to his wife, a woman whose dreams will lead all three of them on the journey of their lives.

It looks like Hollywood might finally be figuring out that Christians want to see movies with Christian themes of love and mercy and generosity and equality portrayed in a artful manner by talented actors. I for one will be one of the first people lined up to see this film and I will be encouraging our Church to buy out showings to encourage more film like it to be made. With a cast of actors as eclectic and talented as this group there is no reason it shouldn’t be good. I just hope it’s not too schmaltzy or preachy. If they can walk that fine line and maintain realism while telling the story then it should be good.

Suburbicon – 10/27

Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns…the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) must navigate the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit, and violence. This is a tale of very flawed people making very bad choices. This is Suburbicon.

I was torn whether to put this one in the Horror or Comedy category or here. It definitely will not be your average thriller. But I can’t just discount it as a comedy like Hot Fuzz. Instead, it seems to be blending Drama, Comedy, and Thriller tropes together to create something. It should be very interesting because The Coen Brothers usually direct the stories that they write, but this one they have handed off to their good friend, George Clooney, who has great abilities as a Director, but we haven’t seen his best work as of late.

Others to Watch:

Stronger coming on September 22nd. Stronger is the inspiring real life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. This is getting some praise from actual Boston natives about it realism and authenticity. Jake Gyllenhaal is super talented so it should be great to see him get lost in this role.

Breathe coming on October 13th. The inspiring true love story of Robin and Diana Cavendish, an adventurous couple who refuse to give up in the face of a devastating disease. Their heartwarming celebration of human possibility marks the directorial debut of Andy Serkis. Yes, Gollum is directing a film with Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield. That’s intriguing if nothing else.

Only the Brave coming on October 20th. A drama based on the elite crew of firemen from Prescott, Arizona who battled a wildfire in Yarnell, AZ in June 2013 that claimed the lives of 19 of their members. Firemen are good people and they risk their lives to protect people. This might not be the greatest movie, but it should be a powerful reminder of their service with a great cast featuring: Jennifer Connelly, Taylor Kitsch, Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, and Andie MacDowell.

Wonderstruck coming on October 20th. The story of a young boy in the Midwest is told simultaneously with a tale about a young girl in New York from fifty years ago as they both seek the same mysterious connection. Directed by Todd Haynes (Carol, I’m Not There) and based on the Novel by Brian Selznick (Hugo).

The Mountain Between Us coming on October 20th. Stranded after a tragic plane crash, two strangers (Idris Elba and Kate Winslet) must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow covered mountain. When they realize help is not coming, they embark on a perilous journey across the wilderness. This sounds stressful and I won’t be taking my wife to see it or I will never get her on a plane.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women coming on October 27th. The true story of William Moulton Marston, the polyamorous relationship between his wife and mistress, the creation of his beloved comic book character “Wonder Woman”, and the controversy the comic generated in its earlier years. Playing off the success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman earlier this year, we get a biopic about the guy who created the Amazonian princess. Could be interesting.

Wow. That’s already quite a list and we still have two more months of the year to look at. Which are you most enthused about? Are there any that you aren’t sure about or that you think might not live up to their expectations? Let me know in the comments below or on Social media. Also, don’t forget to check out the other installments of this Fall Movie Guide: Action/Adventure, Horror/Thriller, and Comedy/Family.

Weekend Outlook – Pirates of the Baywatch: Guardians of the Covenant

Happy Memorial Day weekend everybody! So after you get done with your barbecue (which is really just burgers and hotdogs, or maybe brats if you’re fancy), then what are you going to do?

Maybe you’ll go shopping. I hear there are some good deals meant to lure you away from the simplicity of always paying less for things by shopping online. Perhaps you are thinking about visiting a theme park, but that’s expensive and you run the risk of dehydration. I guess you could watch any of the mediocre sporting events which will be on all weekend, you’ve got the Indy 500, the NBA conference finals, a whole bunch of baseball, or the carbonated poison water 600. But those all sound long, boring, and better watched in short clips on YouTube as a last resort of entertainment.

Why not hang out at the multiplex and catch up on those early Summer blockbusters that you have missed because you have been so busy catching up on your assignments from procrastination class or cramming for that test that you no longer remember because of sleep deprivation? It has been a relatively slow start to the summer movie season, but this long weekend should be the perfect time to catch that movie that has been calling you. We’ve got 3 sequels and an R-rated comedy TV adaptation to examine so buckle up!

If you haven’t already seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, you might be a Mennonite (Note to self: find Mennonite comedian and pitch the idea of stealing Jeff Foxworthy’s signature bit). It has only been out since Cinco de Mayo and it has already made close to 3 quarters of a billion dollars worldwide! Guardians is a ton of fun and it is fairly kid friendly, so as long as your kid can dress themselves and no longer needs a high chair, they should be up for this adventure.

The premise is simple. We rejoin our lovable gang of space anti-heroes a little while after the first film ends (If you haven’t first Guardians of the Galaxy, then you should probably buy it on iTunes and catch up with the rest of civilization). Star Lord has daddy issues that he needs to work out and they do it in hilarious fashion. This is has more laughs per minute than the first film with more of the same character driven drama and amazing 80’s soundtrack. (I’m serious about the soundtrack! I literally just Googled “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) by Looking Glass. It will be stuck in your head for the rest of the week, just be prepared.) I’ll be honest, if you haven’t seen this one, and maybe even if you have, it is your best bet. The rest are likely going to be hit or miss.

I just saw Alien: Covenant last night and it was very good, but it kind of felt like it was struggling with what kind of movie it wanted to be. But what should we expect from the 3rd film from Ridley Scott in this franchise which he helped reboot back in 2012 with the prequel Prometheus. Covenant rides the line between the heady philosophical ramblings of Prometheus and the crap your pants scariness of Alien.

If Guardians was safe for kids that can ride a roller coaster then this one is only safe if you can drive a car (manual transmissions only, none of that wussy automatic garbage). I’m serious, there is blood everywhere in this, aliens bursting out of all kinds of cavities and orifices, not to mention the synthetic on synthetic porn that almost happens. I could hear the Fassboners rising in the theater. If you’re a fan of Ridley Scott and the franchise you won’t be disappointed, but it’s not his best work. I’m seriously hoping that Blade Runner 2049 is better.

I’ll be quite honest, the only thing that get’s me excited about Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Longest movie name since Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood) is the inclusion of Javier Bardem as the baddie. If you’ve seen Skyfall or No Country for Old Men you know that he can be extremely creepy and intimidating, and that’s before he’s been all zombified. Even though it looks creepy, this is Disney we are talking about and I’m sure if your emo kids are into pirates then they would be okay going to this one too.

I know that this is a total cash grab on Disney’s part. They want to revive the franchise that has brought in $3.7 billion since 2003. I get it, but even Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley were smart enough to get out after three films and here Johnny Depp is riding into his fifth. He is simply the worst pirate that I’ve ever heard of, but I have heard of him so I’ll be checking this one out on Saturday, so stay tuned for my thoughts.

Finally, we have the R-rated 90’s TV adaptation that literally no one has ever been clamoring for. Baywatch hits theaters this weekend and I can only hope that they at least got Hasselhoff for a cameo, I mean he’s in Guardians so it’s not like he wasn’t available for filming. If they missed out on the Hoff, at least they have the ghost of Pam Anderson’s boobs, a.k.a. Alexandra Daddario. It looks like they are trying to go down the comedy parody road with this one and that would be great. But they have had me worried in a couple of trailers that they might try and take this straight, and if it takes itself too seriously it will be garbage.

The critical consensus is already that it is garbage (18% on Rotten Tomatoes), but I’m hoping that this could at least be as good as Central Intelligence. I’ve never been much of a fan of Zac Ephron, but I’m willing to give him a shot. This one is for adults only, the red band trailers have been bad enough that I had to watch them after my kids went to bed. I’ll be seeing this one next Wednesday so you’ll have to wait a little bit longer for my full review.

The most important thing is for you to enjoy this weekend and remember those brave men and women who died so we can eat lots of expensive buttery popcorn and be entertained by the beautiful monkeys we pay to entertain us. Have a great weekend!

 

 

Trailer: ‘Whiplash’ Director’s Musical ‘La La Land’

Yesterday, we got the first fantastic trailer for Whiplash director Damien Chazelle’s new Los Angeles-set musical La La Land. It looks great and I can’t wait to see it. Ryan Gosling stars as a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress, played by Emma Stone, in the City of Angels. There’s lots of singing and dancing and it is just not something that we really see anymore.

I’m excited because this is the next film from Chazelle, who blew me away with Whiplash. So stop what you’re doing and watch this right now. Lionsgate is planning to release Chazelle’s La La Land in select theaters starting December 2nd this year, with a wide release soon after.

Zac Ephron Considers Joining the Circus

Tracking Board reports that The High School Musical alum is in talks to join Hugh Jackman in the  P.T. Barnum musical biopic The Greatest Showman on Earth.

In the Fox feature, Jackman will play Barnum, the famous conman-turned-showman, who founded the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Jenny Bicks (Sex and the City) will pen the musical, which Jackman is producing alongside Laurence Mark.

Efron is having a busy, if not particularly successful, summer at the multiplex, having just released the studio sequel Neighbors 2 and stars in another sophomoric comedy, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, opening July 8.

The in-demand actor also just finished filming Dwayne Johnson’s Baywatch and will appear alongside Neighbors co-star Seth Rogen in James Franco’s The Masterpiece. Production for The Greatest Showman on Earth is expected to begin later this year with a release date currently slated for Christmas day 2017.

 

Day 29 – 30 Day Movie Challenge

A Movie From Your Childhood – 30 Day Movie Challenge

I could pretend that I had great taste in film even as a toddler, but that’s no fun. I do remember watching movies like Jurassic Park as a kid, but one that I come back to over and over again is Disney’s Robin Hood. For some reason, this treat tends to get the cold shoulder from animation purists whenever it comes up in conversation. For the life of me, I just don’t understand the hostility to this cozy, endearing adventure/comedy.

Released while the studio was still recovering from Walt’s death, this was one of the first Disney productions that didn’t benefit from his personal touch. The studio was still jittery when it came to artistic direction now that their greatest supporter was gone. It’s unusual to Disney films because it stays very tight on its characters. This leaves the plot winding a bit aimlessly at times, so there’s not a big payoff in the end, but the care with which the characters are handled grows on the viewer as the film strolls along.

Looking back, as an adult and a film snob, I can see that the picture is notorious for its corner-cutting animation, it simply doesn’t have the sparkling hand-drawn detail of earlier Disney masterpieces, or the glitzy sheen of the latter ones. It’s certainly one of the more crudely-drawn productions of the company. But even when you stack up the complaints lobbed at this incarnation of the Robin Hood tale, they really don’t matter, because in the end we get a richly entertaining good time, and I’m glad to say that this film is just as captivating to my children as it was to me.

What movies do you remember fondly from your childhood? What do you think about Robin Hood? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter or Facebook.

Day 14 – 30 Day Movie Challenge

A Movie That No One Would Expect You To Love

I was interested in this topic from the first time I read the challenge because of the way it is worded. It is asking for a movie that no one would expect you to love. This doesn’t imply that you actually do love that movie. It forces you to put yourself in the shoes of those that know you. You have to inspect your own preferences. If the challenge was asking for a film that you actually liked, then it would say, “A movie that people would be surprised to find that you loved.”

I am running short on time because this weekend is my son’s 8th birthday and my aunt and uncle just came into town tonight so I have been entertaining this afternoon. But I must not neglect in my duty to the challenge. I think that people would be surprised to know that I actually like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I think it is a lot of fun, and the musical numbers will be stuck in your head for days. Tim Curry as the transvestite from the planet of Transylvania is funny, creepy, and campy all at once. This is my favorite movie to watch on Halloween.

But I don’t think that anyone would expect me to like just about anything in the horror genre. I don’t particularly enjoy being scared. I only watch horror movies on my own terms. I can think of a few enjoyable horror movies that I’ve seen in the past few years, namely The Strangers and Insidious. But there is no way I would ever be caught dead watching the latest incarnation of the Saw franchise, Saw V. I actually loved the first Saw movie. I thought the twist at the end was fabulous and I didn’t see it coming at all.

So what about you? What do you hate so much that everybody knows it and what would people be shocked to know that you love? I want to share in your love and hatred of cinema. Leave me a message in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Well, it is time to get my countdown underway. Let me remind you that I am working my way through the IMDb Top 250 list as it appeared on November 15, 2010. I had to do this because of the flexible nature of this online user generated list. In fact, even after only one week, The Nightmare Before Christmas has moved up to #249, and if you look at it today, the list (particularly here at the bottom) may look much different.  So, I will do my best to add other films that jump on and off the list while I am on this journey and we can watch them together once my journey is through.

This movie was released when I was ten years-old, and I remember wanting to see it not so much because of the animation technique or the big names attached to it, but because I thought the Burger King watches that my friends had were cool. I was not allowed to watch it at that time, because my parents thought that it was too dark and frightening for kids to watch (the same reason Disney pushed its release off to Touchstone Pictures). It wasn’t until I was well into high-school and my goth phase that this movie once again caught my eye.

Burton’s Batman was one of my favorite movies in Middle School. I remember coming home from school popping Batman in the VCR and being thrilled by Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. When I later found out that the same mastermind who directed Batman, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands, was the man who dreamed up this film, I had to see it. I remember getting wrapped up in the gorgeously dark scenery so skillfully and painstakingly created through the use of stop-motion animation. I remember tapping my toes to the addictive music of Danny Elfman. I simply enjoyed it, filed it away as a pleasant holiday movie, and went on with my life.

As I watched this magical film again today, I was struck by a few observations.

First, it was NOT directed by Tim Burton. Everyone ties The Nightmare Before Christmas to Tim Burton. While he wrote it and produced it, it was directed by a man whose name isn’t even in most movie fan’s vocabulary. Henry Selick. Do a quick IMDb search, and you will see that Henry Selick had just as much to do with the look and feel of Nightmare as Tim Burton did. He adapted Roald Dahl’s James and The Giant Peach long before Burton tried his hand at Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And he skillfullly directed the wonderfully rich and dark Coraline. Clearly this film is great because of its collaboration. Tim Burton’s concept and characters, the lyrics and music of Danny Elfman, and the hard work and dedication of hundreds of artists are held together and made better by the creative glue of Henry Selick’s direction.

Also, watching this film again, I had all sorts of thoughts about the nature of Halloween vs. Christmas, the commercialization of Christmas, and the feelings of longing for something more fulfilling than the amusement of fright. But the biggest thing that caught my attention was the wordplay in the title. It is a cute and clever twist on the first line of the well known 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” But it got me thinking if there was something deeper in the title. What is the nightmare before Christmas? Is it referring to Halloween? Jack? Perhaps the nightmare is that sense of longing that Jack and Sally feel. But because I have Movies on the Brain, my mind cross-referenced to a scene in the 1997 Steven Spielberg movie Amistad where one of the slaves is looking through a Bible illustrated with drawings of biblical events. One slave says to the other that he is beginning to understand this book. As he shows the other slave a picture of Christians being attacked by lions in the Roman Coliseum, He says, “Their lives were full of suffering. Then he was born (pointing to a picture of baby Jesus in the manger), and everything changed.”

Do you see the connection? Jack Skellington (The Pumpkin King) is revered in his native Halloweentown, but he has grown tired of the same old routine. While wandering through the forest, he stumbles across and opens a portal to Christmastown. He is intrigued and impressed by what he feels in this magical place. Although devoid of any reference to the Christian origins of Christmas, besides a quote from the kidnapped “Sandy Claws” who shouts, “Haven’t you ever heard of peace on earth, good will towards men?” Jack’s feelings aren’t totally dissimilar to the emotions that accompany the new birth. Much like Jack Skellington, our lives are empty and we continually search for something more until we stumble across the meaning of Christmas. Sadly, the true meaning of Christmas is never unearthed but it still raises all sorts of ideas about the comparison of the death symbolized in Halloween to the life that is found in Christmas. Our lives before Jesus are the real nightmare before Christmas. Our lives were filled with suffering then Jesus was born and everything really did change.

Not all of my posts will be this religious in their thrust. That is just what came to my mind. Join me next time for #249 the Korean Romantic Comedy, My Sassy Girl. I’ll probably watch the American adaptation of the same title as well to compare them. See you then and remember, there is no cure for movies on the brain.