Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Reel Preview: Everything You Need to Know About HALLOWEEN

This week, the 11thfilm in the HALLOWEEN series that started in 1978 arrives in theatres, bringing back the lurking slashing horror icon Michael Meyers and his lifelong prey, Laurie Strodes. Here is everything you need to know about this year’s biggest horror film. 

What is this about? –This may be the 11thfilm in the franchise, but as far as the filmmakers are concerned, this new HALLOWEEN is only the second. It is serving as a direct sequel to the original HALLOWEEN from 1978, and is ignoring all of the other sequels and the 2007 reboot. Taking place 40 years after the events of that original film, Laurie has been preparing all her life for Michael’s return to the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he looks to finish his killing spree. 

Who is in this? – Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as Laurie. This is the first time she has played the character since HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION in 2002. Nick Castle, who played the hulking Michael Meyers in 1978, reprises the role in a few scenes but shares it with stuntman James Jude Courtney. The rest of the cast is rounded out with Judy Greer, playing Laurie’s daughter, along with Will Patton, and Andi Matichak…playing Laurie’s granddaughter. 

Who is behind this? –The film is directed by David Gordon Green, who has directed dramas such as ALL THE REAL GIRLS (2003), and SNOW ANGELS (2007). Recently he has been spending time in the comedy genre, helming knee-slappers PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (2008), and YOUR HIGHNESS (2011). John Carpenter, who directed the original film, serves as an executive producer. 

Random Facts – This is Jamie Lee Curtis’ fifth time playing Laurie * John Carpenter, who composed the chilling and iconic score for the original film, provides the score once again * Actor Danny McBride co-wrote the script with David Gordon Green * This will be the fifth timeline in the series. The current timelines are 1 and 2, 4-6, Rob Zombie’s two films, RESURRECTION, HALLOWEEN III which is its own timeline, and this new film (don’t feel bad if confused; this Blogger doesn’t understand it either) * The release date coincides with the 40thanniversary of the first film * At 70 years old, Nick Castle is the oldest actor to play Michael Meyers, and the third to play him more than once * The film’s release date of October 19this the day Michael Meyers was born * This is the third film in the series to simply be titled HALLOWEEN, after the 1978 film and Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake * 

What to expect? – HALLOWEEN has been just like any other horror franchise; one great movie to start with and then a rash of lousy and pointless sequels. The continuity through the films has been a mess for years, and the intention of this new film is to correct that by obliterating it. At the very least, the film earns positive points for that. We can certainly expect much of the same from the other films; a big lug with a knife slashing people on his way to the girl. But the minor twist here is that this time the girl is prepared; ready and waiting to fight that big lug with her own weapons. It’s an interesting twist on a tired franchise, and should give horror fans some new meat to chew on. John Carpenter’s original film was more about atmosphere than actual plot, and that made the simple scares all the more scary. Hopefully this new HALLOWEEN remembers that. 


HALLOWEEN creeps into theatres on October 19th

Saturday, October 13, 2018

A Reel Review: FIRST MAN

In the last few years, writer/director Damien Chazelle has been making films based on the music world; starting with GRAND PIANO in 2013, followed by WHIPLASH in 2014, and the all—out musical LA LA LAND in 2016. After five years of song and dance, Chazelle has escaped those Earthly boundaries with an eye on the Moon…and the men and women who captured it. 

After the death of his daughter, Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), volunteers for the new space program with the lofty goal of landing on the Moon and returning safely. The rigorous training and dangers cause stresses on his home life, including his marriage with his wife Janet (Claire Foy). 

It was the greatest accomplishment in the history of mankind. Only 60 years after the Wright Brothers learned how to fly, America found itself in a space-race with the Soviet Union, and constantly losing. There was pressure on the new space agency called NASA, from both the political and the national pride isles; this was something that had to be done. Writer and director Damien Chazelle keeps an eye on the grand implications of the task, but at the same time, and more importantly, focuses on what’s happening on the ground and in the homes of the actual human hands and hearts that were making those giant rockets shake the Earth on their way into the void of space. The steps towards America’s first space voyage are shown in great detail; from the training, to the astronaut selection process, to the training flights in the Gemini program. A lot of homework was done here and it shows, as the film has a very authentic feel to it. 

Despite the grand stage of the national effort, Chazelle keeps his cameras close to his characters, especially Armstrong. He and his wife Janet are in nearly every scene in the film, as we’re shown how the training, flights, and loss of life affects them. The loss of their daughter hangs over them like another planet, and drives Armstrong to reach higher than his grasp. There is a motivating factor there that really works, and gives FIRST MAN the humanity that was such an important factor in the eventual, historical first moon-walk. 

Keeping the cameras close to the characters is the film’s trademark. Chazelle goes for extreme close-ups for most of the film, especially in the tight confines of the cramped and claustrophobic spacecraft of the time. Chazelle drops us right into the seats of the capsules, and the creepy lighting, terrific sound mixing, and spot-on editing makes the horrors of space travel up-front and real for us; this is really how it feels to be launched into space. Armstrong’s troubled Gemini flight, and most especially the Moon-landing which was extremely close to disaster are fantastic sequences which are also full of stomach-churning tension. Visual effects are stunning; although Chazelle bypasses a lot of exterior-shots of the spacecraft in favor of first-person-perspectives. The surface of the Moon is breathtaking, and Justin Hurwitz’s score is fantastic. 

Acting is as bright as the Moon. Gosling plays Armstrong as a distant man with a tough shell to crack through, and his one emotional break-down is brilliantly played. There is a quiet battle going on inside him, but his dedication to duty overcomes it…and Gosling shows it all in what is one of his best performances. Claire Foy as Armstrong’s wife steals the show. She has a lot to bear despite being the one left on the ground, and her struggles are made real by Foy. The rest of the cast, including Corey Stoll, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Lukas Haas, Brian d’Arcy James, and Ciaran Hinds are well-cast and played. 

After the outstanding Moon-landing and first stroll sequence, the film bypasses the standard flight-home and splash-down and jumps right to the quiet times the astronauts have to spend in quarantine, which offers Chazelle the chance to bring this story back down to Earth, quite literally. It’s a bold move that reminds us of the humanity behind all the rockets and computers and makes FIRST MAN a very special film. This was a story that deserved a special touch, and it makes a perfect landing. 


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Reel Opinion: The Top 10 Best Remakes

Last week, Bradley Cooper’s magnificent remake of A STAR IS BORN was met with overwhelmingly positive feedback from fans and critics (read Reel Speak’s review HERE). It was the fourth time Hollywood has done a film with that title and subject matter, and the film’s success sparked a conversation of the best, and worst remakes that Hollywood has made over the decades. The term “remake” today is often met with a groan, as studios have been cranking out way too many of them in the last 10 or 15 years. But Tinsel Town has always done them, dating back to their very early days. Sometimes they are made to give a new spin on an old story, and sometimes they are made just to make a buck based on the title alone. This Blogger has always believed that a good movie can be found anywhere, and if the content is good, then who cares where it came from. 

This list of Best Remakes judges the films on Reel Speak’s standard of story, character, entertainment value, and any cultural or industry impact. All films must be judged on their own merits, so just how faithful they stayed to the original material does not matter here. 

So let’s get this started before someone remakes it…

10. THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)

Many people don’t realize that Victor Fleming’s beloved cinematic adaptation of the L. Frank Baum novel was actually the sixth version of the story to come to the screen, with versions from 1910 through 1925. The only reason this doesn’t rank higher is the previous versions were basically “shorts”, with running times ranging from 15 to 85 minutes…making the 1939 version the first true “feature” length.’s still very much a remake, and proof that sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right. 


David Fincher was the perfect director to bring the popular novel to the screen, which was originally adopted in a Swedish version in 2009. His filmography up to that point, which explored murder mysteries, the internet, and procedurals, gave him the right chops to make DRAGON TATTOO one of the best films of 2011; with multiple Oscar nominations and an impressive box office haul. The performances by Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, and Christopher Plummer are some of their best work, with Mara showing the world how great she really is. 


Philip Kaufman’s remake of the 1956 horror film, in which humans are replaced by alien duplicates, was a creepy film with an un-nerving atmosphere, and an ending that haunts to this day. Its exploration of human interactions and emotions resonate, and its visual and audio effects were a milestone and a leap forward for Hollywood. 

7. 3:10 TO YUMA

James Mangold’s redo of the 1957 Western was an improvement in every way; starting with the acting from the well-assembled cast of Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Peter Fonda, Ben Foster, and Alan Tudyk…and ending with Mangold’s energetic direction which took the necessary time-outs in-between gunfights to dig into the characters. 

6. THE FLY (1986)

David Cronenberg’s take on the classic horror film from 1958 brought up front the body-horror elements that the original film just could not, or was unwilling to do. When a man slowly transforms into a fly-hybrid creature from the inside out, there can be some horrifying and gross things to see, and this version of THE FLY gave it all to us with some stunning visual effects. Creepy, horrific, and terrifying…THE FLY is often regarded as one of the best in the horror genre. 

5. THE MUMMY (1999)

The Boris Karloff version from 1932 may be considered to be the classic, but Stephen Sommers' version was the real dose of entertainment. High energy, a fun and inspired cast, a fantastic score by the great Jerry Goldsmith, and classical elements that made it feel like a product of the Golden Age of Hollywood. This Blogger's personal favorite remake. 

4. A STAR IS BORN (2018)

The only reason this doesn’t rank higher is that it hasn’t had the test of time put to it yet, but it’s hard to think that Bradley Cooper’s version of this classic show biz fable, the fourth since 1937, will be looked at as anything but masterful in the coming decades. Full of heart and emotion and astonishing performances by Cooper and Lady Gaga, there is a raw power here that transcends its predecessors. 

3. THE THING (1982)

Although this Blogger prefers the 1951 film, John Carpenter’s take on the story of a group of arctic workers terrorized by an alien with the ability to take human forms, stands tall as one of the best horror films ever made. Thick with atmosphere and startling special effects for its time, THE THING was not only a gore-fest but one of those films that messes with our heads…right up until the final frame. 

2. TRUE GRIT (2010)

Sometimes a remake can only work if the right people are involved. John Wayne’s 1969 Western, which earned him his only Oscar, was improved upon in every way by the steady hand of the Coen Brothers directing team, and driven by wonderful performances by Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, and most especially…Hailee Steinfeld. Not to mention outstanding cinematography by Roger Deakins which made it one of the most beautiful looking Westerns ever made. Emotionally rewarding all around. 

1. THE DEPARTED (2006)

Martin Scorsese’s Best Picture-winning crime thriller was a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film INTERNAL AFFAIRS, and not only surpassed the original film but stands firmly on its own as a gripping crime drama. Loosely based on a true story in Boston, the film follows an undercover cop deeply embedded in an organized crime boss’s crew…who happens to have his own spy in the State Police. It is a clever, and tension-filled game of cat-and-mouse, peppered with good old-fashioned cops and robbers. Scorsese’s direction and music selections were very much on point, and the performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin, and Vera Farmiga are excellent. Of all the remakes Hollywood has done over the decades, Scorsese’s little masterpiece departs from the pack. 

Reel Speak's Top 10 Best Remakes

  6. THE FLY
  7. 3:10 TO YUMA

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Reel Review: VENOM

In the last 18 years, studios have fallen over themselves to bring comic-book properties to the big screen, with most of them focusing on caped and armored superheroes. In the last few years, a little sub-genre has spun-off; not of more superhero movies, but super-villain stories. These efforts have been less-than great so far, with most of them not having much of a purpose other than making cash based on the title alone. The search for a good villain story continues, with director Ruben Fleischer and Sony Pictures’ adaptation of VENOM. 

Disgraced journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), becomes infected with an alien parasite which calls itself Venom, which has its own consciousness and gives Eddie super-human abilities. The parasite was brought to Earth by corporate overlord Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), who is using human experimentation with other parasites…only to find out that the parasites have plans of their own. 

Taking bits and pieces from movie genres such as monster flicks, body horror, buddy-comedy, and good old-fashioned superhero lore, VENOM switches gears early and often. The early goings spend time with Eddie introducing him as a hard-hitting, crook-exposing TV journalist, and when he becomes infected with the talking parasite that calls itself Venom, the film switches to a horror flick (albeit a mild PG-13), and Eddie sees his life unravel; including the loss of his career and fiancé (Michelle Williams). Eddie and the Venom become an odd-couple of sorts, with he and the parasite arguing with each other and helping each other out in an effort to expose Carlton and prevent the other parasites from carrying out their plans.

It’s a decent enough plot, but VENOM flat-out falls apart in the execution. Characters are thinly drawn with any development limited to one page of the script, and there’s little reason to care if anyone wins or loses. The film also seems to have had some major issues in the editing booth. Scenes start in weird places in mid-conversation, and it’s clear that pieces of the film are missing. Characters appear in locations out of nowhere, and obvious gaps in the film’s own logic are everywhere. 

Director Ruben Fleischer also has a lot of indecision with tone, as the film can’t decide if it wants to be taken seriously or as a yuk-fest. The Venom parasite, when it fully embodies Eddie, wants to eat people, but its banter back and forth are laughable even during the parts that supposed to be taken seriously, and the muppet-like voice of Venom is ridiculous. Venom drastically also changes its mind out of the blue; one minute it wants to infect the world, the next it wants to save it. It’s just as big of a mess in the writing as it is in the script. The CGI is cartoonish and un-convincing, action sequences are a lot of noise with way too much shaky-cam, and there is an overall lack of energy (the first hour is an intolerable bore). 

Tom Hardy gives his all as he always does, but the material he is given to work with is silly and uninspired, and he suffers for it. Riz Ahmed is a bore as a standard bad guy, and Michelle Williams serves zero purpose. 

By the time the finale arrives, which is a headache-inducing noise-fest of CGI blobs smashing into each other, it’s clear that VENOM is just another entry in the super-villain solo-shot genre that doesn’t know what to do with itself. Not only does this accomplish nothing, but it feels like it was written and assembled by blindfolded monkeys with broken typewriters. Nothing to see here. 


Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Reel Review: A STAR IS BORN

First-time director Bradley Cooper’s A STAR IS BORN is the fourth Hollywood movie to carry that title. There is a wonderful scene towards the end, in which the character played by the great Sam Elliott explains that music (or any other art), is the same story told over and over, and all any artist can do is offer the world how they see it. That line not only justifies another version of the show-business, rags-to-riches story, but the mission statement for Cooper as he puts his own stamp on an old story. 
Jackson Maine (Cooper) is a hard-drinking, drug-taking, hard-of-hearing country-rock star who is on the down-slope of his career. After a gig, he stumbles into a bar and meets Ally (Lady Gaga), a struggling waitress with a great talent for singing and songwriting. Jackson and Ally begin a love affair, which sees his career falling just as fast as her star rises. 
It’s an old fable with new skin. A STAR IS BORN follows Ally’s rise through the music world, beginning with a thrilling duet performance with Jackson, and reaching a peak at the Grammy’s. While she rises, Jackson falls deeper into a pit of drugs and booze. Familiar territory, but Cooper, spending time in front and behind the camera, digs deep into both characters. Intimate and personal, the film works as the script and direction makes us believe in Jackson and Ally, who each have their personal demons and yet they benefit each other and make each other better; it doesn’t take long to have an interest in their lives and root for their success. 
It’s a show business fable sprinkled with a lot of heart; family, love, and personal passions drive the film. Cooper is also playing with universal truths that ring deep, not only for artists and performers but for all. The lessons strike a deep chord, and make A STAR IS BORN unique and powerful. His direction shows a steady hand in the intimate moments, and then lets loose during the stage performances which truly shows us what it like to perform in front of thousands. The quiet times and the loud scenes have an electricity that jolts off the screen. The music is wonderful, and the songs that Jackson and Ally write together reflect what is going on in their lives at a given time, which makes each performance vital to the story. The film looks great, and has a gritty, lived-in feel that gives it an authenticity. 
But the most authentic element of the film are the performances. Cooper dons a deep country-boy accent which is a spot-on imitation of Sam Elliott’s tone (for a very good reason). His acting is at his very best as he goes through his bouts of self-loathing drunkenness and bliss, and his vocal chords are jaw-droppingly good. Lady Gaga is the real revelation here; her singing bits are spectacular (all the performances were recorded live), but her acting is tremendous. It takes all but 10 seconds in the early goings of the film for her to prove herself; her many turns of happiness and sadness are pulled off like she’s been doing this for decades, and her chemistry with Cooper is explosive but natural. The rest of the cast, including Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, and Dave Chappelle are all excellent. 
Cooper and Gaga had a lot riding on this film; with the former having never directed or sung before, and the latter never acting in a leading role in a feature. But by the time the finale rolls around, which is a bittersweet gut-punch that will generate a waterfall of tears, the two prove themselves as more than capable of re-telling a Hollywood tale in a new, and refreshing way. It’s a film that reaches deeply; hitting those primal chords and sticks with us long after the credits roll. Its truths don’t preach about the dangers of drugs or booze, but instead asks us to examine the directions our lives are going in, and to act on it. It's astonishing how much it resonates, which is what all great films do. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A Reel Preview: The Year in Film 2018 - Episode X

Buckle up everyone, for the mighty month of October arrives with a great release schedule; ranging from classic horror to Oscar contenders. Here are the notable releases for the packed first full month of Glorious Fall.

It all begins to shine with...

A STAR IS BORN – In what may be the most anticipated film of the year, Bradley Cooper (AMERICAN SNIPER), directs and stars in this 4thHollywood remake under that name. Cooper plays a hard-drinking country musician who falls in love with a young singer, played by Lady Gaga in her big-screen debut. The rest of the cast includes Sam Elliot, Dave Chappelle, and Andrew Dice Clay. 

VENOM – In what may be the most un-anticipated film of the year, Tom Hardy (WARRIOR) plays Spider-man’s greatest villain…in a movie that doesn’t have Spider-man. It is directed by Ruben Fleischer (ZOMBIELAND, GANGSTER SQUAD), and also stars Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed. 

FIRST MAN – Ryan Gosling (DRIVE), plays Neil Armstrong in this long-awaited film about the first men to walk on the moon. It co-stars Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, and Ciaran Hinds. It is directed by Damien Chazelle, who brought us the Oscar darlings LA LA LAND in 2016 and WHIPLASH in 2014. 

BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE – In this thriller, seven strangers with seven secrets come together at a shady hotel. It stars Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, and Chris Hemsworth (THOR). It also promises a few surprise cameos and is directed by Drew Goddard, who brought us the genre-bending THE CABIN IN THE WOODS in 2012. 

BEAUTIFUL BOY – In this tearjerking drama, Steve Carrell plays the father of a meth addict, played by Timothee Chalamet (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME). 

GOOSEBUMPS 2: HAUNTED HALLOWEEN – If you need a break from the drama, this comedy for kids is a loose sequel to the 2015 film. Jack Black reprises his role as Goosebumps writer R.L. Stine. 

HALLOWEEN – Jamie Lee Curtis reprises the role she created over 40 years ago in the first HALLOWEEN film, with this movie serving as a direct sequel to that first film and ignoring the many sequels. It is directed by David Gordon Green, who brought us the comedy PINEAPPLE EXPRESS in 2008. 

WILDLIFE – The directorial debut of actor Paul Dano (THERE WILL BE BLOOD), in which a boy in the 1960’s watches his parents’ marriage fall apart. It stars Jake Gyllenhall and Carey Mulligan. 

MID90S – The directorial debut of actor Jonah Hill (THE WOLF OF WALL STREET), in which a young boy deals with his older, abusive brother. It stars Sunny Suljic and Lucas Hedges (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA). 

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? –  A rare dramatic role for Melissa McCarthy (GHOSTBUSTERS), who in this true story plays a writer who revitalizes her career by forging letters from deceased authors and playwrights. 

HUNTER KILLER – In this thriller, a team of Navy SEALS are dispatched on a submarine to rescue the Russian President from a coup and prevent a third World War. It stars Gerard Butler (300), and Gary Oldman (DARKEST HOUR). 

SUSPIRIA – In this remake of the 1977 Dario Argento horror film, a young dancer is enrolled in a prestigious dance academy which is plagued by mysterious happenings. It stars Dakota Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Tilda Swinton, and Mia Goth. It is directed by Luca Guadagnino, who brought us the acclaimed CALL ME BY YOUR NAME in 2017. 


Next month, Reel Speak previews the month of November. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

A Reel Review: The Fall Movie Trailers - The Good, The Bad, & The Glorious

Fall is here, and the early days of this magnificent season are the time for studios to start promoting their upcoming films for the remainder of 2018 and for the early Summer months. This past week gave us a minor avalanche of new trailers, and here is how they landed in the Good, Bad, and Glorious. 


BUMBLEBEE – The 6thfilm in the TRANSFORMERS franchise, which is serving as a soft reboot and is focusing on one character, thrilled long-time fans with their second full trailer. The new spot has highlights which included the original, first-generation designs of the classic fighting robots, and gave away enough to hold our interest without spoiling. This could be one of the surprise hits of the year. Watch the trailer HERE.

CREED 2 – Tons of new footage in the ROCKY spinoff, which includes some stunning shots of ol’ Rock training the son of his best friend/former rival out in the desert. Quite the departure from the streets-of-Philadelphia trainings we’ve grown used to over the years. Also has new footage of the big Russian Ivan Drago and his son. Good trailer even though it seems really dour. Watch it HERE

HOLMES AND WATSON – The return of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, this time as the classic detective duo. This isn’t the first time Holmes has been given a comedy treatment, and this trailer contained a ton of laughs and a few surprises. Already looks better than the Guy Ritchie abominations. Watch it HERE


X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX – This trailer was released in the wee-hours of the morning, which is a move that doesn’t scream confidence from 20thCentury Fox. Besides that, the trailer contained footage which made the film look like the same storyline the X-MEN franchise has pursued at least three times already. Plus it doesn’t release until next Summer. Nothing exciting here at all. Watch it if you dare, HERE

ROBIN HOOD – This is the thirdtrailer for this oddball film, which is still trying to turn Robin into a superhero. This annoying trailer, which was curiously pulled from the internet a few days after release, was much of the same from the previous trailers with rock/rap music and clothing and dialogue that does not belong in a 12thcentury period piece. 

ROCKETMAN – This oddball, which is an Elton John biopic, is being marketed as a fantasty with a floating Elton…despite being based on the life of the famous singer and songwriter. Not to mention this doesn’t release for another eight months. Try to make sense of it HERE


FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD – The second spin-off film to the HARRY POTTER universe (now called the Wizarding World), gave us a ton of new footage, some peeks into the storyline, and a few surprises; with one of those surprises a real humdinger which changes the way we perceive a classic Potter character. Be amazed HERE

THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD – Nothing released last week can compare to the trailer for Peter Jackson’s upcoming WWI documentary film. The famed director of THE LORD OF THE RINGS surprised everyone with this trailer, which boasts how the film is made; by digitally restoring 100-year-old war footage so that it looks like it was shot yesterday. The visuals, music, and setup are breathtaking, and contains more emotion and hits below the cockles harder than any trailer released in the past week. Simply fascinating. Watch it HERE.


BUMBLEBEE rolls out December 21st.

CREED 2 steps into the ring on November 21st.

HOLMES AND WATSON will be afoot December 21st

X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX lands June 7thof 2019. 

ROBIN HOOD is aiming for November 21st

ROCKETMAN blasts off May 17thof 2019. 

FANTASTIC BEASTS will apparate on November 16th

THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD premieres on October 16th.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Reel Preview: Everything You Need To Know About THE OLD MAN & THE GUN

This week comes a film which has been unfairly flying under the radar; unfair because it involves one of today’s best working directors, along with a Hollywood legend in what may be his last bow. Here now is a preview, and everything you need to know about THE OLD MAN & THE GUN. 

What is this about? –THE OLD MAN & THE GUN is based on the true-life story of Forrest Tucker; a bank robber, career-criminal, and escape artist. In this yarn, Tucker is on what may be his final heist, when he comes across a possible romance while dodging investigators. 

Who is in this? – Robert Redford, in what may be his final film role, plays Forrest Tucker, and fellow acting legend Sissy Spacek plays the romantic interest. Casey Affleck plays the detective on the trail. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Danny Glover, Elisabeth Moss, Keith Carradine, John David Washington, and Tom Waits. 

Who is behind the camera? – THE OLD MAN & THE GUN is written and directed by David Lowery, who so far has a perfect film record. In 2013 he brought us the most-excellent contempary Western AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS. In 2016 he left the friendly confines of indie filmmaking for the big-studio, surprisingly good remake of PETE’S DRAGON. And last year, he brought us the mind-bending A GHOST STORY. 

Random but Important Facts – Robert Redford announced this film as his final role in August of this year * The script is loosely based on a 2003 article which appeared in The New Yorker by writer David Grann, who later recounted the story in his novel The Devil and Sherlock Holmes * The real-life Forrest Tucker robbed 18 banks, including four when he was 79 years old and living in a retirement community. He died in prison in 2004 at 83 * The film has a cast of four Oscar winners; Redford, Affleck, Spacek, and Carradine…and one Oscar nominee, Tom Waits * Spacek and Redford both won their Oscars in 1980; Spacek for COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER, and Redford for ORDINARY PEOPLE * Affleck appeared in Lowery’s AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS and A GHOST STORY, and Redford was in his PETE’S DRAGON * John David Washington also appeared in Spike Lee’s BLACKKKLANSMAN this year * The film re-uses footage from THE CHASE (1966), which stars a young Redford * 

What to expect – Starting with the story itself, the tale of an aging bank robber on his last heist has been told before, but there is something endearing about it; if a coming-of-age story can speak to us, then so should an end-of-age tale. And there is a certain, lovely poetic irony about Redford using this character and story to finally ride into the sunset. The rest of the cast is impressive and should deliver. Director David Lowery has pulled some great performances out of his actors and actresses in his prior films, and with this cast there is a lot of great acting to look forward to. Lowery’s writing has focused on what’s inside of his characters, and his gentle touch behind the camera makes for some patient, mature, and classic-feeling cinema…and his frames always look great; which is exactly what Redford deserves in his last bow. We say goodbye to a legend this week, and he couldn’t be in better hands. 


THE OLD MAN & THE GUN arrives in theatres September 28th.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Gary Kurtz: 1940 - 2018

Gary Kurtz, producer of cinema classics and favorites such as STAR WARS (1977), and THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982), has passed away at 78. 
Born Gary Douglas Kurtz in Los Angeles, Kurtz worked as an assistant director in the 1960’s, before his career was interrupted by the Vietnam War, when he served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon returning, he moved up the ladder of studio pictures, acting as an associate producer on films such as CHANDLER with Warren Oates, and TWO-LANE BLACKTOP in 1971. 
In 1973 he collaborated with a young and upcoming filmmaker named George Lucas, with their mutual friend Francis Ford Coppola to produce AMERICAN GRAFFITI. The nostalgia-fueled film was a sleeper hit and earned Kurtz and Coppola a Best Picture nomination. 
Kurtz would continue his work with Lucas, and together they would make the historic, and industry-changing STAR WARS in 1977. The cultural phenomenon would be the highest earner of the year and become the highest-grossing film of all time, along with 10 Oscar nominations. Kurtz’s final collaboration with Lucas would be in 1980 with the first STAR WARS sequel, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. He would hit box office gold again in 1982 with the Jim Henson film THE DARK CRYSTAL. 
His other producing credits include SLIPSTREAM (1989), with Mark Hamill, and the STAR WARS tribute film 5-25-77 in 2017. 
When a film wins the Oscar for Best Picture, the producer of that film is always the one that accepts the award, but despite that, the producing role seems to be one of the most thankless, and often overlooked role in a film production. While the director is the person on set, behind the camera barking orders, and spending endless hours in the editing room, the producer is the broad-strokes person; overseeing all aspects of production from casting, locations, personnel, financing, and much, much more. More so than the director, a producer takes on a film because they believe in it. Kurtz may not have a long list of awards and credits, but his bravery, and faith in a young and unproven George Lucas altered the flow of history; he believed in something new, something bold, and today’s cinema could use a lot more like him. 
Read Reel Speak’s blogs on the 40thanniversary of STAR WARS (HERE). 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Reel Opinion: The Top 10 Cinematic Letdowns

Movies have that magic to inspire, educate, enlighten, sadden, and most of all…entertain. But they also can disappoint. Sometimes that happens due to unrealistic expectations, overhype, or the sum of the parts/talent involved not paying off. This year, Shane Black’s THE PREDATOR let a lot of fans down, and the disappointment of that latest entry into the 30-year old franchise has led to discussion of the biggest letdowns in cinema, and to Reel Speak’s very first Top 10 Cinematic Letdowns.

This list covers the last 40 years in film history, and uses criteria of critical and fan reception. Box office doesn’t matter on a list like this because even a very good movie can disappoint at the gate. About half of these selections come from this millennium, mostly because of Hollywood being stuck in franchise/sequel mode in the last 15 years…and franchises have the hardest task in creating good follow-ups. This is not a Worst Movie list, as all these films have at least some merit and their defenders; these are instead films that fell way short of expectations, broke hearts, and shattered dreams.

So prepare to re-live those disappointments all over again…

10. MAN OF STEEL (2013)

It may seem like low-hanging fruit to pick on Warner Bros’. continuing bungled attempts at adapting the DC Comics superheroes, but Zack Snyder’s take on Superman never met expectations. The trailers were magnificent; making the film seem like a transcendent, thoughtful work that nearly looked like an arthouse production or a Terrence Malick joint. What we got instead was a clunky and dour movie that never once felt like Superman, topped off with a finale that repeated itself to the point of nausea.


Peter Jackson's follow-up/prequel trilogy to his historic and grand THE LORD OF THE RINGS got off to a shaky, but serviceable start with AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY in 2012, but the second film is where the bottom dropped out and the new trilogy never recovered. Way too many storylines, Bilbo was lost in the confusion, and a third act showdown with Smaug the dragon that seemed like it lasted a thousand years.


The Wachowski’s THE MATRIX (1999), was a genre-bending, generation-defining film, and there can be a raging debate over which one of its two sequels, both released in 2003, disappointed the most. The first sequel, RELOADED, did not reach the lofty heights of its predecessor, but it was still a moderate hit with fans and critics. The third film, REVOLUTIONS, was where the real letdown happened because it did not achieve its goal as a trilogy-capper of wrapping up all the storylines. Besides that, it just wasn’t a good movie.
7. DARK SHADOWS (2012)

By the time Tim Burton got around to adapting the 1960’s horror-soap opera to the big screen, we already knew that he was capable of making a bad movie, but the marriage of his knack for the strange and unusual and the show’s collection of goth, vampires, and werewolves seemed perfect. What we got instead was a dull slog and messy plot, topped off with a ridiculous end-battle with characters pulling shotguns out of nowhere. Not to mention the much-hyped cameo of the original cast-members which lasted 1.5 seconds.


The trailers told us that we had never experienced war until we saw it through the eyes of Quentin Tarantino, and even after seeing the movie…we still haven’t. The trailers promised us war and instead we got a grinding snail-paced film in which the overhyped squad of American, Nazi-hunting soldiers barely showed up. One of the biggest lies in movie marketing right here.


The first film in George Lucas’ prequel trilogy has a lot to praise; excellent action, casting, production design, and a magnificent score by John Williams. But it’s faults, including acting, pacing, and a plot no one cared about dragged it down…and what was most disappointing is that it let STAR WARS fans know that their beloved, generation-defining franchise wasn’t always going to be perfect.

4. 1941 (1979)

By the time Steven Spielberg was making his WWII satire, he was the hottest kid in Hollywood; having made mega-hits JAWS (1974) and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977). His 1941 may not be as bad as the internet says, but it’s still bad with its over-the-topness and isn’t nearly as funny as it thinks it is. It’s a letdown because it let us know that Spielberg, like his buddy George Lucas, wasn’t always going to be hot.


When Francis Ford Coppola got around to making what he called the epilogue to his Best Picture-winning GODFATHER crime dramas, he did so only because of a dire financial situation; and that meant his heart probably wasn’t really into it and it shows. PART III on its own is a finely crafted film (it was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture), but as a follow-up to its vastly superior predecessors it falls short. It suffered from lousy acting in places and a confusing plot that no one could understand.

2. PROMETHEUS (2012)

The return of Sir Ridley Scott to the ALIEN universe that he created was anticipated by everyone, with promises of an epic story involving human origins and galactic creation. What we got instead was a ridiculous and stupid movie with things happening for no reason, and the de-mystifying of the famed alien xenomorph creature clumsily handled. 


There was no bigger heartbreak in cinema than what happened on a Spring night in 2008, when audiences left theatres shaking their heads, not sure what they had just witnessed. The return of everyone’s favorite hat-wearing, two-fisted, whip-swinging archeologist…along with principal players Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Karen Allen, was presented to us by way of a ridiculous storyline, stupid scenes, annoying characters and way too much cartoonish CGI and green-screen. It had no energy, no fun, and turned Indiana Jones into a dumbass. This wasn’t just a letdown, it was a nuking of everything that once made Indy so great. 
Reel Speak's Top 10 Cinematic Letdowns

  4. 1941