Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Reel Opinion: The Top 5 Underrated Movies



Last week, this Blogger posted his Top 5 Overrated Movies, which you can read HERE. The blog was a look at the films that I find to be over-praised during their release and over time. The posting sparked some great discussion, and one loyal reader of Reel Speak suggested that I travel to the opposite end of the Earth and write about my Top 5 Underrated Movies. Never one to back down from a dare, here they are.

Compiling the list, I had to be careful to not make a list of Guilty Pleasures. What’s the difference between a Guilty Pleasure and Underrated? A Guilty Pleasure would be a film that we feel guilty about watching and never admit to anyone. Underrated is a movie that we show no shame in watching or praising, and feel that the world has mis-judged. This is a list of films that I find to be excellent and perhaps sadly forgotten as time has passed. These are the films which not only speak to me below the cockles, but deserve a lot more credit than they do now.

So here we go (again)…

5. THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) – In 1982, horror director John Carpenter (of
HALLOWEEN fame), remade this film into a freaky gore-fest with Kurt Russell, which is now considered to be a classic in its genre. I like the remake fine, but I adore the original more. Directed by Christian Nyby and produced by the great Howard Hawks, it was adapted from a novella and told the tale of a scientific encampment and a U.S. Army flight crew which is terrorized by a brutish alien. It’s a survival tale at its simplest, and today the acting and style may seem dated, but it is still a creepy flick with plenty of surprises, scares, and characters we don’t mind liking or hating. One of Howard Hawks’ favorite types of characters, the good ol’ American boys who use their skills and bravery to overcome all odds, is all over the film, and it’s a comfort to watch. The black-and-white photography adds to the creepiness, and the film has many beats which not only Carpenter used in his remake, but James Cameron would copy in his classic horror film, ALIENS (1986). When classic black-and-white horror creatures are mentioned, everyone gravitates towards Bela Lugosi’s Dracula or Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster, and it drives me nuts that James Arness as the Thing is sadly left out of that list of towering horror creatures.

4. THE MUMMY (1999) – Speaking of horror remakes, Stephen Sommers’ shot at the 1931 classic
is probably my favorite on this list, and one of my top films of the 1990’s. It didn’t attempt to re-capture the vibe of a straight-up horror film (although it has some creepy and jump-scare moments), and instead embraced fun and high-adventure in the spirit of INDIANA JONES. It was also made as a love-letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood; with high-energy, fun characters, thrilling set-pieces, and vast desert scenes reminiscent of what David Lean once did in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962). The cast of Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, and Kevin J. O’Connor always look like they’re having a blast, and Arnold Vosloo has a screen presence worthy of any top 10 cinematic villain list. And the score by the late great Jerry Goldsmith is one of his very best. When Universal Studios began transferring their back-catalog to the glorious Blu-ray format, they took great care in THE MUMMY release, and it really shows. It’s a stunning presentation which this film deserves.

3. THE RIGHT STUFF (1983) – Philip Kaufman’s epic historical drama about the early days of America’s space program was a box office failure in 1983, and also suffered from a political
shitstorm when John Glenn was running for President (Glenn is prominently featured in the film, and the speculation was that the film would give Glenn an unfair advantage). Despite being a box office bomb, THE RIGHT STUFF still earned praise from critics and would win four of its 10 Oscar nominations. Today, it is often overlooked when the discussion moves to the great historical dramas; either because of its hefty three-hour running time, dated special effects, leftover political bull, or overshadowed by APOLLO 13 (1995). But as a movie it deserves high praise; the cast is an all-star lineup, the direction has classical sensibilities, Bill Conti’s score is wonderful, the drama and tension is there, and it has many triumphant moments to earn applause. It is a vastly quotable film, and one of the greatest that no one remembers.

2. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (2012) – Derek Cianfrance’s epic family drama, which goes through three generations of fathers and sons, took it on the chin upon release simply because audiences felt duped. The film’s two major stars, Bradley Cooper and Ryan
Gosling, were not in the film very much despite their faces being prominently displayed on posters; Gosling’s character checks out in the first act, and Cooper doesn’t show until then…and then vanishes from the film for stretches in favor of the younger cast. Looking beyond that, Cianfrance has crafted one great film here, one that serves as a grand statement on the Sins of the Father, along with serving as a crime drama; good cops, bad cops, lawyers, and good old fashioned bank robberies. And speaking of bank robberies, the long, unbroken tracking shot of police cars chasing a motorcycle through a cemetery is white-knuckle thrilling. And Mike Patton’s music is hauntingly beautiful. I’ve always been a sucker for father-and-son stories, as I believe they are the most powerful in film, (even more so now), and PINES is one of the best of them.

1. THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004) – Speaking of father-and-son stories, Wes Anderson’s loving homage to real-life ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau boldly sails into that territory and beyond. Anderson’s work often gets dismissed as serious film because of his unique style that he


is locked into; quirky characters and music, bold uses of color, and absolute deadpan writing, acting, and camerawork. AQUATIC does have all that, but the storytelling beneath the style is one of his best. The script is remarkable as it fleshes out characters and situations with the simplest lines in the lightest effort, and each character gets his or her own arc and important moment in the large cast. Bill Murray plays the part of Steve Zissou, the aging ocean explorer/filmmaker who believes his best days are behind him, perfectly with the right amount of vulnerability, and his chemistry with is maybe-son Ned (Owen Wilson), reporter Jane (Cate Blanchett), and wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston) leaps off the screen. The filmmaking is ambitious with filming taking place underwater (the cast had to learn how to scuba dive), and at sea (an old ship was purchased and re-purposed), and the action scenes (a pirate raid and rescue mission) are better than what many shaky-cam directors are trying to do today. Seu Jorge’s soundtrack of David Bowie songs in Portuguese on acoustic guitar is wonderful, and overall the film has a familiar, classic feel with elements from Moby Dick and The Great Gatsby present. The ending is an emotional wallop that comes in twos and is not easily predicted, and it serves as a sweet, comforting film that does not age at all…and longevity is the best test of any film.

REEL SPEAK'S TOP 4 UNDERRATED MOVIES
  1. THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU
  2. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
  3. THE RIGHT STUFF
  4. THE MUMMY
  5. THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD





Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Reel Opinion: THE LAST JEDI Trailer




There is a lot to talk and write about in the movie world right now; Oscar Season is warming up, October has horror fans in full marathons and debate over their favorites, big releases from the two major superhero camps are on the horizon, and there are more than one scandal in Hollywood caused by one big jerk or another behaving badly. All juicy stuff, but all of it gets sent to the back pages when STAR WARS unleashes something new.


Last night, Disney and Lucasfilm presented the first, full-length trailer for the 8th episode in the saga, titled THE LAST JEDI. The trailer (HERE) and new poster (above) is the first look at new material for the highly anticipated film since the short teaser back in April. The trailer is packed with astounding visuals, intriguing dialogue, and big-wow moments from the old and new characters. Here are the highlights:

There is a lot of ambiguity going on with the dialogue we’re given. The opening monologue by the evil Supreme Leader Snoke (voiced and motion-captured by Andy Serkis), which speaks of a person being infused with great power, is presumed to be aimed at his current apprentice, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), but a quick cut to our hero Rey (Daisy Ridley), lets us know that the line was meant for her. This is then driven home by exiled Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who expresses fear over the power that Rey has. A stunning revelation in Luke showing fear, for we all know that fear leads to the dreaded Dark Side. With Snoke showing some favoritism towards Rey, we have to be reminded of the old evil Sith trick of replacing each other with new, more powerful apprentices; the “rule of two”, in STAR WARS canon.

Another stunner was seeing Kylo Ren seemingly ready to murder his mother, General Leia (the late Carrie Fisher), which would presumably complete his turn towards the Dark Side…a trip which took a major step forward when he murdered his father, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), back in the 7th episode, THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015). Patricide and matricide in a STAR WARS movie is new territory for the franchise, and reminiscent of a classic Greek tragedy.

Visually, the film is a treat. Rian Johnson seems to have shot one hell of a film, as every shot is downright gorgeous. These two shots are this Blogger’s new favorites in the whole history of STAR WARS:



There is also something to be said about the style of filming, with a lot of extreme close-ups of the characters. This could be a throwback to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980), which is considered by many to be the best in the series. That film, directed by the late Irvin Kershner, was put together with a lot of similar close-ups, which Kershner always considered to be the most interesting thing to ever be put in a movie frame, for close-ups express the characters. EMPIRE was a character-driven film, and the style seen so far in THE LAST JEDI suggests the same.


Some other great glimpses…

Finn (John Boyega) in combat with Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie)

Rey in agony, being tortured by Snoke.

And the ending, and oh my what an ending, has Rey seeking help to find her place. Her old enemy Kylo Ren extends his empty hand…nearly a mirror image of Rey at the end of THE FORCE AWAKENS when she seeks Luke.


And John Williams’ score is fantastic.

Overall, this new look at THE LAST JEDI is perfectly executed. It offers a lot of new footage and material without giving away too much, and offers enough questions to keep STAR WARS fans busy for a long, long time.

*

THE LAST JEDI arrives December 15th.

Friday, October 6, 2017

A Reel Review: BLADE RUNNER 2049



In 1982, director Ridley Scott introduced us to a futuristic world in which specialized police officers, called Blade Runners, hunt down and kill, or “retire” synthetic humans known as replicants. Far from just a standard sci-fi action flick, BLADE RUNNER took the time to explore themes of humanity and life, and today is regarded as one of the definitive science fiction films. Thirty-five years later, Scott has stepped aside in favor of a new director, Denis Villeneuve, who takes the story ahead to places that will surprise and impress long-time fans. 

Thirty years after the events of the first film, LAPD Blade Runner/Officer K (Ryan Gosling), is dispatched on an assignment to retire runaway replicant Morton (Dave Bautista). During the job, K discovers a deeper mystery with massive implications, which leads him to retired Blade Runner Deckard (Harrison Ford), and the company now in the business of manufacturing replicants; led by Wallace (Jared Leto), and his enforcer Luv (Sylvia Hoeks).

The first thing that must be said about BLADE RUNNER 2049 is that is impossible to take in without seeing its 1982 predecessor, as it is a direct sequel in every way despite taking place 30 years after. There are several storylines and themes from the first film that 2049 picks up and runs with, and it serves not only as a sequel but a natural, organic extension. A lot of credit right away needs to go to director Denis Villeneuve for not repeating the basic plotline of the first film and having his main character spend all of his time hunting down and blowing away replicants. This time, there is a mystery to solve, and what a mystery it is. The secrets unfold slowly like a great detective novel, and the first five minutes of the film offer the first of many shocking revelations that 2049 is packed with.

There is a journey for K to undertake as he sets out to unravel the mystery, and it takes him to places which has him questioning his own character and past. Villeneuve and his screenwriters do great work in making it feel natural, and several important, if not vital points from the first film are expanded upon in brilliant ways. From the end of BLADE RUNNER to 2049, it is seamless.

Fans of the original will be pleased to see that the unconventional pacing is still there; the film is no hurry to get anywhere as great care is taken to flesh out characters and plot. But there are no moments of boredom here as Villeneuve keeps a sense of forward momentum going, and the buildup towards the action scenes and revelations can be felt in the air. Special effects are stunning and offer some visuals that we’ve never seen before. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is absolutely jaw-dropping; the lighting and uses of color give 2049 a futuristic, yet natural beauty that demands to be seen on the big screen. The score provided by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is outstanding, and recycles the old Vangelis theme to great effect.

Acting is superb. Ryan Gosling does his usual stone-face but has several moments to break out of it and show some real depth. Harrison Ford steps right back into his old Deckard shoes with ease, and a major confrontation towards the end allows this veteran actor to show just how good he can really be. Jared Leto is fascinating as the eccentric and oddball creator of the new replicant models, and his right-hand Luv, played by Sylvia Hoeks, is also wonderful to watch. Robin Wright comes in as K’s police captain and is very good, and Dave Bautista shows a new set of ranges in a limited role.  The show is absolutely stolen by Ana de Armas, who appears as K’s virtual girlfriend. She is a beauty on screen and gets some heavy-lifting to do while bringing the emotional center of the film; astounding considering her character is an illusion.

With a hefty running time of two hours and forty-five minutes, 2049 is a haul but manages to feel tight, and is good enough to make us want more. There is so much to appreciate in 2049; the story is fascinating and surprising, the characters are well-realized and feel natural, and the stakes are one of the best we’ve seen in science fiction. Denis Villeneuve has constructed not only a great sci-fi tale but a great film; one that can and will inspire discussion, and most importantly, make the events of its predecessor even more important. The world of the Blade Runners has never been better.

BOTTOM LINE: See it




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Reel Preview: The Year in Film 2017 - Episode X



October, the first full month of glorious Fall, should be a month packed tight with horror films to get us into the (ahem), spirit of the season. But this year we’re (perhaps) treated to a grand milkshake of many genres of film; sci-fi, drama, action, some Oscar hopefuls, and yes, a few horror flicks. Here is a preview for the notable releases in the packed month of October.

It all picks up with…

BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult-classic finally gets a sequel, only this time it’s being directed by Denis Villeneuve, who brought us the most-excellent SICARIO (2015) and ARRIVAL (2016). Harrison Ford reprises his old role as Deckard, and he is joined by Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Dave Bautista, and Jared Leto.

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US – Based on the novel of the same name, this romance/disaster/survival movie has Idris Elba (THOR) and Kate Winslet (TITANIC) as the only survivors of a plane crash in the wilderness. It is directed Oscar-nominated director Hany Abu-Assad (PARADISE NOW, OMAR).

THE FLORIDA PROJECT – In this drama, a mother and daughter make the best out of living in a small hotel. Stars Willem Dafoe.

BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 – In a rare dramatic role, Vince Vaughn (WEDDING CRASHERS) plays a boxer turned drug runner turned convict who finds himself in a prison battleground. Co-stars Jennifer Carpenter and Don Johnson. It is directed by S. Craig Zahler, who brought us the cult-hit BONE TOMAHAWK in 2015.

UNA – Rooney Mara (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO), plays a girl who hunts down the man who had an affair with her when she was 13 years old. Ben Mendelsohn (THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES) also stars.

GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN – Domhnall Gleeson (THE FORCE AWAKENS) plays writer A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh in this biopic. Margot Robbie (SUICIDE SQUAD) co-stars. It is directed by Simon Curtis, who brought us MY WEEK WITH MARILYN in 2011.

BREATH – The directorial debut of Andy Serkis, who has made a career thus far out of motion-capture performance. His first film behind the camera has Andrew Garfield (HACKSAW RIDGE), playing a young man who only has three months to live after becoming paralyzed. It co-stars Claire Foy and Tom Holland (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING).

PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMAN – This film follows the life of Dr. William Moulton Marston and the inspirations he found to create the DC Comics legend Wonder Woman. Stars Luke Evans and Rebecca Hall.

GEOSTORM – Gerard Butler (300) plays a satellite designer who tries to save the world from a storm of massive proportions caused by malfunctioning climate-controlling satellites. It is the directorial debut of Dean Devlin, who has acted as a producer on INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996), and the 1998 GODZILLA.

ONLY THE BRAVE – Joseph Kosinski (TRON: LEGACY), directs this true-story drama about the firefighters who battled the 2013 forest fire in Arizona. The packed cast includes Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, and Jennifer Connelly.

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER – This psychological horror film has Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman as a couple terrorized by a small boy.

LEATHERFACE – The eighth film in the never-ending TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE series acts as a prequel to the original 1974 version. Stephen Dorff and Lili Taylor star.

JUNGLE – Daniel Radcliffe (HARRY POTTER) leads the way in this Australian survival film.

JIGSAW – Just when we thought it was safe to go back to the movie theatre during October, the SAW franchise returns. This eighth film in the franchise picks up a decade after the death of the famous Jigsaw killer (reprised by Tobin Bell).

SUBURBICON – George Clooney directs this crime comedy which was written by Joel and Ethan Coen. It stars Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Oscar Isaac.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE – Based on the non-fiction book of the same name, Miles Teller (WHIPLASH), plays an American soldier struggling to adapt back to civilian life.

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Next month, Reel Speak previews the month of November.





Monday, October 2, 2017

A Reel Opinion: The Top 5 Overrated Movies



This Blogger has always strived to keep things positive at Reel Speak. Sure, bad movies and cinematic assholes do get ripped here, and deservedly so, but despite the many problems mainstream Hollywood may have, I never wanted to jump on the everything-sucks train; that endless black hole of negativity where smart-ass movie bloggers just take a dump on everything, good or bad.

As the years pass, we all come across movies that we love, hate, loathe, and others that we just don’t quite get what all the fuss was about; movies that everyone hails to the high heavens and consider masterpieces or high art. Movies that get heaps of praise upon their release, and then worshipped as time passes. Recent events have prompted me to take a look at the films that I never quite understood where all the high accolades come from, and by keeping things positive, trying to figure that out can become an exercise in film criticism.

This very first edition of Reel Speak’s Top 5 Overrated Movies isn’t a list of films that are necessarily bad as they all have their merits, but they just didn’t speak to me and I’m left scratching my head over their popularity even after repeat viewings. The fact that these films appear on this list is credit to them right away

So here we go…

5. MOONLIGHT (2016) – It may be unfair to include this recent Oscar winner on this list as it’s only a year old and it hasn’t had the true test of time put to it yet, but I’m still fuming over it. Barry Jenkins’ drama about a young, underprivileged black boy coming to grips with his sexuality is absolutely an important topic to explore, but to me the film had no real plot, and with the exception of Naomi Harris, badly acted. There’s no real focus and it’s hard to find something to latch onto. This was the very rare occasion when the Academy really let me down. Again…yes it’s an important topic, but the name of the award is Best Picture, not Best Concept.

4. BLADE RUNNER (1982) – This is a film that I respect more than I could ever love. Ridley Scott’s futuristic sci-fi detective flick in which a cop hunts down a group of rogue androids is a visually stunning piece, supposedly conveying grand messages and ideas of what it is to be human. The ideas are definitely there, but they are not explored as deeply as everyone tells me they are. There have been seven different versions of the film since 1982 (annoying), and I’ve seen most of them several times…just waiting for that moment of illumination when I get it, but I’m still waiting. The film also has terrible, sluggish pacing with no sense of energy or momentum whatsoever. And I know it’s set in the future, but I simply can’t stand movies where characters dress weird for no reason.

3. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008) – This stupid movie, which was one of the other times the Academy let me down, is the only one on this list which I’ve only seen once, because that was enough. Danny Boyle’s drama, which plays out unintentionally as a comedy, asks us to buy into a lot. The plot centers around a young Eastern Indian kid who wins the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire simply by remembering events from his past. Well if it’s that easy, sign me up! I can remember my own past! It was an approach that felt like a shortcut, and the main character spending most of his life chasing one girl became annoying in a hurry. This film was also the beginning of a near-decade of actor Dev Patel staring at the camera with his mouth hanging open; a stretch that he finally broke out of with the far superior LION in 2016.

2. BATMAN (1989) – This is the one film that I loathe the most on this list. Tim Burton’s earnest attempt to bring Batman to the big screen for the first time has many merits; fantastic set design and visuals, a great score by Danny Elfman, and for the most part, a very good cast. It also stepped far and away from the colorfulness of the old TV series and put the darkness back into the Dark Knight; an approach still in effect in today’s Batman movies. The first 20 minutes or so of the film are absolute perfection, but for me it all goes to shit as soon as Jack Nicholson’s character becomes the Joker. From there it turns into a dance-a-thon with a goddamn song-and-dance routine every time Joker appears; so much that it might as well be called BATMAN: THE MUSICAL. On top of that, Joker’s nefarious plot to tamper with makeup and shampoo is one of the dumbest ideas of all time; so dumb that the movie itself couldn’t sustain it with any consistency. This was a sign of things to come; eight years of terrible Batman movies.

1. PULP FICTION (1994) – To be clear, I don’t hate PULP FICTION at all. It is well-crafted, well-cast, well-acted, and the “overdose scene” is one of my favorite sequences ever filmed and edited. My real issue with PULP FICTION is that it’s ground zero for my biggest hang-up with director Quentin Tarantino; that he constantly gets a pass for doing things that other filmmakers get lambasted for. This film is derivative of a dozen or so other movies that came before it, and is basically one long homage to one thing or another; it’s almost like going to see a cover band play, and for some reason QT gets praised to no end for doing it, while guys directing STAR WARS or TREK or James Bond films get roasted for doing the same exact approach. Besides that, PULP FICTION never had much of a plot to me; it’s a movie about nothing, and it always felt like three different films that have nothing to do with each other. And actor Tim Roth just gets under my skin in everything he appears in. PULP FICTION fans have called it transcendent. I don’t think so.

REEL SPEAK'S TOP 5 OVERRATED MOVIES
1. PULP FICTION
2. BATMAN
3. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
4. BLADE RUNNER
5. MOONLIGHT 





Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Reel Facts & Opinions: Men Behaving Badly



When we immerse ourselves in the movies, either by sitting in a theatre, on our couch, or just reading about upcoming films, we do so in the hopes that the experience will insulate us from the ugliness and turmoil happening in the world. But, just as politics and pro-football have suddenly become entangled, the bad things in the world could not be held back from our beloved universe of film. Specifically, the fledging film community of Austin, Texas, and by extension, the online film world and the far corners of Hollywood.

The most recent of a trio of events was just this week, when Harry Knowles, founder of the popular movie news website Ain’t It Cool News (AICN), was accused of sexual harassment by a woman named Jasmine Baker, who came forward with allegations of groping at an event at the Alamo Drafthouse theatre in Austin nearly two decades ago. Since then, multiple other women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Knowles.

The allegations come just as the Alamo Drafthouse was in a shitstorm of its own after it was revealed that the company’s co-founder, Tim League, had covertly re-hired movie journalist Davin Faraci, months after Faraci stepped down from his post from Drafthouse’s own website, Birth.Movies.Death, because of his own sexual assault allegations. League, by the way, was informed of Knowles’ groping actions earlier, but only came up with the suggestion of “just avoid him”.

Although Knowles has denied the allegations (via Twitter), and nothing has been proven in a court of law (yet), the fallout was immediate; Knowles was swiftly dismissed from the Austin Film Critics Association, had his ties broken with the Alamo Drafthouse and the annual Fantastic Fest Festival (which he co-founded with League), and in the most stunning happening, had his long-time staff of AICN writers quit their posts. The immediate breaking of Knowles’ connections points towards there being more than smoke, and League’s decision to remain silent makes him the new Joe Paterno.

The town of Austin may be a long way from Hollywood, but the ripple effects were still felt. The Alamo Drafthouse was a growing, unique chain of movie theatres, and although AICN wasn’t quite having the popularity it enjoyed in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, it had its place in history as one of the first independent movie news websites to post early reviews, spy reports, and give fans a place to speak their minds (the infamous AICN Talkbacks, in which fans post opinions, have been shut down since the allegations broke). AICN caused many Hollywood studios to take the internet seriously, and this new story of misconduct has been picked up by mainstream outlets such as The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Entertainment Weekly.

So what now? Knowles has stepped back from operating AICN, and League has promised to take action to prevent things like this from ever happening again. Men like Knowles and League started off just like the rest of us who have ever gone to a movie or written about a film; they were kids in a movie theatre, nothing more or less. They were fortunate enough to make a living playing a kid’s game, but during that time they forgot to act like adults. They used their positions as an excuse to act like baboons, and the effects are an insult to not only women but to the many fans who have supported AICN and Drafthouse over the years. The situation is still unfolding and more stories are likely to emerge, and it is a sobering reminder that ugly things still happen in our movie universe, and that universe would be a better place if men treated women like they would want their own mothers to be treated. It’s really not that hard, and if these two baboons really did love what they have created, they would step down and leave things in capable hands, where things can heal, recover, do things better, and step away from any negative leftover stigma. Because at the very least, they need to prove that they can do the right thing.









Monday, September 25, 2017

A Reel Review: KINGSMAN - THE GOLDEN CIRCLE



In 2014, Matthew Vaughn’s KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE was a welcome surprise for those of us looking for something new and original to arrive at the action-blockbuster genre. Highly stylized, it was one-part homage and one-part parody of the classic spy films of old, and its appreciation of vintage things spoke to older audiences while its cartoony action and vulgarity spoke to the younger. For its followup, subtitled THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, Vaughn delivers more of the same. And more. And more. And more…

Eggsy (Taron Egerton), and Merlin (Mark Strong), find themselves as the last of the super UK spy agency Kingsman, after the rest of the group is destroyed by super-drug cartel Poppy (Julianne Moore), who has poisoned all of her drug product in attempt to hold millions of people for ransom. Eggsy and Merlin are paired with their American counterparts, the Statesman, led by Champagne (Jeff Bridges), and are teamed up with Ginger (Halle Barry), and Tequila (Channing Tatum), and their resurrected colleague, Harry (Colin Firth).

Every sequel in cinema has had the challenge of striking the balance between topping what came before and diving deeper into their characters; making for an episode which explores new territory and expands the characters past their introductions. The early stages of THE GOLDEN CIRCLE set a nice stage, with Eggsy having personal stakes in saving the world, and finding his own balance between being a secret agent and holding down a relationship.

Director Matthew Vaughn, seemingly aware of what fans latched onto in the first film, decides to go all out and provide even more. Dizzying action sequences, juvenile humor, vulgar language…are all reprised here with zero discipline. Scenes come rocketing at us with little time to catch up, and any personal stories are quickly left behind. There’s a feeling of make-it-up-as-you-go in the storytelling, as one ridiculous thing leads to another, sometimes with no logic or setup, and the constant globetrotting from one continent to another is not only hard to keep track of, but acts against the films own logic (the agents go from continent to continent in a blink, while people only have hours to live). A few plot twists turn into plot holes, and Poppy’s grand villainous scheme makes no sense; she ransoms all the drug users in the world and demands that drugs be made legal, which would seem to work against a drug lord who got rich and powerful while they were illegal. Figure that one out.

There are still moments here and there to enjoy in THE GOLDEN CIRCLE. Some action sequences are fun while others are just nauseating, and the music selections inject a great sense of energy. The design of Poppy’s lair and the Statesman’s secret headquarters is brilliant and the film overall has a rich sense of color; there is certainly no drabness here. Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson provide a great-sounding score, but its main theme is overused in way too many places.

Acting is all over the place. Taron Egerton doesn’t have a lot of heavy lifting to do but is still fun to watch, and his chemistry with his bride-to-be (played by Hanna Alstrom), works very well. Oscar-winners Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, and Colin Firth are way overqualified for the ridiculous things they have to do, and Mark Strong can’t decide if his accent is Irish or British. Channing Tatum is hilarious in the whole five minutes he appears, and Elton John shows up in a bizarre extended cameo.

At a hefty 141 minutes, THE GOLDEN CIRCLE is a bit of a chore to sit through, and it probably could have benefitted from another pass or two in the editing room…because as is, it is overstuffed, over scored, and shows no maturity or screen discipline. Fans wanted more and they got it, but it shouldn’t be done to the point of being obnoxious. This one can circle the drain and stay there.

BOTTOM LINE: Fuck it


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Reel 20: BOOGIE NIGHTS


 “I got a feeling that behind those jeans is something wonderful just waiting to get out.”



This month marks the 20th anniversary of Paul Thomas Anderson’s BOOGIE NIGHTS.

The second feature film from then-27 year-old Paul Thomas Anderson, the rags-to-riches tale set in the back drop of the 1970’s adult film industry was a 1997 box office hit, critical smash, awards gobbler, and would be hailed as the best film about the 1970’s since the 1970’s. Less about porn and more about the need to belong and the unbridled passion for filmmaking, BOOGIE NIGHTS told the story of a young, well-endowed busboy named Eddie, who is recruited into the porn industry by celebrated filmmaker Jack Horner. Eddie changes his name to Dirk Diggler, and what follows is an arms-up roller coaster ride…as Dirk rises, falls, and rises again during one of the wildest and craziest time periods in America.

The film was based on a “mockumentary” short-film that Anderson created while he was still in high school called THE DIRK DIGGLER STORY, which was in part based on a 1981 documentary about real-life porn-star John C. Holmes. Anderson re-wrote his idea into a feature length script, and set out to make it after his first feature, HARD EIGHT. Initially, he wanted to make an NC-17 rated film, but when the film’s producers stood firm on an R rating, Anderson accepted that as a challenge.

The role of Dirk would go to Mark Wahlberg, who at the time had come to fame as the younger brother of Donnie Wahlberg of the boy-band New Kids on the Block, and his own eventual act, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. He had only five films under his belt when Anderson cast him. The role of Jack Horner would go to 70’s sex symbol Burt Reynolds (how apt), and the rest of the impressive cast would include Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham, Luis Guzman, Thomas Jane, Alfred Molina, and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

BOOGIE NIGHTS would embrace the style and substance of the 1970’s, and would be backed by popular rock hits from the time period. Hits from Marvin Gaye, the Commodores, Night Ranger, and The Beach Boys would be used to great effect and give the film a distinct personality.

The film would premier at the Toronto International Film Festival to acclaim, and would eventually be a box office hit and one of the best reviewed films of the year. Burt Reynolds would win a Golden Globe for his performance and would be nominated for an Oscar. Julianne Moore would earn six awards and nominations.

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BOOGIE NIGHTS is a film which unfairly gets dismissed by mainstream movie audiences simply because it takes place in the porn industry. Once we get past that taboo subject, there is a story to be told which echoes a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy; it’s a story of a boy finding his way, losing it, and coming out the better. At the beginning of the film, the adult movie business is one that is nearly considered legit; shot on film and played in theatres. By the end, the business moves to videotape and out of movie-houses, and on that journey Paul Thomas Anderson takes his characters through it all. The film recaptures the death of not only mainstream porn but the 1970’s as well, as it came crashing down in a painful age of transition.

BOOGIE NIGHTS was a major stepping stone for Anderson and his cast. It was the film that got Mark Wahlberg noticed as a legitimate actor, gave Burt Reynolds a fresh start, and gave Anderson the weight he needed to film his eventual masterpiece, THERE WILL BE BLOOD a decade later. Phillip Seymour Hoffman would re-team with Anderson for THE MASTER in 2012 and earn an Oscar nomination, and the way the music was used in BOOGIE NIGHTS would inspire future filmmakers for two decades; right up to James Gunn and his GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY films. In 1997 Paul Thomas Anderson delivered a galactic-sized film with endearing messages for any one of us who has dared to dream, and that is a story that can never be dismissed.

“Everyone is blessed with one special thing…”








Monday, September 18, 2017

A Reel Opinion: The People Have Spoken



This past weekend, Darren Aronofsky’s thinking-man’s horror-thriller MOTHER! opened to reviews ranging from mixed to excellent (read Reel Speak’s review HERE), and while some critics hailed it as a masterpiece, audiences were less enthusiastic with many leaving the theatre scratching their heads. The confusion over the movie was quantified by CinemaScore, the un-official official exit-poll survey, in which audiences gave MOTHER! a score of “F”.

For many film reviewers, including this Blogger, that low score doesn’t come as a big surprise; not because MOTHER! is a bad film (it certainly is not), but because of its vagueness, and horrific scenes,  it is one of those movies that is very hard to digest, understand, or just plain make heads-or-tails out of. It’s not the most accessible film, and even admirers of it would probably admit that it wouldn’t be one of the first movies to pull off the shelf on a Saturday night.

The most troubling thing about the low score is how Hollywood will react, or over-react. Hollywood values art, but they value dollars more…and if an artful, thinking-man’s horror film can’t impress audiences or make good box office (MOTHER! only pulled in $3 million), then studios would likely go back to their safe zone; which means more sequels and remakes.

Hollywood and audiences have a circle-of-life thing going on; people show what they prefer to see, so Hollywood feeds them just that. It’s basic supply-and-demand, and right now audiences may be changing for the worse. The film-going crowd which grew up the 1970’s and 1980’s on mega-hits like STAR WARS, E.T., and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK are now in their 40’s and 50’s, and may not be going to the theatre as much as when they were younger. That makes way for the new generation, which thanks to the internet, have become spoiled by having everything at their fingertips; entertainment provided by way of seven-second videos. It’s what this Blogger has been calling Generation YouTube, and they are the ones who will give art films like MOTHER! an “F” while showing up in droves for a fifth TRANSFORMERS film.

Hollywood has a problem; either cater to what people want, which means dollars, or take risks on films like MOTHER! which can go either way. One of the most common complaints about the movies these days is that there isn’t nearly enough original material, but exactly who is at fault for that is the real question.




Friday, September 15, 2017

A Reel Review: MOTHER!



Darren Aronofsky has always been one of those filmmakers unafraid to challenge his audience; not just because his storytelling can be vague and his characters walking the line of sanity, but because he tends to make things really uncomfortable to watch. With MOTHER!, he quickly establishes a comfort zone for his main character, disrupts it, and then amps up the uneasiness to the point where all we can do is squirm.

Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and her husband Him (Javier Bardem) are living together in an isolated house. While Mother works to restore their home, Him, a former famous poet, struggles to find any creativity. They are visited by Man (Ed Harris) and his wife Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), who exhibit bizarre behavior. Seeking to spark his creativity, Him invites the new couple to stay with them, much to the dismay of Mother.

The early goings of MOTHER! does fine work in establishing the comfort zone of our main character played by Jennifer Lawrence (no names are given in the film). She is shy and timid, and loves her husband to the point where she has given her entire life to Him. She labors on the house to the point where she has a spiritual connection to it, even to the point where she has visions of the house’s beating heart.

Once the new couple arrives, Mother the character is immediately put into a tough spot. She wants her loving husband to recapture his lost creativity, but at the same time is very uncomfortable with the new couple stomping around her beloved house, breaking drinking glasses, and (god forbid), smoking cigarettes. One tragic event leads to another, and that uncomfortableness that Mother is feeling (which does reach the audience as well) escalates bit by bit. Some shocking and revolting things happen, and Mother gets put into situations which are very hard to watch.

Darren Aronofsky, ever the poet himself, doesn’t quite want his audience to turn away completely, so there is a mystery going on at the same time that is too good to close our eyes to. There are questions to be answered such as the role of the mysterious couple, if Him really loves his wife, and what secrets the house actually holds; not to mention the characters’ names. There is an air of creepiness going on, and Aronofsky goes into some places that other directors would never even write down.

While the uncomfortableness, creepiness, and scares get amped up to turbo mode, Aronofsky is also putting together a dark, yet beautiful looking film. The house itself has a personality to the point where it’s a character in the film, and lets us explore every nook of it. Aronofsky also brings in themes of the dangers of celebrity, and uses some clever Biblical metaphors in subtle doses. There is so much going on in the film that it demands a second viewing.

Acting is superb. Jennifer Lawrence gives a career-best performance; going through all sorts of horror and grief and doubt, and when things really get nuts we really feel for the character. Javier Bardem is also great, as is Ed Harris. Michelle Pfeiffer shows that she can still be beautiful and dangerous on screen, and the film also has a few other surprise cameos which are handled beautifully.

The horror of the third and final act is a glorious bloody affair, and all the metaphors that Aronofsky had been playing with comes together nicely, topped off with one of the most heartbreaking lines of dialogue ever written. There still may be questions lingering by the time the credits roll, but it’s clear that MOTHER! itself is one large metaphor for something bigger, and nothing in the film should be taken literally. With this film, audiences will either stagger out of the theatre in awe or in a state of shock, having met or failed the challenge thrown down by one of our most talented and visionary filmmakers.

BOTTOM LINE: See it


Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Reel 25: THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS


“The frontier moves with the sun and pushes the Red Man of these wilderness forests in front of it until one day there will be nowhere left. Then our race will be no more, or be not us.”


This month marks the 25th anniversary of Michael Mann’s THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS.

Mann’s 1992 film, which was met with universal praise and commercial success, was based on the 1826 novel of the same name by James Fenimore Cooper, which was set in 1757 during the French-Indian War and detailed the exploits of the daughters of a British general and their travels with Native Americans across the upper New York wilderness.

The novel was first adapted to a film in 1936 by George B. Seitz and was a modest success. Mann, who was directing his first film since his MANHUNTER in 1986, based his new version of the story more on the 1936 film than the novel.

The film was packed with iconic and nearly grand characters who were required to fight, run, and be a part of the wilderness. For the important role of Hawkeye, Mann cast Daniel Day-Lewis, who was coming off his first Oscar win for Best Actor for his performance in MY LEFT FOOT (1989). Lewis, ever the committed method actor, went deep into character research by going through rigorious weight training, and learned to live off the land and forest by hunting and fishing. He learned how to skin animals, carve a canoe, and carried a long rifle at all times, even when he wasn’t in front of the camera.

Lewis’ castmates would include Madeline Stowe, Russell Means, Eric Schweig, and Steven Waddington. Although the film took place in upstate New York, filming took place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, along with other locations across the state. The score was provided by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman, with the main theme taken from the tune The Gael by Scottish songwriter Dougie MacLean.

THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS opened at no. 1 at the box office in September of 1992, and would finish as the 17th highest grossing film of the year. It would receive critical acclaim and would win one Oscar for Best Sound.
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THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS may fall under the description of historical drama, but it is a film which accomplishes a lot; it is an adventure and a romance, done with a touch of swashbuckling that was perhaps inspired by the 1936 film. Deeper than style, it boldly yet subtly tackles the thinking of the times, such as the arrogance of the old, domineering British Empire, the struggles of 17th century women, and the plight of the vanishing Native Americans; all told with a hanging melancholy for the unexplored wilderness at the time…destined for obliteration. As a historical piece, it is a tight glimpse at early America during the Revolutionary War days, and the often overlooked happenings of the French-Indian War. With basic storytelling set in the backdrop of wilderness, war, and blood, Michael Mann taps into primal feelings in THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, striking a fine balance between being epic and intimate. It is a unique departure for Mann who has spent most of his career doing cops-and-robbers movies, and it stands out as his most emotionally driven. And after 25 years, it’s themes on war, class distinction, and empty promises ring hard in today’s world.  For this Blogger, THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS is Michael Mann’s finest work.

“The whole world’s on fire, isn’t it?”




Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Reel Facts & Opinions: Return of the JJ




Ever since the famed, and at-the-time dormant STAR WARS franchise restarted its engines in 2012, any news related to the beloved series of films tends to stop the rotation of the galaxy, and today was one of those days.


Just before the lunch hour, Lucasfilm and parent company Disney announced that JJ Abrams would be returning to the franchise; officially named as the director of the as-yet-untitled EPISODE IX, set for release in December of 2019. This will be Abrams’ second trip into the STAR WARS universe, having helmed the franchise-jumpstarter THE FORCE AWAKENS (EPISODE VII) in 2015.

The news comes on the heels of a slightly dark time for Disney and Lucasfilm, who have been having a unstable time with some of their directors. Abrams is coming in as a replacement for Colin Trevorrow, who was the original director for EPISODE IX before being fired by Lucasfilm president and STAR WARS overseer Kathleen Kennedy. Trevorrow’s dismissal was chalked up to the young director being “uncooperative”, and scripting issues. Trevorrow’s firing was just a few months after the directing duo of Lord & Miller were jettisoned from the Han Solo spinoff film (read more on that HERE), and with two notable firings of personnel in key positions, one had to wonder what was going on behind the controls of STAR WARS.

With Abrams, Lucasfilm and Disney seem to be going back to what they know works. THE FORCE AWAKENS can be described as nothing other than a success, having broken several box office records, received rave reviews from critics, and earned five Oscar Nominations. Abrams also has proven to be capable of working under the massive pressures and oversight from Disney and Lucasfilm; something that the three fired directors seemingly couldn’t do.

This Blogger is thrilled and over the moon on this announcement. THE FORCE AWAKENS was not only a triumph, but it returned the old energy, spirit, whimsy, and fun to the franchise that had been lacking for well over a decade. While the main business of THE FORCE AWAKENS may have been spent moving characters around like chess pieces, those new characters became instant icons, and it set the stage for a lot more to come. Much like the perfect meetings of characters in the STAR WARS films which seem by chance, but are perhaps willed by the Force, JJ Abrams and EPISODE IX have a bright horizon ahead of them.


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JJ Abrams’ other directing credits include STAR TREK (2009), SUPER 8 (2011), and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (2006).






Friday, September 8, 2017

A Reel Review: IT




Horror movies can often get away with a lot. Their primary goal, of course, is to scare us (or as Steven Spielberg once said, send the popcorn flying), and as long as that is done, any horror flick can earn a pass no matter what is done with the story or characters. A really good horror film makes the fear seem real; something natural or primal. But a great horror movie not only scares us deeply, but provides a layer of depth to make us care about the characters who are dealing with the terror, and the material provided by Stephen King’s novel IT offers the opportunity to accomplish just that.

In the small town of Derry, Maine in the late 1980’s, a string of missing children are tied to the lurking creature Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard), who terrorizes the town every 27 years by making everyone face their deepest fears. After Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) has his little brother disappear, he and his gang of friends (Jack Dylan Grazer, Stanley Uris, and Finn Wolfhard), set out to unravel the mystery, and pick up new friends along the way, including Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), and new kid in town Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor).

After a terrifying opening sequence which has Pennywise abducting Bill’s little brother, IT settles into a slow build of establishing its characters and surroundings. Beginning with the little town of Derry, where missing children and disasters seem as commonplace as taking a trip to the store. Moving on to the main characters, there is terrific work done in setting up the kids’ personalities and backstories. Each one of them has a story to tell, and while the early goings of the film spends a lot of time getting the gang together and moving the chess pieces where they need to be, it ultimately pays off.

The characters are established well enough where we root for, and feel for each one of them, but IT falls short in developing Pennywise to the same degree. Hints are dropped here and there as to where the hell he (it) came from and why he does what he does, and we expect a real reveal at the end, but that reveal never comes and is clearly being saved for the next film. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it does contribute to the troublesome final act (more on that it in a bit).

IT at its core is a horror movie, and it delivers. Director Andres Muschietti unleashes Pennywise in small doses at first, and then lets him go with his foot on the gas. The horror sequences in which Pennywise scares the kids shitless all have their distinct traits (feeding on everyone’s individual fears), and the scenes are absolutely relentless. Just when we think things would let up or the scene would end, it just keeps on going to un-nerving degrees. There is some great practical work done here as well, especially a scene where gallons upon gallons of blood are thrown on a character.

Muschietti in the meantime shows us an absolutely beautiful film in all of its horrific glory. Every shot is meticulously framed, and the lighting schemes are stunning. Set design is awesome; everything from an abandoned house to Pennywise’s lair is awesome in a spooky way. Pacing is brisk and there are no dull or boring moments at all. Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is fantastic.

Acting is very good. Bill Skarsgard (son of Stellan) is fascinating as Pennywise, and the bastard does a little trick in which his two eyes go in different directions. Chilling to the bone. The kids are all great together and their banter is reminiscent of some of the great pre-teen movies of the 1980’s. The standouts are Jaeden Lieberher and Sophia Lillis who have the most heavy lifting to do. Nicholas Hamilton nearly steals the show as the leader of a bully gang who is as sadistic as Pennywise. The only minor issue in the acting is that the kids often blurt out their lines way too fast, making it tough to keep up with them or understand them.

The finale, and final fight the kids have against Pennywise relies way too much on shaky-cam and CGI, and in the last 15 minutes it seems like Muschietti loses all the fine discipline he displayed in the first 95% of the movie. The final solution to the threat seems to be stumbled upon by accident, and all the homework the kids did on Pennywise does not pay off. It’s a minor gripe in a movie that’s perfect up until then, and when the credits roll there’s a definite shrug to be had. There’s a lot that seems to be punted down the road for the next film, and perhaps after that things will make better sense. But until then, this first chapter does indeed make the popcorn fly, and finds time to tell a good story.

BOTTOM LINE: See it


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Reel Preview: Everything You Need to Know About IT



This weekend, the much anticipated (and perhaps dreaded) second Stephen King adaptation of 2017 arrives in theatres, when New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures releases IT. Here is a preview and everything you need to know about this supernatural horror film.

What is IT all about? – IT is based on the 1986 novel of the same name by famous author Stephen King, in which seven children are terrorized by a spectral clown named Pennywise while facing their own personal demons. The film is the first of an intended duology (that’s two films) to adapt the novel in full.

Who is behind this? – IT is directed by Andy Muschietti, who brought us the 2013 horror hit-film MAMA. The script has three credited screenwriters, with the most notable name being Cary Fukunaga, who has credits ranging from JANE EYRE (2011), BEASTS OF NO NATION (2015), and the first season of TV’s TRUE DETECTIVE.

Who are the actors? – The central role of Pennywise was originally given to actor Will Poulter, who had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Bill Skarsgard, son of Stellan, has stepped in. His recent notable role came earlier this year in ATOMIC BLONDE. The rest of the young cast includes Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, and Jack Dylan Grazer.

Random Facts – Cary Fukunuga was originally slated to direct the film, but stepped out due to conflicts with New Line over budget * This is the second time IT has been brought to the screen, with the first being a 1990 made-for-tv mini-series * Other actors considered for the role of Pennywise included Mark Rylance, Richard Armitage, Hugo Weaving, and Tilda Swinton * The costume of Pennywise the clown was inspired by the clothing of style of the Renaissance * The score is composed by Benjamin Wallfisch, who was co-nominated for a Golden Globe for his work on HIDDEN FIGURES * In scenes where Pennywise’s eyes look in two different directions, CGI was intended to be used, but Skarsgaard demonstrated that he could do it on his own * The directing duo of the Duffer Brothers were interested in directing IT, but were overlooked for not being established enough; they made the Neflix smash-hit STRANGER THINGS instead * The number 27 is a number that is often associated with the story; this film-version of IT will be released 27 years after the TV version *

What to expect – Looking at history first, Stephen King’s novels have proven to be all over the map of quality when they are brought to the big screen. They have ranged from absolute greatness (THE SHINING, STAND BY ME), to utter garbage (this year’s THE DARK TOWER). The long-running success of the novel, and the respect that the old TV version still holds speaks volumes of the strength of the source material, so all of this falls on the shoulders of the filmmakers. Director Andy Muschietti has proven that he can bring the scares in the past, but the real question is if he can go deeper than just making people jump out of their seats. New Line and Warner Bros. have a reputation for too much meddling in their recent history, with some success and outright strike-outs, so the recipe here can be very good or very bad. The source material itself goes into some pretty dark places, so the film has the potential to be scary, shocking, and haunting us long after the credits roll. But as we all know, potential is one thing, execution is another. IT could go either way.

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IT arrives September 8th.






Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Reel Preview: The Year in Film 2017 - Episode IV



September means the heat of the Summer gives way to the glorious winds of Fall, and with it comes the faint whisperings of Oscar Season. Here are the notable releases for the month of September as 2017 enters its final quarter.

“It” all starts with…

IT – One of Stephen King’s most famous books about a group of children terrorized by a ghostly clown comes to the big screen for the first time. It is directed by Andres Muschietti, who helmed the horror hit MAMA in 2013.

TULIP FEVER - Alicia Vikander (EX MACHINA) and Dane DeHaan (THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES) get caught up in a love affair during the 17th century Tulip Mania economic collapse. Directed by Justin Chadwick (THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL), and co-stars Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz, Zach Galifianakis, and Cara Delevinge.

GOON: LAST OF THE ENFORCERS - Seann William Scott reprises his GOON role in this sequel to the 2011 ice hockey cult-favorite. 

THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM – This British horror-thriller is adapted from the novel of the same name, in which a series of murders in Victorian London may be committed by a legendary creature from dark times. It stars Bill Nighy (SHAWN OF THE DEAD), Olivia Cooke, and Eddie Marsan.

HOME AGAIN – In this romantic comedy, Reese Witherspoon plays a single mom who allows three young men to move in with her. Co-stars Michael Sheen, Lake Bell, and Candice Bergen.

MOTHER! – Visionary director Darren Aronofsky (BLACK SWAN) returns with this psychological horror film in which a couple has their lives disrupted by the arrival of another couple. Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

AMERICAN ASSASSIN – Based on the novel of the same name, Michael Keaton plays a Cold War veteran who trains a new black ops recruit. Co-stars Dylan O’Brien and Taylor Kitsch.

WOODSHOCK – Kirsten Dunst plays a grieving woman who begins to cope by discovering a new drug.

BRAD’S STATUS – In this comedy, Ben Stiller plays a successful career-man who begins to compare his life to his four college friends. Co-stars Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, and Jenna Fischer. It is written and directed by Mike White (SCHOOL OF ROCK).

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE – The much anticipated sequel to the 2014 spy-comedy smash-hit. Matthew Vaughn (STARDUST) returns to direct, and his mighty cast includes Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, and a few other surprises.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES – The famed tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs comes to the big screen, with Emma Stone (LA LA LAND) playing King, and Steve Carell (FOXCATCHER) as Riggs. It co-stars Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, and Sarah Silverman. It is helmed by the directing team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who brought us LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE in 2006.

STRONGER – Every Fall, Jake Gyllenhaal seems to show up with a powerhouse performance film, and 2017 is no different. In this true-story drama, he plays a survivor of the Boston Marathon Bombing who loses his legs.

AMERICAN MADE – Based on a true story, this biographical drama has Tom Cruise playing a former TWA pilot who became a drug smuggler for the Cartel. It is directed by Doug Liman (EDGE OF TOMORROW), and co-stars Domhnall Gleeson (THE FORCE AWAKENS).

FLATLINERS – Not a remake but a sequel to the 1990 film of the same name, in which medical students conduct experiments with near-death experiences. It is directed by Niels Arden Oplev, who brought us the Swedish version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO in 2009. It stars Ellen Page, Diego Luna, and Kiefer Sutherland as his character from the ’90 film.

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Next month, Reel Speak previews the month of October.