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Yesterday afternoon, right as Comic-Con was getting underway for 2019, Kevin Smith went on Twitter and showcased what he’s been working on since his heart attack. Yes, we now finally have our first look at his return to the cinematic universe he created, with Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. Not only that, it’s a Red Band, with plenty of foul language intact. Fans of the filmmaker (which, as you all know by now, includes myself in a big way) can rejoice at Smith playing with his View Askew toys once again, and for this sequel, he’s bringing in some big guns. You can see the Trailer for yourself at the end of this post, but of course, we have to discuss it a bit first…
The movie is, obviously, a sequel to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, as well as a satire of how Hollywood reboots all intellectual property these days. The synopsis, brief as it may be, comes from IMDb: “Jay and Silent Bob return to Hollywood to stop a reboot of ‘Bluntman and Chronic’ movie from getting made.” Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) once saw a comic based on their lives turned into a film without their permission, which led them to storm Hollywood. Now, with a reboot on the horizon, they opt to do the same. Expect similar story beats, all while poking fun at just that element. Smith writes, directs, and edits, with cinematography by Yaron Levy, as well as a score from James L. Venable. As for the rest of the cast, it’s stacked, with appearances/cameos by Joey Lauren Adams, Ben Affleck, Melissa Benoist, Jason Biggs, Matt Damon, David Dastmalchian, Rosario Dawson, Shannon Elizabeth, Ralph Garman, Grant Gustin, Chris Hemsworth, Justin Long, Joe Manganiello, Kate Micucci, Craig Robinson, Harley Quinn Smith, James Van Der Beek, and plenty more, in all likelihood.
From the looks of the Trailer, the film is a love letter to the View Askewniverse that Smith created back in the 1990s. Characters from the entirety of Smith’s filmography show up in cameo appearances, much like with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. In particular, it’s a glorious surprise to see that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon appear to pop up. The latter hasn’t appeared in a Smith work in some time, while the former seemed to have had a falling out with his one time favorite director to work with. Even [...]
I love when a film comes along that is like nothing else that I’ve ever seen. When you can describe a movie as combination of two other things that never would go together? Love it. Those of you who pay attention on social media will know that The Art of Self-Defense is a flick I’ve been raving about for months now. Described as what it would be like if Charlie Kaufman wrote Fight Club or if Yorgos Lanthimos directed The Karate Kid. Those are apt comparisons, while also limiting the black comedy magic on hand. It opened in limited release this past weekend, playing to a decent box office. In fact, I even moderated a Q&A in Brooklyn at the Alamo Drafthouse with star Jesse Eisenberg. Now, with it opening wide, I wanted to pay it some further tribute. This is one of the five best things I’ve seen all year.
The film is a black comedy, satirizing toxic masculinity with surgical precision. Here is the official synopsis from Bleecker Street: “After he’s attacked on the street at night by a roving motorcycle gang, timid bookkeeper Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) joins a neighborhood karate studio to learn how to protect himself. Under the watchful eye of a charismatic instructor, Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), and hardcore brown belt Anna (Imogen Poots), Casey gains a newfound sense of confidence for the first time in his life. But when he attends Sensei’s mysterious night classes, he discovers a sinister world of fraternity, brutality and hyper-masculinity, presenting a journey that places him squarely in the sights of his enigmatic new mentor.” Riley Stearns writes and directs, with cinematography by Michael Ragen and a score from Heather McIntosh. On hand are a supporting cast that includes Phillip Andre Botello, Steve Terada, and David Zellner, joining the above trio of Eisenberg, Nivola, and Poots.
From top to bottom, the movie is phenomenal. Full of oddness and surprises, it’s also one of the funniest releases of 2019 so far. Again, it’s pitch black in tone, so the laughter is generated from some very dark places, but in skewering toxic masculinity and sending up the sort of sports drama that could generate that kind of individual, Stearns has hit on a premise that’s just consistently entertaining, surprising, and wonderful to watch unfold. Faults was a strong directorial debut for the filmmaker, but he has upped his game considerably here. Bookended by amazing [...]
Slowly but surely, we’re coming to the end of the line for this series folks. Yes, this time around I’ll be tackling the last of the technical categories in this series. After this week, it’s all the remaining big eight categories from here on out. This one today is arguably one of the lesser tech categories, but still an interesting one. Which one is it? Well, it’s the Best Makeup & Hairstyling category. This isn’t a particularly prestigious category, but hey…it’s still one worth discussing a bit. You all mostly just want to see the lists that I do anyhow, so I have no problem obliging you good people there in that particular regard once again. All you have to do is just be a bit on the patient side over the next paragraph or so and you’ll get the goods front and center…
This time around, I’m once again going with the ever popular overview route for the discussion as you might have guessed. There’s an extra reason for that too…this category has only been in existence since the 1980’s, so it’s a smaller crop to pull from. Besides that, it really just comes down to taste again here (surprising, I know), with your opinion influencing what sort of winner you’re particularly partial to. It’s pretty much a matter of taste once again for us, which is pretty common for this series. As usual, I know a couple of of my selections here are going to seem a bit on the odd side, especially again when you see how high I ranked certain films, but that’s just the way it is. You can’t please everyone with this sort of a thing, so I won’t lie to myself in order to try.
Once again, I’ll basically just discuss my top ten a bit here now (and remember, there are really only about 35 or so contenders for the 25 spots). To me, the best winner of this category so far to date has been The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The seamless blending of makeup and visual effects still stuns me to this day. It’s just magical in my eyes. That would be far and away my number one selection, but the rest of my top five choices are far from slouches. They are Ed Wood, Men in Black, Planet of the Apes (which technically won a special award before the category [...]
As I always like to say when I start this series in the middle of the summer, it’s one thing to read early Academy Award predictions to see what folks like myself think will happen at the end of the year. However, it’s another thing entirely to actually know which films will be in contention. To that end, once a week (or maybe twice a week in certain situations) for the next month or so I’ll be running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category. It’s a good way to prep for Oscar season. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls. Consider this a sort of pre awards season cheat sheet for you all, before it all begins in earnest in the fall/winter.
Today I’m beginning with the big one, of course…Best Picture.
Here are the ten films that I have right now cracking the Best Picture lineup:
1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – I see Quinten Tarantino’s latest in a few days, so I’ll have a better idea about it then, but building off of some solid buzz at the Cannes Film Festival, this does seem to be a player. The Academy does love movies about the movies, so perhaps they’ll finally give Tarantino the big one?
2. The Irishman – Netflix will be looking to avenge their Roma loss last year with Martin Scorsese’s latest gangster epic. Obviously, right now it’s sight unseen, but it’s hard not to have a Scorsese picture high up in the category. Could Marty be battling it out with QT for the top prize? Stay tuned to see!
3. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – If a crowd pleaser like Green Book is to again take the big Oscar, maybe it could be this Mr. Rogers centric title? Plus, Tom Hanks could really help propel this one high up there. If voters are in the mood to to smile and feel emotional, this could be the best bet for their enthusiastic love and support.
4. Untitled Noah Baumbach Project – The other big Netflix player is this slightly under the radar dramedy. Noah Baumbach is said to have outdone himself with this one, potentially hitting on Annie Hall type territory. If The Irishman isn’t [...]
Among Disney animated titles, The Lion King holds a special place in the hearts of many. Part of the second Golden Age of animation for the company, it captured the imaginations of young and old back in 1994. Now, Disney has updated the look with a photorealistic remake, looking for all the world like actual animals are doing this riff on Shakespeare. Opening this week, for some, it will represent a magical experience. For others, it will bug them to no end. For yours truly? I recognize the issues that a handful of my colleagues have with it, but by and large, I was thoroughly entertained by the 2019 incarnation of The Lion King.
Plot wise, the filmmakers stick almost completely to the animated original. This is still the tale of a young lion cub named Simba (voice of JD McCrary), the prince of Pride Rock, regally presided over by his father Mufasa (voice of James Earl Jones), the king. Simba will one day be the ruler, which angers his uncle Scar (voice of Chiwetel Ejiofor) to no end. So much so, he arranges for the murder of the two, though Simba escapes. While on his own he grows up (now voiced by Donald Glover), aided by new friends in Timon (voice of Billy Eichner) and Pumba (voice of Seth Rogen). However, with Scar ruining Pride Rock as King, a grown Nala (now voiced by Beyoncé), goes to find help, stumbling upon Simba. With some help, he heads back to reclaim what’s his and save the day. Jon Favreau directs the remake, with the screenplay credited to Jeff Nathanson. Taking the part of Sarabi is the voice of Alfre Woodard, while John Oliver lends his voice to the role of Zazu. Other actors contributing voice work here includes Eric André, John Kani, Keegan-Michael Key, Amy Sedaris, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and more. Caleb Deschanel is responsible for the cinematography, while the score is by Hans Zimmer.
Visually, this is an unparalleled work by Jon Favreau and company. The effects on display are often breathtaking. The opening Circle of Life sequence is a real stunner, which actually turns into a double edged sword. When the animals are talking, there can be an uncanny valley situation for some. When you’re just observing nature and watching the opening we all know by heart, it’s perfection. Other highlights include the return of James Earl Jones, as well [...]
Welcome back everyone to the weekly box office report! As always, each and every Sunday you can expect a look at what made the most money in theaters, as well as just how all of the new releases fared. This week, the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe offering in Spider-Man: Far From Home looks to continue its financial dominance, while it’s joined by a creature feature in Crawl, as well as a throwback action comedy in Stuber, among wide releases. How did they all do? Let us take a look right now at just that…
Taking the top spot this again week, with no surprise, was Spider-Man: Far From Home. Catching $45.3 million more in its web, the superhero tale is now up to about $275 million domestically and almost $850 million globally. Suffice to say, Marvel is going to have another of their comic book flicks crack the $1 billion mark.
Staying right a number two is Pixar’s Toy Story 4. Another $20.6 million continues to show how well liked the animated franchise is. With consistently good holds like this, there’s a good chance the film will end up coming close to the gross of Toy Story 3. Either way, it’s a certifiable hit, no doubt about that.
Debuting in third place, we have Crawl, which managed an estimated $12 million despite not screening for critics. What’s more, once my colleagues saw it, they by and large enjoyed it, potentially meaning that Paramount left money on the table by not having more confidence in the killer alligator movie…
At number four is Stuber, only making a shade over $8 million. This has to be a bit disappointing for Fox, especially after such a positive reception earlier this year when they did a work in progress screening of the action comedy at SXSW. For now, it seems like Dave Bautista isn’t quite the action draw the studios hope he’ll become.
Only hitting at 17, but with an incredible haul, was The Farewell. Taking in over $351K on just a quartet of screens, that was good for a per theater average of $87,833. That number is the best of 2019 so far, for a limited release. A24 should see some solid business in the weeks to come as their family drama expands wider.
Among other indie/limited release titles, The Art of Self-Defense (which I moderated a Q&A for yesterday afternoon in Brooklyn) took in more than $121K on [...]
Welcome back folks! This time around I’ll be tackling one of the biggest of the big eight categories in an effort not to save them all for very last, much like with last week with Director. This one is arguably the second biggest of them all…the Best Actor field. This is as prestigious a category as there is ladies and gentlemen. I could go on and on in preparation right now, but at this point I know how the game works here. You all mostly just want to see the lists that I do anyhow, so I have no problem obliging you good people there in that particular regard once again. All you have to do is just be patient over the next paragraph or so and you’ll get the goods front and center…
For this particular installment, I’m once again going with the ever popular overview route for the discussion as you might have guessed. Also, it really just comes down to taste again here (surprise surprise), with your opinion influencing what sort of winner you’re particularly partial to. It’s pretty much a matter of taste once again for us all, which is commonplace at this point and even more so with acting. I know a couple of of my selections are going to seem a bit on the odder side of the equation, especially again when you see how high I ranked certain gentlemen, but that’s just the way it is. You can’t please everyone with this sort of a thing, so I won’t lie to myself in order to try.
As usual, I’ll basically just discuss my top ten a bit here now. To me, the best winner of this category so far to date has been Tom Hanks and his stunning performance in Philadelphia. Frankly, I wish I could basically have a tie throughout my entire top five, which also includes Marlon Brando for On The Waterfront (as opposed to his more widely praised turn in The Godfather) Nicolas Cage for Leaving Las Vegas (easily the most underrated winner in history to me), Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (controversially ahead of There Will Be Blood), and Robert De Niro for Raging Bull (to some the best ever). They’re almost all tied, they’re so phenomenal. I give the slight edge to Hanks though, just because of how long that turn has stayed with me. Rounding out the top ten we [...]
Happy Friday! As the weekend hits, we are bringing back the review round-up in order to cover a couple of new titles arriving in theaters on a limited basis. Today, we’ll be briefly discussing two particular films, both of which are quite different from each other (a pattern with these round-ups, usually). The movies in question are the documentary Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable, as well as the home invasion tale Trespassers. Both of these flicks offer up something a bit different and may or may not be worth your time this weekend. That question, in particular, is something I’ll attempt to answer right now, so let us dive in!
Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable
The life of surfer Bethany Hamilton is worth celebrating. After all, how many of us would respond well to being attacked by a shark, especially after losing a limb? What’s more, to succeed as Hamilton has, after the attack, in part by getting back into the water and surfing again, makes her someone to applaud. Unfortunately, the documentary Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable, never finds a compelling cinematic reason to depict her life. It’s celebratory and revelatory, but never especially entertaining or interesting. It winds up really just being fan service for those who already have a deep seated love for her. They never bring in any new converts.
The doc looks at, you guessed it, the life of surfer Bethany Hamilton. At the age of 13, Bethany lost her arm to a tiger shark while surfing. For many, this would be the last time they ventured out into the ocean. However, she’s not like that in the least. This tragedy did not stop her from continuing to actively go out and surf. In fact, she would go on pursuing her dream of becoming a professional surfer, something that got her national, and even international, acclaim and attention. Here, the film not just follows her on her quest for surf glory, but how she became a wife and a mother in adulthood, all without the use of one arm. Aaron Lieber directs, provides the cinematography, and co-wrote the flick with Carol Martori. The score comes from composer Kris Bowers.
Here’s the thing. Bethany Hamilton is an inspiring figure, but she never makes for a fully compelling documentary subject. The movie just follows along as she lives her life, never really providing any commentary or framing of why she’s important. Sure, she’s overcome odds, but what [...]
Ever since the Sundance Film Festival, buzz has been building for The Farewell. Poised to be one of the fest’s potential awards season players, the heartfelt drama is opening this week and should begin accruing a number of new fans. Those at Sundance did not overhype this one, as it’s a tremendously good movie, one that will undoubtedly make you smile. Not quite the tearjerker you might be expecting, it’s still deeply emotional, yet handled so well it never seems even a little bit manipulative. It’s one of the better films of 2019 so far could certainly end up on Oscar’s radar.
For Billi (Awkwafina), her grandmother Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao) is a huge figure in her life, even if the former is living in New York City, while the latter is in China. They talk often on the phone, exhibiting a close relationship. While visiting her parents for dinner one night, Billi learns from her mother Jian (Diana Lin) that Nai Nai’s sister (Lu Hong) took her to the doctor and she has terminal cancer. However, the entire family has decided not to tell her, citing a Chinese saying that “when people get cancer, they die.” The clan has opted to keep her in the dark, letting her enjoy the final months of her life in happiness in peace. Instead, they’re planning a phony wedding to have a giant family gathering in China, which they initially have not invited Billi to, assuming she wouldn’t be able to hold up her end of the lie. Billi shows up instead, determined to spend time with her grandmother. As she tries to deal with the whole situation, the family displays all the various eccentricities that all families do. Lulu Wang writes and directs, with the rest of the cast including Chen Han, Tzi Ma, Aoi Mizuhara, Jiang Yongbo, and more. Anna Franquesa Solano handles the cinematography, while the score is by Alex Weston.
There’s a ton of heart on display here. The film has a solid amount of light humor, even though the narrative through line is one of impending sadness. Wang doesn’t skimp on the joy either, as she really hits on how fulfilling it can be to have an entire family together for a celebration, whatever the occasion may be. The plot never really leans too heavily in one direction or the other. You’re always aware of why the family is visiting [...]
Everyone remembers hanging out during the summer. No matter what part of your youth it was during, being with your friends, feeling out the first pangs of love and sex with significant others, the whole shebang is steeped in positive nostalgia. Actor turned director Joseph Cross taps into that for his directorial debut Summer Night, a hangout movie from the word go. Cross crafts a film that feels lived in, as if these characters were already your friends. Balancing a number of plot lines with relative ease, he gives all the indications that he’s got a bright future behind the camera.
The movie is a coming of age tale, taking place over, you guessed it, one summer night. A whole bunch of young folks are dealing with various romantic entanglements, while most are getting ready to attend a concert at the Alamo that evening. Jameson (Ellar Coltrane) and Seth (Ian Nelson) are driving around when the latter gets a text from his girlfriend Mel (Analeigh Tipton). Turns out, she’s pregnant. He doesn’t handle it particularly well, causing stress for them both. While Seth is trying to figure out what to do, Jameson is torn between two very different girls in Corin (Elena Kampouris) and Harmony (Victoria Justice). Other characters include Taylor (Callan McAuliffe), who gets jumped and winds up cared for by the lovely Dana (Ella Hunt), as well as Jack (Bill Milner) and Lexi (Lana Condor), a couple on the rocks due to an infidelity. As these kids deal with their problems, they hang out with others, speculate on life and the future, and then head over to the concert. The plot is thin, but the characters are vivid. Cross directs a screenplay by Jordan Jolliff, with music from Dan Krysa, as well as cinematography by Michael FitzMaurice. The rest of the up and coming young cast includes Justin Chatwin, Khris Davis, Hayden Szeto, Melina Vidler, and more.
There’s an undeniable Richard Linklater vibe at play here, and that’s not just due to the Ellar Coltrane casting. The whole look and feel of the story is Linklater-esque. While not as instantly memorable or quotable as Linklater’s best is, like Dazed and Confused or Everybody Wants Some, that lays more at the feet of scribe Jordan Jolliff than Joseph Cross. The latter takes what the former sketched out and fills it with a loose vibe. Jolliff is helped out not just [...]