Rian Johnson unsheathes the Knives Out Trailer


A filmmaker is sometimes only as good as their last film. If you mentioned director Rian Johnson’s name around 2012, it was probably met with wild applause. After all, he gave us the time travelling thriller Looper, with Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Mentioning Johnson now breeds a bit of contempt after his outing on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The film was hit with reviews ranging from daring to awful, and most of the Star Wars fanbase don’t think of what he’s done there.

With his newest film, Knives Out, Johnson looks like he’s moving forward. The film appears to be a classic whodunit with a fantastic cast. Christopher Plummer, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Daniel Craig, Don Johnson, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Katherine Langsford, and Jaeden Martell round out the cast list, which is pretty great overall. The story seems to cover the murder of a patriarch, and a family of suspects which reminds me of the classic Infocom game, Deadline.  Hoping for the best with this one.

Enjoy.

Film Review: The Fall of the Roman Empire (dir by Anthony Mann)


Why did the Roman Empire fall?

Well, historically, there were several reasons but they can all basically be boiled down to the fact that the Empire got too big to manage and that having two separate capitols certainly didn’t help matters.  The Empire got so large and overextended that the once fabled Roman army was no match for the barbarians.

Of course, if you’ve ever watched a movie about the Roman period, you know exactly why the Empire fell.  It all had to do with decadence, gladiators, human sacrifices, and crazed emperors with unfortunate names like Caligula and Commodus.  The Roman Empire fell because the imperial government descended into soap opera, complete with love triangles, betrayals, and whispered plotting inside the Senate.

Another thing that we’ve learned from the movies is that the fall of the Roman Empire was damn entertaining.  Between the orgies and the men wearing those weird helmets with the brushes on top of them, there’s nothing more fun that watching the Roman Empire fall.

Case in point: the 1964 film, The Fall of the Roman Empire.

This three and a half hour epic begins with the last of the good Roman emperors, Marcus Aurelius (Alec Guiness), battling to keep the Germanic barbarians from invading the empire.  Marcus is a wise man and a great leader but he knows that his time is coming to an end and he needs to name a successor.  His daughter, Lucilla (Sophia Loren), is an intelligent and compassionate philosopher but, on the basis of her sex, is not eligible to succeed him.  His son, Commodus (Christopher Plummer), may be a great and charismatic warrior but he’s also immature and given to instability.  Marcus’s most trusted adviser, Timonides (James Mason), would never be accepted as a successor because of his Greek birth and background as a former slave.  (Add to that, Timonides is secretly a Christian.)

That leaves Livius (Stephen Boyd).  Livius is one of Marcus’s generals, a man who is not only renowned for his honesty and integrity but one who is also close to the royal family.  Not only is he a former lover of Lucilla’s but he’s also been a longtime friend to Commodus.  Unfortunately, before Marcus can officially name Livius as his heir, the emperor is poisoned.  Commodus is named emperor and things quickly go downhill.  Whereas Marcus ruled with wisdom and compassion, Commodus is a tyrant who crushes anyone who he views as being a potential threat.  Lucilla is married off to a distant king (Omar Sharif).  Timonides is declared an enemy after he suggests that the conquered Germans should be allowed to peacefully farm on Italian land.  Rebellion starts to ferment in every corner of the Empire and Livius finds himself trapped in the middle.  Which side will he join?

Despite all the drama, Commodus is not necessarily an unpopular emperor.  One of the more interesting things about The Fall of the Roman Empire is that Commodus’s popularity grows with his insanity.  The crueler that he is, the more the people seem to love him.  Soon, Commodus is fighting as a gladiator and having people burned at the stake.  While some Romans are horrified, many more love their emperor no matter what.  People love power, regardless of what it’s used for.  Perhaps that’s the main lesson and the main warning that the final centuries of the Roman Empire have to give us.

The Fall of the Roman Empire is surprisingly intimate historical epic.  While there’s all the grandeur that one would normally expect to see in a film about the Roman Empire, the film works best when it concentrates on the characters.  While Boyd and Loren do their best with their thinly drawn roles, the film is stolen by great character actors like Alec Guinness, James Mason, and Christopher Plummer.  Plummer, in particular, seems to be having a blast playing the flamboyantly evil yet undeniably charismatic Commodus.  Even with the Empire collapsing around then, both Plummer as an actor and Commodus as a character seems to be having a blast.  Add to that, there’s all of the usual battles and ancient decadence that you would expect to find in a film about the Roman Empire and the end result is a truly enjoyable epic.

As I watched The Fall of the Roman Empire, it was hard for me not to compare the film to Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.  That’s because they’re both basically the same damn movie.  The main difference is that The Fall of the Roman Empire is far more entertaining.  The Fall of the Roman Empire, made in the days before CGI and featuring real people in the streets of Rome as opposed to animated cells, feels real in a way that Gladiator never does.  If Gladiator felt like a big-budget video game, The Fall of the Roman Empire feels like a trip in a time machine.  If I ever do go back to 180 A.D., I fully expect to discover James Mason giving a speech to the Roman Senate while Christopher Plummer struts his way through the gladiatorial arena.

Finally, to answer the question that started this review, why did the Roman Empire fall?

It was all Christopher Plummer’s fault, but at least he had a good time.

Film Review: The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark (dir by Charles Jarrott)


I recorded the 1980 film, The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark, off of TCM because I looked at the title and the fact that it starred Elliott Gould and I figured that it would be a film about an expedition to recover the actual Noah’s Ark.  I figured that it would feature scenes of Elliott Gould and Christopher Plummer (who I just assumed would be in the movie) climbing Mount Ararat and having comical disagreements about all of the snow.  I also assumed that the movie would end with the real Noah’s Ark sliding down the mountain while Gould and Plummer tried to steer it.

Seriously, it sounded like fun!

Of course, it turned out that I was wrong.

It turns out that The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark is about an out-of-work pilot named Noah Dugan (Elliott Gould) who has a gambling problem and owes a lot of money to the mob.  Normally, you’d be worried that this means Dungan has a contract out on his life but instead, it just means that a bald guy named Benchley (Dana Elcar) keeps popping up and saying that Dugan’s got a week to come up with the money.

Since this film was made before our current socialist moment, Dugan is forced to get a job.  Unfortunately, the only one that he can get involves flying a missionary (Genevieve Bujold) and a bunch of animals to a South Pacific island.  Dugan agrees but, because the plane is an old World War II bomber, he ends up having to make an emergency landing on a remote and uncharted desert isle.

Of course, it quickly turns out that Dugan, the missionary, and the animals aren’t alone!  First off, it turns out that two orphans (played by Ricky Schroder and Tammy Lauren) stowed away on the airplane.  And then, we discover that there are two Japanese soldiers stranded on the island as well!  They’ve been there since World War II!  Fortunately, one of them is named Cleveland (John Fukioka) and can speak English.

(As for Christopher Plummer, he’s nowhere to be seen because he’s not in the movie.)

Anyway, can you guess what happens?  If you think that Noah and the gang turn the plane into a big boat, you’re on the right track.  If you think that cynical Noah turns out to actually have a soft spot when it comes to children, you’re right.  If you think that Noah and the missionary embark on the most chaste romance in movie history …. oh my God, have you seen this movie before!?

Here’s the thing with The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark — the animals are cute.  I mean, the animals really are adorable.  There’s this one duck who has more screen presence than every human in this movie.  And normally, I’d say that cute animals can save just about any movie but this might be the exception to the rule.

I mean, I get it.  This was a movie for kids and that’s great.  But my God, this is a slow movie.  We start with Dugan getting threatened by the gamblers and then it’s another 25 minutes before Dugan even starts the engine on that plane.  I get that this is a family film but I imagine that even families in 1980 would have been bored to death by it.  Elliott Gould certainly seems to be bored, as he gives a performance that all but screams, “Where’s my paycheck!?”

What would have improved The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark?

Christopher Plummer, dammit.

6 Trailers For World UFO Day


With today being World UFO Day, it seems like a good time for a special edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers!  The 6 trailers below all bring the promise of aliens to the grindhouse!

  1. Starcrash (1978)

For the record, I fully realize and understand that I have shared this trailer like a thousand times on this site.  I make no apologies!  I love this trailer and, even more importantly, I love this film!  It’s perhaps the greatest Italian Star Wars rip-off of all time.  Directed by Luigi Cozzi and starring Caroline Munro, David Hasselhoff, Joe Spinell, Marjoe Gortner, and Christopher Plummer, Starcrash is a movie everyone must see!  I was even Stella Starr for Halloween in 2014.  Unfortunately, no one knew who I was (apparently, not everyone loves Italian exploitation films that I do) but I still got a lot of candy.

2. The Deadly Spawn (1983)

When a meteor crashes to Earth, it unleashes … well, watch the trailer.  I’ve been meaning to review this movie for a while but somehow, I keep getting distracted by Lifetime.  The Deadly Spawn is a lot of fun.  It’s good nature more than makes up for its low budget.

3. Starship Invasions (1977)

This is the trailer for Starship Invasions, which Christopher Lee regularly described as being the worst film he ever made.

4. Contamination (1980)

This one was directed by Luigi Cozzi, who also directed Starcrash.  It’s also known as Alien ContaminationHere’s my review!

5. Alien 2: On Earth (1980)

Oh my God!  A previously unknown Alien sequel!?  Not quite.  This Italian sci-fi film may have been released as Alien 2 but it actually had nothing to do with the original Alien.  That said, Alien 2 is still considerably better than Alien Covenant.

6. I Come In Peace (1990)

“…and you go in pieces!”

Hah!  You tell him!  I’ve never seen this film but I love that line.

Here Are The 90th Oscar Nominations!


You know that I’ve had a busy Tuesday when I’m only now getting around to posting the 90th Annual Oscar nominations!

Here they are.  Nominees in bold appear on both the Academy’s list and my list of the films that I would have nominated if I was the one solely in charge!

Best Picture:

Call Me By Your Name,

Darkest Hour,

Dunkirk,

Get Out,

Lady Bird,

Phantom Thread,

The Post,

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Best Director

Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread

Guillermo Del Toro for The Shape of Water

Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Jordan Peele for Get Out

Best Actor

Timothee Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name

Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread

Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Denzel Washington in Roman Israel Esq.

Best Actress

Sally Hawkins in Shape of Water

Frances McDormand in Three Billoards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Margot Robbie in I, Tonya

Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird

Meryl Streep in The Post

(At this point, I got tired of typing out all of the nominees myself and I did a cut and paste from the list of nominees posted at Awards Watch.  Please thank Awards Watch by visiting their wonderful site.)

Actor in a Supporting Role

WILLEM DAFOE
The Florida Project
WOODY HARRELSON
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
RICHARD JENKINS
The Shape of Water
CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER
All the Money in the World
SAM ROCKWELL
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Actress in a Supporting Role

MARY J. BLIGE
Mudbound

ALLISON JANNEY
I, Tonya
LESLEY MANVILLE
Phantom Thread
LAURIE METCALF
Lady Bird
OCTAVIA SPENCER
The Shape of Water

Writing (Original Screenplay)

THE BIG SICK
Written by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
GET OUT
Written by Jordan Peele
LADY BIRD
Written by Greta Gerwig
THE SHAPE OF WATER
Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor; Story by Guillermo del Toro
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Written by Martin McDonagh

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Screenplay by James Ivory
THE DISASTER ARTIST
Screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
LOGAN
Screenplay by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green; Story by James Mangold
MOLLY’S GAME
Written for the screen by Aaron Sorkin
MUDBOUND
Screenplay by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Animated Feature Film

THE BOSS BABY
Tom McGrath and Ramsey Naito
THE BREADWINNER
Nora Twomey and Anthony Leo
COCO
Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson
FERDINAND
Carlos Saldanha
LOVING VINCENT
Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and Ivan Mactaggart

Foreign Language Film

A FANTASTIC WOMAN
Chile
THE INSULT
Lebanon
LOVELESS
Russia
ON BODY AND SOUL
Hungary
THE SQUARE
Sweden

Documentary Feature

ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL
Steve James, Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman
FACES PLACES
Agnès Varda, JR and Rosalie Varda
ICARUS
Bryan Fogel and Dan Cogan
LAST MEN IN ALEPPO
Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed and Søren Steen Jespersen
STRONG ISLAND
Yance Ford and Joslyn Barnes

Documentary (Short Subject)

EDITH+EDDIE
Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright
HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405
Frank Stiefel
HEROIN(E)
Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon
KNIFE SKILLS
Thomas Lennon
TRAFFIC STOP
Kate Davis and David Heilbroner

Music (Original Score)

DUNKIRK
Hans Zimmer
PHANTOM THREAD
Jonny Greenwood
THE SHAPE OF WATER
Alexandre Desplat
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
John Williams
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Carter Burwell

Music (Original Song)

MIGHTY RIVER
from Mudbound; Music and Lyric by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson
MYSTERY OF LOVE
from Call Me by Your Name; Music and Lyric by Sufjan Stevens
REMEMBER ME
from Coco; Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
STAND UP FOR SOMETHING
from Marshall; Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Lonnie R. Lynn and Diane Warren
THIS IS ME
from The Greatest Showman; Music and Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Film Editing

BABY DRIVER
Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos
DUNKIRK
Lee Smith
I, TONYA
Tatiana S. Riegel
THE SHAPE OF WATER
Sidney Wolinsky
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Jon Gregory

Cinematography

BLADE RUNNER 2049
Roger A. Deakins
DARKEST HOUR
Bruno Delbonnel
DUNKIRK
Hoyte van Hoytema
MUDBOUND
Rachel Morrison
THE SHAPE OF WATER
Dan Laustsen

Production Design

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
BLADE RUNNER 2049
Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Alessandra Querzola
DARKEST HOUR
Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
DUNKIRK
Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
THE SHAPE OF WATER
Production Design: Paul Denham Austerberry; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin

Costume Design

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Jacqueline Durran
DARKEST HOUR
Jacqueline Durran
PHANTOM THREAD
Mark Bridges
THE SHAPE OF WATER
Luis Sequeira
VICTORIA & ABDUL
Consolata Boyle

Makeup and Hairstyling
DARKEST HOUR
Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick
VICTORIA & ABDUL
Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
WONDER
Arjen Tuiten

Sound Mixing

BABY DRIVER
Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis
BLADE RUNNER 2049
Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth
DUNKIRK
Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker and Gary A. Rizzo
THE SHAPE OF WATER
Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson

Sound Editing

BABY DRIVER
Julian Slater
BLADE RUNNER 2049
Mark Mangini and Theo Green
DUNKIRK
Richard King and Alex Gibson
THE SHAPE OF WATER
Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce

Visual Effects

BLADE RUNNER 2049
John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick
KONG: SKULL ISLAND
Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist

Short Film (Animated)

DEAR BASKETBALL
Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant
GARDEN PARTY
Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon
LOU
Dave Mullins and Dana Murray
NEGATIVE SPACE
Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata
REVOLTING RHYMES
Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer

Short Film (Live Action)
DEKALB ELEMENTARY
Reed Van Dyk
THE ELEVEN O’CLOCK
Derin Seale and Josh Lawson
MY NEPHEW EMMETT
Kevin Wilson, Jr.
THE SILENT CHILD
Chris Overton and Rachel Shenton
WATU WOTE/ALL OF US
Katja Benrath and Tobias Rosen

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions For December!


With awards season now in full swing, I’m a lot more confident when it comes to making my Oscar predictions.  While I don’t know if it’s possible to guess with one hundred per cent accuracy, I would say that I’m 99.9% sure that these predictions are going to line up with January’s nominations.

If I’m wrong … well, keep it to yourself.

Be sure to check out my earlier predictions for November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, and January.

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name

The Disaster Artist

Dunkirk

The Florida Project

Get Out

Lady Bird

The Post

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Best Director

Guillermo Del Toro for The Shape Of Water

Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Jordan Peele for Get Out

Steven Spielberg for The Post

Best Actor

Timothee Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name

Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Best Actress

Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie in I, Tonya

Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird

Meryl Streep in The Post

Best Supporting Actor

Willem DaFoe in The Florida Project

Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Christopher Plummer in All The Money In The World

Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Michael Stuhlbarg in Call Me By Your Name

Best Supporting Actress

Mary J. Blige in Mudbound

Tiffany Haddish in Girls Trip

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Allison Janney in I, Tonya

Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

In case you’re wondering which sites I use to keep informed about the developments in the Oscar race, my two favorites are Awards Circuit and Awards Watch.  Both of them are more than worth a visit and are run by people who have a much better track record than I do, as far as predicting these things is concerned!

 

 

Here Are The Online Film Critics Society Nominations!


The winners will be announced on December 28th.

It’s interesting to note that The Post is almost totally shut out here.  One thing I’ve noticed that critics who work for newspapers love The Post.  They see it as proof of their importance.  Online critics are far less impressed with The Post.  They tend to view it as a lament for a dead medium, a somewhat stodgy celebration of the past.  Whenever I finally get a chance to see The Post, I’ll let you know who’s right.

Best Picture
Call Me By Your Name
Dunkirk
The Florida Project
Get Out
A Ghost Story
Lady Bird
mother!
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water

Best Actor
Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name
James Franco – The Disaster Artist
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
Robert Pattinson – Good Time

Best Actress
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Cynthia Nixon – A Quiet Passion
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

Best Supporting Actor
Armie Hammer – Call Me By Your Name
Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Patrick Stewart – Logan
Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me By Your Name

Best Supporting Actress
Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip
Holly Hunter – The Big Sick
Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird

Best Ensemble
Get Out
Mudbound
Lady Bird
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Breakout Star
Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name
Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Dafne Keen – Logan
Brooklynn Prince – The Florida Project

Best Original Screenplay
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor – The Shape of Water
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards

Best Adapted Screenplay
Sofia Coppola – The Beguiled
James Ivory – Call Me By Your Name
Scott Nestadter and Micheal Weber – The Disaster Artist
James Gray – Lost City of Z
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game

Best Editing
Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos – Baby Driver
Lee Smith – Dunkirk
Ben Safdie and Ronald Bronstein – Good Time
Tatiana S Riegel – I, Tonya
Sidney Wolinsky – The Shape of Water

Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins – Blade Runner 2049
Hoyte van Hoytema – Dunkirk
Darius Khondji – Lost City of Z
Rachel Morrison – Mudbound
Dan Laustsen – The Shape of Water

Best Animated Feature
Coco
The Breadwinner
In This Corner Of The World
The LEGO Batman Movie
Loving Vincent

Best Foreign Film
BPM (Beats Per Minute)
First They Killed My Father
Nocturama
Raw
The Square
Thelma

Best Documentary
Dawson City: Frozen Time
Ex Libris: The New York Public Library
Faces Places
Jane
The Work

Memorial Award
Jonathan Demme
John Hurt
Bill Paxton
George A. Romero
Harry Dean Stanton

Lifetime Achievement Award
Willem Dafoe
Daniel Day-Lewis
Roger Deakins
Christopher Plummer
Agnes Varda