Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Bad Times At The El Royale, First Man, Air Strike, E-Demon


This week, Lisa and Arleigh already shared the latest trailers for:

The Predator

The Other Side of the Wind

The Front Runner

Here’s the best of the rest.

Six years after making his directorial debut with The Cabin In The Wood, Drew Goddard returns to the director’s chair with Bad Times at the El Royale.  Featuring Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, and Chris Hemsworth, Bad Times at the El Royale will be released on October 12th.

From Universal Pictures, here is the second trailer to First Man.  Damien Chazelle’s upcoming film stars Ryan Gosling as the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, and Claire Foy as his first wife.  First Man will be released on October 12th, putting it in head-to-head competition with Bad Times At the El Royale.

If you have ever wondered what you would get if you combined Bruce Willis, Adrien Brody, and unconvincing CGI, Air Strike is here to answer your question.  Air Strike will be released on October 26th.  Mel Gibson (yes, that Mel Gibson) was the production designer.

Finally, if you missed the first two Unfriended movies, E-Demon is here to shock you.  E-Demon will be released on September 14th.

 

 

 

Scenes That I Love: Happy Birthday, Sam Elliott!


Today is the 73rd birthday of the perennially underrated actor, Sam Elliott!

Sam’s been acting for longer than I’ve been alive.  He’s been in a ton of good movies and he’s given some truly iconic performances and yet, with all that in mind, he still seems to be strangely underrated.  At the very least, he deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance in last year’s The Hero.   There’s some speculation that he might get one this year for his role in A Star is Born.

With all that said, most people seem to know Sam Elliott best for playing The Stranger in 1998’s The Big Lebowski.  So, with that in mind, here’s a scene I love featuring Sam Elliott from that very film!

Sam Elliott abides.

Music Video of the Day: Take A Look At Me Now (Against All Odds) by Phil Collins (1984, dir by Taylor Hackford)


On the one hand, I know that the critics have never exactly embraced the songs of Phil Collins.  I mean, there’s a reason why it’s such a brilliant joke that, in American Psycho, the vacuous wannabe serial killer Patrick Bateman is a rabid Phil Collins fan.  On the one hand, Collins’s music is representative of an era.  On the other hand, it’s often used to illustrate everything that was supposedly wrong with that era.

But you know what?

Screw it.  I like this song.  It’s effective.  It works.  It’s fun to listen to and I’ll probably find myself singing it sometime tonight.  Earlier, I watched a 1984 film called Against All Odds and, when this song played over the final freeze frame, it was a perfect moment.

The video for Take A Look At Me Now was directed by the same guy who directed Against All Odds, Taylor Hackford.  Of course, the video itself is mostly made up of clips from the film.  In between Phil doing his thing, we get scenes of Jeff Bridges looking young and sexy, Rachel Ward looking sultry, and James Woods looking dangerous.

The song itself was nominated for an Oscar, though it lost to I Just Called To Say I Love You from The Woman In Red.

Enjoy!

Fast Friends: THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT (United Artists 1974)


cracked rear viewer

Clint Eastwood  is posing as a preacher in a small Montana town, giving his Sunday sermon. Meanwhile, carefree Jeff Bridges steals a Trans Am off a used car lot and goes for a joyride. Clint’s sermon is interrupted by a hit man who opens fire in the church, chasing Eastwood down through a wheat field, when Bridges comes speeding along, running the killer down. Clint hops in the Trans Am, and the two become fast friends, setting up THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT, a wild and wooly tale that’s part crime caper, part character study, and the directorial debut of Michael Cimino.

Clint plays Korean War veteran John Mahoney, a criminal known as “The Thunderbolt” who pulled off a successful half-million dollar armory robbery. His ex-gang members (George Kennedy ,Geoffrey Lewis ) think he betrayed them, and are out to kill him, but not before finding out where the loot is…

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Lisa’s Way, Way Too Early Oscar Predictions for March


The Oscar (1966, dir by Russell Rouse)

Right now, when it comes to predicting the Oscars, there are two big questions to consider.

First off, will Burden ever find a distributor?  From the reviews in Sundance, it sounds like the type of film that could be embraced by the Academy but, if it can’t get in theaters, it’s not going to get any nominations.

Secondly, will Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman came out in 2019 or 2018?  Right now, Netflix says that The Irishman will be released in 2019 but we all remember what happened with The Wolf of Wall Street.

As of now, I’m going to choose to believe that Burden will get a 2018 release date and that The Irishman will come out in 2019.

I’m also going to chose to believe that Black Panther will be the first “comic book” movie to be nominated for best picture.

Also be sure to check out my predictions for January and February!

Best Picture

At Eternity’s Gate

Black Panther

Boy Erased

Burden

First Man

If Beale Street Could Talk

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Star is Born

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Widows

Best Director

Damien Chazelle for First Man

Ryan Coogler for Black Panther

Andrew Heckler for Burden

Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk

Josie Rourke for Mary, Queen of Scots

Best Actor

Christian Bale in Backseat

Willem DaFoe in At Eternity’s Gate

Lucas Hedges in Boy Erased

Ryan Gosling in First Man

Garrett Hedlund in Burden

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Chloe Grace Moretz in The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Saoirse Ronan in Mary, Queen of Scots

Kristen Stewart in JT LeRoy

Best Supporting Actor

Jeff Bridges in Bad Times at the El Royale

Colman Domingo in If Beale Street Could Talk

Robert Duvall in Widows

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Forest Whiteaker in Burden

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams in Backseat

Claire Foy in First Man

Nicole Kidman in Boy Erased

Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk

Margot Robie in Mary, Queen of Scots

Olivia De Havilland and Friends

Lisa’s Way, Way, Way Too Early Oscar Predictions For February


Could Black Panther be the first comic book movie to receive an Oscar nomination?

Last year, around this time, we were asking the exact same question about LoganLogan didn’t pick up a Best Picture nomination but it was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, which would seem to suggest that the Academy is slowly coming around to accepting that so-called “Super Hero Films” can also be legitimate Oscar contenders.

As for Black Panther, it is currently the most critically acclaimed and financially successful film of 2018.  For those who say that there’s no way the Academy will ever nominate a comic book film for best picture, it should be remembered that there was a time when people said that Academy would never nominate a horror comedy for Best Picture.  Much like Get Out, Black Panther could prove the naysayers wrong.

Anyway, here are my Oscar predictions for February.  As always, it ‘s really way too early to be making these predictions.  Usually, Sundance provides at least a little bit of a guide but this year, Sundance was pretty low-key.  The most obvious Sundance Oscar contender — Burden — doesn’t even have a release date yet.

Also, the uncertain status of The Weinstein Company has thrown a lot of films into limbo.  Some of the unreleased TWC films might find homes with other studios.  Others will probably be left in limbo.  Then again, even if those films do get a release, I doubt the Academy is going to nominate any films stained with the noxious fingerprints of the Weinsteins.

Even more than usual, the guesses below are random.  At this time next year, we’ll probably look at this list and laugh.  Some of you might laugh today.

Check out January’s picks here!

Best Picture

Black Panther

Boy Erased

Burden

Colette

First Man

Mary, Queen of Scots

A Star is Born

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Widows

The Women of Mawren

Best Director

Ryan Coogler for Black Panther

Andrew Heckler for Burden

Richard Linklater for Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Steve McQueen for Widows

Josie Rourke for Mary, Queen of Scots

Best Actor

Christian Bale in Untitled Adam McKay/Dick Cheney film

Lucas Hedges in Boy Erased

Ryan Gosling in First Man

Jake Gyllenhaal in Wildfire

Garrett Hedlund in Burden

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Viola Davis in Widows

Keira Knightley in Collette

Chloe Grace Moretz in The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Saorise Ronan in Mary, Queen of Scots

Best Supporting Actor

Jeff Bridges in Bad Times at the El Royale

Robert Duvall in Widows

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Rami Malek in Papillon

Forest Whiteaker in Burden

Best Supporting Actress

Claire Foy in First Man

Nicole Kidman in Boy Erased

Leslie Mann in The Women of Mawren

Lupita Nyong’o in Black Panther

Margot Robie in Mary, Queen of Scots

A Movie A Day #354: Lolly-Madonna XXX (1973, directed by Richard C. Sarafian)


In the backwoods of Hicksville, USA, two families are feuding.  Laban Feather (Rod Steiger, bellowing even more than usual) and Pap Gutshall (Robert Ryan) were once friends but now they are committed rivals.  They claim that the fight started when Pap bought land that once belonged to Laban but it actually goes back farther than that.  Laban and Pap both have a handful of children, all of whom have names like Thrush and Zeb and Ludie and who are all as obsessed with the feud as their parents.  When the Gutshall boys decide to pull a prank on the Feather boys, it leads to the Feathers kidnapping the innocent Roonie (Season Hubley) from a bus stop.  They believe that Roonie is Lolly Madonna, the fictional fiancée of Ludie Gutshall (Kiel Martin).  Zack Feather (Jeff Bridges), who comes the closest of any Feather to actually having common sense, is ordered to watch her while the two families prepare for all-out war.  Zack and Roonie fall in love, though they do not know that another Feather brother has also fallen in love with Gutshall daughter.  It all leads to death, destruction, and freeze frames.

Lolly-Madonna XXX is a strange film.  It starts out as a typical hicksploitation flick before briefly becoming a backwoods Romeo and Juliet and finally ending up as a heavy-handed metaphor for both the Vietnam War and the social upheaval at home.  Along with all the backwoods drama, there is a fantasy sequence where Hawk Feather (Ed Lauter) briefly imagines himself as an Elvis-style performer.  (Hawk also dresses up in Roonie’s underwear.)  Probably the most interesting thing about Lolly-Madonna XXX is the collection of actors who show up playing Feathers and Gutshalls.  Along with Steiger, Ryan, Martin, Bridges, and Lauter, everyone from Randy Quaid to Paul Koslo to Scott Wilson to Gary Busey has a role to play in the feud.  Lolly-Madonna XXX is too uneven and disjointed to really be considered a good movie but I can say that I have never seen anything else like it.

One final note: Lolly-Madonna XXX was directed by Richard Sarafian, who is best known for another early 70s cult classic, Vanishing Point.

Film Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (dir by Matthew Vaughn)


Before I say too much about Kingsman: The Golden Circle, I do want to acknowledge a few good things about the movie.

First off, it doesn’t take long for the film to reveal that Harry (Colin Firth) didn’t actually die when Samuel L. Jackson shot him in the head in the first movie.  Undoubtedly, that diminishes the power of that scene but, at the same time, it also means that Colin Firth gets to come back.

Secondly, Taron Egerton returns as Eggsy.  The script really doesn’t give him too many opportunities to show what he’s capable of as an actor, largely because the character of Eggsy was fully developed by the end of the first movie.  Now that Eggsy is a fully trained and competent Kingsman, there’s not really much for him to do other than trade a few quips and take a few lives.  That said, Egerton is a likable actor and he’s fun to watch.

Third, Julianne Moore has a few fun scenes as the film’s main villain, Poppy Adams.  Poppy is the head of an international drug cartel.  She’s also obsessed with the 1950s and always amazingly cheerful.

Fourth, all of the Kingsmen still wear suits and Michael Caine-style glasses.  Colin Firth gets to use his umbrella as a shield.

Finally, Mark Strong is back as Merlin.

So, that’s five good things about Kingsman: The Golden Circle.  Unfortunately, all five of those things are somewhat obscured by the fact that the movie really, really sucks.

Admittedly, I had really high hopes for the movie.  I loved the first Kingsman film, which was a stylish satire that featured one of the greatest action set pieces of all time.  And I was excited to see that not only was Firth returning but Matthew Vaughn would also be directing the sequel.

But no.  This movie just doesn’t work.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle attempts to do everything on a larger scale than the first Kingsman.  That means more violence, more betrayals, and a longer running time.  This time, the movie not only features the Kingsmen but also the Statesmen, which is the American equivalent of the Kingsmen.  (The Statesmen all dress like cowboys and speak in exaggerated Southern drawls, which I got kind of sick of listening to after about three minutes.)  Along with the returning stars of the first film, Jeff Bridges, Emily Watson, Bruce Greenwood, Halle Berry, and Channing Tatum all have small roles.  Pedro Pascal (best known for playing Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones) has a much larger role as a Statesman codenamed Whiskey.

Unfortunately, bigger is not always better.  The Golden Circle never comes close to matching the lunatic heights of the first movie.  There are a lot of action scenes but none of them match the church fight from the first film.  There’s a surprise death but it’s nowhere near as shocking or effective as Firth’s “death” in the first film.  Even the required barroom brawl falls flat.  Nowhere does The Golden Circle match the audacity of the first film.  The first film ended with exploding heads.  This film ends with the promise of more sequels.

But really, I think what really doomed The Golden Circle was that extended running time.  There’s really no good reason for The Golden Circle to last for 2 hours and 21 minutes.  Quite a bit of the film, especially during the first hour, felt padded out and, as a result, it seemed like took forever for the film’s story to actually get started.  Probably 40 minutes to an hour could have been cut from The Golden Circle without anyone missing it.

Ultimately, I think the main problem is that the first Kingsman felt like it was made by people who truly did love the material.  This film feels contractually obligated.  The Golden Circle has a lot of action but it’s just not very fun.

A Movie A Day #219: Wild Bill (1995, directed by Walter Hill)


The year is 1876 and the legendary Wild Bill Hickok (Jeff Bridges) sits in a saloon in Deadwood and thinks about his life (most of which is seen in high-resolution, black-and-white flashbacks).  Hickok was a renowned lawman and a sure shot, a man whose exploits made him famous across the west.  Thanks to his friend, Buffalo Bill Cody (Keith Carradine), he even appeared on the New York stage and reenacted some of his greatest gun battles.  Now, Hickok is aging.  He is 39 years old, an old man by the standards of his profession.  Though men like Charlie Prince (John Hurt) and California Joe (James Gammon) continue to spread his legend, Hickok is going blind and spends most of his time in a haze of opium and regret.

Hickok only has one true friend in Deadwood, Calamity Jane (Ellen Barkin).  He also has one true enemy, an aspiring gunslinger named Jack McCall (David Arquette).  McCall approaches Hickok and announces that he is going to kill him because of the way that Hickok treated his mother (played, in flashback, by Diane Lane).  Hickok does not do much to dissuade him.

Based on both a book and a play, Wild Bill is a talky and idiosyncratic Western from Walter Hill.  Hill is less interested in Hickok as a gunfighter than Hickok as an early celebrity.  There are gunfights but they only happen because, much like John Wayne in The Shootist, Hickok has become so famous that he cannot go anywhere without someone taking a shot at him.  Almost the entire final half of Wild Bill is set in that saloon, with Hickok and a gallery of character actors talking about the past and wondering about the future.

At times, Wild Bill gets bogged down with all the dialogue and philosophizing.  (To quote The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: “When you have to shoot, shoot.  Don’t talk.”)  Luckily, the film is saved by an intriguing cast, led by Jeff Bridges.  In many ways, his performance was Wild Bill feels like an audition for his later performance in True Grit.  David Arquette is intensely weird as the jumpy Jack McCall and Ellen Barkin brings the film’s only underwritten role, Calamity Jane, to life.  Smaller roles are played by everyone from Bruce Dern to James Remar to Marjoe Gortner.

United Artist made the mistake of trying to sell Wild Bill as being a straight western, which led to confused audiences and a resounding flop at the box office.  Ironically, years after the release of Wild Bill, Walter Hill won an Emmy for directing the first episode of HBO’s Deadwood, an episode the featured Wild Bill cast member Keith Carradine in the role of Hickok.

Film Review: Cutter’s Way (dir by Ivan Passer)


Yesterday, after it was announced that actor John Heard had been found dead in a Palo Alto hotel room, I lost track of how many people declared that Cutter’s Way, a 1981 film in which Heard co-starred with Jeff Bridges, was one of their favorite movies of all time.  (That includes quite a few people who write for this very site.)  In fact, people were so enthusiastic about Cutter’s Way that I quickly decided that this was a film that I needed to watch for myself.  So, last night, after watching All About Eve on TCM and My Science Project with the Late Night Movie Gang, I curled up on the couch and I watched Cutter’s Way.

Technically, Cutter’s Way is a murder mystery but it’s actually a lot more.  In the grand noir tradition, the mystery is less important than the milieu in which it occurs.  Cutter’s Way takes place in Santa Barbara, California, which the film presents as being a microcosm of America.  It’s place where the rich are extremely rich and the poor are pushed to the side and expected not to complain.  The Santa Barbara of Cutter’s Way is controlled by new money and haunted by old sins.  It’s a world that is perfectly captured, by director Ivan Passer and cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, in the film’s haunting opening scene:

John Heard plays Alex Cutter.  Years ago, Cutter served in Vietnam and returned with one less eye, one less arm, and one less leg.  An angry alcoholic, the type who always looks like he’s in desperate need of a shower and a shave, Cutter exists on the fringes of society.  Like many alcoholics, Cutter is a master manipulator.  When he has to, he can turn on the charm.  When the police are called after a drunken Cutter purposefully destroys his neighbor’s car, we suddenly see a totally different Alex Cutter.  He’s polite and apologetic, explaining that he was merely swerving to avoid something in the road and, by the way, he served his country in Vietnam.  As soon as the police leave, the real Cutter comes out.  He gets his bottle and starts to rant about how much the world owes him.  Watching the film, you find yourself understanding why some people might want to push this one-legged, one-armed, one-eyed veteran down a flight of stairs, that’s how obnoxious Alex Cutter can be.

And yet, there are people who love Alex Cutter.  There’s his long-suffering wife, Mo (Lisa Eichhorn).  Mo lives in squalor with Cutter, taking care of him and putting up with his bitterness.  There’s the local bar owner, who could probably put his kids through college on Cutter’s bar tab.  (He even drives Cutter home in the morning, after everyone else has deserted him.)  And finally, there’s Richard Bone (Jeff Bridges).

Bone is Cutter’s best friend.  Whereas Cutter is perpetually pissed off, Bone is almost always laid back.  Whereas Cutter feels that everything is his business, Bone prefers to remain detached from the world.  Mention is made of Bone being a graduate of the Ivy League but he spends most of his time giving tennis lessons and sleeping with wealthy women.  Bone takes care of Cutter, though their friendship is occasionally hard to figure out.  Why does Bone stick with Cutter despite all of Cutter’s abuse?  Perhaps Bone feels guilty because he avoided being drafted while Cutter lost half of his limbs in Vietnam.  Or maybe it’s because Bone is in love with Mo.

One night, when Bone is leaving a hotel, he sees a man in an alley.  The man appears to be hiding something in a dumpster.  Later, when the body of a woman is found in that same dumpster, Bone realizes that he probably saw the murderer.  Even more so, Bone thinks that the man resembled J.J. Cord (Stephen Elliott), one of the richest men in Santa Barbara.

Bone, however, isn’t sure that Cord’s the murderer.  Even more so, even if Cord was the murderer, Bone prefers to not get involved.  However, Cutter is sure that Cord’s the killer.  To Cutter, it makes perfect sense.  If men like Cord were willing to send boys to Vietnam and then refuse to take care of them when they returned both physically and mentally maimed by the experience, then why wouldn’t they also think that they could get away with murdering some hitchhiker?

Soon, Cutter has met the dead girl’s sister, Valerie (Ann Dusenberry).  Cutter says that his plan is to blackmail Cord.  He badgers the reluctant Bone into working with him.  It quickly becomes obvious, however, that Cutter is after more than money.  He is obsessed with proving that this rich and powerful man is a murderer.  And he’s not going to let anyone stand in his way.  Not even a stuffed animal:

As I said, Cutter’s Way is about much more than just a murder.  It’s a film about class differences, with even the otherwise slick Bone discovering how difficult it is to infiltrate Cord’s wealthy world.  It’s a film about disillusionment, cynicism, and the fleeting promise of happiness.  As angry as Cutter is, he still ultimately possesses the idealism that both Bone and Mo have lost.  He still believes in right and wrong.  While that angry idealism may make Cutter a pain in the ass, it’s also his redeeming feature.  As the youngest of them, Valerie is still an optimist but she is also the least prepared to deal with the sordid reality of the world around her.  Bone and Mo, meanwhile, both appear to have surrendered their belief that the world can be and should be a better place.  Ultimately, Cutter’s Way is a film that forces you to consider what you would do if you were in the same situation.  Cutter’s Way is not a great title, largely because it makes the film sound like a CW western, but it’s an appropriate one.  The entire film is about Cutter’s way of viewing the world and whether or not Bone will follow Cutter or if he’ll continue to refuse to get involved.

(The novel that the film’s based on was called Cutter and Bone.  According to Wikipedia, the title was changed because audiences thought the movie was a comedy about surgeons.)

I have to agree with those who have called Cutter’s Way a great film.  Not only is it gorgeous to look at but it’s one of the best acted films that I’ve ever seen, from the stars all the way down to the most minor of roles.  John Heard dominates the film, giving a performance of almost demonic energy but he’s perfectly matched by Jeff Bridges.  Bridges, back in his incredibly handsome younger days, gives a subtle and powerful performance as a man struggling with his conscience.  In the role of J.J. Cord, Stephen Elliott doesn’t get much screen time but he makes the most of it.  When he first see him, he’s riding a white horse and rather haughtily looking down on the world around him.  When he last see him, he delivers a line of such incredible arrogance that it literally left me stunned.  Though, when compared to Bridges and Heard, their roles are underwritten, both Lisa Eichhorn and Ann Dusenberry more than hold their own, providing able and poignant support.

Cutter’s Way is a great film and one that everyone should watch if they haven’t.