Marvel isn’t the only studio with Super Bowl ads this year. Here’s the Super Bowl trailer for The Flash, starring upstanding citizen Ezra Miller and Michael Keaton as Batman!
Marvel isn’t the only studio with Super Bowl ads this year. Here’s the Super Bowl trailer for The Flash, starring upstanding citizen Ezra Miller and Michael Keaton as Batman!
How much is one life worth?
That’s the question that is asked in a film that’s appropriately titled Worth.
Based on a true story, Worth centers around Kenneth D. Feinberg. Played by Michael Keaton, Fienberg was the Washington lawyer who, in the days after 9/11, was appointed the Special Master of the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund. In that role, Feinberg was in charge of determining how much money should be given to the families who lost someone in the 9/11 attacks. At first, Feinberg tries to reduce his job to just numbers. He resists the efforts of his law partner, Camille Biros (Amy Ryan), to convince him to meet with any of the families one-on-one. Instead, he tries to make it all about how much the victims would have earned if they had lived. When Camille tries to get him to listen to a recording of the final phone call of a man trapped in the Pentagon, Feinberg refuses to do it.
Not surprisingly, Feinberg gets a reputation for being insensitive and many of the families signal that, rather than accepting the government’s compensation, they would rather sue the airlines and the city of New York, a move that we’re told could crash the U.S. economy or bankrupt the families or both. It’s only after the workaholic Feinberg makes the mistake of staying in the office after everyone else has left that he actually meets one of the families. With the help of activist Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci), Feinberg finally starts to care about the people behind the numbers.
Worth is a bit of an old-fashioned film, a throw-back to the type of well-meaning, competently produced films that used to come out every December so that they could compete for the Academy Awards. Even the film’s rather stolid, middle-of-the road liberalism feels like an artifact of another age. (I had to laugh a little when the film assured us that, despite sometimes coming across like a jackass, Feinberg was a good guy because he had been a senior aide to Ted Kennedy, the senator who left a woman to drown in a car while he went back to his hotel and got some sleep.) At a time when Adam McKay is being treated as a serious thought leader and Aaron Sorkin has somehow been recast as a sensible moderate, Worth’s fairly even-handed and nonjudgmental approach feels like almost an act of rebellion. That said, Worth’s approach works for the story that it’s telling. 9/11 was such a huge tragedy that it doesn’t need to be talked to death, as it would be in a Sorkin film. Nor do we need the heavy hand of Adam McKay to tell us that there’s something inherently disturbing about reducing the value of someone’s life to a mere number. Unlike the films of McKay, Sorkin, or Jay Roach (Hell, why not throw him in there, too?), Worth trusts the audience to be able to figure out certain truths on its own. After a decade of heavy-handed political agitprop, Worth’s nonshowy approach is actually a bit refreshing.
As a character, Kenneth Feinberg is not always easy to like. That’s especially true during the first half of the film, when Feinberg seems to be more interested in the challenge of running the compensation fund as opposed to the people that he’s supposed to be helping. When the film begins, Feinberg is the epitome of the technocrat who can figure out the numbers but who has no idea how to actually deal with human beings. Fortunately, Feinberg is also played by Michael Keaton, who is one of the few actors to be capable of projecting the natural authority necessary to make Feinberg compelling without also resorting to begging us to like the character. Keaton does a good job portraying both Feinberg’s quick mind but also his social awkwardness. When we first meet him, he’s someone who has been an insider for so long that he can’t even imagine that an outside exists. Keaton plays him as a man who does not mean to be callous but who is so work-obsessed that he doesn’t understand how his job comes across to other people. Even more importantly, though, Keaton does a good job of portraying Feinberg’s transformation from being a detached bureaucrat to being someone who actually cares about the people who will effected by his decisions. A lesser actor would have overplayed these scenes and the film would have felt mawkish. Keaton underplays and it saves the film.
As I said before, Worth is an old-fashioned film. Visually, it sometimes resembles the type of movie that HBO used to win Emmys with in the mid-aughts. Keaton so dominates the film that, only afterwards, do you realize that the talented supporting cast was often underused. Worth is not a perfect film but it is a good film and a thought-provoking one. It’s currently showing on Netflix.
Here on the Shattered Lens, the love for Batman is very strong. There are too many Batman related articles to fully list, but for a good start, go with Ryan’s Which Way Forward for the Batman Franchise.
This isn’t so much a review for Batman as it’s just me looking back on the film.
I spent the Saturday Morning of June 24th, 1989 standing on a line that snaked around the white walls of the Sunrise Multiplex Cinema in Valley Stream. Thankfully, by the time I arrived, there were only a few people there. Most of them were my friends, so we were close to the door. The following year, the Sunrise would go down in history as being the only movie theatre I’ve ever known with metal detectors after a shooting around the release of The Godfather Part III prompted tighter security. Before then, anyone going into the theatre had a free run of the place. From that incident to the theatre’s shutdown in 2015, you always had to pass the metal detectors.
You knew Tim Burton’s Batman was going to be something grand when they first put up the posters in bus stations. The character was so well known that the poster was simply a black and gold Batsymbol with a date – June 23. In my neighborhood, the poster lasted a week before the bus stop’s glass was broken and it was stolen. This was how mad people were for the film. Although merchandise was already available, it moved at an incredible pace. For a film made before pre-Internet, the buzz was just amazing.
“Okay, Everyone, we know you’re looking forward to seeing the movie.”, came the announcement over the theatre’s loudspeaker, which caused a few murmurs from everyone. It was a smooth, business like voice, probably from someone who had never even heard of The Caped Crusader. “We’re going to open up the doors and we want everyone to proceed to the ticket booths in a nice, orderly fashion.”
I was 14 at the time. Batman was the first movie I ever saw without my family. My parents, a cop and a bartender, saw so much of the worst of NYC that they figured the best place for me was home. Still, since I was among friends they knew, I gave me a pass. It was a big deal. My friend Pierre and I had a plan, along with the 4 others that came with us. We’d head in, make for the ticket booth and go right in for our seats near the back right side.. No refreshments were necessary, since we could all go eat at the mall later on after the move was done. To make sure I didn’t miss anything, I had already read the novel for the story beforehand.
Anyone close to the door could see the theatre workers as they approached, keys in hand. The layout of the Sunrise was such that after stepping through the front door, you could cut to your immediate left or right down a open path to separate ticket booth. As the door unlocked, was pushed open and secured, someone from near the middle of the line decided it was time, declaring in a loud scream.
It was madness. Utter madness. Bodies piled into the theatre in a mad scramble for the ticket booth. On the way there, I was shoulder blocked and fell to the floor. I instantly curled into a ball to keep from getting trampled, wondering if my parents were right about not letting me out. ‘Here lies Lenny…”, my epitaph would read. “…he died at the movies after being let outside on his own just once.”
Thankfully, I was scooped up to my feet a few seconds later by one of my friends.
“Go on! We’ve got your tickets! Head for the ticket guy, we’ll meet you there!” he yelled over the crowd passing us on sides.
“Okay!!” I’d been to the Sunrise tons of times, so I knew it well. I moved through the crowd, bypassing the concession stand, which was already developing a line of its own. I thought they were going to go in without me and leave me there. I don’t know they did it, but within a few minutes of reaching the ticket taker. most of my group caught up, tickets in hand for all of us.
The actual experience of Batman was a packed crowd with almost non-stop talking throughout. After all, the audience was made up of teens and DC fans that that were ravenous for anything Batman related. Superman had about four films by the time Batman premiered. I think the only real time the entire audience hushed was near the beginning when we first see Batman grab the one robber and they ask him what he is. After that, the crowd pretty much erupted in applause.
Of course, that line would become famous and reused over the years, such as it was with the WB’s Supernatural.
Even before the film was released, the buzz for Batman was immense.
Batman focuses on Gotham City, a grand town with a great deal of crime. Reports are coming in of a mysterious vigilante figure resembling a giant bat that’s taking down random criminals. Crime in Gotham is run by Boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance, City Slickers), with his right hand man, Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson, The Departed). After discovering that Napier’s spent some quality time with his girl, Alicia (Jerry Hall, Urban Cowboy), Grissom sets him up so that he’ll be caught by the cops. Things don’t go as planned, and after falling into a vat of chemicals, Napier is reborn as The Joker. Can the Dark Knight defeat this new menace?
For me, one of the most interesting elements of Tim Burton’s Batman is how Jack Nicholson was the main draw for the film. Nicholson stands front and center in this film. If any real eyebrows were raised, it was over casting Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight. Keaton and Burton worked together on Beetlejuice, so there was some chemistry. However, when the announcement for Keaton being cast in Batman, most people were pretty skeptical. Keaton was known for playing more comedic roles, and playing the Batman required a more serious attitude. However, I’ve always felt that comedians are the most shocking when they take on a serious role. Some examples of this are Patton Oswalt in Big Fan, Robin Williams’ Academy Award winning performance in Good Will Hunting and most recently, Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems. I feel that worked for Keaton, and most viewers underestimated what he could bring to both Bruce Wayne and Batman. As Wayne, Keaton seems a bit subdued. As Batman, he’s a little scary simply because he doesn’t quite look like the kind of individual who would roam the streets at night dressed as a bat. My parents would later argue over Batman’s drop of Jack Napier at Axis Chemicals. I thought it was a situation where he just couldn’t hold on to him. My parents’ viewpoint was that Batman deliberately did it. We never really know for sure, but it did seem a little convenient that Batman couldn’t hold on to Napier. Overall, Keaton’s Batman plays second fiddle to Nicholson’s Joker, who also had a some sway in the design of the nemesis for the film.
Batman’s cast also includes Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) as Vicki Vale, Robert Wuhl (Bull Durham), Billy Dee Williams (Nighthawks) and Pat Hingle (Sudden Impact) as Commissioner Gordon, The cast is pretty perfect here, without anyone really falling out of step. Batman stories would grow more serious by the time Nolan would step in, but for the 1980s, it was just fine.
Anton Furst would win an Oscar for Best Art Direction for his design of Gotham City, which was for its time, quite dazzling. On par with some of the designs from Blade Runner and The Crow, Furst’s rendition of Gotham was dark and brooding, compared to the more modern backdrop of Batman Begins. In addition to Gotham’s look, Furst also helped design the Batmobile, which was based off the Chevy Impala (another Supernatural connection). When the film was released on home video, my family caught sight of the Batmobile up close on the street as it delivered VHS Copies to a video store in Manhattan. Although he died some years later, Furst’s work on Batman remains an influence on both the comics and future installments of the movies.
1989 was also a big year for Danny Elfman. His score for Batman would earn him a Grammy, and the main theme would become a definitive one for the Caped Crusader throughout the early 1990. Shirley Walker would build on the theme with her music from Batman: The Animated Series. It was also something of a surprise for Prince. With songs like Trust, Electric Chair and Vicki’s Waiting, Prince’s Batman Soundtrack is full of great hits that you really wouldn’t think would fit in a story like Batman. Still, they manage to do just fine, and even elevate scenes like the Joker’s entry in the Gotham Museum and the Balloon Parade.
Batman is not without a few problems. It gets a little long in the tooth in the film’s second half, particularly in the scenes leading up to the Monarch and Bruce losing his parents. It’s not a terrible slowdown, since it has to set the tone for some of the more spectacular fights later on. It could have been edited just a little tighter. Additionally, when compared to some of the modern versions, 1989’s Batman can feel a little bit dated (to me, anyway). That’s more of a nitpick, or where you stand on the Batman universe as a whole. Everyone has their favorite adaptation on the Caped Crusader.
Burton and Keaton would later reunite in 1992’s Batman Returns, and the franchise on a whole would take a different turn with Joel Schumacher’s takes in 1995’s Batman Forever and 1997 Batman & Robin.
The Trial of the Chicago 7, the latest film from Aaron Sorkin, is a fairly mediocre and rather forgettable film. Because of that mediocrity, it stands a pretty good chance of doing very well at the Oscars later this year.
Aaron Sorkin specializes in political fan fiction. He writes plays, movies and television shows that address big and controversial issues in the most safely liberal way possible. Whenever Sorkin writes about politics, there’s not a single debate that can’t be won by one long, overdramatic speech, preferably delivered in an office or a conference room while everyone who disagrees nervously stares at the ground, aware that they’ll never be able to match the rhetorical brilliance of their opponents. It’s a rather dishonest way to portray the ideological divide but it’s one that’s beloved by people who want to be political without actually having to do much thinking. Sorkin is the poet laureate of the keyboard activists, the people who brag about how their cleverly-worded tweets “totally owned the MyPillow guy.” (One sure sign of a keyboard activist is the excessive pride over rhetorically owning people who are ludicrously easy to own. These are the people who think that Tom Arnold arguing about the electoral college with Kirstie Alley is the modern-day equivalent of the Lincoln/Douglas debates.)
The Trial of the Chicago 7, which Sorkin not only wrote but also directed, deals with a real-life event, the 1969 trial of eight political activists who were charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. (Black Panther Bobby Seale was ultimately tried separately from the other defendants, leading to the Chicago 8 becoming the Chicago 7.) Sacha Baron Cohen plays Abbie Hoffman, the fun-loving activist who delights in upsetting the establishment. Eddie Redmayne played Tom Hayden, who takes himself and his activism very seriously and who worries that Hoffman’s antics in the courtroom are going to discredit progressives for generations to come. Hoffman ridicules Hayden for being a rich boy who is rebelling against his father. Hayden attacks Hoffman for not thinking about how his actions are going to be perceived by the rest of America. Sorkin the screenwriter is clearly on Hayden’s side while Sorkin the director keeps finding himself drawn to Hoffman, if just because Hoffman is the more entertaining character. Hoffman gets to make jokes while Hayden has to spend the entire film with a somewhat constipated expression on his face.
As is typical of Sorkin’s political work, the film raises issues without really exploring them. We learn that the defendants were all arrested during anti-war protests but the film never really explores why they’re against the war. It’s mentioned that David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch) is a pacifist who even refused to fight in World War II but at no point do we learn what led to him becoming a pacifist. When Hoffman and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) talk about how they feel that the government holds people like them in contempt and that they shouldn’t have to fight in a war that they don’t believe in, Sorkin’s script has them speak in the type of simplistic platitudes that could just as easily have been uttered by a MAGA supporter talking about the war in Afghanistan. If all you knew about these men was what you learned in this film, you would never know that Hayden, Hoffman, and the rest of the Chicago 7 were activists both before and after the Vietnam War. You’d never know that there was more to their ideology than just opposition to the Vietnam War. The film never really digs into anyone’s beliefs and motivations. Instead, everyone might as well just have “Good” or “Evil” stamped on their forehead.
Sorkin’s simplistic approach is most obvious when it comes to Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). With Seale, the film is more interested in how other react to him than in the man himself or his activism. The film’s most shocking moment — when Judge Hoffman (Frank Langella) orders Seale to be literally bound and gagged in the courtroom — actually did happen but the film mostly seems to use it as an opportunity to show that even the lead prosecutor (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is disgusted by the government’s heavy-handedness. Seale and the Black Panthers are used more as symbols than as actual characters.
Since this is an Aaron Sorkin film, the action is male-dominated. It’s justified as the Chicago 7 and their lawyers were all men. Still, it’s hard not to notice that the only prominent female characters are an undercover cop who betrays the protestors and a receptionist who is frequently reprimanded by the men in the film. One black woman in a maid’s uniform does get a chance to reprimand Hayden for not speaking out when Bobby Seale was gagged but she’s never even given a name. As often happens with women of color in films like this, she’s only there to remind the white heroes to do the right thing.
Watching The Trial of the Chicago 7, I found myself thinking about how lucky Aaron Sorkin was to get David Fincher as the director of The Social Network. A smart director with a strong and unique style, Fincher was able to temper Sorkin’s tendency toward pompousness. Unfortunately, as a director, Aaron Sorkin is no David Fincher. While Sorkin has definitely established his own style as a writer, he directs like someone who learned how to stage a crowd-pleasing moment from watching Spielberg but who, at the same time, never noticed the sense of playfulness that Spielberg, especially early in his career, infused within the best of those scenes. It’s all soaring rhetoric and dramatic reaction shots and cues to let us know when we’re supposed to applaud. As a director, Sorkin never challenges the audience or lets the film truly come to any sort of spontaneous life. Instead, he adopts a somewhat cumbersome flashback-laden approach. The story never quite comes alive in the way that the similar courtroom drama Mangrove did. It’s all very safe, which is one reason why I imagine The Trial of the Chicago 7 is as popular as it is. It’s a film that allows the viewers to celebrate the fantasy of activism without having to deal with the messy reality of all the complications that come along with taking an actual stand. It’s a film that encourages you to pat yourself on the back for simply having watched and agreeing that people have the right to protest.
I will say that Sorkin made some good casting choices. Langella is memorably nasty of the judge and Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a good job as the prosecutor. Eddie Redmaye is a bit of a drag as Tom Hayden but Alex Sharp is likable as Hayden’s friend, Rennie Davis. Michael Keaton has an effective cameo as Ramsey Clark. The film presents Clark as being a bit of a wise liberal and the film’s epilogue doesn’t mention that Clark went on to a lucrative career of providing legal aide to murderous dictators and anti-Semites. (Lyndon LaRouche was one prominent Ramsey Clark client.)
The Trial of the Chicago 7 will probably do well come Oscar-time. In many ways, it almost feels like a generic Oscar movie. It’s about a historical event, it’s political without being radical, and it presents itself as being far more thoughtful than it actually is. That’s been a winning combo for many films over the years.
So, as we all know, December is typically the start of Awards Season but this year, things are up in the air. With the Academy extending the eligibility window (don’t even get me started on how annoyed I am about that), a lot of critics groups have also pushed back their selection date. For instance, the National Board of Review will not be announcing their picks until January. The Golden Globe nominations will not be announced until February. Things are going to be a bit messed up.
At the same time, some critics groups are still going to be announcing their picks for the best of the year in December, which is the way it should be. (When it comes time for me to make my annual “best of” list, I will only be considering films that were actually released in 2020.) With that in mind, the Sunset Film Circle is a new group that, earlier today, announced their picks for the best of 2020!
And here they are (winners in bold):
Promising Young Woman
The King of Staten Island
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
David Fincher – Mank
Darius Marder – Sound of Metal
Florian Zeller – The Father
Chloe Zhao – Nomadland (Runner-up)
Ben Affleck – The Way Back
Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Winston Duke – Nine Days
Anthony Hopkins – The Father (runner-up)
Morfydd Clark – Saint Maud
Glenn Close – Hillbilly Elegy (runner up)
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Bill Burr – The King of Staten Island (runner up)
Bill Murray – On The Rocks
Leslie Odom Jr. – One Night in Miami
Paul Raci – Sound of Metal
Stanley Tucci – Supernova
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams – Hillbilly Elegy (runner-up)
Zazie Beetz – Nine Days
Olivia Colman – The Father
Amanda Seyfried – Mank
Youn Yuh-jung – Minari
Hillbilly Elegy (runner-up)
The King of Staten Island
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
The Father – Christopher Hampton & Florian Zeller
Minari – Lee Isaac Chung
Nine Days – Edson Oda
Promising Young Woman – Emerald Fennell (runner-up)
Sound of Metal – Derek Cianfrance & Darius Marder
Gretel & Hansel – Galo Olivares
Mank – Erik Messerschmidt
Nomadland – Joshua James Richards (runner up)
Sound of Metal – Daniël Bouquet
Tenet – Hoyte Van Hoytema
First Cow – William Tyler
Gretel & Hansel – Robin Coudert
Minari – Emile Mosseri (runner-up)
Soul – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Tenet – Ludwig Göransson
Kiera Allen – Run (runner-up)
Nicole Beharie – Miss Juneteenth
Joe Kerry – Spree
Orion Lee – First Cow
Jo Ellen Pellman – The Prom
Michael Keaton – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (runner-up)
Gabourey Sidibe – Antebellum
Toby Wallace – Babyteeth
Wil Wheaton – Rent-A-Pal
DIRECTORS TO WATCH
Radha Blank – The 40-Year-Old Version
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Rose Glass – Saint Maud (runner-up)
Edson Oda – Nine Days
Jon Stevenson – Rent-A-Pal
When it comes to all things Marvel, the name Morbius is vague to me. I remember Todd McFarlane’s final run for Spider-Man back in 1991 which had a 5 to 6 issue story arc on the character. Basically, Morbius (not to be confused with Moebius, the great Jean Giraud) is kind of a vampire, or as Blade would say, he’s something else. Personally, I think Sony’s scraping near the bottom of Marvel’s barrel, but maybe Sony’s on to something here.
If they have the same success with this as they had with Venom, they should be on good footing to create their own ongoing story arc with The Sinister Six. Anyone who’s ever read any of the Marvel Comics or played the last rendition of Sony’s Spider-Man for the PS4 knows of a set of Spidey’s villains that joined forces to take him down. The trailer below looks like it ties itself into Spider-Man: Homecoming with a cameo by Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes (a.k.a. The Vulture).
Morbius stars Jared Leto (Blade Runner 2049) as Michael Morbius, a biology genius afflicted with an illness. In his efforts to come up with a cure, he becomes a supervillain with powers and a thirst for blood. Morbius also stars Jared Harris (Chernobyl), Adria Arjona (Good Omens), Tyrese Gibson (Black and Blue), and Matt Smith (The Crown)
Morbius premieres in cinemas this summer.
It’s a new year and that means that it’s once again time for me to do something spectacularly stupid.
Below, you’ll find a list of Oscar predictions. However, this is not a list of what I think will be nominated on January 13th. No, instead, these are my predictions for the upcoming year. This the first installment of my monthly predictions for which 2020 films will be nominated next year at this time.
Just in case it’s not already obvious how foolish this is, consider the following: Last year, at this time, no one had heard of Parasite. Maybe a handful of people knew that Noah Baumbach’s next film was going to be called Marriage Story. There were vague rumors about 1917 and there were still serious doubts as to whether Scorsese would ever finish putting together The Irishman. In short, trying to predict the Oscars 12 months out is impossible.
Needless to say, I haven’t seen a single one of these films listed below so I can’t tell you one way or the other whether or not they’re going to set the world on fire. Instead, what is listed below is a combination of random guesses and my own gut feelings. You’ll notice that there are a lot of big names listed, Spielberg, Anthony Hopkins, Ron Howard, and Glenn Close. Yes, all of them could very well be Oscar contenders. At the same time, they’re all also a known quantity. They’ve all got a good track record with the Academy and, as of right now, that’s all that I have to go on.
You may also notice that I’ve listed several films that will, in just a few weeks, be playing at the Sundance Film Festival. Again, it’s not that I know anything about these films that the rest of the world doesn’t. Instead, it’s simply a case of I looked at the list of Sundance films, I read the plots, and a few times I said, “That sounds like it could potentially be a contender.” After all, it seems like at least one nominee comes out of Sundance every year. Why shouldn’t it happen again?
My point is that you shouldn’t take these predictions too seriously. Some of the films and performers below may be nominated. Some definitely will not be. But, next year, we will at least be able to look back at this list and have a laugh!
So, without further ado, here are my Oscar predictions for January!
The Many Saints of Newark
News of the World
The Personal History of David Copperfield
The Trial of the Chicago 7
West Side Story
Paul Greengrass for News of the World
Ron Howard for Hillbilly Elegy
Christopher Nolan for Tenet
Steven Spielberg for West Side Story
Denis Villeneuve for Dune
Bradley Cooper in Bernstein
Tom Hanks in News of the World
Lance Henriksen in Falling
Anthony Hopkins in The Father
Michael Keaton in Worth
Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy
Glenn Close in Four Good Days
Jennifer Hudson in Respect
Elisabeth Moss in Shirley
Amy Ryan in Lost Girls
Best Supporting Actor
Willem DaFoe in The Last Thing He Wanted
Richard E. Grant in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Mark Rylance in The Trial of the Chicago 7
Forest Whitaker in Respect
Steven Yeun in Minari
Best Supporting Actress
Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy
Vera Farmiga in The Many Saints of Newark
Tilda Swinton in The Personal Life of David Copperfield
Marisa Tomei in The King of Staten Island
Helena Zengel in News of the World
Tim Burton’s remake of Dumbo actually wasn’t that bad.
I know! I’m as shocked as anyone. Usually, I’m against remakes on general principle and I’m certainly not a fan of the current trend of doing live-action versions of classic animated films. (There’s a reason why I haven’t seen the new The Lion King.) Dumbo is one of my favorites of the old Disney films, one that’s always brought tears to my mismatched eyes so I was naturally predisposed to be critical of the remake. Add to that, I’m not particularly a huge fan of Tim Burton, a director who too often seems to be coasting on his reputation for being a visionary as opposed to actually being one.
And yet, I have to admit that I enjoyed this new version of Dumbo. To call it a remake is actually a mistake. It’s a reimagining, as I suppose any live action remake of an animated film about a flying elephant, a talking mouse, and a group of sarcastic crows would have to be. So, the crows are gone, which is understandable as I doubt you could get away with a bird named “Jim Crow” today. And sadly, Timothy the Mouse is gone. He’s been replaced by several human characters, including Colin Farrell as a one-armed, former equestrian, Eva Green as a French trapeze artist, and Danny DeVito as the rough-around-the-edges but good-hearted ringmaster. However, Dumbo’s still present and he’s still got the big ears. He can still fly, as long as he’s holding a feather.
Dumbo’s only a CGI elephant but he’s still adorable. Of course, I should be honest that I’ve always loved elephants. I even rode one at Scarborough Fair once! It was like a totally bumpy and somewhat uncomfortable ride but, at the same time, it was also totally cool because I was on top of an elephant! The other thing I love about elephants is that elephants form real families. They love each other. They look out for each other. They mourn their dead, which is one of many reasons why ivory poachers are some of the worst people in the world. Elephants may not fly but there’s a sweetness to them that makes the story of Dumbo and his mother extra poignant, regardless of whether it’s animated, CGI, or live-action. Anyway, the remake’s version of Dumbo is absolutely lovable, from the minute he reveals his ears to the triumphant moment when he soars through the circus tent.
As a director, Tim Burton has always struggled with pacing. Watching his films, you always dread the inevitable moment when he gets distracted by a red herring or a superfluous storyline because you know that, once it happens, the entire film is going to go off the rails. Dumbo starts out slowly and it seems like forever before the baby elephant actually shows up. Fortunately, once Dumbo does show up, Burton’s direction becomes much more focused. The story stops meandering and, for once, Burton actually manages to maintain some sense of narrative momentum.
Visually, the film’s a feast for the eyes. Even though it’s a live-action film, the sets and the costumes are all flamboyantly and colorfully over-the-top, giving the film the feeling of being a child’s imagination come to life. I mean, when you’re making a film about a flying elephant, there’s no point in trying to go for gritty realism. While the film does mention some real-world tragedies — Farrell lost his arm in World War I and his wife to Spanish Flu — Burton plays up the fantasy elements of the story. He’s helped by Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton who both give cartoonishly broad performances. Fortunately, they’re both good enough actors that they can get away with it.
So, the live-action reimagining of Dumbo is not that bad. It has its slow spots and it really can’t match the emotional power of the original animated version. But, with all that taken into consideration, it’s still an undeniably entertaining two hours.
Spider-Man: Homecoming was the Spider-Man that fans have been waiting for. It was able to balance the character of Peter Parker and his alter-ego of Spider-Man. Where the Sam Raimi version was able to make the former stand-out at the cost of the Spider-Man alter, the Marc Webb version swapped the two dynamics. Webb’s version had a great Spider-Man but had a Peter Parker whose moral compass was a bit skewed.
Jon Watt’s Spider-Man and Peter Parker were a nice balance. It helped that the character was now free (to a degree) to play in the huge cinematic sandbox that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Last we saw Spider-Man and Peter Parker, he was dusted just like half the living things in the universe following the Thanos Snap. The question that gets brought up whenever Spider-man: Far From Home, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, gets talked about is does this film take away from the emotional sucker punch that was Avengers: Infinity War and it’s upcoming sequel, Avengers: Endgame.
From this teaser trailer and it’s international version has shown, the question still remains as both teasers mention nothing about the Avengers and keeps the timeline of the film vague enough to make one wonder if this sequel happens before Avengers: Infinity War.
I guess fans will find out on July 5, 2019 when the film is released worldwide.
….and here’s the International Teaser trailer
So, this year I am making a sincere effort to review every film that I see. I know I say that every year but this time, I really mean it. Unfortunately, over the past two weeks, real life has interfered with my movie reviewing, if not my move watching.
So, in an effort to catch up, here are four quick reviews of some of the movies that I watched over the past two weeks!
Michael Keaton as the President of the United States!? Now, that’s a great idea. Michael Keaton plays President Mackenzie. First Daughter was made long before Birdman so Michael Keaton doesn’t really have a huge part but, whenever he does appear, he is totally believable as a world leader. You buy the idea that this guy could win an election and that he’d probably be a good (if not necessarily a great) President. Someone really needs to make another movie where Michael Keaton plays the President. Maybe President Birdman. Just don’t give it to Inarritu to direct because he’ll make it too political…
Anyway, the majority of the film is about Katie Holmes as the President’s daughter, Samantha. Samantha has been accepted to a college in California. She’s excited because it means that she’ll finally be able to have a life outside of the White House. The President is concerned because he loves his daughter and he knows that, if she makes any mistakes in California, his political opponents will try to use her against him. Samantha goes off to college and tries to have a good (but rather chaste) time. Making that somewhat difficult is her secret service entourage. Fortunately, Samantha meets a guy (Marc Blucas) who loves her for who she is and not because her father is the President.
It’s all pretty silly and shallow but I have to admit that I get nostalgic whenever I see this movie. Much like From Justin To Kelly, it’s definitely a film from a more innocent and less angry time. To date, it’s also the last film to be directed by actor Forest Whitaker.
Struggling financially, Kelly (Lara Daans) is forced to move back to her hometown and move in with her sister (Sheila McCarthy). Until she got married and gave up that part of her life, Kelly was once an up-and-coming figure skater. Fortunately, her daughter, Mattie (Michaela du Toit), has inherited her mother’s talent. However, a serious injury shook Mattie’s confidence. Now, she says she doesn’t want to skate anymore. Still, she’s willing to accept a job from Mercury (Elvis Stojko) at the local rink and it’s not too long before, under Mercury’s guidance, Mattie is skating once again. Mattie also befriends another skater, Heather (Taylor Hunsley). Heather happens to be the daughter of Rose (Natasha Henstridge), who was once in love with Kelly’s father…
It sounds like the set-up of a melodramatic Lifetime movie but actually, Ice Girls is a sweet-natured film about two ice skaters, one who has a mother who is too protective and the other who has a mother who is too driven. In the end, both of them end up skating for themselves and not their mothers and that’s a good message for the film’s target audience of young skate fans. The majority of the cast is made up of actual ice skaters, so the skating footage is pretty impressive. It’s a predictable movie but I enjoyed it when I watched it on Netflix.
I also watched this one on Netflix, a day after I watched Ice Girls. (I was in an Olympics sort of mood, even though neither film took place at the Olympics.) Raising the Bar feels a lot like Ice Girls, except that the ice skaters were now gymnasts and instead of relocating to Toronto, the family in Raising the Bar relocates all the way to Australia. Once in Australia, Kelly (Kelly Johnson) finds the courage to re-enter gymnastics and ends up competing against her former teammates.
Kelly Johnson gives a good performance in the lead role. Though it may be predictable, Raising the Bar is an effective and sweet-natured family film. Perhaps the most interesting thing about watching the film was that I quickly found myself rooting against the American team. Australia all the way!
Oh, what sweet Hell is this?
Okay, I’m going to try to explain what happens in this movie. You’re not going to believe me. You’re going to think that I’m just making all of this up. But I swear to a God … this is an actual movie.
When he was a baby, Boba Shand (Howie Mandel) got separated from his family. His mother and his father assumed that he was gone forever but what they didn’t know was that Bobo was found and raised by a pack of wild dogs. For twenty years, Bobo lives as a dog. Then he’s discovered by Penny (Amy Steel), an animal researcher who tries to teach Bobo how to be a human. However, as time passes, Penny comes to realize that maybe she’s making a mistake trying to change Bobo. Bobo is innocent and child-like and obsessed with chasing fire engines. When he has too much to drink, he runs around on all fours. And … PENNY’S IN LOVE WITH HIM!
Seriously, she’s in love with a man who thinks he’s a dog.
However, Bobo stands to inherit a fortune and his evil brother (Christopher Lloyd) is planning on having him committed. Penny has to prove that Bobo is human enough to manage his own affairs while also respecting his desire to continue living like a dog.
I’m serious. This is a real movie.
Anyway, making things even worse is the performance as Howie Mandel. Mandel has always been a rather needy performer and the role of a man who thinks he’s a dog only serves to bring out his worst instincts. Remember when Ben Stiller played Simple Jack in Tropical Thunder? Well, Mandel’s performance is kinda like that only worse. At one point, Bobo walks up to a mannequin in a mall and says, “I have to go pee pee. Come with me,” and I nearly threw a shoe at the TV. Oh my God, it was so bad.
The main problem with Walk Like A Man is that it wants to have it both ways. It wants to be a wild comedy about Howie Mandel chasing fire engines but it also makes us want to tear up when Penny explains why Bobo should be allowed to live as a dog.
All in all, it’s a really bad movie. And yes, it does actually exist.