Spider Man: Homecoming- First off, the Marvel Universe is more akin to a Black Hole where the careers and talents of directors and actors alike are being eternally sucked into its center. Brief list: Hemsworth, Ruffalo, Downey Jr., Olsen, Larson, Johnson, Goldblum, Blanchett, Renner, Portman, Evans, Pratt, Jackson, Favreau, Waititi, Hiddleston, Bettany, Keaton, Bozeman, Rudd, Holland, Jordan, Ejiofor, Mikkelsen, Russo, Rooker, Bruhl, et al. I would never tell any of these guys not to go for a paycheck. That’s not my place. Nor do I think that these movies are bad or not entertaining. What does bother me are the movies that aren’t being made because these creatives are no longer available. And yes I’m aware that good things have come out (Infinitely Polar Bear, Wind River, Spotlight) the number is much smaller than it should be. Okay. Rant over. But also, please read the really long rant I wrote back in February here.
Homecoming has the aptly-aged Peter Parker going through the trials of having “great power and responsibility” without beating us over the head with the phrase yet again. Keaton’s character Vulture is less super villain and more working class man trying to make a buck in a post-Avenger’s world. I think his more villainous moments were actually inserted into the script so the audience would remove some sympathy. It’s hard not to root for him. This movie is the perfect balance of realism and heroism that the Netflix Marvel Universe works toward but can’t quite grasp. It’s subtle and when done right, is great. And Zendaya as Michelle is my new favorite Marvel Character.
Spielberg- I didn’t really want to watch this. I thought I knew everything about Spielberg that I wanted to know. Other than his beginnings in television and marriage to Kate Capshaw, I was correct. What I didn’t expect was Spielberg himself explaining his career and style and knowledge every step along the way. Its 2.5 hours of Spielberg on Spielberg and aspiring filmmakers and appreciators of his work alike will find something here.
Only the Brave- I didn’t know how this true story ended and I think that went a long way in building the tension of this movie. There are big name actors in a movie that is hovering in the realm of “generic hero film”. There are moments in the film where it is one Jeff Bridges away from being called The Brave Ones are the Best at Sacrifice and Doing Things. Still, the cast is great, the story is harrowing and redemptive and the footage involving the fire is beautiful. Any director less than Kosinsky at the helm would have left this forgettable in the cinemas but he brings technical prowess to the field and makes a grounded movie.
The Blood of Heroes- This is the movie that Paul Newman’s Quintet wanted to be. Post-apocalyptic society descended into wastelands with a “game” of some sort as the inhabitant’s primary form of entertainment. Yet, rather than it being an obscure game of cat and mouse with rules I don’t think even the players understand, Blood chooses the logical route of further devolving football/rugby into an insanely brutal game involving dog skulls and deadly weapons. It doesn’t even look that far-fetched when thinking about today’s reality shows. Throw in a loose plot involving underground cities, a mysterious “league” and a fun cast of Mad Max-esque characters and this should be on any list of bleak future movies. Not to mention, fucking sweet title.
The Last Detail- This is a hard movie to classify. It’s funny sometimes and dramatic other times but never leans too heavy in either direction. Richard Linklater is coming out with one of his “spiritual sequels” to this so I figured I should see the original and I enjoyed seeing Nicholson and Quaid as younger and less crazy actors respectively. There is not a lot to work with so some scenes tend to drag on. All that being said, there are some very unique moments and there is the added bonus of a young Carol Kane scene and Gilda Radner’s first on screen appearance.
Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten- This is a fine documentary that well details the life and music of The Clash front man. The best part about it though, those other things aside, is how they filmed the interviews. Almost every interview that is not archival footage is conducted around a fire. At first I thought it was sloppy or a poor location choice but the more you moved through Joe’s life, the more we are introduced to a wide range of people he encounters which includes original bandmates, Bono, Steve Buscemi, Matt Dillon and Johnny Depp. The “around the campfire setting” (which obscures actual locations) gives you the impression that all of these people are there at the same time. This may have been the case but the logistics of getting everyone in the same spot in England for multiple nights sounds daunting and it’s more reasonable to believe that the fire was brought to them. It still has a low budget feel but the effect is noticeable and applicable to the culmination of Strummer’s life and beliefs.
I am Love- Between the swelling/stabbing music and extreme zooms/close-ups that occur in the last five minutes you might think you were watching a telenovela. But everything leading up to that point was subtle and beautifully done. It has an amazing love scene in the woods where a pair of bodies intermingle with the fauna contrasted with close ups of insects and flowers. Like his follow up A Bigger Splash Luca Guadagnino creates a film that exists outside of genre. It has drama of course but his tender hand and style bring out something entirely new. Plus, Tilda Swinton owns.
The Right Stuff- For being filmed in the early 80s, this movie looks incredible. I don’t want to be ageist or anything but older movies tend to wear a bit over time but this movie aged very well. Most of the actors look like someone digitized their current selves into younger versions like Bridges in Tron or Downey Jr. in Civil War. Movies about NASA will often (rightfully) focus on the trips to the moon but The Right Stuff is about the genesis of that program and the training fighter pilots endured to be a part of it. It is less about floating in space and more about high speeds and intense situations although the orbiting scenes are beautiful. This is a funny and excellently crafted movie with a good cross section of viewpoints and time frames.
These Final Hours- Some folks on the internet like to posit that certain seemingly disconnected or different movies exist in the same universe. The term ‘universe’ here means the same cinematic world. Such prominent examples are Prometheus and Alien, Alien and Blade Runner, and all the Marvel movies (which is bullshit ret-conning). I don’t usually truck in those kind of theories but they are interesting and I couldn’t help but devise my own while watching this movie. The plot centers on a young Australian man headed to a party during the soon-to-be end of the world. His pre-meteor plans are waylaid by a young girl he tries to help. I pictured that this being Australia, he was Crocodile Dundee’s son. At the same time Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is happening in New York. After the meteor hits and the earth is rendered fairly uninhabitable, is when Rover and then Mad Max will happen. Later, when all the petrol runs out, Blood of the Heroes and A Boy and his Dog occurs. See how fun and ultimately pointless all those articles are?
MOVIE OF THE WEEK:
Brawl in Cell Block 99- Bone Tomahawk is a generally unknown western film about merciless cannibal Indians who kidnap an a young girl and the men who go after them. Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, it is brutal, clever and well made. This follow up is all those things but with a narrower focus and cast. Vince Vaughn as the main character is a lumbering, ever-advancing force. From Scene 1 he smashes his way to the finale and each step is a wonder to behold. There are no flashy shots or long camera movements preferring instead to linger patiently on the main character. Vaughn is a stoic protagonist who is never slowed by the questionable plot or his enemies. Jennifer Carpenter and Don Johnson round out the cast but Vaughn is the true star.
Young Mr. Lincoln- My dad and I are odd movie-watching partners. I’ve seen, or know the reviews of, most everything whereas he watches about one movie per year so anything is game. Knowing the futility of making a joint decision I opted for just letting him make his pick and it turned out to be a solid choice. Henry Fonda (in impressive-for-the-era makeup) plays Abraham Lincoln in this story loosely based on a court case he once had. Compared to Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, which were also released in 1939, it’s not quite the same scale or quality but compared to Stagecoach and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, it’s an admirable entry. The acting is exceptional with a trial that is more comical than dramatic. I don’t know where this movie falls in the “classics” category but Fonda’s performance is a fine reason to watch it.