Monday, July 15, 2019

Hepburn and Grant's Cinematic Partnership Kicked off in Style With Sylvia Scarlett

Sometimes, box office duds come up short at the box office simply because they're outright terrible cinema. It's hard to imagine any scenario where Battlefield: Earth or The Adventures of Pluto Nash would resonate with the public deeply enough to make big box office bucks. But more often than not, good movies are the ones that end up perishing at the box office while the likes of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen rack up over $400 million domestically. Thankfully, good movies that come up short financially can end up garnering a better reputation over time. Take Sylvia Scarlett for instance, a 1935 comedy that ended up flopping at the box office despite being an immensely important movie historically since it was the first time director George Cukor, Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant all worked together (Cukor and Hepburn had previously collaborated sans Grant on Little Women).

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Kid Who Would Be King Is A Fantastical Delight

Leaping lizards, somebody finally made a modern-day fantasy movie that isn't a realistic reimagining or oppressively gloomy! Hooray for The Kid Who Would Be King for just doing a straightforward fantasy movie and never feeling insecure about its fantasy trappings. In this movie, people fight undead skeletons, use magic and wield swords without feeling the need to constantly wink at the camera. Instead, the newest effort from writer/director Joe Cornish (frequent Edgar Wright collaborator and the guy behind Attack the Block) is just concentrated on telling a good story in a fun manner. Consider me more than onboard for that!

A Handy Guide to All The Upcoming Streaming Services

An image from the musical number "I Wanna Be Like You", a song title that perfectly sums up every media companies attitude towards Netflix
Now that Netflix streaming has changed how we all consume entertainment, everybody is getting in on the streaming game. We all know Amazon and Hulu also have their own streaming platform but there's also CBS All-Access, IFC Unlimited, Shudder and so many more. It's a lucrative market that many high-profile companies will be attempting to enter in the next year. But it's not a foolproof one, just ask Yahoo! Screen or YouTube Premium. With so many new players entering the world of streaming, it's inevitable that somebody is gonna come up short.

Below, I've compiled the major upcoming streaming services, who owns them, what kind of content they'll host and what possible problems they'll have to face. Let's begin with one of the most high-profile of these new entries into the streaming game...

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Chiwetel Ejiofor Makes A Promising Foray Into Directing With The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

It's easy to see a cookie-cutter version of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, a feature-film adaptation of the true story of William Kamkwamba. It'd be a film told from the perspective of a white American named Bill Johnson (played by Jai Courtney, in his big Oscar glory turn), who comes to the African village of Wimbe thinking black people are inferior. But when he befriends a young inventor named William Kamkwamba who has an unlikely but bold plan to help save his village, well, o'l Bill Johnson is about to learn a heartwarming lesson that people of color are actually human beings. It'd be a cringe-inducing exercise that would nonetheless earn loads of money and the Academy Awards would line up all the Oscars for it all while actually ignoring movies made and about people of color.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Art of Self-Defense Humorously Confronts Toxic Masculinity

Casey Davies (Jesse Eisenberg) is a mild-mannered individual, no two ways about it and that personality is apparent in his day-to-day life consisting of a routine accounting job, taking care of his wiener-dog and absorbing every aspect of French culture he can. One night, Davies is attacked by a group of motorcycle-riding fiends who leave him brutally injured. Afterward, the perpetually terrified Davies looks for ways to defend himself, at first opting for a handgun before discovering a karate class run by Sensei (Alessandro Nivola, channeling Liev Schrieber in his terrific performance). Through learning this form of fighting in this dojo, Davies feels like he can finally take control of his life...and then things get prickly.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Her Smell Marvelously Delves Into the Lows and Humanity of a Rockstar

We've seen plenty of movies about period era rockstars before, but I truly cannot recall one as intimate as Her Smell, the newest directorial effort from Alex Ross Perry. My first foray into his directorial works goes for small-scale character interactions where most films of this ilk opt for a conventional rags-to-riches story packed with cheeky references to famous songs. Split into five different periods of the life of 1990s singer Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) that are comprised primarily of conversations between characters (save for one that shifts the setting to Becky's home), this more personal approach to telling her story allow the viewer to truly gets to know what a whirlwind of chaos this performer is as well as understand the more vulnerable human side of Becky Something.

Blue Ruin Is Astonishingly Absorbing

At the start of the 2010s, crowdfunding through websites like Kickstarter really broke through as a way to get films financed without relying on the money of corporations that could creatively stifle the production. The ideal use of this financing source would be to get off-kilter original indie movies like Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin made, though the biggest of the films benefiting from crowdsourcing were extensions of already-existing franchises like Veronica Mars: The Movie and Super Troopers 2. As the decade comes to a close, it feels like the bloom is off the crowdsourcing rose thanks to a whole bunch of controversial Kickstarter campaigns that have diluted the reputation of the idea of crowdsourcing a movie. At least we'll always have Blue Ruin!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

In Laman's Terms: Why Use Animation For Just Realism?

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

We're about nine days out from that new Lion King remake (which is not live-action, for the love of God, it is an animated movie) hitting theaters everywhere and boy do I have mixed feelings about the project based on its marketing. I'm heading into the film with an open mind and hope that it can surprise me just like The Jungle Book and Pete's Dragon did, but much of what the trailers and commercials have shown off so far don't get me all excited. Right now, The Lion King is being marketed to look basically like the original animated film but now it's done in an animation style placing an emphasis on a much more muted color palette and far more realistic animation.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

There Are Few Upsides To Watching The Upside

Technically, The Upside is a remake of a 2012 French movie entitled The Intouchables that, for a while there, became the biggest foreign-language movie of all-time at the worldwide box office. Given how successful it was, an American remake of that French feature was basically inevitable. Remakes have a negative stink about them, but like any genre, they can be good when executed properly. Just look at that seemingly pointless Child's Play remake that ended up being a delight. But in executing this remake of The Intouchables, given the title The Upside, director Neil Burger has delivered essentially a cornball TV movie from the 1980s that somehow managed to show up in 2019 movie theaters. 

Swing Time Dances Well But Has Two Left Feet Otherwise

John "Lucky" Garnett (Fred Astaire) is a dancer with an affinity (read: addiction) to gambling and its that affinity that ends up seeing him entirely forgot about his marriage to Margaret (Betty Furness). Eventually, John remembers that he was supposed to walk Margaret down the aisle and, in a distraught fashion, races to Margaret and her Dad to apologize. Margaret's father gives John a deal: if he can make $25,000 in the next few months, John can regain Margaret's hand in marriage. In order to get all that cash, John hightails it to New York City with his pal Pop (Victor Moore), where he accidentally stumbles into a dancing gig alongside Penny (Ginger Rogers).

Monday, July 8, 2019

Under the Silver Lake Is The Poor Man's Inherent Vice

Under the Silver Lake is a movie all about hidden messages, but none of those messages are as hiden as the movie itself, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last May before a prospective June 2018 release. But then the film reviewed mixed marks at the festival and its distributor, A24, delayed it to December 7, 2018. That day came and went without a trace of Under the Silver Lake. What happened? Was Under the Silver Lake doomed to just sit on a shelf somewhere? Then the film got a brief (read: three day long) theatrical run in April 2019 before dropping unceremoniously on Amazon Streaming last week. It's been a long journey for Under the Silver Lake and for some, this highly unusual motion picture will have been more than worth the wait. For me, it turned out to be a movie that would have been underwhelming even if I had been waiting just five minutes for it to arrive.

Ari Aster Delivers Another Slow-Burn Horror Winner With Midsommar

Much like how Jordan Peele made quite a different beast with Us compared to his directorial debut Get Out, director Ari Aster has similarly taken great pains to ensure that his second directorial effort, Midsommar, is different from his initial directorial debut, last years Hereditary. Whereas that 2018 Toni Collette horror film was a grim contemplation of the cycle of abuse that oozed dread in every frame, Midsommar is a more loosey-goosey laidback horror comedy set in Sweden that utilizes the broad plot outline and character types of The Wizard of Oz. Aster's penchant for not just resting on his laurels is already admirable and it only helps matters that, when just taken as its own horror movie, Midsommar is a chilling and unique feature.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Torch Song Trilogy Hits Countless High Notes

The 1990s saw an unprecedented resurgence for American Queer cinema in both indie and mainstream circles thanks to the New Queer Cinema movement of the 1990s and high-profile major studio releases with LGBTQA+ lead characters like Philadelphia and The Birdcage. In retrospect, a number of queer films released in the latter half of the 1980s used more forward-thinking storytelling and polished filmmaking to serve as harbingers of the increased profile LGBTQA+ American cinema would have in the following decade. One key example of these harbingers was Torch Song Trilogy, a film adaptation of a trio of Harvey Fierstein plays directed by Paul Bogart and starring Fierstein himself in the role of Arnold Beckoff.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Introspection Is The Best Feature of Some of My Best Friends Are...

The Stonewall Riots of 1969 were a gamechanger for the LGBTQA+ community in America. Thanks to the actions of people like Marsha P. Johnson, the eternal suffering of members of this community had become visible in a profound way. People had always turned a blind eye to this community but now these marginalized members of American society were making it clear they would make their voices heard. Some of My Best Friends Are... was released two years after the Stonewall Riots and though it only received a moderate theatrical release and remains relatively obscure even to this day, its very existence was another sign of how the queer perspective was making itself heard in an unprecedented manner.

What A Twist!: Spider-Man Far From Home Spoiler Discussion (SPOILERS)