FILMOLOGY – “Frozen” (2010)

  • FROZEN (2010)
  • Starring: Emma Bell and Shawn Ashmore
  • Directed by: Adam Green
  • Anchor Bay Pictures



Certainly not to be confused with Disney’s animated musical, this is easily one of the most intense films I’ve ever seen and guaranteed to stay with you FOR-EVER!

A must see for all horror fans, a weekend ski party at a lodge goes terribly wrong. Look for Kane Hodder, better known as Jason Voorhees, in a cameo, My favorite horror movies are the ones that feel real and that possibly could happen, no matter how unlikely. This movie is raw, nerve-wracking and one of the most gut wrenching films I’ve ever seen!

FILMOLOGY – “Taxi Driver”

  • TAXI DRIVER
  • Starring: Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel and Jodie Foster
  • Directed by: Martin Scorsese
  • Columbia Pictures

 
You’ll find one helluva cab ride here!

Scorsese’s mesmerizing film is so low-key it might put you to sleep. Not because of boredom though – it’s combination of a soothing jazz score (the final one by the great Bernard Hermann, who died 24 hours after delivering the score to Scorsese) and DeNiro’s narration will definitely relax you.

Travis Bickle has a deep concern. He feels the need to be a hero in a society that’s gone wrong. In fact, he’s just an extraordinary person in normal circumstances.

“You talkin’ to me??”

Film Review “Adverse”

Movie title: Adverse
Director(s): Brian A. Metcalf
Actor(s): Thomas Nicholas, Mickey Rourke, Penelope Ann Miller
Release Date: February 12, 2021
Running Time: 1h 34min

Our Score 3.5 out of 5 stars

If I am not mistaken this is the third collaboration between Brian A. Metcalf and Thomas Nicholas after 2018’s Living Among Us and 2016’s The Lost Tree. Adverse definitely feels the largest on the scale of the three. Having seen all three films, I can honestly say that Adverse is the most mature film to date as well. Adverse is a slow burn thriller, very slow burn but its worth it for the wild third act. The studio released a trailer that hypes this film up as an action thriller but that is not what you are going to get and is misleading. Watch this trailer below for a real look at what you should expect from this film. Either way, it’s worth sticking with.

Here is the official premise for the film “Struggling to make ends meet, rideshare driver Ethan (Nicholas) learns his sister Mia is deep in debt to a sleazy drug dealer. When Mia goes missing, Ethan discovers that crime boss Kaden (Rourke) is behind the act, and to get close to him Ethan takes a job as Kaden’s driver. One by one Ethan hunts down members of Kaden’s crew to wreak bloody vengeance as he prepares to confront Kaden himself.”

I mean for an indie film this does definitely pack a cast including Thomas Nicholas (Rookie of the Year, American Pie), Sean Astin (The Goonies, The Lord of the Rings), Andrew Keegan (7th Heaven, 10 Things I Hate About You), Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba, Young Guns), Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Carlito’s Way), Matt Ryan (Constantine, The Flash) and last but not least Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler, Sin City). The director himself, Brian A. Metcalf, also carved himself a role as well. So there is no shortage of talent here.

Thomas Nicholas definitely delivers his most bad ass role yet. I mean this guy means business and I would want to be on this guys bad side. He is quite handy with a crowbar! I felt bad for Mickey Rouke honestly, he looked like he was hobbling around from scene to scene. He delivered his lines on point though.

Adverse is not just a slow burn thriller, it has some good surprises throughout. Flashback scenes are rather intense and the action scenes can be quite brutal. The visual effects for the gore could have used some work but for this it works well enough. Overall if you are looking for a 90 minute rollercoaster ride with a great cast throughout, I would definitely recommend watching Adverse.

Meet Our New Contributor: Keith Stevenson

As Media Mikes celebrates their 11th Anniversary, we are proud to welcome Keith Stevenson to our stable of writers.

Keith has been a lover of cinema since he was a young man and runs almost 20 film pages on Facebook, with a total membership of almost a quarter-of-a-million fans. His pages include tributes to JAWS, the ALIEN anthology, Directors Ridley and Tony Scott, Spike Lee and Black Cinema and Filmology – A Cinema Group, in which he writes about films of all genres. Give the page a look by clicking HERE

Look for his first essay, on the film TAXI DRIVER, later this week!

Welcome aboard, Keith!!

Film Review: “STALLONE: Frank That Is”

  • STALLONE: AS IN FRANK
  • Starring:  Frank Stallone, Sylvester Stallone and Richie Sambora
  • Directed by: Derek Wayne Johnson
  • Rated:  Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 13 mins
  • Branded Studios.

I love me some Frank Stallone.

I was first introduced to his music when his group, Valentine, appeared as the street-corner singers in the Academy Award winning film “Rocky.”  I played the soundtrack album to death and one of my favorite tracks is Stallone’s song “Take You Back.”  He also contributed to and performed several songs for the film “Staying Alive,” including the top 10 hit “Far From Over,” which earned him Grammy and Golden Globe nominations for best motion picture song.  Criminally it was NOT nominated for an Oscar, the category that year being overtaken with songs from “Flashdance” and “Yentl.”

As an actor, Stallone has turned in fine work in films like “Barfly,” “Hudson Hawk” (a guilty pleasure of mine) and “Tombstone” (he is the card player that accuses Doc Holiday of cheating early on in the film).  With all of these achievements you’d think he would be a household name like his brother, Sylvester.  Unfortunately despite his talents, that is one shadow he has never been able to escape.  Until now.  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome…Frank Stallone.

This entertaining documentary begins with Frank Stallone in the next phase of his career…doing big band songs.  Dressed to the nines, and sporting a pair of Frank Sinatra’s cuff links, he takes the stage to great applause.  He is in fine voice and the crowd loves him.  We learn that he always had a love for music and, when he caught Elvis Presley on television, vowed to make it his career.

Growing up in Philadelphia he played in a couple of different bands.  He then formed Valentine, a band with several different line-ups (the third version is the one that appeared in “Rocky.”)  Along the way he worked with both Darryl Hall and John Oates, who played guitar in Valentine 2.  In a conversation with Oates we learn that, after he left the band he hooked up with Hall.

Having a song in the most popular film of 1976 should have been a ticket for musical stardom for Stallone and his group.  Unfortunately, when the band had a gig it was often introduced as “Frank Stallone and Valentine,” much to Stallone’s chagrin.  The shadow of his movie star brother followed Frank as a solo artist, with newspaper ads touting him as “Sylvester Stallone’s Brother, Frank.”  One club announced his appearance by simply noting that “Rocky’s Brother” was playing.

But it isn’t just music that Stallone does well.  We learn he is also an accomplished boxer and, as I noted, a fine actor.  Unlike some “actors” who only get cast because they have more famous family members – I’m looking at YOU, Joey Travolta.  You too, Don Swayze – Stallone never used his brother as a stepping stone.  In fact, sometimes the name was a curse.

As the film progresses we are treated to a bevy of Frank’s friends, touting his talents.  Among them are big brother /Sly, Billy Dee Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Talia Shire – who can understand Frank’s frustration at being known as someone’s brother (her maiden name is Coppola, as in Francis Ford, and she wanted to be judged on her talents, not get a job because of who her brother is) and Steven Bauer.  Attesting to his musical talents you have such musical icons as Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, Guns and Roses bassist Duff McKagen and the ever-young Frankie Avalon. 

If you’re looking for a film in which the underdog keeps fighting, and you’ve already seen “Rocky” a hundred times, I hope you give “Stallone: Frank That Is” a look. 

Voltage Pictures and Vertical Entertainment Partner on New Pandemic Thriller “Safer at Home”

KEY INTERNATIONAL SALES RACK UP OUT OF AFM

LOS ANGELES, CA (January 13, 2021) — Voltage Pictures has sold US rights to writer-director Will Wernick’s (Follow Me) upcoming pandemic thriller Safer at Home to Vertical Entertainment, it was announced today by President and COO Jonathan Deckter. Vertical has set the release for February 2021.

Voltage first introduced the film to buyers at the recent American Film Market. Key international deals include Falcom in German speaking Europe, Eone in Canada, The Searchers in Benelux, Sun Distribution in Spain and Latin America, Central Partnership in Russia, Signature Entertainment in the UK, Madman in Australia, Cinemundo in Portugal, Front Row in the Middle East, and Filmfinity in South Africa.

The film, which was one of the first projects to go safely into production during the Covid-19 pandemic, stars Alisa Allapach, Adwin Brown, Jocelyn Hudon, Dan J. Johnson, Michael Kupisk, Emma Lahana and Daniel Robaire. The film might seem like a gamble but it more seems like a sure bet, so be sure to check out this page.

Safer at Home was produced by Bo Youngblood and John Ierardi of Showdown Productions, and Will Wernick under his 7930 Entertainment banner. Executive producers are Voltage’s Nicolas Chartier, Jonathan Deckter and Babacar Diene.

The film was written by Will Wernick and Lia Bozonelis, from a story by Wernick, Bozonelis, and John Ierardi. The score was composed by Genevieve Vincent. The film was shot by DP Jason Goodell. Jason Phillips and Lia Bozonelis served as co-producers.

Set in 2022, the Corona Virus pandemic has created mass chaos in Los Angeles and turned the city into a police state.  To escape the grim reality of life, a group of friends get together for an online party: a night of music, drinking, games…and drugs. To kick off the party, they collectively take a hit of what they think is molly.  At first, the night is an exciting departure from the boredom of isolation, but as the drug kicks in, things go terribly wrong and the safety of their home becomes more terrifying than the raging chaos outside.

Follow Me was a strong success for many of our international partners, so when the chance came to partner with Will for the third time was a no brainer,” said Deckter. “He’s created a whip-smart, edge of your seat thriller that will speak to audiences worldwide, as they simultaneously experience the varying stages of the pandemic.”

“We’re thrilled to continue our partnership with Will and Voltage this year following the domestic success of No Escape (AKA Follow Me),” said Rich Goldberg, co-president of Vertical Entertainment. “Safer at Home provides exciting twists and turns at every moment and we can’t wait to share it with US audiences.”

Safer at Home joins the robust Voltage sales slate including the political biopic Reagan, starring Dennis Quaid, the action-thriller The Marksman starring Liam Neeson, the upcoming third and fourth installments of the After franchise, the horror-thriller The Seventh Day starring Guy Pearce and the YA romance Finding You

ABOUT VOLTAGE PICTURES

Voltage Pictures, established in 2005, is a privately held, film and television production, financing and sales entity. Voltage has won six Academy Awards including Best Picture for The Hurt Locker, and three Academy Awards for Dallas Buyers Club.

The current Voltage sales slate includes the highly anticipated action-thriller The Marksman starring Liam Neeson, the gangster crime biopic Lanksy starring Harvey Keitel, Sam Worthington and Annasophia Robb and the horror thriller The Seventh Day starring Guy Pearce.  

Voltage represented worldwide rights on After, based on the internationally best-selling series of books by Anna Todd, debuted number one at the box office in 17 international territories including Germany and Italy when released in April 2019 and grossed over $70m worldwide. The highly anticipated sequel, After We Collided, recently opened number one in Italy, Portugal and Spain. The third and fourth films in the franchise are currently shooting in Eastern Europe.

Voltage also produced the blockbuster comedy I Feel Pretty starring Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski, and Naomi Campbell, which generated nearly $100m in worldwide box office. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile starring Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Kaya Scodelario, Jim Parsons, and John Malkovich premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival to great acclaim.

ABOUT VERTICAL ENTERTAINMENT

Vertical Entertainment is a global independent distributor that offers a unique combination of full-service marketing and sales services. Dedicated to providing highly-effective and collaborative solutions, Vertical leverages unparalleled relationships to maximize revenue across all streams. The marketing and sales expertise from Vertical’s seasoned team gives content partners a wealth of experience minus the studio costs.

Vertical won a Gotham Award for Best Actress for Nicole Beharie’s role in “Miss Juneteenth“ this year. Additionally, the company won a Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress for Molly Shannon’s role in “Other People” and the film won a GLAAD Award for “Outstanding Film Limited Release” as well. Vertical also had four other Indie Spirit nominations – three more for “Other People” (Best Lead Actor for Jesse Plemons, and Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay for filmmaker Chris Kelly) and one for Best International Film for Babak Anvari’s “Under the Shadow,” which was also the official UK submission for the 2017 Oscars, in addition to winning one BAFTA Award and three British Independent Film Awards as well. 

Notable Vertical releases include “Shadow in the Cloud” starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Nick Robinson; and “Skylines”, the third installment of the Skyline franchise;  “The Informer” starring Joel Kinnaman, Rosamund Pike, Common, Clive Owen, and Ana de Armas;“ “Miss Juneteenth”, the directorial debut of filmmaker Channing Godfrey Peoples starring Nicole Beharie, Kendrick Sampson, and Alexis Chikaeze; “Robin’s Wish”, the powerful true story of actor/comedian Robin Williams’ final days; “Yes, God, Yes” starring Natalia Dyer, Timothy Simons, Wolfgang Novogratz and Alisha Boe; and “Capone” starring Tom Hardy, Linda Cardellini, and Kyle Maclachlan.

Film Review: “On the Rocks”

ON THE ROCKS

Starring: Bill Murray, Rashida Jones

Directed by: Sofia Coppola

Rating: Rated R

Running Time: 1 hr 36 mins

American Zoetrope 

There is nothing rocky about the dramatic comedy “On the Rocks” as comedian/thespian extraordinaire Bill Murray delivers a superb performance as a wealthy, partly retired art dealer with a penchant for the playboy lifestyle. Arguably his best role since 2014’s “St. Vincent,” this marks the third time Murray has teamed up with filmmaker Sofia Coppola – 2015’s “A Very Murray Christmas” and 2003’s “Lost in Translation,” which garnered her an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Murray received a Best Actor nomination for that collaboration and deserves another for this one. 

In “On the Rocks,” which made its world premiere last September at the New York Film Festival, Laura (Rashida Jones) is a successful yet mild mannered New York novelist who is currently experiencing a severe case of writer’s block. A devoted wife and mother of two young daughters, Laura is often on her own as her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans) is typically away trying to launch his startup tech company. Troubling signs, like a woman’s travel bag in Dean’s luggage, give Laura pause. 

Worried that an increasingly absent Dean could be cheating on her, Laura calls her father, Felix Keane (Murray) for advice. This seems to be a bad idea as we soon learn that Felix, who years ago left Laura’s mother for another woman, believes all men are hard wired in their genetic code to cheat. With all sorts of conspiracy theories, Felix becomes convinced that Dean is having an affair with an assistant despite a lack of concrete evidence. His paranoia, though, feeds into Laura’s concerns and she starts to think her marriage is on the rocks. 

Murray is a perfect fit for his somewhat eccentric character who proves to be one of those rare people who can charm almost anyone. His natural delivery and timing is spot-on, and it often feels like his lines are more often improvised than not. The chemistry he shares with Jones is terrific and their scenes are consequently performed effortless ease. This is best magnified during a casual lunch scene and a more dramatic one later involving a serious emotional confrontation. The latter is given a dash of gravitas as Murray throughout the film subtly infuses Felix with a complexity and fragility that lies below his flirtatious, playboy façade. 

Perhaps best known for her TV series work on “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office,” Jones holds her own as she delivers a nice, consistent performance throughout the film. Her character’s relationship with Dean could have been explored more thoroughly to help enhance depth to the married couple’s relationship, and therefore a better understanding of their issues. However, “On the Rocks” is much more of a father/daughter story than a husband/wife one. It is one that should not be missed.

Film Review: “Promising Young Woman”

  • PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
  • Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham
  • Directed by: Emerald Fennell
  • Rating: Rated R
  • Running Time: 1 hr 53 mins
  • Focus Features 

Former Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan (“An Education”) delivers the performance of her career in the inventive crime drama “Promising Young Woman.” Written and directed by British actress Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman,” which marks Fennell’s first attempt as the creative force behind a feature length film, is a well-crafted tale of revenge by a woman scarred by the tragic loss of her best friend.

 The night is getting late at a local bar where three single men spot Cassandra “Cassie” Thomas (Mulligan) sitting alone at a booth. She appears to be so drunk that she cannot sit up or see straight. The supposed “nice guy” of the three jumps in to save her but betrays who he pretends to be by taking Cassie to his apartment where he attempts take advantage of her. Much to his shock and fear, Cassie suddenly reveals she has been faking inebriation. What she does to him exactly we do not know, but we do see her make a mark in a ledger she keeps that also contains the names of predatory men she has turned the tables on.

 We soon learn that 30-year-old Cassie lives with her parents (Jennifer Coolidge, “2 Broke Girls” and Clancy Brown, “The Shawshank Redemption”) and that she has worked at a coffee shop ever since she dropped out of medical school several years earlier. Her decision came in the wake of her best friend, Nina being raped in school and no one believing her, which ultimately led to her friend’s suicide. Cassie is clearly a broken soul full of rage against most of humanity, especially anyone male excepting her doting father.

 During the process of going after those who she most blames for her best friend’s death, Cassie meets Dr. Ryan Cooper (Bo Burnham, “The Big Sick”), a former medical school classmate who awkwardly asks her out on a date. Things move slowly at first, but a romance does unexpectedly develop. It goes so well, that Cassie decides to move on with her life, especially after a conversation with Nina’s mother. However, a ghost from the past reveals an old bit of information that turns the story on its head. 

“Promising Young Woman” made its world premiere on January 25, 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival but its release had to be postponed until this past Christmas weekend thanks to COVID-19. Except for a couple of brief, poorly done supporting performances near the climatic end, the cast surrounding Mulligan does a solid job with the script and Fennell keeps us wondering where exactly she is going to take us. The material is dark yet remains engrossing.

 

Film review: “Promising Young Woman”Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo BurnhamDirected by: Emerald FennellRating: Rated RRunning Time: 113 minutesFocus Features Former Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan (“An Education”) delivers the performance of her career in the inventive crime drama “Promising Young Woman.” Written and directed by British actress Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman,” which marks Fennell’s first attempt as the creative force behind a feature length film, is a well-crafted tale of revenge by a woman scarred by the tragic loss of her best friend. The night is getting late at a local bar where three single men spot Cassandra “Cassie” Thomas (Mulligan) sitting alone at a booth. She appears to be so drunk that she cannot sit up or see straight. The supposed “nice guy” of the three jumps in to save her but betrays who he pretends to be by taking Cassie to his apartment where he attempts take advantage of her. Much to his shock and fear, Cassie suddenly reveals she has been faking inebriation. What she does to him exactly we do not know, but we do see her make a mark in a ledger she keeps that also contains the names of predatory men she has turned the tables on. We soon learn that 30-year-old Cassie lives with her parents (Jennifer Coolidge, “2 Broke Girls” and Clancy Brown, “The Shawshank Redemption”) and that she has worked at a coffee shop ever since she dropped out of medical school several years earlier. Her decision came in the wake of her best friend, Nina being raped in school and no one believing her, which ultimately led to her friend’s suicide. Cassie is clearly a broken soul full of rage against most of humanity, especially anyone male excepting her doting father. During the process of going after those who she most blames for her best friend’s death, Cassie meets Dr. Ryan Cooper (Bo Burnham, “The Big Sick”), a former medical school classmate who awkwardly asks her out on a date. Things move slowly at first, but a romance does unexpectedly develop. It goes so well, that Cassie decides to move on with her life, especially after a conversation with Nina’s mother. However, a ghost from the past reveals an old bit of information that turns the story on its head. “Promising Young Woman” made its world premiere on January 25, 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival but its release had to be postponed until this past Christmas weekend thanks to COVID-19. Except for a couple of brief, poorly done supporting performances near the climatic end, the cast surrounding Mulligan does a solid job with the script and Fennell keeps us wondering where exactly she is going to take us. The material is dark yet remains engrossing. Mulligan is nothing short of spectacular in a role that requires her to dwell in a painful place filled with darkness and anguish. She deftly switches between her character’s wide-ranging emotions with the ease of someone who has become an expert at their craft. Mulligan is nothing short of mesmerizing as she elevates “Promising Young Woman” to a different level.

She deftly switches between her character’s wide-ranging emotions with the ease of someone who has become an expert at their craft. Mulligan is nothing short of mesmerizing as she elevates “Promising Young Woman” to a different level.

Win a Blu-ray/DVD copy of “Honest Thief,” starring Liam Neeson

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at Universal Pictures Home Entertainment to give one random reader the opportunity to win a Blu-ray/DVD copy of Liam Neeson’s latest action film, “Honest Thief.”

The film, written and directed by Mark Williams (“The Accountant,” “Ozark”) stars Neeson as a notorious bank robber who turns himself in, only to be betrayed by a pair of corrupt F.B.I. agents.

All you need to do is let us know in the comments below what your favorite Liam Neeson film is. Is it one of his action flicks, like “Taken?” Something romantic like “Love Actually?” Or something prestigious like “Schindler’s List?” Let us know below. One random entry will be chosen and that reader will win the prize. This giveaway ends at 11:59 pm CST on Sunday, January 3, 2021. Winner will be notified by email. GOOD LUCK!

“Honest Thief” is now available wherever you can purchase Blu-rays or DVDs.

Film Review: “Wonder Woman 1984”

  • WONDER WOMAN 1984
  • Starring:  Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Kristen Wiig
  • Directed by: Patty Jenkins
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 32 mins
  • Warner Bros.

FINALLY!!

Originally scheduled to be released LAST December, Wonder Woman has

finally returned to the big screen.  And after more than eight months of dark times, moviegoers (and theatre owners) will be glad to see her.

We find ourselves on the Island of Themyscira.  An event to rival the Olympics is about to begin.  Among the participants is the young girl Diana (Lilly Aspell), anxious to compete against the older contestants.  Diana is leading the race when a mishap slows her down.  She tries to “Rosie Ruiz” her way to victory but is stopped.  Upset at losing she is comforted with the words, “Your time will come.”

1984.  A strange time in the world.  A time of popped collars, fanny packs, video arcades and pay telephones.  We meet a now adult Diana Prince (Gadot) at her job at the Smithsonian.  We also meet a new employee, meek Barbara Minerva (an amazing Wiig), so unassuming that she literally has to introduce herself to the supervisor that hired her.  A recent robbery attempt – which Diana as Wonder Woman foiled – has led the F.B.I. to a cache of stolen ancient artifacts which were being sold on the black market.  They have asked the Smithsonian to identify some of the pieces, including an odd piece that is referred to as “the Wishing Stone.” Sounds like a cool item but remember the old adage: be careful for what you wish for.

Jam packed with action as the film travels the world, from Washington D.C. to Egypt, “Wonder Woman 1984” is a thrill-ride of a film guaranteed to get your heart racing.  Gadot continues to bring new aspects of the character to the forefront, here showing the longing and sadness she has endured since her boyfriend Steve Trevor (Pine) died at the end of 2017’s “Wonder Woman.”  As you can see above, Chris Pine is in this film (he’s also in the trailers so I’m not giving anything away) but I’m not going to say anything about how he got here.  I will say that, with his wide-eyed astonishment at what he sees 70 some years after his death (when trying on parachute pants he inquires if everyone parachutes), Pine is perfect in the role.  Wiig is a revelation.  Sure she can be funny, but here she is also vulnerable as well as downright nasty.  As scamming oil dealer Max Lord, Pedro Pascal chews the scenery like Gordon Gekko on speed.

The film is beautifully shot and Ms Jenkins’ direction flows smoothly, though at two and a half hours the film could have used some trimming.  Hans Zimmer’s score sets the mood of the film and energizes the action scenes. 

We missed out on this one last December.  Thankfully Santa thought we were nice enough this year to drop Wonder Woman in our stockings! 

P.S. – Sit through the end credits – you won’t be disappointed that you did! 

A Conversation with Author and Filmmaker Nicholas Meyer

It’s hard enough establishing yourself as one of the best in one field.  Nicholas Meyer has achieved this goal in several.  His first novel, “The Seven Per-Cent Solution,” introduced a new generation of fans to the exploits of Baker Street’s best known sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. 

Following the enthusiastic greeting of the film version of the novel, for which Meyer wrote the script, he made his film directorial debut with 1979’s time-travel classic “Time after Time.” For his next project he simply created the greatest “Star Trek” film in the series when he took the helm on “Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan.” 

Mr. Meyer then proceeded to frighten everyone living in the Midwest with the television film “The Day After,” which told the story of the town of Lawrence, Kansas dealing with the devastating effects of a nuclear bomb. Twenty years after the film aired my son went to the University of Kansas, which is in Lawrence, and the first thing I thought of was this film. 

His other films include “Volunteers” with Tom Hanks and John Candy; “Company Business” with Gene Hackman and Mikhail Baryshnikov (which he also wrote) and the final adventure for the Original Series cast, “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”

Stepping back from directing after his wife passed away from breast cancer at the age of 36, Mr. Meyer has continued to write, not only novels but for both the big and small screen.  Mr. Meyer recently took some time out of his schedule to talk about his career, past, present and future. I should note that I am posting this on Christmas Eve, Mr. Meyer’s 75th birthday. Happy birthday sir!

Mike Smith:  You graduated from Iowa State with a degree in filmmaking and drama.  You also wrote film reviews (hope for me to yet to become successful).  What was your career goal upon graduation?  Acting?  Directing?

Nicolas Meyer:  My motives were doubtless inchoate.  All I knew was I wanted to “Make Movies” (I’m guessing I meant Directing), but hadn’t much of any idea how to go about it.

MS:  Your first success was the Sherlock Holmes novel “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution.”  Did you have to get approval from the Conan Doyle estate before you began writing?

NM:  “Where ignorance is bliss ‘tis folly to be wise.”  I had – typical – no idea the difficulties I would encounter with the avaricious and totally mismanaged Conan Doyle estate.  Had I known what I was in for, I doubt I would have written the novel.

MS:  You’ve written three additional Holmes stories.  Was this a favorite character of yours when you were younger?

NM:  I fell in love with Holmes around age 11 when my father gave me “The Complete Holmes” to read.

MS:  You received an Academy Award nomination for your adapted screenplay of “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution.”  Was it easy to convince the studio to allow you to write the script?  Did they try to pair you with another writer?

NM:  It was very easy as I refused to sell the rights to the book unless I got to write the script.

MS:  Do you have a favorite story about the making of “Time after Time?”

NM:  I was amused when my producer’s wife, Nel Jaffe, suggested that Malcolm McDowell and his leading lady, Mary Steenburgen, were falling in love.  “Nonsense,” I thought, I’m simply a brilliant director.  (NOTE:  McDowell and Steenburgen married shortly after the film was released and were together for a decade).

MS:  Were there any “rules” you had to follow on “Wrath of Khan?”  Did you ever have an idea that was nixed from above because it wasn’t something “Trekkie?”

NM:  I was pretty much left to my own devices writing and directing the movie.  Sometimes the film’s producer, Harve Bennett, would reel me in.  I remember at one point Carol Marcus warns her son against killing Kirk – “You’ll be a parricide!” I wrote.  Harve said, “Nick, no; you’ll be killing your father.”  That sort of thing.  Occasionally the cast would offer corrections: “This isn’t the way so-and-so talks” and I’d make those kind of adjustments. 

MS:  You are the only director to pull what I considered an award worthy performance from William Shatner.  Every time his voice cracks when he describes Spock’s souls as the most….human it brings a tear to my eye.  Much more emotional.  How did you address the character with Shatner?

NM:  I found the trick with Mr. Shatner was to make him do scenes several times.  He would get bored and stop attitudinizing.  He’d stop “acting” and start “being.”  That said, Shatner’s performance is his own and all credit for it belongs to him.

MS:  A favorite memory from working on “Wrath of Khan?”

NM:  Really a post film memory.  I was talking with my friend John McNamara (NOTE: Mr. McNamara’s credits include the television series “The Magicians” and the feature film “Trumbo”) and I mentioned that my favorite shot in the film is the pullback in the torpedo bay as the torpedo is lowered and makes its way towards the audience.  I said, “I know it’s an anachronism from old Pirate movies but I couldn’t resist.”  Whereupon John protested, “what do you mean ‘anachronism?’ The weapon’s electronics were all out of commission.  They had to go that way!”  To my way of thinking this is a perfect example of the imaginative contribution of the audience, essential for successful artistic experiences.  You want people’s imaginations engaged.  Or, as Shakespeare puts it in “Henry V,” “On your imaginary forces, work!”

MS:  This is a question inspired by my friend Andrew Armstrong, who is the biggest“Star Trek” fan I know and who is quick to point out little things that most people would never notice.  Did you ever get scolded by a fan about Khan recognizing Mr. Chekov, even though Chekov wasn’t in the “Space Seed” episode that inspired the film?

NM:  Yes he was, but on a different deck!

MS:  You have a bit of matchmaker in you.  Shortly after “Time After Time” Malcolm McDowell  and Mary Steenburgen were married and Tom Hanks met Rita Wilson on the set of your next feature, “Volunteers.”  Could you see then the career Hanks had in front of him?

NM:  I confess I could not.  I thought Tom was (and is) a terrific actor and a wonderful human being.  I was delighted he and Rita fell – and remain – in love.  I knew he’d have a career but couldn’t dream how big it would get.

MS:  I imagine if was a fun set working with both Tom Hanks and John Candy.  Do you have a favorite memory from “Volunteers?”

NM:  The scene where they are sitting next to one another on the plane and Candy talks about Albert Speer’s quote that fear is victory’s fuel.  No matter how many times we rehearsed this, Tom couldn’t keep a straight face – and I’m talking MONTHS between rehearsals and shooting.

MS:  Apparently DeForest Kelley did not want to direct (I joke – I actually think Shatner did a competent job with TREK V, especially when you read his book about the experience)  and you were brought back to close out the Original Series portion of the “Star Trek” film legacy with “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”  How did you manage to squeeze Christian Slater into a cameo?

NM:  Christian’s mother, Mary Jo Slater, was my casting director.  She mentioned that her son was a big fan. 

I highly recommend Mr Meyer’s book detailing his amazing career.

MS:  Are you working on anything currently?

NM:  I co-created (with Frank Spotnitz) the Italian television series “Medici, Masters of Florence.”  I’ve published my fourth Sherlock Holmes novel, “The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols.”  The paperback edition just came out November 10th and the fifth novel, The Return of the Pharoahm” will come out next fall.  I’m also working with Frank Spotnitz on a new television series. 

If you want a more in-depth look at Mr. Meyers work, you can visit his official website HERE

Film Review: “News of the World”

  • NEWS OF THE WORLD
  • Starring:  Tom Hanks, Helena Zendel and Ray McKinnon
  • Directed by: Paul Greengrass
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 58 mins
  • Universal Pictures

News is everywhere today.  Back in my day, you needed to watch television to learn what was happening, both locally and around the world.  Or subscribe to a newspaper.  Today there are 24 hour television news networks, Facebook, Twitter and all other assortments of way to get the word out.  So imagine having to gather in a darkened room, pay ten-cents and have someone read you the news.  If you can then allow me to introduce you to Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd.

Now that the Civil War has ended, Captain Kidd (Hanks, outstanding as usual) earns his living traveling the country on horseback, picking up newspapers along the way.  He is known as a “News Reader,” and his choice of stories, and the way he tells them, earn him a decent living.  It’s 1870 and tonight we find him in the town of West Falls, Texas preparing for an evening of reading.  As he continues on his travels he comes across a young girl named Johanna (Zendel) who had been raised by Kiowa Indians but is now being sent to live with her remaining living relatives (her parents having been killed). Kidd takes her to the local settlement but is told by the authorities that he can either wait with her for three months – when the necessary people are scheduled to arrive – or take her to her family himself.  She is now his responsibility.  Determined to reunite her with her relatives, Kidd sets out with Johanna into the wild Texas wilderness.

Though well-paced, “News of the World” is not the type of film I expected from Paul Greengrass, whose amazing action work includes three “Bourne” films, “Captain Phillips” and the heart-wrenching “United 93,” which earned him an Academy Award nomination as Best Director.  Along the way to San Antonio (where Johanna’s relatives have settled) the pair run into all kinds of problems, including a band of no-goods who at first try to buy Johanna then decide to take her with violence. But Captain Kidd is a sharp guy – and a hell of a good shot.  As the film progresses, Kidd and Johanna form a bond.  He is protective of her as a father would be and she does her best to help him with his business, imploring those interested in Kidd’s news service to ante up a dime. 

Hanks is his usual excellent self, seemingly able to inhabit any character he plays, much like Jimmy Stewart did in his career.  Ms. Zendel is equally outstanding.  Already the youngest actress (she is currently 12 years old) in history to win the Lola for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” at the German Film Awards for her performance in 2019’s “System Crasher,” her inability to speak English only intensifies her work as most of her communication is done through body language and with her eyes.  It’s plain to see that Johanna has seen plenty in her young life and Ms. Zendel lets you see it on screen.

The film is beautifully photographed, with much credit due to Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (“Sweeney Todd,” “The Martian”).  He shoots the Texas landscape beautifully and a scene where Kidd and Johanna are caught in a sandstorm is breathtaking.  

If you’ve ever said to yourself, “I wish Tom Hanks would do a Western – and the “Toy Story” films don’t count – your wish has been granted.  Think of “News of the World” as an early Christmas present.    

Film Review: “The Dissident”

  • THE DISSIDENT
  • Starring:  Omar Abdulaziz, John O. Brennan and Hatice Cengiz
  • Directed by: Bryan Fogel
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 59 mins
  • Orwell Productions

On October 2, 2018, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi National, walked into the Saudi consulate office in Istanbul, Turkey in order to obtain the necessary paperwork to marry his fiancé.  He was never seen again.

We open in Montreal, Canada where we meet Omar Abdulaziz, a friend of Khashoggi, is traveling on the subway.  While telling the interviewer he does not feel safe he receives a text.  It informs him to be careful and to change his cell phone number.  The final words are chilling:  “They are going to kill you soon.”  So begins a film that anyone concerned with Human Rights and the right to speak freely MUST see.

We learn much about Khashoggi, both the person and the journalist.  A long time, and popular, Saudi reporter he trumpeted the successes of the Royal Family for three decades.  Enter crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, referred from now on, and in the film, as MBS.  Promoting himself as a new kind of leader (he opens movie theatres and allows women to drive) MBS is the man in charge of the oil, which is the lifeblood and currency of Saudi Arabia.  However, he is in reality not a nice guy and soon Khashoggi begins

to write negatively about him.  Being the age of social media, Khashoggi beings sending unflattering tweets.  Twitter is a big deal in Saudi Arabia, with over 80% of the population tweeting daily.  To combat the negativity, MBS employs hundreds of “trolls” to drive down the popularity of Khashoggi’s tweets – not allowing them to trend – and spread disinformation.  Fearful for his life, Khashoggi leaves Saudi Arabia in late 2017 in self-exile.  But he doesn’t stop writing.

I try to keep politics out of my writing – you’re here to get my opinions on film, not my political beliefs – but the film is a fair, and damning, report on the way the world works.  Jumping back and forth between Abdulzazzi’s travails in Canada and the last year of Khashoggi’s life, it’s clear to see that, as Cyndi Lauper used to sing, “Money Changes Everything.”  Many world leaders, including US President Trump, immediately side with MBS, who proclaims his innocence in the matter of Khashoggi’s death.  Even when Turkish police are finally able to search the Embassy and develop evidence – a room is spackled with blood under the black light, a Saudi agent is seen leaving the Embassy in Khashoggi’s clothes, only to go a few blocks, duck into a restaurant rest room, and exit in different clothes.  Still, ideas like “rogue agents” are thrown out as quickly as beads at Mardi Gras.

We also learn the more personal side of Khashoggi, as we meet his fiancé Hatice Cengiz.  She talks about his gentle side.  How he loved the Lazy Boy recliner she had purchased him and how they spoke of marriage.  Bravely she continues to speak out about Khashoggi’s murder, hoping that SOMEONE will hold MBS responsible.  In fact, as I write this comes word that Ms. Cengiz is calling on President-elect Joe Biden to make good on a campaign promise to get accountability in Khashoggi’s murder, asking Biden to release the CIA’s classified report once he takes office.  I should note that President Trump read the CIA’s report and dismissed it.

A powerful film that will make you think long after it’s over, “The Dissident” is one of the best films of the year. 

Film Review “News of the World”

Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release date: December 25, 2020
Running time: 118 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

It’s funny when you watch a trailer , you either know you are going to like the movie or you don’t. When I first saw the trailer to “News of the World”, I thought to myself this might not be a movie for me. When I see something that Tom Hanks is starring in I usually see it without even thinking twice but a Western didn’t really seem to catch my attention. “News of the World” reunites Hanks with Paul Greengrass for the first time since their 2013 Best Picture nominee Captain Phillips. This duo makes for cinematic gold. This is film that has grown on me since watching it and I have a feeling I will be having a repeat viewing very soon. It is such a pleasant surprise when you find a film that you really enjoy and that grows on you after watching it.

Tom Hanks delivers yet another fantastic dramatic performance. Alongside his young co-star Helena Zengel, who also does an amazing job in her English language film debut. I hope to see more of her as she develops her career in film. Throughout this film, it follows the two of them as they form a great relationship even with not being able to communicate together. I really enjoyed how it develops over the near two hour running time. The film is a little slow paced but delivers some excellent tension and action throughout. You find yourself sitting on the edge of your chair at certain parts for sure. Usually I am not a big fan of Westerns but this one definitely delivers.

Official Premise: Five years after the end of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks), a veteran of three wars, now moves from town to town as a non-fiction storyteller, sharing the news of presidents and queens, glorious feuds, devastating catastrophes, and gripping adventures from the far reaches of the globe. In the plains of Texas, he crosses paths with Johanna (Helena Zengel), a 10-year-old taken in by the Kiowa people six years earlier and raised as one of their own. Johanna, hostile to a world she’s never experienced, is being returned to her biological aunt and uncle against her will. Kidd agrees to deliver the child where the law says she belongs. As they travel hundreds of miles into the unforgiving wilderness, the two will face tremendous challenges of both human and natural forces as they search for a place that either can call home.

The filming took place in Santa Fe, New Mexico and let me tell you that it is a beautiful location. Some of the landscapes in the film really are stunning. The film opens up into some amazing shots of New Mexico. Top that we an amazing score from composer James Newton Howard and we get easily a contender for one of 2020’s best films of the year. 2020 has been a hell of a year for the film industry but this one definitely stands out above the rest.

“News of the World” is an adaptation of a novel by Paulette Jiles and after watching this film, I am definitely interested in checking out the book that it was based on. This film definitely reminds me that I need to be open minded when I watch a trailer and believe that a film could have a good life outside the trailer. Let’s just say that if the Oscars do happen next year, that Hanks has a very good shot at that Best Actor award…if for nothing else he should be nominated because this role is definitely worthy of it. Come this Christmas day, I would highly recommend that you head out to your local theaters (hopefully it is open) and see this film on the big screen!

Film Review: “HAM; A Musical Memoir”

  • HAM: A MUSICAL MEMOIR
  • Starring:  Sam Harris, Todd Schroeder
  • Directed by: Andrew Putschaegel
  • Rated:  Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 57 mins
  • Global Digital Releasing

Now that there are 10,000 television channels to choose from, it seems like every one of them have a talent contest program.  “American Idol.”  “So You Think You Can Dance?” “Masked Singer.’  “Masked Dancer.”  ‘So You Think Your Monkey Can Sing?” (coming to the Animal Planet, probably sooner than we think).  But the one that really started it all was an early 1980s program called “Star Search.”  “Star Search” ran for fourteen seasons (13 in the 80s-90s and one in 2003) and introduced the world to such talented performers as Brad Garrett, the band Sawyer Brown, Billy Porter (more on him later), Adam Sandler, Alanis Morisette, Sinbad, Britney Spears and Sutton Foster.  But the best and the brightest to come out of “Star Search” was first season Grand Champion Sam Harris.  After his big win, it was all fame and fortune and success.  Right?

A filmed version of Harris’ award winning off-Broadway show, “HAM: A Musical Memoir” is an entertaining – and deeply moving – look at the life of a boy with a dream and the sacrifices he had to make to keep that dream alive.  Still looking youthful at age 59, Harris takes the stage, accompanied on piano (and in banter) by Todd Schroeder.  We learn that the showbiz bug bit Harris at an early age – 3 ½ – and his early days were happy.  His father was an athletics coach and, when he tried out for Little League and was offered the position of team water boy he realized he was “different.”

A job at Opryland in Tennessee at age 16 released him from the bonds of his Oklahoma home.  It also introduced him to, as Harris calls it, “the Summer of Scott.”  With his dreams still in his sight, Harris heads to California, where he performs in night clubs – sometimes to an empty audience.  Harris talks about his audition for “Star Search” and how he was originally rejected.  He emphasizes these stories with several musical numbers, from familiar show tunes to original songs written by Harris and Schroeder.

But it’s not all music and laughter.  In the most emotional part of the film, Harris explains the emptiness in his young life, how he felt he had not lived up to his father’s dreams for him and how he decided to take his life.  He does not succeed, obviously, but the scars from the incident, and so many more from his life, are evident in his heartbreaking delivery.

I have seen Harris a few times in concert and had the amazing opportunity to catch an early preview of “Grease” before it went to Broadway, which starred Harris as Doody and Billy Porter (told you he’d be back) as Teen Angel. (The show also featured a very miscast Rosie O’Donnell and a very young Megan Mullally, who would go on to star on “Will & Grace,”).  The fourth number in the show is “Those Magic Changes,” which Harris performed.  He brought the house down.  I remember turning to my friend when the applause died down and commenting “well, that’s the show-stopper!”  And it was, though Porter’s “Beauty School Dropout” was a close second.  We had been invited to the cast party after the show and I was able to chat with most of the cast – even got a few to sign my CD of the show (already recorded).  It was a great night and one I still think of, even though I went home with a massive crush on Susan Wood, who played Sandy!

I still have my CD – Sam signed it in silver!

Performed on an almost empty stage (there’s a bench and few props), “HAM” succeeds on Harris’ genuine and unvarnished look at his life, warts and all.  If you are a fan of Harris – as I am – this is a film for you.  If you aren’t familiar with him, I recommend you give it a look.  Not only for the music and laughs, but for the honesty Harris shares.

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