Film Review: “The French”

  • THE FRENCH
  • Starring: Bjorn Borg
  • Directed by: William Klein
  • Ratied: unrated
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 10 mins
It was the Spring of 1981. A former Hollywood actor was the new president. The Soviet Union was a threat to world peace. (Some things haven’t changed.) Tennis rackets were predominantly wooden, but the sport itself was alive and thriving in what was truly a golden age. Originally released in 1982, “The French” is a re-released documentary that gives us unfettered access to some of the greatest legends of tennis as they make their way through the French Open tournament. Thanks to filmmaker William Klein, who is now 96 years old, tennis enthusiasts can bask in the nostalgia of watching the likes of Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, and Ivan Lendl during their peak.
Taking placed from May 25th through June 7th, 1981, the 85th French Open was held per tradition on the outdoor clay courts at Roland Garros in Paris. Klein gives us a backstage pass that allows us to watch private interactions between players as they warm up or as they hang out in the locker room. Better than any “Hard Knocks” episode, “The French” is honest without any frills. We get a true sense of the almost happy-go-lucky nature of Yannick Noah compared to the somber, cool, and determined Borg.
This was an age of tennis when there were all sorts of personalities involved, and the game was played in a much purer form rather than today’s version where titanium rackets smash tennis balls at over 100 mph. The film’s pacing barely hits the speed limit, though, as it often drags along with way too many elongated shots of the crowd rather than focusing more on the players. Furthermore, “The French” focuses most of its time on the men while the female greats are left as almost an afterthought with Evert getting the bulk of the screen time.
The film’s biggest highlight is when McEnroe faces off against Lendl in the quarterfinals. Younger generations have no clue about his legendary tirades on the court and McEnroe does not disappoint during his match. Overall, the lone notable fact about the 1981 tournament is that it was Borg’s 11th Grand Slam title and would ultimately be his last.
Overall, “The French” is a neat look into a time capsule, but will be most enjoyed by tennis fanatics with little appeal beyond that.

Film Review 2: “Top Gun: Maverick”

 

  • TOP GUN: MAVERICK
  • Starring:  Tom Cruise, Miles Teller and Val Kilmer
  • Directed by:  Joseph Kosinski
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 11 mins
  • Paramount

 

In April of 1986 I was in the movie theatre business.  I had begged the home office – and convinced them – to give me “Top Gun” as one of my summer pictures.  I displayed the posters and ran the trailers, listening to the audience’s excitement when the preview ended.  I was set.  Then, during the first week of May, our company Vice President visited me in my office.  To get the full picture in your head, I’ll preface his comments by letting you know that he sounded an awful bit like Fozzie Bear.  “Michael,” he said, “I’ve just come from seeing what will be the biggest film of the summer.”  “Top Gun,” I asked.  “No, “Cobra.”  You’ll play it for months!”  “So I’m playing “Cobra” AND “Top Gun?” – my theatre was a twin – “Top Gun”??  That won’t play through June.  Believe me, my friend, you want “Cobra.””  So I played “Cobra,” which fizzled out after 2 weeks.  The other theatre in the area got “Top Gun.”  It played through August!

 

As his jet rockets through the sky, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise)begins a difficult maneuver and, as he often does in these situations, quietly whispers “talk to me Goose.”   It’s something he’s done for the past three-plus decades and it’s always seemed to work.  Will it work this time?

 

Packed with wall -to-wall action, “Top Gun: Maverick” finds, well, Maverick, back as an instructor at the Fighter Pilot Training School, where he is asked to get 16 of the best pilots ready for a mission.  He balks at first at the assignment, stating his preference to be a part of the mission itself, but is told in no uncertain terms by his commander (Jon Hamm) that he’s just there to train and evaluate.  However, things get a little more difficult when he learns that one of the students, call sign Rooster (Teller), is the son of Maverick’s late friend Goose, a young man who blames Maverick for many things, including, of course, the death of his father.  Can you say tension?

It has been 36-years since “Top Gun” hit theatres, and I’ll have to admit that I was a little wary when I heard they were making a sequel.  Anticipation grew as COVID delayed the film’s release – originally scheduled for May 2019 – for almost two years.  Let me just say, it was well worth the wait.  Combining several familiar themes from the first film, with an amazing amount of aerial action, “Top Gun: Maverick” delivers the goods.  Cruise is his usual cocky self, and that self-assurance is multiplied several times by the assortment of hot shot pilots he is given to mentor.  Teller, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the young Goose, plays a young man who should be confident of his skills but isn’t, causing him to hesitate at times he shouldn’t.  Jennifer Connelly is Maverick’s love interest this time around, playing – if my memory serves me – the daughter of a former Admiral – a daughter that Maverick may or may not have taken advantage of.  Jon Hamm and Ed Harris are well cast as the authority figures that just don’t seem to understand Maverick’s ways and it’s a genuine treat to see Val Kilmer back on the big screen.    Director Kosinski keeps the film moving at a rapid pace, while the aerial action is downright dizzying.

 

The film is lovingly dedicated to the late Tony Scott, who directed “Top Gun.”  I’d like to think that he would give a thumbs up and a salute to “Top Gun: Maverick.”

Film Review “The Bob’s Burgers Movie”

Directed by: Loren Bouchard, Bernard Derriman
Starring: H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, Larry Murphy, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal
Distributed by: 20th Century Studios
Release date: May 27, 2022
Running time: 102 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It’s crazy to this that “Bob’s Burgers” has been on the air is 2011. 11 years this show has been on Fox spanning 12 seasons and over 230 episodes. If you haven’t watched this show, I highly recommend it. It is one of those shows that you will watch and not want to miss a single line of dialogue because literally each word is gold! “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” works as a long episode of the show and delivers some great laughs. I got to admit, I was nervous if the show would hold up as a feature length film but the jokes don’t get tired and the musical acts in the film carry along everything together.

Official Premise: A ruptured water main creates an enormous sinkhole right in front of Bob’s Burgers, blocking the entrance indefinitely and ruining the Belchers’ plans for a successful summer. While Bob and Linda struggle to keep the business afloat, the kids try to solve a mystery that could save their family’s restaurant. As the dangers mount, these underdogs help each other find hope as they try to get back behind the counter.

If you are wondering how can I see “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” if I have never seen “Bob’s Burgers” the TV show, well you definitely can that’s for sure. My wife came along to the screening, who has many seen a few clips of the show and had an excellent time throughout laughing and enjoying this movie. Also all the original cast is back for the movie, which is great because they all crack me up. If you are looking for something alternative to see this summer, this film is a great option since it is fairly family friendly and packs some fun songs and non-stop jokes.

Film Review “Top Gun: Maverick”

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Charles Parnell, Bashir Salahuddin, Monica Barbaro, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Greg Tarzan Davis with Ed Harris
Paramount Pictures
Release Date: May 27, 2022
Running time: 131 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Top Gun” is one of the essentially movies to watch of the 80’s. I have seen it MANY times and even on 3D Blu-ray, which is an incredible way to view it. So here we are 36 years later and we have “Top Gun: Maverick”. You got to be a little nervous revisiting such an important film as this but this sequel stands up on its on and even surpasses the first film in some areas. “Top Gun: Maverick” also packs a punch of nostalgia and is surprising funny…I mean like belly laughing funny. This was a pleasant surprise as well. The most shocking factor of this sequel is the fact that Tom Cruise hasn’t aged in the last 36 years and delivers one of his best performances. I see this film having a very healthy run at the box office. A must see for sure this summer season!

Before we get too deep into the movie, I need to provide y’all with three important reasons to experience this film in IMAX!!! The first reason is an easy one…with IMAX you get to experience 26% more picture that in standard theaters. A lot of films these days are shooting with these specific IMAX cameras and it’s no joke you get to see more of the movie, so it’s a no brainer. Second, is that you literally fear the roar with IMAX sound. The sound easily rumbled the entire theater. The last one I didn’t know till after I saw the film, which is that there was six IMAX cameras located in each of the cockpits. This was why the aerial shots were so stunning and heart-pounding for sure.

Official Premise: After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of TOPGUN graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose”. Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it.

I have to give Jennifer Connelly props for nearly taking my breath away…she looks stunning in this movie (and she is another one that doesn’t age). Her and Cruise have great chemistry and I loved their love storyline that they had together. It was cool getting to see Val Kilmer show up again as Ice Man. The aerial scenes were absolutely stunning, like I mentioned above about the sound, the seats were literally shaking in the theater. I don’t know how Tom Cruise continues to out due himself with these films but the guy is a legend and literally wins you over even if your not a fan. Looking forward to a second viewing of this film because I feel like there is so much happening that you could benefit from multiple viewings.

Film Review: “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” – REVIEW 2

 

  • DR. STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS
  • Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olson
  • Directed by: Sam Raimi
  • Ratied: PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 6 mins
  • Walt Disney Studios
Second only to the Oscar-nominated “Black Panther” of 2018, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is the best Marvel film to be released to date. Having made over $230 million domestically in its first seven days of release (Box Office Mojo), the Sam Raimi-helmed story about everyone’s favorite doctor of mystical arts is a visual spectacular with plenty of excitement, great acting, and a complicated story that demands your full attention. It is nothing short of marvelous and easily the finest since “Avengers: End Game.”
(For those who have yet to see the newest “Doctor Strange” don’t worry, you won’t find any spoilers here.) We are instantly thrust to a weird place in between universes where a pony-tailed version of Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and a teenager named America Chavez (Xochitil Gomez) are chased by a demon as they try to reach a powerful spell book. The incredible situation goes from bad to worse before America, who has the ability to travel across the multiverse, ends up in “our” universe where she is saved by Strange and Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong).
After realizing there were witchcraft runes on the demon that chased America, Stephen finds Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olson) to request her help. He soon discovers, though, that what transpired during the events of “WandaVision” have left Wanda psychologically imbalanced. In fact, she reveals her full embracement of her dark alter ego – The Scarlet Witch. She demands Stephen turn America over to her so she can be with her children in an alternate universe. This leads to an epic magical showdown at Kamar-Taj from which Stephen and America flee across the multiverse to another Earth that is governed by a powerful group named the Illuminati.
Stephen does not receive a warm welcome from the Illuminati council despite his grave warnings about the impending arrival of the Scarlet Witch. Ultimately, he must rely upon his ex-romantic partner Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), who on this version of Earth is an expert on the multi-verse, to help him and America defeat the increasingly unhinged Scarlet Witch.
Cumberbatch gets to explore many more facets of a character who when first introduced to us was an egotistical narcissist on the same level as Tony Stark. However, Stephen grows significantly in this newest story and becomes a hero that can be fully embraced and understood. (A stark contrast to Peter Parker who never seems to mature past be a mistake prone, bumbling stumbling man child.) Stephen Strange may still have elements of over-confidence, but with Cumberbatch’s undeniable skill and some solid writing, he becomes fully developed hero in this second film devoted to the Master of Mystic Arts.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” easily has some of the best eye candy of the entire Marvel collection with dazzling special effects and colorful imagery. It is also has some moments of brutal violence, hence the PG-13 rating, as it alternates between dark moments of despair and flashes of levity that we have come to expect in all of the Marvel flicks. The assembled cast is nothing less than fantastic with particularly stand-out supporting performances from Olson and McAdams.
In the end, “Doctor Strange and Multiverse of Madness” is the best entertainment you will find currently at any cinema.

Film Review: “The Northman”

 

Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, Anna Taylor-Joy
Directed by: Robert Eggers
Rated: R
Running Time: 2 hrs 17 mins
Focus Features

If you have not seen the Viking action/drama “The Northman” yet, then you are missing out on a classic work of historical fiction by director Robert Eggers (“The Lighthouse,” “The Witch”). Headlined by a superb performance from Alexander Skarsgard, “The Northman” is based upon a Scandinavian folktale written by Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1150-c. 1220), which served to later influence William Shakespeare’s writing of “Hamlet.” Eggers’s glorious cinematic take on the ancient story of Amleth is violent to the core with an emphasis on historical detail and Viking mythology.

The story, which is a tad slow occasionally, begins in the year AD 895 when King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) returns to his island kingdom of Hrafnsey. A celebration, organized by his wife, Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman) is held to honor his triumphant return. However, King Aurvandil, who bears a terrible wound, refrains from too much revelry as he is focused on preparing young Amleth to be his successor. As such, they participate in an ancient ritual overseen by the king’s jester, Heimir the Fool (Willem Dafoe).

During the morning after the king’s return, he is betrayed by his brother, Fjolnir the Brotherless (Claes Bang, “The Square”) and Amleth must flee the island to stay alive, but not before he vows repeatedly to get his revenge. This fire within serves him well as he is taken in by Vikings who raise him as a berserker. During one of their forays into the lands of the Rus people, which encompasses parts of modern-day Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, Amleth (Skarsgard) learns that his uncle was overthrown by King Harald of Norway and lives in banishment in Iceland.

Seizing the opportunity to get his vengeance and rescue his mother, Amleth disguises himself as a slave before slipping onto a ship bound for Iceland. It is during the voyage that he meets a Slavic slave named Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy, “The Queen’s Gambit,” “The Witch”) who claims she is a sorceress, something she proves later. A connection develops between them as Amleth bides his time while continuing his ruse under his uncle’s nose.

Skarsgard, a native of Sweden who had long wanted to do a film about Vikings, is a powerful, physically imposing presence on the screen. He makes Thor the God of Thunder look weak and insignificant and could have possibly been a better choice for that role as he immerses himself into Amleth as seamlessly as Daniel Day Lewis on his best day. The one quibble with his performance is that sometimes it is a little difficult to understand his dialogue.

While Hawke is delightful in his role, his performance is all too brief, and it feels like he was underused. Kidman enjoys a little more screentime, but her presence is overshadowed by Taylor-Joy’s who is enchanting. While Olga may have some magical abilities, Taylor-Joy doesn’t let it be the defining characteristic of her pivotal role.

Eggers’s work is genuine homage to Viking culture and lore without losing itself in special effects-generated magic. Sure, you can sense a pinch of “Conan the Barbarian” and even “Lord of the Rings” in parts of “The Northman,” but in the end it remains true to itself and retains its own special identity.

Film Review: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”

 

 

  • DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS
  • Starring:  Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen and Xochiti Gomez
  • Directed by:  Sam Raimi
  • Rated:  PG-13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 6 mins
  • Walt Disney Pictures

 

Let me preface this review by stating that, while I have seen a majority of the MCU films, I have not seen “Doctor Strange” or the “WandaVision” series.  I say this because “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is the first film I’ve watched from the MCU where I think having seen previous adventures would have been helpful in discerning the story.  That being said, I found “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” both dark and intriguing.

 

Time has passed since Spider-man found his way into the Multiverse.  We are quickly drawn into a horrible scene involving our hero (an excellent Cumberbatch) trying to save a young girl (Gomez) from a pretty scary creature.  Try as he might, he cannot get the upper hand.  WHOA!  Thank goodness it was only a dream.  Right?

 

Full of everything that makes the MCU one of the best made, and received, film series in history, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a roller-coaster ride of action and emotion.  The girl in the dream, with the great character name of America Chavez, has been searching for her family, jumping from Multiverse to Multiverse without incident.  Everyone in these films has a superpower of some sort and America’s is being able to move through the Multiverse without incident.  There are 862 Multiverses, she tells Doctor Strange, all of them very similar.  And different.  When the Scarlet Witch (Olsen) pops by on a mission of her own, things get a little hectic for our heroes.

The one thing I dislike about reviewing a film like this is that, as much as you’d like to, it would be a betrayal to the reader to spoil key scenes or characters that arise.  That being said, if you’ve seen the television spots for this film, you know at least one new face shows up in the MCU.

 

The script is an excellent combination of action and humor, with Cumberbatch in great form as the pompous Doctor.  Olsen is equally strong in a role that shouldn’t play as sympathetic but, thanks to her performance, does.  And young Miss Gomez holds her own on screen against these two talented performers.

 

So great to see Sam Raimi, the director of the first Spider-man series with Tobey Maquire, back at the helm of a superhero film and he puts his trademark eye for pacing and character development on full display. 

 

All in all, even without a lot of background on the good Doctor, I found “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” amazingly good. 

Film Review: “The Lost City”

 

  • THE LOST CITY
  • Starring:  Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum and Daniel Radcliffe
  • Directed by:  Aaron Nee and Adam Nee
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 52 mins
  • Paramount

 

 

Fun.  That’s the first thing I thought of as the credits rolled on “The Lost City.”  This movie was Fun!

 

Following the death of her husband, romance/adventure author Loretta (Bullock) is struggling to finish her next book.  She has the action.  She has the romance.  But she just can’t find an ending.  However, when Loretta finds HERSELF in peril, the story almost writes itself.

 

I have to admit that when I sat down I was expecting a watered-down retelling of “Romancing the Stone.”  Nope.  “The Lost City” is a film with great characters, rich locations and, darn it, here’s that word again…fun.  I had no idea that Sandra Bullock was such an amazing physical comedienne.  Whether traipsing through the jungle in a spangled jumpsuit or caught in the middle of a high-speed chase while tied to a chair, she effortlessly uses the situation to the audience’s benefit.  She is joined by Tatum, who longs to be thought of as more than Ash, the cover model of Loretta’s novels.  Radcliffe is also well cast as the villain of the piece, who is searching for a long-lost treasure.  You may even spot a very familiar face who is enlisted to help track down the missing Loretta.

The is witty and adds a few surprises to the normal tropes found in a film like this.  The pace is fast, but never hurried and the locations are lush and exotic.  The musical score, by Pinar Toprak, helps set the mood and keep the story moving.

 

To sum it all up, “The Lost City” is a fun way to usher in the spring movie season.

 

 

Film Review: “The Batman”

 

  • THE BATMAN
  • Starring:  Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz and Jeffrey Wright
  • Directed by:  Matt Reeves
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 55 mind
  • Warner Bros.

 

 

 

Hey everyone, guess what?  Batman is back!  Only now he’s THE Batman.  He’s a lot meaner this time around, but you’ll be happy to know that he’s still the brooding loner we’ve come to love.

 

It’s Halloween night in Gotham City, a few days before the city elects it’s next Mayor.  A raspy voice tells us that it’s only been two years since he began donning the cowl and dealing with the scum of the city.  He is referred to in the media as “the Vigilante,” but we know him as Batman.  Or, rather, THE Batman.  Whatever you call him, his presence is embraced by Detective James Gordon (Wright), who angers his superiors by giving the Caped Crusader access to crime scenes.  After all, he IS the World’s Greatest Detective!

 

A local politician has been brutally murdered and a calling card has been left on the body in the form of a riddle addressed to the Batman.  This sets up the next chapter in the revolving Batman saga.

 

Dark, both in theme and presentation, “The Batman” is the latest attempt to bring the character into the 21st Century.  Director Reeves thankfully spares us his vision of the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, apparently assuming that everyone knows that Thomas and Martha Wayne were murdered in front of their young son, thereby creating the impetus that makes him a crime fighter.  Of course, with a running time of almost three hours, perhaps Reeves shot the scene but cut it for time.  Thank you. 

In this Gotham City the sun rarely shines, it constantly rains and the best way to see ANYTHING is with a flashlight.  If I lived there I would be the very wealthy proprietor of a chain of FLASHLIGHT WORLD stores.  The darkness spills over into the tone of the film.  This Batman reminds me of the character from the 1940s comic books, someone not afraid to brutally punch a criminal in the face until his arm gets tired, or kick one off a roof for being naughty.  “I’m Vengeance,” the Batman remarks early in the film.  He isn’t kidding. 

The film is full of familiar characters with slightly different spins, including Selina Kyle (Kravitz), Alfred (Andy Serkis) and Oswald Copperpot, played by a brilliant and unrecognizable Collin Farrell.  It also has some much needed humor, something that was sorely missed in the recent Zack Snyder/Ben Affleck incarnation.  The humor helps offset some of the more darker moments.  The action scenes are intense and well choreographed, but the film eventually falls victim to its own running tine.  Sometimes too much is…well…TOO MUCH. 

 

The cast is fine, with Pattinson adding his own touch to a role now undertaken by six different actors in the past 30 years, seven if you go back to Adam West and the original television show of the 1960s.  If you only think of Pattinson as Edward from the “Twilight” series you are selling a very talented actor short.  The supporting cast is equally engaging and the new character arcs are a nice change. However, I think the film could have dropped 45 minutes and created a much tighter story, which is why I’m not as high on the film as I’d like to be.     

The London Film Industry Remains Resilient During the COVID19 pandemic

The London Film Ind

COVID-19 posed a significant threat to global cinema chains and studios with its potential to decimate box office profits. Cinemas closed their doors, governments placed restrictions on large gatherings and people were advised to stay home.

However, the video production London industry managed to remain resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic and the different challenges it provided for the film industry to overcome.

How Has the Pandemic Affected the industry?

The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the global film industry. Many blockbusters and new releases were postponed or even cancelled altogether due to concerns over health risks associated with large gatherings of people in movie theatres.

How has the Industry recovered?

More people are turning to streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime for entertainment, which has had a significant impact on cinemas around the world.

However, film studios are taking the following steps to that assist in managing the success of the London film industry:

  • Careful filming at restricted locations

Wherever possible, studios are utilising to great effect the vacant train stations that are available around London.

With these unused stations, it provides a great avenue for filming important scenes without any interruptions from the public since these stations will be off-limits and not be able to be used for public use, meaning that public mass crowd gatherings can be avoided preventing COVID from being spread.

One of the most famous underground stations that are no longer in public use is Aldwych and previous films that have been filmed at that station include 28 Weeks Later, Darkest Hour, and V for Vendetta

  • Using green screen technology

In cases where social distancing is not possible, studios are using green screen technology to create indoor scenes. This allows them to continue production without having to worry about the potential health risks associated with COVID19.

  • More content for television

Many studios have also begun producing more content for television rather than cinema screens – which means that they are no longer reliant on box office revenue alone.

This has been welcomed by many as an important step forward for British filmmakers who are struggling during these difficult times.

Why is London a key relocation destination?

London is a global centre for media and entertainment, with a rich history of filmmaking. The city has a large pool of talented workers and world-class production facilities.

London has so many talented people with creative skills and the film industry has reacted to the pandemic by providing new opportunities to help train people who were badly affected by the pandemic.

Neil Peplow, BFI director of industry and international affairs, said “At the moment we’re seeing a range of skills that we need in production management and accountancy.

We’re looking at how we can retrain people who are already in these areas because there are lots of shared skill sets with industries which may have been more significantly impacted in terms of job growth than ours.”

An example of successful skills retraining can be demonstrated in Pinewood Studios’ scheme in conjunction with the Department of Work and Pensions to help retrain people from the aviation industry to work in the film industry.

Final Thoughts

Netflix and Amazon Prime’s streaming services have seen a significant rise in use over the past year as people have cut back on going out and seeing films at their local cinemas.

 Many studios are taking advantage of this by still producing high-quality content to cater for this trend. With access to streaming services higher than ever before, the opportunities are endless for studios to continue to create quality content across genres to appeal to their target audiences.

London has many filming benefits and has helped maintain the city to become a constant hub for media and entertainment.

Film Review: “Pursuit”

Starring: Emile Hirsch, Jake Manley and Elizabeth Ludlow
Directed by: Brian Skiba
Rated: R
Running Time: 92 minutes

It’s always easy to say there’s too many cooks in the kitchen when the end product fails. But for a film that has four writers, you would think someone would have eventually read the script and axed some of the characters, trimmed the dialogue and cleaned up the jumbling, bumbling plot. But since that didn’t happen, we’re left with “Pursuit,” a film that’s almost too difficult to explain and even more difficult to care about.

So if I understand the 92 minutes I watched correctly, Rick (Hirsch), a hacker that is the epitome of hacker film clichés, is searching for his wife who has been kidnapped by a mysterious drug cartel, off screen. But while Rick is searching, he is being hunted by Mike (Manley), a New York City detective. Mike actually arrests Rick about a third of the way into the film, setting up the rest of the film which is about Rick potentially offering up worse individuals, including Rick’s father, played by John Cusack, who may have something to do with the kidnapping of Rick’s wife.

It’s sometimes difficult to tell where this movie is supposed to take place, who is working for whom, what characters are actually important to the story and which ones have been created to simply provide an exposition dump, which is funny since the exposition dump’s don’t clear anything up, and instead complicate the plot even further. Even with all the forced twists and turns, there is no payoff at the end for the ridiculousness on screen. It’s almost as if all four writers for “Pursuit” were told four different things about what the story was about.

Compounding the messy story issues in “Pursuit,” is the insane tonal shifts. In the opening sequence alone, the film tries to tell us it’s a techno thriller, but becomes so comically inept, it makes you wonder if one writer was writing a comedy, one writer was taking it too seriously, one writer was trying to figure how many ancillary characters is too many and one writer simply believed there wasn’t enough gun play. So when the film attempts humor, and it does frequently, it comes off jarring. We’re supposed to laugh at a bystander getting shot as some kind of physical comedy, but then in a few minutes we’ll see innocent women and children leaking life force after being shot? Those two things don’t jive well in an entire film, much less in a few minutes of each other.

Almost as if he saw the writing on the wall while reading the writing in the script, John Cusack, who’s predominantly featured in this film’s marketing, seems to be on autopilot as he casually drifts from mundane scene to mundane scene, at least the ones he’s in. I also wonder how much he was actually in it and how many times they just recorded him talking and then had an extra with their back turned for the scene. When we actually know Cusack is the one on-screen, he spends most of his time reacting or talking solemnly on the phone, which tells me his contract most likely stipulated that he would only do the film if they would film it at his house in one day.

Somehow “Pursuit” is equally grotesque and boring with it’s action. As far as low-budget action movies go, “Pursuit” isn’t even worthy of being in a discount bin in Wal-Mart or ran during off-hours on one of Pluto TV’s channels. You’re better off pursuing a different movie, or even a different hobby if “Pursuit” is the only movie you have at your disposal.

Film Review: “Jackass Forever”

  • JACKASS FOREVER
  • Starring:  Johnny Knoxville, SteveO,, and Chris Pontius
  • Directed by:  Jeff Tremaine
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 36 mins
  • Paramount

 

 

HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS?

 

OK, since we have younger readers, the word HATS is code for something else.  A place on the body that many men, this one included, consider very special.  Thankfully the group that make up the JACKASS gang have different feelings, and their pain is our laughter.

 

It’s been almost 20 years since Johnny Knoxville and his band of idiots amused viewers with such harmless pranks as sneaking up on someone and shaving part of their heads, or blowing an air horn at a fancy golf course during people’s backswings.  My how the times have changed.

“Jackass Forever” is exactly what you think it is.  A group of friends hanging out and doing all kinds of things to each others, and some times their own, private parts.  And as unusual as that may sound, it’s truly mesmerizing.  It’s like when people slow down to look at a car accident but in this case you’re stopping to  to watch someone wearing only a protective cup take a direct hit from a soft ball, an NHL player’s slap shot or even a pogo stick.

 

With some of the Jackass gang getting up there in age, a majority of the pranks are done by a new generation of pranksters, including one who answers to the name “Poopies.”  There is also a father/son team who seem to put their fears aside (anyone want a giant spider crawling on their heads?) in order to spend some quality time together.

 

Is it fine art?  No.  But it’s hilarious.  This is probably the hardest my wife and I have laughed since “BORAT.”  As the credits rolled my wife said to me, “everybody needs to laugh like this…especially now.”  My thoughts exactly.

Film Review: VAL

 

  • VAL
  • Starring:  Val Kilmer
  • Directed by:  Ting Poo and Leo Scott
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 49 mins
  • Amazon Studios

 

Let me say here at the beginning that I have been a Val Kilmer fan since“Top Secret.”  Couple that performance with his role of Chris Knight in“Real Genius” and he was, by far, one of my favorite actors of the 1980s.Over the years he has been a part of some wonderful films, and has created

Such iconic performances as Jim Morrison in “The Doors” – hey Academy, I’m still waiting for you to explain why Val wasn’t nominated for his work – and, of course, “Doc” Holiday in “Tombstone.”  But there is a lot more to Val Kilmer than you or I think we know and the documentary “VAL” gives us a true look at the artist and his processes. 

 

The film begins with a quick montage of Mr. Kilmer’s work, then a voiceover begins the story.  I was taken aback when I heard that Mr. Kilmer had dealt with throat cancer which had ruined his speaking voice.  We then learn that, though the words were penned by Val, the narration is coming from his son, Jack, who sounds amazingly like his father.  Val does talk some during the film, but his voice is so raspy that subtitles are often required to fully understand his comments.

Will the real Lizard King please stand up? (Jim Morrison is on the left)

Mr. Kilmer informs the viewer that he was one of the first people he knew to own a video camera.  As a youngster, he and his brothers used to make their own takes on popular films, among them “Jaws.”  (how could I not love this guy?)  Outgoing and popular, he becomes the youngest person ever accepted into the acting program at Julliard and heads to New York.  There he strives to learn everything an actor needs to know for a successful career.  We see early footage of he and his classmates working on shows.  We also learn that an actor’s job is humbling.  Signed for the lead in his first New York theater production, young Val is soon asked to play a lesser role because Kevin Bacon is available.  Things get even worse when, a week later, he’s asked to take an even lesser role to accommodate Sean Penn. 

 

As his career takes off we are taken behind the scenes of several of his Films, including “Top Gun,” “The Doors” and, most interestingly, “The Island of Dr. Moreau.”  The last film is legendary for all of the mishaps that beset it during production.  From replacing the director to script changes, there is plenty of blame to go around.  Most of the stories I’ve heard centered around Mr. Kilmer’s alleged indifference to the project and his temperament.  Maybe.  But from the footage shared it look’s like Mr. Kilmer’s dream of working with Marlon Brando became a nightmare for all involved.  In one funny clip, Mr. Kilmer and co-star David Thewliss are talking about Brando when the actor comes on the set in full costume.  Only after studying the man do the two actors realize that isn’t really Brando   Further investigation reveals, it is a guy named Norm, who is filling in for Brando. 

 

One thing I enjoyed learning is that, when submitting audition tapes for roles he’d like to play, instead of just reading lines Mr. Kilmer would make short films, His takes on prospective roles in “Full Metal Jackeet”  and “Goodfellas” are quite inventive.  He shares a lot of thoughts on how he got the role of Jim Morrison in “The Doors” as well as how he took over for Michael Keaton in “Batman Forever.”  His words ring true when he says that every boy wants to be Batman.  Amen, brother. 

Something else I found fascinating is that Mr. Kilmer toured in a one-man show where he portrayed Mark Twain.  There are a few clips included and he’s marvelous.  Move over, Hal Holbrook. 

 

Of course, with a career like Mr. Kilmer’s, some films get glossed over.  I would love to know his thoughts on “Real Genius,” “Willow,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, “ Wonderland” and others.  But, to paraphrase Spencer Tracy, “what there is is cherse.”

 

Mr. Kilmer is slated to be in the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick,” which was originally slated to be released in 2020.  Can’t wait to see the Iceman again.  He can be my wingman anytime! 

Film Review: “tick, tick BOOM!

 

  • tick, tick…BOOM!
  • Starring:  Andrew Garfield and Vanessa Hudgens
  • Directed by:  Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time: 1 hr 55 mins
  • NETFLIX

 

It’s sad when you don’t see your hard work come to fruition…to not see the impact it had on the world around you.  One example is Steve Gordon, the writer and director of the film “Arthur.”  He passed away shortly after the film came out and, though he had a chance to see how his work was embraced, he never lived to see “Arthur” become a true classic film.  Then there’s Jonathan Larson. 

 

Larson created one of the most beloved musicals of all time, RENT, which won pretty much every award possible.  Sadly, Larson never got to see how his work was embraced, passing away the night before RENT had its first public performance.  But there was more to Larson’s life, and “tick, tick…BOOM!” gives us a musical look at the man behind the music. 

 

Jonathan Larson (an AMAZING Andrew Garfield), is about to workshop the new musical he’s written.  He’s gotten good feedback from everyone whose heard it, from his friends to the great Stephen Sondheim (Bradley Whitford), But Larson feels he needs one more song to, in the words of the late, great Mr. Sondheim, “Put it all together.” 

 

What do you do after you’ve written two Tony-award winning musicals, including the brilliant “Hamilton?”  If you’re Lin-Manuel Miranda you make your feature film directing debut with a musical about one of your peers.  Miranda is a true genius and I can’t think of another modern  director who could bring all of their knowledge of musical theater and translate it to the silver screen.  I say modern because this film would have been right up Bob Fosse’s alley.  The musical numbers are brilliantly staged while the more quiet moments are framed to convey the most powerful of emotions.

Miranda is aided by a top-notch cast, including the aforementioned Mr. Garfield who, besides being one of the best young actors working today, displays a strong singing voice.  The cast is peppered with a who’s who of theater talents, including Joel Grey, Judith Light,  Judy Kuhn and Roger Bart.  I think I even caught Lin-Manuel Miranda as a singing kitchen worker. 

 

As the film progresses, we follow Larson though his daily routine, and as he deals with his daily struggles and those of his friends, we begin to see the first sparks of what will one day become RENT. 

 

“West Side Story” has garnered most of the attention this year as THE movie musical to see.  And that attention is well deserved.  However, as the Jets and the Sharks learn, there is always room for one more.  BOOM!

Film Review: “The Matrix Resurrections” (Michael D. Smith)

THE MATRIX: RESURRECTIONS
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss
Directed by: Lana Wachowski
Rated: R
Running Time: 2 hrs 28 mins
Warner Bros.
Eighteen years have passed since we last saw Neo and Trinity in “The Matrix Revolutions.” Eighteen years of patiently waiting for a fourth film even though for a long time it appeared to be a hopeless dream. (Unless you were like yours truly and was happy enough that the trilogy story was over despite its ambiguity at the end.) The question now is whether the recent release of “The Matrix Resurrections” was worth the wait. The short answer is – not really. (And while it is already in theaters, rest assured you will find few spoilers here.)
To begin the trip down the rabbit hole (again), we find Thomas Anderson/Neo (Keanu Reeves) thriving as a successful video game developer whose fame is derived from his creation of “The Matrix” game series. In fact, he is looked upon as almost a god among programmers. However, Mr. Anderson is both uncomfortable with the adoration and being in his own skin. To deal with his issues, he sees a benevolent therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) to keep a handle on reality, which is helped by taking a blue pill daily.
Mr. Anderson gradually succumbs to what his therapist calls delusions, mainly by his own choosing, and thereby becomes open to the possibility that the Matrix is real. He is helped by a young woman named Bugs (Jessica Henwick, “Game of Thrones”) who stumbles upon “the one” thanks to a repeating old code that depicts when Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) first found Neo in the Matrix. With the help of a program embodying the prophet Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, “Aquaman”), Bugs frees Mr. Anderson before his business partner, Smith (Jonathan Groff, “Hamilton,” “Glee”) can stop them.
Neo learns much has changed in 60 years since his “death,” including the free human population now led by an elderly Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) and the Matrix itself. What hasn’t changed is his desire to reunite with Trinity, who doesn’t know him but nonetheless feels like she has an inexplicable connection with him. Their chances at being free again from the Matrix comes to head in a showdown with The Analyst (Harris), who wants to keep them under his thumb, and Smith, who has his own designs.
“Resurrections” is interesting to begin with as it casts some doubt on whether the Matrix is real. Again, it’s the struggle with what is reality and what is not. However, this angle soon fades away, disappointingly, into an unimaginative storyline focused on Neo trying to unplug Trinity from the Matrix. Genius. Unlike the original “Matrix,” which was revolutionary filmmaking and even its successors to a degree, “Resurrections” falls flat as its script does not deliver anything fresh or creative.
Harris was a nice casting choice as The Analyst, a program who seems to have replaced The Architect from the previous films. Other than that, there is a lot to be desired about the cast. The replacement of Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus with a digital program is fine, but the use of another actor is a gigantic failure as Abdul-Mateen II cannot capture the iconic character’s nuances. The same is true for director Lana Wachowski being unable to procure the services of Hugo Weaving as Smith again, although the inclusion of Smith at all in the story is nonsensical anyway.
Overall, “Resurrections” is one story that should have been left in the grave.