Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Detroit (2017)

Whew. This ensemble picture is a powerful, perhaps with artistic license (see below), retelling of the July 1967 Detroit riots and aftermath, but two and a half hours of police brutality is too much. On Sunday afternoon there were probably thirty in our audience, and five people walked out halfway through, when tensions on screen were high. I understood the impulse.

Over 100 cast members are listed on imdb. The main ones are Will Poulter (a 24 year old Brit, he started acting ten years ago in Son of Rambow and was last blogged for The Revenant) as a vicious cop named Krauss, John Boyega (another Brit who came to Americans' attention in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens and reminded me so much of Denzel Washington, not just his face but also his voice), and Algee Smith (other than one uncredited appearance this is his feature debut) as the sweet-voiced Larry "Cleveland" Reed of the doo-wop group The Dramatics. The other singers in the movie version of The Dramatics are Ephraim Sykes (an Alvin Ailey dancer, he was in the original ensemble of Hamilton on Broadway and starred in Hairspray Live on TV--here's a track of him soloing in Run and Tell That from that production), Leon Thomas III (played Young Simba in The Lion King on Broadway in 2003 and in August Rush (2007) he played a young street musician--I remember that performance and was happy to find this clip of him singing Father's Song. Since August Rush I've been trying to prove or disprove that Thomas III is descended from the mid-century throat-singer Leon Thomas who sang The Creator Has a Master Plan), and Joseph David-Jones (new to me, he's been in 11 episodes of Nashville). Maybe after the movie has been out for a while, clips will be available with just the music for those who eschew violence. More on the music in a moment.

Some other cast members familiar to me are Carl Mitchell (last in Keanu) as the fool in the do-rag; Jack Reynor (an Irishman, he was the big brother in Sing Street) as Demens, Krauss's stupid partner; and Kaitlyn Dever (also British! She was in Laggies). Everyone in the cast plays an American, by the way. Getting special mention in the credits are Anthony Mackie as a veteran and John Krasinski as a lawyer in the aftermath (last blogged for Black or White and Born in China, respectively) and they both appear late in the movie.

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal were most recently in these pages for Zero Dark Thirty after winning Oscars for The Hurt Locker--the first woman to win one for directing--both, like Detroit, action movies based on real events.

This article in Slate, an interview with an author familiar with the riots, goes into some of the artistic license. The historical prologue, with paintings from Jacob Lawrence's Great Migration series (click on the panels on the right to enlarge), is beautiful, but Jack noted that too few other cities are mentioned for their inner-city riots in the late 1960s.

James Newton Howard is the credited composer, and here is one of his tracks. You can find others from the movie by looking for videos with similar pictures. This list of songs (clips with the black buttons, full songs with the red), however, will take you back to the great music of the day, both real and recreated. Not on that list is the movie Dramatics' If You Haven't Got Love. And it's fun to hear Smith singing Grow with the real Larry Reed or the original Dramatics.

The end of the movie tells us where are they now or what happened to them. The five who walked out  can help explain the 78% from audiences (84 from critics) on Rotten Tomatoes.

Those prone to Motion Picture Motion Sickness should be wary of this jumpy un-steadi-cam extravaganza. I'm adding it my MPMS list, which concludes alphabetically with Zero Dark Thirty.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Monty Python Live (Mostly) One Down, Five to Go (2014)

Another one I forgot to write about, and, of course, we loved this variety show by the five surviving members of the troupe. The "One Down" of the title refers to the late Graham Chapman. You can guess what they meant by "Five to Go."

Of the five, only John Cleese and Terry Gilliam have been in the blog, for The Big Year and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, respectively. The others are Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, all brilliant comedians with good work behind them and more to come, we hope, for all five.

Apparently, despite the Pythons' successful solo careers, they owed a huge amount in royalties after losing a 2013 lawsuit by to the producer of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) because so much of the stage musical Spamalot was derived from that movie. So this live London stage show was born of necessity. Eight months before the curtain went up, tickets sold out in in 43 seconds,. They added nine more shows and the last was streamed live in the UK and selected movie theaters on July 20, 2014. We like matinees, so seeing it five hours ahead of British Summer Time wouldn't have been an issue for us three years ago.

I found it tonight streaming for free two ways. One website, putlockertv, advises pausing the video 5-10 minutes to buffer before playing. I set my timer for 10:00 and it started right up after that (I haven't tried to see the whole thing so can't vouch for its entirety). Or you can watch with it an Amazon SeeSo free trial.

If you want to contribute directly to the Python legal fund, you can buy the DVD from them (with extras) or Amazon or iTunes (to rent it on iTunes, click View in iTunes on the same link).

It's not rated on Rotten Tomatoes but I assure you, it's a must-see for fans.

In case you're wondering how I managed to remember something we saw three years ago, last week I noticed that, though we had seen the latest Spider-Man, I hadn't written about it. I looked at my AMC Stubs membership (it's not free but pays for itself for frequent moviegoers like us) because it keeps a record of every ticket bought, and I found the date. Later, I went through the entire list, which runs for six years and counting, cross checking with my index, and found White House Down and this. Check check check.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Landline (2017)

Jack and I loved this ensemble dramedy about a dysfunctional Manhattan family dealing with repressed anger and infidelity. Set in 1995, it features many telephones, including functioning pay phones, and an important corded princess phone.

Jenny Slate (last blogged for Gifted) plays Dana, the elder daughter living with her fiancé, as funny, wild, and impulsive but still more mature than her funnier, reckless teenage sister Ali, played by Abby Quinn (new to me, she's been in two movies and one episode of Law & Order SVU, and is also a songwriter and singer--here's a taste--she sings in the movie, too). Along with Edie Falco (best known for 86 episodes of The Sopranos and 80 of Nurse Jackie, she was also in four of 30 Rock and the movie Sunshine State (2002), among her many credits), the women are strong. They are ably supported by John Turturro (most recently in these pages for Fading Gigolo) as the father, Jay Duplass (last in Beatriz at Dinner) as the fiancé, and Finn Wittrock (four episodes of Masters of Sex, one of the tech guys in The Big Short, a small part in La La Land, and more) as Dana's college friend, to name a few.

This is director/co-writer Gillian (pronounced with a hard G, like girl) Robespierre's and co-writer Elisabeth Holm's second feature after Obvious Child, which also starred Slate. Tom Bean (new to me) co-wrote the story with them. Both movies were Sundance hits. The script is snappy, with some of the funniest lines delivered by snarky sister Ali. Robespierre and Holm came of age in the 90s and there are many other "period" details besides the phones, such as lots of cigarette smoking, monochrome computer screens, floppy disks, and a dot matrix printer.

Three composers, Chris Bordeaux (who scored Obvious Child), Jordan Cohen, and Clyde Lawrence (they didn't), are credited but what you will remember are the 1990s songs. That being said, I can't remember them all and have spent a lot of time on google looking for a track list, with no success, finding only the following. Steve Winwood's Higher Love (from 1986) and a song by 10,000 Maniacs are the only ones I definitely remember. Four songs by Alexander McCabe are listed on imdb and three are available to stream: Scarsdale, Swayin', and Shakin'. Stacey Q’s Two of Hearts, also a 1986 hit, was mentioned in a review, as well as artists PJ Harvey, The Breeders, and Pavement. The only playlist I could find is one compiled by Slate called "Landline: 90s Jams with Jenny" on Amazon Prime music, but it's merely "inspired" by the movie.

73% from critics and 71 from audiences isn't quite fair--should be higher. It looks like this will play for another week in these parts. Or you can wait for the DVD release October 17, 2017.

White House Down (2013)

I forgot to write about this, four years ago! Lots of action as a veteran, applying for a secret service job, steps in to protect his daughter and the president from a hostage situation. I imagine we liked it just fine. It stars Channing Tatum and Joey King (last blogged for Hail, Caesar! and Going in Style respectively) as the veteran and his daughter, Jamie Foxx (most recently in Baby Driver) as the president, and Maggie Gyllenhaal (last in these pages for Hysteria) as the secret service HR person, among many.

Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day (1996), Godzilla (1998), The Patriot (2000), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), and 2012) is no stranger to big budget action movies and the long trailer is pretty fun. He works from a script by James Vanderbilt (later wrote and directed Truth and is part of the Vanderbilt family, once the richest in America, according to wikipedia).

Here's a track by composers Thomas Wander & Harald Kloser (they scored 2012). Rotten Tomatoes' critics averaged only 50% and its audiences didn't like it much better, coming in at 62.

Since I'm coming close to 1000 movies on the blog I want my count to be accurate when I hit that milestone. There's one more old one and one new one in draft mode. Coming soon.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dunkirk (2017)

Wow. I was afraid to see this story of the evacuation of 400,000 British soldiers from the Dunkerque, France beach in World War II but must admit I liked it as much as Jack did, which was a lot. It is, however, thunderously loud. About thirty nonagenarian veteran survivors of the actual event were invited to the premiere in London and some commented that the movie is louder than the actual bombardment. My recommendation is that you bring earplugs and get to the theatre a little early to ask for a closed caption device. I usually get the devices but couldn't use it this time, as the IMAX print we saw didn't have captioning available. I did have earplugs handy and used them a lot.

The movie follows the event from land, sea, and air. On land we have Fionn Whitehead in his film debut, accompanied by thousands of others (real and computer-generated), including Harry Styles of the boy band One Direction, also in his debut (in this photo Styles is on the left and Whitehead on the right). The director has been quoted as saying that he chose young, inexperienced actors since so many soldiers at the time were young and inexperienced. Kenneth Branagh (last blogged for My Week with Marilyn) plays a dedicated officer.

At sea we have Mark Rylance (most recently in these pages for The BFG) and Cillian Murphy (his best work includes 28 Days Later... (2002), Intermission (2003), Breakfast on Pluto (2005), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises), as a civilian boatman and a rescued soldier, to name a few. In the air we have Tom Hardy (Oscar-nominated for The Revenant but lost to Rylance for Bridge of Spies) and a couple more pilots.

Director/writer Christopher Nolan (last blogged for Interstellar) may get his fourth Oscar nomination (and first win?) and director of photography Hoyt Van Hoytema (also last blogged for Interstellar) may get his first for the stunning shots, including the aerial dogfights, no doubt enhanced by special effects. Shooting locations include the actual beach (more on that in the next paragraph) and several places in the Netherlands, not far from Dunkerque.

One clever person has found the actual address in Dunkerque on google maps. Take a look at the "street" view. They may be beginning to build the sets or take them down.

I'm currently listening to the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (most recently scored Hidden Figures), streamed from this link (with volume turned down) and, for once, I watched the commercial because it's for a master class by the composer and we get to see and hear him talk about his craft. There's a ticking, recorded from Nolan's pocket watch and extended, that goes on throughout most of the movie. Until it stops. See if you notice. In the spoiler section of imdb's trivia you can learn when that is. The last track of the youtube playlist above goes into some detail about the ticking and the work of Zimmer, Nolan, and sound designers.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics are rhapsodic, averaging 93%, and its audiences come in at 83. It was impressive in IMAX and I'm sure would be in 70mm if you can find somewhere that's showing it, but I still recommend the closed captions, which will be available only in 2D. If you're new to that technology, allow time for a tutorial.

The Little Hours (2017)

We laughed long and hard at this bawdy, sacrilegious send-up of bad nuns and others in the 14th century, based on stories from Boccaccio's Decameron. Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micucci, and Alison Brie are hilarious as the nuns (last blogged for Safety Not GuaranteedDon't Think Twice, and Sleeping with Other People, respectively). Dave Franco (most recently in Now You See Me 2 and Brie's real-life husband) does a stalwart job as straight man, playing a servant to Nick Offerman (last in The Hero) and Lauren Weedman (new to me, she is someone to watch, based on her imdb profile).

We also have John C. Reilly (most recently in The Lobster), Molly Shannon (Other People), Fred Armisen (227 episodes of Saturday Night Live, 69 of Portlandia, and four of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, to name a few, and a cameo in The Dictator), Paul Reiser (played it straight in Whiplash), and Jemima Kirke (before she was in 53 episodes of Girls she was in Tiny Furniture, Lena Dunham's debut movie). I must also mention the sweet gray-furred donkey in the opening sequence. Watch as it enjoys getting groomed by Plaza in a later scene.

Director/writer Jeff Baena (wrote I Heart Huckabees (2004), directed and wrote two others I didn't see) is the life partner of Plaza and is another one to watch.

I so wish I could stream the score, but can't find it online. It included madrigal-style singing, including one song written by medieval composer Hildegard von Bingen, whose work has been performed by my chorus. I did find the soundcloud page of Dan Romer's (scored Beasts of the Southern Wild) other scores and am listening to it now, interrupted by the same commercial repeatedly.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics and audiences are too lukewarm, averaging 76 and 69%. People like Jack and me will love it. It played briefly in these parts by will be available for digital download and DVD release on September 22, 2017. Check it out then.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

We enjoyed this Spider-Man as much as its predecessors. This prequel/origin features the web-slinger as an insecure, fun-loving teenager with a best buddy and a hot Aunt May (no offense to Sally Field, who had the part in The Amazing Spider-Man 2).

Tom Holland and Marisa Tomei (last blogged for The Impossible and Love Is Strange, respectively) do well as Peter and May, aided by adorable Jacob Batalon (new to me, he's been in one movie before this) as the buddy and a huge cast, of whom I'll name just a few, starting with Michael Keaton (most recently in these pages for The Founder), who's predictably great as the villain; Robert Downey Jr. (last in Avengers: Age of Ultron) predictably snarky as Tony Snark, er, Stark; and Jon Favreau (most recently in here for acting in Chef, which he also directed) predictably harried as Stark's chief of staff Happy Hogan.

New to the series, I think, are Donald Glover (I covered him in The Martian before he created and starred in the wonderful series Atlanta), Tyne Daly (profiled in Hello, My Name Is Doris), Tony Revolori (last in Dope), and comedian Hannibal Buress (best known to me for his 20 episodes of Broad City and two of High Maintenance). Gwyneth Paltrow has a tiny cameo as Pepper Potts, Stark's love interest, and was most recently in these pages for that role in Iron Man 3.

Speaking of cameos, Spider-Man creator Stan Lee on screen as usual, and, for now, the cameo is posted on youtube. Someone has done some research into the various Stan Lee cameos and posted this theory that may contain spoilers.

This is the third movie directed by Jon Watts but the first I've seen. The script is credited to him and the team of Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone), Christopher Ford (Robot & Frank), and the team of Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers (they wrote the LEGO Batman Movie, which we didn't see).

Predictably good music by Michael Giacchino (last blogged for The Book of Henry) can be streamed from youtube for over an hour.

Unpredictably for a movie with so many writers, this is rated 92% from critics and 90 from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. Fan-kids don't need urging from us.