Five Came Back (2017)

The latest documentary Five Came Back on Netflix focuses on five directors who went to and fought in World War II and came back from it alive. This documentary was interesting as when it comes to World War II we some 70 years out all know the broad strokes of it, there Hitler takes power, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Holocaust, Bombings at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Sure HBO’s two brilliant miniseries focusing on the Army (Band of Brothers) and the Marines (The Pacific) telling the stories of the two theaters of war and there are a bunch of great films on World War II but this documentary tells an interesting story of the people who went to war and how it changed them.

Five Came Back focuses on John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens all of whom are directors who joined the War effort Ford joined the Navy while Wyler, Huston, Capra and Stevens all were members of the Army Signal Corp. All of them were involved in filming World War II. The documentary features famous directors all talking about one individual Steven Spielberg talks about Wyler, Francis Ford Coppola talks about Huston, Guillermo del Toro talks about Capra, Paul Greengrass talks about Ford, and Lawrence Kasdan talks about Stevens. In the first hour we hear about how they made names for themselves before the war, the second hours is about their time at war and the third hours from D-Day to after the war and what became of them afterwards. If you are a fan of film history this is a very interesting film to watch.

One of the coolest things that I’ve discovered after watching is that you can watch the films that they made during WWII which were talked about in the documentary on Netflix as they have a handful available to watch. If you have some time I would recommend that everyone watch this.

Crackle and Movie Musicals

These are two separate points but both are in the same news cycle. To begin Jerry Seinfeld and his brilliant series Comedians in Cars getting Coffee will be moving from Crackle to Netflix in late 2017. Now the show is the biggest thing that Crackle has along with Sports Jeopardy. I’ve like Seinfeld’s series since it came out, as it is interesting to see the interactions between Jerry and his friends as well as other comedians and actors or related people (Lorne Michaels, Barack Obama). If you haven’t seen an episode yet, what’s taken you so long. Also involved with the deal is a couple of Jerry Seinfeld stand-up specials as well as series development deals. It seems Netflix is turning into the place for comedy as they continue to ink deals for stand-up specials, recently with Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle. With the loss of its biggest show will Crackle still exist come 2018 or will it find life with some other show or just have the Sony movies.

With the popularity of La La Land, Hollywood is once again hoping that the movie musical can make a comeback. However this story seem to always come out when there is a super popular musical out but the genre hasn’t really left. Now the films that are coming out are more biographical like Straight Outta Compton, Love and Music or they are like Pitch Perfect where they fit in some pop songs into the film or they are just animated. Sure this is nice to see something different at the movie theater but it really depends on the quality of the film that comes out. As The New York Times notes there are several major studios devoting major resources to musical for the first time since the 90s. Some of these films are going to be bringing hits like Wicked and Matilda to the screen, Playbill has a nice list of rumored film adaptions. Now it seems Disney is remaking all their animated films as live action so we’ve got those to look forward to as well. There will be more original films coming out and it would be great if these turned out to be good movies. With the revival of musicals on television it seems like we are going to continue in the time where the average individual we get multiple chance to see a musical. Yet once again I would rather have a few quality movie musical every year over a large quantity of movie musicals.

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Hail, Caesar! is a love letter to Hollywood in the 50s, as they moved from the studio system and were forced to divest themselves from owning their own movie theaters and selling films in blocks. It’s a unique time for movies. The film follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix a Hollywood “Fixer”, based on real life MGM “fixer” of the same name. Spoilers to follow.

In the latest film from the Coen Brothers, we have a comedic look into classic Hollywood. I am a big fan of this time period of film. It’s 1951 and Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is the head of physical production at Capitol Pictures, his job is to make sure that scandalous stories about the stars don’t get into the newspapers. The Studio is working on a major production called Hail Caesar! A tale of Christ with Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) as a roman who at the death of Christ is convinced that Jesus is the Son of God. While filming Baird is drugged by an extra and kidnapped by “The Future”. Eddie also has to deal with the star of aqua-musicals, DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) who is pregnant and unmarried.  As well as turning a singing cowboy, Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), into a big name movie star.  We also run across Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum), the song and dance guy. Mannix is also being recruited by Lockheed Corporation to take a high-level executive position. All these problems are complex but we know that Mannix will find a way to get through them all as well as fend off eager Hollywood gossip columnists roosting for a story. Will Mannix be able to find Baird Whitlock so they can complete filming of Hail, Caesar!, how will they get around DeeAnna Moran’s pregnancy and will Hobie turn out to be a decent actor?

The film gives us a interesting look at the world of film, especially for those who a huge fans of Turner Classic Movies. The Coen Brothers always tell such unique stories, remember these are the guys who made Fargo and Raising Arizona. If you can just turn on TCM and enjoy what ever is showing this is a film for you. The film also works a a decent comedy even if you aren’t a fan of Classic Hollywood. Clooney does a great job embodying someone like a Robert Taylor and Johansson does her best Esther Williams.  There is fun to have while watching, even in the ridiculous acting and a concepts that the film they are making are about. Although we hold films from this era in high regard some of them are real stinkers.


News Roundup

Movies: This is surprising news with the film Wonder Woman  will be the first female led film with a 100 million dollar budget. Sure I know that there aren’t many female directors as I can name like three Sofia Coppola, Ava DuVernay from Selma and Kathryn Bigelow who won a
Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker. Now I actually had to look up those last two names to make sure I had their names correct. This is one of the big problems facing Hollywood as so many film have a clearly male voice and it would be nice if there were more of a voice for women coming from the director’s chair. Sure there have been a bunch of films recently released that feature mostly female stars but the films are directed by men like Paul Feig. This is a reason it is great to be seeing many female stars developing production firms where they can pick the films they want to make and hire whom they want to write and direct.

Beer: Here we have cool news as the Trappist Beer market is growing.  It nice to see Trappist turning back to this traditional method of making money. Especially since it seems like beer is having a moment right now.

News Roundup

The Wachowskis the siblings behind The Matrix are in the news again as Andy, now Lilly has come out as transgendered. This means that both siblings are transgendered, Lana came out years ago and perhaps we will have a film by the Wachowski sisters in a few years. Sure people will claim that The Matrix trilogy is now the most widely known work by transgendered directors but it would be a whole lot better if they could consistently make decent films. Since the last Matrix film (Revolutions) was arguably the last good movie they made and that was way back in 2003.

Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometime Young) have officially broken up. I am sure that many of us didn’t know that they weren’t broken up before reading this or that they were still a group

Star Wars: According to The Sun Disney is in talks about making five more Star Wars films after the current slew (Rogue One, Episode VIII, Han Solo, Episode IX and Boba Fett) are made. If these are more anthology films that would be real unique as hopefully they will be able to flesh out part of the story not covered by the movies or cartoons. It seems like this won’t be confirmed until after Rogue One opens in movie theaters. The only thing that I am not that happy about is that Star Wars might become like those Marvel/DC Comics movies where there are just too many coming out that we get fatigue from all of them, although with Star Wars there are many different stories to be told about a multitude of characters.


News Roundup

Star Wars: We start with the primary fact that the new film comes out in a month. Kevin Smith has said some good things about the film. Honest Trailer has done a the original Star Wars. Over on Wired they have an interesting article that basically says that “There is never going to be a final Star Wars movie” since the thing major studios are doing now is all about the Universe, Marvel is a great example they’ve made a dozen films and have three television shows, soon to be four all set in the same shared world. This seems like the way franchises are going to work. With Star Wars they’ve already had an extensive written canon (sadly Disney erased it from the film canon) but from here they can make just about any type of story that a director wants.

Symphonic Metal: While I was browsing on Reddit I stumbled on this genre of music. It a weird mix of classical with drums and guitars.

Movies: Hollywood is going to reboot/remake the 2000 Christopher Nolan film Memento. This is clearly a horrible idea since the original just came out. Sure it makes some sense if it were a foreign film being remade in English, but I’m not that big of a fan of those film either. With films being more widely available to the consumer especially from places across the globe why not just release the film with subtitles or I’m not a big fan of it but they could even dub the film and release it to the American audience.  Case in point Oldboy, the South Korean film is considered a masterpiece but the American version was a dud. If Hollywood is out of ideas lets let some young directors make something like an American Graffiti or a Clerks, all films don’t have to be 100 million dollar productions. In fact some of the least expensive films have had the greatest return on Investment. Yet giving young directors a chance to make an original film is a necessity for Hollywood.

Language: The OED, the definitive record keepers of the English, have named the Emoji ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ the word of 2015. Is this a good idea, clearly it isn’t but with so many people communicating with emojis it seems like it was about time that it happened. It is interesting to see that this is the direction that language might be heading, With texting and messaging like this so commonplace maybe a hundred years from now spelling tests will consist of drawing different emojis.


Godzilla (2014)

The American tried to make another Godzilla movie last year and sure it was better than the last one with Matthew Broderick in it but it still felt like too much was going on.

The film is essentially a reboot of Godzilla for Americans so it starts back in the 50s with the Nuke tests which kills a giant monster or something. We then skip forward to 1999 when Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) lives in Japan with his family and he runs a nuclear power plant and there has been some earthquake like things and so he sends his wife to check it out and she dies. We then skip forward fifteen years to 2014 and the focus changes to that of Joe’s son Ford. Ford is a Navy guy who lives in San Francisco and has just arrived back home when he gets a call to bail his Dad out of Japanese jail for trespassing in the “quarantine zone”. So Ford goes off to Japan and bails Joe out and Joe convinced Ford that they have to go to their old house to recover some data which he had printed out or something. They get captured by soldiers and brought to a secret facility, it’s the old power plant and after several power outages a gigantic MUTO appears it destroys the facility and Joe dies.

The Navy admiral who is in charge then explains that Godzilla is why the nuclear test happened in the 50s since they were trying to defeat Godzilla. The plot gets a bit weirder as the MUTO is actually echolocation and communicating with some other MUTO and it turns out that ones a male and the other a female and they are going to breed in San Francisco for some reason. Then Godzilla shows up  It’s not really explained very well, or perhaps it was while I was “resting my eyes”, since the movie is really long clocking in at over a half an hour longer than the original Godzilla.  So Godzilla fights the two MUTOs and eventually wins since it’s a Godzilla movie.

It was a decent film but as I said earlier it’s long. If you are a fan of Godzilla it’s a nice movie nothing great to write home about  but okay. If you are looking for something more like the original you will have to wait until Toho releases Shin Gojira, their rebooted Godzilla film they are working on which is expected to be released in Summer of 2016

Theory of Everything (2014) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

It is time for some movie reviews and as usual there are spoilers to follow so please read with caution.

I finally got the chance to see The Theory of Everything, the movie about Stephen Hawking. Eddie Redmayne picked up the Oscar for Best Actor for portraying Hawking and it was a well deserved win as he fully inhabited the role. The film was interesting since I knew nothing about Hawking but his theories so learning about how he became who he is was pretty cool. It is based on Jane Hawking’s memior Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen. The story begins with Jane meeting Stephen for the first time and then follows their relationship through their many children and divorce. Sure the film may not have been faithful to the actual events but from what I’ve read Stephen is a nicer individual in the movie then in the book. Perhaps in real life it was some where in between the two. It is a great film and one of the best of the year, if you want to know a little more about Stephen Hawking then this is the film to see.

I also got around to watching the latest Tom Cruise movie, Edge of Tomorrow. It’s that science fiction film which Tom Cruise lives the same day over and over again, kind of like Groundhog Day but it was a time loop so several day could pass before the loop would end with Tom Cruise’s death and he would wake up at the after he was berated by his Commanding Officer and knocked out. Cruise plays the same character he seems to play in all his recent movies. Cruise goes to Emily Blunt’s character, Full Metal Bitch (FMB) to train and become a solider to defeat the aliens and stop his time loops I guess.  Emily Blunt’s character was praised by feminists as she is the one who trains and guides Cruise to win in the end, however some people were livid that they included a romance in the film it was weird as FMB is a dedicated solider and it seems out of place for her to fall in love with Tom Cruise in the day or two that she had known him. Cruise and FMB go out and try to find where the Omega is to stop the massacre that will happen since the aliens known what is going to happen. On the first day Cruise kills an Alpha which causes him to relive the days forever until he gets a blood transfusion or kills the Omega or so the film made me to believe. So as the movie goes on Cruise gets a blood transfusion and will be unable to live the day over again so they go and attack the Omega. This is a pretty decent film until the end after Cruise kills the Omega he wakes up again at the beginning of the film since he touched the Omega blood or something. So he knows everything that happened but everyone else doesn’t know a thing about it. This is a classic example that the main character has little to no development over the course of the film, sure he knows how to fight and he has fallen for Emily Blunt but he is still a cardboard cutout of a person. It was a decent science fiction film and entertaining but I wasn’t a fan of the ending.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

Now, Birdman really didn’t look that interesting in the trailers that I saw so while it was in theaters I didn’t see it, but it won multiple Oscars (Best Picture, Screenplay, Director, and Cinematography) so I felt like I had to see it just because one of my movie goals is to see ever Best Picture winners. Michael Keaton stars as Riggan Thomson who is trying to revive his career by going to Broadway and doing a play, he writes an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s classic What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, as well as directs and stars in it. Zach Galifianakis is wonderful in an understated role and Emma Stone and Edward Norton do great jobs in the movie, really the whole ensemble does a wonderful job.  The film is pretty cool as it give you a look back stage of a Broadway show.

The film itself look pretty cool as it was shot in like several long takes so the film had the feel of like a play sort of, where anything could happen and perhaps made the film seem shorter than it really was. Watching the film did make me want to check out some other films but the director Alejandro González Iñárritu. I don’t really understand why people are calling this a comeback performance for Michael Keaton, sure it’s his best film in years but it all in what follow this film that will make it so.

On to the play, in the film Riggan adapts the short story or maybe it’s the whole collection of short stories into a play, but from what we hear of the play it seems just the single short story. I’ve read What We Talk About… Love several times so I wasn’t that big of a fan of the rearranging of the event, and it doesn’t really make sense as well as we see early on in the play they talk about the ex with the twenty-two pistol, and then the play ends with this event and his suicide, to me it made no sense because in the story, the ex is almost at the beginning and the events surrounding it are different. The story also ends with the couples still sitting around the table after they finished the second bottle of gin and talking about going to dinner. The story is also only like ten pages long so he’s got to be pulling something from somewhere to get it to be a two act play.

If you want to see a film about an actor trying to stay relevant in a changing world then this is the film for you. Unfortunately, I don’t understand why this film won Best Picture over Boyhood, even though I wasn’t that big of a fan of Boyhood either. Both films were decent but I didn’t find anything special about them, but Hollywood sure did.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

I’ve been slowly making my way through the movies on Tuner Classic Movies that I wanted to tape in the month of February during their annual Oscar month broadcast. The most recent film that I watched was The Best Years of Our Lives. It won seven Oscars they were for Best Picture, William Wyler won for Best Director, Fredric March won Best Actor, Harold Russell won Best Supporting Actor, they also took home awards for film editing, adapted screen play and score. Harold Russell was also awarded an honorary Oscar for “bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans.” Harold was a veteran who lost both of his hands and was given hooks to serve as hands. Harold is one of a few non-professional actors to win an Oscar and the only individual to win two Oscars for the same performance.

The Best Years of Our Lives is about soldiers returning home from World War II and their struggle to adjust to civilian life. It is a good film since most of the time we don’t think about the adjustments that are made when soldiers return to civilian life. One of my first responses to the film is why doesn’t Hollywood remake this film or do a film similar to it but talking about the struggle that coming home is for many of the veterans today. American Sniper approaches the topic but doesn’t really go that far into the topic. This is as important a topic for films to cover as war itself is, and especially today when less than one percent of the population serve in the military there seems to be a disconnect between what the general public think about those who serve, we hear through the media about the wounded and the killed but hardly ever about those who came back alright.

In the film all three men, Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), and Al Stephenson (Fredric March), have trouble adjusting to life. Al has been married for like twenty year and comes home to grown children he doesn’t really know. Al worked at the bank and he is called to return to work where he now overseeing loans to servicemen. Fred was married just days before leaving and comes back to a wife who he never knew. Fred and his wife run into hard times after Fred’s money from the military runs out and he reluctantly return to the drug store he worked at before the war, although he yearns for more. Homer was the star athlete and engaged before he left for the war and he returns without hand. Homer has a heck of a time trying to adjust as does his family and Homer ends up pushing his fiance away.

If you haven’t seen this movie take some time to check it out.