Happy 91st birthday Harry Dean Stanton! And the man keeps working, from his cameo in the Marvel Comic Universe, to reprising his part in the Twin-Peaks-verse (Fire Walk With Me) in Season 3. All those fine performances he gave to David Lynch over the years, here in this indie film Lucky, he gets to act along side Lync and get the rare starring role! Turtles, Ed Begly Jr., Tom Skerrit, Beth Grant, Ron Livingston and Barry Shabaka Henley also appear. This sun baked, crusty existential crisis (comedy) look marvelous, now can we talk about the bonus situation?
‘Lucky’ follows the spiritual journey of a 90-year-old atheist and the quirky characters that inhabit his off the map desert town. Having out lived and out smoked all of his contemporaries, the fiercely independent Lucky finds himself at the precipice of life, thrust into a journey of self exploration, leading towards that which is so often unattainable: enlightenment.
Behold! The sound of scraping the bottom of the barrel. In this, the year of our lord, Two Thousand and Seventeen, Ellen Page will star in a remake of inessential goofball 1990 young actor showcase, Flatliners. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev (Dead Man Down), and catering to an audience of absolutely no-one, the trailer primal-screams, “Maybe you should be watching Final Destination 3.” Words cannot describe how un-interesting this idea is at this point in time. People should be sacked, which is the only reason why I am posting the trailer (above) in the first place. Ellen. Ellen. Ellen. Did you need a new swimming pool that much?
Here is a classic murder-mystery property, made many, many times in one form or another, from Agatha Christie’s classic novel of the same name. Kenneth Branagh, who has been making special effects heavy Disney pictures for some time now (Thor, Cinderella), merges this talent with his tastes for classical British properties, to offer a glossy blockbuster version of the The Murder On The Orient Express with a cast that seems far more eccentric than obvious. There is the given casting of Judy Dench, and Branagh himself, sporting spectacular facial hair, as super-detective Hercule Poirot. There is also new Disney favourites Daisy Ridley and Josh Gad, certainly not a Disney favorite, Johnny Depp (who release bomb after bomb lately), as well as the magnificent Derek Jacobi (always welcome in affairs such as these) as well as a sweet celebrity grab-bag of Michelle Pfieffer, Willem Dafoe, and Penelope Cruz.
This all looks like good ‘murder party’ fun, stilted-grandiose line deliveries and all, and will be getting an ultra-wide release November 10th from 20th Century Fox.
Steven Soderbergh is back! The producer-director is ever threatening retirement, but never quite getting there. After a stint on TV, including directing two seasons of period medical drama The Knick and made for TV teleplay, Mosaic, and producing Red Oaks, Godless and The Girlfriend Experience, the itch to make another A-lister heist film must have proved too great a draw. And now we have this goofy, southern-fried hold up of a motor speedway with Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Katherine Waterson, Riley Keough, and a thickly accented, cast-way against type, Daniel Craig. Also, Soderbergh has dusted off Hillary Swank (remember her?) and Katie Holmes (ditto) and offered them fresh opportunities, also against type.
Trying to reverse a family curse, brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan set out to execute an elaborate robbery during the legendary Coca-Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Given the poster, the typesetting and the overall tone here, I expected this to be a period piece, something in the vein of Smokey and the Bandit. Nope! Logan Lucky is nothing if not contemporary, right up to when the aw-shucks computer expert brags about ‘knowing all the Twitters.”
As usual, Soderbergh bucks the trend of modern franchise building special-effects pieces, and goes right to the point of letting the acting, character-building rhythms, and snazzy filmmaking do the heavy lifting. I do not expect Logan Lucky to be high art, but I do expect it to be a highly entertaining throwback in the way that The Nice Guys was last year.
Written by Rebecca Blunt and directed by Steven Soderbergh, Logan Lucky hits theatres August 18th, 2017.
Taylor Sheridan wrote Sicario for Dennis Villeneuve and Hell or High Water for David Mackenzie. Now, he’s directing one of his own screenplays, a wintry noir called Wind River. An FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) teams with the town’s veteran game tracker (Jeremy Renner) to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation. Canadian veteran actor Graham Green is the local police presence, and Canuck rocker Hugh Dillon (The Headstones, Hard Core Logo) also has a small part. I’m a sucker for procedural crime movies set in the winter (from Fargo, to Insomnia, to Smilla’s Sense of Snow) and this looks superb in that ‘no nonsense’ Sheridan fashion.
Wind River will be getting a semi-wide release from The Weinstein Company on August 4th.
There are too many mediocre music docs. This is definitely NOT one of those. Amazon Prime financed Amir Bar-Lev’s epic four-hour Grateful Dead documentary, which was built almost entirely out of unearthed archived video. And if you have seen the official Grateful Dead archive, it looks (I’m not kidding) a lot like that Area 51 matte painting in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Long Strange Trip starts out when Jerry Garcia is a teenager, and ends with his death in 1995, and in between it (somehow) acts as both a primer for novices, and a very specific set of images and information for experts. I caught it at Hot Docs and it played like gangbusters with an enthusiastic (and greying) crowd. Also, the bands first Tour Manager has a voice that is dead-on Michael Caine, so even in the talking heads segments you are in good hands.
The 30-year odyssey of the Grateful Dead was the most unlikely success story in rock ’n’ roll history. Famously averse to publicity and seemingly incapable of recording radio-friendly hits, they flouted music-industry convention by giving their live music away to a global network of tape traders and becoming the highest-grossing concert act in America through word of mouth alone.
Long Strange Trip is the first full-length documentary to explore the fiercely independent vision, perpetual innovation, and uncompromising commitment to their audience that made the Bay Area band one of the most influential musical groups of their generation. Artfully assembling candid interviews with the band, road crew, family members and notable Deadheads (including Minneapolis Senator Al Frankin), director Bar-Lev reveals the untold history of the Dead and the freewheeling psychedelic subculture that sprouted up around it. The film also provides poignant insight into the psyche of late lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, whose disdain for authority clashed with his de facto leadership of the sprawling collective that kept the show on the road.
With a soundtrack that captures some of the band’s most dynamic live performances as well as unguarded offstage moments and never-before-seen interviews, footage and photos, Long Strange Trip explores the Dead’s singular experiment in radically eclectic music making. Much more than the “behind the music” backstory of an exceptionally talented and beloved group of musicians, the film is at once an inspiring tale of unfettered artistic expression, a heartfelt American tragedy, and an incisive history of the rise and fall of 20th-century counterculture.
Amazon Studios is giving the film a limited release in NY & LA on May 26th, and across the country in select theaters for single night playdates, but if you have Amazon Prime, Long Strange Trip will be available worldwide on that streaming platform on June 2nd.
The rebooted Planet of the Apes series keeps on chugging, and keeps on empathizing with the Apes, while making the human villains more vile with each chapter. Here we have a genocidal Colonel played by Woody Harrelson with his military apparatus, juxtaposed against Ur-Ape, Caesar (Andy Serkis returning) taking in a human orphan. As always the motion capture animation of the Apes is astounding.
After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in a battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.
Oh, and writers, please, let us all place a moratorium on “I didn’t start this , but I WILL finish it.” (blech.)
After much acclaim for The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, Cartoon Saloon, Ireland’s increasingly high profile animation house founded by Paul Young and Tomm Moore, are working on their fourth feature film, Wolfwalkers. (The third one, The Breadwinner, will be released this year.)
With a signature 2D animation style, and a quite mature, epic sensibility, Cartoon Saloon, is aiming to be the next Laika (which in turn is aiming to be the next Pixar…)
Below is a proof-of-concept teaser which is, in a word, stunning.
In a time of superstition and magic, when wolves are seen as demonic and nature an evil to be tamed, a young apprentice hunter, Robyn, comes to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last pack. But when Robyn saves a wild native girl, Mebh, their friendship leads her to discover the world of the Wolfwalkers and transforms her into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy.
One of the great pieces of excess fantasy non-sense was 2015’s Telugu Fantasy Epic Baahubali. From S.S. Rajamouli, who made the zonkers reincarnation comedy Eega, which sees a man take vengeance on his murderer in the form of a common housefly. (It’s on Netflix as Makkhi, and it’s magnificent.)
Like an Indian Lord of the Rings, we only got part of a movie and had to wait a long time, 2 years in fact, for the conclusion to the film. The trailer, as bombastic as one might imagine, has popped up online, and while you may not have heard of it, over 10 Million people have already watched it in less than 24 hours. Baahubali: THe Beginning briefly cracked the top 10 at the box office in a minuscule number of theatres, and this for a movie sporting a near 3 hour runtime, based on an the Indian, Pakistani, Tamil and Sri Lankan’s in the USA and Canada that are hungry for blockbusters that stem from their own colourful culture.
I managed to catch part one in a packed and rowdy cinema on the outskirts of Toronto and it was one of my favourite blockbusters of 2015 for its nutbar gender politics alone.
When Sanga and her husband, part of a tribe living around the province of Mahismathi, save a drowning infant, little do they know the background of the infant or what the future holds for him. The kid grows up to as Shivudu, a free-spirit wanting to explore the mountains and in the process learns of his roots and then realizes the whole purpose of his life and ends up confronting the mighty Bhallala Deva!
When two opposite ends unite the rod breaks in between. When Shiva, the son of Bahubali realizes his past from Kattappa, he seeks to find consensus to his question : Why did Kattapa kill his father? This, Bahubali- the Conclusion showcases the answer and its consequences on the Mahishmati Kingdom when its roots are stirred.