POWER!! Who has it? Who needs it? Who wants it? Who lost it? Team Mamo recaps the year 2016 in movers and shakers as the pop cultural landscape is wracked by celebrity deaths, digital doubles and orange-faced idiots. Hey 2016: don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. And for sure don’t fall down that flight of stairs, accidentally set yourself on fire and throw yourself off a bridge.
Director: Denzel Washington (The Great Debaters, Antwone Fisher)
Writer: August Wilson
Producers: Scott Rudin, Todd Black, Denzel Washington
Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 138 min.
Adapting a stage play for the cinema is always going to come with the difficult task of transitioning the things that work in one medium to another. People may simply think that if something can work on the stage then it’ll work just as well on the screen, but that isn’t the case, and there is a reason why they are two different things. Each has their benefits, but making a successful film based on a play isn’t just an easy matter of bringing the material and doing the exact same thing over again. Yet that’s essentially what Denzel Washington has tried to do with Fences, and inevitably the film buckles under those constraints. Only the third film that the acclaimed actor has made as a director (after 2002’s Antwone Fisher and his last, 2007’s The Great Debaters), Washington certainly had familiarity with August Wilson’s beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning material when he decided to bring it to the big screen; the actor won a Tony Award of his own for starring in the 2010 revival of the production, to go along with the play’s Tony for Best Revival (and the many that it won during its first run on stage in 1987).
Watching Fences, the film, you can unmistakably see how this was made by someone who was an actor first and a director second – like the theater, it prioritizes the actors above all else, and doesn’t really afford much in the way of cinematic virtues. Washington is accompanied on screen by Viola Davis, who also won a Tony for that 2010 revival of the play, and got one of her first major roles in film from her director in Antwone Fisher, years before her cinematic breakout with her Oscar-nominated role in Doubt. The two star as Troy and Rose Maxson, a working class couple in 1950s Pittsburgh who eke out their day to day living while raising their son Cory (Jovan Adepo) and finding happiness in one another, even if they can’t find it in the world around them. Troy is dissatisfied with his work hauling garbage every day, and drowns his sorrows and regrets in the bottle, and Rose stands by him as the picture portrait of a typical American family of the era. Troy loves to wax philosophical to anyone who will listen, namely his friend and co-worker Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson) about all of his many opinions on the world around him. It’s a role full of meaty monologues and aggressive behavior for Washington to sink his teeth into and he does just that, capturing with gusto this domineering, narcissistic father who still has his charms, as he finds sincere moments of levity in the genuine love shared between Troy and Rose.
Nevertheless, watching Fences is like watching a train running toward an inevitable collision. Every moment feels like it’s building towards a major confrontation, with Troy as the ticking time bomb in the middle of it all. With all of the pressure that he’s put on Cory, and how taken for granted Rose is, there’s only one way that this can go, and of course it’s acting fireworks when the big blow-ups begin. Davis is a force to be reckoned with as she exposes this long-suffering woman who has stood by her man for so many years, and isn’t sure what for given the bitter, angry man that he’s turned into. Fences certainly makes itself worth the price of admission based on the backs of these two central performances, but beyond that Washington doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table. As a director, the work is staid and very constricted by its faithfulness to the material, which Wilson had adapted himself before his death in 2005. That material is certainly befitting of the stage, as it is filled with those lengthy diatribes for the actors to really lash into, as well as its subtle as a sledgehammer themes and metaphors. As Troy works on building a fence in his backyard, Bono may as well be winking directly at the audience as he says “Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in.”, just in case you couldn’t pick that up. Simply put, Fences just isn’t as acclimated to the screen as it is the stage, and the fact that Washington doesn’t feel any need to make adjustments for the transition shows a lack of insight into what makes each medium work on their own individual terms.
As many have said: Good riddance 2016!
We end this year with perhaps the most garish, 80s wannabe-ish and booby-ish of posters. I would specifically call foul on the ‘floating eyeball’ cliche used here (twice), if the production company’s name was not, in fact, Floating Eye Films. The trend of resurrecting 1980s horror cliches (both in the film, and the poster design) hopefully it has run its course, and here we have the bottom of the barrel by way of cheap comparisons to bargain basement movies such as Sleepaway Camp, Slumberparty Massacre, and possibly Hot Pursuit, with the visual equivalent to a dog-whistle for fans of Evil Dead II, who, based on this poster design, should be avoiding this at a 3rd rate genre-film festival nowhere near you.
We welcome originality and artfulness in the forthcoming new year.
Silence opens in theatres on January 6, 2017 but we have a chance for you to be among the first in Vancouver to see it at an Advance Screening on January 4, 7:00pm at Scotiabank Theatre.
Silence is one of Martin Scorsese’s passion projects, being twenty-eight years in the making. Scorsese snapped up the film rights to Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel of the same name back in 1989, and the film has been in and out of development since then. With the film now finally complete, SILENCE is perceived as his most personal and deeply felt work to date – a project he was so passionate and “obsessed” with, that it had to be completed.
Mere hours after her own famous daughter’s passing, actress and singing legend Debbie Reynolds has died at 84.
Much like her daughter, Carrie Fisher, Reynolds was discovered and put into a movie classic at a very young age, when she was cast by Louis B. Mayer at age 19 to be one of the leads in the now iconic musical, Singing In The Rain, alongside established greats Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelley.
Reynolds went on to star in films as diverse as Cinerama western How The West Was Won, the bio-pic Molly Brown, the coming out of the closet comedy with Kevin Kline, In & Out in 1997 and starred alongside of Albert Brooks’ in Mother. She released pop albums, had a television show, was president of a Mental Health association and ran a hotel in Las Vegas. While her personal life outside of show-biz was complex and had more downs than ups, she is a testament to industriousness and variety being the spice of life.
The galaxy mourns as it’s beloved princess became one with The Force on Tuesday morning at the age of 60; succumbing to complications following a cardiac arrest suffered last Friday while aboard an airline flight en route to Los Angeles.
Family spokesman read a statement from Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, confirming the sad news. “It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning,” reads the statement. “She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly,” says Lourd, 24. “Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers.”
Fisher was obviously best known for her iconic hair buns and sass-talking to the Evil Galactic Empire as the charismatic, Princess Leia in 1977’s Star Wars. At just 19 years of age it launched her acting career at full throttle and solidified her as a household name. She went on to star in other films such as The Blues Brothers, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Cinecast’s darling The ‘burbs and one of my personal favorites from my youth, Under the Rainbow.
Fisher herself would be the first to admit she had some flaws and weaknesses. Over time, she overcame many of those weaknesses and became a soldier for good as a spokesperson and promoter of mental health awareness and drug rehabilitation. In short, besides her snappy sense of humor, wonderful writing abilities (cleaning up a lot of screenplays in her day) and natural good looks, she was a good and generous person with a purpose that gave a lot to the people on this planet.
Luminous beings are we; not this crude matter.”
Everyone has been bashing 2016 since about mid-August for all of the precious lives departing this Earth this year. But for me, this one stings the most. A lifelong passion, friend and damn near religion, The Star Wars saga has always been for me. And Carrie Fisher is no small part of that kinship. Not too many people sass off and down right defy Vader as her character does and live to talk about it. Fewer still look good doing it. And don’t even get me started on the funny feeling my eight year-old self got on Jabba’s sail barge. I can’t imagine that character being played by anyone else.
In December of 2015 I teared up a little bit at the site of a hunk of metal zooming over a desert surface. In 2017, with Episode VIII in the Star Wars Saga releasing close to Christmas, the tears will be a bit more Organa-ic and unfortunately not out of joy, but out of sadness and loss. Fair warning to whoever sits next to me; it’ll happen.
We’ll miss you Carrie. May the force be with you.
We’ll be doing our most anticipated films of the coming year in an upcoming post/Cinecast. But I was doing a cursory look through and noticed quite the trend: sequels (or off-shoots from something else). Not that this is anything new, people have been complaining about this for years. But it looks to me like 2017 takes the proverbial cake; likely crushing the 2011 record for sequels being released in a year. Have a look at what I’ve got so far; what am I missing?
• Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales
• Guardians of the Galaxy Volume II
• Wonder Woman (a sort-of sequel to BvS and certainly not an original property)
• Fate of the Furious
• Beauty and the Beast
• Underworld: Blood Wars
• Fifty Shades Darker
• Star Wars: Episode VIII
• Justice League
• Despicable Me 3
• World War Z 2
• Lego Batman
• War for the Planet of the Apes
• Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (yeah right, final my ass)
• Cars 3
• Pacific Rim 2
• Alien: Covenant
• John Wick 2
• Blade Runner 2
• Kong: Skull Island
• Amityville: The Awakening
• XXX: The Return of Xander Cage
• The Equalizer 2
• Transformers: The Last Knight
• Ghost in the Shell
• The Mummy
• Spider-Man: Homecoming
• Trainspotting 2
I think we can all agree that the close of 2016 can’t come fast enough. We’re hopeful that 2017 will start to turn things around. But for those that make their career extra terrestrially, Ridley Scott would like to remind you: in space, no one can hear you scream. Happy Holidays!
It is profoundly difficult to find one well designed poster for a Christmas movie, that factors in the holiday itself. I challenge you this. So for the penultimate poster column this year, I leave you with this set of minimalist posters that highlight the yule in movies about or set in and around, Christmas. It is done in a delightfully simple and succinct fashion: with simple colour palettes.
Check out more of them at designer (and Christmas enthusiast) Vicky Taylor’s site.
Writer: Allan Loeb (Wall Street 2, Rock of Ages, Here Comes the Boom)
Producers: Michael Sugar, Allan Loeb, Bard Dorros, Anthony Bregman
Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslow, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 97 min.
Love, Time, Death. The new instant hate watch holiday classic Collateral Beauty begins by telling us that these three things connect every single human being on earth. We long for Love. We wish we had more Time. We fear Death. In a way, you can apply the same principle to the experience of watching Collateral Beauty. In watching it, you waste your Time (97 minutes to be exact, if you stay for the whole credits trying to decompress what you just witnessed and contemplate your own existence), you pray for Death to offer you a sweet release from this monstrosity, and yet you Love every second of it because for all of its deformed themes, insane plot developments and bizarre decisions from top-notch actors to get involved with such a project (Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, and even more are somehow all present and actually delivering these lines with a straight face), Collateral Beauty is one of the most deliriously entertaining movies of 2016. It’s only fitting that it comes at the tail end of a year that would have been absolutely hysterical to witness from a distance, but instead was a genuine nightmare come to life to experience up close and personal.
To call a movie “stupid” feels like a childish way to criticize something, but I suppose that fits a movie as insulting to the viewer’s intelligence as this. It’s truly something that needs to be seen to be believed. I thought about simply explaining what happens in this film to allow people to understand how overwhelmingly ridiculous it all is, but the truth is that if I wrote down everything that happens in this movie scene for scene, you genuinely would not believe me. It goes beyond the fact that the trailers and logline for the film that we were all sold on totally misrepresent how the film actually plays out, essentially spoiling the movie in a bizarrely indirect way that almost feels like the studio hated it and was passive aggressively sabotaging it. It goes beyond the fact that the whole plot of the movie centers around an idea that makes the people we’re supposed to care and root for horrible human beings who have no concept of how to help a “friend” whose young child tragically died. It goes beyond the fact that the movie ends with not one, but two of the most INSANE twists I’ve ever seen in a movie, which on top of being wildly outrageous in their own right are made even more extreme by how wildly incompetent the handling of their big reveals are. Ultimately, every scene in Collateral Beauty is some kind of wonder to behold – just not in the sense of wonder that they wanted it to be.
It’s easy to see what the people responsible for Collateral Beauty (namely director David Frankel and writer Allan Loeb) were going for – if you couldn’t then just watch a single interview with any member of the cast currently on the talk show circuit and wait five seconds before they bring up It’s A Wonderful Life and Frank Capra. This was intended to be a throwback to those wholesome holiday films of old that made you smile and feel loved and warm inside. There’s a place for that kind of gooey confection, but the thing is that there’s a way to play that spirit in earnest to make it go down smooth and cheerful. On the other end there’s Collateral Beauty, which is so over the top in its corny tone and its bizarrely arrogant writing, so satisfied with what Loeb clearly seems to think are some revolutionary twists despite the fact that you can see one of them coming the entire film and the other is so ridiculous that no one would be insane enough to even consider it, that you practically feel insulted the entire time you’re watching it. Part of me wants to do whatever I can to make sure that no one in the world sees Collateral Beauty because I wouldn’t want to inflict this kind of debacle on anyone, even my worst enemy. The other part of me wants everyone possible to see it, as I don’t think I had a more enjoyable experience this year than absolutely tearing this movie to shreds in my head while watching it. No matter what, one thing is for certain: Collateral Beauty is exactly the movie that best represents what a truly insane mess the year 2016 was.
Get Your Cast To Mars was originally a three part (+ bonus episode) micro-podcast focusing on the planet Mars in the movies. Matthew Brown and Kurt Halfyard considered the red planet as an image, an idea, and a somewhat rare place visited in the cinema of the past 100 years.
We are back for a second season focusing on Mars on Television – specifically, the Ron Howard/Brian Grazer produced six part mini-series that began airing on National Geographic and FX in November 2016. We are sticking with the three part format again for the purposes of this podcast, looking at the series in pairs. Here we look at the human factor, and the political and social will to get humanity to being a multi-planetary species.
As always, please join in the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section and again, thanks for listening!
The Complete First Season of Matt and Kurt getting their Cast To Mars:
Episode 2 – The NASA Years
Episode 3 – Mars Before NASA
Bonus Episode – Ridley Scott’s The Martian & Prometheus
The Second Season: