America is dying a very specific “Germany in the mid-1930s” sort of death, and even if we don’t know the outcome, we’re beginning to identify the collaborators. Not so Mamo-related when it’s a taxi company, but what about when it’s the chairman of Disney? What are our responsibilities to this “popular culture” we’ve been gabbing about for 12 years? Before you say “stay in your lane,” sorry friends, this shit is our lane.
As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!
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Andrew had the pleasure of guest hosting on the all new, inaugural edition of The Director’s Club Podcast this week! Jim and Patrick have retired from this particular game and Brad and Al have filled the shoes; and filled them wonderfully. And there are not many better ways to kick off the next generation of the podcast than with Mr. Danny Boyle.
Danny Boyle is my go-to name when someone asks me who my favorite director is. I always say, “well, besides the obvious: Coens, Tartantino, Kubrick, et. al., Danny Boyle is near the top of that list.” And the great thing about Boyle is, he started strong and aside from slight missteps here and there, only gets better as his filmography goes along.
Andrew, Brad and Al debate some merits and demerits of the dreaded Boyle Third-act syndrome, dig into why Ewan McGregor is better than Leonardo DiCaprio, have a love-in with the genre-hopping, look at some of the many infuences clearly indicated in Boyle’s work and discuss many of the recurring themes that blanket most of his films.
And we don’t stop at movies either. Boyle directed a sensational Olympic Opening Ceremony as well as some stage work with Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller. Yes, there’s a lot to get into here, my little droogies, and this episode will take nearly four hours to cover it all. So strap on the ear-goggles and get ready to go – – we’ll find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place, visit the dregs of Scotland, defeat a worldwide(?) infection of rage, visit a secret marijuana island, a contestant on a game show, travel to the heart of our solar system and even get a behind the scenes look at the inner workings of heaven – and Dan Hedaya is there!
January came and went in the blink of an eye bringing with it a solid assortment of early-year winners as well as a couple of major stinkers. Now February looks to topple the balance of good entertainment. Will it succeed? It’s certainly looking optimistic.
Join us this week as Colleen and I (Letterboxd) mourn Dale’s (Letterboxd) absence before jumping head first into February’s movie offerings which bring everything from cheesy romances to kick-ass action.
Legendary actor John Hurt as passed on just less than a week after his 77th birthday. How does one even begin to sum up his career? From British Television in the 1960s to a small role in the multi-Oscar feted, A Man For All Seasons, to drunken patsy and terrible spouse, in 10 Rillington Place, to the shockingly gaunt Emperor Caligula in the greatest BBC miniseries of all time, “I, Claudius.” Even though the actor always looked older than his actual age, he was just getting started.
All of this was before that iconic scene in Ridley Scott’s Alien (and Hurt was deprecating enough to re-enact it as a comedy bit in Mel Brooks Spaceballs, nearly a decade later). Later came memorable roles David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, Stephen Frears (deeply underrated) The Hit, and his iconic Winston Smith in the 1984 adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Hellboy, Harry Potter, “Dr. Who”, Snow Piercer, The Proposition and several collaborations with Jim Jarmusch and Lars Von Trier demonstrate that the man had one hell of a career in front of the camera; on screens in the arthouse and the multiplex.
The man was outspoken and forthright in his own public life, by all accounts. In short, he is one of those prolific, truly great actors.
You can still see him in the cinema, right now he as a significant supporting role in Pablo Larraín’s Jackie. And has several pictures in post production, including Joe Wright’s Winston Churchill biopic, Darkest Hour, where he plays infamous British PM Neville Chamberlain.
I have not been keeping a close eye on Sundance this year, but Tim Sutton’s documentary on the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting that took place in a movie theater showing The Dark Knight, played Sundance last year. Dark Night is getting a commercial release shortly (February 3 in NY, February 9th in LA.)
The poster has a lovely use of negative space, and grain. I like the red emphasis on the exit light of the cinema which matches the title and unconventional location of the credit block. The three street lights echo the ‘shine a light’ on the subject which is obviously the intent of the docudrama.
I love John Carpenter. He makes the sort of quality genre movies I adore and is responsible for a number of my all time favourite films. However, even a fan like me can’t deny his career went off the rails further down the line. The 80’s were a little wobbly with cast-iron classics like The Thing rubbing shoulders with enjoyable but flawed films like Prince of Darkness and Christine. Then in the 90’s things really started to go wrong. In the Mouth of Madness aside, which is very good, his output in the decade was not great and his output slowed down after that. Since the turn of the millennium he’s only directed two features and a couple of episodes of Masters of Horror. He is advancing in years so maybe he’s just too old to put the legwork in to making movies anymore, but you get the feeling he maybe just ran out of creative steam after a while or couldn’t get to make what he wanted anymore.
So, it’s interesting (and brave) that the cool new kids on the UK physical media block, Indicator/Powerhouse Films, have decided to add two late-period Carpenter films to their early slate, Vampires and Ghosts of Mars. Neither film has a great reputation, but, being a fan of the director, I was willing to give them a chance and took the plunge. The films are being released separately, but I figured I’d review them together for obvious reasons. My thoughts are below.
Director: John Carpenter
Screenplay: Don Jakoby
Based on a Novel by: John Steakley
Starring: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Maximilian Schell, Tim Guinee
Country: USA, Japan
Running Time: 108 min
BBFC Certificate: 18
What both of these films have in common is that they seemed to be jumping on a bandwagon when they were released. The film Vampires looks to be cashing in on is From Dusk Till Dawn. Like Robert Rodriguez’ film, it roughs up the vampire myth and sets it in the American desert (New Mexico here instead of Texas and Mexico in the earlier film). Jack Crow (James Woods) heads a team of hard-drinking tough guys, commissioned by the Catholic church to kill vampires who are quietly terrorising the world, little known to the general public. When all but one (Anthony Montoya – played by Daniel Baldwin) of Crow’s crew are massacred by the super-powerful master vampire Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), he sets out to get revenge, as well as to stop Valek retrieving an ancient Catholic relic that’s set to give him the power to be immune to sunlight.
Are you old enough to recall Bre-X? If not, Stephen Gaghan’s Gold is a fanciful, fictional retelling of a story about Wall Street greed and hubris that is happy to take the cautionary tale and gild it with Hollywood glitz. Investment bankers taking wild speculative gambles, the roller coaster of unsupervised capitalism; one might ask incredulously, what could possibly go wrong?
In the vein of The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short, Gold charts the progress of a mining company that hits the largest gold strike in the 20th century, deep in the jungles of Indonesia. More so, it is an opportunity for Matthew McConaughey to play an oily and charismatic slob, Kenny Wells, complete with snaggle-tooth, bald pate and pot belly.
We see Wells, early on in the picture, crudely romancing his girlfriend Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard), unrecognizable with a late 1980s perm and a push-up bra, a la Erin Brockovich, presenting her with expensive baubles and cheap (but earnest) philosophy in his father’s office. He takes the meeting with his dad (Craig T. Nelson) who offers the moral of the film and the modern prospecting business: “I don’t have to do this, I get to do this.”
Some years later, the younger American prospector-dreamer has brought his father’s company to a pretty low point. In a Hail Mary pass, he liquidates his meager assets to team up with sexy geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramírez) on a jungle prospecting adventure.
Watching Ramírez unconsciously (effortlessly) channel Oliver Reed up against the backdrop of Robert Elswit’s superb 35mm cinematography — albeit, Thailand dubiously subbing in for Indonesia — trumps the Wall Street shenanigans of the film. The bromance is more compelling than the business at hand, but the film doubles down on the conference rooms and Waldorf ballrooms that occupy vast swathes of its two-hour running time.
The local peasantry have been panning the Busang River in Borneo for thousands of years, but it is Wells and Acosta that come in with a modern engineering approach and take a plethora of core-samples in the nearby mountains. When the results indicate that the region contains rich deposits of gold, the madness truly begins. Word in the financial district that the Wells’ company is, quite literally, sitting on a gold mine, prompts everyone from billionaire bankers (such as Bruce Greenwood, stealing his all-too-brief scenes) to Indonesian dictators to the mainstream media to want a piece of the action.
Wells lets his ego and his natural showmanship fan the flames before, well, you might expect that things go a bit off the rails. Wells’ mantra vacillates between the whimsical, ‘a bird without feet sleeps on the wind’ and the far more pragmatic, ‘you land where you are stuck.’
He fights with on-again, off-again Kay, who is fine with being assistant manager at a furniture store, while Kenny rides the rollercoaster. The mythology of the ‘big American vision’ takes a pounding, but we all learn something, a canard favoured by M. Night, Mamet, and of gamblers everywhere: ‘The last card you turn over is the only one that matters.’
If that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Team ‘Mo gathers once again to discuss the 2017 Oscar nominations, which are fairly boring, but as ever, we are not.