Cinecast Episode 478 – Life Happens

Back into blockbuster mode this week with the somewhat controversial live action remake of Ghost in the Shell. While Andrew and Kurt don’t find it particularly controversial, we do have differing ideas of what makes it good (or not so good). Andrew caught up with some indie, found-footage horror in The Dark Tapes; coming soon to tons of VOD near you! Kurt went back to the space-thriller well, putting his trust in Jake Gyllenhaal for Daniel Espinosa’s Life. In The Watch List, we’ve got 80s nuclear holocaust (beware of the anal bleeding), 40s Jewish holocaust and a celebrity “disappearance.” Check in and strap on the ear-goggles. It’s last week this morning with Kurt and Andrew. Enjoy!

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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Blu-Ray Review: The Big Heat

Director: Fritz Lang
Screenplay: Sydney Boehm
Based on a Newspaper Serial by: William P. McGivern
Starring: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Jocelyn Brando, Lee Marvin, Alexander Scourby, Jeanette Nolan
Country: USA
Running Time: 90 min
Year: 1953
BBFC Certificate: 15


I almost didn’t take up the offer from Powerhouse to review The Big Heat as I figured I already had the film on DVD, so could watch it in my own time. However, being a fan of film noir and director Fritz Lang, it’s a film I’ve been keen to see for a while, so I figured this would force me to finally get it watched. And thank God I did, because The Big Heat is even better than I had hoped.

Based on a Saturday Evening Post serial (very closely according to the commentary included here), The Big Heat opens with the suicide of Tom Duncan, a man we soon learn is a police officer. His wife Bertha (Jeanette Nolan) comes down the stairs after hearing the fatal gunshot, but rather than collapse in shock or distress, she takes a look at his suicide note and heads to the telephone. She doesn’t ring the police or hospital though, she rings crime lord Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby) to tell him what happened.

Det. Sgt. Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) is given the case and is all set to sign it off as a straightforward suicide, before he is told by Duncan’s mistress Lucy Chapman (Dorothy Green) that it certainly wasn’t. This piques Bannion’s interest, but he isn’t fully sold on Chapman’s theory until she ends up dead. When he digs deeper, his cosy family life is attacked and the case becomes a mission for revenge more than a need to solve the mystery.

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Review: Ghost In The Shell

Ghostintheshell

The most telling line in this version of Ghost in The Shell is: “Your uniqueness is a virtue. Embrace it, and you will be at peace.” Delivered here by iconic Japanese comedian, TV show host, actor, and arthouse director ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano, it is a bold statement coming from a live-action Hollywood remake of a Japanese animated film. The source material for the mid-nineties animated classic, directed by Mamoru Oshii, has spawned many direct sequels and spin-offs, and heavily influenced the 1999 mega-hit Hollywood blockbuster, The Matrix, is in fact a 1989 Manga (loosely translated, “Mobile Armoured Riot Police: The Ghost In The Shell”) which I am guessing was liberally influenced by William Gibson’s cyberpunk novel, “Neuromancer” (long has this been trying to find its way to the big screen), and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (the latter weirdly -barely- adapted from Philip K. Dick’s novella “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”)

Still with me?

The Japanese port city in Ghost in the Shell visually resembles the future Los Angeles of Blade Runner (which, again I am guessing, was inspired by Tokyo’s visually dense Shibuya’s district and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira) commensurate with what can be realized on screen at the present moment with $100M. Even the cyber-surgery sequences seem lifted somewhat from HBO’s Westworld, itself a re-envisioning (inverting?) of the 1973 Michael Crichton movie.

(Whew.)

What can we read from this line about ‘uniqueness’ in a property that is so very much a copy of a copy of a copy? To that, I quote another line in Ghost In The Shell, “We cling to memories as if they define us, but they don’t. What we do is what defines us.”

This begs the question: What does this version do to define itself?

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DC’s Films Aren’t Slowing Down

By now you’ve probably noticed that one comic book behemoth is soundly beating the other at the box office. DC is running well behind Marvel by most any metric or interpretation, to the point that many are discounting the DC Universe as a failed imitation. Others are spending time thinking of changes DC could make to attempt to compete with Marvel. The company that brought us arguably the world’s two most famous superheroes—Batman and Superman—has put out movies that earned poor reviews, and in some cases even mockery.

But if you think DC is going to slow down as a result of its questionable performance so far, you’ve got another thing coming. In the early months of 2017, one thing has become abundantly clear. DC isn’t just pushing forward with its film franchises, it’s going all-in.

If you’ve watched much television lately, you may have begun to see some teaser trailers for upcoming projects by DC and Warner Bros. While Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice hinted at the introduction of the Justice League, we’re about to start seeing standalone films for the heroes that have yet to really be introduced. Movies set for the near future include Wonder Woman (2017), Justice League (2017), The Flash (2018), and Aquaman. We know that Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, and Jason Momoa will be playing Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Aquaman respectively, and these are the figures that have been popping up in the teasers so far.

These pictures have been in the works for a while, and there was never any doubt that they’d be made, regardless of Dawn Of Justice and Suicide Squad falling short of expectations. We’re also starting to hear some rumblings about additional projects that may be slated for future dates. Recently, rumors have been circulating that Joss Whedon—the man responsible for a large portion of Marvel’s success—is in talks to write and direct a Batgirl film for Warner Bros. That, if only because of Whedon’s name, would certainly inject some new enthusiasm into the DC Universe.

Beyond future movies, DC is also expanding the reach of its titles and characters through the gaming market, where it has actually enjoyed more success. Fans are already excited about the release of Injustice 2 this May, and word is that DC and Playtech will also be partnering to release more online games based on the comic universe. This is a common practice for superhero properties, with licensed character content frequently being used to liven up casino site slots and other games. But even here DC is still playing catch-up with Marvel, and it looks like they’re going to be aggressive about it.

It’s not as if the movies DC has already released are done just yet! In the age of streaming, movies can gain a second life long after they’ve left the theaters. Sometimes, free of box office pressure and critical analysis, a superhero film can gain a sort of cult following just for being pure fun. Suicide Squad is on its way to HBO this April, with DC undoubtedly hoping that a result like this is in the cards.

Taken individually these plans aren’t particularly surprising It’s not as if DC was ever really going to surrender to Marvel. But the scope of the company’s plans for the years ahead is a bit larger than one might expect given the sputtering start to the DC Universe.

Friday One Sheet: Cannes 2017

The Cannes film festival has been on this particular design the 2006 poster of Maggie Cheung re-purposed from In The Mood For Love. That is to say, highlight the star, make it look glamorous and warm. Since about 10 years ago, things have been getting ever more minimalist, and, simply, it just works.

Despite a small imbroglio regarding the thinning of Ms. Cardinale’s figure (in reality, it is the entire source photo pinched/width adjusted, not just the actresses slightly thigh), the photo indeed captures the joy that a certain kind of cinema, The Cannes kind, is meant to project out to the world. It’s a lovely poster of an iconic actress is a warm expression. I get the concern about idealized body image, but in this case, idealizing a movie star (at the peak of her youth) for the purposes of reinforcing the notion of the most glamorous festival in the world, it is kind of the point to have the photos lie a little bit, c’est non? It’s a sticky subject, as will it ever be…photos are art, and art is lies that tell the truth, and possibly vice versa.

If you are curious, here are the Cannes posters for the past 70 or so years.

Trailer: A Ghost Story

Despite the title, this is no ghost story, but rather a Malick-ian meditation on time, place, legacy, the stories we make and the stories we tell. Either this kind of thing is your cup of tea, or it isn’t. But Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara look like they are doing their damn best to equal out the didactic aspects the dialogue and leaven the Sundance-earnestness of the films concept.

Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife, only to find that in his spectral state he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life’s ineffable questions and the enormity of existence.

A24 is releasing A Ghost Story, so you know it will be worth a look. David Lowrey (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) directs, and if you are a fan of Kelly Reichardt’s films, you will have noticed that Will Oldham (Old Joy) makes an appearance here.

Stephen King’s “IT” Teaser Trailer

So I’m a little torn here. The 197-minute mini-series from the early 90s scared the bejeesus out of all us kids back in the day (and some adults too I’m sure). The cast wasn’t all that special except for one. Tim Curry. Curry pulled off the role of Pennywise the clown magnificently and hell, you can watch the original for just three bucks right now. Stephen King adaptations are very hit or miss. “IT”, that stretched two cold, November nights on ABC back in 1990, seemed like the perfect length for a fairly thick novel and is definitely considered a hit. So my initial instinct is to wonder why this big screen adaptation is even necessary.

Still, I’m curious what a more succinct version of the story will be like on the big screen. And I’m always looking for something that will genuinely scare me, not just startle me – and those movies are very few and far between. I want those little hairs on my arm and neck to reach for the stars. Alas, it almost never happens. And while there is something in me saying that this looks a little too polished and CGI (read as, generic and uninspired) for it to work, I do hope for the best.

IT is directed by Andrés Muschietti (Mama) and stars Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise and whole list of other names I don’t recognize. Check out the trailer below and see what you think. They all float down here…

“Fargo.” Season 3. Trailer. Behold the Frosty Landscape of Awesome

2015 had a lot of great content for all of us to consume. And normally, I’m a movie guy. But 2015 was the year I branched out a bit more from the usual HBO fare. And hands down, the best thing I watched (or read or listened to) was Fargo. I had some catch-up to do and watched season one and two that year. After season one, I thought, “that is just about the best TV show I’ve ever watched. There is no way in hell that season 2 will be as good as that was!” And then lo and behold they took season two and flipped backwards twenty years, added an equally awesome cast and blew our mind in that first episode; if you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. Where all households tuned to F/X channel simultaneously exclaimed, “What the fuck!?”. And it only got better.

Now, what I kind of liked about season 2, was it’s use of all B-list actors. Seriously; who knew Jean Smart could be that badass. Or that Bokeem Woodbine is so cool. Or Jesse Plemons would light it up like that? You might not know the names, but you’d know the faces if you looked them up somewhere. And the list really does go on and on. If nothing else, the show knows how to cast. Which leads us to season 3:

Ewan McGregor
David Thewlis
Carrie Coon
Michael Stuhlbarg
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Jim Gaffigan
Ewan McGregor
Scoot McNairy
Shea Whigham
Karan Soni
Fred Melamed
Thomas Mann
Hamish Linklater

I mean Holy Bezeesus-Smith right? I still can’t imagine it possibly getting any better than season 2, but if it’s even half as good, I’ll be a darned happy camper. Check. It. Out.