Industry News: Fall Movie Preview 2018

From prestigious black and white arthouse movies generating awards talk to bubblegum hued adventures with personality bouncing off multiplex walls, the movies of autumn seek to capture your imagination. We’ve rounded up the most buzzworthy flicks to add to your binge list.

Costume dramas are all the rage as the weather gets cold, so expect Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz to duke it out as couture-clad cousins battling for attention during the 18th century reign of Queen Anne in The Favourite (Nov. 23) and Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie to rule the runway in the drama Mary, Queen of Scots (Dec. 7). Royalty comes in the form of glam rock with Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (Nov. 2), the story of another Queen, the band.

Music takes center stage as a grungy Bradley Cooper mentors (and also directs) a plain-faced Lady Gaga in A Star is Born (Oct. 5), the latest remake in a catalogue that has starred some women you may have heard of named Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand. “Little Monsters” as well as those who couldn’t give a good Gaga about Gaga will likely equally gravitate to this hard-scrabble redemption story, filmed in and around Coachella music festival.  Others who like a spoonful of music with their story will want to fly away with Emily Blunt in the title role of Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns (Dec. 19), bringing whimsy, mischief and Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda in tow and picking up where Julie Andrews left her umbrella in 1964.

Fast forward to the ‘70s for horror movie inspiration. Those who like their flicks frightful can enjoy original scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis versus her nemesis Michael Myers in a direct sequel to 1978’s Halloween simply titled Halloween (Oct. 9). Suspiria (Nov. 2) is Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s1977 Italian horror film set at a European ballet school, and it’s one grand jeté of grisly death sequences to the next.

Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (Dec. 14) is also set in the ‘70s and is a semi-biographical take on a middle class family’s life in Mexico City. It’s black and white and the Gravity director’s next bid for Oscar glory. And talk about throwbacks! Michael B. Jordan, fresh off his villainous turn in Black Panther, puts on his boxing gloves and knockout emoting for Creed II (Nov. 21). This time he confronts the son of Ivan Drago, the notorious Russian fighter who gave Rocky a run for his ruble.

Those longing for times of less polarizing politics can enjoy Christian Bale as former Vice President Dick Cheney opposite Tyler Perry as Colin Powell in Adam McKay’s biopic Backseat (Dec. 14), or you can simply swoon to the moon with Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong in the historical drama First Man (Oct. 12). This film reuniting the star with his La La Land director who filmed much of the movie in Georgia.

It’s also a season of strong women taking action as Viola Davis leads an ensemble in Steve McQueen’s Widows (Nov. 2) featuring women attempting a heist after their criminal husbands are killed on a botched job. And Regina King desperately scrambles to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime while carrying their first child in Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk (Nov. 23).

Anguished teens are front and center as Steve Carrell nurtures Timothée Chalamet through opioid addiction recovery in Beautiful Boy (Oct. 12), and Nicole Kidman and Lucas Hedges confront homophobia in religious institutions in Boy Erased (Nov. 2).

Of course, some movies will simply be guilty pleasures, like A Simple Favor (Sept. 19) following a small-town blogger (Anna Kendrick) solving the disappearance of her mysterious and rich best friend (Blake Lively).  Ralph Breaks the Internet (Nov. 21) continues Wreck-It Ralph’s pixelated misadventures including encounters with Disney princesses whose frozen fractals add sass to the in-joke filled sequel. And no, it’s not an Entourage subplot, Aquaman (Dec. 21) is a real movie, with hunky Jason Momoa’s salty superhero teaming up with Fast & the Furious filmmakers to part the living seas out of your DC universe. To add some artiness, the ubiquitous Kidman plays his maritime mum. Let the floodgates and movie theatres hasten your arrival.

Posted in Industry News

Movie Review: First Reformed

Both writer/director Paul Schrader and his protagonist protestant minister played by Ethan Hawke are revelations in First Reformed (B+), an engrossing drama about a man marked by a mannered and modulated exterior fighting demons right under the surface. Hawke’s performance as a tormented military chaplain turned reverend of an isolated historic church is some of the best work he has ever done, a slow burn of turmoil not unlike the writer’s subject of Taxi Driver. Schrader subverts expectations with subplots about members of the community who become embroiled in end of days level stakes, and the film will be remembered as iconic in his canon, with spare cinematography and rich subtext. Amanda Seyfried as a faithful congregant and Cedric the Entertainer as a megachurch leader devoted to the success of the affiliated country church are both highly effective in supporting roles. It’s a film of quiet rage and intrigue, a true conversation starter about faith and salvation. The movie’s minor frustrations pale in comparison to its overall thoughtful characterizations, unexpected soul and undercurrent of suspense.

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Posted in 2018, Rent It Tonight

Photo Gallery: Ryan Gosling and Cast of First Man at TIFF

Photo: Charley Galley of Getty Images.

Everyone was swooning over actor Ryan Gosling at DIRECTV House presented by AT&T Monday afternoon at the Toronto International Film Festival. Gosling was rocking a NASA denim jacket to promote his leading role in Damien Chazelle‘s Neil Armstrong biopic film First Man, a major contender in awards season.

Here’s a gallery of pictures from inside the Variety Studio presented by AT&T with Damien Chazelle, Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Kyle Chandler and Josh Singe.

Chazelle and Gosling previously collaborated on what could best be described as “Best Picture runner-up” La La Land, for which Chazelle won Best Director. First Man was filmed in part in Georgia.

Photos for Silver Screen Capture used with permission and credited to Charley Galley of Getty Images.

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Posted in Industry News

Movie Review: The Last Movie Star (2018)

Tinseltown’s swaggering hero Burt Reynolds passed away today, and one of this famously mustached actor’s final movies is Adam Rifkin’s The Last Movie Star (C-), now available on demand after a spring premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. This autumnal Tennessee-set tribute to a faded star – the ornery type who routinely uses words such as schmuck, putz and tuchas – co-opts some of the screen legend’s real-life highs and lows as he commences a requiem for his glory days. Lured to a small-time movie retrospective where organizers plan to fete him with lifetime achievement status, Reynolds’ aging protagonist ends up by happenchance accompanying a miscreant ingenue (Ariel Winter) on an uneven misadventure down memory lane. Reynolds is by far the film’s main attraction, channeling an effectively wry melancholy in increasingly emotive sequences, plus he also gets to confront his younger selves through wizardry of digital insertion into archival footage aboard a boat in Deliverance and passenger-side with “The Bandit.” Winter’s off-kilter acting improves as the film progresses; the same cannot be said about other supporting cast members Clark Duke, Ellar Coltrane or Chevy Chase. Any movie with a Cheerwine bottle as a plot device can’t be all bad, and it’s Reynolds himself who’s bringing forth the fizzy vintage. Rifkin is clearly out of his depth and stumbles intermittently with attempts at broad humor and overreaching melodrama, but his leading man delivers a third act rally. The stuntman turned journeyman actor earns additional credibility and respect in a “life mirrors art” Hollywood ending.

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Posted in 2018

Movie Review: Searching (2018)

This is the gripping “found movie” for a perpetually plugged-in world. In Aneesh Chaganty’s Searching (B+), the protagonist father portrayed wonderfully by John Cho often contemplates sessions further down the web’s wormhole while resisting the notion to simply shut down. Grounding this mystery thriller, Cho’s desktop pop ups the ante – online, engaged and amplified – and embarks on an emotional arch of triumphant connection over isolation. The propulsive plot about the disappearance of his daughter grants viewers a tense window into his soul and mindset, while the film’s action takes place largely in the virtual environment of computer and surveillance screens. It’s the Who Framed Roger Rabbit of social media tropes: humans mixing with fetching FaceTimes, charming chatbots, brilliant browsers and suspenseful streams. Among the emojified denizens and avatars, you almost suspect a cameo from an animated paperclip! Chaganty’s inventive high-tech hub is ideal for clue reveals stashed in the cache: flashbacks by archived selfie confessionals, public actions by viral video and forensic breadcrumbs dotting the underbelly of the social graph. The realistic interfaces are sturdy supporting performers, as is Debra Messing playing nicely against type as a hard-driving detective. While the film’s procedural formula doesn’t always measure up to its creative format, the #SearchingMovie is well worth discovery.

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Posted in 2018

Movie Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Best known until now as a director of Step Up sequels, a Justin Bieber concert movie and flop flicks about G.I. Joe and Jem and the Holograms, Jon M. Chu seems an unlikely helmer of one of the first nearly all Asian American ensembles since 1993’s Joy Luck Club and one of the most satisfying romantic comedies since 1990’s Pretty Woman or 1992’s Strictly Ballroom, but here’s his film adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians (A-), and it’s bliss. Although not a musical, the film simply sings. Although not entirely a fairy tale, it’s enchanting. Chu’s star is born, a crouching tiger ready to unabashedly entertain, and he draws spectacular chemistry from the luminous Constance Wu and the dashing Henry Golding. She’s a Chinese American professor invited to accompany her humble boyfriend to a wedding in his Singapore homeland where she quickly discovers he’s part of one of the country’s most wealthy families and heir to a fortune. Hilarity and heartbreak are in store abroad. Michelle Yeoh is incredibly fierce portraying the perfectionist matriarch-antagonist as a battle royale unfolds between family duty and the messiness of love. The film is splashy, soapy and sensational; you’ll want to book a trip to the opulent, exotic city it depicts: a place of glistening razzle dazzle dancing and locales, of kaleidoscopic fashion and costumes. The film veers into a few arch moments threatening to tonally derail it, but the committed cast members remain jubilant journeymen. American rapper Awkafina is a hoot as Wu’s sassy sidekick. There are also two popular American songs sung in the film’s native tongue, adding extra glitter and throwback to Chu’s fanciful fantasia. In a year when racial representation on screen has already delivered a stellar superhero film, it’s lovely to have such an enjoyable escapist romcom from the Asian perspective. This is one of the best times I’ve had at the movies this year.

Note: The film opens wide August 15, 2018 after buzz building sneak previews. #CrazyRichAsians #GoldOpen

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Posted in 2018

Movie Review: BlacKkKlansman

Pop cultural and historical provocateur Spike Lee’s brilliant 1970’s-set biopic BlacKkKlansman (A-) is an absorbing and gripping instant classic, the best non-documentary “joint” the filmmaker has made in nearly two decades. The film’s success rides largely on John David Washington and Adam Driver, who play real-life undercover cops who mastermind and manifest a fascinating infiltration of white supremacists. It’s one of those declassified untold stories like Argo that’s stranger than fiction and prescient in historical parallels to events of today. Washington is charismatic and determined in his performance as Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department, determined to make a name for himself. Laura Harrier is sensational as a civil rights activist, and Topher Grace is amazing in a career trajectory redefining role as David Duke. The filmmaker is acutely aware of the power of cinema to change perceptions and dots the movie with bygone celluloid images and contemporary references that put his work in a march toward progress in representation. Aside from lensing a few moments that seem superfluous to the central themes, Lee has crafted a tight and taut thriller. He provides powerful point/counterpoint sequences weaving subversive themes and an unexpected premise into great storytelling.

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Posted in 2018

Movie Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Alas sometimes these super sequel troopers leave you feeling like a number two. Ol Parker’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (C+) has a lot working against it: soundtrack of ABBA B-sides as opposed to the first film’s greatest hits, a largely missing Meryl Streep (whose credibility helped elevate the preceding film to its guilty pleasure status) and the lack of the musical whodunit propelling the original’s narrative. Still, many of the songs soar with giddy delight (“Waterloo,” “Angel Eyes and “I’ve Been Waiting for You” are favorites), and it’s fun to see the assorted cast of characters cavorting on a lovely Greek Island once more. Lacking a consistent or cogent new plot, Parker goes full Godfather II with flashbacks to Streep’s younger self lovingly played by Lily James. She’s good, but neither she nor present-day Amanda Seyfried can quite heed the script’s S.O.S. It’s all rather obligatory but watchable, and both a spry director and a game ensemble give their all with the paltry lot they’ve got. Thank you for the music; no thank you for the cash grab.

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Posted in 2018

Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

I suppose you can’t make too much of a Marvel-ous mountain out of an ant hill. Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and the Wasp (C) is an exercise in low-stakes water treading, with a few clever miniaturization sight gags and funny throwaway jokes from Paul Rudd and Michael Peña to punctuate the perfunctory proceedings. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly are a bore as the father-daughter scientist team in what becomes a primary subplot. Reed aims for casual cool with a protagonist who’s not particularly smart or engaged, and the director’s resultant product is a pretty disposable entry into this universe of superheroes. Average effects, villains and action sequences seal the fate of a film that peaks after the fanfare opening with some nifty ways the hero is filling time during house arrest. Any of them would have made more interesting activities than sitting through this ho-hum film.

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Posted in 2018

Movie Review: Blindspotting

Oakland is woke-land for a duo of friends looking to flip the script on clean living and justice in Carlos López Estrada’s Blindspotting (A-). Daveed Diggs of Hamilton and Rafael Casal parlay rap, poetry and spoken word into a creative indie about two blue collar bros trapped in conflicting narratives after a late-night shooting. The humor is sweet and the drama sobering as the co-stars (also co-writers) address race, identity and gentrification in a brisk and frisky production. The film’s frantic pace, bubblegum colors and lyrical landscapes lure viewers into an eccentric and exquisite singular urban atmosphere. Diggs is superb and rises to the challenge of one iconic sequence in particular that truly tests the charismatic chops he showcased on NYC stages. Casal channels a young De Niro as his fierce foil, balancing rage and tenderness in grand doses. Wonderful actresses Janina Gavankar and Jasmine Cephas-Jones are highlights in the supporting cast, balancing all the testosterone in some clever conversations. A split second or two that are too on-the-nose, including split screens, threaten to make some of the motifs a bit too obvious; but overall, it’s a stunner. Come for the buddy comedy, and stay for the message. Despite the timely topics and hefty themes, it’s optimistic and will become a talked-about touchstone.

A hit at Sundance, the film was the opening night presentation at the Atlanta Film Festival. It premieres everywhere July 20, 2018.

 

Blindspotting review published 4/13/18

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Posted in 2018

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