Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Summer’s Heat: Year of Bests – 2017

A few years back, I did not publish a year-end piece on those articles I most enjoyed reading for the period. Routinely, my online browsing turns up a number authors and write-ups that exceed whatever threshold I have in my head. I promised not to get caught flat-footed again. So, I rectified the issue by gathering them up and presenting each quarterly. Time to get this show on the road for summer.

If so let’s continue, shall we?


With the wonderful stuff Cinefix has been putting out of late, we should kick off this highlight reel with them…and maybe, given the subject, with the fewest words possible:

“From full on silent films to a brief moment of quiet juxtaposed with chaos, the LACK of sound in films can be every bit as powerful as the presence of it. This week, we’re taking a look at why and how these uses of silence shape some truly great films.”


Have to cite writer Michael Callahan‘s stellar Vanity Fair piece for putting the spotlight back on one of the great graphic designers ever to grace a book cover and/or movie poster:

The Man Behind History’s Most Iconic Movie Posters, From Breakfast at Tiffany’s to James Bond

“Much of the public doesn’t know Robert McGinnis. But he is one of the most prolific and influential midcentury commercial artists, and his imprimatur on American illustration literally speaks volumes. During the swinging heyday of graphic design, his 1,400-plus paperback covers, along with his movie posters and magazine work, embodied and influenced pop culture’s loose, liberated visual style. And in the past decade, that cool McGinnis aesthetic has roared back into vogue as everyone from advertising executives to interior designers re-discovers its magic. “If you look at his book covers,” says Brad Bird, the director of Pixar’s The Incredibles, who hired McGinnis to produce a poster for the film, “they’re very much trying to convey and entice: ‘This is going to be fun.’ It doesn’t have pretention of being deep art.””


Sometimes a movie review can be inspirational, writing-wise. I mean, not that it highlights a superlative film, or offers deft analysis of why it does or does not work, but in the sheer gobsmacking enjoyment of how the piece related it to the reader, personally. I give you, Jay of Assholes Watching Movies, looking at a Brian De Palma work…and you’re welcome.

Mission to Mars

“Anyway. Fast forward a dozen years or so. Now I’m at Disney World with a husband who is neither of the men from the movie theatre, two thirds of my sisters, one third of my brothers-in-law, and my one-year-old nephew. The sisters have stayed at our rented home to swim with the baby. The brothers-in-law were out playing golf. And I was for some reason at EPCOT standing in line for a ride I did not want to go on. Gary Sinise was welcoming us to Mission: Space, an attraction that needs several strongly-worded warnings. Just when you get your courage up, Gary Sinise starts talking you out of it. Not that I needed any help from Gary Sinise. I am a chicken shit. I knew damn well this ride wasn’t for me. It simulates an actual spacecraft launch, complete with g-force, and a pretty rough landing. There are barf bags in this ride AND THEY GET USED. Each spacecraft holds 4 “astronauts” and we’re each given a specific role – navigator, pilot, commander, or engineer – and tasks to perform during the mission. This is a hilarious example of misplaced optimism.”


Friend and writer, Lloyd Marken has a wonderful series going Down Under on his lloydmarken blog, and he included one of my all-time favorites who sadly left this mortal coil far too soon:

STAR CHARACTER ACTORS – J.T. WALSH

“Character actors, those talented enough to get noticed and remembered playing the same type of character while most cinemagoers recognise them instantly but can’t place the film or name them. More likely to etch out a living without ever having their name above the marque some have become famous for being character actors. J.T. Walsh was one, looking back over his career you’ll often fine one common streak. He was the antagonist, we loved to hate him and like all good actors he probably wanted to or even sought out playing characters we’d like but there was something about him that made him such a good asshole.”


The Ringer staff writer Kate Knibbs helped solved one of the key mysteries many of us movie viewers have tried to figure when it came to an actor who was a “can’t miss” property, then wasn’t:

Revisiting ‘The Saint’ 20 Years Later

“The Saint was a big-budget, James Bond–style role setting Kilmer up for a franchise. Based on a mystery book series by Leslie Charteris, the story had been made into films during the 1930s and ’40s, as well as into a British television series starring pre-Bond Roger Moore, so it had some built-in name recognition and plenty of sexy ’90s hooks. (Kilmer plays a suave international art thief, but one who knows how to use the internet.) Elisabeth Shue costars as an electrochemist named Dr. Emma Russell (sure), who is an easily seducible genius nuclear scientist who says things like, “Who are you … really?” Kilmer is Simon Templar, a shadowy man who was raised in a Catholic orphanage. He doesn’t have a family, but he has a remarkable number of disguises, from a leather-pants-clad South African lothario to a homely maid. His business is thievery and his emotions are stunted.”


Seems like every year there’s some movie “concept” competing studios vie to get out first. Friend and fellow blogger J.D. covered this succinctly in his examination of one of the unlikely better ones. Once again looking at Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, and the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral. And between Tombstone (1993) and Wyatt Earp (1994), that was:

Tombstone

“Ultimately, Tombstone is about male friendship, in particular the intense and unusual bond between Doc and Wyatt. Early on, it takes on a playful tone as Doc has some fun with Wyatt’s obvious attraction to Josephine. Even though they aren’t related by blood they might as well be brothers as they’re willing to die for each other. They don’t verbalize it but it’s all in the eyes and this is nicely realized by Kilmer and Russell. It’s hard not to be moved by the final scene between their two characters.”


A month before the passing of the most prolific OO7 in movies, Phil Nobile, Jr. had a splendid piece on his Birth. Movies. Death. site. A look at a 1973 book about the making of LIVE AND LET DIE, which was, as he put it. “Is Straight-Up Bonkers.” The vintage movie tie-in had, “EVERYTHING: cheap producers, hairdresser woes, race relations, a JFK conspiracy…” Enjoy:

Roger Moore’s 1973 Book About The Making Of LIVE AND LET DIE Is Straight-Up Bonkers

“It’s so rare to get truly candid thoughts from an actor about a film of theirs. Performers hit the promotional circuit to support a film’s opening, say a lot of publicist-approved things, and that’s usually that. Commentary tracks – when anyone bothers anymore – are often done immediately after the film has wrapped, allowing no time for thoughtful reflection or emotional fermentation. What movie stars genuinely think of their work is, these days, more often than not a closely guarded secret.”


Returning to the sci-fi realm, and Star Trek specifically, it’s good to welcome back Darren Mooney. His deft review over on his the m0vie blog of the Deep Space 9 episode, Inquisition, just seems timely in this day and age:

“Like Homefront and Paradise Lost, Inquisition has aged well. Less than half a decade after the episode originally aired, the United States would be trying “enemy combatants” in secretive military tribunals, detaining suspected terrorists without trial in secretive holding facilities, and engaging in “enhanced interrogation” including sleep deprivation to make subjects more pliable. Although the production team could have no idea at the time, the image of a dark-skinned man being paraded in irons is a lot more evocative two decades after the fact.”


One of the most provocative pieces of the Spring, especially in the city, which staged the 1992 Riots, observing its silver anniversary this year, centered on this movie shooting around it. Among me and my friends, both were the subjects of much discussion, particularly after reading April Wolfe‘s LA Weekly article:

Hey, White People: Michael Douglas Is the Villain, Not the Victim, in Falling Down

“That Falling Down was filmed in L.A. amid the riots is both ironic and telling: D-Fens’ entire narrative is driven by his misconception that he is the true victim, even as he marauds through the city, terrifying fast-food cashiers, construction workers and immigrants — people who have far less privilege than the white, college-educated D-Fens does. The riots, of course, were a reaction to the jury’s and public’s sympathy for the white police officers who beat Rodney King; the cops were portrayed by some media outlets as the real victims with everything to lose, even as King himself suffered unquantifiable brain damage. The film itself is a caricature, but it carries the stain of this reality in every frame.”


Jonathan Robbins is a fine writer and observer of music, TV, and especially film over at his RobbinsRealm Blog. So when he takes on a praised George Romero work, well, he had me at hello:

“George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead”

“Regardless of personal tastes, when it comes to horror films, there is no denying that “Dawn of the Dead” laid the foundation for the current climate of zombie mania that has invaded the pop-culture landscape in recent years. By today’s standards the film is nowhere near as jarring to the senses in a shocking way as it pertains to the violence that is shown on screen. Nor does it present the viewer with non-stop action like many of the films that deal with the same subject are apt to do. What it does do, and exceptionally well at that, is paint a portrait of a nihilistic society that has drowned in bleakness because eventually the realization that just surviving for survival’s sake might not be enough to warrant living.”


And if we’re into horror, whether surreal or conventional, might as well give my friend ckckred and his Cinematic blog a look-see. Especially, since Showtime has brought back Twin Peaks this season, and his revisit with the controversial movie David Lynch crafted in its wake:

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

“Although he may be the most well known surrealist in contemporary cinema, David Lynch has never exactly been mainstream. Throughout his filmography, Lynch has explored the most subversive and grotesque aspects of society, using a dream-like lens in capturing such action. Movies like Eraserhead and Wild at Heart overflow with graphic imagery while pictures such as Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire dispense the notion of linear narratives completely. Even Blue Velvet, Lynch’s most forthright and accessible picture (excluding The Elephant Man and The Straight Story) is aesthetically disturbing through its depiction of sexual depravity.”


With the too early passing of Jonathan Demme in April, seemed fitting that his most lucrative collaboration, in praise and awards, would be brought to the attention of movie fans, once more. Roderick Heath‘s review over at Marilyn Ferdinand‘s Ferdy On Films blog was well-timed and well worth reading.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

“A quality most everyone loved about Demme’s films was his big-hearted awareness of the world immediately about him, his sense of life and people as a cornucopia even when abutting grimmer facts of existence, and his unforced, celebratory delight in America’s diverse makeup. Considering such qualities, it’s both a glaring irony and a fitting twist that the one movie he made that everyone knows was his discursion into a dark and morbid annex of the modern imagination via a virulently intense and violent horror film. That film somehow became an instantaneous fixture in the pop culture firmament and was the first of its genre to win the Best Picture Oscar, on top of awards for Demme himself and his stars. This was chiefly the result of Demme’s canniness as a hardy and tested director who knew how to shift and vary his style according to the rhythms of his material and the energy of his actors.”


Alright, Aurora and I remain fans of Cary Grant, big time. So? Her Once upon a time… piece on another of his classics is hardly a surprise, then. Just so we’re clear:

George Stevens’ PENNY SERENADE (1941) is Much More than a Three-Hanky Movie

“I am enveloped in the drama of Penny Serenade from the moment the first record spins. And yes, this movie is difficult to watch at times, but don’t fear the sadness you will feel because this is a story well-told and worth seeing. There’s the warmth of nostalgia the film evokes, which lingers throughout and warms the senses, certainly a feeling classics fans would appreciate. The records are used beautifully to evoke that nostalgia despite the 1941 New York Times reviewer calling it a cheap trick. They are reminders of all Julie and Roger have shared with each other – and with us. Can I tell you what the soundtrack of this movie did to my five-year-old self? It made me float on air. And I still buy into all of it – lock, stock and barrel. There is deep love portrayed here by highly sensitive actors and a tapestry of love woven by a sensitive director. What more would you want from a movie, but that it make you feel? I’m not a crier by nature, but if I cry I want it to be worth it and this one’s worth it.”


It’s true that this blog of mine uses a quote from one of my all-time favorite films as its title. Revisited it again this year via another extraordinary presentation, this time at one of my preferred movie theaters, the Village Theatre in Westwood. So, of course, Bilge Ebiri‘s The Village Voice article highlighted this Michael Mann classic, which was recently re-released on new definitive Blu-ray cut:

Crime in Counterpoint: Michael Mann on his Restored Masterpiece “Heat”

“In the case of the two protagonists, Hanna and Neil McCauley, I separated them out because each is an engine that drives the thesis and the antithesis into the ending. I decided that only those two would be totally self-aware. That’s why they have a unique rapport. And the ambition behind this was: Can I have a drama in which, at the same time, we’re 100 percent invested in Neil McCauley getting away, and we’re also 100 percent invested in Hanna’s intercepting him? We don’t want the interception to occur, and yet we’re thrilled about the potential of it occurring, all at the same time.”


The week that marked the 50th anniversary of a certain Beatles concept album’s release had more than a few tributes pieces floating out in the ether. Here then are those that gathered this Beatlemaniac in:

Mikal Gilmore, Rolling Stone

Inside the Making of ‘Sgt. Pepper’

“Whether the Beatles intended it or not, Sgt. Pepper came to symbolize — immediately — the ambitions and longings and fears of a generation. Since the group had emerged in 1963 and 1964, youth culture had changed dramatically. What began in those years as a consensus in taste and style — with the Beatles at its center — had transformed into a challenging worldview. Sixties rock, along with the civil rights and anti–Vietnam War movements and a mass willingness to experiment with marijuana and LSD, had given young people a new sense of empowerment. This moment — when the possibilities of how life could be lived and power resisted were changing — was a time of promise but also doubt and risk. No single work had yet epitomized these bold new senses of community, ideas and art. Nothing, that is, until Sgt. Pepper.”

David Cox, The Guardian

Sgt Pepper 50th Celebration – Who’s on the cover?

Jordan Runtagh, Rolling Stone

The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’: The Story Behind Every Song

“The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which Rolling Stone named the best album of all time, turns 50 today. In honor of the anniversary, and coinciding with a new deluxe reissue, we have presented a series of in-depth pieces – one for each of the album’s tracks, excluding the brief “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” reprise on Side Two – that explore the background of this revolutionary and beloved record. Revisit all 12 stories below.”

Terry Towles Canote, A Shroud of Thoughts

It Was 50 Years Ago Today Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Was Released

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is certainly the stuff of legends, and over the years millions of words have been written about the album. Ten years ago I wrote a detailed post on the occasion of its 40th anniversary (you can read it here). Of course, there has always been debate over whether Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is truly a concept album (I will state emphatically that however one stands on the issue, it was not the first concept album). It was Sir Paul McCartney who suggested that The Beatles record an entire album as if they were another band entirely. To this end, he wrote the song “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The Beatles grew moustaches and donned the famous Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band costumes for the album’s cover. That having been said, John Lennon always argued that his songs had nothing to do with the “Sgt. Pepper” concept, while Ringo Starr has said that only “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, “With a Little Help From My Friends”, and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” were conceptually connected.”

Roger Cormier, Mental Floss

11 Facts About Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

3. IT WAS INFLUENCED BY THE BEACH BOYS’ PET SOUNDS, AND FRANK ZAPPA.

George Martin was quoted as saying that if Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys had not created and recorded their classic album Pet Sounds, “Sgt. Pepper never would have happened.” McCartney repeatedly played the album at Abbey Road during recording sessions. Unbeknownst to The Beatles, they were fulfilling their part in a pop group ouroboros, because Wilson was inspired to write Pet Sounds after hearing The Beatles’ Rubber Soul.

In June 1966, Frank Zappa’s The Mothers of Invention came out with the double-record Freak Out!, a satirical album that also happened to contain classical music-influenced movements instead of individual tracks; some consider it to be the first rock concept album. “This is our Freak Out!” McCartney supposedly said during the Sgt. Pepper sessions.”


Discussing the state of mainstream Hollywood movies is fraught with a lot of hand-wringing and misplaced analysis. So it’s easy to overlook what’s the issue amid the mess with what we have currently as mass entertainment. Doug Cooper and his Bag of Poop blog nailed it precisely:

HOLLYWOOD IS SCREWED – But Don’t Blame the Internet, Blame the Stupidity of the Studios

“When Mechanic got fired in 2000, people thought it was weird that he not only admitted it, but that he openly discussed why the choice was made. He didn’t think so. Mainly, because he saw an industry that was short-sighted and broken, and he knew that if certain problems weren’t addressed, the whole ship was going down (he oversaw Titanic, after all). He offered a vision on how to change things and they told him “no thanks”. That was 17-years ago – and just look at what has happened to movies since then.”


Roderick Heath once again at Marilyn Ferdinand‘s Ferdy On Films blog returns with probably the most cerebral examination for one of the most anticipated films of the summer, and like its predecessor, one of the more dividing:

Alien: Covenant (2017)

“Scott does more than make a horror film here; he makes a film about the horror genre, its history, its place in the psyche, analysing the way the death-dream constantly underlies all fantasies of ego and eros. Scott reaches out for a hundred and one reference points, some of the already plain in the Alien series lexicon. The deserted Engineer city recalls the Cyclopean confines of the lost cities in Lovecraft tales like At the Mountains of Madness, the Elder Gods all left gorgonized by David’s perfidy. At one point Scott recreates Arnold Böcklin’s painting “Isle of the Dead,” an image that obsessed H. R. Giger, the crucial designer behind so much of the Alien mythos, as much as it did Val Lewton, whose cavernously eerie psychological parables redefined horror cinema in the 1940s; Scott no doubt has both in mind.”


Oh, you’ll get no argument from me. Chad Durham over on the Taste of Cinema site on why…:

8 Reasons Why “Unforgiven” is the Best Western Since 1980

“The movie follows this expected trajectory, hurtling our outlaw heroes toward a climactic face-off. It uses gorgeous compositions and Henry Bumstead’s constructed sets to echo an older, more quaint style. As well, Eastwood’s directorial approach, though effective, has always been more straightforward that risk-taking. Here, that approach serves the material well, establishing a languid pace emblematic of the classical Western style. Unforgiven succeeds for its ability to pay tribute to its roots.”


As always, the good folk over at Cinephilia & Beyond gave a thoroughly absorbing look at something dark…and worthy:

‘SE7EN’: A RAIN-DRENCHED, SOMBER, GUT-WRENCHING THRILLER THAT RESTORED DAVID FINCHER’S FAITH IN FILMMAKING

“It’s interesting to note that Se7en would have had a whole other sort of a dynamic and feel to it had the two lead parts gone to the original choices: Morgan Freeman’s Somerset was offered to Al Pacino, who passed on the offer due to scheduling conflicts, while Brad Pitt’s Mills was rejected by Denzel Washington, who considered the picture just too dark for his taste, later regretting the decision.”


Without a doubt, one of the lowlights of the year was the passing of Roger Moore, to be followed by the high point that was the wonderful tribute to the man and his work by one who’d know full well what it took to follow in OO7’s footsteps. Pierce Brosnan for Variety:

Pierce Brosnan Writes Tribute to Roger Moore: ‘We Fell in Love With a Magnificent Actor’

“He became James Bond — not an easy task for any man. As an actor he must have known the job at hand was Herculean, with an expectant world awaiting; who was next in line? Sean Connery had set the bar high, and George Lazenby, with mighty flair and a valiant heart, had given it his best. Now it was Roger’s turn. He knew his time was now, and he reigned over seven movies as James Bond with exceptional skill and comic timing laced with a stiletto vengeance. He knew his comedy, he knew who he was and he played onstage and off with an easy grace and charm. He knew that we knew.”


For all the success and box office glory that is the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, it ain’t that way for once was the core of its business. And Cindy Marie Jenkins writing for The Mary Sue dissected why that is:

It Wasn’t Diversity That Killed Comic Sales, It Was These Archaic Publishing Methods

“Free Comic Book Day is great in theory, and I have attended it every year since my first child was born. But I love it because it’s an event that feels special to my toddler (this year he dressed up like Buzz Lightyear because I told him we were getting superhero stories). I take risks on titles to see what he enjoys; he picked out DC Superhero Girls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles last month. I purposefully buy others for me so the store might at least break even on the free ones. Every year I think that this is the year I will use this day to jumpstart reading comics regularly again, and this year was the first that I admitted it just isn’t meant to be. I still bought the trades.”


Heading into the home stretch of this quarter’s highlight reel, let’s take a break with some science. Specifically, Mitchell Colver‘s piece found on Science Alert, that looked at a certain reaction we music lovers have experienced, but may not be too aware of:

Here’s Why Some People Get ‘Skin Orgasms’ From Listening to Music

“Some scientists have suggested that goosebumps are an evolutionary holdover from our early (hairier) ancestors, who kept themselves warm through an endothermic layer of heat that they retained immediately beneath the hairs of their skin.

Experiencing goosebumps after a rapid change in temperature (like being exposed to an unexpectedly cool breeze on a sunny day) temporarily raises and then lowers those hairs, resetting this layer of warmth.”


Even my wildest expectations couldn’t stand up to what I witnessed with Patty Jenkin’s masterful “Wonder Woman.” But Meredith Woerner‘s L.A. Times article put it into a context that helped me understand why this DC comic superhero movie did it for so many of us:

Why I cried through the fight scenes in ‘Wonder Woman’

“It felt like I was discovering something I didn’t even know I had always wanted. A need that I had boxed up and buried deep after three movies of Iron Man punching bad guys in the face, three more movies of Captain America punching bad guys in the face, a movie about Superman and Batman punching each other in the face and then “Suicide Squad.”

Witnessing a woman hold the field, and the camera, for that long blew open an arguably monotonous genre. We didn’t need a computer-generated tree or a sassy raccoon to change the superhero game; what we needed was a woman.”

And while we’re on the subject, be sure to follow that up with The Mary Sue‘s Becca Burnett talking about the power of “and”:

How Wonder Woman Succeeds as a Feminist Film

“Patriarchy is about dominance, which means there are winners and there are losers. It’s us vs. them. Superhero movies run on much the same premise. They are built on a model of might and conquest. The “good guys” save the world from the “bad guys” by being stronger and better. Notice that language of “good guys” and “bad guys.” No wonder these movies all star male heroes—they are built on a patriarchal model in which someone is the winner and someone else is the loser. It’s either or. There is no and. It is its rejection of this zero-sum mentality that is Wonder Woman’s most valuable contribution to the genre.”

Lastly, but not leastly, don’t forget the Movie addict, TV-show fanatic, Blogger, and Coffee-holic Getter Trumsi‘s essay review over at Mettel Ray:

Wonder Woman (2017)

“I mentioned above that Wonder Woman is a step towards an equal future, and in my opinion, Gadot and Pine take that first step. Partly because they themselves are brilliant at portraying strong yet vulnerable characters, but also because the writing by Allan Heinberg (who has written for Grey’s Anatomy and created The Catch) doesn’t step into the stereotypical superhero and sidekick realm. Sure, Diana is Wonder Woman, she is the superhero in the bigger context, but Steve Trevor is just as much of a hero than Diana! There’s no she’s better than him or he thinks he’s better than her attitude among the pair and right from the gecko they view themselves as equal! Sure, Diana is super strong and the child of a god, but Trevor has his own strengths and fights bravely for a good cause. As a pair they work well together and it’s that togetherness that is the highlight of Wonder Woman.”


Okay, we’re on a roll here so might as well have Grace Duffy, once again for the good folk over at The Mary Sue, explain why the 1999 version of The Mummy still was so much better than the current reboot:

Evie Carnahan and the Subversive Feminism of The Mummy

“The only thing compelling Evie’s quest is a desire to improve her career prospects. She never once doubts her abilities, nor does she show any need to prove herself. The film presents her as a determined and focused woman who is intrinsically aware of her worth. Crucially, while she encounters a number of derogatory remarks from men on the mission, she never doubts herself or the validity of her ambitions. The one scene in which she appears dejected is when she tells Jonathan that the Bembridge Scholars have rejected her—a key narrative decision, as it indicates that her frustration stems not from a lack of confidence in her abilities but a disappointment that they are not being recognized. Evie is allowed an unwavering belief in herself which the film never once implies is unfounded or misplaced.”


In mentioning a certain song by The Monkees earlier this month, it once again invoked the work of The Wrecking Crew. Here, Dennis Diken for Modern Drummer covered the labor of one of its key members during the period when that set of studio session players thrived:

Hal Blaine

“The examples of Blaine’s artistry in 1967 are multifold. His brisk, crisp beat grounds the Association’s number-one hit “Windy,” and his gentle brushwork graces the group’s “Never My Love,” a number-two Billboard smash and BMI’s second-most-played song on radio and television of the twentieth century. Blaine grabbed his second Grammy for Record of the Year in ’67 with Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” (recorded in 1966). His third was the Fifth Dimension’s airy 1967 hit “Up, Up and Away.” Amazingly, he won this award for six consecutive years.”


Okay Con Air fans, you know who you are, I don’t have to point you out, do I? So, it warmed our hearts proudly this month when two, count’em, stellar articles made the case why we still love it so twenty years later.

Den of Geek

Con Air at 20: the 90s action film that remains unmatched

“For what strikes you from the off with Con Air is that everyone’s in on the joke. I think it was the original Empire review that compared, for instance, the prison montage at the start to something the Zucker brothers could come up with, and I fully see the point. After all, when the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker spoof machine was at full effectiveness, the trick was to play everything straight. By all means let the circumstances be extraordinary. But never, never let your characters wink at the camera. They have to believe what they’re surrounded by.”

J.D., Radiator Heaven

Con Air

“You have to hand it to Nicolas Cage; he certainly knows how to pick action movies that allow him to play ever so slightly left-of-center characters like The Rock (1996), where he played an anti-action hero, and Face/Off (1997), a stylish John Woo movie with an insane role reversal plot twist. In this movie, the actor looks ridiculous with his glorious mullet, taking his cue from Jean-Claude Van Damme’s similar ‘do in Hard Target (1993). With Con Air, Cage wisely plays Poe as if it were a straight-forward action movie, which is in sharp contrast to many of the larger than life characters around him. He’s gracious and smart enough to know that when everyone around him is playing larger than life characters, go the low-key route.”


Honestly, I don’t think the less than expected U.S. box office will derail Universal’s “Dark Universe” (“we’re not copying Marvel at all”) for the Tom Cruise summer movie, but Simon Brew for Den of Geek still had some sage advice:

The Folly of Announcing Sequels Before Your Movie is Out

“One by-product, however, of studios’ gradual shift to a cinematic universe model over the past four or five years is that said studios are looking to get multiple movies moving, and aren’t being shy about it. Ahead of the release of the Power Rangers reboot earlier this year, for instance, Lionsgate and Saban were talking up the prospects of it being a six-movie series. Warner Bros, too, was looking to get five or six films out of its King Arthur idea, and this was well known ahead of the release of King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword a month or two back.”


As a long-time fan of the original Leslie Stevens-created The Outer Limits TV series, had to know I’d glom on to Don Kaye‘s SyFyWire piece that highlighted its best episodes. Admittedly, I’d have expanded it to 16 to include the other Robert Culp-starring segment, “Corpus Earthling”, which landed just outside his list:

THE OUTER LIMITS: THE 15 BEST EPISODES OF THE ORIGINAL SERIES, RANKED

“5. “The Bellero Shield” (written by Joseph Stefano and Lou Morheim, directed by John Brahm)

Martin Landau stars as a humble scientist named Richard Bellero who accidentally draws a peaceful alien being (John Hoyt) into his lab via a powerful laser he’s fired into space. Considered a failure by his ruthless father (Batman‘s Neil Hamilton) and his own ambitious wife Judith (Sally Kellerman in a performance for the ages), Bellero is caught between the two of them as they plot to use a device the alien possesses — an impenetrable force field — as a means to advance the Bellero company beyond their wildest dreams. The Outer Limits reached for Shakespearean heights of drama with this loose retelling of Macbeth, and just about got there. A nearly flawless 50 minutes of classic science fiction television.”


Sometimes, I get to underline the work of people I’ve actually met in person. One of these is Will McKinley, now writing for GetTV. Yet, I’m not favoring him for that but his article in appreciation of an American film and television actor, who once ruled the box office worldwide, and his 1973 action thriller:

BEFORE CHARLES BRONSON HAD A DEATH WISH, HE HUNTED THE STONE KILLER

“Men, as a rule, like Charles Bronson movies. Not that women don’t, but the one-time Pennsylvania coal miner and decorated World War II veteran has a particular resonance for male viewers. Just as Humphrey Bogart defined masculinity for the Greatest Generation, and James Dean and Steve McQueen did the same for the 1950s and ‘60s, Bronson became an icon for guys who came of age in the early days of VHS and cable. It wasn’t so much about the movies, which got increasingly outlandish as Bronson aged. It was his quiet confidence, that slight hitch in his voice, the vaguely haunted look beneath the bushy bangs. Even when the film wasn’t credible, Bronson was. He was the solitary sheriff, transposed to lawless, post-Watergate America.”


THE COLOR PURPLE, Desreta Jackson, Akosua Busia, 1985, (c)Warner Bros.

Interesting how some past films once again arise in people thoughts. Case in point, the recent controversy related to Elizabeth Banks and Anne Thompson concerning the lack of female-led films by Steven Spielberg, and how they so easily forgot the one “…that made millions at the box office by one of the most famous directors of all time”. Joelle Monique at The Mary Sue rightly put it into context:

The Color Purple and What it Means for Black Women

“Spielberg took Walker’s words and combined them with his ability to capture the essence of childhood on film. Even though Celie is living a nightmare, and even though she has to be stronger than anyone should ever have to be, she faces the world with a wellspring of hope, a hope so powerful it is literally infectious. Everyone leaves Celie to go out into the world and be a better person. It’s not always of their own volition, but her presence has made a staggering change in everyone’s life.”


And since a certain ’80s sci-fi action classic reached its thirtieth anniversary this month, leave it in the capable hands of Pete Keeley, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, on the many variations for how Jean-Claude Van Damne got canned off this movie, among other juicy tidbits found among:

Guns and (Shea) Butter: An Oral History of ‘Predator’

Burch: Jean-Claude Van Damme was someone who used to constantly come into my office, jumping up in the air, showing me his moves, begging me for work. He was nobody. He didn’t have any credits. So finally I said to Joel, “He’d be great as the Predator because no one moves like him.” I mean he really is quite amazing. He even stored his furniture in my garage! And then (laughs) he wasn’t there that long. And I heard he was complaining the whole time and they fired him. And he came back and got his stuff out of my garage. And then then next time I saw him he was getting $5 million a picture. [The “He complained too much” version.]”


If anything, at least this quarter is ending on a highpoint (rare these days) with another entry from favorite Edgar Wright. And here to zero in on that, I present…

Richard Kirkham, Kirkham A Movie A Day

Baby Driver

“While I was tempted at one point to suggest that the hyperbole around this film was a bit over the top, I got closer to the end of the film and realized that I was wrong. This movie may not be able to be oversold to the audience that it is made for. Baby Driver hits the notes, plays a nice melody, and has a crescendo that will build and satisfy like  the final movement of a symphony. All these music references are relevant because the song score for this movie is an integral character and you need to be able to grove to it to appreciate the way the film is put together.”

David Fear, Rolling Stone

‘Baby Driver’: How Edgar Wright Staged the Crime Movie’s Musical Action Scenes

“Already being hailed as one of the year’s best movies, Baby Driver continues the 43-year-old director’s superfan aesthetic of reconstituting tidbits from his formative filmgoing days – you can spot nods to Heat, Point Break, Sharkey’s Machine, Steve McQueen star vehicles and a host of one-last-job heist thrillers. But chops-wise, this tale of a boy, his best girl (Downton Abbey‘s Lily James), a good set of wheels and some great curated playlists is a quantum leap forward, in which sound and vision meld together into seamless, truly jaw-dropping set pieces. Some of the getaways and shoot-outs are scored and edited to deep cuts; others take well-known ditties and use them as the cinematic equivalent to adrenaline-rush click tracks. The end result, however, is the 21st century’s first killer crime-movie musical – a mix tape of gunfire, giddy hardboiled dialogue (“Shop! Let’s talk it!”), a gajillion song clearances and genius-level action choreography.”


Might as well end this highlight reel with another look at the film that was for me its centerpiece this period. Bringing back the good folk over at Art of the Title and their examination of WW’s:

Wonder Woman (2017)

“Produced by the team at Greenhaus GFX under the direction of filmmaker Patty Jenkins, the Wonder Woman main-on-end titles are a mythic retelling of Diana’s journey from warrior to hero. Following her from the hidden shores of Themyscira to the muddy trenches of the Western Front and beyond, the title sequence functions both as a reprise of the film that preceded it and reminder of who this unyielding fighter and future Justice Leaguer is as she takes her place among a pantheon of heroes. She is a woman out of time, a champion forged not just by battle but by her deep understanding of the world around her. Supercharged by composer Rupert Gregson-Williams’ powerful score — a highlight of the otherwise dreary DC Comics movie musicscape — the end titles become a perfect capstone to Diana’s origin story and a springboard to a larger world.”


The entire series can be found here.

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5 Responses to “Summer’s Heat: Year of Bests – 2017”

  1. ckckred

    Thanks for the linkage. I too found Wonder Woman to be a refreshing spin on the superhero genre. For myself, it not only provided a fleshed out protagonist but also a developed supporting cast and background that helped support the picture, something I felt was missing from other recent superhero movies.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael:

    Nicely done, my friend.

    I’ll see Robert Cuip, the Bradbury Building and “Demon With A Glass Hand”. Check to the dealer and raise you Culp’s ‘Architects Of Fear”. And Michael Ansara and Lloyd Nolan in “Soldier”.

    Also add Cary Grant’s “Mr. Lucky” and his pratfall comedic epic, ‘Arsenic & Old Lace”.

    Bronson’s “Stone Killer” is good. His “Mr. Majestyk” is better and what “Billy Jack” should have been.

    Van Damme never stood a chance! Though he’s be great as an extra should “The Dogs Of War” should ever be remade or re-booted.

    While “Predator” is still a shining example of pumping iron between takes. And the epitome of the kind(s) of films Arnold should never have left.

    Like

    Reply

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