- Soul: Though it is marketed as a kids movie, the subtext of appreciating life feels appropriate and potent this year.
- Mulan: The live-action reboot of the 1998 animated film Mulan rises above its predecessor, making it fresh and relevant.
- Emma.: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Jane Austen‘s eponymous heroine, Emma Woodhouse, introduced as clever, rich, and handsome. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, this adaption is entertaining, funny, and a lovely addition to the list of Austen adaptations.
- The Trial of the Chicago 7: The film tells. the story of the 7 men accused of being responsible for the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Though it is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it feels very 2020.
- Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This LBGTQ historical romance between a young woman and the female artist hired to paint her portrait is sweet, romantic, and powerful. It proves once more that love is love is love.
- Ordinary Love: Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are your average middle-aged couple. When she is diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they both must deal with the rough road ahead.
- The Assistant: Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque powerful movie producer. She starts to notice things that don’t sit right with her.
- I am Greta: This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she advocates for the world to pay serious attention to climate change.
- Mank: Gary Oldman plays Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in a performance that is nothing but Oscar bait.
- #AnneFrank-Parallel Lives: Narrated by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells not just Anne’s story. It follows other young women who survived the Holocaust. Parallel to the stories of the past, the viewer is traveling with another young woman as she visits different countries in present-day Europe.
From the outside looking in, the path from writing a screen play to seeing it on film is a simple process. But show business, like any business does not always make it easy for the screenwriter(s) to see their work come to life.
The 1941 film Citizen Kane is one of those movies that has been admired by generations of audience members. Directed by then twenty something wunderkind Orson Welles and co-written by Herman J. Mankiewicz, the story of the making of this film is as legendary as the film itself. The new Netflix film Mank tells the story of how the movie was was made.
In 1940, Mankiewicz, known as Mank (Gary Oldman) is commissioned by Welles (Tom Burke) to write a screenplay. As a writer, Mank is known as one of the best. But he is also an alcoholic and can be upfront in his opinions, which are not always polite or welcomed. The screenplay he writes is based on the time he has spent with the uber-wealthy William Randolph Hurst (Charles Dance) and Hurst’s much younger, long time mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried). Mank knows the scandal that will be created upon the release of the movie. But he and Welles forge on and ultimately create one of the most beloved and admired films to come out of Hollywood.
Every year, the various movie studios release films that are nothing but Oscar bait. Mank is one of them. Combining movie history with history from the period and the complicated politics of the era, it is not your average “behind the scenes” movie. If nothing else, Oldman is sure to receive any number of nominations, if not awards for his work. I loved that it was filmed in black and white, making it feel authentic. The problem is that it is slow narrative, possibly turning off some viewers.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
Mank is available for streaming on Netflix.
The Cold War is often used as the backdrop for some of fiction’s greatest spy stories.
In the 2011 film, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, (based upon the novel of the same name by John le Carré), George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is a former spy who thinks that his working days are behind him. Then a Soviet spy is found within MI6 and George is called back to work to discover the identity of the spy.
I’ve never read the original novel nor had I seen the 1979 adaptation starring Alec Guinness. The only reason I went to see the film was the cast, most of whom are British and have starred in adaptations of Jane Austen novels. As I recall, I didn’t quite get the intricacies of the narrative and by the end of the film, I remember being confused.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
2017 is nearly up. Surprisingly, it was a good year for the movies. Below, without further a due, is my top ten list of movies that premiered in 2017.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The next chapter in the ongoing saga of the rebellion against the empire was nothing short of perfection.
- The Post: The story of the revelation of The Pentagon Papers is as relevant today as it was in 1971.
- Beauty And The Beast/The Shape Of Water: Both the live action adaptation of the 1991 animated Beauty And The Beast and The Shape Of Water proves once more that love wins over hate and only through tolerance and respect of others, can we create the world we wish to have.
- Darkest Hour: Gary Oldman is sure to win multiple awards playing Winston Churchill, who must decide to negotiate with Germany or go to war.
- Lady Macbeth: In 19th century England, a young lady is forced into marriage and has an affair with one of the estate workers.
- Lady Bird: A gripping and realistic coming of age story set in Sacramento in the early 2000’s.
- Thor: Ragnarok: When Thor’s previously unknown sister Hela returns to Asgard, he must save his land and his people from his sister.
- Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman finally receives a proper film adaptation. Starring Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins, this film, well is, a wonder.
- The Lovers: Tracey Letts and Debra Winger play a married couple who are openly seeing other people, but somehow find the spark has returned to their marriage.
- Battle Of The Sexes: The true story of the tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King is as much a story about tennis as it is about feminism.
Sometimes, a film producer or director has what they think is a brilliant idea. They take a classic television show from their early years and attempt to reboot it for a new generation.
An example of this is the movie reboot of the classic 1960’s television show, Lost In Space (1998). The movie mirrors the plot of the television series. The earth, as we know it to be, may soon be no more. The Robinson family, led by Professor John Robinson (William Hurt) is charged with colonizing another planet in hopes of saving humanity. But something goes wrong, as it always does. Dr. Zachary Smith (Gary Oldman) is the something that goes wrong, a villain, who as usual, has less than honorable motives. Will the Robinson’s ever return home or are they fated to be lost in space for eternity?
Bear in mind, that I have never seen the original series in its entirety, so this review is strictly based on the movie. As a standalone movie, it’s fine, but I have a feeling that fans of the original series might have objected to the reboot. While the cast is excellent and Gary Oldman excels, as he usually does as the antagonist, it’s merely ok for me. There is nothing spectacular about this film.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
Adapting a film based on a novel is like walking a tight rope. The screenwriter or screenwriters and the production staff must be true to the novel and it’s fan base, but the movie must also be appealing to audiences, regardless of whether they have read the book.
In some cases, the movie succeeds. In other cases, the movie is a failure and readers, especially traditionally minded readers are reminded why the book was and still is the better medium.
In 17th century Massachusetts, the Puritan lifestyle is law, spoken and unspoken.
A newcomer, Hester Prynne (Demi Moore) arrives in the colony. She believes her husband Roger (Robert Duvall) has died at the hands of the local Indian tribe. Relishing her independence, she starts a secret love affair with Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale (Gary Oldman). The result of the affair is a child. Refusing to the publicly name her child’s father, Hester is forced to wear an a scarlet A (for adulteress) on her outer clothing. Then her husband reappears and starts to stir up trouble.
Were the critics wrong? In this case, no. The screenwriting and production team tried very hard to walk the fine line of being faithful to the book while attempting to fill in the seats at the cinema. But try as they might, the film is not very good. The other issue with this film is casting. At the end of the day, Demi Moore was not only wrong for Hester, but her accent was questionable. Robert Duvall did not give me the chills that a villain of his sort would normally give. The film’s only saving grace, cast wise is Gary Oldman.
Do I recommend this movie? No.