What We Learned This Week: July 28-August 10

LESSON #1: PRICE POINT ALWAYS WINS— I’ve brought out this lesson often over the years here on WWLTW because it’s continuously true.  The latest case is the ocean of drool and the shipwrecks of dropped jaws this week when Disney revealed the initial bundled price to add ESPN+ and Hulu to their upcoming Disney+ streaming service.  As if the bulk year price of $69.99 or $5.83 per month wasn’t already amazing (and with this opening lineup menu), the triple-service package will only cost $12.99.  That’s the wealth of Disney, the range of Hulu, and the top network for all-things sports for LESS than the price of just Netflix.  Sure, Disney might (and certainly will) raise that price within the first year or two, but, by golly, they are playing hardball with price point and competition.  $13 for all that will make digital lines around the download block come November 12th.  Your move, Amazon (who re-upped with Bleecker Street’s content) and Netflix, especially for the latter which just had its first drop of subscribers in company history and a recent $26 billion fall in market value.  Yikes!

LESSON #2: WHEN ONE DOOR OPENS, ANOTHER ONE CLOSES, AND THEN ANOTHER ONE GETS REPAIRED— Before Disney becomes even more flush with steady cash this November, the Mouse House did announce what they consider a business loss this week.  According to reports, the Fox movies they acquired from their buyout under-performed to a $170 million quarterly loss.  Even for a profitable place like Disney, that’s haircut that still stings.  The Disney brass announced they will scale back film development under the Fox label while rebooting/remaking key properties and franchises like Home AloneNight at the MuseumDiary of a Wimpy KidCheaper by the Dozen, Planet of the Apes, and giving the Marvel titles to Kevin Feige.  I can’t say I’m surprised by Disney’s lack of effort to support their Fox wing.  I think we all knew an eventual and full dissolution was possible.  Some of that starts here.

LESSON #3: INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS REQUIRES INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR— Speaking of streaming services, I discovered this little story that may cause potential hazards for the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple, and Disney.  Last year, the European Union passed a ruling requiring that VOD services have 30% of their content sourced in Europe, with Australian interested in a similar measure.  That’s a bold “buy local”-ish mandate that may have those streaming companies scrambling to stay within new requirements.  I think that counts as a powerful effort to retain and promote homegrown products next to the shiny imports.  This is a fascinating and fortunate victory for foreign filmmakers and entertainment entities.

LESSON #4: BELIEVE THAT SHIA LEBEOUF IS A NEW MAN— How many of us wrote off Shia LeBeouf in the last five to ten years?  Between social media rants, odd acting choices, and a tail-spinning personal life, the Transformers star hit rock bottom.  I am pleased to announce that he is back and has come through wise beyond his 33-years.  Variety has an excellent interview where the LeBeouf calls himself “softer.”  If you need evidence, seek out The Peanut Butter Falcon debuting this coming week in limited release.

It might be the best I’ve ever seen Shia LeBeouf act.  Yet, he looks like he’ll top himself in the semi-autobiographical film Honey Boy coming this fall that outlines a child actors tragic ups-and-downs with Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges ostensibly playing Shia while LeBeouf plays the hard father.

The guy is showing his talent and laying his soul bare.  Come and witness this because we don’t see resurrections like this often and I couldn’t be happier for him.

LESSON #5: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN HAS DAMN GOOD TASTE— In the closing recommendation slot, the verbiage of this lesson shouldn’t be a surprise among those here in the Feelin’ Film circle of Christopher Nolan worshipers.  While you all wait and over-analyze every shred of possibility for his upcoming Tenet before it arrives next year, build a playlist of thirty Nolan-recommended favorites and improve your palette and nose for damn good movies.  Compiled by Indiewire from interview quotes over the years, this list could fill a one-a-week education between now and Tenet.  Enjoy!

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#110)

You Should Be Watching: June 21-27

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.

This week, I’m recommending a film about a conversation starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson, a creepy psychological thriller featuring Joel Edgerton as writer, director, and actor, and the little-seen debut film by none other than the great Christopher Nolan. Also, among the heavy hitters, it’s your last chance to see Captain America: Civil War on Netflix, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives there. It’s also your last chance for last week’s featured films, Room and the Human Condition Trilogy.

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


The Sunset Limited

Year: 2011

Director: Tommy Lee Jones

Genre: Drama

Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson

 

Based on a play written by Cormac McCarthy (The Road, No Country for Old Men), The Sunset Limited consists of a conversation between Black (Samuel L. Jackson), an ex-con believer, and White (Tommy Lee Jones who also directed), a suicidal atheist professor. While a film with no action that takes place in a single room may sound dull, believe me when I say this conversation is utterly riveting from the first words to the last, and the film is as dramatic, entertaining, emotional, and thought-provoking as any blockbuster.

Jackson and Jones play off each other with seeming ease and the nuance that comes with being experts in their craft. It’s fascinating to see ebb and flow of the dialogue as either Black or White finds his groove and pursues it. Likewise, the emotional beats affect how each carries on, whether in quiet introspection, attempts at humor, or bouts of indignance. Black’s eagerness to see White find hope and come to believe as he does while also being humorously honest about his own doubts is particularly refreshing.


 

The Gift

Year: 2015

Director: Joel Edgerton

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Mystery

Cast: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Allison Tolman, Tim Griffin, Busy Philipps, Adam Lazarre-White, Beau Knapp, Wendell Pierce, Mirrah Foulkes, Nash Edgerton, David Denman, Katie Aselton, David Joseph Craig, Susan May Pratt, P. J. Byrne, Felicity Price, Melinda Allen, Beth Crudele

 

Simultaneously showing off Joel Edgerton’s talents as a writer, director, and actor, The Gift is a surprisingly effective creepy suburban mystery thriller that keeps you on edge and off balance throughout and might have you a little paranoid yourself coming out of it, but you’ll want to go in as blind as possible.

The story centers around married couple Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall), who following a miscarriage have moved back to near where Simon grew up in an attempt to leave the pain behind and get their relationship back on track again. Shortly after arriving, Simon has a chance but polite and friendly encounter with Edgerton’s character Gordo, who claims to know him from high school. But then a series of unnerving events start occurring that drive dread and paranoia into this already fragile marriage. This isn’t the funny Bateman, but it is the uncomfortable one and with an edge at that. The tale Edgerton has crafted is fiendishly clever and explores the power of fear and the importance of character and the nature of both in the context of a marriage.


 

Following

  

Year: 1998

Director: Christopher Nolan

Genre: Thriller, Crime, Drama

Cast: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell, John Nolan, Dick Bradsell, Gillian El-Kadi, Jennifer Angel, Nicolas Carlotti, Darren Ormandy, Guy Greenway, Tassos Stevens, Tristan Martin, Rebecca James, Paul Mason, David Bovill

 

Christopher Nolan has proven himself to be one of the world’s premier filmmakers with every one one of his films becoming appointment theater. Anyone that enjoys his work should definitely see the film that started it all. Despite its low budget, Nolan’s full-length debut is a tightly scripted and masterfully edited surprise, full of the seeds of his later work. It’s a crime thriller that though using an entirely different story acts as something of a test-run for the time-bending mind-bender Memento that put him on the map.

From the opening scene, the tone is set with a bit of now-familiar percussive score full of energy and tension as we’re introduced to the main character, who’s found himself in a bit of as-yet-unexplained trouble. It also soon becomes apparent that Nolan was exploring interweaved, out-of-order chronology even at this very early stage, and he thrives on misdirection and refusing to spoon-feed any details. Instead, he forces the viewer to pay attention to dialogue and visual cues such as a haircut and puffy eyes to alert the viewer to shifts in time. Quite bluntly, if you’re a Nolan fan, you need to be watching Following.

 


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

June 24
Captain America: Civil War (2016)

June 29
On Golden Pond (1981)

June 30
An Honest Liar (2014)
Before Midnight (2013)
King Kong (2005)
Michael Clayton (2007)
Tropic Thunder (2008)
V for Vendetta (2005)

From the Lethal Weapon Collection:

Lethal Weapon (1987)
Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

 

AMAZON PRIME

June 23
Room (2013)

June 29
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)
Basic Instinct (1992)
Friday the 13th (1980)
Marathon Man (1975)
The Music Never Stopped (2011)
A Simple Plan (1998)

June 30
Escape from New York (1981)
The Karate Kid (1984)
Mystic River (2003)
Sleepers (1996)

 

FILMSTRUCK

June 22
An American in Paris (1951)
An Angel at My Table (1990) *
The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (1959) *
The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity (1960) *
The Human Condition III: A Soldier’s Prayer (1961) *
The Piano (1993)

June 29
History Is Made at Night (1937)
The Italian Connection (1972)
The Music Man (1962)

From the Lars Von Trier collection:

Breaking the Waves (1996) *
Dogville (2003) **
Europa (1991) *
The Five Obstructions (2003)

June 30
Caliber 9 (1972)
It Happened One Night (1934)
The Ladykillers (1955)
Uptight (1968)

July 6
Husbands and Wives (1992)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

July 8
Together (2000)

July 13
Losing Ground (1982)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

*  Remaining on the Criterion channel
** Remaining on the FilmStruck channel

 

HULU

June 30
Zodiac (2007)
Stories We Tell (2012)
A Simple Plan (1998)
Project Nim (2011)
Marathon Man (1976)
A League of Their Own (1992)


 

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

In Bruges (2008)
A Little Princess (1995)
Set it Up (2018)

 

AMAZON PRIME

After Tiller (2013)
Duck, You Sucker (1971)
The Great Silence (1968)
Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015)
The Last Seduction (1994)
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979)
Yellow Submarine (1968)

 

FILMSTRUCK

Ninotchka (1939)
Running on Empty (1988)
Queen Christina (1933)

 

HULU

Middle of Nowhere (2012)
Primal Fear (1996)
The Second Mother (2015)
Smoke (1995)
Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak (2009)
The Untouchables (1987)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

June 22
Brain on Fire — NETFLIX FILM (2016)
Us and Them — NETFLIX FILM (2018)

June 23
Tarzan (1999)

June 26
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

 

AMAZON PRIME

June 26
Shutter Island (2009)

 


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

What We Learned This Week: July 23-29

LESSON #1: ARE CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’S FILMS EMOTIONLESS?— The prolific and cerebral director of Dunkirk recently answered critics who have called his films “emotionless.”  They must have missed the sharp revenge of Memento, the stirring heroic feels of his Batman trilogy, the seething jealousy of The Prestige, the suspenseful mental weight of Inception, and the familial anguish of Interstellar.  Emotionless, my ass.  I’m afraid Dunkirk will be the challenge.  I don’t think it has the necessary emotional anchors, but my Feelin’ Film peers will say otherwise.  See it for yourself (on the biggest and loudest screen possible) and let us know what you think.

LESSON #2: NETFLIX IS AN EVOLVING ENIGMA FOR THE MOVIE BUSINESS— Speaking of Christopher Nolan, he recently made negative comments on Netflix’s strategy of simultaneous streaming and release windows that take away from theatrical films.  GQ recently collected a roundtable of directors (included Ava DuVernay, Edgar Wright, Jeff Nichols, and James Gunn) who “blew up Hollywood.”  That led many, especially the Nolan disciplines, to raise those anti-Netflix pitchforks we’ve been back and forth on all year in this column.  A voice of contrast came out at much the same time from A Ghost Story director David Lowery calling the behemoth hub a “service to the industry,” especially for mid-range independent film who don’t have a chance in the theatrical marketplace (especially against the likes of Nolan’s films and their backing).  I side with Lowery, and what’s good enough for Martin Scorsese is good enough for me.  I see more help than harm, and it’s still too soon to see the growing effects, positive or negative.

LESSON #3: PRICE POINT IS THE NUMBER ONE ISSUE OF FILM VIEWERSHIP— Echoing the first two lessons this week and a great thread on the Feelin’ Film Facebook group, this whole audience problem comes down to money, plain and simple.  A family of four can get more content out of the recurring price of a Netflix subscription or more repeat viewing from the one-time-price DVD/Blu-ray disc purchase at Walmart than they would hauling everyone to the theater for tickets and concessions multiple times a year.  Add to that the substantially reduced prices for HD and Smart TVs compared to 10 or even 5 years ago.  While I fully endorse to the magic of the communal big screen experience, one would crazy not to see the price point logic and respect a smart household’s budgeting decisions.  It’s all about bang-for-your-buck and Netflix is winning that right now with content volume and ease of access.

LESSON #4: SOME FILMS DON’T BELONG IN SPACE— Bigger isn’t necessarily better, and how big is too big?  Space is too big.  I recently learned that answer when Fast and Furious series director F. Gary Gray said that a future sequel of the franchise that started with lowly car thieves in L.A. could be set in space.  WTF?!  Straining believability is fun and all, but that’s too much.  Has no one this century seen the Moonraker James Bond film?  Stop already.  Go back to Paul Walker’s sunset and be done.

LESSON #5: SOMEBODY TAKE JAMES CAMERON’S CRAZINESS AWAY— Apparently, James Cameron thinks he’s got another Terminator trilogy for the masses.  Come on, man.  While I respect the visual envelope-pushing and industry revolutionizing Cameron can perform, the man can be a quack as a writer.  That and, by the time he gets to this project for how slow he works, Arnold will be 100-years-old or we’ll all be dead.  Somebody shake this bad idea out of him and tell him to go finish Avatar 2 already.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.

 

 

Episode 068: Dunkirk

War film? Rescue film? Horror film? Or all three? We tackle Christopher Nolan’s latest movie and discuss whether the film’s unique narrative structure and immersive sound were positives or negatives. We also try to answer what we think a Christopher Nolan movie is, which is no easy task. Nolan may be our favorite director but Dunkirk was an experience we had to linger on. We hope you enjoy as we talk our way through how the movie made us feel.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:02:32

(Aaron –  Oats Studios)
(Patrick – 48-Hour Film Project Screenings)

Dunkirk Review – 0:19:14

The Connecting Point – 1:07:31

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What We Learned This Week: June 25-July 1

LESSON #1: DON’T BUY THE DOOM AND GLOOM PRETENTIOUS PEOPLE ARE PUTTING ON ROTTEN TOMATOES AND NETFLIX— It feels like every week someone wants to pit the fans versus the critics and forget that critics are fans too.  This week it was a piece in Forbes.  Let me put this as simple as I can.  Reviews don’t make people pull money out of their wallet.  Products of interest do.  The content always sells itself first.  The frosting of random measured approval is second.  I will continue to be in the “want a better RT score, make a better movie” camp.  As for Netflix, people are forgetting about the huge access it grants independent films and documentary films.  Films like Okja this week wouldn’t get a puncher’s chance at the crowded multiplexes in this country.  A platform like Netflix lets it be everywhere.  In addition to being that kind of pedestal, the ability for audience buzz through binge and repeat viewing is something a theater cannot improve for a film.

LESSON #2: IF YOU REALLY NEED A NEW PLACE TO READILY AND AFFORDABLY ACCESS FILMS, HEAD OVER TO YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY— I’m not an avid reader, but I still frequent my local library through my children.   Especially if your library is part of a larger county or state system of shared material, the completely free access to both popular and hard-to-find movies is outstanding.  Before you pay that Redbox price with a time limit, a 24-hour Video On Demand rental, or even a full subscription to something like Netflix, Hulu, or Filmstruck, consider what you can mine and discover for free.

LESSON #3: SOUNDTRACKS CAN MAKE A MOVIE— There are films with cool soundtracks and then there are cool films with cool soundtracks.  The trick is not just having a cool soundtrack but using it to its fullest extent as a supporting layer of a film.  No movie in recent memory does that better than Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver.  That film isn’t throwing obscure tracks and deep cuts in there for indie cred.  Each song is purposely piece of the storytelling and the effect is genius.  See and hear Baby Driver at your earliest convenience on the loudest movie screen you can find.

LESSON #4: LET DIRECTORS DIRECT— I encountered a great deal of double talk this week on many fronts that all talked about directors and led me to this lesson’s title.  First, The Beguiled‘s Sofia Coppola is getting flack for not including a slave character or addressing the politics of the Civil War in her auspicious remake landing in theaters this weekend.  Right off the bat, she’s the writer and director and deserves to make those calls for the vision she wants to create, period.  I’ve seen the film.  The slavery angle or more men are not what the film is missing.  Look at the material.  The “whiteness” is the part of the point.  Next, I don’t know what to make of the coming new direction of Warner Bros. under Toby Emmerich when it wants to avoid hiring “auteur directors who want final cut.”  Do they realize they just hired and leaned on Joss Whedon, who had that final cut trouble with Marvel, to save one of their films?  Do they not look back at their biggest critical successes this century and not see names like Clint Eastwood, Ben Affleck, and Christopher Nolan attached the end of the credits?  I get trimming budgets, but don’t clip the wings of the incredible people you’ve hired.  Tinker as a studio too far and people like Eastwood and Nolan are going to stop working with you and then you’ll get the “bad for business” label, Toby.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.

 

What We Learned This Week: March 5-11

LESSON #1: THE SUCCESS RATE OF INDIE DIRECTORS STEPPING TO BLOCKBUSTERS IS IMPROVING— Other than Marc Webb stepping up from “(500) Days of Summer” to the ill-fated “Amazing Spider-Man” double bill and “Moon” director Duncan Jones bombing on “Warcraft,” the recent push of larger studios’ farming of indie directors to helm blockbusters have gone pretty successfully.   All of the greats started small (take Christopher Nolan going from “Memento” to Batman), but the trend is swelling lately.   Colin Treverrow turned “Safety Not Guaranteed” into “Jurassic World” and J.A. Bayona will be moving from “The Impossible” and “A Monster Calls” into the dinotastic sequel.  “The Kings of Summer” director Jordan Vogt-Roberts cashed up to “Kong: Skull Island.”  This list goes on and on, and 2017 is full of more.  Rian Johnson flips “Looper” for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and Taika Waititi goes from “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” for “Thor: Ragnarok.”  Jon Watts of “Cop Car” hopes to not pull a Marc Webb with “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

LESSON #2: BIGGER IS BETTER— Speaking of “Kong: Skull Island,” the head honchos at Legendary Entertainment found the easiest and most irresistible route to selling a new Kong film: Make him bigger.   The powers that be have smacked an invisible label on the cinematic Cheez Whiz jar that reads “now bigger than ever,” jacking up the normally and plenty-imposing 25-foot gorilla into a gigantic 100-foot bipedal behemoth.  That changes everything when it comes to the monster’s capacity for destruction and man’s impossible chances of opposition.  Go see the film.  It’s a blast.

LESSON #3: KEEP AN EYE ON THE SXSW FILM FESTIVAL— For nine days and 125 features this month, Austin, Texas becomes the center of the independent film scene with the annual South by Southwest Film Festival that is starting to rival January’s Sundance Film Festival for exclusive films and a Hollywood-level red carpet.  This year, you’ll get the premieres of the latest films from Edgar Wright (“Baby Driver”), Terrance Malick (“Song to Song”), and Ben Wheatley (“Free Fire”).   SXSW’s merger of the arts is becoming a hot ticket with good gets.

LESSON #4: THE WHITEWASHED CASTING OUTRAGE IS STARTING TO SMARTEN STUDIOS UP— I think the combination of warranted complaints,  butthurt rants, and internet courage-fueled protests are starting to work.   Movie news reported this week that director Guy Ritchie will seek Middle Eastern lead performers for Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” re-imagining and Niki Caro looks to be doing the same for “Mulan.”   If you look past the animated curtain and beyond all of its inherent entertainment value, “Aladdin” is one of the worst perpetrators in film history for white-washing.  I’m intrigued to see something different and call these active attempts an initial victory towards improved diversity.

LESSON #5: LET’S MAKE UP A NEW WORD: “BRITWASHING”— Piggybacking from Lesson #4, race relations also have a national vs. international bend to them from time to time.  Samuel L. Jackson just stepped out in an interview to criticize the casting of black British actor Daniel Kaluuya to play an American African-American guy in “Get Out” and wonders about missed opportunities.  Honestly, the man isn’t wrong and, as I coin the term, “Britwashing” has been a quietly unsettling trend when you see the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, Christian Bale, Henry Cavill, Andrew Garfield, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, and David Oyelow playing real and fictional American heroes.  One has to wonder if there is a talent gap between the Brits and the Americans.  What do you think?  How do you feel about foreigners playing American figures and heroes?

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current President of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.