What We Learned This Week: July 7-13

LESSON #1: DECORUM AND CIVILITY HAVE SLIPPED AT THE COMMUNAL THEATRE EXPERIENCE— I think every single one of us has more than one story of a crappy theater patron that we’ve had to share a movie with.  I bet, combined, we’re seen it all across any and all possible loud, messy, and disrespectful behavior. I ran into a sharp column from Rebel Without a Pause Button blogger Robert Salusbury on this topic entitled “Cinema Slobs.”  Reading it (nice media inserts, by the way) makes me wonder not just the extent, which we all know is too much, but the causes of how there is more of this that what many of us remember from past generations.  It can’t all be cell phones. A spoiled culture of entitlement, born from increased costs and a negative shift of personal discipline and accountability, has to be in there somewhere. Am I right? Don’t be one of the people we all hate when you go to the movie.  Be cool and a good neighbor.

LESSON #2: SONY ISN’T STUPID AND DISNEY IS OVERCONFIDENT— With the same fervor as rooting for the chaos of NBA free agency, I got a kick out of hearing that Marvel could love its MCU rights to the Sony-controlled Spider-Man character if Spider-Man: Far From Home does not crack $1 billion of global box office.  I mean, go figure that this is even a risk, but it’s going to be closer than you think.  Spider-Man: Homecoming fell far short of a billion at about $880 million, so Disney is gambling on big growth.  This makes me laugh for two reasons. The first is the shared horror we all have knowing Sony would f–k up this character for a third time without Marvel’s champion support.  The second is how Disney might be shooting its own foot with this necessary milestone by putting The Lion King in theaters right in Spider-Man’s wake in third week.  That’s careless hubris right there.

LESSON #3: THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A REMAKE AND A REIMAGINING— Speaking of The Lion King, folks, I know I wrote about 1100 words on the movie, but I honestly don’t know what to truly tell you about The Lion King.  Disney calls these reimaginings, but, to me, that term means updates, modifications, and new infusions.  Jon Favreau’s has that on the outside with the stunning photo-real animation, but that’s it. There is an awful lot of shot-for-shot replication after that, which feels more remake than reimagining.  Granted, if that’s the goal, then mission accomplished because the music is there and the nostalgia is there to make a zillion dollars. Creatively, I still think it’s a shame and a missed opportunity to evolve more than the exterior.

LESSON #4: IT PAYS TO BE AN AVENGER— Here’s one more thing on Disney money.  We’ve seen Robert Downey, Jr. score fat paydays for being Tony Stark, but, goddamn, was Avenger: Endgame a golden parachute.  The top dog got $20 million up front, which is lucrative and more than the $15 million given to Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, and Chris Hemsworth.  For RDJ, it’s the 8% back-end deal that fills his vault with another $55 million.  That’s a handsome jump from the $500K paycheck from the first Iron Man movie.  Studs and studettes, back-end deals are where it’s at (“that’s what she said”) and they’ve been a part of the business for a long time.  Jack Nicholson’s Batman deal from 30 years ago scored like RDJ did.  Even Bradley Cooper doing just a voice took a 1% deal and walks away from Avengers: Endgame with $7 million.

LESSON #5: NETFLIX MIGHT BE GETTING SMARTER— Frequent WWLTW readers and followers have seen in this column the many instances where Netflix really throws money around (click on the tag and you’ll see).  Well, I think the teenager finally maxed out mommy and daddy’s credit card and have learned to live and spend a little leaner. Reports say the streaming giant will be more “cautious” with budgets after dropping nine figures on projects like Ben Affleck’s Triple Frontier and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.  Welcome to big studio problems, Netflix.  It’s the paychecks they’re writing to talent, not the production costs.  Unlike an MCU film, they aren’t getting ticket sales. As renewable and reliable as the monthly subscription rake can provide, Netflix will always have a growth cap.  Heaven forbid, they lose customers.

LESSON #6: REEVALUATING THE POLITICS OF A MOVIE IS ALMOST ALWAYS PROBLEMATIC— In my short 39 years in this world, I am fully educated and aware that some movies are not going to age well and that, matching my own website of Every Movie Has a Lesson, I believe every movie has a bias or political root of some size.  Zero is impossible. To me, each movie becomes a time capsule for the era in which is was made (double if it’s a period piece), slant and all. I get the feeling IndieWire’s Eric Kohn doesn’t see things the same way. For Forrest Gump’s 25th anniversary, the journalist wrote a takedown article heaping a whole lot of conjecture and reaching political blame.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t go there. Forrest Gump was always neutral to me because it’s steep realistic fiction.  Aging is aging. I get that some movies will fit and fall with the times, but it’s not worth burning things to the ground.

LESSON #7: GUILLERMO DEL TORO HAS GOOD TASTE— For the finishing recommendation slot, enjoy this list of The Shape of Water Oscar winner’s 25 favorite films.  It’s an outstanding balance of cinema history and modern cornerstones.  Build that Letterboxd checklist from this and begin a little journey of appreciation and education.


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.  (#106)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Lion King (2019)

This remake of my favorite animated film of all-time was coming up against some very high expectations, and despite being only my third favorite version (behind the original and theater musical), it is nonetheless an outstanding telling of this story in its own spectacular way.


 

Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 174: Spider-Man: Far From Home

Emmanuel Noisette from Eman’s Movie Reviews joins us for a conversation about the webslinger’s newest adventure. We chat about Peter Parker’s conflicting desires, villainous plot twists, fake news, high school drama, and even get into some theorizing about the future, too.

Spider-Man: Far From Home Review – 0:02:44

The Connecting Point – 1:48:55

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MOVIE REVIEW: Spider-Man: Far From Home

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME is everything I could have wanted from a SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING sequel & follow-up to AVENGERS: ENDGAME. See it on opening night or ASAP to avoid spoilers and be sure to stay for two incredible (and game-changing) post-credit scenes.


 

Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 163: Avengers: Endgame

This week we are of course talking about the final chapter in a story 10 years and 22 films in the making. We break down our reaction to this once-in-generation event, while also taking a look back at the past and contemplating the future. This is a wonderful conversation that we both thoroughly enjoyed and think you will, too.

Avengers: Endgame Review – 0:02:55

The Connecting Point – 1:31:05


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MOVIE REVIEW: Avengers: Endgame

100% spoiler-free with no plot points even hinted at! AVENGERS: ENDGAME closes the book on one of the greatest film franchise achievements in history on a very high note. It is every bit the emotional experience you expect & a gratifying finale. Also, for the first time in 10+ years there is no post-credit scene so feel free to rush to the bathroom as required.

 


 

Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

You Should Be Watching: July 19-25

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 highlighting a change of pace food-focused indie film from Jon Favreau (expiring soon), a surreal mindbender from Denis Villeneuve, and another all-time classic from Charlie Chaplin.

This month is your last chance to see Finding Dory on Netflix, Gran Torino and The Hurt Locker on Amazon Prime, and classics like His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo, and Taxi Driver on FilmStruck. Now streaming are titles such as Room, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, and The Spectacular Now on Netflix and The Philadelphia Story and the Judy Garland version of A Star Is Born on FilmStruck.

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


Chef

Year: 2014

Director: Jon Favreau

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofía Vergara, Emjay Anthony, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Sedaris, Robert Downey Jr., Russell Peters, Chase Grimm, Will Schutze, Gloria Sandoval, Jose C. Hernandez, Alberto Salas, Alfredo Ortiz

 

When he’s not busy making movies or in a past life, Jon Favreau—who plays main character Carl Casper—seems to have spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen and frequenting food trucks. As writer, director, and lead actor on this picture, his love for the world of food shines through, as does his frustration with artists being told how they have to make their art  and critics–professional and otherwise–putting down the art.

Casper is a head chef at a high-class restaurant in Los Angeles, but he’s fed up with being told how to make his dishes and blows up at a stuffy, influential critic both on Twitter and in person after receiving a scathing review. With his reputation now trashed and unable to make the dishes he knows would be loved, he leaves the restaurant and has to figure out what’s next for him career-wise and what to do about his relationships with his estranged son Percy (Emjay Anthony) and his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara).

In all, Chef is a unique look at the classic middle age crisis but in the modern world of friendly divorces and social media, where emotions run wild, reputations are changed in a moment, and news today is gone tomorrow.

EXPIRING: Last day to watch on Amazon Prime is July 27


 

Enemy

Year: 2013

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini, Joshua Peace, Tim Post, Kedar Brown, Megan Mane, Misha Highstead, Alexis Uiga, Darryl Dinn, Kiran Friesen, Loretta Yu, Stephen R. Hart, Paul Stephen

 

Despite it being far more surreal than any of his other films Denis Villeneuve’s (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival) fingerprints can be seen all over Enemy, from pacing to atmospheric score to thematic color design. It is sublimely edited, attention-grabbing throughout, and terrifically haunting in its direction. For what it’s worth, even his use of nudity, while graphic, is limited and more artistic than titillating.

But none of it works without Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as two radically different characters who look the same, one a professor named Adam Bell, the other a small-time actor named Daniel St. Claire, who Adam stumbles upon after renting one of his movies. Unable to shake the reality that Daniel is a mirror image of himself, Adam becomes obsessed with him. And it only gets stranger and more challenging and confusing from there. It’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between dreams, reality, imagination, and symbolism, and why the heck spiders keep appearing. But despite the likelihood that the film will leave you in utter confusion, it’s a fascinating experience with knockout performances, an incredible score, and wonderfully creative visual design.


 

City Lights

  

Year: 1931

Director: Charlie Chaplin

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee, Harry Myers, Al Ernest Garcia, Hank Mann, Albert Austin, Eddie Baker, Henry Bergman, Buster Brodie, Jeanne Carpenter, Tom Dempsey, James Donnelly, Ray Erlenborn, Robert Graves, Charles Hammond, Jean Harlow, Joseph Herrick, Austen Jewell, Willie Keeler, Robert Parrish John Rand, W.C. Robinson, Cy Slocum, Tony Stabenau, Mark Strong, Tiny Ward, Stanhope Wheatcroft, Florence Wix

 

A delightful film through and through, full of laughter, awe, and heartwarming goodness, but it also embraces the reality of the hard times. You can’t help but root for Charlie Chaplin’s character The Tramp. He has such a good heart and keeps finding himself a victim of circumstance, for better and worse. Virginia Cherill as his love interest is so cute and  great at playing blind. Their on-screen chemistry is special.

There is a lyrical quality to the film that uses the perfect choreography of movement and wonderful musical score to keep each scene flowing smoothly into the next. Incredible timing is needed to make the interactions work as they need to, but Chaplin is such an expert, he makes it all look easy.

There are diverse settings, and the film is chock full of gags, but one of the highlights is the boxing match. Its choreography is among the most creative of its type. And not only is that entire sequence laugh-out-loud funny, both before and during the match, it’s also thrilling and suspenseful. If you only see one Chaplin film, make it City Lights. It’s a true joy to experience.

 


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

July 29
Assassination (2015)

July 31
Finding Dory (2016)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

 

AMAZON PRIME

July 19
Embrace of the Serpent

July 27
Chef

July 30
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Wild Bill (1995)

July 31
A Christmas Story (1983)
Gran Torino (2008)
The Hurt Locker (2009)

 

FILMSTRUCK

July 20
Blow-Up (1966)
Rififi (1955)
Thieves’ Highway (1949)

July 27
All the President’s Men (1976)
Ball of Fire (1941)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
His Girl Friday (1940)
The Killing Fields (1984)
Rio Bravo (1959)

July 28
Night and the City (1950)

July 31
Taxi Driver (1976)

August 3
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)
Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
Marty (1955)
Network (1976)

August 4
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
The Phantom of Liberty (1974)

August 10
The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)
Dogtooth (2009)
Magnolia (1999)
Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)


 

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Enemy (2013)
Locke (2013)
Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017)
Obvious Child (2014)
Room (2015)
The Rover (2014)
The Spectacular Now (2013)
The Stranger (1946)
Under the Skin (2013)

 

AMAZON PRIME

The Doors (1991)
Return to Me (2000)
Walking Tall (1973)

 

FILMSTRUCK

Gaslight (1944)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
A Star Is Born (1954)
Two Women (1960)

 

HULU

Cold in July (2014)
The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

July 20
Father of the Year—NETFLIX FILM (2018)

July 22
An Education (2009)

 

AMAZON PRIME

July 24
How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017)

 

HULU

July 20
Embrace of the Serpent (2015)

July 25
Black Cop (2017)

 


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.

Episode 113: The Jungle Book (2016)

This episode marks the first of a two-part crossover event celebrating the classic Rudyard Kipling tale, The Jungle Book. We’ve brought in the guys from the Retro Rewind Podcast, Francisco Ruiz and Paul Powers, to talk about Jon Favreau’s 2016 live-action/CGI update of the 1967 animated Disney feature, and we’ll be covering the latter on Retro Rewind Podcast together as well. 

The Jungle Book Review – 0:04:40

The Connecting Point – 0:51:13


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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Episode 111: Solo-A Star Wars Story

In appropriately numbered Episode 111, we talk all things Han Solo, and we do mean ALL things. With so many origin stories there is plenty to discuss.  We talk about which ones worked, which ones didn’t, where Star Wars spin-off films go from here, and how sometimes it’s okay to just have a little fun at the movies.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:10
(Aaron – Star Wars marathon)
(Patrick – Monsters)

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review – 0:19:36

The Connecting Point – 1:23:05


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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MOVIE REVIEW: Solo: A Star Wars Story

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018)

2 Hours and 15 Minutes (PG-13)

I’ve been on record as worrying quite a bit about Solo: A Star Wars Story (henceforth in this review know as Solo, because a one-word title just makes sense doesn’t it?). The first Star Wars anthology film, Rogue One, significantly underwhelmed me, and here a second prequel was attempting to unnecessarily go back and fill in gaps in the Star Wars timeline. But this time it required the dangerous risk of recasting one of the most iconic characters in movie history. I love Han. We all love Han. And Harrison Ford is Han. So, I’ve been pretty skeptical that Alden Ehrenreich could step into those enormously talented shoes and deliver a compelling enough performance to make us truly believe that he, too, is Han.

But folks… it happened.

It wasn’t right away, though. Solo wastes no time in introducing us to young Han the scoundrel, but despite an exciting chase sequence and Han trying to talk his way out of a pickle, Ehrenreich just wasn’t connecting for me. As the story went on, though, my expectations and presumptions about how young Han should act began to decline and he slowly transformed. When Han meets Lando, I was all in, having witnessed enough smirks, snark, and charm to really believe in this new version of the character. And by the time the credits rolled, I had to repent. Because maybe he’s not perfect, but young Han he is.

The thing to remember first and foremost about Solo is that it’s not a Star Wars saga film and thus doesn’t abide by the same storytelling rules. The question isn’t IF Han will make it out of situations safely, it’s HOW he will make it out. This is an intergalactic heist film and an origin story. Seriously, we learn the origin of EVERYTHING. Han’s lucky dice? Covered. Han’s blaster? That too. The Kessel Run? It’s definitely mentioned. How Han met Lando and Chewie? Of course. And so, so much more. Honestly, it could have been overkill. Maybe for some it will. But for me it struck the perfect balance, giving me depth and insight into a beloved character without ever stopping the plot to draw attention to a reference. All of it was woven seamlessly into the narrative. It made sense, and I loved every single wink and nod to the stories we all know so well.

Another strength of the film is that Solo doesn’t go solo. The film features a host of flat-out wonderful supporting actors and droids. Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) is a fantastic addition to the canon and through her we are able to learn about Han the lover and what kind of woman he’s attracted to. Beckett (Woody Harrelson) provides Han with a mentor of sorts, someone who teaches him tricks of the trade and many life lessons. Then there is Lando, played as perfectly by Donald Glover as you’d expect, showing us how the two young smooth-talking smugglers came to their complicated friendship. The chemistry between Ehrenreich and Glover is definitely present and if I had one gripe it would be that I just wanted more of this duo together. Paul Bettany chews up scenes wonderfully as a bigshot gangster and leader of crime syndicate Crimson Dawn, the perfect subtle villain for a smuggler’s origin story. And L3-37 (yes, that spells “leet”), Lando’s droid, is hilariously liberal while also playing a surprisingly touching role in the tale.

The adventure itself is a ton of fun. Han, as you would expect, gets himself into a situation that involves stealing, smuggling, fancy flying, and generally getting shot at along the way. But it isn’t just fun, it’s a well-written story that thoroughly explains how the swashbuckling rogue became the man who may or may not shoot first, doesn’t trust anyone, and primarily looks out only for himself. All of the action pieces are also wonderfully done, from the big set pieces to the brief one-on-one fight sequences, and the cinematography is just as gorgeous as always. The film’s score stands out, too, with John Powell bringing a hint of his How To Train Your Dragon sound to the familiar Star Wars themes, particularly when the Millennium Falcon is speeding through the galaxy.

VERDICT

Solo: A Star Wars Story is one of the best origin stories ever told. It fills in details for so much of a beloved character that you may be shocked they could cover it all. The action and adventurous tone make for one heck of an enjoyable movie experience and Ehrenreich importantly embodies young Han, growing into the character over the course of the film. Though some may find parts to be cheesy or unnecessarily connected to past films, my expectations were thoroughly surpassed and as the final scene played, I found myself wanting to cheer. Solo is a great example of the kind of light-hearted, fun stories that can be told in this universe and further continues Disney’s fantastic year of blockbusters.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.