What We Learned This Week: May 27-June 2

LESSON #1: MATCHES MADE IN HEAVEN— After rumors had been swirling for months, Slumdog Millionaire Academy Award winner Danny Boyle has been confirmed to direct the 25th James Bond film.  Daniel Craig will star and production will begin before the end of this year.  Word is Boyle’s go-to Trainspotting writer John Hodge pitched a screenplay idea the producers enjoyed, which will bump Neal Purvis and Robert Wade from their six-film and 16-year run as the long-time franchise screenwriters.  Not that Bond was getting stale, but the Boyle/Hodge tonic of energy and wit couldn’t be a better fit for elevating the franchise and Craig’s performances.  Another ideal match this week came with the announced casting of Jamie Foxx to step into the chains and cape of Al Simmons in a new film attempt from at Todd McFarlane’s comic staple Spawn.  The Ray Oscar winner has the right intensity, chops, and stature to elevate this film from the joke it was over 20 years ago with its first film.  Universal Pictures-backed Blumhouse Productions (Get Out, Whiplash, Insidious, The Purge) is perfect nest as well.  The one drawback is McFarlane insisting on directing.  He should really defer to experienced hand.

LESSON #2: MATCHES NOT QUITE MADE IN HEAVEN— Eyebrows were raised and heads were scratched this week when director Zack Snyder answered a social media question of what’s next for him with the answer of adapting Ayn Rand’s 1947 tome The Fountainhead. While nothing has been confirmed, for most armchair film producers and studio executives online (i.e. public fans), the Snyder M.O. of style doesn’t exactly match the visions and fiction of Rand.  I don’t care what their name is, from Martin Scorsese or Todd Haynes filming children’s novels or Patty Jenkins making a comic book film, directors can’t branch out, evolve, grow their talent, or spread their wings without the opportunities to do so.  I’ll be the kind of guy that says “give the guy a chance.”

LESSON #3: JAMES CAMERON IS A HYPOCRITE, BUT A REVOLUTIONARY HYPOCRITE— Another week passing on the calendar in 2018 equals another provocative entry of James Cameron industry commentary.  Speaking at an event in Australia, Cameron railed against the “disservice” that is the studio cash grab of converting films to 3D in post-production instead shooting them in full 3D intentionally like his own Avatar film.  Mind you, this is the same man who post-converted his own Titanic to make more money and pad his stats.  Cameron may be a phony talker, but he’s still a true radical pioneer looking for the next big thing.  He followed his admonishing words with his Avatar sequel goals of creating and capitalizing on glasses-free 3D.  If he pulls that off, he can bluff all he wants because he’ll talk the talk and walk the walk with that magical dazzlement.

LESSON #4: LEAVE SOME THINGS AS TIME CAPSULES AND TRIBUTES TO DIFFERENT ERAS— Ten years of pre-production musical chairs to remake James O’Barr’s graphic novel The Crow lost another song and set of players.  Financial woes have led Sony Pictures to call off the latest remake attempt planned by young director Corin Hardy (The Hallow) and motivated chosen star Jason Momoa.  Sure, today’s cinematic capabilities could make a heck of a film and Momoa is stellar dark hero type, but there’s something about the mystique of all things The Crow that belongs in the past.  The original 1989 mini-series and the ill-fated 1994 film feel like thematic testimonies for then not now.  Even with a Logan-like R-rating, The Crow wouldn’t play popularly or to the same effect today.  I say leave it as a monument to the era and the late Brandon Lee.  Along the same lines, please someone stop Kevin Smith and stick a fork in Jay and Silent Bob Reboot shooting this summer.  Now that’s something that belongs in the past.  That schtick was funny when they were in their twenties and has diminished ever since.  Watching Smith and Jason Mewes now in their forties likely dropping the same dated man-child snark is not going to go well.  Can you imagine if these two ended up as the next Lemmon and Matthau busting each other’s balls 40 years from now in their eighties?  Please no.  Leave Jay and Silent Bob buried.

LESSON #5: SOME TIME CAPSULES DESERVE TO BE OPENED— Going back a decade even earlier than the 1990s, I know I was one of many stoked by Tom Cruise’s tweet on Thursday declaring #Day1 to the long-desired and much-anticipated Top Gun: Maverick sequel, slated for a July 12, 2019 release.  As the years of Mission: Impossible films have shown (including Mission: Impossible – Fallout later this July), Tom Cruise remains an nearly-ageless action hero.  I also trust the top-shelf brand of action capable from director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: LegacyOblivionOnly the Brave).  Nostalgia rules and they can pull this off.  This will be worth the 33 years of unearthed dirt (or at least I hope so).


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  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 FacebookTwitter, and Medium.

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Only the Brave

Only the Brave (2017)


Going In

You had me at… Taylor Kitsch. The All-American boy is back. Having already starred in roles as a high school football star, a Navy SEAL, and a Civil War veteran, Kitsch excels at portraying the everyman. In Only the Brave, Kitsch is Chris “Mac” MacKenzie, one of the elite wildfire specialists who made up the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The film tells the story of the Hotshots and how they risked their lives to fight off the Yarnell Hill Fire that threatened to overtake the city of Yarnell, Arizona in 2013. Directed by Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy), and also starring Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, and Andie MacDowell, this biopic is one of my top five most anticipated movies of Fall 2017. With this collection of talent and a director whose visual style is often spectacular, I’m expecting to be awed and entertained. But this is a true and tragic story, so I’m also hoping to be moved.



COMING OUT

Only the Brave is not a perfect film. It has somewhat of a clunky beginning, jumping time periods without much notice as to how long has passed, and the opening quarter of the film is largely spent introducing characters through a series of quick moments. As we flash from one to another it’s not entirely certain how they’ll be connected, or when, but when the film does make that clear it improves significantly. I state these minor annoyances up front because, frankly, Only the Brave is a tremendous film and I’d rather tell you why than nitpick its small faults.

At the center of Only the Brave is its beating heart, Supervisor Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin). Marsh is the leader of the fire crew and embodies the personality traits of the men who put their lives on the line to fight these immensely devastating wildfires. When he is with his men, he is almost always 100% on point, but it’s when he is at home with his wife that his vulnerabilities come through the most. Through this relationship we see the effects that a career spent away from your spouse can have, its emotional toll bubbling beneath the surface of routine pleasantries. Brolin captures this balance of emotions perfectly and commands every single scene he is in. His performance is captivating and the biggest compliment I can give is that for two hours I simply saw Supervisor Eric Marsh and forgot that Josh Brolin was acting the part.

The other primary character in the Hotshot crew is Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), the newest member of the team and a recovering drug user trying to better his life so that he can care for his newly born (and completely unexpected) child. It is mostly through Brendan’s eyes that we see the other Hotshots and learn about how they live. What Kosinski does that I really appreciate is showing us imperfect heroes. These men make inappropriate jokes, struggle in their relationship, and bully one another. But they are also a close brotherhood who stays in incredible physical shape, are ready at any moment to rush into danger, and have each other’s backs. The firefighters reminded me of my time in the Navy, when for 6-12 months at a time I had no one to rely on but my fellow Sailors. It is a hard life and one that is presented very honestly here, in all its messiness. The Granite Mountain Hotshots accomplished many things and saved many lives during their years of service, but exploring the grounded nature of what their daily routines might have been like was refreshing to see.

As for Kosinski and the visuals of the film, he delivered as expected, but I was also impressed with his restraint. Sure, there are scenes of powerful flames sweeping across mountains and devouring everything in their path, equally majestic and terrifying. There are also great aerial shots as helicopters transport the Hotshots and planes dump payloads full of water onto the burning masses. But unlike Kosinski’s previous films, Only the Brave focuses first and foremost on the men themselves, and in that lies its great impact. By the end of the film, we care about the Hotshots. We care about their futures. We care about their families. And when we care, we become able to respect their sacrifice on an entirely different level.

Verdict

Only the Brave begins with a few flickers, but like a wildfire it catches hold and swells into something so emotionally powerful that it overtakes you in a rush. The determination and sacrifice of the Granite Mountain Hotshots are handled with reverence for what these men put on the line to protect their families and town. This ensemble cast does a fantastic job with Brolin and Teller doing some of their best ever work, and Kitsch and Connelly being memorable as well. To answer the most burning question… Yes, this is the best firefighting film since Backdraft. Be prepared to ugly cry, but definitely see it, because Only the Brave is one of the year’s best films.

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 how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 071: TRON: Legacy

We welcome back the boys from Retro Rewind Podcast this week to have a conversation about a movie that we all have great affection for. TRON: Legacy is undeniably one of the most visually incredible films ever made and has a score by Daft Punk that is universally loved. But is that all, or is there more to this unique story of AI and a humanized digital landscape? Join us as we talk about how this film made us feel and more.

TRON: Legacy Review – 0:02:43

The Connecting Point – 1:16:04

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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