What We Learned This Week: December 3-9

LESSON #1: IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, BUY THEM— Barring any final hang-ups, big media will be getting bigger.   The entertainment universe is abuzz with the prospect of Walt Disney buying 21st Century Fox (more than just parts or assets of it as initially rumored), a $60 billion deal that could be done as early as next week.  Word is Fox would retain its sports and news properties (dammit), but the film wing is what has folks dreaming.  Fanboys go straight to the fantasies of seeing the X-Men/Fantastic Four worlds merged with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I cannot blame them for those tingles. I have them too, but circle back to some of the little things we’ve seen Disney do over the course of the year (many reported in this column): the blackout of critics from certain publications, the price hikes for theater dividends, taking their ball to their own convention and streaming service, and more.  There is something to be said for healthy competition and not a one-stop shop that is the size of an empire.  For example (and I bet you didn’t know this one), buying 21st Century Fox would give Disney controlling interest in Hulu.   Combine that potential with Disney’s ESPN service and their own streaming platform coming in 2019 and Disney could have the power to squeeze the life out of Netflix like a corporate anaconda.  Plainly put, I hope the deal doesn’t go through.  If Disney wants to use X-Men and the Fantastic Four, broker a sharing deal with Fox the way they did with Sony for Spider-Man until the rights run out and the properties are free agents again.  Share and play nice together instead of bully with a takeover.

LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF BIG BUSINESS, LET THE JUSTICE LEAGUE AFTERMATH BEGIN AT DC/WARNER BROS.— I have been one of the vocal minority to tip my hat at Warner Bros. going the bolder and more adult direction with their superhero properties as an antithesis to the sunny and safe market cornered by Disney’s MCU.  They had the balls to be different.  The bottom line, unfortunately, is that even the cajones have to sell.  I wouldn’t say Warner Bros. is losing money from its DC films, but you can tell a boardroom somewhere looks at their receipt and then looks at Marvel’s receipts and sees lost earning potential.  They’re making money, but they think they should be making even more money.  Go figure.  Justice League is being seen as a business failure and a rumored producer and operational shake-up made headlines this week.  Adding salt to the wound for many (even though I saw this coming as soon as the Flash solo film was titled Flashpoint, implying the out clause for a reboot), there is strong desire to recast Ben Affleck as Batman in the future Matt Reeves-directed film.  You had to know they were going to need to go younger at some point and it’s reading this was according to plan for Affleck too.  As much as I admire their attempt to be different, I’m fine with a shake-up and some changes to normalize these characters and their potentials.

LESSON #2: “STANDARDS OF CONDUCT” ARE NOW NECESSARY TERMS TO HAVE ON THE BOOKS— The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the governing and voting body of the Oscars, have enacted a “standards of conduct” requiring members to “behave ethically by upholding the Academy’s values of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity.”  In this day and age, what should be common sense for personal behavior now has to be spelled out in specifics and put into print because of how flippant and rampant those unwritten rules have been broken.  It’s never pretty to need this measure, but it’s one that should be applauded.

LESSON #3: LOS ANGELEANS ARE DIFFERENT THAN NEW YORKERS— The critics’ groups from the two largest and leading cities have spoken with their year-end award picks.   Both are trendsetters, yet both are different.  As reported here last week, the New York Film Critics Circle stumped for Lady Bird for Best Picture and Best Actress.  This week, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association went in the direction of Call Me By Your Name for Best Picture and Best Actor with equal love shown to The Shape of Water for Best Director and Best Actress.  If those three non-conformist films are your Oscar frontrunners, this is going to be a feather-rustling awards season with bold independent film leading the way.

LESSON #4: RYAN REYNOLDS HAS NOT TURNED THE CORNER FROM MAKING BAD DECISIONS–Before Deadpool resurrected his career, Ryan Reynolds could not have put together a trashier resume if he tried.  Just when you thought being enlivened striking gold with the “Merc with a Mouth,” here he goes signing on to be the lead voice in a Pokemon movie named Detective Pikachu.  Come on, man.   You’re back.  You’re better than that crap now.  Did you not learn your lesson? Stick to the good stuff, Ryan.

LESSON #5: QUENTIN TARANTINO’S INVOLVEMENT WILL EITHER BE FUN OR A HOT MESS— News bounced around this week that J.J. Abrams and Quentin Tarantino are meeting to hash out some ideas for a Star Trek film.  Word around the campfire is Tarantino pitched an idea to Paramount and Abrams they thought was awesome and now the two filmmakers are putting together a team of writers to develop the screenplay.  If all goes well, Tarantino, a self-professed Trekkie since the original TV show, could also direct.  Follow-up word says that an R-rating has been given a green light.  I don’t know what to think about that potential.  I don’t think you need profanity and R-rated violence in a Star Trek film, in any shape or firm.  Would it spice things up?  Sure, but it’s out of character, even for this rebooted universe.  I’ll grant that Tarantino has panache like no other.  He could take an old TV episode premise like “City on the Edge of Forever” and jazz it up well for the big screen.  However, unchecked Tarantino is silly and excessive when not reined in.  I’m glad other screenwriters are involved to keep the chatty Cathy Tarantino grounded.  Hire a crack editor while they’re at it to keep it from being a 170-minute yak-fest.  I don’t see a middle ground between awesome and disaster when it comes to a guy like Quentin.

LESSON #7: THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING FOR STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI SPOILERS— Folks, next week is the week.  It’s finally here!  Star Wars: The Last Jedi!  I humblebragged this week that I have yet to watch the supposedly spoiler-ish final trailer and I’m pleased as punch that I made it this long.  If you’re avoiding stuff like me, be ready for radio silence next week right around Tuesday morning (hint, hint).  Be cool.  Don’t be a troll.  Don’t ruin it for people.  I promise a spoiler-free review, as always.


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.  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 FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

 

What We Learned This Week: November 5-11

LESSON #1: SADNESS AND DISAPPOINTMENT SHOULD BE AMONG THE FIRST EMOTIONS EMERGING FROM UNEARTHED SECRETS— Let me just start this whirlwind week to state what will be my universal stance.   I choose to stand on a shorter and calmer soapbox than others on the topic of revealed allegations of sexual misconduct that are popping up all over.   I choose to speak to something different than the immediate damning outrage and knee-jerk reactions that are becoming the norm with these headlines.  When these headlines arrive, from Kevin Spacey to George Takei, my first emotions are not anger.  They are sadness and disappointment.  I am sad that a person whose talent I recognize and work I admire and respect is now being torn down by their potential mistakes.  Even larger than the sadness is my disappointment in common people and their uninformed hot-takes that pile on top of allegations and not facts.  More on that comes in Lesson #2.

LESSON #2: WHERE ARE THE LIMITS?— A great deal of Lesson #1 echoes a fantastic Facebook discussion thread started by Feelin’ Film co-founder Aaron White this week.  It asked the essential question: “…at what point do we require more than just an allegation to ruin someone’s life forever?”  I will always be an “innocent until proven guilty” believer.  I don’t condone the content of the claims, but I refuse to label people until the label is proven to be proper.  However, I fear we have a majority society that reverses it to “guilty until proven innocent” with no basis, conscience, or respect.  I’m beginning to hate that lack of empathy and patience in people, from the clickbait press on down to trolls on Twitter.  When someone is found to be innocent, how willing will a public be to move on and let that previous hate and disdain go?

LESSON #3: THERE MAY NOT BE A BOTTOM TO THIS PIT— This might sound overly obtuse, but sexual harassment and misconduct is nothing new.  Expect more names and confessions for years.  That’s how alarmingly pervasive the behaviors have been.  For example (forgive the Fox News link) actress Maureen O’Hara was brave enough 70 years ago to try and get her story and voice heard on potential crimes committed and it created career consequences.  If you talked, even in truth, you lost your standing.  What is new is the ability of the public to listen and the landscape becoming more progressive to seek the proper justice, and that remains a very good global change.  The guilty deserve the consequences coming to them, but, again, let’s establish that guilt first.

LESSON #4: RESPECT AND SEEK CONTRITION—  Circle back to Lesson #2 for a seed in this next lesson.  Is there ever a good way to admit or reveal these mistakes?  What would happen if an actor or actress came forward on their own and admitted past mistakes before a story of allegations broke?  How much of a career suicide would that be?  More importantly, would you respect such honesty?  That’s where my sadness and disappointment and patience for innocence becomes a heart that respects those that seek contrition.  I think that’s huge and a step to a level of forgiveness that other folks aren’t willing to seek while they tweet and judge. Of all people, Louis C.K.’s admissions this week were really something.  Again, I can’t condone the behavior he admits, but I can respect his honesty and attempt at contrition.  I call that more positive than most of the ways these stories are spiraling out of control and temperament.

LESSON #5: THE BOTTOM LINE STILL MATTERS MORE THAN IT SHOULD— Social media can have their flag-waving moments of championing this entire cause of stomping out the atmosphere where harassment and misconduct are no longer accepted.  But make no mistake, the studios and corporations care about that flag-waving unity a distant second to the almighty bottom line.  They can say replacing Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World is for the right reasons, but what they are really trying to do is save a costly project from getting a bloodbath haircut from box office protests.  They’re willing to spend millions in order to renew attention, save face, and, more selfishly important, save more millions.

LESSON #6: DISNEY IS NOT AFRAID TO THROW MONEY AND CLOUT AROUND— Disney has spent billions in the past to buy the worlds of Marvel and LucasFilm and has banked even more billions because of those properties.  With an air of “if you can’t beat them, buy them,” Disney has engaged business talks to flat out buy the majority of 21st Century Fox.  Fanboys go straight the dream of seeing the worlds of X-Men and The Fantastic Four welcomed into the MCU.  They miss what could lead to the erasure of 80+ years of proud studio history.  Put caution with the coolness of this.

LESSON #7: IN ADDITION, DISNEY IS GREEDY— As mentioned in this column earlier this year, theater companies are reeling.  AMC is losing a fortune and Regal is desperate to raise prices to cover box office bombs.  Yet, here comes Disney with an unprecedented profit grab focused on securing their take of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Read the details here.  Sure, Disney has the product everyone wants, but it’s the theaters that bring them in and sell the tickets.  This should be a partnership, not a dictatorship.

LESSON #8: DON’T F–K WITH JOURNALISTS— Speaking of studio bullying and big-wig hubris, even the supposedly unstoppable and untouchable Walt Disney Company can lose a staring contest with the First Amendment and public pressure.  After blacking out L.A. Weekly from screenings in retaliation to some previous bad press, several critics groups united to disqualify Disney properties from their upcoming year-end awards to back their fellow journalists.  The display of justified critical brotherhood drummed up the right public support.  Disney blinked and lifted its sanctions.  I guess like Midas, they can’t resist the urge for gold. Let that be a lesson to the big-wigs.  You can’t silence the newsmakers.

LESSON #9: DON’T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS BEFORE THEY ARE HATCHED— Universal Studios threw a whole of bunch of money and hullabaloo at their “Dark Universe.”  They secured high-end talent and made big plans, but forgot one thing we mentioned earlier: the almighty bottom line.  These plans and projects have to sell.  Tom Cruise’s The Mummy vehicle bombed at the box office and was ravaged with bad reviews.  Now, mutiple levels of sunk costs are lost and Universal has pulled the plug.  Studios, take your time and let connections grow organically.  Start small and pace yourself.

LESSON #10: LUCKILY, RIAN JOHNSON MADE OUR WEEK— This week has seen plenty of hate sent in Disney’s direction and endless scandal.  One really nice story of good news to come out of Disney, especially considering their recent string of disposable directors, was to hear that they are empowering Star War: The Last Jedi and Looper director Rian Johnson to create a new Star Wars series trilogy with original stories and characters away from the Skywalker/Solo universe.  In a day and age where many of us call out all of the sequels and remakes, something fresh applied to a big property is an exciting step.


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.  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.

Feelin’ TV: October 2-8, 2017

There’s a long and sordid history to the relationship between Marvel and 20th Century Fox when it comes to mutants. Marvel had the mutants, Fox bought the mutants, Fox made lots of money off of the mutants, Marvel would like to have the mutants back, but Fox, understandably, is a fan of making all of the money. In lieu of mutants, Marvel inserted Inhumans (who are pretty much space mutants as opposed to genetic mutants) into its MCU via the Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD program and had solid results that helped the show find its voice. Now Fox has its mutants and Marvel has its mutants and because everything now gets made into a television show, we’ve come to this; a 2017 Fall TV Battle Royale of mutants featuring ABC’s Inhumans versus Fox’s The Gifted

The Gifted was a tight little pilot that told us what we needed to know about the world. Mutants exist, but they’re illegal and they’re being hunted. Our main characters are the Strucker’s. Reed Strucker is a lawyer who helps prosecute mutants, his son Andy’s struggle with being bullied reveals latent mutant powers, his daughter Lauren reveals mutant powers she’s been hiding to rescue her brother, and now the family is on the run to Mexico with a group of mutants that Mr. Strucker was previously trying to put behind bars. It’s short and sweet and to this point, uncomplicated. It succeeds because it focuses on character and not on spectacle. The cast is led by the amazing Amy Acker as Kate, the matriarch of the Strucker family. The way they make the decision on a dime to leave their life behind to protect their children and live as fugitives and the fact that they don’t really have any idea how to live life on the run rings true to life and immediately makes them feel like a real family. What makes X-Men so great is that behind all of the world saving are small stories of people learning to be unafraid of who they are. The Gifted appears to understand that and I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the season.

Inhumans is an absolute mess. They live on the moon apparently, and they have a king and queen and some sort of ruling counsel, but there’s been a power struggle recently and there is some unrest. The king is Black Bolt and his queen is Medusa. They appear happy together, but the king’s brother Maximus (played by Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon) thinks that they should be living on earth for…reasons…and he’s sure enough that he’s right that he stages a coup to seize control of the kingdom. Unfortunately for him, his plan to have his brother and sister in law arrested backfires and instead they’re taken to earth by the queen’s sister, who has all-time bad hair, and her giant teleporting dog. If that seems at all clear, then the show should hire me as a writer because it’s not at all clear on the screen. Adding to the poorly told story are multiple groan worthy performances, eye-roll inducing levels of blurted out exposition and fight choreography that immediately reminded me of my early teenage obsession with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It’s awful, it’s terrible, and I don’t know if I’ll watch anymore because I hated it.

I’m not usually one to totally give up on a show after one episode, but if Inhumans vs. The Gifted were a boxing match, Inhumans fell twice and was saved by the bell from a TKO in the first round. The difference in the quality, acting, direction, effects, etc. between the two shows was night and day. So to summarize: If you’re only going to watch one show about mutants this season, watch The Gifted. If you’re going to watch two, watch The Gifted twice. Both The Gifted and Inhumans can be streamed on Hulu.com.

 

Channel Surfing:

  • This Is Us is officially 2 for 2 in making me cry in this young season. I had someone ask me this week what makes the show so good and my answer was simply that it feels more real than most television. Things don’t come easy for these characters. They make decisions to do things and they fall on their face. But they always get back up again with help from their family. I know that not everyone has that experience with their families, but I’m blessed to be able to say that I do. And the family on This Is Us reminds me of my family. We can be intrusive and annoying and neurotic, but we’re also always there. Season 2 is off to a good start. This Is Us can be streamed at Hulu.com or at NBC.com.
  • Designated Survivor is back and it’s still not a good show. But it’s pretty fun. One large dangling thread from season one was wrapped up this week, but I’m sure something else bad will be coming down the pike pretty soon. If this show becomes West Wing, it will be unwatchable. It’s a show that blew up the Capitol in the cold open of it’s pilot. It’s stakes need to be ridiculous, so I hope they keep it that way.
  • I caught a new show this week that I’m hoping will stick around long enough to stick around for a while called Kevin (Probably) Saves the World. It stars Jason Ritter as Kevin, a down on his luck former high school hot shot who returns to his hometown to live with his twin sister and her daughter after the death of her husband. I don’t want to say more, I just want you to watch it. The pilot was the perfect combo of funny and heart-warming and it was the second show of the week to make me cry. Kevin (Probably) Saves the World can be streamed at Hulu.com or at ABC.com.
  • I’m going to recommend a documentary that you can check out on Netflix even though that’s probably technically out of my lane. But it’s only 40 minutes long, so it’s like a 1 hour TV special, which would be in my lane. It’s called Long Shot and I’m not going to tell you anything about it except that it’s intriguing and surprising and absolutely delightful. Don’t read about it or watch Netflix’s trailer, just watch the show. You can thank me later.

That’s all for this week. Next week, the Arrowverse is back! I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about that. If there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group.

MOVIE REVIEW: Logan

About ten minutes before my screening of Logan, 20th Century Fox’s latest venture into the X-Verse, a family of four wandered in, popcorn and sodas in hand. Mom, Dad, two kids. Two very young kids. Like, ten-ish at best. I don’t judge. How you parent your kids is on you. Maybe these people did the requisite homework on Logan. Maybe they didn’t. I’m leaning toward they didn’t. They never left, so here’s to them for sticking it out. But if the countless F-bombs and butt shot from the Deadpool 2 teaser ahead of the feature didn’t waver them, I’m thinking the 137 minutes of Logan led to a few awkward family moments. When they got home, those parents might have had some ‘splainin’ to do.

Logan earns its “R” rating, and then some. Filmgoers amped up for a paint by number, CGI, save the universe extravaganza should be warned that disappointment lurks. Logan is an intimate character portrait unlike anything we’ve seen in the guise of a superhero movie to date; Nolan’s Batman trilogy included. And we are so better off for it.

It’s the year 2029. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is old. The indestructible mutant is worn out; limping, broken physically and mentally. We find him living out his existence driving a limousine, under the guise of his given name, James Howlett. He tolerates obnoxious, frat boy businessmen and bachelorette parties between alcoholic benders intended to help mask the pain he endures from the adamantium that has finally turned his body against him. It is a shock to see the once unbreakable X-Man in such disrepair.

In a way that isn’t fully explained in the film, the mutant population is nearly extinct. No new mutants have been born in years, and little hint to what happened is given other than a brief mention of ‘that thing that happened at Westchester.” It can be presumed that the aging Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), suffering from dementia and seizures, probably had something to do with it. Now over ninety years old, Professor X lives contained within an abandoned metal silo south of the border, hidden from the government that has deemed him the most powerful weapon of mass destruction in the world. He is cared for by the Albino mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and Logan. The dynamic between Logan and Xavier is one of reluctant bedfellows. His respect and admiration for Xavier is ever present, but he assists in Xavier’s care more as a sense of duty than a preference. Xavier, in his moments of clarity, just wants to be able to pee in peace.

The story begins to take off when a frantic woman, Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), begs Logan to take her and an eleven year old mutant girl, Laura (Dafne Keen), to North Dakota, where a mutant haven called Eden supposedly awaits. They are being chased by cybernetically enhanced soldiers called reavers, led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), belonging to the Transigen corporation, where Gabriela once worked as a nurse and cared for children who were being bred and raised as mutant soldiers. Laura, we learn, was bred using Logan’s DNA, and she shares her powers in the same capacity as her “father.” The apple does not fall far from the tree. Laura is as feral and ruthless as Logan, and we haven’t seen a tandem dish out this level of bloody mayhem since Hit Girl and Big Daddy patrolled the streets of New York. If you found the violence in Kick-Ass not to your liking, buyer beware.

When Logan, Xavier, and Laura are forced to the road in an old pick-up truck to flee the reavers, the film borrows elements from Mad Max: Fury Road, Midnight Special, and most notably the 1953 western, Shane. Logan becomes a classic chase movie, where the good guys do their best to stay a step ahead, even though we know confrontation is inevitable.

This is a film to be commended for foregoing conventional blockbuster enhancements. Director James Mangold chooses to linger instead on intimate character dynamics which are some of the best moments on screen. This feels like a true life expose on familial relationships. Of fathers and sons. Fathers and daughters. Of friends who have been through everything together and somehow lived long enough to ruminate together about all of it. Jackman and Stewart are the doing their best work with these characters. No other X-Men film comes close. And Dafne Keen is a revelation; equal parts unsettling in her ferociousness and admirable in her confidence on screen with these franchise heavyweights. But even as the film slows down in spots to wallow in intimate moments with its characters, have no fear, there is plenty of snicktedy snickt action to enjoy in all of its limb flying, bloody goodness.

Logan is an emotional ride, and there will be moments, especially at the end, that will resonate long after the credits have rolled. This isn’t going to be for everyone. Mystique isn’t going to pop in to save the day. Logan is the closest thing to a “real” movie the superhero genre has even gotten. There are no capes. No apocalypse. No eating of Shawarma. Just a broken old man and one final mission.

phpxnctheamSTEVE CLIFTON has been writing moderately well on the Internet at this blog, Popcorn Confessional, for the better part of the last decade.  His love for movies can be traced back to the North Park Cinema in Buffalo, NY circa 1972, when his aunt took him to see Dumbo.  Now living in Maine, Steve routinely consumes as much film, television, and books as time will allow.  He also finds time to complain about winter and Buffalo sports teams.  He is a big fan of bad horror films and guacamole, and mildly amused by pandas.

Episode 048: Logan

In this episode we discuss Logan, what could be the final chapter in Hugh Jackman’s incredible run as Marvel comic superhero Wolverine. This latest installment is R-rated and offers us the gritty, ultra-violent picture of Wolverine that many know from comics but have never seen portrayed on screen. It was quite the ride and so we’ve called in some back-up from Francisco and Paul of the Retro Rewind Podcast to help us break it down. Enjoy this super podcast team-up!

Download this Episode


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

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