You know what I hate about the Suicide Squad guys, sight unseen? Everything. I despise nihilism as an entertainment concept, and I cringe at the idea of Jared Leto doing everything he can to out-demon and out-contort Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson, and I loathe the idea of Will Smith pretending to be one of these guys as a career rejuvenation move, and I hate the fact that a huge audience is dying to see this thing. Because they love the idea of embracing nihilism beyond the reach of the law or social judgment. Grunting, cackling sociopaths too caught up in their cheap bad-ass posturings and anti-social swagger to give a damn about anyone or anything other than themselves…yeah! If anyone was stupid enough to inquire about their presidential preference, they’d almost certainly go for the Trumpster. The all-media screening isn’t until Tuesday, but if Suicide Squad was set in the mid ’60s somebody would say that “they kill, they maim and they call information for numbers they could easily look up in the book.”
At the very least the trailer for Rod Lurie‘s Killing Reagan (National Geographic, 10.16), which is based on Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard‘s partly disputed account of the March ’81 shooting of President Ronald Reagan, suggests that the film might be half decent, at least in terms of Tim Matheson‘s performance as the Gipper. John Hinckley‘s letters to Jodie Foster makes for difficult listening, but as far as I can tell they’re straight from the page.
With the “bad” Ben-Hur opening three weeks hence on 8.19, you’d think there’d be interest in the Aero or the American Cinematheque screening a DCP of the “good” 1959 version…no? Anyone can high-def stream the Wyler version at the drop of a hat, but I’ve never seen it projected with a full 2.76:1 aspect ratio. (The two or three times I’ve seen it in a theatre it’s always been shown at 2.55:1.) I suspect that the ’59 film hasn’t been screened because original rights holder MGM is a producing partner of the Timur Bekmambetov version, and fresh impressions of the Wyler (which is far from a great film but is (a) lucid and sturdy in a stodgy sort of way and (b) has a chariot-race sequence second to none) aren’t going to do the newbie any favors.
I’m told, by the way, that so far the new Ben-Hur isn’t tracking all that well.
If Jason Bourne was a tenth-grade student who had finished the year with a 57% grade average, he would have to take the class again during summer school. The Metacritic rating stands at 58%, almost exactly that of Rotten Tomatoes. Spoiler: I’ve thought and thought about Alicia Vikander‘s half-humanist, half-duplicitous CIA character, and I can’t decide who she really was or what she was really after. I’m not sure Vikander herself knew when she was performing the role. When she realizes that she’s been recorded saying things that indicate she’s been insincere in a discussion with Matt Damon, she says “shit” as in “curses! foiled again!” So she’s an untrustworthy baddie? That’s not what her actions indicate throughout most of the film so I don’t get it. And I’m not sure that I care either way. The not-bad Bourne made $4.2 million last night in nearly 3000 theaters. It will probably bring in between $55 and $60 million by Sunday night.
Zhang Yimou‘s The Great Wall (Universal, 2.17.17) was previously slated to open globally on 11.23.16. It’s now opening in China in December and stateside two months later. The Wiki boilerplate calls it “an American-Chinese 3D science fantasy adventure-monster action film“…good God. Despite the screenwriting contributions of Tony Gilroy, Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Max Brooks, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, this is obviously made for folks in the cheap seats. Costarring Matt “paycheck” Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau. Filmed in China on a budget of $135 million — almost modest by U.S. standards. Everyone will speak English.
(l. to. r.) Carrot-top Peter Sarsgaard, Natalie Portman, and an actor who resembles Animal Kingdom‘s James Frecheville (but who may not be).
Yesterday I wrote that “with Larrain already slated to attend the Telluride Film Festival with Neruda, it would be strange — a head-scratcher — if Jackie doesn’t wind up screening at Telluride also.” Convinced as I am that Telluride is the end-all and be-all of the domestic, ultra-refined, beginning-of-awards-season film festival experience, I asked “what possible strategy on the part of Jackie‘s producers could result in their film not playing Telluride?”
Answer: Jackie is looking to land a U.S. distributor, and Toronto, where it’ll screen after Venice, is much more of an acquisitions environment than Telluride. Plus a choice promotional berth at Toronto can be mighty tempting to a film in Jackie‘s position. So the decision to bypass Telluride has been made for the most practical of reasons. Fine.
If Hillary Clinton doesn’t get a decent bump out of the convention and particularly from last night’s speech, she’s in serious trouble. Hopefully she isn’t. Hopefully her poll numbers will uptick and that she’ll put Donald Trump away in the debates and we’ll be spared an Armageddon scenario, not by a comfortable margin, alas, but by the skin of our teeth. Maybe. I watched her speech last night (replay, not live) and she obviously handled it well. A commendable job. But I was almost fearful of what I wouldn’t see or feel from her delivery and presence, and I had to almost make myself watch it.
Nobody wants this headline to be true more than myself.
The speech was well crafted, and her delivery was good enough and that plus the cheers and those thousands upon thousands of balloons made for a stirring, well organized pageant moment. Hillary has brains, heart, steel and cojones. I’m a Bernie bro, but many — most — of her convictions are my own. But she has no music or poetry in her, and she’ll never strike a magical chord or hit a rhetorical home run with the bumblefucks.
God help us, she’s not what “they” want, and “they” are seemingly convinced that Hillary is indifferent to their economic pain and more particularly is against their cultural interests, and that she’s foursquare on the side of the big social-political changeover we’ve all been witnessing and sharing in over the last eight or ten or fifteen years (weakening of the rural, blue-collar economy plus, as Michael Moore noted a week ago, the growing power of the multiculturals, militant femme-Nazis and LGBTs) and for them it’s curtains for White Guy Rule, and so it’s the Last Stand at the Alamo.
I’m getting a really bad feeling here. I fear Hillary may be John Kerry. I’m sensing those same ’04 cultural vibes, the same “oh, yeah? we’ll show them” resentments.
For the first time in this election season I am really, genuinely scared.
HE’s own Sasha Stone posted the following on Facebook this morning: “This election will be a pure test of whether white males (on the left and right) can get over themselves and vote for the best candidate [regardless of] whether they like her speeches or not, whether they like her body or not, whether they want to sleep with her or not, whether they respect her or not and yes, whether they like her or not.
“The way I figure it is: likability is probably not the best reason to elect someone. TV charisma is an even worse reason. I think back to some of the best presidents this country has had — FDR included — and I think they would never get elected today. So it’s a test. We’ll see just how smart the people who are supposed to have the most power in this country do on this test.”
Jason Bourne isn’t too bad, but it feels like an aggressive effort to make money. More to the point, it doesn’t feel like it’s really about now. Except in one respect — cyber-tracking technology has become so immaculate and absolute that there are no chases any more. You can no longer lose the bad guys by ducking into an alley or an apartment building or some dark corner — the CIA and web technology know where you’re heading before you get there. So there’s now a kind of built-in futility to this kind of thing. The baddies are always breathing down your neck. Hell, they’re waiting for you.
Director Paul Greengrass, helmer of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum (i.e., the best of the bunch), delivers serious excitement in the early Athens bike-riding sequence, but the brutally insane Las Vegas car-chase finale is like something out of James Wan‘s Fast 7 — grotesque, nonsensical destructo-porn.
The Bourne franchise was hatched in the post-9/11 Bush era, and to some extent I think many of us sensed that the first three films (’02, ’04, ’07) were absorbing and reflecting the psychic atmosphere back then — the after-smell of smoke and dust and jet fuel, the venal Dick Cheney vibe, the blowback stench from the Iraq invasion, bad guys in charge, whiffs of coming economic chaos. But things feel different now after nearly seven and a half years of Obama, and the vibe just ain’t the same.
Question: Early on it’s clear that Matt Damon‘s Bourne character is living hand to mouth. He’s making ends meet by decking opponents in bare-knuckle boxing matches in northern Greece. Which would bring in what? A few hundred bucks per match, if that? And yet once the action kicks in he does the usual globe-hopping that he’s done in previous installments. He’s got plenty of different passports but you need serious dough to fly or take trains from city to city, not to mention food, hotels, temporary cell phones, etc. So where’d he get the scratch?
If Hillary Clinton is smart, she won’t bray her acceptance speech tonight. This is what an older industry friend shared last night. She needs to be cool, calm, precise, confident. Allow her experience to speak for itself. “Spirited” and “exuberant” are fine, but no braying. Braying is bothersome — pretty much everyone agrees on that. The transportational Democratic National Convention highs peaked last night with Barack Obama (pretty close to magnificent), Joe Biden (a free man in Paris), Michael Bloomberg (brilliant). Now we have to listen to Hillary. Just don’t bray — that’s all I’m saying.
The Venice Film Festival (8.31 thru 9.10) announced its slate this morning. For me the unexpected stand-out is the competition debut of Pablo Larrain‘s Jackie, a realization of Neal Oppenheim‘s restrained, West Wing-like script about Jackie Kennedy‘s four-day ordeal following her husband’s murder on 11.22.63.
Peter Sarsgaard as RFK, veiled Natalie Portman re-enacting JFK funeral procession in Pablo Larrain’s Jackie. In this shot Portman looks too short — in actuality the former First Lady was roughly the same height as RFK, give or take. And what’s with Sarsgaard’s flaming red hair? RFK’s thatch was drab brownish with a tinge of salty auburn.
Produced by Darren Aronofsky‘s Protozoa (in league with Fabula and Bliss Media), Jackie is apparently seeking a U.S. distributor. The Venice bow will most likely ignite a Best Actress campaign on behalf of Natalie Portman‘s lead performance unless, of course, the film turns out to be wanting. I’ve no clue about that, but Oppenheim’s script (which I read six years ago) is entirely decent, and the combination of Aronofsky and Larrain (who’s been in a prolific groove) suggests that Jackie may, at the very least, be an interesting mood-trip piece.
With Larrain already slated to attend the Telluride Film Festival with Neruda, which premiered at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, it would be strange — a head-scratcher — if Jackie doesn’t wind up screening at Telluride also. Larrain, Portman and presumably Aronfosky (who’s currently shooting Day 6) will, of course, attend the Venice Film Festival debut. What possible strategy on the part of Jackie‘s producers could result in their film not playing Telluride?
If Team Jackie doesn’t fly to Colorado following the Venice debut people will be asking Larrain “is there a problem?”
Tom Ford‘s Nocturnal Animals will play Venice and Toronto but not, as previously noted, Telluride. Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival will play Venice before hitting Telluride and Toronto, and it’s been known for weeks that Damien Chazelle’s La-La Land will open the Lido fest. Nobody cares about Terrence Malick‘s Voyage of Time playing Venice…nobody.