Everyone involved in the making and releasing of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Disney, 5.26.17) will make good if not great money. I stopped going to these films after the first one with Bill Nighy as Davy Jones (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest), which was ten years ago. Javier Bardem‘s challenge in portraying Captain Salazar, a ghost pirate, was to out-perform Nighy — he seems to be off to a good start. The big question now, of course, is where’s Captain Fatass? There really has to be something wrong with anyone who’d pay to see another one of these dumbshit films. Really.
Where are all the descendants of Maximilien Robespierre who were looking to discipline Hollywood Elsewhere last January for not being a big enough fan of The Birth of a Nation when everyone at Sundance was going “whoo-whoo Nate Parker!” Now that Nate and The Birth of a Nation are between a rock and a hard place, all those Robespierres are pretending that last January never happened. Because the only thing they care about is the bon ami of the crowd and not bucking the tide.
HE, meanwhile, has held firm. I still say that as underwhelming as The Birth of a Nation may seem to this or that viewer, it deserves respect as a tribute to Nat Turner and the importance of that 1831 rebellion. Parker also deserves kudos for having struggled hard and long to get it made, and having delivered a reasonably decent film. Some readers are sick of hearing me repeat myself, I know, but I wanted to say this one more time before Birth opens on Friday 10.7. I know the film is on the ropes. I’m aware that the expected box-office tally isn’t going to break records (i.e., in the vicinity of $9 or $10 million in roughly 2000 theatres).
I don’t where this idea came from, but Sonny Corleone (James Caan) went down in a hail of machine-gun bullets sometime during the warmer months of 1947 or ’48, when Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) was hiding out in Sicily. Michael returned to the U.S. in ’50. The murder of the heads of the five families (along with that of the turncoat Carlo) happened on the day of the baptism of Carlo and Connie’s daughter in 1951. Check with any Corleone family timeline — this, this, this or this — and they all say ’47 or ’48. For some reason this Sonny Corleone Wiki page claims 10.3.51, but it’s wrong.
Paolo Sorrentino‘s The Young Pope (HBO, February 2017) stars Jude Law as a fictional Pope who is called Pius XIII, but was born Lenny Belardo. That’s not the name of willful priest who rises in the ranks, but the name of a good buddy of John Travolta‘s Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever or Danny Aiello‘s top pizza chef in Do The Right Thing. Even the crudest Italian family, domestic or Italian, would name their infant son Leonardo, no? Pope will pop in less than three weeks (10.21) on Sky Atlantic in Italyy and Germany, and then six days later in Great Britain. The ten-episode series costars Diane Keaton, James Cromwell, Silvio Orlando, Scott Shepherd, Cécile de France and Ludivine Sagnier.
Tate Taylor‘s The Girl on the Train (Universal 10.7) is no Gone Girl, that’s for sure. And Taylor, as if you didn’t know, is no David Fincher. The movie is trash — a female Joe Eszterhas meets Peyton Place meats Fatal Attraction meets Anna Karenina. And the ending! This won’t stop fans of the 2015 novel from seeing it, of course. I talked to a couple of guys after the screening, guys who should’ve known better, and they were going “hmmm, not awful, moderately okay, will sell a lotta tickets,” etc.
Paula Hawkins‘ popular if tawdry airport fiction novel, set in a middle-class London suburb, has been made into an American companion piece, set in upscale suburbia along the Hudson. It’s contrived garbage masquerading as some kind of suffering woman’s parable about…what, escaping the chains of marital servitude and pushing back against suffocating male figures in so many women’s lives? Something like that.
Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), a bleary-eyed, pasty-faced alcoholic who’s divorced her husband Tom (Justin Theroux) for infidelity, trains into Manhattan each day even though her drinking has left her unemployed. Almost every time the train passes by the home of Scott and Megan Hipwell (Luke Evans, Haley Bennett), who lived nearby when Rachel was married, something openly sexual is going on. Which Rachel can’t help but stare at. The train obliges her voyeurism by moving extra slow while passing by the Hipwell abode.
Then Megan goes missing, and then Rachel starts obsessively probing into their history as well as the current life of Tom and his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and their infant child. This situation deeply unsettles Rachel because her alcoholism, we learn, was an outgrowth of her inability to get pregnant while married to Tom. In any event Rachel’s obsessive, unbalanced behavior manages to persuade a local detective (Allison Janney) that she might be the guilty party and yaddah yaddah.
Last night’s Westworld debut was a bowl of satisfaction. Richer, spookier, more complex than the 1973 Michael Crichton film. The Groundhog Day repetition element is brilliant, and then Evan Rachel Wood finally swats the fly…perfect. It was just one episode (and yes, I’ve heard the quality doesn’t sustain) but right away it felt like a 2016 BMW compared to Crichton’s ’73 Chevy Nova. A better thing texturally, thematically, technically, acting-wise.
Crichton told the tale from the vantage point of visiting tourists (James Brolin, Richard Benjamin) — HBO co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have smartly reversed this scheme. Those poor androids are weeping inside, anguished and confused and yet starting to quietly contemplate the murder of their creator (Anthony Hopkins). Hopkins’ death, trust me, is going to be quite gruesome.
I had an idea before watching last night that Ed Harris would be playing Yul Brynner…nope. It’s also interesting that the droids have been programmed to interact with each other on their own time with no visitors in sight.
And what’s with the milk obsession? Vats of thick, milk-like gloop in the laboratory, milk pouring out of androids through bullet holes, milk being chugged from bottles.
There are few famous people whom I think less of and in fact loathe more intensely than Kim Kardashian, the ultimate empty vessel whose fame and fortune are metaphors for social doom and decay. For the sake of common decency as well as her children’s well-being I’m glad she wasn’t hurt by those Parisian thugs who took her jewelry and cell phones and tied her up in the bathroom, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to briefly muttering “good, serves her right” when I first heard the news. She lives in this completely puerile, grotesquely affluent, Marie Antoinette-like bubble, and then wham — reality intrudes in the form of a robbery. Pardon me for shedding no tears.
Incidentally: Kanye West stopped a Queens concert that he was performing when he heard the news. He stiffs his audience so he can (a) call Kim in Paris, (b) ask if she’s okay, (c) tell her he loves her, and (d) make sure she’s double-protected by private security? What else can he do from 3600 miles away? The phone calls would have taken 10 or 15 minutes. A pro would have finished. The show must go on.