I’ve said this three or four times, but I have no problem at all with a Denzel Whoop-Ass flick. I love watching Denzel kick the shit out of those young white guys in the trailer. I just want the film in question to be grade-A or at least above average. The odds of this happening with Antoine Fuqua at the helm are not very good. Fuqua has shown time and again that he’s strictly a B-level journeyman if you forget about Training Day, which I believe he got lucky with. I’ve said seven or eight times that Tony Scott‘s Man on Fire is the greatest Denzel whoop-ass flick ever made. I’m sorry but Fuqua is no Scott. Sony will open The Equalizer 2 on 7.20.18.
I keep hearing that Beautiful Boy is primarily a performance thing, and more specifically a Timothee Chalamet-will-snag-a-Best-Actor-nomination thing. It feels curious that there isn’t a single allusion to crystal meth in this trailer, much less an indication about whether Chalamet’s character snorts or shoots it. Meth addiction is what the film is basically about so you’d think it might warrant a brief mention.
Beautiful Boy will almost certainly be making the fall festival rounds (though perhaps not in Venice). It will open theatrically on 10.12.
Not to beat a dead horse, but I would be more intrigued if Woody Allen had been cast as Steve Carell‘s father and Chalamet’s grandfather. If that had happened, Chalamet probably wouldn’t have thrown Allen under the bus last January because he wouldn’t have wanted anything to mitigate his Best Actor campaign. That way Amazon wouldn’t be regarding A Rainy Day in New York as such a hot potato, and everyone would’ve been happy. Well, less unhappy.
Last night at the Aero I caught my second viewing of Matt Tyrnauer‘s Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (Greenwich, 7.27). Tyrnauer and the film’s subject, the legendary Scotty Bowers, sat for a post-screening q & a with Deadline‘s Pete Hammond. Like the film, the discussion delivered charm, candor and much laughter.
I noted a few days ago that this 98-minute doc is an honest, believable portrait of the life (present and past) of a 90something guy who was a sexual go-between for gay or bisexual Hollywood stars in the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. The film is partly based upon Bowers’ six-year-old memoir, “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars.” Tyrnauer’s film is well-assembled, well-narrated, intimate and often touching.
There’s one aspect of the doc that the politically correct brigade won’t like, and that’s Scotty’s declaration that he was happily and homosexually active when he was 11 or 12. And with several priests even! He wasn’t coerced or manipulated or taken advantage of, he says — he knew exactly what he was doing and was entirely the captain of his own ship.
A certain marquee-brand director told me the same thing back in the mid ’90s, that he was having sex with older guys when he was roughly the same age. I related because I was leafing through nudie mags when I was eight or nine. I wasn’t sexually active until my late teens, but if a pretty older woman had invited me indoors when I was 12 or 13 or 14, I would have been delighted.
Responsible adults don’t like to hear this stuff, and as a rule I realize that sexual activity at a tender age can be highly traumatic for many if not most. But certain people start earlier than others.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced today that he’ll retire as of 7.31. The 81 year-old jurist, a conservative moderate who often performed a swing-vote function, is well aware that this decision will allow President Trump an opportunity to fundamentally tilt the Supreme Court in a hard-right, corporate-favoring, Gorsuch-like direction. Thanks, brah…history will remember you for this.
Kennedy presumably understands what an existential threat to democracy Trump is, and that his replacement nominee will almost certainly be a rabid-dog rightie. Kennedy knows, of course, that the considerate thing (as far as the country is concerned) would have been to wait until early ’19, by which time the midterm elections might give liberals a majority in the House and/or Senate. But naahh.
Is Kennedy ill or something? Even if he’s suffering from late-stage cancer he should hang on until the very end. The judicial and legal character of the U.S. of A. hangs in the balance.
Today’s N.Y. Times report states the obvious. “A Trump appointee would very likely create a solid five-member conservative majority that could imperil abortion rights and expand gun rights.”
Last night HE correspondent David Chien attended a special 70mm mag-track screening of James Cameron‘s The Abyss (’89). Fox Movie Night, 6:30 pm, Zanuck theatre on the Fox lot. Thanks to Schawn Belston and James Finn for the invite. Here’s David’s report:
“The Zanuck was about half-filled. I haven’t been in this theater in over a decade — last time was for a weekend screening of X-Men: The Last Stand with the screenwriters in attendance. The theater is nice and cozy and state-of-the-art. In particular, its sound system holds up quite well. The space reminds me of the Aero in Santa Monica but with better upholstery and vibe. I have a soft spot for screening venues (such as the Academy Theater) at which food is prohibited.
“As people were filing in, a slideshow/video was projected (digitally) on the screen, featuring details about 35mm-to-70mm conversion on a projector as well as production photos and quotes about The Abyss. One that stood out: Gale Anne Hurd stating that this was the hardest film she ever made (I believe it). One fact that stood out: The Abyss was the first film of its kind to record sync-sound while actors were submerged in water (the weight of this achievement had not occurred to me as deeply until last night during the actual show).
“The screening started on time. Finn nd Belston shared additional details about the screening. The 70mm print used last night is especially rare as Kodak no longer produces this type of acetate film stock. Also, as a 6-track mag print, the analog sound associated with this version of the film is rather unique. For this Fox Movie Night event (something specifically for Fox employees and their friends/family), the planning took months. Apparently, the projectionist spent weeks to adjust picture and sound. On the website, in70mm.com, I located The Abyss projection letter, signed by Cameron and Hurd, on which they explain the importance of brightness and volume. I suspect the projection team at Zanuck studied such notes.
“The 70mm print still had the Cineplex Odeon logos and two Fox trailers attached. First up was War of the Roses. It was immediately apparent how damned loud the presentation would be (for me, a good thing, as I enjoy that kind of immersive volume). Then, there was a largely text-based teaser (one which I had never viewed) for Die Hard 2. Its punchline moment had the theater laughing.
“This was the theatrical cut of The Abyss. Like other films of the era — Aliens, Terminator 2, JFK, The Professional — I usually leaned towards the shorter versions. From a theatrical perspective, the tighter pacing and focused narrative play better for me. I feel the same about Close Encounters, which of course The Abyss owes a great debt. I also noticed this time how much of The Abyss was appropriated by Interstellar. Nolan was there last night, by the way — sitting dead center in the front row, Tarantino-style, for the most immersive journey.
“What can I say about The Abyss? I grew up watching it many times, with my father, via several editions of laserdisc sets. CLV and CAV, theatrical and extended, pan-and-scan (Super 35mm formatted) and letterboxed. It is a technical marvel, Das Boot meets Close Encounters. The last time I watched it — and the only time theatrically — was at the Aero, in fact, back during the summer of 2009. We were promised a 70mm print of both The Abyss and Aliens. If memory serves, that night it was only a 35mm of the former but a beat up 70mm of the latter. And Cameron was there and made an awfully funny joke about Michael Mann being way more of a pain on set than he.
Peyton Reed‘s Ant-Man and the Wasp (Disney, 7.6) isn’t a problem unless you’re determined to complain about it not being as good as the original Ant-Man (’15). Which it’s not. But it’s still fleet, funny, disciplined, carefully honed, occasionally dazzling, light-hearted, pleasingly absurd…112 minutes worth of cool cruisin’ as you chow down on the overpriced crap. And those 112 minutes feel like 80 or 85, by the way. There are no significant downshiftings or speed bumps, or none that I noticed.
Please don’t let me (or any other sourpusss types) stop you from seeing it, but I’m telling you straight and true that Ant-Man and the Wasp is not quite as affecting, highly charged and/or head-turning as I wanted it be. It’s fairly proficient in the ways you might expect but at the same time it’s a bit of a slight letdown. You may feel the same way when you see it, but you’ll probably survive.
Why should anyone care if Ant-Man and the Wasp registers as an entertaining but inoffensive letdown? There are bigger fish to fry and meditate upon. See it or don’t see it. But don’t weep for the Marvel and Disney empires — they’re fine. On top of which the Rotten Tomatoes whores having given it a 96% approval rating.
What exactly is missing from Ant-Man and the Wasp that wasn’t missing from Ant-Man? The dopey subversive humor in Reed’s three-year-old original felt fresher, for one thing. And the story was more emotionally affecting as far as Paul Rudd‘s Scott Lang was concerned. He was in a fairly dark and despairing place as it began — ex-con, low-rent loser, not much of a role model for his daughter — so morphing into Ant-Man by way of Michael Douglas‘s (i.e., Hank Pym’s) brilliance and reluctant largesse really meant something. This time, not so much. But at the same time I didn’t feel burned by the story or journey or whatever you want to call it. I felt placated.
Good, occasionally amusing work by Rudd, Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne / Wasp), Michael Douglas, Michael Pena, Walton Goggins (fated to play pain-in-the-ass, low-rent villains for the rest of his life), Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Hannah John-Kamen (Ghost), Abby Ryder Fortson (Rudd and Greer’s daughter Cassie), Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet van Dyne — rescued in Act Three from the sub-atomic, micro-quantum realm or whatever you want to call it), Laurence Fishburne (punching the clock), etc.
Quentin Tarantino has described the pairing of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood as a Butch-and-Sundance, Redford-and-Newman type deal. Maybe, but the wardrobes and hair stylings tell you everything you need to know about their characters.
A dead ringer for Adam Roarke (Play It As It Lays, Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry) in the late ’60s, Pitt’s Cliff Booth is a down-to-basics, rough-and-ready stuntman. DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton is basically Robert Culp, a successful TV actor (I Spy) who began in the tradition-minded ’50s but struggled to find his footing when the industry pivoted toward youth fare in the late ’60s. Is that a peace medallion Leo is wearing? The mustard-colored turtleneck reminds me of a lounge shirt John Vernon wore in Point Blank (’67). If Dalton’s career was on a faster, more upward track, he might have landed Culp’s role in Paul Mazursky‘s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (’69).
Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.
Natalie Wood and Robert Culp in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.