(Beat, beat, beat) Nobody gives Liam “Paycheck” Neeson a raw deal!
Except for the wokesters who tried to cancel him over that anger episode he admitted to a year and a half ago. So yes, okay, the wokesters gave Neeson a raw deal, but nobody else.
In Honest Thief (Open Road, 10.9), Neeson is a veteran bank robber who cuts some kind of deal with the FBI. (Nobody but nobody cares what kind of deal.) He’s soon after double-crossed by two corrupt agents, and goes on the run in order to settle the score, blah blah.
The director is Mark Williams, Emmy-nominated producer of Ozark and producer of Ben Affleck‘s The Accountant./ Williams also directed A Family Man, a 2016 Gerard Butler film..
But not in New York or Los Angeles. So if citizens of those burghs want to catch Chris Nolan’s latest, they’ll have to leave town — it’s that simple. Me? I’ll be catching it in Palm Springs.
Indiewire‘s Tom Brueggemann is reporting (or reminding) that Nolan’s film “is scheduled to open in 50 territories between August 26 and 28, including Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Korea, and Australia; other major countries like Russia and Japan follow soon thereafter. China’s also approved the film for release, albeit without a date.
Key passage: “In the U.S. today, 45 states permit indoor theaters to operate (with safety precautions) in all or most locations. Because of lack of new product, most have yet to do so. To preclude the September 3 opening, governments would have to shut them down — and that’s much more difficult to do than delaying permission to open.
Brueggemann “spoke to exhibition sources in some of the riskier regions who question whether they will make the date, but it’s clear that most of the nation’s cinemas will open as allowed. They are not irresponsible people, but their companies’ survival depends on this. And they will play Tenet.”
Respect and admiration for British director Alan Parker, who’s left us at age 76.
A graduate of the British TV commercial industry, Parker was a first-rate shooter and cutter — he knew how to make films look sharp and polished and feel just right. And he definitely understood the power of great music wedded to handsome, well-cut visuals (Evita, The Commitments, Fame, Pink Floyd — The Wall, Bugsy Malone) And he knew how to create atmospheres of dread and doom (Angel Heart, Mississippi Burning, Midnight Express).
The rap against Parker for many years was that he was a slick salesman who didn’t have much to say. That consensus began to change in the late ’80s when he got his act into gear and crafted four fairly mesmerizing knockouts over the span of eight years. Those films were, in order of excellence, (a) Evita (’96), (b) Angel Heart (’87), (c) Mississippi Burning (’88) and (d) The Commitments (’91).
Parker also made some films that I couldn’t stand — Shoot The Moon, Birdy, Come See The Paradise, Angela’s Ashes. The Life of David Gale. But let’s focus on the good stuff.
Posted on 2.28.18: Is Ava DuVernay‘s Selma a more accurate history lesson than the one provided by Mississippi Burning? Is it more organically truthful? Did it deliver an identity current that translated into a better-than-decent domestic haul of $52,076,908?
Yes to all, but Mississippi Burning is a better film despite all the bullshit it sold. (And let’s not forget that Selma sold some bullshit of its own.)
Here’s how I put it on 11.29.14: “Alan Parker‘s Mississippi Burning gets an awful lot wrong about the way things really were in Mississippi in 1964. African Americans did a lot more than sing hymns and watch their churches burn, and we all know that Parker and screenwriter Chris Gerolmo mangled the history of the FBI’s hunt for the killers of three Civil Rights workers (Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman).
“Their coup de grace was having a pair of FBI agents, played by Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, turn into Dirty Harry-style vigilantes in Act Three, bringing the guilty yokels to justice by playing rough games and faking them out. Pauline Kael called it ‘a Charles Bronson movie.’
“And I’ve never cared that much. Very few have, I suspect. I’ve always had a soft spot for Mississippi Burning for various reasons — the polish of it, Hackman’s performance (particularly his scenes with Frances McDormand), Peter Biziou‘s cinematography, Gerry Hambling‘s editing, the percussive rumble of Trevor Jones‘ music, da coolness. But especially Parker and Gerolmo’s bullshit plot. Because the lies they came up with are emotionally comfortable, and that’s always the bottom line.
Here’s another creative Steven Soderbergh rehash, this time by way of Steven Spielberg‘s Raiders of the Lost Ark. Apart from the usual de-colorizing, the basic idea is to compel the viewer to re-appreciate (or more deeply appreciate) the staging, cutting and visual choreography. The problem is the deeply annoying soundtrack (allegedly a mix of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross compositions from The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). I watched only a few scenes, but even these gave me a splitting headache.
The first, pre-pandemic teaser for Wes Anderson‘s The French Dispatch appeared on 2.12.20. At the time Searchlight’s plan was to premiere it in Cannes and open it on 7.24.20. Now, on 7.31, a full-boat trailer has surfaced but minus a firm release date. Dispatch had been slated for release on 10.16.20 but was pulled from the schedule on 7.23.20.
What it’s mostly about, basically, are visual compositions of fine flavor and aesthetic precision. In color and black and white, and in aspect ratios of 1.37:1 and 2.39:1 a la The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Also in the vein of Budapest, it’s about a distinctive institution that peaked in the mid 20th Century and then fell into ruin or hard times. To quote my own Budapest Hotel review, it’s “a valentine to old-world European atmosphere and ways and cultural climes that began to breath their last about…what, a half-century ago if not earlier?”
Story-wise, Dispatch is an American journalism film, oddly set in a second-tier French city of the ’50s and ’60s, except nobody seems to speak much French. It’s an homage to a New Yorker-ish publication, but with a Midwestern heart-of-America mindset. It tells three stories of headstrong American journalists reporting and writing about three big stories, one of them having to do with the French New Left uprising of May ’68. Otherwise the historical context…well, I’m working on that.
Timothy Chalamet‘s Phil Spector hair is a stand-out.
Wiki boilerplate: “The film has been described as “a love letter to journalists set at an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city”, centering on three storylines. It brings to life a collection of tales published in the eponymous The French Dispatch. The film is inspired by Anderson’s love of The New Yorker, and some characters and events in the film are based on real-life equivalents from the magazine. One of the three storylines centers on the May ’68 student occupation protests, with Timothee Chalamet and Lyna Khoudri‘s characters being two of the student protesters.
I’ve no idea who the mysterious “owner of a large hotel chain” could be. Said owner was mentioned in witness testimony in the Ghislaine Maxwell documents that were unsealed this evening. The four biggest hotel chains are Wyndham Worldwide, Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and Best Western.
You can find all kinds of clips and audio recordings from ’50s and ’60s TV shows on YouTube. Damn near anything and everything. But I can’t find a single clip of a falsetto-voiced Steve Allen saying “schmock, schmock!” And that’s a huge deal. “Schmock, schmock!” was arguably Allen’s signature line, certainly when he was hosting his Hollywood-based talk show in the early to mid ’60s.
After chatting with Allen at the House of Blues some 27 or 28 years ago, I bade farewell with my own falsetto-voiced “smock!” There was no one else in the entire world I would have dared speak to like a three-year-old, but I did so with Allen without blinking. He chuckled right away and gestured approval.
If only newspaper editors, college deans, liberal politicians and Hollywood producers had the character and balls shown on 7.24.20 by the Trader Joe guys.
Key passage: “A few weeks ago, an online petition was launched calling on us to ‘remove racist packaging from [our] products.’ Following were inaccurate reports that the petition prompted us to take action. We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions. We make decisions based on what customers purchase, as well as the feedback we receive from our customers and Crew Members. If we feel there is need for change, we do not hesitate to take action.”