The Eagle’s Weekly Movie Preview
They’ll be nearly 130 films opening between now and Oscar night. These weekly previews don’t cover all of them – instead, I’ll cut the fat and just talk about the flick that stand the best chance of NOT stinking up the multiplex with the best chance of not stinking up the multiplex. We’ve had a great year at the cinema. And, as promised, the Best Picture Nominees will be back at the Hollywood Cinemark (see a link to the schedule below).
As a weekly movie-goer, I’ve decided to cut the list up into sections, and post a week-by-week preview of what’s out, what’s hot and what’s…well…not so hot.
— Oscar-Worthy Movies: — So far, I’ve seen “Three Billboards,” “Rebel in the Rye” (a biopic of J.D. Salinger which is just great!), “Lady Bird,” “All the Money In the World,” “Florida Project,” and “The Post” -…all are worthy Oscar contenders! And if the Oscar People want to stay relevant, the just gotta recognize “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”! It’s what WE all love! So, c’mon Academy. Remember that it’s US, the American People, who are buying all these movie tickets!
— Good News! The Cinemark Hollywood theater (the one with the great recliner seating!) will be bringing back ALL the Best Picture Oscar Nominees! Starting the last week in February, and lasting until Oscar night (Sunday, March 4th) you’ll have at least two chances to see each of the ten nominees. You can even buy a pass for about $35 and see as many as you like! Click here for a schedule and more information.
Out This Weekend (Feb. 16th, 2018):
‘Black Panther‘ – This is the Hot Ticket this weekend. Chadwick Boseman will play T’Challa, the prince of the African nation of Wakanda, who must take over the throne after his father’s murder.
‘Early Man‘ – Set at the dawn of time (with the voices Eddie Redmayne & “Game of Thrones” Maisie Williams) when prehistoric creatures and woolly mammoths roamed the earth, Early Man tells the story of Dug, along with sidekick Hognob, who unites his tribe against the mighty Bronze Age in a battle to beat them at their own game.
**This Week’s TCM ‘Classic Film” is ‘The Philadelphia Story‘ (1940) starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart. Produced back when movies were movies! It won several Academy Awards, including Best Director (George Cukor), Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn), Best Actor (James Stewart), and Ruth Hussey won Best Supporting Actress. If you need another reason to go check it out, click here for the trailer. It’s a GREAT, classic story! You’ll have two chances to see it on The Big Screen: this Sunday at 2:00 and 7:00 at the Hollywood Cinemark. I’ll see you there!
‘Samson‘ – Blessed with an unusual gift of strength, Samson must respond properly to the call of God on his life in order to lead his people out of enslavement. After his youthful ambition leads to a tragic marriage, his acts of revenge thrust him into direct conflict with the Philistine army. As his brother mounts a tribal rebellion, only Samson’s relationship with a Philistine temptress and his final surrender – both to the Philistines and to God – turns imprisonment and blindness into final victory.
In Theaters Now:
‘Winchester‘ – Really, this is the only significant release this weekend. And…c’mon. It’s the SUPERBOWL. Grab some snacks and watch the game! But, if you gotta see a movie, here’s what your choices are. Based on actual events (don’t they ALWAYS say that now?) on an isolated stretch of land 50 miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester, (Helen Mirren) heiress to the Winchester fortune, it is a house that knows no end. Constructed in an incessant twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week mania for decades, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To the outsider it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman’s madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece (Sarah Snook) or for the brilliant Doctor Eric Price (Jason Clarke) whom she has summoned to the house. She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters…
‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure‘ – In the epic finale to the Maze Runner saga, Thomas leads his group of escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet. To save their friends, they must break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all. Anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions the Gladers have been asking since they first arrived in the maze.
‘Hostiles‘ – The story centers on a Native American-hating soldier (Christian Bale), nearing retirement, who is given one last assignment: to escort an Indian chief back to his Montana reservation. In the process, which includes coming across a young widow and fighting back attacks by Comanche tribes, he learns to respect the race he hates.
‘Please Stand By‘ – (Dakota Fanning, Toni Collette and Helen Hunt) A young autistic woman runs away from her caregiver in order to ‘boldly go’ and deliver her 500-page Star Trek script to a writing competition in Hollywood. On an adventure full of laughter and tears, Wendy, played with exquisite delicacy by Dakota Fanning, follows the guiding spirit of Mr. Spock on her journey into the unknown. “It is there for us to conquer, not to fear.” Bring your hankies!
‘The Commuter‘ – Stars Liam Neeson and Vera Farmiga. In this action-packed thriller, Neeson plays an insurance salesman, Michael, on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine. After being contacted by a mysterious stranger, Michael is forced to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on his train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes a deadly plan is unfolding and is unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy. One that carries life and death stakes, for himself and his fellow passengers. You could call this “GUY and A…Girl On A Train”.
‘12 Strong‘ – 12 Strong is set in the harrowing days following 9/11 when a U.S. Special Forces team, led by their new Captain, Mitch Nelson (Hemsworth), is chosen to be the first U.S. troops sent into Afghanistan for an extremely dangerous mission. There, in the rugged mountains, they must convince Northern Alliance General Dostum (Negahban) to join forces with them to fight their common adversary: the Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies. In addition to overcoming mutual distrust and a vast cultural divide, the Americans—accustomed to state-of-the-art warfare—must adopt the rudimentary tactics of the Afghani horse soldiers. But despite their uneasy bond, the new allies face overwhelming odds: outnumbered and outgunned by a ruthless enemy that does not take prisoners.
‘The Post‘ – Meryl Streep and Tom hanks? In a movie directed by Steven Speilberg? How much Oscar Potential can we cram into one movie?! And this one’s got it: Oscar Potential. I saw it on Monday night (the 15th) and it’s fantastic. Of course the performances are fantastic. And it’s a story that everyone should know, especially as it relates to the Vietnam War. We’re looking back at the publishing of The Pentagon Papers, and NOBODY should allow that story to be forgotten.
But there’s First Amendment undercurrents in ‘The Post’ that are very relevant to today. “The Press exists to protect the Governed, not to serve the Governing” — Also, the film showed how hard women have worked to find their place in this world, especially as business and industry leaders. That’s another thread that runs thru the film. Streep is, of course, at her Oscar winning best.
‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri‘ (Now Showing at Hollywood Cinemark)
If you’re like me, and you believe Frances McDormand can do anything, here’s more proof. Irish playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh wrote the lead role expressly for the Oscar-winning actress, who plays Mildred Hayes, the mother of a murdered teen daughter who takes action against the lazy police in her hometown. How, you ask? By using three billboards to advertise the local law-enforcement officers’ incompetence. Think “Investigation Discovery” meets Death Wish”. Expect fireworks!
‘The Florida Project‘
Quick! This great Indie film is (thankfully) playing at the Westgate Cinema, and it won’t be there long. Willem Dafoe is at this Dafoe-ist Best, and young Brooklyn Prince is just incredible. This one takes a bit to get going…Director Sean Baker spends some time letting us get to nkow these residents of a run-down motel, and shows us what makes them tick before the drama begins to play out. I foud myself standing with a group of compelte stranger outside the theater afterward, talking about what an amazing movie this is! Go see it immediately.
‘The Greatest Showman‘ (New Year’s Wknd)
Hugh Jackman – who was outstanding earlier this year as Wolverine in Logan – tackles his most ambitious role to date as P.T. Barnum, the 19th-century entertainment giant who founded a circus and felt he cheated audiences if he didn’t leave them with their jaws dropping. Costarring Michelle Williams as Barnum’s wife and Zac Efron as his business partner, this three-ring biopic has all the bells and whistles. Director Michael Gracey’s film is also an original musical, complete with La La Land Oscar-winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul creating songs with the right-now sound of today. A gamble? You bet. Anything else would be an insult to the showman who lived to astonish.
‘Phantom Thread‘ (New Year’s Wknd)
Trivia: How many actors have won more than 3 ‘Best Actor’ Oscars? Answer: None. But we may see the first person to win four Oscars as Best Actor coming up this year! Many industry pundits are betting Daniel Day-Lewis can do it as a designer on the 1950’s London fashion scene in Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest. It’s been filming in secret, and an air of mystery is the usual MO for filmmaker Anderson, who directed Day-Lewis to Oscar No. 2 for 2007’s There Will Be Blood. (No. 1 was for My Left Foot; No. 3 for Lincoln.) Recently, the 60-year-old actor announced his this would be his last project before retiring (say it isn’t so), which would make this the last hurrah for an artist known for staying in character – whether he’s onscreen or off – during productions. And for those who think a quartet of Oscars is too much, name one actor you think deserves it more?
‘All the Money in the World‘ (New Year’s Wknd)
Remember when super-Wealthy Tycoon J. Paul Getty refused to pay the ransom demanded by the kidnappers of his teen grandson? This is the movie. Christopher Plummer is Getty sr. and you’ll love to hate him in this! It was subsequently left to the boy’s mother (Michelle Williams) and an ex-CIA agent (Mark Wahlberg) to work out a deal. This looks like a good one! Gripping. Riveting. And all those over-used movie poster adjectives. You want an amazing cast? How ’bout Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty.h.
‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘ (Dec. 15th)
Remember Rey handing Luke Skywalker his lost lightsaber at the end of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Want to find out what happens next? Duh! That alone would make The Last Jedi unbeatable for crowdpleasing fun and box office glory. But there’s also tremendous curiosity to see how indie director Ryan Johnson (Looper) does at the control of a behemoth; how reformed Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) will show his heroism on the casino metropolis of Canto Bright; how the franchise will say goodbye to Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa (sniff, sniff); and how to interpret what the hell Luke meant when he said, “It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Call me crazy…but I’m gona go out on a limb and say that THIS flick is gonna be the #1 at the box office this weekend.
‘I, Tonya‘ (Dec. 8th)
This might actually be great! Margot Robbie takes on Tonya Harding, the ice queen of the ice rink who broke records, became an Olympian and later became mired in a scandal involving her bodyguard, her rival Nancy Kerrigan and a tabloid-ready tale of assault. Director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) salts this biopic on the athlete with a pinch of camp and true-crime salaciousness, but never loses sight of his subject’s long, hard road to her early victories and later infamy. Robbie and Sebastian Stan make for a good Harding and Jeff Gillooly, respectively, but it’s Allison Janney’s fearsome mother LaVona Golden who’ll drop audience jaws.
‘The Shape of Water‘ (Dec. 8th)
*I was WRONG! There’s much more to this than a horror/thriller by Guillermo del Torro! I was fooled by advance press, and took a wild guess. But this one has depth and is actually a multi-faceted movie that Movie People will love! I’m admitting that I made a mistake on my original review. Go! Enjoy! Get the popcorn, even.
‘The Disaster Artist‘ (Dec. 1st)
Amarillo probably won’t get this film. At least, not right away. If the public response is decent, we may get it as an ‘Indie’ at the Westgate Cinema. Basically, the plot goes something like this (no spoilers here) – Tommy Wiseau is a Polish-American actor/filmmaker who won his place in Midnight Movie with Golden Raspberry-Winning “The Room” in 2003. But, like…nobody SETS OUT to make a stinker, right? And James Franco directs and stars in this flick that will remind us of Ed Wood. Franco is responsible for some bombs of his own, right? Remember “Why Him”? Don’t make me start a list here.
‘Mudbound‘ (Nov. 17th)
(Netflix) This tale of racial disparity, set in the Mississippi Delta before during, and after World War II, will go right to your Feeler Bone. Take a pocketful of tissues. The story focuses on the interaction between a white couple, the McAllans (Carey Mulligan and Jason Clarke), and a family of black sharecroppers led by Mary J. Blige and Rob Morgan. Director Dee Rees is a true artist behind the camera, especially the way she handles the PTSD that afflicts soldiers on both sides of the race line. This is the kind of movie that is the REASON we go see movies! And I suppose, since it’s Netflix, it will be competing for an Emmy instead of an Oscar. That’s a shame, because this is the sort of film that Oscar loves! American filmmaking at its best.
‘Lady Bird‘ (Nov. 10th)
Could it be that the Breakthrough Director of 2017 is…NOT a dude? You betcha! Her name is Greta Gerwig. Greta is out with this post-card beautiful story of a Sacramento high school senior named Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson who wants to go to college in New York. Even thought Gerwig is from Northern California, she gets the details right, from sharply funny dialogue and not-a-false–note direction to knockout performances from Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts as Lady Bird’s parents, as well as Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet as the complicated boys in her life. Gerwig is writer & director here. It’s a dream of a debut.
(Johnny Black for “1009TheEagle.com”)
Additional info: RollingStone.com