Director Joseph Kosinski is flying high in Hollywood right now, with the much-needed, record-breaking success of his film "Top Gun: Maverick" now on his resumé. His follow-up film, "Spiderhead" (streaming on Netflix on 6/17) will likely be overlooked, as it should, when studios consider him for future projects, as it seems there was no energy left to give to this mildly clever, but mostly banal, dud of a film following how much he was able to pack in to "Top Gun: Maverick."
The pandemic had much more of an impact on the movie industry than just at the box office. You can sort of tell the kind of film that was made during lockdown: Small, character-driven dramas or thrillers that utilize very few locations and minimal casts.
This weekend there is an example of how to accomplish this effectively (see "The Outfit"), and how difficult it can be. With "Windfall" (on Netflix Friday 3/18), we're happy that the cast and crew got out there and made a movie, but the result is a banal so-called "thriller" that's so minimal you'll nearly forget it's even there.
Mark Rylance is a national treasure. He delivers an astounding performance as a tailor - no a "cutter" - in the surprisingly effective gangster drama, "The Outfit." It's a clever play on words representing not only the main character's profession, but the slang descriptive title of the underground, organized crime syndicate that formed all over America in the mid-20th century.
It features a great ensemble, led by Rylance, and is easily one of the best films of the year thus far, even if its third act prevents it from achieving greatness.
It occurred to me while watching "The Batman" that it doesn't really matter where the movie starts, where it ends, or what timeline it is adhering to. In some ways, I'd be totally OK with the character of Batman being treated somewhat like James Bond...each Bond movie is its own adventure, perhaps loosely connected to others or perhaps every once in a while acting as direct sequels to previous films. Different actors can portray the iconic character, with a parade of directors putting their unique spin on the franchise each go-around. As long as the familiar "musts" are included - the uttering of "Bond. James Bond," for example - each movie can push the envelope or tell its own story.
In many ways, Batman is even more suited for this sort of approach than James Bond or maybe any other character in film history. There are so many takes on the character in the comic book, from the "Zap! Boom! Pow" bright and corny 70s version to the dark and brooding "Dark Knight" popularized by Frank Miller in the early 1980s. The Rogues Gallery of iconic villains can act as a never-ending spring of antagonists for our hero, and there are enough side characters in the DC Universe to keep things going for another couple generations.
In that spirit, "The Batman" is as good as a Batman movie has ever been, or possibly ever can be. It might be jarring at first to accept yet another version of this character, in a previously unvisited timeline with yet another actor under the bat cowl, but if you accept this like a Bond film, where this movie isn't meant to connect to anything else and is simply a Batman story, then you will be floored by how effective this rendition can be.
IF...and that's a big if...you can get over the inclusion of Armie Hammer, you may find "Death on the Nile" to be a fun, old-school diversion.
Hammer - who denies all allegations against him - has recently been accused of sexual assault, rape and even cannibalism (some weird shit to be sure), and his presence hangs over the film like a dark cloud.
Following up his 2017 Best Picture winner "The Shape of Water," director Guillermo del Toro adapts "Nightmare Alley," a 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham. It's a seemingly natural fit for the director who loves to deconstruct the concept of what makes someone (or something) a "monster," so it's no surprise really that this would be a premise that is right up his...alley.
Sandra Bullock flexes her dramatic muscles in the deeply troubling and mostly forgettable drama, "The Unforgivable."
There's not a more distracting actor currently working than Jared Leto. Donning a fat suit and wearing heavy prosthetics in "House of Gucci," he's only recognizable by his usual scene-chewing, and he turns in one of the lousiest acting performances of any actor in recent years.
Like Leto in this film, there might be something decent underneath all the bloat and make-up when it comes to "House of Gucci," but director Ridley Scott squanders the opportunity. Given an all-star cast to work with, this excessive, meandering exposé on the fall of the Gucci Empire should have been better...yes Jared Leto's brutal performance is the worst part of the movie, but it's sadly not the only thing wrong with it.
Who doesn't love Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot or Ryan Reynolds? Throw them all together however, and the individual flavors just don't mix.
"Red Notice" is a serviceable but forgettable action-comedy - directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who teams with "The Rock" for their third film together. Their previous two films are spiritual cousins to "Red Notice" - "Central Intelligence" and "Skyscraper" - movies that are light and implausible, that seem to want to drift by based on the sheer star-power of the actors involved, instead of offering up anything innovative to the genre.
Yes, the "Red Notice" cocktail of Johnson, Gadot and Reynolds may look delicious from a distance, but an ounce of "originality" is the missing ingredient that might have made it go down a bit smoother.
To quote Silvio Dante quoting Michael Corleone: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back IN!!"
That's what it feels like to submerge back into the world of "The Sopranos," the ground-breaking HBO drama that is considered one of the best TV shows of all-time and certainly one of the most influential of its era. For me, it was the last "must see" TV show, something that would later be categorized as "appointment TV." I would watch nervously and breathlessly each week, hoping that my favorite characters would survive the hour. They often would, but many times wouldn't.
With "The Sopranos" prequel film, "The Many Saints of Newark," you are pulled back in to this modern world of gangsters, their families and their issues that exist both externally and internally. You'll be reminded that David Chase, the creator of "The Sopranos" and who co-wrote "The Many Saints of Newark," is an absolute force of nature...a writer unparalleled and like the show he created, in a league of his own. He makes "Many Saints" not only fit into the world that he created over 20 years ago, but adds to it.
"Many Saints," I'd argue, is going to become required-viewing for those wanting to experience the full tragic saga of Tony Soprano. It lives up to the hype, and for any fan of "The Sopranos," it will meet and surpass your already astronomical expectations.
It's not just a worthy Sopranos story, it's one of my favorite films of the year.
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