‘Deep Water’ – Neither Erotic Nor Mysterious Enough For Your Enjoyment

With “Deep Water,” I could not help but feel a certain level of excitement at its arrival. With erotic thrillers, it feels like we have been in a drought of them at our local cinema. Sure, there was the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy, but those movies were far more laughable than they ever were truly entertaining. This one also marks the return of Adrian Lyne to the director’s chair for the first time in 20 years, and he is known for specializing in erotic films such as “9 ½ Weeks,” “Fatal Attraction” and “Unfaithful.” And yes, the trailer in which we get to gaze at Ana de Armas’ lovely body as Ben Affleck gazes at her from a distance proved to be ever so alluring. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, it is based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith, the same author who wrote “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Strangers from a Train?” This should have been the first I pointed out here.

Seriously, all these elements were in place for a great motion picture for us to take in, but despite an interesting start, “Deep Water” ends up faltering long before it ends as secrets are revealed far too soon to where the suspense is completely destroyed for no good reason. Also, the film is nowhere as erotic as you may hope it will be. Moreover, Disney, which bought 20th Century Fox and since renamed it 20th Century Studios, decided to dump it on Hulu as even Mickey Mouse was saying, “Even Minnie wouldn’t show me that much skin!” Well, some only get so lucky,

Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas star as Vic and Melinda Van Allen, a married couple living in the small town of Little Wesley, Louisiana who appear to have it all: an affluent lifestyle, a gorgeous home where they host many parties for their equally affluent friends, a beautiful daughter named Trixie (Grace Jenkins) who keeps telling Alexa to play “Old McDonald Had a Farm” to her mother’s infinite annoyance, and anyone outside of their lifestyle must be looking at them with either envy or tremendous resentment. Their marriage, however, appears to be a loveless one as Melinda seems far more interested in flirting with the many incredibly handsome men around her as Vic looks on, wondering what she is up to. On one hand, Vic seems content with her being with other men as he is willing to accept her for who she is, but the more you look into his eyes, the more you see how frustrated he is with this situation to where he might actually become emotional. This frustration becomes even more pronounced once some of the men Melinda is seen with are found dead. Were they murdered? What’s really going on with this couple?

Lyne tantalizes us with these questions in the first half of “Deep Water” as, while he used to show us a lot of wild sex in his previous films, only hints at what is going on here. Vic may be convinced Melinda is sleeping with other men, but he only sees so much of what she is up to. In the meantime, he tells her potential suitors that he murdered a man who was once her boyfriend. Is he being serious? It’s hard to say as Affleck is quick to remind us what a gifted poker player he can be, and that’s even if he has been banned for life from a casino or two.

Indeed, this film works best when the screenplay does not reveal all its cards to the audience. Affleck seems to revel in getting under the skin of others to where you wonder just how much his character enjoys in doing so. The same goes with de Armas who appears to revel in her husband’s inability to obtain her in the ways a husband can. As Vic and Melinda circle around one another like bloodthirsty sharks, I began to wonder if their continued relationship was strengthened by their endless strife with one another. While divorce might make more sense for these two, the conflicts between them seem to invigorate them to where a normal life is completely out of the question for them. It even reminded of a season six episode of “Homicide: Life on the Street” entitled “Strangled, Not Stirred” in which we see a couple achieve supreme intimacy through murder. I figured things here would go in this direction with these characters, but no such luck.

When “Deep Water” reaches its midway point, it completely implodes as it reveals its cards to where the suspense is killed. In fact, things become increasingly laughable as the story barrels towards a conclusion that is unforgivably abrupt and unsatisfying. Like I said, this one comes from the director of “Fatal Attraction” which had one of the most divisive endings in cinematic history, but at least its ending had a catharsis which it demanded despite what others thought. This one, however, leaves far too many story threads to where I have to wonder if there’s a director’s cut just waiting for us to check out.

In retrospect, “Deep Water” might have been far more interesting if Lyne had focused more on the characters played by Affleck and Tracy Letts who plays Don Wilson. Don is immediately suspicious of Vic, especially after he playfully admits to murder, and seeing these two together in one scene to the next is especially fulfilling as we are watching actors who enjoy not just facing against one another, but are also eager to turn their characters into anything but mere cliches this genre often employs to a detrimental extent.

Considering the talent involved, I could not help but have high expectations for “Deep Water” as it arrives at a time when superhero/comic book movies continue to dominate our local multiplexes to where we wonder if variety is still a thing. Moreover, movies for adults are a thing I have been deprived of for far too long. Even with it going straight to streaming, I figured there was much more in store for the audience. That it falls short of greatness is frustrating as it may be a long time before we get another motion picture of its ilk.

In my research, I did learn this particular Highsmith novel is a favorite of Gillian Flynn’s who deeply admired how it showed the in-your-face warfare between a husband and wife. I believed this novel inspired her to write “Gone Girl” which became a bestseller and was later adapted into the twisted cinematic masterpiece directed by David Fincher. Whether or not “Deep Water” aspired to be on the same level as “Gone Girl,” it came up far too short.

When all is said and done, Lyne’s movie makes me want to pick up a copy of Highsmith’s novel even though I have so many books on my shelf to where it looks like a Jenga piece on the verge of collapsing. I am convinced a great movie can be made out of this novel, but we have yet to see it.

* * out of * * * *

‘The Batman’ – Even Darker and Grittier Than What Came Before

Bruce Wayne and his alter ego of Batman is one of those characters which, much like The Terminator and Leatherface from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” I wish Hollywood would leave alone for a few years. After reaching an exhilarating high with Christopher Nolan’s amazing “Dark Knight” trilogy, the Caped Crusader hit a few speed bumps with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League” (the theatrical versions did anyway). Even with Ben Affleck donning the Bat suit, neither film could measure up to its predecessors even if they were far better than the ones directed by Joel Schumacher (nothing personal Joel, and rest in peace).

Nevertheless, Warner Brothers and DC Comics still want to keep this iconic character going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny, and now we have Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” which looks to reboot Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s creation yet again. Watching it reminded me of when my dad and I first watched Tim Burton’s “Batman” back in 1989, and I was stunned at how dark it was. Like many, I grew up on reruns of the campy “Batman” TV show which starred Adam West, and I expected Burton to do the same. Wow, was I wrong! It would take until “Batman and Robin” to see the movie franchise return to this campiness, but the less said about that installment, the better.

I bring this up because “The Batman” is much, much darker than what Burton or Nolan previously gave us. In fact, it is almost pitch black, and this shows in Michael Giacchino’s brooding music score which is designed to be nowhere as adventurous as what Danny Elfman or Hans Zimmer gave us. Seriously, the opening scenes had me thinking this film would be as dark as “Alien 3” or “Seven” as Reeves looks to be venturing into David Fincher territory as he gives us a Gotham City forever beset by endless rainstorms and heavy clouds. If there is a scene featuring sunny skies in this film, I may have missed it.

Thankfully, “The Batman” does not waste our time in reminding us of what happened to Bruce Wayne’s parents. Instead, it drops us into his crime-fighting career two years after it started and soon after the Bat Signal has been created to gain his attention and instill fear in Gotham’s nefarious criminals who never know when to stop. Murders have been committed by a man known as the Riddler (played by Paul Dano) who is continually leaving messages for the Batman at every crime scene. Along with Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), he works to decipher the many puzzles and riddles this serial killer leaves in his tracks, and the answers may remind you of the words you never bothered to think of the last time you played Wordle.

Playing Bruce Wayne/Batman this time around is Robert Pattinson who has given us solid performances in “Good Time,” “The Lighthouse” and “Tenet,” but I have a feeling many still have a bone to pick with him over those darn “Twilight” films. It’s important to understand the context of Pattinson’s Batman as we see him early on when his vigilante career was at its infancy. Whereas the actors who played the Caped Crusader previously reveled in the moment where they told criminals right to their face “I’m Batman,” Pattinson’s intent is to instead say the following, “I’m vengeance!”

While many look at Pattinson as giving a one-note performance here to where his face looks to be frozen in one mood, I found him to be very compelling here as he plays the Caped Crusader as an individual long since consumed by revenge. His Batman is not the one who inspires hope, but one who is determined to make the villains pay in the most painful way possible. As a result, this makes the inclusion of a certain Nirvana song completely understandable as any song by Prince would be so out of place here.

As this movie reaches its furious climax, however, Pattinson shows us how his Batman can and will evolve into the figure of hope he is seen as in movies and comic books. Knowing and seeing this makes his work here all the more fulfilling to take in.

When it comes to certain superhero/comic book movies, some have far too many characters to deal with to where the whole project gets unnecessarily submerged due to excess weight of needless storylines. “The Batman” could have easily fallen into this trap as it features multiple iconic characters and villains throughout. But just as Nolan did, Reeves manages to balance everything out just right even as “The Batman’s” running length is nearly three hours long and contains as many endings and climaxes as “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

Colin Farrell is completely unrecognizable here as Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot / Penguin to where even his own kids could not recognize him, and this is one of the highest compliments you can ever give an actor. In his time onscreen, he makes this character his own and disappears ever so deeply into this role in a way any actor would ever want to. I remember watching this movie’s trailer and waiting to see him appear, and now I understand why I didn’t.

As Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Zoe Kravitz gives us the most grounded interpretation of this character yet as she is far more interested in finding her loved ones and seeking revenge than she is in purring at her devious adversaries. I am not going to bother ranking her alongside Michelle Pfeiffer or Anne Hathaway at this time, but she definitely held my attention from start to finish as she is determined to blaze a path of vengeance all her own even as Pattinson’s Batman urges her not to.

Jeffrey Wright, like Gary Oldman before him, succeeds in making James Gordon’s incorruptibility all the more appealing than it might seem at first. Even as Gordon’s fellow Gotham police officers are quick to dismiss Batman as a freak of nature, Wright makes his subtle defense of the Caped Crusader all the more profound. Either that, or he simply making this incorruptible police officer the kind who simply wants to close cases so he can quickly move on to the next.

But when it comes down to it, my favorite performance in “The Batman” comes from Paul Dano as he makes the Riddler a most fearsome villain throughout this film’s elongated running time. We don’t see the actor’s face most of the time as it is bandaged up, and the mask he wears helps to free his consciousness to a gleefully insane level. Even during his penultimate confrontation with Batman, Dano remains a frightening villain as he keeps the Caped Crusader guessing as to what he really knows and doesn’t. It’s a truly inspired performance, and if he is to appear in this film’s sequel, I would certainly welcome it.

Upon entering the theater to watch “The Batman,” my only real expectation from Reeves was for him to make his cinematic interpretation of this iconic character all his own, and he has succeeded in doing so here. He has long since shown what a gifted filmmaker he is with “Cloverfield,” “Let Me In” and two of the recent “Planet of the Apes” movies (“Dawn” and “War”), and he has nowhere to go but up from here.

By the way, while “The Batman” runs almost three hours long, it may run even longer than that depending upon where you watch it. I saw it at my local AMC theater, and it literally had a half hour of commercials and trailers before the feature attraction began.

And one more thing; the Batmobile Pattinson’s Batman drives here is awesome and I would just love to own it. Now this is a car that can go from zero to 60 in less than five seconds unlike my Nissan Sentra!

* * * ½ out of * * * *

‘The Green Mile’ Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.

The Green Mile” is a special film that can be watched over and over again, and its impact is still felt.  In today’s trying times where people are still divided, it’s a healthy reminder of the power of being kind to one another. Frank Darabont had previously tackled the world of prison with “The Shawshank Redemption,” which many people consider one of the greatest films of all time.  It has battled for the top spot with “The Godfather” for quite some time on IMDB. While “The Green Mile” is not in the category of “The Shawshank Redemption,” it’s still an incredible film.  It has a running time of over three hours, but with a cast and screenplay as good as the one featured in this film, one does not pay attention to the running time.

The film is set in 1935 and follows Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), a prison guard who overlooks death row inmates.  He’s firm but compassionate. His sidekick is Brutus “Brutal” Howell, played by David Morse. They see eye-to-eye on most things, especially when it comes to the evil and heinous Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison), another prison guard with an evil and aggressive side to him because of the fact his aunt is married to the governor.  Even though these inmates are on “The Green Mile,” which is where they walk before they are to be executed, Paul has humanity and kindness in a job that is not easy to navigate.  Even though they are inmates with varying degrees of crimes committed, he sees them as human beings.  This is the strength of Darabont’s film: the heart attached to it.  There is also a good deal of humor in the story as well when the scene calls for it.

Everything changes at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary when they meet a large inmate with an even larger heart in John Coffey, played by Michael Clarke Duncan. He has been convicted of raping and killing two white girls.  Paul and Brutus, however, have a hard time believing he could be capable of such a crime when they see such a gentle and kind soul inside of him.  They also notice he has magical healing powers as well.  In the hands of a lesser filmmaker and lesser source material (the film is based on the novel by Stephen King), this could have been very cheesy and hokey.  Here, the emotion and the heart, as mentioned earlier, are felt very powerfully.  This is a film that makes the audience believe in the goodness of John Coffey and in humanity.

However, it doesn’t shy away from the dark side of the inmates.  Not all of them are great human beings.  Some of them are downright evil and cruel, such as William “Wild Bill” Wharton who is played by Sam Rockwell.   He’s racist, violent, and completely out of control. The film is told in flashback style from the perspective of an older Paul Edgecomb.  It’s a sensitive film that really allows the audience to spend time with all of the characters and get to know them.  The attention to detail shown here is truly remarkable.  Even though the film is filled with happy and sad moments, I tend to think of it more as an uplifting film about life and how fragile it is and how there can be beautiful moments we don’t always believe in at first, but we believe in them when we allow ourselves to really look at what’s happening right in front of us.

“The Green Mile” is now 23 years old, having been released in 1999. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Sound. It did not win any Oscars, but it was another great film released in 1999, a groundbreaking year for cinema.  It’s a feel-good movie, yes, but it’s done in a realistic way that doesn’t insult the audience.  There have been a lot of prison films in Hollywood, but this is one of the better ones because of the acting, writing, and direction.  It’s an emotional film that leaves you with a lot to think about after the credits are done rolling. Now that it’s on 4K, I imagine a lot of people are going to enjoy revisiting this classic.

* * * * out of * * * *

4K/Blu-ray Info: “The Green Mile” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  It has a running time of 188 minutes.  It is rated R for violence, language, and some sex-related material.  The film also comes with a digital code.

Video Info: The 4K is released on 2160p Ultra High Definition, and it is a massive upgrade over the Blu-ray.  In 4K, the film really stands out with its vibrant colors and imagery. The Blu-ray is released in 1080p High Definition. While the Blu-ray looks good, the 4K simply looks fantastic. I’m really glad Warner Brothers and other studios are looking into their vaults to re-release classic films in 4K.

Audio Info: The 4K comes in the following audio formats: Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English, Spanish, and French. The Blu-ray has the following audio formats: Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Digital: English, French, and Spanish.  With 4K releases, I tend to notice the difference in the video more than the audio.  The high dynamic range is where it’s at with 4K.

Special Features:

Commentary by Frank Darabont

Additional Scenes

Walking the Mile: The Making of “The Green Mile” Documentary

Miracle and Mystery: Creating “The Green Mile” Featurette Gallery

Tom Hanks Makeup Tests

Michael Clarke Duncan Screen Test

The Teaser Trailer: A Case Study

Theatrical Trailers

Should You Buy It?

I loved this film even more on 4K.  It’s an amazing upgrade that is worth every penny.  The only downside, which I’ve noticed with a lot of these upgrades, is the fact they are re-releasing the same special features from the Blu-ray.  I really wish if they were going to re-release these, they would add some new special features, even if it’s Zoom interviews with various cast and crew members.  As a film, it’s absolutely perfect to me.  A lot of people see it as a downer, but I see it as a very, very moving and inspirational flick despite some of the subject matter. The performances are great across the board, but the heart and soul of the film is with Michael Clarke Duncan.  There are also solid performances from Harry Dean Stanton, Barry Pepper, James Cromwell, Bonnie Hunt, and Patricia Clarkson.  It’s an all-star cast for an all-star movie.  This is a film which should be a day-one purchase for film lovers.

**Disclaimer** I received a Blu-ray copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free.  The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.

Tommy Lee Jones on Playing a Fiery Congressman in ‘Lincoln’

WRITER’S NOTE: This article was written in 2012.

t’s not just Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field who give excellent performances in Steven Spielberg’s well-received “Lincoln.” The entire cast is superb in a variety of roles which helped bring to life the tale of how the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution was passed. One performance which really stands out in particular is Tommy Lee Jones’ as fiery abolitionist congressman Thaddeus Stevens. Time Magazine put Jones at number nine on their list of the Top 10 Movie Performances of 2012 with Richard Corliss describing him as giving “a flinty, inspiring turn.”

Whenever Jones is onscreen, he is a powerful presence and injects this role with both seriousness and a sense of humor as we watch him disassemble the egos of his fellow congressmen for daring to go against the idea of abolishing slavery. Stevens proves to be as obsessed about getting the Thirteenth Amendment passed as U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard was about capturing Dr. Richard Kimble in “The Fugitive,” and Jones is as entertaining to watch in “Lincoln” as he is intense.

While most people are aware of whom Abraham Lincoln is, many are not as familiar with Thaddeus Stevens. Known as a Republican and one of the most powerful members of the House of Representatives, Stevens was described as being witty, sarcastic and quite the flamboyant speaker. Jones did a lot of research on Stevens and described him to Bill Goodykoontz of AZcentral.com as “a radical Republican abolitionist during the (Civil) War, with a very severe policy of Reconstruction during the war.” But Jones really got at the heart of his character when he described Stevens to Randee Dawn of Variety.

“Stevens was looked on as a wild man for his belief in freedom,” Jones told Dawn. “It was a backward time. It doesn’t surprise me that he had to fight the way he did.”

History also states how Stevens suffered from alopecia, a disease which results in the loss of body hair and baldness. This explains Jones’ use of his black wig to portray Stevens, a wig which in any other movie would look completely out of place on any other actor. Learning of Stevens’ unfortunate ailment, Jones wanted to shave much of the hair off his body to present a more honest portrayal of this congressman. A certain person, however, was deeply involved in making “Lincoln” to put an understandable stop to that.

“I originally suggested that we shave my eyebrows,” Jones told Chris Lee of the Los Angeles Times. “Steven (Spielberg) would have nothing to do with that. He said, ‘Your eyebrows are the most expressive part of your face.'”

It goes without saying Jones deserves serious awards consideration for his performance in “Lincoln” but, like Anthony Hopkins who is currently earning praise for “Hitchcock,” he is not interested in mounting any sort of Oscar campaign. As Jones bluntly told Lee, he doesn’t think about or even talk about it. All the same, it is a rousing performance that reminds us of the great actor Jones can be when he is given top rate material. The actor’s talent is certainly not lost on Spielberg who ended up describing Jones quite beautifully.

“Tommy is not just a subtle solo instrument,” Spielberg said. “There is an entire symphony orchestra inside that man, and I knew this when I cast him in the hope that he would represent the Thaddeus Stevens that history tells us was flamboyant, volatile, radically determined and, to some, even tender-hearted. Tommy gave me everything I asked for and much, much more.”

When it comes to talking about the endeavor of making “Lincoln,” Jones described it to Madeleine Marr of The Miami Herald in a way that was both respectful of the movie and very down to earth in regards to his profession.

“It’s a fine undertaking – entertaining and educational with a great respect for American history,” Jones says of the movie, adding, “But I’m always happy to have a job.”

SOURCES:

Richard Corliss, “Top 10 Movie Performances: Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens in ‘Lincoln,’” Time Magazine, December 4, 2012.

Bill Goodykoontz, “Q&A: Tommy Lee Jones, in time, talks ‘Lincoln,'” AZcentral.com, November 15, 2012.

Randee Dawn, “Tommy Lee Jones in ‘Lincoln,'” Variety, December 1, 2012.

Chris Lee, “Tommy Lee Jones on playing a real firebrand, in fake hair,” Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2012.

Madeleine Marr, “Tommy Lee Jones talks ‘Lincoln,’ his career and charity,” The Miami Herald, November 6, 2012.

Sally Field on Portraying the First Lady in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’

WRITER’S NOTE: This article was written back in 2012.

Watching Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, wife and First Lady to the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, it’s hard to think of another actress who could have inhabited this role as well as she did in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” The director had Field in mind for the role back when Liam Neeson was originally cast as President Lincoln, but the actress almost lost it when Neeson withdrew from the project and Daniel Day-Lewis got cast. It wasn’t the first time Field had to fight for a role, and she fought long and hard for this one to where Spielberg granted her a screen test with Lewis.

“I heard commotion and looked up, and across the lobby came my darling Mr. Lincoln,” Field said of Day-Lewis when she first saw the actor walking towards her. “He smirked at me, and I smirked right back. I gave him my hand, I looked up and said ‘Mr. Lincoln,’ and he said ‘Mother.’ That’s what they said to each other. I felt this audible hush in the room.”

After Field and Day-Lewis improvised for an hour as the Lincolns, Spielberg informed her the role was hers. From there, she took the time to visit Mary Todd’s home in Lexington, Kentucky. It was actually a low-key visit for the actress, and she went about town with very few people recognizing who she was.

“What I wanted to really do was be inside of her house,” Field said. “I know what an important place that was for her in studying her, and I really wanted to step inside the house and look at all of that and have the feeling of space.”

“I had seen pictures of what it looked like in those days before, before there were like parking lots and things connected to it, so that I could have a feeling of where she came from,” Field continued. “It’s important in understanding her makeup as a person that you take a look at her home.”

Field also gained 25 pounds to authentically portray Mary Todd Lincoln, and it took seven months to add all that weight to the actress’ 5′ 2 ½” frame.

“She was much heavier, or more round, so we tried to replicate her measurements,” Field said. “We had her dress size, because it’s documented when they made dresses for her… We replicated what she was, and it wasn’t easy. It was sort of horrifying to be a woman of a certain age and to put on 25 pounds.”

After all these years, Sally Field remains a most incredible actress who works very hard to understand the psychologies of each character she portrays and you cannot, nor should you, ever accuse her of being lazy in her preparation. Her performance here is the latest example of how much we really, really like her work (sorry, I couldn’t help it). Field also does a commendable job of giving Mary Todd Lincoln the respect she deserves as she is not talked about as much as her famous President husband.

“Had there not been a Mary Todd, there would not have been an Abraham Lincoln,” said Field. “She found him when he was a young lawyer and really a bumpkin. No one knew of him but she recognized his brilliance. She was so under-examined and misunderstood, and a very important woman in American history.”

SOURCES:

Lisa Gutierrez, “Stargazing | Sally Field had long lusted for ‘Lincoln’ role; justice rules on ‘Sesame Street,'” The Kansas City Star, November 13, 2012.

Rich Copley, “To play Mary Todd Lincoln, actress Sally Field visited Lexington home,” Kentucky.com, November 15, 2012.

Sally Field’s body transformation for ‘Lincoln,’” CNN, November 1, 2012.

Andrea Mandell, “Sally Field locks on to ‘Lincoln’ role,” USA Today, November 13, 2012.

Daniel Day-Lewis on Portraying the 16th American President in ‘Lincoln’

WRITER’S NOTE: This article was written back in 2012.

While there are many actors who physically and mentally transform themselves for a role, none are as fascinating to watch or as serious in their concentration as two-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis. Whether he’s playing poet Christy Brown in “My Left Foot” or portraying Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood,” Lewis disappears so deeply into each character he takes on to where it’s almost like he ceases to exist. With “Lincoln,” he gets his biggest challenge yet as director Steven Spielberg convinced him to portray the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

Lewis spent a full year preparing to play President Lincoln by reading through his speeches and writings. The actor also lost quite a bit of weight to look more like the rail-thin leader, and he took a tour of Lincoln’s home and law office in Springfield, Illinois along with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. As for the physical side of playing Lincoln, Spielberg indicated Day-Lewis had many of the President’s features when he arrived on set.

“That was his hair, his beard, he had very light makeup on his face. And we added the mole, of course,” Spielberg said of Day-Lewis. “I don’t know how much (weight he lost), but he was as lean as I’ve ever seen him.”

In the process of reading Lincoln’s writings and speeches, Day-Lewis became delighted at his use of certain words like “disenthrall.” The actor’s father was once England’s poet laureate, and he taught his son a great love of language which lasts to this very day. As a result, Day-Lewis strongly encouraged Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay for “Lincoln,” to include those words into the script.

“I’d never seen that word (disenthrall) before and I’m always looking for a context ever since where I can use that word, I love it so much,” Day-Lewis said. “The richest source, which creates a very broad, illuminated avenue towards an understanding of Lincoln and his life is through his own words and his own language.”

One aspect of Day-Lewis’ performance people are desperate to know more about was how he came up with Lincoln’s voice. Since Lincoln died long before audio recording became a reality, no one can ever truly be certain of what this American President sounded like. Looking at him in historical pictures, most people came to assume Lincoln had a deep booming voice. Day-Lewis, however, went with a high-pitched tone instead which came about when he read Lincoln’s writing aloud.

“I began to hear a voice that, as I grew closer to the man, that seemed to give me the full expression of his character,” Day-Lewis said. “You look for the clues, as within any aspect of the work, you search for the clues, and there were plenty of them, but for me, if I’m very lucky, at a given moment, I begin to hear a voice, not in the supernatural sense, but in my inner ear, and then the work begins to try to reproduce that sound.”

As with his previous roles, Day-Lewis stayed in character and kept the accent even when the cameras were not rolling. This was not lost on his fellow co-stars which included James Spader who plays political operative William N. Bilbo.

“He’s doing an accent and voice that he held onto all day because I think that’s really the only way one could do that,” Spader said of Lewis.

While doing his research, Day-Lewis’ biggest surprise was discovering Lincoln’s sense of humor and what an important aspect of his personality it was.

“I think it was tactical (Lincoln’s humor), in the political sense. At times, it was undoubtedly used in a conscious sense, for some purpose and to make some point,” Lewis said. “There were accounts of people that came to ask him a question of great importance to them, found themselves in his presence, got a handshake and a story, and were out of the room before they even realized [they never asked it]. That’s good politics. But I think that was innately part of him.”

Daniel Day-Lewis never ceases to amaze us with his unsurprisingly brilliant performances, and the one he gives us in “Lincoln” is just the latest example. While he was initially reluctant to play this American President in Spielberg’s film at first, it is clear he did his homework which led to his unique interpretation of this unforgettable historical figure. It would be utterly shocking if he were to be denied an Oscar nomination for his intense efforts here.

SOURCES:

Bryan Alexander, “Daniel Day-Lewis: A true ‘Lincoln’ transformation,” USA Today, November 9, 2012.

Rebecca Keegan, “‘Lincoln’ was a tall order for Spielberg, Day-Lewis,” Los Angeles Times, October 31, 2012.

Daniel Day-Lewis’ ‘Lincoln’ voice historically accurate?” CBS News, November 9, 2012.

Christina Radish, “Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg Talk LINCOLN, Showing Lincoln as Politician and Father, and Release Timing around the Election,” Collider, November 10, 2012.

Arnold Schwarzenegger on Portraying John Wharton in ‘Sabotage’

WRITER’S NOTE: The following article was written in 2014.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has had a hard time regaining his status as an action movie star as “The Last Stand” and “Escape Plan” both disappointed at the box office, but this looks to change with “Sabotage,” the latest film from writer/director David Ayer who is best known for his realistic action films “End of Watch” and “Harsh Times,” and for writing the screenplay to “Training Day.” While we have come to expect Schwarzenegger to play the hero, this film has him playing a different kind of role than any he has played previously.

In “Sabotage,” Schwarzenegger plays John “Breacher” Wharton, the commander of an elite squad of DEA operatives, and the movie starts with them infiltrating a drug cartel safe house to steal $10 million dollars for themselves. But when they try to recover this money, they discover someone has gotten to it before them and soon find themselves being killed off one by one. From there it’s a race to figure out who the assassin is before they all end up dead.

I was in attendance at the “Sabotage” press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills where Schwarzenegger was the biggest star of the day, and he talked at length about how different his role of John “Breacher” Wharton is from the ones he is famous for. Wharton is a morally grey character as he fights crime, but he could easily be a criminal as he has been investigated by his superiors for illegal activities.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: I think that from an acting point of view it was the most challenging because I’ve never played a character like this. The characters I usually play are black and white. I’m the good guy that wipes out the bad guys, and then there’s a little bit of humor throughout the movie and that’s it. But this script and the character were written quite differently, and I think that’s what was appealing to me. And of course, I knew of David Ayer’s writing and his directing, and I thought it would really be great for me to be challenged like that.

For those familiar with Ayer’s “End of Watch,” you know he put Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena through some seriously rigorous training so they could get fully into the mindset of being LAPD officers. With “Sabotage,” he put Schwarzenegger and his co-stars through SWAT training which was very intense and designed to have them get into the mindset of their characters in a similar way. Schwarzenegger described the kind of training he endured before the cameras started rolling.

AS: When we got together, David had a whole list of things that he wanted me to do. I loved that he pushed me because sometimes directors get intimidated when they meet someone like me and they say that I’m looking forward to working with you and let’s just figure out how we are going to get ready for the movie and those kinds of things. But David came in and was very clear with the set of things that needed to be done like the weapons training and I said, “Why do I need weapons training? I’ve shot more guns than anyone in movie history and I’ve killed more people than anyone, so I mean why do we have to go through weapons training?” And then he said we have to go down to the SWAT team and we have to figure this out. But the thing was that all of this built the character and made me perform the way I did. It was the rehearsals that we did and the talking about the character, learning how they think because that was one of things David wanted me to do; to hang out with those guys, learn how they think, why they are the kind of guys that they are that are willing to risk their own lives to save others. What kind of a mentality does this take and the conflicts in the training and the dedication and all of those things? It’s a very complex world.

Schwarzenegger also compared the SWAT training to his early days of bodybuilding, some of which were featured in the documentary “Pumping Iron.”

AS: I come from a world of reps. The more reps you do, the better you get so I believed in what he (Ayer) said. The more you go down there and do this training with the SWAT team, the better you will be on the set and that’s exactly what happened. What we have learned was that they don’t hold the gun the same way as many in the military or when you just play an action hero, and the authenticity of this was really important. How did you hold the gun? How do you shoot? How do you aim? Do you have your head down or do you bring the gun up to your eye? They are all the time making adjustments. This is what made the movie look good because of those kinds of suggestions.

Of course, we all know Schwarzenegger took a number of years off from acting when he was elected the Governor of California. When he returned to making movies, he was not blind to how things have changed. This had us wondering how he dealt with those changes and how he sees filmmaking today.

AS: Today it’s not like in the ’80s and ’90s when a studio throws $100 million dollars to get a great action movie. That was the old days, now we have half of the money and you have to be very frugal and you have to really rehearse and be prepared, so to have all this stuff be second nature I think is very important. I think that the style of shooting is different, the kind of directors that are out there is much more the younger crowd that is being hired, and there are new visions and new ideas and all that. Movies are made a lot of times by committee and go through the studio route. There’s a bunch of young guys now making decisions whereas in the old days there was one guy sitting there making the decisions, so there’s a lot of changes like that. Budgets are half of what they used to be, the rest of the money is being used for the franchise movies and the big sequels and stuff like that, so it’s a different world that you have to adjust that.

In the past few years, the action genre has taken a bit of a hit as the superhero and comic book movies have dominated Hollywood. But for Schwarzenegger, he doesn’t see the genre disappearing anytime soon. From his point of view, action movies have always done very well, especially those with great stories.

AS: There are action movies that are multilayered and have really interesting characters, and they always will be popular. The key thing is to entertain people, and I think that people are fascinated about this world that we are dealing with in this movie. So, we hope that this movie is going to be successful and is going to be seen by a lot of people. But I think that what this movie has to offer, unlike most action movies, is realism. It is so realistic in the way it was researched and that is why we had so many experts on the set. We had a director that was insisting on being as real as possible and he was basically a fanatic about that. It all paid off and I think people will really, really enjoy this film.

Other action stars like Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis have seen their careers go up and down on a regular basis while Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal seem to be forever trapped in straight to video hell. Schwarzenegger, however, still has a strong presence in movies even if his most recent efforts were not well received. Now that he has been in show business for a few decades, we wonder what direction he would like to see his acting career go from here.

AS: Well, I think I’d like to challenge myself. You think about would this movie be appealing in the United States and also all over the world because sometimes you read a script and you say, well, I think this will play really well in America, but it’s not going to play well overseas. I don’t think I have much interest in that. I like to entertain the world and that was my mission. That was what bodybuilding was all about for me and what acting was all about. So, it’s always about what is the most entertaining project and what is the most challenging project for me, or it could be doing a sequel to” Twins” called “Triplets” with Eddie Murphy. That’s the same type of story, but to me, it’s just a fun project. There is a comedic side just to me that I can play in that role really well. Or we could do a sequel to “Conan (The Barbarian),” “King Conan” or something like that. “Maggie” was the last movie I did which is a very little movie where I just play a farmer whose daughter has this zombie virus. It’s all about having a good time but challenging yourself and always stretching and entertaining the world.

Now it’s no secret Schwarzenegger is not the young action star he used to be. When movie stars reach the age of 40, everyone expects they will not have many of the same opportunities they once had. At one point, the emcee asked Schwarzenegger if it is great to be over 40. He responded he thinks it’s great to be over 60, and his outlook on aging proved to be quite healthy.

AS: I don’t think about when I go to the gym, oh I’m now older or something like that. I just think about how I want to get in shape, and it’s the same when I do a movie. I don’t think about what age I’m in. I just do the movie and I do it as well as I can and go all out. I’m very fortunate that I exercise every day so that I start out already in good shape so that when someone like David Ayer comes along and says, “I want you now to do the martial arts training and I’m going to send over some guys that are cage fighters and then this and then that,” I can also deal with that. To me, I never even think about what is my age.

Schwarzenegger’s performance in “Sabotage” is one of the best he has given so far. Many still see him as not much of an actor even after such memorable turns in “The Terminator” movies and “Total Recall” (the original, not the remake), but he’s always been a better film actor than we give him credit for. Here we get to see him play one of his most complex roles to date, showing just how much range he has. Now he looks more than ready to graduate to the next level of being a grizzled action hero.

PLEASE CHECK OUT THE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW I DID FOR WE GOT THIS COVERED WITH ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER AND OTHERS ON “SABOTAGE” DOWN BELOW.

‘Trump Card’ – Yet Another Documentary Shit Sandwich From Dinesh D’Souza

Ah, Dinesh D’Souza, one of my guiltiest of guilty pleasures this side of Corey Feldman’s “Ascension Millennium.” There’s just no stopping you, is there? I couldn’t help but be a bit giddy for your 2020 documentary “Trump Card” as I was eager to watch you try to defend former President Donald Trump a second time after you tried, and utterly failed, to do so with “Death of a Nation.” But unlike that aforementioned documentary, this one did not get a theatrical release but instead went straight to video on demand. Now, this may have been in large part due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but after a few films which dealt with Trump (including Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”) failed to catch on at the box office, clearly theatrical exhibitors were uninterested in showing any of the man’s orange face on the silver screen regardless of where they were on the political spectrum. One thing is for sure though; Cinemascore cannot save you this time around!

Well Dinesh, you waste no time putting your fears on display here as you display a famous torture scene from George Orwell’s classic novel “1984” as Winston Smith is being grilled by a member of the Thought Police for not falling in line with everyone else. In short, you completely fail to understand Orwell’s dystopian and cautionary tale, and why his novel became so popular again once Trump moved into the White House. Instead, you and your co-directors (wife Debbie D’Souza and Bruce Schooley) direct Stephen Brodie, who plays Winston Smith, to act as if you are telling him, “ACT LIKE YOU ARE IN TREMENDOUS PAIN! SCREAM! OPEN YOUR EYES AS WIDE AS YOU CAN! THAT’S IT!!!”

Oh, and by the way Dinesh, Orwell was a Democratic Socialist. Did you know that?

Anyway, the opening credits of “Trump Card” feature various American monuments and how, as you see it Dinesh, they would like if the Democratic Party were to move the United States all the way into Socialism. The Statue of Liberty gets replaced by a statue of either Karl Marx or Joseph Stalin? Oh no! Mount Rushmore has been recurved to feature Socialist leaders? Stop the presses! Do you really think anyone in America regardless of political affiliation would really allow such a thing to happen? That would be like belittling the plaque located at the Statue of Liberty which says “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Oh, wait a minute, Stephen Miller, a Trump appointee, did just that. As a lover of America, doesn’t that bother you?

It’s really interesting to watch “Trump Card” a full year after President Joe Biden defeated Trump soundly by several million votes (that’s right everybody, Trump lost). Just as you continually do with Abraham Lincoln (played once again by Don Taylor), you hold the Donald up to a ridiculously high standard to where he comes off looking like the superhero who can defeat socialism as if it were America’s kryptonite. Never mind how he got a handout from his dad worth millions of dollars which he squandered, that he was caught on video saying how he loved to grab women by the pussy, that he jumped and ran for cover at a rally when it sounded like a gunshot went off, or the time when he tried to pose with a bald American Eagle only to get freaked out when the bird threatened to attack him. Seriously, even the eagle knew Trump was colluding with Russia.

But as much as you try to hold up Trump to such a God-like level that only the most deluded Evangelicals could ever embrace, you still know how to infuriate me like few others can. You must have been begging for participants this time around as you talk with businessman Alan Bender and Imam Mohammad Tawhidi in an effort to lay waste to American politician Ilhan Omar. Nevermind how Bender is known for espousing unsubstantiated conspiracy theories or that Tawhidi is a cleric with no mosque to speak off, you Dinesh let them hammer away at her by saying she is controlled by Qataris “through her weakness – money and sex” or describing her as being “ISIS with lipstick.” Instead of debating her politics and views as one would with any other politician, you still prefer character assassination. I mean, heaven forbid you take the time to dig beneath the surface on many issues and people you observe here.

Still, you left me howling with laughter when you entered The Body Shop on Sunset Boulevard and enter a room where you interviewed Larry Sinclair. For those who don’t know, Sinclair has claimed on several occasions that he smoked crack with former President Barrack Obama and later performed oral sex on him. This man also has a criminal record over 25 years long involving fraud and deceit, and a forgery charge which earned him a 16-year jail sentence, but yeah Dinesh, I perfectly understand why you did not include this here. For you, the Obama-Sinclair sex scandal is far bigger and more controversial than the one between Trump and Stormy Daniels. Do you remember when Trump paid Stormy for a night of hot sex where it was revealed he had a mushroom dick? Or how about Stormy being threatened to remain silent about this affair? Oh, and Trump did this while his wife Melania was pregnant with their child. Surely you as a Christian look down on him for this, right?

While watching your films is enjoyable for all the wrong reasons, Dinesh, being in the same room with you is not something I am the least bit interested in. Engaging in a conversation with you is pointless as you are almost as narcissistic as Trump. Admitting defeat is not in your nature even as your theories are constantly proven to be utterly bogus, and rather than listening to the truth of things, you would rather put your hands over your ears and keep telling yourself, “The socialists are coming! The socialists are coming! Don’t you see the lanterns lit up at the old church?!”

As I watched “Trump Card,” I was reminded of an exchange between Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline in the classic comedy “A Fish Called Wanda” in which she tried to get through to him:

“Now let me correct you on a couple of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not ‘every man for himself.’ And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes. I looked them up.”

With that in mind Dinesh, let me see if I can possibly make some things perfectly clear for you:

  • The Me Too Movement was not about abortion or protecting Roe v Wade. It was a social movement meant to give voice to those who have been sexually assaulted and harassed as they have been forced to be silent in a way no one ever should.
  • Antifa is a political movement and has been for decades. It is not a terrorist organization.
  • The Hunter Biden controversy of him allegedly accepting a payment of $3.5 million from the wife of the Mayor of Moscow remains an unsubstantiated accusation, and no concrete criminal evidence regarding this has ever been found.
  • President Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech was given in 1858, not 1861 as you present it here.  
  • Your conviction on campaign finance laws in no way allowed you to claim yourself to be a political prisoner, especially after you admitted you did wrong.

Dinesh, I have no doubt of the great love you have for America, and this would remain the case even without your nauseating inclusion of several patriotic songs which become increasingly annoying to listen to throughout. But you need to understand and accept that the Republican party under President Lincoln is not the GOP of today. In fact, neither party is what it once was, and in regards to the Republican Party, this is tragic. While you are correct in saying America is more divided than ever before, “Trump Card” does nothing to bring us together in any healthy way. Like before, you are preaching to an audience who foolishly accepts everything you say and do at face value without doing any meaningful research. But will this stop you? Clearly not. It’s sad to see how deluded you are, and there’s no doubt you will continue to keep listening to the voices in your head which continue to spew propaganda no one has any business believing in.

Oh, and by the way Dinesh, socialism has played a big part in America for decades. Public services such as police and fire departments, the United States Postal Service, schools, and libraries are prime examples of this, and none of it has led to communism. Anyway, that’s just something for you to chew on between now and when you unleash your next documentary shit sandwich on us.

ZERO out of * * * *

The Super Bowl LVI Movie Trailers in Review

The Super Bowl has come and gone again. While the home team, the Los Angeles Rams, got me interested in this monumental event more than usual, what always brings me back to the Super Bowl are the commercials and the trailers for upcoming films which look to bring in the largest audiences possible. Even if some are available to stream on streaming services on opening day, these blockbusters are clearly made for the silver screen. Whether or not COVID mandates are still in place when these films arrive, I look forward to seeing many of them in a theater.

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness

Following the massive success of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Doctor Strange returns to battle the multiverse once again, and it looks badass to put it mildly. Sam Raimi returns to make his first movie based on a Marvel Comics character since “Spider-Man 3,” and it sure feels like a Sam Raimi film with all the crazy images which look like they came from “The Evil Dead.” The only thing I have to wonder now is this, will there be a Bruce Campbell cameo? Moreover, will his classic yellow 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 make an appearance as well? If so, that would be groovy.

Granted, the trailer presented during the game was a teaser for the official trailer which is now available to view online. I am just going to leave you the official trailer down below. Just when I thought I was getting burned out by superhero/comic book movies, this “Doctor Strange” sequel has whetted my appetite.

By the way, was that Patrick Stewart’s Professor X voice we heard?

The Lost City

Look, I love Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum is fun, but this trailer for “The Lost City” makes the film seem like a wannabe “Romancing the Stone” which is too broadly comedic for its own good. Directed by Aaron and Adam Nee and based on a story by Seth Gordon, Bullock plays the brilliant but reclusive writer Loretta Sage who is known for penning romantic adventure novels which take place in exotic locations. While promoting her latest novel, she is kidnapped by an eccentric millionaire played by Daniel Radcliffe whom we see only briefly here, and it is up to Alan (Tatum), the model for Bullock’s book covers to save her. Oh yeah, there is a secret treasure involved. Sound familiar?

It pains when actors are clearly striving to be funny as this trailer. Still, it is worth watching for Brad Pitt who steals the show here just as he stole a certain scene in “Deadpool 2.”

Jurassic World Dominion

As disappointing as “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” was, its conclusion gave its follow-up an interesting scenario to work with, dinosaurs co-existing with human beings. Can such a thing be possible, or will one race dominate the other to where a certain species is rendered extinct?

The trailer presented during Super Bowl LVI is the same one that recently premiered online. The image of cowboys trying to herd some dinosaurs who could easily kill them just by stepping on them is a fascinating image, and the characters played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard now have a daughter because, let’s face it, these two were bound to get it on at some point, and the whole will they or won’t they scenario has long since been played out.

But the real joy of the “Jurassic World Dominion” trailer is seeing the return of the “Jurassic Park” trio, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum. Neill is always terrific in whatever project he appears in, Dern looks like she hasn’t aged a day since “Jurassic Park III,” and Goldblum looks to get more of a role this time around as opposed to the glorified cameo he got in the previous installment.

The magic of first seeing the dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film has never been quite the same, and this franchise has taken some embarrassing turns since then. But with “Jurassic World” director Colin Trevorrow behind the camera again, maybe everyone involved will give this trilogy the conclusion it deserves.

The Adam Project (Netflix)

On one hand, this trailer acts as a promotion for the original content Netflix is going to be dropping on us in the coming months. But this trailer’s main attraction is clearly the Shawn Levy film “The Adam Project” starring Ryan Reynolds, an actor no one can ever seem to get sick of. Originally titled “Our Name is Adam,” back when Tom Cruise was attached to star, Reynolds travels back in time to meet his younger self (played by Walker Scobell) in an effort to confront their late father. While the storyline seems like a rip-off of “Looper,” this looks like its own thing despite any similarities which I am hoping are coincidental.

Seriously, seeing Reynolds in this trailer made me as giddy as Will Ferrell was when he spotted him in the audience the last time he hosted “Saturday Night Live.”

Nope

This trailer for Jordan Peele’s latest cinematic opus reminds me of the greatness of the first “Cloverfield” trailer; it gives us a lot of fascinating and unforgettable visuals while leaving the movie’s plotline a mystery. The trailer for “Nope” looks like it takes place at a horse ranch in the middle of nowhere when all the electricity suddenly goes out, and either Armageddon is happening or a UFO is landing as characters flee as fast as they can or get sucked up into the air. Whether it is a political thriller dealing with racism like “Get Out” and “Us” or just a straightforward science-fiction horror thriller, this trailer has me deeply intrigued, and July 22nd cannot come soon enough.

Ambulance

Anybody who knows me well understands how much I despise Michael Bay. Ever since the cinematic atrocity that was “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” I have avoided his movies like the plague. However, I cannot help but be intrigued by his latest film, a remake of the 2005 Danish film of the same name, which is about a bank robbery gone wrong (is there any other kind in movies?) which leads two of the robbers to hijack an ambulance and use an EMT and a wounded police officer as hostages. Plus, with a cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal and “The Matrix Resurrection’s” Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, this looks to be a film not made with 5-year-old moviegoers in mind. Whether it is made with the mindset of a 5-year-old, however, remains to be seen.

The trailer for “Ambulance” has been out for some time now, but its Super Bowl spot serves as a reminder of how I am honestly excited for it. While it looks to have those typical Bay flourishes like explosions and cameras moving around in circles, there is nary a Transformer to be found here.

Top Gun: Maverick

Delayed by the COVID pandemic more times than “No Time to Die” and hoping to score big at the foreign box office, “Top Gun: Maverick” is FINALLY arriving in theaters this May. For its Super Bowl spot, Paramount partnered with Porsche because when Tom Cruise says he “feels the need, the need for speed,” you either think of “Top Gun” or a Porsche, right? Well, I would certainly love to drive a Porsche with Jennifer Connelly as my passenger, that’s for sure.

With Cruise reteaming with his “Oblivion” director Joseph Kosinski, we can expect some truly intense visuals and real G-force experiences as shown on Maverick’s face. But as with those “Avatar” sequels which James Cameron keeps promising us, I have to say RELEASE THE DAMN MOVIE ALREADY!

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Okay, this is not a movie trailer, but it is a trailer to one of the most anticipated television series ever. Now, this trailer proves this is not a remake of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but instead a prequel that takes place many, many, many, many, many years before Gollum found his precious. While it looks epic, those CGI effects look fairly obvious and kind of take me out of the spectacle on display. Still, we are in J.R.R. Tolkien territory, and it remains ripe with imagination after all these years.

DC Movies

Instead of a single comic book/superhero movie, DC movies will be giving us four of them in 2022: “The Batman,” “Black Adam,” “The Flash” and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.” Images from each one are featured in one Super Bowl ad, and these are my thoughts: I’m sick of hearing about “The Batman.” I just want Matt Reeves’ cinematic interpretation of Bruce Wayne and his alter ego to come out already. Seeing Dwayne Johnson as Teth-Adam/Black Adam proves to me how passionate he was about bringing this character to the silver screen. Hopefully, Ezra Miller will have more speed on his side than he did with “Justice League.” As for Jason Momoa, he has already proven to me he is the definitive Aquaman, and the upcoming sequel is yet another reminder of the fact I have still not watched the original. With these four movies, perhaps DC will finally give the Marvel Cinematic Universe a run for its money.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

I have not seen the first “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and the Super Bowl spot for the sequel does not make me want to check either of them out. When it comes to Jim Carrey though, I have no problem defending him as an actor. While he looks to be doing his usual schtick here as Doctor Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik, he is far more than what he appears to be. His lack of an Oscar nomination for “The Truman Show” was tragic, and they should have just handed him the Oscar for his performance as Andy Kaufman in “Man on the Moon.” And when it comes to “Batman Forever,” I still think he was the best thing about it. Anyway, that is all.

William Friedkin Discusses His Career at American Cinematheque

On January 22 & 23, 2011 at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, American Cinematheque presented a tribute entitled “Strangle-Hold: The Gripping Films of William Friedkin.” Featured were four of the director’s most noted movies: “The French Connection,” “To Live and Die In LA,” “Sorcerer,” and “The Exorcist.” Mr. Friedkin was there both nights to talk about his work and filmmaking, and he was greeted by sold out audiences who gave him with a standing ovation.

It’s been a long road for Friedkin. Despite the many ups and downs of his long career, he still directs movies even though his work these days is constantly, and unfairly, stuck in the shadow of his greatest work. Back in the 1970’s, he gave us two of the greatest movies ever with “The French Connection” which has one of the greatest cinematic car chases ever, and “The Exorcist” which is as powerfully unnerving today as it was when it first came out. Since then, however, he was seen as stumbling both critically and commercially with movies like “Deal of The Century” and “The Guardian” to name a few.

But Friedkin has now rebounded with “Bug” starring Ashley Judd, and the re-release of “The Exorcist” which was a big hit despite it being readily available on video and DVD. Even his flops like “Sorcerer” and “Cruising” have been critically re-evaluated and gained strong cult followings in recent years. Today, he is directing Matthew McConaughey in “Killer Joe.”

Friedkin started off by remarking how the Aero Theatre’s marquee said “William Friedkin Live” and how glad he was to see that at his age. From there, he told a story about his friendship with the great writer/director Billy Wilder and how they had lunch together often at Johnny Rockets. At one point, Wilder said to him:

“You and I have something in common; we both want to make commercial films for a large audience. So don’t look for your films to get shown at the Cinematheque!”

It may have taken long enough, but American Cinematheque did come through for him!

When working with actors, Friedkin said he does not put his personal style on them, and that he always creates an atmosphere for actors to work in which allows their creativity to flow. If the actors come up with something better, he is more than willing to let them roll with it to see where it would take the movie. This aided tremendously in his job of deeply immersing the audience in the story as much as possible.

Some in the audience asked him if he had any advice to pass on to filmmakers. Friedkin was quick to the point:

“Don’t go to film school!”

Friedkin claimed he never had a single lesson in filmmaking, and he said everything he learned came from “the masters who broke the rules” like Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock. In fact, he encouraged everyone to get out of the classroom and watch all of Hitchcock’s movies. While they may vary in quality, he said the master of suspense’s genius is present in every shot he took.

Friedkin also encouraged aspiring directors to not even bother with the preview process or audience testing. None of his movies have ever been altered by these processes, and he really doesn’t like them anyway. Had “The Exorcist” been previewed, he said, it would not have ever have been released!

In selecting movies to make, Friedkin says the movie comes to him more than he goes to it. But the one theme which runs through each and every motion picture he has helmed is ambiguity. The works he admires the most are the ones which ask questions but don’t provide answers. As he sees it, the quest is far more interesting than the end of the journey as there are no ultimate answers, only great questions.

Friedkin also loves playing with the thin line between good and evil. Case in point is “The French Connection” where Popeye Doyle, played by Gene Hackman, is a racist and a womanizer while the drug dealer is a gentleman with manners and who loves his wife dearly. There’s only so much that separates the good guys from the bad ones, and movies like this serve as a very strong reminder of that.

Though his glory days might be behind him, William Friedkin remains a director with an unwavering vision on each film he does. This proves to be the case even in his weakest movies as even they show how fully in control of the craft he is. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.