Cats May Miss Award Deadlines

Christmas is a tough deadline to hit for major films looking to be under awards consideration. Films like Django Unchained and The Wolf of Wall Street both finished just in time to have screenings before the cutoff. This year, the contentious Cats adaptation from Tom Hooper may miss those award deadlines, which may spell a death knell for the film, which has received some criticism based purely on its first trailer’s reception.

Word from the studio is that the film will not be able to be screened until the middle December, after votes close for the New York Film Critics, the Golden Globes, and the SAG Award.

This has to be very disappointing for the studio and Hooper, who is fighting an uphill battle here. Hooper directed award favorites The King’s Speech and Les Miserables, and I have to assume that they expected to add Cats to that list.

Still, they will continue working their asses off to get it done as quick as possible, hoping to at least get screenings in before the cutoff of some award nominations. This won’t spell wins all around because a late start to awards campaign can be another battle altogether.

So where do you stand with Cats? Does it stand a chance against other films competing for those coveted nominations? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Harriet (2019)

Director: Kasi Lemmons

Cast: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monáe, Joe Alwyn

Screenplay: Gregory Allen Howard, Kasi Lemmons

125 mins. Rated PG-13.

 

It’s crazy to think that it’s 2019 and we still don’t have a major memorable release about the life of Harriet Tubman. Maybe I’m just not thinking about one or can’t bring one to mind, but I don’t think one exists. In fact, the film we’re talking about today almost didn’t get made at all, sitting on a shelf at Disney for years until they relinquished rights to the script. So with all that, how did it turn out?

When a young slave woman named Minty (Cynthia Erivo, Bad Times at the El Royale, TV’s Genius) escapes and heads for the border, she takes on the new name of Harriet Tubman and joins up with William Still (Leslie Odom Jr., Murder on the Orient Express, TV’s Smash) and the Underground Railroad to become one of the most celebrated slave-rescuers in history. Director Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou, Black Nativity) shows Harriet’s religious views when she has visions giving her direction in saving slaves, and it shows her fearless nature in the pursuit of freedom for her fellow slaves.

Let’s talk Cynthia Erivo here. I really liked what she did with the role, and I think she almost-flawlessly plays the role of Harriet Tubman. Almost-flawlessly. My big problem with the way Harriet is portrayed is that I don’t think the visions of God that she has works very well onscreen. I think there’s a better way to put this on film. It just didn’t work for me. I really think there’s a way to get this element put to screen better, and I keep thinking how, if it were put to film better, then it could be considered a strong film about religion. I kick on religious films a lot because I don’t think they successfully convey religious tones in a strong enough manner, and I think with the strong production of a film like Harriet, this could be something really cool if it were pulled off better. Back to Erivo, though, this film proves without a doubt that Erivo is capable of carrying a lead performance.

Director Kasi Lemmons does some good work in the film, but her presentation is a little formulaic and straight-forward, and what she needed to remember while making the film is that there’s a lot of the same thing happening in the film. That’s not to knock the incredible thing that Harriet Tubman accomplished, don’t think I’m saying that. All I mean is that the notion of her moving slaves to safety could’ve been given something more visual to represent the journey. Outside of her initial escape, I don’t the length of the journey is presented extremely well. It’s serviceable, but not truly accomplished in the movie.

From the supporting cast, I really enjoyed Leslie Odom Jr. as William Still and Janelle Monáe (Hidden Figures, UglyDolls) as Marie Buchanon, a friend to Harriet who gets her on her feet when she makes it to the north. They are both exemplary performers who elevate the material. Joe Alwyn (The Favourite, Boy Erased) also stars as Gideon Brodess, the son of the man who owned Harriet in the south. I didn’t like the way his character was portrayed in the film didn’t make him a fleshed-out character. I think the way to make a powerful villain is more than just being menacing and violent. There are moments early on in the film where he interacts with Harriet about their past and then it is barely mentioned after her escape. I would have liked their childhood past delved further into in the film through flashback to help fuel his character arc. Again, Gideon isn’t a bad villain. He does villainous things in the film, but I don’t think he’s a realistic villain and I think the finale of the film would have been more powerful if he was given more to do than be menacing.

Harriet is a strong enough biopic on Harriet Tubman that is worth your time. It’s far from perfect, but it’s pretty damn powerful nonetheless. Harriet won’t be accepting any Oscars come 2020, but this is still a solid history lesson about an incredible human being and an incredible triumph of the human spirit. This is still one worth checking out.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

John Boyega to Team With Green Room Director on Rebel Ridge

I’m a big fan of Jeremy Saulnier, who directed Green Room, Blue Ruin, and most recently, Hold the Dark. For me, I will remember coming across a truly wacky poster for a film of his called Murder Party, and that one sold me on him. I ended up absolutely loving Green Room, and I always love to see what he’s doing next. Looks like his new project, Rebel Ridge, included casting John Boyega of Star Wars and Attack the Block fame.

Of course, like many of Saulnier’s films, there isn’t much info on the nature of the project, but it’ll probably include his kinetic and frantic violence that he’s known for. A Variety report claims that the film will contain “bone-breaking action sequences, suspense, and dark humor.” So a pretty standard day for Saulnier.

Boyega is rising in stardom with seemingly every film. As stated above, he’s very fresh as Finn in the new Star Wars trilogy, he’s underrated in Attack the Block, and no one talks about the criminally underrated masterpiece Detroit that he did with director Kathryn Bigelow, but his subtle performance is amazing. Then there’s Pacific Rim: Uprising, but we won’t blame that on him. There were many more problems with that film than his performance, and he didn’t have much to work with.

Photo by Stewart Cook/REX/Shutterstock (9473076ba) John Boyega ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ film premiere, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA – 21 Mar 2018

So yeah, everything sounds great here. We haven’t seen this side to Boyega much. He’s been in several action-based films, but usually those films are more CGI-heavy and less-focused on action from him, so this’ll be an interesting film if everything comes together right. Nothing of concern from this writer, that much I can say. Bring it on.

So what do you think? Is this the right call for Boyega? Is it the right call for Saulnier? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

We May Have an Alfred! Andy Serkis in Talks for The Batman

There’s been a lot of info coming out concerning The Batman casting over the past few days, and I’m not sure I can keep up with all of it. First, I’m hearing that Matthew McConaughey is set to play Harvey Dent (I’ve seen only rumors on this one so far). Then there’s news that Colin Farrell is in talks for The Penguin. Finally, and what should be the smallest of these castings, Andy Serkis is entering talks to play Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler and surrogate father-figure.

I just want to unpack the interesting bit here about Serkis. Andy Serkis is an incredible actor, both in Motion-Capture and also in real world performing. People don’t talk about Serkis as a non-CG performer, but he’s great at both. I loved his work in The Prestige, Black Panther, and the cook in King Kong. So hearing him playing Alfred seems so inspired and something I hadn’t thought about. I had been hearing rumors of him as The Penguin, and again, my mind went to CG, and I was very excited. He has previously worked with director Matt Reeves on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and its sequel, so again, I wasn’t surprised by his inclusion in the DC Batman world, but its only that I hadn’t for a single second thought about him playing Alfred Pennyworth.

But now, I can’t believe the thought never occurred to me. It’s such a brilliant translation for the Alfred character after seeing what the DCEU had done with him as a guy-in-the-chair sidekick-like assistant to Bruce when he dons the cowl. It’s so perfect.

So I’m completely on board with Andy Serkis playing any damn role in The Batman, and if that happens to be Alfred, then I’m perfectly happy.

What do you think? Is Andy Serkis right for Alfred Pennyworth or is there a better fit? Let me know/Drop a comment below.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Nigerian Oscar Submission Lionheart Disqualified for Award Contention

So here’s another frustrating story of the Oscars. Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart, which was the submitted entry for Nigeria, has now been disqualified from contention for having too much English. Somewhere around ten percent of the film is in the Igbo language, while the rest of the run time uses English. Lionheart was set to be Nigeria’s first Oscar entry, but it was apparently not vetted by the time the officially listing was revealed.

Selma director Ava DuVernay had this to say:

What’s interesting is that this is the first year in which the Academy has named the category International Feature Film from the previously-titled Foreign-Language Film. Even though the title was changed, it would appear the eligibility did not. We won’t hear of the official longlist until December 16, but I would assume this ruling won’t change at that time.

I personally think that it’s bullshit, especially after the title change, to disqualify this film. I’m not sure of all the rules that a film needs to have to qualify for International Feature Film, but changing the title seems to indicate that Foreign-Language is not an issue. This is film, and you are punishing them for using English when Nigeria has some English in with the many other languages around.

So what do you think? Should Lionheart be allowed to compete for Best International Feature Film? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Fantastic Beasts 3 Set to Begin Production in 2020…With an Alteration

The next film in the Wizarding World universe, tentatively titled Fantastic Beasts 3, will begin production in 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, keeping in line with the announcement that each film in the franchise will be set in a different location to further build the world of Harry Potter and Newt Scamander. Warner Bros. had pushed back the start of production after the previous film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, suffered with critics and under-performed with audiences. There are plenty of reasons why The Crimes of Grindelwald would have disappointed, but Warner Bros. wanted time to right the ship.

The first Fantastic Beasts film made around $800 million and the second brought in $650 million, so it’s obvious that the studio would want to take extra precautions and extra time to get everything right. As it turns out, during the release, it was also listed that Steve Kloves co-wrote the film with J.K. Rowling, who penned the first two films. Kloves also wrote seven of the eight Harry Potter films.

For me, the biggest problem with The Crimes of Grindelwald was the screenplay. There’s so much information and exposition jammed into the film and there’s a significant lack of action. She only wrote two films in her career, both of them Fantastic Beasts films, whereas Steve Kloves has continued to turn out great work over and over again. Kloves added to the writing team eases my mind so much.

Now comes the serious question: how long do we have to wait in the third film to find out more about that big reveal from the previous film? I must know! I must!

So what do you think about this news? Is Rio and Kloves enough to convince you to see Fantastic Beasts 3 or are you already in?

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] The Final Girl: Ranking the Best and Worst of the Month

Hey everyone, we are a few days removed from October, and as we look toward the next holiday and the rest of the year, I thought it would be fun to look back at the 5 worst films of this year’s 31 Days of Horror as well as picking the Top 5 from the month as well. It’s a grab bag of randomness, so don’t take any of this all that seriously, but it’ll be fun nonetheless.

Let’s get started.

 

Worst 5 Films of the Month:

5) Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation

  • This was probably the worst film of the franchise so far (I still haven’t caught part 5), and it’s too bad that it really doesn’t embrace that Christmas flavor. I have no fault if anthology is the direction this franchise took, but this film has virtually nothing to do with the holiday. It doesn’t even really feel like it’s set during the holidays outside of one scene. All that aside, the film is kind of boring and not well-acted or well-written. Outside of a few cool effects sequences, this one is a real dud.

4) Schizoid

  • I really wanted to like Schizoid, and there are moments that feel like the story is about to head somewhere really cool, but it never quite realizes that dream. I genuinely felt interested in the whodunnit of it all because just about every character seemed potentially off-putting enough to be responsible for the killings depicted in the film. It’s just that it’s tonally boring and not enough really happens to keep my interest in this film. Klaus Kinski is a scene-chewer and it was cool to see Christopher Lloyd doing some smarmy work here, but Schizoid‘s just a loss overall.

3) The Field Guide to Evil

  • The Field Guide to Evil looks great, but it’s more like a really pretty shell that’s hollow. I didn’t think any of the shorts had a good ending, the film just feels like wasted talent all around. As the film progressed, I was just hoping it would be done soon. I feel most disappointed by The Field Guide to Evil because it just felt like a winner and ended up being a loser.

2) Father’s Day

  • This month started out with a real dud of a film in Father’s Day, the sendup to grindhouse exploitation films that thought it was better than it was. I liked the aged appeal of the film but the story was obnoxious and just not very enjoyable. Father’s Day just could’ve been so much more, and I’ve seen better work from many involved.

1) Seventh Moon

  • Seventh Moon is the absolute bottom of the barrel here. There’s not a single merit I can give this film, and that’s a real problem. The cast is terrible, the shaky-cam found-footage-that-isn’t-supposed-to-be-found-footage approach to the film is awful, jarring, and unpleasant, and the story, which seems like it could be good initially, is completely wasted here. This is an absolute skip in every way.

 

So there you have it. The worst 5 films of the last month. Let’s move on to the good stuff.

Top 5 Best Films of the Month:

5) The Autopsy of Jane Doe

  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe feels like it could be perfect for quite a good portion of the film. Where is faults itself is that’s overall mystery isn’t all that meaningful and the ending is a bit messy. Outside of that, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is anchored by an excellent tone from its director and two powerhouse performances from Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch as a father and son who are dealing with horror in the workplace.

4) House

  • House is a classic in my home. I watch it every year around Halloween, and I absolutely love it. I think it’s perfect (it’s not) to me, and I just enjoy the hell out of it. Maybe it’s that I saw it when I was a kid and didn’t see the humor, so now as an adult, I’m focused on the creatures and horror of the film. I like Roger Cobb as a character, and I wish we got more appearances from him in a franchise, but this series just did not work as well as its first film. House, though, is damn incredible, and probably my favorite haunted house movie.

3) Zombieland

  • I rediscovered Zombieland this year in anticipation of Double Tap, and this is a tight 80-minute movie that fires on all cylinders and packs so much content into the film. Zombieland is built by four strong lead performers and a lot of cool set pieces. This is the epitome of the “fun apocalypse” film, and it likely led to the craze of people talking about how they would survive a zombie apocalypse (you wouldn’t) situation. Don’t blame Zombieland for that. This is a flavorful action/horror/comedy that works amazing well, even 10 years later.

2) The Fog

  • You all know I love John Carpenter. The Fog is probably in my Top 5 Carpenter films, and I believe he has made several perfect films. The Fog is one of those films. Honestly, I was back and forth about whether this film deserved the top spot of the year of second place, and there was just a more-perfect film that I saw this year. For The Fog, though, it’s impressive to see how Carpenter turned a B-movie into an A-movie. There are giant Jawas going around town killing and haunting, and it should be stupid-looking, but it’s just so incredibly effective.

1) Young Frankenstein

  • Young Frankenstein is the best film I watched this past month. It’s a comedy that embraces the horror elements of the films it is lampooning. It always remembers that it’s making fun of the Frankenstein mythos. Gene Wilder is a perfect Dr. Frankenstein, and Mel Brooks shot enough footage that he was able to be picky as to what scenes he would include in the finished product. Young Frankenstein just works in every way and it’s a benchmark of satire and parody.

So there you have it. These are the best films from 31 Days of Horror this month. I had a lot of fun recounting these things, and I hope you found some new gems to add to your Halloween rotation. See you next year.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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