Friday This ‘n’ That – Timing is Everything

#firstworldproblems

I love going to the movies. Currently, Friday is my day off and I like to spend the day at the movies. During the summer, things are great as movies start between 10 and 11 in the morning. I can get in three features before meeting my wife for dinner.

Unfortunately it’s not summer so two of the three theaters I frequent, Regal Biltmore Grande and Epic Theatre of Hendersonville, don’t even start their shows until 1 in the afternoon. Ditto the three I don’t go to, Carmike, Beaucatcher, and Asheville Brewing. Only Carolina Cinemas has morning showings, some as early as 11.

This is the absolute nitpickiest of nitpicky complaints.

Regal Cinemas

Biltmore Grande has a rather annoying schedule. The vast majority of their films run on a 1, 4, 7, and 10 rotation (as many theaters do). While this does mean that you can simply show up at the theater prior to one of these times and be pretty sure you’re okay, it really leaves out those of us who like to string together a marathon or even a double feature.

Carolina Cinemas

Again, Carolina Cinemas comes to the rescue. Their movies are scheduled at all different times so, if you know how long a movie is, you can plan a string of movies. This past Friday, for example, I could have gone to Biltmore Grand to go see The Visit at 130 and Crimson Peak at 4. Alternately I could have gone to The Carolina to see Crimson Peak at 1150, Sicario at 205, and Bridge of Spies at 420.

Last of the Streaming Releases for October 2015

A touch of horror just in time for Halloween but I think I’ll pass on Human Centipede 3, thank you just the same.

Action & Adventure: The Gunman

Manson Family Vacation

Comedy: Manson Family Vacation

Documentary: Seeds of Time, The Great Museum, Famous Nathan

Drama: August: Osage County, Sunset Edge, 1001 Grams

Family: Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection, Trick or Treaters

Foreign: Hum Saath-Saath Hain, Jack Strong, A Borrowed Identity, Tu Dors Nicole, Gueros

Let Us Prey

Horror: Let Us Prey, The Human Centipede 3: The Final Sequence (one can only hope)

Hemlock Grove

Television: The Principal and new episodes of Hemlock Grove and Chasing Life

Epic Theatres’ New Classic Movies on the Big Screen Program

Epic Theatres

Epic Theatres is running a nice lineup of classic movies. Unlike the once a month TCM showings through Fandango, Epic is showing their shows every week and at regular ticket price. As is typical with these classic movies, the advertising is not what it could be so catch them when and where you can or they will stop running.

Epic classic showtimes are 2 and 7 on Sunday and Wednesday (much like their TCM counterparts).

Psycho

10/25 & 10/28 – Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

11/01 & 11/04 – Back to the Future (for those who missed the triple feature)

Princess Bride

11/08 & 11/11 – The Princess Bride (my wife’s absolute favorite movie of all time)

11/15 & 11/18 – The Wizard of Oz

11/22 & 11/25 – Spaceballs

11/29 & 12/2 – A Christmas Story

 

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 10/27/15

Here’s a rather eclectic mix, yet nothing new for Halloween.

Kung Fury

Action & Adventure: Kung Fury

Comedy: Results

Back in Time

Documentary: Back in Time, The Tiger and the Monk

Drama: Unexpected, Hungry Hearts, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

Family: The Journey Home, Lego DC Comics: Batman Be-Leaguered

Foreign: Mea Culpa, Z Storm

Avengers Assemble

Television: New episodes of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble

Friday This ‘n’ That – FREE Monsters, Inc.

 

Inside Out

Please accept my apologies for the lack of posts this week. When I’m sick, I’m happy enough to plug away on the keyboard even in a fuzzy state. Unfortunately, my darling granddaughter has been sick all week so I have been taking car of her. She is very demanding and, when I haven’t been doing chores or taking care of things in general, I have been sitting on the couch with her watching Inside Out (Vudu), Monsters, Inc. (ditto), animated Batman (Amazon Prime), Octonauts (Netflix), The Simpsons (Hulu), and ugh play-doh toy videos on YouTube.

Contagion

Anyways, stay healthy folks and avoid this plague like it was the…well you get the idea. Speaking of Monsters, Inc., I got it FREE for connecting my Disney Movies Anywhere account to Amazon. You can too!

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 10/20/15

Obviously the big news this week is Beasts of No Nation – a film boycotted by the major theater chains (Regal, AMC, etc.) because of its simultaneous release on Netflix. In spite of this, Beasts of No Nation is garnering quite a few good reviews, although it’s a hard watch.

Comedy: Anthony Jeselnik: Thoughts and Prayers, Katt Williams: American Hustle, Katt Williams: The Pimp Chronicles

Documentary: Pentatonix: On My Way Home, All American High: Revisited, Finding Jesus: Faith Fact Forgery, First Comes Love, From Baghdad to Brooklyn, Gardeners of Eden, Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno Live!, My Monkey Baby, Road, Three Stars

Drama: Beasts of No Nation, The Christmas Card

Family: Seventeen Again

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Ferocious Planet

Suburra

Foreign: Suburra, Gulaab Gang, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania

The Lazarus Effect

Horror: The Lazarus Effect, Djinn

Jane the Virgin

Television: Jane the Virgin, Adaalat, C.I.D, Dinotopia, El asombroso mundo de Zamba, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Huntik, Maharana Pratap, Medialana y las Noches Magicas, Skins, and new episodes of All Hail King Julien and Some Assembly Required

Thriller: Circle, The Guvnors, Rear Window (1998), The Sitter

Friday This ‘n’ That – Violence in the Cinema Edition

I went to see Sicario the other day and enjoyed myself but there was an incident at the theater.

I actually missed about ten minutes in the middle of the movie as a fist fight broke out. One patron decided the theater was his personal living room and starting using his cellphone, another patron objected verbally, and shortly after, sound effects behind me are echoing what was onscreen.  I got up but several closer people had already separated them so I got management.

The incident was resolved quickly. After the movie finished and people started leaving, management was on hand to give out return passes. My wife was concerned when I told her but for all the talk of cinema violence, I have gone to the movies constantly for over four decades and have seen just this one fight and one drunk and disorderly a few years back.

I am refraining from naming the theater(s) involved as I would not want them to get a reputation over an incident. Violence is obviously unacceptable (on either part of the equation) but also

TURN OFF YOUR PHONE at the movies – everyone else paid for a ticket too. Act like an adult – don’t kick the chair in front of you because you want to put your feet up. Don’t talk during the feature. This is not your living room. If you are incapable of simple human decency, for goodness sakes, stay home.

 

Sicario – Prisoners Part Deux

I spent a wonderful day at the movies last week. Sicario is currently playing in theaters.

Sicario

Sicario (2015) – Rated R

An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.”

I had heard a lot about director Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners before seeing it. I had heard that it was complex, nuanced, and uncompromising among other good things. It was a pretty decent film and he did get several very good performances from his cast but I didn’t really find it hype-worthy. Basically, Villeneuve stepped a little outside of the Hollywood mold but definitely not far enough.

Later, I saw the Israeli film, Big Bad Wolves. It was everything that Prisoners should have been – uncompromising, thrilling, and thought-provoking. It is currently available on instant Netflix so go watch it now, but for goodness sakes turn off your devices and pay attention.

Emily Blunt plays FBI Agent Kate Macer. I loved her as the subversive lead in the generically titled Edge of Tomorrow (a full year before Charlize Theron pulled the same trick in Mad Max Fury Road). To digress for a moment, Edge of Tomorrow is such a generic title that not only did it do poorly at the box office but when it received a home release, they rebranded it as “Live. Die. Repeat.”. To this day, many people think that is the name of the film. After all, it is actually in larger print than the title.

Emily Blunt is just as good here. She has a wonderful ability to project toughness without having it hinder her acting. Josh Brolin plays, well, a Josh Brolin-esque government agent named Matt Graver. He is a good solid actor but lately his parts can pretty much be defined as “Texan…”. He is a Texan mountain climber in Everest. Here he is a mysterious Texan agent. Unfortunately, there is no stretching of his acting abilities.

Benicio del Toro is suitably enigmatic, charming, and menacing as Alejandro. He is another actor who can act quite well but is often cast in roles he can walk through. In Sicario, his character is given a complex backstory BUT since the story isn’t really about him, it is glossed over and mostly delivered, disappointingly, as exposition.

Herein lies the crux of Denis Villeneuve’s issues. He is a director with a lot of good ideas and able to get good performances out of actors BUT he lacks subtlety and nuance. He wants to make sure audiences get it so many things are delivered by expository dump. That said the opening sequence is a stunner. The rest of the film is quite good but definitely by-the-numbers as Agent Macer gradually realizes how in-over-her-head she is and what lengths both sides are willing to take.

 

Marvel, Paradise Regained

Yesterday, I covered how Marvel set up a series of deals that helped rescue them from financial difficulty but horrifically tied their hands. Now, Marvel has a wonderful cinematic universe where, just like in the comics, stories cross over each other.

Daredevil

The Daredevil and Punisher licenses have lapsed (Yay!). Marvel and Netflix made a wonderful series out of Daredevil (and I daresay spent less than they did on the mediocre movie). I have high hopes for Jessica Jones (November!), Power Man, Iron Fist, and The Defenders.

Agents of SHIELD

So why doesn’t Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. work? It was sold as being part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This means The Avengers as that is basically what the MCU is, given the absence of mutants, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and others. Yet for being based on The Avengers, there is no sign of Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, or any superheroes at all. The closest they come is that Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) guest stars in two episodes. That’s two episodes out of two full seasons. In the second season, they added Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird but haven’t done much with her.

Another part of it has to do with SHIELD. SHIELD as a comic book evolved out of the James Bond series. Nick Fury was a spymaster with a vast array of incredibly cool gadgets but that was in the 70s. The cinematic Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is based more on The Ultimates line of comics and works well.

Unfortunately, a television series could not afford Samuel L. Jackson on a regular basis so the leader of SHIELD is seen in only three episodes and even then it’s briefly. So they resurrect Agent Coulson to lead the team so that we have at least one familiar face. The gadget antics wore out their welcome long ago. It’s why when Daniel Craig became Bond, they went back to basics and ditched the outlandish gadgets. Unfortunately the SHIELD team thinks these items can substitute for plot. They don’t really understand how a Mcguffin works.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has already had a wide array of supervillains, drawn from a long history of comics. While many of the heavy hitters like Dr. Doom and Magneto are unavailable, we still have Loki, Malekith (who was much cooler in the comics), Thanos, Yellowjacket, Ironmonger, Whiplash, The Mandarin (sort of), The Red Skull, Arnim Zola, Ultron, and others, heck they even manage to shoehorn Strucker and Klaw into a movie that didn’t need them.

Who does SHIELD have for a supervillain? Umm, The Enchantress guest stars in an episode. Kyle MacLachlan periodically guests as Calvin Zabo. Who?

SHIELD has started to introduce the Inhumans, one of the few properties not sold off. Unfortunately, they do so in a rather lame fashion. Black Bolt? Nope. Medusa? Nope. I guess they are saving those for the eventual Inhumans movie.

Agent Carter

There is the real crux of the problem. Marvel appears to be saving everything for their blockbuster movies, leaving nothing for SHIELD (or Agent Carter for that matter). There was even talk of a spinoff from SHIELD featuring Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird). Why do a spinoff when you cannot even get the original right?

Obviously, the Inhumans are SHIELD’s big push this year, until the inevitable spring tie-in with Captain America: Civil War. I am a die-hard Marvel fan from my kid days but I feel I have invested too much time in this already.

Excuse me, The Flash is about to come on.

Marvel’s Deals with the Devil

Blame, blame is such an easy game. Why, with such an incredible universe to draw from, is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. such a bore? There is quite a lot of blame to go around but it lies rooted in Marvel’s financial woes in the 90s. There is a great article on Marvel’s trip from bankruptcy to billions here so I won’t go into too much depth.

The Incredible Hulk

Marvel had a big television hit with The Incredible Hulk. It was a wonderful formula: take a well liked actor (Bill Bixby), add a champion body builder (Lou Ferrigno), and simply retell The Fugitive, a popular television series from fifteen years earlier. It worked great. They then attempted to repeat this success with Captain America (painfully bad), Dr. Strange, and others. They didn’t pan out so Marvel tried to launch a few more from within The Incredible Hulk. The Incredible Hulk Returns featured Thor and The Trial of the Incredible Hulk featured Daredevil.

As part of the recovery from bankruptcy in the 90s, numerous licensing deals were made.  It is great that Marvel was able to climb back out of the hole but many of the terms on the deals were ridiculous.

X-Men

Twentieth Century Fox made a fantastic version of X-Men (2000) and the even better X-Men 2 (2003). Unfortunately, the deal allowed X-Men movies to be owned by Fox in perpetuity as long as the movies kept being made. That would be bad enough but the deal included all of the standard X-Men, their standard villains, and even extended to the term mutant.

Attempts had been made during the 90s to bring Spider-Man, Marvel’s most iconic character, to the big screen and while that failed, the rights were tied up for quite some time. Once the rights were untangled, Columbia (Sony) locked them up again, including a rogue’s gallery of Marvel’s best villains. Once again, a really good blockbuster was made, Spider-Man (2002) followed by an even better sequel, Spider-Man 2 (2004).

Daredevil

Apparently, it took a long time for Marvel to catch on that they were selling the cow instead of the milk. Essentially the same deal was made, again with Twentieth Century Fox, for Daredevil. Daredevil, Elektra, The Kingpin, and even Ben Urich were tied up. Ditto Lionsgate with The Punisher (2004) and The Punisher: War Zone (2008).

Finally, the Fantastic Four rights were locked up, again by Twentieth Century Fox. This wouldn’t be so bad as they were usually self-contained but it also included Doctor Doom and the Silver Surfer. Not just that but Fantastic Four (2005), Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), and the reboot Fantastic Four (2015) have all been pretty dire.

Not only did Marvel practically give away their entire roster of characters but many others such as Iron Man were locked up in deals where the movie simply never came to fruition.