Monday, March 19, 2018

7 Days In Entebbe / *** (R)

Focus Features
Brigitte Kuhlmann: Rosamond Pike
Wilfred Böse: Daniel Brühl
Yitzhak Rabin: Lior Ashkenazi
Shimon Perez: Eddie Marzan
??: Ben Schnetzer
Patricia Martel: Andrea Deck
Jacques le Moine: Denis Ménochet

Focus Features presents a film directed by José Padilha. Written by Gregory Burke. Running time: 106 min. Rated PG-13 (for violence, thematic material, some drug use, smoking and brief strong language).

At Midnight of May 14, 1948 the Provisional Government of Israel declared the new State of Israel and applied for United Nations membership the very next day. Since then the State of Israel has been in conflict with the Palestinian people, who were displaced by the UN when the Israelis were given land the Palestinians claimed as their own. The conflict has frequently been bloody and involved the international community at large in the form of hijackings and violent protest throughout Europe. Even in writing these sentences I am wary of my word choices for fear of offending one side or the other. I have no dog in this race, but since it has been an international political issue for the entirety of my life, I am somewhat fascinated by the subject matter.

The new film 7 Days in Entebbe examines the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight by two Palestinians and two Germans, who took the fairly inspired and unexpected tactic of landing the plane in Entebbe, Uganda for negotiations under the protection of the unpredictable leader of that country, General Idi Amin. This is the fourth cinematic telling of this particular story, but the first to come after much of the details of the incident have been declassified by the Israeli government. The screenplay by Gregory Burke, who previously wrote the screenplay for the politically charged ’71, focuses on three different storylines. His first focus is on the two German hijackers, Brigitte Kuhlmann and Wilfred Böse, portrayed by the film’s biggest names Rosamond Pike and Daniel Brühl. The second examines the decision making process by the Israeli government, in particular the opposing viewpoints between then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Minister of Defense (and future Prime Minister) Shimon Peres. A third, less fact-based storyline follows an unnamed Israeli Defense Force soldier who is part of the elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal responsible for executing the risky rescue operation cooked up by Peres’s staff.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My Favorite Music of 2017, part 2

In part two of My Favorite Music of 2017 we get to combine both of my extracurricular passions—music and movies (and a little TV). I listen to just about as much soundtrack music as I do popular music. I probably even try more soundtrack music out, but these are the ones I kept coming back to over and over again throughout the year. I divided the music into three categories—movie scores, television scores and compilation soundtracks. The compilations are new to this year’s entries. Popular music has long been an element in movies, and at about the time of the Miami Vice television series producers and studios realized that good music compilation soundtracks could be additional moneymakers. They soon became a staple. I kept this list down this year, because I really don’t listen to a whole lot of pop compilation albums. But there were a few entries that really struck me this year. Here are my favorite music soundtracks of 2017. (All release dates are 2017 unless noted).

Friday, March 16, 2018

My Favorite Music of 2017, part 1

2017 was one of the better years for music I can remember. Well, I should probably qualify that. It is a year in which I personally have been able to immerse myself in music more fully than I have in quite some time. Every year that I come around to making this list, I always start out thinking I’d like to say something about each of my entries. There are two reasons that I don’t. The first is that I’ve chosen 20 albums and 10 shorter format entries for this list and this is only part one. These are my popular music choices, while part two will consist of movie soundtrack entries. Were I to write about all 50 entries on this list, I’d be writing for most of 2018, and it’s already the middle of March. The second reason I don’t write about the music is that after going full bent on my favorite sounds for the past couple of months, I’ve come to the conclusion that the music really speaks for itself. This is my favorite music of 2018 (all in no particular order).

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Gringo / ** (R)

Amazon Studios
Harold Soyinka: David Oyelowo
Richard Rusk: Joel Edgerton
Elaine Markinson: Charlize Theron
Sunny: Amanda Seyfried
Mitch Rusk: Sharlto Copley
Bonnie Soyinka: Thandie Newton
Miles: Harry Treadaway
Angel Valverde: Yul Vazquez
Robert Vega: Hector Kostifakis
Jerry: Alan Ruck

Amazon Studios and STX Entertainment present a film directed by Nash Edgerton. Written by Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone. Running time: 110 min. Rated R (for language throughout, violence and sexual content).

The Edgerton’s appear to be a family of many talents. Hailing from Australia, Joel Edgerton is the better known of the brothers in the United States. He stars in his brother’s latest feature Gringo. Most would recognize him from leading roles in films like Warrior, The Great Gatsby, Exodus: Gods & Kings, Blank Mass, Loving and The Gift—which he also wrote and directed. His older brother Nash Edgerton directs Gringo. Gringo is Nash’s second feature film after the 2008 Australian thriller The Square, which took the top spot as my favorite film of that year. Gringo has some of the earmarks of that film but lacks its sharp tone and strong protagonist.

Monday, March 05, 2018

My Favorite Movies of 2017

Just a few observations before my very late list this year. As I was compiling all the information for these films, I was struck by how many of the directors of these movies wrote their own screenplays. I believe we have entered the second age of the cinema auteur and I believe this observation supports that theory.

This would also explain why my list is so long this year. As I usually do, I originally placed these films in order from my favorite to my least favorite of… well… all the movies I gave four stars to this year, which always seemed like a strange practice because I think they’re all great. I realized this as I started to write about Get Out and noticed it had somehow fallen all the way back to number 9 on the list. I moved it back up to the top three, because somehow the top three are my top three, but really none of the films on this list are really in any particular order because they are all incredible movies. I don’t think I ever felt the movies I honored on this list each year were all on such equal ground before.

Here are my favorite films of 2017:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Black Panther / **** (PG-13)

T’Challa/Black Panther: Chadwick Boseman
Erik Killmonger: Michael B. Jordan
Nakia: Lupita Nyong’o
Okoye: Danai Gurira
Shuri: Letitia Wright
Everett K. Ross: Martin Freeman
W’Kabi: Daniel Kaluuya
M’Baku: Winston Duke
N’Jobu: Sterling K. Brown
Ramonda: Angela Bassett
Zuri: Forest Whitaker
Ulysses Klaue: Andy Serkis

Walt Disney Pictures presents a film directed by Ryan Coogler. Written by Coogler & Joe Robert Cole. Based on the Marvel Comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Running time: 134 min. Rated PG-13 (for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture).

You’re going to read a great deal about the box office of Black Panther. You’re going to read many quotes from critics calling Black Panther “ground breaking.” You’re going to read that Black Panther is the best comic book movie ever made. For most people, none of this will really matter. For most people, Black Panther will just be a good time at the movies. It accomplishes this with a predominantly black cast in an international story that includes only two white supporting characters. That right there is the biggest reason why all of the previous things I listed are true. However, what is most remarkable about Black Panther is that all of those things said about it would also be true even if most people didn’t go to see it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The 15:17 to Paris / *½ (PG-13)

Spencer: Spencer Stone
Anthony: Anthony Sadler
Alek: Alek Skarlatos
Ayoub: Ray Corosani
Joyce: Judy Greer
Heidi: Jenna Fischer
Spencer (11-14): William Jennings
Alek (11-14): Bryce Gheisar
Anthony (11-14): Paul-Mikél Williams

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by Dorothy Blyskal. Based on the book by Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone and Jeffery E. Stern. Running time: 94 min. Rated PG-13 (on appeal for bloody images, violence, some suggestive material, drug references and language).

The 15:17 to Paris, Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort, is a film of our times. The world has become violent. Terrorist attacks are becoming so common that we are teaching our children how to live in a world rife with them. We look for examples of how to survive them. More importantly, we look for examples to follow to inspire us to be better in the face of evil. Eastwood has found those examples in Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler. The first two service men, all three lifelong childhood friends who helped to thwart a planned terrorist attack on the Thalys train line from Amsterdam to Paris. There is no doubt that these three men are heroes. This, however, is not the movie they deserve. Nor is it the movie we deserve from their example.