Charlize Theron Brings Another Flawed, Complicated Anti-Heroine to the Screen in Netflix’s ‘Girlboss’

“I built a whole career on flawed and fucked up characters,” Charlize Theron told journalists during a panel for the new Netflix series Girlboss, which she executive produced and which premieres April 21.

If anyone knows how to play complicated, badass women on screen it’s Theron, who has perfected these roles since her Academy-Award winning performance in “Monster” (2003), later in “Young Adult” (2011) and more recently famously for  “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015).

Britt Robertson and Sophia - Girlboss - Paula Schwartz photo
Paula Schwartz photo

Girlboss stars Britt Robertson in a role loosely based on the real-life story of Sophia Amoruso, the founder of the online fashion brand Nasty Gal, who made a fortune selling vintage clothes on eBay. Amoruso spun her story into a New York Times best-selling book and also serves as a consultant on the show.

Theron has partnered as executive producer with “Pitch Perfect” screenwriter Kay Cannon who has a list of successful television shows to her credit.

Participating at the Netflix press event, along with Cannon and Theron, were Amoruso, Robertson and director Christian Ditter.

The center of attention of course was Theron, who peppered her lively and passionate comments with expletives and was dressed all in black leather.

Cannon explained how she came to be the showrunner for Girlboss, as she searched for her next project following her successful comedy series “New Girl.” “I like to base things off of real life stories.” She asked her agents to send her books, articles, anything like that. “And sure enough,” she said. “ I would get sent a lot of things I really wasn’t into and then Charlize came to me with the book #girl boss and I remember that I was had watched all the Oscar screeners that year and it felt like every story was about a flawed man, which is totally fine. But I was really thirsty, starving to create something that was about a woman, a woman’s story.’

When an agent brought her Sophia’s book she said she felt, “absolutely, I can’t wait to do it. I was really surprised by the fact that it wasn’t really her life story, that it was these little chapters that I found very amusing about young adulthood,” she said. “The young girl in me was kind of envious and wished that she had something like that when she was in her 20’s.”

For Theron, Girlboss was a continuation of her ongoing goal to produce and star in movies or television shows that focused on complicated, difficult women. After the two women got the rights for Sophia’s book, they pitched it first to another place before Netflix with less than promising results.

“We went and pitched this when we got the rights. We went to one other place and I won’t name the place but to give you an example we sat in a room,” Theron said, “And the feedback we got was absolutely shocking. Mostly men in the room.”

“There was this real sense when we walked out of really truly understanding that if you didn’t find the right home for this project it would literally just kind of disappear,” she said. “It would become nothing. It would become something very mediocre and I remember standing at the elevator and looking at Kay, and, Kay is just incredible and so optimistic and I’m just this fucking depressed bitch, you know? She’s like ‘I think’ — — and I was like we’re not doing that. We’re not doing that.”

Charlize Theron - Girlboss - Paula Schwartz photo
Paula Schwartz photo

Cannon noted of the experience, I remember being like, Charlize, get in the elevator, they can still hear us.”

Cannon praised Netflix for seeing the value of the show, particularly at this time. “I will straight up say, it really sticks with me. Netflix is the most perfect place to tell the proper story, about a flawed wonderful character.”

And Netflix didn’t ask for a lot of changes as compared to the other place, that told them, Cannon said, “You can’t call it Girlboss, and you need to make it more for men, and it was kind of like well that is what the show is.” She added, “ It’s almost like a joke, they have their own business numbers and the things they realize and things that have girl in the title don’t seem to evidently do well. Although I would argue that Girlboss would go against that. We pitched it to all the major networks and no one bought it.”

Then there was the fact that the central character was possibly unlikable said Theron.

“There’s always this worry with characters like this – and I’ve seen and heard this many times in my career – where you hear that age old tale that people are not going to like her and find her too abrasive and you have to make sure the audience likes her. And I wonder how many times Robert DeNiro heard that when he was doing Taxi Driver. How many times did Jack Nicholson hear that when he was doing The Shining? And there’s this consistent fight that identify been a part of that is very much in trying to explain that audiences are very much connecting with the truth of what women are.”

“And our complexities and how layered we are and how beautifully fucked up we are. Not just women relate to that. People relate to that and society relates to that and it is when we show women like that in that very truthful manner that I think people relate to a story more. The days of living in the Madonna/whore complex, that’s gone. We’re not doing that anymore,” said Theron. “We’re not going to be great hookers and great moms. We mess up. Me sometimes have foul mouths even though I don’t,” she said. “Some girls do.”

Paula Schwartz Photo

Theron gushed over the show’s star, sort of. “And we have an actress like Britt I mean, it’s like — we have a gold mine at our hands so you want to explore all of that stuff because this girl is stupidly talented. I mean it’s like I fucking hate her.”

“She says that to me too often, ‘I fucking hate you.’ It’s starting to sound mean,” joked Robertson.

I’m really inspired by this younger generation,” added Theron. “ I’m really inspired by Britt. I remember when I started in this industry a lot of us young actresses at that time were girlfriends or wife or trophy wife and I felt I had to try to create — to make wine out of water and you’re kind of at the mercy of a writer really to bring that. And I’ve always been very clear that we are all kind of at the mercy of the opportunities handed to us and it wasn’t until good opportunities were given to me that I was ready for them. By I feel like this generation is changing that I’m inspired to in some way be a part of that, whether that means finding that material and developing it and trying to get it in television and movies. There’s storytelling available to us right now where women really are at the center of it.”

‘Collateral Beauty’ Coming To Blu-ray

One of the most emotional movies of 2016 is coming to Blu-ray and DVD. Collateral Beauty boasts a powerhouse ensemble that includes Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren. It’s a story about an NYC advertising exec who tragically loses his daughter and loses hope completely. If you missed it, you have to see it when it releases on Blu-ray and DVD on March 14, but you can catch it earlier on Digital HD on February 28.

BLU-RAY AND DVD FEATURES

“Collateral Beauty” Blu-ray contains the following special features:

  • A Modern Fable: Discovering Collateral Beauty

“Collateral Beauty” Standard Definition DVD contains the following special features:

  • A Modern Fable: Discovering Collateral Beauty

When a successful New York ad executive suffers a personal tragedy and retreats from life, his friends devise a drastic plan to reach him before he loses everything. Pushing him to the very edge, they force him to confront the truth in surprising and profoundly human ways. From Oscar-winning director David Frankel, this thought-provoking drama explores how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of beauty, and how the constants of love, time and death interlock in a life fully lived.

Collateral Beauty” features an all-star cast, including Will Smith (“Suicide Squad,” “Concussion”), Edward Norton (“Birdman or [The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance]”), Keira Knightley (“The Imitation Game”), Michael Peña (“The Martian”), Naomie Harris (“Spectre”), Jacob Latimore (“The Maze Runner”), with Oscar winners Kate Winslet (“The Reader,” “Steve Jobs”) and Helen Mirren (“The Queen,” “Trumbo”).

Chinese Films Go Global!

We’re contacted from aspiring film makers all over the world and as such, we have spam filters to block all e-mails with foreign language text. Somehow these guys slipped through the cracks and I’m somewhat grateful! I love being invited to learn about a film prior to release and Go Global, the Beijing subsidiary of IM Global, devoted to the international publicity of Chinese films contacted us to talk about 2 upcoming films:

A Loner

A Loner is an independent feature directed by young director Xing Xiao, produced by Yourpet Pictures and starring Zhu Xijuan. The film tells the story of an old lady living the last moments of her life with her dog in a courtyard in Beiji ng. The film addresses the issue of empty-nesters and loneliness of the elderly in contemporary China.

Taste of Rice Flower

Like his characters, Peng Fei tries in The Taste or Rice Flower to make it to the overground. Set in Yunnan at the Sino-Burmese border, the film tells the story of a mother coming back to her village to take care of her 13-year-old problem daughter she left behind. The film evokes also traditional beliefs of Dai Minority. The Taste or Rice Flowershows also the contribution of Yunnan social workers and hence got the support of the local government.The film was able to shoot at the Sino-Burmese border despite the war context thanks to the authorization of the local government

Both films are at various stages of production and it’s awesome to see films provide this insight behind the scenes while still in production.

Ghost in the Shell drops a new trailer… I’m still not impressed

Ghost In The Shell

I have a hard time getting behind these movies masquerading as summer popcorn flicks that are suspiciously released in the non-summer seasons. They seem like they’re trying to satisfy an audience that’s gone stir crazy over the winter months. Sometimes this works out for starved audiences and movies like “Snakes on a Plane” does way more at the box office than it has any business generating (Snakes did $62 million on a $33 million budget). Then there are movies like “Deadpool” and “Logan” which just take advantage of the lack of competition. I’m not yet sold on where this movie will fall.

There’s a lot of eye candy in this trailer and it echoes a lot of great action/sci-fi films that have come before like Dredd, Blade Runner, Johnny Mneumonic, and Total Recall but man I hope they offer a decent story to go along with all this eye candy. Doctor Strange just barely got away with a paper thin plot thanks to its aesthetics and I’m not sure how many times I can give films that kinda pass.

Overall this trailer does a great job introducing us to the world and snippets into the story behind our protaganist and antagonist. This movie is definitely radar approved… for now.

[Paramount Pictures]

 

Two Short Film Short Takes for “White Awake” and “Love, Gina”.

There seems to be a wealth of Short Films on the movie market of late.  And by all indications, their number only appears to be expanding exponentially.  Some really good stories with substantial talent infusing them are given an opportunity to find an audience with economy of both scale and running time duration.  I recently had the occasion to watch two new entries into this growing group, “White Awake” and “Love, Gina“. 

Short and sweet-I liked ’em both.  

White Awake

White AwakeWhite Awake” is the passion project of British filmmaker Alex Kyrou, who wrote, directed and edited this thoughtful tale of a young man looking back on his boyhood with feelings of crippling guilt.  Hensley Lloyd Bennett’s performance as Joshua, the adopted only child of a middle-aged English couple, is deeply affecting, cutting close to the bone while revealing a suffering soul in desperate need of healing.  

The movie’s title is reflective of the fact that Joshua is black, his parents, white.  However, Kyrou does not make this dynamic the thrust here.  His message is more universal-that family is not about skin color, race or heritage, but rather is involved with belonging, nurturing and connecting.  That for each of us, family is of our heart, and not the physical shell which harbors it. 

Meryl Griffiths is equally splendid as Joshua’s psychiatrist.  Her soothing voice and comforting demeanor combine exquisitely to help her patient recognize an eternal truth-that we are not personally responsible for the choices and behavior of others.  No matter how dearly we may love and care about them. 

Composer Paul O’Brien’s strings-rich score for “White Awake” provides poignant instrumental accompaniment, heightening the film’s prevailing emotions of both pathos and compassion.  But, ultimately, inspiring a redeeming sense of hope. 

 Love, Gina

Love, GinaLove, Gina” takes us on a whole ‘nother trip altogether from the journey followed in “White Awake”.  Strange, dark and unsettling, Writer/Director Nicole Emanuel delivers the disquieting portrait of a detached and delusional woman who becomes completely unhinged when her tenuous grip on reality is abruptly severed by wickedly unwelcome news. 

Megan Guinan (TV’s “Limitless”) is hauntingly beguiling as Gina, a lonely young lady immersed in a massively misguided search for what she perceives to be love.  After her sweet dream of domestic bliss is irrevocably shattered, we watch as she descends into an autonomous nightmare.  It is an unnerving odyssey, one which culminates in a shocking moment of swift and sick revenge, embodying vicious payback against unwary representation of the gender that has so cruelly betrayed her. 

Larry Langton does a much more than credible job as Cinematographer for this provocative low budget project, displaying a keen eye for dimly lit scenes and shadowy images.  Langton’s expertise lends significant amplification to the persistent sensation of disorientation and isolationism inherent in this ominous narrative. 

The upshot gleaned from watching “Love, Gina”?  Be careful with whom you flirt.  Or, far more frightening, who you fu– with. 

But perhaps the most resounding message one may extract is this… 

Do not roam too close to the edge.

John Wick 2 Review: Stellar Style, Action Overkill

John Wick 2 Review

Genre: Action | Thriller | Crime
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Ruby Rose, Riccardo Scamarcio
Written by: Derek Kolstad

John Wick is one of the rare action flicks to earn wide-spread critical appraise, despite it’s average storyline and less than stone-cold acting. While the movies are in no doubt enjoyable, it almost has to be the stellar style that the John Wick movies carry, that causes critics to overlook so much of the many things they tend to abhor in other action flicks.

THE GOOD:

John Wick 2 Review: Stellar Style, Action OverkillWhile many would list the literal never ending action of John Wick as infinitely satisfying, the true best portion of the John Wick sequel is the style in which the never ending action and killing is done. John Wick captures it’s James Bond moments with it’s fancy dialogue and continental scenes, but what really steals the show, is it’s gritty and true to life way in which the fighting in close combat is done.

Like it’s predecessor, John Wick 2 fancies up some of the coolest style in an R-rated action flick, that you will see all year. Many movies may be able to harbor non-stop action and guns blazing, but what separates John Wick from the rest, is in the style in which it is done. In this way, the movie is true cinema, as it has found a good way to separate its self from every other action flick, that finds the need to have gratuitous violence and non-stop action.

Kind of like a much grittier James Bond, John Wick 2 creates it’s own style in action and violence that has caused most critics to over look it’s more critical flaws.

THE BAD:

John Wick 2 Review: Stellar Style, Action Overkill

It seems that John Wick’s gift to many of it’s viewers is also it’s curse. While there are literally countless things you could pick at for being wrong with John Wick 2, one of the most heinous of it’s issues is it’s serious lack of any substantial storytelling.

While the first John Wick didn’t really harbor any standout storyline, it’s successor is much of the same, as this movie is literally like a John Wick 1 & a half. Not only are the stories and plots pretty much the same thing (as it’s basically get revenge and kill everyone), John Wick 2 has such little time for any real storytelling, that it is literally  just a deadly action sequence 99 percent of the time. There is not one moment to take a breathe and actually take in any type of build up, as after his first 45 or so kills, you are absolutely numbed out to his next one-hundred bodies being any bit of exciting.

There became a serious point towards the end of the movie in which I was really ready for it to be completely over, as I got tired of watching him do the same tiring kill moves over and over again.

THE VERDICT:

John Wick 2 is a movie with a style and grace that manages to make use of something that is the closest thing to a R rated James Bond film we could get. However in doing this, the John Wick sequel largely fails in being more than a one dimensional slaughter-fest (that for some reason people thought was good enough in the first movie).

The acting is okay, the storytelling is mediocre at best, while the style is as stellar as it gets.

So at the end of it all, is John Wick 2 a cool movie? YES. A fun movie? Sure. But is it an absolutely perfect sequel, like many of these so called experts are saying on Rotten Tomatoes? Hell no.

For a more cynical review of John Wick 2, see Everything Wrong With John Wick 2.

Matt Reeves takes over The Batman

So with Ben Affleck doing everything humanly possible to mitigate his involvement in the upcoming Batman movie it appears that the folks at WB have tapped ‘Apes’ director as Matt Reeves takes over The Batman to direct the film. I want to believe that Geoff Johns was instrumental in selecting the director and his selection is a reflection of some formed vision intended for the DC films.

I still have serious reservations with the upcoming Wonder Woman film. I don’t want to sound so cold but it always felt odd that Marvel and Patty Jenkins parted ways when she was working on the Thor film that caused a rift between Natalie Portman and Marvel. It was weird that Marvel was willing to risk the relationship with a potential lead in order to replace the director. Patty helming Wonder Woman is great for female directors. I hope it’s equally great for fans.

That being said, Geoff! Dude! The Flash director just bailed and that movie is under a rewrite. The Batman director just bailed and that movie is under a rewrite. Please tell me these are the signs of you course correcting. Otherwise… idunno dude. It’s looking pretty gnarly.

Oh, and congrats Matt Reeves! I hope!

[FilmFad]

 

Must See Movies of the Week

February is here, so here is a look at the must see movies on Blu-ray & DVD,  limited theatrical and VOD releases for the week of February 7.

TROLLS:

Trolls are the this generations Smurfs. Originally known as creepy naked dolls, the movie transformed them to become colorful, cute and personality filled characters. There are so many things to like about this movie. It really is relatable to everyone, kids, teens and adults will enjoy it. The story is entertaining with several positive messages along the way. The songs are all encompassing, from 80’s hits to current songs, all of them “trollified”.

Justin Timberlake’s hit song “Can’t Stop The Feeling” made its debut in the movie and plays a big part in the end result. There are plenty of guaranteed laughs for everyone in the movie. The references and songs are clever you’ll get a kick out of them. This is just the beginning of a strong franchise that’s here to stay. Check out Trolls and you will know exactly why it’s the next big thing in animation.

Trolls is available now on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand

AMERICAN PASTORAL:

The Fanning sister sure like to cause turmoil in small towns. Elle Fanning did her thing in Live By Night, but Dakota turns her perfect family upside down with her actions in American Pastoral. On the surface Swede (Ewan McGregor) and Dawn (Jennifer Connelly) Levov along with her daughter Merry (Dakota Fanning) are the perfect American family, but the chaos that ensues turns this model family into a disaster. Fine performances by the strong cast, McGregor directs the film and does a fantastic job on depicting the inner turmoil this family is dealing with all white making it visually alluring. At times this film gets pretty dark and sad. In a way it’s relatable to today’s society in the protest and activism sense.

American Pastoral is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand

THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX:

This mystery thriller is loaded with fantasy, reality and intrigue. It’s about a boy who survives a near death encounter and his psychologist delves into the mind of the boy and explores the sixth sense. There is a lot of thought provoking stuff going on in the movie to will surely keep you intrigued. The cast is very talented and fits together nicely. Jamie Dornan is making women blush with Fifty Shades Darker, but here he plays the psychologist, in a very different role than Christian Grey. Aaron Paul and Sarah Gadon also star alongside Dornan. This is a movie that’s flying under-the-radar and it shouldn’t, so go see check it out.

The 9th Life of Louis Drax is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD

DIRTY DANCING: 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION:

One of the most memorable movies of the last 30 years is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Dirty Dancing made Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey household names with their undeniable chemistry onscreen. Who can forget the music, the dancing, the memories, that’s what Dirty Dancing is. I still vividly remember my parents watching the movie over and over. The 30th anniversary edition is all you could want and more as a fan. It is loaded with over 6 hours of extra bonus features. Simply put, pure nostalgia with a behind-the-scenes look.

Dirty Dancing: 30th Anniversary Edition is available now on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD

VICE PRINCIPALS: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON:

You don’t have to be a school employee to enjoy the hell out of Vice Principals. The HBO show is hilarious. Danny McBride and Walter Goggins are killer good playing two vice principals competing for the principal position. The show was created by McBride and Jody Hill and it is very well-written, there is no question McBride has a pulse on exactly what this show is and should be. There are numerous gags in teach episode, even the simplest reactions are a hoot, the shenanigans are legitimately laugh out loud funny. Vice Principals could be one of the best comedies on cable, so check out season one now and get ready for more of this show.

Vice Principals: The Complete First Season is available now on Blu-ray and DVD (free digital download with both purchases)

BURN COUNTRY:

I was anticipating the release on DVD of this movie. The story is about a Afghan war journalist who moves to a small California town where he gets involved in underworld of crime and violence. Dominic Reins plays the lead, he’s solid in the role. Melissa Leo plays the small town sheriff, which is awesome, she nails it. James Franco plays the town thug. Burn Country is a mystery packed thriller, that’s as dark as it it mysterious. I liked how the plot was set up and comes together. This is a movie that’s compelling with good story telling.

Burn Country is out now on DVD and Digital

Follow me on Twitter @JimRko

Should Lena Headey play Catwoman

Here’s a casting idea that hadn’t crossed my mind. A brave twitter user asked Lena the blatantly obvious question that we should have all been asking all along:

And Headey’s answer is absolutely PERFECT:

So, with that aside, seriously, should she play Catwoman?! Thinking about it, Headey does have the physical attributes and has shown once or twice that she has the range to expand into action… so why not? Would I want to see her in tight leather feline suit and a whip? Probably, but acting opposite Ben Affleck as an older Batman? My mind runs rampant with the possibilities…

What says you TMB readers? Is this one an obvious casting choice or would you rather see someone else in the role?

[JoBlo]

 

 

Trailer: Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special

https://youtu.be/T9kDgMNNNQg

Michael Bolton is many things to many people. Hero. Icon. Sex symbol. Netflix always seems to know what it is that we need for the holidays and to follow up their most recent festive effort is a look at what Netflix has cooked up with Bolton, Andy Samberg, and the rest of the lonely island for this Valentine Day’s special.

In addition to the mentioned talent, many other special guests will make an appearance on the special. SNL Alumni like Fred Armisen, Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Chris Parnell, and Casey Wilson will make appearances. Sarah Silverman, Eric Andre, Michael Sheen, Randall Park, and Adam Scott will also be present. But while the roles they play in the Netflix special are unknown, we can expect things to get ridiculous as Andy Samberg suits up to play Kenny G.

[FilmFad]

 

Director Taika Waititi’s new gig

What is a director to do after helming a highly anticipated Marvel Cinematic follow up? Go into hiding? No, he finds another project and uses the momentum from the Marvel exposure to gain exposure for the follow up! Director Taika Waititi isn’t wasting time with all the press that’s coming and has revealed:

About a year ago, we reported that Dan Harmon was working on bringing Isaac Adamson’s Black List script Bubbles to the big screen. The bizarre, stop-motion animated project looks at Michael Jackson’s life through the eyes of his pet chimpanzee, Bubbles…

“It’s an idea that fascinates me and one I want to develop further,” Waititi, who made Michael Jackson a central figure in his 2010 award-winning film Boy, said.

“Most people know I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan, so the main thing for me is to make sure it’s respectful of him and his legacy. I’m not interested in making a biopic; I want to focus on telling a story that blends fact and fantasy, about an animal trying to make sense of the world.

“This film is not about Michael Jackson because that’s not a story for me to tell – or a story I’d be comfortable telling – it’s about a chimpanzee’s fascinating journey through the complex jungle of human life.

“I think animation is the only way to approach a story like this. I really loved Anomalisa because it was beautiful and authentic in its meditation on loneliness. I’m really excited to be working with Dan Harmon and Starburns as we share similar sensibilities and want to tell human stories in unique and artistic ways.”

I won’t lie. This sounds bizarre… but maybe in a good way? Stop motion animation can be an effective tool but one that too few directors know how to properly utilize. I will hold reservation for now but the idea does fascinate me.

[Collider]

 

 

The Best 6 Netflix Originals Coming in 2017

It looks like Netflix has been implementing a strategy we’ve never quite seen before among online streaming services; and so far, it seems like it’s working out really well for them. They’ve ventured into being involved in as far as the production stage of the TV shows and series that they hope will resonate well with their audience, but then again, you’d have to change your Netflix region to the US if you hope to see what they’ve been up to. Click here for more info about how to do that. Here’s a sample of the few shows we know they’ve already confirmed for 2017.

New Netflix Originals Coming in 2017

Sense8 (Season 2)

– Release Date: May 5th, 2017

– Plot: Time is a commodity that these 8 mentally linked, but ordinary human beings will have to make good use of in order to save Angelica, a woman who will get to endure a violent death if the “sensates” won’t be able to harness their mental & emotional connections to share their language, knowledge and skills in an effort to save her.

Marvel’s Iron Fist

– Release Date: March 17th, 2017

– Cast: Finn Jones, Jessica Stroup, Jessica Henwick

– Plot: Marvel brings to us yet another superhero story, with this time, the focus being on Danny Rand, a young martial arts prodigy who makes a comeback to his family in New York after being away for fifteen years. Rand is forced to choose between upholding his family legacy, or channeling the fiery Iron Fist to clear corruption and ill will brought by the criminals in his world.

Santa Clarita Diet

– Release Date: February 3rd, 2017

– Cast: Thomas Crawford, Drew Barrymore, Timothy Oliphant

– Plot: Drew Barrymore and Thomas Crawford join forces to play an ordinary couple who both deal with selling real estate, and live happily in Santa Clarita, California. Their life goes through a dramatic twist after the death of Sheila; whose passing was only a prelude to the death and destruction to come.

Ultimate Beastmaster

– Release Date: January 24th, 2017

– Plot: Get ready for a dose of adrenaline filled action as you watch a team of 108 competitors battle it out to represent their home country in the final episode of the Ultimate Beastmaster. Drawn from the US, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea and Japan, this team of competitors will likely go through the hardest obstacle courses ever seen on TV, and you get to watch it all since all 10 episodes will be streamed through Netflix worldwide at the same time.

Frontier

– Release Date: January 20th, 2017

– Cast: Zoe Boyle, Jason Momoa, Landon Liboiron

– Plot: This original script series brings you the North American struggle to control wealth and fur trade in the late 18th century. Watch as greed, brutality and downright treachery take root in the hearts of men as to reap the land’s boundless supply of pelts.

Best Netflix Originals in 2017

As you’ve seen, Netflix has been really hard at work to bring you the best of TV shows in 2017. The above mentioned are only the one’s whose release dates have been made public. Here’s a couple of other shows whose dates are yet to be confirmed:

 

  • The Crown
  • F is for Family
  • Fuller House (Season 3)
  • Black Mirror
  • Bojack Horseman
  • Bloodline

 

It looks like it’s going to be an exciting year in the world of TV shows and series. Let us know which Netflix Original you cannot wait to see.

David Oyelowo’s On How His New Film ‘A United Kingdom’ Hit Home

David Oyelowo, the British-Nigerian actor best know for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” turned up at a midtown Manhattan hotel last week to promote his new film, “A United Kingdom,” directed by Amma Asante.

“A United Kingdom” is the real-life story of King Serese Khama of Botswana, who fell in love with Ruth Williams, a middle-class white woman (Rosamund Pike) while attending college in London during the 1940’s. This was at the same time when apartheid was being introduced in South Africa, and the couple’s romance and subsequent marriage caused a political crisis between England and South Africa, not to mention the condemnation of Seretse’s uncle, Tshekedi (Vusi Kunene), who ruled Botswana during his nephew’s absence.

Despite efforts by their families and governments to tear them apart, Seretse and Ruth remained steadfast in their devotion and marriage until Seretse’s death at age 59. Their story, which is little known today, is inspiring and fascinating and a worthy follow up to Asante’s “Belle,” also based on a true story and a mixed-race couple.

So the movie was your idea I asked Oyelowo? The production notes said the actor was instrumental in bringing the film to the big screen.

Yes, it was. Well, no, no. I think I would describe myself as the engine for ultimately getting it made,” he said. “But how I happened upon it was doing a film in Atlanta about seven years ago. The producer of that film had the rights to a book called “Color Bar” that Susan Williams had written. He had always wanted to see it come to fruition as a film.

He added, “When I read the book, saw the images of these two, couldn’t believe that I didn’t know about this story, didn’t know about them. I just was determined that we would get a film made. In the intervening years between then and now, anyone who’d listen to me, I sort of bludgeoned them with thoughts of getting the film made. Largely those who came on board of the film are all people I’d worked with in other films. I had managed to corral them into joining me on this quest.

The movie’s themes hit close to home for the actor.

My father was a Nigerian prince and he’s (Seretse) Yoruba, which is one of the main tribes in Nigeria. He married my mum, who is Igbo and that’s quite taboo for a Yoruba to marry an Igbo lady, and she’s a commoner. She’s not from a royal family and so they actually eloped to the UK in order to be married and be together. So, you know, it’s on a much smaller scale, not unlike Ruth and Seretse in some ways, in terms of them being frowned upon for whom they had chosen to marry. That’s something I knew growing up, and I’m sure it was probably in the back of my mind as I was reading this story and thinking about them as well.

He added, “As someone who’s in an inter-racial marriage myself when I happened upon this story I found myself feeling huge relief that me – myself and Jessica (Oyelowo) – that I didn’t have to go through what they went through. I find it admirable how they stuck to their guns.’’’

A United KingdomOyelowo and his wife Jessica Oyelowo have been married for 19 years and have four children. She’s an actress and has a small but noticeable role in “A United Kingdom” as the snooty wife of a high-ranking British diplomat who does all he can to put roadblocks in the way of the lovers.

Was if fun being the film with his wife I asked? I mentioned she was very good in the part.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Too good, I think, playing that racist lady, don’t you think?” He laughed.

Oyelowo added, “This story has meant a lot to us, for a long time. She’s been right by my side, as we’ve been trying to get it off the ground. She’s very dedicated to seeing it come to fruition in the right way. It was actually Amma who suggested she be in it. That was a great kind of cherry on the cake, to be in the film with her.

Because of the story’s themes it was inevitable to bring up the Jeff Nichols film “Loving,” starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton. Has Oyelowo seen it?

I did see Loving. Joel Edgerton’s a very good friend of mine,” Oyelowo said. “We just did a film together. I think that he and Ruth’s performance is wonderful in the film. Again, you know, another important story that a lot of people I’m sure don’t know anything about. I think these films; it’s a tough balance. You don’t want them to be spinach. You don’t want them to feel like a history lesson that is something that you would be forced to watch in a classroom somewhere. For me, there has to be entertainment value. There has to be something other than just it being educational. But they are important in terms of having an inroad into that which we may not know and that which could and should inform how we treat each other.

As for future projects, Oyelowo is taking a break from substance-oriented historical projects but not exactly going into “Hangover” territory.

I have an action comedy coming out later this year that Nash Edgerton directed and that’s with Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Thandie Newton, Amanda Seyfried, Sharlto Copley, and trust me,” said Oyelowo, “there’s not a historical speech in sight. It’s me playing a fool and having a lot of fun, and then, yes, the J.J. Abrams ‘Cloverfield’ film, with no speeches, and no black people are struggling in that film either.

He added, “I love action. I love pure entertainment. I love a good popcorn movie and so those are things that I’m very open to and actually my 2017 largely going to be that.

Talking about action, the opening scenes of “A United Kingdom” show Oyelowo in a boxing ring going a few rounds against a rival. The actor looks very fit. How did he get into boxing shape for the role?

Well he was an athlete,” he said of Seretse. “He had boxed at University and you don’t want to start a movie with boxing and then look like Dr. King, as much as I love Dr. King. Yes. But that tends to be the shape I’m in. Most people sort of came to be more aware of me as playing Dr. King when I was 30 pounds heavier than I normally am. It’s wonderful, every time people see me they go, ‘Oh, you look good!’ Thank you, thank you.

 

 

‘Office Christmas Party’ Coming To Blu-ray & Digital HD

One of the funniest movies (and one of a rare few Christmas themed) of 2016 was Office Christmas Party. The film boasts a stellar cast including Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, T.J. Miller and Olivia Munn. The unseen uncut version is coming to Blu-ray Combo Pack (DVD) on April 4, but you can see it earlier on Digital HD on March 21. Office Christmas Party is hilarious, trust me on that.

Blu-ray

  • Unrated Version in high definition
  • Theatrical Version in high definition
  • Bonus Content:
    • Commentary by directors Josh Gordon & Will Speck
    • Throwing an Office Christmas Party
    • Outtakes
    • Deleted & Extended Scenes

DVD

  • Theatrical Version in standard definition

‘Lion’ Coming To Blu-ray And Digital HD

One of the most talked about movies this awards season is Lion. The film stars Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. The film is nominated for Best Picture. Check it out when it comes to Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on March 21, and on Digital HD on March 7.

The Blu-ray and DVD bonus content includes Deleted Scenes, Behind the Scenes Gallery and “Never Give Up” Official Lyric Video performed by Sia.

‘War On Everyone’ Coming To Blu-ray

War On Everyone is an action comedy starring Michael Pena and Alexander Skarsgard play two crooked cops who are corrupting criminals. Now that’s an ironic concept. I’m curious to see the team-up of Pena and Skarsgard, especially in an action comedy, should be fun. War On Everyone comes out on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD on April 11 from Lionsgate.

BLU-RAY/DVD/DIGITAL HD SPECIAL FEATURES

  • “Everyone Sounds Off: The Quirky Cast of War on Everyone” Featurette

Gravitas Ventures Acquires Documentary Movie

The Brooke Shields narrated documentary film When The Bough Breaks has been acquired by Gravitas Ventures. The film depicts postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. One in five mothers are affected after childbirth. The film is written and directed by Jaimelyn Lippman and will be released digitally on iTunes on March 14, 2017.

Review: “20th Century Women” Is A Delight

 

Genre: Drama/Comedy
Running Time:  119 minutes
Actors:  Annette Bening, Billy Crudup, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann
Review by: Connie Wilson (www.ConnieCWilson.com)

There are so many good lines in “Twentieth Century Women” and so much wisdom and information imparted that I can heartily recommend the movie on that basis alone, and I’m going to share some of that wisdom with you momentarily. Add to that the fact that Annette Bening turns in another great performance (she was Golden Globe nominated) and that the film has actually put titles of some of the better books on feminism and other idealistic pursuits onscreen at key moments, and it can certainly be considered educational. What books and films are cited: “Forever”, 1975, Judy Blume.  “The Road Less Traveled”, 1978, Scott Peck.  “The Politics of Orgasm,” 1970, Susan Lydon.  Another by Zoe Moss about the aging woman, written in 1970, which professes that“It hurts to be old and obsolete and alone.” “A Crisis of Confidence” by Jimmy Carter.  A film by Koyaanisqatsi, 1982, by Godfrey Reggie and Philip Glass. (onscreen, the dates for the film are listed as 1971-1975)

It’s also a very, very funny film. Who would expect that—right?

THE GOOD

As mentioned above, Bening gives a great performance. So does the young boy who plays her son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), whom she often refers to as “Kid. Director/Writer Mike Mills hasn’t made a big movie for 6 years, but the movie he made 6 years ago, “Beginners,” won Christopher Plummer the Best Supporting Actor in 2010 for his role as an elderly widower who comes out to his adult son (Ewan McGregor) as gay at the advanced age of 75

Mills, who has worked extensively in graphic design and has won many film awards prior  to this film, is going to be around for a while, and he’s going to be doing good work, judging from this film. This effort made me think of Matt Ross’ “Captain Fantastic,” which was Ross’ maiden voyage into directing and was honored this year at Cannes. (It also was up for the Best Picture of the Year at the SAG awards, but did not win).

Mills admits that “Beginners” was autobiographical in nature, and so is “20th Century Women.” Said Mills on IMDB:  “Making a movie is so hard, you’d better make movies about something you really know about. And even more, it’s really good to make movies about things you need to figure out for yourself, so you’re driven the whole way through. It’s going to make things more crucial for you.

The mother in this film is a woman who had a son in 1964 when she was 40. It is now 15 years later, and Jamie’s mother (Annette Bening) is trying to raise her son alone in 1979 California.  She is worried about the lack of a father figure, but feels that she can draw strength and support from those close to her in the film and those close to Jamie.

Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening) the pivotal character in the film, smokes Salems non-stop, wears Birkenstocks, drives a Volkswagon (Mills once did graphic design for the brand) and would have qualified as a bona fide hippy if her birth year weren’t 1924. She’s a bit too old for the communes of Berkeley (Mills, who was born in 1966, grew up in Berkeley), but Dorothea’s young at heart. She works as a draftsman, the first woman to be hired by the Continental Can drafting department. Probably not coincidentally, Mike Mills’ mother worked as a draftsman.

The film opens with the car Dorothea and Jamie had left in a parking lot, a Ford Galaxy, ablaze.

Dorothea decides that the roomers in the large, old house she is renovating (Billy Crudup and Greta Gerwig) and one of Jamie’s friends from school (Elle Fanning as Julie, daughter of a therapist) can assist her in raising her son. Those two friends are the man working on her house, William (Billy Crudup) and a young woman fleeing from her previous life/motherand dealing with the fact that she may be infertile due to DES prescribed her mother during pregnancy in Santa Barbara.

Jamie asks his mother “Why are you fine being sad and alone?” He also chides Mom about her non-stop smoking. She responds, “When I started, they weren’t bad for you. They were just stylish—edgy.”

I’m a woman who had a son born in the sixties and, twenty years later, had a second child at 42. I could relate to mothering a son born in 1964 (although my son was born in 1968) and I could relate to being considered a fossil by the time my daughter was born, twenty years later. Dorothea’s response about cigarettes caused me to nod my head knowingly. I think I was the only one of my high school clique who didn’t take up smoking with a vengeance (“Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should!”) and most of them are still smoking up a storm today (and quite defiantly, I might add. One of them has had surgery for lung cancer, but still won’t quit.)

Whenever Jamie finds his mother’s advice inconvenient, he’ll say, to others, “Don’t worry about her. She’s from the Depression.” I said exactly the same thing about my parents, who were considered old when they had me at 38 and 43 and actually were “from the Depression.” (Birth years: 1902 and 1907). Nobody else had old parents but me. My parents didn’t “get” the music of my generation and neither does Dorothea, although she makes several efforts , with the help of the young Abby, to try to learn the difference between The Talking Heads (music from The Talking Heads is featured in the film) and Black Flag. Her young teacher Abby tells her that “pretty music is used to hide how unfair and corrupt society is.” Dorothea attempting to meditate with Billy Crudup is a hilarious scene as she cannot focus and tries to sneak a cigarette.

Dorothea has some ironic and interesting observations about life and men. To wit:

“Having your heart broken is a tremendous way to learn about the world.

“Wondering if you’re happy is a great shortcut to being depressed.”

“Men always feel like they have to fix things for women or they’re not doing anything.”

“Being strong is the most important quality. It gives you durability versus the other emotions.”

“Men don’t want to be contradicted. They just want to live in their fantasylands.”

“Whatever you think your life is going to be like, just know that it’s not going to be anything like that.”

“I just picked the best solution at the time.”

To her young friend Abby, Dorothea says, of young Jamie: “You get to see him out in the world as a person. I never will.”

The human situations in this movie are so real and portrayed so touchingly and realistically that patrons in the audience, including my husband (who didn’t want to go, but we had missed the start time of “Gold”) were frequently laughing out loud. I can’t tell you the set-up for the best laugh of the movie without ruining it, but just know that it involves a fist fight that Jamie is involved in and why he comes home with bruises and a black eye.

THE BAD

Some people do not want to be given the complete backstory of a character, including their date of death. They like endings where they can read into it whatever they want and muse on the probable denouement. I’m not that person. I liked the way Mills chose to give us more information than I’ve ever had given me about every single character in a film, including where they end up after the film has ended.

OVERALL

If you ever watched the television show “Six Feet Under,” which completed its run by giving you the dates of death of every single major character, you’ll get the idea. You’ll either hate this technique, or, if you’re me, you’ll love it. Interestingly enough (no coincidences here), Mike Mills’ real-life mother died of lung cancer from smoking in 1999 and so does Dorothea Fields, the onscreen version of Mom.

The line in the film that sums it up is this: “I will try to explain to my son what his own grandmother was like, but it will be impossible.”

It’s that kind of movie, about a very unusual and quirky set of characters. It gives rise to a line in the film describing one of them: “How did you get to be this person that you are? You’re so unusual.”

 

I loved the movie and would highly recommend it. It helps if you’re not addicted to Marvel Comics movies but appreciated the character-driven films of yesteryear. It comes out in Blu-Ray, DVD and digital HD on March 28th.

 

ACTING: 10/10

CINEMATOGRAPHY: 8/10

PLOT/SCREENPLAY: 10/10

SETTING/THEME: 9/10

BUYABILITY: 9/10

RECYCLABILITY: 10/10

Chapter & Verse Review: This is the best under the radar film so far

chapter & vers

Starring: Daniel Beaty, Loretta Devine, Omari Hardwick, Selenis Levya
Directed by: Jamal Joseph
Written by: Jamal Joseph and Daniel Beaty

After serving eight years in prison, reformed gang leader S. Lance Ingram (DANIEL BEATY) re-enters society and struggles to adapt to a changed Harlem. Living under the tough supervision of a parole officer in a halfway house, he is unable to find a job that will let him use the technological skills he gained in prison. Lance is forced to take a job delivering for a food pantry where he befriends Ms. Maddy (LORETTA DEVINE), a strong and spirited grandmother, and assumes responsibility for her 15-year- old grandson Ty, a promising student who is pulled into a dangerous street gang. When gang members decide to punish Ty for disobeying the “law of the streets,” Lance risks sacrificing his “second chance” at freedom so that Ty can have a “first chance” at a better life.

~WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS~

The Good

Chapter & VerseWow. I thought this movie would be predictable. In a way it is, it pulls the rug from under you. It takes a neat little story telling approach and flips it on its head when the movie opens with the closing moments of the story. I knew how the story was going to end, visually, but there’s nothing about this opening scene that provided details into what transpires in the story. No major characters are highlighter other than our protagonist Lance. You know how normally you see the end of the movie and you can kinda make out what happened? Like how at the end of Swordfish the movie opens with chaos and you see Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, and John Travolta and you kind of get an idea of what’s going… well that’s not the case at all with this movie and that’s what I mean when I say that Jamal Joseph takes this concept of showing you the final moments of a film at the beginning but doesn’t really provide insights into the narrative and you’ll find out why that’s so important later on in this review. So Jamal Joseph and Daniel Beaty set up this stereotypical image of a black man pretty much getting ready to go to jail. I mean, he’s smoking a cigarette, appears to have a bullet wound in him, and there are police lights and sirens quickly approaching so it’s clear that this guy is going to jail and he runs with that stereotype that he invites the audience to utilize and really begins to take the audience on an unexpected adventure while constantly playing along the stereotypes or what people would consider to be predictable.

The movie plays out at a very calculated pace. When characters and concepts are introduced it seems randomly organic which really just goes to show you how calculated that Jamal Joseph and Daniel Beatty are in their writing. There’s a great pacing to the story that helps once scene flow to another seamlessly. There are a few scenes that I thought were a tad too short and that was honestly because I just wanted more of that scene. What the movie did was really really good with how it decided to develop the story with the 90 minute run time and it fit a lot of story in a little bit of time. It did so well with identifying characters, relationships, goals, and obstacles in a way that is remarkably relatable and that’s a huge testament to the performances by the actors in this movie.

Chapter & VerseAt first I was really put off by Daniel Beatty’s character. He was just… weird. The guy just looked.. weird. There’s just something about him. Lance obviously seemed like a guy you don’t want to cross and he was that right level or creepy/quiet that made you feel like he was always ready to pounce. I may have imagined this but I swear Lance always walked around with his fists clenched. Anyone from Harlem will tell you “When you see a guy walking down the street with his fists clenched… CROSS THE STREET!” You think of characters like D-Bo from ‘Friday’ or Stew from ‘Paper Soldiers’, because you know something bad was about to happen.

 I was put off by Daniel Beatty’s character, Lance, at first but as the story progressed we start to get these little flourishes of character as the movie progressed. This is actually a character study movie in many ways and we get to see how he has these experiences things that force him to evolve and grow as an individual. Beatty’s character really flourishes when we’re introduced to Loretta Devine’s character Miss Maddy. Obviously Lorretta Devine is amazing in everything and she and Beatty have some great chemistry showcasing the evolution of their relationship to full blown love! Not in a romantic way but in an almost maternal way or mother son way with Lance becoming very concerned and protective of the well being of Loretta’s character. The relationship that Beatty’s character has with the grandson is AMAZING.

Chapter & VerseKhadim Diop. I have to admit, I wrote this kid, Ty, off at the beginning of the movie which brings us back to how Beatty and Joseph play with stereotypes. When we’re first introduced to the grandson I felt that it was going to be the story of how this kid was going to jail and that’s why this story is so awesome because that’s not what happens. Instead this is the story of how this kid starts off on the wrong side of the tracks, gets inspired by Beatty’s character, and gives an effort to do the right thing. He tries to do better in school, he tries to forge new relationships, he tries to have a life outside of the streets but unfortunately he was already in it and getting out isn’t that simple.

Certain things were a little weird like the thing with the supervisor was a little strange. Like, I get it. Kind of. Let’s interject a little comedy by having Orange is the New Black‘s Selenis Leyva portraying his supervisor who has a ‘thing’ for Lance and threatens to blackmail him for if he doesn’t have sex with her which I thought was pretty cool the way he got out of it.

Chapter & Verse ReviewOmari Hardwick… I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of the television show Power. That’s not to say that the acting isn’t good and that’s not to say that the direction of the show isn’t good it’s just certain things about the story that I just don’t like. I like when things get real on that show. When you see 50 cent you know things are about to get real on that show and those are the moments I like but Omari Hardwick seems synonymous with the romance and I dont really have time for that. With this show they didn’t really focus so much on any romance. They did show that he had desire for a relationship, while thinking about the one that got away, but it’s really just a way that Beatty and Joseph add additional layers to this guy because in the third act of the film where his character just flourishes.

You also add in the other bomb shells within the story. You learn so much about why Lance is the way he is an d why he’s always, seemingly, on edge with both fists clenched even when delivering food! People like to judge a book about its cover and that’s exactly what this movie tried to teach the audience with this film. You see the ending of this movie at the beginning and you will see a stereotypical scene that invites you to draw your own conclusions. Then the movie shows you WHY and it’s just so beautiful.

My god, Jamal Joseph and Daniel Beatty, you guys are AMAZING!

The Bad

Chapter & Verse ReviewI didn’t like all of the performances in the movie. It’s not fair to completely judge the young actors as their roles were minor, in comparison to others, but they are the weakest link in a stellar line up. It’s not that I think they did or performed badly it’s just that they have the unfair luck of being the only characters in the film that fulfill your snap judgment. They’re characters are to reflect the minimalist mysogeny and violence practiced by some inner-city youth and they do that. To a fault. Their characters are so under-developed that you can’t help but nitpick at the only thing you can with these guys and that’s their performance.

The soundtrack is not memorable. I’m sure it served it’s purpose, well, throughout the movie but in hindsight I can’t recall a single tune or melody. Seriously, nothing. Also, can we talk about the final scene for a moment? The final scene is powerful but brief. It’s a bittersweet conclusion because Chapter & Verse painstakingly teaches you not to draw your own conclusion or make snap judgement and then Chapter & Verse asks you to draw your own conclusion as to the fate of Lance.

What gives!!?

Overall

Best movie I’ve watched all year… so far :-)

Comparing Screens to DVDs: La La Land vs Top Hat

TOP HAT

In a piece for the Independent by Clarisse Loughrey, Damian Chazelle is quoted as saying this about La La Land, his “modern musical” sweeping the nation and poised to sweep the 2017 Oscars with its record-tying fourteen nominations:

Damian Chazelle“I guess it’s a little bit trying to do both,” Chazelle himself reflects when posed the question as to where on the artistic spectrum La La Land sits. “Trying to call back certain things from the past that I felt had been lost and didn’t need to be lost. But also, really, the main goal was to try and update those things. Either you try to make a case for them as still vital, or still urgent, or you try and actually change and update them, and extend that tradition in a way.”

“So it was always really important to me that the movie not be a period piece,” he continues. “And that it not be entirely in quotation marks either, that there be a modern energy to it. There’s things you can do with the camera, and things you can do with modern expectations today that you couldn’t do in the Fifties. So it was fun to take certain tropes from Fifties musicals, but put in them in a modern city and film them in a modern way, and see what results from that.”

What Chazelle supposedly took and updated from the 1950’s musical isn’t actually unique to the 1950’s musical—at least not in my experience with them. By the 1950’s, you had over-experienced crooners like Bing Crosby melting us with his heartfelt rendition of “White Christmas.” Either that, or you had some lunatic dance number, like the triplets number in The Band Wagon, looking like it must’ve taken a handful of painkillers per participant to get through each take. People were literally killing themselves, like Donald O’Connor throwing himself around the set of Singin’ in the Rain in the rambunctious, impassioned number, “Make ‘Em Laugh.” So what was La La Land really paying homage to (and, as it claims, modernizing)? It seems to be embracing the aspects of the musical in a similar fashion to how The Artist met the barebones criteria of the silent film. The effort is unfortunately lackluster and shallow. So I decided, instead of a more outlandish, showstopper musical like The Band Wagon or Singin’ in the Rain, to watch a musical meeting the basic requirements of the musical, but doing so with prowess.

Going back to 1935, the film Top Hat, full of Irving Berlin’s fine-tuned songs (directed by Mark Sandrich), starring two of the industry’s then biggest musical stars, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (in the middle of a decade of co-starring together), one can see the simplest pleasures of the musical at work, things that more accurately relate to the shallow pleasures La La Land hoped to bring to modern audiences who maybe haven’t seen Chi-Raq, don’t recollect the works of Baz Luhrmann, or just don’t care about movies beyond the immediate demands of a spontaneous Friday date-night.

Top HatAppropriately, Top Hat is forgettable in many ways. For one, there’s no top hat. For two, the plot—a basic case of mistaken identity being squeezed for its romantic-comedic possibilities—is something you can barely remember enough to forget. But by the end of the first musical number, it becomes clear why Top Hat is remembered at all. These two stars can sing. They can dance. And they can do both while maintaining the aura of the movie star. Some film genres turn audiences off before their merit can even be argued for (your rape/revenge, for example), while others, like the musical, can do a world of good by delivering on its shallowest pleasures. While the craftsmanship behind the showmanship of classic Hollywood style singing and dancing and choreography and set design and costume design and all that jazz deserves a proper “bravo” and kudos, its remarkable to find a pleasure in life that doesn’t have to come with an intellectual investigation into “what it’s really doing” to us. But singing and dancing is fun! It’s something the family can enjoy. And it can be touching enough for everyone to be touched. Bodies in motion, gliding around a little ditty, voices singing catchy songs in tune and all, that’s the heart of the musical. Gussy it up or dress it down, it’s going to pay off so long as the players can deliver the stuff. Astaire and Rogers are professionals of the highest order. While Astaire would go on dancing well into the 50’s and his fifties (albeit with a new dancing beauty for each new decade, like my mother’s favorite, the great Cyd Charisse), Rogers served out her film career until making a return to the stage after her movie run ended with the 40’s. Both spent their careers dancing in some way (as opposed, say, to Stone and Gosling).

Many of the takes in Top Hat were long, unbroken shots. This is classic film making, something Chazelle might say needs to be modernized by panning the camera, infusing the pans with zooms, or simply having a dance number appear to be in outer space (not nearly as cool as it sounds). But what really comes through when the camera is still is just how much work must go into what looks so effortless. Take, for example, how I sat, slack-jawed and motionless, while “Cheek to Cheek” unfurled across the screen. It’s hard to believe, but it’s one of the few singular scenes in all of cinema I find to be perfect. The only thing I can deduce from its success is the motto of the everyman: keep it simple, stupid. When Astaire and Rogers began to tap, I think I began to drool (I was that stoned). It really is only a few minutes, the number, from start to finish, but it represents, in every little step and through every note, the power of the movie as entertainment. Today few films are as content with the basics. Bodies in fluid motion and the sweetest of sounds as accompaniment feels like something of a bygone era. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe the bombast of Baz Lurhmann is the proper amount of sultry necessary to captivate a modern eye. And maybe Jennifer Hudson belting out lyrics while she washes the blood of her character’s daughter out of the sidewalk in Chi-Raq is the powerful message of a responsible (if controversial) fim as art. But the work put into “Cheek to Cheek” represents an America of the 1930’s, working its hardest even for a light-hearted entertainment.

Though the closing number was dreadfully underwhelming (a closing song and dance about the piccolino, which is an instrument, I think), and though I hardly even remember the other numbers all that well, I hopefully won’t ever forget “Cheek to Cheek,” or the conveyors if its beauty. Top Hat isn’t about complexity, or satire, or the struggle of art. It’s performing movie magic, in that it’s a film about nothing. It’s a celebration of the lightness of being, of just sitting back and being entertained by some people who look classier than you. Is this nostalgia? Of course it is. But 1935, which is about eighty years ago, isn’t a year we have to worry about so much anymore. We have our own problems to deal with in 2017. The trick of nostalgia, of going back to enjoy a film from 1935, is the perceived freedom from scrutiny and cynicism and too much of an attempt to intellectualize. It is a joy the chronic moviegoer indulges all too often. But let’s be naïve, sit back and watch Top Hat, and more importantly focus on why La La Land is stripping that nostalgia of its substance, repackaging it, and serving it back to us fat free. What kind of nostalgia is that?

Without intending to, I’ve betrayed my opinion of La La Land. I can’t help it. It sucked. The most important aspect of its being—the song and the dance—are woefully subpar. Once you choose to do a genre film you must respect and adhere to the genre conventions, otherwise you’re not reinventing, or modernizing, you’re cherry picking. La La Land is a picture worth far less than a thousand words. Still see it, if you must, but even if you don’t seek out an old timer like Top Hat, make sure to watch a few of the musicals La La pays homage to.