One of MCC’s steadfast rules is that every film I see in theaters gets its own entry, for better or worse or in between. My wife Anne and I saw Roland Emmerich’s Midway on opening weekend because World War II history is among her greatest proficiencies. Theaters don’t screen as many WWII films as they used to back in ancient times, but when they do, we try to be there. For us they’re good excuses for am afternoon date, even when they’re not a good use of filmmaking funds or resources.
It’s never fun to hear stories about difficulties behind the scenes on a film set. When Lucasfilm decided Rogue One: A Star Wars Story needed retooling, they recruited top screenwriter Tony Gilroy (the Bourne series, Michael Clayton) and delivered. When Lucasfilm fired original jokey directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller from Solo: A Star Wars Story after repeated clashes with the producers and the Kasdan dynasty, they recruited director Ron Howard — a known name, a respected professional, but a safe choice to save the film. I’ve liked quite a few of his works (Cocoon, A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon) and still remember that time on Saturday Night Live‘s “Weekend Update” when Eddie Murphy led the audience in a chant of “OPIE CUNNINGHAM! OPIE CUNNINGHAM!” But I don’t know any Star Wars fans who fist-pumped in triumph when he signed on. I mean, maybe there were some, and we just haven’t been introduced?
On a related note, quick show of hands, out of curiosity: how many folks out there still buy anything and everything with the words “Star Wars” stamped on it regardless of content or merit?
…huh. I count a lot fewer than there used to be.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
This time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1997 to the present. As of February 21st I’ve officially seen all nine of this year’s Best Picture nominees. I’m not sure I’ll be able to cover the others in full before the Oscars telecast on March 4th, but let’s see how far I can get before I burn out.
Onward to nominee #8: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, in which UK filmmaker Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) creates his own stylized take on small-town life in the American Midwest and how it might look if one horrifying incident turned half the townspeople into Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glen Ross.
While Hollywood executives and pundits rush to brainstorm excuses for this summer’s weak performance at the U.S. box office and blame anyone but themselves, too many debaters are forgetting not all the output was mediocre…which brings us at long last to War for the Planet of the Apes, a movie I liked so much that I had trouble finding anything remotely cogent to express about it beyond “It’s really good and Andy Serkis is awesome!”
The trailers for Now You See Me telegraph up front that you should expect a twist along the way. You’re teased and beguiled by the possibility of having the wool pulled over your eyes, and taunted for daring to look too closely. Sooner or later, this movie swears it will fool you.
It’s no spoiler, then, to reveal that yes, the movie does eventually have a twist. Despite the fancy stage-magician trappings, its base template is the heist-film genre, in which the viewer’s homework assignment is trying to guess which character will be revealed as a mole or a double-crosser by the end. In that sense, the genre expectations are fulfilled here, including the part where that big revelation turns several previous scenes into utter nonsense if you retrace your steps and rethink them too deeply.