Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

For Buffalo.com: What to watch now – from a critic (and parent)

This week, the most successful filmmaker of all time is back with a new film, “Ready Player One.” (Warner Bros.)

This week saw the debut of a new film column from me for Buffalo.com.

The latest from Steven Spielberg and the home release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” make for a fascinating week for movie lovers. But the must-see is— believe it or not — “Paddington 2,” which just arrived on digital.

Pick of the week: “Ready Player One”

Two years ago, my then-six-year-old son decided he’d like to be Indiana Jones for Halloween, and I was thrilled. As a child of the 1980s, VHS copies of the first three “Jones” films were on an endless loop in my household. What was interesting about my son’s choice, though, was that he’d never actually seen a full Indy film. He knew the character through some old books of mine, a few action figures, and the brief clips I’d shown him from 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

The “Jones” films, of course, were directed by Steven Spielberg, and his ability to grab the attention of kids — and their parents — is unmatched. Even from a few clips and photos, my son was entranced by this heroic figure who just so happens to look a lot like Han Solo. (Go figure!)

This week, the most successful filmmaker of all time is back with a new film, “Ready Player One.” So why is there so little buzz about the director’s adaptation of the nostalgia-overload novel by Ernest Cline? Perhaps it’s because the Spielberg name itself is no longer the family film draw it once was. Consider the underwhelming box office results from his last three kid-friendly efforts, 2011’s “The Adventures of Tintin” and “War Horse,” and 2016’s Roald Dahl adaptation, “The BFG.” All three were imaginative treats, especially “Tintin,” but none took over the zeitgeist.

While the PG-13-rated “Ready Player One” features a cavalcade of references sure to excite mom and dad — from a “Back to the Future” DeLorean to Chucky from “Child’s Play” — pre-teens might feel clueless. Plus, the trailers have struggled with explaining the future-set film’s plot, which is centered on a teenager’s adventures in a virtual reality world called “the OASIS.”

In other words, “Ready Player One” should hold great appeal for adults and maybe some pop culture-savvy teens. But kids won’t be wearing “OASIS”-themed Halloween costumes this fall.

New to digital: “Paddington 2”

The trippy “Annihilation,” the story of a biologist who embarks on a mind-bending secret expedition, is the best film so far this year. In the No. 2 slot is “Paddington 2.” Seriously!

This time around, the beloved bear from darkest Peru becomes entangled with a pompous actor played by a delightful Hugh Grant, and winds up in jail. “Paddington 2” debuted on digital this week (with the DVD/Blu-ray set to follow on April 24), and whether you have children, or not, it’s a must-see.

DVD/Blu-ray pick of the week: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

There is a strong likelihood that you saw “The Last Jedi” in theaters, and it’s even more likely that you have a strong opinion about it. Perhaps now, months after its release, it will be easier for viewers to watch the latest adventures of Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, Poe, and the surviving Skywalkers with an open mind.

The concerns of some adult “Star Wars” fans, of course, were not the concerns of kids. (“How DARE they kill off Luke Skywalker?!” “Calm down, dad.”) The latter audience adored the follow-up to “The Force Awakens.” And guess what? They were correct.

New to streaming: “Little Women” (Netflix)

One of the somewhat forgotten literary adaptations of the 1990s is 1994’s “Little Women,” and that’s a shame. Featuring Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon and a dashing young Christian Bale, this version of the Louisa May Alcott novel is a gem. The film arrives on Netflix on March 28, and it’s a fine film for the entire family. Tweens and young teens will be enchanted.

Just be prepared for some shocked looks when you explain that Jo is the mom from “Stranger Things.”

Cannes Round-Up No. 1: Boos, Rifts, and Violence

 

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As I’ve mentioned, Cannes 2013 is in full swing. Part of the fun for those of us following from across the pond is keeping up with the tidal wave of articles, reviews, and announcements unleashed by the festival. Here are just a few of my faves from the last few days:

A handy list of 10 critics to follow on Twitter during Cannes.

Eric Kohn wrote a strong review of “A Separation” director Asghar Fargadi’s new film, “The Past.”

Nicholas Winding Refn talks violence and Gosling.

Is there a rift between Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee? They say no way

The Playlist looks at some films that were infamously booed at Cannes, including “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.”

A party was held for Martin Scorsese’s finally-ready-to-shoot passion project, “Silence,” and Jeffrey Wells was there.

 

Photo from the Toronto Star/ANDREAS RENTZ / GETTY IMAGES

Gosling, Coens, and More Reasons I Should Really Be in Cannes This Week

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The Cannes Film Festival kicks off today in the south of France, and yes, I should be there. Not only is it probably sunny and warm, but there are the movies, and the boos, and crazy photographers.

But let’s stick with the movies. Cannes often sets the rest of the film-going year in motion. Last year’s Palme D’Or winner, Michael Haneke’s stunning “Amour,” went on to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and even squeaked into the Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Actress categories. It probably should have won those four, too.

Sometimes, other awards stand out. In 2011, “The Artist” missed out on the Palme D’Or but received major praise, earning Best Actor honors for Jean Dujardin. (Remember him?)

On a personal level, I’ve been keeping track of Cannes for years now. I can recall watching the awards on some choppy, buffering website in the early 2000s, and seeing the late Roger Ebert host coverage on cable at some point. Some of my most beloved movies of recent years – “Drive,” “Rust and Bone,” “Holy Motors,” “Blue Valentine” – screened there, and waiting anxiously to hear what earned cheers and what earned jeers has become a May pastime.

The 2013 lineup has its share of highlights. Here are the top five reasons I wish I were sitting in a crowded movie theater in Cannes:

  • “Only God Forgives”: I don’t know what it is about “Drive,” exactly. I saw it shortly after its TIFF premiere in 2011, and my response was, roughly, “Meh.” Then, days later, I noticed I couldn’t get it out of my head. I began listening to the soundtrack like mad, and when I saw the film again, it had easily burrowed its way onto the (lengthy) list of my favorite films. The idea of Nicholas Winding Refn working together again, this time on a film about revenge and Thai boxing clubs? Yeah, I’m in. The trailer sealed the deal. This is my most eagerly awaited film of the summer.
  • New Polanski: “Carnage” was stagy and a bit dull, despite some strong performances and some piercing dialogue, but his new film, “Venus in Fur,” stars his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, and the actor I would cast in a Polanski biopic, Mathieu Almarac. (I just enjoyed his great performance in “Chicken and Plums.”) Quite frankly, it’s always interesting to see what Roman is up to.
  • Capital-M MAJOR directors unveiling their latest creations: Alexander Payne, the Coen Bros., James Gray, Sofia Coppola, Jim Jarmusch. Wow. We will get to see Coppola’s “Bling Ring” soon, but the others might not show up until autumn, at the earliest.
  • The jury is fascinating: I love the idea of Steven Spielberg as jury president. What will he seize on? Wouldn’t it be awesome if it was “Only God Forgives”?! But the jurors are also fascinatingly diverse: Nicole Kidman, Lynne Ramsay (fresh off of her “Jane Got a Gun” controversy), Ang Lee (who just beat Spielberg for a Best Director Oscar!),Christoph Waltz, Daniel Auteuil, Cristian Mungiu, Indian actress Vidya Balan, and Japanese director Naomi Kawase. I’d love to be in on those jury meetings.
  • The premiere of Paolo Sorrentino’s “La Grande Bellezza”: I see a lot of movies. So when I say I was taken aback at a film’s utter strangeness, that means something. “Il Divo” director Sorrentino’s last film, the Sean Penn-is-Robert Smith-sorta “This Must Be the Place” is truly, truly odd. It is streaming now on Netflix, and note I did not say it is bad, exactly. I’m not quite sure how I’d rate it, honestly. But it’s certainly unique, and I can’t wait to see how Sorrentino follows it up. I know little about “La Grande Bellezza” (“The Great Beauty”), but this IMDB description intrigues me: “The story of an aging writer who bitterly recollects his passionate, lost youth. A portrait of today’s Rome.” Will “banga banga parties” be referenced?

The Cannes Film Festival runs through May 26. My Palme D’Or pick: I could see Spielberg and co. embracing Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska.” I don’t expect a Spielberg-led jury to go for Takashe Miike, so “Nebraska” seems a safe choice.

Poster art courtesy of Radius-TWC