16 Jul 19
With less than six weeks before some schools begin classes, there is something most unusual about this Hollywood Summer ’19 – no sleeper smash. Has summer programming hit such a predictable groove that there can be no surprises? Nothing that will seemingly enchant, entice or even shock by being unexpected, unanticipated??
Surprise summer hits in the past – like ‘The Hangover’ which sparked Bradley Cooper’s leading man career or ‘There’s Something About Mary’ with its then-ground breaking jokes about sexual embarrassment and the death of a dog – could be, after all, the best remembered, best loved, best of all movies released in their respective summers.
August was once thought of as a dead month. That’s why the ‘Summer’ schedule is front-loaded with the big-budget, highly marketed entries that want 14-16 weeks to continue to play in theaters. That covers when school is out and vacations happen. But Harrison Ford with ‘The Fugitive’ proved he was not just a blockbuster attraction in franchises as Indiana Jones and Han Solo, he could draw massive audiences for a retooling of a pretty much forgotten 1960s TV series. The ’93 ‘The Fugitive’ proved August could be an ideal time to open a blockbuster. Ford followed ‘Fugitive’ the following August with a Jack Ryan reprise in ‘Clear and Present Danger.’ Then in ’95 he scored yet again with ‘Air Force One.’
Last August saw ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ bust expectations with its all Asian cast in a romantic comedy. Romcoms are having a heck of a time finding audiences yet ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is spawning a sequel and has made Awkwafina a star – her arthouse entry ‘The Farewell’ just opened with the highest per screen average of any movie this year.
MEGA-RICH: Henry Golding and Constance Wu, top and above with Michelle Yeoh, play a couple who attend a posh wedding in Singapore in ‘Crazy Rich Asians.’
You can’t think the August opening of Dwayne Johnson’s reteaming with Jason Statham in the ‘Fast & Furious’ spin-off ‘Hobbs and Shaw’ might merit sleeper status. This is a popular pre-sold franchise and this chapter is being positioned to open minus any major competition from another high-speed action adventure. That leaves ‘The Kitchen’ with its murderous trio of Hell’s Kitchen widows taking guns into their angry mitts and homicidally protecting the business bequeathed them by their late mates. That the women are Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss – and not Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence and Gabrielle Union — is what makes this particularly intriguing.
The popular, long running CBS police procedural ‘Criminal Minds Season 14’ (DVD, 15 episodes, 4 discs, Paramount, Not Rated) yet again offers insight into the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) as the long-running series celebrates its 300th episode. One highlight: The kidnapping of two agents by a mysterious cult bent on revenge. Special features: ‘Ready to Roll: The Actors on Directing’ about Adam Rodriguez, Aisha Tyler, AJ Cook, Joe Mantegna and Matthew Gray Gubler, deleted scenes, gag reel, ‘Season 14: The Truth of the Matter’ and ‘4th Time’s A Charm’ where Mantegna’s Special Agent David Rossi weds Gail O’Grady’s Krystall Richards.
In the 1945 ‘Dead of Night’ (Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, Not Rated) four directors with four very different supernatural tales scared the daylights out of moviegoers and became an enduring horror classic. Now, 74 years later, ‘Dead of Night’ sustains its lofty reputation with this 4K restoration – the first in decades — of this uncut and complete UK version. ‘Dead’ is directed by an eclectic if distinguished crew: Charles Crichton (‘A Fish Called Wanda’), Alberto Cavalcanti (‘Went the Day Well?’), Robert Hamer (‘It Always Rains on Sunday’) and Basil Dearden (‘Sapphire’). Set around the fireplace at a remote country estate as four strangers each tell a terrifying tale, the standout remains Michael Redgrave’s eerie descent into madness as a ventriloquist taken over by his dummy. The bonus: a film critic’s audio commentary and the documentary ‘Remembering Dead of Night.’
How well I remember visiting the Universal Pictures set as writer-director John Hughes was making his 1985 very weird ‘Weird Science’ (Blu-ray, Arrow Video, Not Rated). A teen empowerment fantasy with Hughes veteran Anthony Michael Hall (‘The Breakfast Club,’ ‘Sixteen Candles’) and Ilan Mitchell-Smith as nerdy high schoolers who somehow conjure a spectacularly beautiful woman from a computer, ‘Science’ works as a nutty comedy of errors mostly because the kids’ creation is played with sly command by supermodel Kelly LeBrock (here following her ‘The Woman in Red’ film debut). Bill Paxton scores as Mitchell-Smith’s often shirtless sadistic older brother . There’s Robert Downey, Jr. alongside Robert Rusler as a pair of school bullies. As the filmmaker and his young star collaborated for the third time, what remains a vivid memory was how strange it was to see Hughes with a haircut and clothes exactly like Hall, then 16. Talk about weird. During filming of ‘Weird Science’ Hall was understandably thrilled to have been cast in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket.’ This meant he was assured of being seen as a multi-talented actor rather than just the funny precocious comedy kid he’d been playing. My understanding is Warner Bros. opted to veto Kubrick casting actual teenagers – 16, 17, 18 year olds — as raw recruits brutalized into becoming efficient killing machines for an R-rated picture. The roles were aged up for 20something actors like Matthew Modine (then 26), Vincent D’Onofrio, also 26, destroying Kubrick’s original vision of how early a culture of conformity and violence is instilled by the social order. Following ‘Weird Science’ Hughes mostly retreated from the press. Hall as we know persevered, easily making the transition to adult roles in TV (starring in ‘The Dead Zone’ series) and movies (with Brad Pitt in ‘War Machine’). This new restoration from the original negative offers the 94-minute original release version plus a slightly expanded one with two additional scenes that you can watch separately or integrated into the film as originally intended. There are new behind the scenes interviews with the casting director, special makeup artist, composer and editor. Also: the archival documentary ‘It’s Alive! Resurrecting Weird Science’ which includes a back when Hall interview.
The Portuguese television import ‘Vidago Palace’ (DVD, 6 episodes, 2 discs, AcornTV) may be in Portuguese with English subtitles but it’s entirely familiar. A well-appointed period piece with flamboyant characters, romance, espionage and life or death struggles, ‘Vidago’ is set in 1936 Portugal where the luxury hotel of the title becomes a haven for those fleeing neighboring Spain’s brutal civil war. It begins as a poor but aristocratic family arrive for the wedding of their daughter Carlotta who is marrying a man she does not love because he is very, very rich. Who does she really love? Pedro, the lowly son of the hotel concierge who is handsome, young and, no surprise, sexy. ‘Vidago’ is timely in that in its 6 episodes it charts Carlotta’s eye-opening decision to become her own woman, forging the life she desires, not the miserable one her parents have orchestrated.
In a career spanning three decades director Tom Holland has specialized in horror and remains best known for helming the original 1988 ‘Child’s Play’ which gave the world the possessed demon doll Chucky. A ‘Child’s Play’ remake/reboot recently opened. Now Holland’s all-new ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ (DVD, Lionsgate, R) opens July 23 on DVD, Blu-ray and streaming. Michael Madsen (‘The Hateful Eight’) is Doyle Dechert, the menacing cop who put serial killer Peter Harris (Luke Macfarlane) behind bars. Now Peter, supposedly cured, is released. Who believes this? Certainly not Madsen’s cop. Then there’s Ashley (Jennifer Titus), mysterious Ashley. Will she ignite Peter’s supposedly dormant murderous instincts? Co-screenwriter Victor Miller wrote another classic, the 1980 ‘Friday the 13th’ that spawned a franchise that will never die. Miller’s ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ co-writer Kerry Fleming appears as Detective Flynn.
Where in David Lynch’s expansive oeuvre does ‘Lost Highway’ (Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, Not Rated) rank? This 1997 entry has a dream of a Lynchian cast, a notable soundtrack and absolutely no attempt at making sense as we watch what unfolds as a wild fever dream for those who ride the …. Lost Highway. Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette (in two roles) lead an eccentric cast: Gary Busey, Balthazar Getty, accused murderer Robert Blake, Natasha Gregson Wagner (Natalie Wood’s daughter), Richard Pryor and Marilyn Manson.
This image released by 20th Century Fox shows, from left, Chrissy Metz, Marcel Ruiz and Josh Lucas in a scene from “Breakthrough.” (Allen Fraser/20th Century Fox via AP)
Chrissy Metz of ‘This Is Us’ stars in the provocative, real-life mystery ‘Breakthrough’ (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Code, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, PG). This is being marketed as a faith-based feature but in fact leaves it to the viewer to decide what it all means. The adopted son of Metz’s Joyce Smith has slipped under the ice of a Missouri lake and is declared dead. But Joyce won’t stop praying and asks others to pray as well. Is what happened next a miracle? A freak of science and reason? Director Roxann Dawson and producer DeVon Franklin offer an audio commentary. Other bonus material: shorts ‘A Tapestry of Miracles: Making Breakthrough’ and ‘Trapped in Icy Waters.’