By Jonathan W. Hickman, The Film Fix
Here are the August reviews of all things film, video or internet streaming.
Netflix Unveils “Stranger Things” Season 2 Trailer at Comic Con
San Diego Comic Con – While major movie studios were teasing audiences with future theatrical offerings, many of them comic book adaptations, online streaming platform Netflix delivered a full trailer for season 2 of their wildly popular original series “Stranger Things.” The annual comic convention held in San Diego has become the launching pad for various genre projects, not all of them related to the comic book world. “Stranger Things,” the Netflix series that dramatically lifted the entire streaming universe last year returns in October with its sophomore outing.
The long-form trailer is understandably power packed with pop culture references to the 1980s time period. Starting with excellent use of the ground-breaking 1980s video game “Dragon’s Lair” and ending with Vincent Price’s voice over from Michael Jackson’s hit title track “Thriller,” the follow-up season of “Stranger Things” looks bigger and more exciting than season one.
Creators Matt and Ross Duffer return by also taking the story back to the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, where the town is still reeling from the supernatural and/or extra-terrestrial events that marked season one. With most of the cast also making a comeback, expect the drama to follow the maturation of the young characters as they deal with high school, bullies, dating, and parents. But most of us will be watching in hopes of learning more about the creatures or creature and its upside down parallel universe introduced in the first 8 episodes.
“Stranger Things” season two premieres exclusively on Netflix starting Friday, October 27.
Season 7 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” breaks the Internet
Well, “breaks the internet” is too strong, but reports were that HBO’s website crashed when season 7, episode 1 of the epic fantasy series “Game of Thrones” premiered last month. The year long hiatus for the show did not seem to affect the viewership and may have actually sharpened attention as season 7 is breaking ratings records.
Opening in bloody fashion, the final two seasons (the season 7 and next year’s final season) have thus far been action driven as the forces unite and divide to challenge the iron throne in hopes of ruling the seven kingdoms. The immense storyline is impossible to encapsulate as the shear number of characters could fill its own volume. But the throne is now occupied by Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), whose brother Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) acts as her devoted assistant. Meanwhile, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) readies his forces to do battle with the White Walkers that he is convinced pose the gravest threat to the kingdoms. And in another region, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her dragons move ever closer to the iron throne promising fiery conflagration.
Binging “Game of Thrones” previous seasons to catch up is possible as the new episodes make for weekly appointment television. While new episodes are available to stream after they premiere, not dumping them all out on a streaming platform to watch in a block is becoming a very rare thing these days. And there is something refreshing about making the weekly viewing an event as noted by many on social media that post photos of their Sunday night viewing parties. The old ways of watching television have certainly not gone the way of the dodo, at least, not yet.
New episodes of “Game of Thrones” are available on HBO Sunday nights in August.
Apple Premiere’s “Carpool Karaoke” on August 8
After proving the concept and building an audience on James Corden’s “The Late Late Show,” the popular celebrity mobile karaoke sketch gets its own series with 16 episodes. It’s the first original series to air on the paid service Apple Music.
From the trailer, the show won’t stay completely relegated to the confines of a car. Rather, there will be segments where the stars venture out to bars and even a grocery store where they interact with regular members of the public. The carpool karaoke concept seems to be a starting point for another celebrity-based realty series. But I can’t wait to see Shaquille O’Neal and John Cena squeeze themselves into a mid-sized SUV where they will likely murder a pop ballad. Beautifully murder their chosen song, that is, I have no doubt.
The first theatrical feature film for Oscar winning director Steven Soderbergh, “Logan Lucky” looks to be a fun return to a cool, madcap theatrical form. The director responsible for the reboot of the “Oceans” franchise, Soderbergh retired from theatrical filmmaking focusing instead on developing projects on television. And to that end, his Cinemax series “The Knick” is certainly worth checking out.
Let’s be clear, no one really expected Soderbergh’s retirement to last forever.
“Logan Lucky” is about the Logan brothers, Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde (Adam Driver), who decide to pull off a robbery during a NASCAR race in North Carolina. Their team includes convict Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), who lives up to his name by being handy with explosives. But the first problem is that Bang is in prison and must find a way to get out to help the brothers criminal enterprise.
Trailers for the film are very funny, especially when Craig is prominently featured adopting a southern accent and sporting a completely white head of hair. While it has now been confirmed that he’s coming back for the next James Bond installment in 2019, I have to say that seeing Craig in this kind of quirky role is an additional selling point. But the cast is also impressive with the likes of Marvel’s Sebastian Stan, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, and “Ted” creator Seth MacFarlane.
“Logan Lucky” hits theaters on August 18, 2017.
Person to Person (Review)
With a title like “Person to Person” you’d expect the narrative to feature several different storylines focusing on multiple characters. And that is exactly what writer/director Dustin Guy Defa (“Swim Little Fish Swim”) gives us with his organic New York based ensemble.
Feeling very much a part of the early Woody Allen school, the film follows several disconnected characters as they go through their paces on single day. One story has Michael Cera playing a newspaper reporter who shepherds for his own selfish reasons a new reporter played by Abbi Jacobson. They’re investigating a possible murder. The potential murderer has taken the alleged victim’s broken wristwatch to a watch repairer played by Philip Baker Hall. And in another story real life record collection expert Bene Coopersmith plays an easy-going version of himself as he helps his friend Ray (George Sample, III) recover after being dumped by his girlfriend. Finally, Tavi Gevinson plays a youngster struggling with her sexuality as she hangs out with friends.
An organic narrative that might feature improvised dialogue but never seems false, “Person to Person” carves out an easily listening vibe as the various stories unfold. The stand-out here is the laid back Bene Coopersmith, whose jazzy approach to the role, no doubt influenced by his own personality, makes you instantly interested in whatever it is that he’s doing.
“Person to Person” is a low key drama that keeps you watching. Look for it in limited release in Atlanta on August 4.
With the “Blade Runner” sequel, “Blade Runner 2049,” due out on October 6, “Escapes” is a timely documentary following the life of Hampton Fancher, one of the screenwriters of the 1982 Ridley Scott science fiction classic. A fascinating character study, “Escapes” is made even more interesting because it is directed by Michael Almereyda, who has given us fine narrative films like 2015’s “Experimenter” and this year’s Sundance entry “Marjorie Prime” starring Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, and Tim Robbins.
“Escapes” makes for essential viewing for every obsessed cineaste and especially those nuts about all things “Blade Runner.” Like Noah Baumbach’s and Jake Paltrow’s single interview 2016 documentary “De Palma” following the career of director Brian de Palma, “Escapes” is largely made up of a conversation with its subject (Fancher) and an extensive collection of archived footage and personal photos together with excellent use of film clips.
The film is a story told exclusively from the perspective and through the voice of the man being profiled. While Fancer’s memory may be good, one reads between the lines that some of what he’s telling us has another dimension. He’s possibly not the most reliable narrator, which might make the film even more entering. The viewer is challenged to search for subtext in vocal intonations and facial expressions.
Fancher’s main claim to fame is that he co-wrote the adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” that was directed by Ridley Scott. But there’s much more to the guy, who once had a relationship with actresses Teri Garr and Barbara Hershey and for much of his career struggled to make ends meet. Fancher’s story is one of the history of Hollywood itself albeit from a very personal and intimate place.
“Escapes” is in limited release in Atlanta on August 11.