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Tag Archive: Sony Pictures


Review by C.J. Bunce

It was a bit of an oddity this year to have a choice of watching on television or at the movie theater what might have been a forgotten footnote to the strange 1970s life styles of the rich and famous.  In many ways the only real value of the story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, grandson to the once richest man in the world, is the almost Aesop’s Fables inspired punchline of the movie title, All the Money in the World.  Mark Wahlberg as security man Fletcher Chase gets to deliver the goods to Getty at film’s end:  It doesn’t matter how much money the billionaire Getty had, it didn’t bring him happiness.  Based on John Pearson’s book, Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty, the film is now streaming on multiple platforms.  This year’s television series Trust, featuring Donald Sutherland as the senior Getty, offered up the same story over a much too long 10 episodes.  Sutherland’s Getty is shown as far more disturbing than in the movie, and other than providing an example of Sutherland in another creepy role, the show had very little to offer.

All the Money in the World, the film version of the story, features a showcase of acting talent in a script that is almost up to the task.  Christopher Plummer is Getty I, the grandfather who in 1973 refused to pay his grandson’s ransom, even after those who kidnapped him cut off and mailed-in the young man’s ear.  Plummer stepped in late in production after Kevin Spacey was ousted from the film because of Spacey’s sexual misconduct scandal.  The result proves that at any age Plummer can create a compelling character, even if the real man behind the character seems far less interesting than one might think.  Wahlberg is playing what has become one of his stock character styles–this is the brash Boston cop in The Departed and the decisive marksman from Shooter.  Wahlberg plays the tough guy well here, in a role that echoes private investigator Jay J. Armes’ rescue of Marlon Brando’s kidnapped son just one year before the events in the film.  Young actor Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher) is Getty’s grandson, an atypical twist on the typical troubled youth character.  French actor Romain Duris is compelling as a member of the captor group who helps keep Getty alive during is confinement.  Always delivering a strong performance, Oscar winner Timothy Hutton unfortunately is underutilized as Getty’s loyal lawyer Oswald Hinge.

Directed by Ridley Scott, the movie is similar in execution to last year’s Steven Spielberg historical drama The Post.  The film has themes in common with Orson Welles’ Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane, but Scott didn’t opt to add any memorable style as Welles did with his classic story of a man acquiring possessions to the exclusion of family or love.  It’s not great, but it’s a solid drama.  But the biggest success of the film comes through via its lead actress, four-time Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams.  Williams portrays the grandson’s mother not as an emotional wreck but a determined mother who works frantically to negotiate her son’s release, with no help from the elder Getty or her disaster of an ex-husband.  And she couldn’t justify those Academy nods any better than balancing an affected accent, the billionaire family lifestyle, and that single mom angst as she attempts to reflect a parent handling a tragic event most people will never have to encounter.

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Emmy nominee and Golden Globe winner in 2017 and a Golden Globe nominee again this year for best actress in a television series, all for The Crown, Claire Foy is quickly becoming an actor to keep an eye out for.  Her career continues on an upward trajectory this Fall when she stars in two big screen movie releases.  Both of these films saw their first trailers arrive this weekend.  One is a historical biopic and the other a crime story, both adaptations of bestselling books.

Coming first is director Damien Chazelle’s First Man from Universal Pictures, a film about astronaut Neil Armstrong starring Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, The Nice Guys), with Foy co-starring as Armstrong’s wife Janet, based on a book by James R. Hansen.  The film also stars Corey Stoll (Ant-Man) as Buzz Aldrin, Lukas Haas (Witness, The Revenant) as Mike Collins, Jason Clarke (Terminator Genisys, Winchester) as Ed White, Ethan Embry (That Thing You Do!, Batman Beyond) as Pete Conrad, Kyle Chandler (Super 8, Argo) as Deke Slayton, and Ciaran Hinds (The Sum of All Fears, Munich, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2) in an undisclosed role.

Next will be director Fede Alvarez’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web from Sony Pictures.  This is a sequel to the film adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  Foy takes on the role of Millennium series star Lisbeth Salander, formerly played in the Swedish film by Noomi Rapace and later the American production by Rooney Mara.  This is the first story in the dark and violent series not written by Larsson–David Lagercrantz was tapped to pen the novel this film is based upon.  The film co-stars Sylvia Hoeks (Blade Runner 2049).

Here is Claire Foy in new trailers for First Man and The Girl in the Spider’s Web:

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Sometimes so many trailers are in the queue it’s time to stack ’em, pack ’em and rack ’em.  For us, that means it’s time for another installment of Trailer Park.  We have a new Deadpool 2 trailer, reportedly the final trailer, and this time we meet the supporting characters.  We have two new Solo: A Star Wars Story television spots you might have missed (do you say Han rhyming with Stan, like Lando does, or Han rhyming with Ron, like everyone else does?).  We have the first look at Denzel Washington returning as Robert McCall in Equalizer 2.  Plus another TV spot for next week’s Avengers: Infinity Wars.  What else… one more trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.  That’s a lot of sequel trailers.  You’d think we were already living in The Stacks.

And posters!  The studios have released several new movie posters to gawk at, including a late-breaking UK poster for Solo, a Deadpool 2 poster by Deadpool co-creator Rob Liefeld (an homage to New Mutants, Issue # 98), a poster for Equalizer 2, and, directly from Jamie Lee Curtis, the first look at the return of Michael Myers in the late 2018 release of the Halloween reboot.

    

So what are you waiting for?  Check out these six trailers:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

From the voiceover that introduces the new world of The Dark Crystal, like Cecil B. DeMille’s voice narrating some biblical film from the Golden Age of Hollywood, audiences instantly understand this story is going to be epic in scope.  Like Hiyao Miyazaki would create two years later in his Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, The Dark Crystal is unique in its creation of a fantasy that can’t be tied to Tolkien or Grimm or Baum or White.  If it’s at all derivative its source is the stuff of real-world ancient druids and mythologies outside the Western, Greco-Roman tradition.  The word classic is tied to The Dark Crystal.  It is that, the first and only film of its kind, devoid of humans or their interests, with a cast entirely of fantastical character creations.

Even if you’ve seen Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal on home video recently, you’re likely to notice the detail and awe of the film much better on the big screen.  It returned to theaters Sunday with only five more screenings left as part of the Fathom Events series, showing at 700 theaters nationwide this week and next.  The sound is stunning in a new theater–much better for audiences with modern digital sound systems compared to its initial run back at the end of the year 1982–and the sound effects and sound editing are critical to the believability of these creations.  The music will pull you into this world.  From composer Trevor Jones, who would later create the music for Labyrinth, Sea of Love, Arachnophobia, Last of the Mohicans, Brassed Off, Dark City, From Hell, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, we’re treated to an emotional journey split cleanly in two, with mirrored bleak darkness and fear on the one side, and tranquil hillsides, spiritual communities, and idyllic, pastoral, quiet places on the other.  Jones’s score takes us through both the horrors of greed and gluttony with the Skeksis, and the sweeping, heroic journey of a hero and a prophecy.

Co-directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, the film demonstrates what a crew of like-minded creative artists can make.  Dozens of performers were required to operate even a few of the characters at a time, and many scenes feature the wide screen simply filled with characters, like the pantheon of ten Skeksis at the deathbed of the Emperor, or the journey of the nine Mystics to the Castle of the Crystal, to the celebrating village of dozens of Podlings, and the finale filled with members of all races, including the over-sized beetles called the Garthim.  The set for Aughra’s beautiful pinnacle of set pieces–the location of that mechanical wonder that is the Orrery–showcases a fantasy creation that has yet to be matched in any film.  Henson and Oz introduce the hero Jen to the room housing this device much like Dorothy’s first glimpse into the other Land of Oz.  An obvious precursor to steampunk, the Orrery is magnificent, and the stuff of true wonder.

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Fathom Events is bringing Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s landmark fantasy The Dark Crystal back to theaters tomorrow and Wednesday, and advance response has resulted in an additional two screening dates the following week and expansion into 700 theaters nationwide.  A member of the Class of 1982, The Dark Crystal just celebrated its 35th anniversary.  The ambitious story of The Dark Crystal takes place in the world of Thra, which has been torn by a fracture in a great magic crystal, which caused two races to be created: the tranquil Mystics, or urRu, and the evil Skeksis, who all but destroyed Thra’s native species, the Gelflings.  The Mystics have summoned Jen, one of the last surviving Gelflings, to find the lost piece of the crystal.  The quest sends Jen on a classic adventure to try to restore harmony and peace to Thra.  Don’t wait–get tickets now here at the Fathom Events website before tomorrow’s screening sells out.

We recently revisited Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal with a groundbreaking look at the film and co-directors Jim Henson and Frank Oz in Caseen Gaines’ The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History, a new deep-dive into the film reviewed here at borg.com.  According to Henson’s daughter Cheryl Henson, The Dark Crystal was Jim Henson’s most personal work.  This is a great time to have The Dark Crystal fresh in our memory, as we expect to see a 10-episode Netflix follow-on series hopefully by the end of 2018.  The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance does not yet have a release date.

Yes, we’re just as excited as Fizzgig–The Dark Crystal was the reigning favorite fantasy film of all time for legions of moviegoers before Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings came along.  The film features performances by Jim Henson as Jen (voiced by Stephen Garlick), Kathryn Mullen as the Gelfling Kira (voiced by Lisa Maxwell), Frank Oz as the astronomer Aughra (voiced by Billie Whitelaw), and Dave Goelz as Fizzgig (voice of Percy Edwards), with Henson, Oz, and Goelz also performing as the Skeksis. Kiran Shah also performs the body of Jen, Kira, and Aughra. With a screenplay by Dave Odell (The Muppet Show), The Dark Crystal also features a majestic score by Trevor Jones (Excalibur, Labyrinth).  Along with Yoda creator Frank Oz, the film was produced by Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back producer Gary Kurtz.

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Wrapping up this spectacular and anniversary-filled year of the best of classic genre films will be a Fathom Events screening of Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s The Dark Crystal.  Another member of the class of 1982, this one slipped in during the holiday season, and it’s anniversary screening will be heading to a theater near you in February.  It’s been an unprecedented year that was almost a weekly opportunity to see the best nostalgic trips into the past, with 1982 films Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Blade Runner, and The Princess Bride celebrated its 30th anniversary, while Close Encounters of the Third Kind celebrating its 40th in theaters, and audiences in Europe attended screenings celebrating the whopping 90th anniversary of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  It seems Disney refrained from partaking in the big screen retrospectives: no Star Wars (40) or Tron (35) anniversary theatrical screenings were to be found, but maybe it’ll happen in five years for the next benchmark year.  But it ultimately didn’t matter–this year of classic movies couldn’t be beat.

We recently revisited Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal with a groundbreaking look at the film and co-directors Jim Henson and Frank Oz in The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History, a new deep-dive into the film reviewed here at borg.com.  According to Henson’s daughter Cheryl Henson, The Dark Crystal was Jim Henson’s most personal work.  This is a great time to have The Dark Crystal fresh in our memory, as we expect to see a 10-episode Netflix series hopefully by the end of 2018.  The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance does not yet have a release date.

Yes, we’re just as excited as Fizzgig–The Dark Crystal was the reigning favorite fantasy film of all time for many before Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings came along.  The ambitious story of The Dark Crystal takes place in the world of Thra, which has been torn by a fracture in a great magic crystal, which caused two races to be created: the tranquil Mystics, or urRu, and the evil Skeksis, who all but destroyed Thra’s native species, the Gelflings.  The Mystics have summoned Jen, one of the last surviving Gelflings, to find the lost piece of the crystal.  The quest sends him on an unbelievable adventure that can restore harmony and peace to Thra.  The film features performances by Jim Henson as Jen (voiced by Stephen Garlick), Kathryn Mullen as the Gelfling Kira (voiced by Lisa Maxwell), Frank Oz as the astronomer Aughra (voiced by Billie Whitelaw), and Dave Goelz as Fizzgig (voice of Percy Edwards), with Henson, Oz, and Goelz also performing as the Skeksis.  Kiran Shah also performs the body of Jen, Kira, and Aughra.  With a screenplay by Dave Odell (The Muppet Show), The Dark Crystal also features a majestic score by Trevor Jones (Excalibur, Labyrinth).  Along with Yoda creator Frank Oz, the film was produced by Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back producer Gary Kurtz.

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When a movie director can re-create the right look and feel of a time and place, the film can take audiences in a darkened theater into the past as well as any time machine.   This year the re-creation is July 1973 and the place is Rome.  The subject is a celebrity family kidnapping that has faded in the memories of most and unknown to the rest, the kidnapping of oil baron and “The Richest Man in the World” J. Paul Getty’s grandson, and the efforts taken to get him back.  All the Money in the World is based on the book Painfully Rich by John Pearson, with a script by David Scarpa (The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)).  The real-life account of the kidnapping is the stuff of great drama, full of strange decisions and bizarre actions by all involved.  The kidnapping is best known for the ear that was put in the mail–and delayed by a postal strike in Italy–sent by the kidnappers to press the Getty family to pay the ransom.  The story has plenty of room to illustrate the bumbling and the Reversal of Fortune-esque actions of the uber-wealthy that occurred along the way.

The film is directed by Ridley Scott, and stars young actor Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher Plummer) as J. Paul Getty III.  Michelle Williams portrays Gail Harris, mother of the kidnapped Getty.  Kevin Spacey looks believable as the aged and eccentric billionaire Getty and Timothy Hutton plays his lawyer.  And Mark Wahlberg, the highest paid actor in Hollywood, portrays the preposterously–but actual–named Fletcher Chase, a “tall, craggy-faced American” who was an ex-CIA operative from San Diego sent by the billionaire to assist in the release of his grandson.

The 1970s era (although the early part of the decade instead of the later) and a key role by a single hardened CIA-trained operative echoes Ben Affleck’s 2012 Best Picture Academy Award winner Argo.  The 1970s look and feel in All the Money in the World is provided by Oscar-nominated production designer Arthur Max (Gladiator, Blackhawk Down, The Martian, Kingdom of Heaven, Prometheus) and set decorators on several productions featuring Italy of the past, Letizia Santucci, Cristina Onori, and Gianpaulo Rifino.  The film also features acclaimed genre cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Martian, War Machine, Dark City, Alice in Wonderland, Alien: Covenant, and the 1980s best rock videos from Aerosmith and Van Halen to The Bangles and Suzanne Vega).

Check out this first trailer for All the Money in the World:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For me, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was the film that got away.  I was lucky to have been taken to every great sci-fi classic and Spielberg film from Jaws forward, but multiple Star Wars viewings probably nudged out my chance to see this one back in 1977.  Close Encounters didn’t arrive in theaters until the Christmas season that year and it would likely have generated some nightmares as I was only about a year older than the boy co-star of the film–so it was probably a good thing.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind is back in theaters this week to celebrate its 40th anniversary.  Watching it for the first time on the big screen was like filling in a last brick in the wall.  It’s a satisfying re-watch, and every time you screen a classic in the theater again you learn something new.  The film is being preceded this week by a behind-the-scenes featurette, including an interview with Steven Spielberg and excerpts from the home movies he routinely films as he directs his movies.  It also contains a clip of each iconic scene in the film, so those who haven’t seen the film and want to view it for the first time may want to duck out for popcorn during the previews.  Close Encounters is screening only for a few more days, so no matter how many times you have seen it, it’s time to go back again.  Nothing beats a classic, especially a Spielberg film, on the big screen.

You might find Close Encounters’ pacing to stand out as a bit slow.  Movies today need to be action-packed to grab viewers.  The elements the viewer needs to know are laid out methodically, and yet the film is not told in normal storytelling fashion.  Richard Dreyfuss’s innocent everyman Roy Neary is not your normal protagonist.  Every bit the victim here, he also may be more like a lottery winner, selected to do what many dream of.  He asks for none of the personal invasion he encounters–ripped from his family and job, this uncontrollable compulsion arrives, pursuing him with only a realization that whatever this vision is about it’s somehow important.  From the film’s abrupt start it feels very avant-garde, a bit like modern independent filmmaking, with its back and forth explanation of a communication project in progress spliced with a utility worker who experiences a strange event.  Sequences of real world end-to-end conversations that other directors might have edited to more quickly get to the point also illustrate unusual directing decisions.  Only in what doubles as a horror movie sequence–basically a child abduction–do we get a clear realization of aliens as one possible antagonist of the film.  And when the movie really kicks in at Devil’s Tower the audience can see the international marriage of scientists and military is possibly another villain.  Or is there a villain at all?  Many scenes suggest dissonance itself is the culprit–all the barriers to clear communication that get in the way–the ongoing, pounding barrage of multiple interpreters in a single conversation, air traffic control operators speaking at once, Neary’s wife played by Teri Garr and her kids all talking or screaming or beating toys to pieces, Roy’s co-workers on the radio all speaking at once, a room full of scientists babbling at each other as they try to interpret these six repeated numbers beings sent to them from outer space, aliens playing rapid tones against humans doing the same.  And the sound of all the toys turning on at once, the toys of little Barry (Cary Guffey) that wake up his mom Jillian, played by Oscar nominee Melinda Dillon, forcing her to join the story as a victim along with Roy.  Then the resolution of conflict only arrives as the aliens and humans finally reach clarity with the tonal communication between them in the film’s climactic encounter.  In the preview to the film, Spielberg mentions Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket’s crooning “when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are” as his inspiration–what the film is all about.  That familiar Disney motif is certainly present thanks to John Williams’ beautiful score.  Maybe Roy is his own enemy–unable to break away from the influence of these beings?  Or by following this calling does he rescue himself from a family that doesn’t understand or listen to him, and a mundane job and neighborhood of zombie-like suburbanites who always seem to be watching him?

Whatever the through line of the story is intended to be, the film is sweeping and enormous in scope, addressing subjects everyone can get sucked into: telepathy, conspiracy theories, all the UFO theories (from cattle mutilations to Area 51 to alien abductions and flying saucers), and unexplained phenomena (from missing people to the curious fascination of aliens with rummaging through refrigerators).  It’s all there in this suspenseful package, all from this brilliant young filmmaker who said he and his cast just couldn’t wait to show everyone this great thing they had created.  Hints at so many films are contained here that you could wonder if Spielberg starts generating every subsequent project idea by first watching Close Encounters:  We see the young child’s parents terrified in their home by some strange force in Poltergeist as Jillian tries to prevent the aliens from breaking into her home.  We see the quiet standing crowd at night waiting at the foot of Devil’s Tower for something good or bad to happen filmed similar to the soldiers waiting as the Ark is opened at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  And it’s almost a surprise to realize the mother ship at the end of Close Encounters is not the ship from E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, another giant, flying, lit-up Christmas tree-house transporting that curious little botanist who would arrive only five years later.

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What would Devil’s Tower be today–40 years after the release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind–if director Steven Spielberg hadn’t located his point of first contact with aliens at that singular national monument?  Think about the revenues Spielberg drove into the National Parks over the years–today it gets 400,000 visitors annually.  How many side trips have we all taken off the beaten path between Yellowstone Park and Mt. Rushmore to see it for ourselves?  Would it have the same allure?

Forty years later and Close Encounters of the Third Kind has been given a full 4K restoration, and it’s coming to theaters for one week this summer followed by a home release.  Fresh off the success of Jaws, it was a return: Spielberg, John Williams, Richard Dreyfuss, production designer Joe Alves and more–and nobody knew what Spielberg was bringing to audiences as the big follow-up after his first summer blockbuster.  A science fiction film nominated for eight Academy Awards?  It would take home the award for sound effects editing (Frank A. Warner) and cinematography (Vilmos Zsigmond).  Plus we saw memorable performances from Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein, Mr. Mom), Melinda Dillon (A Christmas Story) nominated for her role, French director François Truffaut in one of his few acting performances, and Bob Balaban (Lady in the Water, Best in Show).

This new theatrical version has been restored from the original negatives–it’s the director’s cut, for those familiar with the various releases over the years.  If you missed it in the theaters (or weren’t born yet!), don’t miss this epic masterpiece on the big screen.  And for eagle-eyed genre fans, watch for brief encounters in the film with Carl Weathers (Rocky, Predator) and Lance Henriksen (Alien). 

Check out this smartly edited new trailer for a sci-fi classic:

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Sony has already released a few teasers for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, but they didn’t offer much to describe the film or give moviegoers a reason to buy a ticket.  That is, until the latest trailer dropped, which is attached to the previews to this weekend’s premiere of Spider-man: Homecoming.  This trailer netted a full house of laughs, and supports star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s personal buzz he’s been generating for the film over the past year.

Emerging from the world created by author Chris Van Allsburg (Jumanji, Polar Express, Zathura: A Space Adventure) and (happily) not having any real ties to the 1995 movie starring Robin Williams, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a new Jumanji adventure.  The film begins with four high schoolers who get stuck cleaning a storage room at school and find an old video game.  Their initial selections of the game and in-game characters dictate their roles in the film as they are sucked Tron-style into the game, emerging as adults played by The Rock (Doc Savage, Black Adam), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Guardians of the Galaxy), Kevin Hart (Central Intelligence, The Wedding Ringer), and Jack Black (King Kong, Kung Fu Panda, School of Rock).  The new trailer includes some great footage of Gillan finally getting lead actress screentime as a badass, Lara Croft-inspired heroine.  And we also learn that, as promised by Gillan in earlier interviews, her outfit makes perfect sense for the role.

The film is directed by Jake Kasdan, known for his television work as producer/director on New Girl and Freaks and Geeks, but also for the great coming of age movie Orange County, starring Colin Hanks and Jack BlackThe script for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is from a dream team of TV and movie writers: Chris McKenna (Spider-man: Homecoming, The LEGO Batman Movie,  Community, Igor), Jeff Pinkner (The Dark Tower, ROM, M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, The Amazing Spider-man 2, Fringe, Lost, Early Edition), Scott Rosenburg (High Fidelity, Impostor, Life on Mars (U.S.)), and Erik Sommers (Spider-man: Homecoming, The LEGO Batman Movie,  Community).

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