Blog Archives

Make Room (Or Space) for ‘Ad Astra’ on 9/20/19

It seems as if major Hollywood studios have unintentionally (or intentionally) designated this week as a new movie trailer week.

On that note, the list of movies that take place in space is long and expansive. As in really long and expansive. Particularly in recent years, there’s clearly been interest from moviemakers in LA and demand from audiences worldwide who want to travel to space via the silver screen sans the otherworldly price tag with acting’s biggest headline-grabbers. Just since 2013, films like ‘Gravity,’ ‘Interstellar,’ ‘The Martian,’ ‘Passengers,’ ‘Hidden Figures’ and ‘First Man’ (to name just a few) have explored space, based either on a true story or with a fairly high degree of realism within a fictional story to critical and box office success. Leading A-list actors and actresses in these aforementioned films include Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Matthew McConaughey, Matt Damon, Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Octavia Spencer, and Ryan Gosling.

And now fellow A-List actor Brad Pitt wants in on the action with his new space thriller called ‘Ad Astra,’ which is Latin for “to the stars.”

Interestingly, Liv Tyler portrays Brad Pitt’s wife who remains on earth while her husband ventures into the unknown in the heavens above for a mission revolving around the existence of this planet, which is oddly reminiscent of her role in the 1998 movie ‘Armageddon.’

Hmmm…

Anyways, the plot seems intertwined with exciting action sequences and personal relationships — near and far — that will surely reveal the true purpose of this film involving the enigmatic father character portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones as well as potentially ushering in the newest chapter in 21st-century science fiction. One of ‘Ad Astra’ director James Gray’s films is the 2015 documentary ‘Hitchcock/Truffaut.’ With this in mind, we should keep a keen eye on whether Mr. Gray (who wrote and directed ‘Ad Astra’) utilized any suspenseful techniques made famous by Mr. Hitchcock. For a movie that takes place in space with infinite scale, weaving in Hitchcock thrills via claustrophobia, for example, would bring a level of closeness to a story that will prioritize every ounce of available oxygen.

We know what ‘Ad Astra’ means in Latin, but what does it mean cinematically in 2019? Does the movie’s poster playfully reveal any clues?

ad-astra-poster

While the eye immediately goes to the astronaut’s warped movement in space — which is tantalizingly puzzling — why is the “R” in the title sliced in half in the poster? And then there’s the movie’s tag line, “The answers we seek are just outside our reach.” That suggests a new dimension in space with a Gandalf-caliber “You shall not pass” barrier. Where have we seen that before?

‘Ad Astra’ arrives in a theater near you on September 20.

We’ll Make Your Day Today, Clint

On this day back in 1930, actor/director Clint Eastwood was born in San Francisco.

Whoa. Ladies and gentlemen, just as a reminder, it’s 2019.

Celebrating a towering 89 years, Mr. Eastwood is still regarded as one of the toughest tough guys around. His films, ranging from westerns ‘Unforgiven’ and ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ to starring as a hardass cop in ‘Dirty Harry’ to a Secret Service agent in ‘In the Line of Fire’ to dramatizing the World War II battles on Iwo Jima in ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ to telling the real and deeply gritty ‘American Sniper’ to shining a behind-the-scenes light on ‘Sully’ — and dozens more movies in between — have left a definitive mark on Hollywood cinema that have and will continue to stand the test of time.

But just as important as the aforementioned serious films is Clint Eastwood’s sense of humor. And as famed comedic “roastmaster extraordinaire” Don Rickles showcased in a video clip below from many moons ago, ‘Dirty Harry’ is quite content for comedians to make his day.

Happy 89th Birthday, Clint Eastwood! 

An Elevator Pitch Lifted the Co-Creator of the ‘The Big Bang Theory’

Continuing this week’s dedicated blog posts leading up to the series finale of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ this Thursday night on CBS, it’s time to learn about the man behind the outcast science nerds.

Chuck Lorre, TV’s 66-year-old mega-producer of popular sitcoms half-hour comedies, including ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ did not have a traditional route to his current position. In actuality, his long and winding path to the executive producer, show creator and showrunner that everyone wants today pivoted on the spur of the moment with a succinct determination that translated into one of the best elevator pitches.

It was an elevator pitch that, unlike a broken elevator in a certain Pasadena apartment complex, worked to help him move on up to the successful side of life.

Kaley Cuoco, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Melissa Rauch, and Mayim Bialik will be missed as a cast. Together, they delivered in so many ways — comedically as well as with those rare sweet moments like the napkin signed by Leonard Nimoy — that made them and ‘The Big Bang Theory’ must-see TV for 12 years. But we must also give credit to the men and women behind the scenes and cameras on set for creating the fictional world within Pasadena’s science community that millions of people around the world relate to and enjoy.

Chuck Lorre is one of these people.

And his personal story from a struggling musician to a prime time storyteller is not theoretical. It evolved his way, according to the script he was unknowingly writing for himself more than three decades ago.

You Can’t Stream the Movie Theater Experience

Image result for jaws movie theater

Netflix and Oscars Update:

In concert with yesterday’s article here on Jimmy’s Daily Planet that focused on Steven Spielberg’s thoughts regarding the necessity for all Oscar-eligible films to remain within the traditional parameters of a traditional theatrical release, the Academy of Motion Picture and Arts and Sciences has determined that Rule Two — which involves a film’s eligibility for winning — will favor streaming services moving forward in so many words.

The Academy’s Board of Governors voted to maintain Rule Two, Eligibility for the 92nd Oscars. The rule states that to be eligible for awards consideration, a film must have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles County commercial theater, with at least three screenings per day for paid admission. Motion pictures released in nontheatrical media on or after the first day of their Los Angeles County theatrical qualifying run remain eligible.

That’s a major win for streaming services Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Take ‘Roma’ by director Alfonso Cuarón that streamed on Netflix that won three Oscars at this year’s ceremony:

  • Best Director
  • Best Foreign Language Film
  • Best Cinematography

The argument is not about quality — which ‘Roma’ has — but more about quality of experience. I am a fan of Netflix. It’s a great service for TV and film. But let’s face facts that most people multi-task (or are at least tempted to) with convenient streaming services like Netflix that very easily takes away from the pure movie watching experience. It’s also crucial that Hollywood ensures that all eligible films are having to play by the same rules for the same grand, life-changing prize. As Mr. Spielberg noted yesterday in the New York Times, the theatrical experience must be maintained for the biggest movies of the year. He is 100% right. The Academy’s progressive move towards the “future of TV” is a slippery slope that will exert pain on movie theaters in big cities and small towns alike in the short and long term.

Academy President John Bailey expressed sympathy for the theatrical experience yet fell short with a sanitized non-answer answer for his conclusion.

“We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions. Our rules currently require theatrical exhibition and also allow for a broad selection of films to be submitted for Oscars consideration. We plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues.”

–Academy President John Bailey

In other words, Mr. Bailey supports counting the dollar bills from streaming services.

There is nothing wrong with movie studios and the Academy making lots of money. That’s a good thing if they put out a good product that people want to buy. However, the problem is refusing to take the right, principled stand of where we sit for the best films being released in the future:

Are we on our couch watching a summer blockbuster on our TV or cell phone or laptop? Or are we in a dark, crowded movie theater with strangers for an unforgettable movie experience that simultaneously defines our lives and popular culture with cinematic game-changers like ‘Jaws,’ ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Inception’?

It costs a lot of money to invest, produce and ultimately release a major motion picture. Creating short cuts in this process will cut short what movies mean for us and movie studios moving forward.

Netflix contributed to the downfall of the Blockbuster movie store chain early in the 21st century, transforming the origin of the movie watching experience at home from an excitingly extroverted in-store search and interaction to the introverted in-house mail service. Now it seems the Academy and streaming services like Netflix have its eyes on revolutionizing the summer blockbuster by way of the information superhighway.

When it comes to the Academy of Motion Picture and Arts and Sciences debating issues like Rule Two, movie theaters are gonna need a bigger vote.