I’m Glad to Hear I’m Not the Only One Who Had No Idea What Was Happening in “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Two writers from Slate couldn’t figure it out, either.  Except that “If I’m ever in Hong Kong in the midst of an apocalyptic battle between Dinobots, Autobots, reconstituted Decepticon leaders, evil CIA agents, venal tech CEOs, and Chinese nationals conveniently trained in kung-fu, I can only hope there’s a Bud Light on hand to refresh me.”

 

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Tribute: Mary Rodgers

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Mary Rodgers, writer and composer, died on Thursday at age 83.  She was co-creator of the wonderful musical “Once Upon a Mattress,” based on the Princess and the Pea fairy tale.  It was a breakthrough role for Carol Burnett on Broadway.  Here she is singing, “I’m Shy.”

It was remade with Tracy Ullman.

Burnett played the role of the evil Queen.

Rodgers also wrote books for kids that have become classics, especially Freaky Friday, filmed three times, most recently with Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UShtvCen6So

She wrote a two-generation advice column with her mother for McCall’s Magazine and she worked with Leonard Bernstein on his famous series of Young People’s Concerts.

Rodgers was the daughter of one award-winning Broadway composer Richard Rodgers (“South Pacific,” “Pal Joey,” “The Sound of Music”) and the mother of another, Adam Guettel (“Floyd Collins” and “The Light in the Piazza”). The New York Times wrote:

“The Light in the Piazza,” Adam Guettel’s 2005 musical, for which he won a Tony for best score, was based on a 1950s novel by Elizabeth Spencer about an American woman traveling in Italy with her mentally disabled daughter, who falls in love with an Italian man. Years ago, Ms. Rodgers had suggested the story to her father as ripe for musicalizing, but he decided against it. Decades later she passed the idea on to her son.

Why, she was asked in 2003, did she not adapt the work herself?

“I had a pleasant talent but not an incredible talent,” she said in an interview with The New York Times Magazine. “I was not my father or my son. And you have to abandon all kinds of things.”

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Another Bad Idea for a Remake: Wargames

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 8:00 am

Cinema Blend reports that a remake of the Matthew Broderick film “Wargames” is in the works, possibly with Ansel Elgort or Tye Sheridan in the lead role.  This is an awful idea.  What made WarGames so popular in 1983 was how prescient it was. The set, at the time the most expensive ever built, was so far ahead of its time that the supposed computer graphics on all of the monitors were actually old-school animation. The idea of a kid being able to hack into a government computer — even the idea of government computers being used to launch missiles — and the consequences of the new world of networking were all fascinating.  It will be impossible to re-create that sense of revolutionary change.

It will also be impossible to top Broderick’s performance.  Sheridan and Elgort are terrific actors, but they do not have his comic timing or puppy-dog appeal.

By the way, I recommend The Internet’s Own Boy, which describes one real-life scary consequence of the original “Wargames” film, the enactment of vastly overbroad and poorly constructed laws to prevent the kind of hacking Broderick’s character did.

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Does the Dog Die? An Important Movie Question

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 8:00 am

Some people want to know if a movie has a good story, compelling characters, or stunning images.  You can come here to read my reviews and find answers to those questions.

Some people just want to know if the dog dies.  So, now there’s a website that will tell you if the dog dies.  Thanks, internet!

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More on “Jersey Boys” Director Clint Eastwood

Posted on June 27, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Clint Eastwood is not a favorite of mine as an actor or a director, though I appreciate some of his work. I think his best performance may have been in Gran Torino, which he also directed.  But as a director, he was able to create the movie around his strengths as an actor and around our relationship with him as a performer and persona.

I like “Letters from Iwo Jima,” and think his first film as a director, Play Misty for Me is a nice little thriller. But he completely missed the mark in adapting one of my favorite books, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and I really dislike his Oscar-winner “Million Dollar Baby,” which I thought showed his greatest faults as a director in it heavy-handedness and lack of trust for the audience.

I give him credit for trying to sing in “Paint Your Wagon.”

He did all right with “Jersey Boys,” but it could have been better.  Christy Lemire, who agrees with me that it is only pretty good, has an interesting piece about Eastwood’s own take on his films, commenting on his six favorites.  Bilge Ebiri wrote a thoughtful assessment of Eastwood for Rolling Stone.

There are, you could argue, two Clint Eastwoods. One is the strong, near-silent type, the man with no name but a pair of Colt revolvers or a .44 Magnum, the lean avenging angel who asks if you feel lucky, punk, and would care to make his day. Whether he’s a tough cop, a tough cowboy, a tough secret-service agent, a tough military man, a tough experimental-jet-fighter pilot or a tough racist old coot, the part is a variation on Eastwood’s screen persona. His status as a macho icon was cast in immovable granite early on; to many, Eastwood is still the man who wielded suggestively-long barreled guns and doled out ruthless justice to criminals and assorted thugs. He is Dirty Harry, by any other name.

Then there’s the Clint behind the camera, the classicist who evokes old-school filmmakers like John Ford and Eastwood’s mentor Don Siegel, the guy who likes to keep things nice and easy on the set, and never likes to do more than a few takes. The director who makes movies that feel ambivalent about taking the law into your own hands, and biopics about jazz musicians, and a genuine tearjerker about a love between two late-in-life romantics that could not be. The serious gentleman who gets nominated for, and occasionally wins, Oscars. The Clint Eastwood who adapts a megapopular Broadway musical for the big screen.

And Andrew Romano calls him the most overrated director in The Daily Beast.

His style is largely procedural. As Esquire’s Tom Junod has written, “the Clint Movie is itself defined by what he won’t do. He won’t go over budget. He won’t go over schedule. He won’t storyboard. He won’t produce a shot list. He won’t rehearse. He doesn’t say “Action” … and he doesn’t say “Cut.” He won’t, in the words of his friend Morgan Freeman, “shoot a foot of film until the script is done,” and once the script is done, he won’t change it. He doesn’t heed the notes supplied by studio executives…He won’t accept the judgment of test screenings…He is well-known for his first takes—for expecting his actors and crew to be prepared for them and for moving on if he gets what he wants.”

I’m not sure that makes him the most overrated, but I agree that he is more serviceable than inspired.

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