Starring Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Loggia, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, F. Murray Abraham
Antonio Montana (Pacino), a Cuban refugee arrives in 1980s Miami committed to making a name for himself. And, with loyal companion, Manolo (Bauer) always at his side, the epic rise and fall of Tony Montana is chronicled in lavish, often explicit detail. Pacino’s Tony swaggers through the picture, snorting cocaine, making threats, spouting ridiculously quotable maxims at every turn, and his demise is as glorious as his road to power. Tony is an iconic and classic character that many will see as too much. Pacino eschews the less is more model he employed to perfection with his earlier characters like Michael Corleone, and instead devours the scenery. Director Brian De Palma is a wizard with a camera and manages to fill each frame with scenery that is suitably big enough for Tony to occupy and not overshadow. The supporting cast is good too, notably Pfieffer looking beautiful, unobtainable, and perennially bored.
Starring Max Irons, Terrence Stamp, Gillian Anderson, Glenn Close, Stefanie Martini, Julian Sands, Christian McKay, Christina Hendricks
Adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel following private detective Charles Hayward (Irons) as he investigates a case given to him by an ex-girlfriend. The case involves the death of an enormously wealthy and corrupt patriarch, and, of course, all his relatives are suspects. Hayward meets the entire family of greedy eccentrics, as he tries to catch a killer. Christie became a world renowned master of the whodunit mystery, and nobody does it better. Her story has been transported to the screen with skill and a cast full of strong performances. While this is not the best Christie adaptation, it is a perfectly good time minus any truly memorable moments.
Starring Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Adam Scott, Steven R. McQueen, Richard Dreyfuss, Christopher Lloyd, Jerry O’Connell, Kelly Brook, Jessica Szohr
“This above all: to thine own self be true.” Polonius may not have been thinking about Piranha 3D when he said that, but the quotation works. This nudity and gore fest features a small town full of idiots and one or two likable characters during a spring break gone terribly wrong due to the horde of killer piranhas. There’s a large number of scantily clad extras used for fish food in hilariously over the top violence. The main actors, led by Elisabeth Shue and Steven R. McQueen, are actually very good and well beyond what a film like this calls for. Even Jerry O’Connell, with his supremely limited range excels as a middle aged frat boy who never grew up. You could call this movie, and the original film that inspired it, a blatant rip-off of Jaws, but, Piranha knows that and has fun with it. I thoroughly enjoyed its nonsense, the high level of skill masked by its lowbrow aspirations, and the surprises of the script.
Starring Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Christopher Lee, Genevieve Page, Tamara Toumanova
Years after his death, the letters of Dr. John H. Watson, one of literature’s most famous narrators and chronicler of the eminent Sherlock Holmes are found. In them, he relates a Sherlock Holmes story theretofore untold, deemed to private for the public. In Sherlock’s most personal case of his career, a strange and beautiful woman with amnesia winds up on his doorstep. Deducing that she’s looking for a missing husband, Sherlock sets out to solve the mystery, all the while falling for the woman. This is a later work from Billy Wilder, and probably his last great film. It’s beautifully, lavishly constructed sets, wit, and style belie the poignant sadness at its core which make it a special take on the character. A late sequence featuring a Morse code message by way of umbrella is an indelible, agonizing image.
With last year’s Me Too and Times Up movements in full force and Hollywood apparently cleaning house of all offenders, I suspect the issue of pay equality is looked upon as a natural continuation of those two causes. Is it fair that male actors make more than their female counterparts? Let me hold off on answering that. The real subject of today is precipitated by a recent news item stating that Benedict Cumberbatch (Oscar nominated star of Doctor Strange and the T.V series, Sherlock) will refuse roles unless his female costars receive equal pay. Now, obviously this is a very noble gesture. Think back five months ago when the story broke out that Mark Whalberg earned a million dollars for reshoots while star of the film, Michelle Williams made something like $10, 000. That wasn’t fair, and so I could commend Cumberbatch for taking a stand here on behalf of his female peers. However, I disagree wholeheartedly with the gesture, as noble as it is, and think it represents more harm than good. I’ll do my best to organize and dispense my thoughts on this as best as possible so that you can see where I’m coming from. This is by no means a “men are better than women” argument. This is by no means an argument against fair pay for women.
- My main qualm is that it takes all the pressure off of the studio bigwigs and places it on all future male costars to follow suit. That’s not fair. As I argued back on the Mark Whalberg case, it was totally wrong for him to receive so much more than Michelle Williams, but the onus was on the studios and not Whalberg. He, and all male actors, have a right to seek as much money as they can get, and actresses have that same right. It is not any male actors’ duty to play agent for his costars. I’m pretty sure actors don’t discuss how much they’re making for a film.
- What Cumberbatch’s gesture represents amounts to Hollywood socialism. Are we still a capitalist society? Every actor should be paid according to what they’re worth to the film. Not according to talent, to be clear. Richard Jenkins is an infinitely better actor than Selena Gomez, but Selena Gomez has a sizable audience that her presence will guarantee. Jennifer Lawrence (who has made upwards of $15 million on films before) deserves to make more money than Benedict Cumberbatch, and Benedict Cumberbatch deserves to make more than Rachel McAdams.
- The real problem and point of emphasis should be to make more female centered films, give more female directors opportunities, and watch the audience for these films grow. Since a majority of Hollywood blockbusters are geared towards teenage boys, of course, men are going to see bigger box office returns. Again, this points to the studios who greenlight the films, and, who, to this point, haven’t trusted women or minority led films to make money.
- Touching back on the idea of Hollywood socialism, should we go back to the studio system? All actors under contract? I’m fairly certain that system broke down, and it was an actress, the great Bette Davis who played a huge role in breaking free of that structure. This isn’t Friends, where every actor and actress played an equal role in its success. Broker your own deal, and fight for your worth.
- Finally, although this is more of an aside, quit remaking successful male pictures with all female casts. It’s counterproductive to the cause. I think, maybe, Ocean’s 8 has a chance, but if you look at past box-office results, it’s original movies like Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids that clean up. Not second rate remakes like Ghostbusters.
Starring Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Jeremy Brett, Wilfrid Hyde-White
Henry Higgins (Harrison), a renowned phonetics professor wagers that he can turn a common flower girl, Eliza Doolittle (Hepburn), into a duchess by improving her speech. A musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion, and it’s tops for me. The dialogue which is predominantly Shaw, the lyrics, the music, the costumes, the art direction, staging, the performances, are all exceptional. Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle are two of my favorite characters across all entertainment. They are both heavyweights, equals, and watching the two spar is a joy to me. Easily my favorite variant of the Pygmalion story, and probably my favorite musical.
Starring Anjelica Huston, Jasen Fisher, Mai Zetterling, Rowan Atkinson, Brenda Blethyn
A young boy raised by his shrewd Grandmother discovers that the hotel they’re staying in is infested with children murdering witches (led by the Grand High Witch), with a plot that could wipe out children everywhere. After being turned into a mouse, the boy teams up with his Grandmother to foil the evil witches’ plans. Adaptation of Roald Dahl’s horror story for kids. Children’s movies in the ’80s and, in this case early ’90s, were insane. This has some truly frightening stuff in it: the witches pulling off their masks to reveal their hideous true selves, kids being abducted in the street, weird body transformations. The opening sequence is remarkable, scary, and sad as we learn about a girl who became trapped in a miserable painting all her life. Anjelica Huston glides through the picture as the Grand High Witch if everything is dreadfully boring to her including the events of the film. She’s very funny and the film itself, which I believe compromises a little in the end, remains a solid creepfest.