You’ve extended your movie theater dry spell by seven days, bringing your total up to an unfathomable 29 days without seeing a movie in theaters. Fortunately, this week brings It: Chapter 2 which will end this discordant streak. A quick note- you were reminded after last week’s journal that Hobbs and Shaw was not the last film you saw in theaters. Two days after Hobbs and Shaw, you saw The Long Shot in Seoul with friends, Marley and Alex. In the face of having little to no options at the local theater, you’ve watched a number of diverse and interesting films through streaming, as well as started new show, Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, which has perfectly captured the unbridled creepiness of its source material.
Starter for 10
(7-Very Good Film)
On August 26th, you watched Starter for 10 on Amazon Prime for the second time, with your first viewing having been several years prior. Coming of age, youthful romance, academic contests, these are a boundless source of storytelling. Set in the 1980s, Starter for 10 stars James McAvoy as Brian Jackson, an intelligent but meek freshman student at Bristol University who joins their “University Challenge” team, a trivia competition between schools, popular on television. Brian falls for worldly teammate, Alice (Alice Eve), and befriends the politically passionate, Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), as he navigates his first year away from home. This is a very engaging, well-acted film. Your only reservations were that the endearing but awkward Brian makes so many wrong decisions and has so many uncomfortable moments that you struggle to watch the film straight, instead, taking a number of lengthy breaks to get through the narrative.
The Black Dahlia
Can someone please give The Black Dahlia another shot? Reading that David Fincher was initially attached and wanted to turn James Ellroy’s novel into a miniseries has you mourning what could have been. Too much studio interference apparently caused the director to flee the project, so, on August 31st, you watched not David Fincher’s but Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia and what a bad film. What a bad, gorgeous film. It deserved its nomination for best cinematography and Mia Kirshner deserved the praise she received for playing Elizabeth Short among the dozens of otherwise excoriating reviews. If you don’t know the story, Elizabeth Short was a 22-year-old girl from Massachusetts found brutally murdered in Los Angeles in 1947. Forty years later, the great Ellroy wrote a fictional, speculative novel about the ensuing investigation. His book is riveting. In this adaptation, detectives Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) join the crusade to catch Short’s killer, both becoming obsessed with the case while dealing with their love for the same woman, Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson). There are probably other issues but you simply couldn’t get past the cast, primarily the leads. They are bad. They are not Troll 2 level bad. They are simply either unconvincing in their roles (Hilary Swank is miscast as a femme fatale despite being a talented actress) or boring in their roles (Josh Hartnett delivers his lines monotonously, especially during the crucial narrations).
SIDENOTE: IDEAL CAST (THE BLACK DAHLIA)
David Fincher would have been the perfect filmmaker to bring The Black Dahlia to the big screen. As far as the cast, a young Mickey Rourke would be ideal. However, since you’re thinking in terms of 2019, who would be the best cast to pull off these characters? You like Joel Edgerton and Jon Bernthal. They’d make a goof Bucky and Lee pair.
(7-Very Good Film)
You’ve never given marching band much consideration. Football games are about football. Marching band is background noise. Similar to what Pitch Perfect did years later for Acapella, Drumline makes marching band look really cool. Watched on Hulu, August 31st, Drumline follows Devon Miles (Nick Cannon), a hot-head drum recruit to Atlanta A & T’s revered marching band who immediately finds himself at odds with the band director, Dr. Lee (Orlando Jones), and the percussion leader, Sean (Leonard Roberts). Drumline is super solid entertainment. You know as soon as the film starts what it’s about and where it’s going but you’re happy with the execution. Supporting players-Jones, Roberts, and J. Anthony Brown as the rival band leader-stand out, while Nick Cannon proves a capable lead despite being cocky and hard to like for a good portion of the film.
A Kid in Aladdin’s Palace
A sequel to the equally silly, meager, and enjoyable A Kid in King Arthur’s Court, A Kid in Aladdin’s Palace suffers mainly from the fact that this was your first time watching it. The former film is bolstered by waves of merry nostalgia from years of watching it on VHS as a child. A Kid in Aladdin’s Palace receives no such sentiment. You also watched a tremendously shabby copy of it on Youtube (some guy videotaped himself watching it on his crappy old t.v). Despite all of this, you were still entertained. Calvin Fuller of Reseda takes that joke to ancient Arabia where he meets a genie, Aladdin, Sheherazade, and Ali Babba and squares off against an evil sultan. The special effects are unsurprisingly horrible and the last act resorts to a couple too many poop jokes but as long as your expectations are reasonable, A Kid in Aladdin’s Palace is reasonably enjoyable.
You watched a faded copy of this on youtube on August 31st, Centennial Summer will suffer comparisons from anyone who’s seen the fantastic Meet Me in St. Louis. It’s the summer of 1876 in Philadelphia and the life of the Rogers’ clan is chronicled in this lightweight musical. With a particular focus on sisters, Julia (Jeanne Crain) and Edith (Linda Darnell), who vie for the same man, newcomer Frenchman, Philippe Lascalles (Cornel Wilde), Centennial Summer boasts a terrific cast. Aside from the leads, Walter Brennan, Constance Bennett, and Dorothy Gish star, and the talented Otto Preminger directs. It’s a handsome, likable film without being as endearing as Vincente Minnelli’s classic which inspired it.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-
August 25-August 31