Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Movies Page 1 of 30

Connie has been reviewing film uninterruptedly since 1970 (47 years) and routinely covers the Chicago International Film Festival (14 years), SXSW, the Austin Film Festival, and others, sharing detailed looks in advance at upcoming entertainment. She has taught a class on film and is the author of the book “Training the Teacher As A Champion; From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now, published by the Merry Blacksmith Press of Rhode Island.

“Infidel,” Starring Jim Cavaziel, Entertains While Subtly Preaching

The film “Infidel,” backed by notoriously conservative producer (and convicted felon) Dinesh D’Souza, opened September 18th with lead Jim Cavaziel portraying Doug Rawlins, the husband of a U.S. state department employee (she deals with trade matters) who is kidnapped in Egypt while on a speaking tour. Doug makes the bad mistake of trying to sell Christianity to the assembled predominantly Muslim crowd.

It falls to Doug’s wife, Liz, to spring into action and travel to the Middle East to try to rescue Doug, much like Angelina Jolie, playing the part of Daniel Pearl’s wife Mariane, tried to rescue her husband Daniel, the kidnapped journalist who was captured in Pakistan and ultimately beheaded.

I attended a lecture by Mariane Pearl, following the events that were portrayed cinematically in that 2007 film. This movie reminded me very much of the 2007 bio-pic, except that Mariane seemed to have a better plan when she set off for what turns out to be Lebanon (and, ultimately, Iran). Liz had interpreters lined up, state department assistance at nearly all points, and didn’t simply wander out of her hotel room and nearly become a captive herself, simply because, as she put it, “I couldn’t stay in my room.”

No, you can’t simply “stay in your room,” but have you lined up any guides or interpreters? Do you have a plan? I think we have all seen how things can go horribly wrong when there is no unified plan for running big enterprises. We have 200,000 dead American citizens because we have no unified national plan. Surely this savvy State Department employee could demonstrate a better plan than is shown in the film.

THE GOOD

First, Jim Cavaziel is a good actor. He has been turning in fine performances in generally good films for a long time. Like the character he portrays in this film, his outspoken uber-Catholicism shot his career in the foot.

After portraying Jesus in 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ” there was at least one instance when Cavaziel refused to play a love scene with his onscreen wife because it violated his Catholic morals. He must have been fairly vocal about it, because it seemed to slow his career down to a snail’s pace. (I would point out that there are other actors who achieve the “no sex scene” rule without being quite as upfront. If you want an example, how about Denzel Washington—who rarely has onscreen nudity in any of his films.)

Cavaziel is probably best known for the television series “Person of Interest” (2011-2016), where he played John Reese for 103 episodes. As mentioned, he also portrayed Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ,” and IMDB says that a second film entitled “The Passion of the Christ: Resurrection” is afoot. [Mel Gibson being the other extremely Catholic Hollywood figure, that sounds plausible.]

Cavaziel was great in 2000’s “Frequency” as the son who makes contact with his long-deceased firefighter father via the radio and, going further back, had a breakthrough role in “The Thin Red Line” in 1998. I saw Cavaziel portraying Jimmy Bierce (the bad guy) in “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” (2017) at SXSW. While that film had beautiful cinematography, the Bill Pullman-starring vehicle was underwhelming in most other respects. (The $8 million-dollar film made less than $8,000 worldwide, while “Infidel” cleared $1,384,296 opening weekend and has grossed roughly what it cost to make, with a $2,674,599 worldwide take as of yesterday).

Others deserving praise for their acting are Claudia Karvan as Liz Rawlins (Cavaziel’s wife onscreen), Hal Ozson who played Ramzi, and Aly Kassem who plays Javid, the man who betrays David Rawlins and is guilty of an Honor Killing.

DIRECTOR

The director of “Infidel,” Cyrus Nowrasteh, both wrote, directed and produced this film, which was shot in Jordan. It opened on 2,400 screens in 1,724 locations, a welcome relief from the drought of original films not being released in the near-empty cinemas open in the United States. “Infidel” was originally intended to open on 9/11. The xenophobia is masked by a thrilling rescue film that portrays Cavaziel as a true believer who isn’t a super-hero and is very lucky to have such an enterprising, well-connected wife.

Nowrasteh is the child of Iranian immigrants who was born in Boulder, Colorado and attended school in Wisconsin, transferring to the University of Southern California to study film. With a cast of 17 and 38 total people, including an outstanding turn by Hal Ozson, portraying Ramzi, Cavaziel’s British interrogator, Nowrasteh has pulled off an entertaining and well-paced film that didn’t make me want to rise to my feet and yell at the woman across the aisle from me, who was applauding after “Obama’s America,” another D’Souza-produced film that was a shameless attack on President Barack Obama. (There have been other D’Souza projects that have been just as one-sided and inflammatory, but Nowrasteh, while certainly critical of the Iranian prison and court system in this one, keeps the focus on the recue attempts, which is good.

Nowrasteh has made one previous film with Cavaziel and, since he is paired with Conservative icon Dinesh D’Souza, seems to have managed to be criticized by liberals and conservatives alike. When Nowrasteh made “The Day Reagan Was Shot”, which starred Richard Dreyfuss as Alexander Haig, liberals criticized him for it and Nowrasteh responded by saying: “’The Day Reagan Was Shot’ provides the first-ever dramatization of a constitutional crisis and government cover-up (both amply supported by facts) and the threat they pose to a nation when a president becomes incapacitated.  This is important and relevant and raises issues that should be discussed openly.”

Nowrasteh was attacked by Liberals for an alleged “conservative bias” in his controversial ABC docudrama The Path to 9/11, which he wrote and co-produced. Nowrasteh describes himself as more libertarian than conservative or liberal.

Nowrasteh’s film “The Stoning of Soraya M.” (2009) was condemned and banned by the Iranian government but thousands of copies were bootlegged into the country and it became an underground hit in Iran, forcing the government to put a temporary moratorium on stoning as a punishment, most notably in the Sakineh Ashtiani case. On this morning’s Fahreed Zakaria program (9/27) the Iranian Ambassador to the U.N. was asked about the recent execution by hanging of  27-year-old Navid Afkari, 27, who was sentenced to death over the murder of a security guard during a wave of anti-government protests in 2018. Afkari said he had been tortured into making a confession.

MUSIC

The music by Natalie Holt is very good. Likewise, the cinematography by Joel Ransom was top-notch.

CAVEAT

It is important to watch this film—produced on a modest budget—and remember that it is hammering home points-of-view that are straight out of the Conservative playbook. Rescuers in the film turn out to be Hezbolleh (where women have a more equal status) but xenophobia reigns in this one.

All that being said, that doesn’t keep the escape portions of the film from being exciting and well-done, nor the acting from transcending the ordinary.

 

  • Production: A Cloudburst Entertainment release, presented in association with D’Souza Media, of a New Path Pictures production. Producer: Cyrus Nowrasteh. Executive producers: Dinesh D’Souza, Debbie D’Souza. Co-producer: Aaron Brubaker.
  • Crew: Director, writer: Cyrus Nowrasteh. Camera: Joel Ransom. Editor: Paul Seydor. Music: Natalie Holt.
  • With: Jim Caviezel, Claudia Karvan, Hal Ozsan, Stelio Savante, Isaelle Adriani, Bijan Daneshmand, Terence Maynard, Aly Kassem.
  • Music By: Natalie Holt

 

Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” Hits Theaters

Director Christopher Nolan started tinkering around with the concept of time many years ago on a much smaller budget with 2000’s “Memento.” I liked it so much that, on a visit to the Twin Cities, I took a girlfriend and her husband to see it, my second time. It was unique, original, interesting, exciting and it didn’t run 150 minutes. It was even nominated for Best Original Screenplay at that year’s Oscars.

We’ve now been treated to “Memento’s” successors from Christopher Nolan: “Insomnia (2002); “The Dark Knight Trilogy” (2005-2012); “The Prestige” (2006); “Inception” (2010 (8 Oscar nods); “Interstellar” (2014); and Dunkirk (2017) (nominated for Best Picture and Best Director). No less an authority than Martin Scorsese said, “Christopher Nolan creates beautifully made films on a big scale.”

Nowhere is that scale more evident than in “Tenet,” which was budgeted at $205 million. It filmed in Estonia, Italy, the UK, Denmark, India, Norway, and cities such as Kiev, Mumbai, Washington, London, and Oslo.

The battle action scenes recall “Dunkirk.” The espionage plot summons memories of “Inception.” A whole lot of people talking through masks echoes “Bane” in The Dark Knight Rises.” (We learn that the reason so many people are wearing masks is that, if you go back through time, you have to take your own air and try not to come into contact with your former self.)

Oddly enough, I actually wrote an entire novel for Lachesis Press (Nova Scotia) where the hero travels back through time (“Out of Time”). The original plot premise was not mine, but a collaborator’s, who then disappeared, writing only one page of the entire two hundred and fifty and giving a whole new meaning to the term “collaboration.”

Time travel as a theme presented many unique difficulties (which I was on my own to figure out). Considering that I dropped out of Physics in high school after Day One, imagine how thrilled I was to read about wormholes and other arcane concepts. Even though I was a fan of television’s “Fringe” when it was on the air, love the works of Philip K. Dick, and have watched numerous films where characters travel through time (“Time After Time,” “Déjà Vu,” “Looper,” “Somewhere in Time,” “12 Monkeys,” et. al.). I remember asking that very question of my instructor in a screenwriting class dedicated to turning my novel into a film script.

“Can a person from the future confront himself in the past?” I asked.

My professor said, “Nobody has ever traveled through time, so do whatever you want.”

Wise words.

My hero (Dante) did confront and speak to himself in the past, and I will reveal one tiny spoiler by telling you that John David Washington confronts himself in a fight scene, because I know that revelation will not ruin the scene for you.

Playing around with time is not a new concept for Nolan.  “Memento,” his break-through film, did just that. However, it was far easier to understand what was going on in “Memento” than it is in “Tenet.”

My notes include this phrase: “Color me confused.”

One critic, in a waggish moment, commented on John David Washington’s facial hair by saying that it probably grew there while he was waiting for Nolan to explain the plot to him. The script line I wrote down indicated that the plot has to do with trying to prevent WW III by using a type of inverse radiation manufactured by fusion. (If that confuses you, join the club.) Another film critic, Mark Keronode, said of Nolan that he is “living proof that you don’t have to appeal to the lowest common denominator to be profitable.”

This, as it turns out, is predictive, as the film has already managed to eke out two and one-half million more dollars than it cost. But it is not the entertaining, original film that garnered Best Original Screenplay Oscar nominations for Nolan. World-wide, the film has made back its considerable investment. It had the potential to be a studio-bankrupting movie like “Heaven’s Gate,” but it is garnering appreciation for the scope of the project, at least, and is currently about breaking even, with a worldwide take of $207,500,000.

I’m not going to explain the opening scene, set in the Kiev Opera House, because to do so would be a spoiler, but suffice it to say that it sets up the first of many magnificent settings. I kept thinking of the tour of locations used in “Game of Thrones.” I wish there was such a tour of the various sets used in “Tenet.”

Others have said the non-stop action, coupled with the gobbledy-gook explanation(s), reminded them of a James Bond movie. To them, I say, “Fair enough.”  But with Bond you often got memorable musical themes like “Goldfinger’ or “Live and Let Die.” Here we are saddled with a pounding often-overly-loud and not-very-melodic score by Ludwig Goransson. [The composer’s name says it all.]

The cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema is gorgeous and the film does confirm that, as “Variety” said, Nolan is “the premier big-canvas storyteller of his generation.” “Tenet” also confirms Michael Mann’s verdict on Nolan as “a complete auteur” but the overly complicated explanations just bore the bejesus out of the audience.

So, everything is going backwards in this film. We’re going to learn about the Grandfather Paradox (don’t ask) and reversing time and hear lines of dialogue like, “Each generation looks after its own survival,” and “You have a future in the past.” There will be discussions about the meaning that will rival the interpretations of the meaning(s) of the ending of “12 Monkeys” (1995), a Bruce Willis time travel opus.

John David Washington is dubbed “the protagonist” in this one. He gets no actual character name. This bit was just used in another Bruce Willis film (“Hard Kill”) where my podcast guest of last week, Sergio Rizzuto (aka, the bad guy) was simply referred to as “the Pardoner,” but at least in that film the explanation involved ripping off The Canterbury Tales. Here, it is just the way it is, without any explanation.

John David Washington (son of Denzel; star of “BlackKlansman”) partners with  Robert Pattinson (“Twilight”) as Neal, his partner, in this one. The female co-star is a blonde 6’ 2” actress named Elisabeth Debicki. Since Washington only stands 5’ 9” and the female lead is three inches taller and wears three inch heels most of the time, she appears freakishly tall in many scenes. I have a theory that she was cast in the part because she was one of the few actresses tall enough to be able to extend her leg from the back seat of a car and unlock the door lock with her toes without moving from the back seat. This could be wrong, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Debicki’s character “Kat” is married to international arms dealer and all-around bad guy Richard Branagh as Andrei Sator. She tries to kill him twice. As they say, no love lost here.  Kat loathes her abusive husband, but they have a son (Max) and she is being blackmailed into staying with Andrei via threats that she will lose her son if she doesn’t do exactly what he says. On a very basic level, “Tenet” is about the extremes of absolute power.

Debicki displays very little warmth in the exchanges with her small son, and his part is so small that he doesn’t even rate a line. There is also no chemistry or love story between the Amazonian Kat and Washington, so the obligatory “I must go back through time to rescue Kat” struck me as a not-very-convincing old trope. For that matter, so was the “small weapon that can inexplicably end the world somehow” a concept used before.

I had just reviewed a Bruce Willis shot-in-Cincinnati movie (“Hard Kill”) in which there is a mysterious weapon that could end the world as we know it; the weapon was about the size of a pack of cigarettes. I complained then that how it worked was never clear and commented on its size. This film features another small weapon and the need to gather all the digits of an algorithm to activate whatever it does, which is never quite clear, although it is explained to us over and over and over.

“Tenet” spends roughly two hours of its 150-minute run time explaining what is happening, why it is happening, and what might happen next.

So much for “Show, don’t tell.”

Despite those lengthy explanations, the movie is still incredibly difficult to follow. Scene after scene of Washington, Pattinson, Branagh, and Debicki trying to convey the plot becomes exhausting.

It’s “Tenet’s” biggest failing and, while its cinematography, sets, most of its actig and its non-stop action are impressive (especially the highway chase scenes that run backwards), it comes off as an overlong exhausting effort.

Jonathan Baker, Director, to Guest on Sept. 3rd on Weekly Wilson Podcast

         Milos Forman, Director

Thursday night’s Weekly Wilson podcast (7 to 8 p.m. on the Bold Brave Media Global Network) will feature aspiring director Jonathan Baker, whose film “Inconceivable,” featuring Nicolas Cage, Gina Gershon and Faye Dunaway, was released by Lionsgate and was the director’s first feature length film.

Jonathan had director Neal Thibedeau follow him as he contacted a variety of famous directors around and asked them to share their experiences shooting their very first film(s). Among those featured prominently in the documentary entitled “Becoming Iconic” are Taylor Hackford (“Ray,” “An Officer and a Gentleman,” “The Idolmaker”), John Badham (“Saturday Night Fever”), Adrian Lyne (“Fatal Attraction,” “Jacob’s Ladder”), Jodie Foster (“Little Man Tate”) and comments attributed to Warren Beatty, Ridley Scott and others. (See William Friedkin of “The Exorcist” pictured, below).

I had the pleasure of speaking at some length with Taylor Hackford the year that the Chicago International Film Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary. It was supposed to be a “group interview” with a number of film students from Columbia College in Chicago present, but I got the call to come and participate and it seemed, to me, that it was a good thing that there was at least one adult in the room who had been following Taylor Hackford’s career all the way back to “The Idolmaker” with Ray Sharkey breaking out in the role (a very young Peter Gallagher played the idol), because the twenty-something students only asked Hackford about “Ray.” They asked him about “Ray” with Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles over and over and over, but his career is about

so much more than just that film. However, I seriously doubt if the rest of those present had seen all of The Big Ones, as I had. Hackford, who, in real life, is married to consummate actress Helen Mirren, was a a very articulate and willing participant in the “group interview” and, at its conclusion, I felt that it had almost been one-on-one, since I was the only one who followed up with questions about the relationship between Richard Gere and his leading lady in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” for example.

Director Richard Linklater (“Dazed & Confused,” “Boyhood”) at the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards on March 7, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

I saw the same friendly, gracious individual onscreen as I had met during that group interview, and, as a long-time movie buff, I liked the documentary “Becoming Iconic” very much.

It reminded me of another I attended at the Music Box in Chicago which was a full-length film focused on Brian DePalma’s movies.

Tune in on Thursday, September 3rd to hear Jonathan Baker and I talk about his career and don’t forget that this is a “live” show and you can call in at 866-451-1451.

Russell Crowe is “Unhinged” in the Film of the Same Name

About 62 percent of U.S. locations were open this weekend, with an estimated total gross of around $15 million to $16 million. If all theaters were open, $25 million or above would have been the total. That same weekend last year (which included the three days before Labor Day) totaled $92 million. Conclusion:  movie theaters are struggling to rise from the grave.

The lack of ongoing films is a key factor. In 2019 there were no new films that weekend. Aided by more theaters being open and a handful of new releases, this weekend’s numbers are nearly double last weekend’s grosses. However, these numbers suggest that a substantial part of the moviegoing public is, so far, not going back to the movies.

My last pre-pandemic movie was “The Way Back” (Ben Affleck) on Friday the 13th of March.

I returned to a regular sit-down inside theater to view Russell Crowe’s new movie, “Unhinged” when it opened on August 21st, which also happened to be the day the Regal Cinema opened. Since March 13th, I’ve seen plenty of movies, but all have been viewed in my living room or, once, at the drive-in theater. This film, directed by Derrick Borte, was a welcome return on many levels. It’s a great film for my “welcome back” movie, even if the theater staff were less-than-welcoming.

We selected an early time of day for this Friday showing, going to our local cinema at 4:30 p.m.  I was dressed like a beekeeper, with my face-mask. I had rubber gloves (in my purse), if the situation warranted.

When the masked attendants told us that this was, quite literally, the first time they had been open in 5 full months and we were their first audience, the fear of virus transmission faded. It dissipated even further when it turned out that there were only 4 people in the entire theater—two of us in the front row of the balcony and two more patrons in the highest row of the theater.

I honestly did not see the other couple at least fifty feet behind us. I pulled out my small pin-light flashlight (part of a pen) to glance briefly at my notes. A masked attendant immediately swooped down to tell me this was verboten. My response, “We are literally the only people here. Who am I bothering?” She pointed out the second couple in the back. They were so far back that it would have been quite the achievement to even notice my small light, (on for roughly five seconds). An attendant with not enough to do, methinks. Makes you wonder when you’ve, no doubt, sat through films where someone in your row has their phone out for the entire 90 minutes. (Not the case here).

We didn’t expect much, but we were pleasantly surprised. Russell Crowe’s new film is a heart-pounding thriller, with great stunts involving a variety of vehicles and good acting. The film reminded me of Steven Spielberg’s long-ago film “Duel,” a 1971 movie for TV that featured Dennis Weaver (Chester on “Gunsmoke“) as the driver of a large truck. That log-line: “A business commuter is pursued and terrorized by the malevolent driver of a massive tractor-trailer.”

In “Unhinged,” the log-line is this: “After a confrontation with an unstable man at an intersection, a woman becomes the target of his rage.” Russell Crowe’s character is  “The Man.” You come away with the moral lesson that it would have been a lot better if the woman mentioned, Caren Pistorius portraying Rachel, had simply tried to remain calm and polite. Instead, she went off into rude territory when Russell Crowe’s character sits overlong at a green light in his large truck.

True, Rachel’s offense was pretty minor, but one never knows what the person in the other vehicle has been through or what their mindset is. In this case, The Man has just murdered several people, set off by a bad divorce. He just doesn’t give a damn any more.

Rachel does give a damn, but she has  crossed paths with a character who is the equivalent of human TNT. It isn’t a matter of “if” The Man will blow up. He has already blown up. Now, it’s just a matter of when he will explode again and who it will be directed against next.

Instead of counting to ten and putting up with the slight delay, the hassled mother of a young son, Kyle (played by Gabriel Bateman), is snippy to the large man sitting behind the wheel of the big pick-up truck. She honks her horn when the light turns green, but he does not move. It doesn’t seem like much, but it isn’t going to take much to set off that keg of human dynamite.

One feels, as the movie progresses, that Rachel will regret that temporary rude behavior for the rest of her life—a life that might not last that long. Like The Terminator, The Man takes a licking, but just keeps ticking along on his vengeance-fueled mission.

Like the lead character Michael Douglas portrayed in “Falling Down” in that 1993 Joel Schumacher film, we could say that this is the story of “an ordinary man frustrated with the various flaws he sees in society, who begins to psychotically and violently lash out against them.”

In this film, The Man’s biggest beef is that “There is a fundamental inability to apologize to anyone for anything.” (Donald J. Trump: take note.) When Rachel is given the opportunity to apologize to The Man in a more sincere and genuine manner, Crowe tells her that sincerity is lacking. After that, it’s all crushed cars and psychotic collisions, with good acting, fine David Buckley music and great Brendan Galvin cinematography.

At the very beginning of the film, we see Crowe—who appears to weigh well over 300 pounds—breaking into a house presumably occupied by his ex-wife, killing the occupants, and setting fire to the house. That done, he tosses his wedding ring into the back seat of his vehicle. The scene is set for Crowe’s all-consuming rage to fester and spread.

It is just Rachel’s luck that she is having a bad day, herself, including running late and getting fired. After seeing this film, you might think twice about laying on the horn when the car ahead of you irritates you. There is a lack of civility abroad in the land and it is nowhere more evident than in traffic altercations. It even has a name: road rage. It has crept into politics and I, for one, hope that the message of behaving in a civil, polite manner rubs off on that—and all other—arenas.

Add the bad day each character is having together and you have the makings of a show-down between The Man, who seems to have been “born angry” and Rachel, who will do anything to protect her son and her brother.

Jimmi Simpson plays Andy, Rachel’s good friend and attorney in her contentious divorce. Viewers will recognize Jimmi as the actor who played young William in “West World” (old William is Ed Harris) for 12 episodes beginning in 2016. Simpson also has appeared in “Date Night.”

I left the theater on Friday the 13th with a good movie and returned to “Unhinged,” 5 months later, with another good movie. Try it; you’ll like it.

 

Chadwick Boseman of “Black Panther” Dead at 43

Chadwick Boseman at the premiere of “Marshall” in October, 2017. (Photo by Connie Wilson)

The news that Chadwick Boseman was dead at 43, which came to us on Friday, August 28th, was very sad news, indeed. Boseman had been battling colon cancer for 4 years. He was married to Taylor Simone Ledward.

This young actor from Anderson, South Carolina, was a great one.  He was the son of Carolyn and LeRoy Boseman, African American immigrants from Sierra Leone and Nigeria. His portrayal of Jackie Robinson in the film “42” with Harrison Ford cemented him as a leading man in 2013, but Chadwick had been acting as far back as 2003, when he portrayed a character named Reggie Montgomery on “All My Children.”

Ironically, when he expressed reservations about the racial stereotypes inherent in the Reggie Montgomery character, he was replaced by his co-star in “Black Panther,” Michael B. Jordan.

All the way back to his high school days, Chadwick had been interested in directing and only began acting so he could learn how to interact with his cast. In his junior year of high school, in fact, he wrote a play entitled “Crossroads” following the death of a classmate.

After graduating from T.L. Hanna High School in 1995, Chadwick went on to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., where one of his instructors was Phylicia Rashad. Chadwick and some fellow students had been accepted to attend the Oxford Mid-Summer Program at the British Drama Academy in London. Rashad approached Denzel Washington to help fund the students’ trip there.

Boseman also attended the New York City Digital Film Directing Academy in New York City and did some teaching in the city while living in Brooklyn, but eventually moved to Los Angeles in 2008.

By 2013, he was acting in the movies that he would define with his talent, as with his portrayal of King T’Challa in “Black Panther.”

Sterling K. Brown (October, 2017, Chicago International Film Festival.) [Photo by Connie Wilson]

I met Chadwick Boseman in Chicago in 2017 when he and other actors, such as Sterling K. Brown, appeared in support of “Marshall,” a film in which Boseman played the title role. He was kind and articulate in answering our questions and the cast was like a “Who’s Who” of current Black stars. He was luminous and had a real presence.

Boseman was a gracious and cordial “movie star,” as were the others present in October, 2017 at the Chicago International Film Festival that year. His very presence was impressive, especially since we now know that all the while he was making films like “Marshall,” the “Avengers” series, and “Black Panther” he was fighting this disease. Privately, Boseman was already battling the colon cancer that would ultimately take his life. He had been diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer, which increased to Stage IV cancer. He had surgeries and had endured radiation and surgeries all during the years when he was portraying characters like the King of Wakanda, T’Challa, in “Black Panther,” the “Avengers” series of movies, Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall” and a character in “Da 5 Bloods,” the 2020 Spike Lee film.

This disease claimed my own father many years ago, metastasizing from the colon to his liver and other organs, eventually even invading his brain. It is my fervent hope that this tragic loss will cause others to have frequent colonoscopies to find and cure the colon cancer that, if caught in time, is survivable.

If not caught in time, it can claim the life of even such a specimen as Chadwick Boseman. General recommendations are to have such tests beginning at age 50, but obviously that is not always soon enough if there is a family history.

Once that family history exists, the general recommendation is to have colonscopies every three years, rather than the normal every five years. Katie Couric’s husband died young from colon cancer, and she would echo my hope that this unnecessary death of such a talented young man might spur all of us to be vigilant.

Chadwick Boseman (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Chadwick Boseman’s words to a graduating class: “Purpose is why you are here on the planet at this particular time in history. The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.”

Films from Wikipedia.org:

2008The Express: The Ernie Davis StoryFloyd LittleGary Fleder[64]
2012The Kill HoleLt. Samuel DrakeMischa Webley[65]
201342Jackie RobinsonBrian Helgeland[64]
2014Draft DayVontae MackIvan Reitman[66]
2014Get on UpJames BrownTate Taylor[64]
2016Gods of EgyptThothAlex Proyas[67]
2016Captain America: Civil WarT’Challa / Black PantherAnthony & Joe Russo[68]
2016Message from the KingJacob KingFabrice Du WelzAlso executive producer[69]
2017MarshallThurgood MarshallReginald HudlinAlso co-producer[70]
2018Black PantherT’Challa / Black PantherRyan Coogler[71]
2018Avengers: Infinity WarAnthony & Joe Russo[72]
2019Avengers: Endgame[73]
201921 BridgesAndre DavisBrian KirkAlso producer[74]
2020Da 5 BloodsNorman Earl “Stormin’ Norm” HollowaySpike Lee[75]
TBAMa Rainey’s Black BottomLeveeGeorge C. WolfePost-production; posthumous release[76]

 

Television
YearTitleRoleNotesRef.
2003All My ChildrenReggie PorterRecurring role[24]
2003Third WatchDavid WaferEpisode: “In Lieu of Johnson”[77]
2004Law & OrderFoster KeyesEpisode: “Can I Get a Witness?”[77]
2006CSI: NYRondoEpisode: “Heroes”[78]
2008ERDerek TaylorEpisode: “Oh, Brother”[77]
2008Cold CaseDexter CollinsEpisode: “Street Money”[77]
2008–2009Lincoln HeightsNathaniel “Nate” Ray9 episodes[79]
2009Lie to MeCabe McNeilEpisode: “Truth or Consequences”[80]
2010Persons UnknownSergeant McNair13 episodes[78]
2010The GladesMichael RichmondEpisode: “Honey”[81][82]
2011CastleChuck RussellEpisode: “Poof, You’re Dead”[78]
2011FringeMark Little / Cameron JamesEpisode: “Subject 9[83]
2011Detroit 1-8-7Tommy WestinEpisode: “Beaten/Cover Letter”[84]
2011JustifiedRalph BeemanEpisode: “For Blood or Money”[78]
2018Saturday Night LiveHimselfEpisode: “Chadwick Boseman/Cardi B[85]
2021What If…?T’Challa / Black Panther / Star-LordFinal role
Guest voice role; posthumous release
[86]

Awards and nominations

YearAwardCategoryNominated workResultRef.
2017Saturn AwardsBest Supporting ActorCaptain America: Civil WarNominated[87]
2018MTV Movie & TV AwardsBest Performance in a MovieBlack PantherWon[88]
Best HeroWon
Best Fight (Black Panther vs M’Baku)Nominated
Best On-Screen Team (with Lupita Nyong’oLetitia Wright and Danai Gurira)Nominated
2018Saturn AwardsBest ActorNominated[89]
2019Screen Actors Guild AwardsOutstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion PictureWon[90]
2019NAACP Image AwardsOutstanding Actor in a Motion PictureWon[91]
Entertainer of the YearNominated
2020Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture21 BridgesNominated[92]

“Hard Kill” Lead Sergio Rizzuto on September 10th Podcast

Bruce Willis in “Hard Kill,” 4th film he has shot in Cincinnati in the last 4 and 1/2 years.

“Hard Kill” is a typical Bruce Willis action movie that features lots of shooting and numerous fights. It stars Bruce Willis, although the heavy water is lifted by Good Guy Jesse Metcalfe as Derek Miller, the leader of a brave band of former Special Forces types who are hired to protect Willis and help him get his daughter, Eva (Lala Kent), back from a militaristic terrorist group led by a bad guy  referred to as The Pardoner.

Why is Sergio Rizzuto, who plays The Pardoner, only known by this name throughout?

The answer seems to be to throw a layer of literary gloss over this rough-and-tumble shoot ‘em up, in the hope that it will give gravitas to the message that “Money (greed) is the root of all evil.” That was the Pardoner’s message in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

What are the odds that your reviewer would have been forced to memorize the Prologue to “Canterbury Tales” and RECITE it, complete with Olde English pronunciations yet, when in high school? I’d say the odds were about 5 million to one. But YOU are in luck, because that is exactly what happened to me. So, I am familiar with “Canterbury Tales.” As such, I can tell you that calling Sergio The Pardoner for the entire movie didn’t really add to the movie.

It would have been better had writers Nikolai From and Clayton Haugen focused on the script.

Perhaps the writers should have focused more on the holes in the plot. The worst lapse in critical judgment was having the 5 good guys enter an abandoned warehouse (located in Cincinnati) with very few weapons. Who does that? By way of explanation, the script says: “Posing as civilians is the only way we could get in range.” The script adds: “We’re outmanned. Outgunned. But the fight is still coming whether we like it or not.” (Right. Whatever. “High Noon” this is not).

Jesse Metcalfe in “Hard Kill.”

This poor fore-thought and lack of pre-planning means that the quintet has very few weapons and is going up against black-clad heavily-armed troops that look like special forces. There are only so many times you can grab one of the opposition soldiers from behind and twist his neck until it snaps. Here’s another thought: how is the black guy (Nicholas Fox) okay by the end of the film, when he is shot multiple times early on? (Readers want to know.)

One of the hired Willis fighters is purple-haired former professional wrestler Natalie Eva Marie as Sasha. She is a crack shot; her brother is also part of the group. Sasha doesn’t look substantial enough to do multiple neck-twistings of heavily-armed men. [I predict back problems in her future!]

My favorite of the defenders was Swen Temmel, who played Dash Hawkins. Jesse Metcalfe, the hero who does most of the fighting with The Pardoner (Sergio Rizzuto) is probably the best-known of the cast, aside from Willis. Metcalfe played the part of the lawn care professional on “Desperate Housewives” who bedded housewife Eva Longoria. Metcalfe is also in “Chesapeake Shores” on TV, currently, and was in “John Tucker Must Die” (2006).

This is what passes for the plot: Eva is a scientist who has created a weapon roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes in partnership with her father, Bruce Willis. [ Throughout the film, Willis’s character, who mainly sits around, is called Dayton (or perhaps Peyton?) Chalmers, although the IMDB listing says his name is Donovan Chalmers.] The failure to be consistent on a first name for Bruce Willis was the least of the plot problems. The goal of the small band of under-armed heroes is to protect Bruce Willis, get his daughter back, and keep “the code” for triggering the weapon out of the hands of terrorists, lest the world implode or explode or somehow, in some other vague way, be harmed.

Jesse Metcalf in “Hard Kill.”

Bruce’s daughter—Eva—takes their invYention and gives it to terrorists because, she says, “I just wanted to test it in the field.” This misstep by Eva leads to the hiring of the A Team of mercenaries, who find themselves racing the clock to stop a world-changing computer program from being triggered.

Welllll. That makes perfectly good sense—-[not.]

Of course you’d steal the infamous device you had worked on for years from your wealthy father and stab him in the back by giving it to terrorists. And now you are being held captive in an abandoned warehouse in Cincinnati, so think twice about doing that in the future! (Also, think twice about your wardrobe for traipsing around this old, abandoned, very dirty-looking multi-level warehouse.) 

The device is referred to as Project 725 (“So small. So powerful.  This is how we change the world.”) Most of the dialogue goes like that; it could use some rethinking, too.  And some of us would like to know exactly how this gizmo works. That plot point is left very, very vague. However, let’s give praise to Rhyan D’Errico and Mike Burns, who wrangled the music for the film.

Sergio Rizzuto as The Pardoner in “Hard Kill,” opening 8/25. Tune in to my podcast Weekly Wilson on September 13th (7 p.m. CDT) when we talk with Sergio (relative of Phil) about shooting the movie in Cincinnati.

A side note: some of the Pardoner’s ideas echo those of former GOP strategist Steve Bannon. The recently-arrested-for-fraud Bannon outlined his belief in The Fourth Turning, which means tearing everything down and starting over, in the Errol Morris documentary “American Dharma.”  He and the Pardoner might become best friends, possibly while behind bars?

Since the director of this film is Matt Eskandari perhaps there is a force behind this film that actually wants to make a real statement about stopping terrorists who are undeniably threatening the status quo of world order, via the use of the Willis device in “Hard Kill.

Eskandari immigrated to the United States as a child with his family, following the Iranian revolution. He is an alumnus of the University of Southern California. He has directed several award-winning shorts; including “The Taking” (Screamfest Award for Best Student Short). That film propelled him to nationwide exposure when he was chosen by Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett from a pool of 12,000 candidates, to participate in the Fox filmmaker competition ‘On the Lot.’

So let’s not blame Director Eskandari when the problem seems to lie more specifically with logic, poor dialogue, and acting by some that is often as clunky as the script. The music by Rhyan D’Errico and music supervisor Mike Burns is a bright spot. The film began shooting in Cincinnati on January 20th, the 4th movie that Willis has shot in Cincinnati in four and one-half years.

Logically, if you are charged with guarding Bruce Willis and helping him get his daughter back, it is probably not a good idea to become pinned down in an old abandoned warehouse, with only 5 nearly unarmed defenders. This hardy group is going to have to fight off teams of heavily-armed terrorists clad in black who resemble the troops that Trump has unleashed in a variety of cities.  There are at least 30 of them, and they have more automatic weapons than the Taliban.

It’s just a bridge too far for me to buy into the logic of this film’s premise.

That is why, for me,  “Hard Kill” is a hard fail.

HARD KILL will be available On Demand and Digital on August 25th.

[*Sergio Rizzuto (The Pardoner) will be with me on my Weekly Wilson podcast “live” on September 13th at 7 p.m. (CDT) on the Bold Brave Media Global Network to talk about filming in Cincinnati. You can call in with your questions at 866-451-1451 from 7 to 8 p.m.]

Jon Land, Author, to Guest on Weekly Wilson Podcast on August 20th (7 p.m., CDT)

“Strong from the Heart” by Jon Land.

New York Times Best-selling author Jon Land will be my guest on Weekly Wilson podcast this coming Thursday, Aug. 20th, at 7 p.m.CDT on the Bold Brave Media Global Network and Tune-In Radio.

New York Times Best-selling author Jon Land has a new offering in his Caitlin Strong series. The new book, eleventh in the series involving a courageous female Texas Ranger, is entitled “Strong from the Heart.”

Here is what Amazon says about the book, available as an e-book for $14.99 and as a hardcover for $21.80:

Caitlin Strong wages her own personal war on drugs against the true power behind the illicit opioid trade in Strong from the Heart, the blistering and relentless 11th installment in Jon Land’s award-winning series.

The drug crisis hits home for fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong when the son of her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters nearly dies from an opioid overdose.

On top of that, she’s dealing with the inexplicable tragedy of a small Texas town where all the residents died in a single night.

When Caitlin realizes that these two pursuits are intrinsically connected, she finds herself following a trail that will take her to the truth behind the crisis that claimed 75,000 lives last year. Just in time, since the same force that has taken over the opiate trade has even more deadly intentions in mind, specifically the murder of tens of millions in pursuit of their even more nefarious goals.

The power base she’s up against—comprised of politicians and Big Pharma, along with corrupt doctors and drug distributors—has successfully beaten back all threats in the past. But they’ve never had to deal with the likes of Caitlin Strong before and have no idea what’s in store when the guns of Texas come calling.

At the root of the conspiracy lies a cabal nestled within the highest corridors of power that’s determined to destroy all threats posed. Caitlin and Cort Wesley may have finally met their match, finding themselves isolated and ostracized with nowhere to turn, even as they strive to remain strong from the heart.

I’ve read and reviewed two previous Caitlin Strong books: “Strong Vengeance” and “Strong to the Bone.” This is the best of the lot.

His books include the Caitlin Strong novels about a fifth-generation Texas ranger,[1] and the Ben Kamal and Danielle Barnea books, about a Palestinian detective and chief inspector of the Israeli police.[2]

He is an emeritus board member and currently sits on the marketing committee for the International Thriller Writers.[3]  Jon was also the screenwriter for 2005’s “Dirty Deeds” film, which starred Milo Ventimiglio, with Zoe Saldana and Charles Durning in the cast.

Drive-In Movies: Are They Back?

Blue Grass (IA) Drive-In

Drive-in theaters will definitely make a “comeback,” if you want to call it a comeback when there were always a few that were still operating.

My birthday was Thursday and, in an attempt to go to a movie somewhere other than my living room, I searched for any operating theaters in a two-state area near me (IA/IL). None of the indoor theaters were operating, but there were a few drive-ins open and operating. One was in Delmar, Iowa. One was in Maquoketa, Iowa, and one was in Blue Grass, Iowa.

Since Blue Grass was the closest to us, we went to it on Friday night. I spoke with the Manager, who said it has been in operation since 2014. It is a 10-acre plot in a field near the small town of Blue Grass, Iowa, and the screen is a ‘cube.’ allowing them to show 3 different sets of double features.(They haven’t gotten the fourth side operational yet). We selected “The Rental” with “The Big Ugly,” which was premiering that night at the drive-in. I think “The Rental,” directed by Dave Franco, is also streaming on Hulu and it featured Allison Brie and 3 other young actors who had rented a lovely remote vacation spot that was, apparently, owned by a homicidal psychopath.

Who was in these movies? Well, “The Big Ugly” was a chance for Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”) to square off opposite Ron Perlman (“Sons of Anarchy”). There were also quite a few “old reliable” character actors rounding out the cast, including Bruce McGill, who was D-Day in “Animal House” and has appeared in any number of films since then, and Nicholas Braun (“Succession”) as Will, plus a promising new-comer, Brandon Sklemar, who played Perlman’s no-good son, Junior.

I took the opportunity to speak with the manager of the complex, which makes most of its money on the popcorn and pizza and other edibles they sell and requests that you not bring your own food. (Plus, no alcohol). The tickets were $10. The large pizza, 2 large (refillable) diet cokes, and a large popcorn were about $36. All together, the cost of the evening was about $50. We took lawn chairs and watched Movie Number One sitting outside and watched Movie Number Two inside the car. The film began at about 9 p.m. and the whole evening took until about 1 a.m.

The manager told us that the owner, when he retired in a few months, wanted to make the fourth side of the cube in the middle of the 10 acres into a fourth functioning screen. Right now, they show 3 different double features. (“Grease” and “Footloose” were on one and “Iron Man” and some children’s film was on a third.) The owner has a perhaps pie-in-the-sky dream of building suites (on stilts) and running year-round, which sounds “iffy” in the midst of an Iowa winter, but this night the weather was perfect, with a slight breeze, extremely friendly employees (all masked), and radios that one could rent for $5 if you didn’t want to tune your car radio into a pre-set number and run your car all night. The only drawback was hearing the soundtrack from nearby screens while watching our film(s).

Tribeca, the film powerhouse, has recently made plans to open 160 new drive-ins around the country. The “big new” thing for touring musicians is having their filmed performance showing on a drive-in screen. One that is coming up in the future is Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, Garth Brooks, and Keith Urban have all used the drive-in system, instead of the normal in-person concerts during the pandemic. At the Blue Grass Drive-in, they have no say over the ticket prices of such shows and the manager wondered, openly, why the cost for Garth Brooks was $100 per carload, versus $115 for Blake Shelton. [He felt it would be better to have a standard price for these “concerts,” but he doesn’t make the rules.]

So, the drive-in is back. I hadn’t been to a drive-in in 40 years, but I’m sure I’ll go again if all the theaters remain closed.

 

Suzi Quatro: “If You Can’t Give Me Love”

Details for Watching the Suzi Quatro Documentary

Some of you who hear the Suzi Quatro interview on Thursday, June 25th at 7 p.m. on the Bold Brave Media Global Network (or Tune-In Radio) may be wondering how you can find the documentary on her life and her music.

With theaters closed, Utopia Distribution will host a “SUZI Q” virtual event on July 1st featuring the film and an exclusive Q&A featuring Suzi Quatro and Special Guests TBA (available for 24 hours only) in advance of the film’s traditional release on VOD and DVD on July 3rd. To buy your ticket for the July 1st event powered by Altavod, visit:

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