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: Pop Culture Page 1 of 47

Any trends or popular fads may be described, whether it would be something like the hula hoop or the pet rock or simply new slang.

“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

 

FREE Book Give-away Details & October “Weekly Wilson” Programs

The Weekly Wilson program of 9/24 was a pot-pourri of my favorite topics: politics, movies, books and random facts.

I did announce the FREE give-away that will coincide with the debate dates. Consider it your reward for being a good citizen and sitting through the 4 debate nights: 9/29; 10/7; 10/15; 10/22 and 10/23.

What is being given away?

The book BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE, via Amazon, will be totally FREE as an e-book on the debate nights, but only on those 5 days.

 

We are allowed 5 more “free” nights with BEE GONE in e-book format, so we added one additional free night following the final debate. That will be October 23rd, in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

So, the debate nights, again are: September 29, Tuesday (FREE E-BOOK NIGHTS)

October 7, Wednesday (VP debate)

                                                             October 15, Thursday

                                                             October 22, Thursday

                                                             October 23, Friday (RBG Night)

If you have interest in owning a comic-book like award-winning e-book that is a stroll down memory lane regarding the events of 2016, you can order BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE free of charge on those nights. We also put the paperback price down 50% and have reduced the e-book price during this run-up to the election.

UNFIT” DIRECTOR on OCTOBER 15th

On October 15th, I will speak with Dan Partland, director of the Netflix documentary “Unfit” as my guest on Weekly Wilson, the podcast (Thursdays at 7 p.m.).  This was the #1 rental on Netflix this month and I highly recommend it.

DISCUSSIONS WITH MICHAEL SERRAPICA on Weekly Wilson Podcast

Those of you who have listened in to discussions with Michael Serrapica, author of “Conned Conservatives and Led-On Liberals” will be happy to learn that he is probably going to be discussing each of the debates with me, as they occur.

The discussion dates to talk about the debate(s) just past will be:

October 1st, Thursday – Discussion of Debate #1

October 8, Thursday – Discussion of the VP debate

October 15, Thursday – DAN PARTLAND of “Unfit”

October 22, Thursday – Discussion of the 2nd presidential debate of October 15

October 29th, Thursday – Discussion of the final (3rd) presidential debate of October 22nd

Sergio Rizzuto on September 10th “Weekly Wilson” Podcast

Sergio Rizzuto as The Pardoner in “Hard Kill,” opening 8/25

I passed the halfway point in podcasting tonight, with the 27th show in a year-long commitment on the Bold Brave Media Global Network. The show is entitled Weekly Wilson, just like my blog, and, aside from not being able to do a show after the derechco of August 10th knocked out my Internet and our power, things have run fairly smoothly…..until tonight.

My sincerest apologies to guest Sergio Razzuto, who was a trooper in soldiering through the several times we were knocked off the air by “technical difficulties.” Said Perry, the engineer, ‘Don’t let the listeners know.” Uh…..do you think the several minutes of dead air might be a give-away? I will say that this was the very first time we’ve actually been knocked off the air while the show was in progress.

The show uses Skype and, for some reason, we were hung out to dry at least twice.

It was truly a rough evening on the air waves. I’m sure poor Sergio felt the same way!

The topics we covered were interesting. Sergio—who is related distantly to famous baseball player Phil Razzuto—was an interesting, articulate guest, who has credits as actor (17), producer (22), director (2), writer (2), cinematographer (1) and music (1). He has been acting since 2017, beginning with a small role on the TV series “Billions.”

There were also technical glitches with the sound quality that we traced to the speaker phone on Sergio’s cell phone, which we were able to address once we got on the air and stayed on the air.

Sergio Rizzuto, co-star of “Hard Kill.”

A true Renaissance man, Sergio shared that he possesses a restless creative spirit. He was awarded the ICE Award by Villanova for his interesting business ideas. He has also had a café in Brick, NJ (now closed); Fit Society with 1.5 million followers; E-MC Clothing, Buyu—an app described as a cross between Amazon and Craigslist, a clothing line with a Neil DeGrasse Tyson tie-in, and interest in all facets of the film-making process. Next up for Sergio is the starring role in a movie based on the real-life UFC welterweight fighter Josh Sammon who died, tragically, at age 28. On a completely different topic, Sergio has the ability to master a Rubik’s cube in something like 27 seconds. (Yes, it was in the movie).

Sergio played The Pardoner in the new Bruce Willis/Jesse Metcalfe movie “Hard Kill.” My thanks to him for slogging through the technical issues with me Thursday night. If, after reading my review here, you are interested in seeing a Bruce Willis popcorn movie, it is available on Amazon Prime and elsewhere.

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.

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 as Leather Tuscadero on “Happy Days”

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