Iwouldn’t mind looking at a series of still photos from “The Untouchables” (1987) or listening to the genre-hopping score by Ennio Morricone. But when watching the film, I kept expecting character depth or layers of insight into alcohol Prohibition and the government-versus-mob battles, and these things never emerge. There are occasional lines with a David Mamet flavor (“Yes, surprise is half the battle. A lot of things are half the battle. Losing is half the battle”), but his screenplay doesn’t take the reins of “The Untouchables,” and the film doesn’t rise above something that looks gorgeous and sounds pretty.
It’s a sign of a prolific author when even death doesn’t stop them from putting out novels, and such was the case with Michael Crichton (1942-2008), whose posthumous output includes “Pirate Latitudes” (2009), “Micro” (2011) and “Dragon Teeth” (2017). For some reason, I didn’t read “Pirate Latitudes” when it came out, perhaps thinking that Crichton didn’t intend for it to be released, since it was “discovered” on his computer rather than submitted by the author to his publisher.
Writer-director Peter Farrelly smooths out the excesses of his filmmaking traits for the surprisingly mainstream and easy-to-like “Green Book” (2018), now back in theaters and also available for home viewing. It’s not as funny as his best films like “Dumb and Dumber” and not as high-concept as the likes of “Stuck on You” and “Shallow Hal.” It’s possibly a crass grab at mainstream and critical acceptance, but it’s hard to quibble with the finished product.
Alot has been made about how horror (“Get Out” last year) and superhero (“Black Panther” this year) films are making inroads with the Oscars, but – in terms of percentage of all films released – comedy remains the most snubbed genre. “The Favourite” (2018) finds a path to Academy attention, though, by chronicling the royal court of Britain’s Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in 1708, replete with gilded paintings, frilly dresses, pancake makeup and powdered wigs. Oscar-film trappings, in other words.
With the Oscars coming up, the guilt of constantly scrolling past “Roma” (2018) on Netflix en route to “Daredevil” episodes finally got to me, and I gave the Best Picture nominee a watch. And also, my Cold Bananas colleague Shaune watched the first 20 minutes, laughed, and said I can claim this one in our attempt to check Oscar films off our list.
Prior to seeing “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018), I was hardly a Queen fan. The band’s popularity had faded before I was old enough to appreciate it, and growing up, their music was not something I was into. My knowledge of Queen was limited to knowing they had a handful of decent songs and a few overplayed stadium anthems, and were led by one of the most eccentric frontmen of all time. That said, I’m a huge music fan in general and had heard good things from friends about the film, so I was excited to learn about the legend of Queen.
After his love letters to jazz — “Whiplash” (2014) and “La La Land” (2016) — a film fan wouldn’t be surprised if director Damien Chazelle’s next movie was about Louis Armstrong. But “First Man” (2018) instead chronicles Neil Armstrong, and while it might seem like the pantheon of historical space-program cinema doesn’t need another recounting of Apollo 11, it turns out this is a very welcome addition.
In 2017, HarperCollins published a Michael Crichton novel with a dinosaur skull on the cover. The bad news is it’s not the unearthing of the late author’s third “Jurassic Park” novel. The good news is “Dragon Teeth” is pretty good. It was written in 1974, and apparently Crichton – who died in 2008 – didn’t feel it was suitable for publication, but with all due respect, I disagree.
Having recently had my Nick Hornby interest piqued by the film adaptation of “Juliet, Naked” (based on his 2009 novel), I finally read his 2014 entry “Funny Girl.” The description sounds sort of like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”: A young woman in the 1960s wants to be a comedy actress rather than working in her hometown department store. The novel ends up being quite different from “Maisel,” but the genre is the same: It’s historical fiction that reflects the reality of the time and place but invents fictional famous people and touchstones.
The idea of “summer movies” is already past its time, as “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” prove that “summer” is now year-round in the movie business. Still, old habits die hard – such as my annual Summer Movie Preview post. Here are one blatantly obvious and nine not-so-obvious films on the summer schedule that I wouldn’t mind seeing: