Daily Streaming Guide: March 20th Edition

For today’s Daily Streaming Guide, let’s call this one the “in-between” movies. Three pictures that arrived at midpoints between career highlights for certain huge directors and stars. And all three are recommendable watches that stand on their own.

HBO Streaming

The sci-fi tale The Abyss hit theaters in 1989 from director James Cameron. Its release came in-between two acclaimed sequels from the filmmaker: 1986’s Aliens and 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Cameron had two massive blockbusters in a row with the first Terminator and Aliens. This represented more of a gamble and the aquatic thriller divided critics and audiences. While it isn’t a classic like some of the director’s other efforts, The Abyss is well worth viewing (deservedly winning an Oscar for Best Visual Effects). Even South Park ended up parodying one of its memorable near death scenes in their landmark trilogy “Imaginationland”.

Netflix

1981’s Nighthawks is a gritty NYC crime thriller that arrived in-between the creation of Sylvester Stallone’s two iconic characters. It came five years after Rocky and its first sequel and one year prior to First Blood (aka Rambo). It also features Billy Dee Williams (in-between stints as Lando in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) with Rutger Hauer as the main baddie (a year prior to his more famed villainous turn in Blade Runner). As far as watching Stallone in non Rocky and Rambo material, this is on the higher end of material.

Amazon Prime

1974’s The Conversation was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture. Yet it’s also the movie in-between Francis Ford Coppola’s two masterpieces: The Godfather and its sequel. Gene Hackman is featured in one of his best roles as a surveillance expert caught up in a government conspiracy. In multiple ways, The Conversation is a film ahead of its time. In an era rich with great pictures, this is an often overlooked gem.

That’s all for now, folks! Until next time…

The Sisters Brothers Movie Review

Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers tries to be many things at once – a traditional western, a revisionist one, a comedy, a family drama, and a good fashioned hunt for gold in the mid 19th century. It never succeeds totally at any of them as it’s shifty in tone. That said, I couldn’t help but admire it, be mostly entertained throughout it, and be impressed by one performance in particular. There’s also a dynamite score by Alexandre Desplat.

Based on a 2011 novel by Patrick deWitt, we are introduced to Eli (John C. Reilly) and Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) Sisters. They’re legendary (at least in Charlie’s mind) gunslingers tasked with killing a man named Warm (Riz Ahmed) who’s allegedly ripped off their boss who goes by the Commodore (Rutger Hauer, turning up briefly in one of his final roles). The Commodore also enlists the services of pompous detective John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) to deliver Warm to his judgment day. Unfortunately for the Sisters, Warm and Morris form a bond as the former has a formula that makes panning for gold an easier and therefore more lucrative enterprise. It’s also extremely dangerous as it burns the hell out of your skin.

The activity of living itself is extremely dangerous in this picture. Eli and Charlie being chased by bandits is just an everyday occurrence. Charlie seems to thrive off it when he’s not drowning himself in whiskey. Eli has grown weary of his outlaw existence.

Gyllenhaal and Phoenix’s characters think they’re most sure of themselves. One trying to be a civilized gentleman in a world that’s crude and unrefined. One who thrives on being crude and unrefined with a myopic focus on wearing the most important black hat. Reilly and Ahmed’s roles have more dimension and are a bit more intriguing. That applies especially to Reilly. He’s a gentle soul in a rough setting. And Reilly’s take on him makes him a fascinating watch. Eli’s interplay with a lady of the night is unexpected and it’s probably the best scene of all. Phoenix doesn’t have as much nuance to work with, but he certainly brings his talents to the game. Gyllenhaal’s Morris is quirky in pleasing ways, but there’s not enough screen time for him to really get rolling.

The Sisters Brothers won’t be remembered as excelling at any of the genres it attempts. It has enough solid moments in all of them to keep it engrossing as it rides along.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The Sisters Brothers

Two notable Westerns have had their debuts an ocean away at Venice and Oscar attention could be questionable for both. The first is The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the latest effort from the Coen Brothers. Today brings us The Sisters Brothers, The first English language project from acclaimed French filmmaker Jacques Audiard (whose titles include A Prophet and Rust and Bone).

Said to be a violent romp with comedic touches, the cast includes John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riz Ahmed. The performance getting the most attention is Reilly’s. Could the Academy honor the venerable actor 16 years after his sole nod in Supporting Actor for Chicago? Like any other nominations in the major categories, it’s likely a long shot. Even though Venice reviews have been pretty sturdy, I just don’t envision this as a player for Oscar voters.

Two exceptions could be Cinematography and the Original Score from Alexandre Desplat, an Academy favorite who’s won twice already for The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Shape of Water.

Bottom line: despite solid buzz, don’t expect that to translate to significant awards chatter for The Sisters Brothers.

The film opens stateside on September 21. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Box Office Prediction

Director Luc Besson has cultivated a following over the past quarter century and the devotion of his admirers will be put to the test when Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets debuts next weekend. The big-budget sci-fi pic is based on a popular French comic book series and it’s been a passion project for Besson for many years.

Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Rihanna, Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, and Rutger Hauer are among the cast in this production which reportedly cost at least $180 million to produce. Some of Besson’s works have turned into ones with devoted cult status, including 1994’s The Professional and 1997’s The Fifth Element. His last pic, 2014’s Lucy, was a box office success. However, that may have had more to do with Scarlett Johansson’s involvement fresh off The Avengers.

Critical reaction thus far has been a treat to follow. It stands at a decent 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, with many writers praising its visuals and sheer audacity. Yet it’s not often a picture with that high a Tomatoes score is also deemed by The Hollywood Reporter as the worst movie watching experience of the year.

Valerian is expected to and will likely do considerably better overseas than stateside. Competition on this side of the pond is significant – Dunkirk opens the same weekend, War for the Planet of the Apes will be in its sophomore weekend, and Spider-Man: Homecoming in its third.

My suspicion is that Besson’s latest could rank third among the newbies next weekend. That would be behind Dunkirk (which is a given) and Girls Trip (which is starting to look like a sleeper hit). Bottom line: the studio better bank on a pleasing European haul.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets opening weekend prediction: $17.8 million

For my Dunkirk prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/12/dunkirk-box-office-prediction/

For my Girls Trip prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/07/12/girls-trip-box-office-prediction/

This Day in Movie History: January 23

10 years ago today in Movie History – January 23 – Ashton Kutcher headlined the sci-fi thriller The Butterfly Effect to surprisingly robust box office results. Claiming the top spot in its opening weekend, Effect took in $17 million on its way to a $57 million domestic run. Kutcher would go onto other successful pictures including Guess Who, What Happens in Vegas, and No Strings Attached before settling back to TV replacing Charlie Sheen on “Two and a Half Men”. The pic would spawn two direct to DVD sequels without Mr. Kutcher’s participation.

As for birthdays, martial arts legend Sonny Chiba is 75 today. His big breakthrough came in 1974 with The Street Fighter and he would star in many genre pics. He came out of retirement in 2003 via Quentin Tarantino costarring as sword maker Hanzo Hattori in Kill Bill: Volume 1.

Rutger Hauer is 70 today. He’s been perhaps best known as the villain from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Hauer has many high-profile films to his credit including Nighthawks, The Hitcher, Ladyhawke, Sin City, and Batman Begins.

The two birthday performers have an interesting distinction in common: they are both mentioned in Quentin Tarantino screenplays. Chiba is talked about extensively by Christian Slater’s character in True Romance while Samuel L. Jackson name checks Hauer in Jackie Brown.

As for Six Degrees of Separation between Mr. Chiba and Mr. Hauer:

Sonny Chiba was in Kill Bill: Volume 1 with Uma Thurman

Uma Thurman was in Pulp Fiction with Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis was in Sin City with Rutger Hauer

And that’s today – January 23 – in Movie History!