The movie isn’t a hit piece, but the history it tells is infuriating.
Kyle Smith writes: Chappaquiddick must be counted one of the great untold stories in American political history: The average citizen may be vaguely aware of what happened but probably has little notion of just how contemptible was the behavior of Senator Ted Kennedy. Mainstream book publishers and Hollywood have mostly steered clear of the subject for 48 years.
“If Chappaquiddick had been released in 1970, it would have ended Kennedy’s political career.”
Chappaquiddick the movie fills in an important gap, and if it had been released in 1970, it would have ended Kennedy’s political career. (It was only a few weeks ago that a sitting senator resigned over far less disturbing behavior than Kennedy’s.) Yet this potent and penetrating film is not merely an attack piece. It’s more than fair to Kennedy in its hesitance to depict him as drunk on the night in question, and it also pictures him repeatedly diving into the pond on Chappaquiddick Island, trying to rescue his brother Bobby’s former aide Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). He may or may not have made such rescue attempts. Moreover, as directed by John Curran (The Painted Veil), the film is suffused with lament that a man in Kennedy’s position could have been so much more than he was. Yet Ted, the last and least of four brothers, was shoved into a role for which he simply lacked the character. That the other three were dynamic leaders who died violently while he alone lived on to become the Senate’s Jabba the Hutt is perhaps the most dizzying chapter of the century-long Kennedy epic. Read the rest of this entry »
Wonder Woman bails out a battle-fatigued Batman and Superman in Warner Bros.’ latest DC Comics-derived extravaganza.
Todd McCarthy writes: The increasingly turgid tales of Batman and Superman — joined, unfortunately for her, by Wonder Woman — trudge along to ever-diminishing returns in Justice League. Garishly unattractive to look at and lacking the spirit that made Wonder Woman, which came out five months ago, the most engaging of Warner Bros.’ DC Comics-derived extravaganzas to date, this hodgepodge throws a bunch of superheroes into a mix that neither congeals nor particularly makes you want to see more of them in future. Plainly put, it’s simply not fun. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice grossed $872.7 million worldwide last year, apparently about enough to justify its existence, and the significant presence of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in this one might boost its returns a bit higher than that.
Fatigue, repetition and a laborious approach to exposition are the keynotes of this affair, which is also notable for how Ben Affleck, donning the bat suit for the second time, looks like he’d rather be almost anywhere else but here; his eyes and body language make it clear that he’s just not into it. For his part, Henry Cavill’s Superman, left for dead and buried in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (we see the grave of Clark Joseph Kent more than once), isn’t resurrected until the second half, and it takes considerably more time for him to snap into action.
That leaves things mostly in the capable hands of Wonder Woman, who’s just as kick-ass as she was this summer but in a less imaginative, one-note way. The good news is that Jesse Eisenberg’s embarrassingly misguided Lex Luthor from the previous outing is nowhere to be seen.
So what are we left with here? With all the characters that need to be introduced, the virtually humor-free script by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon (who was brought on to complete directing duties after Zack Snyder had to leave for family reasons) less resembles deft narrative scene-setting than it does the work of a bored casino dealer rotely distributing cards around a table. Everyone is very downcast in the wake of Superman’s unimaginable fate and there’s naturally a new villain threatening to bring the world to an end, a big meanie named Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds). So Bruce Wayne, with Diana Prince’s assistance, must put together a new team to save the world yet again. Read the rest of this entry »
A collective jaw dropped this week as Asia Argento, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette and a host of other women joined Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan in speaking publicly about being harassed, mauled and even allegedly raped by Hollywood’s heavyweight gorilla, Harvey Weinstein.
Media outlets ironically wrung their hands and asked in big, bold block letters: How could this have gone on for so long? If everyone knew, why didn’t anyone say anything? And the inevitable: What can be done?
To answer these questions, let’s look beyond the Harvey-shaped elephant in the room. Behind the touted veneer of creative genius and imagination, the Hollywood studio system (an umbrella term that now encompasses movie studios, television networks, news organizations, tech companies and new media) was built on top of the cushions of the casting couch. And, as we’ve seen several times this year, that couch was never retired.
I witnessed a lot at Page Six — only a fraction of which ever hit the paper (for a multitude of reasons). But I will share one incident in May 2004 that has always summed up for me how this industry really feels about women.
I had gone to dinner with a friend who was in town for the upfronts (the big annual congregation where television network executives fly in from Los Angeles and present their upcoming slates of new shows). He worked at United Talent Agency and was psyched when I scored us an 8 p.m. reservation at the hottest place in town, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market, unfortunately, next to a table of three drunk and loud television executives, one of whom I knew headed up a cable network.
“I need a hooker while I’m in town,” one man quasi-yelled.
“Dude — the top-shelf whores go for $1,000 an hour, $5,000 a night,” the cable exec bragged to his friends.
“That’s all? All night?”
“All night — whatever you want — and these are working actresses.”
“No way — who are we talking about?”
The executive, in between ordering more bottles of Patron silver, proceeded to bray out the names of women who were indeed working actresses as well as models — including one woman who was cast in a show on his network. He was her boss.
“How do you think she got the job?” the executive joked, as the others high-fived him.
That incident always ate at me — it was the crystallization of just how lousy it is out there for women trying to either get a job, do their job or advance in one of the most powerful industries in America. Read the rest of this entry »
Paul Miller writes: Mayor Clint Eastwood became famous playing fictional tough guys like Rowdy Yates and Dirty Harry. Lately, he’s achieved even greater fame as the director of films about real-life heroes — including Iraq vet Chris Kyle and pilot Sully Sullenberger.
Now, Eastwood is working on his next project, about three friends who stopped a terrorist attack two years ago on a train in France. One of them, a U.S. Air Force enlisted man named Spencer Stone, did something very few people have done and lived to tell about: Without a weapon or anything to defend himself, he charged a fanatical and heavily armed enemy, knocking him to the ground. And then he and his friends, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, disarmed the man and rendered him unconscious, saving dozens, if not hundreds, of innocent lives in the process.
“It was a very important event, because there were so many people on the train, and the guy had hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and he could have done a tremendous amount of damage,” Eastwood said. “And there’s no reason to think he wasn’t going to.”
At his office on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Eastwood is busy these days refining the shooting schedule, while his casting directors are choosing the actors, costumers are picking the outfits, and set designers are planning the shots — all routine tasks for a major Hollywood picture. But the film, “The 15:17 to Paris,” which Eastwood says will probably be released later this year, has a story that promises to be unprecedented in its heart-stopping impact, yet which carries a timeless message of people putting their lives on the line to protect others.
“My buddies and I were on a trip around Europe,” Stone told The Pine Cone this week from a family cabin at Lake Tahoe. He’d known the men — Sadler, a student at Sacramento State, and Skarlatos, a member of the Oregon National Guard — since their childhood in a Sacramento suburb. “Anthony and I started the trip in Rome, and then we went to Venice, Munich and Berlin. And then Alek, who was coming off a tour of duty in Afghanistan, joined us in Amsterdam.”
Their next destination was to be Paris, and on August 21, 2015, they boarded a high-speed train set to leave Amsterdam at 3:17 p.m. (15:17 on the 24-hour clock used in Europe) for the French capital. “As we boarded,” Stone said, “we noticed there didn’t seem to be any security — no metal detectors, no bag check. Nothing.”
But they didn’t think much about it, and the men — off duty and in civilian clothes — soon settled into their first class seats, had a meal and a little wine, checked the internet, and promptly went to sleep.
“We were always on the go, and for us, trains rides were a chance to take a nap,” Stone said.
A brief stop at the Gare Midi in Brussels woke them up — but for only a moment, Stone said. They had no idea a 25-year-old Moroccan man, Ayub El Ghazzani, had boarded in Brussels carrying a deadly backpack.
A man running and glass shattering
As the train hurtled through the European countryside, the three friends dozed, and the next thing Stone remembers was being awakened when a train crew member sprinted past him toward the front of the train. Taking off his noise-reducing headphones, Stone says he heard glass shatter behind him, and people gasping and screaming. Turning around to look in the direction of the noise, he saw El Ghazzani, shirtless and with a backpack attached to his chest, bend down at the end of the car and pick up an assault rifle.
“It was an AK-47, and he was trying to load a round, and I immediately knew he was a terrorist,” Stone said.
And this was no movie. Suddenly confronted with what was sure to be a life-or-death situation, the Air Force man hesitated for just a moment. Read the rest of this entry »
Set in Connecticut after World War II, The Stranger is a cat and mouse game between Wilson (Edward G. Robinson), a member of the Allied War Crimes Commission and Franz Kindler (Orson Welles), a Nazi who has assumed the false identity of Dr. Charles Rankin. To complete his new intelligentsia disguise, Kindler marries Mary Longstreet, daughter of a Supreme Court justice.
Run time 95 min Read the rest of this entry »