FilmWeek: ‘Justice League,’ ‘The Star,’ ‘Wonder’ and more

Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay in WONDER.
Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay in WONDER. 

DALE ROBINETTE.

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Lael Loewenstein, Tim Cogshell, and Charles Solomon review this weekend’s new movie releases including:

  • Justice League” in wide release
  • The Star” in wide release
  • Wonder” in wide release
  • Mudbound” at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center, Laemmle’s NoHo, The Landmark and on Netflix
  • The Breadwinner” at the Nuart Theatre
  • Roman J. Israel, Esq.” at AMC Century City and ArcLight Hollywood
  • The Divine Order” at Laemmle’s Playhouse and Laemmle’s Royal
  • Wait For Your Laugh” at Laemmle’s Royal, Laemmle’s Town Center and The Egyptian (Saturday night’s showing at The Egyptian will be followed by a discussion with director Jason Wise, Dick van Dyke and Dan Harmon)

CRITICS’ HITS

Tim: “Mudbound” & “The Divine Order”

Lael: “The Breadwinner,” “Mudbound” & “The Divine Order”

Charles: “The Breadwinner”

MIXED FEELINGS

Tim: “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Lael: “Justice League” & “Wonder”

Charles: “Wait For Your Laugh”

 

MISSES!

Lael & Charles: “The Star”

 

GUESTS:

Lael Loewenstein, KPCC film critic

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC, Alt-Film Guide and CineGods.com; he tweets @CinemaInMind

Charles Solomon, film critic for KPCC, Animation Scoop and Animation Magazine

‘Trouble Is My Business’

Trouble Is My Business with Brittney Powell: Femme fatale in humorous homage to old film noirsBrittney Powell in Trouble Is My Business
Trouble Is My Business is a humorous homage to film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s, among them John Huston‘s The Maltese Falcon and Orson Welles‘ Touch of Evil. Konkle stars in the sort of role that back in the ’40s and ’50s belonged to the likes of Humphrey BogartRobert Mitchum, Dick Powell, and Alan Ladd. As the femme fatale, Brittney Powell is supposed to evoke memories of Jane GreerLizabeth ScottLauren Bacall, and Claire Trevor.

‘Trouble Is My Business’: Humorous film noir homage evokes memories of ‘The Maltese Falcon’ & ‘Touch of Evil’

A crunchy, witty, and often just plain funny mash-up of classic noir tropes, from hard-boiled private dicks to the easy-on-the-eyes femme fatales – in addition to dialogue worthy of Dashiell Hammett and, occasionally, Mel Brooks – Trouble Is My Business means business, but it doesn’t mind having a good chuckle as it walks the dark and winding path of double-crosses, corruption, and death.

Directed by Tom Konkle, who also co-wrote and co-stars with Brittney Powell as the dick and the dame, Trouble Is My Business– no direct connection to Raymond Chandler’s 1939 Philip Marlowe short story – features Konkle as private eye Roland Drake, the quintessential representation of the 1940s noir detective – no pretty boy – with a visage having more in common with Robert Mitchum, who played Marlowe in the 1975 neo-noir Farewell My, Lovely, than Humphrey Bogart, who was Sam Spade in the movie about the black bird.

Neither of those guys were pretty boys either, which is why we bought them – and that’s why we buy Konkle as a forlorn detective taking the rap for the death of a girl he was supposed to save.

Brittney Powell is also a veteran actor whose credits include Brunhilda in Xena: Warrior Princess, among several auspicious roles in all manner of film and television. She’s very good as Jennifer Montemar, a part written by Powell herself so she could play the kind of woman she always wanted.

Jennifer has a good deal more humor than, say, Mary Astor’s desperate femme fatale in The Maltese Falcon. Yet Powell (eventually) gives the character even more of an edge than Jane Greer’s blond, man-eating girl-shark in Out of the Past.

Those movies and a number of others that only true aficionados of the genre will notice are referenced in Trouble Is My Business. For fans, catching little homages to Double Indemnity and Murder, My Sweet is lovely, but the film Trouble Is My Business circles most often is the great Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.

Shades of Welles’ evil Police Captain Hank Quinlan show up in the character played by veteran actor Vernon Wells (The Road Warrior): Detective Barry Tate, a sadistic sociopath of a cop that Drake must eventually face – alongside his other demons.

Trouble Is My Business trailer.

The twists and turns of the plot in Trouble Is My Business are every bit as serpentine as those in most noir. I still don’t know what’s going on in The Maltese Falcon, and I’m not sure I know exactly what’s going on in this movie either – but as is the case with most noir, who cares? It’s the ride and the characters and the very tone itself – not the stories – that make noir…  noir.

To that end, the filmmakers here use another film noir trope: artifice. The film noirs of old were generally inexpensive productions; some were actually cheap. They usually faked everything from locations and lighting to the existence of walls and ceilings where there were none.

The use of darkness was not necessarily a stroke of filmmaking genius in the production of noir, it was at times a necessity because there was usually very little production design and often lots of stuff to hide. The leading man never changed clothes because the leading lady‘s wardrobe was more important.

Tragic Gay Star

Trouble Is My Business uses the artifice of props and costume and special effects to create 1940s Los Angeles exteriors and lush interiors all of which is slightly unreal, if not a little surreal. Orson Welles, himself a master of the unreal in a number of ways, would be most impressed.

Trouble Is My Business (2017)  Dir.: Tom Konkle. Scr.: Tom Konkle & Brittney Powell. Cast: Tom Konkle. Brittney Powell. Vernon Wells. David Beeler. Steve Tom. Ben Pace. Mark Teich. Doug Spearman. Jordana Capra. Benton Jennings. William Jackson. E. Sean Griffin.

Trouble Is My Business cast info via the IMDb.

Brittney Powell and Tom Konkle Trouble Is My Business trailer and image: Lumen Actus.

Trouble Is My Business with Brittney Powell: Femme fatale in humorous homage to old film noirsBrittney Powell in Trouble Is My Business

Trouble Is My Business is a humorous homage to film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s, among them John Huston‘s The Maltese Falcon and Orson Welles‘ Touch of Evil. Konkle stars in the sort of role that back in the ’40s and ’50s belonged to the likes of Humphrey BogartRobert Mitchum, Dick Powell, and Alan Ladd. As the femme fatale, Brittney Powell is supposed to evoke memories of Jane GreerLizabeth ScottLauren Bacall, and Claire Trevor.

‘Trouble Is My Business’: Humorous film noir homage evokes memories of ‘The Maltese Falcon’ & ‘Touch of Evil’

A crunchy, witty, and often just plain funny mash-up of classic noir tropes, from hard-boiled private dicks to the easy-on-the-eyes femme fatales – in addition to dialogue worthy of Dashiell Hammett and, occasionally, Mel Brooks – Trouble Is My Business means business, but it doesn’t mind having a good chuckle as it walks the dark and winding path of double-crosses, corruption, and death.

Directed by Tom Konkle, who also co-wrote and co-stars with Brittney Powell as the dick and the dame, Trouble Is My Business– no direct connection to Raymond Chandler’s 1939 Philip Marlowe short story – features Konkle as private eye Roland Drake, the quintessential representation of the 1940s noir detective – no pretty boy – with a visage having more in common with Robert Mitchum, who played Marlowe in the 1975 neo-noir Farewell My, Lovely, than Humphrey Bogart, who was Sam Spade in the movie about the black bird.

Neither of those guys were pretty boys either, which is why we bought them – and that’s why we buy Konkle as a forlorn detective taking the rap for the death of a girl he was supposed to save.

Brittney Powell is also a veteran actor whose credits include Brunhilda in Xena: Warrior Princess, among several auspicious roles in all manner of film and television. She’s very good as Jennifer Montemar, a part written by Powell herself so she could play the kind of woman she always wanted.

Jennifer has a good deal more humor than, say, Mary Astor’s desperate femme fatale in The Maltese Falcon. Yet Powell (eventually) gives the character even more of an edge than Jane Greer’s blond, man-eating girl-shark in Out of the Past.

Those movies and a number of others that only true aficionados of the genre will notice are referenced in Trouble Is My Business. For fans, catching little homages to Double Indemnity and Murder, My Sweet is lovely, but the film Trouble Is My Business circles most often is the great Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.

Shades of Welles’ evil Police Captain Hank Quinlan show up in the character played by veteran actor Vernon Wells (The Road Warrior): Detective Barry Tate, a sadistic sociopath of a cop that Drake must eventually face – alongside his other demons.

Trouble Is My Business trailer.

The twists and turns of the plot in Trouble Is My Business are every bit as serpentine as those in most noir. I still don’t know what’s going on in The Maltese Falcon, and I’m not sure I know exactly what’s going on in this movie either – but as is the case with most noir, who cares? It’s the ride and the characters and the very tone itself – not the stories – that make noir…  noir.

To that end, the filmmakers here use another film noir trope: artifice. The film noirs of old were generally inexpensive productions; some were actually cheap. They usually faked everything from locations and lighting to the existence of walls and ceilings where there were none.

The use of darkness was not necessarily a stroke of filmmaking genius in the production of noir, it was at times a necessity because there was usually very little production design and often lots of stuff to hide. The leading man never changed clothes because the leading lady‘s wardrobe was more important.

Tragic Gay Star

Trouble Is My Business uses the artifice of props and costume and special effects to create 1940s Los Angeles exteriors and lush interiors all of which is slightly unreal, if not a little surreal. Orson Welles, himself a master of the unreal in a number of ways, would be most impressed.

Trouble Is My Business (2017)  Dir.: Tom Konkle. Scr.: Tom Konkle & Brittney Powell. Cast: Tom Konkle. Brittney Powell. Vernon Wells. David Beeler. Steve Tom. Ben Pace. Mark Teich. Doug Spearman. Jordana Capra. Benton Jennings. William Jackson. E. Sean Griffin.

Trouble Is My Business cast info via the IMDb.

Brittney Powell and Tom Konkle Trouble Is My Business trailer and image: Lumen Actus.

FilmWeek: ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle,’ ‘Battle of the Sexes’ and a tribute to Harry Dean Stanton…

FilmWeek for 

FilmWeek: ‘mother!’, ‘American Assassin,’ ‘Brad’s Status’ and a TIFF check-in

by FilmWeek

LISTEN HERE:  FilmWeek: ‘mother!’, ‘American Assassin,’ ‘Brad’s Status’ and a TIFF check-in

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Director Darren Aronofsky, actors Domhnall Gleeson and Jennifer Lawrence and producer Scott Franklin attend the UK Premiere of “mother!” at the Odeon Leicester Square.JOHN PHILLIPS/GETTY IMAGES FOR PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Amy Nicholson and Tim Cogshell review this weekend’s new movie releases including:

CORRECTION: During FilmWeek, Yance Ford, the director of the film “Strong Island” was identified as female. Ford is a transgender man. We regret the error.

Critics’ Hits

  • Amy: “mother!” & “Trophy”
  • Tim: “Brad’s Status” & “The Unknown Girl”

Mixed Feelings

  • Amy: “First They Killed My Father” & “Year By The Sea”
  • Tim: “First They Killed My Father” & “The Wilde Wedding”

Misses!

  • Amy: “American Assassin”

 

Guests:

Amy Nicholson, film critic for KPCC and host of The Canon; she tweets @TheAmyNicholson

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC and Alt-Film Guide; he tweets @CinemaInMind

 

FilmWeek: ‘The Dark Tower,’ ‘Kidnap,’ ‘Step’ and more…

 

by FilmWeek 

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Idris Elba stars in Columbia Pictures’ “The Dark Tower.”
LISTEN HERE:

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Tim Cogshell, Lael Lowenstein and Charles Solomon review this weekend’s new movie releases including:

Critics’ Hits

  • Lael: “Wind River,” “It’s Not Yet Dark” & “Step”
  • Charles: “Step”
  • Tim: “Some Freaks”

Mixed Feelings

  • Tim: “The Dark Tower”
  • Charles: “The Girl Without Hands”
  • Lael: “Some Freaks”

Misses!

  • Lael: “Kidnap”

Guests:

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC and Alt-Film Guide; he tweets @CinemaInMind

Lael Loewenstein, KPCC film critic

Charles Solomon, film critic for KPCC, Animation Scoop and Animation Magazine

The CinemaInMind Podcast – The Chief Zabu Interviews

By: Tim Cogshell

On this CinemaInmind Podcast – Tim talks with veteran filmmakers Neil Cohen and Zack Norman, whose debut film, Chief Zabu was produced – for the most part – some 30 plus years ago in 1986 – but will be released for the first time this year.

Chief Zabu was written by Cohen and co-stars Norman – a veteran character actor who you’ve seen in films ranging from Ragtime and Romancing the Stone, to a number of Henry Jaglom productions, including Venice, Venice, Baby Fever and Irene in Time. Interestingly, Zack is also known as film producer Howard Zuker – with over 40 producer credits, including the 1974 Academy Award winning documentary Hearts and Minds.

Chief Zabu also stars the great character actors Allen Garfield, and Allan Arbus among a number of other 70’s and 80’s notables, from Ed Lauter and Shirley Stoler to former Mrs. America contestant and harpist Lucianne Buchanan.

I am not fucking with you – she’s hot and plays the harp.

Chief Zabu is a funny, pointed and suddenly socially relevant film that will be making it’s way to a screening at comedy club year you – which is also a funny story – you can get the gist of it from this great talk with a couple hollywood veterans making their first movie for the second time.

LISTEN HERE:

 

FilmWeek: ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming,’ ‘A Ghost Story’ and more…

by FilmWeek 

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Tom Holland stars as Spider-Man in Columbia Pictures “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT

 

LISTEN HERE: 

This week’s reviews, plus Hollywood’s waning international audience? And how does Rotten Tomatoes fit in?

 

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Tim Cogshell and Lael Lowenstein review this weekend’s new movie releases including:

The Frame host John Horn also spoke with writer-director David Lowery, you can listen to the interview here.

  • Lost in Paris” at Laemmle’s Playhouse and Laemmle’s Royal Theatre
  • Harmonium” at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center
  • Austin Found” at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center
  • Hickok” at Laemmle’s Music Hall

Critics’ Hits

  • Lael: “Spider-Man: Homecoming” & “Harmonium”
  • Tim: “A Ghost Story” & “Harmonium”

 

Mixed Feelings

  • Tim: “Lost in Paris”
  • Lael: “A Ghost Story”

 

Misses!

  • Lael: “Austin Found”
  • Tim: “Hickok”

 

Guests:

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC and Alt-Film Guide; he tweets @CinemaInMind

Lael Loewenstein, KPCC film critic

FilmWeek: ‘Transformers,’ ‘The Beguiled,’ ‘The Big Sick’ and more, plus how the most unforgettable film scores…

Reviews of the week’s new movies, interviews with filmmakers, and discussion. Hosted by Larry Mantle FilmWeek: ‘Transformers,’ ‘The Beguiled,’ ‘The Big Sick’ and more…

LISTEN HERE:   FilmWeek: ‘Transformers,’ ‘The Beguiled,’ ‘The Big Sick’ and more, plus how the most unforgettable film scores are made…

by FilmWeek

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Cast and Crew speak on stage at the US premiere of “Transformers: The Last Knight” at the Civic Opera House on June 20, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.TIMOTHY HIATT/GETTY IMAGES FOR PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Guest host Libby Denkmann and KPCC film critics Claudia Puig and Tim Cogshell review this weekend’s new movie releases including:

The Frame host John Horn also spoke with director Sofia Coppola last week, you can listen to the interview here.

Guests:

Claudia Puig, film critic for KPCC and president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association; she tweets @ClaudiaPuig

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC and Alt-Film Guide; he tweets @CinemaInMind

FilmWeek: ‘The Mummy,’ ‘It Comes at Night,’ ‘Megan Leavey’ and more, plus a chat with film historian Leonard Maltin

LISTEN HERE:  

FilmWeek: ‘The Mummy,’ ‘It Comes at Night,’ ‘Megan Leavey’ and more, plus a chat with film historian Leonard Maltin

Larry Mantle and KPCC film critics Justin Chang and Tim Cogshell review this weekend’s new movie releases including:

Critics’ Hits

  • Justin: “It Comes at Night” & “Beatriz At Dinner”
  • Tim: “Letters from Baghdad,” “The Hero” & “It Comes at Night”

 

Mixed Feelings

  • Justin: “My Cousin Rachel” & “The Hero”
  • Tim: “Megan Leavey” & “Beatriz At Dinner”

 

Misses!

  • Justin & Tim: “The Mummy”

 

Guests:

Justin Chang, film critic for KPCC and the Los Angeles Times; he tweets @JustinCChang

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC and Alt-Film Guide; he tweets @CinemaInMind

DIY Film Fest: Great directors who were One and Done

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp®

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Marlon Brando on the set of “One Eyed Jacks.”

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC’s FilmWeek and Alt Film Guide, and who blogs at CinemaInMind, has another film festival you can put on yourself, in the comfort of your own home.

Lots of filmmakers direct only one movie.  Far fewer of them direct a movie that’s in any way notable. And, by notable we mean good, if not very good or better, iconic.

1.  Marlon Brando / “One-Eyed Jacks” (1961)

Actors make up most, but not all of this DIY One and Done Film Festival, and first on our list is Marlon Brando, who directed just one movie and was done with the director’s chair. “One-Eyed Jacks” (1961) is more or less a spaghetti western with no Italians.  Brando and Karl Malden play bank robbers. Dad Longworth (Malden) leaves Rio (Brando) to rot in prison for 11 years. Bad blood builds.

Stanley Kubrick was set to direct but he and Brando had issues so Brando took over. Yeah, Marlon Brando fired Stanley Kubrick. Crazy.

A number of sources report that Brando was an indecisive and demanding director. His first cut was five hours long. Paramount cut it in half and it did good business, with better than decent reviews. Brando didn’t like it, but Martin Scorsese often calls “One-Eyed Jacks” one of his favorite westerns, and James Caan, who would go on to work with Brando in “The Godfather,” is a particularly big fan.

2. James Caan / “Hide in Plain Sight” (1980)

The second film in our One and Done DIY Film Festival – James Caan’s one and only directorial effort – “Hide in Plain Sight” (1980). Loosely based on a true story, the movie is about a blue collar Caan, who is kept from his children when his ex-wife’s mob-connected new husband is taken into federal protection.

“Hide in Plain Sight” has the tone and timber of a Martin Ritt film –  it’s “Hud” meets “Norma Rae.” One person standing up against an unjust system. Critics were mixed: praising the performances but generally suggesting that Caan’s direction was slavish to the true story. But I like it.

3. Dustin Hoffman / “Quartet” (2012)

Most people think Dustin Hoffman directed the 1978 drama “Straight Time,” in which he stars. True, he began the film as director, but  soon handed the directing duties over to veteran filmmaker Ulu Grosbard.  Hoffman would wait 34 years before giving it another go. His one and only directorial effort is the 2012 film “Quartet,” starring Maggie Smith and Billy Connolly among others.

And it is notably lovely in just about every way.

4.  Theodore Witcher / “Love Jones” (1997)

Last in our DIY one and done film festival: Theodore Witcher.  I know, you’ve never heard of him. But he did write and direct one iconic film that’s 20 years old this year. “Love Jones” stars Larenz Tate and Nia Long.

The film is about a poet name Darius, played by Tate, and a talented young photographer called Nina, played by Nia Long. Mostly the film is this couple and their friends. They talk about is love and sex and friendship and if all can ever be had together. They do while being black, which was still a big deal in 1997.

I have no idea why a guy who wrote and directed a film as notable as “Love Jones” didn’t take or get another shot at the director’s chair.  A buddy was in a Denny’s spot Teddy Witcher directed some years ago. Who knows, maybe there was just more money in commercials.

But if “Love Jones” is the only movie I ever get from One and Done director  Theodore Witcher, it will definitely do.