Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019) Written by Drew Pearce Directed by David Leitch
You might be asking, “PopCult, it’s not July now, it’s August,” and to you, I say it’s always July when I’m reviewing Fast & Furious content. This is the ninth official installment in the Fast & Furious film franchise, the Rogue One to The Fate & The Furious’ Force Awakens. This first spin-off features the famous characters of Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), but you can almost imagine other spin-offs starring Roman Pearce, Tej, or maybe a prison film about Magdelene Shaw. Yes, Dame Helen Mirren reprises her role as the matriarch of the Shaw family for one all too brief scene. That is Academy Award winner Helen Mirren…in a Fast & Furious spin-off movie.
The Farewell (2019) Written & Directed by Lulu Wang
In 2013, Lulu Wang found out her grandmother was dying of cancer. Lulu knew this, but her grandmother did not. Wang’s parents, following a Chinese tradition, decided to refrain from telling the matriarch this until she was on her deathbed in order not to drive her into depression and ruin her otherwise upbeat demeanor. Finding this decision to be downright bizarre, Lulu conferred with her American friends and they assured her this was not the norm in the West. The experience caused Wang to contemplate her status as both a Chinese and American person, reflecting on her transition as an immigrant and return to mainland China. Out of this came a story for This American Life and now a feature film.
Here are the things I have planned for the second half of the year on my blog.
I’ll start doing a bi-weekly short film review roundup on August 17th. I plan to feature quality short films that are available online so that readers can view them. I have the first eight posts planned with three short films on each post. The first post will feature reviews for the short films He Took His Skin Off For Me, Janciza Bravo’s Eat, and Ari Aster’s The Strange Thing About the Johnsons. I’ll be looking at films that come from all corners of media from classic French shorts (Le Jetee) to Adult Swim middle of the night surreality (the works of Alan Resnick).
Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood (2019) Written & Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Fifty years ago on August 9th actress Sharon Tate and three of her friends were brutally murdered by three people sent to her home by Charles Manson. At the time, Tate was eight months pregnant with her first child by husband Roman Polanski. Polanksi was in London scouting locations for The Day of the Dolphin, a film he would have to abandon when word reached him of the massacre that occurred at his home on Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon. This has become a horror story retold countless times when the dark side of Hollywood is discussed, an allegory for the nightmare that can bubble up to the surface in a town so closely associated with dreams. But, what if…?
I was browsing over the offerings on Amazon Prime and Netflix and was impressed at the films currently available to watch. As my summer break comes to an end I thought I’d share what I found and link my reviews if I have one written for the film. Hope you find something you enjoy.
Big Little Lies Season 2 (HBO) Written by David E. Kelley & Liane Moriarty Directed by Andrea Arnold
The stakes at the end of season one of Big Little Lies were cranked up so high it was hard to imagine how this second round would play out. When the season opens, everyone is in recovery mode from the death of Perry with Celeste naturally going through the toughest time. Perry rewired her way of thinking from years of abuse that she simultaneously misses him but is glad he’s gone. None of this is helped by the presence of Mary Louise, Perry’s mother, who has come to town to help Celeste with the boys. Mary Louise notices that Celeste is using sleep aids and making poor decisions around the house, but the breaking point comes when Celeste explains the extent of Perry’s abuse and that he raped Jane. Mary Louise cannot handle these facts about her son, and she quickly becomes the antagonist for this season.
Los Espookys Season 1 (HBO) Written by Fred Armisen, Ana Fabrega, & Julio Torres Directed by Fernando Frias
There is nothing else like Los Espookys on television. From the opening of the first episode, a fast-paced series of scenes that introduces us to Renaldo at his sister’s quinceanera which he decorated in an all horror/goth theme to moment we see Andres’ shock of tightly cropped blue hair appear on screen we know that our protagonists will be odd, to say the least. The most normal of the Los Espookys crew is Ursula who is technically genius, yet she’s saddled with her little sister Tati, who is competing with Andres to become the most esoteric character to appear on television since Agent Cooper. This is a fully realized and specific world, like ours but slightly askew.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019) Written by Jimmie Falls, Joe Talbot, and Rob Richert Directed by Joe Talbot
San Francisco has existed since 1846, formerly the Spanish town of Yerba Buena renamed in the wake of the Mexican-American War. The city boomed with the Gold Rush and despite destructive earthquakes hasn’t seemed to stop growing ever since. These days, San Francisco is at the center of the tech boom, neighborhoods gobbled up by startups and associated service industries that cater to these companies. The long-time residents of San Fran, whose family lineages go back to the first boom of the Gold Rush and the subsequent migrations, are being pushed to the fringes. The gentrification is even crossing the Bay into Oakland. Like every city center in our nation afflicted by “urban revitalization,” the result is always the local is pushed out for the transplant or the tourist.
Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Written by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Alita is a movie almost 20 years in the making. In 2000, James Cameron registered website domain names that involved this property as a film. In 2003, he confirmed he was going to direct a movie based on the early 90s manga. And then delays began, and Avatar went into production, and other projects came about. Eventually, Cameron stepped aside, taking credit as screenwriter and producer. Robert Rodriguez came onboard in 2016 with the film set to be released in July of 2018. That didn’t happen, and the movie was delayed to a primo January release in 2019. All this is to say that this film has had so much time to be worked on tweaked and improved so it should be great. But there is a common theme in Hollywood where a film has a window between enough pre-production and too much that it overbakes. Alita was burnt to a crisp.