Black Adam (2022)
Written by Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Certain pieces of film feel like monumental shifts in the culture, or at the very least, that suddenly reflect horrible truths about the current dominant ideologies. Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will was hailed as a masterpiece in Germany, but it found traction outside the boundaries of that country. The Nazi filmmaker’s propaganda piece was awarded in Paris and Venice and lured many people outside of Germany to see fascism favorably. Movies did not start as overt propaganda, but it’s hard to argue now that the productions released by major American film studios are not produced with some sort of establishment normalizing ideology embedded within them. Be it Nolan’s Patriot Act apologia in The Dark Knight or the military glorification found in Michael Bay’s work and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Americanism as a worldview is ever present in our “entertainment.”
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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)
Written by Tom Gormican & Kevin Etten
Directed by Tom Gormican
At this point, we must acknowledge that Nicolas Cage is a movie institution. He makes movies he is passionate about or jobs that help pay for something new in his life. His motivations are the same as any working person; he just sometimes gets paid an obscenely large amount for what he does. For example, Pig (2021) was made on a budget of around $3 million and earned back just a little more than that at the box office. This tells us that Cage didn’t agree to star in that film for the payday but because he genuinely believed in the project. As much as a cartoon as he’s become in the zeitgeist, I still see him as a genuine artist who doesn’t care what you or I think at the end of the day. He’s in the movies that he wants to be in. With this picture, he allows the filmmakers to deconstruct his film persona for some laughs and genuine human insight.
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Dora and The Lost City of Gold (2019)
Written by Nicholas Stoller, Matthew Robinson, and Tom Wheeler
Directed by James Bobin
Of all the shows I have reviewed in this series on cinematic television adaptations, this is the only one created during my adulthood. Not having children or having spent a lot of time around Zoomers as babies, I don’t really have any emotional attachments to the source material. I’ve seen the numerous parodies of Dora that show up in pop culture, and I understand the show’s concept, though. So I was a bit surprised but intrigued when it was announced that a live-action Dora movie was in the works. I always prefer an unexpected and weird take on a well-known property rather than regurgitating something we all know. This is why I am very interested in the Greta Gerwig Barbie film. It sounds like something that isn’t just a straightforward adaptation. And that’s what we get with Dora and The Lost City of Gold, a movie that balances a genuine love of the show with the ability to poke fun at it.
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The Man from UNCLE (2015)
Written by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram
Directed by Guy Ritchie
I have never seen a single episode of The Man from UNCLE, but I understood the basic premise via cultural osmosis. An American spy and a Soviet spy team up to fight the menace of a third party, THRUSH. This group was composed of people so dangerous that even nations that were ideologically opposed would join forces to stop them. When you understand the depth & breadth of red scare propaganda in the United States, then the fact that the seriesThe Man from UNCLE was such a huge hit is pretty extraordinary. The main enemy in the story is the remnants of the Nazis, which given historical context, is sort of funny that the U.S. is fighting against them. My biggest takeaway from the movie adaptation is that this is one of the gayest films I’ve seen in quite a while.
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The A-Team (2010)
Written by Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, and Skip Woods
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Some of my earliest memories of watching television are of The A-Team. This might be seen as troubling to some because this action series was criticized at the time for delivering a way too sanitized version of violence. This was because no one ever died in The A-Team. No matter what happened to them. They could be bound & gagged inside a vehicle filled with C-4 and blown up. There would be a take after the explosion that showed the person scrambling out of the inferno to safety. In that way, the show was seen as possibly encouraging the youth to do violent things to each other. I have never found any stories of a direct connection between the violence of the A-Team and any act performed in real life. The same cannot be said for the likes of Tucker Carlson and his ilk.
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The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Written by Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I. Miller, and Rowland Leigh
Directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley
The Adventures of Robin Hood was unlike anything that had come before and would shape the type of films to come, even today. It was Warner Brothers’ most expensive movie with a $2 million budget. Additionally, it was shot using the first three-strip Technicolor process, a piece of technology that made it stand out against its box office competition. This film used all 11 Technicolor cameras that existed in 1938, which had never been attempted before. At the time, Warner had garnered a reputation for its social issue and low-budget gangster flicks, so something like Robin Hood felt incredibly ambitious for the studio. Once again, the film mimics a Douglas Fairbanks film from the silent era, continuing Errol Flynn’s track of reprising the roles of that actor.
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Captain Blood (1935)
Written by Casey Robinson
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Michael Curtiz was born Manó Kaminer in 1866 Hungary. His parents were Jews, his father a carpenter, and his mother an opera singer. They were lower-middle class and had times where it was a struggle to put food on the table. Curtiz loved the theater as a child and even constructed a tiny stage in his family’s basement when he was 8 years old. After high school, he joined a traveling theater troupe and performed throughout Europe. At age 26, Curtiz took his first theatrical directing gig and even fenced on the Hungarian Olympic Fencing team that year. Just a couple years later, World War I would pull young men into a brutal conflict, including Curtiz. From there, he was carried to a burgeoning film scene in Germany, where Curtiz truly learned the craft. In 1926, he came to the United States and began directing for Warner Brothers. That filmmaking partnership would span 28 years and 86 films, some of which are the most acclaimed films of the era. With 1935’s Captain Blood, Curtiz would see his star soar and the best work of his career just beginning.
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Sweet Girl (2021)
Written by Philip Eisner & Gregg Hurwitz
Directed by Brian Andrew Mendoza
Netflix original movies/shows can be hit or miss. There are times when their movies feel like the thing you settled for when you rent something. You’re left with the subpar version of what you wanted. You stare at the title, think you’ve seen the trailer, but everything is a blur as things melt one into the other. All titles are similar, the colors, nothing bright or new.
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Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)
Written by Navot Papushado & Ehud Lavski
Directed by Navot Papushado
Seth and I don’t always agree on things, as shocking as that might seem. When I first saw Gunpowder Milkshake’s trailer, I could feel the intrigue bubbling within my system, almost dashed to bits and pieces as my husband went, “Ew, no.” (Ed. note: I have literally zero memory of ever seeing this trailer)
Let’s not fault the man; he did not grow up watching martial arts/action movies. Unlike my husband, raised in a Christain household, my single mom tended to let us rent movies at will. If those movies didn’t even up being the regular popular picks, they managed to be action movies many times.
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Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Written by Lawrence Kasdan
Directed by Steven Spielberg
It’s interesting watching these movies and seeing them juxtaposed, realizing the gap in quality between what Disney was putting out in 1981 and Paramount in the same year. Raider of the Lost Ark came on June 12, putting it up against Mel Brooks’s History of the World Part 1 and Clash of the Titans. Both of these are delightful films but compared to Raiders, I just don’t think they can hold a candle. The script here is tightly written with some of the best set pieces in an adventure-action movie to date. However, as I have revisited films during my flashback series, sometimes I discover a beloved classic has many more flaws than I remembered, and that can reshape how I feel about the movie.
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