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Dr Strange, Colin Farell

Dr Strange, Colin Farell

As I look back through the year — sourcing the films released and those I saw—  I’ve focused on one thread that ran through several films which reflected a “vibe” that attracted me to them. So rather than do a sweeping overview, I thought this focus would address the qualities that drew me to write about them.

Ruling the screens over the last month were two films clearly inspired by pre-Christian wizardry giving hope to pagans and film producers everywhere that possessing magical powers can pay off. Two other far-smaller production also draws their inspiration from mystical thinking as well as magical behavior.

 

Fantastic Beasts, Eddie Redmayne

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and “Doctor Strange” revel in cinematic magic as well. Both are amply endowed with lavish CGI displays and digital dramatics. But these films also have something more going on than just elaborate special effects that show raging battles which destroy buildings and cars. They’re also filled with credible people who, in being possessed of amazing powers, offer mind-bending leaps in the suspension of disbelief.

In each case, the lead characters are motivated by more than mere power grabs (unlike our current President-elect). In this sort-of Harry Potter prequel, magical creature collector/savior Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) lands in 1926 America — 70 years before the “Harry Potter” series begins — navigating New York’s world of wizards and witches while trying to recover various rare alien animals lost in the States. In the course of his efforts, he joins forces with renegade investigator “Tina” Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), her younger sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), and human No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) who inadvertently mixes with them and ends up aiding all in their various quests.

Actor Colin Farrell plays Percival Graves, a high-ranking official in charge of security and protection of wizards. Directed to tracking down Scamander, he seems to be Newt’s adversary. As the seeming antagonist, he appears powerfully skeezy but there more to the story than meets the eye.

In Marvel’s “Doctor Strange,” similar twists and turns leads audiences viewing the power struggle between the sorcerer supreme and his challengers to realize there’s more here than meets the eye.

After a tragic car accident nearly destroys the hands of incredibly talented yet egotistical neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), he searches for an alternative to conventional medicine to repair them. Eventually he learns of an ancient cult in the far East where he hopes to acquire their secrets of mind-over-matter, mystical powers and alternate dimensions. Once he finds the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), she introduces him to the hidden realms where he sheds his ego and becomes a master sorcerer.

Returning to New York’s Greenwich Village, Strange becomes an intermediary between the real world and the world beyond, employing incredible metaphysical abilities to protect the known world from threats from beyond.

Each of these films draw on their particular fantastical universe as a touchpoint — but it is more tangential to the essence of each of these films than some of the other superhero films or even to the core Potter series. In their predecessors, key mythologies had to be established, illuminating the essential powers and costumes. But both films offer something more than usual CGI generated fare while still offering fantastical universes.

It’s a testament to these casts that, despite moments of occasional silliness, they lend each film both gravitas and a sense of fun. In the capable hands of “Fantastic Beasts” director David Yates and “Dr. Strange” director Scott Derrickson, each movie’s set of characters develop an emotional arc that’s well developed and sometimes reveal a subtlety not often found in such material.

 

Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton

On an entirely different plane, “The Witch” addresses ancient notions of witchery, black magic and possession through a less judgmental mind than does traditional horror film while still employing the fantastic tropes rife in more conventional movies. A uniquely designed and sometimes hallucinatory new film, writer/director Robert Eggers’ feature debut premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival winning its Best Director Prize in the U.S. Narrative Competition and was awarded with a release earlier this year.

“The Witch” tells of a family’s frightful unraveling in the isolated countryside of 1630 New England. It grittily envisions what this a God-fearing world was like decades before the tragic 1692 Salem witch trials, in which religious convictions were transform into criminal mass hysteria.

In this story, a rebellious English farmer is forced out of his colonial community, relocating his family to a remote plot on the edge of a dark and threatening forest. As the story unfolds, they begin to feel the impact and influence of a creepy presence which they come to believe is a hideous witch. As tortuous events ensure — crops fail, animal become seemingly rabid — one of their five children disappears and another seems possessed by evil. As suspicion and paranoia mount, the family ultimately accuse teenage daughter Thomasin (newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy) of becoming possessed by the witch — a charge she adamantly denies. Once things move on to the film’s horrendous conclusion — it forces viewers to questions their assumptions of the line between sanity and the supernatural.

Finally, another film released earlier this fall also posed a unique eye’s view of cinematic storytelling. Director Anna Biller’s “The Love Witch,” which debuted at the Rotterdam Film Festival and screened at BAMcinemaFest and Fantasia Fest, provoked both cast and audiences when the sexual side of witchcraft and paganism dominates the narrative. Employing an homage to the Hammer and AIP horror dramas of the late ‘50s and ‘60s, the film tells of beautiful young witch Elaine who looks for men to love her. Incessant in her efforts to use potions to draw those men to her, they’re eventually seduced and ultimately betrayed. When she finally meets the man of her dreams, her desire to be worshipped eventually pushes her to express her insanity with deadly results.

Though some might say the director connects burgeoning female sexuality with madness, she both contends and ultimately challenges pre-feminist assumptions of how women’s erotic desires would impact on the female mind. Certainly this is a film to poke at one’s own personal assumptions and societal cliches.

Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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ELTON: NEVER TOO LATE — (Via NME) Elton John: Never Too Late will show John’s journey through the Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, which began in 2018 and wrapped up in Stockholm last July. It was the first-ever concert tour to earn over $900 million (£708 million) in gross ticket sales, making it the highest grossing concert tour of all time.

According to  Music News, the documentary will also “pull the back the curtain” on the superstar’s life, featuring “never-before-seen concert footage of him over the past 50 years, as well as hand-written journals and present-day footage of him and his family”

Some of the footage taken from the farewell tour was filmed at his final US performance at the Dodger Stadium in November 2022. The concert was live-streamed by Disney+ and subsequently issued on the streaming platform as Elton John Live: farewell from Dodger Stadium.

Elton John: Never Too Late is jointly directed by R.J. Cutler and David Furnish, John’s husband. The film will screen at the festival sometime in September, with a Disney+ release scheduled for a later date.

At John’s final date in Stockholm, he told the crowd: “Fifty years of pure joy playing music… how lucky am I? I wouldn’t be sitting here… it wasn’t for you. You bought the singles, the CDs, the albums, the cassettes… [and] more importantly, you bought the tickets to the shows. You know how much I love to play live. It’s been my lifeblood to play for you guys. You’ve been absolutely magnificent.”

Meanwhile, John is not done releasing new music just yet. In May, his friend and co-writer Bernie Taupin revealed that John’s 32nd studio album is “all done and recorded.”  “I think it’s quite brilliant and quite contemporary and it will certainly surprise a lot of people and excite a lot of people and hopefully be successful,” Taupin teases. A book covering his farewell tour, authored by John himself, is also due to publish in September.

THE KID AND I — A good portion of my middle-industry career was taken up by the band Kid Creole & The Coconuts.

Seymour Stein.

They were originally on the upstart ZE Records and were later navigated over to Sire Records by the infamous Seymour Stein. Stein had talent for sure and a knowing nose for the business – he worked for Billboard eons ago. He also signed Madonna with the help of DJ- Mark Kamins. The Kid and company – released several LPs, including the brilliant TropicalGangsters, but even Stein (and Sire PR-gal Audrey Strahl)) couldn’t move the needle for them domestically. In Europe, however, they simply exploded racking up one hit after another. and appearing at type-A events like the Prince’s Trust.  Prince even wrote a song for them called “Just For The Sex Of It.”

They had a great run (Tommy Mottola even managed them for a while; then Ron Rainey) then it all sort of stopped. After a decade away, Kid Creole & The Coconuts seems to have re-appeared with Eve Tudor-Jones at the helm as manager. Here’s a fantastic review (certainly from a committed fan) of their comeback performance: https://www.brightonandhovenews.org/2024/07/22/kid-creole-the-coconuts-make-rare-brighton-appearance/

 ZE Records’ Deb Caponetta said it best: Would love to see just one more KC show!”

Neary’s

SHORT TAKES — One man’s poison is another man’s pleasure! The New York Posts’ Steve Cuozzo sort of tipped-the-scales the other way about NY’s beloved Neary’s closing after opening in 1967 (57 years!). Take a read https://nypost.com/2024/07/21/opinion/last-call-for-iconic-midtown-nyc-bar-nearys/  …

Gupshup

SIGHTING: PR-pasha David Salidor at NYC’s Gupshup celebrating his wedding anniversary! … Hard to believe the West Bank Cafe (closing soon) opened in 1978 …

Carlos Santana

What an odd interview with Carlos Santana and  NBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart.  Jose looked liked he was auditioning for something. He also looked somewhat unprepared; never a good move for a journalist. There’s no denying Carlos Santana’s influence, but this was an odd take for sure. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmkrJWi0TQ0 …Micky Dolenz/Buddy Holly? Stay tuned … Old-pirate Dave Mason slogging his book (Only You Know and I Know) signed for $44.95 – with a free CD thrown in.  Wow. He must feel his story is extra-extra special … GUESS WHO DON’T SUE: What 80’s performer, coming to NYC shortly, said no to a former inside team-player request for tickets. Odd, since they successfully guided her through her first two albums. Loyalty again, is a tough play in the music-biz these days. Sad for sure! … RIP Don Buchwald; Happy BDay Buddy Casimano!

 NAMES IN THE NEWS — Harry Burton; Andy Skurow; Nancy Ruth; Teresa Knox; Carson Daly; Elizabeth Taylor; Jane Blunkell; Buddy Holly; Steve Earle; Tony King; Coati Mundi; Peter Schott; Carol Coleman; Winston Grennen; Deb Caponetta; Melissa Davis; Ed Steinberg; Cory Robbins; Rupert Holmes; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Race Taylor; Joe Nolan; William Schill; and ZIGGY!

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Events

A Dazzling Summer with Paramount+ Movie Nights at Bryant Park

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The magic of cinema is sparkling in a dazzling way this season at the 31st season of summer movies in Bryant Park.

The Big Apple’s movie nights have returned for another sparkling year as was demonstrated on July 22 with a screening of “Cinema Paradiso” thanks to Paramount+.

On the night that showcased the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1990, thousands of guests gathered on the great lawn to watch the first foreign film screening in Bryant Park’s outdoor movie history. Some attendees brought picnic dishes will others indulged in delicious and scrumptious dishes and drinks from Stout NYC and Hester Street Fair.

Coming up next for cinema delivers to attend:

July 29 – “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”

August 5 – “Arrival”

August 12 – “Titanic”

Paramount+ Movie Nights at Bryant Park are supported by Vulture and HSS. Screenings are free to the public and the lawn opens at 5 pm with films beginning at 8 pm.

For more info, please visit HERE.

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Broadway

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents John Patrick Shanley

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We are so pleased to announce our guest this week John Patrick Shanley is an American playwright, screenwriter, and director. He won the 1988 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film Moonstruck. His play, Doubt: A Parable, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama Drama Desk Award and the 2005 Tony Award for Best Play; he wrote and directed the film adaptation and earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Shanley is the author of more than 23 plays, which have been translated and performed around the world, including 80 productions a year in North America. He has often directed his own productions. In 1990, Shanley directed his script of Joe Versus the Volcano. Shanley also wrote two songs for the movie: Marooned Without You and The Cowboy Song. He wrote the screenplay for the film Congo (1995), which was based on the Michael Crichton book.

Shanley’s journey in playwriting began in the early 1980s, with his first play, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, which premiered in 1984. This powerful drama showcased Shanley’s talent for creating deeply flawed, yet sympathetic characters.

In 2012, Shanley wrote the libretto for an opera version of Doubt: A Parable, which premiered at the Minnesota Opera in January 2013, with music by Douglas J. Cuomo. In 2012, his play Storefront Church ran Off-Broadway in a production by the Atlantic Theater Company. His play, Outside Mullingar, opened on Broadway at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, produced by the Manhattan starring Debra Messing and Brían F. O’Byrne.

Prodigal Son, which he directed, was produced Off-Broadway by the Manhattan Theatre Club. It starred Timothée Chalamet and Robert Sean Leonard. His play The Portuguese Kid opened on October 24, 2017, at the New York City Center Stage I. Directed by Shanley, the cast featured Jason Alexander, Sherie Rene Scott and Mary Testa. His new play Brooklyn Laundry opened on February 6, 2024, at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Shanley directed, with a cast featuring Cecily Strong and David Zayas.

The New York premiere of his new mystical comedy Banshee, starring Elizabeth Bays (Simpatico) and Erick Betancourt (Cost of Living), with David Zayas Jr. (Simpatico) directing for the Chain Theatre’s 2024 Summer One-Act Festival August 8 – September 1.

We are so proud and thrilled that Variety Entertainment News named us one of Summer’s Best Picks in the category of Best Television, Radio, Podcasts.

Host Suzanna Bowling was also just named Most Engaging Hosts on TV, Radio and Podcasts on “The Daily Geek Report.” We are so grateful.

“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a show filmed at the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our past episodes; First episode click here second episode click here,  third episode click here, fourth episode click here, fifth episode click here, sixth episode here, seventh episode here, eighth episode here, ninth episode here, tenth episode here, eleventh episode here, our twelfth episode here, thirteenth episode here, fourteenth here, fifteenth here , 16th here, 17th here, 18th here, 19th here, 20th here, 21st here and 22nd here.

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Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

Madonna; Jellybean and David Salidor

MADONNA’S BACK — (via Deadline) Madonna is teasing she is back working on her biopic and is titling it Who’s That Girl.

The singer shared a social media post where she is seen with a typewriter and making edits to a movie script.

“I Need A-lot of Bandz to make this………..OKAY. (Story of my life),” she captioned the post on Instagram.

In one of the pictures from the slideshow Madonna teased, you see a line drawn across the title M Untitled. The new title of the biopic is Who’s That Girl, a nod to Madonna’s 1987 film and song of the same name.

The script is noted as being “Rewritten by Madonna and ECW.”

News of Madonna working on her biopic comes almost a year and a half after the project was paused indefinitely. In January 2023, it was reported that the film at Universal Pictures had been scrapped.

Madonna was set to direct the film about her life and career, penning the script with Diablo Cody and Erin Cressida Wilson. Julia Garner had been chosen by the Queen of Pop herself to star in the film after proving to be a standout in a singing and dancing boot camp.

Entertainment Weekly reports that Garner is still attached to star in the film now called Who’s That Girl.

Following the biopic getting put on pause, Madonna suffered a “serious bacterial infection: in June 2023, which made her postpone her Celebration Tour. After recovering from health complications, Madonna embarked on her tour in October 2023 with stops in cities like London, Paris, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston, San Francisco, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, and many more.

Having lived through Madonna’s hey-day (and survived) I will admit it’s quite the story: From Patrick Hernandez to 610 Broome Street, Jellybean, Shep, PR-man David Salidor, MTV, Mark Kamins, Preston Powell and Seymour Stein and Warren Beatty too, I wonder just how forthcoming she’ll be. To me, the truth is, those early days were simply astounding and do make a terrific story, but that said, they’ve have to be told honestly and a accurately.

Julia Garner would be great, though I wonder again, what exactly was involved in Madonna’s so-called boot camp? Madonna can be, somewhat demanding!

BIDEN OUT — I knew it was a forgone conclusion after that first (and last debate with Trump) but Biden is officially out; with Kamala Harris eyed as the new choice. Biden did, btw, endorse her, though as of this writing she has not been formally nominated.

Topsy-turvy? Yes. More to come? I’m sure. Stay tuned.

Amos Lee

SHORT TAKES — Amos Lee was terrifically impressive on CBS’ Saturday Sessions this weekend. Stellar in fact.

Adrian Niles

Reminded us of Adrian Niles from years ago … After a seemingly endless heat wave in NYC, I heard one of the weather-heads describe the break in the heat as borderline comfortableGuess Who Don’t Sue: What enterprising director had a red-hot doc ready to go on a iconic superstar, but he let his reps go fingering he could do it with his own mojo? He couldn’t and the deal fell through …

Steven J. Immerman

Brad Balfour interviewed Steven J. Immerman on his In Search Of Pleasure Island tome for the Irish Examiner. Check it out here: https://irishexaminerusa.com/wp/?p=29625

We watched Sofia Coppola’s On The Rocks with Bill Murray and Rashida Jones. Coppola’s Lost In Translation (2003) is perhaps my all-time favorite film. This was a different, lighter path, but we definitely give it a thumbs up. Murray, as usual, was terrific …

Katy Perry

I’m a bit bothered by all this media-backlash about Katy Perry and her comeback single “Women’s World.” There were disturbing items about it in both SHOWBIZ 411 (https://www.showbiz411.com/2024/07/19/katy-perrys-new-single-womans-world-fails-to-launch-with-just-3k-sold) and the Daily Mail (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-13635579/Katy-Perry-comeback-music.html); citing everything from Dr. Luke’s involvement to a hideous video for the song. It all seems a bit unwarranted. It may not be “Firework,”  but not totally a disaster. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVIJUH29pjU … And, great quote from Peter Frampton on the passing of Bob Newhart: We were friends and when I took him to lunch, it was the Four Seasons. when he took me to lunch, it was some place else. It was the accountant in him.” Much-missed and thank you Bob! for all the laughs.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Andrew Sandoval; Bob Merlis; Roy Trakin; Roger Grimsby; Bill Beutel; Spike Jonze; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Kent & Laura Denmark; Susan Storm; Geraldo Rivera; Rosanna Scotto; Paul Mescal; Paul Undersinger; Harrison Jordon; Jordon Gray; Lori Immerman; Vinny Rich; Scott Stark; Don Wardell; Marsha Stern; Billy Smith; Robert Funaro; and CHIP!

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Film

The Film “Twisters” Whips the Summer Season into a Climatic Frenzy Of Life and Death

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With this summer season of intense weather and a vast array of tornadoes touching down in state after state, there’s no better timing than now to release this film, “Twisters.” It’s a sort of sequel to its 28-year-old predecessor, “Twister” — directed by the now-retired Jan De Bont. The now 80-year old Dutchman is a retired cinematographer, director and film producer. He’s best known for directing 1994’s “Speed” and then “Twister” which were part of the rise of blockbusters such as “Die Hard,” “The Hunt for Red October” and “Lethal Weapon.” He was the cinematographer of “Die Hard and Lethal Weapon 3”. He also was cinematographer of “Red October”, the first of the Jack Ryan series.

Daisy Edgar-Jones, Glen Powell

Chock full of dramatic moments we can all relate to, both films are terrifying. The various scenes of destruction are blood curdling. And given that a twister is far more fearsome than any creature fabrication like Godzilla — since storms are far less easy to reason with — the film resonates. As innovative as the original was, this edition explores all the investment in special effects to give audiences a truly close up look at what people have actually experienced when this weather phenomena destroys homes and sweeps people away into deathly oblivion.

But these films, especially the latest as directed by Lee Isaac Chung, aren’t merely fictionalized documentaries. There is a rich and fully rounded narrative of love lost and gained here. Most of that’s thanks to the fine casting of Daisy Edgar-Jones and Glen Powell —  who now seem to be the go-to guy for actors who display naturalistic grit and charisma.

Daisy Edgar-Jones, Glen Powell

As weather scientist Kate, Britisher Edgar-Jones provides a reasonable facsimile of a midwesterner obsessed with coming up with a Tornado-killer solution. The film opens as she is working with fellow students and friends to test a chemical solution to contain tornadoes. All goes awry and three of her team are swept away to their deaths.

Five years later, the other survivor, Javi (Anthony Ramos), comes to NYC to ask Kate to help him with a new project, a 3D tornado mapping system which has — as audiences realize later — insidious implications. They head to Oklahoma where they clash, at first, with tornado wrangler Tyler Owens (Powell), a high-energy social media sensation. Initially, the two teams compete but Kate eventually bonds with him and discovers that he has the scientific acumen to help her along the way.

As they wend their way to the film’s conclusion — repeatedly surviving death-dealing twisters — both find love and scientific solutions to quell the impact of these mega-death machines. It also opens the door to possible sequels, ones to be produced in a shorter time than nearly three decades.

In addition to the sheer drama of the various set pieces constructed here, “Twisters” is also loaded with trenchant political, scientific and sociological notions. The ecological implications are obvious. There have been so many hyper-powerful tornadoes happening now in our real world. Are they due to authorities ignoring the cause of the surge?

For various reasons too complicated to go into here, greed and irrational climate deniers have made it harder to address the long term solutions necessary to make life in tornado alley more bearable. This film may have a touch of fanciful science built into it but it also provokes audiences to think of the implications of weather change and man-made global warming. “Twisters” may not make your summer more soothing but it does provoke more than just sheer terror.

Film: Twisters
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Cast: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Glen Powell, Anthony Ramos, Brandon Perea, Maura Tierney, Sasha Lane

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