On this week’s episode of CinemAddicts, Anderson Cowan and I review director Jeff Nichols’ (Take Shelter, Mud) latest project Midnight Special. The narrative, which centers on a father (Michael Shannon) who is doing his best to protect his son (Jaeden Lieberher) with the government and a religious congregation breathing down their neck, is an action thriller which also pays homage to Steven Spielberg’s films Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. Joel Edgerton and Kirsten Dunst co-star in the feature.
Also reviewed on the podcast is The Program, a Stephen Frears (The Grifters) directed drama about Lance Armstong (Ben Foster). Jesse Plemons does memorable work in the film as fellow cyclist Floyd Landis, and Foster is also solid as the embattled Armstrong.
Lastly, we cover The Confirmation, a family drama which also features Jaeden Lieberher and co-stars Clive Owen. Our Blu-ray and streaming picks of the week are the Warner Archive Blu-ray The Big Sleep and The Barkley Marathons. Take a listen below, and to subscribe and rate CinemAddicts, please click here.
One of the most interesting trends in recent years is the way that video games have slowly made their influence felt on our movie screens.
From titles that have introduced popular gaming characters to whole new audiences, to movie stars that have even become the focus of online games at Lucky Nugget Casino, the movie-to-video game crossover is swiftly becoming a fertile area for world’s leading entertainment companies.
One of the earliest successful examples of a movie that created waves in the gaming world was the James Bond Goldeneye game for the Nintendo 64. This became a massive gaming hit and quickly led the way for many games titles that saw the synergistic appeal of using popular cinema characters as a way to cater to huge public demand.
This trend reached its apex in 2015 with the release of the hugely-acclaimed Batman: Arkham Knight game for Xbox One and PS4. This put players in charge of the Caped Crusader as he roamed around Gotham City seeking vengeance on a range of villainous characters.
Such is the success of the Batman franchise that it has even become a highly playable slots game at Lucky Nugget Casino, and as this casino accepts Australian players, it continues to offer the character surprising new revenues from its 1940s DC Comics origins thanks to the simple mobile gameplay and impressive payouts.
However, with the popularity of gaming sites like Lucky Nugget Casino that we’ve also seen certain games become the subject of hit movies of varying quality. Whilst many may question the motives behind releases such as the Tomb Raider movie, few can argue with the box office clout that such titles achieve.
Already 2016 is looking like it’s getting ready to embrace a wave of games-to-movie adaptations with the likes of a World of Warcraft film appearing later this summer. And the startling virtual reality treatment of the upcoming Assassin’s Creed movie looks set to provide Hollywood with a truly futuristic cinematic experience.
Such examples are perhaps just another indication of how video games have become one of the world’s largest-grossing entertainment brands. And with the likes of Deadpool providing the perfect modern archetype of a multimedia franchise operating in the realms of comic-books, video games and movies, it seems that we may see many film titles appearing on gaming sites and smartphone devices in the upcoming months.
Miracles From Heaven may be initially seen as a faith based movie, but thanks to dialed in performances from Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, and Eugenio Derbez, the film should score with moviegoers in search of a gripping family drama.
The movie is based on Christy Beam’s (Jennifer Garner) memoir of her daughter Anna’s (Rogers) battles with an incurable digestive disorder. Although Annabel received first rate treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital from Dr. Nurko (Derbez), her condition did not improve. During a pivotal morning while attempting to climb a hollowed out tree with her sister Abbie (Brighton Sharbino), Anna fell headfirst inside the tree but escaped without a scratch. What began as a potentially tragic accident altered her life, as she was miraculously cured from her debilitating condition.
Though naysayers will probably scoff at the validity of the aforementioned events, the heart of Miracles From Heaven centers on Christy’s determined struggle to find a cure for her daughter, a journey which understandably leads to her own crisis of faith. Thankfully, her veterinarian husband Kevin’s faith is unshaken even during the family’s darkest days, while Anna also attempts to deal with her rare disorder with as much strength as possible.
Director Patricia Riggen, who helmed last year’s underrated The 33, brings a steady and passionate hand to the proceedings, and though the story will undoubtedly leave many a movie fan in tears, she doesn’t resort to heavy handed manipulation. Instead, she relies on her actors to bring a sense of lived-in reality to the story, and during she also doesn’t get too preachy when dealing with the movie’s religious elements.
Queen Latifah also brings a bit of fresh air as Angela, a waitress who befriends Christy and Anna during their stay in Boston, with John Carroll Lynch starring as the pastor who helps share Anna’s story with the congregation.
Miracles From Heaven is a tearjerker that actually had me hooked to its story up to the final credits, and thanks to solid work from a talented ensemble cast and inspired directing from Riggen, the film doesn’t disappoint. Whether or not you believe in God in neither here nor there, as Miracles From Heaven is an intimate look at how a family perseveres through a life changing crisis and finds a stronger foothold in their faith. Family movies can be a bit too heavy handed and maudlin at times, and thankfully Miracles From Heaven rises above the fray.
Miracles From Heaven (PG, 109 minutes) opens nationwide March 16.
The Bronze centers on Hope (Melissa Rauch), a former Olympic gymnast whose sarcasm and entitlement continues to lead her in a downward spiral. Living in the basement of her father’s (Gary Cole) home, Hope gets a chance to change her life for the better when she coaches a talented gymnast (Haley Lu Richardson) in a new quest for the gold.
Rauch, who penned the project with her husband Winston, had a bit of temptation when initially completing The Bronze, but thankfully she stuck to her guns. “Even once we wrote the script for myself, there was a lot of producers who were interested in the script, but said they wanted to put another actress in the role they could get a lot more money with – a bigger name and someone who has proven box office success” said Rauch. “We, of course, held onto it and decided to do it on a shoestring budget and do it independently.”
Click on the media bar below to hear Rauch talk about why she loves making independent films:
Recently released on Blu-ray via theWarner Archive Collection, Key Largo is a jewel of a film, and though it features A-list duo Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, the picture has many other facets that make it sing.
Frank McCloud (Bogart) is an ex-GI who travels to a hotel in Key Largo where he meets the father (Lionel Barrymore) and widow (Bacall) of his fellow WWII troop mate. His job is to relay how his friend died a hero in the war, and after fulfilling his somber task Frank’s bound to head home and lead a quiet life.
Exiled mobster Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) has other things on his mind, however, as he and his crew are also holed up at Key Largo ready to collect profits from a counterfeit money operation. Johnny, once a powerful crime lord, has been wiling away his years in Cuba after being kicked out of the U.S., and now he’s back with a vengeance.
Rocco and his men eventually take Frank (Bogart), Nora (Bacall), James (Barrymore), and a beat up police officer (John Rodney) hostage as they wait for their deal to be completed. A hurricane that is inflicting its wrath upon Key Largo also complicates matters, as Frank and his fellow captives must find a way to survive this harrowing ordeal.
Though all the aforementioned actors give first rate performances (Bacall, exuding sultry dry wit and charm in The Big Sleep, plays a much more subdued character this time around), the movie’s scene stealer is Claire Trevor as Gaye Dawn, the ex-girlfriend of Johnny Rocco. Once a talked about singer, Gaye’s life is now found at the bottom of a bottle, and her alcoholism has taken a toll on her once beautiful voice. During one of the movie’s most memorable moments, Gaye attempts to sing the Billie Holiday tune “Moanin’ Low” in hopes the abusive Johnny pours her a stiff drink. When he declines after her shaky performance, Frank takes matter into his own hands, risking his life in the process. For her performance, Trevor received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
Directed and written by John Huston (Richard Brooks is a co-writer), Key Largo is a classic beyond measure, and if you think James Cagney had the monopoly on playing diminutive, tough nosed gangsters, Robinson proves that crown should at least be shared. The Blu-ray also comes with the film’s original trailer.
I also talked about The Big Sleep on the latest episode of CinemAddicts, a podcast that’s a co-production of Hollywood Outbreak and Cold Cockle Productions. Take a listen below (review starts at 37:32)!