Another week, another five cool things.
Conversations with Scorsese
Film critic and historian Richard Schickel sat down with Martin Scorsese over the course of several weeks and spoke with him at length. Those conversations were turned into this book and what a treasure it is. They discuss the director’s films from his first one, Who’s That Knocking At My Door up until Shutter Island (which was the last film he had made when the book was written). If you’ve ever seen an interview with Scorsese, you know he has an encyclopedic knowledge of film, and Schickel is able to keep up so that it isn’t only a book about Scorsese’s films but about hundreds of others. If you are a fan of the director, this is a must read.
Murder on the Orient Express (2018)
Kenneth Branagh’s recent adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel is stunningly gorgeous, beautifully acted, filled to the brim with incredible actors, and completely unnecessary. Sidney Lumet adapted the novel with an all-star cast in 1974, and the television series starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot also adapted the novel in 2010. Both of these are quite good. It was also adapted for CBS with Alfred Molina starring as Poirot in 2001, but I have not seen that one. The need for another adaptation was certainly not something any of us had.
It is beautifully shot and all of the actors are good. Branagh is a perfectly capable Poirot though he allows the film to spend a little too much time on himself and a little too little time on his magnificent cast (including Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Olivia Coleman, and Willem Dafoe). When Dame Judi Dench barely gets enough lines to fill a page, you know you’ve got a script problem. It's a good adaptation with minimal changes to the book. It doesn’t do anything new with the material which is a shame, but it's a perfectly good way to introduce the kids to Christie.
A Quiet Place
John Krasinski co-wrote, directed, and stars in this horror film about a family trying to survive a world that has been invaded by monsters with super hearing. There are a few plot contrivances that keep it from perfection but it's so well crafted and pieced together that I hardly care. You can read my full review here.
The Incredibles 2
After trying for several weeks to get tickets to this latest Pixar film, we finally got in on July 4. The first Incredibles is such a wonderful little film. Made some 14 years ago, it still stands as one of the best superhero movies around. The sequel doesn’t really improve upon the formula and it lacks some of the character development that really elevated the first one above the fray, but it's still an incredibly enjoyable, family film. Brad Bird is magnificent at creating action sequences that are exciting and still enable you to understand what is happening (unlike so many modern action films that seem to think close-up shots with shakey cams are all you need). It's funny and heartwarming and so much fun.
Doctor Who: Four To Doomsday
I’ve been watching a lot of Tom Baker-era Who so I decided to change things up and watch a Peter Davison one (in only his second story). Four to Doomsday finds The Doctor plus his companions Adric, Tegan and Nyssa - surely this was the most crowded the TARDIS ever got - landing on a spaceship occupied by a megalomaniac, his two assistants, a bunch of robots, and several ancient citizens of Earth (a Greek philosopher, an Incan princess, a Chinese mandarin, and an Aboriginal tribal leader).
It seems the spaceship has been traveling back and forth from Earth, picking up various cultural leaders so that the aliens can study us. But this time they plan to attack the planet, converting all the humans into robots (with their consciousness intact). Will our heroes save the day, or will Earth be taken over by evil aliens? You’ll have to watch to find out, I will never tell.
Ultimately this is pretty standard Doctor Who. The story is nothing new and with so many characters, it's a bit overcrowded. But Davison has already settled into the role. While he’s never been my favorite, I’ve always enjoyed his take on the character. Adric and Tegan are as annoying as ever, but they have less screen time than usual. Nyssa is underdeveloped but still lights up the screen. It's fairly forgettable Who, but still enjoyable.
Paul McCartney on Carpool Karaoke
I’m a bit late to this as it first dropped a few weeks ago (and some 25 million people have already watched it) but it's still well worth sharing, and totally cool. James Cordon periodically invites a variety of musical performers to drive around with him in a car and sing along to studio versions of their songs. It's a bit that has grown a bit long in the tooth, but scoring a Beatle is a pretty big deal. Along with singing some of Paul’s biggest hits, they stop at various Liverpool landmarks with Paul showing us where the inspiration for some of his tunes came from. A stop in at his childhood home is an especially lovely moment and when he performs for a few folks at a tiny little club, I have to admit I got a little choked up. That music has meant so much to so many people (including myself) that to see the absolute joy on the faces of all these people when they see Paul is quite a treat.