Monday, November 19, 2018

I saw Robin Hood (2018)...


Some perceive Robin Hood as a redistribution-of-wealth proponent, but I've never embraced that. To me, Robin of Loxley (Locksley) is (pure and simple) a crusader against payment (i.e., taxes) taken for services not rendered or questionable crusades forged and financed by elected mobsters. I live in New Jersey. I know the bloody gimmick all too well and have long fantasized about administering Robin Hood's surreptitious justice against my governing crooks. 


To sweeten my particular perspective, I've known Robin Hood my whole life, following his exploits in books, comics and movies, much in the way I've followed Tarzan, Long John Silver, Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chan and Tom Sawyer. In other words, by the very nature of the arrangement, I hold a sentimental bond with the daring bloke. (Gosh, my appreciation of DC's Green Arrow stems from Robin Hood, but I imagine most Oliver Queen fans would say the same.) 


This new "Robin Hood" is produced by Leo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davidsson; directed by Otto "Five Days" Bathurst, and written by Brad Chandler and David James Kelly. It stars hip, new kid on the block, Taron Egerton of "Kingsman" fame. Like the "Kingsman" flicks, this current volume of the legendary "thief" presents an unorthodox, steampunkish edge, but then so does Charlie Hunnam/Guy Ritchie's underrated "King Arthur", to which the misled public turned a blind eye. (I can only trust that Bathurst's movie mounts an audience akin to Russell Crowe/Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood", since that one raked in big bucks, though never spawned the sequel that so many presumed inevitable. "Robin Hood '18" might compensate for that.)


Whatever comes of its box-office draw, this retelling works as well as the best of 'em, offering winsome, cloak-and-dagger action within a package that reflects aspects of most other adaptations: The Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) does his heartless, taxing-the-hell-out-of-everyone thing, supported by an evil cardinal (F. Murray Abraham) and the ruthless Guy of Gisborne (Paul Anderson), with Robin Hood (aka, the Hood) responding by robbing the rich to give to...well, you know the rest. 


Through the cunning training of ex-enemy Yahya, aka (Little) John (Jamie Foxx), our destined, Sherwood Forest champion grows skillful and courageous enough to assemble his "merry" followers. Among his avenging recruits are dear ol' (this time svelte) Friar Tuck (Tim Minchin) and reluctant, waiting-in-the-wings Will Tillman/Scarlet (Jamie Dornan), who's married to (hold on to your saddle!) gorgeous Maid Marian (Eve Hewson). 


Marian is still Robin Hood's main squeeze, mind you, but as one can deduce, this version serves revisions, but then so does Kevin Costner/Kevin Reynolds' blockbuster, to no disgruntlement among fans. Even with its various quirks, "Robin Hood '18" still stays on noble course.


Much of this comes from Egerton's resolute interpretation, as he warms up to the we're-doing-this-for-your-own-good rich (under a war-effort foil), if only to enact the expected Zorro/Don Diego del la Vega/playing-both-sides dynamic. This makes Robin Hood's masterful manipulation of the iniquitous principles evermore uplifting, especially when accompanied by Joseph Trapanese's rousing score. (I'll have you know that a number of the Trenton-based, Regal Plaza audience cheered whenever the music ascended and the arrows sailed upon the Sheriff's property-seizing minions.)


What more can I say? At the end of the day, "Robin Hood '18" is a positive piece of adventurous allegory. I wouldn't call it the best adaptation of our hero (that distinction belongs to the Errol Flyn/Michael Curtiz/William Keighley edition), but this version sure does feel nice and cozy. And why wouldn't it? It's about an old pal on an old jaunt for an old, essential cause. If you're taxed to the unprecedented hilt as I am (and bewailing those infinite, unsalted Jersey roads, even though an ice storm was projected days in advance), I'm confident you'll depart this latest model mirroring my lofty, Loxley sentiment. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2018!!!

RIP WILLIAM GOLDMAN...


You covered it all, including novels and plays for stage and screen.


For those with a taste for action/adventure, you granted "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", "The Great Waldo Pepper" and "The Ghost and the Darkness". For those into raw thrillers, you supplied solid adaptations of your novel, "Marathon Man", Ira Levin's "The Stepford Wives" and the Stephen King entries, "Misery", "Hearts in Atlantis" and "Dreamcatcher". 


Among whimsical fantasy, you rendered "Memories of an Invisible Man" for John Carpenter..."The Princess Bride" for Rob Riener; and let's not overlook your uncredited influence on the outlandish "Last Action Hero" and "Twins".


However, for those who savor, character-driven, "Psycho"-based intensity, you dispatched one of the greatest: "Magic". Per producer Joseph E. Levin and director Richard Attenborough, the film version of your book gave Anthony Hopkins one of his meatiest roles and for the big screen, one of the most devilish, ventriloquist dolls ever to chatter. 


Like a faithful friend, you delivered your services with remarkable consistency, pleasing audiences time and again. There's no doubt that your contributions will live on, as you will, Mr. Goldman, in the annals of creative infinity. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

GOODBYE, JERRY OHLINGER...


You were a prolific and reliable source of cinematic dreams, Mr. Ohlinger, with infinite photographs, posters and lobby cards available for all those anxious to consume them.


When I couldn't get enough of George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" and "Dawn of the Dead", it was through your movie-material, mail-order shop that I got my desperate fix, long before VHS became the convenient norm. 


I wasn't alone with such focused pursuits. Many flocked to your store (no matter what location) for specialized slices of "Star Trek", "Star Wars", "Battlestar Galactica", "Space: 1999", Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, King Kong, Godzilla, Disney, Hammer, AIP and Universal: each and every purchaser grateful and satisfied.


You'll be missed by more than you might imagine, Mr. Ohlinger, but the materials you supplied will keep you respectfully sustained in our collective (and collectible) hearts. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

SUPERMAN '78: A 40TH ANNIVERSARY, REMASTERED, THEATRICAL REVIVAL!!!


Folks can debate till the cows come home what the best, big-budget superhero picture is, but no one can deny the impact and enduring influence of the granddaddy of 'em all: "Superman: the Movie".


To celebrate its fortieth anniversary release, which otherwise takes place December 15, Fathom Events is presenting the remastered movie (original, theatrical cut) on Nov 25, 27 and Dec 3. Its vibrancy in sight and sound has never been as crisp or invigorating: all the more reason to pay a respectful (re)visit. 


Directed by the versatile Richard Donner and scripted (per various drafts) by Mario "The Godfather" Puzo; Robert Benton; and Leslie and Robert Newman, the production became one of the most successful pictures ever made (with inflation tallied, it would still hold its own with current counterparts). In that prior Superman outings (i.e., the Kirk Alyn movie serials and George Reeves' "Superman and the Mole Men") had limited budgets (and were lambasted by shortsighted critics), the filmmakers had the monumental task of proving that a pumped-up version of Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel's mythology could click on the big screen. Despite the alleged odds, they accomplished a commendable composite of pathos, comedy, love and righteous exploits that left audiences captivated and yearning for more.  


There's no doubt that "Superman: the Movie" flaunted its value via fantastic effects (the flying sequences are still unprecedented), but the production succeeds because it's a passionate labor of love. Those attached to it (even if Donner and producers, Alexander and Ilya Salkind parted on bitter terms) gave it their all, ensuring the film stayed faithful to its DC source. The production was, after all, a representation of American legend, and nothing less than a principled commemoration would do. 


While other superhero movies have tried to rival its success, "Superman: the Movie" exceeds them by unconditionally embracing its moral ideology. For example, this Superman isn't afraid to say that he stands for "Truth, justice and the American way." Try to find that in more recent Kal-El excursions, not to mention any CW/DC series. In addition, our eponymous hero places the same emphasis on both big and small tasks, ranging from rescuing a cat to battling a nuclear-nabbing, Kryptonite-bearing foe.


The movie's mass acceptance made a global star of "Love of Life'"s Christopher Reeve, who injected Kal-El with focused, friendly dignity and painted his Clark Kent in the way of a bumbling, identifiable Cary Grant: two personalities rolled into one to beguile those who might (by accident or plan) curb his compassionate cause. 


Margot Kidder, who established herself in a trio of stellar thrillers, hit even higher ground as the sassy but awestruck Lois Lane. To bracket their acceptance, Kidder and Reeves were accompanied by marquee-value names like Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor; Ned Beatty as Otis; Valerie Perrine as Miss Teschmacher; Glenn Ford as Pa Kent; Phyllis Thaxter as Ma Kent; Jackie Cooper as Perry White; Marc McClure as Jimmy Olsen; Marlon Brando as Jor-El; Susannah York as Lara; Terence Stamp as General Zod; Sarah Douglas as Ursa; and Jack O'Halloran as Non. (One can spot cameos by Larry Hagman; Harry Andrews; Rex Reed; John Ratzenberger; and Noel Neill.) Pretty darn impressive, and all are excellent (if not spot-on) in their roles. 


To further the movie's significance, John Williams' score is extraordinary: his main-title march and "Can You Read My Mind?" being two of the most hummed pieces of cinema history. (In my estimation, the score is William's best, and that's sure saying something, considering his immaculate queue.) 

In addition, "Superman: the Movie" contains what many considered to be the definitive representation of Krypton: regal, ornate and like precarious glass, doomed to crash. 


The movie spawned a blockbuster sequel (shot, for the most part, alongside the first), plus three, complementary chapters (Bryan Singer's "Superman Returns", starring Brandon Routh, included), in addition to a "Supergirl" spin-off, starring Helen Slater. 

If you'd like to catch the Man of Steel's '78 adventure again (or for the first time) on the sprawling screen, here's your chance; if not, the HD Blu-ray is available for purchase. And if you can't swing either format, dig into your collection, pull out an old, faithful copy (no matter what the cut) and celebrate one of the best of the best, four decades after it touched your heart, lifted your spirits and indeed, made you believe a man can fly. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

FAREWELL, RUBEN MERIGGI...


With action, adventure, weirdness and lust, you stirred the soul--and the libido--Mr. Meriggi.



Gazing upon any of your works, whether found in the startling pages of "Hiras"; "Dago", "Mermaids" and "Coven" or among your many barbarous bouts for Conan, Wolf and Crazy Jack, one had no choice but to fall under your spell.


You were a veritable master, praised, respected but still too often underrated. 


For those who knew you--knew the absolute grandeur of your artistry--you'll remain regarded among the creme de la creme: a creator that others will aspire to match, but one who'll always exist in a special, revered niche all his own. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

SO LONG, STAN LEE...


You started early but strong, championing Marvel when it was still Atlas and Timely, collaborating through the years with such artistic giants as Steve Ditko, Moebius and Jack Kirby.


Thanks to you, Captain America and Sub-Mariner dominated a new, silvery age, and you never failed to publicize their virtues, paving the way for Spider-man, Iron Man, Black Panther, the Incredible Hulk, the Mighty Thor, Daredevil, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.


When others dismissed comics as childish and uncool, you displayed them like coveted metals, celebrating and mingling among Marvel's characters in blockbuster movies and even hosting your own superhuman, television show.


You were a one and only, Mr. Lee...Stan the Man to many a starry-eyed youngster and jaded adult: those eager to believe in magic and that good could triumph over evil. You granted it all with arms wide open and a huge, welcoming heart. Your generous, iconic legacy will live on, cradled among the titans of the past, present and those yet to be born...

Excelsior!!!