Some stuff I didn’t have space to say in my NPR review of Tim Story’s not-very-good new Shaft: The distinctive feature of the Shafts is a shared contempt for crosswalks and a love for walking into traffic. And it’s a shame that after Gordon Parks’Shaft hit big in 1971, newspaperman-turned-novelist-turned screenwriter Ernest Tidyman got right to work adapting his third novel about the Black Private Dick Who’s a Sex Machine to All the Chicks, Shaft’s Big Score!, skipping right over Shaft Among the Jews.
I am chuffed to be back on the iHeartRadio Podcast Award-nominated Pop Culture Happy Hour this week to discuss Glass, fallen auteur M. Night Shyamalan’s joint sequel to 2000’s Unbreakable and 2017’s Split. It isn’t very good, but the movie has an anachronistic quality that’s sort of… sweet. While it’s made explicitly clear—every damn thing in this movie is explained and re-re-re-explained—that Glass is set 19 years after Unbreakable, Shyamalan acts as though superhero comics haven’t become Hollywood’s No. 1 source of grist during the back half of that period. (In the years since Unbreakable, we’ve seen three different A-list actors play The Incredible Hulk, for chrissakes.)
A goodly portion of those films have featured Samuel L. Jackson, who, to be fair, looks like he’s having at least as much fun sitting in a wheelchair staring into the middle distance in Glass as he does when he’s cashing another check as Nick Fury. After his brief return to acting in both Wes Anderson’sMoonrise Kingdom and Rian Johnson’sLooper back in 2012, I’d hoped maybe Bruce Willis would deign to open his eyes again, but no such luck. And the movie’s top-billed star continues to perform his solo show Scares Ahoy with James McAvoy.
The evergreen Eva Green is the best thing about Tim Burton’s adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ bestselling, “vernacular”-photography-inspired YA novel. But the stop-motion sequences are great, too. I reviewed the film for NPR.
It’s a split verdict from the Pop Culture Happy Hour panel this week on the merits of Quentin Tarantino’s eighth and—on account of having been shot in 65mm Super Panavision, for a 2.76:1 aspect ratio when projected in 70mm—widest feature, The Hateful Eight. I don’t think I was at my sharpest trying to defend the picture. All I can tell is you that I saw its refusal to give us any character to empathize with fully as a strength, not a weakness, and reflective of a deliberate decision by Tarantino. Although more modest in scale and contained in its setting, this is a more complicated film than the two historical fantasias that preceded it, 2009’s Inglorious Basterds and 2012’s Django Unchained. I enjoy and admire all of these films, but it’s very clear in the latter two who is supposed to enjoy the audience’s support. Not so in The Hateful Eight. That discomfiture ain’t for everyone. “The viewership for this one narrows to the self-selected,” wrote my pal Scott Tobias in his NPR review three weeks ago.