Carreón Cinema Club: Actor Fred Ward Exemplified “The Right Stuff”

Carreón Cinema Club: Actor Fred Ward Exemplified “The Right Stuff”

We will miss you, Fred Ward. You marked the lives of several generations of film and television fans, and we’re all the more grateful for your lighting up the screen. Rest in power, sir.

Fred Ward in the 1990 cult classic “Tremors.” Photo: Universal Pictures

Ward, who starred in films including “Henry and June,” “The Right Stuff” and “The Player,” has died. He was 79. 

Film fans of the era were quick to champion Ward in “Tremors,” playing affable smalltown repairman Earl Bassett in a performance that was one for the Blockbuster video store ages. Released in 1990, director Ron Underwood’s clever and earnest take on the American western genre as a monster-based comedy wasn’t exactly a box office hit. Rather, it developed a wider audience as they discovered the film during its home entertainment release, ultimately launching a franchise.

Co-starring Kevin Bacon and Finn Carter, “Tremors” fans also could not get enough of the vivid turns from iconic TV dad Michael Gross (“Family Ties”) and country music legend Reba McEntire as a survivalist couple, chewing up the screen as much as the carnivorous worm-like creatures dispatched by Ward, Bacon, and the townsfolk. Still, at its center stood Ward and Bacon, essaying one of the first post-modern “bro-mances” on screen in that era, a friendship that felt genuine and sincere despite the monster movie chaos fueling the narrative.

“Ward has played many heroes, each with a subtlety that removed them from the cardboard cutout figures that they could have been,” the Chicago Tribune’s Julia Cameron write of the actor in 1985. “In many ways, his work…can be viewed as a meditation on America’s notions of masculinity.”

Ward was married to Marie-France Ward, with whom he had a son, Django. TMZ reports via Ward’s rep that his cause of death is currently unknown. Ward, whose death was reported on May 8, wanted memorial tributes to be given to the Boston University Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center.


— Read more at variety.com/2022/film/news/fred-ward-dead-dies-tremors-the-right-stuff-1235266338/

‘The Batman’: Deleted Joker Scene With Barry Keoghan, Robert Pattinson – Variety

‘The Batman’ director Matt Reeves released a deleted scene featuring Barry Keoghan as the Joker facing off with Robert Pattinson’s Batman.
— Read on variety.com/2022/film/news/the-batman-deleted-joker-scene-barry-keoghan-robert-pattinson-1235213725/

A dizzying and disturbing return of a cinematic icon, Matt Reeves’s THE BATMAN gives Marvel a run for its money. His take on the famed DC Comics hero is nothing like the versions crafted by Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan. What Reeves has done is proven just how malleable a character Bruce Wayne/Batman remains.

A sprawling crime opera that is relevant and unsettling, its noir coated heart beats with visceral emotion thanks to its ensemble led by Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Andy Sirkis, Jeffrey Wright, and a terrifying Paul Dano as the sadistic Riddler.

If you haven’t laid eyes on THE BATMAN, believe the hype. To sweeten the pot more, watch this deleted scene featuring the Joker, a version you’ve never seen before. It telegraphs just how much Reeves had up his sleeve when taking on the oft-filmed property.

Carreón Cinema Club: Seeing “Red” Over CinemaBlend

Pixar’s Turning Red, now streaming on Disney+.

I don’t know what is worse in this appalling situation involving “Turning Red” and the review submitted by Sean O’Connell. He is CinemaBlend’s MANAGING EDITOR! And that generic mea culpa from the website and O’Connell? Just more of that “Oops, my bad” copy that is such a weak bandaid. I’ve been a film reviewer in my career. It is never about YOU in most cases, but this era of writing for site traffic is so demoralizing. This feels like Pixar is now a target for alt-right bullshit. We need to do and be better already if we want to survive this endless barrage of hate.

Read more about the CinemaBlend controversy below.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/turning-red-cast-responds-controversial-review-pulled-offline-rcna19725

Carreón Cinema Club: Death on the Nile

Reading some of the reviews on Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s DEATH ON THE NILE faulted the current Oscar nominee (“Belfast”) for not crafting an edgier take on the genre like “Knives Out.” I beg to differ.

Branagh, whose “Dead Again” remains one of my favorite modern mystery thrillers, conjures the sexier and edgier side of Christie’s famed novel into the 21st century in a surprising way. Remixing the narrative by bookending the film with the cause and effect of tragedy in the renowned detective Hercule Poirot’s life, the wicked mystery of a recently married heiress’s murder on the Nile takes on a fascinating rhythm and purpose.

The film’s winning ensemble cast featuring such standouts as Gal Gadot, Annette Bening, Sophie Okonedo, Leticia Wright, and a dashing Armie Hammer is more cohesive than in Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Experience.” The journey finds its spark with teasing sexuality, comic energy, glamour, and thrills set against breathtaking locations and exquisite design. DEATH ON THE NILE is no stuffy museum piece for the older set.

Like Branagh’s take on “Murder on the Orient Express,” it is a visceral and engaging film experience in the style that embraces what Hollywood still can do best on the silver screen.

Carreón Cinema Club: Love is… Douglas Sirk

Carreón Cinema Club: Love is… Douglas Sirk

Magnificent Obsession. (1954)

Nothing says “Love” more than a Douglas Sirk melodrama. The Criterion Channel has pulled together four of his finest efforts. The titles say it all: Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, and my all-time fave, his remake of Imitation of Life. Lauren, Lana, Rock, and Jane Wyman, too. Share it with the ones you love.

Imitation of Life (1959).

https://www.criterionchannel.com/videos/douglas-sirk-melodramas-teaser

Carreón Cinema Club: Who Failed “West Side Story?”

The superb duo of Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler lead the impeccable cast of “West Side Story,” now in theaters.

I’ve been stalling in writing a post-mortem on Steven Spielberg’s emotionally resonant and superbly crafted adaptation of West Side Story. Not only is it Spielberg’s best film in years, but it is also exactly the kind of moviegoing experience that deserves to be championed. Yes, it is THAT good.

It seems trite in the face of the pandemic news cycle and the growing storm clouds of war in Ukraine to offer any analysis. Yet, I’m oddly compelled to weigh in anyway because it is hard not to feel that audiences and studio culture let this movie down.

Revivals on Broadway remain part of its lifeblood in art and commerce. When they connect, they can usher in new generations of theater fans. Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall’s 1993 production of Cabaret remains a marvel of reinterpretation. Susan Stroman’s take on The Music Man in 2000 and Jerry Zaks’s 2017 production of Hello, Dolly! brought out new colors and injected vivid spirit with its star power and inventive theatricality blend. This year, Marianne Elliott’s gender-switched production of Stephen Sondheim’s seminal Company earned love letters from a theatrical community eager to return to the business of entertaining audiences. So why can’t this phenomenon happen for film versions? More, why didn’t it happen for West Side Story?

Were adults afraid to return to cinemas in a pandemic? Sure. But that didn’t stop the recent spate of Marvel films, Dune, No Time to Die, and House of Gucci, from filling seats, which included many adults in the demo mix. Did the post-Glee generation lose interest in musical film? Maybe. Despite its being explicitly marketed to them, audiences avoided Dear Evan Hansen, but that didn’t dissuade releasing studio Universal from greenlighting the international juggernaut Wicked for the screen.  Is it a dying or dead genre? Explain that to Bill Condon’s sparkling take on Dreamgirls, or Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables, the Mamma Mia! franchise, and The Greatest Showman, all of which were fueled by big names and turned out to be major box office in a world before the lockdowns shuttered cinemas brought the moviegoing cultural experience into an uncertain future.

Looking at the recent soft openings of Jon Chu’s stellar adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda & Quiara Alegría Hudes’s Tony-winning hit In the Heights and Spielberg’s West Side Story is perplexing as both films earned some of the year’s best reviews. Neither lived on as museum exhibits, something that plagued Clint Eastwood’s disappointing treatment of Jersey Boys in 2014. Heights and WSS both possess a vitality and freshness that makes going to the movies an absolute joy again, transcending their theatrical roots but not abandoning them. More, seeing real people express themselves beyond the blasts of special effects and neo-classic heroism is true magic. The expert craftsmanship fills every inch of the big screen along with casts, dance teams, design aesthetics, and musical scores overflowing with enthusiasm and possessing an even greater cultural purpose. However, here’s where things get a little complicated, though. Is spotlighting the effort to embrace cultural authenticity and diversity in the filmed arts turning off audiences on both sides?

Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, and Corey Hawkins in “In the Heights.”

As a Latino, it did my heart good to see the talent, sounds, and complex cultural realities of what it is to be from all parts of Latin America. We cannot always see such shows on the stage thanks to economics and the appearance of these works being solely made by and for “gringos” and “wannabe white” gente. That is not a gross generalization, either. While Fiddler on the Roof can pack them in regardless of the year of the production, Latinos are hard-pressed to partake in the Broadway or touring productions of shows that focus on their narratives.  The reality is shows like West Side Story and In the Heights will endure in schools, colleges, and amateur productions for a very long time. Yet, you can’t deny that they still feel like niche audience caviar when blown up for the silver screen. Worse, they are now targets for the woke political machine seeking to eradicate the “whitewash” in terms of representation.

The colorism debate that side-swiped In the Heights was devastating and demoralizing to watch happen in the weeks leading to its release last June, a situation made worse by apologies from its creators and supporters for not trying hard enough. They had no reason to apologize. The works speak positive volumes that cannot and should not be ignored or diminished.  

Months later, notice the campaign mounted for West Side Story, which opted to render the entire cast with the same beige skin tone with an artfully placed red, white, blue, and star flag. Subtle politicking from the liberal elite? Perhaps. But telegraphing “We are making a HUGE effort to tell ALL stories” is not the same as just letting the stories speak for themselves or weaving their cinematic spells without seeking approval or validation for promoting positive cultural representation.

Watching the studios patting their backs for their efforts is insulting enough. Knowing the executive suites do not include our voices in their mix is worse. How can they even begin to gauge how Latino audiences will react without someone from the community in their team to highlight the sensitivity minefields? More, what happens when you take the time to cull materials in Spanish, only to see the footage languish in the can, utterly ignored? This is something that I’ve experienced as a content producer several times, a symptom of tone-deafness that still permeates the marketing offices in Hollywood.

Heights and WSS feature extraordinary Latino talent in front of and behind the cameras. The sights and sounds ring true because we see and hear them from the people who look like and sound like us. Is it a perfect rendering? No. Is it a crime they should exist? Hell no. It is easier for some to process a Coco, for example. Yet, why did Encanto have a more challenging time reaching the same heights, despite its reviews and being a beautiful film for all audiences? Did it play its cultural card too hard? Or maybe its message was too foreign compared to the celebratory nature of Coco? The grey areas are endless here.

What saddens me most about the problems faced at the box office by In the Heights and West Side Story is that the appearance of failure of these high-profile titles will make it harder for other Latino-focused stories to be made or given the big-screen treatment. Director Eva Longoria’s Flamin’ Hot, due in 2022, will be yet another litmus test to raise these issues all over again, adding further pressure to la causa.

It is a curious thing. Thanks to streaming, Latin America is exploding with talent and fresh inspiration, with such boundary-smashing series and films as La Casa de la Flores, El Baile de Los 41, El Juego de las Llaves, Luis Miguel: La Serie, Acapulco, and the upcoming Señorita 89. Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín’s company Fabula and Pantaya, Apple, and Amazon Prime Video are crafting slates of original films and series that rival the best of what the American studios and streamers are offering. Why can’t some of these stories make their way up to el norte, too? We have the talent and the narratives that go way beyond dead rock stars and cholos. We need more faith in their realization and trust from the community beyond The Fast and the Furious-type IP.

Perhaps the disconnect between audiences and critics is the real culprit, a chasm that is as wide as it’s ever been and growing. Maybe the marketing efforts of leaning into diversity and inclusivity feel too much like moralizing, prompting audiences to ignore the “message” titles to just be “entertained.”

Reasons exist why the Marvel tent poles play to all demos. We know what they are before we take our seats in the cinema. Maybe it is time to stop leading the audience with the obvious or safe messages and let the intrinsic quality of a good story and singular artistry lead the way again. One way or another, audiences will find a reason to watch again in a way that makes them comfortable, secure, and inspired by what remains the greatest of art forms.

Writer’s Note: It is important to disclose that as a content producer, I am part of the team involved with the campaign for “In the Heights” and the upcoming “Flamin’ Hot.”

Carreón Cinema Club: Lina Wertmüeller

At the peak of the first pandemic wave lockdown, many of us sought consolation in the filmed arts. I chose to take the time to program my own international film festival of works I’d never seen. Antonioni, Bertolucci, Rossellini, and Wertmüeller became my holy quartet.

Watching Ms. Wertmüeller’s Seven Beauties and Swept Away proved transfixing experiences, viewings that solidified why her artistry, brimming with themes and visuals aimed at stirring the mind and heart, remain so damn compelling and original. Complex and even polarizing with her narratives built on gender and sexual politics, it was a master class I wish I enrolled in sooner.

What a visionary, one for the ages. Rest in power, LW. #movies #independentfilm #artsandentertainment #filmmaking #film

Carreón Cinema Club: House of Gucci

If anything, sin never goes out of style. Half beach read and half human opera, Ridley Scott’s glossy HOUSE OF GUCCI is divine drama at the movies.

Everything is outsized, from its ageless themes on love, lust, greed, betrayal, and the endless machinations for power to the performances from its glittering cast all across the board. Scott’s picture perfect vision does scale the mountain of camp, but moments of emotional depth keep it from going over the edge at the right moments. Yes, the accents are thick as Ragu sauce, but the film is not a documentary. Rather, it harkens back to an era where such Hollywood treatments of real life felt cinematic and compelling thanks to its star power.

It is a shame that HOUSE OF GUCCI is such an easy trolling target given its pedigree, which you should try to ignore. A wily Adam Driver, an unrecognizable Jared Leto, and the incomparable Al Pacino are in great form. Yet it is Lady Gaga who stands supreme as the key reason the film is so damn watchable in a virtuosic performance that is breathtaking. Although, I can’t help thinking how a director like Oscar-winner Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) would have treated this material, too.

More, it is a nice relief to be part of a film viewing experience that was about actual people for a change, not a comic book come to life. What a wonderful thing to see spark actual conversations about a film again. And you will have an opinion. A must see for 2021.

Carreón Cinema Club: Encanto

Disney’s holiday gift of ENCANTO is a charmer, weaving a vivid spell of music, emotion, and family positivity. Thanks to its ebullient voice cast and tuneful score, you’d be hard pressed not to have a better time at the movies this year with this gorgeous swirl of cultural enrichment and entertainment magic. Súper chevere, mi gente. #music #entertainment #encanto #disney #movies

The Madrigal family of ENCANTO.

‘Rust’ Assistant Director Fired From Previous Film After Prop Gun Discharge – The Hollywood Reporter

After the incident on the 2019 set of ‘Freedom’s Path,’ ‘Rust’ assistant director Dave Halls “was removed from set,” says a producer.
— Read on www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/rust-assistant-director-fired-previous-film-prop-gun-discharge-1235036706/

How is it people who are fired in Hollywood for potentially or absolutely harmful acts still make their way forward onto other jobs? This goes way beyond “accident.” It reveals the inherent problem in many industries that refuse to follow checks and balances, as well as take in the accountability in the protection of their teams.