The Film Fix – February 2018
What to Binge: Altered Carbon: Season 1 (February 2) – Adapted from a novel by Richard Morgan (writer of the video game “Syndicate”), “Altered Carbon” is an expensive looking science fiction adventure starring Joel Kinnaman (2014’s “Robocop”) as Takeshi Kovacs.
Set 250 years into the future when death has been defeated by advanced technology, Kovacs is resurrected to investigate the murder (or so it seems) of billionaire Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy). The fantastic death-defying technology permits certain people to upload their entire essence into a chip that is then inserted into a new blank body when required.
When pulled out of cold storage and resurrected, Kovacs’ new body (Kinnaman) is much different than what he had before. And in taking on the murder investigation, he’ll have to also investigate his new self and the motivations of those who employ him. Even though the environments are somewhat reminiscent of something from a Philip K. Dick adaptation (think “Blade Runner”), the series promises to be an original experience.
What Movie to Watch: Mute (February 23) – This one looks great from the trailers. And like “Altered Carbon,” it appears to exist in a future world where cars fly and mysteries have to be investigated and solved. Centering on a mute bartender named Leo (Alexander Skarsgård), this science fiction crime story involves gangsters and a missing partner.
Paul Rudd (“Ant-Man”) is snarky as ever and Justin Theroux (“The Leftovers”) looks like a youngish Steve Jobs with a mop-headed wig and round glasses. Directed by Duncan Jones (“Moon,” “Source Code”), who really knows how to handle special effects, I’m all in for this one when it hits Netflix.
What Movie to Avoid: The Emoji Movie (February 8) – The great Patrick Stewart plays a character named “Poop.” Do I need to even say anything more?
What to Binge: The Looming Tower (February 28) – Based on the best-selling non-fiction book “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” this series is a big deal for Hulu. With a huge and talented cast and a controversial subject, the ripped from the headlines narrative features FBI counter-terrorism Special Agent in Charge John O’Neill (Jeff Daniels) following the rise of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda in the years prior to the 9/11 attacks.
What Movie to Watch: White Bird in a Blizzard (February 19) – This film is an overlooked curiosity. Directed by Gregg Araki (“Mysterious Skin”) and starring Shailene Woodley (“Divergent”), “White Bird in a Blizzard” is a 1988 set story concerning a teenage girl, whose world is thrown into chaos when her mother (played by Eva Green) suddenly disappears. Stylish and emotionally engaging, this is the 2014 movie that should have received more attention.
Others worth watching: “Blazing Saddles,” “Manhunter,” and “The Warriors”
What Movie to Avoid: The Spirit (February 1) – When comics writer/artist Frank Miller (“300”) collaborated with Robert Rodriguez on 2005’s adaptation of his graphic novel “Sin City,” the result was impressive and kind of magic. Director Rodriquez even agreed to a co-directing credit for Miller on that one. But the unique combination of animation-style visuals and masculine characters with a violent story-line just doesn’t translate well in “The Spirit,” which Miller directed all by himself. Set in the noirish-looking Central City, the film involves a cop named Denny Colt who returns from beyond to become the Spirit (Gabriel Macht). While the effects are more of the cool comics inspired visuals introduced in “Sin City,” the story here is just incoherent. Ultimately, this cinematic footnote is not worth visiting.
What to Binge: The Tick: Season 1B (February 23) – Splitting the first season in half enabled this funny-as-hell reboot of the Tick comic book to have essentially two launches. While these days an entire series is usually dumped onto a platform all at once, Amazon released the premiere season in two parts. This might be a blue-print for other shows that tend to exhaust or overwhelm viewers, who just can’t pace themselves to make it through an entire season that is completely available all at once. “The Tick” is the comic tale of Arthur Everest (Griffin Newman), who befriends a clueless blue superhero calling himself The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz). Together they take on the forces of evil, while, at the same time, trying to make sense out of their crazy lives. “The Tick” is insanely bingeable.
What Movie to Watch: Logan Lucky (February 16) – This caper film from “Ocean’s Eleven” director Steven Soderbergh was pretty magical. The pleasant story of the bumbling Logan brothers (played by Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) is less a heist movie than the story of a father and his young daughter. Soderbergh populates the story with interesting characters including a tweaked Daniel Craig as an explosive expert named Joe Bang. This is well worth your time.
What Movie to Avoid: Rollerball (2002) – Both “Rollerball” films are available on Amazon Prime this month, and while the 1975 original is a good example of classic science fiction, the 2002 remake is just awful. Both story-lines deal with a violent futuristic sport on roller skates. But where the 1975 version was somewhat intelligent, if also a little slow, the remake is just an action-packed mess.
The Shape of Water
Having been nominated for 13 Oscars, and easily one of 2017’s best looking films, catching this one on the big screen is a good idea.
In “The Shape of Water,” a mute cleaner named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) becomes smitten when she encounters an imprisoned Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) in a laboratory. The Amphibian Man has been captured and held against his will in the armored government facility run by the vicious Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). But when Elisa learns that the government intends to dissect the aquatic/terrestrial creature, Elisa and her friend Giles (Richard Jenkins) hatch a plan to free him.
A wonderfully dark, adult fairy tale, director Guillermo del Toro (“Hellboy”) ventures back to his best work namely 2006’s perfect “Pan’s Labyrinth” delivering a true awards contender. A picture postcard in production design, del Toro’s talents have never been better used.
NOTE: On February 9, check out the Oscar nominated short films (both animation and live action) at Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema in Atlanta. It is always a treat to take in on the big screen in a proper theater all of 2017’s short films that are vying for the top awards.
Marvel’s continuing expansion of their cinematic universe now extends to giving Black Panther a stand-alone adventure that’s been benefitting from terrific advanced buzz. Having introduced the character with a lot of flash in the last Captain America film, “Black Panther” picks up with hero T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) still mourning the death of his father, the king of the fictitious country of Wakanda. A technologically advanced secret nation, from the trailers, Wakanda looks something like Asgard, the realm once inhabited by Thor. Directed by Ryan Coogler (“Creed”), expect this Marvel outing to be narratively rich and visually stylish and, hopefully thrilling. “Black Panther” should serve as a warm up for the next Avengers film, “Infinity War,” coming this May.
(Jonathan W. Hickman is an entertainment attorney, filmmaker, college professor and novelist. More about Jonathan can be found by visiting http://filmproductionlaw.com)