Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
He says ‘Welcome to the frickin Guardians of the Galaxy! Only he didn’t use ‘frickin’.
When we’re first reunited with the titular Guardians they’ve been hired by the Sovereign (a race of golden, snotty, and genetically-engineered super-beings) to defend some valuable batteries from a horrific beast. The beast does indeed come and it’s a grueling battle for the Guardians…but that isn’t the main focus of the sequence. No much of what we see is snippets as the camera follows Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) happily dancing away to Quill’s music tracks.
Rocket (Voiced by Bradley Cooper)
This is pivotal to the core of the movie. Yes, Guardians is a comic book/syfy feature. Yes, it involves lots and LOTS of gnarly battle sequences. But the fisticuffs aren’t really the point here. Guardians’ focus is primarily on family, to the point where it can feel like you’re being hit over the head with it. Still, can’t deny that it works; whether it be blood ties like that between Quill (Chris Pratt) and his hither-to unknown father, the Celestial being known as Ego (Kurt Russell who’s an absolute hoot), or the man who raised him, the alien Ravage Yondu (a surprisingly sensitive and touching performance by Michael Rooker). And it’s not just Quill’s family issues on display. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) has some serious sibling rivalry and baggage going with her adopted sister Nebula (an utterly transformed Karen Gillan who shines in the role). Plus, there’s the fact that the Guardians themselves are a fairly bizarre, make-shift family with some members (coughRocketcough – voiced by Bradley Cooper) determined to be as prickly as possible. And everybody finds themselves taking on a parental role when it comes to Baby Groot.
Kurt Russell as Ego
Welcome newcomers include Elizabeth Debicki as the haughty and inhumanly beautiful Sovereign High Priestess Ayesha and Pom Klementieff as Ego’s adorable pet empath, Mantiss, along with a surprise cameo that’s just perfect. Watching all these disparate personalities interact with one another is what Guardians is all about. Well, that and its killer soundtrack.
Not that we don’t get a plentiful share of groovy sci-fi concepts along the way. A Ravager bar on an ice world that’s just the right mix of gaudy and disreputable. Ego’s home world is a visually dazzling delight for the eyes. Yondu’s ‘whistle stick’ is even more glorious this time around. And there’s a space funeral that is one of the most beautiful things imaginable. It’s sometimes a little too evident that Gunn is trying to entertain us with more of the same from the first movie, but in the end it is indeed very entertaining.
Desierto, which opened on October 14, won a prize at the Toronto International Film Festival AND was selected as the Mexican entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. The desert plays a staring role in Jonás Cuarón’s film about immigrants fleeing across an unforgiving landscape while trying to escape from a vigilante intent on killing those crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S. It’s a sobering film and one that is must see. (Click to read the review.)
The film caused us to look back at others that have been set in the desert. Here are our selections:
The Hills Have Eyes (1977) Written, directed and edited by Wes Craven the master of horror himself. Starring Scream Queen Dee Wallace (The Howling, Cujo) and Michael Berryman of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Weird Science. A car crash leaves the seven members of the Carter family and their two dogs stranded in the Nevada desert. They end up set upon by a clan of savage, inbred, cannibals. (Don’t you just hate it when that happens?) The film was originally given an X rating by the MPAA and had to do considerable edits to get down to an R rating. It did all right in its initial box office release but now enjoys a massive cult following and has spawned a major horror movie franchise.
Near Dark (1987) This American Western Horror film was among the earliest films directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker) and she co-wrote it with Eric Red (The Hitcher, The Last Outlaw). Young Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar of Carlito’s Way and Heroes) with beautiful young drifter Mae (Jennie Wright of The World According to Garp and St. Elmo’s Fire). Unfortunately it turns out Mae’s part of a nomadic vampire ‘family’ living out of an RV and she bites Caleb so he can join them. It made almost no money in its initial release despite great reviews but has since become appreciated as a cult classic and genuinely fresh take on the vampire genre. Not to mention coining the classic phrase, “I hate it when they don’t shave.”
Tremors(1990) Directed by Ron Underwood (City Slickers, Mighty Joe Young) and starring the one and only Kevin Bacon as cowboy Valentine McKee. ‘Val’ and his partner Earl (Fred Ward of Escape From Alcatraz) are a pair of handymen in former mining settlement Perfection, Nevada where a series of strange incidents occur. With the help of seismology grad student Rhonda (Finn Carter from Ghosts of Mississippi) they figure out that Perfection, is now being plagued by giant underground snake monsters. It was only a modest hit at the box office but did HUGE on video, TV, the Internet, etc. It currently holds a ‘fresh’ rating of 85% on the Tomatometer and is a favorite among monster movie fans everywhere.
Wolf Creek (2005) This Australian horror film was written, co-produced, and directed by Greg McLean who later went on to work on such films as Crawlspace and Red Hill. Three backpackers are taken captive. They manage to escape only to be hunted by a depraved serial killer. Loosely based on the real life murders performed by Ivan Milat in the 90’s and Bradley Murdoch in 2001. It had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for seven Australian Film Institute awards including Best Director.
Bone Tomahawk (2015) This Western horror film was written and directed by novelist S. Craig Zahler and starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, and David Arquette. In the community of Bright Hope sometime around the 1890’s a series of mysterious deaths is finally traced to a clan of cannibalistic savages known as the Troglodytes who live in the Valley of the Starving Men. A posse of course is sent out but things don’t go quite as planned. Critically acclaimed, for its realism, its direction, its screenwriting and most especially for Kurt Russell’s performance it has an 89% fresh rating on the Tomatometer and was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards.
When the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana on April 20, 2010, it became the largest ecological disaster in U.S. history. Eleven men died, another 17 were injured, and after the rig burned and sank, millions of gallons of oil were spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. The damage to marine life and ecosystems is still being felt today. Directed by Peter Berg, Deepwater Horizon is the pulse-pounding retelling of the catastrophe. While the special effects are astounding, the human stories are what draw us in.
Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, and Stella Allen
Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean, was being leased by BP to find and drill oil wells in the Gulf. That April the rig was positioned 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana above a well called the Macondo Prospect. When the film opens, we see Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) the chief electronics technician, having breakfast with his wife Felicia (Kate Hudson), and daughter Sydney (Stella Allen), before heading off to spend 21 days on the platform. Sydney is obsessed with dinosaurs and her father’s job, helping to bring up the oil created by those prehistoric beasts. There’s a not so subtle preview of the tragedy. A soda can and straw that Sydney has put together to simulate drilling explodes.
Dylan O’Brien and Mark Wahlberg
Most of the actors play the real life characters who worked on the rig. The notable exception is John Malkovich’s character, Donald Vidrine, a BP official who becomes the story’s bad guy. The drilling is behind schedule and Vidrine pushes the Transocean crew captain, Mr. Jimmy (Kurt Russell), and other workers to speed things up, taking risks that will ultimately doom the operation.
Berg foreshadows the rig’s problems with shots showing what’s happening underwater. (To truly understand what went wrong, read the New York Times story that inspired the film.) Absorbing all the technical details isn’t essential; it soon becomes clear that the pipes won’t be able to hold all that pressure building up below. Soon mud starts to gush from the well, spraying nearby workers and covering the windows of the drill shack so those inside can’t see what’s happening. As dire as the situation appears, the crew had been trained for dealing with blowouts and there was still time to seal the well and prevent an explosion. Human error came into play, however. Technician Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), asks her supervisor about hitting the button that would seal the well. He orders her not to do so, saying they don’t have the authority to make that decision. By the time Mr. Jimmy arrives on the bridge, it’s too late.
Although there were many heroes who risked their lives saving others, the film focuses on Wahberg’s Williams. After finding Mr. Jimmy, who was in his room taking a shower when the explosion happened, Williams works to free another worker with a serious leg injury trapped under debris. Williams then convinces Fleytas to jump into the flaming ocean. They, along with many others, are pulled onto the nearby ship, the Bankston. Mr. Jimmy calls the roll and 11 men are not there to answer. Those who survived kneel and recite the Lord’s Prayer.
Kurt Russell and Ethan Suplee
Deepwater Horizon has much in common with another film about a true life disaster – Titanic. Like that luxury ocean liner, the floating drilling platform was a technological marvel. Both were behind schedule and tried to make up for lost time by speeding things up and taking risks. In the two situations, human error played a factor. Safety measures that might have prevented a disaster were not used. Improper training for a worst case scenario was lacking. There were not enough lifeboats in either situation and the ones that were there were not used properly.
What the Deepwater Horizon doesn’t show – and what would have made for dramatic footage – is the impact the spill had on marine life in the Gulf, all those exotic birds covered in crude oil. Six years later, scientists are still assessing the damage.
Deepwater Horizon opens nationwide September 30, 2016.
It’s often forgotten in the whirlwind of grilled hot dogs and sparklers but Labor Day was originally meant to celebrate well…labor and the hard working folks who perform it. So this year along with the mandatory barbecue and fireworks show, consider brushing up on the history of the workers movement with one of the following films. (And remember to tip your server!)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Directed by John Ford and based on John Steinbeck’s masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath recounts the story of the Joad family. After losing their farm in Oklahoma during the Great Depression, the Joads make an arduous journey across the west to California where they become migrant workers-and find their troubles have just begun. Starring Henry Fonda and John Carradine, it was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won two including Best Supporting Actress for Jane Darwell as Ma Joad and Best Director for Ford. It’s also widely considered one of the best movies ever made.
How Green Was My Valley (1941) Based on the Richard Llewellyn novel of the same name, this is the epic chronicle of the Morgan family. The Morgans are a hard scrabble close knit clan living in South Wales where the family members work in the coalfields. Over time disputes between the mine’s owners and workers as well as environmental despoliation from the coalfields tear apart the family and destroy the once idyllic village in which they’ve lived. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won five including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Actor.
Norma Rae (1979) Based on the true story of Crystal Lee Sutton, Norma Rae tells how its title character (played by the indomitable Sally Field) becomes a union organizer at the local textiles firm after her health and that of her co-workers is compromised. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two including Best Original Song and Best Actress; prompting Field’s immortal “You like me! You really like me!” acceptance speech for her second Oscar win for Places in the Heart. That quote was, in fact, a reference to dialogue in Norma Rae.
Silkwood (1983) Written by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen, directed by Mike Nichols (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The Graduate) and starring Meryl Streep, Cher, and Kurt Russell, inspired by the life of Karen Silkwood. Silkwood was a nuclear whistleblower and union activist who died under extremely suspicious circumstances at the same time she was investigating alleged criminal behavior the plutonium plant where she worked. Silkwood was nominated for five Academy awards including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay
Made in Dagenham (2010) Directed by Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls, Saving Grace) Made in Dagenham tells the true story of the Ford Sewing Machinists strike in 1968. The strike was prompted by sexual discrimination against its female employees who demanded equal pay. Starring Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson, and Rosamund Pike it was nominated for four BAFTA awards including best supporting actress for Richardson and Outstanding British Film.
USA! USA! Starting August 5th, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games commence in Rio. Sadly, this year’s athletic spectacles are likely to be overshadowed by the Zika virus that is ravaging Brazilian society at the moment and indeed many competitors might not participate this year for fear of infection. In fact 150 doctors signed a letter to the World Health Organization asking that the games be canceled or at least postponed this year for exactly that reason. Other issues dogging the games include pollution, problems constructing the necessary infrastructure, the notoriously high crime rate in Rio, ongoing doping scandals, etc. Still, those supporting Team USA will still want to watch our amazing athletes compete. To get into the mood, why not watch a film about the Olympic games?
Tokyo Olympiad (1965) This documentary directed by Kon Ichikawa (47 Ronin) about the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was considered a milestone in documentary making, being very much a cinematic and artistic recording of the events more concerned with the atmosphere of the games and the athletes themselves than simply recording the winners and losers. That turned out though, to be the exact opposite of what the Japanese government (who’d financed the film) wanted and they made Ichikawa significantly edit it to get the 93 minute version they wanted rather than his 170 minute version. The latter version though is considered to be one of the best films about the Olympics AND one of the best sports documentaries of all time.
Chariots of Fire(1981) Written by Colin Welland and directed by Hugh Hudson, Chariots tells the true story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics, Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) a devout Scotsman who runs for the glory of god, and Cambridge student Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) who runs to overcome British anti-Semitism. Considered to be one of the greatest sports movies ever filmed it was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Score.
Cool Runnings (1993) Directed by Jon Turtletaub (While You Were Sleeping, National Treasure) this tells the story of the debut of the Jamaican National Bobsled’s team at the 1988 Calgary Olympics – despite the fact that the team members had never even experienced winter before. Funny and surprisingly touching with the late, great John Candy in one of his final roles, it was an unexpected box office hit making over $150 million on a $14 million budget.
Miracle (2004) Directed by Gavin O’ Conner, it recounts the “Miracle on Ice” when the U.S. hockey team in a startling upset defeated the Soviet team and won the gold medal in the 1980 Olympics. Kurt Russell (Escape From New York, Tequila Sunrise) is the lead as coach Herb Brooks, Patricia Clarkson plays his wife, and Noah Emmerich (The Truman Show, Cellular,) as Brooks’ assistant general manager this one has an over 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Top Spin (2014) This feature length documentary was directed by Mina T. Son and Sara Newens follows three American table top tennis players: Ariel Hsing, Michael Landers, and Lily Zhang, on their journey to the 2012 Olympics. The film premiered at NYC DOC 2014 where it received and audience award and was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2015 CAAMFest. It currently has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.