After dinner, after football, you'll want a movie. Here are four options.
Oldboy, directed by Spike Lee
Everything is wrong with Lee's version of Park Chan-wook's notorious, super-violent super-action-thriller. For one thing, it's far from super. Not the quality, per se (although, for Lee, that's off, too), but the energy. Park's movie lunged and charged at you. This one doesn't muster that same relentless forward motion. A sleazy suit (Josh Brolin) wakes up one day and finds himself locked in a room. He doesn't know why. But he does a lot of sit-ups and yoga. Twenty years later, he's set free, climbing out of the sort of Louis Vuitton trunk you'd find in a Wes Anderson movie. Dressed in a nicer suit, the man searches for his captor, his daughter, and answers: Did, for instance, he actually kill his ex-wife? He winds up slaying lots of men, with a hammer, a bat, and his bare hands.
I'm not psychic — stop it; I'm not! — but I'm predicting right now that the summer of 2015 will look vastly different from the one we just suffered through. (Summer of 2014 is pretty much all booked. Sorry.) There will certainly be your Batman-Superman mega-movies, but I'm guessing there will be fewer of them than there have been in the past. Setting aside the box-office numbers (the summer appears to have been a success), the art itself was pretty monochromatic.
Complaints about the summer of 2013's sameness — Earth destroyed and abandoned once, twice, 10 times; even in comedies — were being logged as early as April, when Oblivion opened. By the end of June we were wiped out. Not so much by homogeneous plots, but homogeneous scale. We're eating a lot of $200 million movies these days, far exceeding our recommended seasonal allowance. Every week it was a porterhouse and sometimes all that steak makes you want just a salad. Pacing and variety are important. What if summers were programmed to look more like fall and winter?
Silver: A wise Muppet once said, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” And although I don’t want my cinematic opinions of Oldboy to travel down this perilous path, I can’t help but be fearful of this film. Sparing you the lengthy background, Oldboy is a twisty, uber-violent, and brilliantly constructed 2003 film directed by Chan-wook Park. And a piece that’s only grown more appreciated over time.
So in the grand tradition of Hollywood appropriating every piece of quality content for an American audience, an English language remake was inevitable. But for every Infernal Affairs to The Departed, Let the Right One In to Let Me In, or even Seven Samurai to The Magnificent Seven, there are far more examples of failed conversions.
The original Oldboy — Korean director Park Chan-wook's 2003 thriller — is brutal. A man is kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years for reasons he's never told, during which he's framed for his wife's murder; then, one day, he's just released. And that's when things get really messed up. I mean, seriously: It's been years since I saw it, and there are bits of the flick's famous mass-homicide-by-hammer scene that still have me waking up in cold sweats. Anyway, it's now been remade by Spike Lee, with Josh Brolin in the lead role and Elizabeth Olsen as his post-imprisonment accomplice, and it's looking like it might just be Spike's most mass-appealing flick since Kobe Doin' Work Inside Man. There is an interesting footnote, though: According to the Guardian, Lee only "took on the project after it found itself floundering in development hell following the demise of an abortive version by Steven Spielberg, which would have seen Will Smith take the main role." Which meant we would have seen Will Smith, like the original's star Choi Min-sik and Brolin, with beautifully flowing witch-hair?! Ah, what could have been.
2013 is going to be incredible, if for no other reason than because this will undoubtedly be the year the cultural discourse shifts from simple discussions of "race" or "racism" to the majestic land of "how we talk about and react to race in mixed settings." While ideas of a "post-racial" society are but a single cute step below thinking the world was going to end on December 21 on the "awwww, that's cute" scale, what we are in 2013 is post–"race and things typically associated with a single race existing only within that racial silo." Finally.
As 2012 came to a close, a few things in the media's racial-discourse sphere took place that hinted the cup was set to runneth over. In December, we had a black sports commentator call a black quarterback essentially "not black enough," and the result was supporters of all races coming to the defense of the Third Griffin, telling this black commentator that he had no right to define what was black. And then, to top it off, he was reprimanded by his superiors, many of whom are white. Bonkers. In the past, passing judgment on a matter like this, whether against or in favor, could really only come from other esteemed blacks, because who else had the right to comment on what was "black" and what was not? That, as was made evident, is no longer the case.
Looks like Eddie Murphy, post Tower Heist, is not quite ready to head back into the warm embrace of crappy family comedies: He’s now attached to play Marion Barry, the troubled former Washington, D.C. mayor who served six months on drug charges in the early nineties, for an HBO biopic that would be directed by Spike Lee. If this doesn’t work out, though, Murphy might just move into a more traditional latter-day Eddie role, quite possibly as a fast-talking rug salesman who accidentally inherits a wacky orphanage? Grade: A [HR]
HBO has given a pilot order to Da Brick, a drama about a young boxer growing up in Newark, New Jersey (a.k.a. “Brick City”). Loosely based on Mike Tyson’s life story, it’ll be co-produced by Tyson and Entourage’s Doug Ellin; John Ridley is writing the screenplay, and Spike Lee will direct the pilot. Doug Ellin describes the project as ‘‘Entourage meets The Wire," which might have just made some people very angry. Grade: B+ [Deadline]
James Franco has dropped out of his upcoming Broadway debut Sweet Bird of Youth, Tennessee Williams’s play about a gigolo who seduces an older actress to get his show biz break (Nicole Kidman remains in the cast). “From now on, it’s only projects with monkeys for me,” Franco did not add. Grade: D [EW]