Friday, August 26, 2022

The Heist Drama BREAKING Isn't Bad, Just Only Intermittently Compelling

Now playing in the Triangle at multiplexes and maybe an indie theater or two:

(Dir. Abi Damaris Corbin, 2022)

In this moody one-man heist melodrama, John Boyega, best known for being given little to do in the recent spate of STAR WARS sequels, is put in the familiar position of an average man who walks into a bank with a note to give to a teller that triggers a series of troubled events. A hostage situation, a squad of eager-to shoot cops outside, and a media circus exploiting the whole scene – all the things that are making multiple critics call this “a modern-day DOG DAY AFTERNOON” – are such well worn elements that it’s nearly impossible for the viewer to not have déjà vu, but Abi Damaris Corbin’s first solo film as director has an undeniable earnest emotional pull in its best moments.

Sadly, the best moments in this based-on-a-true-story don’t add up to a fully engaging experience, despite the invested acting by both Boyega as Lance Corporal Brian Brown-Easley, and the late Michael Kenneth Brown as the hostage negotiator, Eli Bernard. 

The narrative of the Marine, whose real intention when taking over the Wells Fargo Banks in Marietta, Georgia in 2017 by threat of a C-4 explosive in his backpack was getting the attention of the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) because he hadn’t received his disability payment, is only intermittently compelling. 

The heartfelt phone conversations between the intense Boyega, who well portrays Easley’s paranoid and possibly schizophrenic mindstate, and the brotherly concerned yet still easy going Brown are the film’s strongest strand, but there is too much drawn out and wasted space surrounding their exchanges.

I’m reminded by another movie, actually called THE NEGOTIATOR, with a similar premise that starred Samuel L. Jackson, and Kevin Spacey. I can’t find the review, but I remember one critic gave it two stars and said that it was one star for each actor. If I were a star-branding film scribe, I’d be tempted to do that, but I would perhaps award another star and a half for the film’s crisp editing, tense tone, and the solid work done by the women on the sidelines like Nicole Beharie as the frazzled, yet keeping-it-cool bank manager, Selenis Leyva as a scared AF teller, and Olivia Washington as Easley’s ex-wife. London Covington as Easley’s kid Kiah is also effective in her teary close-ups.

With its uninspired title, and spare narrative, BREAKING fails to give Easley’s story the power it needs to really move audiences, but the performances and the well-worn formula may still be entertaining enough to justify a matinee ticket. It’s possible that the movie is unsatisfying because what went down with Easley (captured in Aaron Gells’ 2018 article They Didn't Have to Kill Him for Task & Purpose that the film is based on) is definitively unsatisfying. Maybe as earnest, well-meaning, and noble an effort as they can muster, there’s still no way getting around that.

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Monday, August 15, 2022

It’s Starting To Sink In: Raleigh’s Historic Rialto Theatre Closes on August 27

wo weeks ago, it was announced that Bill Peebles, the owner of the Rialto Theatre in Raleigh, was retiring, and that the historic venue would be closing on August 27. Perhaps because I’ve been in denial, I haven’t posted anything about it until now, but I’ve got to face that this place that I’ve had a connection to for decades will soon be another abandoned building, represented by yet another empty marquee.

The first movie I ever attended at the Rialto was in 1984 - a revival showing of THE MALTESE FALCON, the John Huston-directed, Humphrey Bogart-headed 1941 classic, that may have been a part of the long-running Cinema Inc. series. In 2020, the film was again shown as part of the Monday at the Movies series, and I felt like I had come full circle in at least one of my big screen journeys. 

The Rialto’s demise also heralds the demise of Peebles’ local-based company, Ambassador Entertainment, which previously owned Six Forks Cinemas (closed in 2020), Mission Valley Cinemas (closed in 2019), and the Colony Theater (closed in 2015). Ambassador also operated the Studio I & II (1987-2000), and the still-open, (but with different owners), Lumina Theatres in Chapel Hill.

In 2009, shortly after moving to Raleigh, I started working at the Colony Theater, and in 2011, started picking up shifts at the Rialto, which I’ve worked at until now.

Tonight, I’ll be working for the Rialto’s screening of Luc Beeson’s 1997 sci-fi cult classic, THE FIFTH ELEMENT ($5, 7pm), and am looking forward to staying and watching the film as I haven’t seen it in ages. I’m hoping that there will be a good turnout for this show as it could be the last ever Monday at the Movies event at the Rialto – unless, you know, some savior swoops in sometime soon.


“The Rialto Theatre may close – maybe?” was the headline of Peebles’ announcement email, obviously highlighting the theater’s uncertain future. Of course, we hope that somebody will save the place – buy it, and breathe new life into the joint, but we’ll just have to deal with it being out of commission for a bit. 


Like I hate driving by the Colony, or Mission Valley, which have had no new businesses take up their space in the years since they’ve shut down, I’m going to hate seeing a lifeless Rialto with an empty marquee in the weeks and months ahead. Here’s hoping that won’t come anywhere close to being a permanent prospect.


In addition to THE FIFTH ELEMENT event tonight, here is what’s scheduled for the Rialto’s final screenings:


WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING screens on August 16, 17, and 18 at 7 pm.


MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS opens on Friday, August 19, and shows at 1pm and 7pm, then on August 20, and 21, at 2pm, 4:30, and 7pm, and on August 22-24 at 7 pm.


Special screening of SONS OF MEZCAL (2021 documentary): August 25, 6:30pm ($10).


THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (the final showings of the mighty cult classic that the Rialto has shown since the ‘80s): August 26, 7pm, 10pm, and midnight ($7).


LASER THEATRE: BANANAS – 7pm, 8:30pm, and 10pm ($15). 

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Wednesday, August 03, 2022

For the Record, My First Big Screen Viewings Of The Top Directors

On Twitter last weekend, many folks in my feed were posting their responses to the above tweet. Film-minded folks were recalling the first films by the most notable movie makers, and it was fun to see how the titles would often reveal the age range of the participants. 


For posterity, I’m sharing my answers in my tweet here with some notes below:


Some notes: The first two films I saw at the Carolina Theatre in downtown Chapel Hill. I saw many crucial movie in my youth at the Carolina, which closed in the summer of 2005 (MARCH OF THE PENGUINS was the last film shown there). RUSHMORE I saw at another long closed venue, the Janus Theater in Greensboro; with BOOGIE NIGHTS and THE GAME at a few unmemorable multiplexes * also in Greensboro. Finally, DO THE RIGHT THING I saw twice in the summer of 1989 – first at the Ram Theater in Chapel Hill, and secondly at the Center Theatre 4 in Durham – both of which have also shut down long ago.


*One of these is still operating as the AMC Classic in Greensboro – the only theater that still exists of all the ones I’ve mentioned.

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Monday, August 01, 2022

Remember When Mike Myers Was Gonna Play Keith Moon? No? Well, For A Long Ass Time That Was A Thing


ack in 2002 (yes, this is another “20 years ago” post), it was announced that former SNL cast member, and WAYNE’S WORLD/AUSTIN POWERS superstar, Mike Myers, might step into the shoes of the legendary drummer for the Who, Keith Moon, for a biopic entitled SEE ME FEEL ME: KEITH MOON NAKED FOR YOUR PLEASURE.

From the pages of Entertainment Weekly (Gary Susman, July 9, 2002):

“Having played Austin Powers in three movies, including this month’s upcoming ‘Austin Powers in Goldmember,’ Mike Myers may be ready to play another relic of swinging ‘60s London: Keith Moon, the founding drummer for the Who. ‘I have talked to Roger Daltrey about the possibility of a film,’ Myers tells the Associated Press. ‘I think Keith Moon was a fascinating character.’ For his part, lead singer Daltrey has long wanted to make a film about his late colleague, who was as famous for smashing hotel rooms as for smashing his drum kit at the end of Who concerts. ‘Mike is a genius. I can really see him as Keith. He’s amazing when you meet him, so clever,’ Daltrey tells AP.”


At the time, Myers was 39, six years older than Moon was when he died from a massive overdose in 1978. The age difference didn’t raise many eyebrows as it seemed an inspired choice that had a good chance of working, but apparently the project got stuck in development hell as the news faded, and a few years passed. 


In 2005, plans for the biopic, with Myers attached, and Daltrey as producer, resurfaced. But another name was being batted around in consideration for the role – Jason Schwarztman, best known for his work with Wes Anderson, and as an drummer (Phantom Planet, Coconut Records). 

It’s true Schwartzman has the look, but could he handle the accent duties as well as Myers? Probably not, producer Daltrey probably thought, as Myers continued being the #1 choice for the iconic part.

But nothing happened with the proposed production, and more years passed. By the time it reared it’s mop-haired head again in 2014, Myers’ age appropriateness for the part couldn’t so easily be ignored. Co-producer Nigel Sinclair justified the casting to; “Mike looks very young and Keith, of course, looked much older than he was.”

And, yet again, another younger actor was cited as being interested in portraying Moon - Jeremy Piven. I’m glad this idea has been long abandoned, because, well, look at him – that would be likely be a miscasting mess.

Talk of Myers as Moon would come up here and there over the years since, but that’s all it was – talk. As late as last year, there were reports that Myers was still in the running, but he’s now 59 years old, and that ship should’ve sailed a long time ago. The film, which has an IMDb page with little to no information about the production, apparently still seems to be in the works, but no name has been attached for the looney lead.

Now titled THE REAL ME, the film aims to join in the musical biopic trend boosted by such successes as BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and ROCKETMAN. Earlier this year, Manori Ravindran reported in Varity that the movie has “Moon’s former band members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend on board as executive producers. The pic is directed by Paul Whittington (The Crown, White House Farm) with a script from prolific British screenwriter Jeff Pope, who was Oscar-nominated for PHILOMENA.”

So for two decades, the premise of Myers as Moon has come and gone over and over, but it looks like it’s finally been put to bed. I was reminded of all this casting activity he other night when I was watching Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s 2014 vampire mockumentary, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, and noted that actor Jonathan Brough had an uncanny resemblance to Moon in the very funny feature. His rough, rowdy demeanor is Moon-esque as well, so I think he’d be a great choice for THE REAL ME.

On the subject of age, Brugh’s Wikipedia page has no info on his birthday so it’s unknown old he is, which may be because he really is a vampire and it’s a cover-up. Whatever the case, I bet he could crush it as Moon. Otherwise, a hungry unknown who’s got the chops would be a great idea. It could be a star-making tour de force in the right hands.


Still, Myers’ Moon is an epic could-have-been that’s fun to speculate about. Perhaps, like he was used as a record executive in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, he could cameo in a minor yet juicy sideline part as a Moon overseer or some such. Yeah, that would be groovy, baby. And after that Austin Powers callback, I’ll show myself the door.

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