Apologies for the delay with this post. Long story short, I worked a lot of overtime in the last couple of weeks at work, and felt pretty drained. Anyway, to conclude my blog’s celebration of Sean Connery’s career, let’s look at what is quite likely the weirdest movie he was ever involved with, Zardoz.
Zardoz is a science fiction fantasy film taking place in a post-apocalyptic world. I’ve now seen it twice, and if I’m merely going by the movie on its own, I still don’t really understand what it’s about. It’s weird, confusingly put together, and It wasn’t received. Roger Ebert giving it 2.5 out of 4 stars, calling it “a genuinely quirky movie, a trip into a future that seems ruled by perpetually stoned set decorators.” Empire magazine gave it one star, saying that it “misses the mark by a hundred miles … it has elements – its badness being one of them – that make it strangely compelling.”
In order to properly sum up Sean Connery’s career with only four movies, one must watch at least one movie where he plays a supporting role instead of the lead. He played a lot of supporting roles over the years, like Indiana Jones’s father in The Last Crusade, the dragon in Dragonheart, Ramirez in Highlander, which I’ve looked at on this blog before, but would to do a proper review of in the future. What better supporting role to look at than the one that earned him an Academy Award?
The Untouchables is based on the book of the same name, which itself is based on real life Elliot Ness’s mission to put Al Capone in prison. The book itself does have some false details and isn’t always in the correct chronological order, but it is broadly accurate.
Also a fun fact on a personal level – this movie premiered the day I was born.
To properly look at the legendary career of Sean Connery, one must dive into at least one of his more dramatic roles. Finding Forrester feels like a good fit in more ways than one. It was the last well-received live-action performance of his career, while also being the first acting gig for actor Rob Brown. It’s the movie that helped inspire one of the internet’s earliest meme sites, YTMND. And for me personally, since this movie’s main characters are writers, it has some personal meaning to me.
Finding Forrester, released in 2000, isn’t directly based on a true story. That said, Connery later acknowledged that author J.D. Salinger helped inspire his performance. As with a lot of dramatic movies, it didn’t reek in the big bucks, but it earned $80 million worldwide. It received positive reviews overall, including Two Thumbs Up from Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper. Roeper considered it one of the best 10 movies of the year, and in 2009, placed it at 64 for his 100 best movies of the decade.
The legendary Sean Connery passed away on October 31 last year, just over two months ago. I’ll get into his backstory in one of my later posts, but that needs to be mentioned off the bat for my Sean Connery theme month. As much as I’d like to get that information out of the way now, the first movie I’m looking has a fairly complex backstory that’s also worth exploring.
Although Never Say Never Again released in 1983, its production goes all the way back to 1961 – the year Ian Fleming’s Thunderball novel released. Fleming, and his friend, Ivar Bryce, started talking about a Bond movie back in 1958. Bryce later introduced Fleming to Kevin McClory, a young Irish film director. The three of them formed Xanadu Productions, named after Bryce’s home in the Bahamas. Xanadu Productions never actually grew into a company, but the group met up for a couple years after that, along with lawyer Ernest Cuneo, working on a story outline. McClory was fascinated by the underwater world and wanted to make a film that included it. They came out with 10 different outlines, treatments and scripts, and a number of potential movie titles.
Let me start this off by saying Happy New Year everyone, and for most, good riddance to 2020.
This movie review is later than I intended, and there are a couple of reasons for that. The most consequential of which is that I wasn’t sure how to approach this one. A full week after I watched this movie, I’m still not entirely sure what I think of it.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, is the second chapter in the Fantastic Beasts film series. It released in November of 2018 to mixed reviews. It’s got a 36% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 5.3/10. It earned $654 million on a $200 million budget. While that does make it profitable, it underperformed compared to expectations, and it’s the lowest earning movie in the Wizarding World franchise (Prisoner of Azkaban is the second lowest, at $796 million).
This post is a bit delayed, but I felt like posting at least one Christmas related movie review before I got to this, and then I spent a couple of days at my parents’ house. Anyway, this is the first part of a multi film prequel/spinoff series to Harry Potter. It’s also the first movie in the franchise to be an original story, and not based on a book. There was a book with the same name released in 2001, although that was basically a “textbook” partly sold to raise money for the Comic Relief charity.
As this takes place roughly 60 years before the books/movies take place, none of the original cast members return. That said, David Yates (who directed the last four Harry Potter movies) returns to direct both this and its first sequel. The movie stars “Newt” Scamander, the writer of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book that’s mentioned in the Harry Potter books and movies. The first movie also takes place in New York City, giving us a very different setting with a fairly different culture within the wizarding world.
I said I’d be looking at a weird Christmas movie this year, so here we go. Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is a title that’s somehow both misleading and not misleading. Yes, there are Martians in this movie, and yes, it does mix Christmas with science fiction. But conquers is a very strong word. Then again, Santa Claus Inspires the Martians, or Santa Claus Brings Joy to the Martians, just aren’t nearly as good for titles.
While there isn’t a lot of information about the people involved in the creation of the movie, there is actually some detail on the production itself. The concept came from producer and writer Paul Jacobson, who mostly worked as a unit manager for Howdy Doody, and wanted to start working on features himself. He described it as a “yuletide science fiction fantasy”, and believed it could fill a gap in the market. “Except for the Disneys, there’s very little in film houses that children recognize as their own.”
There are only two Harry Potter movies I saw in theaters, Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows Part 2. The first was back when Order of the Phoenix arrived, and I was completely lost, having not seen any of the movies before. I actually started watching the Harry Potter series at a friend’s house, where they planned a marathon of the first six movies around the time Part 1 released. I very much enjoyed the first two movies, but had to leave before they started the third because of work. It also meant that I didn’t see enough of the movies to feel comfortable watching Part 1 in theaters just yet. But I did watch the first six movies that week.
Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the only movie in the series I watched in theaters, after watching every previous movie. My friend insisted on watching it in 3D IMAX. One could say that’s a serious upgrade from watching the first couple of movies on DVD.
For a while, there was a trend in which when you’ve got a movie series based on a series of books, the last one is split into two movies. It happened with The Hunger Games, which resulted in two very slow, boring movies that could have worked with a single movie. It happened with Twilight, which resulted in two very slow movies, of which, well … I won’t comment any further. The Hobbit turned one book into a full trilogy and one that was overly long and feels like it needs some serious editing down. It’s also happened in the animated world, with The Dark Night Returns’ adaptation of Frank Miller’s series that was split into two movies. The third book in the Divergent series was planned for a two-part finale, but after Allegiant bombed, they cancelled Ascendant. And while Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame are very different from the Infinity Gauntlet comic event from the 80’s, it too was split into two parts. Two parts which each earned over $2 billion and were both very well received. But the series that started this trend is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 and Part 2.
Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2 were filmed back to back, from February 2009 to June of 2010. They started filming the two-parter before Half-Blood Prince released in July of 2009. Early on, director David Yates described Part 1 as “quite real”, and a “road movie that’s almost like a vérité documentary.” In other words, they went for a similar filming technique as Saving Private Ryan or The Blair Witch Project. The idea to split the final book into two movies came from executive producer Lionel Wigram. David Heyman, the main producer, was originally against the idea. Wigram responded with “No, David. How are we going to do it?” They re-read the book, trying to figure out how they could possibly compress the story into a single volume, but they couldn’t make it work. Eventually they agreed to split it into two movies, to which J.K. Rowling agreed. Along with that decision, they gave the public this press release.
Even though David Yates directed the fifth film, he wasn’t immediately chosen to direct its follow up. A number of directors were approached to direct Half-Blood Prince while Yates worked on Order of the Phoenix. Alfonso Cuaron, who directed Prisoner of Azkaban, had stated he would love to return to the franchise, but he ultimately couldn’t. Guillermo Del Toro turned down Half-Blood Prince in order to direct Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Terry Gilliam was Rowling’s personal choice to direct Philosopher’s Stone, but they ultimately chose Chris Columbus instead. When they approached him for this movie, he said, “Warner Bros. had their chance the first time round, and they blew it.”