by Julian Spivey
Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell & Mark Ruffalo
Runtime: 1 hour & 46 minutes
The hardest films to review are the ones you come out of feeling, “that was fine.” It’s because you don’t have a whole lot to rave about and you also don’t have much to complain about. Director Shawn Levy’s “The Adam Project,” starring Ryan Reynolds, is fine.
“The Adam Project” is a science-fiction action movie that’s Netflix’s current flavor of the month. It stars one of Hollywood’s most congenial actors these days in Ryan Reynolds giving what I hear is a very Ryan Reynolds performance (he’s honestly not an actor I’ve seen in a whole lot, so I’ll take the word of others on that). He’s re-teamed with Levy, whom he just did last year’s “Free Guy” (which I also hear is “fine”) with, on the film about a fighter pilot Adam Reed in dystopian (it’s always dystopian!) 2050 who time travels back to current day 2022 (even though he was aiming for 2018) in an effort to stop time traveling from happening because of all the trouble its led to in his world. His dad Louis Reed (Mark Ruffalo), who died when he was around 11-years old, accidentally developed a way to time travel and his business partner Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener) took advantage of it and basically runs the world in 2050.
When Adam reaches 2022, he runs into his 12-year old self, played by Walker Scobell, who was coping with the grief of his father’s recent death by running his mouth a lot causing bullies to beat him up. Twelve-year old Adam reminds me a lot of what I suspect a pre-teen David Spade might have been like. In addition to stopping time travel adult Adam is also trying to find his wife Laura (Zoe Saldana), who is presumed to have died in a time traveling accident, but Adam doesn’t believe it to be true. He’s right.
Reynolds and Saldana don’t have a whole lot of screen time together, but they do have terrific chemistry making the scenes they’re in lovely to watch.
The film really picks up about halfway through when both Adams meet up with their father in an effort to stop Sorian. This also leads to one of the more annoying parts of the film where 2050 Sorian, played by Kenner as her current 62-year old self, teams up with her 2022 self, which is done by CGI that just doesn’t seem right. I’m not even sure I’d call the CGI bad. I just don’t really like the idea of seeing actors and actresses as their younger selves on screen via technology. There was an entire interesting article written by Sam Adams in Slate about this deepfake.
“The Adam Project” makes for a breezy, less than two hour watch if you’re just wanting to pass the time and check out something new. I don’t really feel like it’s something anyone is going to feel the need to watch a second time – unless you’re just really a major Reynolds fan.
by Julian Spivey
Director: Jane Campion
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst & Kodi Smit-McPhee
Runtime: 2 hours & 5 minutes
Director Jane Campion had reportedly considered retiring before someone gave her a copy of author Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel The Power of the Dog. She decided it was a story she had to turn into film and now it’s the most nominated film for the 94th annual Academy Awards with 12 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Campion, who becomes the first female director in history nominated for that honor multiple times.
“The Power of the Dog” is a Western, yes, it’s a Western despite what some might have claimed, you know how I know – it’s set in the American West of 1925 Montana and features cattle ranchers! Not all Westerns are gunfighter shoot ‘em ups. Anyway, the film revolves around brothers Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons) and their cattle ranch, which is Phil’s entire life. George seems to want to be more of a business and family man and has his eyes set on a local widow Rose (Kirsten Dunst). Rose has a teenager son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who has a lisp and effeminate mannerism and the first moment between Peter and Phil certainly does not go well with the volatile (and let’s face it Grade A Asshole) Phil immediately mocking the boy for his lisp and mannerisms.
When George marries Rose and brings her to the family ranch, Phil immediately hates the idea viewing her both as a gold-digger and a block between him and his brother, whom the film leads us to believe were much closer during their earlier life. Phil begins to taunt Rose and wage mental warfare against her to the point of driving her to alcoholism.
George, Rose and Peter come in and out within the story, but the film’s major focus is Phil and Cumberbatch totally owns the performance absolutely making you hate his character, especially for the first half of the film or so. It’s in Phil’s alone moments at a nearby pond that you finally find a bit of humanity in the character when you realize his late mentor Bronco Henry was a bit more than just a mentor to him – though I’m not sure whether it was an actual love affair or an unrequited love.
Around the mid-point of the movie, Phil begins to take Peter under his wings and I’m never quite sure if he’s doing it a) just to piss off Rose b) grooming him in a way similar to how Bronco Henry did with him c) actually developing feelings for the young boy or potentially a mixture of the three.
Some people have had an issue with the gay theme of the film, but honestly if you do, please get a life. If you don’t think cowboys out on the range in the American West didn’t occasionally develop feelings for each other you’re out of your mind.
All four main actors in the film have received Oscar-nominations for their performances and rightfully so. All are spectacular. Even though Cumberbatch’s performance is the best of the film, in my opinion, and certainly its biggest focus it is Smit-McPhee that’s probably the most likely to win an award for his role as the effeminate and at times unnerving Peter.
One of the biggest things Campion’s film has going for it is its beautiful cinematography shot by Ari Wegner, also nominated for an Oscar for her work. Campion’s homeland of New Zealand was a stand-in for Montana in the film and it’s picturesque landscapes are as much of the story as the acting performances.
“The Power of the Dog” can be streamed on Netflix.
by Julian Spivey
Potentially the greatest month of the year for every cinephile with a cable subscription is Turner Classic Movies annual 31 Days of Oscar, which the network dedicated to classic film airs every year in whatever month the Academy Awards is being held – in this case March, with the awards being held on Sunday, March 27. I’ve gone through the complete schedule of programming for TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar and chosen a must-watch for every single day. I realize most of us don’t have the time to watch a movie every day, but if you have a DVR take advantage of it!
March 1 – “The Lost Weekend” @ 7 p.m.
Start the month off with a troubling tale of alcoholism and a terrific performance by Ray Milland as the alcoholic on a weekend-long bender. “The Lost Weekend” won four Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director for Billy Wilder, Best Actor for Milland and Best Adapted Screenplay for Wilder and Charles Brackett. It was nominated for three other honors.
March 2 – “The Pride of the Yankees” @ 4:45 a.m.
With the ongoing Major League Baseball lockout by the greedy owners and commissioner “The Pride of the Yankees” might be the closest we get to baseball this year. Director Sam Wood’s biopic of legendary New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig, played by Gary Cooper, is both one of the greatest biopics and baseball films ever made. “The Pride of the Yankees” won the Oscar for Best Editing and was nominated for 10 other awards including Best Picture, Best Actor for Cooper and Best Actress for Teresa Wright.
March 3 – “The Graduate” @ 9:15 p.m.
“The Graduate,” directed by Mike Nichols, is the story of aimless college graduate Benjamin Braddock, Dustin Hoffman in his breakthrough role, and the relationships he develops with the much older Mrs. Robinson, played by Anne Bancroft, and her daughter Elaine, played by Katharine Ross. Nichols won the Oscar for Best Director and the film received six other nominations, including for Hoffman, Bancroft and Ross.
March 4 – “Network” @ 7 p.m.
There’s a lot of reasons today to “be mad as hell as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore,” so why not forget about some of those reasons and watch “Network” on Match 4? “Network,” directed by Sidney Lumet, is a satirical black comedy about a fictional TV network and the lengths it’ll go to to receive higher ratings. “Network” was nominated for 10 Oscars, with Peter Finch winning posthumously for Best Actor, Faye Dunaway winning Best Actress, Beatrice Straight winning Best Supporting Actress and Paddy Chayefsky winning for Best Original Screenplay. “Network” joined 1951’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” as the only film to win an Oscar in three of the four acting categories.
March 5 – “Doctor Zhivago” @ 3:15 p.m.
Director David Lean has a few of his historical epics airing during TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar, but the one that makes this particular list (though try to see them all) is 1965’s “Doctor Zhivago,” a tale of love and hardship in Russia during World War I and the Russian Civil War. “Doctor Zhivago” was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning for Best Adapted Screenplay for Robert Bolt, Best Art Direction (Color) for John Box, Terence Marsh and Dario Simoni, Best Cinematography (Color) for Freddie Young, Best Costume Design (Color) for Phyllis Dalton and Best Score for Maurice Jarre.
March 6 – “Citizen Kane” @ 11 a.m.
“Citizen Kane,” the two-time honoree as “Greatest American Film of All-Time” from the American Film Institute, wasn’t quite the Oscar success you might think given that title, but that may have had to do with newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, whom the film’s lead character Charles Foster Kane is patterned after, tried to put the kibosh on it. “Citizen Kane” won the Oscar for Best Writing Original Screenplay for Herman J. Mankiewicz. It was nominated for eight other honors including Best Picture, Best Director for Orson Welles and Best Actor for Welles.
March 7 – “Wings” @ 7 p.m.
“Wings,” directed by William A. Wellman, was the first ever Best Picture winner at the inaugural Academy Awards, held on May 16, 1929. It was the only silent film to ever win Best Picture until “The Artist” did so in 2011. “Wings” is the high-flying daring tale of combat pilots during World War I. In addition to winning Best Picture, it also won Best Engineering Effects for Roy Pomeroy.
March 8 – “The Philadelphia Story” @ 9:15 p.m.
There’s potentially never been a better lead cast than Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart in “The Philadelphia Story,” directed by George Cukor. All three give career highlight performances in the film that would win Stewart his only career Best Actor statue (he should’ve won a handful of ‘em). The film also won Best Writing Screenplay for Donald Ogden Stewart and received nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress for Hepburn, Best Supporting Actress for Ruth Hussey and Best Director.
March 9 – “Yankee Doodle Dandy” @ 1:15 a.m.
“Yankee Doodle Dandy” is one of my favorite Fourth of July traditions, but I see no problem making room for it in March. Director Michael Curtiz’s biopic of American song and dance man George M. Cohan will make you swell with patriotic pride. The film won three Oscars: James Cagney for Best Actor, Nathan Levinson for Best Sound Recording and Ray Heindorf and Heinz Roemheld for Best Score. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” received five more nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director or Curtiz.
March 10 – “Grand Prix” @ 1 p.m.
Drivers start your engines for one of the greatest racing movies of all-time! Director John Frankenheimer’s “Grand Prix” is the story of the dangerous and daring drivers on the 1966 Formula 1 circuit and features a litany of actual F1 legends in cameos alongside stars James Garner, Yves Montand, Brian Bedford and Antonio Sabato. “Grand Prix” won Oscars for Best Film Editing for Fredric Steinkamp, Henry Berman, Stu Linder and Frank Santillo, Best Sound for Franklin Milton and Best Sound Effects for Gordon Daniel.
March 11 – “Kramer vs. Kramer” @ 7 p.m.
Director Robert Benton’s 1979 legal drama “Kramer vs. Kramer” is the story of a couple’s divorce and its impact on their young son. The couple is the all-time great duo of Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, both of whom won their first Oscars for their performances with Hoffman taking home Best Actor and Streep Best Supporting Actress. The film won three other honors on Oscar night, including Best Picture, Best Director for Benton and Best Adapted Screenplay for Benton. It was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Jane Alexander, Best Supporting Actor for Justin Henry, Best Cinematography for Nestor Almendros and Best Film Editing for Gerald B. Greenberg.
March 12 – “Cool Hand Luke” @ 11 a.m.
If films about criminals are your thing, you’ll definitely want to catch my selections for March 12 and 13. Director Stuart Rosenberg’s “Cool Hand Luke” stars Paul Newman as a minor criminal arrested for cutting parking meters off a pole and is sentenced to two years on a chain gang for doing so and he refuses to bow down to authority at the prison. It’s one of Newman’s finest performances, if not his absolute best. Newman was nominated for Best Actor, but the winner of the cast was George Kennedy for Supporting Actor. “Cool Hand Luke” was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson and Best Original Score for Lalo Schifrin.
March 13 – “Bonnie & Clyde” @ 5 p.m.
Unlike “Cool Hand Luke,” the criminals in director Arthur Penn’s “Bonnie & Clyde” were real life bank robbers and murderers. Penn’s stylistic violence in the film might not seem like much today, but when it was released in 1967 revolutionized film. The lead performances of Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker are among the best of the era. “Bonnie & Clyde” won Estelle Parsons an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and Burnett Guffey the honor for Best Cinematography. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor for Beatty, Best Actress for Dunaway, Best Supporting Actor for Gene Hackman, Best Supporting Actor for Michael J. Pollard, Best Director for Penn, Best Original Screenplay for David Newman and Robert Benton and Best Costume Design for Theadora Van Runkle.
March 14 – “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” @ 9:30 p.m.
The filibuster is one of the more controversial things within politics today, but director Frank Capra’s 1939 classic “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” makes the act look heroic when James Stewart’s Jefferson Smith filibusters to save the day. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” won the Oscar for Best Writing Original Story for Lewis R. Foster and was nominated for 10 more awards including Best Actor for Stewart and Best Director for Capra.
March 15 – “Hamlet” @ 9:15 p.m.
To this date many consider Laurence Olivier’s “Hamlet” to be the greatest film production of a William Shakespeare play ever made. “Hamlet” was produced and directed by Olivier and starring Olivier. He won Oscar for Best Picture and Best Actor and was nominated for Best Director. The film also won Oscars for Best Art and Set Direction for a Black-and-White film and Best Costume Design for a Black-and-White Film. Jean Simmons was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and William Walton was nominated for Best Score.
March 16 – “Marty” @ 7 p.m.
One of Hollywood’s finest indie flicks before they really became a huge deal many decades later was director Delbert Mann’s “Marty,” a tale of a middle-aged butcher and a teacher who have both given up on love before finding it together after meeting at a dance. The film won four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director for Mann, Best Actor for Ernest Borgnine and Best Writing Screenplay for Paddy Chayefsky. It received four other nominations.
March 17 – “Rashomon” @ 3:15 a.m.
Lately the Academy has improved upon awarding international films like South Korea’s “Parasite” winning Best Picture in 2020 and Japan’s “Drive My Car” being nominated for Best Picture this year. One of the greatest international films ever made was director Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 thriller “Rashomon” about a samurai murdered in the forest and figuring out how it happened. “Rashomon” won an Oscar for what is now called Best International Feature.
March 18 – “How the West Was Won” @ 3:45 a.m.
There are certainly better Westerns throughout Hollywood history than “How the West Was Won,” but none on such an epic and far-reaching scope as the film that saw directors George Marshall, Henry Hathaway and John Ford collaborate and one of the most impressive casts of all-time with James Stewart, Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Richard Widmark and more in prominent roles. “How the West Was Won” won Oscars for Best Original Screenplay by James R. Webb, Best Sound for Franklin Milton and Best Film Editing for Harold F. Kress. The film was also nominated for Best Cinematography Color, Best Art-Set Decoration Color, Best Costume Design Color and Best Original Score.
March 19 – “Lilies of the Field” @ 11 a.m.
There’s no better way to celebrate the life of the recently departed Hollywood legend Sidney Poitier than with the role that earned him the first ever Oscar for Best Actor for an African-American. Director Ralph Nelson’s 1963 film stars Poitier as a traveling handyman who becomes the answered prayer for a group of nuns wishing to build a chapel in the desert. In addition to Poitier’s win the film was nominated for four other honors, including Best Picture.
March 20 – “There Will Be Blood” @ 11 p.m.
So, most of the movies on this list are 50-plus years old and you want to see something a bit more modern? Then check out director Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 drama “There Will Be Blood” about a ruthless prospector in the early days of the oil business. The film won Daniel Day-Lewis his second Oscar for Best Actor and took home another Oscar for Best Cinematography for Robert Elswit. It also received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director for Anderson, Best Adapted Screenplay for Anderson, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction and Best Sound Editing.
March 21 – “You Can’t Take It With You” @ 4:45 p.m.
“You Can’t Take It With You” was the second of director Frank Capra’s Best Picture Oscar-winning films of the 1930s. In a plot that has Capra written all over it the film tells the tale of the son of a Wall Street banker who becomes engaged to a woman from a family in which his father is trying to force out of their home for a real estate development. In addition to winning Best Picture, “You Can’t Take It With You” won Capra the Best Director honor. It was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Spring Byington, Best Screenplay for Robert Riskin, Best Cinematography for Joseph Walker, Best Sound for John P. Livadary and Best Film Editing for Gene Havlick.
March 22 – “The Grapes of Wrath” @ 7 p.m.
John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is one of my all-time favorite novels and director John Ford’s film adaptation is pretty faithful or at least as much as a film could be of its time. The story of Okies forced to move to California during the dustbowl of the Great Depression to find work won Ford the Oscar for Best Director and Jane Darwell the honor for Best Supporting Actress. The film received five other nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor for Henry Fonda, Best Screenplay for Nunnally Johnson, Best Sound for Edmund H. Hansen and Best Film Editing for Robert L. Simpson.
March 23 – “Harvey” @ 7 p.m.
One of the most fun films on TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar is without a doubt director Henry Koster’s “Harvey,” which sees the legendary James Stewart playing a man who insists he has an invisible six foot tall rabbit named Harvey for a best friend. Josephine Hull won Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film that also saw a nomination for Stewart for Best Actor.
March 24 – “2001: A Space Odyssey” @ 4:30 p.m.
I don’t know what the hell is going on much of the time during director Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 classic “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but it’s awful beautiful and fun to look out and Hal 9000 is a terrific villain. ‘2001’ was a no-brainer winner for Best Special Visual Effects. The film was also nominated for Best Director for Kubrick, Best Original Screenplay for Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke and Best Art Direction for Anthony Masters, Harry Lange and Ernest Archer.
March 25 – “Fiddler on the Roof” @ 7 p.m.
We haven’t had a musical on the list yet and we’re running out of month! Check out director Norman Jewison’s 1971 adaptation of the Broadway hit “Fiddler on the Roof,” that sees a Jewish peasant with traditional values contend with marrying off three of his daughters with modern romantic ideals while dealing with growing anti-Semitism in pre-revolutionary Russia. “Fiddle on the Roof” won three Oscars for Best Cinematography for Oswald Morris, Best Sound for Gordon K. McCallum and David Hilyard and Best Score for John Williams. It was nominated for five more Oscars, including Best Picture.
March 26 – “Casablanca” @ 10 a.m.
“Casablanca” is considered by many to be the greatest film ever made with its tale of love and honor during World War II directed by Michael Curtiz and perfect lead performances from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. “Casablanca” won three Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Writing Screenplay for Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch. It was nominated for five other awards including Bogart for Best Actor, but somehow Bergman didn’t make the Best Actress cut.
March 27 – “It Happened One Night” @ 6:45 a.m.
Only three films have ever swept the Oscars five biggest categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. “It Happened One Night” was the first to do so in 1935 (the other two were “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The Silence of the Lambs”). The film won Best Picture, Frank Capra won Best Director, Clark Gable won Best Actor, Claudette Colbert won Best Actress and Robert Riskin won for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film was 100 percent for its nominations winning all five categories for which it was nominated.
March 28 – “Stagecoach” @ 5:15 p.m.
John Wayne’s arrival as The Ringo Kid in director John Ford’s 1939 Western classic “Stagecoach” was the star-making moment for “The Duke.” “Stagecoach” won two Oscars: Best Supporting Actor for Thomas Mitchell and Best Original Score for Richard Hageman, W. Franke Harling, John Leipold and Leo Shuken. The film received five more nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Ford.
March 29 – “Twelve O’Clock High” @ 9:30 p.m.
Director Henry King’s 1949 film “Twelve O’Clock High” sees a World War II American Air Force unit plagued with fatigue until Gregory Peck’s Brigadier General Frank Savage takes over. “Twelve O’Clock High” would win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Dean Jagger and Best Sound for Thomas T. Moulton. It was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor for Peck.
March 30 – “East of Eden” @ 4:45 p.m.
My second selection on this list based on a John Steinbeck novel. “East of Eden,” directed by Elia Kazan, sees James Dean’s Cal Trask fighting for the affection of his father against a favored brother in a plot loosely based on Cain and Abel. “East of Eden” won Jo Van Fleet an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Dean received a posthumous nomination for Best Actor. The film was also nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay for Paul Osborn.
March 31 – “To Kill a Mockingbird” @ 7 p.m.
Schools in some backwoods places across the country are trying to ban Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, so there’s no better time than now to check out director Robert Mulligan’s 1962 film adaptation starring Gregory Peck as admirable lawyer Atticus Finch. “To Kill a Mockingbird” won Peck the Oscar for Best Actor and took home two other honors for Best Adapted Screenplay for Horton Foote and Best Art/Set Direction for a Black-and-White Film for Alexander Golitzen, Henry Bumstead and Oliver Emert. The film received five other nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Mulligan.