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4K Review: THE VIRGIN SUICIDES

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4K Review: THE VIRGIN SUICIDES

Sophia Coppola’s debut feature, The Virgin Suicides, has been given the 4K restoration treatment by the discerning folks at The Criterion Collection. Released last week here in North America, this release also comes with a combo Blu-ray with supplements and a legacy essay from novelist and screenwriter Megan Abbott.

I saw the film when it had its theatrical run in 1999. Between now and then, I’m glad to report that Coppola’s adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’ debut novel has lost exactly none of its effectiveness. 

As the story goes, the five teenage Lisbon girls reject their home imprisonment, upper class society, and even their lives. The Virgin Suicides is a mid-1970s snapshot of girls trying to make sense of the cards they’ve been dealt, as well as the the neighborhood boys who were infatuated with them.

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Spoilers: the youngest sister, Cecilia, attempts suicide at the onset of the film. She goes on to succeed in a brutal-yet-bloodless way (portrayed onscreen to us). The other sisters move on the best that they can, and things actually get better for them, though they’ve become things to gawk at, subjects to be reported about on the five o’clock news. The boys flock to them, as they’re all impossibly good-looking freaks born from the strange union of their nerdy math teacher Mr. Lisbon (James Woods) and the staunchly devout Mrs. Lisbon (Kathleen Turner). 

The casting is one of the most interesting things about Coppola’s film; not only are Woods and Turner cast out of type, they shine in these more serious roles. The same goes for Danny DeVito, the brash comedian who plays Ceceila’s psychologist in a cameo role at the very start of the film. 

There are a lot of names in the film, but Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia, The Power of the Dog) as Lux Lisbon steals the show here with her smoldering sadness and enigmatic pauses. 

Similarly, The Virgin Suicides was the tipping point for a young Josh Hartnett, who had just filmed The Faculty. Here, he plays teen Lothario Trip Fontaine, who becomes Lux’s downfall, and the reason that all the Lisbon sisters become shut away in their home. A flash to the adult version of Trip Fontaine is played by Michael Pare (Streets of Fire) who’s now in addiction recovery, his glamor having been stripped away by poor life decisions, likely starting with the abandonment of Lux, the girl he claims to have loved.

Coppola’s careful treatment of the teen girl characters comes directly from her experience. She’d grown up painfully female, as all girls do, and had also dealt with the grieving process early on, from the loss of her brother Gian-Carlo. 

The filmmaker renders her scenes with weight and time for characters to breathe, for the monstrosity of situations to render upon us in unflinching, extreme wide shots. But there’s also an excess of beauty here, within the craft of the film itself, no matter the mood and tone.

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Coppola’s own screenplay from the source material is excellent, as is master cinematographer Edward Lachman’s (Less Than Zero, Carol, Erin Brockovich) images, movements, and shot choices.

And then there was Coppola’s choice to enlist French duo Air, who came aboard to drench the film in equal parts electronic teenage anticipation and loss of hope. The soundtrack is a staggering mood piece that settles over one like a shroud.

The 4K restoration is a work of art; overseen by both Coppola and Lachman, it looks absolutely wonderful. The sound remaster is also uniformly excellent.

The featurettes are all good, though I would have loved even more time from Lachman speaking about creating the look of the film and his use of visual metaphors. It was great to hear him talk about different color palette choices for filming the girls versus shots of the boys, and what that meant for the tone of those scenes.

Here’s the complete list of director-approved extras:

  • New 4K digital restoration, approved by director Sofia Coppola and supervised by cinematographer Ed Lachman, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the 4K UHD and Blu-ray

  • In the 4K UHD edition: One 4K UHD disc of the film and one Blu-ray with the film and special features

  • Interviews with Coppola, Lachman, actors Kirsten Dunst and Josh Hartnett, novelist Jeffrey Eugenides, and writer and actor Tavi Gevinson

  • Making of “The Virgin Suicides,” a 1998 documentary directed by Eleanor Coppola and featuring Sofia Coppola; Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola; actors Dunst, Hartnett, Scott Glenn, Kathleen Turner, and James Woods; Eugenides; and more

  • Lick the Star, a 1998 short film by Sofia Coppola

  • Music video for Air’s soundtrack song “Playground Love,” directed by Coppola and her brother Roman Coppola

  • Trailers

  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  • PLUS: An essay by novelist Megan Abbott

  • New cover by Naomi Hirabayashi

While The Virgin Suicides is a masterpiece, it is at times, not an easy watch… particularly for those affected by deep depression. You can add the 4K/Blu-ray combo release to your home video collection by heading over to Criterion here.

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The Virgin Suicides

Writer(s)
  • Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Sofia Coppola
Cast
  • Kirsten Dunst
  • Josh Hartnett
  • James Woods

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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