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‘Nothing Compares’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

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‘Nothing Compares’: Film Review | Sundance 2022

At 23, Sinéad O’Connor was a chart-topping international superstar. By the time she turned 26, she was fodder for jokes. She was hardly the first and wouldn’t be the last female pop artist to be derided for coloring outside the lines, but as a sympathetic and perceptive new documentary reminds us, O’Connor wasn’t vilified simply for being erratic or unclassifiable, though that surely didn’t help.

“Everybody felt it was OK to kick the shit out of me,” O’Connor recalls in a new interview for Kathryn Ferguson’s Nothing Compares. “I regret that I was so sad because of it,” she adds, her crystalline voice deepened by the years. The fallout from what she endured, and her retreat from the limelight and ensuing struggles, are alluded to but not explored here; the focus of Kathryn Ferguson’s first feature-length film is O’Connor’s ahead-of-the-mainstream courage, and her outrage.

Nothing Compares

The Bottom Line

A dynamic and sympathetic reassessment.

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Venue: Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema Documentary Competition)

Director: Kathryn Ferguson

Screenwriters: Eleanor Emptage, Kathryn Ferguson, Michael Mallie


1 hour 36 minutes

Youthful daring fueled that outrage, but its roots were the wounds of a difficult childhood. She was trying to start a conversation about the things she believed unjust, some of them horrors she knew firsthand. But the Irish singer-songwriter’s protests against the Gulf War, racism and the Catholic Church’s abuse of women and children enraged a lot of people, from flag-waving “patriots” to a pissed-off Frank Sinatra and a hate-spewing Camille Paglia. Based on the reaction clips Ferguson includes, the offended apparently valued the national anthem or a photo of the pope — famously torn to pieces by O’Connor during her 1992 Saturday Night Live appearance — more than they valued freedom of speech. And Paglia apparently felt that O’Connor’s earnestness was a greater crime than the things she decried.

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Timing matters when you’re saying things that people aren’t ready to hear, and Nothing Compares frames its subject’s story through the light of retrospect, while capturing the emotional intensity for O’Connor in those early years of her career. The matter of timing also lends an awful layer of headline resonance to the documentary: Ferguson’s film took its Sundance bow just a couple of weeks after the suicide of O’Connor’s teenage son and the singer’s subsequent hospitalization. The devastation of her recent loss reverberates in the doc, especially its passages concerning motherhood.

O’Connor, who was subjected to physical and emotional violence at the hands of her mother, welcomed her own opportunity to be a parent. She was young and her career was just taking off when she became pregnant, and she and musician-producer John Reynolds embraced the prospect of parenthood (he’s one of the film’s interviewees, and has an executive producer’s credit). Her record company saw things differently, though, and sent her to a doctor who encouraged her to abort the pregnancy so that she could remain focused on her work. She owed it to the label, he said.

O’Connor had her baby. And she took her music-biz defiance further, shaving her head and following her own, gender-fluid sartorial preferences — making her compelling and confusing at a time when female performers were expected to conform to a girlie aesthetic. (On the matter of her style and looks, a clip from an interview with Charlie Rose doesn’t do his tainted reputation any favors). O’Connor came to be known as fierce, uncompromising and confrontational, but the film reminds us, through some of her early TV appearances, how polite and soft-spoken she was when she wasn’t letting that big voice roar in song.

Ferguson offers exhilarating evidence of the voice’s supple power even when O’Connor was still in her teens. There’s grainy footage of her performing in a small London club in 1985, and a home-movie recording of her singing at the wedding of Jeannette Byrne, the beloved music teacher who recognized and encouraged her gift. Byrne is among the friends and famous admirers — Peaches, Kathleen Hanna, Chuck D — heard in the film. Ferguson uses only audio for the new interviews, the commentaries heard over a dynamic mix of scene-setting footage from the period. With ace editing by Mick Mahon, the director seamlessly incorporates dialogue-free enactments of moments in O’Connor’s life, adding cinematic texture to the proceedings.

An especially smart choice is the inclusion of excerpts from the 1967 documentary Rocky Road to Dublin, evoking a sense of the Ireland of O’Connor’s formative years. Tellingly, that highly regarded film by Peter Lennon, with its critique of a repressive, Church-dominated society, was essentially banned in the country for many years. Beyond the traumas she faced at home, O’Connor spent some time in a residential training center that was connected to one of the infamous Magdalene laundries, where she saw firsthand the way “fallen” women were thrown away. “The whole of Ireland talks about these ladies,” O’Connor says. “But I met them.”

O’Connor’s videos are excerpted too, including the one for her megahit adaptation of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” directed by John Maybury. The song itself is unheard, permission for its use denied by the Prince estate, but the video’s imagery, O’Connor’s tearful close-up especially, are so indelible that the song, or its memory, comes through anyway.

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A pivotal event in O’Connor’s career brackets the film: the all-star celebration of Bob Dylan’s 30th anniversary, two weeks after her controversial SNL appearance. Introduced to the Madison Square Garden crowd by Kris Kristofferson, O’Connor would soon be comforted by him when the crowd — or at least a vocal portion of it — tried to boo her offstage. As musician John Grant comments: “People who would boo Sinéad O’Connor — what were they doing at a Bob Dylan concert?” Substitute different artists’ names, and it’s a question that many rock fans have asked themselves over the concert-going years. Usually it’s a matter of an opening act’s musical style colliding with an audience’s one-track mind: Toots and the Maytals heckled while opening for The Who, Prince booed opening for the Stones, a Clash crowd turning on Los Lobos, to name a few cringe-inducing examples.

But in O’Connor’s case, her music was a known, and widely admired, quantity; people were angry at her. It’s no longer shocking to talk about the things she talked about: mental health, child abuse, the crimes of the Church. Leaving off with the pain of that 1992 show at the Garden, Nothing Compares picks up again with a contemporary performance by O’Connor. As a teenager she needed to sing, and she still sings, far from the pressures of pop stardom but, Ferguson shows, having played a crucial role in rewriting the rules of the pop-star game. Like most people ahead of the curve, she paid the price. Speaking of “a whole decade or two decades of artists,” Chuck D puts it succinctly: “She broke the ice.”

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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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