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Review: THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING, Djinn and Tonic

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Review: THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING, Djinn and Tonic

It’s been seven years since George Miller (Babe: Pig in the City, Lorenzo’s Oil, The Witches of Eastwick), a filmmaker some considered, if not washed up, then well past his prime, proved naysayers and doubters completely, spectacularly wrong, directing arguably the best action film, Mad Max: Fury Road, of the last 25 years, bringing an audacious blend of skill, talent, and craftsmanship to the long-delayed, at one time apocryphal, fourth entry in the Mad Max series that began as a modest, low-budget effort in 1979 with a young, pre-controversial Mel Gibson in the title role.

While Miller subsequently mooted a Mad Max prequel centered on Charlize Theron’s character, Furiosa (it’s currently in production), he turned his focus in the intervening years to an entirely different, standalone project, Three Thousand Years of Longing, an adaptation of Mann Booker Prize winner A.S. Byatt’s (Possession, Babel Tower) short story, “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye.”

The result, like so much of Miller’s non-Mad Max output, will likely alienate moviegoers expecting the next, great film. Miller prefers to move among and between genres, not only testing his talents, but expanding his skillset, working with different narrative tropes, conventions, and traditions, while pushing available digital technology beyond old borders into new territory.

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With a film centered on a middle-aged, British academic, Alithea Binnie, and a narratology conference in Istanbul, Turkey, that goes awry in both predictable and unpredictable ways, Miller might be telling one of his most deeply personal, most emotionally resonant stories yet. A meta-film about meta-texts, Three Thousand Years of Longing, revolves around Alithea’s discovery of a real-life (or reel-life) Djinn (Idris Elba), an initially fearsome, terrifying creature who, despite multiple protestations to the contrary, may be be the most deeply human character in Three Thousand Years of Longing, an ancient, wish-granting being who’s closely observed humans at their best and their worst, the former when they love and desire, the latter when they hate and destroy.

No mere observer in human affairs, the Djinn has loved too, women long shrouded in mystery and myth, like Sheba, and women whose names, actions, and decisions have been lost to time and memory. And in telling each new story to an increasingly besotted Alithea, the Djinn awakens a new desire in Alithea to no longer strictly live a life of the mind, a life of serene, detached contentment, but also a life of the body, a life of physical desire and emotional connection.

All along, Alithea and the Djinn talk and talk, mostly from inside a hotel room in Istanbul while they lounge in hotel-provided bathrobes while Miller, a master of narrative form and function, allies each story with some of the most ravishing, sensual imagery put on digital film this year, last year, or really any year.

While Three Thousand Years of Longing stumbles slightly in its final moments as Miller tries to navigate Alithea and the Djinn’s relationship into a conclusion simultaneously true to the characters and satisfying to audiences on the other side of the screen, the reservoir of good will built up through the previous two hours more than makes up for any loss of focus or the rush to resolve the obstacles standing in the way of flawed mortal and immortal beings finding temporary happiness in each other’s company.

And with Swinton, a performer of great subtlety and delicacy, and Elba, an actor of great depth of feeling and emotion, as Miller’s standard bearers carrying his hopeful, optimistic message, it’s almost enough to believe in the reality of the myths underlying ancient religions and new, and contrary to an early theme concerning the conflict between the stories science tells being devoid of wonder and awe, a convergence between the two, the stories we tell about ourselves to ourselves and the stories we tell about the world and our place in the world. Science doesn’t erase the great myths, but exists alongside them, giving us different means to reaching similar, complementary ends.

Three Thousand Years of Longing opens Friday, August 26 in movie theaters everywhere.

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Three Thousand Years of Longing

Writer(s)
  • George Miller
  • Augusta Gore
  • A.S. Byatt
Cast
  • Tilda Swinton
  • Idris Elba
  • Pia Thunderbolt

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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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