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Magic 8-Ball: The Golden Compass

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Magic 8-Ball: The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass isn’t bad. Chris Weitz’s current entry in the holiday movie sweepstakes pretty much does what it sets out to do—steal some of that J.K. Rowling magic and sprinkle it over Philip Pullman’s series of fantasy novels. When Daniel Craig’s Lord Asriel saunters confidently onto the perfectly manicured grounds of Oxford’s Jordan College, you half expect to see Harry Potter and his Hogwarts cohorts rush out to greet him. Any scene featuring Craig acquires incidental sexual overtones; soon I had a parallel porno running in my head. Nasty thoughts about Mr. Bond aside, this is definitely a movie for the younger set, with some surprisingly good acting. As villain Marisa Coulter, Nicole Kidman taps the sadistic, nuanced hunger she displayed in To Die For. (It’s a shame she doesn’t play the baddie more often—like Matt Damon, Kidman shines when cast against type.) Sam Elliott with his “Aw, shucks, ma’am” attitude is always a delight; every tip of the hat from this low-key cowboy jolts the movie when the script begins to drag. And drag. And drag.

Which is a shame since the panoramic cinematography sweeps you up in its embrace. Like The Chronicles of Narnia, it’s a movie to enjoy getting lost inside. And like Coppola’s latest masterpiece Youth Without Youth, this may be a film that benefits from having a narrative that’s less than comprehensible. Unless you’ve read the Pullman novels—which I haven’t—there’s a lot to absorb in two hours: microscopic particles that unite the universe; Gyptians that help and Gobblers that kidnap; a formerly armored bear with a drinking problem (an alcoholic CGI character must be some kind of first). The script tries so hard to remain faithful to the novel, through endless explanation that borders on dissertation, that it gets in the way of the dream it’s trying to create. There are just too many words. (After all, did we really need subtitles reading, “Stop the children!” and “Kill the bear”? Yeah, I kinda got that from the visuals.) The dialogue is an endless Q&A (“Why did you help me?” “You see, years ago…” “What is it?” “It’s a golden compass.” “What does it do?” “Well, it…”) I’m not sure children need a heavy-handed, mathematical analysis when there are so many mutating creatures to watch.

If Weitz had put aside his loyalty to the author—if he hadn’t tried so hard to stick to facts and make the film “be” the book—he might have created something distinctive enough to rise above the inevitable comparisons. “Don’t grasp at the answer,” one character tells the young heroine Lyra. “Hold the question in your mind lightly—like it’s alive.” I wish the filmmaker had taken this advice to heart; a lighter touch could have done wonders. From the British-styled pseudo-royalty costumes to the CGI “daemons” who act as companions/alter egos, every element in this fantasy is perfectly coordinated; watching it is like observing a fine-tuned army engaged in drills. Strangely, the CGI is more persuasive when there’s less action. There’s only so long one can watch huge clumsy bears mimic WWE smack-downs and take Lawrence of Arabia-type sojourns before “Camelot!” “It’s only a model” comes to mind. The filmmaking is faux-suspenseful, just safe enough not to scare the little ones, so it’s a shock when Weitz brings the volume down to near-stillness in a scene in which Lyra happens upon a building housing kidnapped children. The tone turns Kubrick-surreal, the set design as familiar/alien and disconcerting as the 2001 Jupiter spacecraft. The Golden Compass should have been more than just a gorgeous Magic 8-Ball. It should have been the ultimate trip.

Brooklyn-based writer Lauren Wissot is the publisher of the blog Beyond the Green Door, the author of the memoir Under My Master’s Wings, and a contributor to The Reeler.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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