Take 2

Tamara Dunn is a card-carrying cinephile and the assistant city editor at the Standard-Speaker. Her writings here have earned her a Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association award in 2017. Her favorite films are “Bringing Up Baby” and “Moonlight.”

Rebecca Kivak considers herself a representative of the average filmgoer. She is also a copy editor for The Times-Tribune. Her favorite films are “The Illusionist” and “The Avengers.”

Review: “Captain Marvel”

Review: “Captain Marvel”

Brie Larson stars in “Captain Marvel.” (Disney-Marvel Studios via AP)

Tamara’s Take

When Vers (Brie Larson) has her big fighting sequence that has been teased throughout “Captain Marvel,” it’s set to No Doubt’s “Just A Girl.” The song doesn’t start with the chorus; instead it’s right at the beginning. “Take this pink ribbon off my eyes/I’m exposed/And it’s no big surprise.” And while Gwen Stefani wrote that song after being punished by her father for staying out too late, it is a fitting anthem for Vers’ self-realization in her origin film.

Nearly a year after seeing Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) sending a beeper beacon following Thanos’ snap at the end of “Avengers: Infinity War,” Marvel Studios released a film that explains why the world and universe needs the warrior behind the red, yellow and blue. But first, there’s a war (there’s always a war with Marvel) and some history. There are the Krees — the good guys — with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) leading a group on a mission that goes wrong. Vers is kidnapped by the Skrulls — the bad guys — that extract visions, but she doesn’t know what they are about.

Of course, she escapes and later lands on 1990s California, where Fury is a desk jockey and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) is just a rookie. But as she tries to piece together the visions she’s having of being on Earth, Skrulls’ leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) is on her trail.

Helping her out is her former Air Force pilot Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), a single mom who walked away from the military. The audience knows that Maria and Vers were good friends in flashbacks, and the friendship rebuilds when they reunite.

“Captain Marvel” is the first female-led feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and in a way it feels like a too-little, too-late move by the entertainment heavyweight as it is the 21st film for the realm. Limits are placed on Vers and her human alter ego Carol Danvers through flashbacks, protocol and adversity. Many of the messages that women deal with daily are hammered throughout the movie, like being “too emotional” and being catcalled everywhere. And in a way, it feels this movie tries to make up for the studio’s delayed wokeness, but it doesn’t have the groundbreaking moments that really say “wow.”

Much of this, unfortunately, has to do with some of the fighting choreography in the early scenes (perhaps to keep its PG-13 rating in tact). Some of it is poorly executed, but when Vers finally has her big scene, the sci-fi violence is more top notch thanks to some special effects.

First-time Marvel directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck emerged from the indie scene for this large studio film, much like many other directors like Ryan Coogler, Taika Waititi and Jon Favreau. Boden is Marvel’s first female director, coming eight years after Patty Jenkins dropped out of helming “Thor: The Dark World.” “Captain Marvel” also has its first female composer, with Pinar Toprak leading the score. Plus, the overall soundtrack is full of ‘90s girl-power anthems that complement the self-realization theme from Salt-N-Pepa, Elastica and the aforementioned No Doubt. However, don’t expect for Vers to wear band T-shirts that reflect these songs. She saves a lot of hard metal bands for those occasions.

While Marvel’s latest offerings have been more on the humorous side, “Captain Marvel” returns to the more serious fare that most origin stories call for. Think of this as more like the “Iron Man” series than the “Ant-Man” ones. This one is so serious that Annette Bening has a supporting, pivotal role. However, the laughs are reserved for Fury and an adorable yet mysterious feline Goose.

“Captain Marvel” could have been a stronger standalone feature if it explored Danvers more and not invest so much in the meddling plot that is much like every other Phase I Marvel plot. Of course, it only sets the audience up for the next “Avengers” movie.

3 stars out of 5

Brie Larson, left, and Samuel L. Jackson in a scene from “Captain Marvel.” (Disney-Marvel Studios via AP)

Rebecca’s Take

After being teased during the end of “Avengers: Infinity War,” Air Force pilot-turned-superhero Carol Danvers flies out of the pages of Marvel Comics and onto the screen in “Captain Marvel.” After 11 years and 20 films, the space adventure marks the first female-led superhero movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The more than capable Brie Larson creates an empowered heroine coming to terms with her past, powers and place in the universe. But the movie surrounding Larson falls short of reaching the heights set by other MCU films. “Captain Marvel” is a just-OK entry in the franchise, an enjoyable but disjointed effort hampered by the structure of its storytelling.

Set during the mid-1990s, Carol Danvers (Larson) serves the Starforce, an elite force of Kree warriors. Plagued by memory loss, Carol has incredible powers – including shooting energy blasts from her hands – that she struggles to control with the help of her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). She is drawn into a war between two alien races, the blue-blooded Kree and the shape-shifting Skrulls, who take on the appearance of a planet’s inhabitants before infiltrating it for themselves.

After being separated from her fleet, Carol crash-lands on the Skrulls’ next target – Earth, where she is haunted by memories of her past there as an Air Force pilot. As she works to connect the pieces and hunt down the Skrulls, she is joined by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson before the eyepatch) and a furry sidekick, Goose the cat. Following the trio is calculating Skrulls leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). Often underestimated by those around her, Carol must discover who she is and who she can trust.

With Carol expected to play a big role in the MCU’s next epic superhero teamup, “Avengers: Endgame,” “Captain Marvel” seeks to introduce Carol into its larger universe. The film puts a different spin on the traditional superhero origin story, setting up a narrative puzzle with Carol having already lost her memory. As Carol is learning about her past, the audience is learning about it alongside her. But the technique backfires as the film ends up keeping its titular character at arm’s length for most of the film. It’s hard to get a read on Carol when she – and the audience – don’t know who she is.

The likable Larson brings determination and a sense of humor to a character who sometimes feels like a blank slate. It’s not until Carol’s best friend, fellow pilot Maria Rambeau (a lovely performance by Lashana Lynch), comes into the picture that Carol’s character starts to come into focus.

The clunky structure disrupts the film’s pacing. The movie immediately drops the viewer right into Starforce training with Carol, which can be confusing for moviegoers who aren’t previously familiar with Carol’s story from the comics. The film also drags at times. But “Captain Marvel” steadily picks up in its second half, with some surprising twists and connections to past MCU films.

“Captain Marvel” is the first film in the MCU to feature a female co-director, Anna Boden, who helms the film with Ryan Fleck. Keenly aware of its status as the MCU’s first female-fronted film, the movie delves into the expectations placed on women in society. Carol faces judgment from the various men in her life, including her father, her fellow pilot recruits and Yon-Rogg. The film recognizes that women are often told to keep their emotions in check when it’s actually a source of empowerment. Though Carol falls down time after time, she always gets back up, an inspirational motif that will speak to young girls in the audience.

However, the movie can be too much on the nose in conveying its message, especially with its music choices. When No Doubt’s “Just A Girl” plays over Carol fighting the enemy during a climactic standoff, it feels a bit like overkill.

Some of the joy from “Captain Marvel” comes from a possibly purr-fect pairing: Jackson and Goose. The adorable feline, who is more than she seems, steals every scene she’s in. It’s also fun to see Fury before he became the hardened director of S.H.I.E.L.D. The de-aging special effects are top-notch on Jackson as well as Clark Gregg, who makes a welcome return to the franchise as Agent Coulson. Annette Bening is memorable but underused as the Supreme Intelligence, the Kree’s artificial intelligence whose appearance sparks something within Carol’s memory.

Ultimately, “Captain Marvel” is good but not great. It feels like an MCU film from Phase 1 – like “Iron Man 2” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the film has a lot to work with, but it doesn’t consistently come together. With Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers set to be a key part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward, the film lays the groundwork for future movies to continue developing the ultra-powerful character.

3 out of 5 stars

Movie trailers and the art of mystery

Movie trailers and the art of mystery

“Avengers: Endgame”

(Warning: Spoilers for “Dark Phoenix” ahead.)

When Marvel Studios released the second trailer for the highly anticipated “Avengers: Endgame” last week, the teaser gave fans a lot to talk about without revealing too much about the follow-up to last summer’s smash “Avengers: Infinity War.” The studio employed the same tactic with the release of the first “Endgame” trailer in December, pledging to use footage from the film’s first 20 minutes in the movie’s marketing to keep the film’s plot shrouded in secrecy.

The studio’s cautious moves come in stark contrast to the recent second trailer for Fox’s “Dark Phoenix,” which revealed the death of a major character in the teaser’s opening moments. The dueling techniques beg the question: Just how much of a movie should trailers give away to potential moviegoers?

The purpose of a movie trailer is to stir excitement for an upcoming release. It aims to pique viewers’ interest in order to get them to see the film when it hits theaters.

However, a trailer can take one of two paths. It can show just enough to reel viewers in but keep them guessing, maintaining an air of mystery. Or it can show too much, leaving moviegoers to figure out the plot in advance or even give away key twists.

After successfully protecting its major twist in “Infinity War,” Marvel Studios is taking the former route. Viewers know the remaining Avengers – Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye/Ronin (Jeremy Renner), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) – will come together to try and undo the devastation from “Infinity War,” which saw the Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) snap half of the universe’s population out of existence.

But how Earth’s mightiest heroes will accomplish this is still unknown. The latest trailer hints that the group – wearing snazzy new white suits similar to Ant-Man’s – may visit the Quantum Realm and engage in time travel. The new teaser also relies on flashbacks from several of the original Avengers’ solo movies, indicating the past could collide with the present.

Yet nowhere does the trailer state or show the superheroes actually going back in time. Viewers know the group has a plan, as stated by the members vowing to do “whatever it takes.” But what that plan is, we don’t know – nor should we. The anticipation and suspense of seeing “Endgame” will be finding out just what the heroes have in store and whether it will ultimately work.

On the other hand, a revelation in the trailer for the latest installment of the X-Men franchise, “Dark Phoenix,” deprives the audience of a major shock. In the second teaser for the film, which comes out in June, the footage shows telekinetic mutant Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) in mourning over what the dark Phoenix force influences her to do: kill Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), one of the franchise’s biggest characters. The trailer shows an out-of-control Jean deliver what is likely a fatal blow to the shapeshifter. If that wasn’t enough, “Dark Phoenix” director Simon Kinberg confirmed in an interview after the trailer dropped that Mystique does indeed die.

Kinberg said the decision to kill Mystique raises the stakes of the movie, which is “unlike other X-Men movies. It’s a movie where shocking things happen.” This makes sense for the movie itself, but why give away such a big gut punch in the trailer? Now the audience knows going in that Mystique is a victim of Jean/Phoenix’s wrath. The death might not hit as hard as it otherwise would while viewing the film.

The Mystique reveal brings back memories of 2015’s “Terminator: Genisys.” The “Terminator” reboot revealed in its trailer and poster that John Connor (Jason Clarke) – believed to be humanity’s savior in the war against the machines – was corrupted by Skynet and is instead the film’s villain, becoming a Terminator himself. The marketing spoiled a huge twist that would have been best saved for the movie, which ended up a box-office failure.

Is “less is more” better for trailers? It certainly seems so.

After the release of the second “Endgame” trailer, Marvel Studios’ Vice President of Digital Marketing Dustin Sandoval asked on his Twitter account Sunday if the teaser should be the last one before the movie bows in six weeks. The tweet seems to have been deleted, but not before the majority of fans who responded expressed their wish that there shouldn’t be any more trailers. They’d rather the film continue to be kept under wraps to prevent any surprises from leaking out.

If a trailer is meant to lure in moviegoers without giving away the film’s entire plot or big twists, then Marvel Studios seems to have mastered the art of mystery. It’s a good lesson from which other studios could benefit.

Trailer Talk: Avengers willing to do “whatever it takes” in new “Endgame” trailer

Trailer Talk: Avengers willing to do “whatever it takes” in new “Endgame” trailer

An awesome pairing in “Avengers: Endgame.”

After this weekend’s monumental success of “Captain Marvel” at the box office, Marvel Studios released a new trailer for “Avengers: Endgame.” The highly anticipated film ties together over a decade of storytelling – more than 20 movies – in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Coming out six weeks before “Endgame” hits theaters, the powerful teaser shows Earth’s mightiest heroes working to undo the damage from Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) devastating Snap from last summer’s “Avengers: Infinity War.” While the Mad Titan himself doesn’t appear in the trailer, there’s a lot we have to talk about – including a new member of the Avengers. Let’s dive right in!

(Warning: Spoilers for “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and Captain Marvel.”)

The trailer starts with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) flashing back to 2008’s “Iron Man,” the film that launched the MCU. Tony is making a recording for his fiancee, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), as he and Nebula (Karen Gillan) desperately try to steer the Guardians of the Galaxy’s ship back to Earth after fleeing Titan. In a voiceover narration, Tony says, “I know I said no more surprises, but I was really hoping to pull off one last one.” The “surprise” could be the Avengers coming together to reverse the Decimation and bring back half the population killed, including their own comrades.

Meanwhile, more OG Avengers are having flashbacks, largely defined by those they’ve lost. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) thinks about why he joined the Army during World War II (“Captain America: The First Avenger”) and the funeral of his true love, Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), as seen in “Captain America: Civil War.” Cliff Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is haunted by memories of his family on his farm. Their deaths likely fuel his transition into the avenging Ronin. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) thinks about his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and his home world, Asgard, both of whom he lost in “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Throughout the flashbacks, we hear Agent Carter’s narration from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”: “The world has changed. None of us can go back. All we can do is our best, and sometimes the best we can do is to start over.”

The stakes are high as the trailer remembers the fallen Avengers from the Snap: Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie); T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), as shown through Okoye’s (Danai Gurira) survival; Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), likely just having returned from the Quantum Realm in “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” is distressed as seeing “missing” posters posted on telephone polls not for pets, but for people. It’s unclear yet whether Scott knows the Snap has hit particularly close to home. The Wasp herself, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), and her parents, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfiefer), were dusted in the Decimation.

But in response to Agent Carter: Can you start over by going back? While others may have moved on in the Decimation’s aftermath, the remaining Avengers have not and vow to save their friends. “Even if there’s a small chance, we owe this to everyone who’s not in this room to try,” says Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who has her characteristic red hair back.

“We will – whatever it takes,” Cap says, and several of the Avengers repeat the new mantra, “whatever it takes.” (We do not hear the Imagine Dragons song, though). We do see Ronin run down an exploding passageway and Black Widow practice shooting a gun. Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) – the last surviving Guardian of the Galaxy – is locked and loaded, teaming up with James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine.

And Captain America is wearing his battle uniform in what looks like the heat of battle, with Ant-Man jumping through pencils (?) in the fiery aftermath. What happened here?!

What we do know is that the remaining Avengers reunite in some spiffy new suits. The trailer shows Cap leading the way, with War Machine, Black Widow, Ronin, Ant-Man – and Tony and Nebula, confirming they make it back to Earth! – in new, white suits with the Avengers’ “A” branded on them.

The suits look very similar to Ant-Man’s. As my intuitive friend Amanda Pernitza wondered on social media, “Are those quantum realm suits?” Is the group going subatomic as part of their rescue and recovery effort? It’s very possible both of the “Ant-Man” movies have been setting us up for just this opportunity. We can only wait and see.

But the team isn’t alone. In the teaser’s post-trailer credits scene (hey, Marvel does this with their movies, too!), a new Avenger joins the fold. She was hinted at in the post-credits scene in “Infinity War,” and her just-released movie has already established her as one of the most powerful superheroes in the MCU. Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, welcome to the team!

Hello, Captain Marvel!

Brie Larson makes her “Endgame” trailer debut, meeting another super-powered figure. Thor seems to be testing Captain Marvel when he calls his hammer to his side. Carol doesn’t even flinch as the powerful tool flies past her.

“I like this one,” Thor says smiling.

So do moviegoers. “Captain Marvel” smashed weekend box office records with $153 million domestically and $455 million worldwide, the highest-ever opening for a female-led film.

Are you even more excited for “Avengers: Endgame” after the new trailer’s release? The 22nd movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe blasts into theaters April 26.







Tamara’s Take: “Greta”

Tamara’s Take: “Greta”

A suspense movie should not be solved in 20 minutes — or even five minutes. It takes the fun out of solving a mystery or figuring out a villain. “Greta” gives its punch away in 10 minutes, but it never lets go of its crazy, cheesy side in this psycho biddy revival.

Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a young, naive woman from the small town of Boston, Massachusetts, who has just graduated from college. Her roomate, Erica (Maika Monroe), has a large apartment in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood and invites her fellow Smith College grad to crash with her there. To “make ends meet” (read: have spending money to see 3-D movies), Frances is a waitress at an upscale restaurant in the Upper East Side. She sees a high-price purse left on the train, and not being a New Yorker and not calling the bomb squad, she traces the handbag back to Greta (Isabelle Huppert), a lonely widow who plays the piano. In Greta, Frances finds a foster mother in a big, sad place after her own mother dies. The frail-looking technophobe sees a new object to obsess over.

This image released by Focus Features shows Chloë Grace Moretz, left, and Isabelle Huppert in a scene from “Greta.” ( Jonathan Hession/Focus Features via AP)

Writer/director Neil Jordan, best known for crafting twisted plots with previous titles “The Crying Game” and “The Brave One,” puts in the shock and awe right at the beginning. Frances learns fairly quickly that Greta is off the rails. Their cute mother/daughter relationship deteriorates in a matter of days, instead of weeks. And while Jordan doesn’t mock the audience’s intelligence, he isn’t away to play with it either.

If you missed “Huppert season” two years ago, when she made top performances in the French-language films “Elle” and “Things to Come,’ her role in “Greta” is not to those levels. However, Huppert fans will get a kick out of seeing her go all out as the obsessed piano teacher (yes, she’s a piano teacher again, but not as good and subtly crazy as she was in “The Piano Teacher”). Huppert shouts, dances and Facebook stalks her way in pure delight. It’s like she’s on vacation from being a serious actress, bringing back the pscyhodramatic acting that Bette Davis did in the 1960s.

This image released by Focus Features shows Maika Monroe, left, and Chloë Grace Moretz in a scene from “Greta.” (Shane Mahood/Focus Features via AP)

Moretz wears a mask of fear and simple-mindedness throughout the film, but luckily the plot justifies her actions. For every dumb move she makes, there’s an equally stupid obstacle that gets in her way, whether it be the police, Greta or New York transportation. The Moretz in “Kick-Ass” would not recognize this Moretz. Monroe, who has seen her share of horror and psychos in “It Follows” and “The Guest,” serves as the voice of privilege and reason. Jordan favorite Stephen Rea makes an appearance, and take a wild guess what happens to him.

The saving grace of “Greta” is its length; it’s only 98 minutes long. If Denis Villeneuve, the current master of the dramatic twist, had directed this, it would be nearly three hours long and Huppert’s acting would go from level 11 to level 2. It’s a quick escape movie for the brain, and no brain cells will be harmed from watching it.

This image released by Focus Features shows Chloë Grace Moretz in a scene from “Greta.” (Patrick Redmond/Focus Features via AP)

Two and a half stars out of five.

Remembering Luke Perry

Remembering Luke Perry

Luke Perry poses for a portrait during the 2018 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

When Luke Perry died Monday after suffering a massive stroke, fans mourned the iconic teen heartthrob from “Beverly Hills, 90210” and devoted father on “Riverdale” who carved a special place in TV and movies.

Perry, 52, catapulted to stardom on the groundbreaking teen drama “Beverly Hills, 90210” during the 1990s as rebel Dylan McKay, the irresistible bad boy and loner with a tender heart. With his movie-star good looks, long sideburns and cool demeanor, Perry invoked the “Rebel Without a Cause” himself, 1950s teen idol James Dean. The actor’s easygoing smile and scar on his right eyebrow enamored many young girls, myself included.

I watched “90210” and its 10 seasons throughout elementary school and high school, growing up alongside its characters. I was thrilled when Perry returned to the show in 1998 after a three-year break. When the show ended in 2000, it was only right that Dylan McKay was there.

After appearing on TV shows including “Oz,” “Jeremiah” and “John from Cincinnati,” Perry found a new generation of fans on the Archie Comics-inspired CW drama “Riverdale.” As Fred Andrews, Perry played the father of its main character, Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa), and acted as the show’s moral center.

As well known as Perry was for his TV roles, plenty of fans remember him for his film roles. In 1992, Perry starred in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the precursor to the beloved 1997 TV series. As Pike, Perry helped Valley girl and cheerleader Buffy Summers (Kristy Swanson) take on the undead.

Perry got his first major lead film role in “8 Seconds,” a biopic about legendary rodeo champion Lane Frost. Perry played the bull rider throughout his life and career. Though Perry was praised for his performance, his aspiring movie career did not take off. But the film has since garnered a following among fans.

In 1997, Perry appeared in Luc Besson’s sci-fi cult classic “The Fifth Element,” which starred Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich. He played Billy, a professor’s assistant who sets off a security mechanism at an Egyptian temple, launching the film’s story.

Luke Perry in “The Fifth Element.”

Perry’s final film performance will be in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which is set during the Manson family murders in 1969. The film will hit theaters July 26.

At 52, Perry left us far too young and too soon. But the actor’s work in TV and film – as well as his warm smile – will continue to live on.

Stay cool, Dylan McKay.








If Spielberg gets his way

If Spielberg gets his way

More than a week after Alfonso Cuaron and Netflix collected three Oscars for “Roma,” the claws are still out against the steaming giant. Last week, Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg said he plans to push for a rules change that would require films to have an exclusive theatrical run for at least four weeks to be eligible for the Oscars when the organization’s board of governors meet in April. Netflix responded back Sunday night on Twitter.

Ted Sarandos, left, and Alfonso Cuaron arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

After the black-and-white drama set in 1970s Mexico scored multiple awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts a few weeks earlier, beating British frontrunner “The Favourite” for best film, a few financial supporters, including cinema chain Cineworld, have withdrawn its support for the academy. Cineworld is the British owner of Regal Cinemas, with locations in Hazleton and Dickson City. Unlike the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the U.S., BAFTA is a charity that is greatly supported by membership, donations and corporate partnership. So a loss of one of its three cinema supporters is a big blow.

FILE – In this Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, file photo, Alfonso Cuaron poses with the awards for best director for “Roma,” best foreign language film for “Roma,” and best cinematography for “Roma” in the press room at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. “Roma” may not have won the best picture Oscar this year, but it came close enough to make some of Hollywood’s top players worry about Netflix’s infiltration of their most prestigious award. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

The war between traditionalists and streamers has intensified this year with “Roma,” and while Netflix has played along with the Hollywood game this time, it’s not enough to change the minds of the old guard. “Roma” lost to “Green Book” for best picture, a move that many see as a victory by the traditional movie studio over a “made-for-television” aggressor. It doesn’t help that major theater chains like Regal, AMC and Cinemark refused to play by Netflix’s specifications for a theatrical run and many didn’t include “Roma” in its Oscar showcase series. This included Cinemark 20 and XD in Moosic.

Netflix probably digged an even bigger hole for itself when executive Ted Sarandos told attendants at an industry breakfast that subscribers were “going to love it on their phone.” Despite being available online, several independent films, including some within a 90-miles radius of Luzerne and Lackawanna counties like Pocono Cinema and Cultural Center in East Stroudsburg, had multiple-week runs.

FILE – In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, file photo, filmmaker Steven Spielberg poses at the 2019 “An Unforgettable Evening” benefiting the Women’s Cancer Research Fund, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Reports that Spielberg intends to support rule changes that could block Netflix from Oscars-eligibility have provoked a heated and unwieldy online debate. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

If Spielberg gets his way with the long theatrical run, and if others believe that movies with the most impact in the cinema deserve Oscars, the 2019 field would look a lot different:

Only legacy studios would be in the theaters

How would a mandatory four-week run affect what you see in the theaters? This rule would most likely apply to movies shown in Los Angeles County as the current rules are that the film is at least 40 minutes long, be projected in a theater and have a seven-day run in a theater between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31. In other words, it’s like running for president, but you only have to campaign in one county in the union. Remember Stephen Colbert’s presidential run in 2008? Now imagine that for best picture.  

Stephen Colbert, left and Jon Stewart on the set of “The Colbert Report.” (AP FILE/Comedy Central)

As big studios like Disney are requiring theaters to follow their rules with runs, smaller ones have to fight for at least one week on the calendar. Disney “allows” theaters to run crowd pleasers like “Star Wars” if they will stay in the theaters for at least four weeks without breaks. No matter how poorly received a “Star Wars” movie will be, it takes up valuable theater space that could also be occupied by smaller movies. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” would have needed to move its release date to qualify for a full four-week run.

Peter Farrelly poses with the award for best picture for “Green Book” in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Another studio that benefits from having a huge theater presence is Universal. Last year, the studio did a slow release of “Green Book” in November after its People’s Choice win at the Toronto International Film Festival, with a wide release around Thanksgiving. In Northeast Pennsylvania, that meant an even slower release that trickled through the theater circuit between December and February. The drama had a lucky break when the Peter Jackson-backed, fantasy actioner “Mortal Engines” bombed at the box office in December. Universal was able to get that failure out of the cinema and replace it with “Green Book.” Had it been a small studio with a dud, theater chains would likely side with a bigger title as a replacement. Pundits credit this move as the boost the controversial film needed to win the top Oscar.

This year, movies like the nominated “Cold War” and “Never Look Away” did not play in the area’s four main theaters. “A Private War,” featuring a Golden Globe-nominated performance by Rosamund Pike, was only in one local theater for a total of five days before “Creed II” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet” took over. “Goosebumps 2,” a Halloween-timed animated film, was re-released for another week in December, taking room that a small film like “Vox Lux” and “Anna and the Apocalypse” which had either one-week or no-week runs.

A film would be a FILM

“The Last Seduction”

Spielberg compared the eligibility of “Roma” to making voters confused with what award a film would qualify for — an Oscar or an Emmy.

This debate is nothing new. In 1994, “The Last Seduction” was the subject of an Academy eligibility ruling. The erotic thriller with Linda Fiorentino, had air on HBO four times before its theatrical run. Although many critics, including Roger Ebert, placed it on its top 10 lists for that year, the Academy ruled it ineligible for the Oscars.   

Evidence that would support his claim would be Steven Soderbergh‘s two 2019 Netflix releases, “High Flying Bird” and “The Laundromat.” “High Flying Bird,” starring Andre Holland, Zazie Beetz and Kyle MacLachlan, has the rating of TV-MA, despite premiering at Slamdance in January and being a part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Film Comment Selects series. It premiered on the streaming service Feb. 15. “The Laundromat,” with Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman, is eyeing a qualifying theatrical release before streaming later this year. Confusion also could be made with “Velvet Buzzsaw,” the satirical horror starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. The film premiered at Sundance in January and somehow had a qualifying run to be considered as a feature film. It is rated R and premiered Feb. 1.

If major theater chains continue to reject Netflix’s runs and not want to block four weeks for a movie that would be available to stream once it leaves, all Netflix films would become major television events instead.

FILE – In this Feb. 19, 2018, file photo, Mari Copeny, third from left, watches a free screening of the film “Black Panther” with more than 150 children, after she raised $16,000 to provide free tickets in Flint Township, Mich. (Jake May /The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP, File)

Blockbusters, surprise hits would only be in contention

Theatrical runs rely on how much a box office it is. Does it have Hollywood’s biggest stars? Is it a sequel or remake with an established audience? If so, the film will likely stay in theaters for the required four weeks that Spielberg suggests. A film’s longevity relies on its first week’s receipts, and often a small film is lucky if it can stay for one week. It also means that the studio backing the film will continue to advertise for it during that four-week run (currently, the Academy requires a film to have seven days of advertising). Hypothetically, if a movie can survive Spielberg’s run, it is most likely a top-five or top-10 finisher for four weeks.

“Deadpool 2”

That leaves the Oscars to be awarded to tentpoles like “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Deadpool 2” based on theatrical availability. When a best popular movie category was announced last year, critics and fans came out in force against it, and it was scrapped from this year’s ceremony. So why go with a requirement that relies on being a long-term box office draw? Recent best winners like “Moonlight,” “Spotlight” and “Birdman” would have lost to “Finding Dory,” “Jurassic World” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” respectively.

Constance Wu, left, and Jon M. Chu of “Crazy Rich Asians” arrive at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

On the flipside, surprise hits like “Crazy Rich Asians” would have a better chance of earning nominations and awards. Kevin Kwan, author of the “Crazy Rich Asians” trilogy, turned down Netflix’s large, three-picture deal to take a smaller chance with Warner Bros. to show the romantic comedy featuring an all-Asian cast on the big screen. The comedy had a long theatrical run, but it did not earn any Oscars nominations. If Spielberg’s eligibility rules were in place, those smaller films and Netflix picks would not qualify.

“Bird Box”

Latest advancements would be canned

Netflix and other streaming services like Hulu and Amazon’s Prime Video have changed the way we experience film. You can catch up on trending movies without leaving home, take them with you on your phone or tablet or save them on your DVR. Netflix continues to attract big names like Martin Scorsese, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Amy Poehler to direct features. If these newer studio must to the new rules, what projects will be neglected in order to make the next “Roma”? “The Kissing Booth,” a monstrosity of a movie but a hit for Netflix, would have to make room for a theatrical run for a more “serious” film, like “Bird Box.” Actually, “Bird Box” did have a theatrical run, but you wouldn’t know it from all the memes and challenges that clogged the internet. Since Netflix doesn’t release its viewership or box office numbers, we don’t know how much of a financial shift these changes would require.


Spielberg may sound like an old man not getting with the times, however, he makes some valid points about determining if a movie that is streaming is the same as one that has been in theaters nearly exclusively. Does a movie with a $12 ticket to see make it better than a streaming film at 2 a.m. that’s part of a $12 monthly bill? The casual film fan would say that “Roma” is a TV movie.

But the theater experience is also changing. When was the last time you saw a movie without distractions? Without at least one cellphone user? Without people talking loudly? Without spending $50 for tickets, popcorn and drinks? Theater operators are making cinemas with more options that make it feel like watching at home. Unfortunately, at least for this moviegoer, this creates more situations for an unruly audience.

Lastly, it puts more responsibility on the studios and the theaters to foster the best in cinema that will later by curated by the Academy. Cinemas and studios will be responsible for filling four weeks out of the year with at least one title instead of just one week. If the Academy places so much importance on the theatrical experience, it should require the same from its members. Stop making screeners available and instead require members to watch the movies only in theaters. They would know if they’re watching TV or not. If the body is to award movies for being in the cinema, why not respect cinema?


Watch: Oscars 2019 wrap-up

Watch: Oscars 2019 wrap-up

The 91st Academy Awards on Sunday gave us a night to remember. The ceremony had a host-less format, memorable musical performances and surprise winners, including a controversial Best Picture decision.

Movie critics Tamara Dunn, Rebecca Kivak and Joe Baress sound off on the best and worst of Sunday night’s ceremony. Many thanks to Caitlin Heaney West for filming and editing the video, which you can watch right here.


Thanks to all of our readers and viewers who have followed our Oscars coverage!


Takeaways from the Oscars

Takeaways from the Oscars

We’re done with the 2019 Academy Awards, but somewhere in the Hollywood Hills is a movie critic crying into a handkerchief because “Green Book” won best picture. The second least-liked film in the field of eight according to its Metacritic score took home the top prize and two others during a history-making night that saw many first and also some repeat wins. Here are a few takeaways from Sunday night festivities.

Winners: Netflix and Universal

Alfonso Cuaron accepts the award for best cinematography for “Roma” at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Netflix was riding high into the Dolby Theater on Sunday with “Roma” and its 10 nominations. Alfonso Cuaron and company won three Oscars – director, foreign language film and cinematography. It’s the first time that Netflix has won in an above-the-line category, but when “Roma” won in the foreign language category, it spelled trouble for the black-and-white film. No foreign language film had ever won best picture. If “Cold War” or “Shoplifters” would have won instead, “Roma” probably would have won.

Nick Vallelonga, left, poses with the awards for best original screenplay for “Green Book” and best picture for “Green Book” while Peter Farrelly poses with the award for best picture for “Green Book” in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

“Green Book” also won three awards – best picture, original screenplay and supporting actor. Its writing victory signaled that best picture was around the corner. Produced by Universal, “Green Book” is the movie studio’s first best picture winner since “A Beautiful Mind” in 2002. Mahershala Ali earned his second Oscar, becoming only the second black actor to earn two competitive Oscars in acting (the other is Denzel Washington).

Olivia Colman reacts as she accepts the award for best performance by an actress in a leading role for “The Favourite” at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Winners: All best picture nominees

All eight nominees won at least one award. The last time that happened was with the 2015 Oscars, when all of its eight nominees also won at least one statuette. The film that was snuck in with a surprise win was Olivia Colman’s best actress victory for “The Favourite.” Despite tying with “Roma” with the most nominations, “The Favourite” won only one.

Ruth E. Carter accepts the award for best costume design for “Black Panther” at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Winners: Women

Above-the-line victories nominations for women were not plentiful this year, but women were making several first in the craft and below-the-line categories. Three female directors collected hardware in documentary feature (“Free Solo”), documentary short (“Period. End of Sentence.”) and animated short (“Bao”). Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler are the first black winners in costume design and production design, respectively, for their work in “Black Panther.”

Winner: Marvel

“Black Panther” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” earned the comic book giant its first Oscars, including original score and animated feature. “Spider-Man” is also the first animated movie co-directed by a black man to win an Oscar.

Melissa McCarthy, left, and Brian Tyree Henry present the award for best costume design at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Winner: Randy Thomas

Who is Randy Thomas? She’s the person with the evening’s most difficult job. For the 10th time, Thomas was the voice of the Oscars, announcing the presenters, nominees and breakaways. And this year, she did it without a host. The ceremony was three hours and 18 minutes long, with four best original song nominees performed in their entirety. If “All the Stars” had been in the telecast, it would have gone about 3½ hours. In other words, the Oscars would have gone through its allotted time. No pointless monologues, old Hollywood montages or silly comedic segments. Does the show need a host anymore? Give Thomas a pay raise.

Spike Lee, winner of the award for best adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman”, attends the Governors Ball after the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Jamison/Invision/AP)

Push: Spike Lee

It has been an interesting dance between Lee and the Academy for the last three decades. That’s the number of years between Lee’s first nomination (original screenplay for “Do the Right Thing”) and the three he earned this year for “BlacKkKlansman.” As many seemed happy for the acclaimed director to earn his first directing nomination, he won for adapted screenplay and lost to Cuaron for directing. His victory came moments after “Green Book” won for original screenplay. The scene went from the sinking feeling of playing it safe with the reversal “Driving Miss Daisy” to jubilation with Lee wining a competitive Oscar. The glee faded once “Green Book” won best picture. Throughout awards season, Lee didn’t have an ill word for “Green Book,” but his body language was talking at volume whenever he and “Green Book” writer/director Peter Farrelly had to share a roundtable or panel. However, with “Green Book” and “BlacKkKlansman” being produced by Universal – “Green Book” by the head studio and “BlacKkKlansman” by its independent branch Focus Features – did Lee have to take a figurative backseat?

Bradley Cooper, left, and Lady Gaga react to the audience after a performance of “Shallow” from “A Star is Born” at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Loser: Warner Bros.

A Star is Born” was the studio’s big attraction, and Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper promoted it gracefully. It only won for best original song for “Shallow.”

Losers: Commercials

Many TV viewers are crazy about Super Bowl ads, making sure they get to watch them when the action goes into a timeout or something. With the Oscars being my version of the big game, I’m very receptive of what commercials are shown. This year, so many past rules have been broken by this year’s telecast. An ad for an FX limited series starring nominee Sam Rockwell was shown. In the past, ads with nominees, including ones for TV shows and films, were barred. Fifteen years ago, ads for feminine hygiene products were also banned, despite the Oscars’ largest audience being women. This year, a documentary short about menstruation and education won an Academy Award.

How did we do?

As for our predictions, I was 16 for 24 in my predictions and three for six in the major categories for my official Hazleton picks. Rebecca Kivak was four for five and and Joe Baress was three for five for their official Scranton picks.

However, the best measure of success for me was having nearly 300 likes on one tweet saluting April Reign, the creator of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag who attended her first Oscars ceremony Sunday. The impact she has had on the industry and the awards were reflected in this year’s winners and the films being made now.

Only a few hours away

Only a few hours away

Since October, I have been keeping an eye on every awards ceremony, every film festival, every hosting controversy and more. In a few hours, the Academy of Motion Picture and Sciences will hand out its top awards in cinema. My predictions in 2018 were 20 out of 24 nominations and five out of six in the major categories. Pick up a copy of Sunday’s Standard-Speaker for my eighth annual preview.

Here are my picks in all the categories. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I at least get 18 correct.


Best Picture: “Roma”

Director: Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”

Actor: Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Actress: Glenn Close, “The Wife”


Supporting Actor: Marhershala Ali, “Green Book”

Supporting Actress: Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Original Screenplay: “Roma”

Adapted Screenplay: “BlacKkKlansman”

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

Foreign Language Film: “Roma”

Animated Feature: “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse”

Sound Editing: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Sound Mixing: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Visual Effects: “Ready Player One”

Film Editing: “Bohemian Rhapsody”


Animated Short: “Bao”

Live Action Short: “Marguerite”

Documentary Short Subject: “A Night at the Garden”

Original Score: “Black Panther”

Original Song: “Shallow”

“Black Panther”

Production Design: “Black Panther”

Cinematography: “Cold War”

Costume Design: “Black Panther”

Makeup and Hairstyle: “Vice”

Documentary Feature: “Free Solo”

Amy Adams in “Vice”

Go-for-broke picks
  • “The Favourite” will go 0 for 10.
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” for best picture.
  • Amy Adams for supporting actress in “Vice.”
  • “Minding the Gap” for documentary feature.
  • “Shoplifters” for foreign language film.
  • “First Man” for visual effects.
  • “A Star is Born” for adapted screenplay.
  • “First Reformed” for original screenplay.
  • “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” for costume design.

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”

* Predictions in the shorts are subject to change up until 7 p.m. Sunday.




Road to Gold: Up Close and Personal

Road to Gold: Up Close and Personal

Now until the Feb. 24 Oscar telecast, Take 2 will run a series of posts focusing on issues and subjects involving the Academy Awards.

Glenn Close had spent a decade ruling the New York stage in the mid-1970s before she made her film debut in 1982’s “The World According to Garp,” starring alongside Robin Williams. This role would lay out her cinematic career spanning nearly four decades applauded across theater, film and television. Close would also earn her first of seven Academy Award nominations. Yet, the winner of three Tonys and three Emmys has yet to add an Oscar to her collection.

Glenn Close at her first Academy Awards ceremony in 1983. (ABC News)

This Sunday, she is up for best actress for her role in “The Wife.” This week’s Road to Gold looks at Close’s previous and current nominations as she is the frontrunner in this category. She holds the record for a living actor to have a large number of nominations without a win.’

“The World According to Garp”

“The World According to Garp”

Close was nominated for best supporting actress as Jenny Fields, whose published manifesto makes her a feminist icon and is the mother of a young writer, Garp (Robin Williams). Close lost in 1983 to Jessica Lange for “Tootsie.”

“The Big Chill”

“The Big Chill”

The following year, Close was nominated in the same category for her role as Sarah in the all-star cast that featured Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum and William Hurt. In 1984, she lost to Linda Hunt in “The Year of Living Dangerously.”

“The Natural”

“The Natural”

Close received her third straight supporting actress nomination for her roe starring opposite Robert Redford in the baseball drama. She lost to Peggy Ashcroft for her role in “A Passage to India” in 1985.

“Fatal Attraction”

“Fatal Attraction”

After three supporting role nominations, Close ascended to the lead in a career-defying role as the psychopath Alex Forrest in the thriller “Fatal Attraction” opposite Michael Douglas. In 1988, she lost to Cher for “Moonstruck.” (Question: If Close loses to Olivia Colman for “The Favourite,” whose Queen Anne keeps 17 rabbits as companions, would it be a form of “bunny karma” some 30-plus years after the iconic “Fatal Attraction” scene?)

“Dangerous Liaisons”

“Dangerous Liaisons”

Close makes being an evil, meddling woman of society seem some much fun as Marquise de Merteuil in Stephen Frears-directed costume drama. It won three Oscars, except a best actress statuette for Close. She lost to Jodie Foster in “The Accused.”

“Albert Nobbs”

“Albert Nobbs”

In the 1990s and 2000s, Close scored more film roles, like “The Paper,” “101 Dalmatians” and “In & Out,” but she won acclaimed for her television work in “The Shield” and “Damages.” In other words, Close was doing peak TV before it was trendy. In 2011, she starred in the film version of “Albert Nobbs,” based of the play in which she starred in 1982. In the title role, Close played an Irish woman who poses as a man after enduring a sexual assault and wanting to find work. Close also co-wrote the screenplay and wrote its theme song, “Lay Your Head Down.” She lost the best actress Oscar in 2012 to Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady.”

“The Wife”

“The Wife”

Seven years after her last loss, Close is back with her seventh nomination (her fourth for best actress) in the drama “The Wife.” Close portrays the supportive spouse for a world-famous writer who just won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Compared to her other nominated, leading performances, Close is toned down but still delivers a powerful performance in a film that certainly needed one. Close’s real-life daughter, Annie Starke, plays a younger version of the actress in flashbacks, and Max Irons, who plays her son, is the son of Close’s “Reversal of Fortune” co-star Jeremy Irons.