When the actor Jean-Paul Belmondo recently died, it served as a reminder of how much he meant to the French New Wave movement that made him an international star in director Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" (1960). In this podcast episode, HCC film professors Marie Westhaver and Mike Giuliano discuss how the anti-hero figure played by Belmondo in "Breathless" really established his screen image as a ruggedly handsome charmer. It's fitting that Belmondo once said that his personal favorite among his many movies was "That Man from Rio" (1964), because its James Bond-type protagonist brings a lot of comic spirit to the spy thriller plot. His other films include "Pierrot le Fou" (1965), "Is Paris Burning?" (1966) and "Mississippi Mermaid" (1969). Marie and Mike are both fans of French film, and so they really enjoy their discussion about Belmondo's important role in that film history
Science fiction takes us to places we have never been, and often these are dystopian places we would never want to be. In this podcast episode, HCC film professors Marie Westhaver and Mike Giuliano discuss two such films. In "Free Guy," the popular actor Ryan Reynolds plays a character within a video game who starts to suspect that something is not quite right with his existence. Mike is not a gamer and found all of the video game car chases and shootouts to be exhausting after awhile, and Marie, while not much of a gamer, enjoyed how this feature film emulates the gaming experience. "Reminiscence" is a blend of film noir and science fiction. The most interesting aspect of the film is that it is set in a near-future Miami whose streets are always flooded. There is really creative production design here, but it's in the service of a muddled story about a machine that enables paying customers to revisit favorite memories. Although that is a viable premise, it is undercut by hackneyed dialogue and flat acting. Even the star, Hugh Jackman, is dull here. "Reminiscence" is now a bad memory for Marie and Mike.
Deafness is a subject rarely dealt with in feature films, and that subject matter is one reason why "CODA" has been getting a lot of attention. HCC film professors Marie Westhaver and Mike Giuliano share their enjoyment of the film in this podcast episode. Set within the fishing community of Gloucester, Mass., the film concerns a 17-year-old woman named Ruby who is the only member of her family who can hear. She is a vital communications link between her family and the rest of the town, and so her plans to go to college create uncertainty within the family. Marie and Mike were especially impressed by the central performance by Emilia Jones as Ruby. This British actor not only learned an American accent, but also learned American Sign Language so that Ruby can interact with the other family members. "CODA" is well worth seeing. In this episode, Marie also talks about a documentary about painter Bob Ross and Mike talks about the new version of "Candyman." By the way, Mike refuses to look in a mirror and say "Candyman" five times.
Movie theater audiences have been applauding the Aretha Franklin biopic "Respect," in which Jennifer Hudson is convincing as that greatest of soul singers. In this podcast episode, HCC film professors Marie Westhaver and Mike Giuliano raise their own voices to praise the film. Although Mike has a few reservations about the script, he shares Marie's enthusiastic response to many aspects of this movie about an amazing performer. Marie and Mike encourage you to see this movie. By contrast, they encourage you to skip the other movie discussed in this episode, "The Suicide Squad," in which raw language, graphic violence and a witless story make for a grueling experience. As superhero movies go, it is not super. Moreover, such talented actors as Idris Elba, Margot Robbie and Viola Davis are wasted. Oh, well, Marie and Mike watched "The Suicide Squad" in order to tell you it's not worth watching.
Val Kilmer became a star with such movies as "Top Gun" (1986), "The Doors" (1991) and "Batman Forever" (1995). He is now essentially the star of a new documentary about his career, the aptly titled "Val." In this podcast episode, HCC film professors Marie Westhaver and Mike Giuliano discuss a career in which this handsome actor played strong, silent types. The documentary incorporates home movies and video diaries shot by Kilmer himself, and so it really seems like a self-portrait. Kilmer's recent health-related issues are dealt with in an open and emotionally moving way. Another actor who qualifies as a strong, silent type is Matt Damon. In "Stillwater," he portrays an Oklahoma oil rig worker who goes to France in an attempt to get his young adult daughter (played by Abigail Breslin) out of prison. Although Marie enjoyed this movie a bit more than Mike did, they both agree that it is a well-acted drama you will want to place on your to-watch list.