Arkansas premiere of ‘Minari’ set for Feb. 11 at 112 Drive-In in Fayetteville

Steven Yeun and Yeri Han in Minari / Plan B Entertainment

The 112 Drive-In will host the state premiere of the award-winning film “Minari” in partnership with Arkansas Cinema Society, A24, Fayetteville Film Festival and the Bentonville Film Festival on Feb. 11.

The movie, which won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, will also feature a pre-recorded question-and-answer session with director Lee Isaac Chung, who grew up in Lincoln, hosted by director and screenwriter Jeff Nichols, who is the ACS’ founder and chairman.

The film is a drama about a Korean-American family that moves to Arkansas to make a better life for themselves and the challenges that face them in attempting to do so.

“The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother,” according to promotional material. “Amidst the instability and challenges of this new life in the rugged Ozarks, “Minari” shows the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.”

The movie celebrates the state and promotes inclusion in storytelling, which is one of the ACS’ goals as an organization, according to the ACS press release stated.

Tickets can be purchased at the ACS webpage.

Gates at the drive-in open at 5:15 p.m. on Feb. 11, with the film beginning at 7 p.m.

The state premiere is the first joint presentation of the ACS, the Bentonville Film Festival, and the Fayetteville Film Festival. The effort was spearheaded by Kody Ford, the ACS’ newly appointed Northwest Arkansas program director and director of statewide outreach and education.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 55 min.

The Dig (Netflix)

Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan in The Dig / Netflix

“The Dig” takes its time, but if you allow it, the new film by director Simon Stone that is playing on Netflix settles in and tells a pleasing yet melancholy story of a significant archeological find near Suffolk, England in 1939, just as Europe is about to be torn apart by World War II.

Carey Mulligan plays the ailing widowed heiress Edith Pretty, who hires excavator Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to dig up several mounds on her rural estate in Sutton Hoo. After digging extensively and surviving being buried alive for a short time when a trench falls in on him, Basil makes a significant find that attracts Cambridge archeologist Charles Phillips (Ken Stott), who takes over the excavation under orders of the Office of Works.

After his archeological team arrives, Phillips only keeps Basil on he site as a clean-up man, but when Basil finds an anglo-salon era artifact, Edith makes sure he is no long disregarded by his “archeological betters.”

There is an instant but unstated attraction between Pretty and Basil, who also dotes on her young son Robert. While working, Basil ignores letter from his wife, who pops up at Pretty’s mansion twice during the course of the dig, unintentionally heading off any possibility of a closer relationship developing between Basil and Edith, whose illnesses progresses throughout the movie.

Edith’s cousin Rory Lomax (Johnny Flynn) joined the excavation crew shortly after Basil’s first find. He is attracted to archeologist Peggy Piggot (Lily James) who joined the crew at Phillips’ request along with her neglectful of husband Stuart (Ben Chaplin), who had rather spend his off time with another male archeologist instead of his wife.

In all cases, the dig seems to become insignificant compared to the relationships developed and lost through the course of the finely convoluted screenplay by Moira Buffini.

Stone’s direction takes its time, but is on point throughout the film. He deftly uses the coming war to ominously foreshadow the changes that are on the horizon for the main characters.

Mulligan gives a strong and resolute performance as Edith, who not only wants to protect the integrity of the historical find but also the interests of Basil, Lomax, and her son. Fiennes is perfectly understated as Basil, the goodhearted but uneducated worker who knows more from his experiences than others do from their books.

James also gives a winning performance as a woman struggling in her profession with men who don’t appreciate her as a scientist and in her marriage with a man uninterested in her as a mate.

There’s no real twists or turns with the story, and the movie’s triumphs seem slight in the face of the coming war, that always looms in the background of the picture.

The film isn’t sad, but like life often does it leaves you wondering of missed opportunities and the security we too often cling to when we fail to take chances.

While the movie is based on historical events, aspects from the facts. However, the actual archeological find was protected by the British underground during the war. When it went on exhibition seven years after Pretty’s death, Basil Brown’s contribution wasn’t mentioned. That error has only been rectified in recent years.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 52 min.
Grade: B

Batman: Soul of the Dragon

Warner Bros. Animation

If the two episodes of the 1960s “Batman” TV series in which the Green Hornet and Kato guest starred didn’t quench your thirst for seeing Bruce Lee on screen with Batman, then the new animated film “Batman: Soul of the Dragon” might be a movie you’d like to check out.

The cartoon pits Batman and a gaggle of DC Comics martial arts characters against the nefarious Kobra cult in a story that places the characters in an adventure reminiscent of Lee’s martial arts films of the early 1970s.

In fact, part of the fun is that the character Richard Dragon is animated to look like Bruce Lee, while the character Ben Turner/Bronze Tiger is animated to look like Lee protégé Jim Kelly.

In one of the fight scenes, there is also a character that looks a lot like a young Chuck Norris, but he has the personality of mix martial arts star Conner McGregor.

The first half of the movie does a nice job of mimicking a 1970s kung-flu flick and is fairly entertaining with an excellent car-and-motorcycle chase scene. However, the plot devolves into a series of super-hero slugfests with mystical snake men that ruined the feel the first half of the movie set up.

For animated super-hero fare, it was average at best. Ultimately, nothing special after a promising start.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 10 min
Grade: C-

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Classic Corner – Football Films

With Super Bowl Sunday just a couple of days away, here are four football-themed suggestions for your viewing pleasure.

Number One

Charlton Heston and Diana Muldaur in Number One / Walter Seltzer Productions

The film stars Charlton Heston as an aging quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. When I first saw it in the early 1980s, I thought the movie might be based on Archie Manning, who retired from the NFL in 1982, but then I learned the movie premiered in 1969 while Manning was still playing college ball at Ole Miss.

Heston stars as Ron “Cat” Catlan, the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, who has seen his best days pass him by on the gridiron. Catlan, however, is still hanging on to the game with all he has because he’s unsure of what his second act will be.
In 1969, pro football paid well, but not even the stars of that era couldn’t retire solely on the money they earned playing the game. Catlan is at a point in his career where that is a huge concern.

Will he go to work for his crude former teammate (Bruce Dern) in the auto-leasing business or will he take an executive job in the burgeoning computer industry that he knows nothing about?

While that weighs on him, he still enjoys the life of an NFL star with a beautiful wife Julie (Jessica Walter) and a girlfriend on the side Ann (Diana Muldaur).

Like most of Heston’s characters of the era, Catlan is a noble jerk, who thinks too well of himself. Heston is solid as always in the dramatic aspects of the film, but even movie magic can’t hide his lack of athleticism in action depicted on the field.

The film ends with Heston taking a literally bone-crunching hit against the Dallas Cowboys, if the publicity material is to be believed. Heston allegedly broke three ribs filming the second take of the sack, in which a trio of actual Saints players (Dave Rowe, Mike Tilleman and Fred Whittingham) dressed in Dallas uniforms pounded him to the turf.

With Cat still writhing on the grass from the hit, his wife Julie exits the stadium with little concern.

North Dallas 40

Nick Nolte and Mac Davis in North Dallas Forty / Paramount Pictures

The movie is based on a novel of the same name by retired NFL receiver Peter Gent. It’s a very loosely disguised satire of the Dallas Cowboys of the late 1960s and early ‘70s.

The 1979 film is a raucous, ribald comedy that pulls no punches about a game that became a big business before some of the players even realized it.

Nick Nolte stars as disillusioned veteran receiver Phil Elliot, who is tired of playing the game on the field and in the meeting room. However, he just can’t walk away from the only thing he knows and loves.
Mac Davis is his best friend, star quarterback Seth Maxwell, who empathizes with Elliot, but needs his buddy to take the game more seriously.

There’s not a better or more truthful film about the NFL.

Heaven Can Wait

Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in Heaven Can Wait / Paramount Pictures

The 1978 film is a charming but now dated romantic comedy starring Warren Beatty as a Los Angeles Rams quarterback who dies before his time in a cycling accident and is given a chance to occupy the body of another recently deceased man to live out his remaining years.

The movie is a remake of the 1941 classic “Here Comes Mr. Jordan,” and reunites Beatty for the third time with his lovely co-star Julie Christie. They previously co-starred in “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” in 1971 and “Shampoo” in 1975.

The film hits all the right notes and benefits greatly from fine supporting turns by Jack Warden, Dyan Canon, and Charles Grodin. This one would be a good date-night movie as warm up for Valentine’s Day.

Brian’s Song

James Caan and Billy Dee Williams in Brian’s Song / Screen Gems

While it was made for television, if you can find a better film about friendship and brotherhood, let me know.

The 1971 movie turns 50 this year, but it’s still one of the best dramas centered around football ever made. It details the true story of Chicago Bears teammates Brian Piccolo (James Cann) and Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams), and how their bond reached beyond the football field.

This is a five-hanky movie, wrenching enough to bring the strongest man to his emotional knees, but it’s worth every tear.