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  • When Conservatism Becomes Mean-Spirited; 'Silent Night' Review; Adapted Screenplay Power Rankings

When Conservatism Becomes Mean-Spirited; 'Silent Night' Review; Adapted Screenplay Power Rankings

The Daily Wire's new feature-length comedy 'Lady Ballers' looks like a bad 'SNL' sketch.

Welcome back from Thanksgiving break, everyone! There’s a lot of ugliness in the world these days, so I hope you were able to enjoy a little R&R and that you didn’t let the stress of the holidays get to you. I binged all of Season 2 of Reacher this weekend — don’t worry Amazon, I respect embargoes — and I’ll be making my way back to Los Angeles later this week.

Let’s grab a bite in December if you’re around and like to gossip. I’m a fun lunch, and my email is at the bottom of this newsletter, in which you’ll read about the Daily Wire’s latest foray into cinema, my review of John Woo’s Silent Night, my thoughts on the Best Adapted Screenplay race, and Jason Blum’s victory lap tweet following the success of Five Nights at Freddy’s. Enjoy!

When Conservatism Becomes Mean-Spirited

Lady Ballers looks like a bad SNL sketch… not a feature-length movie.

In 2021, I named Kyle Rankin’s Run Hide Fight to my Top 10 list. It was basically “Die Hard in a high school,” and it was pretty damn good. Its young star, Isabel May, even went on to play Elsa Dutton in the Yellowstone prequels 1883 and 1923. Of course, the majority of critics disagreed with me. The film currently sits at 38 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (where its audience score is 93 percent), though that’s only based on 21 reviews (the new Hunger Games movie boasts 206 reviews), and I have a pretty good idea why that is: Run Hide Fight was released on Daily Wire+, which is what the conservative website The Daily Wire calls its subscription service.

Now, I suppose I know what qualified Run Hide Fight as a “conservative film” and why it was acquired by the Daily Wire — it embraced a “stand your ground, pro-gun” ideology. But don’t most movies? What made that film any more conservative than others?

The truth is that I’m not a big believer in “ists” and “isms” when it comes to movies, though I’ll admit that I saw Run Hide Fight via a link sent to me by one of the film’s producers because I refused to subscribe to Daily Wire+. But just because I don’t like the site’s politics doesn’t mean I can’t like its movies, right?

The following year, Daily Wire+ released its first original movie, the thriller Shut In starring Rainey Qualley and Vincent Gallo. It wasn’t nearly as good as Run Hide Fight, but once again it illustrated a divide between audiences (94 percent fresh) and critics (55 percent), based on only 11 reviews this time.

I bring up these two movies because up until today, I would’ve been forced to defend the Daily Wire’s foray into entertainment. However, on Monday, the site released a trailer for a “comedy” titled Lady Ballers, which addresses the hysteria surrounding transgender athletes. I won’t pretend there isn’t an audience for this kind of material, but it sure does look pretty mean-spirited from where I’m sitting.

Click here to watch the trailer, as I’m not even going to embed it in this newsletter.

Now, I’m a big believer in trans rights, though I also defend free speech. What a conundrum! For example, I don’t know why everyone got so upset at Dave Chappelle and Netflix because of the envelope-pushing comedian’s transgender material when they should’ve been upset with him for a different reason — his specials have stopped being funny. I definitely think comics should be allowed to make fun of trans people — they aren’t sacred cows and are as ripe for teasing as anyone else. I don’t think trans people are sitting around going, “You can’t make fun of me because I’m trans.” In fact, most trans people I know have a pretty great sense of humor, especially about aspects of themselves.

However, this movie Lady Ballers feels like a single joke — or misguided SNL sketch — stretched out to 90 minutes. I won’t call them 90 excruciating minutes because I haven’t seen the film yet, but honestly, I’m not sure this one even deserves a chance.

The Daily Wire’s first feature-length comedy was co-written and directed by its co-founder, Jeremy Boreing, who also stars as a down-on-his-luck former high school basketball coach who will do anything to win — even if it means teaching his team radical modern gender theory so that they’ll identify as women and be able to compete in (and dominate) multiple women’s sports.

“The only thing happening in our culture more absurd and hilarious than men calling themselves women and then dominating women’s sports is that the ‘speak truth to power’ set on the left not only won’t make fun of it, they won’t even acknowledge it’s a joke,” Boreing said in a statement. “This movie is for the women who have trained their entire lives only to be beaten at their sport by a man who couldn’t win at his, the majority of Americans who find the whole idea of men in women’s sports to be objectively wrong, and anyone who misses comedy — which the woke left destroyed on their ascent to cultural primacy.”

As you might imagine, there isn’t a single actor you will recognize unless you’re already a Daily Wire fan, as the site’s Crain & Co. hosts Jake Crain, Blain Crain (what a name!), and David Cone co-star alongside commentator Matt Walsh, and there’s even a cameo from Ben Shapiro as a basketball referee.

Naturally, Senator Ted Cruz makes an appearance as well, as he’s contractually required to appear anywhere there’s a camera and hate on the agenda. I’m sure there are a bunch of other conservative personalities I don’t recognize because I’m not a complete tool.

The cast and crew of Lady Ballers were “bullied and harassed” by protestors while filming in Nashville, where one location actually pulled out of the project due to the controversy. Production wrapped in early July (was this granted one of those SAG-AFTRA interim agreements?) and the film will be available to DailyWire+ members on Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. ET following a red carpet premiere in Nashville on Wednesday night.

While I defend the Daily Wire’s decision to wade into entertainment and serve an audience that Hollywood no longer caters to, I can’t defend this movie. A joke? Yes. A scene? Yes. But producing an entire movie as a finger in the eye to transgender people, who already have it tough enough? Not cool, IMO.

That said, someone should hire Rankin to direct another feature…

Review Corner: Silent Night Couldn’t Be More Generic, But John Woo Still Rules

I’m yelling at everyone who hasn’t been on the Joel Kinnaman bandwagon since Day 1.

It’s been 20 years since John Woo was run out of Hollywood after making the abysmal Ben Affleck movie Paycheck — the title of which now feels like some kind of dare.

Woo has spent the past two decades working in China, but he returns to U.S. cinemas this weekend with the hyperviolent action movie Silent Night, and for the most part, it’s a welcome return, though it comes with a warning.

This is, essentially, a silent film.

I was not expecting that.

I knew the gimmick — that Kinnaman suffers some kind of damage to his throat and can’t speak — but what I didn’t know is that this mandate goes for the entire cast, save for some walkie-talkie chatter from offscreen characters.

Again, there is no dialogue in this movie.

Thus, while the characters have names, they are more like Hero, Hero’s Wife (Catalina Sandino Moreno, a long way from Oscar nomination territory), Cop (Kid Cudi… all grown up), Villain (a menacing Harold Torres, who was nonetheless far better in ZeroZeroZero, which allowed him to play a three-dimensional character), and Kid (which is how the latter is actually credited). That’s how fundamentally generic this movie is.

Villain takes Kid from Hero and Hero’s Wife, so our now-silent Hero must go after Villain and Villain’s Crew while Cop slowly gets hip to what’s going on. That is literally all you need to know about the story here.

But you don’t give a shit about the story, do you? You’re there to watch Joel Kinnaman kill some bad guys in creative ways under the direction of action maestro John Woo, right? Well, if that’s all you’re looking for, then I think you’ll leave the theater satisfied, as Silent Night delivers on that front. There’s little question about that.

The problem for me is action is best when it serves the story, and there’s hardly any story here to serve. Even The Raid had more story. So no, this is not close to the level of a movie like, say, Face/Off, or even Broken Arrow. This is just another John Wick wannabe that substitutes a kid for a dog. And with a running time of 104 minutes, this silent film becomes something of an endurance test.

Personally, I think you’re fine waiting for VOD here, but if you’re a hardcore action junkie, I suppose this is worth a trip to your local theater. I just think you’re better off checking out some of Woo’s classics, such as Hard Boiled and The Killer, both of which star the great Chow Yun-fat.

On the financial side, Silent Night reportedly carried a production budget of $37 million, and it’ll be lucky to open to $10 million. That’s to be expected, as last year’s similar-sounding Violent Night opened to $13.5 million, and that violent R-rated film benefitted from Universal’s robust marketing campaign, the presence of Santa Claus, and Stranger Things star David Harbour. That film topped out at around $50 million domestic, and I expect Silent Night to gross around $30 million in U.S. theaters, though it may perform better overseas, where Woo’s name goes a long way. And who knows, perhaps it will prove to be a future holiday classic — an appetizer before Die Hard.

And now, I want to talk about Joel Kinnaman for a second. I first saw in Snabba Cash, and while I could tell even back then that he had the stuff to make the leap to Hollywood, I wasn’t convinced until I saw him in AMC’s gritty crime series The Killing, where he was utterly fantastic. I remember how former Variety.com editor Stuart Oldham (now a publicist for Amazon Studios) used to crack me up with his impression of the Swedish star.

Kinnaman would soon pop up in the Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds thriller Safe House before being cast as the title character in RoboCop. Now, that movie didn’t quite work, but it led to Kinnaman being cast as Liam Neeson’s doomed son in the very underrated thriller Run All Night (written by Mare of Easttown creator Brad Ingelsby).

When Tom Hardy fell out of Suicide Squad, Kinnaman won the hot role of Rick Flagg, and since that film, he has had enough international value to either star or co-star in movies that typically go straight to VOD. Since 2019, such features include The Informer, Brothers by Blood, The Secrets We Keep, and Sympathy for the Devil — all of which I’ve seen and enjoyed to varying degrees. I also enjoyed his turn in House of Cards, though I’ve missed his other TV work, such as Altered Carbon, Hanna, In Treatment, and For All Mankind, which I’ve heard is fantastic. If only there were enough hours in the day…

The point is, not only is Kinnaman a workhorse, but physically, the guy is a beast. Like fellow Swede Alexander Skarsgard, he radiates intensity, and yet he also projects a certain intelligence, and there’s a vulnerability to his eyes. I’d love to see other legendary directors besides Woo take a chance on Kinnaman, as I always tend to find him dramatically interesting. Certainly more so than white doves, which, thankfully, are spared from this movie, Woo’s signature be damned.

Oscars Power Rankings: If Christopher Nolan Doesn’t Sweep, Look for Cord Jefferson to Win Best Adapted Screenplay

Will it be American Prometheus… or American Fiction? Either way, I’m Team America!

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

  2. Cord Jefferson, American Fiction

  3. Tony McNamara, Poor Things

  4. Marcus Gardley, The Color Purple

  5. Eric Roth & Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon

  6. Julia Cox, Nyad

  7. Andrew Haigh, All of Us Strangers

  8. Sofia Coppola, Priscilla

  9. Troy Kennedy Martin, Ferrari

  10. Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest

Analysis: Unless I’m truly blown away by The Color Purple, this feels like a two-horse race to me, and it’s clearly between Christopher Nolan’s brainy script for Oppenheimer, and Cord Jefferson’s hilarious and heartfelt script for American Fiction. At this point, I truly don’t see what other movies could possibly win. And if Nolan wins Best Director, as expected, the Academy may choose to spread the love and give Adapted Screenplay to Jefferson.

Right now, I’ve reserved a spot for Eric Roth and Martin Scorsese, as there’s no question that Killers of the Flower Moon will be in the thick of the Oscar race this season, but frankly, I thought the script was the film’s weakest element, so right now, I have them clinging to the fifth slot. Julia Cox (Nyad) and Andrew Haigh (All of Us Strangers) should push the KOTFM duo, though those films aren’t quite as high-profile, nor is Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, which garnered respectful reviews but not raves.

If The Color Purple is as good as the pundits say it is, it should comfortably wind up with a nomination in this category, and I think Poor Things is looking like a safe bet, even though I think older Academy members will struggle to truly embrace it.

I’m keeping it short and sweet today, folks, but for more, and a taste of my power rankings for Best Original Screenplay, watch the video below.

Bits and Bobs (A Daily News Roundup)

To Kang, or not to Kang? That is the question…

  • Marvel Sticks With a Familiar Face - No, I’m not talking about Jonathan Majors, I’m talking about Michael Waldron, who has been tapped to write Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. Waldron had already been set to write Avengers: Secret Wars, and now he’s writing both movies. This lines up with what I said on my podcast, The Hot Mic, where I told co-host John Rocha that Marvel was looking to hire one director to tackle both movies. Thus, it makes sense that they’d do the same on the writing side as well. Marvel’s Kevin Feige trusts Waldron, who created Loki and wrote Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

    The Kang Dynasty recently lost director Destin Daniel Cretton, so Feige is on the lookout for a new helmer, and if Sam Raimi isn’t the leading contender, I don’t know why Marvel wouldn’t bring the MCU full circle and bring back Jon Favreau, who should be available, especially with Dave Filoni taking on more responsibility at Lucasfilm. I don’t know whether Favs is up to it, but if he’s not, it’ll be the gig of a lifetime for someone else.

    I just don’t know why Marvel is stubbornly sticking to that title, as Kang not only comes with a negative connotation in some corners due to Majors, but it feels exclusionary — like you had to watch both seasons of Loki to fully participate in the next Avengers movie. It’ll be interesting to see what happens here, but Marvel has some time to decide, as Kang Dynasty isn’t scheduled to hit theaters until May 1, 2026, with Secret Wars due the following year.

  • Crank It Back Up to 11 - Rob Reiner has announced that not only is a sequel to This Is Spinal Tap in the works, but it will begin shooting in February. The original is one of those movies that people a decade older than me seem to worship, but the love never made it around to my generation. None of my friends care about Spinal Tap. My brothers don’t care about Spinal Tap. It’s like Monty Python, a cultural blindspot about which I just don’t care enough to rectify.

    Reiner will return as documentary filmmaker Marty DiBergi, while Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer will reprise their roles as well. The sequel is also expected to feature a ton of celeb cameos ranging from Paul McCartney and Elton John to Garth Brooks. I can’t say I’m terribly excited, as I think that comedy sequels that wait too long to come out rarely turn out well — hello, Zoolander 2! — though as I noted last week, I did enjoy Reiner’s HBO documentary about Albert Brooks.

  • Hot Shots: Part Deux - Oscar winner Diablo Cody (Juno) and Special creator Ryan O’Connell have been tapped to write Max’s series adaptation of Anon Pls, the bestselling novel from famed gossip queen DeuxMoi. The show hails from Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros. Television, and Max gave the one-hour drama a script-to-series commitment.

    I haven’t seen a ton of O’Connell’s work, but he hangs out with Karley Sciortino, so he’s cool in my book. And even though I’m the guy who passed on Juno as a development intern — my biggest fuck-up other than parking the boss’ car on the wrong side of Rangely — I happen to think that Diablo is the perfect fit for DeuxMoi’s book, as she’s a rule-breaker who I imagine will do a good job of capturing Deux’s voice.

    I sent in a few items to Deux and it’s run by good (anonymous) people… in case she/they want to plug this newsletter. DeuxMoi currently boasts two million followers on Instagram, and Cody and O’Connell will also serve as EPs along with Greg Berlanti, the lovely Sarah Schechter, and Leigh London Redman.

  • No One Can Hear You Scream - Scream 2 star Timothy Olyphant is heading to space, as he’s set to join Sydney Chandler in the new Alien series. It’s both a reunion and a homecoming of sorts for Olyphant, as the series hails from Noah Hawley, with whom the actor worked on Season 4 of Fargo, and it’s set up at FX, where Olyphant also toplined Justified.

    Olyphant will apparently play a “synth” who acts as a mentor and trainer to Chandler’s hybrid character — a meta-human with the body of an adult and the brain of a child. So it’s Poor Things with a killer alien from the creator of Fargo? Sign me up! And keep an eye on Chandler, who is the very definition of up-and-coming.

    Also, don’t forget about the Alien movie that’s currently filming right now under the direction of Fede Alvarez. Cailee Spaeny stars and she recently confirmed that the film takes place between Ridley Scott’s original Alien and the James Cameron-director sequel Aliens. Color me intrigued…

  • Bon Voyage to Bugs and Cubes - Max announced that all of WB’s classic Looney Tunes shorts will be leaving the streaming service on Dec. 31. Just add it to your list of David Zaslav complaints! Meanwhile, Mark Cuban told podcasters Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson that Season 16 will be his last season of Shark Tank (Season 15 is currently airing). “It’s time,” he said. Cuban joined the reality series as a regular shark in Season 3. He’s threatened to leave the show before, but something about this time feels serious. I’ll be sad to see him go, as I always his appreciated his candor and blunt honesty. By the way, I would totally watch an animated series called Bugs and Cubes. Just sayin’…

Film Twitter’s Main Character of the Day

Your 15 minutes start now…

This is where I shine a light on the good, the bad, and the ugly tweets that Film Twitter is, well, already shining a light on. Whether you’re being hailed as a hero or a villain in this space, I hope all recipients of this esteemed award take it in the good nature with which it is intended.

With that disclaimer out of the way, today’s Main Character is… producer Jason Blum of Blumhouse (where I interned upon graduating college).

Next to Marvel’s Kevin Feige, Jason is the most successful producer of the past 15 years, and today, he took a well-deserved victory lap for Five Nights at Freddy’s, which recently became the highest-grossing Blumhouse movie of all time, passing M. Night Shyamalan’s Split ($278 million). The PG-13 film, which is already streaming on Peacock, has grossed $283 million worldwide to date. Not bad for a movie that reportedly cost $25 million.

The question is whether we should be encouraging more of these movies, given that the first one was pretty bad, according to the critical consensus. The Tomatometer stands at 30 percent, but then again, the film’s audience score is 87 percent, and isn’t that who producers make movies for — audiences, not critics?

I may not have been a fan of this film — nor was I a fan of director Emma Tammi’s feature debut, The Wind — but it was certainly better than the Nicolas Cage movie Willy’s Wonderland, and I also know I’m not a 12-year-old boy anymore, even though I act like it sometimes on Twitter. Maybe this film just wasn’t made for me. Is it such a bad thing that Jason is out there catering to younger audiences, who have rewarded him with what looks to me to be yet another new franchise? You be the judge! And congrats to Jason, who has another creepy slate on tap for 2024, including Imaginary, Night Swim, Speak No Evil, and They Listen.

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