CALLERI: The new year begins with a topsy-turvy movie world

Gal Gadot plays the iconic female superhero in “Wonder Woman 1984.”

“Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.”

Yes, I’m opening with lyrics from the song “Do-Re-Mi” from “The Sound Of Music,” which motion picture historians will tell you is the longest-running movie in Buffalo history. The film opened at the Loew’s Teck Theatre at 766 Main St. on March 31, 1965, and its first-run lasted 79 weeks. It then journeyed from downtown into neighborhood movie showplaces throughout Western New York.

I’m starting off the column this way because we are in a possibly brave, certainly unique, new world of motion picture exhibition and distribution.

I can’t imagine a film will ever have a theatrical first-run as extended as “The Sound Of Music” in cities across the United States. 133 weeks in San Diego. 118 weeks in Omaha. 117 weeks in Seattle. And so on.

The last time I saw a movie in a theater was Tuesday, March 10, 2020. It was a morning press screening of “Wendy.” It’s not good and was an inauspicious way to enter the unknown. You can search for the review from March 11 here in the Gazette.

My column after that (on March 19) was the first complete re-evaluation of director Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” published in the United States, which is a nice feather in the Gazette’s cap. I have very cool editors.

A worldwide pandemic and a very visible Gov. Andrew Cuomo combined to knock some reality into folks. Movie theaters were ordered closed.

Enter a streaming bounty. Bringing more new and old films straight into people’s homes has altered the playing field and upended the old ways of exhibiting movies.

The controversy is epic. I agree with George Clooney, who was quoted recently in the New York Times and Variety as saying that moviegoing will still be a habit with people. He was promoting his new film, “The Midnight Sky,” which was made for theaters in 65mm; however, its run was shifted to Netflix for home viewing.

As for me, I doubt theaters will disappear, but it’s going to be a long, tough fight to keep the projectors lit. I do not expect normalcy in the cinematic marketplace until the holiday season of 2021.

Streaming can be expensive, and many families do not currently have the financial resources to sign up for streaming services.

I looked at the costs. For maximum enjoyment, you’ll probably want to “project” a film from an App to your Smart TV, via either the Apple connecting cube, an HDMI cable from your computer, or Roku. These are separate costs.

Then you need to buy at least the standard streaming option. I looked at the top dozen companies offering stand-alone contracts.

These are monthly fees for no advertisements, no bundling, no add-ons, and no frills. Some give you a week or two free with no charge for canceling. Some services offer a discount for signing up for a year at a time. Some have free levels with ads. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) requires a minimum monthly “donation.” HBO also offers its “Now” service, which is traditional HBO streamed for $14.99. Regular Prime Video does not mean free Amazon shipping; that’s a separate corporate entity. All amounts and requirements are subject to change at the drop of a hat.

This is what you’ll pay: Apple TV+, $4.99 (all content original); CBS All Access, $9.99; Criterion Channel $10.99; Disney+, $6.99; HBO Max, $14.99; Hulu, $11.99; Mubi, $10.99; Netflix, $8.99; Peacock, $10.00; Prime Video, $8.99; PBS Passport, $5.00; YouTube Premium, $11.99.

If you subscribe to all 12, your total monthly bill (without discounts) will be $115.90. You will also need to pay for internet access.

As I’ve noted before, there are many free viewing options, most streaming with ads. Hoopla has 8,125 movies; Kanopy has 6,997 films; Locast delivers hundreds of television stations, some of them showing movies; Tubi TV offers 14,275 films; Pluto TV has 1,588 features.

The Roku Channel has 2,437 movies, but you need Roku. Vudu has 4,661features and is a rental service with some free films. Crackle offers 537; IMDb has 235; Open Culture has 1,150 movies and cultural offerings, and YouTube has uncounted public domain features and shorts.

Warner Bros. Pictures upset the entertainment apple cart when it announced all 2021 of its movie releases would premiere on the overpriced HBO Max in addition to having theatrical runs.

“Wonder Woman 1984” was the stalking horse for this new distribution vision that angered many, especially filmmaker Christopher Nolan (“Tenet”). He might as well have shouted the word “treason.”

“WW84” is on HBO Max until Jan. 24, and it’s also in theaters. However, the movie itself is much ado about nothing.

It’s lazy, flat and dull. Diana Prince (aka Wonder Woman; Gal Gadot) is an anthropologist at the Smithsonian and fights crime on the side. Stolen artifacts draw her into a loopy overstuffed storyline.

Additionally, Diana is back romancing the stone (Chris Pine as Steve Trevor). Director Patty Jenkins uses voodoo resurrection tropes – Trevor’s soul returns from the afterlife. The look of the ‘80s is stereotypical and unsurprising. After 150 visually bland minutes, you wonder where the $200-million budget went.

Gadot tries her best. Alas, she’s been roped into a leaden, unimaginative series of cliches. Nothing feels fresh. Nothing looks fresh. Was 1984 the right year to choose? Perhaps 1968 would have been better.

Michael Calleri reviews films for the Niagara Gazette and the CNHI news network. Contact him at moviecolumn@gmail.com.

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