Updated (11/27, 4:45am): Doctor Who event breaks records, according to distributor NCM/Fathom Events.
Grossing approximately $4.77 million (avg. $7,155 per theater), as reported by Rentrak, TDOTD took 2nd place in the North American box office, setting the record for highest take for a one-night, unaudited theatrical event. With over 320,000 tickets sold, it also marks Fathom Events most attended one-night event ever. (Ticket price increases, and the 3D surcharge could have meant an overall gross record, with fewer tickets sold, but Who took both.) Finally, NCM notes this event sold a record breaking 175,000+ tickets in presales, and generated the largest volume of traffic at the NCM's fathomevents.com website ever. "Doctor Who fans have proven their loyalty and devotion to this series, making it the most successful sci-fi series ever and now the biggest Fathom, one-night event, ever," said Shelly Maxwell, executive vice president of Fathom Events.
Original (11/25, 11:45pm): Who would pay 15 smackers to watch a rerun of a TV episode that aired just 2 days ago? Who fans, and WOW there are a lot of them!
If you live in a major city, in any of 80 countries around the world, you'd have had the chance to watch the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Special Episode event simulcast in theaters as it first aired on Britich TV this past Saturday. We smaller markets had to wait until today for our chance to see it on the big screen.
Regal Cinemas, NCM Fathom Events, and the BBC can mark this one in the 'Win' column - for overall attendance, broad demographics, and technical wizardry.
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When tickets first went on sale, October 25th, the first local showing sold out within hours, and by 3pm that day, Crossgates had already added an additional screen. As I'd written at the time, "No doubt, this wont be the last addition."
So, how big did it get exactly? "Huge. This is huge," a well mannered theater employee noted with an understated calm, emphasizing, "This is an event that you can say that. It's huge!" Soumya Sriraman, EVP Home Entertainment and Licensing, BBC Worldwide North America affirms the local sentiment, responding "It's incredible that Doctor Who has made history once again, setting record numbers across the board on BBC AMERICA, in social media, and now in theaters. It's a testament to the fans and their dedication for Doctor Who. We wanted to fulfill the fans desire to be part of the global celebration and they rewarded BBC AMERICA and NCM Fathom Events with their enthusiasm and support,"
At Crossgates, the marquee listed 3 screens showing at 7:30, and 10pm. A quick inspection of each screening before the lights dimmed affirmed all at or near capacity. It only takes the added knowledge of the number of seats in each theater to calculate a total attendance of approximately 1,800 at Regal's Crossgates 18 Cinemas in Albany.
With an audience as diverse as it was large, some flying solo, others with companions in tow, and whole families were arriving in droves. As multigenerational as the doctors on screen, as varied in size and shape, age and gender, the individuality stood out as much as the variety of dress. Scarfs and tardi, bowtied and fezzed, each joined in the expression of their common adoration for the Whoniverse.
Super-high-speed communications, satellite transmission, and digital projection have all combined to make these events possible. In fact, NCM is capable of delivering a live, high-def event to over 750 theaters simultaneously, with Who consuming nearly 90% of that bandwidth, beaming to over 660 theaters. The event started off with a bang, or actually, without one. No audio. Nothing. Being broadcast via satellite, that glitch affected every screen. By definition, Who fans are a good-natured, optimistic bunch, so it's little surprise the first wisecrack called out was the classic, "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" (With the theater erupting into laughter.) It seems digital has one clear new advantage over film: One phone call to Denver with a simple request, "Reset us," and all is well. That's a lot smoother than trying to re-spool a platter full of celluloid.
They say you shouldn't believe everything you read. If you subscribe to that maxim, or if the written word lands with little more than a dull thud at the periphery of your imagination, checkout these snapshots from last night's 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Special Event, or as I like to call it, "Spot the Fez":
The line starts here, and Whovians are already finding their seats.
A view from the line. Remember: Spot the fez!
The line extends past the escalators.
And around the corner.
(See the fez?)
Down the hall to the fire exit, and back again. (Don't forget to find the fez!).
Back along the escalators, and all the way through the theater lobby.
Then past the ticket booth, and out into the hall.
(Yep, another fez!)
One fez leaves, but more will enter...
And finally, past the escalators, near Macy's. Even while the front of the line was moving, the end continued to grow.
(That''s not a fez!!!)
In all, not a bad showing for a pre-holiday, Monday night, theatrical replay of a just aired foreign market TV show.
Live Opera performances are among NCM/Fathom Events most lucrative offerings. But then, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Blu-ray release event last April proved exceptionally popular. And, while theater attendance overall has been shrinking, this Doctor Who event marks the second sci-fi television crossover in a row generating stellar interest. Michelle Portillo, PR & Communications director for NCM has previously advised they don't usually release ticket sales figures for specific events. Even so, this might just be hinting at an emerging market for theatrical revenue.
One thing's for certain: if Matt Smith and company didn't feel like international superstars before, they certainly should now.
Only for the truly gifted: 3 very hard to spot fezzes.
Doctor Who is copyright the British Broadcasting Company.
Thor 2 (The Dark World) opened last week to some pretty astounding numbers. This weekend, we'll see if lightning can strike twice. But what was so unusual about last week?
Thor 2's $86 million opening weekend haul is impressive by any measure, but it's more than just a big number. Many films will be noted for outselling the next 3 films combined. When the number one film outsells the other top 10 films, that's news in itself. Those achievements pale compared to what The Dark World did this weekend. According to tracking data at Boxofficemojo.com, TDW's actual North American gross receipts was $85.7 million. That's $3.5 million more than all other films showing in North America combined - all 114 of them.
Thor 2 is also noted for opening $20 million (over 30%) higher than the first Thor . A sequel outselling it's parent by any amount is an automatic sign of a solid franchise. Yet, some are predicting the typical 60% to 70% second weekend drop. However, the original Thor only dipped 47% - exceptional for a sci-fi / comic book adaptation. Given TDW is a good film with a reasonably fulfilling story, excellent production values, and its insanely charismatic cast, and given the public's good will towards it, it seems likely TDW will hold as well as the original. Also consider the only tent-pole scheduled this weekend, The Wolf of Wall Street, has been delayed until Christmas, and TDW's dominating in mythological proportions seems all but certain.
Still, if a swords and sandals fantasy wrapped up in modern sci-fi costumes doesn't draw your interest, About Time also enters it's second week.
Notting Hill and Four Weddings and Funeral scribe Richard Curtis is in exceptional form this go round. Employing a relaxed time-travel hook to his usual rapid-fire witty banter rom-com framework, Curtis allows us to realize our 'what-if' fantasies of re-doing our most awkward social failures. Little time is spent contemplating the paradoxes of time-travel, and strict limits are placed early on to prevent even considering them. Instead, the protagonist makes quick use of his skill to fix those mistakes, and create his perfect life. The dilemmas mount later in the film, after quite a long stretch of some very, very, very funny dialogue. Eventually, sappy sentimentality takes over, but the cast is so infectiously likeable that even the UPS drivers, professional wrestlers, and Alaskan loggers in the audience will discretely dab at slight tears they might deny even existed.
About Time is a clever contemplation of what it means to be alive, and how we choose our destinies. The sci-fi element may help to get your boyfriend in the seat, but the film will sell itself once he's there. With characters anyone can identify with, and over stuffed with worst case socially uncomfortable scenarios, About Time is one of Curtis's funniest and most accessible films.
The most notable new film opening wide is The Best Man Holiday, a sequel to The Best Man, a modest comedy that has remained popular since it came out 14 years ago.
Just two weeks after opening in limited release, 12 Years A Slave has reached us.
Possibly the most talked about Oscar contender of the year, British Director Steve McQueen's newest offering does nothing to diminish his reputation for exceptional filmmaking. You may recall his last film, Shame, with Michael Fassbender and Carrie Muligan, which enjoyed similarly intense media and popular attention. If you're still in doubt, take note: 12 Years broke into the top 10 films nationwide last week, hitting 8th despite showing at a meager 123 theaters.
Synopsis: "In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery." Rated R, this biographical drama offers an unflinching look at the brutality of American slavery.
Check out the trailer and some additional coverage (below).
12 Years A Slave Opens Friday only at: the Spectrum 8 in Albany, Regal 13 Colonie Center, and Bowtie Cinemas in Schenectady. The spectrum appears to have allotted two screens, with 7 showings a day. Showtimes & Tickets
12 Years A Slave c 2013 Fox Searchlight
Katniss fans don't have much longer to wait, and Lionsgate has them chomping at the bit - teasing with this meager 1 minute trailer just 3 weeks before the film opens wide. Rumors have it the budget for the Hunger Games second installment has doubled over the first, and it looks like a lot of that went up on the screen judging from what glimpses they give in the trailer. Lionsgate also brags of better lensing, with some scenes even shot on Imax.
Fandango is reporting ticket presales burning up their servers, so expect this movie to be another blockbuster for LGF. The Hunger Games was well shot, well acted (mostly dramtic, excepting Stanley Tucci's hilariously camp TV presenter), and with genuine heart, so proved solidly popular beyond it's core fan base.
Will Catching Fire top $1 billion? The first film didn't reach $800m, but the deficit was foreign, with 60% of receipts from North America. These days, the split should be reversed. The good news, aside from the insane presales numbers, is that Catching Fire will also open on 3,000 screens in China, where often even having a release sometimes isn't known until after a film's opened throughout the rest of the world.
Showtimes & Tickets.
And finally, here it is: The new Catching Fire trailer!
Predictions are always risky, but the force looks strong with this one...
The Hunger Games films are copyright 2013 Lionsgate Films
Update 2 (10/25, 3pm): Crossgates has already added a second screen. Success can be such a chore. No doubt, this wont be the last addition.
Update (10/25, 2pm): Tickets have only been on sale for hours and already some screenings in New York City, and the 3D showing at Albany, Crossgates 18 have sold out. If more screenings are added, I'll update again. The 2D at Crossgates is still available.
And it's no surprise given the unprecedented success of the most recent Star Trek TNG Fathom event, on April 25th, which sold out in theaters across the country. The Star Trek event featured a remastered two-part cliffhanger to coincide with the Season 3 Blu-ray release.
(on sale Fri. Oct 25th)
Shot in 3D, The Day of The Doctor celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Doctor Who series with a global simulcast, including 11 major-city US theaters, along with the BBC and BBCamerica television airings on Saturday, November 23rd, at 9pm. Another 300 theaters across the country (including Crossgates Regal 18) will participate in the encore showing on Monday, November 25th.
Airing during the regular series hiatus (a Christmas episode usually satiates die-hard fans during 'the dark times'), TDOTD features not only outgoing eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and enigmatic companion Clara (Jenna Coleman), but with the reappearance of the tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose Tyler (Billie
Oliver Stone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Phil Donahue, Mark Ruffalo, and Wil Wheaton. These are just a few of the Hollywood notables who have joined politicians, veterans, and public interest groups to endorse the StopWatching.Us coalition's opposition of "wide spread, suspicionless surveillance of American citizens" by our our modern surveillance state. StopWatching.Us's signatories resemble an amazing cross-section of America, stretching from the ACLU, to the Libertarian Party, to the Mansfield North Central Ohio Tea Party Association, along with over 100 other groups and individuals.
With over half a million signatures and counting, StopWatching.Us is sponsoring a petition to Congress, demanding a full disclosure of the NSA's domestic surveilllance activities. They've also organized 'The Rally Against Mass Surveillance' set for noon, this Saturday, October 26th, in Washington D.C.
Did you know that Edwards Snowden is the seventh NSA whistle-blower being prosecuted by the United States? Check out the public service announcement here:
This appears to be real, as I've received an official press release...
A novel means of cross-promotion, Ron Burgundy's personal favorite ice-cream flavor invention, "Scotchy Scotch Scotch" will be available in pints over the next few weeks, and is in Ben & Jerry shops now. "Scotchy, Scotch, scotch is a delicious ice cream and I hope Ben and Jerry consider my other suggestions," said Ron Burgundy. "Malt liquor marshmallow, well liquor bourbon peanut butter, and cheap white wine sherbet."
The rest of the press release follows:
"The flavor was officially unveiled at New York City's Pier 36 where members of the press attended and witnessed the announcement first-hand. True to the iconic ice cream company's untraditional style, the event kicked off with - what else? - a
Blending a Hitchcock atmosphere over it's Agatha Christie whodunit structure, Prisoners will draw you in, creep you out, and keep you transfixed until the last riveting moments.
Prisoners has been out a few weeks now, but still grossing in the top 10, which is a good thing if you want an October scare-fest. It might be better than any traditional horror film out this fall. The plot is simple: a father searches for his abducted child, independent of police efforts. What makes the story so compelling is the style. Prisoners starts slow. In a way, this is probably deliberate - the film's style mimicking the lives of its upper middle class characters. Before long, an abduction occurs, and our main characters' psyches start to fray.
Showtimes and Tickets.
Norse mythology works it's way into another film's symbolic nomenclature with Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), who steps in to set things right. This character is enigmatic: his name and copious body tattoos contradict an outward straight-laced calm. In his first meeting with the distraught parents, Loki repeats phrases like, "I hear your concerns," and, "let me do my job," with such a flat affect and lack of empathy or consolation it serves only to worsen the parents worry. Gyllenhaal's delivery immediately feels like some discarded rough-draft Mamet dialogue, or a telegraphed stage performance showing how constrained the police (the establishment) can be. At first, this strange manner of interaction threatens to torpedo the movie, feeling like it might become an overwrought art-house passion project lending a deaf ear to viewers' emotional triggers.
Things turn out quite differently, thankfully, as French Director, Denis Villeneuve, seems to have had a plan. Hugh Jackman's 'Keller' is losing the plot, worse than the other characters who are all distraught over not knowing what happened, and fearing ever the worse as each hour passes. Keller's wife retreats quickly to the safety of her bedroom and the numbing effect of various prescription drugs. Meanwhile, as the trailer suggests, Keller captures a suspect and, as part of his psychological disintegration, attempts progressively more grotesque tortures to
Based on the true story of the first successful breach of an American ship by pirates in nearly 200 years, Captain Phillips will hijack your pulse and hold your attention hostage for two solid, nail-biting hours. SEE IT.
Showtimes and Tickets.
Director Paul Greengrass has a particular skill. His films sit at the intersection of art house indulgence, mainstream entertainment, and historical documentary. Watching one of his films reminds you, very quickly, of those 'true crime TV' reenactments, except these reenactments seems as real as real life. However it came about, Greengrass's direction of this film is surely owes creidt to his masterful handling of the September 11th historical drama, United 93. And while directing The Bourne Supremacy no doubt helped, it was his 2002 work, Bloody Sunday, that assured his helming of United. (No doubt, his screenwriting credits on those two films helped as well). If you haven't seen Bloody Sunday, rent it.
It's hard to explain what makes his films so compelling. To reduce it to it's most basic explanation: you feel as if you're there in the moment, watching events unfold. This is so much more difficult than would think. To phrase it a bit more colorfully, it's as if you're watching crystal-clear reality.
One side-note on the experience: Captian Phillips was filmed on a real cargo ship, on the ocean, and the cameras are in continuous motion with the waves. If you're prone to motion sickness, bring Dramamine. I am, but didn't, and so for the first 45 minutes of the film, found myself continuously hoping for a dull moment so I could step out for a few minutes to recover. There was never a dull moment, but thankfully, I recovered.
It's hard to imagine a days long stand-off could be so tense. Again, credit to Greengrass. Early on, there's a particularly impressive chase scene. Yes, for realz, a cargo ship chase scene - and it's white-knuckle tense every second of the way. Additional credit goes to Hanks as Captain Phillips. So often with A-list actors, the characters pale compared to our familiarity with the person portraying them. Hanks excels above others like Tom Cruise or George Clooney because, much like in Cast Away, we see more of the character, less of the actor. Further appreciation belongs to the Somali actors portraying the hijackers. How easy would it be for them to be overwhelmed standing next to "the" Tom Hanks? They're up for it, and bring the heat from their first moments on screen. Finally, additional credit to Greengrass. One of the overriding themes throughout his films is Greengrass's willingness to show the complexity of motivation and thought on all sides, and the moral ambiguity of the situation. He never vilifies the hijackers, and it makes the dynamic exponentially more complex. And if you've followed the news recently, you'll recognize many elements of the ship's crews' lawsuit are acknowledged within the film as well. As a viewer, combined with the current news stories, it's easy to see how all sides agree on exactly what happened, yet from completely different points of view. The result, when the movie ends, is not one of elation or thrill at our protagonists success. Instead, you'll feel as if you've been on an out of control rollercoaster ride, or riot police melee, or high seas hijacking - and lived to tell about it.
Captain Phillips follows on the heels of the Danish thriller Kapringen (A Hijacking), which also depicts recent, real-life cargo ship hijackings by Somali pirates. Kapringen was filmed on the rented MV Rosen, itself victim to a hijacking in 2007, using a real life ship's crew, also recently victims of a hijacking, with real weapons seized by Kenyan authorities from real-life captured Somali pirates - all on a shoestring budget of just $2 million. Though more fictionalized, Kapringen depicts the same experiences, with the same gripping tension as in Captain Phillips, with perhaps are heavier emphasis on negotiations and the psychological effects of long captivity. Ironically, the Rozen, like the Albama in Captain Phillips, and like many other cargo vessels attacked, were all carrying food aid to war-torn Somalia when pirates struck.
Kapringen director Tobias Lindholm also helmed this year's The Hunt, starring Hannibal's Mads Mikklesen, and 2011's prison drama R. Lindholm's work features gritty realism, and taut drama. He's one to watch, as he's sure to follow other current Danish filmmakers making their way onto to the international stage, including Lars Von Trier, Niels Arden Oplev (Dragon Tattoo, CBS's Under the Dome, Nicholas Winding Refn (Pusher, Drive), and Soren Sveistrup (AMC's The Killing).
Rather then explain so many details of what went into making Captin Phillips, or reveal any spoilers and lessen your experience, listen to these interviews with some of the principles. And then checkout the Kapringen trailer below:
Tom Hanks on Greengrass' filming techniques:
Faysal Ahmed, on portraying a Somali pirate, and working with Tom Hanks:
Greengrass on filming historical dramas:
Captain Phillips, the experience, is copyright 2013 by Sony Picutres.
Kapringen (A Hijacking):
PS: I know the headline's embedded reference is very obscure. That just makes me love it more. -JM
Gravity features constant peril and some unpleasant deaths, but exquisitely timed at 1 hour 31 minutes, it's a non-stop thrill ride featuring incredible visuals and Oscar caliber actors giving emotionally weighty performances. It's one of the few films out worth the full price of admission, especially in IMAX. Tickets & Showtimes.
Fortunately, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a scientist, gets selected to work with astronauts repairing the Hubble telescope. That's good.
Unfortunately, she's scared and not much of an astronaut herself, making it difficult to work 250 miles above the earth. That's bad.
Fortunately, George Clooney is there to distract her with his good looks and charm. That's good.
Unfortunately, they are each in self contained space suits, so he's little more than a voice in her head. That's bad.
Fortunately, George Clooney is a player and enjoys country music, so Dr. Stone is probably better off with the separation of outer space. That's good.
Unfortunately, just as Dr. Stone is finishing her repair work on a 'comm. panel', a debris cloud from an intentionally exploded satellite hurdles towards the area Stone and Clooney's 'Kowalski' are working. That's bad.
Fortunately, they have a little time and can return to their shuttle. That's good.
Unfortunately, as it proceeds, the debris cloud strikes a couple other satellites, and so now a huge field of debris threatens to overwhelm their space, hurdling at several hundreds of miles an hour. That's bad...very, very bad.
Fortunately, they, well, there's nothing good at that moment. The situation goes to hell in a heartbeat. At least Dr. Stone has George Clooney's silky vocal mellifluence to keep her focused as the space shuttle, Hubble telescope, and the rest of the crew get obliterated, while Dr. Stone and Kowalski are blasted, untethered, into the void. That's good. Wait, no that's bad. Well, it's a calamity, but they're alive, and Kowalski has his MMU jetpack to help them maneuver back to the shuttle.
Ten minutes have passed, and the thrills are just getting started. Five minutes more go by - it's amazing all the things there are in outer space - and before you know it, Stone and Kowalski are quite literally floating on fumes, and then quite literally dangling by a wire, every so slowly drifting away, 250 miles above the planet. The situation is so riveting, the precariousness so palpable, you'll find yourself the passenger in a car stomping on an invisible break peddle, except in outer space your body doesn't know which limb to throw with no imaginary button, lever, or peddle to thrash at, repeatedly, pointlessly. All you can do is cringe and recoil in your seat.
Gravity is a woman versus nature survival story and character study, presented in the same format, a continuous series of rapid-fire turns of fate, used in the classic children's story "Fortunately" ( Remy Charlip, 1964) which might be more familiar to modern audiences as the same-veined (or counterfeit, if you like) "That's Good! That's Bad!" (Margery Cuyler, 1993). Set in the currently last remaining terrifying wasteland: outer space, like Bullock's sleeper hit Speed, the threat presents early in the film, and once it starts, hits full throttle and doesn't let up until the final minutes.
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Director Alfonso Cuarón uses several effective storytelling techniques. Even before anything goes wrong, Cuaron, like the beats of a metronome, continuously intermingles the awe and beauty of outer space, the charm of the characters, and the spectacle of science, with subtle cues to impending catastrophe. This includes basic literary techniques, like very 'on the nose' foreshadowing: "Houston, I've got a bad feeling about this mission," spoken repeatedly, but in jest. Then, there's that ethereal voice (Ed Harris, ironically voicing mission control) asking Stone to advise on her condition as 'medical' is observing alarming data from her ECG. Her name, "Stone," and having undiagnosed heart problems are more meaningful than just portending danger in the near future. Then there's the always charming Kowalski, telling one terrible, soul crushing story after another, with a reassuring warmth and cheeriness in his voice. Even her project isn't working as expected. These subtle beats, like the ripples in a puddle signaling an impending Tyranosaurus attack, establish, with incredible effect, a sense of unease in the otherwise heavenly paradise on display.
The movie's visuals are breathtaking. If IMAX is an option, it's a fully immersive experience and perhaps the best use of 3D yet put to film. The human eye has difficulty observing 3D movies because the lens is automatically trained to focus to a certain distance when both eyes are pointed at that distance. For example, when the eyes are both pointing out straight, almost parallel, the lens focuses to infinity. When the eyes are nearly crossed, the lenses automatically focus as close as possible. With film, the lens must remain focused to the distance of the screen while the eyes continuously shift from one virtual distance to another. It takes time and effort for the lens to continuously train on the screen distance, instead of the expected distance the eyes' position normally requires. For 3D movies to work well the motion on screen must be slower than normal: it gives the eyes the little extra time needed to process the abnormal viewing cues. Cuaron has been especially mindful of this need, and a space walk is the ideal situation suited to it. As a result, the movie looks stunning. The film opens with a view of planet earth, rotating slowly in the distance. The camera, like the actors, tend to move in slow, sweeping arcs.
The sound engineering is also well designed and executed. Environmental sounds are properly transmitted through solid materials, usually their suits, most of the time. It stands out that during the debris impact, several explosions are heard as if transmitted through air, but otherwise, most sound is either muffled, or over the radio. Alarms and buzzers notably make use of a theater's surround sound system - a joyous experience few movies, even today, properly deliver. Even without dialogue or action, or sound effects, one could sit happily through the film just taking in the view. Thankfully, there's a good movie in there too.
A few scientific facts might give viewers pause. If you follow the jump, you can read about some of these concerns, which could distract from your enjoyment of the film.
All images and video copyright their respective owners. Gravity, c 2013 Warner Bros.
Jay Matthiessen is a native local, with a family immersed in the arts (a respected photographer grandfather, a grandmother and aunt professional dancers, a film producer, music teachers, a set designer, and dress maker/costume designers), it would have been no surprise to eventually work in the field. Yet while young, with a few years training under Vladimir Dokoudovsky, at the New York Conservatory of Dance, and a few minor attempts performing, it became clear some can best serve the arts by appreciating it. While majoring in more mainstream subjects, all free college coursework was dedicated to the arts: short story writing, script writing, science fiction film, photography, journalism, communications, and even three dimensional design, as well as writing for the college newspaper and membership in film club. Like his grandfather, though primarily working in a technical field, Jay has spent decades working in his spare time as a photographer, and has worked for a small newspaper. While a massive fan of blockbusters, thrillers, and science fiction films, his formative years have fostered a profound appreciation for the arts in all it's forms.