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The Reel Deal
Filmmaking is as much science as it is art, and having the tools necessary can make all the difference in your work. So, any time a new tool comes along that can further your goals, it's worth getting your hands on it, if you can.
 
Many people might not realize it, but the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (the Oscars people) have several branches within their organization, including a "Science and Technology Council." Guess what their mission is...
 
Today, the Academy announced the availability of a color match tool which you can download to your iPhone.
 
"This app emerged from our conversations with cinematographers, production designers, costume designers and set decorators who were struggling to predict color reproduction when switching from traditional incandescent light sources to solid state lighting," said Andy Maltz, Managing Director of the Academy's Science and Technology Council. 
 
The tool can integrate half a dozen variables including light sources, camera sensor, filters and object colors, and calculate the resultant color reproduction. And the best part is, it's free.
 
The Academy (AMPAS) iTunes Color Predictor App
 
Here's the full Academy press release:
 
ACADEMY COLOR PREDICTOR LAUNCHES ON iTUNES
First App Created for General Public by Academy's Sci-Tech Council

Beverly Hills, CA -The Academy Color Predictor, the first app created for the general public by the Science and Technology Council of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is now available on iTunes. The free app for iPad iOS 7 will be highlighted at the 2014 NAB Show in Las Vegas this week.

Created by the Sci-Tech Council's Solid State Lighting Project Committee, the app helps filmmakers predict the interaction of the key ingredients in cinematography: the lights, camera, filters and the photographed objects themselves. Users can change key source light, image sensor and filter parameters to instantly visualize color rendering differences and compare different combinations of elements.

"This app emerged from our conversations with cinematographers, production designers, costume designers and set decorators who were struggling to predict color reproduction when switching from traditional incandescent light sources to solid state lighting," said Andy Maltz, Managing Director of the Academy's Science and Technology Council. "After a successful beta test, we're now offering this app free, for general consumption, so that all types of content creators, researchers and students can benefit from our research."

"We're delighted to once again make available the Academy's research to the film community and the general public," said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. "This app helps address a specific production need for filmmakers and underlines our commitment to driving technological advances that benefit both the motion picture industry and aspiring filmmakers everywhere."

Darren Aranofsky's Noah one sheet."Hollywood just wont give faith based films a chance." We've all heard it, and it's a tired refrain. It's also not true.

Arguably, the real problem is that many of them just aren't very good. It's a lot easier for some filmmakers to complain the industry wont give them a shot, than admit they just aren't as talented as established veterans who've proven themselves time and time again. (Or, to admit quality film-making is difficult with a sub $10 million budget.) Blackballing is also a good angle for manipulating some free press.

Do faith based films have any chance in a notoriously exclusionary industry? Absolutely. Son of God and God's Not Dead are both playing as you read this, having earned $56 and $12 million, respectively. Fireproof made over $33 million, on a budget of just half a million dollars.

So, why do so many faith based films do so poorly? Perhaps they often just aren't very good. Fireproof scored just 40% on Rottentomatoes.com, and did pretty well. Still, Left Behind scored just 16%, while I'm In Love With A Church Girl fared even worse, earning just 6% of critics approval. Both imploded in theaters.

Here's 10 reasons why I'm predicting a great turnout for Noah this weekend:

1, 2, and 3) Russell Crowe. Emma Watson. Darren Aronofsky.

The three names above form a Holy Triumvirate for film-making. Russell Crowe appeals to adults, and evokes an impression of action and gravitas. He's a big movie star, and people take notice of what he does. Emma Waston. Hermione. Enough said, right? She appeals to the under 25 crowd, and like Crowe, both genders. With all four quadrants covered, all that remains is selling the material. Aronofsky, the director that brought us Black Swan, is well known among movie lovers for bringing deep, complex storytelling to the cinema. Immediately, one knows this wont be a run of the mill project.

4) Budget: At $125 million, this isn't a cheap film. In fact, it's more than twice the budget of any other film Paramount has released so far this year. (Lead by Anchorman 2 and Jack Ryan at $50 and $60 million, respectively.)

5) Cinema's faith based renaissance. (See above), 2 other films are doing well in theaters, right now.

6) Marketing: Religious groups rightly, often worry about the abuse of their most sacred stories, characters, and values, by anyone looking to make a buck. Paramount has gone out of their way to include a disclaimer in advertising and during the beginning of the film, which has been approved by numerous religious leaders Paramount has been consulting with for the past several months. This seal of approval could mean everything to box office success.

7) Opening on 3,500 screens: This is a blockbuster level market presence. Obviously, Hollywood has faith in this project. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opened on 3,900 last December.

8) Trending: Noah already has 54,000 votes from users on Rottentomatoes.com, and rose 65% in trending according to IMDB's MovieMeter today.

9) A religious figure to 3 major religions: It's well known that Noah's story is common to both Judaism and Christianity, but like Jesus and Moses, Noah is also considered a Prophet to Muslims. It is contrary to Sharia law to depict not just Mohammed, but also his 25 named prophets. Still, many Muslims may hold less severe views, particularly among Muslim populations living in more secular regions. Like many Christians, these groups may have particular interest in the film. Though not releasing in many Muslim nations, Noah already has a release set for Egypt, Indonesia, Turkey, Cyprus, Russia (population is ~12% Muslim), India (14%), Lebanon, and the UAE.

10) Thursday night sneaks. Noah took in over $1.6 million, which is similar to what Gravity did last year. Like Gravity, Noah has broad appeal, including to groups that traditionally show up after the initial hype recedes. So, many potential viewers should still be sailing into theaters for at least the next 40 days and 40 nights.

BONUS ROUND: #11) Finally, consider The Passion of the Christ. Remember that one? It was made by Mel Gibson, in 2004. Having grossed over $600 million worldwide, and opening on a similar 3,400 screens, it remains the highest grossing R-rated film of all time, and highest grossing winter opener of all time. And all of that on a on a measly budget of just $30 million dollars.

Ray Subers at BoxOfficeMojo estimates Noah should earn around $36 million this weekend. It has all the ingredients to do that, and more. Hollywood will give these films a chance, and everyone will go and see them - if they're any good.

Materials courtesy Paramount Pictures. Copyright 2014.

Shawshank one sheet.jpgRegal Crossgates 18 continues their Classic Film Series with The Shawshank Redemption, today, at 2 and 7pm only. The last film in the Classic series will be Silence of the Lambs, next week, at 2pm on Sunday, and 2 and 7pm on Wednesday.

Synopsis: "In 1946, a banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of a double murder, even though he stubbornly proclaims his innocence. He's sentenced to a life term at the Shawshank State Prison in Maine, where another lifer, Ellis "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), picks him as the new recruit most likely to crack under the pressure. The ugly realities of prison life are quickly introduced to Andy: a corrupt warden (Bob Gunton), sadistic guards led by Capt. Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown), and inmates who are little better than animals, willing to use rape or beatings to insure their dominance. But Andy does not crack."  ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Tickets and Showtimes. 

Also showing at Regal Crossgates 18 tonight, Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano.

Synopsis: Never before seen outside of Las Vegas, The Million Dollar Piano features all of Elton's greatest hits from throughout his legendary career including; 'Rocket Man', 'Tiny Dancer', 'Your Song' and more! At the centerpiece of this larger-than-life concert event, is the show's namesake piano. Featuring more than 68 LED video screens, this truly unique instrument was created by Yamaha Entertainment Group of America especially for Elton's Las Vegas residency and took over four years to construct.

Elton John Million Dollar Piano Fathom.b.jpg

In addition to a spectacular concert performance, cinema audiences will be treated to an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of Elton's celebrated 1973 album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. ~ Fathom Events.

Tickets and Showtimes.

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel one sheetIt's being hailed as a masterpiece. Wes Anderson's latest, and arguably best film to date, The Grand Budapest Hotel opens with 10 showings at Crossgates, and 11 showings at the Spectrum in Albany. The Spectrum has showings on three screens, beginning at noon and continuing hourly through 10pm. The 8pm advance screening Thursday played to a sold out crowd and ended with a solid round of applause. 

If you're looking for an enchanting retreat this weekend, let The Grand Budapest attend to your every need. Anderson's trademark dialogue and eccentric look are a perfect fit with this dark comedy set in the early 20th century. The closest film that quickly comes to mind is Murder By Death(1976) with Peter Sellers and Truman Capote. The soundtrack is sparse, including the occasional sudden beats of a bass drum or simple classical arrangements reminiscent of works by Vivaldi and Bach, and maybe Grieg - the sound flowing through scenes where it compliments the mood of the actors or their madcap antics. Willem Dafoe's henchman is likely the best of the antagonists, while Ralph Fiennes demonstrates his exceptionally nuanced control of manners and emotion and equally impressive comedic timing. Fiennes performance may be heralded as one of his finest, for years to come.

Copyright 2014 Fox Searchlight.

Maleficent One Sheet mono.Theaters have been a wellspring of exceptional family films of late. The trend continues, judging from the newest trailer for Maleficent (Disney's Sleeping Beauty prequel). With a gorgeous style, sweeping set pieces, and a menacing central character, Maleficent is surely already on many film goers must-see list.

Synopsis: "Maleficent" explores the untold story of Disney's most iconic villain from the classic "Sleeping Beauty" and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turn her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king's newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love and the human kingdom that holds her legacy. Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and is forced to take drastic actions that will change both worlds forever. (c) Walt Disney Pictures

Here's the newest trailer for Maleficent, just released today:

Speaking of Wes Anderson, here's the just released featurette from Grand Budapest Hotel, which opens tomorrow at the Spectrum.

 

Sony has embarked on one of this past winter's most elaborate marketing campaigns for The Amazing Spider-man 2, and yet manages to reveal very little from the film. Luckily, we have a pair of new behind-the-scenes videos, and the final trailer, which was just released this afternoon!

 

Cap bonds...James Bonds with a new enemy in this frenetic chase scene from Captain America 2: Winter Soldier:

 

Oh heck, why not. Slated for 2015, here's the first teaser for a new Peanuts movie:

 

Grand Budapest copyright Fox Searchlight.
The Amazing Spiderman 2 copyright Sony Pictures.
Peanuts copyright 20th Century Fox
Maleficent and Captain America copyright Walt Disney Studios.

Maleficent banner. wings.

American Laundromat founder Joe Spadaro discusses ALR, music & film, and his new Wes Anderson tribute album. Plus, we're giving away 6 copies of the new CD. (Details below.)

<Hover over pictures for captions. Click some images to see a larger version.>


Marking my own one year anniversary writing for "The Real Deel," I've reflected on my digital experiences, and it's led me to speculate on the experiences of others in creative fields. This is the first in a series of conversations with individuals working in the arts, media, and entertainment industries.


Before our chat, some background on Wes, The Grand Budapest, and ALR...

 

Wes Anderson? He's that guy from WKRP, right?

If you consider yourself even the slightest fan of independent film, you surely know Wes Anderson. Nominated for an Oscar 3 times, his oeuvre includes: Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Darjeeling Limited, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and Moonrise Kingdom.

...anything?

With characteristically large casts of eccentric characters, winding narratives, and proportionately clever banter, the lowest rating any of his films has received on IMDB is a respectable 7.2. And, while undoubtably an auteur, with films grossing as much as $52 million, domestic, he can muster some box office muscle as well.

 

Welcome to The Grand Budapest!

The Grand Budapest Hotel tells the story of hotel concierge Gustav H, played by Ralph Fiennes (you know, Voldemort), who inherits a painting from one of his regular hotel guests. The guest's family objects, so Gustav steals the painting before probate concludes. Having money and influence, the family is able to manipulate the police into investigating Gustav, and regardless of the outcome, the family will ensure his goose is cooked. Gustav flees, as the family, their henchmen, and the police trail close behind.

Among his base, the interest in Wes' new film has reached a fever pitch. And after the mainstream success of 2012's Moonrise Kingdom - his second most profitable film ever, at $45 million, domestic - The Grand Budapest Hotel has proven to be his most hotly anticipated film ever. Rolling out nationwide via Fox Searchlight, an expert in independent film distribution, GBH opens locally this weekend, starting at 8:10pm, Thursday, at the Spectrum.

Be sure to checkout my Grand Budapest preview w/ cast interviews!

 

An American Laundromat, 'cuz we like to get dirty...

In April of 2004, in Huntington Village, on Long Island, New York, Joe Spadaro founded American Laundromat Records, and introduced it to the world with two albums: the indie sampler 'Transistor,' and 80's coming-of-age films tribute 'High School Reunion.' Joe's ability to land big names to contribute to his albums has proven legendary from the start:

Matthew Sweet ("Girlfriend"), folk singer Lori McKenna, Kristin Hersh (from Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave), The Dresden Dolls ("Coin Operated Boy"), and The Pixies' lead singer Frank Black - all appear on High School Reunion.

In 2007, notables Joy Zipper, OK Go, Mogwai, Julie Peel, and They Might Be Giants stand out among many talented contributors to Dig For Fire, ALR's Pixies tribute.

Other ALR love letters include tributes to: lullabies, with the Sing Me To Sleep album; Kim Deal; The Smiths; Neil Young (featuring all women artists); and the cult-classic film Repo Man. These albums add Tanya Donelly, Sixpence None The Richer, Veruca Salt, and many others to the existing eclectic parade of artists on ALR's ever expanding setlist.

ALR also manages acts, currently including Tele Novella, featured in Paste Magazine just last week, and longtime ALR compadres, The Caulfield Sisters.

ALR has come a long way since that first album cooked up by a guy working in his basement. Their music has been used in movies and TV, and been featured in numerous industry publications, including: Plugin, Pitchfork, Rock and Roll Report, Nashville Music News, Nylon, Spin, and Indie Wire. Just last week, Tele Novella's new album was featured in Paste Magazine, and Joy Zipper's cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" was featured the last episode of Grey's Anatomy.

 

What is going to happen?... Something Wonderful.

With names like Frank Black, The Smiths, and Repo Man percolating in any ALR conversation, it's no surprise to see independent film darling Wes Anderson as the subject of this latest project - and it might be ALR's most ambitious yet.

You can tell Joe's a true fan, well versed in Anderson's work, just by the delightful title of this new, 2 CD set: I Saved Latin! Featuring new acts and some regulars, ALR also offers their most extensive, and awesome, collection of coordinating swag to date. Team Zissou decals, a Moonrise merit badge, t-shirts, and even a Max Fischer business card are some of the items that can be bundled with a new album purchase. Currently available for pre-order, details on I Saved Latin! and all of ALR's albums are available at alr-music.com.

 

Listen In: A Conversation with Joe.

Full Disclosure: I'm an avid independent music fan, and an original ALR customer. Joe's work suggests a personal appreciation for quirky, cult, and independent film, but I've never met him personally. Let's see if I'm right...

Q: Joe Spadaro, Founder & President at ALR. Who were you before ALR?

I'm basically a music enthusiast. I was in various bands and loved the alternative/indie music scene.

Q: A lot of people imagine being their own boss, or exploring their creative side. That could mean starting a restaurant, or maybe a summer job landscaping. Tell me about the inspiration to start a record company.

Well, the label is a hobby. I have a full time career so it was never about making money. Originally, I wanted a home for my band and several local bands where I grew up. I figured if we had a banner to hang our hat on, press/radio may take notice. My original concept was a collective. However, no one beside me was interested in working on the day-to-day operations or marketing of the label so it was always on me to guide the direction the label would take.

Q: When you began, were you aware of the difficulty of starting any business, and especially a record company?

I asked several labels I admire for guidance. I hoped they would help me avoid making costly mistakes. Not one of them offered any. They didn't reply to emails or return phone calls so I realized I'd have to plug along. I worked hard and made plenty of mistakes but it's been a fantastic learning experience. The funny thing is... now those same labels that wouldn't even return a phone call or email, are now asking if their bands can contribute to my compilations. Many have, I don't hold grudges... but I always remember.

Q: Any worries about failure?

Because the label was a hobby and didn't need to sustain my family it was never a source of stress for me. I've only chosen projects I've wanted to do. All are personal for me. I never went into any project thinking this will be a financial success. High School Reunion enjoyed success in the sense that all the original costs were recouped over time and it put American Laundromat Records on the map.

Q: So, with your first 2 albums, we already see ALR's focus on a fairly specific, pretty cool niche in the music industry: indie music, and tributes to indie films. Are you a film buff in general?

I'm a huge film buff. My buddy and I used to have an old-school fanzine (one of those black & white Xeroxed zines). We'd review films and music, draw cartoons, etc. We did it for about 18 months. This was before I started the label. In one of the issues I had devoted all the movie reviews to John Hughes teen films. That was how High School Reunion was conceived. I was rereading the reviews and realized that there were so many great songs on those soundtracks. After doing further research I decided to expand the concept to other 80's teen films. Valley Girl was always a favorite and had some great songs by the Plimsouls and Modern English. Josie Cotton too (who would later cover "Cowgirl In The Sand" for my Neil Young tribute). I also chose songs from Fast Times, Say Anything, and others. I was lucky to get some great contributions from Black Francis, Kristin Hersh, Matthew Sweet and John P. Strohm (Blake Babies). I hadn't really thought of this as the new direction the label would take. It was just fun! A ton of work though. Clearing mechanicals and negotiating with artist management was entirely new for me.

* clearing mechanicals: obtaining a license to cover a song.

Q: From the beginning, you've had a number of big names record for you. The list is pretty stunning. How do you get these guys?

I just asked. I always put together a list of artists I think might be right for the project and then dive in writing emails and making phone calls. I've been very happy with the artists that have contributed to my projects.

Q: Pick an big name. Who were you most stoked to have record for you? Anyone you're still dying to get?

Well, each project has it's own bigger name that I'm stoked to have record for me. For I Saved Latin! it would be Juliana Hatfield. I always wanted to work with her so I was psyched when she immediately replied asking to cover Elliott Smith's Needle in the Hay. She did an amazing job too.

Ryan Adams, Yo La Tengo, Dinosaur Jr., and Wilco are bands that come to mind that I wish will cover something for me some day.

Q: Among your indie acts, is there one you're a passionate believer in?

The Caulfield Sisters, chillin.I was and always will be a huge fan of The Caulfield Sisters.

Q: Some bands like to be faithful to the original. What's the craziest reinterpretation you've loved?

AM's version of "Don't You (Forget About Me)" comes to mind. They totally deconstructed the song and put it back together their way. AM's version was used in the film Easy A. The director cleverly married the Simple Minds version from the 80's with AM's modern take on the song. That was a very rewarding moment for me sitting in the theater.

Q: Has any project been especially meaningful for you? Which and why?

Cinnamon Girl, a Neil Young tribute.Cinnamon Girl is my most meaningful. My mom passed after a six-year battle with Breast Cancer. I wanted to honor her and her favorite charity (Casting for Recovery) so I conceived the Neil Young tribute with women covering all the songs.

 

Q: Repo Man.

Love that film!

Q: Any chance you'll re-release the T-Shirt? - I missed out. :(

Yes, but it will be a two-color screenprinting this time. No glow-in-the-dark ink.

Q: I love the swag! You seem really big on it too.

I love to create and the swag is just another opportunity to give my customers something cool.

Wes Anderson Tribute Swag bag.

Q: You're albums are available on CD, vinyl, and digital downloads (iTunes). Are you a vinyl-phile for sound quality? Nostalgia?

I have the crappiest record player in the world. I do listen to vinyl but 99% of the music I buy is digital. It's just easy and immediate.

Q: Has the business changed direction over the years?

I've sort of gotten into this groove of releasing one tribute a year...I wouldn't be surprised if I end up releasing Tele Novella's debut CD. I think they're a really cool band.

Q: Has there been any project you were prevented from completing, or song you couldn't get rights to perform?

I had wanted to do a Replacements tribute but couldn't get any artists I was excited about to bite. I decided to backburner the idea for the time being.

Q: Brass tacks: What brought on the Wes Anderson 2 CD set? This looks hugely ambitious.

It's ambitious in the sense that I'm offering lots of Wes Anderson-inspired bonus items but essentially it's not much different from High School Reunion. I always appreciated the music Wes chose for his films. I was watching the Criterion release of Bottle Rocket last May and the idea just came to me. I knew immediately that it would be my next project. The response from artists was overwhelmingly positive, so I got very excited and I've been working really hard to make this the best tribute I've done to date.

(Enter to win one of 6 copies of the new CD. Details below.)

Q: You're just hitting your 10 year anniversary. Where is ALR now, compared to the first year, and what's next?

10 years ago I didn't really know what direction the label would take and whether or not it would be around in 3 years... today is not much different. I never know what I'm going to do next or if I'll be doing anything else again to be honest. I enjoy that.

Q: Any future project your dreaming of? Any hints you can give us?

At this point, I'm completely focused on the Wes Anderson tribute. I have nothing on the horizon. This could change tomorrow, of course. One little spark is all it takes.

ALR Tiger. Rawrrr!!!

All materials copyright their respective owners.


The Grand Budapest Hotel opens Thursday, at the Spectrum 8, and I Saved Latin! is available for pre-order now, at alr-music.com. ALR albums are also available on iTunes.

Did you know Penn and Teller produced the documentary Tim's Vermeer, also showing at the Spectrum? Checkout my review here!


Enter to win one of SIX copies of the new Wes Anderson tribute album, I Saved Latin! expected to drop May 13th. It's easy! Just Share and Comment:

1) Share. - You can use one of the little Share buttons at the top of this article for the service you want to share on. Or, visit ALR on Facebook and share their post about this article.

2) Comment. - Click the "comment" link at the top or bottom of this page, and add a comment so we know you're participating. *Be sure to include your valid email address, so we can contact you if you win! (Don't worry, email addresses remain private. Comments post overnight.)

About a week before the album drops, I'll select winners from all the comments entered, and email you for your details. ALR will mail your CD when the album's released. (US addresses only.)


Further Reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Laundromat_Records

http://americanlaundromatrecords.com/

http://www.pastemagazine.com/blogs/av/2014/03/song-premiere-tele-novella---trouble-in-paradise.html

Tim's Vermeer One SheetImagine if independent film were more gripping than a summer blockbuster. Imagine a documentary that captures your imagination, instead of testing your resistance to sleep. They do exist.

Showtimes and Tickets:

Tim's Vermeer is the most recent in a wave of documentaries on Art which immerse the viewer into a world where the skills, techniques, and language are only vaguely familiar to most, yet makes some aspect of that world accessible, interesting, and even exciting. British street artist Banksy gave us Exit Through The Gift Shop in 2010, a documentary revealing the tactics necessary to avoid detection or capture while vandalizing high-visibility, public structures. It's outstanding. Director Don Argott's The Art of the Steal (2009) dissects the attempt of the City of Philidelphia and other powerful interests to wrestle control of the largest collection of modern and post-impressionist art in the world (valued at over $25 billion) from the Barnes Foundation, and move it into tourist-friendly, downtown Philidelphia. The Steal is as compelling as Exit is unexpected.

Penn and Teller (yes, the Penn and Teller) collaborate with their friend, inventor Tim Jenison, to bring us Tim's Vermeer, the story of Jensen's attempt to discover the techniques Johannes Vermeer used to create photorealistic paintings over 350 years ago. As a film produced and directed by magicians, you'd expect a lot of flair, some tricks, and maybe even some CGI. There's none. Well, there's a little CGI, but for demonstration purposes only. On paper, it's about as straightforward and dry as any doc out there. But tricks aren't necessary when the material alone can dazzle. The journey is so bombastic, and the theories and discoveries so unexpected, the viewer finds himself caught up in a suspenseful mystery, with breathtaking revelations. There's a genuine 'ah ha' moment later in the film - a moment where a scientific principle distinguishes which technique must be responsible for specific characteristics in Vermeer's work. The linear storytelling format allows us to feel we've arrived there with Jenison the moment the discovery is made. It's euphoric, and the best sort of emotional payoff, hardly expected in a documentary about brush strokes and pigments.

I can't recommend this film highly enough. Yes, it's a documentary. Yes, it's about how to paint artwork in the Dutch Golden Age. And, yes, it's only showing at the Spectrum. It's also brilliant.

Copyright 2014 Sony Classics.

Need for Speed one sheet.jpg

Racing movies can generate box office gold. Vin Diesel has practically made a career out of it. So, it's no surprise others try to cash in. Today's entry, Need For Speed, doesn't have the horsepower to compete.

Synopsis: An exciting return to the great car-culture films of the 1960s and '70s. In a last attempt to save his struggling garage, blue-collar mechanic Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) and his team reluctantly partner with wealthy, arrogant ex-NASCAR driver Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Just as a major sale to car broker Julia Bonet (Imogen Poots) looks like it will save the business, a disastrous, unsanctioned race results in Dino framing Tobey for manslaughter. -Disney

Car race revenge ensues.

Showtimes and Tickets:

Unfortunately, this one hasn't got much under the hood. The primary flaw is George Gatin's writing. His only writing credit, according to IMDB and Rottentomatoes. It shows. The story is formulaic, the dialogue abysmal, and dramatic confrontations so bad they belong in a Spanish soap opera. In fact, just 2 minutes into the film, I leaned over to a friend and whispered who would die, what the threat was, and how it resolves. Minutes later, the red-shirt was dead. Additional condemnation goes to the insanely unrealistic setups and resolutions. In fact, once the film concludes into what looks like a happy ending, ask yourself what happened to the nemesis's wife...or the good guy's garage...or the millionaire's $3 million car. The film isn't grounded in reality, and doesn't resolve terribly nicely. Even the original crime suffers from several defeating logical contradictions. Aaron Paul's very odd, gravely, rebel voice doesn't belong in the film either. It's somewhere between George Clooney and professional wrestler.

One last criticism, perhaps most important to some: the juvenile preoccupation with the size of peoples' genitals. Nearly every character seems compelled to comment on this person's big set and that person's small endowment. Even the female character has something to say. It's sad.

What's good? Car racing and comic relief - especially, the stunt driving. The stunts are all real - no CGI, and it's amazing. I'd say the cars themselves too, but a race between a modified Mustang, Bugatti Veyron, and Konigsegg isn't a fair fight. The Veyron is technically supreme, but insanely heavy - over 4,000 lbs. The Konigsegg is, quite literally, 1,000 lbs lighter. If the race were on a straightaway, two cars that can hit 60 in 2.5 seconds would be a neat race. But this race is on miles of heavily winding public roads, littered with obstacles, and my immediate thought is that the extra half ton of the Veyron would automatically put it at a disadvantage. (Think breaking and maneuverability.) As long as you ignore the fact that the final race isn't all that balanced, all the other street racing and stunts are amazing.

The comedy stands out as well. One character is responsible for most of the comedy, and it's almost like watching a different film whenever he enters a scene. Another character quits his job, and as juvenile as that scene is, it so validates what's probably a near universal secret wish, that it's hard to do anything but laugh along in vicarious solidarity.

Will fans turn out for this one? It will be interesting to see. If you think you're one of them, turn your brain off, strap yourself in, and just go along for the ride.

 

Copyright 2014 Walt Disney Studios.

Stop me if you think you've heard this one before...

Perhaps this is a mea culpa from Michael Bay? It looks soooo much better than 3.

The Purge did well in theaters. So naturally: Purge 2. Produced by Michael Bay. (Hmmm...)

It must be the season of the big egos, and Zack Snyder's in on it too. He's writing, but not directing this one, so maybe Noam Murro will be bringing something interesting to the table.

Girls kick butt too. Gina Carano last led in Haywire, which didn't fair so well in theaters. Maybe 2nd time's the charm? This one has Luis Guzman and Danny Trejo, which never hurts.

rear-window-poster.jpgRegal Crossgates 18 continues their Classic Film Series with Alfred Hitchcock's brilliant Rear Window, this Wed. at 2 and 7pm only. Future films in the Classic series will be Chicago, The Grapes of Wrath, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Silence of the Lambs in following weeks, at 2pm on Sundays, and 2 and 7pm on Wednesdays.

Synopsis: When professional photographer J.B. "Jeff" Jeffries (James Stewart) is confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg, he becomes obsessed with watching the private dramas of his neighbors play out across the courtyard. When he suspects a salesman may have murdered his nagging wife, Jeffries enlists the help of his glamorous socialite girlfriend (Grace Kelly) to investigate the highly suspicious chain of events. Events that ultimately lead to one of the most memorable and gripping endings in all of film history. Having received universal critical acclaim, Rear Window also ranks 31st on the IMDB list of top rated films of all time, as voted by users.

Tickets and Showtimes. (Change the zip code for theaters in your area.)

Rear Window was filmed entirely on a Paramount soundstage (at the time, the largest in the world). Hitchcock required the stage floor be removed to allow fully functioning apartment buildings to be built inside the soundstage. As such, the street level in the film is actually at the soundstage basement level. Actors could remain inside their 'apartments' during an entire day's shoot, and wore radio earpieces to receive instructions when filming.

Rear Window was unavailable for over 3 decades due to copyright issues, and was digitally remastered in 2008 - both superlative reasons to catch it in the theater while you can. And yes, Stewart would have needed a tripod to stabilize that ridiculous 400mm lens on his camera. As a professional photographer, his character should have known this. Update: upon rewatching the film, I took note that Stewart's character, in fact, uses his knee to rest the end of the lens. Only twice, does he hold it freehand, and once, his nurse does as well. This combination seems reasonable, if the goal is to simulate imperfect real-world behavior.

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 Materials copyright Universal Studios Entertainment.

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The Reel Deal Contributors:


Tracy Fears is a Capital Region resident since 2001, is a foodie who enjoys pickles with peanut butter on occasion, loves dogs but is owned by 2 cats, and has discriminating movie tastes but loves campy B-movies with a passion."


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.


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