Daniel Craig suits up for his fourth mission as Great Britain's most famous secret agent in Spectre.
Synopsis: A cryptic message from Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.
Eon and crew spared no expense, funding the film to the tune of $250 million dollars, as well as a $100+ million advertising and promotions budget. Lucky for us, nearly every dollar shows up on screen.
From the first scene (ignoring that confusing music video preamble of Sam Smith's theme song) globe-trotting action is the spécial du jour, and they want you to know it. Planes factor into the action often, and their call-signs are painted 10 feet tall on all sides of each aircraft. In England, G-LCPL, in Austria, OE-xxx. In an era of CGI everything, director Sam "Spare No Expense" Mendes wants you to know that if Bond chases some baddies by slaloming a C-130 cargo plane down a snowy a ski-slope in Austria, he's in a real plane, on a real ski-slope, and really in Austria.
While in England, a chase scene involves a brand new Aston Martin DB10 driving up and down stairs, across monuments, and naturally, eventually getting trashed. Aston Martin actually designed and built the DB10, a brand new model, specifically for the film. Again, Mendes makes sure the car's number plate, DB10 AGB, makes it into the shot a number of times.
Bond fans rejoice, Craig continues to define the consumate Bond archetype, while every actor joining him does as much or more than expected for their roles.
Léa Seydoux, hot off The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) proves as enchanting as ever, while Dave Bautista continues to demonstrate his skills on the big screen equal if not better those in the ring. If he'd been given more screen time, Oddjob might be worried...
And this brings us to where Spectre comes up short: the writing. Spectre credits four people with conjuring up this new adventure for Ian Fleming's favorite hero. FOUR. And not one of them adds a single new idea, nor any bombastic one-liners ( save one) for viewers to feast on. Here are their names posted on a wall - writers who died on the job: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth.
One almost wants to believe none of the $250 million budget was spent on story, but if it was, these writers should give the money back. Naomie Harris and Monica Bellucci barely register - a terrible waste, especially as Harris showed such promise last round - and Bautista's Hinx has little more than two meaningful scenes. Voldemort makes only token appearances. And once we meet the "real" villain later in the film, it's difficult to appreciate why he's going to all this effort - and this is in a genre where viewers don't expect much on that front to begin with. At least Andrew Scott (Moriarty to all you Sherlock fans) gets enough time for us to feel how creepy he can be. Still, shame on the writers. Seriously.
The result is a visually resplendent adventure, filmed in exotic locals, with the expected over the top action, but die-hard Bond fans will recognize every twist and turn in the story, and by the end, despite two and a half hours of international intrigue, will leave the theaters feeling somewhat unsatiated. The opening sequence involves blowing up a building, and fighting bad guys in an upside-down helicopter, flying over 10,000 parade goers. In the middle, Mendes blows up an artificial habitat in the middle of a desert, earning recognition from Guiness for the largest explosion ever created for film, and by the end, well, more explosions, helicopters, building collapses... and boats. Don't ever forget the boats.
Oh well. It's James Bond. Big, loud, fun. 250 million dollars worth.
Two years ago, endowed with a remarkable innate likeness, Ashton Kutcher made an uncharacteristically ambitious attempt at portraying one of the most iconic figures of our time. Despite a who's who cast of appropriately x-gen actors supporting him in the $12 million budgeted bio-drama, the film debuted to middling reviews and an unenthusiastic audience.
Despite this, we're now presented with an even more ambitious version with nearly triple the budget and a manifestly superior cast and crew.
Synopsis: Set backstage at three iconic product launches and ending in 1998 with
the unveiling of the iMac, Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the
digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at
its epicenter.-- (C) Universal
Directed by Danny Boyle, the film hums with urgency, taking brief emotional detours in an attempt to crack Job's efficient exterior, while Michael Fassbender validates his reputation for commitment to his performance, imbuing Jobs with a particular intensity and coldness that hardly wavers.
The screenplay, by Aaron Sorkin, adapts Walter Isaacson's book, also titled Steve Jobs. Isaacson was selected personally by Jobs and allowed unfettered access to write an accurate and uncensored biography about him. Jobs declined final approval of the work before publishing, only requiring he be allowed to select the book's cover photo. Steve Jobs, the film, feels very much true to that sentiment.
Fans of Sorkin can quickly identify his most popular works, including HBO's Newsroom, Brad Pitt vehicle Moneyball, Facebook origin story The Social Network and of course, his most famous: The West Wing with Martin Sheen, and the Tom Cruise / Jack Nicholson courtroom slug-fest A Few Good Men, and there isn't a moment in this characteristically dialogue heavy film that doesn't radiate Sorkinism. If one were to distill the essence of Aaron Sorkin into a powder, and then Aaron Sorkin snorted that powder and wrote a script, Steve Jobs is what you'd get. It's so Aaron Sorkin, Jeff Daniels is in it.
Why? It doesn't matter. The point is, it's hard to find director Danny Boyle's fingerprints anywhere on it - at least at first glance. The dialogue is all Sorkin, the performance is all Fassbender. But at least the plotting, editing, visual and sound effects, and music all point to another hand on the wheel, even if the cruise control is set to Sorkin. What I'm saying is, the dialogue never stops, and you can't help but identify the screenwriter, but once you inure yourself to its intensity, you can start to notice what's going on in the background. The music usually highlights the action, sometimes counterpointing, and sometimes stops altogether for those most serious of serious moments. It feels unusual, but hard to define. And while tightly edited, Boyle takes moments just long enough for us to catch a breath. And occasionally, very occasionally, a little bit of visual effects are used to emphasize what's going on in the mind of the genius we're trying to understand.
One other element that's particularly interesting is the cold open to a 40 year old, black and white Arthur C. Clarke interview in which he describes, in remarkably accurate detail, how computers will revolutionize the world. It's fantastic, and sets us up for what's going to happen over the next 2 hours.
Steve Jobs opens in previews tonight and tomorrow at theaters everywhere. Check out this trailer, which gives you a quick dose of the two hour frontal-lobe adrenaline rush that is Danny Boyle's, I mean, Aaron Sorkin's, Steve Jobs. Most trailers amp up their films, this one pretty accurately reflects it. Buckle up!
Who's Jane Lewis? Nobody knows. But her cover of The Beatles' Come Together is transcendent - and you need to hear it.
Presenting your happy, loungey, delightful Come Together, by Jane Lewis...
How can this be? Covers of classic songs are notoriously underwhelming, typically little more than ego-trips for moderately talented musicians attempting to validate their own street-cred while invariably evidencing the contrary to their listeners.
Yo, swerve brah.
Lewis' success might come from the irreverent mix of styles blended into her version. It's a deceptively simple arrangement (like many of the Beatles biggest hits) with bossa nova, smooth jazz, a hint of girl-band folk-rock and her smooth vocals overlapping to unexpectedly sublime results. Or, maybe she's just being herself and having fun.
Lewis' rendition has received the endorsement of JJ Johnson, local poet and self proclaimed Beatles expert, who describes this as among the best covers of a Beatles song he's ever heard. As he explains: "Most covers try to sound just like the original. It's the ones that do something different, like Joe Cocker's With A Little Help From My Friends that are exceptional." Oh, and Lewis' song has also just won the 2015 Independent Music Award for Best Cover.
Do you like it? (And let's be honest, you do...)
Get it FREE, here at Google Music. If you have Google Play on your PC, or have an Android based phone, get Lewis and others on the Independent Music Awards 2015 compilation album Now Hear This!
You can also learn more about her music, shows, and the work she does at www.janelewis.ca. (Yep. Naturally, she's Canadian. Maybe she'll visit...)
Note: Google Music is free to anyone with a Google email address, account, or ID. A subscription to Google Music Plus is notnecessary. Seriously - 50 songs - totally free.
4.5stars - www.albany.com/movie-blog/2015/10/jane_lewis_effervescent_beatles_cover_wins_at_independant_music_awards.html"" Jay Matthiessen
Come TogetherJane LewisJohn LennonPaul McCartneyStay With MeIndependent Music Awards 2015 - Best Coverimages.cdbaby.name/j/a/janelewis5_large.jpg
As an avowed animation skeptic, an endorsement from me is a little like a blessing from the Pope. (New Pope, which in this case is better than Old Pope.) So it isn't something to take lightly when I say The Iron Giant is one of the best animated films ever. It's a true classic, as well as Vin Diesel's first monosyllabic animated role (and even more affecting than Groot).
Before you see Hotel Transylvania 2 - also a surprisingly entertaining, often adorable children's film, breaking records and sure to last in theaters for quite a while - you have the chance this Wednesday and Sunday only to see the new, high definition restoration of Giant in theaters, with 10 minutes of additional scenes originally not created due to budget constraints.
Adapted from the 1968 book The Iron Man, by British Poet Ted Hughes, about a lost giant space robot scaring townsfolk by secretly eating their farm equipment, The Iron Giant explores the giant's friendship with a young boy, and the general public's fear and attempt to destroy him. There's a strong E.T. vibe, but remember this was written in '68. Most of the film was hand drawn, with more complex elements (including the robot) handled by CGI animators.
Strangely, Warner Brothers marketed the film disastrously and it floundered, making just $30 million in theaters worldwide on a $70 million budget. The degree of failure can be best judged if you consider 96% of critics on rottentomatoes.com endorse the film, with an average score of 8.2 out of 10. That's 122 critics for, and just 5 against. RT summarizes their overall feeling like this: "The endearing Iron Giant tackles ambitious topics and complex human relationships with a steady hand and beautifully animated direction from Brad Bird." People who've seen the film agree, with well over 100,000 voting on IMDB.com giving an average score of 8.0 out of 10.
Who's Brad Bird? Just the double oscar winning director of The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. He also directed the classic Do the Bartman, and wrote the screenplay for Batteries Not Included - 10 years before taking on The Iron Giant.
If you wish there were an animated film targeted to children but with real artistic merit and a compelling story to boot, - and, likely to be just as entertaining to the adults who bring them - you wont find a better example than this. The Iron Giant: Special Edition is an event not to be missed.
You can read the Fathom Events press release about the new version below:
Wednesday, September 30, at 7pm, Sunday, October 4th, at Noon.
Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes (approximate) *Note: some sources indicate there's also an interview with the director, so assume 2 hours total.
Ticketing: Tickets are available by clicking on the orange "Buy Tickets" button. If online ticketing is not available for your location, you can purchase your tickets by visiting the box office at your local participating movie theater.
Special Fathom Features: Enjoy the The Iron Giant: Signature Edition which has been re-mastered and enhanced with two all-new scenes.
Fathom Events and Warner Bros. are excited to bring The Iron Giant: Signature Edition to select cinemas nationwide for a special event screening on Wednesday, September 30 at 7:00 p.m. local time, with an encore event in select markets on Sunday, October 4 at 12:00 p.m. local time.
When "The Iron Giant"arrived in theaters in 1999, it was hailed as an "instant classic" by Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal and the world soon learned another "giant" had arrived as well: filmmaker Brad Bird, who made his stunning directorial debut with this film and has gone on to win two Oscars, as well as worldwide acclaim for his work on both animated and live-action features.
Winner of 9 Annie Awards, "The Iron Giant" is being remastered and enhanced with two all-new scenes! The Iron Giant: Signature Edition will be re-released in theaters across North America for a special Fathom Events screening on Wednesday, September 30 with an encore event on Sunday, October 4.
"Deliciously funny and deeply affecting. And beautiful, oh so beautiful, as a work of coherent art." Joe Morgenstern/Wall Street Journal
"An unalloyed Success." Lael Lowenstein/Variety
"Enchanting." Robert Ebert/Chicago Sun Times
"A lovely & touching day dream." Owen Gleiberman/Entertainment Weekly
"Warner Brothers outstanding "The Iron Giant" is a giant leap for the studio and robot kind!" David Hunter/Hollywood Reporter
Here's the best advice for watching director James Ponsoldt's newest film The End of the Tour: Sit up-close. Another gem from A24 films, Tour is a thoroughly compelling depiction of the 1996 five day road-trip interview of Infinite Jest author David Foster Wallace by Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky. That may sound like something of a head-scratcher as a subject for film, yet The Spectacular Now (2013) director's respect for the material, the film's smooth pacing, and unexpectedly charismatic performances from the leads allow for a faithful translation of the two men's personalities, writing styles, and the issues they explore during the copious downtime spent together on the last leg of Wallace's book tour. The conversation flows easily, exploring Wallace's philosophical outlook and personal convictions, and their application in normative ethics, replicating Wallace's trademark deep yet easy to digest delivery. This is mumblecore having grown up and gone back to finish its degree. The film begins with Jesse Eisenberg's Lipsky as a green journalist determined to find a subject for his first big article at Rolling Stone. A well educated and published author himself, Lipsky's girlfriend suggests he read Infinite Jest. Just a few pages in, skeptical her suggestion could impress a writer with an advanced degree, Lipsky bluntly resigns himself subordinate. "Shit." The book is so good, he convinces his editor that Rolling Stone should feature an interview with Wallace, under Lipsky's own by-line. Wallace (Jason Segel) is solitary and taciturn, most comfortable in rural Illinois, surrounded by his dogs and the snow swept landscape. The pair are excited to meet each other, while Wallace is as cautious as Lipsky is admiring. Being a writer himself, Lipsky harbors a deep interest in exploring Wallace's talent, while Wallace's enforced detachment induces suspicion of Lipsky's motives. Conversations wander to the challenges of awkwardness and sincerity, authenticity of image, the pitfalls of fame, and the influence of the internet which had just started invading people's homes. The writers explore philosophic and professional issues, diverting from one intense topic to something tangential, domestic, or mundane yet the flow feels natural and effortless. Personal issues such as depression and addiction lead to questions of religion, entertainment and commercialism. Wallace explores the question of how to live fully and enjoy life beyond rudimentary solipsism. As Jason Segel has mentioned, and many often agree, Wallace gives us words for complex thoughts and feelings we all have, but didn't know how to express.
However it came about, Segel and Eisenberg prove excellent in their roles. Defying usual Hollywood convention, the actors are actually less traditionally handsome than the real world writers they portray - making them more accessible to the average viewer. Wallace himself would likely endorse that effort towards authenticity versus deification. Eisenberg exudes the enthusiasm and drive of a young journalist, torn between his admiration for his talented subject and his journalist duty to investigate the man's less admirable traits. Segel's lithium infused performance may be even more compelling, perhaps because it's so consistently low key - defying what we've seen in everything else he's done. Staging and cinematography further immerse the viewer in the conversation. Camerawork features mid shots often, and mid-close shots when the conversation becomes more intimate, or contentious. The combination of subdued lighting and settings, the natural performances, the close camerawork, and the free-flowing conversational style draw the viewer in, and hold us there.
Some elements in the film feel more symbolic than literal, leaving us to wonder how authentic they might be. Once Wallace is finally comfortable having Lipsky around, he offers half his pop-tart, which Lipsky is reluctant to accept. Wallace insists. Lipsky relents. It might have happened, but it evokes a sense of taking of communion - a theme Wallace might likely appreciate: "Take this pop-tart, it is my body. Smoke this cigarette, it is my blood." Wallace has accepted Lipsky as a kindred spirit. Lipsky nibbles at snacks simultaneously seeming tentative and enthusiastic, and they chain-smoke their way through the book tour. A number of driving scenes fill the screen with the bright, blaring signs of fast food restaurants stretching to the horizon. Early in the film, Ponsoldt uses a tracking shot - left to right - of Lipsky walking through a parking garage to a rental car. The drab concrete and geometric shapes parallel the structured, methodical process of a journalist. Near the end of the film, the pair walk Wallace's dogs through a snowy field. A footpath is clear, traversing the field diagonally across the screen. Partway along, they pause and Lipsky surveys the countryside Wallace knows from so many trips before. "I'd better get back," Lipsky remarks. He has that article to write.
Is the field just a field, or is that path Wallace's exploration of the world from a slanted perspective? Is Jesse Eisenberg really that inelegant at smoking, or was Lipsky that determined to immerse himself in Wallace's world? Is it true (as presented in the film) that Wallace dabbled in lighter drugs, but had never been a heroin addict as a number of articles had alleged? Is the pop-tart just a pop-tart?
The End of the Tour serves as a great introduction to the style and themes Wallace addresses in his work, as well as an amiable road trip movie. It might leave you feeling you've spent a great evening out with friends, having one of those comprehensive but disorganized conversations that when it's finished somehow still feels complete. With such relatable characters and so many rich ideas, it may encourage exploration of Lipsky's work as well as the works for which Wallace has become so revered. Until then, The End of the Tour opens 8/21 at the Spectrum in Albany, where you can get a hot tea and carrot cake, or maybe a coffee and some twizzlers, grab a seat right up close to the screen, and sit in for a couple of hours on the most entertaining conversation you'll see this year.
Footnote: The editors at Rolling Stone decided not to publish the story about Wallace, and Lipsky filed away his cassettes in a closet. The two never meet again. Four years later Rolling Stone asks Wallace to write for the magazine, covering the John McCain presidential campaign, as well as 9/11.
Based on Jesse Andrews 2012 debut novel, this comedy-drama blends a teen coming-of-age story and cancer tragedy. That's sounds as bad as milk and Pepsi, or a bacon shake, but like those, it somehow works. Finesse may have something to do with it: the practiced hand of Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directs and chances are, you know him.
Gomez-Rejon directed American Horror Story (2011-2014) and Glee (2010-2011), as well as The Carrie Diaries (2013) and Red Band Society (2014). It's as if he's been preparing for this very film for the last 5 years.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl enjoyed a standing ovation from the audience at Cannes this year, and took both the Grand Jury Prize for Drama as well as the Audience Award for Drama. (Ryan Reynolds was booed there in 2014 for his pet project The Captive - it can be a really tough crowd.)
If you can't make the free screening, MEDG will be opening in theaters this weekend.
Marvel's superheroes seem almost as competitive off screen as on, at least when it comes to their charity work. With coordination through Microsoft's Collective Project, Robert Downey lends his support to Hand-a-Thon volunteers who design, assemble and donate prosthetic arms for children. Thanks to 3-D printing, the volunteers at the University of Central Florida built 60 arms in just one day.
Naturally, the video's adorable.
Here's a segment highlighting the Hand-A-Thon event at UCF.
I was going to write about the Oscars and I had all these notes written out, clever bon mots, but after reading the entirety of the internet's responses there wasn't anything I could have said that hadn't already been said. Things like, "Selma was robbed" and "David Oyelowo was in three nominated movies this year; why did he not get an academy award for any of them??" (Note: if you haven't seen A Most Violent Year, please do so. Oyelowo's smooth as silk twist at the end is worth waiting for). It was nice that Selma won for best original song, but its win felt like that scene in Blazing Saddles where the cowboys ask the workers to "sing us a song!" And while Julianne Moore won for Best Actress in Still Alice, she also shined in Map to the Stars, which surprised me by not getting nominated but perhaps the subject matter hit a little too close to home for some folks ::ahem::
So we're back to Netflix suggestions. Some Oscar Nominees are already on Netflix, did you know? Ida and Virunga are, respectively, Best Foreign Language Film winner and Best Documentary Feature Nominee. Both are worth watching, especially the heartbreaking Virunga which highlights how important it is that we pay attention to what some corporations are doing; purging villages of their people and their resources, harming protected wildlife in the process, and the dirty means they go through to achieve their nefarious purpose.
This week's recommendations:
Take This Waltz: Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen star as a couple whose relationship is tested when she meets Daniel (Luke Kirby) on a business trip where sparks fly...and then she discovers he lives across the street. Noteworthy: palpable tension between Williams and Kirby, Rogen being heartbreakingly charming. Why is he not doing this more often?
And the Oscar Goes To...: feature documenting the history of the Academy Awards with vintage clips and milestones from Hollywood's greatest. Worth it for the bits of history and things you might not have known about old Hollywood
Labor Day: Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin star in a film about an escaped convict who takes a mother and son hostage but his reasons aren't so dishonorable. I really enjoyed this one. Also with palpable tension, which takes talent when there are no sex scenes in the film.
Reminder, if there's something you're not sure you want to watch comment above and I'll be your guinea pig for next week's suggestions.
It's cold out and some of you hug the Netflix when it's lower than 30 degrees. Or you may be home sick with an awful chest infection (me) and bored out of your gourd.
At any rate, I thought I'd start randomly posting about films on Netflix that I enjoyed and think you should give a shot to if you're hovering above that "play" button, unable to decide whether to push it. I, however, watch almost anything once if it piques my interest so let me help you.
This is a new thing so I'm just gonna be succinct, review one film and give a list of the others. If you want to hear more about why I liked something, comment below.
This Jon Favreau flick stars him alongside John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Scarlett Johansson, Sofia Vergara, Oliver Platt, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Downey, Jr. (who's hard to distinguish from his Tony Stark persona in this film but still enjoyable).
Favreau is a talented and creative chef whose vision is stymied by his "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" boss, Hoffman. After a verbal altercation with a restaurant reviewer, Platt, goes viral on the internet, he challenges the reviewer to a do-over. Hoffman doesn't allow him to serve the menu he originally wanted to use, so he quits his job on principle and eventually finds his way to serving his own fare on a food truck. In addition to this, he's also balancing trying to be a good father to his son.
Key points: the passion and talent that Favreau's character puts into his food as well as the honesty in how he communicates with his son are really wonderful, in my opinion. The wit in the dialogue is timed well, and the storyline moves along entertainingly.
It's a film about being honest and true to yourself and with others. I gave it a Netflix rating of 4 stars. If your girlfriend isn't into the Iron Man or Avengers films [dump her. I'm KIDDING! Sheesh], this is something you can watch together and enjoy.
Other films I enjoyed are:
Last Weekend (4 stars) Slice of life about a family's last weekend in their family vacation home. It's a little #RichPeopleProblems, but I love Patricia Clarkson's character in it.
Patton Oswalt: Tragedy Plus Comedy (4 stars) Stand up. Patton on point.
Iliza Shlesinger: Freezing Hot (3 stars) Stand up. I loved her "War Paint" more (also still available on Netflix) but this is still worth watching
The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (4 stars) Bizarre (in a good way) thriller/horror foreign film. If you liked "Into the Void" you might dig this. The art nouveau set design is a win in my book.
Best Man Down (4 stars) Comedy-drama wherein the over-the-top drunk best man dies the night of the wedding reception and the married couple learn more about his humanity in death than they knew in life.
Stay warm, Albany. And if there's something you're curious about seeing, comment above and I'll give you my opinion. If I haven't seen it I'll be your test monkey.
Tracy Fears is a Capital Region resident since 2001. A foodie who enjoys pickles with peanut butter on occasion (don't judge), she makes
her own creme fraiche, and will make you banana bread that'll change your life. She loves dogs but is owned by a handlebar-mustached cat. Tracy 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.