Friday, April 29, 2016

Bill Maher's segment on "25 Things You Didn't Know About Ted Cruz" is a classic

I haven't laughed this hard since I don't know when ... Although I will be watching Keanu tonight and I do hear it is funny. This is dead-on comedy writing and Maher always has great timing.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Anthony Weiner as Carlos Danger

"My jaw dropped more than a few times while watching Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s Weiner, a behind-the-scenes account of Anthony Weiner’s rise and fall. The film is an examination of how this New York congressman, a front-runner for mayor of NYC, single-handedly shot himself in the foot and got involved in a sex scandal of the highest proportions, by not only getting caught once, but a few other times, thus sabottaging a perfectly constructed campaign by his team. It is not only a story about the times we live in, but a scathing depiction of the mdeia and today’s political landscape." An Excerpt from my Sundance 2016 Review

`Captain America: Civil War is one of the better superhero movies, but aimed primarily for the ADD crowd

Coming out of this morning`s screening at the Bank Scotia theater I was exhausted by the 150 minutes movie that was Civil War. It`s actually the lengthiest Marvel movie yet. So much stuff is jam-packed into this film, both good and bad, that some of the better moments get quickly forgotten once the next showstopper hits.  I don`t mind that, because this movie solely exists as a marketing entertainment, but I wish it somehow had time to just pause, refresh, reboot, breath before the next action battle comes. Thus is the problem with super-hero movies, they are marketed for teenagers, millennials if you will, and they are the generation with the shortest attention span ... ever. No, really, ever since we have existed as species there has never been a poorer attention-spanned bunch of young adults that today. It will only get much worse I fear, but that primarily explains why so much action is packed into this and many, many other superhero movies. The studios and filmmakers fear the audience will quickly get bored, something has to happen or else we`ll lose them. Sad state of affairs if you ask me. Captain America: Civil is entertaining, but it barely has time to pause and have a concrete narrative happening. It's problem-action-problem-action throughout, at some point you have to ask yourself am I watching a movie or am I being inserted into a video game?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bret Easton Ellis decides to direct

"American Psycho"
Bret Easton Ellis has been active in cinema in the last couple of years, even if he hasn't been behind the camera himself. His screenwriting attempts for Paul Schrader's "The Canyons" starring Lindsay Lohan and Gregor Jordan's "The Informers" (which was based on his own book), didn't turn out so hot. Aside from those films, Ellis has been pretty quiet on the cinematic front, opting instead for his books to be adapted by various directors.
Some of these adaptations have been very successful, such as "American Psycho," which has become a cult classic over the years, with director Mary Harron sharpening the satire that made the novel so brilliant (a musical based on the book opened on Broadway last week). Ditto "Less Than Zero," a film that was met with lukewarm reviews in 1987 but has aged very well and features one of Robert Downey Jr.'s best performances. Then there are less successful adaptations, like 2002's "The Rules of Attraction" featuring then heartthrob James Vander Beek in a then-new bad boy guise, though no one seemed to care.
But Ellis will get to call the shots when he gets rolling on his directorial debut. He's set to helm "The Deleted," a thriller about the disappearance of three people in Los Angeles that parallels the story of a group of paranoid twenty-somethings who have just escaped a cult. It is not an adaptation of any of his prior writings and will instead be based on an original screenplay.
"The Deleted" will be released as a series for the streaming serviceFullscreen, which just launched today and will set you back $4.99 per month.

The Shining shot-for-shot remake with figurines

Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" doesn't sound like the most obvious choice for a shot-for-shot remake staged with figurines. But in execution? It kinda works!
Hip-hop artist Aesop Rock is set to release his seventh studio album The Impossible Kid on Friday, but before it drops, the album is being shared in its entirety, presented via a shot-for-shot remake of Kubrick's 1980 horror masterpiece starring, you guessed it, cute, creepy miniature dolls. Directed by Rob Shaw, the 48-minute movie is entirely watchable, especially with Aesop Rock's album serving as a soundtrack.
It would seem that even 36 years after "The Shining" was first released, Kubrick's film continues to have a major impact on pop culture (also see the season finale of "Girls"). Turn up your speakers and watch.

Monday, April 25, 2016

FX's 'Fargo' Creator Noah Hawley To Direct Sci-Fi Feature ‘Man Alive’

The Playlist

FX's 'Fargo' Creator Noah Hawley To Direct Sci-Fi Feature ‘Man Alive’

The PlaylistBy Jordan Ruimy | The PlaylistApril 24, 2016 at 4:53PM

We all had our doubts when we first heard that Joel and Ethan Coen's masterpiece "Fargo" was going to get adapted for the small screen, but if you've yet to catch up on the FX show that bears the same name, then you are quite possibly missing out on the best TV series since "Breaking Bad." The first season was a home run, and the second season was a near-miracle of multiple moving parts. The ambition and sheer scope of the series is groundbreaking. We still have a few unanswered questions from the last season that will likely remain unanswered, but that's part of the “Fargo" TV charm. It casts a dark, almost miraculous spell thanks to its writing, acting, directing, cinematography, music and set design, which are all spot-on and in sync with its creator's artistic vision.
The aforementioned creator is Noah Hawley, also the writer and executive producer/showrunner of the series. While Season 3 is expected to premiere in 2017, in the interim, Hawley will be making his feature-film directorial debut in "Man Alive," which was just acquired by 20th Century Fox in what is being described as a six-figure deal.
Little is known about "Man Alive," but Deadline reports it to be based on an “elevated sci-fi” screenplay from New Jersey native and newcomer Joe Greenberg. Hawley is definitely not an amateur when it comes to sci-fi, as the last season of "Fargo" dealt with an increasingly mysterious narrative that involved the supernatural.
Hawley has several projects in development via his overall deal with FX, including the X-Men-themed pilot "Legion." He will also be tackling Kurt Vonnegut as writer and executive producer for a mini-series adaptation of the late author's 1963 novel, “Cat’s Cradle” — definitely an ambitious task as translating Vonnegut to the big screen has never been an easy ride for anybody who's attempted it. [Deadline]

"The Diary of a Teenage Girl" Director To Helm Feature Version Of Historic Gay-Rights Doc ‘The Case Against 8'

The Playlist
Marielle Heller had one hell of a directional debut last year with "The Diary Of A Teenage Girl" (our review), a formulaic title for a startling movie, which dealt with adolescence, but more importantly reflected growing up female in our modern day and age (even if it was set in the '70s). Heller fearlessly showcased the awkward bits of growing pains through a distinctly female lens and a strong voice. The images that she crafted were from her own pure imagination, and we knew she would be a talent to track.
Thus the 36-year-old director was chosen as one of The Playlist’s 20 directors to watch in our On The Rise series last year, and her early promise appears to be paying off. She's turned out to be a hot commodity in the industry, even directing episodes of the critically acclaimed series "Transparent." But now she may have just nabbed her biggest ticket yet.
Heller is set to write and direct a feature-film adaptation of the HBOdocumentary "The Case Against 8," an in-depth doc about the fight to overturn California's ban against same-sex marriage (that we called one of the best documentaries of 2014). The expertly crafted film followed the attorneys that represented the couples who took Prop 8 to court and eventually to the Supreme Court. It was a historic civil-rights battle that had the entire country paying close attention to the legal rights at stake.
20th Century Fox will also partner along with a first-look deal and the rights to produce and finance the whole project, which sounds like it will be right up the Academy's alley come Oscar-time. Heller is also in talks to direct Daisy Ridley in the J.J. Abrams produced Fantasy thriller "Kolma" based on the 2003 Israeli TV movie "All I've Got.” Almost every studio in Hollywood has tried to court Ridley for a post-“Star Wars” role, but it seems like she's chosen Heller's film. Suffice to say, many doors have opened for the up-and-coming filmmaker, and those opportunities don't look like they'll be stopping anytime soon.  [THR]

My Ethan Hawke interview for Born to be Blue

If there was ever any doubt about Ethan Hawke's ability to act, its gone by the time you watch Born to Be Blue, a biopic about Chet Baker's life and career, courtesy of Qu├ębecois director Robert Budreau. Whenever you have the looks or the charisma, people tend to take your acting skills for granted, but Hawke genuinely is a great actor.

Born to Be Blue has him playing Baker, the famous jazz trumpeter who was compared, back in the day, to being a "James Dean for jazz." It was a heavy duty comparison, and Baker definitely couldn't handle it all.

Hawke explains it this way, "Chet Baker fascinated me because he was a man full of contradictions. He grew up in a farm in California, he became the James Dean of Jazz in California, he sang beautiful love songs. He also had some major personal issues. It's the music he created that attracts you to the man and his life."

The movie showcases the usual tropes of such bio pics: alcoholism, drugs, womanizing. The difference here is that Budreau really twists the narrative around and has Baker starring in a movie about himself, playing himself and reconstructing the key moments of his life.

"I quickly learned that Robert Budreau wanted to make the same movie as I envisioned," Hawke tells me, sitting on a couch in his hotel lobby. "It's so easy to fall into the same, tired cliches."

The film set footage is mixed with Baker off set, struggling with his demons. The lines between reality and fiction blur at some point, but it's all part of the thrill of watching this fascinating movie.

"Chet never lied when he sang. There was something very honest about him," Hawke said. "If I had played Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald or any big voice of Jazz, it would have been much more difficult to pull off, but with Chet what's most touching is his voice, it's the cool energy that you feel when he sings."

The same can be said of the movie, which tries to be an honest portrayal of the legendary Jazz artist, a man whose soft, yearningly soulful singing voice could encapsulate many feelings through the whisper of a note.

We spoke to Hawke last September at The Toronto Film Festival about the movie.

TYF: Do you think addiction helps or hurts artists’ creativity?

Ethan Hawke: Speaking directly about Chet Baker, what he really wanted was what he considered a jazz life – he wanted to do drugs and play music. He liked that more than his relationship with his friends and family and that’s kind of what he wanted to do. In truth, the habit in us talks very loudly and it’s very hard to hear your own voice. Anybody that’s tried to quit smoking, it’s like there’s a little demon, and one of the demons for a lot of people is their own self-worth. I don’t believe that the drugs helped Chet Baker play, I believe that he believed they did.

In sports we see this as cheating, in music we sometimes see it as the essence of the creative process

Well, in sports there are rules. Lance Armstrong cheated because they have a race where you’re not allowed drugs.

First of all, I don’t think drugs enhance anybody’s performance anyway in the arts, while in sports obviously they do. Peter O’Toole thinks he’s a better actor when he’s shitfaced drunk, but he’s not. Unfortunately he developed a habit where his anxiety is so loud that he can’t perform without it. I had a friend who directed Elizabeth Taylor and he said she had this opinion that she was better when she was drunk. She wasn’t, it’s just that she was less nervous. And she enjoyed it more drunk.

Do you think there’s a romanticism about suffering for one’s art

I think people think that. I think that society tries to homogenize all of us and through pain, sometimes you see the fakeness of culture. That’s why so many great artists have been homosexual, that’s why there have been so many great black artists. Through immense suffering you can see what’s fake and you can talk back to the culture.

That leads to the notion of authenticity. One of the challenges Chet had was he was part of the dominant culture, entering in to a subculture where he was a minority and his self-consciousness of that fact. Even Chet would think this would be better told as Miles’s story.

Chet won jazz trumpeter of the year or something from Downbeat Magazine or something like that, and he told Miles that he wanted to write a letter of apology to Davis, to Cliff Brown and I guess Louie Armstrong or something. Miles said, “Why would you stop there? The list of people better than you is so long.” When they were playing together in a club somebody put a Chet Baker record on in the jukebox and Miles wouldn’t play unless they opened the jukebox, took the record out, and broke it.

So why do we care about Chet if musically as you say, people like Miles are conceivably superior – what is it about Chet’s personage and his art?

Because superior in the arts is a ridiculous word actually, because really whether he’s better, he had something original to say too. They both did. Miles is definitely better, but I put on more Chet Baker records myself, because I’m moved by them. That’s the thing about Chet’s singing, is that it’s not good, but it is moving.

Moving because it’s authentic?

Because it has real emotion and it has some truth to it. Yeah, authentic. Chet Baker can really only do one thing, but he could do it brilliantly.

How hard is it to bring to screen that ephemeral notion of music, the subtlety of it all?

All I could really do is bring a love of it. When I was doing my trumpet lessons I just wanted more time. I wanted to push shooting and had all of this stuff I wanted to do. This guy who was my teacher was like, listen, if we had three years, you wouldn’t be close.

You know, when Willie Nelson plays the guitar, it’s different. There are millions of guitars all over the world, this one guy picks it up and he can do something you can recognize, it has a voice. Chet Baker had that with the trumpet, and so did Miles Davis, obviously. That’s so unique and so beautiful, but I can’t do that. Will Smith can’t box like Muhammad Ali, but he can play the love of boxing. I can play the love of trumpet, and I can communicate the feeling that there was one avenue where this guy put all of his love, all of his humanity, and he couldn’t get out and reach his family and other people. I have known that in my life.

Summer movie preview 2016

Summer is right around the corner, which means it's that time of the year again where we look at what is to come in the next four months. We chose the 17 studio movies that seem to have the most potential out of the more than 100 titles that will be coming out between the first week of May and the last week of August. Just like the last few summers, original ideas are sparse and seem to take a backseat for adapted material. Thirteen of the seventeen movies we chose are either sequels, video-game or comic book adaptations, or reboots. No matter, they still have expectations on their back and the thought of failure is not an option for these high-budgeted movies. What about the other 4 films you ask? They're the ones eyeing Oscar gold come next year, although we're sure that they wouldn't mind making money as well.

Captain America: Civil War (May 6)
Kicking off Summer Movie Season 2016 is also the movie I'm betting will make the most money at the box office this summer. Even if you were sick and tired of the superhero genre you might have enjoyed the last Captain America movie, 2014's The Winter Soldier, which was heavily influenced by the conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s in style and tone. It earned rave reviews from critics and made more than 170 million dollars at the box office, but it was on home video that it really hit big, garnering a whole new following and raising expectations to sky-high levels for its sequel, Civil War. If we just recently saw Batman face-off against Superman earlier this year, then this new Captain America movie will have its own epic battle of superheroes, as Iron Man and Captain America will rumble out their egos and heroes will be forced to pick and choose sides. It's already being called Avengers 2.5 by some.

Party Monster (May 13th)
Jodie Foster directs George Clooney and Julia Roberts in this Wall Street kidnapping movie. Rumor has it that it will play at the Cannes Film Festival this May, which bodes well for the film's quality. In it, Clooney plays a Wall Street guru and Roberts a TV producer, both of whom get taken hostage by a frustrated investor played by Unbroken star Jack O'Connell. The cast is uniformly great, but if there is anything to be concerned about it's Foster, a two-time Oscar winning actress, directing her fourth feature-film, the last three of which (Little Man Tate, Home For The Holidays, and The Beaver) didn't get noticed much and garnered mostly mixed reviews from critics. In a summer of overstuffed CGI extravaganzas, noble respect must be given to Foster for trying to make a movie about - shock - real human beings.

The Nice Guys (May 20)
Writer-director Shane Black started off his career writing the first two Lethal Weapon movies, but it wasn't until 2005 that he had his directorial debut with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and then got promoted to directing Iron Man 3. His struggle to get final cut in Iron Man 3 must have turned him off from superhero movies because he is back in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang territory with The Nice Guys. Starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, the film is a buddy movie that has our two leads trying to solve the case of a missing girl in 1970s Los Angeles. What they instead get is a conspiracy that reaches to the highest powers of government. The trailer seems to indicate that it has the same comedic vibe as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and if the cast is any indication, the quality will be similar, if not better.

X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27)
The Last time we saw Professor Xavier's mutants, they were playing a game of time travel in the terrific, twisty X-Men: Days Of Future's Past. Bryan Singer is back at the director's chair as evil baddie Apocalypse awakens from a long sleep to try and wreak havoc on the world. No mind-bending time travel here, though. This new X-Men is all about Raven and Xavier leading their young batch of mutants to the battle field to beat Apocalypse. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence return in their roles, but the addition of Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse is what has us most excited. Isaac has turned into a hot commodity as of late with his star turns in Inside Llewyn Davis, A Most Violent Year, Ex-Machina, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The 37-year-old actor is the real deal and maybe even a future Brando for the movies. Watching him dish it out alongside such great actors as Fassbender and Lawrence will surely be worth the price of admission.

Warcraft (June 10)
If Warcraft were directed by a Hollywood hack then it sure wouldn't be mentioned here, but because the director at the helm is Duncan Jones attention must be paid. Jones, the late David Bowie's son, has garnered attention with his first two movies (Moon and Source Code), mindbenders that introduced a bracingly new, talented voice. He is given the biggest budget of his career in Warcraft, which is based on the popular video-game series. Set in the world of Azeroth, the film will deal with the war between humans and Orc warriors. Are your eyes rolling yet? They shouldn't be. With a budget of well over 100 million dollars, the trailer promises some of the same visual wizardry Jones delivered in his previous films.

Finding Dory (June 17)
Pixar is back with yet another summer movie, this time around it's a sequel to their 2003 classic Finding Nemo. Andrew Stanton, who wrote and directed the original, returns at the helm of what will surely be one of the biggest, most successful movies of the summer. One look at the trailer and you are in awe of the humor, the glorious colors being used and the state of the art animation, which is why we loved Finding Nemo in the first place. Taking place six months after the events of Nemo, the story finds Dory on her own mission to find her family alongside besties Nemo and Marlin. New characters are brought into the mix. If the premise gives you a sense of deja-vu all over again, you're not the only one getting that feeling, but trust Pixar, they tend to exceed expectations with almost every new movie they release.

Free State Of Jones (June 24)
Here's comes a full-fledged Oscar frontrunner. Gary Ross' first three films as director demonstrated his ability to bring out artful entertainment within the Hollywood studio system with Pleasantville, Seabiscuit and The Hunger Games. In Free State of Jones, Ross has Matthew McConaughey's Newton Knight lead a band of local African-American slaves in battle against the confederacy near the end of the American civil war. Sparks will fly, but so will Oscar buzz as this might just be the epic that will get awards pundits talking this summer.

The BFG (July 1)
Steven Spielberg's latest film is based on Roal Dahl's classic children's novel of the same name. BFG stands for Big Friendly Giant as played here by recently Oscar-ized Spielberg player Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies). Sophie, a young girl played her by Ruby Barnhill, befriends the BFG as they set out on an adventure to conquer the evil that is setting the human world on fire. This is Spielberg going back to E.T. territory, the roots of what made him such a household name in the first place. In fact, he hasn't really delved in Children's lit since, 1991's Hook? Things have changed since then, Spielberg has matured as a filmmaker, with such immensly satisying works like Minority Report, Lincoln, Munich and Bridge of Spies, he might presently be at the career peak of his powers.

The Legend Of Tarzan (July 1)
We all know about the "legend" of Tarzan, but you can rest assured it's never been told in this fashion before. Directed by David Yates, The Legend of Tarzan uses the most sophisticated CGI necessary to fashion what will quite arguably be the most realistic depiction of the "King of the Jungle" yet. The assembled cast is astounding: Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Margo Robbie, and Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan. The story takes place years after Tarzan decided to leave the jungles of Africa and gentrify himself in London society. Of course, he makes a comeback when a conspiracy starts to develop against him. The budget for this one was reported to be in the upwards of 200 million dollars.

Ghostbusters (July 15)
We all remember the 1984 original which had the impeccable chemistry between Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis, it would be impossible to replicate what those guys, alongside director Ivan Reitman, created with what was essentially a B-movie screenplay. The idea of a reboot didn't seem so pleasing until it was announced that an all-female cast would take over and that this cast would include funny women Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. Sold. An extra plus is that Paul Feig, who's directed McCarthy in her three best films (Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy) will be at the helm. Suddenly, our expectations have skyrocketed.

Star Trek: Beyond (July 22)
The first two Star Trek movies were so good that the bar has been raised for this third film. However, skepticism did emerge when J.J. Abrams, director of those films, passed on his chair to Justin Lin, known for directing Fast and the Furious films. A backlash was bound to happen, except people don't realize that Lin is a Trekkie himself and, in interviews, seems to have unlimited respect for the franchise: "I feel like we have the goods in a two-hour run and you really do get to know the characters and hopefully the journey is great. I wanted us to be bold, I wanted us to take chances and hopefully in a minute and a half we are able to convey that". The main cast is back in "Star Trek Beyond", but will the magic still be there? Abrams was a master at crafting action set-pieces, but will Lin be able to follow suit and prove himself to be the real deal?

Jason Bourne (July 29)
Here's one of my most anticipated summer movies for 2016. There has been no average Bourne/Damon movie. They've all been brilliant, encompassing smart thrills with an unequivocally relevant political landscape. Paul Greengrass directs what will quite possibly be the best blend of blockbuster and art this season. You can credit Greengrass ("Bourne", "United 93", "Bloody Sunday" and "Captain Phillips") for breaking new ground and, for better or for worse, introducing a shaky, hand-held camera style in the action genre. Also, check out this new cast joining Damon and Greengrass: Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel and newly Oscar-ed Alicia Vikander.

The Infiltrator (July 15)
During the '80s, a DEA agent by the name of Robert Mazur went undercover and became an important player with some of the top drug lords. Of course Mazur's piece de resistance would be when he went undercover within Pablo Escobar's circles and uncovered a money laundering scheme that would forever change the drug business. Directed by Brad Furman ("The Lincoln Lawyer") the big draw in "The Infiltrator" is without a doubt Bryan Cranston, an actor who stands tall as one of the very best in Hollywood today. His portrayal of Mazur might nab him another Oscar nomination.

Suicide Squad (August 5)
Rumors of re-shoots and numerous cuts have plagued the post-production of director David Ayer's much anticipated "Suicide Squad". That will probably not prevent millions from buying a ticket to what promises to be delicious counter-programming to the usual D.C. Comics movie releases. One look at the trailer and you are delighted by the meta-heavy tone of the film. However, it's Jared Leto's Joker that will likely cause the biggest talk. The notorious method actor seems to have taken a page out of the late Heath Ledger's book and transformed himself into the Clown Prince of Crime. This will surely be a performance you won't want to miss.

The Founder (August 5)
Michael Keaton has starred in the last two Best Picture winners ("Birdman" and "Spotlight"). "The Founder", directed by John Lee Hancock, is his best chance at a trifecta. The storyline is juicy enough, having Keaton portray Ray Kroc, the man who took control of the McDonald's chain from original owners Mac and Dick McDonald, is a stroke of genius. Kroc bought the restaurant for 2.7 Millions dollars back in 1961 and, the rest is, as they say, history. The Weinstein Company is producing the movie, which means, if reviews are positive, you can rest assured this will take part in next year's Oscars.

Pete's Dragon (August 12)
It was 3 years ago that David Lowery was the toast of the town at the Sundance film festival with "Ain't Them Bodies Saints". That film was a hypnotic mesmerizer that had critics joking it to be a better Terrence Malick movie than the actual Malick movie we got the year before "To The Wonder". One look at the trailer of "Pete's Dragon" and you notice the smaller, more intimate moments in this otherwise gargantuan CGI-fest. The poetic eye that got Lowery all those raves in the first place. The emphasis on the beauty of nature all seen through the eyes of a child named Pete, who happens to have the most exotic of imaginations and a dragon as a best friend.

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