• Hey Man, Nice Shot (2013)



    Today, we begin wrapping up 2013 by returning to an annual tradition originally posted over at The Matinee. It occurred to me some time ago that when you think back on a film, sometimes you think about one solitary image. When you bring those images together, it turns into a neat little tapestry of the year on the whole.

    The idea started back in 2010, and continued through 2011 and 2012.

    Decide amongst yourselves what it means that I have been choosing more and more images as the years have gone on.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Review: Saving Mr. Banks


    I don’t write too many movie reviews nowadays. As I imagine happens with a food writer reviewing the savoriness of another restaurant’s pork loin for the 87th time, I was tired of writing reviews in which the majority of what I was saying could very well be a page out of Mad Libs with interchangeable actors and filmmakers and release dates. In how many ways can one describe the cinematography of a film or use repetitive adjectives to describe powerhouse performances?

    Face it. You don’t give a damn about what I have to say either – unless you disagree with me, then you will definitely let me know – and that’s okay. So let’s cut the bullshit and get to it.

    Saving Mr. Banks is a movie that was developed by Walt Disney Pictures to tell the story of how Walt Disney Studios (and Walt Disney himself) willed Mary Poppins into existence in the early 1960s. Going into the film, I was only mildly interested in the story (of which, it turns out, I knew very little) and it was my love of the actors involved – Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, and Colin Farrell to name a few – that convinced me to see it.

    As this is unquestionably a family friendly Disney biopic, Walt Disney is portrayed by Hanks in a mostly positive light, as can be expected, although some of the moodier aspects of his personality (his annoyance with Travers to the point where he didn’t invite her to the premiere, his smoking addiction, etc.) were hinted at – something I wish they would have explored further, as it made Walt that much more interesting on the screen. As one might expect, Hanks is great. Who the hell else could play Walt Disney but Tom Hanks?

    This film isn’t about Walt Disney though. Rather, it’s the story of the cranky adult P.L. Travers and her childhood as an innocent and imaginative young girl in Australia with a well-intentioned alcoholic father. It’s the story of how this youth inspired her to write stories about a magical nanny and how it transformed her into this cranky adult that she’s become. Thompson, naturally, is at the top of her game and what I find most interesting about the story was her character’s resistance to nearly everything that Walt wanted the film adaptation of her books to be: a somewhat silly musical with animation.

    The rest of the cast is predictably great. The movie also has camera angles, music, and nice costume designs. It will probably win some awards.

    If you’re interested in the man that is Walt Disney or even the filmmaking process, Saving Mr. Banks is worth watching. It may romanticize the production of Mary Poppins some, it may leave out some of the juicier aspects of these characters, it may not be without its flaws, it may play it safe as Disney developed biopics always do, but overall, it’s a fun and interesting story about how a timeless classic came to be.

  • Cinecast Episode 333 – Russell’s Hustle


    Merry Christmas RowThree readers/listeners! Here’s a time-lined episode of the Cinecast in your digital stocking to tide you over this holly day. As if you needed something to tide you over – you’ve got A Christmas Story, Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, Scrooged, Love Actually and of course the one-two punch of Die Hard and Black Christmas to tide you over (braver souls may tackle Christmas on Mars or Silent Night Deadly Night 2). So in the secular spirit of Cinecast, we don’t cover any of that. We have one David O. Russell on our plate instead. Kurt is notoriously a lover of Russell’s work and Andrew is usually torn. How does American Hustle fare with us? Also, as the new year approaches, we start thinking ahead to all of the potentially wonderful stuff that will surely let us down in 2014: our top five most anticipated. A quick Watch List breezes by before Andrew has to jet off to work.

    Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas and Happy Festivus everyone! May the force be with you.

    As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!






    Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

    DOWNLOAD mp3 | 47 MB
    if player is not working, try alternate player at bottom of this post


    Full show notes are under the seats…
    Would you like to know more…?

  • “Somewhere Only We Know”


    Our own Kurt Halfyard has been mentioning much lately about how crappy the year has been for animation. And he’s right. But perhaps Lily Allen and John Lewis can brighten your holiday spirit a little bit and restore some faith in the art and the season.

    Merry Christmas from the Third Row!
  • Review: Inside Llewyn Davis


    Inside Llewyn Davis

    A few years ago, Tom Waits did a spot on The Daily Show with John Stewart. Before the taping began, Tom was using the men’s room at the television studio, and the bathroom roof fell in on him. In some ways, this seems like the sort of thing that could only happen to Tom Waits. In both his demeanour and his artistic output, he comes across as a grizzled, weary, and down-on-his-luck. Why would anyone be drawn to someone so sad-sack and alone?

    Inside Llewyn Davis spends one week in the life of its titular hero (Oscar Isaacs), a folk singer in 1961 New York City. As the film begins, we are given a clear picture of what sort of singer he is. While some of his contemporaries are singing plucky tunes bound for AM radio play, he takes to smokey stages in dank clubs singing from the point of view of a criminal about to be hanged.

    Llewyn is talented, there’s no denying that. Sadly, he’s also broke. After his first performance in the film, he awakes on the couch of The Gorfeins – music appreciators that open their Upper West Side apartment to Llewyn when he needs a hand up (which is often). As he goes to leave, The Gorfeins’ cat slips out. Unable to get the cat back home, Llewyn scoops it up and begins looking after it until he can return it.

    That’s Llewyn in a nutshell: locked out of the last place he called home, holding more baggage than he carried walking in.

    Llewyn’s week will find him crossing paths with friends and family. Most reach out their hand to help him, but few help him for long, and few help him to the extent that he needs. With his musical career stuck in neutral, his greatest need is monetary. Besides not having a place of his own, he cannot even afford a winter coat. Slowly, Llewyn is becoming less and less of a folk singer than he is becoming a character in one of his own songs.

    As a greater need for money crops up with an old friend (who now mostly hates him), Llewyn hits the bricks with his guitar and cat in hand hoping he and get something going. Of course, if he’d listened to the lyrics in the songs he sings so often, he’d know exactly how his mission will play out.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Review: The Past



    A woman looks anxiously out of the frame. She is played by Bérénice Bejo the expressive ingenue from The Artist, but here she is a little, well a lot, more weary. We are in a busy airport in Paris, and a man is walking through the crowd. Their eyes meet. There is emotion from both parties expressed in body language, more layered than simple the happiness of greeting someone who just got off a plane. They converse, in a fashion, between through the thick glass that separates them. Ahmad is her husband returning from Tehran only to sign divorce papers so that his soon to be ex, Marie, can marry her current live in boyfriend. Marie has two kids from a previous marriage, and her new man has a child, although she has no children with Ahmed. Everyone lives under the same roof of a small home, which metaphorically is under a number of half-finished renovations; a new man means new light fixtures. Bringing Ahmed into this chaos (a failure to book a hotel room or intentional sabotage becomes the first verbal fight of film) only amps up tension, tension than nobody in the house can ignore. This is a pot near boiling over when Ahmed arrives. Having both men in the same household, all their respective children, and a lot of wet paint and clogged drains.

    Director Asghar Farhadi is faced with the difficult task of following up his sophisticated, specific and universal drama, A Separation, which also won the Oscar for best foreign language film. Expectations are high for The Past, and he nearly gets there. What his previous film had was precise and propulsive plotting to augment the heightened drama. Ideawise, things are in a similar vein, revolving again around divorce and anxiety driven miscommunication, but the drama is built on surprise reveals rather than cause-effect. Some have already written this hide and reveal off as as overblown melodrama, but I think Farhadi is onto some core truth in how people communicate their secrets. A common occurrence over the course of the films 2 hours has two people in a conversation. The one insists that they know the mind or motivation or actions of someone not in the room. The other waits until certitude is declared, then they drop the information that proves the certainty to be wrong. There isn’t an aim to lay all the cards on the table, there is an aim to prove the other wrong. Words obfuscate instead of elucidate. It is telling that the three or four scenes of honest communication, including the films opening shot, have characters silenced behind behind glass.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Transcendence: Full-Length Trailer


    Wally Pfister (aka Christopher Nolan’s D.P.) has his directorial debut next year in Transcendence. Or as I like to call it, the movie in which Johnny Depp plays a normal guy… at least for a spell. The teasers have been intriguing us over the past few days (look under the seats for these) but they haven’t given us much other than just that: intrigue. Now a full-length trailer has dropped and explains in much more detail what the movie is actually about. Unfortunately, I think the idea and concept is probably a lot more than what the film can actually deliver – still, I’m trying to remain optimistic. Quality sci-fi is a rarity these day and we can always hope beyond hope that Pfister is going to give us something special.

    The full-length trailer is here in which you’ll see all of the stars align: Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • The Book Thief, A Story of the Words that Became Life


    One of the greatest war drama novels, The Book Thief, is now on the big screens. Written by the very talented Markus Zusak and directed by Brian Percival, this new movie comes to show us a different view of the people who lived under the Nazi regime, during the Second World War, in Germany.

    The Book Thief is a movie about a girl who was not afraid to rob the life. She has a secret passion for stealing books and sharing them with other people. Her name is Liesel and she lives with her foster parents in a small house, who are hiding a Jewish boy named Max in the basement. The books she has stolen are brought to Max and they give him hope and life. Liesel had a poor education and she is illiterate. So her new dad teaches her reading. They dive into the world of literature and language.

    In the Book Thief trailer we see how Max tells Liesel, that words are life. This is a universal truth of our world. The Jewish Boy and the book thief Liesel, find solace and refuge in books. They learn together that words are what keep their souls pure and their minds open. This new film is going to show us how the ordinary people of Germany tried to survive these disastrous times, without becoming cold-hearted and indifferent to the people who were in need of help. It was a time when everyone had no idea what was right and what was wrong. The blurred truth was hidden from the ordinary people, as the Nazi regime influenced millions of people to hate with no reason other humans who were actually all equal with one another.

    An absolutely painful subject is shown to us through a domestic point of view. Like us, the audience doesn’t get to see the whole picture of the Second World War or the Nazi, but we analyze the life in Germany through average people’s eyes. The absolutely amazing cast includes great actors like Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson and new stars like Sophie Nelisse, Nico Liersch and Ben Scnetzer. These are the souls creating an outstanding authenticity to the movie. Do not miss the chance to watch The Book Thief and learn how life was for those who were not afraid to help other people, during the time of one of the worst wars in human history.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Friday One Sheet: All Budapest All The Time – MEET THE CAST


    We simply cannot get enough of the key art from Wes Andreson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Here you are offered the boisterous size of the cast based on their mail slot tags in the lobby. You also get all their character names, but really the emphasis is on “LOOK AT THAT CAST!” in a big way. As for attention to detail, if you look closely (large version here) you will see that each of the reinforcement ring on each of the tag is stressed differently.

    ****UPDATED**** The new trailer is below, and introduces the cast analogous to the poster above – and it is marvelous, simply marvelous.




    I get a lot of “dragon alerts” from Kurt in my inbox. He only trusts me to post about dragon-related trailers and movies. So, The Desolation of Smaug, fine, and How 2 Train 2 Dragons for sure.

    For some reason, the latter still isn’t what the sequel to How To Train Your Dragon is called, but I’m sure Dreamworks will catch on by summertime. Until then, enjoy this unmitigated, Cate Blanchett-fuelled, dragon-related badassery.

  • Review: Her



    Bad design causes stress and discomfort; whether it is typography in a document, or unfettered suburban sprawl or too many buttons on a mobile phone. Life and relationships, which invariably happen in a haphazard fashion by their nature are bad design, and even the happiest of marriages, or most well adjusted of families and such are nevertheless full of tensions and misunderstandings, but virtue of design being non-controlled, that we learn to live with and accept, or we move on. Storytelling, autobiography, blogging and other personal narratives are an attempt to put some good design on something as chaotic as ‘a life.’ Technology, from ink and paper, to the printing press and eventually the internet have enabled our capacity to do this on an individual level. The landscape of modern social media platforms and the specialized subset of dating websites, while far (very far) from perfect, are a significant step to projecting some ‘design’ onto how we present ourselves to the world. Ultimately, though we have to find a way to be comfortable in our own skin and headspace, while alone in a room, and this includes whether or not another person or persons are present. Comfort and confidence can be driven by good design, but finding some truth and understanding in the messiness is essential.

    Spike Jonze has been surveying and navigating these strange lagoons and very often uninviting rocky places with his music videos, short films and of course, his accomplished trio of feature films, Being John Malkovich, Adaptation., and Where the Wild Things Are. In collaboration with an eclectic gathering of intuitive but articulate ‘philosophers,’ Charlie Kaufman, David Eggars and Maurice Sendak, Jonze sets out on his own to great effect writing and directing his fourth feature.

    Her, serves up a beautifully designed world. It is perhaps the best film on design outside of the more literal-minded “Design Trilogy” documentaries by Gary Hustwit. Here a near-future Los Angeles (or erstwhile Shanghai) is rendered skyward with clean glass towers, minimal advertising, and plenty of wide vistas and inviting space. In terms of cinematic depictions of America’s richest and most forward-thinking domain (California in itself the world’s 12th largest economy), we have come a long way from Ridley Scott’s septic, tactile and dizzying dystopic Blade Runner full of belching flames, corporate ziggurats and effluent pedestrian clutter. Architecture and aesthetics aside, there is more than a little common ground as a science fiction conceit; the questions being considered are somewhat in alignment: Can we love something ‘artificial’ if that thing can and will evolve to be more human than human? How do we interact with pervasive and ubiquitous ‘technology?’ Despite this concept being explored in may ways even in the infancy of this new millennium (From Soderbergh’s Solaris to Niccol’s S1mOne), this is the first true cinematic Pygmalion of the information age.

    Would you like to know more…?

  • Filling the Void: What to Do Now That “Breaking Bad” is Over


    After five explosive seasons, the final episode of hit series “Breaking Bad” has left fans with withdrawal symptoms. While there are rumors of a spin-off prequel featuring lawyer ‘Better Call’ Saul Goodman, the manic misadventures of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman have come to a satisfying conclusion. Here are some of the ways you can look to fill the giant void left by one of the most critically acclaimed dramas in recent memory.

    Check out other great TV shows
    “Breaking Bad” may be gone, but there are a load of shows out there to discover and enjoy. If you’re after something as morally dubious as Vince Gilligan’s drama, catch up with the first season of “Banshee.” From the creator of “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood,” it stars Antony Starr as a recently released convict who takes on the identity of a dead sheriff in the quaint town of Banshee.

    Another show that caters to darker tastes is Bryan Fuller’s “Hannibal,” which follows the complex relationship between the notorious psychologist-turned-cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelsen) and his friend and nemesis FBI agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). There’s also deliciously shady drama “The Blacklist,” starring James Spader as a fugitive government agent who suddenly turns himself in to the FBI, promising to help them hunt down terrorists – as long as he only has to speak to young agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone).

    Check out the actors’ other work
    Before he was Walter White, Bryan Cranston played hapless family man Hal in comedy series “Malcolm in the Middle.” The two roles couldn’t be more different, although a popular internet joke suggests that “Breaking Bad” fans should view the earlier show as a prequel! You can also admire Cranston in thrilling Oscar winner Argo, which sees him as a sardonic CIA agent during the Iran hostage crisis. Catch actor Aaron Paul as a bad boy racer in the big screen adaptation of computer game Need for Speed, due for release in March of 2014.

    Have fun outside the house
    Though no-one’s suggesting that you drive an RV into the middle of nowhere to partake in dubious chemistry, now that the series is over, why not get a few real-life adrenaline thrills? Littlewoods offers loads of high-octane experience days, from learning to fly to driving an F1 car or even learning how to cook (food).

    Watch it all over again
    After you’ve taken a break with a new series and got yourself a bit of fresh air, it’s time to relive “Breaking Bad” from the beginning. Watch in awe as mild-mannered school teacher Walter White becomes the infamous drug kingpin Heisenberg, dragging his entire family through the unforgettable drama that ensues. After all, nothing fills that hole quite like the show itself.