Cinecast Episode 428 – The Undependables

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Twer the day of the big game. Which makes theaters and restaurants nearly empty. Ergo, Kurt and Andrew are very happy and indulge in the old fashioned style Cinecast complete with an hour long review of Hail, Caesar!, long discussions in each of The Watch List titles and many an unrelated tangent. The popularity of James Cameron’s Avatar continues to baffle the boys while the unpopularity of “lesser” Coen Brothers fare is equally stupefying. We ask for listeners help with casting the next Third Row Productions screenplay that’s in the works. Also Jerry Seinfeld is back with a new season of “talking shop” with comedians in (usually) cool cars. Doesn’t seem like much, but all of the fun adds up in this 3+ hour, old-school Cinecast. Listen up, we’ve got all your secret shit right here!

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

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Review: Hail, Caesar!

“Squint! Squint against the grandeur!” so the film director can be heard offscreen during a series of dailies, which unspool in a Hollywood Studio screening room midway through Hail, Caesar! If the Coen Brothers did not definitively poke their finger in the eye of the crass factory of dreams that is tinsel town in Barton Fink, they take another look, albeit a more broader and effervescent one, at the foibles of making pictures in the late 1940s. Considering they use the same fictional studio, Capitol Pictures (“Where the writer is king!”) one might think of their latest as the loosest of sequels to that 1991 Cannes winning film. More interestingly, Hail, Caesar! is a playfully spiteful grab-bag of in-jokes in old Hollywood and the own eclectic filmography.

Josh Brolin is Eddie Mannix, Capitol Pictures’ executive producer, problem solver, and media fixer, a character loosely based on the real man of the same name, who served the same function for MGM (and was thought to be complicit in the death of the original on-screen Superman, George Reeves.) The Coen’s give us an exceptionally busy 27 hours in the life of Mannix, the span of time between two Catholic confessions, where the devoutly converted catholic obsesses over the minutiae of his marriage and personal life, while compartmentalizing, and fully omitting, the myriad of sins of his profession.

A job that entails supervising four movies being shot on the studio lot, all plagued by problems in their own unique ways. The sword-and-sandals, ‘Jesus Picture’ star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney, sillier than ever – an injoke reminiscent of Steve Buscemi’s ever decreasing mortal remains in the Coenography) is missing, and the gossip columnists (both played by Tilda Swinton, both underused), the sailor tap-dancing musical has an alarming case of closeted gayness (and a wonderful cameo from the Highlander frenchman, Christopher Lambert), the Busby Berkeley mermaid picture has a star (Scarlett Johannson, in a glorious Noo Yawk accent) and whose fish tail is getting more ill-fitting by the hour due to a pregnancy scandal about to break, and a Euro-flavoured drawing-room melodrama has been saddled with an aw-shucks singing cowboy leading man (Alden Ehrenreich in a breakout performance) who is far, far out of his depth.

Mannix navigates this shifting sea of apocalyptic problems (at one point, a mushroom cloud is presented on screen in the manner of The Hudsucker Proxies‘ Hula-Hoop), strung together by the Coens with their penchant for noir-ish plots, with an almost savant-like talent that is the antithesis of both the Dude, Jeff Bridges’ boozy and drugged flailing in The Big Lebowski, or Billy Bob Throton’s Ed Crane, the quietly ambitious Barber in The Man Who Wasn’t There. Whitlock’s kidnapping is abetted by both by a spiked drink and a dry cleaning truck, so they are clearly nodding to both, while demonstrating there are so many orthogonal directions to take neo-noir that the surface has only been scratched in the past 75 years.

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Trailer: Hail, Caesar!

The Coen Brothers’ latest film looks to be capitalizing on what they do so effortlessly: Wacky and convoluted kidnapping comedy. Set in the 1950s, in Hollywood movie studio, Capitol Pictures, where a super expensive sword and sandals picture is underway. Their main contracted star, Baird Whitlock, played by George Clooney, is flubbing his lines and wasting a lot of pricey resources (and apparently, there also a sailor musical with Channing Tatum called “Merrily, We Dance” shooting next door.) The would-be blockbuster is in trouble, and that is before Whitlock is kidnapped by a mysterious group known as “The Future.” Even if there is nothing more to that name than simply a set up for a phone-message gag, shown here in the trailer, that’d be fine, because it’s that good.

Taking place a fair bit on Studio backlots with all the hustle and bustle and politics, it will come as no surprise that the cast, is ridiculously stacked. Scarlett Johansson is back in a Coen Brother’s film (after only the tiniest of roles in The Man Who Wasn’t There), as is Tilda Swinton (Burn After Reading) and Fred Melamed (who was a scene stealer in A Serious Man.) Frances McDormand is a given, but here they’ve made her the editor, in the picture. New faces for the directors include Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill and Josh Brolin, the latter playing the studio boss. But if you keep going down the cast, you’ll see Clancy Brown, Christopher Lambert, Robert Picardo, Fisher Stevens, John Carpenter regular Peter Jason has a small role, and then there is Dolph Lundgren. (Hopefully he gets in a bar fight with Tatum.) With Roger Deakins behind the camera and Carter Burwell doing the music, well now, you’ve got yourselves a picture, don’t you. Cut and Print.

Trailer: Tomorrowland

Another day, another chosen-one hero journey. Brad Bird’s foray into Disney live action film making (previously he made Ratatouille & The Incredibles for Pixar, Mission Impossible 4 for Paramount and The Iron Giant for Warner Brothers) looks like a handsome journey into the unknown, and in a recent trend, the chosen one is a girl instead of a boy. I like the bright, glossy visuals, but otherwise, this sort of thing looks very familiar. Tomorrowland is co-written by Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus) and starring Britt Robertson, George Clooney, and Hugh Laurie.

Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory

Cinecast Episode 324 – Floating Fire

Better late than never right? We stick to the Thursday recording schedule for one more week. But it’s a good week; we get to review Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity! And Dolby ATMOS. It ain’t all hugs and rainbows like on other podcasts; Andrew takes real issue with a few things and it might require a rewatch and possibly a three-watch to clear everything up. But we do offer up some unofficial, warm-up homework to kick of the 2013-14 school year (disaster movies and tears in space). The Watch List includes mumblecore, Italian horror, state of modern animation, Jim Jarmusch, found footage and Def Leppard. Settle in, it’s a pretty fun thrill ride with very little chance of debris.

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


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Kids Talk Film #22: Gravity

In space, nobody can hear you scream, but in Dolby Atmos, well, that’s a different story. I took my children to see Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity on the big screen, mainly see if that would change their opinion about a future career in the space exploration industry – they expressed trepidation at this after watching 2001: A Space Odyssey back in 2010. Afterwards, Willem (age 10) and Miranda (age 8), had plenty to say about the film; this might be their longest episode to date. Fire in zero G, Clooney’s habit of nattering away and using up precious air-jets, how long Sandra Bullock can hold her breath, and other details are up for debate.

Further episodes, including Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits, Ron Fricke’s Samsara as well the Studio Ghibli Marathon done for Twitchfilm, can be found at the Kids Talk Film Vimeo Channel.

Review: Gravity

TIFF13Gravity

The biggest complaint I’ve heard about Gravity is that it doesn’t feel like a film. In other words, it’s more like a video game or an amusement park ride than something you would normally see in your local movie theatre. You certainly can’t get away from the fact that there are gobs of CGI in it and that there are obvious reality-stretching thrill ride aspects. There are sequences specifically designed to ratchet up the tension to new levels of intensity – so much so that you might still be unclenching your toes hours later. So what’s wrong with that you ask? Well, nothing…

Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity (in its non-IMAX 3-D version at least) is a wholly immersive experience. It’s sole purpose is to put its two high-priced charming stars into impossible-to-escape scenario after impossible-to-escape scenario upping the ante each time to see if you can hold your breath a few seconds longer and grip that arm rest a little tighter. From that point of view – especially if you enjoy that kind of thing – it’s an astonishing success. That aforementioned tension steadily increases from the use of exceedingly long “takes” – a Cuaron trademark, but certainly much more stitched together than ever before here – and a raging score and sound field. It has the effect of dropping you into their desperation and panic without promise of getting out the other side.

When I say “their”, I really should qualify that to only Sandra Bullock’s character Ryan Stone. She is accompanying a space shuttle crew to perform some of her experiments, but only has about 6 months of training under her belt. George Clooney plays Matt Kowalsky, one of the astronauts who coolly jet packs around the shuttle during the opening spacewalk of the film and stays equally as cool throughout the pandemonium that follows. So Stone’s reflexes, ability to calm her breathing and ease with the jet pack are somewhat less than Kowalsky’s – which plonks us right there into her space boots (especially when the camera goes in and then back out of her space helmet). Though it took me a few minutes to settle into that opening spacewalk (getting attuned to the 3D surroundings, adjusting to what I felt were a few wonky CGI bits, etc.), I was fully engrossed by the time the first Houston warning of some potential danger came. And then, with still yet a single cut in the film, we’re thrown into crisis mode. Though that first 10-15 minute single “shot” is actually composed of hundreds of different pieces, the planning and orchestration of it is a phenomenal achievement.

Of course, that shouldn’t mean anything when it comes to your enjoyment of the experience. Did you get sucked in? Did you feel nervous? Were you there with Bullock? That’s what Cuaron is trying to do and it worked in spades for me. There are several moments that don’t work as well – Bullock’s howling with the dogs moment doesn’t work and Clooney is just too damn charming sometimes – but for me it was all easily forgiven. The ebbs and flows of tension are timed to give you just enough of a rest – but not too much – before the next wave of crisis arrives. The score is perhaps overpowering at times, but it served its purpose exceedingly well. Like a great amusement park ride you’ve just been on with your friends, I (and many other people) wanted to get right back in line and do it all over again. I just needed a few extra minutes for my muscles to relax and my toes to get back to normal.

TIFF Review: Gravity

TIFF13Gravity

The biggest complaint I’ve heard about Gravity is that it doesn’t feel like a film. In other words, it’s more like a video game or an amusement park ride than something you would normally see in your local movie theatre. You certainly can’t get away from the fact that there are gobs of CGI in it and that there are obvious reality-stretching thrill ride aspects. There are sequences specifically designed to ratchet up the tension to new levels of intensity – so much so that you might still be unclenching your toes hours later. So what’s wrong with that you ask? Well, nothing…

Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity (in its non-IMAX 3-D version at least) is a wholly immersive experience. It’s sole purpose is to put its two high-priced charming stars into impossible-to-escape scenario after impossible-to-escape scenario upping the ante each time to see if you can hold your breath a few seconds longer and grip that arm rest a little tighter. From that point of view – especially if you enjoy that kind of thing – it’s an astonishing success. That aforementioned tension steadily increases from the use of exceedingly long “takes” – a Cuaron trademark, but certainly much more stitched together than ever before here – and a raging score and sound field. It has the effect of dropping you into their desperation and panic without promise of getting out the other side.

Would you like to know more…?

Trailer: Gravity

GRAVITY

Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film Gravity has been in the news for years at this point. Since it was first announced, names such as Robert Downey Jr., Marion Cotillard, Scarlett Johansson, and Natalie Portman have all attached to or interested in the project at one point, before the final casting of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock was set. Really though, not of that is important. It’s all secondary to what excites most people about this film: this is Cuarón’s first feature film since his awesome 2006 sci-fi film Children of Men.

The official synopsis? “Astronauts attempt to return to earth after debris crashes into their space shuttle, leaving them drifting alone in space.” The trailer teases what is sure to be one of the more impressive spectacles from the film. It does a great job of relaying the tone and intensity. This is going to be one thrilling, horrific, beautiful, lonely film – that much is for sure. In fact, it is said that Clooney and Bullock are the only two actors given screen time in the entirety of the film.

Gravity drops into theaters on October 4, 2013. Then one can hope there will be some sci-fi at the Oscars next year.

Cinecast Episode 247 – That’s Just The Kind of Pretentious Twaddle I like!

Here we are a week before Oscars and there is so little to talk about on that front other than that there is so little to talk about. Gamble gives a run-down on the Best Animated Shorts which are always worth a look. Kurt gives a sparkling review of the latest Studio Ghibli animated feature; a Japanese spin on the classic British children’s novel The Borrowers. Re-titled The Secret World of Arrietty, the film is surprisingly adult in tone and theme and worth looking at on the big screen. We spend a tangent-driven span of time grading the homework assignments (criminal clowns) before diving into The Watch List: Wil Wheaton, Elliot Gould, Alain Delon, Brian DePalma, Michelangelo Antonioni, Billy Bob Thorton and Anna Faris! Andrew goes to town on smashing Tiny Furniture. Matt goes to town on pummeling the seven-year-delayed Margaret (and in the pejorative sense thinks Kurt and Rot will love it).

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


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_12/episode_247.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Cinecast Episode 236 – Ocular Coitus

While our friend Matt Gamble is still on the mend (not from a boating accident), Kurt and Andrew grew a bit tired of executing these shows together all alone and reached towards the heavens above for this episodes guest host: Aaron Hartung (aka the dude who lives upstairs). Aaron also happens to work for the best cinema chain in town, Landmark Theaters; not only does he seem to know his movie stuff, he’s got a voice for radio to boot.

We missed last week’s episode due to other obligations and illness, there is a LOT to get to this week. From Lars von Trier’s visually rich disaster/depression epic to the long awaited new Alexander Payne film (it has indeed been six years) we cover your auteur cinema-making-guys. But wait, there’s more: Fifties sex icons, furry-little-singing-nostalgia-engines(tm) and a whole lot of early cinema history enshrined in a Martin Scorsese ‘kids film.’ Enjoy this double-digest episode of the show: It’s time to start the music, it’s time to light the lights, it’s time to talk death, depression and the urgent need for knowing our history on the Cinecast tonight.

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


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_236.mp3

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