Mamo 460: THE MAMO !!!POWER!!! LIST 2016


POWER!! Who has it? Who needs it? Who wants it? Who lost it? Team Mamo recaps the year 2016 in movers and shakers as the pop cultural landscape is wracked by celebrity deaths, digital doubles and orange-faced idiots. Hey 2016: don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. And for sure don’t fall down that flight of stairs, accidentally set yourself on fire and throw yourself off a bridge.

Cinecast Episode 428 – The Undependables


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: Mission Blue

I am never one to say no to beautifully lit underwater photography, either in grainy 16 mm or pristine HD. Here there is plenty, but the most compelling image in activist/biopic documentary, Mission Blue, is that of a lone plastic lawn chair, sparsely illuminated on the ocean floor. It is a bit of detritus found thousands of miles from land and a reminder that the consequences of our civilization of convenience and plenty, range far. This is hardly news to you, savvy filmgoer and documentary enthusiast, and director Fisher Stevens (with Robert Nixon) are aware that the audience for their film knows the ocean has been used by humanity as a vast sewer.

Thus, the intent of their documentary is to frame things in a new perspective. That is to say, collectively, we have made this colossal mess over pretty much a single lifespan. Take a minute to think about that. With no irony whatsoever, the example span, writ large, is the accomplished Marine Biologist Sylvia Earle, celebrity scientist since the 1960s who is now pushing 80 and still full of life and passion for preservation of earth and memory. But things have changed pretty dramatically since she dipped her toe into the Gulf of Mexico as a child.

Stevens, if you recall, has an Oscar for producing another piece of aquatic activism, 2010’s The Cove, and here he spent three years with Earle, in wetsuits, diving off The Galapagos Islands, on the lecture circuit with bottled water, and in her memories – as a child, spouse (three husbands), mother, numerous expeditions to untouched parts of the world, and even a brief time as government bureaucrat managing The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Mission Blue again confirms Werner Herzog’s musing that exploring the deep oceans is analogous to exploring the stars. How deep is the ocean, how high is the sky. The difference is that in our terrestrial big blue, there are teeming amounts of ‘alien’ lifeforms, glowing and gracefully moving; things that make James Cameron’s chemiluminescent CGI recreations in Avatar kindergarten stuff by comparison. Cameron and Earle respectfully tussled over who got to ride in his deep diving submersible to the bottom of the Mariana Trench a few years ago. Earle broke deep diving records via JIM suit in the 1970s, earlier, she was of the first people to live for a lengthy period of time in an underwater habitat. She lobbied the ‘king of the world’ to get his his tall skinny ass out of his own gear, and give her a shot at going deeper.

She burned through several marriages, had a bunch of kids, and generally shattered any 1950s or 60s notion of the domestic female, becoming a celebrated science icon along the way. She reflects on the difficult of the balancing act for family, and it’s not hard to scale up the notion to how we manage the planet. Mistakes were made, and things chug along, older, more frail, but still hanging in and carrying on. It is a major plus to have the Earle do the bulk of the films voice-over; she is as complex and compelling a human being as one would expect.

She can say, “I saw the before. I saw the after,” when it comes to the death of so many of the worlds great coral reefs and other vibrant parts of the planets hidden depths. The massive depletion of so many types of species of fish (Cod, Menhaden and even the mighty and feared shark) in service of feeding, often indulging, a human population that ballooned from two billion to seven billion people, happened over her lifetime.

How many sharks have people killed compared to how many people sharks have killed? A million to one ratio, most likely. And that is just fishing for the fins that are craved so much in Chinese soups. This does not even count all the dead zones in the ocean we’ve caused in the past 50 years: not just dumping garbage, or Exxon Valdez oil-disasters, these are almost minor compared to the run-off of farming fertilizer carried in the water table and rivers into the oceans which plays holy hell with the eco-system. If the oceans are the planets temperature regulations system, climate change is not just carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it is also the barren spaces we’ve wrought; a chair with a view of the annexation of Earth’s very own ‘Galaxy of Life.’

OK, one can get a little depressed about this stuff, and so, like many activists docs, Mission Blue exits on a hopeful note. The eponymous organization to designate the equivalent of 20% of the ocean space as aquatic National Parks. (No drilling, no dumping, no hunting.) A fifth of the ocean allowed a breather to recover from the burden the last 100 years of human history seems reasonable and sane.

Whether or not you find this documentary didactic or obvious (humans muck up nature, it’s what we do) or even a commercial for Earle’s Mission Blue project, this does not change the fact that it is all clearly and compellingly presented. The discarded lawn chair is a source for almost a paralyzing melancholy, but we can just pick the damn thing up and let nature fix herself.

Mission Blue available exclusively on Netflix, and the trailer is below:

Mamo #327: Zero-G is Ruined

Do we have a show? You bet your britches we have a show. We talk Big Kahuna and Movie Club, Carrie and The Descent, Oblivion and Gravity, Agents of SHIELD and TV, rep cinemas and the future of exhibition, and maybe some other things too. Mamo is like Pringles: once you pop, you can’t stop.

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Mamo #284: Let’s Get Into It

The next generation of immersive cinema has arrived, and so has The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Was bundling them together a good idea? We talk High Frame Rate at 48 frames per second, our Hobbit reactions at 24 frames per second, and eat a great breakfast at regular speed. Plus: science! Join us and enjoy.

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Countdown to Prometheus: The Legacy of Alien

The Alien franchise is unusual for several reasons. It started with a highly successful, even visionary, film from an almost unknown director (Ridley Scott’s The Duellists had been a modest success in England, but it was Alien that boosted him to international fame). Seven years later came a sequel from a different director, set in the same universe but with a decidedly different tone and approach. Both Alien and Aliens are excellent films in their own right, and James Cameron (in only his third feature film) managed to build his own unique niche which expanded the original mythology, rather than simply trying to clone the first film.

It would be six more years before the third film in the series followed, and Alien3 was again the work of a newcomer director. David Fincher had only directed music videos up to the time he was hired to carry on the Alien franchise, and thanks to script issues and studio interference, it was not a great experience. Thankfully, Fincher has gone on to ever-greater things, but as you’ll see in our write-up, perhaps the third entry is undeservedly maligned. Still, despite lukewarm reception from fans and critics, Alien3 was successful enough for a fourth film to be made five years later, the also-coolly-received Alien: Resurrection, helmed by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet in his only American film to date. Four films, made over a span of almost twenty years, all directed by different people, each of whom happened to be relative newcomers to Hollywood. We repeat: this franchise is unusual.

Despite the popular lack of enthusiasm for the last two films in the franchise (and we’re not even getting into the crossover Alien vs. Predator films), Alien has left its mark on the cinematic landscape for all time, combining a fantastically original visual design with a genre-mashing sci-fi/horror (and in Aliens, sci-fi/horror/action) story that set a lasting tone for science fiction which has persisted to the present day. In visual terms, the pristine and sterile spaceships of 2001: A Space Odyssey are gone. In their place is a rough-and-tumble spacecraft and a species of sentient (?) aliens bent on destruction and their own procreation, dripping with sexualized imagery. The themes in Alien run deep, hitting us with our most primal fears. And it’s not unremarkable that the hero of all this is a woman – the quintessential Final Girl who didn’t ask to be brought into all this, but has the smarts, the willpower, and (eventually) the skills to withstand all that gets thrown at her – not just by the aliens, but by the patriarchal society that continually tries to refuse her voice. Ellen Ripley remains an iconic figure, but an icon who is deeply and viscerally human, one of the greatest gifts that the many legacies of Alien have left us.

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Mamo #249: Off The Road

Mamo road trip! We stop at Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for a catch-up show. We talk Catching Fire, Avengers, the next Batman, James Cameron, the 3-D 48fps Hobbit, and the future of all mankind (and movies).

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Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

Red Planet

2000 USA. Director: Antony Hoffman. Starring: Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Benjamin Bratt, Tom Sizemore, Simon Baker, Terence Stamp.

This is my kind of B-Movie… one that actually takes itself deadly serious but remains no less shitty and fun to watch. I enjoyed this so much I am almost inspired to rewatch DePalma’s Mission to Mars to see who out-camps who. The writers of Red Planet sought to compile the most space cliche elements they could find into 90 minutes, it is kind of remarkable how many films it emulates, worthy of a drinking game. Despite being the captain of the spaceship and worthy of some nominal authoritative import, Carrie-Anne Moss is perpetually leered at by the camera, including a goofy shower scene, and some downright absurd nipples-popping through shirt shots as she barks order over an intercom to Houston. Now that is my kind of captain. Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore are at that point in their careers where they still got it, and they are pretty fun to watch. Terrence Stamp fumbles through the film with some of the worst dialogue to spew, as the writers crowbar in the science vs. religion theme in laughable doses. Despite all of these goofy parts of the film it at times is surprisingly competent visually, some interesting ship and costume design, a couple interesting action sequences. I am giving it four stars not because it is so bad it is good, but because it is that unique hybrid where the bad parts are fun but there are good parts that kind of hold it all together to make it as a whole, an enjoyable space romp.

The Sitter

2011 USA. Director: David Gordon Green. Starring: Sam Rockwell, Jonah Hill, Max Records, Ari Graynor.

Not horrible, but not very good either. At this point, David Gordon Green needs to earn back my trust before I see anything he does ever again. Jonah Hill is kind of funny and he keeps the movie watchable. I definitely lol’d a few times. I also liked the idea of giving each of the kids their own story arc even if it is kind of shallow and obvious. It was interesting watching this movie with Adventures in Babysitting sitting at the forefront of my brain. Comparing and contrasting always gives a film some sort of merit. Altogether, funny bits but fairly disposable stuff.

Jonah Hill is funny.

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Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

The Iron Giant

1999 US. Director: Brad Bird. Starring: Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston.

It seems as if many view The Iron Giant as a precursor, of sorts, to the (allegedly) greater things to come from Brad Bird and Pixar as a whole. There is a grain of truth embedded in there, as Pixar has yet to have a true ‘miss’ (though I have not yet seen Cars 2) and two-dimensional animation has sadly become a relic, of sorts. Rest easy, as this is not going to become some half-assed or preachy bit of nostalgia … at least no more so than it already is. Rather, I feel that The Iron Giant has unfortunately been lumped with the somewhat underwhelming middle ground between ‘classic animation’ and the Pixar juggernaut … and yet The Iron Giant is, in my mind, the very best that the animated medium has yet to offer. The animation is crisp and beautiful, the characters are fleshed-out, believable, and lovable, and Michael Kamen’s score is simply stunning. Moreover, I am not sure that any recent film has crafted a greater portrait of 1950s sensibilities, particularly insofar as the Cold War is concerned. Would it be blasphemy to suggest, if not outright state, that this is a better version of E.T.? Perhaps … but it’s true.

Netflix Instant (USA)


1979 USA. Director: Ridley Scott. Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt.

A masterpiece of genre splicing in sci-fi and horror… for the art house. What makes Alien stand the test of time is it’s unwillingness to try and look futuristic and cool; rather it spends it time worrying about how the film looks, not what it should look like based on the time setting. It also works like a good Hitchcock thriller in its tension building. And dammit, did this thing win any awards for its sound design? Because it damn well should have walked home with a win for every nomination it received in this respect. Watching the Blu-ray of the theatrical cut really does seem like watching the movie anew. For the first time, my eyes were finally open to the gorgeous, artfulness of every conceivable detail.

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Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

Hereafter poster


2010. Director: Clint Eastwood. Starring: Matt Damon, Cecile De France, Bryce Dallas Howard, Thiery Neuvic, Jay Mohr, Frankie McLaren, George McLaren, Richard Kind.

Clint Eastwood is perhaps more known now for being a director than an actor and he almost always delivers a handsomely made film, even if they don’t break any sort of new ground. But Hereafter sticks out like a sore thumb in his modern directorial repertoire – a too often overly sentimental, emotionally manipulative three-way story about death and what might come after. To be fair the blame falls on the script (by the usually excellent writer Peter Morgan, of such films as Frost/Nixon and The Last King of Scotland) and not on Eastwood’s direction, and the performances across the board are all very solid. But aside from a surprisingly bold but arguably entirely unnecessary (and tasteless?) Tsunami scene at the start, Hereafter follows the path you’d expect pretty much from start to finish. And the fact it had so much potential makes it all the more frustrating.

Aliens poster


1986 USA. Director: James Cameron. Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Hendrickson, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein.

And with this I scratch another off my List of Shame, one that many many people have been nagging me to watch for a very long time. I had put it off after being less than enthused with the first film when I saw it ages ago (but I do want to rewatch it now), and because the shift from sci-fi to action that I’d heard about the second film didn’t really intrigue me. But I ended up quite enjoying it. It’s a great example of how to build a good and suspenseful action story; it says high-octane for most of the time, but it never loses sight of Ripley, and it allows her to gradually build into the action heroine she is at the end by using traits and skills established early on. The emotional throughline involving Newt is predictable, but effective. It’s interesting to compare this movie to Avatar, because lots of details from here turn up again, except here they all work much better within the narrative, with no over-earnest message-picture pandering. Similarly, this is a much better female empowerment narrative than a lot of so-called girl power movies in recent years, although my one complaint with the film is the over-determined machismo of the marines – I got the point, but some of those early boasting scenes went on far too long. Overall, though, a more than solid film that more sci-fi actioners should learn from.


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