Cinecast Episode 464 – These Violent Delights

Through snow, cold, rain, holidays or malware, The Cinecast finds a way. Yes, despite RowThree being down for cleaning over the past few days, the boys managed to do some catch-up on 2016 movie releases get it all down on virtual tape. This week, Kurt and Andrew get into Todd Solondz’ “awkward comedy” Wiener-Dog and Kurt hits the theater for Jessica Chastain in Miss Sloane… maybe wishes he hadn’t. HBO finished up its first season of “Westworld” and the boys dig through that mess of wires and mazes. As always beware of SPOILERS! For The Watch List, Andrew works on catching up on some other 2016 movies that slipped through the cracks including Tom Hanks, Michael Shannon, Seth Rogen and more. Kurt spent his time hitting the big screen versions of some older gems including Meet me in St. Louis and Tampopo. Also Michael Keaton continues to own the twilight years of his career; this time by owning a McDonald’s franchsie. Join us on this joy ride.

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: A Most Violent Year

 

There’s really not a great deal of violence in A Most Violent Year. Though set in 1981 New York City (a low period for the city marked by high crime rates), there are few visceral moments of bloodshed and brutality. What does exist is an almost constant threat of violence – around every corner and edit in the film, it feels as if some form of foul play sits in wait. The landscape of this version of New York City is bleak, crumbling and empty. The barren streets and rundown manufacturing plants aren’t exactly conducive to strolling about, but the lack of people in the background of the film gives you the feeling that they too are worried about those threats lurking in the shadows.

The real violence of the film, however, refers to the damage done to its main character’s (Abel Morales played exceedingly well by Oscar Isaac) view of the American capitalist framework and his moral approach to honest work resolving in honest returns. Morales wants to behave ethically – though he’ll take every advantage in marketing ploys, he doesn’t want to game the system or cheat his competitors. He feels he should reward those who succeed in his business (an oil company for home heating) and coach those who don’t in order to give them an opportunity to grow. Morales is a sharply dressed man with focus and drive that leads you to believe he WILL get what he wants. When he stares at you, you listen. He’s at a turning point in his business as he puts a huge down payment on a new parcel of land for expansion, but needs to come up with the rest of the capital to close the deal. He is warned up front by the old owners that they are happy to do business with him, but on their terms for their benefit. As Morales tackles problems of his trucks getting hijacked and being investigated for possible shady financial reporting, he struggles to gather up the remaining money needed to close the deal.

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Cinecast Episode 378 – Muckety-Mucks

 
We’re overshadowed this week by the landmark that is Film Junk’s 500th episode and we recognize that and love it! It’s a hell of an achievement and we’re so happy for the guys, our friends, that are the undisputed, longest running, movie podcast on the internet. Also one of our guys was on the show, so there’s that. With that out of the way, it’s old-school Cinecast time. Reviews, the requisite tangents and The Watch List. It feels good to free of constraints though we are low on snacks and alcohol. Suffice it to say, this is a much more laid back version of the Cinecast; i.e. our bread and butter, our roots. We talk at length about Jessica Chastain which stems from a spoiler discussion on the very solid, A Most Violent Year. The TV review gets its foothold back into The Cinecast with Steven Soderbergh’s “The Knick” and The Watch List covers Vietnam docs like you’ve never seen as well as the brilliance that is Mike Nichols and more Chastain. Like A Most Violent Year, we’re emboldened by our competition, encouraged by our friends and emboldened by our love of Cinema – even that which we are able to dig up in the barren multiplex landscape of January.

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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Some Thoughts on the Worldview of Interstellar

 

Before reading below, it should be noted: THERE BE *SPOILERS* HERE, TOP TO BOTTOM.

One of my favourite quotations from recent science fiction cinema comes from Steven Soderbergh’s shockingly underrated 2002 remake of Solaris. When discussing how mentally equipped mankind is for stellar discovery, the mission-leader, Dr. Gibarian opines, “We don’t want other worlds, we want mirrors.” To be specific however, it was the ghost of Gibarian, or perhaps even a construct from an Alien intelligence projected from the mind of psychologist Kris Kelvin. Maybe it was just a dream. It’s complicated, but you get the idea. We go out into space to learn more about ourselves, finding new life and civilizations is just something incidental along the way.

In the case of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, we not only want mirrors, we also want old-time agriculture, book-shelves of dead-tree textbooks, battered and well loved pick-up trucks, baseball, and presumably, 35mm analogue film. In other words, apple-pie Americana with minimal materialism or digital devices. The only thing missing in the film’s love of all things twentieth century are the churches; in a way they too show up incorporated heavily into Hans Zimmer’s score. Co-incidentally enough, if the bombastic score were absent the epic organ-chime moments, it would very much resemble the subtle, driven work in Cliff Martinez’s score for, of all things, Solaris. Mirrors, indeed.

There is a bit of classic political head-butting in dusty small town America when former NASA pilot turned farmer, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) goes into his kids’ school for parent-teacher interviews. In what is perhaps the films best scene, the principle and school teacher inform Cooper that the administration has ranked every 15-year old student’s future career path by a computer algorithm, a nanny state decision which must be abided. To add insult to injury, these governmental stewards charged with educating the youth are also moon-landing deniers and take umbrage to Coop’s daughter bringing ‘outdated textbooks’ into the classroom. Cooper, being the more come-what-may kind of cowboy (“alright, alright, alright kids, flat tire be damned, lets harvest and repurpose that old Indian solar wardrone!”) who likes manual-transmission, Morse code, and flying by the seat of his pants. The shackling of the future, and of history for that matter, to the lowest level of ambition, merely surviving, or as he puts it, staring down at the dirt, instead of looking up at the stars, gets his dander up. He’s a believer in technology, optimism, and problem-solving around a fast-ticking clock, in a world which has no interest in engineers or ideas. He funnels this frustration into his relationship with his bright and willful daughter. When the school administrators are looking to him to discipline his daughter, he tells them he is instead taking her to a ball game, and giving her popcorn and soda-pop besides. (Her suspension from formal schooling is the quick result of his insolence, but nevertheless yields the result of her eventually saving the human race. Take that big-government liberals!)

In the mean time, the United States is experiencing a second Great Depression and Dust-Bowl scenario. We are never specifically told what is happening anywhere else in the world over the run-time of this inward-looking film (heck, we don’t even know what year it is!) Presumably, either America’s climate change denial, or its preemptive strike foreign policies, possibly even over-subsidizing corn-production to the point of mono-culture, has brought the whole ecosystem to the brink and the human population has been reduced to a fraction of the 7 billion souls at the beginning of the 21st century. Environmental blight and ecological collapse is diminishing the remaining oxygen supply to the point where there is only enough for a few more generations. That is the scenario and it is grim, possibly man-made, and quite likely, irreversible.

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Trailer: A Most Violent Year

Last week we featured the stellar white poster for the J. D. Chandor (Margin Call, All is Lost) directed New York City crime flick, A Most Violent Year. Now we have the trailer which shows Oscar Isaac getting a bit freaked out at being accused of criminal behaviour in his ‘honest business,’ and Jessica Chastian shedding single tears on more than one occasion. Albert Brooks is in there too. While nothing exceptional exactly jumps out here, I’m pretty happy there are directors like Chandor makeing films that would be right at home in the 1940s or 1970s. That is to say, I will be there will bells on when the film opens on New Years Eve.

Review: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

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Director: Ned Benson
Writer: Ned Benson
Producers: Cassandra Kulukundis, Todd J. Labarowski, Emanuel Michael
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Ciarán Hinds, Isabelle Huppert, William Hurt, Bill Hader, Viola Davis, Nina Arianda
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 122 min.


Somewhere down the line we’ll get a chance to see the great story of Eleanor Rigby but The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them isn’t it.

This new version of Ned Benson’s movie is very clearly an abridged, highly edited concoction made for the benefit of… good question, I don’t know who this is made for because it mostly lacks a through line and any sort of emotional connection to the characters.

James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain star as Conor and Eleanor, a young married couple who are having marital trouble. For a while it’s unclear where the trouble starts but we see enough to know that they were once in love and are still in love but that something has happened to separate them. The cause of the separation is played as a great mystery, this secret thing that is only hinted at and then slowly revealed in the movie’s second half and for a while, I found myself completely caught up in the mystery. What could it be? Did he cheat? Did he beat her? Why is she depressed? When it is eventually revealed, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them finally finds its groove but up until that moment, it’s as much of a guessing game as a movie about two people who no longer recognize each other.

I relish stories like this, tales of people with relatable life problems who struggle to find their way through the problems to a better place and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them certainly does that. The issue with the movie is that it jumps around from scene to scene, from the present to the past, with little connection. It doesn’t feel like a cohesive whole but more like someone took a pile of scenes and compiled them in a way that told a story that sort of makes sense but that has big gaping holes in it and which lacks any deep emotional connection.

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Trailer for Chris Nolan’s Interstellar

The full trailer for realist science fiction Blockbuster Interstellar not only does a great job of explaining Murphy’s Law, but it also brings Matthew McConaughey full circle to his big role in Robert Zemeckis’ Contact. The visuals looks just right here, the emotion hits the significant notes for the genre, and 21st century dreams and fears seem to be realized simultaneously.

I simply can’t wait for November, folks.

New Zero Dark Thirty Trailer – In a week of bombastic trailers, Nothing Else Matters

No crazy montages, no driving rock score, instead opting for the elegiac choir version of a Metallica power ballad, this trailer opts to simply make a case for all the illegality and icky immoral actions of the American military apparatus as they aim to quash out the key symbolic villain of the twenty first century; the ultimate version of “the end justifies the means. Offering tidbits of Jessica Chastain in aviator shades, Jason Clark coldly laying out interrogation ground-rules and a tone expressing the anxieties of an organization neck deep in a quagmire resulting in too many dollars spent on too much murky information, I am certainly digging this phase of Katherine Bigelow’s career. Here she is channeling her usual onscreen machismo into confrontational, idea (and ideological) motion pictures. Zero Dark Thirty is easily my most anticipated film of the holiday season year (ever so slightly edging out the opposite in tone but also confrontational Django Unchained), and the film that Paul Greengrass’s Green Zone should have been..

AFI Fest 2011: Coriolanus

Sometimes I think there are reasons why some Shakespeare plays remain largely unknown among his vast repertoire – I have never read Coriolanus or seen it performed, but assuming this is a fairly faithful adaptation in terms of the text itself, it’s just…not that interesting. Caius Martius (Ralph Fiennes, who also directs) is a great military leader in Rome (here modernized in everything but language, and acting styles to some degree) whose contempt for anyone not born patrician makes him no friend of the commoners rioting over their lack of food. After a successful war against the invading Volscian army, he’s granted the honorific “Coriolanus” and encouraged to run for the consul, which he does, even briefly gaining the support of the commoners before a pair of conniving tribunes double-cross him and, with the support of the crowd, call for his banishment. He joins the Volsci, becoming the right-hand man of his former blood enemy Aufidius (Gerard Butler) to attack Rome, until his wife and mother (Jessica Chastain and Vanessa Redgrave) beg him to stop.

All of the twists and turns in the plot seem to come out of nowhere, with people changing sides or points of view at the drop of a hat. The script is probably abbreviated from Shakespeare’s play (the film runs just over two hours, about an hour less than most Shakespeare done in full), which might explain some of the disjointedness, but unfortunately it also feels longer than it is. It’s hard to relate to Coriolanus, who has a highly developed sense of honor but is also a total dick a good portion of the time – his shifts from speechifying the commoners to get their support to denouncing them as unworthy to vote are practically bipolar, and so is the crowd’s instant reversals from distrust to support to anger. These may all be problems inherent to the source material, but the overwrought and unintentionally comical acting styles in this section don’t do anything to help it.

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Cinecast Episode 227 – Come for the Violence, Stay for the Orgy

 
 
Despite being a man down this week and the multi-plexes pretty much in dumping-grounds mode in the doldrums of August and back-to-school season, Kurt and Andrew manage to talk it up for a few hours of chit-chat and whoop-de-do! On the menu today: Steven Soderbergh, Greta Gerwig, Paul Greengrass, Jessica Chastain, Steve McQueen, Gus Van Sant, John Milius, Kirk Douglas, Serial Killers and Netflix bandwidth issues (plus a whole lot more)! Clear out the ashes of fall fireplace, strike up a cheery evening blaze, grab a mug of hot cider and relax for a couple hours of pleasant chat with only half a dozen F-Bombs. Cheers.

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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Full show notes are under the seats…
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