Tag Archives: Christopher Walken

Hollywood Stars in Super Bowl Ads 2017

With an authoritarian man in the White House, it was unavoidable that this year’s Super Bowl ads would be political. There were also plenty of movie and TV trailers, but few of them offered any real surprises; we did learn when the second season of Stranger Things premieres (Halloween), but that was about it. 

Let’s take a look at this year’s crop of Hollywood stars in ads. The following line-up is courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.

Melissa McCarthy – McCarthy had a really good weekend, with her hilarious Sean Spicer imitation on Saturday Night Live and this elaborate ad for Kia where she’s an “eco warrior” in constant danger.

Jason Statham, Gal Gadot – Website builder Wix delivers a mini action movie starring two tough stars… fun to watch, but hard to catch the message.

Adam Driver – The message for this Snickers ad, starring Adam Driver in a very fake Western setting, is that you ruin everything when you’re hungry. 

Elizabeth Banks – This ad for a laundry detergent does feature a celebrity, Bill Nye “The Science Guy”, but the bigger star is behind the camera. This is Elizabeth Banks’s first Super Bowl ad as director.

Steve Carell, Viola Davis, Robert Redford, Jimmy Kimmel, “Magic” Johnson, Missy Elliott, Stan Lee, Tina Fey, Amy Adams – Star-studded ad that’s more fun to watch for how it makes these stars’ old yearbook photos come alive than its predictable and irrelevant message for Honda.

John Malkovich – Hilarious ad for website builder Squarespace where the star discovers that JohnMalkovich.com is already taken by another John Malkovich.

Geoffrey Rush – Not a trailer for the upcoming National Geographic show Genius starring Rush as Albert Einstein, but a standalone, jokey Super Bowl ad for the network where Einstein is playing Lady Gaga on his violin, honoring the halftime show performer.

Justin Timberlake, Christopher Walken – Very silly but very amusing ad for drink maker Bai that takes advantage of Timberlake’s past as *NSYNC singer.

Kathy Bates – Bates has a little fun with her American Horror Story fame, playing a woman who keeps seeing “creepy children” in her new home. The ad is for Turbo Tax, a tax preparation software.

Jon Lovitz – Freaky ad starring Lovitz as a hypnotizing celebrity trying to make the Super Bowl audience eat more guacamole.

Peter Fonda, The Coen Brothers – Great Mercedes ad directed by The Coen Brothers, where Peter Fonda revives his old Easy Rider days. Cool. 

Jeffrey Tambor – The Transparent star joins an ad for Tide Dry Cleaners together with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Pretty lame.

Arnold Schwarzenegger – Arnie continues his ads for the video game “Mobile Strike”. Apparently, “I’m the party pooper” is now one of his one-liners.

Morgan Freeman – Freeman provides his voice and authority to Turkish Airlines in an unremarkable ad.

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Eddie the Eagle

WIN OR LOSE, ALWAYS AIM HIGH. 

eddietheeagleYoung Eddie Edwards has dreamed of being an athlete since he was a boy and decides in his early twenties to become Britain’s first Olympic ski jumper. The story of how ”Eddie the Eagle” came to endear audiences, in spite of his lack of success at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, gets its big-screen treatment… but as the actual Eddie says in interviews, 90 per cent of the film is fiction. One should rather see this as a playful, shamelessly manipulative but delightful saga steeped in 1980s details (with a very apt music score) and a satisfying cast; Hugh Jackman is the standout as a (fictional) alcoholic former ski jumper who becomes Eddie’s mentor.

2016-Britain-U.S. 106 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Matthew Vaughn, Adam Bohling, Rupert Maconick, David Reid, Valerie Van Galder. Directed by Dexter Fletcher. Screenplay: Sean Macaulay, Simon Kelton. Music: Matthew Margeson. Cast: Taron Egerton (Eddie Edwards), Hugh Jackman (Bronson Peary), Christopher Walken (Warren Sharp), Mark Benton, Keith Allen, Jo Hartley… Jim Broadbent, Edvin Endre.

Last word: “There were people who did help [Eddie] along the way. And of course, you know, in a film you got six, seven, different characters who come in and play some part in that journey. It becomes confusing, and you gotta introduce someone to tell a story. So we, you know, we reduced it to one super character, which happened to be Hugh Jackman. It’s a story telling exercise. It’s fact told in a fictional way. That’s where it’s born of.” (Fletcher, Huffington Post)

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Annie Hall: This Is 40

A NERVOUS ROMANCE. 

anniehallIn the film’s first scene, Woody Allen as Alvy Singer addresses his audience, letting us know that he recently turned 40 and that this landmark event has brought on a life crisis. It wasn’t really planned, but I happened to watch this movie for the first time in many years at exactly the same moment in my life, a few days after my 40th birthday. There’s something about turning a corner like that. It makes you think about your life up until now and what lies ahead. In Allen’s case, he felt like something had to change in his filmmaking career. Maybe there’s more to it than simply making playful comedies?

New York City comedy writer Alvy Singer ponders his relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), which ended a year earlier. He had two unhappy marriages behind him when he first met Annie, but it didn’t take long for them to hit it off. They had wine on Annie’s balcony and Alvy joined her as she auditioned as a singer at a night club. When they started sharing a bed, Alvy’s neurotic issues became more evident and her willingness to move in with him after some time was not something he took lightly. Alvy keeps wondering what kind of relationship is he really looking for…

Sacrificing laughs
In the mid-70s, Allen was very successful as a writer and director of comedies. Marshall Brickman, who had co-written Sleeper (1973) with Allen, knew that his partner had serious thoughts about life and death, culture and philosophy, and that he wanted to make a movie that addressed those issues more clearly. Allen was prepared to, in his own words, “sacrifice some of the laughs for a story about human beings”. He had always put himself on display in his comedies, but this one would be much more personal, exploring a relationship in an artistic way that explicitly tried to engage the audience. As we follow the challenges of the romance between Alvy and Annie, Allen frequently breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience, more or less asking for their understanding or perhaps begging for advice. Some sequences are journeys back to Alvin’s childhood, introducing us to his overbearing parents. That’s where the psychoanalysis comes in, as Allen tries to find reasons for his own behavior and thinking. His usual playfulness is at work throughout, evident in the abundance of funny lines and moments like an animated scene where Allen puts himself in a version of “Snow White”. Many scenes are laugh-out-loud funny, such as the one where he tries cocaine for the first time. The way he contrasts New York City and Los Angeles in the film’s last half-hour is hilarious. The same can be said about Alvy’s obsession about how gentiles perceive Jews, which leads to moments that are not only funny but also say something about how anti-Semitism always survives. The laughs are tempered with another achievement by Allen – the film is genuinely romantic at times, as Alvy and Annie spend time getting to know each other with the Big Apple as a gorgeous backdrop. This was the first time that Allen worked with cinematographer Gordon Willis, “the prince of darkness”, and he lends the film a delicate sense of realism and earnestness that helped the director find his new voice. 

This is indeed the perfect Woody Allen film, his best. What especially makes me cherish it is the bittersweet way the movie captures love, memories – and the effect that ever present doubt has on our relationships. After making two comedies together, former lovers Allen and Keaton are perfectly cast here, as they work their personal traits, quirks and history into their characters, making us fall in love with them; Keaton became such a hit even that her onscreen wardrobe turned her into a fashion icon.

Annie Hall 1977-U.S. 94 min. Color. Produced by Charles H. Joffe. Directed by Woody Allen. Screenplay: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman. Cinematography: Gordon Willis. Editing: Ralph Rosenblum, Wendy Greene Bricmont. Cast: Woody Allen (Alvy Singer), Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), Tony Roberts (Rob), Paul Simon, Shelley Duvall, Carol Kane… Christopher Walken, John Glover, Jeff Goldblum, Beverly D’Angelo, Sigourney Weaver.

Trivia: Weaver’s first film.

Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Actress (Keaton), Original Screenplay. Golden Globe: Best Actress (Keaton). BAFTA: Best Film, Direction, Actress (Keaton), Screenplay, Editing.

Quote: “Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.” (Allen)

Last word: “When ‘Annie Hall’ started out, that film was not supposed to be what I wound up with. The film was supposed to be what happens in a guy’s mind, and you were supposed to see a stream of consciousness that was mine, and I did the film and it was completely incoherent. Nobody understood anything that went on. The relationship between myself and Diane Keaton was all anyone cared about. That was not what I cared about. That was one small part of another big canvas that I had. In the end, I had to reduce the film to just me and Diane Keaton, and that relationship, so I was quite disappointed in that movie, as I was with other films of mine that were very popular.” (Allen, Cinema Blend)

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Hollywood Stars in Super Bowl Ads 2016

This year’s crop of Super Bowl ads was truly star-studded. We had the expected amount of new trailers (where most movies seemed to focus on the end of the world as we know it), but let’s take a look at what brands Hollywood stars supported.

The following line-up of ads is courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.

Amy Schumer, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd – This is an election year, so here we have Schumer and Rogen passionately campaigning for the Bud Light Party. The way the election looks this year, this could be an actual political party…

Willem Dafoe, Eugene Levy – Snickers has made a few very funny and eye-catching ads with celebrities, and this one is no exception. Prepare to meet the always intense Willem Dafoe as Marilyn Monroe. Seamless special effects.

Alec Baldwin, Jason Schwartzman – This ad for the voice command gizmo Amazon Echo pits Baldwin against Dan Marino, and also finds time to plug a new song by Missy Elliott.

Liam Neeson, Ridley Scott – Ridley Scott produced this slick ad for a new LG TV set, done like a ludicrous thriller. Not really a new “1984” (the landmark ad Scott did for Apple), but still cool – and Neeson co-stars with his son Micheal. Directed by Scott’s son Jake.

Ryan Reynolds – Can’t get enough of Ryan Reynolds? Welcome to Ryanville, the place where everybody is Ryan Reynolds. A silly, pretty farfetched Hyundai ad.

Kevin Hart, Peter Berg – Another ad for Hyundai, this one has Kevin Hart as an overprotective dad taking advantage of a “car finder” feature. Directed by Peter Berg.

Helen Mirren – Budweiser is a frequent feature of the Super Bowl ads. Here we have Dame Helen Mirren letting drunk drivers have it.. because she’s British and stern, I guess?

Harvey Keitel – This ad for BMW’s Mini fights against labels like “chick car”, employing sports icons Tony Hawk and Serena Williams. But there’s also Harvey Keitel near the end.

Jeff Goldblum – The star appeared not only in the new Independence Day: Resurgence spot, but in this ad for Apartments.com. Amusing, and he can take a lot of credit for it.

Christopher Walken – Another car ad, this time for Kia. Has nothing to do with the car really, but the ad does introduce the concept of a “Walken closet”, and I would love one of those, please.

Cars and beer. The Super Bowl ads are indeed familiar in a very dad-centric way. No real standout this year, though. 

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Jersey Boys

EVERYBODY REMEMBERS IT HOW THEY NEED TO. 

jerseyboysAnother great Broadway success reaches the big screen, in the hands of a man who’s always shown great interest in music. The story of the rise and fall of The Four Seasons and what their connection to the New Jersey mob looked like is told through the perspectives of its members. A bit episodic and flat at times, with a look that’s typical of Clint Eastwood’s recent films but not necessarily the best choice for this musical; the end credits display an energy that’s largely missing from the film. Still, Christopher Walken is fun as an old mobster and the music, as well as tensions within the group, are engaging. Nice period feel.

2014-U.S. 134 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Screenplay, Book: Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice. Cast: John Lloyd Young (Frankie Valli), Erich Bergen (Bob Gaudio), Michael Lomenda (Nick Massi), Vincent Piazza (Tommy DeVito), Christopher Walken, Mike Doyle.

Trivia: Co-executive produced by Brett Ratner and Frankie Valli. Young played Valli also in the original stage production. Jon Favreau was allegedly considered as director.

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San Francisco in Films and on TV

Every time I vacation in a major city I feel a need to buy a book that tries to capture either its soul or history. If I’m fortunate, the book does both. When I was in San Francisco last fall, I bought “A Crack in the Edge of the World” by Simon Winchester. I expected this to be the ultimate story of how San Francisco suffered and survived the great earthquake and fire of 1906, but that wasn’t quite the book I got. Winchester is a gifted writer but also a trained geologist, so for large stretches of the book we get very detailed descriptions of the history of the Earth, California, tectonic plates and geology, combined with Winchester’s own journeys to geologically fascinating places like Iceland. There’s even a road trip up to Alaska just to take a look at a pipeline.

Some of it is undeniably interesting, such as the historical tales of how California developed after it became American, and the rise of San Francisco, which was a very rough and dangerous boom town in the beginning. Winchester also makes the point that San Francisco will always be in imminent danger of a huge earthquake, more so than Los Angeles, simply because of where it’s built. Irony and nature’s whims are clear themes in the book. Winchester even tells us the price tag authorities are counting on the day the Big One hits.

But in all this, the 1906 earthquake gets a little lost, its description near the end of the book feeling somewhat rushed. Since this is a movie and TV blog, the book did make me start thinking of how the city and its earthquakes are portrayed on screen. The first thing that comes to my mind is the TV show Midnight Caller (1988-1991), starring Gary Cole and set in San Francisco. One of its episodes dealt with the 1989 earthquake in a way that was earnest and emotional; I was just a teen when I saw it, but it has stayed with me. Less earnest was the cheesy but spectacular earthquake cliffhanger on Falcon Crest in 1986; take a look above.

The ultimate screen portrayal of the 1906 earthquake is San Francisco (1936), which is referenced in Winchester’s book as well. It certainly is no documentary, but it has had a certain cultural impact and is definitely a riveting Hollywood experience. For its time, the earthquake sequence is magnificently staged – and one shouldn’t underestimate the film’s emotional aspects. The title song has become a classic, a celebration of the city’s freewheeling and enduring spirit; watch Jeanette MacDonald sing the hell out of it in the scene above.

As for different features of the city that have stood out particularly well on screen, here’s a few examples:

  • The steep hills – The streets of San Francisco were practically built for an action movie, and the hills were used to great advantage in Bullitt (1968), obviously. However, for a more fun take on that, check out The Dead Pool (1988), the fourth Dirty Harry movie, where Clint Eastwood is chased up and down the streets by a radio-controlled car carrying an explosive device.
  • The gay scene – For the history of Castro and the gay scene in San Francisco, it’s hard to beat Milk (2008), the story of Harvey Milk, political hero and martyr. For a more contemporary portrayal of gay life in San Francisco, the HBO show Looking is a must, not least for how it depicts all parts of the city. The clip above shows production designer Todd Fjelsted talking about how he tries to make the city a vital part of the show.
  • Alcatraz – The prison island has been depicted in many movies, most successfully in Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) and Escape from Alcatraz (1979). My visit there last fall made it clear to me how important the latter Clint Eastwood vehicle has been in the popular image of the island and its history.
  • The Golden Gate Bridge – Ian McKellen did succeed in physically moving the bridge in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), but my most vivid screen memory of the bridge comes from a James Bond movie, A View to a Kill (1985), where Roger Moore is fighting Christopher Walken high up on the bridge’s suspension cables.

Many other films set in San Francisco have stirred our imagination. Vertigo (1958) may be the greatest film ever to take place in the city, and Alfred Hitchcock used some locations very well (including the Golden Gate Bridge). A depressing, futuristic vision of San Francisco and Muir Woods was seen in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The city became a place of crime and darkness in The Maltese FalconBasic Instinct and Zodiac – and Tim Burton made it look artistically appetizing in Big Eyes (2014). I’m sure there’s reason to return one day.

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The Greatest Hits of 2015

It’s time for that annual list of next year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2015 for ya.

JANUARY:

* Blackhat – Michael Mann’s first directorial outing since Public Enemies (2009) is a cyber thriller starring Chris Hemsworth. Its January release makes it hard to really get excited about it. 

* Escobar: Paradise Lost – Notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar reaches the big screen in the shape of Benicio Del Toro. Josh Hutcherson plays the innocent young man who becomes a witness to Escobar’s life of crime. 

* Still Alice – There have been several Alzheimer dramas before (most notably Away From Her (2007)), but this one boasts an already heavily lauded performance by Julianne Moore.

* Mortdecai – David Koepp is an unreliable director, but this art-heist comedy might be worth a look. A true star vehicle for Johnny Depp, who needs a hit.

FEBRUARY:

* Jupiter Ascending – The Wachowski siblings deliver another sci-fi movie, this time starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis. The stars will help, but it’s doubtful that audiences will be much attracted to the film.

* Kingsman: The Secret Service – An action thriller from Matthew Vaughn that follows a veteran secret agent taking on a protégé. Starring Colin Firth and Michael Caine. 

* Fifty Shades of Grey – No one expects this adaptation of the hugely successful novel to be any good; the only question is how naughty will it be? And will audiences line up to find out? Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are in the leads.

MARCH:

* Cinderella – Kenneth Branagh directs this movie that seems to follow in the footsteps of Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman and Maleficent. Lily James plays Cinderella in the live-action version. 

* Insurgent – The sequel to Divergent (2014). It’s hard to separate this series from the Hunger Games movies and all the other dystopian youth thrillers. But the first film was a huge hit. 

* Serena – Susanne Bier’s first American film since Things We Lost in the Fire (2007) is a Depression-era drama about a love affair between a girl and a millionaire. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are likely to bring star power.

APRIL:

* Furious 7 – There’s an anxiety to make this movie worth the effort, considering it’s Paul Walker’s last. It will no doubt be interesting to see how well the filmmakers have worked around his absence. It certainly looks wild.

* Child 44 – Daniel Espinosa directs this adaptation of an excellent hard-boiled bestseller, a serial-killer thriller set in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman are headlining.

MAY:

* Avengers: Age of Ultron – Summer puts in a higher gear with this sequel that reunites some of our favorite superheroes.  I hope Joss Whedon lives up to the original, and I look forward to watching James Spader as the villain.

* Mad Max: Fury Road – Perhaps few expected George Miller’s belated sequel to the 1980s franchise to be noteworthy, but the trailers that have been released so far indicate a furious thrill ride. Tom Hardy is in the lead. 

* Tomorrowland – A new Brad Bird movie is always worth a look. This sci-fi adventure, that was co-authored by Damon Lindelof and stars George Clooney, looks very intriguing.

JUNE:

* Jurassic World – It’s been 14 years since the last Jurassic Park movie and that time difference is illustrated in the story of this sequel. Now it’s a fully operational theme park, and very busy. I’m sure everything will go wrong. 

* Inside Out – The new Pixar movie is a weird concept. We follow the emotions inside a little girl, all represented by quirky characters. Co-directed by Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter.

* Ricki and the Flash – Meryl Streep plays an aging rock star who’s trying to reconnect with her kids. May sound unremarkable, but Jonathan Demme is directing and Streep is probably a hoot to watch. And there’s Kevin Kline.

JULY:

* Terminator Genisys – Terminator Salvation (2007) failed to jump-start this franchise, but here comes a movie that seems to be everything – a sequel, a remake and a prequel all at once. And Arnold Schwarzenegger returns. Has to be seen. 

* Ant-Man – Can’t say I’m excited about this latest superhero project, but perhaps a sense of humor will boost it, as in the case of Guardians of the Galaxy. The cast has Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly.

AUGUST:

* The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – Guy Ritchie directs this adaptation of the 1960s spy series. I guess Warner is hoping for their own Mission: Impossible franchise. Stars Henry Cavill and Hugh Grant.

* Straight Outta Compton – The story of the legendary hiphop group N.W.A. reaches the big screen. Director F. Gary Gray’s first film in six years. Paul Giamatti is in the cast.

SEPTEMBER:

* Everest – A star-studded thriller about a Mount Everest expedition that is hit by a snowstorm. Starring Keira Knightley, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright and Josh Brolin.

* Black Mass – Infamous Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger is the subject of this film that focuses on his rise. Johnny Depp plays Bulger and the cast also has Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller and Joel Edgerton.

OCTOBER:

* The Walk – Did you see the documentary Man on Wire (2008)? Well, here comes Robert Zemeckis’s fictionalized version, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The teaser is eye-popping, and I believe this is an occasion where the 3D will truly serve a purpose.

* The Jungle Book – Hard to tell what Jon Favreau might make of this adaptation, but it seems inspired by the Disney version as much as Rudyard Kipling. Bill Murray and Christopher Walken will provide the voices of Baloo and King Louie.

* Crimson Peak – Guillermo del Toro directs this ghost movie starring Charlie Hunnam and Jessica Chastain. Early footage was a hit at Comic-Con last summer.

NOVEMBER: 

* Spectre – The 24th James Bond movie promises to reintroduce both SPECTRE and Blofeld. Daniel Craig returns and Christoph Waltz plays the villain. Sam Mendes is back in the directing chair after the success of Skyfall (2012). 

* The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – The book certainly did not need to be divided into two separate movies, but here’s the final film in this franchise.

* Midnight Special – Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols returns with a film about a man who goes on the lam with his son after discovering that the boy has special powers. Stars Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst and Michael Shannon.

DECEMBER:

* Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The most heavily anticipated movie of the year. The teaser trailer got everybody curious and J.J. Abrams’s take on this franchise certainly looks exciting. Now we’re waiting for a first look of the old stars…

* Mission: Impossible 5 – Both the plot and, likely, the title are unknown at this time. But Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner and the other familiar faces from this franchise are returning. Christopher McQuarrie, who made Jack Reacher, is helming.

* Joy – David O. Russell is back with another vehicle for Jennifer Lawrence, who plays a Long Island single mom who becomes a wildly successful entrepreneur. Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro are also in the cast.

* The Revenant – Alejandro González Iñárritu directs this drama about a frontiersman who sets out for revenge in the 1820s. Stars Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio.

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Stand Up Guys

THEY DON’T MAKE ‘EM LIKE THEY USED TO.

standupguysAfter doing time for murder, Val (Al Pacino) is released and reunited with his old friend and partner (Christopher Walken)… who has a secret, heartbreaking agenda. A film that goes all-in for old-school charm in a story about geriatric gangsters that still know how to strut their stuff, even though dark clouds hang over them. Their reunion is episodic and silly, but director Fisher Stevens makes the film hold up pretty well. Pleasant and harmless, but it would never have worked this well without its two stars who give the old veterans a bittersweet aura; Alan Arkin is also fun as another retired gangster.

2012-U.S. 95 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Fisher Stevens. Song: “Not Running Anymore” (Jon Bon Jovi). Cast: Al Pacino (Val), Christopher Walken (Doc), Alan Arkin (Richard Hirsch), Julianna Margulies, Addison Timlin, Vanessa Ferlito.

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A Late Quartet

NO ARRANGEMENT IS MORE BEAUTIFUL… OR MORE COMPLICATED.

 

latequartetApproaching its 25th anniversary, a string quartet is shaken when the cellist, Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken), announces that he’s retiring because of a debilitating illness. Documentary filmmaker Yaron Zilberman brings a sense of honesty and carefulness to his first dramatic feature, which is obvious in the way the relationships between these characters, and how the music and the craft of performing it, are shown. Emotions build as love and challenged family dynamics affect the quartet, all set with a chilly and culturally refined New York City as backdrop. A moving tribute to art, with brilliant performances by Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener in particular. 

2012-U.S. 105 min. Color. Produced by Vanessa Coifman, David Faigenblum, Emanuel Michael, Tamar Sela, Mandy Tagger, Yaron Zilberman. Directed by Yaron Zilberman. Screenplay: Yaron Zilberman, Seth Grossman. Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Robert Gelbart), Christopher Walken (Peter Mitchell), Catherine Keener (Juliette Gelbart), Mark Ivanir (Daniel Lerner), Imogen Poots, Madhur Jaffrey.

Trivia: Ethan Hawke was allegedly first cast.

Last word: “It took months of preparation! We filmed a string quartet with five cameras playing the music that ended up on screen. Then we edited a DVD for each actor and their respective coaches with their ‘on-screen’ music segments from five camera angles. These segments were studied by the cast until they reached a high level of imitating them. When we finally filmed the actors play, we had all our music coaches on set both helping the cast with the instruments and watching a monitor to approve the way the shots looked for authenticity.” (Zilberman, Roobla)

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Noomi Rapace Helps the Rolling Stones Look Good

 

When you’re pushing 70 and still want to remain relevant as a rock group, what do you do? Hire Jonas Åkerlund, apparently. The Swedish director has an impressive resume of music videos and when the Rolling Stones asked him to make a video for their new single “Doom and Gloom”, he talked Prometheus star Noomi Rapace into making an appearance. Not a bad PR strategy, I have to say. The first time I heard the song I got bored by the fact that it sounded like a hundred other Stones hits. Watching this video, I have to admit it sounds and looks better; in an era of dj’s and house, the old rockers look like they have plenty of bad-ass attitude left. Of course, it reminded me of three other great videos featuring movie stars:

 

The greatest hit from Paul Simon’s “Graceland” was “You Can Call Me Al”, and in the era of MTV the fact that a huge movie star like Chevy Chase would appear alongside Simon in a very funny 1986 video made a huge impact. 

 

The two other videos are both from 2001. The first one features Robert Downey, Jr. in Elton John’s “I Want Love”, the greatest song he’s written since… I guess, the ’70s. Featured on his “Songs from the West Coast” album, the song is a tribute to sexual liberation and has Downey, Jr. (still struggling with addiction at the time) simply walking through an empty mansion, pondering the lyrics. Minimalistic – and brilliant.

 

Christopher Walken usually threatens and kills people on screen, that’s what we’re used to. But he’s also a great dancer, which is probably why he couldn’t resist appearing in this now-classic Fatboy Slim video for “Weapon of Choice” (featured on his “Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars” album). Directed by Spike Jonze, the video is anything but predictable, with Walken in a hotel in a typical business suit, apparently dreaming of greater things.

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James Bond 50: As Crazy As They Come

 

As the world’s most famous spy celebrates 50 years as a movie star, the time has come to celebrate everything we love about him. In 22 blog posts, I’ll find something in every Bond movie, from Dr. No (1962) to Quantum of Solace (2008), that’s worth illustrating. Yes, even the bad ones.

The fourteenth film in this franchise features one of its craziest villains. Maybe not one of the most memorable or colorful… but Max Zorin is certainly completely insane. The clip above is a pretty standard example of how Bond baddies dispose of people they don’t like. But what really sets Zorin apart may be that scene near the end where he grabs a machine gun and pays all his workers in bullets; unable to stop laughing, he finishes the massacre. Could be one of the series’ most bizarre moments. Christopher Walken brings star charisma to the part, just like Christopher Lee did in The Man With the Golden Gun (1974).

My 2006 review of A View to a Kill.

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Tony Scott 1944-2012

 

Today, Hollywood may not have lost a man who won awards, but certainly a man of the people. Tony Scott’s films rarely received much praise from critics, but they usually found huge audiences and the director became a role model to younger filmmakers trying to make an impact in the action genre. Scott won hearts with swift editing, pounding music and a knack for picking a good cast. Later in his career, his frequent collaborations with Denzel Washington in Crimson TideMan on Fire, Deja Vu, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Unstoppable always served those films well, even when the material wasn’t topnotch. As a filmmaker, Tony Scott actually improved with time, learning how to let his visual flourishes serve the stories better.

This eye for talent also became a strength in the partnership with brother Ridley as producers. Their Scott Free company worked on productions as varied as The Good WifeCyrusThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and two TV movies about Churchill.

Tony Scott’s death is a shock. The now classic clip above is from True Romance (1993), a verbal showdown between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper, directed, lit and edited in the threatening, edge-of-your-seat fashion that we came to expect from Scott. May he rest in peace.

Four other Tony Scott films on this site: The Fan, Beverly Hills Cop IIEnemy of the State and Spy Game.

 

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Golden Gate: A Movie Icon Turns 75

 

The PBS clip above shows why the Golden Gate Bridge, now 75 years old, is still a marvel to behold. Originally a Depression-era behemoth, the bridge remains in the words of one of the interviewees not only a triumph of engineering but a work of art. Yesterday, an impressive display of fireworks on the bridge celebrated the anniversary. Those who want to hear the fascinating story behind the construction should watch the clip.

 

Since this is primarily a movie and TV blog, we should acknowledge a debt of gratitude. The bridge has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies where it has played a spectacular part. This is where James Bond (Roger Moore) fought Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill (1985). This is where the bridge became a simple tool in the hands of Magneto (Ian McKellen) in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). It was a refuge for a green giant in Hulk (2003) and came under attack by intelligent simians in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). Oh yes. It needs to be preserved for future adventures.

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