Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Peanuts Movies

The Peanuts Movie is good, no great -- at the same time it's different enough that there's something special and endearing about it.

I saw this with my kids this weekend and was thankful that it not only held their attention, but was also a sweet movie free of scary scenes, hidden adult humor or agenda-driven story lines.

I personally find The Peanuts comic strip to be simply not funny. An iconic comic strip that never really captured me. I want to like the Peanuts specials that air, but we watched a few with the kids and found them feeling slow and disjointed.

Yet, somehow keeping all the campy charm of the comic and specials, this movie figures out how to speed the pacing up just a bit to create a feature length story that is touching -- nice work writers!

The one thing is this story that I found very special was the way that Charlie Brown's timid story line mirrored Snoopy's brave story line and in the midst of the contrast there was still a beautiful overlap of fear, bravery, and our own humanity. We often spend so much time defining our experience by who we are (outgoing, shy, silly, smart, a victim of our situation, etc.) but crossing through that is some core similarities. A care about who we in the eyes of others, who are in the eyes of ourselves, and the desire to be something special.

I am not sure how this film ages over time or whether it makes it way to family video cabinets or part of holiday traditions. But I am always amazed at projects like this that present the ultimate challenge of being genuine to an original and add something safely to it without isolating audiences. In this case, I see it as a true success.

Horrible Christmas Dramas and Parenting Reflections

This thanksgiving weekend we accidentally watched the unenjoyable film The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (again, do me so wrong...I just want a good Christmas film option).

I don't even remember how many siblings there are in this film, but there are a lot -- and they are all pretty messed up...all for different (but typical, for films of this type) reasons. Mad husbands, vices of all sorts, personal ambition, and daddy issues.

Think Rachel Getting Married, but worst acting, worst story, no wedding, plus an Irish Catholic Christmas.

All that horribleness aside, perhaps it was because I recently watched the first episode of the TV show Bloodlines (also about family/siblings) that it I started thinking about my own children.

In both this film and the TV show there is the emphasis on all the children getting together for a parent-related events (holidays, birthdays, local honors) and the emphasis is that these siblings get together for the sake of the parents.

In thinking about my own children it is my hope that they enjoy each other, even long after my wife & I are gone.

As a result, one of my thoughts the past couple week has been asking "how can I ensure they enjoy each other?" And one of my thoughts has been "Get out of the way."

This has worked in my kids favor already (to my own detriment) in that on Thanksgiving eve when hosting our families annual piefest my kids decide to bust open a box full of packing peanuts. It was crazy. Very crazy.

And yet, my reflection was instantly on this thought that I get out of the way and ensure they have their own parent-free memories of good times together to strengthen their own bonds with one another. I even filled an empty spice jar with packing peanuts as a memorial to this horrible event (that ultimately led me to Walmart at 11:00 pm on the night before Thanksgiving to buy a shop vac. Thank you, Walmart).

In The Fitzgerald Family Christmas there is a lot of reasons why different siblings haven't connected with one another, and simple acts of memory making will not heal all wounds - not to mention, people change, experiences in life continue past the age you leave your parents home, spouses certainly plan a roll and other family developments.

But, also think as a parent of three children, I have an opportunity to foster experiences and if I can crack the code of making memories without being central to the memory, I want to figure it out.

My young kids still are parent dependent as you'd expect. They will fight over who gets to sit next to which parent at a meal, on the couch, at a move theater. But if I can let them explore, give them a perimeter for them to tackle together then maybe I can foster a flame between them that last long after they leave my house.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Bizarre Addiction: Tami Dunn on YouTube

I'm not sure why, so I'm not going to venture to try to justify, explain, or comment on my recent "moment filler" which is watching Tami Dunn's videos on YouTube.

How It Started (A Convoluted Social Networking Story Featuring Instagram, Blogs, Google, and YouTube)

I was reviewing my Instagram feed and saw a cake from @iambaker that intrigued me - it was called a Buckeye Cake and made with Biscoff Butter, I went to her blog and reviewed the recipe (recipe here). The recipe calls for Creamy Biscoff Spread (as you would suspect since it comes from The Biscoff Cookie & Spread Cookbook.

I have never bought Biscoff Cookie Spread before, but had seen it before and assumed it was similar to Trader Joes Speculoos Cookie Butter. I have had Speculoos Cookie butter, and wasn't sure if Biscoff and Speculoos were interchangeable.

So, I do a Google search "Speculoos vs Biscoff Cookie Spread" and come to find this kind of zany group of characters doing a blind taste test in a YouTube video.

This was how I met Tami Dunn and crew this week.

Some Favorite Tami Dunn Food Reviews & Blind Taste Test
Must say, my favorite are the Blind Taste Test, but here are some favorites I've watched this week.

Oh Yes...The Cake

My wife made the Buckeye Cake on I Am Baker's blog today - we're having it tonight! Can't wait.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The State of My Relationship With Netflix

In preparation for this post, I have reviewed every prior reference I've ever made to Netflix on my blog.

Typically it's been in the context of something on Netflix, how Netflix is one cog in the media world diminishing our shared culture, or how Netflix has a leg up over Blockbuster (in semi-regular post I did previously about the end of the Blockbuster-era). I even had a post in 2011 about the short lived company Qwikster that spun off the physical DVD side of Netflix into a short lived company.

And yet, I've never posted how I feel about Netflix. In fact, if I had posted in 2008 about Netflix (my first Netflix reference), I think my feelings would have been different - largely in part because I would have discussed Netflix as a DVD-by-mail video subscription service.

But in 2015, we're dealing with a different beast. A highly profitable company who while still mailing disk to some, primarily fills homes with on-demand video streaming services. That same company that mailed copies of DVDs offers something additional now that it didn't have previously, which was original content.

Disregarding feelings of Netflix from times past, I pick up my feelings in 2015 with a snapshot of feelings today.

Frankly, I can do without Netflix. I am a faithful library wait-lister and feel that I can get more than my hearts content from my local library system as long as I am patient to wait for more recent or popular releases.

I would never say my wife is less patient than I, but well...sometimes she's less likely to take some extra steps by working through the system to get what she wants...especially if she wants it right now. So, if we are subscribed to Netflix it is because she started it.

Over the past 12 months we have begun subscriptions twice (once I canceled, and she picked it up a few months later). It seems that both times started because my wife wanted to watch Gilmore Girls, that WB phenomenon that, for whatever reason, my wife does not tire of.

She wants to watch Gilmore girls and subscribe to Netflix for $7.99 month, than so be it.

But then we've "invested" the money and we feel like this should be our media source for the month (instead of my well stacked library wait list).

And then, a surprising thing happens. Of all the choices there may be one thing that draws us in, perhaps a TV shows we're behind on or a movie we've been wanting to watch. But after that one thing we're stuck with tons and tons of content but nothing we want to watch.

Now, don't hear me say there's nothing good on Netflix. There is. But as a person who's seen many many movies, for example, I've already made it a point to see what I want to see, so say a great movie like Sunset BoulevardCity of God, Good Will Hunting, or Short Term 12, may be available, but I've seen those.

I'm looking for something hard-to-fine on my watch list. Maybe the type of films that my local library doesn't carry (which are few and far between). Some movies on my watch list that my library doesn't carry is Fred Zinneman's 1948 film The Search, or the Barbara Stanwyck and Humphry Bogart film The Two Mrs. Carrols (1947). But the obscure collection on Netflix does skew towards the obscure I'm looking for. I'm not looking to watch The Gabby Douglas Story or The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death (although both show on the Netflix page right now as films I may be interested in, I am not).

So, I might spend hours (and I mean literally hours) to search through the depths of the Netflix catalog to find the films and TV shows I forgo that I wanted to watch or gems that grab my interest. There has been a winner or two in the mix. We were so glad to find The Honourable Woman or watch Broadchurch. Yet to dig these selections out took work.

So in this regard you might catch me complaining about Netflix. I find it mostly a mix of (a) good stuff I've already seen (b) stuff I'm aware of but not interested in (c) stuff I'm not aware of and not interested. The category I'm missing is "stuff I'm interested in." This makes it a bad product for me.

But there is this extra category that is problematic. It breeds a love/hate relationship with netflix. This is...original content.

I largely have avoided some of Netflix's original content (I tried to do Season 4 of Arrested Development, but it wasn't the Arrested Development I loved). But pause's all not Arrested Development Season 4.

My wife a few months back watch the first season of the Netflix Original Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. My wife and I both enjoyed this show - it's humor...well was humorous to us (not sure what that says about us, but I don't think we're alone).

Netflix taking a power grab at not just being a technology company or content deliverer, but a content creator has crossed over into genius territory here because now they will grab me as a subscriber. Every month I try to quit them every month, but if we're stuck in the middle of a TV show we're watching when the month ends we keep the subscription alive. And even when I succeed in cutting the chord there will be a day when my wife says "the next season of Kimmy Schmidt's on Netflix, you want to watch some this weekend" and it will start up again.

So like many (I presume) I will continue to search things in Google like "The best movies on Netflix right now" or "New Netflix Movies August 2015" in hopes of a gem, captured by the one-off of pleasure and trapped by a subscription service that sometimes fails to meet me were I am.

This is the state of my relationship with Netflx today, August 2015.    

Monday, April 27, 2015

Real (Reel) People Win Oscars: 2015 Edition

When it comes to win an Academy Award, recent years have shown that not any bio-pic performance means a guaranteed nomination, but if you get nominated for your performance playing a real person, then there is a good chance you will win.

Of the past 10 years (20 Lead Actor/Actress winners), 12 of these winners have won for playing real life people. That's 60% of winners since the 2003 ceremony.

• In 2014 Eddie Redmayne played Stephen Hawking, the famous theoretical physicist won the Oscar for Best Actor (post here)
• In 2013 Matthew McConaughey played AIDs drug smuggler Ron Woodroof and won the Oscar for Best Actor. (post here)
• In 2012 Daniel Day-Lewis played Abraham Lincoln and won the Best Actor award (his third Oscar win) (post here)
• In 2011 Meryl Streep played the well known British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and won the Best Actress prize (her third Oscar) (post here)
• In 2010 Colin Firth played King George VI, stuttering British royalty at the dawn of the radio era and won for Best Actor. (post here)
• In 2009 Sandra Bullock played a surprise hero as the Southern mother Leigh Ann Tuohy and won for Best Actress.
• In 2008 Sean Penn played controversial politician Harvey Milk and won the Oscar for Best Actor.(post here)
• In 2007 Marion Cotillard played French singer Ediath Piaf and won the Oscar for Best Actress. (post here)
• In 2006 Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth II and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
• In 2006 Forrest Whitaker played Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and won the Oscar for Best Actor
• In 2005 Reese Witherspoon played country music celeb June Carter and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
• In 2005 Philip Seymour Hoffman played author Truman Capote and won the Oscar for Best Actor.

The non-biopic winners from the past 10 years:Jiulianne Moore (Still Alice),  Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Lining Playbook), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), Kate Winslet (The Reader), and  Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)

I wouldn't expect 2015 to be different. As a result we can almost plan on either Best Actor Oscar winner or Best Actress winner going to a performer who played in a biographical film as a "Real (Reel) Person."

2015 Real (Reel) People Performances:

(Coming Soon)

Click the following links to see the previous Real (Reel) People projects from 2014201320122011201020092008 and 2007. Or check the reel people archive.

App Thoughts: Robinhood

One of the apps that I have really been pleased with recently is Robinhood iOS application.

Robinhood is a stock market trading application that launched to the public in the past couple months (after a significant waiting list in beta mode).

The application allows for stocks to be traded in real time with $0 minimum balance and $0 trades. The general thought process being that the company can leverage technology to minimize overhead.

Ever since high school there has been various times were I've been clued into the market, watching certain stocks and having an interest to jump into the game. Yet, to pick individual stocks has been something that just didn't seem financially feasible. I wanted to dabble, not set a major account.

Instead, I do have a employer sponsored 401k which I actively monitor and adjust my mix based on what's going on, but not being allowed to play in the weeds.

So, when I heard about this app, I wanted to give it a try. And with some generally nominal deposits, I've had the chance to try it out and find it to be a fantastic opportunity to start small and make my own investments.

Having not worked with the competitors of Robinhood, I'm not sure where this company is providing me better or worse services than more established companies of this type.

Application designers of the Palo Alto start-up have done a nice job in their application design and web design. Even their frequently asked questions section of their website is clearly written, helpful, and very transparent.

The things that I enjoy here as well has been the thought process of investing - I have always read and heard people discuss things like "invest in what you know" or "invest in what you're already buying" and it's been interesting to spend some more time delving into the companies that own the products that I regularly consume. Obviously some companies are logical (we all know Nike's makes shoes), but when it comes to knowing who really owns the shoe brands I love, or the eggs I buy it has been enlightening and educational in it's own way.

It's exciting to see apps that do more things than just create mindless games, but instead create accessibility to something that previously was (or seemed) far less accessible. Very pleased, very pleased.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Who is Carol Danvers? Casting predictions for Captain Marvel

As the Avengers universe gets built out on screen Marvel and DC Comics have a gold mine of source material at their disposal. Ever since the Iron Man movie proved that there was an appetite the went beyond Batman, Spider-Man, and Super Man the opportunities for super hero cinema (with the right cast, budget and special effects team) is nearly endless.

A 2018 release of the film Captain Marvel has been announced for 2018. This iteration of Captain Marvel pulls from the Carol Danvers mythology - a blonde haired, blue eyed super hero who first appeared in Marvel Super Heroes # 13 as Carol Danvers, and then as Ms. Marvel #1 in 1977.

She didn't appear as Captain Marvel in 2012 in Avenging Spider-Man Vol. 1 #9.  

Who Will Play The Part of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel?

I suspect we will find out shortly, especially as the Avengers series often gives it's viewers a strong dose of anticipation in the way it creates a road map to future films, either within the films themselves or at the end after the very long credits.

So why not jump in here and speculate here are my best guesses for who might be cast to play the Superhero. I'm generally convinced it will be someone young that can grow into the series. So I'm excluding possible contenders over 35 (sorry, Charlize Theron, Rosamund Pike, Jessica Chastain and Naomi'd be great, I'm sure but it doesn't seem like that's how they're casting the very big series). I also assume it will be someone famous with a track record that shows some generally dependability. They need to have the acting chops to portray a wide range of emotions -- both a general softness and then a powerful aggressive side as well. I'm also assuming it will be someone who can be convincing as a blue eyed blonde (hence the white-washed list below).

That leaves me with these 10 predictions (in alphabetical order by last name, because I couldn't rate them)

Emily Blunt

Natalie Dormer

Dakota Fanning

Brie Larson

Jennifer Lawrence

Margot Robbie

Taylor Schilling

Emma Stone

Olivia Wilde

Shailene Woodley

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Good Lie

This past weekend finally got around to seeing the film The Good Lie staring Reese Witherspoon. The film is directed by Philippe Falardeau (known for the Oscar nominated foreign film Monsieur Lazhar) and is a dramatic account of a group of the Lost Boys of Sudan who resettle in United States.

Reese Witherspoon plays an employment agent who is responsible for finding these young men employment and who become engaged in their lives as they encounter America after their own tremendous experience in eastern Africa as they escaped death in the wide spread civil war.

Like the documentary God Grew Tired of Us (2005) [discussed on this blog in 2008] this film reminds us of the incredibly true story and creates a unique opportunity to reflect on aid, the American experience, global needs, and the power of survival.

The story is weighty, but told with a gentle and honest hand. Performance are relatively strong, outside of Witherspoons you have a compelling performances by Ger Duany, Kuoth Wiel, and Corey Stoll.

The film never drags with great pacing at is rolls through it's various acts. The film's limited gross in the United States in it's fall 2014 release (just under three million domestically) was surely a disappointment, but many films which did much better at the box office hardly touched the importance of the story told here.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly) - Cinderella and So Dear My Heart

When I went to see Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella one of the big surprises to me was the sweet song "Lavender's Blue."

The song immediatly caught my ear because I knew this song as the Disney Oscar nominated Original Song "Lavender Blue" from the 1948 Disney film So Dear My Heart.

The Burt Ives version is certainly a different feel than the newest version of this tune, and in fact it was so strange to hear the song with a different style and melody. Hear both below.

My initial thought was a little bit of shock. Why would Disney take it's 1948 property and teleport it further back into magical time, but with a little quick research was pleased to see that this recycled Disney property was actually an English nursery rhyme dating back at least to the 17th century.

So instead of disappointment, I was pleased with a new piece of musical/film trivia coming from this film - who would suspect that this same lyric inspiration would show up in these two different places.

Speaking of film trivia - at the 1950 Oscar ceremony where the song Lavender Blue was nominated for best song, it did not take home the prize, but another song - a holiday classic (shall I say an annoying holiday classic) took home the prize instead.

From the Red Skelton and Ester Williams romantic comedy Neptune's Daughter the winner was (click video below to listen and hear)...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Remake Funny Face with Anne and Cate

Would love to see a remake of Funny Girl. It doesn't have to have the songs, or really the dancing. But the plot is fun and could see Anne Hathway playing the part of Jo (originally played by Audrey Heepburn) and Cate Blanchett as Maggie Prescott (originally played by Kay Thompson).

That's all.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Oscar, Pop Culture, Entertainment, Art

Are the Academy Awards for the most artistic film?

Are the Academy Awards given for the most entertaining film?

Are the academy Awards passed out to the film that most resonates with pop culture?

Of course not!

Yet, at the same time there is a desire (I share it) for the films that win the major awards at the Oscars be films that is art, entertaining, and maybe even a small piece of pop culture.

I think of previous films like Forrest Gump. The Godfather, or The Silence of the Lambs, as some examples that seemed to cross into these different areas in ways this years films did not.

As I think about why this might be the case I've thought about where we gravitate for entertainment and pop culture in recent years, and in honesty it is not typically the movie theater. And if we do, it's certainly not "artful cinema." Popular movies in the theater seem to really be the action film (think this year's Furious 7 where a car chase will go through the skyscapers) and super-hero genre films. These are clearly for entertainment and are a part of pop-culture, but doesn't touch the art space (well, maybe in some technical realms, but no rational person will be arguing that Vin Diesel is Oscar bound or that the screenplay for Furious 7 deserves a second look come award season).

But there is artful work being done that is also entertaining and a part of pop-culture, but I venture to suggest that much of that is happening on a much smaller screen. Like many people, we've tuned into a number of the serial television shows from England -- we enjoy Downton Abby, Sherlock, The Hour, Broadchurch and Mr. Selfridge. We were captivated by Maggie Gyllenhaal's work in The Honourable Woman this past year. And HBO, Neflix, and cable networks are bringing challenging television, compelling stories, and talented performers to the small screen.

In many ways for this reason, in an award show like the Golden Globes, I think many people (myself included) were more drawn towards many of the television categories than the film categories this year.

I don't think Hollywood is doing itself any favors on this front with some of the film release schedules that make watching some of these films very challenging. And while there are many mediums to watch a film, not everyone utilizes every medium. Some people are going to pay for the rental on a pay-to-watch service directly from their cable provider, others go to Redbox, some watch from online services like Hulu and Netflix, and others purchase what they want to watch directly or in a digital form.

So when it's award season there's a good chance that the limited release holiday feature wasn't something you saw, and if it did release in another medium who knows if that's a medium you seek out.

The awards shouldn't chose best actress based on how well the film was distributed to a wide audience, but when a winner is selected from a film they haven't seen, don't be surprised for a little social apathy. The right winner's may have won this past year, but general people wouldn't know. And while some are going to seek out opportunities to see these award winning performances, others might not, simply based on the distribution method.

I am absolutely content with a pop-culture/award winner disconnect. Although, I think it's unfortunate that there isn't a greater interest in creating award caliber work that people (from low-brow to high-brow) might actually want to seek out and enjoy. That these winners would not just create art, but create art that is part of the collect conversation of pop-culture and entertainment.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Trying Not to Be Negative about the 2015 Oscars

The 87th Academy Award Ceremony will be held this evening, and I am trying not to me negative about them.

I love the Oscars. I do.

But 2015 is a year where none of the films have been overly exciting for me, in fact - I find it very annoying that The Grand Budapest Hotel, a film I didn't enjoy at all is nominated for 7 Academy Awards, or that Boyhood, an ambitious project (that's a little long and boring) is a front-runner going into tonight's ceremony.

The box-office speaks for this years ceremony - a ceremony where all the films with nominations (except the very successful American Sniper) have had some less-than-dynamic box offices (although some are reasonable considering the genre/audience, etc.). But these are not popular films.

I do not claim or propose that the Academy honor popular films but I also think that it's a pity that winners of tonight's awards will be names we may know but in films most haven't seen (example, Julianne Moore from Still Alice).

I'm not saying that The Academy got it wrong, or that more commercially successful films should have been in the mix (Maleficient, 22 Jump Street and Ride Along are certainly not Oscar worthy films). But that maybe this year only needed 5 best picture nominees instead of 8.

Props to tonight winners - I certainly can't say that any of the winner's tonight are in themselves undeserving, but the competition this year is just simply something I'm having a hard time getting excited about.

So if I seem "poo-pah" about things, it's not for lack of respect for these films or winners, it's just...well...not the most exciting competition this time around, and probably not the award show we will be talking about for years to come.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Fiction to Film: 2015 Edition

I'm ready! A few weeks later than normal - but ready. I'm thinking about the 2015 film calendar and looking at what novels will be adapted to the screen.

This list is really for me, as I consider what I might want read before the films come out in the theater.

It may be a foolish pursuit, as the past two years haven't been big years for successful adaptations of fiction to film. In fact, as I recently posted, not a single best picture nominee this past year came from a fiction adaptation.

That said, people have certainly complained about the caliber of film last year, maybe it part because of the absence of exceptional literary adaptations. Below is a collection of 2015 films based on fiction we can expect to see in movie theater's this year.


Bill Condon directs Mr. Holmes based on Mitch Cullins book A Slight Trick of The Mind. The film stars Ian McKellen as an elderly Sherlock Holmes solving his final crime.

Ridley Scott's likely hit The Martian based on the book by Andy Weir stars Matt Damon as an astronaut, presumed dead and left behind by his crew.

The book The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette gets a big screen adaptation in the action drama The Gunman staring Sean Penn and Javier Bardem.

Tom  Hank's will star in Tom Tykwer's adaptation of the Dave Egger's novel, A Hologram for the King, about a business man in Saudi Arabia trying to sell a technology solution to the king.

Jake Schreier directs an adaptation of John Green's Paper Towns, the popular young adults mystery novel, which stars Nat Wolff and Cara Delevigne.

Emma Donoghue's Room gets an adaptation which stars Brie Larsen, William H. Macy, and Joan Allen. About a boy who has never left a small shed since the day he was born.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan will star in E.L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey.

Tom Hardy stars in the adaptation of Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 about an investigation of child murder's during the Stalin era of the Soviet Union.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in an adaptation of Michael Punke's The Revenant. The film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu takes place in the 1820s and is about a man seeking vengeance after being left for dead.

London Fields by Martin Amis is adapted into a film staring Amber Heard as Nicolo Six, a clairvoyant who begins a love affair with three men knowing that one of them will be her murderer. The film also stars Johnny Depp and Jim Sturgess. It is Matthew Cullen's directorial debut.

Pierce Brosnon and William Hurt star in the fantasy-fiction-history adaptation of Vonda N. McIntyre's The Moon and The Sun about King Louis XIV's attempt to steal the life force from a sea monster.

Consistently praised director of fiction Stephen Daldry has brought Andy Mulligan's Trash to the big screen, although it's United States run has not yet occurred. The film stars Rooney Mara, and Martin Sheen. The book is was adapted by Richard Curtis.

Ezra Miller and Mia Wasikowska star in an adaptation of Gustave Flaubert's classic Madame Bovary.

Todd Field still appears to be working on directing and adapting The Creed of Violence by Boston Teran. This 1910 period piece tells the story of arms smuggling ring in Mexico.

Another period piece is Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française directed by Saul Dibb a love story in the early days of the French occupation. The love story stars Michelle Williams (French villager) and Matthias Schoenaerts (German soldier).

Also staring Matthias Schoenaerts is another classic adaptation. This time Tom Hardy's Far From The Maddening Crowd which also stars Carrey Mulligan, Juno Temple, and Martin Sheen.

Nick Hornby's adaptation of Colm Toibin's Brooklyn tells the story of Irish immigrants in New York in the 1950s. The film stars Saoirse Ronan.

The author of the 2014 hit Gone Girl, gets another adaptation. Gillian Flynn's Dark Places stars Charlize Theron and Chloë Grace Moretz.

Todd Haynes is set to direct an adaptation of the same-sex love story The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (written under the pseudonym Claire Morgan), the film is called Carol and set to star Cate Blanchett.

Derek Cianfrance will direct an adaptation of M.L. Stedman's The Light Between Oceans about a light keeper and his wife living in Australia. Michael Fassbender stars.

Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, and Chiwetel Ejiofor will star in The Secret in Their Eyes based on Eduardo Sacheri's book. This book was the same source material for the film with the same name that won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for Argentina in 2010.

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper team up again, this time in North Carolina during the depression. The film is adaptation of Ron Rash's novel Serena.

Danielle Radcliffe and James McAvoy star in Victor Frankenstein, in the newest adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Susanna White is set to direct an adaptation of the John le Carre novel, Our Kind of Traitorstaring Ewan McGregor.

Jessica Chastain is set to star The Zookeeper's Wife a WWII story based on Diane Ackerman's book.

Evan Rachel Wood and Ellen Page star in Jean Hegland's Into The Forest about sister's in a apocalyptic world.

Rooney Mara stars in Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture about a woman in a mental hospital.

This year's Nicholas Sparks contributions include The Longest Ride and The Choice.

The second installment of Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay will be released as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part II.

The Maze Runner series continues with the second film in the series. The adaptation of James Dashner's Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials comes out in the fall.

The Divergent follow-up comes with Veronica Roth's Insurgent hitting theaters this spring staring Shailene Woodley.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Broadchurch Season 1 - Some Spoiler Free Thoughts

Broadchurch is a British Television crime drama, the first series originally aired in 2013. It is an eight episode series which is absolutely fantastic in a number of ways.

I write this post with great caution to be spoiler-free because the intrigue of Broadchurch is that it's a fantastic "who-done-it." And from the end of Episode 1 my wife and I started to play this guessing game. A game which I truly believe creator Chris Chibnall hoped we would play.

For example, in Episode 1 my wife selected a character we hadn't even formally met yet, but appeared briefly in a montage of reflective/impacted characters. We met her chosen criminal in episode 2, and as suspected he was a suspect.

At it's one of those things, were everyone is suspect. Yet, this is not just a police procedural or mystery, genres I often have a hard time getting excited about. Because Broadchuch while dedicated to solving the crime is also about telling a story.

The film's primary characters are Detectives Alec Hardy (played fantastically tepid by David Tennant), and Ellie Miller (also fantastic, played by Olivia Coleman, in her BAFTA winning role). The interesting thing to me about British TV sometimes it seems to cast differently - these actors were both so fantastic in their roles but in a leading role neither of them seem like a Hollywood star, instead they play their roles so convincingly, in ways that very human. Both the endearing and unflattering side of human.

The filming is beautiful and not just for it's Jurassic Coast setting. It has this exceptional pacing that creates a sense of timing and rhythm. The filming and editing are done in such a way that it tells you when to pause, to think, to reevaluate your thoughts, and to consider the character's positions and feelings. The filming is very much an active part of the story telling, and it works effectively from episode 1 to episode 8.

There are also some other incredibly excellent performances, but to mention names and actors almost in it's own ways opens up the door to spoilers. But there really was not a single actor in the film whom I did not find perfectly cast performing at an exceptional level. 

The overarching plot itself may not be the most unique (a murder investigation in a small town), but it doesn't really matter if there's a creative plot devise on the front end, because it's gripping, beautiful and compelling in each step of it's execution.

This past year, the show was retooled by Fox TV for American consumption as the show Gracepoint were David Tennant reprises his role. Although, while intrigued can't imagine that version being better than this, and the plot of the two versions is the generally the same in the American reiteration. 

The second series is currently airing in United Kingdom, and honestly, this is one of those shows where I can't imagine how they recapture the magic of the first series, but am eager to catch Season 2 when it is available. It has also been renewed for a third season as well.

Broadchurch is great serial television, and I can't say enough how compelling, beautiful, and well acted this show trully is -- a genuine pleasure to watch, up to the last minute. 
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