Tag Archives: 9/11

Jurassic World

12 Jun

Jurassic World is bigger and badder than its predecessors, but we really miss the original cast

Jurassic Work

It’s been nearly 15 years since the last Jurassic Park installment, and a lot has changed in the world: 9/11 rocked and divided our nation as the War on Terror took root, smartphones replaced cumbersome cellphones, and GMOs have become talking points at cocktail parties. What’s all this have to do with the revival of the dino-park movie franchise based on the slim yet innovative novel by Michael Crichton and initially helmed by Stephen Spielberg?

The answer is everything. Like the problem of a bigger, meaner and more thrilling wow (read: dangerous) that confronts the conglomerate structure behind Jurassic World, the filmmakers spinning out Jurassic World are saddled with the burden of outdoing what came before. The good news is that the quality of special FX has come light-years.

Today, people caught in the middle of a dino herd don’t look like they’re being shot against a screen and pasted into a jerkily moving computer rendering; they’re now seamlessly in there with the “real” possibility of being trampled or squashed or snatched up by the genetically engineered Indominus Rex, the new badass on the block, cooked up in a lab by a bunch of avaricious DNA jockeys to scare the shit out of money-paying vacationers seeking an adrenaline rush just to know they’re alive.

At the park on a lush tropical island off the coast of Costa Rica, at any time, there are some 20,000 people being run through the vast array of exhibits and rides and fleeced for cash with the rapier efficiency of a Disney or Sea World. Money is a driving force at Jurassic World, and in the birthing lab, there too looms a myriad of hidden agendas and covert, need-to-know data points — like who’s DNA went into good ole Indominus — that breeds malcontent and dubious action.

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The 13th Annual Independent Film Festival Boston

30 Apr

‘Gather Round’ For The 13th Annual Independent Film Festival Boston

A scene from "The Look of Silence." (Courtesy)

The tagline’s meant to underscore not only the concept of old fashion storytelling around the communal fire pit, but also the sense of community among filmmakers and filmgoers alike and the cross pollination of the two. Something the festival has had great success with in the past, bringing in such distinguished guests as Academy Award-winning actor Ben Kingsley and groundbreaking documentarian Albert Maysles. Local boy Casey Affleck has lent to the fest’s cred too, serving as its creative adviser and the popular indie actress Lili Taylor, starring in the new TV series “American Crime,” sits on the advisory board.

The festival has become something of Sundance East, with lines from the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square stemming around the block as eager moviegoers chase that elusive last ticket or hope to snag that prized center seating. But with sellout after sellout, the festival is still changing and growing.

“We want to be more,” says executive director Brian Tamm, “we want to do more with the city of Somerville and the arts community. We want to be more of resource and community for filmmakers here in Boston and Massachusetts. We also want to expand more into Boston.”

Tamm cites the UMass Boston “Works in Progress” program and award given to a promising documentary not yet completed. There are also select screenings, he says, at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, but Davis Square is the de facto hub of the fest with other regular screenings augmented at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square.

A scene from "Results." (Courtesy)

That’s the future, for now IFFB has proven its mettle; for 13 years IFFB has operated on a wholly volunteer structure, but things have started to change. With the departure of longtime program director Adam Roffman (who remains on as a board member) last year, Tamm took on the newly created executive director role and longtime festival organizer, Nancy Campbell took over the reigns as program director. Part of the reason for the new structure, now capping its second festival, was to give prospective sponsors a conventional front door to gain traction with easily versus the “kibbutz” style, as Tamm jokingly calls the old “by committee” structure, that may have caused confusion with past potential investors and other backing organizations.   Continue reading

American Sniper

19 Jan

‘American Sniper’: Clint’s a good shot, but we don’t get man behind the scope

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It’s pretty amazing the quality of films Clint Eastwood has been belting out as he sails well past the octogenarian mark, not just because he’s making movies at that age, but because of the ambition and scope of those films. “Invictus” (2009) took on the shifting tides of apartheid in South Africa, “J. Edgar” (2011), the biopic of America’s long-standing top dick, spanned eras and presidential regimes as America was shaped during the mid-1900s – and then there was the ill-fated but well-intentioned musical “Jersey Boys” (2014). Now we get “American Sniper,” the true story of Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL in the Iraq War whose remarkable gift is the ability to take out anther human being a mile away. As the billing has it, Kyle, as a marksman,  has the most confirmed kills in U.S. military history.

011615i American SniperKyle’s a pretty good shot; so is Eastwood, conjuring up some hellish gun battles and tense door-to-door incursions with Kyle on the roof keeping his boys safe from the jihadist around the corner with an assault rifle or RPG. He’ll even take out a woman or a child with cool professionalism (but not without a touch of nervous deliberation, to denote his humanity and the conundrum of such an act) should they prove to be the chosen chalice of hateful mayhem. The scenes, rich and rife with conflict and drenched with sun and sand, feel borrowed from Katherine Bigelow’s haunting wartime chronicle “The Hurt Locker,” yet there’s no plumbing of the soul or genuine crisis of conscience in Eastwood’s endeavor. Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper – a fine enough actor, but likely destined for the Kevin Costner outpost of shaggy good looks, nonchalance and zero range – is a square piece of paper, dedicated in his mission to serve, tough, resilient and skilled at what he does, but not much more. Sure he’s got a wife and a mindset, but as the film has it, they’re like hastily chosen add-ons when buying a car.

The book about Kyle (which he penned with two other writers) was a New York Times bestseller and much has been made about the subject in many circles of the press challenging Kyle’s credibility (visit Slate for a start) and virtue. Eastwood, you remember, spoke comically and boldly to a chair at the 2012 GOP National Convention, and you can only guess that there’s a degree of skewed political undertow in the film’s patriotic envelopment. Like the 2013 film “Lone Survivor,” the ostensible pursuit of jingoistic justification and boundaries of true events limit the expansion of character and sociopolitical exploration of war and intertwining of diverse cultures with mismatched agendas. As a result, both films detail harrowing ordeals without being so. From the film, there’s little doubt as to Chris Kyle’s commitment as a protector of his country or as a father, but when the film ends (and it’s on a (and it’s on a tragic note that developed as the film went into production), the definition of who Chris Kyle was remains a mystery.

Frank

6 Nov
Michael Fassbender plays an enigmatic band leader who wears a mask both on and off stage in Frank

Gimmicks get you gigs, or at least that’s the implied mantra for novelty acts like GWAR and KISS, where garish garnish generates spectacle, buzz, and ticket sales. The same might be said of Soronprfb, the band with the intentionally unpronounceable name in the movie Frank, where the lead singer wears a giant papier-mâché head bearing a blue-eyed boyish countenance. Soronprfb however doesn’t seek fame and fortune; they desire artistic respect and only produce work that reflects their values and integrity.

Just what those values are remains murky, but you can’t deny their commitment to this esoteric tenet. Playing to handfuls in random dives, eschewing promotion (social or otherwise), and lacking cash, might be setbacks and poor decisions to some, but for Soronprfb it’s a badge of honor and a starving artist rallying point. And when the time strikes to record a new album, the group turns-off, drops out, and cloisters away to a quaint lake-side lodge somewhere in the Irish north, where they resign to remain until the necessary inspiration descends and the new disc is pressed from their argumentative malaise.

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Moore Controversy

16 Mar

Text below or use this Web Del Sol link (Reflections On “Farenheit 9/11”) to go to the site. The essay was included in the book Your Life is a Movie, which you can still buy on Amazon. Click on the book and see!

movie book

Moore Controversy: One Rambling Critic Tackles Another

When it came to the handling of Michael Moore’s acerbic documentary, Fahrenheit 911, the conservative powers at Disney weren’t too astute. If they were trying to snuff it from distribution, then why did they sell it (back) to Harvey and Bob Weinstein? You knew the co-founders of Miramax would find a distributor (and they did through a venture with Lion’s Gate). Plus by creating a maelstrom of controversy when they said they wouldn’t release the Bush bashing polemic, Disney forever conjoined itself to the film 

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