From Krall to Luther: Idris Elba tears it up

10 Aug

It’s always interesting to see actors’ develop in various roles throughout their careers but it’s a guilty pleasure for me when I can binge watch a few different shows over the course of a night or two in my own de facto retrospective.

 My own mini Idris Elba fest combined his turn as the evil Krall in the latest Star Trek franchise installment, BEYOND, & his work as noble but emotionally tortured policeman John Luther, in the BBC program, LUTHER.


I get a kick out of Star Trek, always have – always will, even before my days in LA working for Paramount & then the sfx house that did the effects on Star Trek:The Next Generation, so to watch a screening & get absorbed in the well written, boundless universe that incorporates Kirk, Scottie & Bones is pure pleasure.  Simon Pegg’s tight script & Justin Lin’s fluid direction give everyone a bit of joy. But we expect great writing & performances from the guys who brought us ( separately) such films as The World’s End, Shaun of the Dead, Better Luck Tommorow & the Fast & The Furious. 

Psycho, Hopper, Tourists & Booze… Rooftop Met

2 Jul

Sitting in the bench against the wall, facing Central Park & the Dakota, In the full hot early evening sun, watching 400 or so of my closest strangers pass by as they walk around & display themselves & peruse the (maybe not) Art … I am reminded why I love Manhattan & why I really love the seasonal rooftop installation pieces at the Met. 
An adorable 8 year old is splayed out over his dad like a blanket as his mom reads “Digger & Daisy” to him (they are in the shade of the pergola column, facing me & so completely obvious of the Installation – a version of ” psycho meets hopper ” type of scaled down installation that actually works with the background of various skyscrapers setting it off as a grown-up’s over done doll House set. 

With the 2 bland exceptions in the distant past of painted blood colored leaves on the floor & ripped up tiles with weeds growing between them ( the former meant to inspire contemplation of the blood being spilt in the Middle East & the latter meant to be an imitation of an urban archeological dig) usually the seasonal exhib – no matter how great or horrible is wonderful- because it serves to bring the city’s flotsam & jetsam of tourists, art lovers, first dates, young families, bored bro-artists, etc etc etc., together. 

They are the real, ever changing, often drunk, sometimes complaining, never boring, exhibit. Sit with your prosecco & ham with Brie sandwich, & watch it all go by. 

You have got to love it. Literally. Love. It. 
If you don’t, don’t bother taking up space in my bench…

Derek rocks…

15 May


Love him or hate him – check out Ricky Gervais’ gentle 2012 comedy “Derek” on Netflix. 
His autistic character is kind, patient and caring & the whole show looks at the humanity & dignity of the overlooked, the old, the different, the forgotten & the ignored.

Gervais said in an interview that he loved Derek because the character was a hero…

  &… A bonus is Karl Pilkington, Gervais’ Idiot Abroad, in a wonderful turn as Dougie. 

Swingers: 20 years & still so money, baby…!

7 May

Kevin Smith broke out with his no-budget CLERKS; Robert Rodriguez did it with EL MARIACHI; Matt Damon & Ben Affleck did it with GOOD WILL HUNTING… But maybe the eponymous break- out indie of all time is 1996’s SWINGERS by Jon Favreau & Vince Vaughn. 


The Derby in Los Feliz is long gone, and cell phones have removed the need for a wise ass answering machine machine & paper photos of ex-girlfriends, but otherwise the tenor of this little indie gem still stands the test of time on its (almost) 20th anniversary. 

Favreau’s performance as a hapless jilted comedian trying to navigate his personal life & career during his twenties in Los Angeles is a preview of the tremendous comic timing & emotional fragility that Favreau exhibits in his 2014 follow-up CHEF. 

Italian funeral dinners…

4 May

Look Who’s Back – A comedy about…Hitler!!??!

4 May

April 22, 1945 -Hitler  admitted defeat; 

April 30, 1945 -Hitler committed suicide; 

April 1, 2016 – Hitler meets Netflix.
In this turbulent election year Netflix’s April 9 release of Mythos Films’ German satire based on the book of the same name by Timur Vermes, is either a bold choice or an epic miscalculation. 

Whatever the case, the film, which has similarities to Sascha Baron Cohen’s  2006 send-up BORAT, could have been released on one of the April Dates associated with Hitler’s  end for maximum bang. This was a sadly missed PR move for some added exposure that could have matched the book’s release in Germany, where the book price was 19.33 – a shrewd PR move- linking the book to the year he came into power…

Both the 2012 book & the film (titled in German -Er ist Wieder Da:  He is Back…) were blockbusters in Germany, with the book breaking sales records & the film doing incredible box office. A combination of fish-out-of-water premise & mistaken identity film, the major premise here is that from the get-go Hitler always says he’s Hitler & yet no one believes him. 70 years after he was believed to have committed suicide – he’s taken for a comedian, political satirist, caricature artist…but never the world’s most notorious mass murderer.

With a grand slam performance by Oliver Masucci as Hitler, the film pushes the boundaries for racism & animal cruelty while simultaneously  calling people out for being hypocritical, greedy, gullible & short-sighted.  One tv exec in the film notes people’s embrace of Hitler’s policies towards humans but their horror at seeing Hitler’s Hitler-like behavior with a dog…

Sharing a page with films like ENCINO MAN  & THE FIFTH ELEMENT, LOOK WHO’S BACK  shows Hitler catching up with technology but unlike these other films, he immediately embraces the new methods of communication offered up by social media. He understands the importance of communication. This allows for comedic moments as well as a chance for the viewer to contemplate the impact the Web’s immediacy has on public opinion & action. 


At times shocking, funny & abhorrent, the film, was shot in Germany before the massive Syrian influx into Europe & Germany broke all records in the summer & autumn 2015.  Since the film’s release in Germany on October 8, 2015,  Frontex, the EU’s  external border force, has pegged the total land wave of non-visa holding Syrian immigrants at over 1,800,000 total for 2015. 

The film itself is  well written, superbly acted ,and finely shot, with seamless effects.  It deals with major issues (including feeding the entertainment appetite of the lowest common denominator) while also winking its eye at the viewer, seemingly admitting it is pushing the same greedy, racist buttons as its protagonists do throughout the film. 

But it also comments on the evil of Hitler’s actions, the complacency of the people who accepted his leadership, the repetition of history & the shared responsibility for maintaining a humanist’s integrity.  It’s social & moral conscience is recovered in the character of Fabian and his realization of the truth of Hitler’s identity. 

Hitler responds to this accusation about his identity by reminding his accuser that he always said he was Hitler & never said he was anyone else. True evil never does. Likewise, the film stays true to itself & never shies away from being what it is. Interesting movies never do. 

Schultze gets the blues & we get lucky…

11 Mar

What is a fellow to do when he is forced into early retirement? if you are Irish, you go in on a fish & chip van (The Van-based on Roddy Doyle’s book of the same name). If you’re Scottish, you decide to swim the English Channel, like Peter Mullan (2005’s On a Clear Day). If you’re Schultze, forced out of your job in the salt mines in a small German town, you stumble around as time passes, until you find something that speaks to your soul.

Part road trip, part performance film, part German beer part Louisiana beignets, we go from small town to bayou & enjoy the journey all the way. Director Michael Schorr’s gently paced doesn’t pander to the audience but instead pulls us along with it…

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