Monthly Archives: April 2014

Night Moves – movie review

Night Moves had its U.S. premier at the Tribeca Film Festival this week, and our reviewers were there in the first row.

The film starts our slowly in what appears to be a   sleepy farming community in pristine rural Oregon.  One of the characters works on a beautiful organic farm, another works on what appears to be a nudist colony for old women.

However, it soon becomes evident that these idealistic young people have taken their back to nature views to extremes. They are, in fact, environmental terrorists and plan to blow up a major dam in the area.

The group of terrorists (or idealists depending upon your point of view) is played  Dakota Fanning, Jesse Eisenberg and Peter Sarsgaard.

These three extraordinary actors each bring unique points of view to their characters. You get to know them, but the film still leaves as a mystery exactly why each one has chosen this radical path. They never really completely open up about themselves, even with each other.

The film was directed by Kelly Reichardt who was on hand to answer questions from the audience after the film.  Since the premier was at 3 PM on a Thursday, she started her remarks by saying, “I am glad to see that the fans of Night Moves are all unemployed.”

Kelly is not at all what you would expect from a movie director. She is very petite and with a soft voice seemed actually shy in front of the audience. She spoke about how it had taken two years just to scout for all the locations in the movie. She noted that the extras were all real farmers which made it very challenging to direct.  As she spoke, we realized how nerve racking it must be for a director to spend years of her life on a film and then have to sit and wait to see if the audience loves it or hates it.

Unfortunately, the first audience comment came from a large imposing Russian man with a full black beard who expressed his disappointment in the way the movie ended. Without giving anything away we will say that the ending is more “artistic” and less “Hollywood” than some audiences may like.

However, we thought the film was great, and do recommend it.

 

Every Secret Thing – movie review

Every Secret Thing had its world premier at the Tribeca Film Festival this week and we were lucky enough to get tickets. Despite the fact that the premier was on Easter Sunday, the showing was to a packed theater and there was a Q&A session by the cast and director after the screening.

The movie is a somber detective mystery about the disappearance of a young mixed-race child from a store in the middle of the day while the parents are shopping just a few feet away. The  film is directed  by Amy Berg. This is her first feature film. Before this she  been making documentaries, and Every Secret Thing has the real-life feel of a documentary. You feel like you are watching actual events.

The police detective is excellently  played by Elizabeth Banks, who is better known for her over-the-top character of Effie in The Hunger Games.  The film shows the emotional toll on police officers of any case involving a child.

When the child disappears, the police immediately focus on two young women in town. Many years earlier when these women were girls, they had been accused of kidnapping an African-American baby.

The movie is actually two mysteries in one. The first takes place in current time and focuses on the search for the missing child. The second story, shown in flashbacks, seeks to unravel the truth about what really happened years before when the baby disappeared.

Every actor in this film seemed real as their character. The current day young suspects are played by Dakota Fanning and Danielle Macdonald. The same characters as little girls are played by Eva Grace Kellner and Bryne Norquest. The overbearing mother of one of the children is played by Diane Lane.

We could say more, but do not want to give away too much. We will just say that the story has secrets withing secrets and that the mysteries that are revealed are shocking and unexpected.

We highly recommend this film.

Tribeca Film Festival

Tribecca Film Festival 002The world premier of Every Secret Thing.

Every Secret Thing 001

Tickets to the World Premier of Every Secret Thing, a dark mystery film revolving around the kidnapping of a young bi-racial girl.

Tribecca Film Festival 006The cast & producers of Every Secret Thing on stage to answer questions after the premier

Tribecca Film Festival 008

Director Amy Berg & actress Eva Grace Kellner answers questions from the audience.

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Left to right- Danielle Macdonald, Amy Berg, Eva Grace Kellner

 

Tribecca Film Festival 011The two child stars of the film, Eva Grace Kellner and Bryne Norquist.

Tribecca Film Festival 001Getting to the world premiers in the Tribeca Festival. Faster than a limo.

Tribecca Film Festival 017This picture did not come out crystal clear, but we wanted to share it to show the extraordinary group of talented women associated with Every Secret Thing.

From let to right –Frances McDormand, Tonye Patano,  Diana Lane, Amy Berg.

NIGHT MOVES 002

Night Moves director Kelly Reichardt answers questions from the audience after the U.S. premier of the movie. The premier was at 3 PM on a Thursday to a packed theater, so Kelly started by saying, “I am glad that the fans of Night Moves are all unemployed.”

The film is about a group environmentalists turned “Eco-terrorists”, and is frighting due to the real potential of something like it actually happening.

Influx – Book Review

Philip K. Dick would have loved the new novel Influx by Daniel SuarezLet’s face it, Philip K. Dick was one of the most paranoid writers that ever existed. He was all about secret government conspiracies and a future where all power is concentrated in the hands of an elite few. His stories inspired the movies  Blade Runner and Minority Report.

Influx takes place not in the distant future or in another country, but in current day America. It answers the question as to why we are not further along technologically. After all, the book points out, we landed on the Moon in 1969. Are Facebook and internet porn really the best technological advances the world was able to come up with since then?

The answer is that for decades the U.S. Government has been keeping the truly advanced inventions out of the hands of the masses. There is a secret Bureau of Technology Control (BTC) which intervenes if a genius  scientist makes a breakthrough which is deemed too dangerous. In a clever twist, one of the ways the BTC keeps tabs on these scientists is to secretly fund their research. Scientists  who think they have won grants from charities or universities are really unknowingly working for a government agency.

But what happens to the inventions? The key word in BTC is “Control”. The BTC does not  want to stop new technologies, it just wants to control them. Of course that is the problem. Over the years the control of secret advances has made the BTC more and more powerful. It has reached the point where the idea of taking orders from the elected leaders of the government seems unnecessary.

This is a excellently written and exciting book, even for people who are  not normally science fiction fans.  Could there be a U.S. government agency that becomes so powerful and technologically advanced that it no longer feels it has to report to anyone? Well, just replace the letters BTC with NSA and the story does not seem far fetched at all.

 

The Blue Eyed New Jersey Indian

In Basking Ridge there is a 23 acre park called the Sons of Liberty Farm. The story of how it came to be is the story of Irwin Richardt , one of the most colorful characters the East Coast has even known.

He was born in 1928 and lived in Basking Ridge his entire life. During that time the town evolved from a small rural community into a very wealthy upscale suburb. As the town got bigger, it expanded the infrastructure including the roads. Then the town council made a big mistake.

It tried to take a piece of Irwin’s land.

Unfortunately, the farm was on the corner of what had become two main roads, and the town government decided to widen one of them. Most of the land owners were happy to take the money the town offered for a piece of their property. All except Irwin. He refused to sell any part of the property. Eventually the town went to court and through the use of “eminent domain” took a part of his land and made the road 10 feet wider. Of course, the town had to pay for the property. They issued a check for the fair value of the land. All Irwin had to do was show up at town hall and get a very sizable check. He never did.

Irwin had never been a fan of government even before then, but after that he hated, absolutely hated the town council.  Irwin was sure it would just be a matter of time before they took more and more of his land until there was nothing left. He was determined that would never happen.

He started by writing  directly to members of the town government what they considered “threatening” letters. They even had him charged with a crime and took him to court. When the case got to court, the judge took one look at the letters and dismissed the case. What Irwin had done was to simply send direct quotes from parts  of  the Old Testament. Nothing added or deleted to the passages The government people took it as threats since Irwin had chosen the especially bloody and violent parts of The Bible to quote. No doubt that Irwin had chosen those particular versus on purpose; but there is no judge anywhere in the United States who is going to lock up a man for quoting The Bible.

After that Irwin tried to have his land declared an Indian Reservation. He claimed that he was an American Indian and that as an official reservation his land could not be touched by local government. The flaw in that argument was that one look at Irwin would show anyone that he was of Nordic stock, with bright blue eyes and pale pale skin.

Irwin hated any intrusion by any form of government. He objected that the State of New Jersey said he had to have insurance, so he got rid of his car. It is not an easy thing to get around in New Jersey, but Irwin did it on his bicycle. Residents of the town got used to the sight of this old man with his long grey hair pulled back in a pony tail riding his bicycle for miles to buy supplies and groceries. It was on old bike onto which he had fashioned a basket with a cross on the back.

He was a loner most of his life. He never married and never built up his property. He liked a simple life. Given the location of his property he could have sold it at any time for millions of dollars. Instead he continued to live in an old wooden house. There is a small pond on the property, and on hot  summer days passers-by could see  Irwin floating peacefully  in an inner tube around the pond.

Irwin considered himself an old fashioned conservative. On the property right next to his is a nudist colony. Some modern “conservatives” might rant against that, but Irwin’s feeling was that what people did on their own property was their own business.

The biggest scare Irwin ever gave the town government was when he ran for Town Council himself. After years of fighting them he decided to just get them voted out. He didn’t win, but the vote was very very close.

Irwin died in 2006 at the age of 78. He had no family, so he left the land to a neighbor. The neighbor donated it to the town with the proviso that it be turned into a park and preserved exactly as Irwin had left it. The town accepted the offer. So in the end, Irwin beat the town government after all. Not only would his farm be preserved forever, but the town government would have to be paying to do it.

Some people called Irwin a fighter for individual rights and some just called him a crazy old man. But everyone agrees that the town will be a little less interesting without him.

Urban Ireland

GREG PICTURES 034The box where the heart of Saint O’Toole was kept until it was stolen in 2012.
You can read about it in Lawrence O’Toole’s Missing Heart.

GREG PICTURES 037Our Creative consultant contemplates the mystery of who stole the saint’s heart.

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A rare sunny day in Dun Laoghaire

GREG PICTURES 033A Palm tree grows in the center of Dun Laoghaire. The Gulf Stream makes Ireland warmer than New York even though it is much further north.

GREG PICTURES 027The river Liffey which runs through Dublin. The Vikings named the area “Dufflin” which means “black pool” One look at the cold dark water and it is easy to see why the Vikings gave it the name.

The Man Who Didn’t Drive

The following is a true story. None of the names or places have been changed.

People hated to see Bill Fitzmaurice on the train.  Oh he was a nice enough guy. In fact, he was very nice. He always remembered your kids names. He would ask you how you were doing and then actually listen to your answer.

The problem was that he did not drive. That meant that when the train pulled in to Stamford he would hit you up for a ride home. You couldn’t very well say no after having chatted with him for the whole long train ride from Grand Central. But he lived all the way down at the tip of Shippan Point. If you happened to live in North Stamford, or even in the Cove, it was really inconvenient.  The last thing anyone wanted to do after a tough day at work in New York and a long commute home was to spend another half hour driving Bill home and then coming back.

In the mornings, Bill’s wife dropped him off at the station.  She could have picked him up for the ride home too, but Bill preferred to “hitch” a ride with his friends. It was weird for a middle aged man in Connecticut not to drive. To get anywhere you really needed a car. Weird and annoying. He had a wife and family. What kind of man was too lazy to drive and make his wife do all the chauffeuring?

Bill’s son Michael did very well in  school, and Bill was proud of him. On Michael’s  fifteenth birthday Bill took him aside and gave him a box with a special present. Inside the box was a short green Army jacket. It had Sergeant’s stripes and some special  hash marks on the sleeve. There was a small “T” inside the Sergeant’s stripes.

“Try it on son. It’s my old Army Jacket.”

“I didn’t know you were in the Army,” said Michael. “You never mentioned it before.” Then he put on the jacket, which as predicted was much too large for him.

“I was in the Army for nine years. I was in before the war, and of course through the whole war.”

“What did you do in the war dad? ”

“I was a truck driver.”

ARMY TRUCK

Michael was stunned. The man who would never get behind the wheel of a car was an Army truck driver for nine years.

That’s when Bill Fitzmaurice told his son about the war.   Bill had loved the Army. He got to travel all over the world and had even spent a lot of time in India. He drove trucks and worked his way up to Sergent.  When the war came he continued to drive trucks. They were the big kinds you see in every World War II movie.  In the back were either troops or supplies.

Bill and his unit served in the Pacific. The worst part was not the Japanese, but the heat, humidity, mosquitoes and bad roads. The whole war, Bill dreamed about getting back to the cooler weather of Connecticut.

It was an assignment like any other. Bill was told to transport a group of men and their Lieutenant from one base to another. Bill was alone in the cab.  Normally an officer would have been up front with Bill, but the Lieutenant had ridden in the back with the men, so he could  talk to them about the details of their new assignment.

The road was awful. It was a rutted dirt road up the side of a mountain. Bill had to keep the truck in the lowest gear and still the tires slipped unless he was really gentle with the acceleration.

They were about half way up the mountain when the Japanese plane struck. It came out of  nowhere and was all alone. By that part of the war the Japanese air force was almost completely destroyed, so it was unusual to even see a plane.

The plane came straight at the stuck with the guns blazing. There was nothing Bill could do  for protection. The truck was completely exposed on the mountain side. There were no trees or rocks to hide behind and there was no place to pull off.

The plane strafed the truck and then pulled up and disappeared into the sky. The whole attack lasted no more than 30 seconds.  The bullets had damaged the back tires and the truck started to slip backwards. Bill pulled the emergency brake, tried to compensate with the steering, but the truck slid off the road and tumbled down the side of the mountain.

It bounced over the rocks. Bill’s head banged against the side as it fell. When the truck finally stopped its decent, it just happened to land upright. Bill sat behind the wheel for several minutes in a daze. He used his hand to feel the lump on the side of his head. The wound was bloody, but did not seem that bad. He checked and found that he had no broken bones, so he cautiously got out of the cab.

Bill walked to the back of the truck and tossed open the canvas covering to check on the the men. They were all there in a pile with their bodies at odd twisted angles. Bill climbed into the truck and checked each man one by one hoping that someone had  survived. But they were all dead.  He still remembers vividly how young the Lieutenant looked. Like a little kid playing dress-up soldier.

Bill never drove another vehicle of any type after that. He was in the hospital for a short time with a concussion, but aside from that had no injuries. Not physical ones anyway.

Bill stayed in the Army until he end of the war. He still worked on trucks; doing oil changes, changing spark plugs and so on, but somehow always found a way to get out of any actual driving. The officers looked the other way and never pressed him on the issue.

When the war ended Bill came home with millions of other guys. He ended up living and working  in New York City where he never had to drive. One day he met a wonderful young woman. They were married and when she became pregnant she announced that she wanted to move to Connecticut where Bill had originally grown up. She knew it would mean doing all the driving. She was the only person who Bill had ever told about his wartime experiences. Until he told his son Michael.

For everyone else, Bill is just the annoying guy on the train you want to avoid on the way home.

 

 

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Movie Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a wonderful quirky comedy.  If you can find it in your area we highly recommend it. For some unknown reason this film was given a very limited release. The theaters it has played in have been packed and the audiences loved it.

It is the story of Mr. Gustave H. the concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel right  before that part of Europe is shattered by World War II. He becomes the mentor of Zero the new Lobby Boy.

Mr. Gustave is a ridiculous silly figure who spend his days (and nights) catering to the wealthy old women who seem to make up the majority of the hotel’s guests. One of these ancient grand ladies dies and leaves a priceless painting to Mr. Gustave. The old woman’s relatives are furious and contest the will. Instead of waiting for a long legal process, Mr. Gustave and Zero steal the painting and their wild adventures begin.

Through it all, the audience cheers for Mr. Gustave. As ridiculous as he is, Mr. Gustave truly cares for the people around him, and tries to maintain an air of complete civility in a world getting increasingly more violent and chaotic. At one point Mr. Gustave and Zero spend time in a prison filled with hardened and dangerous criminals. (The leader expertly played by Harvey Keitel). But  Mr. Gustave ends up begin immensely popular with the fellow inmates by treating them with the same courtesy as if they were guests at the Grand Budapest instead of prisoners.

In the midst of all this Zero is trying to win over the love of his life Agatha, an assistant in a local gourmet bakery. She is wonderfully  played by the Irish Actress Saoirse Ronan.

Mr. Gustave and Zero have a romantic and idealistic view of the world which unfortunately is completely at odds with the world which is collapsing around them. Mr. Gustave wants the painting not because it is valuable but because it is beautiful and reminds him of his youth. Zero is willing to take any risk and go to any length to win over the young woman he loves.

As the audience we know that in real life, Europe is about to plunge into a devastating war completely wiping away good manners and Grand Hotels. Still, even knowing it is a lost cause, we cheer for Mr. Gustave and his fantasy view of civilization.

 

 

 

Noah – movie review

The story of Noah only takes 4 pages in The Book of Genesis of the Old Testament. That makes it a real problem for a movie director. How do you stretch a 4 page story into a full length motion picture?

What the writers did is what is making so many conservative Christian groups angry. The writers added to the story parts that are not in the bible.  And for no discernible reason at all they even changed parts of the story that were very clear in the Book of Genesis.

One of the main plot points of the movie is that only one of Noah’s three sons has a wife and that she is incapable of bearing children. Noah is sure that this is a sign that after the world is destroyed by the flood, God wants the human race to end. This assumption is one of the main driving forces governing Noah’s actions in the movie.

Except that this is completely opposite to what is in the Bible. The quote from the Book of Genesis is that, “Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons entered the ark.” That makes 4 men and 4 women on the ark.  Not only does the movie leave out two of the women, it makes a major plot point about how sad two of the sons are that they do not have women.

The movie also turns Noah’s entire family into vegetarians.  In the movie God is angry that all the people except Noah’s family are killing and eating animals for food. That is one of the main reasons God destroys the world but saves Noah and his family. Again, this is a complete Hollywood fantasy.

However the movie becomes truly ridiculous when it comes to the building of the ark. This would have been a perfect time for the movie to have a lot of dramatic scenes about how Noah and his sons struggled doing heavy manual labor for many years to fulfill God’s will.

ROCK MONSTER GalaxyQuest Rock Monster

 

ROCK ANGEL  Noah’s “Rock Angel”

 

Instead, the director (Darron Aronofsky) decided to employ very badly computer generated “fallen angels” to help Noah. Supposedly God threw these angels out of Heaven for being unfaithful. When they fell to Earth they landed in molten lava and therefore became rock-encrusted. However, they can still move around.  The audience is supposed to take them seriously. But it is hard not to laugh since these angels look exactly like the rock monster from the comedy Galaxy Quest. The graphics and movements of these rock-angels is so bad it looks like something a student film maker would have submitted for a project.

It is unfortunate that the writing in this movie is so awful, since the acting is excellent.  Noah is played superbly by Russell Crowe. Noah’s wife is Jennifer Connelly who also portrayed his wife in A Beautiful Mind.

But the best actors in the world cannot save this movie. If you want to know the story of Noah we recommend you read it in the original book. It won’t take that long to read. After all, it is only four pages.