Thrillers, Sci-Fi, Gritty Crime Coming Soon 2014

These look good.

GONE GIRL  (October 3rd)

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Gone_Girl_(Flynn_novel)Basic information: Directed by David Fincher.  Screenplay by Gillian Flynn based on her book.  Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike

Synopsis:  Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

Why it looks good: It’s a David Fincher film.

 

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THE ROVER  (June 13th)

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movies-the-rover-stillBasic information: Directed by David Michod.  Screenplay by Joel Edgerton and David Michod.  Starring Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson

Synopsis: In a dangerous and dysfunctional near-future, a loner tracks the gang who stole his car from a desolate town in the Outback.

Why it looks good: It’s post-apocalyptic.

 

COLD IN JULY (May 23rd / June 27 wide release)

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coldinjulyBasic information: Directed by Jim Mickle.  Screenplay by Nick Damici based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale.  Starring Michael C. Hall, Vinessa Shaw, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson

Synopsis:  In 1980s East Texas, two fathers pitted against each other in revenge must band together to uncover a darker truth.

Why it looks good: See the closest guy in the picture glaring at you? Because he says it’s going to be good, that’s why.

 

INHERENT VICE  (December 12th)

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Paul Thomas Anderson and Joaquin PhoenixBasic information: Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.  Screenplay by Anderson based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon.  Starring Jena Malone, Josh Brolin, Joaquin Phoenix

Synopsis:  In Los Angeles in 1970, drug-fueled detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.

Why it looks good: Anderson’s films somehow manage to feel like classics the first time you watch them.  Here the director of There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights, and The Master takes on a Pynchon novel.  Classic?  Probably.

 

INTERSTELLAR  (November 7th)

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interstellar-posterBasic information: Directed by Christopher Nolan.  Screenplay by Jonathan and Christopher Nolan.  Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway

Synopsis: A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

Why it looks good: As long as it’s not too full of its own indoctrination (which characterizes 2010′s Inception for some critics), with  a concept this rock-n-roll nerdy in the hands of such writing, directing, and acting talent, Interstellar could be one of the best films of the year, certainly the best sci-fi.

 

COMING SOON TO DVD / BLURAY / VOD (These look good, too)

JOE 

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An ex-con, who is the unlikeliest of role models, meets a 15-year-old boy and is faced with the choice of redemption or ruin.

 

ENEMY 

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A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.

 

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER 

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Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

 

UNDER THE SKIN 

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An alien seductress preys upon hitchhikers in Scotland.

 

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Some synopses from IMDb

Michael Gaylin – Five Questions

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These days, interns are suing producers for making them… well, intern… including reading scripts and writing script coverage when they’re not fetching coffee.  People are in an uproar.  If it’s not educational, and it doesn’t benefit the intern, then it’s involuntary servitude – or, illegal.  But is reading screenplays educational?  If so, how do the screenwriters feel about pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into a feature script only to have some unpaid intern read it and dismiss it out of hand?

I decided to sit down with Michael Gaylin, a USC Graduate who rewrote the script for the 1994 sci-fi thriller No Escape, and not ask him any of these questions.

Instead, I thought I’d see if Michael’s own story could illuminate something amid all the controversy; that no one ever said making it in the film business was easy.

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TJB: Let’s get right to it and start this off with No EscapeThat movie is unimpeachably awesome.  First of all, it has Ray Liotta in it.  And it’s about the future.  On another planet.  Which is a prison.  I mean, come on.  How did this happen for you?

posterMG: I am a huge science-fiction and action movie fan myself so not only did I have a kick writing this, but I also had a large mental library of genre elements and scenes that I could reference. Joel Gross wrote the first versions of the screenplay. I was hired to rewrite his script by Gale Anne Hurd’s Pacific Western production company.

At the time, Gale was unhappy with the way Richard Herley’s English novel was adapted. I went back to the novel and saw why it was a difficult task. Hurley’s novel was interesting, but it was a heavily philosophical, literary and at times talky story of banished prisoners who attempted to set up a kind of utopian society on a remote island. What it needed, I felt…was more action!  I more or less started from scratch and the result was that very little was left of both the Joel Gross’s script or Mr. Hurley’s original novel, save the basic concept. Luckily Gale and the executive producer liked what I what done and the movie was given a green light.

 

TJB: Can you walk us through how you got there?  Was there schooling, was there an agent, was there a pact with the devil? How many scripts do you write, if any, before No Escape?

MG: I’d gone to USC as a graduate student in the 1980’s. Shortly after graduating I started writing. My first project was to co-write a script with a friend from USC who had been hired by Disney. We’d worked together during school and he brought me in to pitch some ideas to the studio. They liked one of our ideas and we went to work. Unfortunately, when we were done with the project the studio decided (as if often the case) that they were not interested in going forward with the project and the script was shelved.

I was on my own and felt I had few options but to write a spec script. It took me more than a year to write the screenplay and quite a while after that to see anything came of it. Agents were distinctly cool to the story of “a crack investigative reporter who is forced into hiding in a small mid-western town when the mob puts a price on his head.” But, when a friend of mine who worked at Jon Davis’ production company at Fox read the script, she liked it. She gave it to her boss and he offered to option the script. Suddenly, now that a deal was on the table, the same agents who scoffed at the script were newly excited about its potential. (What foresight!)

Escape-Ray-Liotta_610From that point on, I was a working writer with an agent. But it was a difficult road. I wrote many, many drafts of The Cover for Paramount, but ultimately it too was shelved. I was at square one again and felt I had few prospects other than to write another spec script. I sat down for more than a year again to write a story. When it was finished I used the material to find a new agent that I thought would fight more aggressively for me. I was lucky and the script sold, in a bidding war, for a more than reasonable sum.

At this point, I think I was finally on the map. A small speck on the map and certainly not a household name, but nevertheless I had several offers for work. But, again as is often the case, after writing many different versions of my spec for MGM, who had bought the script, I was taken off the project and a new writer reassigned. I learned later the story was ultimately canned.

For the next several years I worked, as many writers in Hollywood do, as a rewriter. I was hired to write scripts based on original material, whether it was an idea from a producer, a novel, or an original screenplay. Most of these projects were in the action, action/comedy, or sci-fi genres. None of them went on to be produced.

At some point I met with Betsy Beers of Pacific Western where she asked if I was interested in looking at project they had called “The Colony,” a futuristic story of prisoners banished to a remote island to serve out their sentences. I was excited about the idea and set out to write the script. Many months later, over Thanksgiving holiday, I got a call from the producers, telling me that on the basis of my script the project was given a green light and was going into production.

 

TJB: What are you currently working on? 

MG: Well…I’m no longer a screenwriter! As you can probably glean from the answers to your first questions, I was increasingly frustrated with the life of a screenwriter. Don’t get me wrong – I was happy and felt lucky to have the work. But for someone like me, who was always excited about the prospect of filmmaking, I felt a lot like a hamster on a spinning wheel – working hard but getting no closer to my ultimate goal of making films. Even after No Escape was released it was back to behind the scenes work rewriting stories that always seemed, at some point, to get shelved.

I eventually moved away from Hollywood back to the East Coast where I was raised. I founded a small video production studio called Aurora Video in upstate New York that is now thriving. And I’m much more satisfied. These days, nothing ends up on the shelf. And I’m still making short films, documentaries and am working on a script for a feature film that I hope one day to direct.

 

TJB: You live in Woodstock, NY, not far from where transcendentalists Thoreau and Emerson did their signature work.  What is it about the area, then and now, which seems to draw creative thinkers?

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Thoreau

MG: The area does have a rich history as a draw for artists of all types. Actors, painters, and especially musicians. It’s a beautiful area. And its proximity to New York means a lot of talented people who have made their careers in the city find their way here. In the early 20th century a lot of maverick, free thinkers came to this area and established artist’s colonies. And I think that spirit has survived.

 

TJB: What’s to become of us on Planet Earth?  To tailor that question to suit the fact you wrote a movie about a prison-planet:  What do you make of the prisoner-to-citizen ratio in the U.S.?  Is the money-market a de facto system failure?  Can we build a resource-based economy? 

MG: As you may suspect, I am rather cynical about the direction we seem to be taking the planet these days. And as a father of a 12 year-old daughter, I’m extremely worried about all the challenges. But one of the reasons I was drawn to Woodstock is this is a very progressive, future-thinking community. I think it’s from this kind of local base, and others around the world, that the solutions to such existential problems as global warming, increasing income inequality, and the incarceration epidemic are to be found. And I think the will to follow through with these solutions will be forged here as well. Otherwise, we may find ourselves, like the inhabitants of a fictional future prison colony – with no escape.

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Why Arguing and Fighting is Exactly What They Want

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Perhaps the signature characteristic of our time is our political polarization. Right and Left have always argued, but the radical views and vehemence of late may indicate something else, something deeper at work. Something that can actually unify us, if we stop letting it fracture us.

It’s seems that these days, everybody’s yelling about something. In the echo chamber of social media, we hear grievances again and again. In the din, it’s possible to lose the sense of what it means to be conservative, or what it means to be liberal. And, maybe we should. Especially when it comes to our freedoms.

We Have Signs

There is an objective, non-partisan reality that we are living under the weight of an increasingly bloated government. And that massive, complex governments characterize the end of empires, historically. But the more we squabble, the more the government grows complex, as filigrees of judicia sprout over alternative solutions, like dendrites in the brain, requiring more laws and more enforcement and more courtroom battles.

We need to keep sight of the big picture.

In Florida right now, for instance, it is illegal to live off the grid. Living off the grid means self-sufficiency, supplying oneself the power or water or both to survive without being connected to systems under the “International Property Maintenance Code.”

And last year, in Texas, members of a sustainable community were handcuffed at gunpoint by SWAT teams threatening to shut them down.

You read that right. Handcuffed at gunpoint for living sustainably through alternative resources.

Controlling someone to not live self-sufficiently is fascist, Orwellian, and downright terrifying. It’s everything counter-intuitive to living in a free country. Running people out of an off-grid neighborhood with SWAT teams, that’s an idea people usually roll their eyes at and chalk up to conspiracy theory, or attribute to some “backwards foreign country.” But it’s happening, it’s happening now, and it’s happening here.

So, who are the folks actually building these homes and communities on their own steam? Are these people unstaunched liberal renegades, out there doing the alternative lifestyle-thing with green, renewable energy, or are they the hardened, doomsday-prepping conservatives who say, “Look pal, you can’t tell me how I should or shouldn’t live my life…”?

Hmmm.

We’ll hear all sorts of justifications for these unreasonable laws and brutal enforcements. We’ll hear about how it’s for our safety. Or, at the very least, it’s for accurate census-taking. But far worse than the rhetoric, we’ll hear the conservatives in the media spouting about how this latest instance of invasive government is just more from the bleeding hearts and their liberal agenda, or we’ll hear the liberals complaining that it’s the ignorant conservatives who don’t believe in climate change or resource depletion or the benefits of alternative energy sources.

But the reason why Florida and Texas are working to make it impossible to live off the grid has nothing to do with political ideology.

It’s about money.

That’s it.

It’s control exerted by the monied interests. And those interests, as they permeate government, skewer and make stick-puppets of both sides of the aisle.

It’s about greed, and the means to power. It’s not a nefarious scheme, it’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s not the Illuminati, it’s human nature. Without reasonable, enforceable restrictions on the corporate lobbying industry, or on the size and shape corporations are allowed to take, we inherit a plutocracy, an oligarchic government that is the farthest thing from a popular democracy. It is not for the people or by the people. It’s for the ruthless and unsympathetic, the “Imma get mine” addicts out there competing to be the richest man or woman in the grave.  People who often justify their position through a perversion of the capitalist theory that pure self-interest will be the best for everyone.

Our government has grown complex, and we have become an over-regulated society, precisely because of the deregulation and championed, selfish individualism which preceded this period. While it’s easy to conflate the development of a large government with a liberal agenda, it’s just as easy to make the case that unfettered capitalism and neoclassical economics are what dragged us here. The allowance of plundering, the absence of maximum salaries or a reasonable ceiling for wealth and capital, the co-opting and tailoring of maxims from our predecessors – from Darwin to Jefferson to Adam Smith. Greed and nearsightedness characterize the legacy of post-war America.

So, if you’re not in favor of big government inhibiting our basic freedoms, but can realize that it’s our current version of capitalism (since, at least, the formation of the Fed, and then spanked into hyper-drive in the 70s and 80s) which got us here — then one what side of the aisle does that plant you?

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No, labels shouldn’t matter much. And they don’t. It’s the de facto dismissal – or even outright hatred – based on party presumptions, which plagues our society. So it’s not so much the labeling that needs to be addressed, but the root of our division, the culprits fanning the flames to overblow our differences of opinion and personality into something much more than they need to be.

Everywhere I look lately, I see problems that are affecting all of us (none the least of which is mandatory, on-the-grid, police-enforced living), but we’re so at odds about how these problems came into being, or what to do about them.

The thing is, this sort of confusion, squabbling, and derision are what an impinging plutocracy of monied interests want from us. We serve them best when we’re quibbling over political trivia. Arguing party dogma, picking fights over symptomatic issues. Distracted, consuming, and misinformed, this is today’s ideal citizen. One who doesn’t question from where their food, energy, or currency comes. One who focuses on party ideology and makes an enemy out of their brother or sister.

What we need to do is stop fighting and to stop giving them what they want.  We need to come together.

There are people out there who care. You’re one of them. And there are legislators who are trying to do the right thing. There is good in the world, tucked away in places. But right now, the big, pasty, bald-headed, red-faced, puff-adder white bastards are winning. And they each have more resources than ten thousand of us, and their greatest resource is their ability to manipulate popular opinion – to essentially manufacture that opinion in a culture industry with which the hydra-like tentacles are roping around the megabytes in your computer as we speak.

In fact, just yesterday, The Supreme Court overturned four decades years of national policy and judicial precedent when the Court decided to allow federal officeholders to solicit and individual donors to pour as much as $3.6 million directly into federal campaigns every election cycle – “buying unparalleled personal influence in Washington and drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens.” (Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor)

This is not good.

We need to begin remaking the world by quitting the quibbling. We work to make the adjustments we can in our own lives – and, at every step of the way, we question, we learn, and we have real conversations with one another. Not snarky banter about left versus right, but a dialog that looks deep into the mystic. Not fighting one another, but fighting the monied interests that have influenced our food supply, our children’s schooling, our air, our water, our land – every aspect of our lives. We do this by finding our center, by learning to balance ourselves in preparation for the long haul and the uphill battle – to take joy in what we can, in our families, in our friends, in life’s small pleasures. We derive strength and love from these things, and then we stand together to put an end to the cycle of empires.

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They Must Be on Acid: Why “Rectify” is the Best New Drama on TV

2013 Sundance Portrait - Rectify

Once in a while a show comes along you’ve never heard of, and it just blows your doors off. The writing, acting, directing, and all the production remind you of why you might have wanted to be a writer, actor, or director in the first place. Or, if you didn’t want to be any of those things, it’s just a damn good show.

The inaugural six-episode season of Rectify aired on the Sundance Channel last year. It is the first series to be put out by the Sundance Channel and can now be viewed on Netflix. The show’s creator and writer is Ray McKinnon.

McKinnon, like the rest of the talent involved, may not be someone whose name you recognize. You’d know his face, though, if you ever watched Deadwood – that earnest preacher who was dying of consumption while he saved the souls of others in his quirky, gangly way was McKinnon. He’s also been the eccentric, obsessed, leather-clad FBI agent in Sons of Anarchy, and carried vital, supporting roles in top-notch indie films like That Evening Sun, Take Shelter, and Mud. Who knew the character actor had such a talent for writing?

Rectify has a sublimely simple premise: a man on death row for 20 years has his sentence vacated when new evidence comes to light. That evidence is DNA, proving that someone else was more likely responsible for the rape and murder of a teenage girl back when the main character was a teen himself. So the man on death row, Daniel Holden, gets let out of prison. But, “vacated” is the operative word; he’s not been exonerated. Prosecutors are revving up to re-try the case, local cops have it in for Daniel, and the small Georgia town is divided between thinking he’s innocent and still believing his guilt.

Daniel is often silent, but when he speaks – particularly when he engages other characters in a meaningful way – the writing is superb, evoking the early Darabont-written episodes of The Walking Dead, but mixed with a kind of transcendence; an almost hallucinogenic quality, as if, in certain moments, the characters were dosed with a half-tab of Lysergic acid and their spirit-minds are just firing away.

Daniel is played by Aden Young. Young is another relative unknown, yet, like McKinnon, he’s been enjoying a lengthy, successful career. The Canadian-born, forty-two year-old actor has a long list of TV movies, mini-series, indie films, and has taken turns in big budget films like Sniper and Killer Elite, but, chances are, he comes as a fresh surprise to viewers. Young brings so much to the Daniel Holden character and is an “alternative” enough actor to help suspend all disbelief. He really is Daniel Holden, a man reborn, in many ways, and suffering the terrible institutionalization of being locked in a tiny cell for two decades.

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The brilliance of the show is in its premise, but also in the handling of details. Daniel, for instance, decides he needs eye glasses in a middle episode of the short season, and goes to an optometrist. The eye doctor explains that he is mildly nearsighted, and then muddles through a nervous explanation about how being in an environment with nothing far away to look at can weaken the optic muscles. I.e., Daniel’s vision has deteriorated because he’s been staring at walls for 20 years. It’s a haunting and authentic detail.

But walls are not all Daniel has been staring at. He’s also pored over books during his incarceration. As such, he is well-spoken. That is, when he does speak, and is not lost in the moment as he pulls a feather-pillow apart to watch the feathers drift in a bar of sunlight, or sits in the grass of a baseball field and drinks a soda like a man who just arrived on the planet and has all the simple pleasures to discover, Daniel makes references to Buddhism, Confucianism, and to authors and thinkers like Nietzsche. But his power and magnetism are not in this erudition alone, rather, his state of childish wonder, blended with his suffering of such unfathomable tragedy, create inculpable empathy. His sister-in-law, played by Australian actress Adelaide Clemens, says to her husband that the extent to which Daniel has endured pain might be “even more than Job,” of the Bible.

rectify 2Rectify does not shy away from the big things in life. Instead, it is all about them. The show is ostensibly about a man released from prison to face the prosecutors and townspeople who want him put back in, but this is just the motor. The ride is Daniel’s experience. His rebirth in the world, and his deep, contemplative nature. He has in-laws who are devoutly religious, and a firecracker sister, played by Abigail Spencer, who is much more secular.

The manner with which the show embraces these central issues to a human being’s life – the here and now, the afterlife, God or His absence, and the evil that lurks – is nothing short of masterful. Few TV dramas have gotten to the heart of the human condition and the questions which matter to us the most with such subtlety, wisdom, and immaculate execution as Rectify. It is a must-see.

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End note: My wife and I have watched and enjoyed The Fall, Top of the Lake, Breaking Bad, Deadwood, Homeland, The Killing, The Walking Dead, In Treatment, The United States of Tara, and House of Cards. While these shows are all quite incomparable, they exist in our personal catalog of “good” to “really good” shows.  I’m pretty certain Rectify has taken over the number one spot for both of us. Season 2 kicks off on the Sundance Channel on June 19th.

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New Report on Climate is Considered Sharp and Clear

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Nobel Prize-winning scientist Mario J. Molina has led a committee on climate change releasing a report widely considered the clearest and most accessible to date.

“The evidence is overwhelming: Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising,” says the report. “Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse, as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying.”

READ “SCIENTISTS SOUND ALARM ON CLIMATE” in the NYTIMES>>

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