The Double Hour aka La Doppia Oro

The Double Hour is a 2009 Italian film directed by Giuseppi Capotondi. The film’s tagline is: Nothing Is What It Seems.

That usually means the unexpected happens, or that there will be some things that happen that you didn’t see coming but should have, or you thought they happened, but they really didn’t.

As the film begins we meet Sonia, a chambermaid about to start cleaning a hotel room in Turin, Italy. She goes about her business while the hotel room’s occupant is still there. This person, a woman, comes in and watches Sonia briefly. A moment or so later, we hear a noise and the hotel guest is no longer in the room.

Then that night, Sonia is set up at a table in a restaurant for an evening of speed dating. The men are dull, and/or horny; one says to her, “This isn’t bad, I get a nice dinner and a possible screw all for 25 Euro’s.” We think right along with Sonia – ‘next!’

Soon enough, another guy sits down for his five minutes with her. You know how this works – the women stay at a specific table, while the men move on sequentially to the next table every five minutes.

There seems to be a spark between Sonia and this guy called Guido. Not much can happen in five minutes. So the night ends and we assume that Sonia will head home alone. Only Guido shows up and off they go to his apartment.

They begin to date. She’s Sonia, the chambermaid, and he’s Guido, the … (they keep us in suspense for a while) an ex-cop now working as a security surveillance guy. This means he watches the security monitors in a mansion filled with art treasures and other expensive things.

One day he brings Sonia out to the estate. He’s got a nice romantic walk in the woods planned. It just so happens that on this particular day – a major heist is going to go down. At the mansion – he’s watching.

It goes well for the heist guys – but less well for Guido and Sonia.

There’s your set up. Sonia is played by the Russian actress Kseniya Rappoport. She’s quite good in this role which calls for her to be somewhat haunted, mysterious, sexy, and there are other things about her that you can’t quite put your finger on.

Guido is played by Filippo Timi. He’s dark, bearded, muscular and he carries himself in a way that makes you think that he’s brooding about something. He’s also quite good.

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Safe

What do Chev Chelios, Frank Martin, and Quentin Connors have in common?

Right. They were all characters played by actor Jason Statham in some of his signature action films. Chelios was the lead character in the Crank films, Martin was the lead in Transporter series, and Connors was another of the Statham tough-guy characters in the film Chaos.

Following the title game plan of just one syllable – Statham’s new vehicle called Safe opened yesterday. The word safe has many meanings:

Be Safe: Stay out of harm’s way
Stay Safe: watch your back
Keep it in the Safe: A place to store and keep valuables.

In this case, all three of the above can be included as they make up segments of the film. We can also say that Statham played it safe with this film as it stays within the parameters of what we know and expect in his films.

Sandor Tecsy as Docheski, the Russian mobster

The film starts with the Russian mobster Docheski demanding that a small Chinese girl, the 11 year Mei, tell him what he requires. We then flash back a year to a school in China. Mei is going to be at a blackboard explaining a complex mathematical formula. Her teacher believes that this school is ‘too easy’ for Mei, so he arranges that she be transferred to a school for gifted students.

Catherine Chan as Mei listens as James Hong as Han Jiao lays it out for her

But she’s kidnapped and brought to New York’s Chinatown where she’s told that she has a new father, and she’ll be expected to work for a particular Chinese Gang Boss. His name is Han Jiao and he’s played by James Hong who has played uncountable Chinese gangsters as well as a maitre ‘d that can’t get the Seinfeld gang a table and repeatedly asks them to wait ‘… oh, five, ten minutes.

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The Five Year Engagement

The Five Year Engagement is the lastest released film produced by the King of Laugh-meisters – Judd Apatow. Working with Director and co-screewriter Nick Stoller, and the film’s star star and co-screenwriter Jason Segel, the boys have taken a run at the rom/com genre (again).

There’s a number of things that can be said about The Five Year Engagement. The film does not turn the genre on its head, or turn it inside out, or even play it backwards. Instead they’ve taken a realistic (most of the time) situation of a girl and boy having met who proceed through a courtship and then decide to marry. I think we join them at their engagement party with a brief flash-back to show how they met.

It is at this point, with the marriage plans set in motion, the wedding is all but a fait accompli when things start to happen. Events like unexpected delays (her sister’s pregnancy), deaths in the family, and even deviations like picking up all that matters and moving from San Francisco to Ann Arbor, Michigan where our leading lady, Violet, portrayed wonderfully by Emily Blunt, has accepted a postdoctoral research fellowhip in the University of Michigan’s pysch department.

Her boyfriend, Tom Solomon, played by Jason Segel, who had been on the fast-track in his chosen field – he was a sous chef – has no choice. Hold on, actually he has two choices.

A) He can take the high road which means to come along with Violet, and re-start his career in Ann Arbor (as he says – I’m a cook – I can work anywhere) and since Emily’s contract is only for two years (he says, two years are nothing compared to the rest of their lives) they can rework and reform their wedding plans while in Michigan.

This is the road most commonly chosen, although usually, it is the woman who must put her career on hold. Quite often, things will work themselves out, and everyone for the most part, will be happy.

Or

B) He can take the low road which means to come along with Violet, and he can restart his career in Ann Arbor. While the wedding plans are being re-made, he can wear the sack cloth and ashes of a martyr, while he makes Violet feel guilty for taking her job and forcing him to make the detour in his career path. Usually it is the woman who wields the guilt club in this type of situation; so kudos to Segel and Stoller for changing this up for us. Normally, with either of the two parties in this situation start tossing around the guilt trips, this usually leads to each of them becoming even more unhappy and eventually the relationship develops cracks and fissures which become an abyss and kills the relationship.

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NBC’s Smash: Episode 12 – Publicity – Recap

NBC’s Smash episode 1-12 called Publicity aired last night. This is pretty much a full recap so there are spoilers aplenty. But if you watched it, you can use this as a replay/refresher with my comments and opinions as well as some guesswork or speculation included. This is a rather lengthy recap. Feel free to comment. Ready? Roll cameras, sorry, make that push the play button, and we have … action.

Derek is at work. It is early. Very early. He’s called Karen and asked her to come in.

Derek: I think you’ll make a pretty good Marilyn. I see it in my head.
Karen: Really?
Derek: Stay with the material.

All of which is overheard by Ellis. Time to tattle. Ellis grabs Randall, Rebecca’s agent.”I just heard something that your boss needs to know.”

So Randall tells Rebecca’s assistant to tell her, Rebecca, that she can come in even later than originally planned. And so she does. When Rebecca finally arrives, an exasperated Derek says, ‘Ready? We’ll have look at Mr. & Mrs. Smith [the song].’

But Rebecca has other ideas. “Can we start with something else?” She wants to have Julia do a re-write of the song or outright replace it with something else. Tom overhears and his early warning system is now on ‘all systems go’. Derek is nonplussed; actually speechless, “Give me a minute.”

The cast exits the building all abuzz as one of them had overheard what ‘Becca’ had told Derek. Speaking of Rebecca, she’s already on the street with her entourage, laying in wait for Karen.

Rebecca: Hey, Karen, what are you doing tonight?
Karen: Well …. uh …
Rebecca: Want to go out tonight?
Karen: Yeah, sure …
Rebecca: Great, I’ll call you [walks off]
Ivy: What just happened?

Meanwhile, there’s another emergency meeting in Eileen’s office. Eileen, Julia, Tom and Derek march in.

Tom: [He ‘s reached his combustion point] I hate her.
Eileen: Would you please close the door?
Tom: You don’t replace songs with scenes.

We didn’t see outside of Eileen’s office when they came in, but when Derek does close the door – we do see Ellis. Of course he’s in his usual lurking mode. So for sure, we know he’s heard Tom’s comments. Tom glares at Derek.

Derek: I didn’t say I would.
Tom: You didn’t say you wouldn’t.

A mini-argument breaks out. Tom’s unhappy. Derek mentions there are many ways to build a scene. Tom interjects, ‘Like bringing an outside song writer?’ Derek says  ‘… that Rebecca was hardly out of line. It happens all the time.’ To which Tom says, ‘People cave into actresses all the time too.’

Derek: Meaning?

Tom: You’re the director. Why don’t you – what’s the word – direct?

EOM – that’s End of Meeting folks.

Karen comes home and finds Dev who offers to take her out to dinner – but Karen says she can’t. “I’ve got a date – with a movie star!!!” She’s positively giddy – but Dev – not so much.

After dinner, Rebecca and Karen and Randall arrive at a club. Paparazzi descend like a locust plague. They go in. Rebecca knows the band at the club and asks them to do a song with Karen.

Randall: What are you doing?
Rebecca: Just checking out the competition…

Karen does a cover of Snow Patrol’s “Run.” She sings, “Light up, light up… as if you have a choice… even if you can’t hear my voice… I’ll be right beside you, dear…

The song is simply great. Rebecca hugs Karen. “You aren’t an understudy. You are a star!

Fade to credits and commercials. Just 9 minutes have passed. WTF is going on? Rebecca praising Karen? But we know that Rebecca knows what happened at the beginning of the meeting in Eileen’s office. That human fly on the wall Ellis has gotten Randall’s ear. At least we think that’s what happened. Right. Has to be that. Couldn’t be anything else.

After the break, Dev meets RJ who had been waiting for him in a coffee shop under the Williamsburg bridge. She’s got her tablet opened to blaring headlines: PAGE SIX – Rebecca’s Gal Pal with a picture of Rebecca and Karen hugging! Dev is upset.

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In Our Nature

Does a bear shit in the woods?

We’ve all heard that oft-used expression. It’s generally used in a derisive manner when someone has asked an unnecessary question. You know, the answer is so obvious – that not only is an answer not needed, but the question shouldn’t have been asked in the first place. Keep that thought in mind when you take in a film called In Our Nature, an indie film written and directed by Brian Savelson, that I caught at the 2012 Sarasota Film Festival Day 8.

We will start with a pair of 20 somethings: Seth (Zach Gilford) and Andi (Jena Malone) who have decided to head out of New York for a glorious weekend up in the country. Seth’s family has owned a home in the Catskills for years. Seth actually spent childhood summers there.

Andi expected a ‘cabin’ and she’s mildly surprised that the cabin is a fully furnished home with all the modern conveniences set on a pond surrounded by nature’s bounty and not another home or dwelling in sight. A weekend getaway home in the best possible sense. Seth and Andi are so happy to have the place to themselves that moments after unpacking the car they start a passionate round of vacation sex.

Only moments later, they hear a car approaching. People don’t find this place unless they intended to. So who could it be?

Seth gets up and peeks out the window – My God! It’s my father. Get dressed!!!!

Yup, Seth’s Dad is Gil (played by Mad Men’s John Slattery) and he’s got his girlfriend in tow. They too took the opportunity to go for a weekend in the country. Gil has never heard word one about Andi as Seth and Gil have kept their distances over the years.

For that matter, Seth knew nothing about Gil’s friend Vickie ( portrayed by Gabrielle Union) either. It is a rather lengthy driveway and a long walk up to the house so Andi and Seth manage to get their clothes on.

Click link for trailer —-> In Our Nature

Talk about awkward. Father and son can barely be civil to each other. The women stand around looking helpless. That’s how the film begins and that’s not a spoiler as that much is in the trailer.

For the next 90 minutes these four will try to work through their issues. Oh yeah, they all have issues, or maybe you prefer the terms emotional baggage that trails behind them. Even if we can’t settle on putting a name on what we see, it is all so distinctly recognizable and we all know immediately what is in store for us.

But chiefly, in this situation it is the father and son who have had a long and lengthy tormented relationship. Which in the main has been allowed to fall into what you’d probably call distance, or even estrangement.

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Missed Connections (2012)

I checked out Missed Connections tonight at The 2012 Sarasota Film Festival Day 7. Missed Connections was co-written and directed by Martin Snyder on what he described before the screening as a shoe-string budget.

To set up the film in the simplest of terms, like three words – this indie feature is best described as (drumroll please) Girl Meets Boy. Adding a little more of a structured description, which was sent to me by Mickey Sumner’s press agent, we have:

Josh (Jon Abrahams) is a cocksure techie working in a corporate I.T. department when he meets Lucy (Mickey Sumner), an up and coming lawyer looking for Mr Right. When Lucy encounters a handsome stranger outside of the office, she decides to place an ad in an online Missed Connections site in the hopes of finding true love. But when Josh intercepts the message and, with the help of his friends, undertakes a plot to steer Lucy into his own arms, things get complicated in a hurry. MISSED CONNECTIONS is lighthearted fun, a truly independent comedy for the age of online romance.

Got all that? How about a bit more?

Mickey Sumner as Lucy

Lucy (played by Mickey Sumner), is a tall and willowy blonde. When we meet her at a New York law firm called Milstein Gray, she and a gal pal are discussing their misfortunes in recent dates. Seems that neither has had much luck of late. Lucy talks about this rotten state of affairs, or lack thereof, with a rather intelligent and memorable line of thought, which includes ‘… the soft bigotry of lowered expectations…‘.

In short, Lucy hasn’t expected much from the guys that she’s gone out with recently. And the guys have definitely lived up, or is it down, to those expectations.

Jamie Belman as Peter

But Lucy is on the move. She’s transferring to London , and she’s only got a few days left. Then, with her belongings packed into a box, she leaves the office, and bumps into this well dressed, and sophisticated guy Peter played by Jamie Belman) – only no names and no numbers are exchanged. But there was a strong attraction on both sides.

She calls her friend and describes the event. Then the friend says why not post to ‘Missed Connections’ a website where messages like “…Saw you on the 4 train heading uptown Thursday at 700 PM. We made eye contact. You were in a navy suit, and I was wearing a black track suit. You got off at 86th street. Please contact me.”

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Darling Companion

One would think, after reading  that the three K’s, Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, and writer/director/producer Lawrence Kasdan. were involved in the same project, that they would produce something memorable. Unfortunately, Darling Companion, which opens tomorrow (April 20th in New York and Los Angeles) falls a tad short of memorable.

I caught the film yesterday, April 18th, at the Sarasota Film Festival. Darling Companion, despite having an attractive dog on its film posters is really not a film about a dog’s adventures. We meet the dog when Beth (Diane Keaton) and her grown daughter Grace (Elisabeth Moss) rescue an abandoned dog which they had spotted while driving home from the airport. They rush the dog to a vet who tells them the dog is basically ok – aside from a few nicks and bruises – give him a good bath, some solid food, and a lot of TLC and he’ll be fine.

Grace finds this vet called Sam irresistible. We haven’t seen a woman turn on to man this quickly since Julia Louis-Dreyfuss did it repeatedly as Elaine Benes on Seinfeld. Anyway, a year passes, but it’s only a few minutes of film time, and she’s married off, to the vet, never to be seen again except for two brief and unnecessary phone calls she makes while on her honeymoon in Bora Bora.

As for the dog, which they’ve named Freeway, he goes missing while he’s been walked by Beth’s husband Joseph (Kevin Kline) a very successful surgeon specializing in backs and spines. This happens a day or so after the wedding, when they’re up at their vacation home in the mountains.

Beth is very unforgiving. She blames Joseph because a) Freeway was off the leash, b) Joseph was on the phone, and c) Joseph went out without the dog whistle. In fact Beth is so upset by all of this that she has two crying scenes in the first 40 minutes of the film.

With them, at the vacation home, where everyone had gathered for the wedding, are Joseph’s sister Penny played by Dianne Wiest, her boy friend Russell played by Richard Jenkins, and her grown son Bryan (Mark Duplass), who is in fact, a surgeon himself. But that’s only five people – so there’s the gypsy caretaker, housekeeper and cook, Carmen, played by Ayelet Zurerto round this off to an even number of characters, as well as to give Bryan a ‘love’ interest.

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Peace, Love & Misunderstanding

Once upon a time there were terms like ‘Flower Power‘ ‘Make Love Not War‘, ‘Peace‘ [always accompanied by the two-fingered V sign], ‘Flower Children‘, and ‘Summer of Love‘ to name but a few that were part of life’s landscape. The people that were most often identified with those terms were called ‘hippies’. Or maybe I should change that to – the people who were described as members of that generation that embraced those terms were called hippies by the establishment media. Yeah, those were the days.

43 plus years later, those terms, except for peace are not in vogue any longer. We don’t hear them in conversation very much these days. But we STILL have hippies. It’s probably true that most of them are what you’d probably now call older folks.

One of them would be Jane Fonda. She appears in the new film Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding which I had the pleasure of seeing at the 2012 Sarasota Film Festival Day 5 which was today. Fonda hasn’t done a lot of film work over the last 20 some years, but she brings her A-game out for this one. She plays a grandmother known as Grace who was not only once a hippie – but for all intents and purposes – still is. She’s got a grown daughter Diane (Catherine Keener) a somewhat uptight New York lawyer who hasn’t spoken to Grace in 20 years; and Diane has two nearly adult children of her own – Zoe in her very late teens, and Jake in his late middle teens (Elizabeth Olsen and Nat Wolff) who have never met their grandmother. Fonda in real life is 73.

Diane has some issues, and due to circumstances that don’t need a detailed explanations here beyond the fact that her husband has just told her that he wants a divorce, she packs up and takes herself and her kids up to her Mom’s (Fonda) place in the country in what is supposed to be just a weekend to chill out and collect her thoughts.

I can hear the question forming in your heads – so, yes, that’s right – this film is set mostly in the vicinity of Woodstock, NY. While time hasn’t exactly stood still, the age of hippies and rock music, pot, free love, and protest is still flourishing in that area in upstate New York.

So off they go to grandma’s house. Fonda’s Grace hasn’t seen her daughter Diane in 20 years. There’s a bit of a awkward reunion with Grace saying she’d just dreamt about her daughter last night. Not quite cringeworthy but it didn’t ring true.

But the kids are quite excited about their grandma, who is very very cool to them. Before the weekend is over Grace will have smoked pot (home grown by Grace) with her grand-kids, and helped them on their way to losing their virginity.

Then slowly but surely, but with a major hiccup that I won’t tell you about, Grace and Diane work out the kinks, and before you know it, the city dwellars are on their way to discovering much about themselves, about being a grownup no matter what your age is, and of course – about romance.

Yes, they all meet romance head on upstate. For Diane, there’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Jude, a carpenter-slash-songwriter. Morgan will soon be appearing in the new TV Series Magic City on the Starz network. Zoe will meet Chase Crawford in the role of a butcher named Cole. And young Jake, a virgin as well as a fledgling film maker – he’s never without his handi-cam, will meet Tara, a coffee shop waitress played by Marissa O’Donnell.

Catherine Keener as Diane

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Jude

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NBC’s Smash: Episode 11 – The Movie Star – Recap

Karen arrives to the rehearsal studio all dolled up for the movie star’s arrival. The cast is all agog. Everyone is eager to see Duvall at work. While waiting, Sam and Tom flirt – so Julia books a dinner date for them.

Julia, Derek, and Rebecca Duvall arrive. Rebecca is already prepped and ready to do a Marilyn song – only she can’t sing. Excruciating is a word that fits what we’ve seen of this song.  Derek cuts her off and says let do some blocking avoiding the awkwardness which is obvious to all present.

Tom, Julia, and Derek meet with the Eileen. It’s obvious that Duvall is never going to be ‘an opera singer’ or even a singer in the good musical sense. Anyone can sing in the shower, but on stage – that’s a whole different thing. Various plans are discussed. Derek says — “Maybe we bring back Ivy.The Cartwright girl is still too green. We need Ivy back in the show.”

Next morning – Ivy returns to the rehearsals. Karen says, “What does this mean for me?” Another girl in the chorus says, “I’m not going to lie – it’s not going to be good.”

When Duvall still can’t sing – Ivy says, “Didja hear that? That is the sound of a 1000 ticket holders demanding their money back.”  To me, that was a wonderful line  written for Ivy – I just loved it.

Derek tells Karen that “We won’t be needing you any more … as Marilyn.” Karen says, “I wouldn’t be too sure of that,” and a song launches, ‘Our Day Will Come‘.

But the song is just Derek dreaming about Karen as Marilyn. Again.

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