Your Sister’s Sister

Script? What script? We don’t need no stinking scripts here!

Directed by Lynn Shelton and filmed mostly in the San-Juan Islands which are northwest of Seattle, off the coast of Washington State in the Pacific Northwest, this film, called Your Sister’s Sister, is a simple tale of three people – each of whom are in the midst of some of life’s disconnects. One man, let’s call him A for the moment,  is sent off to a lonely island cabin, to commune with nature, and take joy in the solitude offered by the place’s remote location by B. When he arrives, he will find that the place is already occupied by C, who as it happens, is B’s sister.

San-Juan Islands – this shot is NOT in the film but will serve to give an idea of the location of the film

A, is Jack and is played by Mark Duplass.  He’s lost his brother prior to the film’s opening. A year later he’ s still in a funk. His brother’s ex-girl friend Iris, whom we designated as B,  is played by the delightful Emily Blunt. Following the brother’s death, Iris and Jack have a rather close relationship that has grown into, well…  a rather close adult relationship that it is strictly platonic. Iris, seeking to help Jack get back on his feet spiritually and to ease his anguish, suggests that he get away from it all, and to do this,  he should spend a week in her father’s island getaway. Time and distance should help heal all wounds was the thought.

The aforementioned C is Hannah and that role is played by Rosemary DeWitt who came to the project late after a scheduling conflict arose. Originally, the casting of the role had gone to Rachel Weisz. Now Hannah has fled to Dad’s cabin because she too is in need of solitude, meditation, and the restorative and healing powers that this cabin retreat offered. She’s just gone through the painful break up of a seven-year long lesbian relationship.

First of all, Jack didn’t know that Hannah would be there.  Second, Hannah didn’t know that Jack would be arriving there. And third, neither of them knew that Iris would be arriving there, the very next morning.

And that dear readers, is all the set up you get from me this time.

This is a very small film with just three main characters, and only a few small speaking parts besides the principals. Lynn Shelton has made this indie feature on an exceedingly small budget, and was no doubt helped by the three main actors who took on the roles in order to put their acting chops on display, and likely offered their services for mere pennies on the dollar compared to their standard numbers. To give you another idea of the size of the film – it was shot in a mere twelve days. Another fact about the film is that Lynn Shelton did not spend a lot of time in showing us the wondrous landscapes of the San Juan Islands which was where they shot the film. We had only a few fleeting glimpses of the woodlands, the coast and the Anacortes ferries. which ply the routes to the islands. I’ve ridden on the Washington State Ferries departing out of Seattle, to Bremerton and Bainbridge Island, but not those departing from Anacortes. Which means I’m familiar with the ferries – we do get a fleeting glimpse of them – if not the San Juan islands themselves.

Rosemary DeWitt as Hannah

I understand that Shelton spent quite some time with Duplass, Blunt, and DeWitt working out the back stories of the characters. Meaning those details weren’t in the script. The result is that much of the dialogues that we do watch are improvisational – as in Blunt, Duplass, and DeWitt creating the dialogues from within themselves as the characters. In short, employing their best ‘method acting’ skills.

Emily Blunt as Iris

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A Lonely Place To Die

Our third kidnapping film is set in the mountains of the Scottish Highlands. In the simplest of terms, in lieu of a description – a group, out for a spot of mountaineering, discovers a young kidnapped girl in a beneath the ground cell. They take it upon themselves to get her back to safety. Only it won’t be easy as they will be pursued by the heavily armed kidnappers.

The film, A Lonely Place to Die, was written by the brothers Julian and Will Gilbey and was directed by Julian. The stars are Ed Speleers, Melissa George, and Eamonn Walker. I must admit that I have no knowledge about any of the lead actors or the film’s principals. They’re all unfamiliar to me. But maybe that’s good, as I won’t have any preconceived notions about them.

For sure the film will be fresh as will be the Scottish Highlands. It has been awhile since I saw Liam Neesom trotting around those Highlands in kilts in the near classic film Rob Roy. But as the film opens, we have three mountaineers on a big mountain. When the camera is set up on a helicopter that’s in flight aways off from the mountain, the man looks so small and insignifcant. Rather dazzling aerial cinematography for those of you that are interested.

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HBO’s Series The Newsroom: Sn 1/ Ep 1 – We Just Decided To – Recap

I guess I was expecting The Newsroom to open with a broadcast of the news from the newsroom. You know – behind the scenes. What happens before the anchor gets into the chair, and what happens after. But what do I know? That’s why I am writing a recap, and why Aaron Sorkin is writing the show. But that’s not news either. So let’s get started.

By the way, these recaps will be spoiler rich. I’m writing them, and commenting as I go, whether appropriate or not.

We open with four people sitting on a stage arguing. We don’t know three of them, and the one we do know is Will McAvoy, the ACN News Night anchor, played by Jeff Daniels, and he isn’t saying anything. He’s taking it all in. As the camera circles around, we get that this is a panel discussion of sorts, and there’s an audience. We will later learn that the discussion is going on in an auditorium at Northwestern University’s School of Journalism in Evanston, Illinois.

It is pure Sorkin – the camera swirls and people are talking, often at the same time, and passionately, loudly, and with satisfaction stemming from their inner belief that what they say is not only correct, but is certainly the only possible answer. It’s a lot to take in. But very quickly we come to understand that we can’t take it all in because we’ve arrived long after this began. We’ve no starting point. We begin to mentally distance ourselves from it.

As does McAvoy. They help us tune it out by lowering the volume and instantly we are in the same space as McAvoy, not really listening, and certainly not caring. McAvoy scans the audience and he thinks he sees a woman he knows, then he’s not sure.

JMM: That’s because they switched the woman – meaning we know but he does not.

Eventually the moderator takes another question from the audience. The question concerns McAvoy’s political leanings. McAvoy adroitly avoids giving a direct answer. Rather than admitting to which of the two political parties he supports, he answers that he supports the New York Jets.

JMM: Is Sorkin pals with Jet’s coach Rex Ryan, or maybe it is the Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum. Whatever – this came out of nowhere and caught everyone by surprise. It does give us an indication that McAvoy has more than just a bit of the self centered sensibilty to him,  and also that’s he’s  a bit of a maverick. Maybe an asshole  too. That’s a maybe.

McAvoy’s quite skilled in that kind of avoidance, and equally capable of enjoying this kind of mental gymnastics – that of never giving a straight answer when he chooses not to.

Another woman in the audience stands at the podium. Hi, my name is Jenny, I’m a sophomore, and my questions is directed to the three of you. Can you say in one sentence or less, why America is the greatest country in the world?

Panelist One (Sharon): Diversity and opportunity.
Panelist Two (Louis); Freedom and freedom so let’s keep it that way
Moderator: Will?
Will McAvoy: The New York Jets…

But the Moderator isn’t going to let Will slide this time. He says that he’s going to require Will to answer the question, and he repeats it; What makes America the greatest country in the world?

Will stalls. “Well Louis and Sharon said it, diversity and opportunity and freedom and freedom…”. He thought that he had seen that familiar face in the audience. He looks for her again. He finds her – she holds up a sign “It’s not“, then another sign, “But it can be...”

Will continues to stall. The Moderator says that he won’t let Will leave for the airport until he answers.

Over the next few moments, Will first gives a litany of reasons why America isn’t the greatest country in the world. He rattles off stats, gives rankings, destroys the other panelist points about liberals and freedom.

We’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy. 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined…

Let me repeat his conclusions: 1) the number of people incarcerated per capita, 2) the number of people (adults) who still believe in angels, and 3) in defense spending. He pauses for a moment then continues.

Its not the greatest country in the world. That’s my answer. You think we are the only country that has freedom? Canada has freedom. So does Japan. Britain, France, Italy, Sweden. Australia. BELGIUM HAS FREEDOM! There’s 207 countries and 180 of them have freedom.”

The speech continues. Every one is halted in their tracks. No has ever heard anything like this. No one has ever said anything like this in a public forum [JMM: or on television], much less from a well known news anchor. Sorkin through McAvoy has grabbed us by our collective lapels and given us a thorough shaking up. We are speechless.

He pauses to catch his breath and let the audience absorb what he’s just uttered [us too!]. Then that sign appears again – ‘But it can be’

So McAvoy takes his foot off the vocal gas pedal that he had just pressed right down to the metal. He softens his tone. It’s not quite an apology. It’s more like a rememberance of things past – of better times.

Sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors. We put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists, and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars. Acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it, it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election. And we didn’t scare so easy. We are able to be all these things, and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered.

The first step in solving any problem is recognizing that there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”

Pow! McAvoy has just delivered one of the greatest TV speeches ever. Even if you didn’t agree with a single word of it. It was powerful. It was rich. You couldn’t take your eyes off the screen. It was riveting. It was Sorkin at his best. We are now 8 minutes in, and it is now, after that socko and stunning opening segment, time to roll the intro.

The intro has shots of old TV news studios. Of Murrow, of Cronkite, and of Chet Huntley. Icons each and every one. Of newsrooms as they once were – with the huge TV cameras, the tiny control rooms with their eight inch monitors, the crew stuffed into a tiny spaces. It looks so antiquated which is why these images of newrooms past merge with this newsroom, the one we will share with the cast and crew. The one with shiny, sleek, and modern equipment, the one that’s spacious and up to the minute, with every technological advance known to mankind on every desk. The one that will be humming with activity as this team will create the presentation of the news every night.

So begins The Newsroom, HBO‘s new Sunday drama series. Following McAvoy’s tirade/meltdown – which was just the first part of his speech that ended with, ” When you ask is America the greatest country – I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about! Yosemite?” People tended to ignore the second part. On the way out, McAvoy apologized to the other panelists by blaming it on his medication for vertigo as the reason for his tirade. Naturally, a shitstorm followed, and McAvoy has been told to chill out and clear out. Take a vacay in St. Lucia. Take two weeks, and don’t call us.

When the show resumes we are in the ACN newsroom. It is a few weeks later. The huge newsroom is sparcely populated. A man and woman are discussing their plans for the evening. She has arranged a dinner: she and her boyfriend (the folks before us) and her parents who have flown in from somewhere. He’s not going to go.

Don: Tell them, Ive got to work late late.
Maggie: That’s a lie.
Don: Tell them anyway, you can sell it.

They’re Don, the Exec Producer of Will McAvoy’s news show. She is his girl friend Margaret ‘Maggie’ Jordan who is McAvoy’s new assistant whom Will has never met. They’re arguing in front of Neal, played by Dev Patel. They ask him to referee the situation but he declines.

Dev patel as neal. He’s not the IT – his job is write Will McAvoy’s blog

Just then McAvoy arrives at the ACN headquarters and appears in the newsroom heading straight for his office. He’s just returned from his vacation, and he finds that his Exec Producer, Don, played by Thomas Sadowski, has decided to leave the show, and he’s taking most of the staff with him. Now remember, McAvoy was off to St. Lucia and incommunicado. No one could reach him. Now McAvoy is back, and only a couple of his staffers are left.

He has no idea. He asks the girl sitting where his assistant used to be. She has been replaced by Maggie Jordan who is played by Alison Pill.

Where is everybody? Where is my staff? Who are you?

Maggie is quaking in her boots. “Please go upstairs and talk to Charlie Skinner.
McAvoy: Now?.
Maggie: I was told to tell you as soon as you came in

McAvoy is expected and is told to go right in. Skinner is at the top of the News Division. There may be people higher in the network, but no one is higher in the News Division. Sam Waterston has the role. He’s a tweedy/hounds tooth/glenplaid type of guy who wears a bow tie. He’s not quite John Houseman‘s Kingsfield from The Paper Chase, who wore a bow tie, and he’s not quite Lou Grant, the coatless – sleeves rolled up – tie loosened News producer from The Mary Tyler Moore Show – one of TV’s earliest series about the news. But he’s somewhere in between and … he’s an ex-marine.

Skinner tries to talk calmly to McAvoy. When McAvoy hears that Don and the staff have left because they chose to – he heads off down the hall. He’s steamed and immediate confrontation is on his mind. There’s going to be wild argument between Don and McAvoy. Don is cornered and finally lets it out that McAvoy isn’t all that nice. He berated the staff, he berated Don, his Exec-Producer in front of the staff, and he bigtime blew a big interview with a high ranking US Army General. It rages on hotly for a few minutes – it’s wild, loud, profane and exquisitely done. Near perfect timing, great angles, with quick cuts – a one shot, then a two-shot. We see all the facial reactions, the testosterone building, building, building. Rage is imminent. In short – the works.

l to r – Don, Charlie Skinner, and Will McAvoy. This is a 3 shot.

Finally Skinner gets between them, threatening to kick ass, as he’s an ex-marine as well as looking like he’s in his early 70’s. He ushers McAvoy off to a watering hole for a scotch or three. This is where Skinner is going to give McAvoy the rest of the news. As he breaks it down for McAvoy, he tells him that he’s hired a new Exec Producer for him. She’s arriving today, and she’s bringing in some people.

McAvoy begins to sputter … She?

A peaceful moment between Mackenzie McHale and Will McAvoy

Yes, she, says Skinner. The new EP is to be Mackenzie McHale. This is the last person in the world that McAvoy wants for the job. You see, McHale is not only his ex-girl friend, but they also worked together as the talking head and the producer of the talking head’s TV show. Stormy and tempestuous only begin to describe their relationship. McAvoy is incensed. He rants that he has it in his contract that he has final approval for any ExP. Only he doesn’t. They go round and round until finally McAvoy says he heading out to his agent’s office. He intends to pull a power play, and renegotiate his contract to give him that power.

As he leaves, after screaming to Charlie Skinner about how much revenue he brings in – ‘I brought in 210 Million by myself. That may be chicken feed to this big company, but it’s not nothing!‘ Just as he’s about to leave our view, we get this last exchange as Skinner calls out to him:

Skinner: Will, when was the last time you saw her?
McAvoy: I don’t know. About three years ago.
Skinner: Coincidentally that was the last time you were a nice guy!

There you have it. We ‘ve already seen it for ourselves. McAvoy isn’t a nice guy. Harrison Ford played a pompous ass of a TV News Anchor in Morning Glory, but he had nothing on Jeff Daniels’s Will McAvoy.

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Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Good old Honest Abe Lincoln. After seeing a film about Lincoln today, it seems that we owe Abe a bit more than having his likeness on our least valuable coin of the realm – the penny. This coin is likely to be found on more lake bottoms stateside than in people’s pockets. But you’re right, we did build the Lincoln Memorial in his honor; and yes, Abraham Lincoln is on our $5 bill.

Opening today was a new take on Abraham Lincoln, here played by Benjamin Walker. The film is called Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. The film was written by Seth Grahame-Smith and is an adoption from his novel of the same name. In case you haven’t noticed, this is a new trend in both literature as well as films. Next year we shall have another from this writer and that title is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. What’s next – King Kong and The Hunger Games? Or maybe Henry Kissinger in Japan: The Real Last Samurai.

Okay, just kidding – there’s nothing wrong with the melding of history, literature and film even if it has been pushed so far out of the envelope that you can no longer even see the envelope. It could prove to be the next BIG THING. Or not. This film was directed by Timur Bekmambetov. I guess he’s telling us that even in Kazakhstan, they’re familiar with vampires.

The film opens with Lincoln reading from his diary, or maybe he was writing in his diary. Never mind – either way works. Washington DC is nothing like what we know today. It is 1865 and the Washington Monument is still under construction. The White House is up and running but there’s no sign of Pennsylvania Avenue. Lincoln had some time on his hands before heading out with the Mrs. to take in a show.

Who wants to par-taaay?

Soon we flash back to when Abraham Lincoln was still a boy. His mother dies, and we come to learn that she was done in by a vampire. Abe cames from a poor family, and they were in debt to one Jack Barts, who not only is a vampire, but he also was the one who killed Abe’s Mother. Young Abe, seeking to avenge his mother, finds Barts alone in his warehouse, and fires a steel bullet directly into Bart’s face. Little did Abe know, that a vampire cannot be killed by a steel bullet, knife, or sword.

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The Statement

How about another minor Michael Caine film that you probably have not heard of. The Statement was a 2003 joint Canadian/French/British production with a well known cast, a famed director, and very little else about it to recommend.

Michael Caine plays a French collaborator who was responsible for the rounding up and execution of some French Jews during WWII. Since then, he been on the run in the South of France. I wonder if one can actually be on the run for nearly 40 years? The answer is – apparently you can with key assistance from an unexpected source.

After the opening in which we watch 7 Jews executed by the Nazis after their homes were pointed out by Caine’s character called Pierre Brossard. We pick up the scene and it is the early 1990’s. A French Judge, played by Tilda Swinton joins up with a French Army Colonel – because the police couldn’t be trusted. Their goal – to track down Brossard and bring him to justice.

So who has been helping Brossard? Well he has been shuttling between towns in the south of France – those with churches, monasteries and a place to put him up. He also receives a monthly stipend. The French clerics of the region resolutely deny that they are either harboring this man who is wanted for crimes against humanity, or aiding and abetting his flight from justice.

Now as Caine plays him, Brossard is a double character – one is an old man, pious, and devout – who wishes only for a state of grace when he dies. He’s also a cunning and devious killer – quite talented with sussing out when he might be in danger. And who is after him – a shadowy group which we are lead to believe, at least initially, that this group could be the Jewish ancestors of those who were executed, or it might be another group of vengeance minded Jews. We aren’t entirely sure.There’s hints but nothing concrete. In fact, after Brossard escapes and kills his pursuer in what was supposed to be an ambush – we are pointedly told by a French detective that the deceased was definitely not Jewish.

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Rapt

Continuing with our series of films about kidnappings – our second entry is the 2009 tense French thriller called Rapt. In a nutshell, a CEO with connections going right into the French equivalent of our White House, is brutally kidnapped on the eve of his trip to China with the President of France.

The kidnappers are a highly organized group. Their demands are simple – a ransom of 50 Million Euros is to be paid. The deadline is in just a few days. Instructions to follow.

For proof of life – not actually – but it would have to function as such for a while, the kidnappers cut off one of the fingers of his left hand, and additionally, they have him write out his circumstances in a way that leaves out the details but sets up the situation. These are sent to his home, so that his family and the authorities, will have something tangible which will convey the dire circumstance that this CEO is in.

His name is Stanislas Graff, and he’s played by Yves Attal. As it turns out, he’s not a particularly nice guy. He’s filthy rich – that’s a given. But in the media frenzy that ensues in the aftermath of the Police examining every inch of the man’s office and business, his home, and his social life which included a regular and private high stakes poker game, casino gambling debts, a jet-set life-style which means you won’t be surprised to find that he’s got a fancy pied-a-terre in Paris where he meets his mistress for afternoon delights. This one, the one currently installed, is only the latest one and there’s a lengthy list of former partners/occupants.

Yves Attal as Stan Graff

His wife, played by Anne Consigny, wasn’t caught completely by surprise about this either. She knew and she didn’t know, in the usual manner of a trophy wife in public, but with separate bedrooms at home.

The Police bring Mrs Graff (Anne Consigny) to the pied-a-terre. She’s never set foot in the place until then..

Then there’s the matter of the money. He had the only access to his bank accounts. His money was separate from the corporate funds. His wife and family could only get their hands on a few million. I can hear your question – what about his firm? Well they had a policy – I guess you could say it was the opposite of key man insurance. In short they simply would not pay. They would advance many million Euros but documents had to be created. T’s crossed, I’s dotted, etc. In short they would front the money – but it would have to be repaid.

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Man on Fire

From a web-based source – Kidnapping is defined as:

The crime of unlawfully seizing and carrying away a person by force or fraud, or seizing and detaining a person against his or her will with an intent to carry that person away at a later time.

Yes, it is different in every jurisdiction or locality as well as from state to state. The court in the jurisdiction makes the ultimate decision or definition. But we don’t need either a court based description, or definition from a law-book, or from a dictionary to know that this is indeed a serious crime.

In this discussion, over the next few days, I am going to have a look at three separate films, set in three separate countries, that involve a kidnapping. Please do not assume that because I’m watching films about kidnappings, that I am in any way positive about the crime or its perpetrators. These are film reviews, not social commentaries.

Man on Fire (2004) – Directed by Tony Scott with a screen play by Brian Helgeland from the A.J. Quinnell novel. Set in Mexico City – Denzel Washington stars as John Creasy, a former assassin once employed by a certain government agency. He’s done enough in his life that he’s not particularly proud of. These days he’s down to two friends. One is a former colleague, Rayburn (played by Christopher Walken). Creasy decides to give his friend an unannounced drop in for a open-ended visit.

Creasy’s other friend is a bottle of whatever – whisky, scotch, bourbon or as he calls it: Jack – in short anything that pours. Rayburn hooks Creasy up with a job opportunity. He’ll be working for a rich family as a body-guard. The couple, Samuel and Lisa Ramos are a family of wealthy industrialists.

Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony) and Lisa Ramos (Radha Mitchell)

They have a nine-year old daughter Pita that he will be in charge of. In his interview with Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony) Creasy is asked if there’s anything that the Ramos family should be aware of. Creasy answers – I drink.

At this particular time in Mexico City – there have been a wave of kidnappings. In the recent six days before Creasy accepts the assignment – there were twenty-four kidnappings. This crime has become a cottage industry.

Creasy’s not interested in the job, or the young girl he must protect, Pita, played by Dakota Fanning. But he’s a burned out operative now without a portfolio or anything else coming his way. So he accepts the position. As expected, he and the precocious young girl don’t hit it off. She’s likeable enough, and smart, but Creasy’s not interested in becoming friends. But Pita will wear him down and a friendship will blossom.

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Rock of Ages

Once upon a time, thanks to Ian Dury and two members of the Blockheads, we had a music single called Sex, Drugs & Rock N’ Roll. The song was written and produced in 1977. At the time of its release, this song didn’t do much business. But the critics liked it. From there, with an assist from Axel Rose of Guns N’ Roses in the 1980’s, it became a staple of punk rock, and beyond that it became symbolic of an era, as well as an alternate lifestyle.

In 2012, the terms Sex, Drugs, & Rock N’ Roll might still be in the public consciousness, but more likely to be heard these days is Sweat, Ear-Splitting Music, & Puke. That’s a quote from Dennis Dupree, the fictional owner of a fictional rock club, The Bourbon Room, located on the famed Sunset Strip, in Hollywood circa 1987. This club, its employees and its patrons are in a film called Rock of Ages which opened in theaters across the country yesterday, June 15th, 2012.

Adapted from the musical of the same name (book by Chris D’Arienzo) and still playing on Broadway and theatrical venues elsewhere, Rock of Ages is what you might call a Jukebox Movie Musical. The difference between a Musical and a Jukebox Musical is that a musical has its own original music, while the jukebox version has music originally created by others and not specifically for the production.

Showcasing some of the best-loved and most popular rock music from the 80’s, the film, Rock of Ages has at its center a group of slender stories stitched together. We have the story of a struggling rock venue, The Bourbon Room, a club modeled after the Whiskey-A-Go-Go on Sunset Strip. Club Owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin has the role) is looking at serious problems including problems with the IRS over back taxes. He’s also facing the wrath of the conservative wife of LA’s Mayor, one Patricia Whitmore, a Tipper Gore type, portrayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones. She and her cohorts believe that The Bourbon Room, and other clubs of the same stripe, and the Strip itself, are far too decadent to be tolerated. She’s out to shut them down.

I can sing but I need a job – I can wait tables…

There is a newcomer in town, literally moments and steps off the bus from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She’s Sherrie Christian and is played by Julianne Hough. In her first few minutes in town, she’s mugged by a snatch and grab artist which resulted in the loss of her only suitcase. This event was witnessed by one Drew Boley, who happens to work in the bar at The Bourbon Room, and he gets her a job as waittress at the club. All in the film’s first five minutes. Welcome to LA, honey.

Not coincidentally both Sherrie and Drew (played by Diego Boneta) are aspiring singers. Also as you might expect, they’re going to fall in love.

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Turn Left Turn Right

I like most romantic comedies. I don’t mind cute. I like to see the would be lovers, and future couples in nice clothes, and in nice apartments, and in attractive places. I don’t mind if they have good jobs and gobs of money, or they’re so attractive that there’s no way on earth that they would be sad or lonely. Because the opposite of all that is real life.

Anyway, I recently read a wonderful piece written by Didion, my film discussion colleague, over at her site. She did a write-up of Sidewalls, an Argentinian film, and a rom/com that seemed to be rather unique in its anti-rom/com structure, design, and characters.

One of the elements that was stressed by Didion read:

Most realistic of all: they live in tiny shoebox apartments on the same block in Buenos Aires, leading parallel lives. They cross one another’s paths regularly — but how will they learn that they’re perfect for one another? Even in such close proximity, the impersonal forces of urban life would seem to keep them ignorant of each other.

Which served to remind me of a film that I had seen about 9 years ago. It was called Turn Left Turn Right. Set in urban Taipei, we see vast crowds as the city teems with people who even in the midst of a heavy rain, all politely wait at an intersection for the Walk Sign. It is right in the opening minutes of the film that the directors – the internationally known Johnnie To and Ka-Fai Wai  make sure we see their uniqueness which will set our leads apart from everyone else.


In a sea of black umbrellas, we see one of mint green and another of red. You can’t miss them from a distance – and to make sure that we don’t miss these two colorful umbrellas in the crowd, we are going to get a couple of close-ups.

These establish two things immediately. Ms Red Umbrella is a beautiful girl who reads a book while waiting for the walk sign, while standing beneath her umbrella, and in the midst of a rainstorm. This is Eve Choi played by the wonderful Gigi Leung and her character is a skilled translator who works for a Taiwanese publishing firm translating European literature into Chinese.

The guy beneath the green umbrella is John Liu and he’s played by the heart-throb Takeshi Kaneshiro – despite his Japanese name, he is half Chinese and half Japanese but has a Taiwanese nationality. In the film, he plays a struggling musician, a violinist actually. Liu is a magnet and he will attract women without even trying. Directors To and Wai convey this as almost instantly as the light changes, and people begin to cross the street, a beautiful girl runs up and says to John, May I share your umbrella?

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