We Have A Pope (Habemus Papam)

Given the news emanating out of The Vatican this month, I thought this would be a good time to take in the film, We Have A Pope (Habemus Papam). It did play here in Sarasota in the late spring or early summer of last year. I’d even made plans to see it at The Burns Court Cinema. But for reasons no longer important, I didn’t get to see it.

If you are wondering – the title Habemus Papam is Latin and translates to We Have A Pope. At the beginning of the film, at an unspecified time, but apparently in the present, a Pope dies. As per the custom following a Papal death, the College of Cardinals, the princes of the church, meet in a private conclave which is held in the Sistine Chapel. They are sequestered away from the prying eyes of the world, and are not able to re-enter the world until they’ve completed their task – which is to elect a new Pope from among those gathered for the conclave.

Soon enough we see a solemn procession of the red hatted, cardinals wending their way through The Vatican, chanting the hypnotic Litany of Saints. Once they enter the Sistine Chapel,  the room is locked. The Cardinals themselves are locked in, and the world is basically locked out.  The College of Cardinals has become both virtually and actually, out of sight, and out of touch – or said another way – no cell phones permitted.

Work looms. They must elect a new Pope. We do not see negotiations of any kind. While we do see discussions in various small groupings, we do not see heated discussions, angry debates, finger-pointing, or campaigning of any sort. While not every one is happy – foot stomping just isn’t done. What we do see, in a series of one-shots of assorted cardinals – is that many of them are actively praying to God that they won’t be named Pope. It is clear, that a good number of them don’t want the job.

A series of ballots are run. This is done in a rather light-hearted way. A Cardinal writes in a name, then crosses it out. Other Cardinals lean in a direction trying to see what the Cardinal seated next to them is writing. None of this is done in broad, farcical strokes. Instead it is a mixture of a deft comedic hand and a good deal of understatement.

But the ballots do not yield a clear-cut majority winner. So the ballots continue, as do the prayers that are basically all saying – Dear God, please don’t let them pick me.

Since so many don’t want the job, what might an ideal strategy be? We aren’t told per se – but it becomes clear that the one selected was chosen because he looked Papal, looked to be in good health, and was an obvious compromise selection. As the written ballots were read out one by one – we didn’t need to hear a count. It was easily a lopsided runaway victory for Cardinal Melville (pronounced Mel-veal). He’s played by Michel Piccoli.

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Smash: Sn 02 Ep 03 – Dramaturg – The Recap

Derek Wills says, “Why don’t we take it from the top ...” and those are the last lines of the 3rd Episode of Season 2 of Smash. The Episode was called Dramaturg. And we had to slog through about 40 minutes of scattered nonsense before Jimmy pitched the idea of his and Kyle’s show to Derek. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. That’s how the episode ends. So, to follow Derek’s words, let’s take a look at this episode ‘from the top‘.

01

Karen is singing a hot song. Sounds great. Looks great – only it is just a visualization (like a dream) of Karen and Derek listening to a song by Jimmy. Karen convinces Derek to take a meeting with the youngsters.

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Eileen has an idea. She’s hired a script doctor, on Broadway they’re called dramaturgs, to rework the book for Bombshell. Eileen has to tread gently around Julia and Tom to do this.

Eileen: There’s someone I want you to meet. His name is Peter Gilman. And I think you’ll like him very much.
Tom: A dramaturg – are you joking….
Julia: Of course she’s joking…

Only she’s not. A meeting is set for 3:00 PM that very afternoon.

Ivy auditions for a role in Liaisons – a new Broadway musical. She’ll finesse her way into auditioning for an even better role (Cecile) in the show.

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In a spectacular Central Park South apartment, Veronica is working on a song from The Wiz, as Derek arrives. The key to this scene is that a) The Wiz still doesn’t have a replacement director yet, and b) Derek wants another shot to get back into the show that fired him.

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Tom and Julia arrive at the restaurant to meet Peter Gilman. Julia is badmouthing him before they even meet him. Julia describes him: A man who makes his living feeding off the work of other writers, without creating anything of his own, is not a shepherd, he’s a parasite.

Hi, I’m Peter – the parasite. Nice to meet you both. Peter is played by Daniel Sujata.  Even Peter describes the situation as awkward. Dramaturgs are like dentists, he says. No one ever wants to see them, but once the pain wears off, you’re always glad you went. And things go downhill from there. Julia is plainly not at all happy about the situation and she doesn’t do anything to disguise her feelings.

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Dinner (2013)

The Ristorante Roccabianca is an upscale Italian restaurant. It is a small intimate place with limited seating – maybe a dozen tables. It has been a favorite for those who love Northern Italian cuisine for many years. The owner and head chef has just accepted an offer to compete against other chefs of international renown on the famed Iron Chef TV show.

However, on the way back from the TV studio he collapses in the street. A massive cranial membrane hemorrhage required surgery. He’s alive but likely will remain in a coma for an indeterminate amount of time.

The restaurant has not only lost its founder, owner and head chef, but has also lost an inspirational leader who not only oversaw the kitchen, but also created the menu items. Thirty years ago he had worked and studied at the famed Milanese ristorante Teresa’s, long a mecca and training ground for world-class cooks. Meaning not only were his credentials impeccable, but Roccabianca was a howling success. Want to book a table? Expect a wait of at least three months.

But now his daughter, the restaurant’s young manager is facing some problems. Business has fallen off, and to be honest, without the inspirational chef, so has the quality of the food preparation. Change is required or the restaurant, despite it’s reputation and success, will fail. Who will she appoint to take command of the kitchen? Would be it be the sous chef, the long time number two, or would she go outside of the organization for someone else.

She gets wind of another chef in town who not only specialized in the Northern Italian cuisine, but had also trained and worked at Teresa’s until two years ago. Through an agency, a meeting was set up for the next day.

Only this chef comes to the restaurant that night as a customer. It seems before he will discuss the job offer, he will audition the restaurant itself to see if it is up to his lofty standards. On this night, a big party of eight people, all good-looking Italian women, guests of the Ambassador’s wife and important clients of the restaurant, have requested a last-minute booking, changing from next week to tonight.

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Motorway

The nominations for the 32nd Annual Hong Kong Film Awards ( HK’s Oscars) were just announced 10 days ago on February 6th. Up for Best Director and Best Film are Soi Cheang for his action thriller Motorway.

Released back in July, I just got the DVD recently. I wouldn’t exactly call it a full on action thriller because most of the action is restricted to automobile chases rather than explosions and gunfire. That means we are long on screaming tires, burnt rubber left on the streets, and dashboard gauges edging into the red zones, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t exciting.

We start with two cops – basically they’re uniformed traffic cops with a bit more than just that going for them.  Of course one is a veteran cop and one is a hot shot younger cop. Sort of like Robert Duvall and Sean Penn in Colors. While these guys are watching for speeders they are often called in by the Major Crimes Unit to assist with roadblocks, chases, and surveillance. In fact they are called The Invisible Squad because they drive unmarked cars. While Shawn Yue won’t remind you of Ryan Gosling in Drive in general, meaning as an actor or a character, but when he gets behind the wheel – he will. One other plus is that we won’t see a smarter-than-you-ever-thought-possible detective throughout the entire film. On the other hand, this being about cops, we do get the impatient bosses otherwise known as captains.

Shawn Yue as Cheung

Shawn Yue as Cheung

Anthony Wong and the aforementioned Shawn Yue are the leads. Of course, Wong plays the nearing retirement Officer Lo. He’s been on the force a long time and he and his wife, played by Michelle Ye, are looking forward to his retirement so they can head out to the beach in Langkawi in Malaysia, or take in some art at The Louvre in Paris. He’s seen it all, done it all, and is at the emotional core of the film. He’d be happy to teach his young partner the ropes – but only if he’s asked. But Yue’s Cheung goes in for silent brooding rather than the acquisition of knowledge.

Yue plays Cheung as a hot-headed younger cop who has trouble following orders, is basically uncoachable, and he thinks he’s God’s gift to women.

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Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012)

Yash Chopra, the legendary Indian film producer and director has been described as arguably India’s most successful director of romantic films. Returning to the helm in 2012, to direct Jab Tak Hai Jaan, marked Chopra’s first directorial effort since 2004 when he directed Veer-Zaara.

Principal photography began on January 9th, 2012 in Mumbai before switching to London for 35 days of filming on February 21st, 2012. While the film had its international premiere on November 13th, 2012, Yash Chopra unfortunately passed away on October 21st.

Starring three of India’s most bankable stars – Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, and Anushka Sharma, Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ) is a story of deep passion, of the exuberance of youth, and of devotion to God. Swirl these three ingredients around in a stew that also includes the tension and drama of a broken heart and filter through all of this through an Indian Army Major whose job is to defuse IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices) and you’ve got the makings of a classic Yash Chopra epic romance.

Only it doesn’t quite happen.

Sure, having beautiful people dance and love in all of London’s most beautiful settings, crossed with a character straight out of The Hurt Locker sounds good. But the while the film is beautiful to watch, the story itself suffers, at least in the second half of the film, from a poor script, and an actress, who while she is a beauty, has limited acting range and a nearly inexpressive face.

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At the outset, in the present time, Indian Army Major Samar Anand (Shahrukh Khan) arrives in a Ladakh marketplace on his motorcycle to defuse a bomb. He works fearlessly and wears no protective gear at all. With nerves of steel, and seemingly completely unafraid of death, Anand is a hero to his men. After the bomb has been defused – Anand gets on his motorcycle and drives off to a place of solitude to decompress and unwind.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan - Trailer[15-53-59]

Jab Tak Hai Jaan - Trailer[15-53-24]

But on this one occasion, we find that the next morning, Anand is not alone at his lakeside encampment. Also present nearby is an enterprising young woman, Akira Rai (Anushka Sharma), a young intern working for The Discovery Channel. She desires to be a documentary film maker. We meet her as she stands on a small rocky island in mid-lake. She is about to dive into the lake. She’s bone dry. After diving into the lake, she screams in shock from the lake’s surface cold waters and begins to flounder.

She will be saved from drowning by Anand. Rather than sticking around, he gives her his jacket, then boards his bike and drives off. We then see that Akira had recorded the rescue with a camcorder on a tripod that she had set in place beforehand. So clearly all of this was pre-arranged by her.

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Nashville: Sn 1 Episode 13 – There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight – Recap

Alert the media!

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ABC’s Nashville Episode 13 is entitled There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight but I have to disagree with that. There will be plenty of tears among the viewers because the writers apparently have run out of new and fresh ideas. So what did they do ? They’ve turned this week’s Episode into a Homecoming Weekend.

Last week it was Peggy – a chance meeting on the street became a coffee, then a drive home. A kiss between Peggy and Teddy turned into a roll in the hay which before last week even ended became a request for a divorce by Teddy.

The characters that we haven’t seen or thought of in recent weeks. just came rolling in like the tide in wave after wave.

First there was Gunnar’s parole violator of a brother, Jason. Jason is not only back, but he wants to resume his musical career with his favorite brother. Now somewhere in the middle of all this, Scarlett got a call from Watty White. Watty got the call from Marshall and they want to sign Scarlett and Gunnar for Rayna’s label. But Gunnar needs a place for Jason to stay. Scarlett is very much against it – you know – harboring a fugitive and all that – but she agrees to let Jason stay for one night only.

Tandy is back in sight. She got wind of Teddy and Peggy when she saw Peggy’s name on an incoming call on Teddy’s phone when she and Teddy were heading into his office. When Tandy reminded Teddy that he was supposed to have finished with Peggy, and that Lamar wouldn’t be pleased – Teddy let her have it. In short he won’t take orders about who he can see or talk to from either Tandy or Lamar.

Next back in view was Liam McGuinnis, Rayna’s fired musical producer. He happened to check into the same hotel where Rayna’s tour was staying. He showed up at the concert that night, and Rayna missed her cue. Deacon said it was the first time he could recall such a thing happening in more than 20 years.

We have to make some excuses for Rayna – she’s got a lot on her plate: Deacon’s kiss, Teddy asking for a divorce, and having to tell her kids about the divorce the next day. But she recovers and the concert goes well. After the concert Liam asks her out for a drink.

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Which become drinks. Which leads to the quick, quick, slow (the world easiest dance – the Texas Two-Step) which leads to a night-cap in Liam’s room – and there’s more. Only we get as far as Liam and Rayna talking in the bathroom.

We’ve only just begun. Remember Hayley – the gal at the music publisher who got on well with Gunnar, and was responsible for Gunnar and Scarlett’s music being published. Well, she’s back too. This time her target is Avery. Avery is not doing well under Dominic’s guidance. In fact he’s had trouble making the kind of music Dominic wants, and he hasn’t seen any money at all. In fact this has caused him to be living at the proverbial Roach Motel.

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Nashville: Sn 01 – Episode 12 – I’ve Been Down That Road Before – Recap

The Rayna/Juliette tour arrives in Chicago. For two nights, and two sold out performances. There’s Juliette on stage.

I’m a girl
Oh yeah!
I can get free drinks
By flipping my hair

That’s Ms Pop-Tart, the one, the only Juliette Barnes. Her stage act is smoke bombs, strobe lights, sparkling dresses and what-not. Ms Pop-tart is really Ms Techno-pop-tart and she’s becoming quite unhappy about that lately.

Rayna’s doing well too, except she’s a bit disconcerted that Juliette has hired Deacon as her lead guitarist. Then there’s the Teddy situation that’s still unresolved. Teddy is beginning to get a bit feisty. He’s chafing because Rayna is on tour, he’s alone, and Rayna continues to deflect by saying that she’s still processing. Teddy’s not a happy camper.

Rayna’s not at all happy either. She and Deacon find themselves alone on elevator at the Chicago hotel, and you’d think the 3rd party on the elevator was an iceberg. Not a word is spoken between them. But Rayna has her own new lead guitarist. A woman. It’s working out but isn’t quite the same sound as with Deacon. After a set, Rayna sees Deacon back stage and asks him to show the guitarist that particular riff that Rayna likes. Deacon says sure and then –

Rayna: Hi, how ya doing?
Deacon: Huh
Rayna: Well last time we talked, you were putting up a for-sale sign on your house, you were heading up to your cabin, and now you’re on tour with Juliette. What are you doing here?
Deacon: I play guitar for people who pay me money…
Rayna: Well it’s a bit awkward …
Deacon: I’ll try to keep outta your way

Juliette: Feels like I’m in a straight jacket. You do one thing that they like, and they make you do the same thing over, and over, and over. I don’t want to be that girl who dances around in sparkly dresses with smoke billowing around her. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun, and I want to give my fans what they want, but …
Deacon: What?
Juliette: What if I decide to walk away from that girl and no one comes with me. What am I supposed to do?
Deacon: I know it must be scary to think about losing everybody, but wouldn’t it be worse to lose yourself. Juliette, there’s thinking about doing something, and there’s just doing it…

Meanwhile, back in Nashville, Scarlett is behind on her rent, and the whole band could only take in $144 for a night’s work. Scarlett’s share is $24 and she’s promised to pay her rent. Her land lord says he will evict her if he hasn’t his money in two days. Scarlett has to call Avery for the money he owes her.

Teddy and Peggy, yes THAT Peggy meet in the street. They talk, and Teddy drives her home. Peggy says the right things and Teddy and she went for some heavy breathing, smooching, right there in the car.

Avery, following his manager Marilyn’s advice, is back in the old neighborhood, where he lived with Scarlett. He’s got a camera crew trailing behind, along with an interviewer. Marilyn figured this would be good PR. Local boy makes good. Avery returning to his old nabe. However Scarlett spies him, and comes out. She tells the camera crew to look the other way, as she won’t be signing any releases. Scarlett tells Avery she needs the money. He doesn’t see it that way. She calls him pathetic.

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House of Cards

This is a dream role for Kevin Spacey.

Spacey plays Francis Underwood,  a Congressman from the state of South Carolina. He is the Majority WHIP and he’s truly a force to be reckoned with. He is at once the master of the fake, the finesse, the feint, and the fuck you.

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We can’t help but feel that Underwood has aces up his sleeves, that he can double deal off the top or bottom of the deck, that he definitely carries a concealed weapon which is his brain, and that you don’t want to get on his bad side.

Underwood will pay you back for crossing him. And the beauty of it is that while he can cut your legs out from under you – you won’t realize that it is happening even while it is happening.

What Francis wants, Francis gets.

I’m talking about the new Netflix Original Content show called House of Cards. All thirteen episodes became available for streaming via your Netflix account on February 1st. This is a departure from the broadcast television standard scheduling platform, or even the cable tv method. Not only is the show free of commercials, but it is available on demand whenever you want. This series is made available to you not week by week. From the jump, the whole series is available to you. You can watch the whole thing at once or over the course of a weekend in what is called binge-watching.

Or you can watch an episode a night, or every other night, depending on your schedule. You can pick not only the day, but also the time. There’s no denying that in this format, we have viewing options other than being on the receiving end of what the networks decide for us. As an example, NBC’s Smash had its Season 2 premier with two episodes on Tuesday night, February 5th. But the next episode won’t be broadcast until the 19th. A two-week delay. Why? I’ve no idea.

Rather than write a straight review telling all and sundry that I love/hate the show, or recommend that you watch/not watch, I’ve decided to dispense with the normal review and give you a taste of the main character. I’ve selected from just two of the 13 episodes, and will basically not give much in the way background, plot points, or spoiler.

This will be all about the show’s main character and you’ll have to decide on your own what to think of the guy. Of course you will need a Netflix streaming account to see this show. While the episodes themselves are free of interrupting commercials, Netflix is not giving the show away.

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Side Effects

 Steven Soderbergh and his screenwriter Scott Z. Burns have crafted a psychological thriller which stars Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum. It is a gripping and involving drama made all the more interesting due to the lack of the usual overload of explosions, gun fire, and car chases that we get in movies these days. Simply, this is a fine film that makes you think.

Rooney Mara has never looked better on-screen, and she commands most of the screen time. Jude Law also gets a bear’s portion of face time as well, and his performance is well done.

The film has a good many twists and turns, and even the trailer keeps some secrets. The trailer is at the end of my review which I’ve done my best to keep it spoiler free, so feel free to skip watching the trailer. The title of the film is Side Effects. Which leads you to the thought that this is about a big pharmaceutical company fending off a law suit.

That’s been done before, only with a big Agro-Chemical firm. That film starred George Clooney, and was called Michael Clayton. Side Effects is just kind of similar. The difference between Michael Clayton and Side Effects is that the battle lines are much fuzzier and we watch but not from an attorney’s perspective.

At times, we aren’t sure that what we saw was real or a hallucination. At other times the we lose track of who are the victims and who are the perpetrators. The film will keep you guessing, and things change-up time and time again, and as you watch, you’ll find that you’ll need to go back and re-work your theories.

Of course none of this is rocket science. But you will need to pay attention as there are clues – some of which are important and telling, and others are  false clues. And I think that’s what makes the film worthwhile.

I almost said ‘fun’ rather than worthwhile. This is not a fun film. But this isn’t a morose affair either. The fun is that you do become involved. You do try to figure out stuff. I’m not sorry to say that my conclusion as I walked out, was that I was impressed, and I enjoyed the 105 minutes.

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Rooney Mara is a tiny woman and here she’s been given a huge role in this film. We only got a brief glimpses of her in a few scenes in The Social Network and she sparkled. From there, she got a star’s turn, and definitely a major career boost, when she was signed to appear in the David Fincher version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the sequels.

While Mara was superb as Lisbeth, the role was a distance from most of us. I’m not talking about the film being set in Sweden. Instead I mean that, while most of us were rooting for Lisbeth, there was no doubt that she was a strange woman. It wasn’t that she was admirable, but rather that she was scary.

Here, in Side Effects, Rooney plays a character, Emily Taylor, that is much easier for us to identify with. I found her performance mesmerizing.

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