Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Most Wanted Man Makes Me Miss Philip Seymour Hoffman

When it comes to spy thrillers, John le Carre knows what he’s doing.  His enormously popular series The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been made into two film trilogies and a successful British TV series.  Fewer people noticed another film adapted from one of his novels which came out last year after the death of its lead actor.  A Most Wanted Man starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Defoe, and Robin Wright details covert anti-terrorism operations in post 9/11 Hamburg, Germany.  Hoffman plays covert agent Gunther Bachmann who heads a small, government run, technically illegal group of operatives whose mission is to locate, contact, and turn lower to mid-level individuals with ties to terrorist organizations operating inside Germany.  Specializing in Islamic terrorism, Bachmann has been spending years trying to ensnare a local millionaire philanthropist named Dr. Abdullah whom he suspects has been funneling legal money through his legitimate charities to Al Qaeda.  After the recent arrival of Issa Karpov, an Islamic Chechen national with ties to Russia, Bachmann sees an opportunity to not only entrap Abdullah, but perhaps use him to gain access to the real threat; the terrorist leaders he is funneling money to.  That is if the local German authorities and CIA reps don’t get to him first.  While the film has its exciting moments, its strength is in its subtleties.  The characters are all attempting to stay hidden from the authorities and while Bachmann is trying to secure Abdullah as an asset, he is also trying to look out for Karpov who is seemingly innocent and caught up in this mess because of his Russian mafia connected father.  The dialogue and cinematography reflect the espionage in that everything feels subtle, quiet, and in the shadows – just where Bachmann’s team operates.  Performances by Rachel McAdams and Philip Seymour Hoffman are stunning and while Defoe’s portrayal of the banker is good, it takes a backseat to the other stellar performances.  In the end, your adrenaline is rushing and your hope is high for the success of an operation which has taken years to put together and is so near completion.  All the chess pieces are necessary and in play as the finale approaches and it is one that leaves you both wide eyed and confused whilst leaving you to exhale as the credits roll. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Today's Playlist

1. Chips in the Moonlight - NICE GUYS
2. Polyamory - Slothrust
3. Who's Gonna Be My Babe? - Free Pizza
4. Hanging by a Moment - Lifehouse
5. Came as a Glow - Pile
6. Taboo Tattoo - Midriffs
7. Right Home - The Julie Ruin
8. Adderall Nighter - Tacocat
9. Over My Head (Cable Car) - The Frey
10. Saturday Morning - The Eels

The Innkeepers Was a Breath of Fresh Air in the Horror Genre

Every once and awhile you watch a horror film that stands out as being more akin to the classics.  There are so many low budget “indie” horror flicks that after awhile you start to loose hope that classic horror is no longer a reality.  Films like It Follows and The Babadook remind us that there are still those who have an appreciation for the cinematic side of horror; directors that understand less is often more when it comes to fright films.  This is the way I felt when watching The Innkeepers a 2011 horror film by Ti West, an up and coming horror director.  The film stars two relatively unknown actors as Claire and Luke, the last two employees of a once palatial hotel which is now set to close.  Luke runs an amateur ghost hunting website which chronicles the varied paranormal experiences many quests have had at the hotel which is supposedly haunted by a variety of apparitions including the suicidal Madeline O’Malley whose ghostly figure is said to appear in the old stately building.  Recruiting Claire to assist him with his ghost hunting, Luke comes to realize that the paranormal happenings inside the Yankee Pedlar Inn are more real than he ever truly believed.  The arrival of several eccentric guests and a series of rapid fire paranormal experiences catapult Luke and Claire into the middle of terror and certain doom as the inn’s final weekend winds down.  While I felt the film was a little slow on the upstart, lighthearted jokes and the occasional startling moment keep you entertained as you await the scary parts later on.  In addition, the waiting adds to the sense of unease and emptiness which reflects the nearly vacant status of the hotel.  The films filter creates an eerie glow to each scene which when coupled with an incredible original soundtrack gives the movie and almost Hitchcock like vibe which contributes to the overall “classic” feeling of the entire film.  Receiving mostly positive reviews, The Innkeepers was a breath of fresh air in an overly saturated genre.  PLUS the hotel is still open in real life, so you can visit and get your paranormal investigator on by seeing if you can find your own evidence of life after death.