Friday, March 27, 2015

Favorite Scene Friday! Miller's Crossing: Slippers and a Tommy Gun

We're celebrating March of the Coens over at French Toast Sunday, so here's one of my favourite scenes from one of my favourite under-rated Coen brothers movies.

Miller's Crossing tells the story of two rival mob factions during Prohibiton-era America, and Tom (Gabriel Byrne), the right-hand-man caught in between them, attempting to play them off against one another in a way that won't necessarily leave him on top, but will hopefully at least leave him alive. There's a great deal of Coen-esque rapid-fire dialogue, some of it delivered even faster than usual, a large cast of characters and an ever-twisting plot, but for me the movie's highlight is a very simple, dialogue-free scene that works without knowing any context, relying solely on Albert Finney being a badass.

(Apologies for the poor video quality, you can see a better quality clip here.)

Finney is Leo, one of the bosses of the aforementioned mob factions. For reasons we don't need to get into, an assassination attempt is being made on him by rival boss Caspar (Jon Polito, the second best reason to watch this film other than this scene). Leo is at home, in his bedroom, reading the newspaper and smoking his cigar in his fine red smoking jacket, listening to Frank Patterson singing Oh Danny Boy on his record player. He notices smoke wafting through the floorboards, where the two would-be assassins have set fire to his house, so Leo stubs out his stogie and reaches for his gun at the bedside. The goons come in and Leo falls to the floor and rolls under the bed whilst they unload into the floor with their tommy guns. They fire wildly and blindly, but Leo lets off just two shots, one to the ankle of a guy, and the second into his head when he slams to the floor. The second goon scarpers, but Leo grabs the gun and runs after him, ducking through the hallway and into another room, vaulting out the window and down to the floor. No, Albert Finney clearly does not do this. No, I don't mind.

The surviving goon enters the room and looks around, searching for the target he just seconds ago saw go in there. He goes to the window and looks back into the room. And that's when Leo fills the man with lead from the ground outside, causing the man to perform a macabre dance, whirling his own tommy gun around like a catherine wheel, shooting in every direction going, whilst jiggling and convulsing to a beat not present in Danny Boy. That's not enough for Leo, though, because there's more goons to be dealt with. They drive past, their own guns never ceasing to fire, but Leo walks towards them without a moment's hesitation, shooting all the time, slowly pacing down the street in their direction and somehow never being hit by a single bullet. The car crashes, sets alight and explodes, leaving just Leo stood there in the street, wearing his smoking jacket and embroidered slippers, holding his smoking tommy gun. There's nothing left to do but pick his cigar out of his pocket, and place it back in his mouth. All in an evening's work.

It's worth noting that before this point we've been introduced to Leo as a mob boss with a hefty amount of clout and a beautiful young ladyfriend, but we've yet to really see why he has managed to not only gain this position, but keep it for a considerable amount of time. This scene, aside from being so darn cool, cements the fact that the character of Leo is not one to be messed with, and in fact from here on out he becomes a great deal more forceful, which Tom soon feels the brunt of. The scene also looks stunning, particularly when Finney is stood in front of his house, which is now thoroughly ablaze. I know the Coen brothers aren't for everyone, but it's scenes like this that are why they are easily amongst my top directors.

What's your favorite scene from the Coen Brothers? 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Peek Through the Hatch: Robert's Most Anticipated TV of 2015

Dare I say it, but this year's upcoming TV is just as tantalizing as its upcoming films. Between broadcast TV and online services like Netflix, there's so much for fans to enjoy these days. I've got a couple of honorable mentions listed first, and then we jump into my Top 5. Read on, and don't forget to tell me what you're looking forward to!


Honorable Mentions:

10. Black Mirror: Season 3 (Channel 4 - ???)

9. Veep: Season 4 (HBO - April 12)

8. Sherlock: Christmas Special (PBS - Winter)

7. Orphan Black: Season 3 (BBC America - April 18)

6. Community: Season 6 (Yahoo Screen - March 17)

Top 5:

5. True Detective: Season 2 (HBO - TBD)

I think its safe to say that HBO's True Detective was the biggest thing to happen to TV last year (it certainly affected us around here). The show about two Louisiana detectives (Woody Harrelson and a career-best Matthew McConaughey) searching for a killer was both emotionally and technically amazing. Since True Detective is an anthology series, Season 2 will follow new characters in a new setting. After a lot of speculation online, Rachel McAdams, Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch and Vince Vaughn were announced as starring. Even though director Cary Fukunaga isn't returning to the director's chair (hurry up with that IT adaptation), writer Nic Pizzolatto is back, so I'm hoping that lighting strikes twice.

Just Jared via JoBlo

4. Daredevil: Season 1 (Netflix - April 10)

Marvel has given us ten films and two TV shows already, but they're not done by a long shot. The company has partnered with Netflix to produce a number of TV shows, one of which is Daredevil. I could take or leave Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and I haven't really gotten into Agent Carter but I'm very intrigued by Daredevil and its titular "Man Without Fear" (played by Charlie Cox). I recently enjoyed the heck out of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, so I feel it's safe to keep the faith in Netflix. One thing to keep in mind with Daredevil is that the entire first season will be available at once on Netflix. Binge-watchers rejoice!

3. Rick and Morty: Season 2 (Cartoon Network - Summer)

It's crazy how much I enjoyed the first season of Rick and Morty. Like, nuts. Nick alerted me to how funny the show was and told me to check it out. The show follows mad scientist Rick (voiced by Justin Roiland) and his grandson Morty (voiced by Justin Roiland [yes, he voices both characters]) as they get into all sorts of crazy scientific adventures, a lot of which involve alternate dimensions. If you need any other reason to like this show, Dan Harmon executive produces it, having co-created it after being fired from Community. The second season's supposed to air sometime this summer.

2. Ash vs. Evil Dead (Starz - TBD)

Well, despite the fact that I absolutely loved the 2013 reboot of Sam Raimi's horror franchise, it looks like the director has (hopefully temporarily) abandoned the entire thing in favor of a TV series. But that's okay with me! Ash (played by the one and only Bruce Campbell) will obviously be front and center in the show, and I'm anxious to see what's happened to him in the years since he woke up in a post apocalyptic London returned to the present after fighting medieval deadites in Army of Darkness.

1. Penny Dreadful: Season 2 (Showtime - May 3)

I've been missing so many things about Showtime's Penny Dreadful. The atmosphere. Its use of classic monsters and literary figures. The amazing Eva Green and the under appreciated Timothy Dalton. In fact, I could probably go without any other TV for the rest of the year if I just get me some more Penny Dreadful. I've unfortunately fallen out of love with The Walking Dead but, between Penny Dreadful and Ash vs. Evil Dead, I think I'm set.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Peek Through the Hatch: Robert's Most Anticipated Films of 2015

It's time to look at my most anticipated films for 2015 the rest of this year! And what a crazy year it'll be! New James Bond, Avengers, and Star Wars films, not to mention a new film in the Jurassic Park franchise?!? Am I dreaming?

There are a lot of honorable mentions I could go through, but why bother? This year is jam packed with cinematic goodness, or at least, the promise of it. Oh, and by the way, picks 10 - 6 don't have a particular order, but 5 - 1 are truly my most anticipated movies of the year. Thanks in advance for checkin' 'em out.

10. The Martian (November 25, 2015)

Based on the book by Andy Weir, The Martian will follow Mark Watney, a NASA astronaut stranded on Mars. With Matt Damon in the title role and Ridley Scott at the helm, this flick sounds like a winner. This would probably rank higher if I'd read the book. Speaking of, here's an unofficial (?) trailer of sorts for the novel:

9. Spectre (November 6, 2015)

I don't know about you, but Skyfall was my favorite Bond film since Goldeneye. So the fact that Skyfall director Sam Mendes is returning to the director's chair for Bond's next adventure (keep in mind no one has directed consecutive Bond films since John Glen's run in the '80s) is amazing. Monica Bellucci as the Bond girl! Christoph Waltz as the villain! Sign me up!


8. Poltergeist (July 24, 2015)

A lot of things are screaming at me about having this on my list. It's a remake. It's supposedly more of a kid's film. But dammit, Poltergeist is one of my favorite movies of all time and Sam Rockwell - the dad in this Gil Kenan directed Sam Raimi produced installment - is never not good. And check out this trailer:

Doesn't look half bad, right?

7. The Fantastic Four (August 7, 2015)

To be completely honest, this movie probably wouldn't have cracked my top 10 until the trailer finally (finally!) came out. There were those rumors that it would be found footage and there was no shortage of oddities about the story and production (Von Doom is now a blogger or something? Director Josh Trank was destroying sets?) Let's hope this is better than the Tim Story flicks and WAY better than the Roger Corman movie.

6. Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15, 2015)

Look at this goddamn trailer!!!

5. Tomorrowland (May 22, 2015)

Ah, the mysterious Tomorrowland. Directed by Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) and Starring George Clooney, the film has been described as "Harry Potter but with science". We haven't seen much besides the excellent trailer below, but maybe that's a good thing.

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (December 18, 2015)

I'm more of a Trek guy, but there's a lot to be excited for about The Force Awakens. The return of Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher is fantastic, the film boasts an impressive group of new actors including Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac, and speaking of Trek, J.J. Abrams - director of that franchise's reboots - traded in the Enterprise for the Millennium Falcon and The Force Awakens' directors chair. So we'll see. And this trailer? Oh, this trailer.

3. Jurassic World (June 12, 2015)

I absolutely love Jurassic Park, so this flick is a no-brainer for my #3 spot. We aren't getting human/dinosaur hybrids, but there is some genetic manipulation at play here, a logical step for the series. A fully realized park was also a brilliant idea for a sequel, and Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas-Howard are fine additions to the series' cast. Speaking of, hopefully Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm and/or Sam Neill's Alan Grant show up?

2. Ant-Man (July 17, 2015)

I was beyond upset when director Edgar Wright abandoned this flick, but I'm still excited. Why? I'm glad you asked...

  1. Oscar winner Russell Carpenter serves as the film's cinematographer.
  2. Word is there are some flashbacks to Hank Pym's (Michael Douglas) tenure as Ant-Man, which could show us the likes of Peggy Carter, Howard Stark and Pym working together.
  3. Adam McKay and Paul Rudd worked on the script. Sure, this is infinitely worse than Edgar Wright, but it could be worse.
  4. Paul Rudd! He wasn't my first choice for Ant-Man, but I think he'll be awesome as Scott Lang.
  5. Marvel! Let's not forget, this is Marvel. Remember last year? Winter Soldier? Guardians? Big Hero 6 (now an Academy Award winner)?

And even if this film isn't great, he'll still show up in Avengers movies down the road.

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1, 2015)

Yep, the first movie was at the top of my favorites list for 2012, so of course I'm excited for this sequel. Watch out for our countdown series with The Nerd Lunch Podcast crew. I'm very interested in seeing what Whedon's done with these characters, both individually, and as a group. When they're not partying, they'll be fighting Ultron and I'm excited for both.