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Sons of Anarchy 3.13 – NS

It was another special 90-minute episode of “Sons of Anarchy” tonight, but I honestly didn’t expect any less from the season finale, which opened with the typical montage, this time scored to an upbeat pop song while the club enjoyed a cheerful breakfast feast at the clubhouse. The festivities didn’t last long, however, as Gemma is becoming increasingly worried about Jax’s deal with Stahl after discovering a case file on the IRA council in his cut.

She’s still staying mum on the subject, but after Clay tells her about their expanding business relationship with the Irish, Gemma decides to try and save Jax’s skin before any more harm is done by turning herself in. Not that it will do her any good. Stahl has already exonerated Gemma of all the charges (apart from fleeing custody, which has landed her a few months under house arrest), so there’s really nothing she can do. Nevertheless, Gemma promises Stahl that deals like the one she made with Jax never work out because there’s no trust, and it’s going to end badly for one of the parties involved. If only Gemma knew just how right she would be…

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With the hours ticking away until Jimmy is out of SAMCRO’s reach for good, Clay visits Otto at Stockton to set up a meet between him and Lenny the Pimp. Lenny agrees to reach out to his Russian contacts, but warns Otto that while they’re certainly not loyal to Jimmy, it’s going to take a hefty sum for them to flip on him. And as Clay soon learns, he wasn’t kidding, as the Russians ask for $2 million in exchange for Jimmy – money that the club simply doesn’t have. Thankfully, those boxes that Chucky has been trying to show someone for days just so happens to contain $5 million in counterfeit bills. It’s apparently from his time working for Henry Lin, and though he was supposed to destroy it, he decided to keep it instead.

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A Chat with Lisa Cholodenko, director of “The Kids Are All Right”

Lisa Cholodenko isn’t a household name as writer/directors go, but that may change somewhat after her latest film, “The Kids Are All Right,” which was released smack in the middle of the summer, and came out on DVD and Blu-ray last week. The movie features three of our greatest actors – Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo – doing some of the most astute work of their careers. Expect the movie to snag some Oscar nominations for one or more of the trio, and if there’s any justice, Cholodenko and co-writer Stuart Blumberg will be nominated for Best Original Screenplay as well.

The movie is blisteringly funny while at the same time painfully honest. It tells the story of a lesbian couple (Bening and Moore) who’ve been together for 20 years and raised two children (played Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) who are now at an age when they’re interested in meeting their sperm donor (Ruffalo). Human comedy ensues with unexpected results. “The Kids Are All Right” is one of the best movies of the year, and Cholodenko, whose previous films include “High Art” and “Laurel Canyon,” is a huge factor in its success. Now you might be thinking that a movie about two lesbians and their kids isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. If so, you’re exactly the person who should see this film, because it’ll change your ideas of what makes a family in this day and age. And it will make you laugh – loud and hard.

Cholodenko took some time out to talk to Bullz-Eye on the occasion of the film’s home video release and after some introductory chit-chat we discussed the lesbian right, gay porn, and new meanings for the word “tribe.”

Bullz-Eye: “The Kids are All Right” was like this oasis of reason in an ocean of CGI and fart jokes this past summer. Do you get frustrated when you look around see the types of movies that rake in the big bucks these days?

Lisa Cholodenko: I wish we would kind of go back to the time where there were more interesting, idiosyncratic human kinds of comedies and dramas, and not such the kind of broad and farcical, box office driven fare, but that’s where we are right now, so, I just accept it, and I’m glad that there’s space for films like this.

BE: Well, so am I. There was some fairly vocal criticism of the film from the most unlikely of places – the lesbian community. Where do you think that kind of outrage comes from and, outside of raising awareness for the film itself, does that kind of anger serve any worthwhile purpose for a thoughtful movie like this?

LC: I keep referring to them as the lesbian right (chuckling), and I think that in any kind of group there’s going to be a contingent of people that are more extreme in their views of things, and more politicized and so, I think there’s room for everybody, and I don’t have a problem with that. It’s gets a little tedious speaking to it – not to you – but when I’ve heard it in Q & A’s and stuff, but I’m sympathetic. There’ve obviously been no great representations of lesbians in cinema, or certainly there hasn’t been in a long time, and it’s kind of an old school doctrinaire, “Oh of course the lesbian goes off with a man.” But if you look at the film with any kind of care, it’s really not about that at all.

BE: No, no, it isn’t.

LC: She really goes off with her partner. So it gets a little knee-jerky and tedious for me, but I’m sympathetic that there’s no representation, and with starvation sometimes you get a lot of mixed feelings.

BE: Well, here’s a weird question, and you gotta help me out here, because it was the one thing in the whole movie that baffled me. Lesbian couples watching gay male porn to get in the mood. Is this common? Is this something that I’m just totally unaware of?

LC: You know, I don’t know because I’m not a social scientist. I just thought, you know, different strokes for different folks, and it’s always fascinating to find out what people do to turn it on. Stuart [Blumberg, co-writer of the movie] and I stumbled on that idea, and wrote a scene, and laughed and I said, “No, it’s too risqué,” and he said, “No it’s not. It’s funny. It’s great.”

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RIP Irvin Kershner (updated)

Irvin Kershner, who died Saturday at age 87, was a solid journeyman director, his early films — several of which, especially “The Flim-Flam Man” and “The Luck of Ginger Coffey” are supposed to be pretty good — are obscure enough that even I haven’t seen too many of them. He was also a graduate of the USC Film School in 1950, which makes him, I guess, about the first of the film school brats.

He’s known today primarily because of two strong, dramatic action films. The first was a 1976 fact-based TV movie, “Raid on Entebbe.” The second was, uh-hmm, “The Empire Strikes Back.” For one film in the series, a “Star Wars” film had a genuinely well-written screenplay with good dialogue and a director who knew how to elicit strong work from actors and structure a dramatic moment. For some reason, everyone agrees it was the best of the series. Watch this scene again, though you’ve certainly seen it before. There’s emotion going on.

Kershner was, I gather, a gracious and intelligent man. Here is a brief tribute/outtake from the documentary “The Nature of Existence” in which Kershner endorses “the Force” in a way, while also speaking out for a spiritual, but entirely non-supernatural view of life, death, and creativity.

Much more, as usual, at MUBI.

UPDATE: The fine blogger Greg Ferrara argues that “The Luck of Ginger Coffey” was a lot better than “pretty good.”

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RIP Leslie Nielsen (updated)

It would be a fool’s errand to try and argue that Mr. Nielsen’s greatest moments were not in “Airplane” and as Lt. Frank Drebbin in the “The Naked Gun” and the “Police Squad!” series that preceded it. But, with everyone else saluting those amazing deadpan moments now that Leslie Nielsen has sadly left us at age 84, I thought I’d take a moment to take two somewhat less well known moments from his early, less funny movies.

First, before Captains Kirk and Reynolds and Han Solo, there was the not-so-dissimilar Commander J.J. Adams in “Forbidden Planet.”

And here is Nielsen in what honestly really is, in its way, an amazing pre-Zucker Brothers performance by Nielsen. In 1977′s “Day of the Animals” he portrayed an ad man who takes over one faction of an extremely ill-starred group of campers. Below, he indulges in some poor behavior even Sterling Cooper wouldn’t have tolerated.

And, because it’s mandatory, a brief moment of sheer genius from “The Naked Gun.”

More via Roger Ebert,Edward Copeland and MUBI.

UPDATE: More reaction to Leslie Nielsen’s life and passing from David Hudson.

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Thanksgiving weekend box office: Harry Potter still rules, but “Tangled” keeps hope alive for Disney princesses

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint face the future in As we discussed on Thursday, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One” would have had to suffer a truly enormous second weekend drop, or its nearest competitor would have had to be a HUGE over-performer, for it to come in at any spot but #1 this weekend. Still, these last five days were a bit more competitive than expected.

Over just this weekend (Friday-Sunday), the latest entry in J.K. Rowling’s enormous fantasy opus dropped by a hefty but not surprising 59.7% from last weekend with an estimate of $50 million and change for studio Warner Brothers, according to Box Office Mojo. Over at Anne Thompson/Indiewire land, Anthony D’Alessandro reports that the fantasy feature earned some $76.3 over the entire Thanksgiving weekend. (Nikki Finke has a slightly higher figure along with the predictable extra snark.)

Coming up a very healthy #2 was Disney’s “Tangled.” Reports of the death of Disney fairy-tale adaptations and princess tales may be taking a very Mark Twain-worthy turn. The 3D animated musical comedy, which is receiving hearty praise from critics and top grades from Cinemascore, earned a stellar $69 million estimate over the five day period and came within a hair’s breadth of the Potter-plex over the weekend with $49.1 million. Close enough that, when the actuals come out, it’s not impossible that “Tangled” could actually win the weekend. Of course, with this much money involved, neither film could possibly be termed a “loser.”

That, however, is not the case for the weekend’s other two new releases. The musical’s new lease on life took a small hit this weekend with a disappointing run for “Burlesque.” The poorly reviewed pic earned an $11.8 million weekend estimate for Screen Gems/Sony in the #4 spot after “Megamind,” and somewhere in the neighborhood of $17 million over the five day period, perhaps $7 million below the expected take. Still, D’Alessandro reports a very good Cinemascore rating, which may indicate strong legs or at least that people who really wanted to see a movie with Cher and Christina Aguilera got what they wanted.

Bringing up the rear after #5 “Unstoppable,” which is holding very nicely indeed in Week 3 with an estimated $11.75 for Fox, was Edward Zwick’s “Love and Other Drugs.” How Nikki Finke could describe Zwick’s first attempt at a romantic comedy/drama, 1986 near-crime against humanity (and David Mamet) “About Last Night,” as “now classic” is a mystery to me. Less of a mystery is the fact that a poorly reviewed attempt at Oscar bait is a movie with no place to call home. So, those $9.85 weekend and $14.5 holiday weekend estimates are absolutely no surprise.

The Dwayne Johnson action fest “Faster” also lost its personal race this weekend, with a rather slower $8.7 and $12.2 million estimate. La Finke notes that the marketing budget on the film was kept modest (so that’s why director George Tillman, Jr. talked to me?) and, at least, CBS Films prexy Les Moonves seems committed to the long haul with his fledgling film company.

Meanwhile, in limited release-land, the big news was the big weekend for “The King’s Speech” which earned by far the weekend’s biggest per-screen average with a king-size $87,500 average on four screens. Considering this film is both reportedly extremely good, stars English actors portraying royalty, and from the Weinsteins, its heavy Oscar presence seems assured alongside “The Social Network” (which I finally saw last night and was absolutely floored by) and “The Black Swan” (which I haven’t seen yet, but seems to floor everyone who sees it).

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The Walking Dead 1.5 – Wildfire

After the attack on the camp, the question of what to do with the dead was always going to be a sensitive subject. While Daryl wants to burn anyone who’s been bitten or killed, Glenn is adamant that they bury their fellow survivors. And when you think of it, they both make pretty good points. If you don’t kill them now, there’s always a chance that that decision will come back to bite you (pun very much intended) in the future. On the other hand, you need to maintain a certain bit of humanity in situations like this or there’s nothing separating you from the monsters.

Of course, before they decide what they’re going to do with the bodies, they need to figure out how they’re going to pry one of them – Amy – out of Andrea’s arms. She’s obviously still coping with the death of her little sister and feeling especially guilty that she wasn’t always there for her when they were younger. But neither Rick nor Lori can get through to Andrea, and it takes Dale’s story about losing his wife to cancer (and how the two sisters are the closest thing he’s had to family since her death) to get her to finally snap out of it. Just in time, too, as Amy begins to come back to life as a zombie and Andrea is forced to shoot her in the head.

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With all the discussion going on about how to handle the dead, you can hardly blame Jim for trying to keep his bite a secret. It was only a matter of time before someone found out, however, although everyone took it a lot better than he probably imagined they would. Only Daryl seemed willing to shoot him right there on the spot (then again, that’s pretty much his answer for everything), but Rick believes that the Center for Disease Control might have a cure, and suggests that the group heads there for refuge now that the camp is compromised. Shane disagrees, and wants to go to the military base at Fort Benning instead, even if it’s 100 miles away.

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Boardwalk Empire 1.11 – Thou Hast Fulfilled the Judgment of the Wicked

At last, after several references to him during the course of the season, we finally get a first-hand look at Hardeen, brother of Houdini. His performance, while ostensibly impressive, receives little more than a yawn from Nucky. Margaret, meanwhile, is on the verge of offering a standing ovation. Harry and Annabelle are also in attendance, with Harry looking particularly nervous. He claims it’s because it makes him nervous to see Hardeen tied up. I’m skeptical. I don’t know what’s going on, but Harry’s clearly up to something…

Angela’s drifting off in thought while sitting at the dinner table, which really apparently pisses off Jimmy. Fair enough: he’s still smarting from the situation with the photographer, clearly distrusting his wife despite her assurances that she never slept with the man…which is true insofar as it goes, but let’s not go there right now. What’s more important is that he receives a phone call. It sounds like business, but he says it was his mother, letting him know that his father is dying. Given that Jimmy seemed to have viewed Nucky as a father figure when the season kicked off, I think it’s fair to say that the bond between him and his real father must be pretty weak.

Agents Van Alden and Sepso are enjoying a spot of Chinese when Van Alden unsurprisingly turns the topic of conversation to that of Sepso having killed Billy, and it’s not exactly what you’d call a polite dinnertime chat. Sepso maintains his cool, relatively speaking, but it’s clear that this won’t be the last time Van Alden brings up the matter.

The evening with Hardeen continues beyond his proper show, as he entertains the troops back at Nucky’s place. Once again, Margaret and Annabelle are enthralled, while Nucky shrugs and Harry sweats. It’s pretty funny to watch Hardeen play up his reputation even as he plays down his brother’s, but the fun stops when Harry explodes and at least explains why he’s been looking so sketchy all night: he’s lost a huge amount of money at the hands of one Charles Ponzi…and if the name sounds familiar, yes, he is the one who gave name to the so-called Ponzi Scheme, which most recently came to prominence via Bernie Madoff. So much for the relationship between Harry and Annabelle, eh?

Rothstein gets word from Chicago that things ain’t looking good for him with the whole Black Sox situation. His attorney suggests that he heads to Chi-Town, but to make sure he knows someone in the city who’s willing to do him a favor. Will it be Capone or Torrio?

No, The Commodore’s not dead yet, but you can’t blame his maid for fearing the worst. I mean, the guy’s already sick, and then his dog dies…? Talk about the kind of thing to send a guy into a tailspin. But, wait, who’s the Commodore’s guest? Jimmy?!? Wait a minute: Jimmy’s the Commodore’s son? Did we already know this? I’m pretty sure we didn’t. (Given the predilection of the majority of this blog’s few readers to only comment when they have a chance to criticize or complain, I can only presume someone will quickly confirm if I’m wrong.) Boy, Jimmy’s really pissed off that he’s had to make this visit, and it’s clear that he won’t miss his father when he’s gone. How else to explain the fact that, when the Commodore says he’s dying, Jimmy’s only response is to say, “Well, then, I will call you a priest.” Still, when the Commodore adds that the wrong person is running Atlantic City, it causes such mixed feelings in Jimmy that he promptly pukes. Still, I guess it would be a little confusing to realize that a man you’ve loathed for decades could well be the one who holds the key to the future you’ve been seeking.

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A roundtable chat with director Nigel Cole of “Made in Dagenham”

Nigel Cole is not the kind of director who becomes a hot topic on AICN with his action masterworks, nor is he the kind of helmer who makes cinephile hearts go aflutter with his unusual directing technique and highly idiosyncratic world view. That isn’t to say that Cole’s latest, “Made in Dagenham,” lacks a certain amount of flair. It’s style, however, takes a definite backseat to clever writing and consistently good, and sometimes remarkably outstanding, performances. Nothing at all wrong with that, especially in a world lacking in good movies about women, as well as movies you can, give or take a little British cursing, safely take Aunt Minnie or Uncle Irv to see. Indeed, even hardened cinephiles should appreciate this well-made and intelligent, if comfortably unambitious and deliberately crowd-pleasing, comedy based on a crucial but overlooked episode from late 20th century British history.

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Written by William Ivory and saddled with a ridiculous R-rating, “Dagenham” is the partially fictionalized story of how the entirely fictional Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) moves from anonymous factory worker and devoted wife and mother to working full-time as a leader of what amounts to a nationwide labor movement. Bob Hoskins portrays an idealistic and goodhearted union leader who sets Rita on a path that at first has her leading the opposition to an unfair job classification for female textile workers at Ford Motors, and later has her deeply involved with a nationwide movement taking on the entire idea of paying men more than women simply because they are men.

Though supported by her loving but at times clueless husband (Daniel Mays), an extended strike creates inevitable strains. The story resolves itself as the affair gets the attention of real-life Labour Party legend, Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson, in a typically biting and hilarious turn), the first woman to attain cabinet status in a British government. Along the way, subplots involve the troubled marriage of her older best friend (Geraldine James) and her chance encounter with the “enemy,” Rosamund Pike as a fellow mom at her son’s school who also happens to be married to a key member of Ford Management (Rupert Graves).

Previously best known for the art-house hit “Calendar Girls” and his first feature, “Saving Grace,” a comedy about an aging pot grower starring Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson, Cole comes across like the down-to-earth bloke you might expect to be behind this kind of a film. Middle-aged and not particularly pretty, he introduced himself as Sally Hawkins, who we’d be meeting a bit later alongside Miranda Richardson, for another roundtable chat, getting the expected laugh from the table full of entertainment journalists.

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Mr. Hanrahan edits #3: “The 100 Cheesiest Movie Quotes of All Time”

Actually, I have no objection to this collection skewing a bit later on in film history. The post-classic era is often inherently cheesier.

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Mr. Hanrahan edits #2: “The 100 Greatest Horror Movie Quotes of All Time”

Once again, I could do with more pre-1960 selections, but the guy knows his stuff.

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