Hidden Netflix Gems – Ladybug Ladybug

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

Frank Perry’s Ladybug Ladybug feels dated in many ways, and not just because it is in black & white; it is a quintessential Cold War paranoia movie, from the era of Sidney Lumet’s Fail-Safe and Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, the only film of its era to make the threat of nuclear annihilation the subject of comedy. While those films are revered to this day, Ladybug Ladybug has fallen unfairly by the wayside, though its unique approach and hypnotic style are definitely worthy of viewing by a modern audience.

Written by Perry’s wife and frequent collaborator, Eleanor Perry, from a story by Lois Dickert, Ladybug Ladybug‘s title comes from the children’s rhyme, “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home / Your house is on fire and your children are gone.” Based on a real incident, the film examines the course of events following a nuclear attack alarm at a small town elementary school. The alarm is a “code yellow,” which translates to “nuclear attack imminent within an hour.” After some panicked deliberation, the school’s principal, Mr. Calkins (William Daniels), decides to heed the alarm and send the children home. After this, the film follows one particular group of children as they are escorted home along a country road by a teacher, Mrs. Andrews (Nancy Marchand, best known as Tony’s vindictive mother, Livia, on The Sopranos).

We also see several of the schoolchildren camped out in the bomb shelter owned by one of their families, playing the waiting game and gradually evolving into their own small version of society. The way in which they instinctively form hierarchies and begin to govern themselves when left to their own devices recalls William Golding’s brilliant 1954 novel Lord of the Flies, though the savagery portrayed in that book is given far less time to flourish here. Instead of hunting and killing one another, these children discuss their situation with a rationality nowhere to be found in the adult world of Strangelove, for example. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, the children take a vote on whether or not war should be allowed; they all vote against it before concluding that nobody will listen to children.

It’s not all polite discussion, though, as the inherent selfishness of human nature comes out in the children’s refusal to allow their fellow student, Sarah (Marilyn Rogers), into the bomb shelter, claiming there is simply not enough room. The result of this, though ambiguous, implies great tragedy for Sarah, and this tragic ambiguity extends to the film’s ending. Though its political import is a bit heavy-handed, as a narrative conclusion it is striking, poignant and memorable, all adjectives that could be applied to the film as a whole.

  

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“Breaking Bad” resources

The best show on television returns tomorrow night at 10 PM on AMC. If you’re a fan of the show, enjoy the video above and all the links in this post as you get ready for the start of season 4. If you haven’t been watching, well you’re missing out. You can start watching tomorrow night, but you’re better of setting your DVR to record the first season, and getting your hands on the first three seasons.

The Breaking Bad Fan Hub on Bullz-Eye.com is a good place to start for fans of the show. The fan site is loaded with cast interviews, along with reviews of previous seasons and a link to the Breaking Bad Blog. Will Harris also posted a preview of Season 4.

Is “Breaking Bad” the best show ever on cable TV? Grantland’s Chuck Klosterman thinks so, arguing that it beats out other greats like “The Wire,” “The Sopranos” and “Mad Men.” It’s hard to argue with his top four, though his column gets a little too deep into criticspeak for my taste. I’ll probably stick with “The Wire” as the best show ever on cable, but “Breaking Bad” is catching up with each season.

Time calls it the best drama on television.

Breaking Bad is the kind of TV show that gets described as cinematic, and that’s true in the literal sense: it looks like a movie. The astonishing landscape of New Mexico gives the show a western-film starkness and scale. “When you’re here,” says cinematographer Michael Slovis, “you can’t help but be affected by the size of the sky.” The sets are painstakingly built, especially the superlab: a temple of gleaming metal tanks, painted infernal red, that production designer Mark Freeborn built with the aid of a Drug Enforcement Administration consultant. The lab, Cranston says, is a metaphor for Walt’s compartmentalized worldview: “It’s clean. It’s isolated. He doesn’t like being reminded that he’s part of a messy, bloody business.”

Last year in Time, James Poniewozik offered a nice recap of the last episode and the relationship between Walt and Jesse. Newsweek also gets in on the discussion with some great quotes from Bryan Cranston.

  

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It’s the end of week movie news dump — now, with fewer items!

There really hasn’t been all that much interesting movie news this week, but things have definitely heated up just in the last few hours. Specifically…

* Via Quint at AICN, “The Hobbit” two-movie package has been officially greenlit, with Peter Jackson directing. It’s a good thing because I was really getting tired of those “it’s just about greenlit” “it’s almost greenlit” “no, it’s actually not quite greenlit because of MGM being on the block, nothing to see here” rinse-and-repeat stories. I don’t even care if Nikki Finke and Mike Fleming want to claim a “toldja” on this or how many casting rumors they’re repeating, just make the damn movies already.

reception_inattendue_hildebrandt

Oh, but first, they’ve got to solve the previously reported issues with SAG and AFTRA. As a good liberal I’m very pro-union and I think that anyone who thinks we’d be better off without unions should be immediately transported to a smokey factory in 19th century London and asked to work a 72 hour week without overtime pay. However, like all the other geeks, I nevertheless think SAG and AFTRA are probably overreaching here and are singling out the movie because of its high profile.

* A related story is also a classic example of an unpleasant news item arriving late on a Friday night in an attempt to bury it. The highly regarded executive Mary Parent — beloved of Joss Whedon fans for giving both the “Buffy” TV and the “Serenity” movie gigs — is officially out at MGM.

* The king of the world is supposedly flirting with making a movie about the queen of the world — not Oprah, but Cleopatra. Angelina Jolie is already set to star in a project that’s already sounding to me as bloated as the wildly over budget 1963 production, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, that nearly bankrupted Fox — despite being the year’s most successful movie (despite being a movie that almost no one likes today).

* It always tempting to make jokes about the porn industry, but HIV is no joke and there’s been an outbreak of it, so far limited to one on-screen sex worker. Is the site of a condom really that much of a boner buzz-kill?

* David Chase is reuniting with musical genius Steven Van Zandt, who played helmet-haired Silvio Dante on “The Sopranos,” as his music supervisor and is taking on a cast of more-or-less unknowns on his planned feature musical drama. This one I’m looking forward to. Before getting his start writing some of the best episodes ever of “The Rockford Files,” Chase was and presumably still is influenced largely by European art films.

BTW, if you’ve never heard Van Zandt’s great radio show and you like rock and roll, you’re missing something. Also, Mr. Van Zandt should be remembered as a human rights hero for his involvement with this great piece of pop music protest.

  

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Psyched for the premiere of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”?

If you’re not now, then you will be after checking out these videos which the network has kindly provided in order to help build the already-considerable buzz about the show.

America in 1920: The Great War was over, Wall Street was about to boom and everything was for sale, even the World Series. It was a time of change when women got the vote, broadcast radio began and young people ruled the world. From Terence Winter, Emmy Award-winning writer of “The Sopranos” and Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese, “Boardwalk Empire” is set in Atlantic City at the dawn of Prohibition, when the sale of alcohol became illegal throughout the United States. The new HBO drama series kicks off its 12-episode season Sunday, Sept. 19, at 9:00 PM EST / PST.

On the beach in southern New Jersey sat Atlantic City, a spectacular resort known as “The World’s Playground,” a place where the rules didn’t apply. Massive hotels lined its famous Boardwalk, which featured nightclubs, amusement piers and entertainment that rivaled Broadway. For a few dollars, a working man could get away and live like a king – legally or illegally. The undisputed ruler of Atlantic City was the town’s treasurer, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), a political fixer and backroom dealer who was equal parts politician and gangster and equally comfortable in either role. Because of its strategic location on the seaboard, the town was a hub of activity for rum-runners, minutes from Philadelphia, hours from New York City and less than a day’s drive from Chicago. And Nucky Thompson took full advantage. Along with his brother Elias (Shea Whigham), the town’s sheriff, and a crew of ward bosses and local thugs, Nucky carved out a niche for himself as the man to see for any illegal alcohol. He was an equal-opportunity gangster, doing business with Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), “Big Jim” Colosimo (Frank Crudele), “Lucky” Luciano (Vincent Piazza) and Al Capone (Stephen Graham).

As “Boardwalk Empire” begins, Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt), Nucky’s former protégé and driver, returns home from the Great War, eager to get ahead and reclaim his rightful place in Nucky’s organization. But when Jimmy feels things aren’t moving quickly enough, he takes matters into his own hands, forming a deadly alliance with associates of Nucky’s that sets the Feds, led by Agent Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon), on his mentor’s tail. Complicating matters further is Nucky’s burgeoning relationship with Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) a woman in an abusive marriage whom he tries to help. The show also stars Michael Kenneth Williams as Chalky White, leader of the city’s African-American community; Dabney Coleman as Commodore Louis Kaestner, Nucky’s mentor; Paz de la Huerta as Nucky’s girlfriend Lucy; Aleksa Palladino as Angela, Jimmy Darmody’s Bohemian girlfriend and mother of their three-year-old son; Paul Sparks as Mickey Doyle; Anthony Laciura as Eddie Kessler; and Gretchen Mol as Gillian, a local showgirl with whom Nucky shares a long and complicated history.

  

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No surprise: “Alice in Wonderland” earns all the mad teaparty crumpets

Alice in Wonderland

There really isn’t that much to add to the news that, as reported by Box Office’s Mojo’s weekly chart, “Alice in Wonderland” suffered only a reasonably modest fall-off of 46.6% from its mega-boffo opening weekend, which meant that the latest from the Disney, Tim Burton, and Johnny Depp marketing triumvirate earned a stellar estimated $62 million this weekend. Anne Thompson and her recently added resident box office guru, Anthony D’Alesandro, report that this is a record for a non-summertime second weekend for a film. It’s certainly not that different from the expectations I discussed on Thursday.

As for the newer releases, it was something of a rout. I  like D’Alessandro’s elegant description:

Four distribs attempted to counterprogram against the Disney title this weekend based on the misguided notion that Alice was strictly family fare.  However, rather than nipping away at Alice’s audience, Alice sliced off theirs.

“This is the quintessential four quadrant movie, playing to adults at one time of day, families at matinees as well as couples,” gloated Disney distribution president Chuck Viane.

In other words, it didn’t matter what age or gender you were this weekend, most likely your first choice was “Alice.” It also performed the rare feat of scoring both the biggest gross and, with the aid of those inflated 3-D ticket prices, the best per-screen average of $16,631.

Still, people did see other movies. The marketing for “Green Zonefooled persuaded enough viewers that it was similar to the wildly successful “Bourne” pairings of star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass to earn an estimate of roughly $14.5 million. That might not have been so bad if “Green Zone” hadn’t cost an exorbitant reported $100 million. Conservatives, who have roundly bashed the film as anti-American, will no doubt be claiming victory over the terrorist-loving communists of Universal.

I didn’t quite have the guts to come right out and say it, but I sort of suspected that the raunchy-but-romantic comedy, “She’s Out of My League” was being overly downplayed in some of the prognostication last week and I was right, sort of. The film failed to break into double digits, but its estimated $9.6 million take was enough to put it in the #3 spot for the weekend anyway. Considering that’s just under half the film’s budget, newcomer star Jay Baruchel may not be the year’s break-out comedy star, but he will live to be the girl-friendly geek, a funnier David Schwimmer, if you will, for another day. Indeed, the film seemed to do best with younger women.

I did come right out and wonder why anyone would want to see “Our Family Wedding,” a film which THR‘s Jolly Carl DiOrio seemed to think would do significantly better than “League” — despite being in significantly fewer theaters and, if most critics are to be listened to at all, sucking. My antennae were apparently a bit better than usual and “Wedding,” did, in fact, come in below the other new releases, and the fourth week of “Shutter Island,” to hit the #6 spot with a lackluster $7.6 million estimate for Fox Searchlight. Hopefully, the budget was nice and low.  The good news is that that Rotten Tomatoes rating I linked to above has actually climbed dramatically since Thursday, from an embarrassing 4% to a merely bad 18%.

Doing a bit better, though still no doubt disappointing Summit Entertainment, was the romantic drama “Remember Me” from director Allen Coulter of “The Sopranos” and “Hollywoodland.” Just enough young girls remembered that Robert Pattinson was the “Twilight” heart-throb to make the weepy with the widely derided ending an estimated $8.3 million in the #4 spot. Considering the armies of teen-and-tween-aged girls in love with Pattinson, it’s a result that seems almost as pale as the dreamy young Brit’s vampire make-up.

  

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