Movie Review: “Spectre”

Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista
Sam Mendes

“Spectre” is like a brand-new greatest hits album from that band that your parents loved. Only the hits have been re-recorded… with a new lead singer. It’s new in that it was recently created, but everything about it feels old and outdated, the legacy brand struggling for relevance in a world that has passed it by. The worst part is that they have no one but themselves to blame. The Broccoli family, who have owned the rights to Ian Fleming’s stories since time immemorial, has always been risk-averse when it came to messing with the James Bond formula, and they largely got away with it because they were the only spy thriller in town. With the debut of the spectacular “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” they’re lucky to lay claim to being the fourth best spy franchise in operation, even lagging behind the currently-dormant Jason Bourne.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) is in Mexico City to investigate a posthumous tip from his former boss M (Judi Dench), and in the process prevents a massive terrorist attack. Even better, he steals a ring from his target, one with a curious insignia engraved on its side that ultimately opens several doors in terms of useful intel. Unfortunately, Bond also made worldwide news with his stunt, and the new, living M (Ralph Fiennes) suspends him. Bond, of course, continues following the trail, which leads to seducing the wife of the man he killed in Mexico, and using the information he acquires from her to crash a top-secret meeting of international bad guys, who plan to manipulate governments via terrorist attack to join together for the purpose of sharing intelligence, ultimately putting the bad guys in complete control of all information.

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Movie Review: “Big Eyes”

Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Delaney Raye
Tim Burton

If you were to show somebody a painting of a Campbell’s soup can, chances are that they could identify it as the work of Andy Warhol. But show them a piece from Margaret Keane’s equally popular Big Eyes series, however, and although they’d admit their familiarity with the kitschy paintings, they’d be less likely to name the artist, let alone know the strange-but-true story behind them. That’s the subject of Tim Burton’s latest movie, his first live-action feature to not star Johnny Depp in over a decade. But while it’s a bit of a departure for the oddball director, “Big Eyes” is his best film in years, even if that comes off like a backhanded compliment considering some of the garbage (“Alice in Wonderland,” “Dark Shadows”) he’s released.

The year is 1958, a time when it was still fairly unheard of for a woman to leave her husband, but Margaret Ulbrich (Amy Adams) has done just that, escaping the boredom of suburbia with her daughter Jane (Delaney Raye) for a fresh start in San Francisco. It’s there that she meets smooth-talking artist Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) at a local art fair, and after hitting it off, the two don’t waste any time getting married. Though Walter hasn’t found much success with his uninspired paintings of Parisian street scenes, he notices something special in Margaret’s wide-eyed waifs and rents some space in a nightclub to show off their artwork. When a couple patrons mistakenly credit Walter with painting one of Margaret’s Big Eyes (after all, they both sign their art “Keane”), he doesn’t bother to correct them in order to close the sale. Margaret gets furious when she finds out that Walter has been passing off her work as his own, but he insists that they’re a team, and before she knows it, the lie has grown so big that she’s unable to stop it in fear that the whole Keane empire, and her life’s work, will be tarnished in the process.

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Movie Review: “The Zero Theorem”

Christoph Waltz, Melanie Thierry, David Thewlis, Lucas Hedge, Matt Damon
Terry Gilliam

As someone who’s been a disciple of all things Terry Gilliam for the better part of 30 years, it seems pretty obvious that his most innovative filmmaking days are probably behind him. Those of us that continue to return to his well keep our expectations firmly in check. We don’t expect mind blowing “Brazil”-level satirical explorations, or profound science fiction trips such as “12 Monkeys,” but we are happy to indulge our favorite mad uncle when he unveils something a little less groundbreaking, from somewhere in between, and that’s more or less what “The Zero Theorem” is.

Set in some nearby hazy nether-future – a grotesque exaggeration of our own reality – the film revolves around hypochondriacal misanthrope Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz, looking like Bob Geldof after he shaved all his hair off in “The Wall”), a number-crunching programmer working for a soul-sucking mega-corporation called Mancom. He appears to be more than adept at his job, but awful at the rest of life. With virtually no social skills to speak of, Qohen (pronounced “Cohen”), when he isn’t at work, keeps himself holed up in a dilapidated mansion in a sketchy part of town, waiting for a mysterious phone call that he hopes will bring change. His sole desire is to be allowed to work from home, so he can be close to the phone and away from people.

He begrudgingly attends a party thrown by his obnoxious, clueless supervisor Joby (David Thewlis), where a chance encounter with Management (Matt Damon playing over 50) allows him to plead his case, only to seemingly fall on deaf ears. Later, he’s saved from choking by a comely partygoer named Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry). Curiously, not long after the party, his request to work from home is inexplicably granted, only there’s a catch: He must try to crack the zero theorem, a mathematical formula that when solved could reveal the meaning of life. To aid him in his work, Management sends his teenage son Bob (Lucas Hedges) to assist, and before long, Bainsley reappears as well.

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The Drinks of Hollywood Blvd, or TCM 2013: A Booze Odyssey

Booze and the movies go way back. From the self-medicating part-time hooker heroine of 1931’s “Safe in Hell” — a highlight of 2013’s Turner Classic Movies Festival — to the lovable dipsomaniacs of “The Thin Man” and “Harvey” and on into more recent times with such frequently soused superheros as James Bond and Tony Stark, the movies have glamorized alcohol. When the movies wanted to, they could make habitual drunkenness charming, funny, and, of course, sexy.

While the movies once celebrated cigarette smoking as well, modern day Hollywood Boulevard makes it tricky for smokers to indulge in their passion, give or take some hookah bars and a medical marijuana “clinic.” Booze, however can be obtained with great ease. All you need is plenty of ready cash to afford the inflated prices or a clean credit card or two and you can have your fill of cocktails.

And that’s exactly what I did between classic, near classic, and merely really interesting movies the weekend of the 2013 TCM Fest. What follows is a (relatively) brief journal of the drinks I found going up and down the boulevard we call Hollywood the final weekend of April.

Now, I should add that this listing is my no means exhaustive and is, with one exception, limited to cocktails one can purchase on Hollywood Boulevard proper, no side streets allowed. They can all be obtained within a fairly easy walk of Sid Grauman’s old Chinese and Egyptian Theaters and the legendary Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the heart of Hollywood and the home base of the TCM Fest.

And so we begin our journey across the street from the Egyptian at what is still Los Angeles’s most famous bar.

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