Archive for the ‘New York City’ Category

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It’s established early on in “Sully” that all 155 people aboard U.S. Airways Flight 1549 survived the plane’s emergency landing on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009.

But that knowledge doesn’t rob emotion from the scene, roughly two-thirds through the 96-minute running time, in which Tom Hanks’ Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger learns that every passenger and crew member is safe on dry land.

That’s a credit to the fine and mature performance of Hanks, who taps into the well of understated sincerity he’s crafted over the course of a decades-long career as Hollywood’s go-to everyman.

It’s the quality of Hanks’ performance, with the help of a competent supporting cast including Aaron Eckhart  (The Dark Knight), that elevates director Clint Eastwood’s latest drama from what could have been a dull reenactment to, instead, a moving portrayal of human success.

It’s hard to criticize a film this optimistic. This is a story about decent people rising to the daunting challenge of unthinkable circumstances. It culminates with a montage of New Yorkers rallying to the rescue. And the closest it comes to conflict are the exaggeratedly uncooperative federal agents investigating the crash, whose inevitable endorsement of the pilot’s actions arrive right on cue to wrap the film up in a bow.

But the film’s flaws are there. Eastwood relies on overly blunt sequences of self-doubt by Sully to prolong the film’s first act, the aforementioned investigators are cartoonish in their villainy and the movie suffers from an egregiously omnipresent show of corporate sponsorship by the Marriott hotel chain.

The film is also staged in a non-linear structure, allowing Eastwood to dole out and revisit the centerpiece plane crash in increments and from different viewpoints. It’s hard to say whether that choice is effective or not, as the non-crash sequences tend to drag with little to say. When the conclusion arrives, it feels postponed, rather than earned.

Far from a misfire, “Sully” is an above-average film that gives due diligence to a cinema-worthy piece of American history. But it’s also a lesser entry in the filmographies of both its director and star, albeit one that gives Hanks a near-perfect platform to showcase his strengths.

Grade: B

*Sully opens nationwide on Friday, September 9.

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“The party is over”

That’s the expectation of on character near the end of “The Big Short,” a movie that tracks three independent teams of Wall Street outsiders who foresaw the housing market crash of 2007 that decimated the U.S. (and world) economy and bet big on a bursting bubble.

He’s referring, of course, to the big bankers, whose behavior leading up to the crash can be described in the nicest terms as negligent (but are more accurately described in less nice terms). The banks will be broken up, he says, and those responsible for cashing checks on the backs of millions of woefully ill-advised mortgages will be sent to jail.

Well, that didn’t happen.

Instead, as hindsight and the film make abundantly clear, the big banks marched forward with the aid of a taxpayer-funded bailout, earning gargantuan bonuses for their chief executives while millions of American families lost their homes and livelihoods. The party, for the wrong people it would appear, was over.

It’s hard not to get angry while watching “The Big Short,” which deftly balances a frenzied excitement — akin to a subdued “Wolf of Wall Street” — while still possessing bucket loads of moral outrage. The outsiders who saw the disaster coming are mocked and ridiculed while shouting out to anyone who will listen the danger at the country’s doorstep.

And director Adam McKay, best known for low-brow comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers, turns out to be an inspired choice. Any talk of adjustable interest rates and asset-backed securities is bound to glaze the eyes of casual film-goers, so McKay amps up the showmanship by having the film narrated by a smarmy, fourth-wall breaking Ryan Gosling, who occasionally delegates his explanatory duties to guest star cameos, like Margot Robbie in a bubble bath giving an Econ 101 lesson on subprime mortgages.

It’s heady stuff, but rather than get lost in the weeds, McKay and “The Big Short” (rounded out by an incredible cast including Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale) keep things light and breezy, explaining just enough of the big picture to string together the insidious bread crumbs that led to financial catastrophe.

Grade: A-

*The Big Short opens nationwide on Wednesday, Dec. 23.

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Most movies about European immigrants chasing the American Dream are not bright, sunny affairs (think Gangs of New York or, more on the nose, The Immigrant).

But in ‘Brooklyn,’ written by Nick Hornby (About a Boy, An Education) and directed by John Crowley, the idea of romance and opportunity awaiting across the Atlantic seems endearingly possible.

After a seasickness-filled voyage across the sea, Eilis (a sensible Irish woman played by Saoirse Ronan) meets and eventually falls in love with an Italina, baseball-loving, plumber. She’s beyond lucky, with a job and boarding house lined up before she arrives, and the trick Crowley executes is acknowledging the charmed life of his protagonist without melting into a pool of sugar.

It’s a testament to the period details included in the script, like a holiday meal at the local Irish parish that pays tributes to the cheap immigrant labor that built New York City, or the hint of anxiety as a family of fellow travelers is pulled aside to face quarantine.

And Eilis’ fortune evolves into the central drama in Act III, when she’s temporarily called back across the pond and faced with a choice between her new life in America or an unexpectedly-improved situation in Ireland.

The tension of that choice arrives a little late in the movie’s running time, setting up a resolution that feels earned but could have benefited from a little more time in the oven.

Ronan already has a number of fine performances under her belt (if you haven’t seen Atonement, do so post haste)  and while ‘Brooklyn’ is hardly a breakout vehicle, it’s the latest fine choice in a growing resume of quality work for the young actress.

Grade: B+

*Brooklyn opens in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 25

 

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There’s a scene at the start of The Walk‘s second act (and featured in the film’s trailer) when Joseph Gordon-Leavit, as high wire performer Philippe Petit, arrives in the United States and passes through customs.

He explains, in great detail, the myriad equipment in his luggage, prompting the officer to ask what all of it is for.

“I’m going to hang a high wire between the two towers of the World Trade Center and walk on it,’ JGL says in a winning, if not completely authentic, French accent.

“Ha!” the officer chuckles. “Good luck.”

It’s a great bit, capturing the joyful impossibility of Petit’s story. Because how could it be true? How could a French visitor to the United States sneak up to the top of the world’s tallest building, attach a tension wire and walk across the void? He couldn’t; except he did.

Petit’s walk was already told to perfection by Man on Wire, the Oscar-winning 2008 film that is essential viewing for anyone with even a mild interest in documentary cinema. Arriving seven years later, Robert Zemeckis’ dramatization feels at first glance to be an unnecessary addition, but it compensates by using modern movie technology to go where a documentary can’t: onto the wire in the sky with Petit some 1,300 feet above the cold concrete below.

Zemeckis’ film is not for the vertiginous, as the director is prone to gleeful leaps and dives over, around and down the twin tower’s facades. But where the filmmakers attempts at CG wizardry have stumbled in the past (exhibit A: the haunting dead eyes of Polar Express), the bulk of his tricks in The Wire work like magic, particularly in the optional IMAX format where the film begs to be displayed.

But ones and zeroes will take a movie only so far, and its the synergy with the film’s writing and cast that makes The Walk sizzle. The accents are often questionable, and the movie relies heavily on narration from Gordon-Levitt, but the joie de vivre running through Petit’s veins as he first plans and then executes his “coup” is intoxicating enough to sweep the quibbles aside.

Like the documentary before it, The Walk is a one man show, relying heavily on Gordon-Levitt and leaving little room for the supporting cast to operate in. Fans of Man on Wire will notice a few inconsistencies with Petit’s firsthand account, and Zemeckis errs by not paying the customary photo tribute to the real-life team as the credits roll.

But he also makes the wise decision to end his film with a coda that serves as a love note to New York City and the twin towers, acknowledging the tragedy of 9/11 from a loving and cathartic standpoint and elevating the poetry behind Petit’s feat.

The director sustains the tension of the film’s climax, crafting a heist film that mixes playful and peril. There’s never any doubt that Petit will succeed, because there wouldn’t be a movie if he hadn’t, but despite that knowledge Zemeckis and Gordon-Levitt fill the artists’ steps with dread, fear, confidence and finally, triumph.

Grade: A-

*The Walk opens nationwide on Wednesday, September 30.

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I’ve put this off long enough.

I love movies — I assume that much is clear. And I love recognizing good movies. There are few things that warm my heart like a friend telling me that my recommendations prompted them to seek out a new film.

Ranking movies, however, is torture, and especially this year was tortuous. But as Shakespeare said, brevity is the soul of wit, and a list of 10 films is much more digestible than an incessant profusion of cinephile fandom.

So here are my Top 10 films of the year, beginning with number 10. And bear in mind that almost every day I’ve changed my mind about the ordering of the top 3 and will likely continue to do so after I push “publish.”

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10. Wild

A good character study is hard to come by these days, but Wild paints an engaging and at times hypnotic portrait of a woman putting the pieces of her life back together after being shattered by grief. The movie, set in the isolated, wandering expanse of the Pacific Crest Trail, tracks Cheryl Strayed as she battles the elements and her inner demons through California and Oregon. Wild jumps between beautiful vistas and moments of tense menace as Cheryl encounters both man and nature on her quest, while giving us a glimpse into our heroine’s mind through scattered glimpses at her past.

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9. Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler is, in a word, intense. As a morally ambiguous video-journalist capturing the nocturnal evils of Los Angeles, Jake Gyllenhaal creates a character that is a volcanic cluster of manic energy barely contained by a smiling, steel-eyed shell. But Gyllenhaal’s performance, incredible as it is, is only one of the many triumphs on which Nightcrawler can hang its hat. Director Dan Gilroy fashions a pulpy, lacerating examination of our blood-soaked craving for carnage media, making the audience complicit in morally ambiguous attempts to get that perfect shot of a crime scene or traffic accident’s aftermath. The movie starts on edge, stays there, and culminates in one of the most thrilling car chases ever captured on film, underlined by a pervasive sense of unease, and curiosity.

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8. Life Itself

It’s hard to love movies without loving Roger Ebert, the celebrated entertainment journalist who approached film criticism from the perspective of the American public rather than the self-aggrandizing intelligentsia. His reviews were sharp, witty and thoughtful, offering constructive criticism when needed and effusive praise when deserved. And in Life Itself, we get more than some two-dimensional portrait. We see the fight against alcoholism, the petty squabbles with his on-screen partner Gene Siskel and the moments of depression as he battled the illness that took his voice and ultimately his life. But throughout his life, he remained a champion of film as an art, or as he described it — in one of my favorite quotes — as an empathy machine.

And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.”

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7. Gone Girl

Can you ever really know another person? That’s the question at the heart of Gone Girl, David Fincher’s twisty, and twisted, adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller. At the heart of the story is the failed marriage of Amy and Nic Dunne, a pair of New York City journalists turned Southern suburbanites whose professional and emotional resentments toward each other reach a critical, and deadly breaking point. Fincher’s moody pallete, showcased in films like Se7en, Zodiak and The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, proves perfect for Flynn’s tale. It’s a seedy tale of heroes and villains where every character is a little of both. If you haven’t seen the movie you’ve probably read the book, and if you haven’t done either then you’re just doing it wrong.

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6. Interstellar

There’s only a handful of American directors with the industry chops to attempt a movie like Interstellar — a mega-budgeted original work of science fiction that would rather play with space-time equations than laser guns and explosions — and thankfully Christopher Nolan is one of them. Having earned his keep with the Dark Knight franchise, Nolan was given the keys to the kingdom to make his 3-hour epic about love, family, wormholes and 4th-dimensional extra-terrestrial beings.

For some, it was a little long in the tooth. For me, it was a hypnotic roller coaster ride, beautifully shot and elegantly constructed, that I never wanted to end.

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5. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson only knows how to make films one way, and that either works for you or it doesn’t. The director’s hyper-stylized whimsy and dollhouse set design exists in a world that is pseudo-fantasy and often surreal. With Budapest, Anderson created one of his most expansive worlds, largely centered in a luxury hotel but more broadly in fictional pre-WWII Europe, and populated it with some of his most colorful and winning characters, none more so than Ralph Fiennes’ dedicated concierge Mr. Gustave H. It’s a film filled with humor, thrills and a fair amount of melancholy sadness, all placed within a visual masterpiece.

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4. Snowpiercer

American cinema has long been fascinated with the end of the world, but few post-apocalyptic stories have created a vision of the end as simultaneously bleak, bizarre and fascinating as Snowpiercer, the graphic novel adaptation directed by Bong Joon-ho. In a world covered in ice, the last remnants of the human race inhabit a train perpetually circulating the globe, divided into a very literal caste system with the affluent and comfortable occupying the front — near the engine — and the huddled, starving masses populating the back — or “foot” as the deranged villain played by Tilda Swinton explains. The conditions lead to revolt and a slow and steady push to the front of the train, with each new car providing Bong Joon-Ho with an opportunity to create a fully encapsulated micro-world for our heroes to explore and fight through.

Put simply, there’s just nothing like Snowpiercer, which avoids stereotypicality at every turn, subverting expectations and leaning, full-tilt, into bonkers banana land. It may not be the best movie made this year, but I would say it’s the first thing you should make sure to see.

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3. Whiplash

“There are no two words in the English language more hamful than ‘good job’.”

So goes the mantra of Terence Fletcher, the sadistic music instructor played to perfection by J.K. Simmons who berates his students into excellence in Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash.” Fletcher’s latest target is Andrew (Miles Teller) a drummer who just might have it in him to be one of the greats if he can push himself hard enough, or be pushed hard enough without breaking.

In Whiplash, first time director Chazelle creates a haunting story of master and pupil that vibrates with crashing intensity. Under his direction, Teller’s drum solos have more energy than even the most expensive Michael Bay action sequence. It’s an incredible feet for a young filmmaker, that suggests very interesting things to come and all but certain Oscar nomination for J.K. Simmons.

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2. Boyhood

Filmed over the course of 12 years, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a triumph of filmmaking that sees a family age and evolve literally before your eyes. Setting aside the technical achievement of the film’s existence, which can’t be ignored, Boyhood is more than just a gimmick. The story told, through the eyes of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) is a beautiful, natural, soft-spoken thesis on life, from childhood fears to first crushes to the precipitous approach of adulthood. It’s a bold, daring project, that highlights what film is capable of as a storytelling medium.

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1. Birdman

You could talk a lot about the incredible performances in Birdman, from A-list stars like Edward Norton and Emma Stone to against-type casting like Zach Galifianakis to the central role of Riggan Thomson played to droll perfection by Michael Keaton. You could talk about the meta-commentary on fame, with a former superhero franchise actor making an artistic comeback by playing a former superhero franchise actor attempting an artistic comeback.

You could talk about the technical wizardry of the film, edited to look as though it was filmed in one continuous sequence, or the way it uses visual tricks to play with its surrealist elements, tip-toeing between what is real and what is imagined in the delirium of Thomson’s decaying mental state.

You could talk about the soundtrack, an at-times cacophonous jazz riff of percussion instruments that perfectly captures the frantic not-quite-right mood of the film.

You could even talk about the story, which revolves around the staging of a Broadway play and which gives you a peak into the interworking of the NYC theater world.

But really the only thing you need to talk about, and what ultimately makes Birdman the best movie of 2014, is how it’s just so much darned fun to watch.

 

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Milk Bath

Last month’s Treat Yo Self was, to put it mildly, unpleasant. It’s been an entire month and my torso still has not fully recovered (or regrown, which I do admit is impressive).

So for this month’s adventure I was adamant that the activity in question be on the relaxing side of the Treat Yo Self spectrum.

Since the beginning of this project I’ve had the idea for some form of bath on my list of ideas. When I lived in New York I remember people talking about the weird Turkish Bath Houses, and pop culture is rife with references to mud baths, but as you can imagine Utah isn’t exactly a hotbed of holistic diversity.

But in my search, I did happen upon the Beyond Spa in Layton, which offers a Coconut Milk Bath either as an add-on to a massage or as a standalone service and which is apparently excellent for your skin.

To be honest, my only frame of reference for a milk bath was that scene from Snow White and the Huntsman so I didn’t really know what to expect. But intrigued, I booked it.

Milk BAthFirst things first, a milk bath (at least at Beyond Spa) is not a bath tub full of milk. Instead it is a typical bath mixed with a coconut milk powder, which is added to the water with a reaction akin to dropping a bocce ball-sized Alka-Seltzer into a really large glass.

The tub itself was a little smaller than I would have liked, requiring me to either sit with my torso out of the water or go diamond legs to slide my shoulders down. I also expected it to be in a bathroom-esque location, with tile or something, but instead was just tucked into the corner of a two-bed massage suite.

photo(22)The friendly staff at Beyond Spa showed me to my room and set a timer for 30 minutes. They had also set up a pitcher of ice water, towels, and a small package of coconut M&Ms, which actually turned out to be the perfect snack to compliment  a coconut milk bath.

photo 1(3)For this month’s Treat Yo Self I invited along my brother Jake, who longtime Wood’s Stock readers may recognize from our occasional Two Wood Uke music videos.

Jake is 9 years older than me and, as I’ve written before, is often described as my elder, wiser, more successful and more charismatic duplicate. (“Your brother had so many friends in high school,” my mother said to me once, “You should be more like him.”). In a past life he was lead-singer in the band Dishwoody and the Burritos and after a short stint as an architect (or drafter, whatever) he pivoted into sales.

He’s the original model, as it were, and I’m the off-brand imitator with cheap parts from Kuwait.

He’s OK.

photo 3(2)Properly pampered, we made our way over to the Cantina Southwestern Grill to conduct our interview over tacos and a particularly robust amount of chips and salsa.

photo 4(2)Wood Stock: Who are you and what do you do?

Jake Wood: I am Jake Wood, I am 36, I sell professional beauty supplies and I have done that for 10 years now.

WS: Have you ever had a milk bath before?

JW: No

WS: What did you think?

JW: It was pretty relaxing and I don’t know if it was that I was exhausted before I got there but when I left I was about ready to get into a coma.

WS: Walk me through the experience. Paint me a word picture.

JW: I rinsed off reel quick in the shower, hopped in the bath, threw in some coconut..what was it, salts? Crystals?

WS: It was like a powder.

Milk Bath coconutJW: Yeah, like a powdered coconut crystal. Dumped that in there. It started fizzing like Pop Rocks and then I just sat there and soaked it in for half an hour and got my relax on.

WS: What was the actual bath like and was it different than what you expected?

JW: I don’t bathe much. I mean I shower but I don’t take baths, ever, so I’m not sure what my expectations were but it definitely exceeded them. It was far more relaxing than I would have thought. The water was nice and hot, I was kind of sweating if off like sitting in a hot tub.

WS: But without the chlorine.

JW: Yeah without the chlorine because instead of that chlorine coming off of the water it was coconut coming off the water and it smelled really good.

WS: Could you tell there was something in the water as far as milkiness or was it just water?

JW: I couldn’t really tell as far as consistency of the milk but I could tell they’d added something. It wasn’t creamy but you could tell they added something.

WS: It wasn’t soapy, but it was like a non-soapy soap.

JW: Yeah it was slick, likely slippery water. Does that make sense?

WS: How does your skin feel, can you tell?

JW: Oh yeah. I played sand volleyball for six hours before so I exfoliated the crap out of my skin and now I’m soft as a baby’s butt.

WS: So you are a music fan.

JW: I am.

WS: You were born in the late 70s so you’ve lived through several decades of music.

JW: That’s messed up.

WS: Walk me through your musical life. What was your favorite band when you were 15, 25 and 35.

JW: My first favorite band that I remember was Counting Crows. Their debut album was one of my first albums. I was probably a sophomore in high school when the first album came out. I had been exposed to some U2, some stuff that was on the radio. I really at the time liked a lot of early 80’s alternative like Oingo Boingo and Violent Femmes and Midnight Oil. I wasn’t big into radio bands but I did like REM and U2 but early REM and U2, they still had some respect back then.

WS: Yeah I still love Automatic for the People.

JW: And Out of Time was fantastic and Document and the eponymous album. Their early work was fantastic.

WS: Let’s flash forward to your mid-20s.

JW: Mid-20s was all about Jack Johnson. (My wife) Becca was just saying the other night, we used to just sit there and turn on some Jack Johnson and that was our jam and just…

WS: And just what Jake?

JW: None of your business. But that was our jam. I liked a little more Emo, I liked Jimmy Eat World and crap like that. I would say now I’m more into indie rock but I don’t think at that point I really was. I was just leaving the radio land but hadn’t completely left it so I was more in alternative world.

WS: And now your mid-30s?

JW: I don’t turn on the radio ever. We were driving last night with some couples and that song “All about that bass, bout that bass…”

WS: I hate that song.

JW: I had never heard it before 2 days ago and in a 20 minute car ride I heard it 7 times. I’m not kidding. He was bouncing stations a little bit so he’d bounce and it would be on but they kept listening to it because everyone in the car loved it. Then some song called, what is it, Fancy?

WS: Yeah, Iggy Azalea.

JW: He cracks a joke about something being Fancy and I didn’t know what he was talking about. I’d never heard that song in my life and apparently everyone  else has.

WS: Yeah, it’s out there.

JW: So I’m a little off the grid right now. Top 40 means nothing to me. I feel like the best music right now, no one knows about. I feel like in 20 years when people talk about music from right now, they’ll be talking about people that right now nobody even knows exists. I mean Jeff Tweedy, Jack White, the people who are influencing music right now, nobody listens to. And 20 years ago nobody listened to them either: the Velvet Underground, bands that really influenced music 20-30 years ago…

WS: They weren’t necessarily the ones that were on the TV shows.

JW: But they were the ones influencing the people writing music. No band says, “Man, I want to be like One Direction.”

WS: Musically no, but I’m sure there’s 12 year old kids right now that wish they were in One Direction.

JW: Yeah but it’s different. It’s different than saying “this artist pushed music.”

WS: Yeah, and no one is going to say “My music was inspired by Justin Bieber. He was  a real influence in my musical evolution.”

JW: People want to be the next Justin Bieber because he makes millions of dollars. But that’s what they aspire to be, the Millionaire.

WS: Not the musician.

JW: Yeah.

WS: It often seems to me that radio really sucks now more than it used to but I’m young and haven’t been around the block. Does it suck now or has it always sucked?

JW: It sucks more than it used to, I swear it does. One of the couples last night had never heard of the bands I grew up listening to. Those bands were on the radio but they deserved to be. It’s still music. What was on the radio when I was younger was REM, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Radiohead, but those bands all deserved to be on the radio and deserved to be bands.

WS: I think Radiohead is a good example because you hear a lot of bands today talk about how they grew up listening to Radiohead. They’re not going to be saying that about T. Swift.

JW: Nobody that matters musically. Maybe matters to the charts but nobody that matters musically is going  to say “Man, Taylor Swift, that’s what got me into music. I picked up a guitar because of her.”

WS: So the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the millennium and now the millennium teens. Of the 5 decades that’s you’ve had some living awareness of, what’s the best decade of music?

JW: The best or the best to me? Like Arcade Fire. When Arcade Fire puts out an album it’s fantastic, but that doesn’t mean I want to listen to it. It’s not my favorite album, it never is. They have what, 4 albums now? They’re all fantastic. I don’t need to listen to them but if you’re just breaking down musical ability and skill and songwriting, they put out a fantastic album. They’re album should be the best album of the year every time they put out an album.

WS: And it was once.

JW: Yeah. But that doesn’t mean I want to listen to it. So when you say best are you asking me best or are you asking what entertained me the most.

WS: However you want to answer it.

JW: That’s hard. In the 90s I listened to 80s music. Right now I listen to music that comes out now. I feel like, as far as skill and songwriting and ability, the music that’s coming out now is fantastic.

WS: Assuming you’re able to find it.

JW: Yeah. The sub-genres are fantastic. Your alt-folk and your freak-folk and your beard-rock.

WS: I’ve got a friend who’s really into Baby Metal.

JW: I don’t know what that means.

WS: I don’t know exactly either. He tried to explain it to me and it was bizarre.

JW: Like babies playing metal?

WS: No like Japanese pop stars playing metal. It sounds so weird. Look it up.

JW: But that kind of makes my point in that there’s so many sub-genres that are mixing elements. Like, I hate country music, but I love country elements.

WS: Yeah, I love bluegrass, I love folk, I love Americana.

JW: Exactly. If somebody wants to pick up a banjo or mandolin and start twanging something, I love it. But I’d rather die than listening to country music radio music.

WS: I can handle Top 40 way easier than I can handle pop country.

JW: Which is funny because I remember one time having a conversation with a coworker and I cracked a joke how no country singer writers their own music — granted pop singers don’t either – but she says “Whatever, George Strait does, Garth Brooks does.” No they don’t. We opened the album and they didn’t write a single song. I don’t know why to me that diminished the value of the music if they can’t write it themselves.

WS: It absolutely does. I’m the movie guy and a lot of times people want to give the actor credit for what the writer wrote and it’s not the same thing. There’s good actors and there’s good writers and there’s a good blend. But some things are well-written and some things are well-acted. In music if you’re not writing your own music all you’re doing is karaoke to someone’s song.

JW: I respect a good voice, but I’d rather have some lyrics that are emotionally tied to the artist. It meant something at one point, that’s why it was written. I’ve been known to write a song here and there and…

WS: Should we get into that era?

JW: We could.

WS: Are we announcing a Dishwoody and the Burritoes reunion tour on this blog post?

JW: We are not. Not yet.

WS: It would be fun one day for you guys to get together and play a gig for the families.

JW: Oh it would be a riot. It would be an absolute riot.

WS: Back to the milk bath, would you recommend one to someone?

JW: Yeah. I’m sitting there soaking, milk-bathing, and I’m thinking Becca would kill for this, she’d love it. Just to be able to sit there and soak it up and enjoy that.

WS: With some Enya playing.

JW: The only thing I probably would’ve changed was substituting their music for mine. I would probably throw on some The National. Something moody.

WS: Not sitar music form the Mediterranean?

JW: Well I do love me a lute-like instrument, the sitar being one of my favorites.

WS: Anything you want to promote?

JW: I have to promote it now or forever hold my peace?

WS: Just if there’s anything you want to give a shout out to, or if you’ve got an album dropping.

JW: My personal album? Dishwoody’s Greatest Hits that is coming out any day now?

WS: You are not on Twitter correct?

JW: Nope.

WS: Well, I guess no one will ever find you.

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The Drop Movie (5)

Many actors are drawn to similar characters throughout their careers, but perhaps no one is as symbiotically fused to an onscreen identity as the late James Gandolfi, who captured every class of criminal during his career from the mob boss to the corrupt politician to the assassin to the neighborhood tough and every shade of low-life in between.

It’s fitting then, in a poetically nostalgic way, that his final film role is not the tenderhearted divorcee Albert in last year’s excellent Enough Said but instead Cousin Marv, the down-and-out Brooklynite who oversees a watering hole for the mob and watches the last shades of his rambunctious skull-cracking youth fade away.

Although “The Drop” is technically a film about Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy, adopting yet another vocal tenor in his ever-expanding chameleon gallery of on-screen affectations) Gandolfini’s Marv is the commanding presence when he’s on screen and the haunting shadow when he’s not. The bar where the action is set has Marv’s name on the door, and the methodical, slow-burning story creeps forward on the back of Marv’s past sins.

As explained by Bob, a night in Brooklyn is one where clandestine money is constantly changing hands. That money eventually reaches its final destination, a “Drop Bar,” selected seemingly at random, where all the dirty bills of the burough are collected for final delivery.

One night while closing up, Bob and Marv are ripped off for five grand by a couple of punks casing the bar as practice for a later Drop night when they can net the big score. But money is money and the mob wants their five grand back, so the family starts turning the screws on Bob and Marv to make amends.

Bob’s got other problems too. One night while walking home he notices an injured dog discarded in a seemingly random garbage can, leading him to adopt it as his own with the help of Nadia (Noomi Rapace), whose ex-boyfriend doesn’t take to kindly to the interest that Bob is taking in his girl.

And there’s John Ortiz (Silver Linings Playbook) as Detective Torres, who in the process of investigating the robbery begins to think that there might be more foul deeds connected to Cousin Marv’s Bar.

That may sound like a lot of disparate elements, but The Drop exists in a pulpy crime world where everyone in the neighborhood and all their baggage are at least partially aware of and constantly running into one another. There’s a lived-in history to the story, as though the audience has arrived late to a movie that’s been playing for years and leaves well before the action truly ends.

These are characters for whom a different set of rules apply, where wrapping a severed arm is plastic is treated with mute indifference and where acts of violence are expected but still leap out unannounced.

Hardy’s Bob is a particular and engaging enigma, a man for whom past is past and the present is handled one decision and crisis at a time. His chemistry with Rapace’s Nadia is probably the weaker link in The Drop’s chain, but neither seems out of place as blue collar Brooklynites.

Much like Hardy’s previous film Lawless, the individual performances are perhaps better than the actual material. But the combined effect of Hardy, Gandolfini, Ortiz and Rapace, who all play it cool while subtly tweaking expectations, takes what could have been a bargian airport-novel whodunit or a campy-grit Guys and Dolls and instead delivers a rich character piece that hums with moral ambiguity.

Grade: B

*The Drop opens nationwide on Friday, September 12.

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