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Posts tagged ‘AMC’

Mesmerzing”Maigret” French TV series now out on MHz DVDs!

Rarely, have I ever stumbled upon a new fictional detective that has totally mesmerized me. Full disclosure, I’m sort of obsessed by Agatha Christie and her great detectives Hercule Poirot and esp. Miss Marple. At last I’ve found some one new, who is quite  obsession-worthy  It is the late great French writer(Belgian born) Georges Simenon and his legendary police commissaire detective Jules Maigret. New to me, but well-known to millions of readers and viewers, esp. in Europe.’

Out now in a marvelously entertaining DVD set released by MHz videos, it features “Maigret” as played by the late great French actor Bruno Cremer, who is well into his 70s when he shot this wonderful series that ran for more than a decade on French TV. And how lucky the French are to have such a high quality TV series running regularly! Most American Network TV is a vulgar joke by comparison.(I’m not counting the excellent work now done on Cable. Like for instance, “Breaking Bad.” But it’s Cable and I don’t get AMC!! )

The Maigret novels have been filmed many, many times  in Europe on TV and in film, but I can’t imagine any of these incarnations beating Cremer’s Commissaire and this flawlessly executed, beautifully filmed TV series.

Subtitled, mais oui, it is always a brain teaser, and very atmospheric, as it takes you back in time to 1950s Paris, where Maigret, a very dogged police inspector, who does everything by the book ( if he can ) plies his trade, pursuing criminals of all social strata and bringing them to justice. As boring as this methodology seems, “Maigret” is never dull pour une instante!

Oui, he’s a for-real policeman, le vrai chose, and Simenon celebrates the French gendarmes at every turn. His Maigret is not a private detective like Poirot or Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe or Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade or an amateur sleuth like Miss Marple. Maigret is actually a commissaire or commissioner of the Paris “Brigade Criminelle.” There are no flatfoots or bumbling gum shoes here, as there always are in Agatha Christie. Policemen are shown to be intelligent, hard-working, admirable and relentless in the pursuit of crime. Simenon shows them as objects of great respect and not derision.

And Maigret, who simply smokes a pipe throughout almost every episode, is the most intelligent and sterling of them all. Like the also pipe-smoking Sherlock Holmes, like all classical detectives, he’s observant and diligent to a fault. Nothing and no one escapes his seemingly casual glances. So you have to be truly as on your toes when you watch it, as he is, watching and listening carefully to everything. And what a Gallic joy that is!

Seventy-five novels and twenty-eight short stories about Maigret were published between 1931 and 1972. Georges Simenon wrote over a hundred novels and is considered one of France’s greatest and certainly most prolific writers of the last century, but Inspector Maigret was by far his most famous and widely beloved creation. There is a statue to George Simenon, mais oui, bien sur, in France, and also a statue to Maigret in Belgium! Are there any statues to Hercule Poirot lurking about the English countryside? Not that I know of.

Like Christie, each mystery is its’ own perfect stand-alone box of tantalizing puzzles. And one of the delights of this TV incarnation is its’ setting in ’50’s Paris. In  Parisian environs we don’t usually see in French films, so it all feels wonderfully classic and also refreshingly new at the same time.

Each episode of “Maigret” is like its’ own little movie, and the mysteries are almost always impenetrable to all but Commissaire Maigret.

Bruno Cremer’s height and girth and his low, rumbling, grumbling voice are perfectly suited to Maigret. He lumbers when he walks, has a police office that is notoriously untidy and has a distinct dislike of stairs. All traits I found impossibly endearing. His Maigret like all iconic roles in a great, perfectly cast performer’s hands is mesmerizing and you keep wanting to go back to him and see MORE. And MORE!

And with this new series of DVDs from MHz Networks you can! There is also now an MHz TV station in many cities. Check your local listings.

I’ve watched many of the MHz” Maigret”episodes twice. Indeed, the stories are so complex and the characters so deftly drawn,marvelously performed  and thoroughly French that you can’t wait to go back to them as see them re-watch again.  And warning, they’re addictive. They’ll grow on you.

All the actors were new to me (and I watch a lot of French movies!) very talented, and perfectly cast. One in particular whose intriguing name was Remi Martin, was notably good in “Seven Little Crosses”, as a distraught father of a missing child.

As Maigret and the entire Parisian police force, track the little boy as he runs about Paris breaking the glass on police call boxes, another peculiarly French anachronism, the sound of a person running and breathing heavily, is then slowly followed upon by shots only of the school boy’s feet running, running…Classy, eerie, as is the marvelous sound track by  Laurent Petitgirard.

It is a sweltering August Bank Holiday in pre-air-conditioned Paris. And is Maigret on vacation? Non! And he makes sure his entire staff is out sweating and tracking the murderer of old ladies who live alone. Who seems to be a prototypical serial killer.

Another episode that I enjoyed was “Maigret at L’Etoile du Nord” a hotel near the Gare du Nord train station. This time it’s Christmas and it’s snowing. And Maigret isn’t taking off for une Joyeux Noel. As he says, “Murderers don’t take off for the holidays.”

Another favorite quote, Maigret grumbles “I hate solving murders in hotels. You never know where to start!”

And he’s invariably calling the always unseen Madame Maigret, his wife, and apologizing for missing his train.

But don’t miss this delightful series of classic French thrillers!

And newsflash! “Maigret” and many other international crime-soliving TV series can be found on http://www.mhznetworks.org! Stay tuned, dear readers, dear cineastes, for the latest updates on these marvelous European TV series that I like and you might, too!

New York Film Festival 2013 ~ So far, so good

The New York Film Festival 2013, which is now unfurling at Lincoln Center and environs, seems to be packed with more frenzied activity (and press) than ever before. The NYFF prides itself on NOT being as big a film festival as, say, Toronto. And this week it was really brought home to me why. They just don’t have the space and the number of cinemas that Toronto has to use for its’ great festival. TIFF takes over the entire city, near and far. New York does not. It stays comfortably ensconced where it’s always been for its ’51 years of existence :Lincoln Center. The Press Screenings are all held in the medium-sized Walter Reade Cinema, pleasant, charming but certainly not the biggest theater in New York. And in NY, they only show a FRACTION of the films that TIFF does.

Today I saw “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” one of the largest theaters in the AMC Lincoln Square multiplex on W.68th and Bway. And it was packed to the rafters, but a film like this with multiple, elaborate fantasy sequences needs a much larger screen than the Walter Reade. It fit there just fine. It’s very unusual for the Film Society to bond with AMC, but I guess for this charming, funny centerpiece film, it was a very good fit for all.

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” turns out to be a thoroughly enjoyable family film that will be pleased by all at Christmas time, but hardly on Oscar-seeker as it was buzzed to be. But it’s good, solid old-fashioned boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl entertainment, and should make a lot of money around the holidays. It’s fizzy family fun. With a lot of adventure thrown in. A very unusual Centerpiece for the New York Film Festival, which usually goes for much more serious fare.

Directed by and starring Ben Stiller, who plays the title role, it is loosely based on the famous James Thurber short story of the same name that ran in the New Yorker magazine in 1939. Walter Mitty, in this version, is someone who daydreams and wishes for a colordul life far-removed from the mundane black and white one he feels he’s stuck with.

True to Thurber,  Walter keeps “zoning” in and out of fantasy sequences, that escalate as the film’s action ramps up, precipitated by his blossoming romance with single mother/accountant, Kristin Wiig, in an uncharacteristic ingenue role. But she’s an age-appropriate love interest for Stiller, and has a skate-boarding son who Stiller bonds with.

His fantasies include chasing his idol Sean Penn, a world traveling Life magazine photographer, to the wilds of Greenland(never before seen in a feature film!) and also, of course, the neighboring island country of Iceland. Olafur Darri Olafson nearly steals the film as the drunken, gargantuan Icelandic helicopter pilot, he encounters in a Greenland bar drinking beer out of gigantic “boot glasses” .Yes, they’re shaped like boots. Walter Mitty, characteristically orders “a small boot.”

It’s long, but it held my interest. As did the also overlong “Gloria” a Chilean film about a still attractive, middle-aged working woman, who is trying to enjoy her change of life years in urban Santiago. She has children, but she sees them infrequently. It’s almost as though she’s childless.

A hairless stray cat keeps interrupting her “quiet life” as does her encounter and subsequent relationship with a middle-aged businessman Rodolpho (Sergio Hernandez). The film is much more interesting than it’s plotless plot  sounds. God is in the details in this well-observed film about the minutiae of female ageing in the post-menopausal years. It serves mainly as a vehicle for an iconic Chilean actress Paulina Garcia, who is quite marvelous and holds the screen throughout the 2 1/2 hour running time.

If there is any Oscar bait to be found at the NYFF, I would certainly say Senora Garcia deserves consideration for her unstinting tour-de-force performance in the title role. The director Sebastian Lilio said he created the film for her and she was involved with it even before it was written. “You have to fall in love with Paulina to do something like this.” And I have to say, I did. She’s irresistible. Alas an unknown actress in a small foreign film has no chance at breaking in to the Oscar race, where this year, it seems every actress involved already has an Oscar or two or three. But they are going to do a campaign for “Gloria” as Best Foreign Film. And Chile has submitted it as their Official Submission to that race in the Oscars. AND “Gloria” has a US distributor. Which is all wonderful news.

Another film that I mightily enjoyed and was truly fascinated by was the comedy team of Penn and Teller’s venture into serious documentary film making “Tim’s Vermeer.” This riveting doc is heading straight for an Oscar nomination and it may very well get there. In the “Applied Science” section of the NYFF, its central character,  an eccentric San Antonio millionaire named Tim Kenison ,gets his art geek on by telling his friend Penn one night in conversation that he’d “always wanted to paint a Vermeer.” And this film shows painstakingly how he does it.

Painstaking is the operative word here. Every single detail of how Tim does indeed paint his Vermeer is on the screen, but surprisingly, it is never dull. Tim had a theory, which he proves using the work of the 17th century Dutch master, that the photographically detailed paintings, which are ravishing in and of themselves on the big screen, were painted using”a small mirror on a stick” and the physics of Camera Obscura. I know this sounds deadly, but like “Gloria”, it is a great work of (documentary) film making that needs to be seen to be enjoyed.

I never would have thought of Penn and Teller as Oscar contenders, but as I type these unbelievable words, I think they very well may be. And “Tim’s Vermeer” is certainly THEIR surprising masterpiece.

What’s going to happen on Breakjng Bad tonight? My Guess.

This is just informed speculation, mind you, but with the beginning of the final season of “Breaking Bad’ only eight of them, the options like Walter White’s himself’s are growing more and more limited.

We left off with Dean Norris, who marvelously plays DEA agent & Walt’s brother-in-law Hank, suddenly having his “A Ha!” moment on the john as he reads a dedication to Walt’s in a paperback copy of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” that Walt has carelessly left in the guest bathroom.

In that now-famous copy of that probably more -read-than-ever book of Civil War-Era poetry, Hank sees a dedication that looks like it’s in Gael Bedeckker’s handwriting. Gael was the mild-mannered(read Gay) meth lab assistant that Jesse( the super-nova two-time Emmy winner Aaron Paul) shot in the face a couple of seasons back.

Gael’s presence has emanated down the series, haunting it as it were, and I have to take a minute to rave about the superb New York actor David Costabile who played it so memorably, whose work I first became aware of at NYU Grad Acting in the Class of 1995.

But I do have to say that David’s work then as now with Gael and also in “Lincoln” this year, was always excellent. He also wrote a three person clown show called “The New Bozeena” Bozeena I think was a favorite Polish waitress at a local café on Second Ave. right next to one of NYU’s main building. It was so good it eventually went off-Broadway. He wrote it with Kevin Isola, a fellow classmate and performer, and another NYU chum, and all three I think made it into some group crowd scenes in Jim Carrey’s movie “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” Needless to say, with Gael Bedeckker, David stepped into television history with “Breaking Bad.” As have all the leading actors. There’s no small parts, only small actors. And David Costabile is a HUGE talent.

But it’s the writing that stays so excellent, consistently, season after season that is what makes “Breaking Bad” the phenomenon it has been for the past five years.

So you have to ask yourself, what would these writers do with the end in sight? Well, I think we’re facing a blood-bath of most of the leading characters. So something like it.

We know that Bob Odenkirk’s hilariously low-life lawyer, survives because creator extraordinare Vince Gilligan has said in many forums that he hopes that there is going to be a spin-off series of “Better Call Saul.” In the works, as they say.

I think we pretty much can figure that this news of Walt’s knowing Gael and Hank’s “hunch” will profoundly freak out Hank and send him back to reviewing ALLLLL the information he’s obsessively accumulated about the mysterious “Heisenberg” Walt’s Meth Lord Alter Ego. I would say it launches him into a wild tail-spin of emotions. Does he tell his wife? Blabbermouth Marie? Seeing as how these astute writing team of “Breaking Bad” like to prolong things as long as possible, I would say that “No. He doesn’t tell Marie.” At least not in this first new episode.

Hank excellent DEA agent that he is would proceed cautiously. But proceed he will. Will he confront Walt this first episode? That might be one sharp way of ending it. Then we’re left with “What will Walt do?”

We know from the first episode teaser of Season Five. it’s a year later and Walt has grown all his hair back, changed his name, is living in another state and carrying a sub-machine gun in his trunk. An AK 47.

We also know, since I do listen to all the writers and Gilligan, talking on the Special Features that the new corporate gal from Madrigal, played by Scottish actress, Laura Fraser, is going to have a love interest, but it’s not Walt or Jesse. And we probably see a lot more of her excellent work(you could never tell that her frazzled exec was being played by a Scottish actress!) in Episode One Season Five A as I think they’re calling it.

And Skyler? Who has now gotten the children over to Hank and Marie’s is slowly unraveling. I bet she gets worse. Also the kids being at Hank and Marie’s would be another reason for Hank to keep his mouth shut around Marie…

And RJ Mitte. who is so touching as the cerebral palsied son Walt, Jr. has let it slip that “Hank Jr. faces a decision. He has to choose between his uncle and his father.” So he eventually finds out, too.

So who comes out of this alive? We see Saul, has survived, but everybody else is dubious. It’s a matter of life and death FOR ALL OF THEM!STAY TUNED!

“Breaking Bad” I Love It! Watched EVERY SINGLE episode!

Everybody kept telling me for years to watch “Breaking Bad,” which starts its’ final eight episode run tonight at 9pm on AMC, but I never did. I kept thinking “Drugs? A middle-aged professor-type? Bryan Cranston? Who? Meth? What?”

Then Bryan Cranston kept winning Emmy after Emmy for Best Actor…

Then the Film Society of Lincoln Center announced that it was honoring “Breaking Bad” “TV’s Best Series” by having an unprecedented marathon run of EVERY SINGLE episode for FREE at its’ Elinor Bunim theater at Lincoln Center, and well, I thought if THEY are doing this….there must be something to it.

So I started watching it all about a month ago and just couldn’t stop! Color me surprised! It was as addictive as the Crystal Meth the series revolves around. Not that I’ve ever taken any or know anyone who has, but you certainly get totally immersed in the Crystal Methamphetamine culture of Albuquerque, New Mexico and pretty soon, almost immediately in fact, I was hooked. 

And yes, Bryan Cranston deserved all those Emmys and so does Aaron Paul, his former chemistry student/protégé/partner as Jesse Pinkham, a name that will in television history.

The Paul/Cranston duo, their whole father/son, December/May relationship is what really holds the series together, I feel. Its’ elucidation and intensely involving evolution over five series and hundreds of episodes breaks new ground constantly in this unbelievably well-done-in-every-way television series, and makes the case for “TV being the new Movie.” Very much like the Ripley novels of the late Patricia Highsmith, “Breaking Bad” takes you from identifying wholly with the milquetoast, underpaid Chemistry teacher Walter White and takes him and us in to the dark underground world of drug dealing and meth making that is very much like Alice going down the rabbit hole, as Walter White follows Jesse Pinkman into a bizarre, meth-fueled world that gets more and more frightening as the series progresses.

Being so late to the party in this case, I would hate to spoil any other late-comers delight by giving away plot points, but just let me continue the praise that has been heaped on Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and the show’s creator Vince Gilligan.

This is very much like a low-budget indie thriller that you never want to end, it’s so riveting, and guess what? It doesn’t end! Not for five TV seasons, with yet more to come! Bryan Cranston proves himself a great American actor here. The former forgettable father of “Malcolm in the Middle” totally blows your mind in episode after episode. His range is staggering. The award-winning “Breaking Bad” writers throw everything but the kitchen sink at Cranston, and he meets their daunting challenges at every turn. An unsung and overlooked character actor well into his middle years has found the role of his career beyond a doubt and risen to the ranks of American’s finest and television’s greatest.

Ditto Aaron Paul’s Pinkham. Pathetic, needy, irritating, whiney, never-wracking, infuriating and utterly adorable, Aaron Paul also proves Himself as one of America’s finest YOUNG actors. And he’s won a couple of Emmys, too. And is prized to win, along with Cranston, Gilligan and the writers, more accolades in the every near future.

The starting premise of “Breaking Bad” is so brilliant, a middle-aged, hen-pecked high school chemistry teacher finds his inner Don Corleone, or as Gilligan likes to say “Scarface”, with a wife who doesn’t understand him, and a son with cerebral palsy, and a brother-in-law in the DEA, who gets obsessed with catching this ever-elusive “Heisenberg”.

Dean Norris is the new King of Cops as the ever-vigilant brother-in-law from hell. It’s taken him five television seasons to eventually come to the startling conclusion that the “W.W.” he has been seeking is living right in his own backyard. He’s on the commode poring over evidence when it FINALLY hits him, which is where we have left them all.

The women in “Breaking Bad” are nowhere near as strongly drawn as the male characters. I hate to knock them now, without seeing how this all plays out, but Anna Gunn(no, that’s her REAL name) as Schuyler White and Betsy Brandt as her sister and the wife of the DEA Agent Norris, are thumpingly ordinary and suburban, but I guess they are supposed to be.

And Ms. Gunn has the daunting task of having nearly all her scenes with the uber-brilliant Brian Cranston, as her husband, and she just can’t hold a candle to him.
As her marriage unravels and ravels again, it’s the “marriage” of Walter White & Jesse Pinkman(Emmy winners Cranston & Paul) that compels us. It’s gone through every single permutation a partnership can go through, every thing except exploring that homo-erotic undertones that it just reeks of. THAT hasn’t been gone in to yet. But there’s still eight more episodes coming our way. We can only hope…

I just wish I had AMC on my channel system. But dear readers be careful about what you read about “Breaking Bad” re: the eight new episodes, there are bound to be spoilers everywhere online once it starts unveiling its’ tightly guarded secrets which start unspooling tonight at nine.

“Bourne Legacy” I Go Back Into a Movie House.

Yes, yes, I finally am conquering my fears of being in a big ole movie house and I returned to the cinema, AMC’s Lincoln Square, the one of the biggest movie complexes in NYC and I saw, much to my great surprise, “The Bourne Legacy” and even more surprising, I liked it!

I have been resisting the impulse to return to a public movie house since the tragedy in Colorado. ANOTHER one….And yes, for a while, a short while to some, but not to a film critic, I overcame my fear, and returned. And yes, things have changed.

Two policemen next to the press desk. Burly body-guard types checking bags more thoroughly, it seemed, than before. Taking people’s cell phones. But this was an all media screening, and except for the policemen, it was usual procedure.

Not having a cell phone, I just breezed on through and got an aisle seat. But I found myself checking the emergency exits as I sat there and waited and waited for the film to begin. And when it finally DID begin, I actually enjoyed it!

“The Bourne Legacy” was not my cup of tea, but I came out really quite thrilled and was totally engrossed in this terrific, highly paced, very well done actioner, starring Jeremy Renner now as Aaron Cross. No Matt Damon. He’s referred to obliquely, but not seen, except in passport file photos. And the stupendous Rachel Weisz, proves she’s just as much an action hero as her husband James Bond, Daniel Craig, of course. This film reveals that the duo have more in common than I ever imagined.

You can totally see them kicking ass together and foiling arch-villains in their future in tandem. And I was enjoying it so much, it took me totally by surprise, that I forgot whatever fears had kept me away from seeing anything in the past few weeks.

I love movies. I still love movies, and I am still capable of having them overwhelm me and absorb me, and RELAX me, in the most unexpected ways. “Bourne Legacy” really has it all, and Jeremy Renner, whom I’ve interviewed really comes through, once again, as simply somebody you care about. He brings to the “Bourne” franchise the same relatability that he brought to “The Hurt Locker.” He involves you. He’s not the handsomest movie star ever, but boy can those huge baby blue eyes pull you in. And Rachel Weisz! She kicks ass and karate chops and runs like a demon with the best of them. And the two of them together! POWERHOUSE! A new screen POWER COUPLE! And they rocked and owned “The Bourne Legacy” totally.
And I was very glad they did.

Police Presence at AMC 34th St. Lines down the block

On my way home last night, I bumped into a policewoman who was on a dinner break, it seemed, and I asked her what is on everyone’s mind i.e. TDKR and she said “There’s a lot of policeman at 34th St.(The AMC W.34th St. in Manhattan) A LOT.”

I thought it would be more likely the AMC at Times Square and she said “No.34th St.” And sure enough as I passed by there on the way home there were many police cars lined up in front of the theater. And also a considerable line of movie goers stretching half way down the block…

And sure enough, at the AMC on Times Sq. I did not see any police cars.

But clearly people are still going to the movies.

Warner Bros. is not releasing the $ totals til tomorrow, but judging by what I could see, there were more people going to see this movie, than well, since “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 2” when I also witnessed lines down the block…

Warner Bros. is keeping the totals quiet, I think, because it may have made an obscene amount of money this weekend.

And BTW, nothing happened at any of these theaters I chanced by. But for the looks of it at W.34th St. the police THOUGHT something might happen there. But it didn’t. Thank god.

I think the U.S. is still reeling from this tragedy, which gets more heart-breaking as the details of the victims come to light. And there’s still all those people in the hospital in trauma centers and ICUs. And that little six-year-old girl who died…

Meanwhile, Anne Thompson, who I find to be very reliable in these situations tweeted yesterday that she didn’t think it was going to get ANY Oscar nominations “Just the technicals” tweeted Anne. Which is exactly what I thought when this happened. The Academy is going to try to distance itself as much as possible from this tragedy. Not honor it.

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