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MOVIES & MUSINGS

Skyfall (Nov. 9)

The 23rd entry in the longest-running film series ever returns after a longer than usual four year break (twice the normal gap) after MGM’s financial insolvency. After the poorly-received Quantum of Solace, Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson took the unusual step of hiring theater-turned-film director Sam Mendes to helm Bond 23. Mendes had spectacular success with his Academy Award-winning first film American Beauty (1999), then nothing of note since. In writing the script Mendes has said he was influence by The Dark Knight, with equal emphasis on character and action. Apparently, the Bond producers made the right choice as buzz is running extremely high on Skyfall – some call it the best Bond movie ever. Skyfall continues the series reboot with several traditional Bond characters reintroduced, including a young Q (Ben Whishaw) a new M and a surprise new/old character. After a hard drive containing the names of NATO undercover agents in terrorist organizations is stolen, Bond pursues the thief to Shanghai, but not before several agents are killed and MI6 attacked. Bond kills the thief and discovers he is working for Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former MI6 agent now seeking revenge against M, herself under pressure from rival Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) to retire. Bond captures Silva, but he escapes and attacks M. To protect M and lay a trap for the pursuing Silva and his men, Bond takes her to his family estate in Scotland, Skyfall.

Lincoln (Nov. 16)

It’s the middle of awards season and Steven Spielberg has produced a likely Best Picture nominee with his portrait of the last months in the life of Abraham Lincoln. Although titled after the president, this is really a political drama about the passing of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawing slavery. While slices of horrific Civil War battles are shown, the real battleground is the floor of Congress where debate rages about the controversial amendment which has splintered the Republican Party with uncompromising abolitionists like Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) for it and others who want to end the war but not slavery against it. Lincoln’s mission though, is threefold: to end the
war, end slavery and bring a divided nation together. To accomplish
this, Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) must use every bit of his powers of
persuasion, compromise and oratory along with the willingness to get
down and dirty if necessary. Against the backdrop of a nation in crisis,
is also the personal portrait of the man and his family – the first
lady Mary (Sally Field) and sons Robert (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt) and Tad
(Gulliver McGrath). Holding it all together is Day-Lewis, whose
performance is already being touted as an Oscar winner.

Life of Pi (Nov. 21)

Another
probable Oscar nominee arrives with Ang Lee’s film version of the
impossible to adapt bestseller by Yann Martel. A
fantasy/allegory/adventure for all ages, movie tells the story of Pi
Patel, an Indian boy who spends 227 days adrift on a raft with a live
tiger. As an adult Pi recounts his incredible story to a writer, we’re
introduced to the 5-year-old Piscine who lives in the lush, almost
enchanted-looking Pondicherry, India. Pi’s father and mother run a zoo.
Pi himself is a curious, mischievous child who is also deeply interested
in God. In no time, Piscine shortens his name to Pi and becomes a
Hindu, Christian and Muslim. However, as a teenager, Pi’s idyllic
existence changes when his parents decide to sell their zoo and move to
Canada. Pi and his family board a freighter with the few remaining
animals, but in no time the ship capsizes in a storm. Pi is the lone
human survivor in a lifeboat, but he soon finds he has company – a few
animals have made it onboard, including a 450 lb. Bengal tiger named
Richard Parker. Soon, due to the law of the jungle, there’s only Parker.
Thus begins Pi’s ordeal where he must battle elements and dwindling
food and water supplies while building a raft to separate him from
Parker, who starts out as a savage beast but transforms over months into
a curious interspecies friendship. Tobey Maguire originally played the
writer that adult Pi tells his story to, but his scenes were cut after
Lee decided he had become too famous and was distracting in the part.

Silver Linings Playbook (Nov. 21)

With
a successful venture into blue collar drama with 2010’s The Fighter,
director David O’Russell returns to more familiar territory with his
offbeat depression comedy Silver Linings Playbook, based on the Mathew
Quick bestseller. Pat (Bradley Cooper) is released from a mental
hospital where he’s spent 8 months for a violent episode caused by his
bipolar disorder. In the meantime his wife Nikki leaves him. He moves
back in with his parents, Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro) and Dolores (Jacki
Weaver) who do their best to help him readjust. But Pat resists, not
taking his meds and working out like to maniac in an effort to woo back
Nikki, while working his way through a batch of literary classics that
Nikki recommended. But he dismisses the stories as depressing. Pat
believes in silver linings, possibilities – “Excelsior!” is his favorite
motto. Pat Sr., a fanatical Eagles fan, tries to woo Pat back to
normality by focusing him on pro football. But Pat’s disorder reasserts
itself in hilarious, inappropriate verbal and physical outbursts. While
running one day, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) a self-described
“crazy slut with a dead husband” who is just as depressed as Pat is.
They bond in unusual ways, such as comparing which meds they take.
Tiffany, who has a dance studio in her apartment, starts working with
Pat as a dance partner to rehabilitate him which works too well – their
big performance conflicts with a crucial Eagles game his dad
and brothers insist he attend. Chris Tucker makes a rare non-Rush Hour
performance as Pat’s buddy from the mental hospital. Variety said Pat
was one of Bradley Cooper’s best roles yet, funny and soulful.

Hitchcock (Nov. 23)

Anthony
Hopkins stars as legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock in this peek
inside the making of his classic Psycho and also his unique partnership
with his little-know wife, Alma (Helen Mirren). Movie picks up with
Hitchcock restless and bored. Although coming off a massive success with
North By Northwest, he feels trapped by his success with studios only
interested in Hitchcock-type thrillers. In addition, he’s 60 and
terribly overweight. Then he chances on Robert Block’s book Psycho,
based on the true story of serial killer Ed Gein and filled with
“graphic elements of brutal violence, voyeurism, transvestitism and
incest.”

Hitchcock
is attracted. In it he sees a way of breaking free from thrillers and
truly shocking the film establishment. “What if someone really good made
a horror picture?” he muses. But no studio will touch it and Hitchcock
takes a tremendous personal gamble and mortgages his house. It the movie
flops, the Hitchcocks lose the house. In the meantime, Alma who is
basically his filmmaking partner has gotten restless after decades of
her contributions being unacknowledged and has started a nearromance
with dashing screenwriter Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), putting Hitch’s
marriage in jeopardy as well. Hitchock is basically a lighter look at
one of the darkest pictures the master of suspense ever made, battling
censors and expectations all the way to completing his classic.