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Starring: Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Hal Holbrook, Rosemarie DeWitt, Titus Welliver, Scott McNairy
Story: John Krasinski, Matt Damon, Dave Eggers
Screenplay: Chris Moore, Matt Damon, John Krasinski
Cinematography: Linus Sandgren
Music: Danny Elfman
Editing: Billy Rich
Director: Gus Van Sant
Damon plays Steve Butler, a hot young employee for Global Crosspower Solutions, an energy company. He and his senior coworker, Sue (McDormand), are sent to a small, depressed Pennsylvania town to get the town’s property owners to sign away mineral rights, so that Global can start fracking (hydraulic fracturing) for oil. Steve and Sue try to ingratiate themselves with the townspeople, buying humble flannel shirts and singing at the local open mic night. Steve is caught off guard at a town assembly by teacher Frank Gates (Holbrook), who is well-informed on the dangers of fracking, and agrees to Frank’s suggestion that they put the decision to a vote, a rookie mistake for someone with as good a track record as Steve.
Another obstacle arrives in the form of Dustin Noble, an environmental consultant, who convinces a number of people in short order to reject Global’s offer, and to make matters worse, he quickly charms a local teacher, Alice (DeWitt), on whom Steve had his eye.
It’s around this time the film experiences a difficult second act, where not much of importance happens. Steve is sneered at and even punched; Dustin makes a nice presentation about fracking to Alice’s class that serves as a kind of PSA for the audience, Steve tries to convince Alice he’s a good guy, and a planned Global-funded town fair is rained out. Oh, and we see that Global has provided one of the Little League teams with uniforms, which they seem to have switched to mid-season. While it would have been more realistic for Steve to stay away from Frank Gates, there’s an out-of-nowhere, underdeveloped scene where he spends the day at Frank’s house, mostly quietly listening to Frank, who somehow from this decides that despite his job, Steve is “a good man.”
I have to say the twist near the end is clever. It did surprise me and I found it possibly believable, but at the same time, it led to a more conventional ending, especially for a Matt Damon movie. It doesn’t ruin the film and undoubtedly, for many people the twist and the ending will be satisfying. But it’s still fair to say that the writers came up short in terms of a second act that developed the story and the characters with enough depth and complications. Steve gets to do the right thing and maybe even get the girl, but is that enough? The romantic subplot is barely there, anyway, and seems like a cheat. The fact is, if the town doesn’t take the deal, it will likely dry up, because there’s no industry left. Is Steve going to move in with Alice in a dying town? A town where everyone remembers he was the guy who lied to them, even if he came clean at the end? And what will he do for a living? And, okay, spoiler warning, because the movie is over a year old and this is irritating me…
As his name, Dustin Noble, might have tipped you off, Dustin is anything but noble. He’s actually the villain of the piece, a Global plant who is designed to get people against fracking until it’s revealed that the photos he shows of dead cows from his family’s Iowa farm, poisoned by the contaminated water from fracking, are actually from a town gulf town in Louisiana (a lighthouse and the ocean are visible in the photos). He was sent by Global when it seemed Steve was blowing it with the vote thing, so when Steve conveniently receives the proof from Global that Dustin’s a fraud, he can expose him to the town and they’ll all vote for the Global drilling deal. But this supposes that Global would be so confident that Dustin’s deception would turn the tide that they wouldn’t question just why those Louisiana cows were dead. And is Dustin so shitty that he would do a demonstration on the very real hazards of fracking to schoolchildren and then leave town? It’s not very well thought-out, the engineering involved in giving Steve a redemptive arc becomes sort of silly. Much of the problems are in the script, which in addition to the issues with the Damon and Krasinski characters also does very little with solid supporting players like Scott McNairy or Titus Welliver, the latter of which seems like he might have been intended to have a romance with McDormand’s character at one point, but in the film has just a sort of meet-cute and then nothing else happens with him aside from showing up to the town fair and helping set up a food stand and then driving back with Steve. In fact, when Sue sees him at his shop, after Global has been exposed as charlatans, he seems only amused, maybe even kind of a putz. And though I come from a good Liberal family of teachers, it’s a little patronizing that the only two townspeople who aren’t rubes, Alice and Frank, are teachers. We even get one yokel who buys a new gold Corvette, based on money he thinks he’ll make from the Global deal. You know, even a local dealership is going to want actual cash and collateral. And director Van Sant, drafted to replace Damon as director, seems to have just sort of shown up and started shooting. Oh, it looks pretty nice, all blue-toned like you’d want a film set in a depressed area would be, but there are very few interesting master shots or style. It’s like Van Sant is overly worried that adding a little razzle-dazzle will kill the earnestness. Maybe he’s right, but it’s kind of dreary to watch.
What’s kind of interesting is that some oil companies actually took out ads before showings of the film, and sent out pamphlets and such about how the film was unfair in its depictions. As the country now knows a bit more about fracking than they did a year or so ago, we know that not only is the film accurate in this regard, but doesn’t hit hard enough, in that we now know the practice can cause earthquakes. And, in fairness, there are also some studies saying that for the short-term, it may be less hazardous than coal. Still, Big Oil needn’t have been worried, as the film only made back a little over half of its $15M budget. Damon’s and Krasinski’s hearts are in the right place, and the film doesn’t want for facts, but it’s not much of a story.
gf: Come over
me: i can’t i’m skiing
gf: I have dog treats
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Starring: Spencer Tracy, Sylvia Sidney, Bruce Cabot, Walter Brennan
Screenplay: Bartlett Cormack, Fritz Lang, Based on the Story “Mob Rule” by Norman Krasna
Music: Franz Waxman
Editing: Frank Sullivan
Director: Fritz Lang
Fritz Lang’s first American film burns with the anger of a man who fled his own Germany once Hitler came to power. It begins with a tender goodbye scene between Joe (Trach) and Katherine (Sidney), as she is leaving by train to begin a new job, with the plan that Joe join her some months later, his finances permitting. Joe gets his and his two brothers’ lives in order, convincing them to leave the rackets alone and open a legitimate gas station together, and it thrives. With money in his pockets and high hopes, he drives cross-country, planning to meet Katherine in a diner near her place. He’s arrested instead, held as a possible suspect in the kidnapping of a young girl, as he fits the description and, like the kidnapper, likes salted peanuts.
The rumors of a suspect in custody spread throughout the small town of Strand, getting more exaggerated in the telling, and soon a lynch mob goes up against the sheriff and his deputies, knocking out the sheriff and setting fire to the jailhouse. Katherine, hearing Joe’s name on the news, arrives just in time to see her poor fiancé’s face in the barred window of his cell, panic-stricken as the flames get higher. Then a couple of the mob throw sticks of dynamite, and when the smoke clears, Joe is thought dead.
Instead, he shows up at his brothers’ place, a changed man, his goodness all but extinguished in the lust for revenge. The Dstrict Attorney (Cabot) brings the 22 members of the mob to trial for murder, with newsreel footage and Katherine’s eyewitness testimony as crucial evidence, but an anonymous letter supposedly from someone who helped clean up the rubble, and which contains a ring given by Katherine to Joe when last they saw each other, convinces her Joe is actually still alive. When she finds him, she tells him that to go through with letting these men be convicted of a murder that didn’t happen would be the same as murdering them, and himself.
Even with the compromised ending, where Joe turns himself into the court and reconciles with Katherine, it’s still a powerful, even shocking film. Lang not only takes relish in showing the perverted bloodlust of the citizens, he establishes how easy such an act could happen again. The governor is kept from sending the National Guard when it could have mattered because it’s an election year, and citizens don’t like seeing armed officers in their towns. The townspeople of Strand, the wives and friends and even the injured Sheriff, would rather perjure themselves than let justice be served. It’s an embarrassing incident they would rather forget about. Lang does a brilliant job showing how unreasoning anger and hatred can corrupt good men, and he couldn’t ask for a better actor than Tracy to convincingly portray a character who goes from light to dark, nor could have have found much better than Sidney to play a woman sweet and decent enough to pull a man like Joe back from the brink of damnation. Lang would go on to several more films featuring cruel systems and organizations bent on crushing innocent men, but this is among his best.
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Starring: Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines, Charles Coburn
Story: Jay Dratler
Screenplay: Jay Dratler, Dorothy Davenport
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
Music: Michel Michelet
Editing: Arthur H. Nadel
Director; Arthur Lubin
Donlevy, with that stout post-War build, plays rick industrialist Walter Williams. His wife plots his death, to be carried out by lover Jim Torrance, and he nearly gets away with it, clubbing Walter over the head with a tire iron and taking his car, before he crashes into a truck and makes a fiery exit down the mountain.
Dazed Walter ends up in a small Iowa town, nursing the wound of his betrayal and letting the world think he’s dead and his wife rot in jail for it. He gets a job as a mechanic and befriends and then falls for gas station owner Marsha (Peters). Eventually, she persuades him to come forward to clear Marsha, but he’s arrested when she blames Torrance’s death on him. With the help of a kindly detective (Coburn), he clears his name.
The film starts and ends with an awkward voiceover about the impact two lives have on each other. Between this is a film directed with little flair and a barely coherent story. Donlevy brings the film up a notch, as his natural discomfort in his own skin onscreen fits the character.
Starring: Vincent Price, Charles Bronson, Henry Hull, Mary Webster, Richard Harrison
Screenplay: Richard Matheson, Based on the Novels, Robur the Conqueror and Master of the World by Jules Verne
Cinematography: Gil Warrenton
Music: Les Baxter
Editing: Anthony Carras
Director: William Witney
Jules Verne. Richard Matheson. Vincent Price. Charles Bronson. A film combining these talents should have been fun. But despite a bigger-than-usual budget for American International Pictures, this brightly lit airship adventure sinks like a lead balloon. Price reportedly considered the role of Robur one of his favorites, but aside from some caterpillar eyebrow appliances, this is a stock Price performance, the kind of coldhearted despot he played most of the time, though he still easily outshines the ferocious overacting by Hull, who apparently came out of retirement for one last feast on scenery. Bronson as the good guy is dull and miscast. The effects come down on the wrong side of charmingly cheap vs. embarrassingly inept. One of the only highlights of the film is the wildly overcompensating score by Baxter, providing Warner Bros quality for AIP prices. For Price or Bronson completists only.
Is that… is that even healthy?
There are sea organisms and fungi which glow in the dark and there’s fireflies and jellyfish which glow in the dark. It doesn’t do them any harm nor does it do the people around them any harm. I would say its pretty healthy, as well as it would mean more photosynthesis happening in cities which mean cleaner air.
I was just curious about how they were doing it and for some reason I didn’t think to click the link. But thanks! It makes more sense now. I was afraid it was some kind of chemical thing.
nah just genetic modification using existing bioluminescent genes. Genetics is really cool, and so is bioluminescence. I mean they’ve already made pigs glow using jellyfish genes and pigs are waaay more complicated than trees iirc. So they’re actually (i think) less likely to muck it up with trees.
In which case
(I like glowy things)
means more trees which is good
uses less electricity which is good (for both tax reasons and also just because reasons)
pretties everything up
just generally all good stuff
glowy trees 2k15 plz
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Starring: James Garner, Gayle Hunnicutt, Carroll O’Connor, Rita Moreno, Bruce Lee
Screenplay: Stirling Silliphant, Based on the Novel, The Little Sister, by Raymond Chandler
Cinematography: William H. Daniels
Music: Peter Matz
Editing: Gene Ruggiero
Director: Paul Bogart
L.A. private eye Philip Marlowe looks for client Orfamay Quest’s brother Oren, but the trail leads to two dead men and threats by a kung-fu expert working for a gangster, culminating in a shootout at a burlesque show.
Garner is seemingly a good pick for sardonic Chandler hero Marlowe, the wisecracking but noble detective, but even though the role ends up being an audition of sorts for his later TV series, The Rockford Files, unlike Jim Rockford, Garner never seems quite sure when to play up the comedy and when Marlowe needs to be serious, so he ends up somewhere in the middle. There’s something missing in this adaptation. Screenwriter Silliphant does cherry-pick some choice Chandler lines from the novel, and adapts it to the late ’60s, with Marlowe passing out from a dosed cigarette rather than what was probably a sap to the head or a mickey in the book, and having Rita Moreno legging it up with the burlesque act adds a little sex appeal, but the film is a bit too talky and stodgily paced much of the time, the jazzy soundtrack not helping. We never see Marlowe actually figuring things out; instead he goes from place to place and then explains why he’s there, which is a choice that can work but in director Bogart’s hands just becomes a little plodding and arbitrary. Main heavy Sonny Steelgrave is barely in the film, so it rarely feels like Marlowe is in danger, with the noticeable exception, and an increase in energy, from two action scenes featuring Marlowe going up against an enforcer played by young Bruce Lee, showing his amazing athleticism. The rest of the time, Marlowe is piecing things together with Garner getting only mediocre help from lower-level talents like Hunnicutt and Sharon Farrell, or pretty good if not quite A-list character actors like O’Connor, Kenneth Tobey, Jackie Coogan and William Daniels. It’s a serviceable Chandler adaptation but aside from a scene shot at the very recognizable Union Station, doesn’t get off the lot much to show Los Angeles as a character, and Silliphant and director Bogart occasionally hang onto some unnecessary Chandler bits like the fake “Bay City” mentioned instead of its real California city name.
Notes: For perhaps the only time, cinematographer William H. Daniels and actor William Daniels worked together.
Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai by Greg Ruth
i can’t stop laughing he’s like what no climb
Chameleons are dumb.
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